OK, I'm hooked. Planetary quickly transitions from a mildly entertaining series of conceptual sci-fi vignettes to a really cool thriller with several...moreOK, I'm hooked. Planetary quickly transitions from a mildly entertaining series of conceptual sci-fi vignettes to a really cool thriller with several neat throwaway jokes derived from some well-known bits of superhero comics. Much of the best science fiction I'm reading these days is coming in comics form, and Warren Ellis is the main reason why.(less)
I might have just read my new all-time favorite fantasy novel. It has just about the perfect proportions of wonder, cruelty, bittersweetness, and humo...moreI might have just read my new all-time favorite fantasy novel. It has just about the perfect proportions of wonder, cruelty, bittersweetness, and humor. Also, for anyone who worries about the prose-writing abilities of fantasy writers, I'll mention that Beagle's style is elegant and unshowy. Just read it already.(less)
A nice collection of Sunday strips from the late '50s. Includes Lucy's classic line about building and kicking little snow men: "I feel torn between t...moreA nice collection of Sunday strips from the late '50s. Includes Lucy's classic line about building and kicking little snow men: "I feel torn between the desire to create and the desire to destroy." Several great Schroeder moments as well.(less)
When I was little, my parents would sometimes take a pen and a notebook and fill pages with the words that came out of my mouth. That notebook is stil...moreWhen I was little, my parents would sometimes take a pen and a notebook and fill pages with the words that came out of my mouth. That notebook is still around, and it's amazing to go back sometimes and read over my childish inventiveness (which hit its peak, I think, with an elegiac poem called "The Boy Cries in the Peanut Butter Water"). Like my parents, Matt Groening kept a record of his children's monologues and conversations; unlike my parents, he chose to use his artistic talents to publish it. I'm not sure how his two sons have felt about that through the years, but I'm glad he did, because, as you might expect, Groening's kids are very funny and very, very strange.
The comic strips that make upWill and Abe were originally published between 1991 and 2003 in Groening's weekly Life in Hell comic(less)
In 1941, German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a clandestine trip to have dinner with his friend, Danish physicist Niels Bohr, and his wife, Margret...moreIn 1941, German physicist Werner Heisenberg made a clandestine trip to have dinner with his friend, Danish physicist Niels Bohr, and his wife, Margrethe. They were two of the absolute best scientists in their field—this was the same Heisenberg who had formulated the Uncertainty Principle—and they had challenged each other to do some of their very best work. But Heisenberg was a patriotic German who was now working, probably with some reluctance, under the Nazis; Bohr, who was half-Jewish, would soon be forced to flee Denmark. After dinner, the two of them went for a walk and had a conversation about the point of Heisenberg's visit. At the end of that conversation, their friendship was over and Heisenberg returned to Germany.
These are the agreed-upon facts of that evening, but no one can seem to agree on exactly what was said during that conversation: not the two scientists themselves in the aftermath of World War II, and certainly not the historians who have tried to piece it together since then. There's some consensus that one of the main topics must have been nuclear research and the question of whether Germany or the Allies had the resources or knowledge to develop nuclear weapons, but even that is hazy if you just look at the strict historical record. MIchael Frayn's play doesn't presume to try to figure out, definitively, what was said that night; in fact, it argues that Heisenberg, Bohr, and Margrethe Bohr are still trying themselves to agree on what happened, even years after they've all died.
Starting with several conflicting (but sometimes co-existent) historical accounts, Frayn creates fictionalized versions of these three figures and sets them talking. They talk about the exhilaration of being on the cutting edge of physics in the 1920s, the death of one of the Bohrs' sons in a boating accident, the encroachment of the Nazis on Germany's brilliant, promising scientific community, and, yes, the manipulation of uranium to create nuclear fission. The story largely belongs to Heisenberg, who was almost undoubtedly smart enough to solve the same equations that allowed his counterparts in Los Alamos to create a bomb. Did he consciously prevent the initiation of a Nazi nuclear program? Or was he simply unable to do the right calculations in time, despite his genius? The answer almost certainly lies in the gray area between those possibilities, and it's that ambiguity in Heisenberg's mind and character that Frayn so eloquently explores, both in his play and in a long, expansive bibliographical essay that lays out many of the uncertainties in Heisenberg's motivations and the factors that led him to seek out Bohr for that last disastrous conversation that might have had such a tremendous impact on world history.(less)