Seeing this on the shelf at Forbidden Planet in NYC filled me with a sudden surge of hope that Horrocks had published another graphic novel without mySeeing this on the shelf at Forbidden Planet in NYC filled me with a sudden surge of hope that Horrocks had published another graphic novel without my knowledge, a hope that was soon crushed when I realized it was a collection of errata published in various places over the years, so forgive me if I'm not excited as I should be. Because I should be excited: Horrocks is an amazing cartoonist I should treasure any work of his I get to hold in my hands. Heck, I even love the clouds on the cover illustration! But, the title spells it out: don't pick it up expecting the next Hicksville.
That said, a format like this really helps us see the many visual styles Horrocks has tried and can do well, from photocopy collage to Picasso homage. It also tantalized me with his great ability with documentary comics, both in the form of actual history in the pages from a cartoon history of New Zealand, but also fake history in the form of the totally amazing Captain Cook's Cartoon Cuts. More please. Much more.
Perhaps the overriding impression this collection left on me was that of a comics scholar completely enamored with the medium, from the meanest strip to the most abstruse novel, which is something that I find myself needing after my disappointment with almost every comic I've read in the past couple years. Witness his apparently deep and abiding knowledge of obscure mini comics from New Zealand and across the world. But his fake histories serve the same function, making comics seem like a larger and wider world than it is. There's the aforementioned Captain Cook stuff, but also his comics about an imaginary country where comics are considered magic, and, of course, the imaginary town of Hicksbille where everyone considers it their duty to preserve comics. It's hard not to think of Borges, but with Horrocks these feats of invention seems more necessary, more vital for those of us who want to believe comics are amazing as we'd like them to be....more
I like the Slate blurb describing this as an "deadpan epic." Starts off seeming like a beautifully-drawn but narratively fluffy comic strip, but it deI like the Slate blurb describing this as an "deadpan epic." Starts off seeming like a beautifully-drawn but narratively fluffy comic strip, but it develops some novel-ish heft by the end (at least by YA standards). I love Stevenson's cartooning style, especially how she manages a lot of emotive facial and bodily expressions with very few strokes and wonderful colors. I also like that dragons, robot arms, and churros seem to coexist with little to no friction....more
Got about 30 pages in before putting it down. It's not "daring" or "original" or "exceptional" if it's just another book about sad people and their saGot about 30 pages in before putting it down. It's not "daring" or "original" or "exceptional" if it's just another book about sad people and their sad, broken marriages....more
Most of this book makes a pretty convincing case that automation is going to replace most jobs in the next 50 years, maybe less. I think I buy that, aMost of this book makes a pretty convincing case that automation is going to replace most jobs in the next 50 years, maybe less. I think I buy that, and thus I am personally worried, since a good portion of my job as a software engineer is probably automatable (in large part the actual coding I do involves writing boilerplate and figuring out how to integrate third party software, which, in theory, a machine could do quite well, with far less angst; in short, I am already a blue-collar coder, and that's not a good thing). But the main thrust of the book is that we should all be worried, even if our jobs aren't automatable, b/c if most of us can't earn, then we can't buy things like food and shelter, which makes us do horrible things like a) elect pseudo-fascist populist plutocratic rulers to replace the existing elitist plutocratic rulers, and b) eventually eat each other.
Actually Ford doesn't go quite so far as cannibalism, nor did he predict Trump, but the point is things could get bad fast if society doesn't institute some major changes. Which leads me to my list of critiques:
1) The only major change proposed is Universal Basic Income. While I was surprised Brynjolfsson and McAfee didn't support UBI as a way to address rampant joblessness due to automation, I was disappointed it was the *only* feather Ford seemed to draw from his quiver. UBI is really intriguing, but it also seems really hard, and Ford admits it's not feasible in our current political climate. His feasible near-term suggestions are sort of unsatisfying though, not only because changes like bumping up the Earned Income Tax Credit or infrastructure investment don't seem like they'll do enough for long enough, but because they seem just as impossible in today's political climate as something ludicrous like UBI, no matter what the Cheetoh says about bridges and airports. Aren't there any other big, inspiring ideas we can consider, even if they also don't seem possible?
2) Always Look on the Bright Side of Life! On the one hand, this book's doom and gloom totally affirmed my glass-completely-empty view on life, but on the other hand, something to hope for between treading water on basic income and Mad Max might be nice. Not that I think it's happening, but what would a post-capitalist society look like? If production without consumption is possible, what other kinds of economies and forms of government are possible? Does machine capital have to be owned?
3) NEVER CUT OFF A CHART AXIS! EVER! This might seem minor, but I'm not sure there's a single line chart in this book where the origin represents 0,0. That's like the *first* thing you do when you want to lie with a chart. I get that Ford is generally trying to show trends and scaling an axis can accentuate a trend, but a) if you can't see it with things scaled properly, is it really a trend? b) error bars, people, and c) you just look like a liar, whether or not you're lying. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/PR... shows one of the charts he uses, and is, if anything, even more frustrating for it's mystifying use of units. Why would 2009 represent 100? What units are the actual underlying data in?! If it's a share, express it as a value between 0 and 1 like a sane person!
4) Speaking of Trump, isn't it kind of weird that Ford doesn't address the political upheaval that comes with joblessness? He hints at dystopian welfare state scenarios, but doesn't articulate the signs that we would expect if we were on that path, like, say, electing a populist egomaniac, or accentuated culture wars as a form of bikeshedding.
On the other hand, Goodreads just gave me this fairly nonsensical recommendation, so maybe the machines aren't quite ready for prime time just yet:
My review of this book was going to be something like "amusing but disjointed and plotless" until I flipped past the last page and learned that each cMy review of this book was going to be something like "amusing but disjointed and plotless" until I flipped past the last page and learned that each chapter was published independently as a short story and then it all kind of made more sense to me. As a collection of kind-of related stories about a far future spaceport near Tel Aviv, the haziness of the central plot (what are the children, why does their appearance matter / why should anyone care?) is forgivable and you can just appreciate the world-building, which was mostly interesting for me just for its non-American focus on a futuristic, cosmopolitan Israel where the Arab / Israeli conflict is (apparently) history and the scariest thing around are vampires that steal your data.
The thing that sticks in my craw is the same problem I have with China Mieville: too much detail. Detail in the service of world-building is one thing, but belabored items like Boris's Martian neck implant, which might have had more words spared on it than some speaking characters, are Chekhovian pistols left unfired. Not only are they unnecessary, they're hardly even interesting. Mind-altering alien parasites are such a trope that they were in Deep Space Nine, so if it's not going to do anything and its not just part of the scenery, why dwell on it?
That said, despite some unnecessary throbbing neck tumors, my favorite part of this book was that humans remain recognizably and unsurprisingly human in a world of apparent ecological collapse, sentient digital beings, and robots who have religion, which is basically what our own historical moment feels like despite the fact that many of us have computers in our pockets and can literally fly anywhere on the planet if we really want to....more
A great pleasure. I'm ashamed to admit it took watching (and enjoying) the movie Arrival to finally get this book into my hands despite having it in tA great pleasure. I'm ashamed to admit it took watching (and enjoying) the movie Arrival to finally get this book into my hands despite having it in the back of my mind for years since reading Louise's glowing review.
Chiang's fiction is what I wish proponents of "hard SF" meant by that term: grounded in an understanding of science while in no way allowing it to limit the feats of imagination it inspires. These are not just realistic war stories and survival epics except in space, they're wonderful yarns about other realities that are only weirder (or more disturbing) the more you understand about our own reality. "Seventy Two Letters" might have been my favorite example of this, which is set in a kind of early 20th century England where biological reproduction actually happens in a way that pre-Darwinian / Mendelian thinkers might have imagined it (each sperm has inside it mini-sperm that grow and serve as the sperm for a male child, and these sperm in turn contain their own mini-sperm, and thus the species propagates ad infinitum, or so it seems), and the characters work toward engineering a system more like how biology works in our world, wherein organisms contain instructions for re-recreating themselves instead of essentially tiny versions of their progeny. The story would be delightfully odd if you didn't understand biology, but so much more so if you do. Reading The Story of Your Life was much the same except I don't understand linguistics and physics as well.
Which is not to say I feel like all SF must be this way. It's just very cool to see this approach, which, in my mind, is pretty rare.
But beyond putting the science in science fiction, these are just good stories! Even the Tower of Babylon, which might be the simplest of the collection, is just fun to read, with the right level of otherworldly detail. Liking What You See is hardly a story at all, but I was still eagerly flipping pages. And now I am disappointed to learn he doesn't have any other short story collections?! Nyarg....more
A beautiful little book that was far less dour than anticipated, and, like so many books that I tend to enjoy, deeply rooted in a specific landscape.A beautiful little book that was far less dour than anticipated, and, like so many books that I tend to enjoy, deeply rooted in a specific landscape. I suspect this geographic grounding is part of what helps render some of the massive historical events in this novel (WWII in Germany, the massive lurch from 19th century agrarianism to 20th century techno-whateverism) down to comprehensibly-scaled episodes in and aspects of a single life.
The fact that a book like this is even considered high-brow lit is what really flummoxes me. Egger has very little interior. There's not much to read into because there's not much there that isn't immediately clear, which I actually like. To me this actually passes the Minsky test of not being about how "people get into problems and screw their lives up" and instead is about some part of "everything else," insofar as Egger doesn't really screw his life up. He just lives it, with relatively little angst, and the book is not entirely about him and who he is but about his world and what he does in it, if that makes any sense. The NYTimes quipped that "'A Whole Life' is one of those stripped-down everyman stories that is transparently, self-consciously about Much More: the encroachment of modernity, the universal nature of love and heartbreak, the quickness of our passage through life. It ends up feeling perhaps slighter than intended, but still flecked with profundity." Maybe I should feel some validation in their guarded dismissal: the establishment seems less enamored than I thought....more
Honestly picked this up because it was used (read: cheap) and I thought, from the cover, that it was some kind of light YA bildungsroman. It's not! ItHonestly picked this up because it was used (read: cheap) and I thought, from the cover, that it was some kind of light YA bildungsroman. It's not! It's a historical novel set in medieval England imagining the life of a barely-mentioned historical figure. Dashed assumptions aside, Griffiths depicts a wonderfully believable world about which I knew little more than what Monty Python taught me, rich with political intrigue and natural detail, and for that I'm grateful. I definitely advise you give this decent chunks of time to read, as my usually ten-minutes-before-I-fall-asleep allocation left me bewildered by the time jumps and the mad assortment of similar-sounding names pretty much every time I picked up the book. It wasn't until the holidays when I gave it some more sustained attention that it started to click for me.
(view spoiler)[I will say I found the ending very rushed, which was a bit frustrating since I had sort of just gotten into the swing of things. Also maybe a bit too perfect, but reading up on the scant historical evidence about Hild (and learning of Griffith's plans for a sequel) suggest that things will get more realistically horrible in the future. (hide spoiler)]
Every now and then I rifle through books I no longer want and bring them to a local used book store for sale or donation. Recently Planetes was in theEvery now and then I rifle through books I no longer want and bring them to a local used book store for sale or donation. Recently Planetes was in the stack, and the guy at the counter asked how I liked it and what other scifi comics I had read. I confessed I have not really loved almost any scifi / fantasy comic since Sandman, and he recommended I check out Prophet, a reboot of an old Rob Liefield character from the early Image days, set in a weird, far-future galaxy. Intriguing enough, and he even offered to lend me a copy! Sold.
Not, however, sold on this comic, which is definitely visually intriguing but otherwise just a mess of slapdash world-building and alien gore. There is no real story here, so just abandon that expectation immediately. I mean ostensibly the Prophet clones are trying to re-unite and rebuild some kind of human empire, and/or one of those Prophets is trying to fight them, but eh. None of the few individual characters actually read as people.
The main reason to pick this one up is the visuals, which vary from issue to issue and are wild and crazy and pretty awesome. If you're ok with the fact that they don't really serve any kind of plot then there's a lot of fun to be had.
I, however, am not ok with that, which has started me wondering: do I even like comics any more? My favorite comics are Sandman and Elfquest, two long-running series from the 90s (70s and 80s too for EQ) with long-running plots, i.e. they have the breadth and depth of novels, but they also have fantastic artwork that serves their stories. Elfquest is very character-driven, and the fine pencilling in any individual panel grants the characters more personality than you could find in an entire TPB of Prophet. That quality and detail (and style) is consistent across the entire series, leading to an intimacy with the characters and how they look that feels... very real. The same could be said of Bone, another favorite. Sandman takes an opposite approach: it's a series about myths and archetypes, and its varying and diffracted artistic approaches show you how the characters remain the same regardless of what lens you view them through. There isn't that personal attachment you get from Elfquest, but the shifting artwork is an expression of the subject matter.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that I want comics to a) give me a story I can dive into for a decent amount of time, and b) are actually single, unified artistic expressions, where visuals and text actually support each other and I'm not constantly thinking "Well at least the art is cool" or something, and despite the cultural ascendance of comics since my early fandom and the impressively varied options at my local comic book store, I am not seeing those kinds of comics being made today.
Anyway, despite my dissatisfaction, my heartfelt thanks to the guy at the counter attempting to help out a fellow comics nerd. I clearly need all the help I can get....more
I read this right after Prophet and while I enjoyed it more, they have complementary faults: Prophet has way too much exposition (albeit discombobulatI read this right after Prophet and while I enjoyed it more, they have complementary faults: Prophet has way too much exposition (albeit discombobulated and nonsensical), Zero not enough. Zero is a secret agent in a near-future world where there are teleportation devices, and... a narrator in a slightly less-near future in which giant alien-like things are walking around. Aside from that, pretty conventional spy stuff with a focus on the action. The action and intrigue are compelling enough, but it's their intersection with the science fictional elements that I really wanted to know about, and that just doesn't seem to go anywhere, at least in the first two books. Characters remain decidedly 2D after 2 books as well, which is not a great sign. The kinetic penciling and wildly varying color treatment are real pleasures, and the book might be worth reading just for that....more
This is an excellent British companion to Scott Weidensaul's Of a Feather, which covers the history of birding in the US. If anything I think this oneThis is an excellent British companion to Scott Weidensaul's Of a Feather, which covers the history of birding in the US. If anything I think this one is better, as it focuses a little less on the heroes and instead spreads its attention across a wider array of characters, so many that you can't really focus on them if you don't already know them, which was fine by me. I think my main critique of this book is that it didn't pursue this kind of history more, painting a picture that's somewhat skewed toward the extreme hobbyist form of birding and less on the larger trends that fueled some of the enormous book and bird food sales cited. A statistical history would be less readable, but I think at least a little quantitative analysis would have helped. I'm personally less interested in why someone would try to break the record for most species seen in a year than in why (or if) large numbers of people really go out every weekend to look at birds. Despite the enthusiasm of Moss, Weidensaul, and I suspect others, I'm not convinced birding is really that popular. Less niche than stamp-collecting, but way more niche than yoga, right?
I think one of the main conclusions from Weidensaul and Moss is that birding, i.e. looking at birds for fun, is largely tied to leisure. You need time and money to do it, and the more people have time and money to spare, the more some of them get into birding. Wealth helps, since a car and good optics don't come cheap, but I feel like time is the big driver. I guess what I want to learn now is what kind of cultural and psychological forces impel those who do have the time to bird instead of the million other things they could be doing with their time. Biophilia, filling the religion gap, not bowling alone, etc.
Regardless, this is a well-researched (albeit biased), very readable history that I'd recommend to anyone interested in the subject. Even if it omits the story of the average birder, the material it covers is also critical and interesting.
My highly biased collection of notes:
p. 10 "Most importantly of all, White, Bewick, Montagu, and Clare found a connection between human beings and nature at the very moment when a dislocation between man and the natural world was beginning to occur." Oh so western, so dichotomous, so Cartesian. One of many Old School concepts underlying this book.
p. 13 "White's crucial insight was that [...] watching wildlife can also have an aesthetic and spiritual dimension." Not original, though maybe original in written western history (though probably not). Still, a good place to start.
p. 30 "It appears that even when watching birds was ingrained in the culture of a society, the impulse to make an accurate observation still occasionally rose to the surface." Again, maddeningly tied to written history and confirmation bias.
p. 38 Many European common names just got applied to unrelated American birds, e.g. robins, blackbirds, etc. The same thing happens with mushrooms, but with mushrooms this lumping attitude extended to scientific descriptions. Maybe b/c mushrooms don't preserve as well. Easier to tell the difference between an American Robin and a Eurasian Robin than it is between American chanterelles and European chanterelles.
p. 44 "To be a good collector, and nothing more, is a small affair; great skill may be acquired in the art, without a single quality commanding respect" (Elliot Coues, Handbook of Field and General Ornithology, 1890, p. 15). Coues comes off as one of the biggest a-holes in the history of birding, as he does in Weidensaul, but the expanded quote is a bit more forgivable:
One of the most vulgar, brutal, and ignorant men I ever knew was a sharp collector and an excellent taxidermist. Collecting stands much in the same relation to ornithology that the useful and indispensable office of an apothecary bears to the duties of a physician. A field-naturalist is always more or less of a collector; the latter is sometimes found to know almost nothing of natural history worth knowing. The true ornithologist goes out to study birds alive and destroys some of them simply because that is the only way of learning their structure and technical characters. There is much more about a bird than can be discovered in its dead body, — how much more, then, than can be found out from its stuffed skin! In my humble opinion the man who only gathers birds, as a miser money, to swell his cabinet, and that other man who gloats, as miser-like, over the same hoard, both work on a plane far beneath where the enlightened naturalist stands. One looks at Nature, and never knows that she is beautiful ; the other knows she is beautiful, as even a corpse may be; the naturalist catches her sentient expression, and knows how beautiful she is! I would have you to know and love her; for fairer mistress never swayed the heart of man. Aim high! — press on, and leave the half-way house of mere collectorship far behind in your pursuit of a delightful study, nor fancy the closet its goal.
p. 62 Uses the popularity of Muir's books as evidence of Americans' interest in the outdoors. Weidensaul also used book sales as a proxy for public interest, but is it really worth using? Surely this only measures the interests of a) the literate, and b) those willing to utilize their literacy.
p. 75 "The last British record (of a Great Auk) was from St. Kilda, where a bird was captured and killed in 1840 by islanders who thought it was a witch"
p. 79 "In just one or two generation, from the middle to the end of the nineteenth century, Americans had moved from the 'wild west' to the streets and avenues of the big city. In the process, their attitude had changed, from the insecure 'frontier mentality' of the pioneers, to the more mature, sophisticated ethos of the modern city dweller." Yet another example of the author's elitism and bias.
p. 88 Supposedly the first time the phrase "bird watching" appeared in print was in the 1901 "Bird Watching" by Edward Selous. Moss quotes the following mainly to point out how ridiculous Selous was:
If life is, as some hold it to be, a vast melancholy ocean over which ships more or less sorrow-laden continually pass and ply, yet there lie here and there upon it isles of consolation on to which we may step out and for a time forget the winds and waves. One of these we may call Bird-isle — the island of watching and being entertained by the habits and humours of birds — and upon this one, for with the others I have here nothing to do, I will straightway land, inviting such as may care to, to follow me. I will speak of birds only, or almost only, as I have seen them, and I must hope that this plan, which is the only one I have found myself able to follow, will be accepted as an apology for the absence of much which, not having seen but only read of, I therefore say nothing about. 
However, he's also got this neurotic gem that should be especially pleasing to those of us from iNaturalist, where we are all about "observations":
It matters not how one may limit it, the word "Observations" has a terrific sound. Let a man say merely that he watched a robin (for instance) doing something, and no one will shrink from him; but if he talks about his "Observations on the Robin - Redbreast" then, let these have been ever so restricted, and even though he may forbear to call the bird by its Latin name, he must expect to pay the penalty. The very limitations will have something severe — smacking of precise scientific distinction — about them, and the implied preference for English in such a case will appear affected and to be a clumsy attempt, merely, to make himself popular. Therefore, I will not call my book " Observations on," etc. I have watched birds only, I have not observed them. [p. X]
p. 108 Edward Grey was not only the British Foreign secretary just prior to WWI, but also an ardent birder who birded at least once with Teddy Roosevelt. He wrote The Charm of Birds in 1927 and it was a bestseller in the UK. Moss includes this exceedingly iNat-relevant excerpt:
This book will have no scientific value. Those who have studied birds will not find in it anything that they do not already know; those who do not care for birds will not be interested in the subject [...]. My observations have been made for recreation; in search of pleasure, not of knowledge; and they have been pursued only in so far as the[y] ministered to the pleasure of holidays and home life [...]. One who reviews pleasant experiences and puts them on record increases the value of them to himself; he fathers up his own feelings and reflections, and is thereby better able to understand and to measure the fullness of what he has enjoyed. Thus even those of us who have nothing new to tell, may have something that is fresh to say.
p. 130 One of the more hilarious and/or embarrassing aspects of birding is the frequent and apparently coincidental adoption in US popular culture of bird-related words for sexual slang. "Bird" itself is, of course, the most obvious to fans of old movies but we've also got Great Tits, Brown Boobies, a bird called a Dickcissel, and innumerable references to breasts and rumps for the purposes of identification. In fact, deploying the infinite array of bedraggled and entirely unavoidable sexual puns in the process of birding is, in my opinion, usually a sign that you're having a good time with birders you actually like. BUT, in my mind the most annoying, egregious, and too-often-un-self-consciously used bird word is "jizz." Yes, non-birding friends, we birders sometimes refer to the "jizz" of a bird, by which we mean its general impression, some nebulous aspect of its appearance or movement that allows us to identify it even if we can't exactly articulate why. I've always assumed it was an abbreviation for "gestalt," but Moss attributes it to T.A. Coward, who devotes a short chapter to the word in his 1922 Bird Haunts and Nature Memories, and who in turn attributes its usage within birding to west Irishmen. Interestingly, its use in American slang might have similar Irish origins. Regardless, the word has been around for a while, so maybe I should just relax. If you want some more fun reading material to leave on your screen at work, check out https://www.scribd.com/document/16209...
p. 135 Roger Tory Peterson apparently used his field guide illustration technique to create plane-spotting manuals for the military during WWII, but I can't find any examples of them online. If you find some, please let me know!
p. 144 Eric Hoskings was one of the first bird photographers. He also lost eye after being attacked by an owl whose nest he was trying to photograph. He entitled his autobiography "An Eye for a Bird"
p. 146 personal cars were huge for birding, but they also created sprawl and habitat destruction
p. 157 Apparently several brits birded in German POW camps, but it didn't seem typical
p. 192 Yet another scientist criticizing birding for pleasure: "Non-scientific bird-watching is not splendid and adventurous bird-watching: it is simply lazy, incompetent and slovenly bird-watching." Revd. P.H.T. Hartley, "Back Garden Ornithology," 1954.
p. 194 Brilliant advice on how to antagonize your two most common kinds of birders, courtesy of Stephen Potter in an article for Bird Notes entitled "Birdsmanship" (haven't been able to find it online):
Find our your potential rival's line, and play the opposite for all you're worth.
Thus, if he is an acknowledged tally-hunter, you must use the scientific gambit, 'After all, it's only the common birds that really count, isn't it?' and continually hold up the party by calling their attention to Robins or House Sparrows... If after five minutes observation the Robin gives a perfunctory peck at its plumage, you murmur, 'Ah, an intention movement!' make profuse notes, and add, to the air in general, 'I must write to Tinbergen about this.' A slight hesitation before the Tinbergen should make it clear that among your real associates you would say 'Niko'.
On the other hand, if your rival is a serious ornithologist... you cry 'I'm frankly pot-hunting today; leave the sparrows alone for once, old chap and come and see some real birds! Tally-ho!'... You should manage to convince the party that your rival is an introverted spoil-sport living in an ivory tower.
p. 207 At least twice in this book Moss takes the time to cite an anecdote depicting Roger Tory Peterson as a consummate bore, incapable of appreciating or even considering non-avian subjects.
p. 230 In the pre-Internet days of the 60s, birding clubs were important ways to get intel AND rides, since not everyone had a car. Information is easily come by today, of course, but cars less so. Is it time for clubs again?
p. 259 "I've managed 49 years without a White's Thrush. I doubt if I could last a month without Mozart." Bryan Bland.
p. 269 Sources the phrase "dip out" (i.e. to miss seeing a bird you were seeking) to 60s and 70s UK. Now that I think of it, I only know of one person who consistently uses that phrase....more
This is a review for the whole series. It's hard to argue with a realist novel-length graphic novel about humans in space, but... I will. There's justThis is a review for the whole series. It's hard to argue with a realist novel-length graphic novel about humans in space, but... I will. There's just not much to these characters beyond some familiar tropes, and there's not enough exploration of the technology or the politics of the era to make up for it. seveneves covers a lot of the same what-if territory and was a lot more satisfying for me. I mean, how do they pay for constant flights between Earth and LEO? That can't be cheap! Do we have space elevators? Fusion rockets? How can Fee maintain her marriage when she's in space most of the time? What the hell does Yuri do with his time other than be at peace with everything? How did a war in space just sort of happen in the background?
I mean, whatever, there were space ships. I'll take what I can get....more
My friend Andy pushed this on me in college and I sort of liked it but mostly found it a bit tedious. Now, 13 years later, my brain has finally caughtMy friend Andy pushed this on me in college and I sort of liked it but mostly found it a bit tedious. Now, 13 years later, my brain has finally caught up to where Andy's was in college and I'm a big fan of DFW's essays, which I guess either means I'm more intrigued by his exuberant, personal approach to intellectual inquiry, or I have a higher tolerance for tedium, a dichotomy that, like nearly all dichotomies, is certainly false.
The two lighter travel pieces, wherein DFW returns to his midwestern home to visit a county fair and sort-of enjoys a Caribbean cruise, are hilarious, though perhaps a bit condescending, not just in the writing itself, in which DFW is painfully self-aware of both his middle-American roots and coastal elitist perspective, but in the fact that the pieces exist at all. Why send a coastalite intellectual to go eat fried dough if not to simply laugh at the dough-eaters? Granted, the "Delete entire day" desert-related hospitalization was probably the funniest moment in the book, and Native Companion provides some needed alternate perspective in the fair piece, but ultimately the perspective is Wallace's. Definitely something with resonance in our dark political times.
The piece about the influence of TV on modern literature was interesting, primarily because it felt so dated, like anyone sits around and channel-surfs for 6 hours a day any more, but also not, because today TV has kind of taken on the role of literature and social media has become our quarter-day addiction, so a lot of the same critique of American behavior applies. I have no idea if the literary critique does. Do today's authors of televised conventional literature get too embroiled with the narcism and dulled outrage of social media? This is why I read and re-read old genre fiction....more
Continuing a trend in Image lines that look real pretty but are mostly hollow. This mishmash of manga tropes didn't quite have enough story or charactContinuing a trend in Image lines that look real pretty but are mostly hollow. This mishmash of manga tropes didn't quite have enough story or character to keep me from falling asleep for several consecutive nights, but it was diverting enough for me to keep trying. The art is luscious, but the action was kind of hard to follow in parts. It does feature a nearly all-female cast and was made by two women, all of which are great, but winning the Bechdel Olympics is really just a good start. And yes, I mostly just bought this for the Neil Gaiman blurb. Weirdly, there's also a Cosmo blurb. Cosmo?!
Totally unrelated: while I was perusing this at my local comic book shop, the guy at the counter received an unmarked package of monkfish from a friend. He was quite pleased, and I was quite pleased that he was quite pleased....more
**spoiler alert** After moving in with my partner a year ago I've becoming increasingly disconnected from the rest of my friends and, if anything, eve**spoiler alert** After moving in with my partner a year ago I've becoming increasingly disconnected from the rest of my friends and, if anything, even more of a reclusive homebody than I was before, which, for those of you without firsthand knowledge of my prior levels of homeboditude, is approaching pathological levels of reclusivity. A recent discussion with said partner revealed that she is, without a doubt, 100% not ok with this, and, to the extent that she is willing to make demands of any person, demanded I amend this situation and, you know, text someone else.
This overly-revealing microvignette is, yes, perhaps a little cathartic, but also sets the stage for my interpretation of this book, which, natch, features two pathologically reclusive people so adamantly dedicated to their interior reality that even a house fire and a dead uncle don't significantly perturb the plastic snow flakes coating the bottom of their glass bulb. There are, of course, a lot of ways to read this situation (the townsfolk are vile, myopic, gossiping philistines who don't understand the value of love and family; the Blackwoods are elitist, paranoid, bluebloods so deluded they can't acknowledge and address the poisoning of more than half their own family, etc.), but of course what stuck in my craw was not the elitism or the denial but the insane insularity of Blackwoods and how Jackson seems to sanction it. Merikat is the protagonist here. Murdering her family is totally understandable in the context of this book, because hey, they were awful, and denying the townsfolk is also ok because hey, they are also awful. It really didn't feel like a neutral dissection of human failings, more like indulging in fantasies of complete withdrawal, no matter how violent the side effects. I can see how that might be fun, but given my prologue, I hope you'll understand why I didn't find this reading experience quite as exultant as most people seem to....more