Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Words

Hello, readers.

Sometimes I read. This year was no different. Here is a list of things*.


1. Things of the Novel and Whatnot Variety Published In, or very Nearly In, 2011:

Habibi by Craig Thompson**

Bossypants by Tina Fey**

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Swamplandia by Karen Russell

The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi

2. Things of the Novel and Whatnot Variety Published in the Past, in One Golden Age or Another:

Infinite Jest** by David Foster Wallace

Complete Shorter Fiction** of Oscar Wilde

40 Stories** by Donald Barthelme

A School for Fools by Sasha Sokolov

Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O'Connor

Meet Me in the Moon Room by Ray Vukcevich

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

River of Gods by Ian McDonald

3. Some Selection of Things of the Longform or Longreads or What-Have-You Variety

Ray Kachel (photo by Wayne Lawrence)

"All the Angry People" by George Packer (one man, among many, at #OWS)

"Why Science Fiction Writers are Like Porn Stars" by Charlie Jane Anders

"Unspoken Truths" by Christopher Hitchens

"Pre-Occupied" by Mattathias Schwartz (on the origins of #OWS)

"Outsourcing Jobs" by Gary Sernovitz (on Steve Jobs, China, and Apple)

"Wall Street Isn't Winning -- It's Cheating" by Matt Taibbi

"The Last Movie Maestro" by John Jurgensen (a profile of John Williams)

"Stumptown Girl" by Margaret Talbot (a profile of Carrie Brownstein)

"The Han Solo Comedy Hour" by Frank DiGiacomo

"Al Goldstein: The Pornographer in Winter" by Lili Anolik

"Just Write It" by Laura Miller (on George R.R. Martin and fans)

"You Say You Want a Devolution" by Kurt Andersen (Except he's wrong. Mostly. Partly. The world of fashion, technology, and art has changed. Take the ten year old me and zap him 20 years into the future, and he would notice a difference. Trust me. He was a sharp kid. But, the article is an important one to remind you that some people's eyes go old before their time).

"The Writer as Detective" by Roger Rosenblatt

ttfn, readers. Happy reading.

*Note, that ** will be used to indicate these books may have changed my life and/or will probably be returned to, or thrust upon people, for a variety of well-intentioned reasons, as time goes on.

**See above.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in Sound

Hello, readers.

In 2011, I listened to things. Here is a list to that effect.

1. Things named after themselves

Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

Cults, Cults

2. Songs more beautiful than their name would lead you to believe

3. Bands that reaffirmed their awesomness

The Whole Love begins and ends with different sorts of long, meandering, wonderful. Well done Tweedy, and company. Well done.

4. Bands who reaffirmed that they're just having a bit of fun at this point.

5. New friends

6. Best use of a suicidal squirrel

7. ttfn, readers

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Hello, readers.

Happy Christmas. And New Year. And/or what not.*

As we reach the end of the year, you might be interested to know that several people are lamenting and debating as to whether or not our culture has become a prisoner to nostalgia or our nostalgia has blinded us to the new ways of being encultured.

See, for example, Kurt Andersen's "You Say You Want a Cultural Devolution" in Vanity Fair:
Ironically, new technology has reinforced the nostalgic cultural gaze: now that we have instant universal access to every old image and recorded sound, the future has arrived and it’s all about dreaming of the past. Our culture’s primary M.O. now consists of promiscuously and sometimes compulsively reviving and rejiggering old forms. It’s the rare “new” cultural artifact that doesn’t seem a lot like a cover version of something we’ve seen or heard before. Which means the very idea of datedness has lost the power it possessed during most of our lifetimes.
Maria Russo's response at Salon,
New technology, he [Andersen] writes, has reinforced the nostalgic cultural gaze. He’s not the first to note that nostalgia is pervasive at the moment, with virtually everything ever produced in any medium so easily accessible, so primed for re-discovering, that it’s tamping down our desire to produce and consume newness. But there’s more going on than that. Hasn’t technology also made HBO and Showtime and AMC possible? Cable television has made what we watch in 2011 dramatically different, and dramatically superior, to what we viewed 20 years ago.
and this new entry, also at Salon, "Nostalgic for Everything" by Matt Zoller Seitz
“Nostalgia is denial — denial of the painful present,” says a philosopher (Michael Sheen) in Woody Allen’s surprise hit “Midnight in Paris.” “The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking**: the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one [that] one’s living in. It’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”
If nostalgia is indeed a flaw, it’s one that many 2011 films and TV programs shared...
Andersen's article, while being in some ways completely wrong (mid-90s Wilco is the same as Ghost is Born Wilco? Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash is in no way dated? Erm...), remains a fascinating entry into the conversation of how current cultural production is being perceived by those above and below a certain age.

In commenting on lifestyle and fashion, Russo seems onto something in her wondering as to whether or not, with so much of the conventional mores abolished as far as fashion (no pants for women, no piercings for men) and so much of our interactions occurring in virtual space (with our iPod, iPhone, Macbook, Android thing), fashion might have necessarily paused in the sort of fast-forwarding that occurred through the 20s, 40s, 60s, and on. People can wear whatever they want now, for the most part. And so they do. Or they don't. It's no big deal.

Generally, I find myself recognizing the intense, crafted nostalgia of things, especially music and film, of current chillwave, beach garage, and certain trippy, 80s relic, synth dance tunes. But, then again, I'm not confusing Josh Ritter with Dylan (as Andersen does), or Gaga's transgender anthems with Madonna's now  (as Ms. Russo points out) almost passe (but still catchy, "Like a Prayer," anyone?) odes to a a more generalized sort of sexual freedom. Nor, am I worried that Midnight in Paris, or Super 8, or any of the other nostalgically flawed gems mentioned by Mr. Seitz, signal any kind of death of artistic evolution.

Most likely if you looked at any year's list of cinematic or televised product, you'd find plenty of nostalgia. 1981, for example and also the year of my birth, included such nostalgic endeavors as Chariots of Fire and Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What interests me, more than anything else--as a boy on the cusp of emerging into a displaced generation--is the loss of tangibility Mr. Seitz talks of, as marked by the end of film and records and, one day, perhaps, books.

It is not a bad or good thing. It is just a thing. And it is interesting. And if, in my old age, I gather around me a library of smelly, crackly, nostalgia, or curl in a chair-bubble with a make-believe paper copy of Michael Chabon's latest ode to the latest Golden Age***, I imagine I'll just be happy to still be kicking about.

ttfn, readers. Enjoy your burrito.

*If your holiday is not listed here, please also enjoy it. If you are not a holiday person then, as Marc Maron suggested, at the very least try to enjoy a sandwich. If you are gluten-issued, there are sandwiches for you (and me), too.

**Actually, according to Michael Chabon in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, it would more accurately and nonce-ly be referred to as, "the usual hallmark of the aetataureate delusion."

***See above.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Art by Christian Jackson. More pictures and interview here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's Only a Paper Moon

Hello, readers.

A singer in Korea, ALi, wrote a song about a young girl being raped. This young girl was named, or at least known as, Na Young. You may read about Na Young's story here.

It seems that many people criticized Ms. ALi for writing such a song. The song's lyrics are as such:

The sound of the light and wind, falling from the sky
It rides the leaves and it rides the snowstorm 
The deep sounds of the ocean from the ends of the earth
It shines on the sun, it shines on the sky
It's hard even to be alive and to breath
So she waits for the sun to set
She doesn't try to run away anymore
She stands there and waits for the moon to rise
The gray light that seeps out of a young girl's wet eyes
You threw away your youth, selling your body, selling your soul
Your pitiful life has been taken away from you
In this dizzy world, when you hope for a warm and brilliant love
Can you feel - can you feel it?
In the soiled heart, when you want a true and pure love
Can you do that - can you do that?
Looking here and there but you still can't believe in this world
Even if the world flows by so quickly, even if time leaves us
Trust your mind, trust your mind

It was unclear from the discussions and posts at allkpop or lancerlord, whether more criticism was directed at Ms. ALi for "disrespecting" the victim by bringing up painful memories, or because her lyrics ("you threw away your youth...") implied the victim was at fault.

Many commented that Ms. ALi should have asked permission.


Ms. ALi held a press conference to apologize. This wasn't enough, apparently. So, she held another press conference where she could apologize some more, disclose and discuss how she was raped at around the same time as the young girl, and then ask for forgiveness, once again, for "causing so much worry and trouble..."

You should take a moment to read what she said. It is translated, so it's hard to say, precisely, what may be getting lost.  That said, here are some quotes from allkpop:

On being raped:
In June of 2008, I was raped by a hoobae I knew from a group I was a part of. I was cruelly abused. I was hit in the face with a fist and suffered a broken cheekbone, needing four weeks of rest to recover. I was taken somewhere in a cab while unconscious, and I was raped. That hoobae, that criminal was arrested and taken to court. During the 1st round, he received a prison sentence of two years (suspended for four years) along with 200 hours of community service. However, due to the fact that there were no witnesses and evidence, he was deemed not guilty on the charges.
On how she felt:
At the time, I was going to keep it a secret for the rest of my life like my dad had said. However, the bitterness in my heart was not erased, and I believed that ‘Na Young’ (who had become a victim of rape around the same time) would share the same thoughts as me. So, I wanted to console ‘Na Young’, and I wanted to raise awareness about the crime of rape. That is why I put this song, which I had made during that time, on this album.
On what she wants from the man who raped her:
I still haven’t received a single word of apology from that person, so there is currently a civil suit going on. I believe that the best treatment for rape is to receive an apology.
An appropriately indignant commenter wrote a very long comment. You can read it on the tumblr of ancientrelic.

Here's what Kurt Cobain had to say:
What else could I write?
I don't have the right.
What else should I be?
All Apologies.
I hope Ms. ALi does not blame herself for what someone else did to her. I hope she doesn't blame herself for what a society of people is doing to her. But, it seems she does.

I wish, perhaps, she had talked to the family before naming her song what she did. But, then again, perhaps she wanted to tap into the shame and silence of a story that her country's people, for good or ill, very much would rather forget.

Many people, of course, would rather not be reminded that such things occur in their society--especially that they might be endemic, generally glossed over, and often only focused on in the most grisly of moments when said society might feel free to dip into their reservoir of han, that pool of suppressed anger and raging powerlessness, and righteously direct it at that one true, obvious horror, as in the case of Na Young, and, having done their duty, shut their ears, eyes, and hearts, ignoring the all-too-frequent and mundane horror of a woman being ignored because no one but her witnessed the "shame" done.

Alas, they must be reminded. You cannot look away. Things happen whether you believe in them or not. They continue to happen mostly because people choose to not believe in them. Or to ignore them--which amounts to the same thing. It's enough to make a girl wonder what's real.
Looking here and there but you still can't believe in this world
Even if the world flows by so quickly, even if time leaves us
Trust your mind, trust your mind


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Home Cinema Doesn't Exist

God bless you, Anthony Lane. And by God, I mean one of those black and white Bergman numbers where heaven is strawberries or some such.
There’s only one problem with home cinema: it doesn’t exist. The very phrase is an oxymoron. As you pause your film to answer the door or fetch a Coke, the experience ceases to be cinema. Even the act of choosing when to watch means you are no longer at the movies. Choice—preferably an exhaustive menu of it—pretty much defines our status as consumers, and has long been an unquestioned tenet of the capitalist feast, but in fact carte blanche is no way to run a cultural life (or any kind of life, for that matter), and one thing that has nourished the theatrical experience, from the Athens of Aeschylus to the multiplex, is the element of compulsion. Someone else decides when the show will start; we may decide whether to attend, but, once we take our seats, we join the ride and surrender our will. The same goes for the folks around us, whom we do not know, and whom we resemble only in our private desire to know more of what will unfold in public, on the stage or screen. We are strangers in communion, and, once that pact of the intimate and the populous is snapped, the charm is gone. Our revels now are ended.
He also has some very funny, Freudian things to say about Brett Ratner's Tower Heist. It is the New Yorker, after all. And tower is in the title. There was no choice, really.

Oh, and actually, I'm quite happy with carte blanche. I want, as the subtitle up there says, everything ever. I want Pandora and Spotify and Grooveshark and podcasts curated by DJs. I want Mubi and Netflix and old, obscure, Spanish neo-realist films beamed to my brain, and I want, on occasion, to put on a coat and scarf, walk down a sidewalk in the fall, with yellow leaves falling and that smell in the air, and then enter into some dark room, sit down with a bunch of strangers, and watch something grand and silly, preferably with, of late, the involvement of Emma Stone or Wong Kar-Wai.

Happy 5th of November, readers. Remember, remember.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Porn stars and science fiction writers don't really care what you think of them.

The other day, I read a thing in the New York Times that annoyed me. I decided to not bother thinking about it overly much, except that I was glad I read it all the way through. We'll get to that in a minute.

The thing in the New York Times was Glen Duncan's review of Zone One. It begins like so:
A literary novelist writing a genre novel is like an intellectual dating a porn star. It invites forgivable prurience: What is that relationship like? Granted the intellectual’s hit hanky-panky pay dirt, but what’s in it for the porn star? Conversation? Ideas? Deconstruction?
Which, you know, is a perfectly fine and dumb way to begin a review, and designed, more or less, to get people to mention it on blogs so that the people reading those blogs will click the link to the review and so drive page views and advertising dollars to the New York Times.

This is, among other reasons, why I didn't bother mentioning it.

But, Charlie Jane Anders at io9 could not resist. And I'm glad she didn't.

She attempted to contact Glen Duncan for an interview. To ask him, for example, if he had ever dated a porn star, or if, perhaps, he had run into trouble with readers of his own foray into genre, The Last Werewolf; or if he had read Dhalgren? The Female Man? House of Leaves? The Wasp Factory? The Dispossessed? Air?

Glen Duncan did not respond. So, Ms. Anders went ahead and posted her questions for him and avoided any pointless ranting, saying " really feels like we're mostly past that by now, when places like the Atlantic are celebrating the trend that Duncan decries."

Instead, of a rant she closes with an inspired list of "how genre writers are like porn stars" which does great justice to both "slums" and includes, among other things, this:
Porn stars and genre writers are both trying, in very different ways, to satisfy a basic human need for a transcendent experience, something that takes you out of yourself. People — who feel imprisoned in these bodies, these lives, these surroundings — crave escapism and fantasy, but also a feeling of connection to a world where implausible things happen.
Go read the article.

Before you go though, I should say that Glen Duncan's review of Zone One manages to not completely go downhill from it's beginning, as it does manage this paragraph near its end.
The shape it makes is a love story. More specifically, a story of lost love, at first glance contemporary America’s for its own cultural protocols — from sidewalk etiquette to sitcom vectors — but beyond that, humanity’s love for ritual, its dependence on ways of imposing meaning on the void; for religious trinkets or scientific models or personal superstitions or long-term financial plans; for every gimmick, brand preference, boxed set or mumbled prayer that helps us deny the absurdity of our predicament and the certainty of death. Some “Zone One” humans are still at it, post-Apocalypse, framing the plague as God’s righteous reboot or the planet’s eco backlash, but for the antiheroic Mark Spitz the framing days are over. What happens happens, and there’s nothing behind it but a random biological swipe. Philosophically, the novel’s as existentially hard-line as they come. 
It's a nice paragraph and, to a certain extent, shines some light on why, perhaps, Glen Duncan made such a fit about genre throughout--thinking, maybe, that genre also demonstrates humanity's love for frames and rituals.

Which it does.

The thing is that the term "literary" houses its own generic tropes, as much as science fiction, mystery, romance, and so forth, and really the distinction for readers comes down to whether, as a wonderful lady once told me, you crave comfort or surprise.

This, presumably, is what China Mieville was going on about in The Guardian concerning, "the literature of recognition versus that of estrangement."

You can find whatever you want, readers, wherever you want to look.

And, here's one more thing.

The reason Zone One succeeds, the reason The Soprano's was awesome; the reason Dhalgren exists; the reason the very blonde Buffy Summers walks down a dark alley and proceeds to kick demon ass,  is that genres exist, and the creators of those works of art are in love with genre, almost as much as they're in love with surprising themselves, and us, by bending their beloved frames into new shapes.

Shapes which matter, which resonate, because we, as readers, recognize what the original frames looked like, what view of the world they allowed, and what this new frame, made by this new creator, has done to our way of seeing the world through their stories.

Genre is dead. Love live genre.

Happy reading, readers.


All Books Are Weird

Kelly Link writes a particularly wonderful brand of odd.

Look. All books are weird when you think about it. I just read a ter­rific quote from an arti­cle by Edward Docx, “Among the Rus­sians,” in which he and a group of Russ­ian writ­ers are talk­ing about writ­ing. Out of that con­ver­sa­tion comes this description:
Decid­ing to write a novel is like vis­it­ing an obscure, half-forgotten and slowly-evaporating planet entirely com­prised of swim­ming pools and decid­ing that what is needed is… yes, another swim­ming pool! But, for obscure rea­sons, a swim­ming pool that must be built single-handedly from scratch and then filled using only a syringe.
Read the rest of her interview at the Weird Fiction Review, wherein you will learn she's currently being disturbed by old, North Hampton farmhouses in Colson Whitehead's Zone One, and she was once an editor with The Greensboro review.

I had forgotten she was, like so many of us*, once an MFA student..

Of note, she will be an instructor, along with Gavin Grant, at the next Clarion West.

ttfn, readers.

*And by us, of course, I mean me and other people I know who were once MFA students. If you are not a former MFA student, that's okay. There's still time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ancient Sumeria

From Jonathan Lethem and Occupy Writers:
Dahlia Lithwick says, “Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message. It’s a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It’s a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be, although it is deftly changing the way we explain ourselves to one another… We are the most media-saturated 24-hour-cable-soaked culture in the world, and yet around the country, on Facebook and at protests, people are holding up cardboard signs, the way protesters in ancient Sumeria might have done when demonstrating against a rise in the price of figs. And why is that? Because they very wisely don’t trust television cameras and microphones to get it right anymore. Because a media constructed around the illusion of false equivalencies, screaming pundits, and manufactured crises fails to capture who we are and what we value.” 
Here's Dahlia's article from Slate.

ttfn, readers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Adventures in Depression

This made me smile.

Visit Hyperbole and a Half, for more. Hyperbole is the blog of one Allie Brosh, who you can watch tell her blog's story on YouTube. Spoiler: It involves, among other things: Calvin and Hobbes, physics, procrastination, and a fish.

Myself, I am inclined to wind my way back through Hyperbole and a Half's archive. 

Happy Friday, readers.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Neil Gaiman Presents

Hello, readers.

Neil Gaiman writes scary, lovely things. Very often he reads these things out loud to an audience. You can listen to him read the Newberry winning, The Graveyard Book* at The Mouse Circus.

He loves the act of storytelling so much, in fact--and audio books in particular, that he and Audible have joined in launching something called Neil Gaiman Presents. Gaiman will pick books, work with the authors where not entirely dead, and recruit the perfect voice for the story.

In his blog post on the opening, he mentioned a future release being that of "John Hodgman reading Robert Sheckley's hilarious pre-Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy galactic travel fantasia DIMENSION OF MIRACLES."

So, excitement +2.

Happy Thursday, readers.


*I read The Graveyard Book while road-tripping around the southern U.S.. I finished it in southwest Louisiana, at a house shaded by banana trees. It inspired me to wander one of the above-ground cemeteries nearby. I brought a dog along with me. We looked at many old things together. On the way home, a man carrying a brick and walking with a slight tilt, followed us for a time. Eventually, he stopped, which was nice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don't Look Now

Maybe because I grew up in Britain, the opening almost seemed like one of those absolutely nightmarish PSAs that you would see. There were some extremely dour ones in the UK that implored you “Don’t play near ponds. Don’t throw your ball into the pond. Do not go near the dark water.” Once you’ve seen it a couple of times, you can start to see the allusions, too, the bad omens and the flashes forward to significant images and colors, and all that amazing cross-cutting that Nicolas Roeg does. It’s such an incredible sequence. 
Edgar Wright writing in the A.V. Club on the merits of Don't Look Now, as part of a 24-hour Halloween horror movie marathon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Small Horrors

Dana Jennings in NYT.
The best work in dark fantasy and horror fiction these days is being published by small presses, haunted literary boutiques established (mostly) in out-of-the-way places.
There’s Small Beer in Easthampton, Mass., and Subterranean in Burton, Mich.; Centipede in Lakewood, Colo., and Cemetery Dance in Forest Hill, Md.; Tachyon in San Francisco and ChiZine in Toronto — and many more. They’re all devoted to the weird, to the strange and — most important — to good writing.
Interesting that with the stated love of the little wonders out there, only three authors, and their respective presses, get much mention (Geoff Ryman with Small Beer, Caitlan R. Kiernan with Subterranean, and Tim Powers with Tachyon). I would've liked a little more on what the others were up to.

Still, it's nice to see the small presses ballyhooed in the big press.


Seoul Mayoral Election, Now with More Flash Mobs!

Hello, readers.

Elections in Korea, and perhaps Seoul in particular, often involve a lot of coordinated dancing, rolling truck sing-alongs, and men wearing both cowboy hats and sparkly pants.

This video, though--so far as I know--is the first evidence of flash mobs being used in Seoul to turn out the vote.


via (Global Voices) and also this Korean description which I cannot read.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

Throughout Buffy, Whedon hosted the cast at his home for regular Shakespeare readings. Perhaps this grew out of that. Perhaps it is not Shakespearean, at all. Maybe it's about pool cleaning.

The real question is, how will it be distributed? 

ttfn, readers.

The Lion and the Unicorn

The underlying fact was that the whole position of the moneyed class had long ceased to be justifiable. There they sat, at the centre of a vast empire and a world-wide financial network, drawing interest and profits and spending them--on what?
Although there are gifted and honest individuals among them, we have got to break the grip of the moneyed class as a whole.
Patriotism has nothing to do with Conservatism. It is actually the opposite of Conservatism, since it is a devotion to something that is always changing and yet is felt to be mystically the same. It is the bridge between the future and the past. No real revolutionary has ever been an internationalist.
Quite soon it will be possible to say definitely that our feet are set upon one path or the other. But at any rate it is certain that with our present social structure we cannot win. 

George Orwell writing in 1940, as "highly civilized human beings [flew] overhead, trying to kill [him]." It was difficult not to read certain passages without hearing some resonance with the present now-type happenings.

I wonder what he would have said if he were alive. Hopefully, he would've refrained from calling India "backward", which he does at some points. Silly, English man.

ttfn, readers.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Haruki Murakami

“I live in Tokyo,” he told me, “a kind of civilized world — like New York or Los Angeles or London or Paris. If you want to find a magical situation, magical things, you have to go deep inside yourself. So that is what I do. People say it’s magic realism — but in the depths of my soul, it’s just realism. Not magical. While I’m writing, it’s very natural, very logical, very realistic and reasonable.”
From Sam Anderson's "The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami" in The New York Times Magazine.

It's a introduction, and trip, through Murakami's particular brand of reality. As well, Anderson--in visiting Murakami in Tokyo--visited several places in Tokyo made famous, or somehow actual, by the power of Murakami's imagination. You can see a slideshow of those places, and accompanying passages from Murakami's books, here.

Some bookstores in the non-Asian parts of the world are planning on opening at midnight for the non-Asian release of 1Q84. 

Sometimes the world pleases me.

ttfn, readers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Zone One

Visit Strange Horizons for my review of Zone One, the zombie-tastic novel by Colson Whitehead.
The zombies have won. After wizards, vampires, and a brief fling with the possibility of werewolves, the results are in. Shaun of the Dead. Generation Dead. The Walking Dead. Zombies vs. Unicorns. Etc. Popular culture has arrived at a point where it craves a monster both overwhelming in number and completely devoid of spirit. Our world, for better or worse, belongs now to the dead and to those that love them. #yay.
Also, TIME has this video of Whitehead discussing Zone One's influences, including Death Wish, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things, and other horribly wonderful bits of pop culture.

ttfn, readers.

Dropbox: The Inside Story

Victoria Barrett writing in Forbes on the matter of the cloud-syncing wonder-storage-thing called Dropbox. Much is made of the meeting between Drew Houston (Dropbox founder) and Steve Jobs, as well as the increasingly present cumulus-oriented competition of  Apple, Google, and Amazon.
What Houston does is Dropbox, the digital storage service that has surged to 50 million users, with another joining every second. Jobs presciently saw this sapling as a strategic asset for Apple. Houston cut Jobs’ pitch short: He was determined to build a big company, he said, and wasn’t selling, no matter the status of the bidder (Houston considered Jobs his hero) or the prospects of a nine-digit price (he and Ferdowsi drove to the meeting in a Zipcar Prius).
I use Dropbox to transfer presentations from my office computer, to my laptop, to the computer in the classroom where I teach. It's also where I backup my writing and share pictures and things with my far-away sister.

It's a kind of magic*.

ttfn, readers.

*Queen reference (cue whooshy wind sound effect).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Woman in Black

Some out-of-context quotes from the Guardian on the trailer for The Woman in Black (starring Daniel Radcliffe of, well, you know).
Oh crap, it's the Hogwarts Express. Right, forget everything I just said about Daniel Radcliffe moving on. Someone book him a superior room in the Wolverhampton Travelodge for the duration of Potterquest Midlands 2024...
OH MY GOD! IT'S A BIRD ON A DESK! That's … actually, hang on, it's a bird on a desk. That's literally it. It's just a bird standing on a normal desk. That isn't very scary at all. Pull your socks up, The Woman in Black trailer. ..
ON NO! IT'S A muddy boy.
If you want to see the trailer from whence these sarcasms came, click the link above.


Google's Digital Bookcase

Here's a perfect use for something like the OmniTouch. Slap a holo-bookcase in the corner of your bedroom and use the OmniTouch to track your hand as it spins, selects, and browses through books.

 I'm afraid it won't replace the smell of paper and ink, though. Not yet, anyway. via (endgadget).

ttfn, readers.

p.s. Note, at endgadget, there's a link to the actual WebGL site for you to play with. They warn that it might kill your computer, though--due to resource devourment. Mine survived.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Crucible (도가니)

From The New York Times:
Since its release on Sept. 22, 4.4 million people, including President Lee Myung-bak — nearly a 10th of the country’s population — have seen it [The Crucible]. The film has tapped into widespread anger over official reluctance to take sexual crimes seriously, and over how justice is served, or not, in South Korea.
The cabinet has vowed to inspect all facilities for the disabled and minors to ferret out teachers with records of sexual abuse. The head of the Supreme Court admitted that “society is simmering with resentment” toward a legal system long criticized as “yujeonmujoe mujeonnyujoe,” or “not guilty for the rich, guilty for the poor.” 

The film deals with the sexual abuse that occurred at the Inhwa School for the hearing impaired. Those incidents, along with the courtroom drama (no sign-language translation was provided) and the resulting sentences (some found guilty were released with suspended sentences), inspired a book of the same name by Gong Ji-young.

What's of special interest here is the foregrounding of disabled individuals as human beings who deserve some protection--or, at the very least, some recognition--from a society that often seems to prefer to forget they exist.
Here, disregard for the disabled is so entrenched that the subway authorities began installing elevators for wheelchair access only in recent years following protests by the handicapped in which they chained themselves to the tracks with signs that read, “We want to use the subway too.”
“What people see in the movie is a capsule version of their society,” said Chun Sang-chin, a sociologist at Sogang University. “There is anger over how the strong bully the weak, despair over how the system protects the well-connected, and fear that the same can happen to the rest of us.”
In my own classes, there are some students with various learning disabilities, and, for the most part, no special attention is paid to them by the school.

One of my students told me she was reading 도가니. She said it made her angry. I was unaware, at the time, though, just what an impact it, and the film, were having on Korean culture. For comparison sakes, if 10% of the U.S. saw a film, that would equal about a $300 million box office--which, you know, is pretty good for a socially conscious and fairly ugly  indictment of "the foul underside of society."

Koreans excel at being outraged about things (see the above mentioned chaining oneself to the tracks or the protests over imported American beef ). Let's hope this outrage does some good.



This is the kind of thing that reminds me of graduate school. Big ideas, unmarketable implementations, but, if the right person (or company) sees the right way to use it, then something actual and cool could happen.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Fascinating things about suicide nets

From the Apple Supplier Responsibility 2011 Progress Report:
In August 2010, the independent team (Tim Cook, among others) presented its findings and recommendations to Terry Gou and senior executives from Foxconn and Apple. The team commended Foxconn for taking quick action on several fronts simultaneously, including hiring a large number of psychological counselors, establishing a 24-hour care center, and even attaching large nets to the factory buildings to prevent impulsive suicides. The independent team also found that Foxconn had worked openly with many outside experts and government officials in reacting to the crisis. Most important, the investigation found that Foxconn’s response had definitely saved lives. 
The emphasis is mine. The concern, of course, is that no one at Foxconn was commended for altering the actual work environment that led to the company dressing its building in a skirt made from, what I'm going to assume, was a giant circus-type safety net.

But, there's one more thing.
The independent team suggested several areas for improvement, such as better training of hotline staff and care center counselors and better monitoring to ensure effectiveness. Foxconn incorporated the team’s specific recommendations into their long-term plans for addressing employee wellbeing. The company is implementing an employee assistance program (EAP) that focuses on maintaining employee mental health and expanding social support networks. In addition, they have begun the process of expanding operations to other parts of China, enabling workers to be closer to their home provinces.
 So, Apple's team suggested counseling the angry, sad, tired people into not being angry or sad or tired, and "better monitoring" to ensure their counseling was "effective". In more good news, Foxconn is "expanding their operations."

If you feel like occupying something, there's probably a city nearby for that.

ttfn, readers.

Korea Invented Pizza

It's true.

Go here for more.



Photo by Zoriah.

NYC blinked this morning.
Officials in New York City on Friday postponed a planned clean-up of the downtown Manhattan park where anti-Wall Street protesters set up camp a month ago, averting what many feared could have been a showdown with authorities.
Occupy Seoul gets under way this Saturday.
Members of civic organizations advocating for consumer financial rights have a news conference to declare they will hold “Occupy Yeouido” protest at 2 p.m. Oct. 15...
Other social organizations also plan to have a rally at Seoul Plaza at the same time. All the groups will then gather at Seoul Plaza to hold an “Occupy Seoul” protest at 6 p.m. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Against Nostalgia

Mike Daisey is a storyteller and monologist, among other things. He's performed at some events put on by The Moth. He's good. This is what he had to say recently in the New York Times.
Apple’s rise to power in our time directly paralleled the transformation of global manufacturing. As recently as 10 years ago Apple’s computers were assembled in the United States, but today they are built in southern China under appalling labor conditions. Apple, like the vast majority of the electronics industry, skirts labor laws by subcontracting all its manufacturing to companies like Foxconn, a firm made infamous for suicides at its plants, a worker dying after working a 34-hour shift, widespread beatings, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to meet high quotas set by tech companies like Apple...
Mr. Jobs’s magic has its costs. We can admire the design perfection and business acumen while acknowledging the truth: with Apple’s immense resources at his command he could have revolutionized the industry to make devices more humanely and more openly, and chose not to. If we view him unsparingly, without nostalgia, we would see a great man whose genius in design, showmanship and stewardship of the tech world will not be seen again in our lifetime. We would also see a man who in the end failed to “think different,” in the deepest way, about the human needs of both his users and his workers. 
This grew out of Daisey's work, and performances of, something called The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, his monologue/one-man show about his life and love of Apple, and the journey he took to China to meet with the workers there, and how it changed him. He is not unaware of the fact that other companies (Dell, HP, etc) also get there supplies in a similar, or worse, manner. He is aware, though, that like Nike was to the shoe industry, Apple is the brand that's most associated with the world's current manufactured bliss. If you're going to close the "sweatshops" of technology, they're the company you look at.

For myself, I've been reading Apple's supplier responsibility reports. In the coming days, when the mood strikes, I will post some of what it says. Fascinating things about suicide nets, for example. Apple, if nothing else, is active in auditing its suppliers and seemingly quite transparent about their (so-far) failures to enact lasting change. I don't know of any other tech company publishing the number of underage workers in their factories.


Out of Print


T-shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags, and iCases (among other things) imprinted with the message that literature still matters enough to put on a t-shirt, or a sweatshirt, or a--well, you get the idea.


We Bought a Zoo

Speaking of movies, last week, Entertainment Weekly put up a list of 25 fall movies to which they're looking forward.

Among the many possibly wonderful wonders included--such as Tin Tin with it's creepy animatronic-like motion-capture puddy people, or Hugo, the real-people Scorsese take on the spectacular illustrated novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret--the thing that caught my eye was that Cameron Crowe has a new film called, We Bought a Zoo.

This is the trailer.

I love Cameron Crowe. He embraces a kind of courageous sentimentality that circles around self-indulgent soppiness without, generally, falling into it. Say Anything, for example, hurt. Almost Famous, too. And, in between, there was that thing with Cuba Gooding, Jr.

Also, he's good with music.

Also, also, there are segments of Elizabethtown that I love with an intenseness that belies the fact that I'd be wary of actually recommending anyone else to watch it.

We Bought a Zoo is his first bit of fictional directing since that film. I am wary, but hopeful. There is Thomas Hayden Church, after all.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Busan Film Festival

Heading south to Busan for the film festival today. Blog updates will be sparse. I will, of course, have my iPod with me, so I will not be completely out of touch. Thanks, Steve.

Here's what I'll be seeing.

The Bad Intentions (Peru/Germany/Argentina)
...a great new voice in the world of cinema, Rosario Garcia-Montero‘s “The Bad Intentions” is a brilliant coming-of-age story that’s funny, subtle, touching, and one of the best films of the year. 

The Idiot (Estonia), an adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel.

The Reason Why I Step (Korea), a documentary about indie art and music.

The Enemy (Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina), a film about clearing the minefields of the Balkan wars.

Stella Days (Ireland)
“Stella Days” tells the story of a newly-arrived parish priest (Martin Sheen) who wants to open a cinema in the small town in the 1950s. His plans attract opposition from his bishop and some locals who fear the effect this outside influence might have on their way of life.
MESH (Walking) (Turkey)
Xelilo, a disturbed man, walks endlessly through the streets of the Kurdish village in the south east of Turkey. He is curiously being noticed by Cengo, a 12 year old boy, selling chewing gum. Their poor but carefree lives take a sudden turn, when the Turkish military takes power in 1980. The curfew and the resistance of the people become the centre of their lives with dramatic consequences.

11 Flowers (China/France)
Wang Han, 11 year old boy in the province of Ghizhou is confronted with a runaway murderer. Hiding in the woods, the wounded man takes Wang Han drying shirt and persuades him to help him out. Frightened and fascinated at once, Wang Han and his friends accept to keep it secret from the police. Strange things are happening at school and the police is everywhere

Poongsan (Korea) -- Produced by Kim Ki-duk
Poongsan has the unenviable – and death-defying – job of delivering messages across the North and South Korean border to separated families. When South Korean government agents ask him to smuggle in In-ok, the lover of a high-ranking North Korean defector, into the South, the damsel and rescuer fall in love instead

Happy weekend, readers.


One more thing...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On Apple, Siri, and the Cloud Cage

Hello, readers.

You may have noticed Apple held one of its events this past afternoon. Steve Jobs was not there. Neither was an iPhone 5. There was Siri, though, and something called the iPhone 4S which is the iPhone 4 plus the letter S, among other things.

Here's what some people are saying.

Nick Bilton believes everything's as much about Google as Apple.
To [compete with Android] the company had to offer a high-end phone that is very Applesque, complete with the slickest new features and software: the iPhone 4S, which starts at $200 and goes as high as $400. In addition, the company needed to offer iPhones for the masses: the iPhone 3GS, which is now free. All of these prices are valid with a two-year contract with the carrier for wireless service.
CNET on how Apple mostly uses the internet as a way to communicate with itself.

I find Apple's clear unwillingness to release Web front-ends to users' photo libraries or documents or stored music tracks galling. Apple could become one of the most powerful and useful consumer Web companies in the world were it to make all its users' content available to them from any device that had Web access. Of course, that would reduce the need for each user to have one of their own, or better yet several of their own, Apple devices to access their personal clouds of data and media. If every device was an equal citizen on the Apple Web, it might depress the volume of sales, and prices, of Apple gear.
Which is, depending on who you are, either wonderfully simple or terribly limiting. It's certainly convenient to have Apple put all your music in the cloud, but if you're forever locked into playing it with Apple devices, well, um, there you go. The cloud cage.

This is my next on Siri.
Recognizing context is a simple kind of logic, and very important for listening. When it comes to finding a good answer, however, a whole new level of logic is needed, and obviously this is the crux of Siri’s AI — all the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of it. One aspect I’m particularly excited about is the Wolfram Alpha integration. Wolfram Alpha makes more sense integrated into a personal assistant (like Siri) than subbing in as a search engine (like Google or Bing), and asking Siri to convert units or time zones, or to compare the land speed of Usain Bolt to a cheetah (my primary use for Wolfram Alpha revolves around such comparisons) is going to be endlessly useful / entertaining.
I'm having flashes of Angel and the evil lawyers of Wolfram & Heart. Also, as I tweeted, at some point in the future I'm prepared for smartphones to be equipped with customizable genuine people personalities so that your phone will not necessarily have to sound like a robot woman speaking from the inside of War Games.

And, here's Activate on the lives of workers at Foxconn, one of Apple's leading suppliers. It's a short doc, and doesn't go into terribly much documented detail. For more, consider reading these reports of strangely numerous suicides and Apple's response.
In its latest report, Apple said it conducted audits of 127 facilities throughout the world. Ninety-seven of those were first-time audits and 30 were repeat audits.
Although many consumer electronic companies around the world use these same suppliers for their products, more than 40 percent of the suppliers audited said Apple was the first company to ever have audited their facilities....
Apple says it's been "aggressive in helping underage workers return to their families and get back to school."
If underage workers are discovered, Apple said it requires the supplier to pay for education expenses, a living stipend, and lost wages for six months or until the worker is 16, whichever is longer.

That last bit, about Apple's "aggressiveness in helping underage workers return to their familes." Um. Scary.

Here's Apple's page on supplier responsibility.

It's worth a little thought. Even the woman, Debbie Chan--who's doing the doc--appears to be using something like a MacBook at one point, and certainly a smartphone. I for one, generally only tend to think about where the products I use come from in a considerate, but kind of useless way. Which is to say I think, oh, worker's rights are important, let me check the news about that on my Vaio/iPod/Etc.


ttfn, readers.

More on the Nobel winners

For more on the Nobel physics winners (and frequent mention of some mysterious physicist nicknamed the 'Time Lord') go here. You'll get a nice profile and summary of the science involved by Jennifer Ouellette writing in the Scientific American.
After saying farewell, I commented to the Time Lord as we walked back home how much I liked Brian: “You have really nice friends.” (It’s true; pretty much all of the Time Lord’s pals are delightful, but then, I’m partial to physicists.) He agreed, and added, “And you know what else? He will absolutely win the Nobel Prize some day.”
 Also, Discover takes a whack at explaining dark energy in a friendly FAQ.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Speaking of nobel prizes...

Three U.S. - born scientists win the Nobel prize for physics. 

"For almost a century the universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago," the citation said. "However the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up the universe will end in ice.

Nostalgia Overload

The floppy disk drive to the future:

"If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can imagine"


American Novelists

Hello, readers.

At Salon today, "Why American novelists don't deserve the Nobel prize."
Four years after Morrison won the Nobel, David Foster Wallace predicted the current rut in which our literature finds itself in a New York Observer evisceration of John Updike’s “Toward the End of Time.” Though he took particular issue with Updike’s autumnal output, Wallace parceled blame to all of the Great Male Narcissists, with their hermetic concerns and insular little fictions. The following is Wallace’s estimation of Updike, but it could just as easily be said about anyone else in the postwar American pantheon: “The very world around them, as beautifully as they see and describe it, seems to exist for them only insofar as it evokes impressions and associations and emotions inside the self.”
The article points out two such insularities in modern writers by evoking Roth's "bygone Jewish precincts of Newark" and Cormac McCarthy's "gun-slinging west." Both go a long way towards making the point that Alexander Nazaryan, the writer of this article, perhaps hasn't been reading much Roth or McCarthy lately.

Perhaps the article's right, though, that a great deal of our pantheon-ed American writers have turned insular, and write their fictions--as Wallace lamented about Updike--more as a way to reflect what they feel about what they see, instead of exploring what they see and how others might feel (though, at what point did evoking an individual's experience become so anathema; at what point did it stop being universal when done well--even if it was your own?)

I don't really know. I haven't read much of the pantheon-ed writers of late.

In the comments of the article, a few brief mentions are made of those American writers working outside the pantheon--such as Gene Wolfe or Neal Stephenson--who are anything but insular in their writing. And by insular I mean, of course having main characters of a strictly white and American orientation. Both writers use a more expansive palette, exploring a world-sized amount of philosophy and suffering.

I'm fairly certain there are other examples, as well.

It would have been nice if Mr. Nazaryan had expanded his view of American writers beyond Roth, Delillo, Pynchon, et al. If those writers are guilty of insularity, then writers like Nazaryan--and those lamenting the state of American fiction--might do well to step outside their own insular views of American literature and read what else is out there.

ttfn, readers.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Radiolab is a fantastic radio show about the science and mystery of things such as mechanical turks, broken hearts, and symmetrical molecules. It also boasts a soundscape of loopy, intwerwoven gibblets of dialogue and sound that make the experience of listening actually worth, well, listening to. It's radio done in a way that lives up to the strength of its sensory limitations.

Jab Abumrad, a co-host along with Robert Krulwitch and a musician by training, was recently named a MacArthur "genius."

If you're not listening, Ira Glass explains why you should at Transom.

If you want to read more about the sound of Radiolab, Nieman Journalism Lab has a nice bit on that.

Also, The New York Times had an interactive widget that let you play with the Radiolab sound a few months back. It's cool.


It's Arrested Development

Jason Bateman on Twitter:
It’s true. We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ’13. VERY excited
Apparently, talks have been had with Netflix and Showtime about distributing.  Certainly would win Netflix back a lot of love. Maybe a few customers, too.

These episodes would proceed any movement on the oft-rumored, never-actual, but maybe now immintenly possible, Arrested Development movie.

All of this came out at the New Yorker Festival. All of the Bluths and Mitchell Hurwitz (creator/writer/genius) were there.

When asked about the movie possibility, Mitchell Hurwitz said, "We're 80% of the way to an answer."

Read more at the New York Times.

Happy Monday, readers.


Saturday, October 1, 2011


The things our friends find and put on Facebook. Magnificent.


Charlie Kaufman

In an interview with Time Out London, Charlie Kaufman talked a bit about his next movie, Frank or Francis.

If I look at some of the things in the script that I’m about to embark on, I’d have to say I don’t really have any idea how we’re going to do it. I’ve been pretty good at keeping logistics away from the writing process. It’s important when you’re writing to not bridle yourself with pragmatic concerns. The movie I’m about to do has got a lot of scenes and a lot of characters. And the scope of it and the world it inhabits is very, very large. In the broadest possible sense, it’s about online film criticism, but as usual, the world that I’m writing about is not necessarily the world that I’m writing about. It’s just a place to set it. There’s a lot in there about the internet and anger: cultural, societal and individual anger. And isolation in this particular age we live in. And competition: it’s about the idea of people in this world wanting to be seen. I hate to use the word “about”, as it implies that what I’m doing is an analogy and that I’m trying to say something. I’m not. That’s for the audience to do.
There's more in the interview about the screenwriting (it's not therapeutic), dreams, and being called a mathematical storyteller.

All of his movies tend to comfortably unravel my brain. Even Synecdoche, New York, which made an amount of sense approaching zero a great deal of the time, added up to something true and painful by the end. It didn't have to make sense. It just worked.

I don't remember that being how math usually functioned, but maybe math has moved on since I left school.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Roger Ebert still loves Netflix...

Roger Ebert writes in Businessweek, of all things, about his continued--sometimes ambivalent--love of Netflix.
Netflix is woefully short on silent films and weak on foreign films. It offers all of three operas on film. It should work on those areas. Its website is a disaster. A more searchable front end would dramatize the depth of its selection. But it remains a service I treasure and use often.
In the article, Ebert also mentions that, at 50% off its high, he thinks that Netflix's stock is a BUY!

It's possible he didn't use exclamation points. Or all-caps. You know how I am with these things.

I wonder who approached who for the writing of the article. Curious. Fascinating.

ttfn, readers.


Murakami once wrote a book in which there were unicorn skulls and talking shadows. His new book, 1Q84, arrives in English on October 25th. I am experiencing some amount of anticipation.

Amazon Interest in Netflix

From the wild, wouldn't it be funny if, speculation department known as analyst chatter:

"We believe the tablet launch and the integration of Amazon's e-books, digital music, and digital movie offerings with the tablet indicate accelerating pace of innovation at Amazon to stay ahead of the secular shift to digital format. We believe there is a high likelihood that Amazon will: 1) launch a 10-inch tablet priced below $300 in early 2012, and 2) purchase the streaming business of Netflix," the analyst said.
Fun to ponder, in light of the Kindle Fire, but somehow doesn't seem right. Why? Don't know. Just a feeling. Maybe it's just that it doesn't seem Netflix would throw in the towel just yet, and Amazon seems to be doing fine gathering its own content.

 Motley Fool thinks Microsoft or Apple would be more likely suitors.

If I were in the U.S., I'd be using Netflix and hoping Netflix stays Netflix. They were always good to me.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Browncoats Mixtape

A Firefly rap album exists. That is all.

via io9.

Happy tightpants, readers.


Girls and The DC New 52

DC recently rebooted their superheroes back to square issue one.

Some of these reboots, particularly that of Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws, engendered (pun!) some discussion of the blatant display of fan-fiction-esque fan-service*.

From Comics Alliance:
And that is the whole problem with this false notion of "sexually liberated" female characters: These aren't those women. They're how dudes want to imagine those women would be -- what Wire creator David Simon called writing "men with t*ts." They read like men's voices coming out of women's faces. Or worse, they read like the straight girls who make out with each other at clubs, not because they enjoy making out with women but because they desperately want guys to pay attention to them.
Also, Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress: "Should Feminists Give Up On Comics?" And, a response at the Atlantic: "Don't Worry, Not All Comics Are This Sexist", which seems to me to go without saying, but there is a nice list of small-press comics and Asian imports worth perusing.

Here are two pretty pictures of such.

ttfn, readers.

*This being that ubiquitous euphemism from manga and anime wherein fan, generally, means boy who wants to see girl bits.

More Kindle Thoughts

John Gruber on Amazon & Apple:
Back in June, Harry McCracken laid out the key question to ask of any tablet: “Why should somebody buy this instead of an iPad?” The Kindle Fire is interesting because it’s the first one with a good answer: it’s much cheaper, Amazon offers a digital content ecosystem that rivals Apple’s (fewer apps, more books), and millions of people already use and enjoy Kindle hardware. The e-ink Kindles are to the Kindle Fire what the music-playing iPods were to the iPhone, and what the iPhone was to the iPad — traction in the mass market based on trust and loyalty.
The iPod certainly halo-ed me. It feels right when you use it. It's what makes me think if and when I buy a new laptop, I'd want a MacBook Air. As for the tablet, that's more of a toss-up--as, really, it's not really all that necessary. Most of the reason I want a tablet at the moment, is because it would be a more cost-effective way to subscribe to magazines when traveling abroad.
Apple and Amazon are approaching this tablet territory from opposing sides. The iPad takes it on from the high end. It’s the best possible device in that price range from the world’s best maker of devices. The Kindle Fire takes it on from the low end. The iPad is a credible laptop replacement for many people — and with iCloud and another year or two of hardware improvements, that’s going to be true for more and more people. The Kindle Fire is a laptop replacement for almost no one. It’s a peripheral, not a second computer — and it’s priced accordingly. You can get a Kindle Fire and a new top-of-the-line e-ink Kindle Touch for less than the price of an iPad. It’s a very different take. 
Very true. If I was in the U.S., I'd be tempted to go for the dual Amazon set-up over the one iPad. It would be like having that fabled e-ink/back-lit dual display machine. Except, you know, one of the screens goes in your back-pocket and the other screen goes in your jacket pocket.

In any case, I would wait on the tablet. Many have said Amazon rushed it out for the holiday season, and another, more awesome--more Amazon designed--tablet will be forthcoming early next year. Maybe January.

In other news, some people are freaked by letting all of their browser's browsing be processed by Amazon--privacy and such.


If only I had a flowchart...

A few months back, NPR compiled a list of the 100 best science fiction and fantasy books. There were, of course, no arguments. Everyone agreed precisely on what was included and what was excluded, and what placement each book/series received.

I mean, who doesn't think the Wheel of Time series is the 12th best thing ever to come out of the world of SF/F? Or, for that matter, that the number of women in the top 50 should be able to be counted on one hand?

If you meant to dive into this list, but were waiting for someone to produce a flowchart that might help you navigate your way to a starting point by way of pithy questions, well, you can relax.

Sf Signal has made such a flowchart, and everything makes sense now. Follow the link for the embiggened one.


Amazon Silk

Amazon debuted the many old and new varieties of Kindle this morning: a non-touch, ad-loaded, e-ink Kindle ($79), an e-ink Kindle Touch ($99/$149 for Wi-Fi/3G), and the tablet, Kindle Fire, for $199.

So, in theory, if one wanted, they could buy an e-ink Kindle and a Kindle Fire and still come in for nearly half the cost of an iPad. That's not to say that any of these things will function as well, or be as beautiful to look at, as Apple products, of course. My eyes do adore e-ink, though.

Most interesting to the techie part of my brain was the new cloud-based web-browser that comes on the Fire, called "Amazon Silk".

Watch. Learn.

Somewhere out there, I can hear the distant voice of a friend cursing the "evil" Amazon. She knows who she is.

ttfn, readers.

p.s. Apparently all of the e-readers at $79, $99, and $149, come with ads. So. There's that.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Portrait of a Sentence

"It doesn't matter if there's a ghost, or a robot, or a detective in a book, the question that should still preoccupy you is: Are the sentences worthy of hanging on the wall, one by one?"
~Benjamin Percy is profiled, along with his sister, at Salon.


World's Best Tzatziki

Some days ago, a friend asked me for suggestions of salads which are not so BORING AS TO BE INEDIBLE. It's possible he didn't speak in all-caps. Sometimes I exaggerate for effect.

Among my thoughts of roasted red peppers, fresh olives, thinly sliced cucumber, arrays of fruit and walnuts, and what have you, it occurred to me that one of the greatest things you can do for a salad (or anything for that matter), is to dress it with tzatziki.

Kalyn's Kitchen posted one of the better recipe's I've encountered. She called it the world's best. I have no idea if that's scientifically accurate. It tastes good, though, so go ahead and make it. Grab fresh dill if it's handy. Use greek yogurt (or, better, strain your own). If you have a salad or old shoe that needs eating, this will do you fine.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Kindle Fire

So, Amazon's tablet, set to debut on Wednesday, will possibly be called the "Kindle Fire." All word-play jokes aside, at the very least, it avoids confusion with certain feminine products. Price is said to be anywhere from $199 to $300. It doesn't matter terribly much to me. I don't want a backlit Kindle anything. I'm excited about the new Kindle Kindle, what is good for reading. Below, see a graphic from AppleInsider. The nicknames for the Kindles disturb me.


Habibi by Craig Thompson

Blankets by Craig Thompson was a magical and painful thing. I also remember there being a lot of snow. His new book is Habibi, and it looks more magical, and possibly more painful. In her description, Laura Miller throws around words like semi-fantastical, skyscrapers, Dumas, calligraphy, and camels. Other graphic novels are also talked about. They look amazing. But I don't know as much about them. Except for The Arctic Marauder which I reviewed for Strange Horizons.

An image from Habibi by Craig Thompson


Monday, September 26, 2011


Obsession x Voice (Failed Writer #6) from Yuvi Zalkow on Vimeo.



Hello, readers. I am experimenting with things. I don't know what will happen. Possibly light is the second fastest thing in the universe. Science happens. Watch out.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Super Color Super (Super Sketch) Photos

Hello, readers.

Super Color Super organizes shows of music and art and monsters in Seoul. These are some bits of kidnapped light from their Super Sketch show at Theater Zero in Hongdae. It was their two year anniversary, and it was fun. Enjoy.

Happy art-making, readers.