Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: December, 2001

I’m sitting around waiting until midnight and the new year hits. It doesn’t seem very exciting. But seeing Dick Clark in Times Square on TV is kind of scary. He has that preserved look that I thought was originally reserved for mummies.

I wonder if the post office is open tomorrow.

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White as Snow by Tanith Lee was a depressed ball bearing disguised as a rewritten fairy tale. Sure, the whole thing makes you think twice about Snow White and the myth surrounding Persephone but in the end, it was more an exercise in discovering literary allusions then actually getting immersed in the story. If only the protagonists were a little more likeable.

Out of curiousity I also got my hands on Open Season by Linda Howard. I guess I was misled since all the suspense I was expecting fell quite flat and instead I got pages and pages of “relationship” (i.e. romance) type stuff. I didn’t find the main character very sympathetic even though I once was also a librarian. It would have been much more interesting if the author kept the illegal alien at the beginning rather than conveniently killing her off for the sake of a blotched plot.

Yikes! Too many days missed. It must be the slower connection combined with my lack of motivation to even turn on the computer. Break sort of does that to my brain. But I haven’t been sleeping the days away or vegetating in front of the television that much. Instead, I’ve been working what I usually do during break–writing. Unfortunately most of the stuff ends up as fragments of ideas or really bad first drafts. Most of my better stuff seems to emerge during the rest of the year when I’m under pressure.

Lately, I’ve been to another used bookstore, this one called Book Attic. There’s a sizeable collection of sci-fi and mainstream fiction. More than half of the store though is based on non-fiction which is where you’ll find some really cool treasures like sheet music. The only lamentable fact about all these bookstores is that they don’t have a database online where you can browse beforehand. Yeah, there’s sites like Bookfinder, but those only cover the more larger and well known stores.

Merry Christmas!

The temperature is fluctuating between just below freezing and just above freezing–a real wide range, I can tell you. The forecasters are predicting “flurries” after Christmas although they’re as reliable as a random number generator. I’m just looking forward to tomorrow. The chaos of gift returns, sales, and hectic traffic lend an altogether different atmosphere than the previous days when people are actually buying things.

So to make up for yesterday, I have two (yes two!) things which I’m going to blab about, er review. The first is a movie based on a video game, Tomb Raider which I had initially ignored when it came out in theaters to see Atlantis. Scratching my head, I still can’t really find much of a plot. It’s more like a fan boy’s wet dream come true–gratuitous shower scenes, boob shots, and cheesy dialogue with blatant come ons. Will I see it again? No.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, on the other hand, is a book based on a BBC television series. And it shows. The novel reads like a brief script. The action passes too quickly despite the brief spurts of macabre humor that tries to hold it up. Gothic fantasy? Perhaps, after it’s been chewed and vomited back out for the masses. Gaiman should stick to comics and leave gothic fantasy to the genre masters Angela Carter and Tanith Lee.

I’ve been watching too much TV lately even though they’re only documentaries and news. But for some bizarre reason, this particular site was mentioned: People Cards. People can get their own collectible card. But somehow I sort of feel sad that some people may be resorting to this to get attention.

I can only compare Bookman, a used and rare bookstore located on 21st Avenue just past Vanderbilt University, to the fictional library in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Its shelves are brimming, virtually bursting, from all the books that were stocked. They need a whole other store to hold all of them properly. The store itself is a labyrinth with winding passages, alcoves, and hidden cubbyholes. It’s certainly something worthwhile for further exploration.

Once again, the evidence of suburban sprawl (or in this case industrial) was evident as I headed off to my latest random find. A large GAP distribution center sat in the middle of pristine grassland. Despite my general distaste for farmland and its herds of grazing cattle, it’s even more worrisome that our last vistas of “wilderness” or undeveloped land is being converted into a mechanic’s idea of utopia. But enough of that–I’m sure the next time I come home for break there won’t even be a hint of grass left. Just desolate parking lots.

As for my latest random find, it is a used bookstore called The Grapevine located in Gallatin, Tennessee (home to various country music stars like Reba McEntire and Johnny Cash). It has an adequate sci-fi, fantasy section although their section of trashy romance novels was three or four times larger. As for it’s organization, as expected of most used book stores.

I hate to think that I am a product of mass media. Are my preferences, notions, and opinions shaped by how the media and thus the corporations spew out their “information”? Am I just one person in a mindless mob programmed to buy this or that, think a particular thing, feel a particular thing? I’d like to think that I’m original that what I do is not mediated in anyway else to what some CEO in some big conglomerate wants me to do so that he or she can profit. It almost seems hopeless–that I can’t escape any of this even if I don’t watch television or listen to the radio.

Like other fans, I went to see LOTR: FOTR on opening day (today!) and was quite impressed and perhaps slightly surprised by Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkien’s work. I won’t spill all the secrets of what was cut or added, but I’ll say it’s quite effective in keeping people with short attention spans in their seat. And did I see masses of people eager to see the movie? No. But you have to remember, my hometown is filled with hicks in self-denial whose idea of a good time is cow-tipping and gossiping. Fantasy with a Christian slant deep in Southern Baptist territory? If the church minded people knew, they would be violently urging people to boycott. No wonder the only LOTR commercials on TV around here are for Burger King. But give them something like The Bridges of Madison County and they’ll be mobbing the theaters.

On Saturday, I headed to LAX to fly back home. Sure, security was a lot more strict than the last time I hopped on a plane, but somehow I didn’t feel all that safe. There were long lines of passengers, completely unarmed and defenseless. There were guys in uniforms toting automatic rifles–but they were probably as likely to shoot an innocent bystander as a terrorist.