Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: April, 2008

Zombie Naturalist Has A Blog

Charles Darwin’s blog. “Resurrected Victorian scientist and author.” We definitely need more dead people blogging.

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Speaking of Reviews

OH JOHN RINGO NO. (via links in the previous post) Wow. Now that is an awesome review of a terrible series.

Stars? What Stars?

Mmmm…One Star-rific! In response to an author behaving badly trainwreck, a SF author posts his one-starred reviews from Amazon. He also posts a list of authors who took up his one star challenge.

Tangential ramblings: Even as someone who reviews books as a hobby, I don’t believe in starring books or rankings. It smacks too much of pretend “objectivity”. People have to remember that it has no bearing on whether or not the author is truly good or bad. It’s just somebody’s opinion.

Briefly

50 best cult books. I think a definition for cult book should be that it is inherently not a bestseller, well-known, or well-regarded by critics. Cult books should be like cults–inspiring fanatical devotion by the few and derision from the mainstream. Take for instance Star Trek, the works of Joss Whedon, or Neil Gaiman. These nerdy and fannish topics might make them cult, but because so many people know of them, they aren’t. Besides, the mere appearance on some list in a major publication immediately renders the listed books un-cult.

I also recently watched two documentaries: Wordplay and Helvetica. Although both of them talk about words, the tone of each is vastly different. Wordplay, a film about The New York Times’ crossword puzzle editor and other crossword enthusiasts, reminded me a lot of Word Wars and Spellbound. Geeky and charming, it’s easy to get sucked into the crossword mania that famous and non-famous alike indulge in. As for Helvetica, well, the documentary as a whole was very stylish. I thought the history bit on Helvetica’s development was interesting. But those interviews with graphic designers–oh geez. Whether they were ranting about Helvetica’s conformity and “pro-war” image like streetside preachers or waxing poetical like enraptured lovers about the typeface’s simplicity and modernity, I just heard pretentious babble. What about the opinion of the average person on the street? Oh right–I got the impression from those designers that they think that regular people just blindly use the default because they’re totally ignorant of art.

Memes

Booking Through Thursday: Springing

Do your reading habits change in the Spring? Do you read gardening books? Even if you don’t have a garden? More light fiction than during the Winter? Less? Travel books? Light paperbacks you can stick in a knapsack?

Or do you pretty much read the same kinds of things in the Spring as you do the rest of the year?

I don’t think my reading tastes change throughout the year, but I do read more during the summer (and during winter break) simply because I have more time to do so.

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The Thursday Threesome: The Convenience of Extra Cash

Onesome: The– endless onslaught of junk snail mail: how much do you get each week? I’m thinking maybe we could use it as insulation in our houses…

I would say it would probably average to about a piece of junk snail mail every other day. The most annoying piece of junk mail is the weekly “paper” thrown at my door every Tuesday. I never read it because there are only fluff articles and advertisements.

Twosome: Convenience of– a quick in and out? Do you have a convenience store nearby that is really convenient for you?

There is one, but I have never used it.

Threesome: Extra cash–? When you need some, where do you get it? …the ATM? …”write for over” at the store? What is this ‘cash’ thing you speak of?

Uh, let’s just say I’m practical enough to avoid the ATM.

If I Were a Villain, I Wouldn’t Settle for Third

I found Amanda Quick‘s latest a breezy, amusing read. But for the uninitiated, The Third Circle might be all mystery and maybe even a little campy. The constant references to secret societies, paranormal powers, and a seemingly forward-thinking cast of main characters in a late Victorian setting might make the casual historical reader think she was thrown into a parallel universe. Well, as far as I’m concerned, the setting is a parallel universe. And if you’re familiar with Quick’s (a.k.a. Jayne Ann Krentz a.k.a. Jayne Castle) oeuvre, there are a lot of little things to pick up. This entry in the Arcane Society series isn’t so much as a romance or even a mystery as it is a connection to a larger story arc.

On her way to recover a family heirloom, the powerful aurora stone, from an ambitious antiquities collector, Leona Hewitt stumbles over Thaddeus Ware standing over a dead woman. Ware is also after the stone, on behalf of the Arcane Society which deems it too dangerous to be let loose. Despite having separate agendas, Leona and Ware realize that Delbridge the collector and his association with other villains is more formidable, forcing the two to work together.

I’m not sure I buy Leona and Ware’s relationship. One of Krentz/Quick/Castle’s major themes in her books is trust. And I think in this case, the characters were a little too, uh, quick to trust each other. From their suspicious first meeting and conflicting purposes to not entirely respectable backgrounds, I don’t see how even a little misunderstanding couldn’t be present. But that said, that doesn’t mean that the characters didn’t have their own individual funny quirks. True, the villains were stereotypical (archetypal almost–the author uses a number of handsome, blond-haired men as bad guys)–comically so–but they were smart enough to figure things out fairly early on. Now if only they had displayed some knowledge of the advantages of delayed gratification, they would have been rather formidable opponents for the main characters.

Another Krentz/Quick/Castle trademark character type is the hypnotist–who is usually either villainous or ineffective. However, in this book, the hypnotist is the hero which makes for an interesting reversal. Leona is another one of Quick’s optimistic heroines although I think she clings to her “think positive” mantras and her uncle’s advice a little too desperately. No, the most intriguing thing about Leona is her ability to work crystals. I don’t think the author just picked this out of thin air–instead, I think it’s a deliberate reference to the books she writes as Jayne Castle. Many of the characters in those futuristics use crystals or amber to focus their powers and with a reference to the Arcane Society in Silver Master, it is probably not a stretch to consider Leona an ancestor of those characters. Other links: Leona’s dog Fog who bears a remarkable resemblance to the dust bunnies in the Castle books. And there are hints, too, that the matchmaking madness in the author’s stories taking place in later times probably originated with a secondary character in this installment.

Hm. I probably said too much about this book. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the complicated occult network uncovered with The Third Circle is related to the cabal Krentz/Quick is revealing in the parallel story line in White Lies and Sizzle and Burn.

Feminism and Two Trainwrecks on the Interwebs

The Internets work how they’re supposed to. This is a write-up on some movement called “The Open Source Boob Project” at some SF con. Man, that’s wrong. If there’s anything to perpetuate the stereotype that sci-fi geeks are socially inept men not getting any and still living in their parents’ basement, that is it. Somewhat unrelated: This reminds me of this internet money raising thing I’ve come across before on some blogs–where people put up pictures of their (covered) breasts to raise money for something, a charity I think. And then there’s this whole breast cancer awareness thing. Yes, worthy causes, but when random men start championing these kinds of things, I can’t help but feel a little skeeved about it all. Do men only sit up and notice if there are breasts involved?

Feminist bloggers and racism. Interesting schism. That’s the problem with devoting oneself to a particular cause/movement/whathaveyou. People get tunnel vision. It’s not just A vs B. There’s also X vs Y vs Z and a kazillion other things. Anyways, I just look at this as evidence of why I’m a little uncomfortable about the major feminist movements–because maybe they espouse white feminism rather than feminism in general.

Gasp, I Need Air!

This morning, I walked past a bunch of young women. From a couple yards away, I could smell the sickly sweet miasma of their combined perfume power. I don’t get it. Along with the clacking of sharp heels (as annoying as dripping water in the middle of the night), are certain females’ need to cloud themselves with scent some sort of attention getting gesture? They’re liable to asphyxiate any potential suitors before they even get into the same room with them.

Inverse Snow Globe

For the past three hours, I’ve been engrossed in work. I finally look out the window, and snow is falling, heavily, thickly–the white bits as wide as dimes.

Some Guys Buy into the Beauty Myth, Too

Beauty myths. For some reason, this reminds me of all those painful memories of growing up. Sometime in sixth grade, I had asked my mom about shaving and she told me something to the effect that I didn’t need it or I was too young. I suppose she probably hoped that I would forget about it after that discussion because I wasn’t a girly girl in the first place–I paid little attention to makeup and the like as it was. But it is not a pleasant thing when boys make fun of your legs whenever you’re wearing shorts. I don’t have to tell you how f’ing annoying it is to have “You didn’t shave!!!!” shrilly yapped at you.

Aside: Sixth and seventh grade were particularly hellish for a variety of reasons. I also find it interesting that every guy who had ever bullied me during those years ended up playing football in high school. Fortunately in high school, I was taking the advanced classes where the other nerds left me alone and football players were absent.

Anyways, you know those dreams people have about going out in public in their underwear? I don’t have those. Instead, I have occasional nightmares about wearing shorts in public and then belatedly realizing that I have sasquatch legs.