Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Felix Gilman, The Revolutions (2014)

The year is 1895.  Arthur Shaw is a struggling writer.  He meets Josephine Bradman, and they get engaged.  Josephine does typing and translation work for various eccentric spiritualist types, and it's through this work that Arthur becomes involved with one such group that is trying to astrally project themselves into space--into different "spheres," as the cosmology would have it.  This is all part of a sort of spiritual arms race, as it comes out that these spiritualists are involved in a subrosa magical war with various others.  
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Friday, April 18, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude left me gasping for air when I finished it.  A rare experience.  I can't help feeling as though afterwards García Márquez struggled to re-attain that level and never quite managed it (which isn't to say that his later books don't have merit), but One Hundred Years of Solitude is a singular experience.  It's one of those books that you might feel sort of leery about without having read because it's the sort that's always recommended by teachers, and then the whole Oprah's Book Club thing--but it really is that good.  My other favorites are the novellas "No One Writes to the Colonel" and "Chronicle of a Death Foretold."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What happens when you try to read The Onion in Indonesia?

This happens:


I don't object to the ironic xenophobia on the basis that it's per se offensive, though I do object to it on the grounds that it's lazy and not funny; the Onion at its best is capable of being WAY more offensive and WAY more funny than this.  But really, that's neither here nor there.  What I really object to is the rather obvious way that they're using this weak-ass comedy to self-consciously try to deflect attention from the fact that, what the fuck, seriously, you want MONEY from me?  It's not even that the money itself would be a big deal (though that "$0.99 for the first month" does look ominous); it's that I do not like that they are attempting to gull me in such a clumsy, unsubtle way (and that "help" button doesn't clarify anything; it just goes to a generic online-publication-login site that the Onion is using).  If you want me to pay money, please provide an explanation of why you think this is reasonable.  There is a very high chance that I will respond by saying, no, fuck you, that's bullshit, but at least I won't resent you and refuse to subscribe in principle, the way I do now.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pointless Dreams lead to Pointless Posts!

I had this ridiculously lame dream where I was planning a blog post where I would list all the direct quotes in Smiths songs.  Riveting!  I think I must've had this because quotes and indirect quotes were active in my brain from teaching.  Anyway, it was inevitable that this dumb dream-post would become reality.  The criterion is "direct quote that is definitively attributed to someone other than Morrissey himself."  There are a fair few bits where he quotes himself, but if you start down that road, you seriously won't know where to stop.  Slippery slope, people.  Like box turtle marriage.

Anyway, pointless compendium after the link.  Not that I've done research or anything, but I really do get the impression that they did this a lot more than most other bands.  Is that why my subconscious dredged it up?  The thought has certainly never consciously occurred to me.
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Sunday, April 06, 2014

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (1605 & 1615; trans. John Ormsby, 1885)

Okay, so there's probably not a whole lot I can say to shine any additional light on a novel like Don Quixote, but hey, I read it, and I wanted to make that fact known.  I'm trying to fill in some of the more notable holes in my literary education, of which this book was possibly the biggest.  A lot of people (NB: I'm restricting my comments to the Anglosphere here) know the basic concept, but not too many know about in any depth.  How many people can name an episode from the book other than "tilting at windmills?"  I sure couldn't have before picking it up.
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Friday, April 04, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I have to put my foot down: the action sequences in Captain America: The Winter Soldier are really notably badly edited.  I mean, I don't know, maybe I'm just noticing it more this time out, though I don't know why that would be, but I really have the feeling that the problem is greater here than in previous Marvel movies.  The camera is constantly cutting and flipping all over the place, and this oft makes it way more difficult to follow the action than it ought to be.  

In light of which it seems weird to say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is really great fun--one of the best in the whole extended series.  The whole paranoid, conspiracy-thriller aspect of the story is something that's entirely new to the franchise, and it works really well.  A scene of building tension as more and more people crowd onto an elevator at different floors is extremely well-done (even if one wishes the denouement had been a bit less obvious).  The other big winner, for me, was a chase scene with Nick Fury--in previous movies, Samuel L Jackson's character had been basically above the fray, never in any actual danger, so it was actually kind of shocking, in an exciting way.

And what the hell--I really like The Captain himself.  It's odd that such a corny character could be brought to the screen so well, but I think he's one of my favorite characters in the franchise, topped only by Mark Ruffalo's incarnation of Bruce Banner, and maybe Loki.  Good characters, good story, good laugh-lines--what more do you want?  Well, okay, yes, less choppy action, but the best action scenes nonetheless work in spite of themselves.  I'm happy with this one.

I also appreciated the swipes it took at the modern security state--no, they're not the most coherent or biting, but hey, for a movie of this sort, they're okay.  Certainly a lot better than the frankly laughable effort at same in The Dark Knight.  But here's the real question: if you're a wingnut, do you hate the movie because it suggests that immediately murdering every terrorist or potential terrorist ever is a bad idea, so it must be pro-Obama, who, as we know, Coddles Terrorists…or do you love it because right now Obama's in charge so you can blame all our security overreach on him and pretend like you've always had a problem with it, and by extension read the movie as anti-Obama?  It's a tough one.  What a tragic life does the Zhadovite lead!  On consideration, though, I'm afraid the presence of Robert Redford in the movie is quite likely to tip the scales in favor of "hate."  Bit of a pain to hate all media that you can't obviously co-opt, I should think.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Midwinter, "Sanctuary Stone" (1973)

This is the best-known song by the seventies psych-folk outfit Midwinter, which later turned into Stone Angel and continues to release music to this day.  It's a really beautiful song with great singing.  Unfortunately, when you listen to the lyrics, you realize they're a little on the half-baked side.  It's trying to mimic that traditional, Child-ballad-type feel, but, well...okay, I guess I shouldn't be too hard on them; a lot of traditional songs, if we're being honest, have pretty lame lyrics too.

In any case, I noticed that they were available nowhere on the internet, so I transcribed them.  JUST YOU WAIT: now that I'm putting them up here, soon enough they'll be available on all manner of lyrics sites, none of which will credit me.  So it goes.

A young man on a light black horse
Came riding through the wind and rain
Afraid of those who came behind
To try to take him back again

Seven times 'round put your ear to the ground
Can you hear the devil calling?
All on your own by the sanctuary stone
As the winter rain starts falling

For he had slain his own true love
The day before they were to wed
He's mounted on his big black steed
And left his lady lying dead

Seven times 'round put your ear to the ground
Can you hear the devil calling?
All on your own by the sanctuary stone
As the winter rain starts falling

He's rode all through the day and night
And rode again another day
But still they follow close behind
That never he might ride away

Seven times 'round put your ear to the ground
Can you hear the devil calling?
All on your own by the sanctuary stone
As the winter rain starts falling

At last he's reached the sanctuary stone
Time to stop and rest a while
So here's to you my young men all
You'll never take me without trial

Seven times 'round put your ear to the ground
Can you hear the devil calling?
All on your own by the sanctuary stone
As the winter rain starts falling