(2) Tue Sep 01 2009 21:49 Demix:
As noted elsewhere on this server, Sumana and I watched the 1960s Casino Royale, a film that first entered my consciousness in 1997 when Need to Know reviewed Austin Powers as "good in parts, but ultimately suggests that Mike [Myers]'s never seen Casino Royale - or maybe seen it *far too many times*".
After seeing it I'm gonna go with "*far too many times*". Casino Royale is a tremendous mess, a Bond parody made by someone who'd rather be making a canonical Bond film. It needs to be remade by someone with the guts to make it a real parody, and it turns out Mike Myers was that person.
But what a crazy original. After being bombarded by this movie I was trying to make sense of it and I realized--all those directors, all those writers, all those different plotlines that never quite mesh, all those big-name actors who never interact with each other. It's as if someone took a bunch of beloved preexisting material and tried to remix it into a single movie. We need a demix to split the movie back into the originals that never were. My favorite would be the hour-long battle of the nerds--Peter Sellers versus Woody Allen!
The other great connection I'm glad I found is to the DS9 episode Our Man Bashir, which it turns out is not just riffing on the canon Bond movies--it's riffing on Casino Royale. Michael Dorn plays Duchamps just like Orson Welles' Le Chiffre, and of course there's the nefarious Dr. Noah in his Nehru jacket. (Note that the DS9 Noah's plot involves killing everyone under a certain height.)
Oh, one more thing Sumana pointed out to me. There's lots of stuff that mocks other James Bond movies, but at one point there's a scene that parodies a scene from the novel Casino Royale (the chair with no bottom). Sumana knew about it because the scene is played straight in the Daniel Craig adaptation. But at the time you'd have had to have read the novel. Do you know of other examples of this sort of thing? (A visual parody of something that had never been played straight in a visual medium.)
Wed Sep 02 2009 08:38 The Vish-Meister -- Revealed!:
Almost a year ago I showed you some funny Internet videos made by the mysterious KleistGeistZeit. Yesterday Sumana discovered that KleistGeistZeit is our friend Toby Siegel! In fact, if you go to her webpage it's obvious.
We didn't meet Toby until a few months ago, but Toby does know Dara Weinberg, who I originally suspected of being behind the videos. In a comment on the original piece, Dara played it pretty coy. Sumana ultimately discovered the connection in conversation with Beth, another friend of Toby's who we met last night.
(1) Wed Sep 02 2009 22:57:
What if Steven Jay Gould faced off against Jay Gould?
(1) Thu Sep 03 2009 22:01 Kafka For The Easily Bored:
I just read a bunch of Franz Kafka--everything of his except the novels. Let me tell you, there's a lot of boring stuff in that corpus. But there's not so much stuff, total, that you could put together a "just the good parts" anthology that could compete with the complete short works. Especially since the ideal length for a Kafka story is about one page. For me a good Kafka story is like a good Lovecraft story: it knocks you over and runs away.
So I thought I'd share my list of the Kafka stories that I thought were really good, so that you don't have to go through a bunch of stuff that just flails at you without knocking you over. I've added links to translations, when I could find them.
Fri Sep 04 2009 13:48 Reviews of Old Science Fiction Magazines: Analog 1986/01:
I have a lot to say about this issue, very little of it about the stories, none of which I recommend (though nothing is truly bad, except for Ian Stewart's pun-trocious "Missing Link"). I got this issue because I wanted to read Frederik Pohl's novel The Coming of the Quantum Cats and I thought this issue had an earlier novella version of the novel. Instead, it has the first 25% of the novel. Oh well. In the years after forming a desire to read TCotQC I read a lot of Frederik Pohl and kind of got tired of his work, so 25% is plenty. I did like Pohl's alternate universe Ronald Reagan as a limousine-liberal dilettante.
This is not a recommendation, but Harry Turtledove's "And So To Bed" has Samuel Pepys coming up with the theory of evolution by natural selection. It also has Harry Turtledove coming out from behind his former pen name of Eric G. Iverson. This is the only magazine I've seen with a Harry Turtledove story where his name isn't on the cover.
One odd thing about Analog is that the story blurbs are often extremely generic. Like they came out of fortune cookies, or the writing exercise "describe the story as if pitching it to someone who hates science fiction." I wish I'd mentioned this last time because the last Analog I read (now sent to Camille in Slovenia) was full of amazingly generic blurbs. But here are some a-little-less-generic blurbs from this issue:
- "The most tragic dilemmas are those which have no truly 'right' answer."
- "One of the hardest facts for many people to grasp is that personal tastes and values are... personal. And highly relative."
- "When incontrovertible evidence leads to two conflicting conclusions, maybe some of it isn't as incontrovertible as you thought. Or maybe the rules of the game aren't what you thought."
- Even when the blurb applies directly to the story it seems generic: "Some of the great ironies of history come from the fact that sentient beings interact on so many different levels. Individuals and nations, for instance -- or worlds."
- In fairness, an absolutely non-generic blurb, for "Missing Link": "When Billy the Joat is in legal trouble, whom does he hire to defend him? You guessed it..." (nb. I did not guess it, having no preknowledge of the story's setting.)
Dana Lombardy's gaming column reviews some expansion modules for the Dune board game. Best quote in the whole magazine: "Play becomes more complicated when a Shai'Halud (giant sandworm) appears..."
Another interesting quote, from John G. Cramer's "The Alternate View" column: "There is even speculation that Iceland, which developed from sub-ocean volcanic activity starting about 65 million years ago, may have risen from the hole punched in the Earth's crust by the cretaceous meteor."
Best story title mentioned in the book review section:
Dave Eggers George Alec Effinger's "The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything." Summarized here.
In the editorial, Stan Schmidt tries his hand at social engineering. In the letters section, Ben Bova unloads on an earlier letter-writer who wrote in defense of parapsychology:
I'm prepared to be generous, but after more than thirty years of watching and waiting (and ever participating in some of the experiments, as a referee) I have yet to see any successful demonstration of any parapsychological phenomenon. The experimenters always say, "Gee, it worked fine yesterday," or "The vibrations here are negative." How long would you accept such excuses from a physics student?
Bova goes on to defend the idea of strategic missile defense.
I think there's an inverse relationship between how much I like a magazine's stories and how much I like its ads. The ads in this issue are amazing. We've got space pterodactyls, post-apocalyptic role-playing games, L5 Society and National Space Institute ads, a Star Trek text adventure, The Man Who Melted Jack Dann, the fantasy novel so bad they put the supplemental map in the ad, and more!
The top of this ad doesn't make sense. I didn't even know Timothy Zahn was an alien, and what kind of name is "Spinneret By Hugo Winner"?
One ad not pictured claims that the "Mid-December 1984" issue of Analog was the "Special Spoof Issue". That would be an interesting read.
Oh, I forgot to mention the review of "Lovecraft's Book" by Richard A. Lupoff, a historical novel in which "German propagandist George Sylvester Viereck asked Howard P. Lovecraft to write an American Mein Kampf." The novel vaulted into obscurity but was recently published in full as "Marblehead" ("Lovecraft's Book" is apparently a bowlderized version). Here's the thing: I saw a copy of this book in England and, based on the fairly misleading book cover, thought it was nonfiction. I'm pretty sure I told Kris about it. So, sorry, H.P. Lovecraft. You were a pretty bad person, but you didn't go so far as to write a book of out-and-out fascist propaganda. And how appropriate that I would fall for a Lovecraft-related hoax about a nonexistent book.
 The Internet says it's not so bad, but who are you going to believe, some lousy Internet, or an ad for the book itself?
(3) Mon Sep 07 2009 22:46:
For a brief time a couple years ago I would grab pictures of cute baby animals from the photo wires and put them on my weblog. It's hard to believe, but back then there were no weblogs devoted entirely to cute baby animals. Nowadays they abound, my favorite being Zooborns. The point of this entry is, cute baby elephant.
(2) Tue Sep 08 2009 13:24 Think About It, Won't You?:
In 1960 Kingsley Amis wrote a book about science fiction called New Maps of Hell. In 1982, his son Martin Amis wrote a book about arcade games with the much clunkier title Invasion of the Space Invaders.
I couldn't find much real information about this book, but the cover promises "An addict's guide to battle tactics, big scores, and the best machines," so it's probably not a groundbreaking work of criticism the way New Maps of Hell is.
Sat Sep 12 2009 16:04:
Hey, I'm in Cambridge. This is a short experiment to see if we want to move to England for a couple of years. If you live in Cambridge and are reading this and have not made yourself known to me, send me an email.
I could talk about what I've been doing but it's just been walking around and riding on trains and buses and boats.
(1) Sun Sep 13 2009 17:28:
Rachel came up from London and we walked around town. We spent a lot of time in the Fitzwilliam Museum, especially at the Endless Forms exhibit that's part of the general Darwin-mania here due to the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth. There were a number of cool pieces I wrote down to share with you, but tonight I post about Duria Antiquior, a painting I'd seen in a Steven Jay Gould book but never in color or the size of a wall.
Here's the original, a watercolor created soon after the discovery of ichthyosaurs, dimorphodons, and other cool creatures. The best part is that everything is eating something else, sometimes using hilarious I'm-crushing-your-head perspective tricks.
Here's the huge oil painting they had at the exhibit, a copy possibly used as an educational guide. It's got a lot more detail, but there is one thing missing. In the original, the plesiosaur in the middle is literally shitting itself in fear as the huge icthyosaur crushes its neck, forming what will eventually become coprolites. In the oil painting, this informative detail is omitted.
The original artist was Henry De la Beche, and his other drawings (1 2 3) may shed some light on exactly how funny Duria Antiquior was supposed to be.
(3) Mon Sep 14 2009 17:18:
Sumana on the essential difference between the US and the UK: "They have maths, but we have sports."
Fri Sep 18 2009 14:45 Buffalo-horn harpoon:
My uncle John plays the banjo and I distinctly remember him singing a couple unusual sea shanties many years ago. This came up a couple days ago in conversation with Paul Wright and after flailing to describe the shanties in question, I went online to find the lyrics. There's "Paddy West", the rollicking traditional song about padding your resume. And of more recent composition there's Yankee Clipper's alternate-history Mormon eco-shanty "Lament for the Landlocked Whale".
Not really relevant to anything in my larger life, but if you're not interested in an alternate-history Mormon eco-shanty, you might be reading the wrong weblog.
(3) Mon Sep 21 2009 14:23 In The Supermarket:
Don't refrigerate: eggs
Do refrigerate: canned tomatoes
Wed Sep 23 2009 21:20:
Back from England. Highly recommended: the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge. They've got all sorts of old scientific and pedagogical devices. Pictures coming eventually.
Sat Sep 26 2009 18:11 Reviews of Old Science Fiction Magazines: S&SF October 1988:
It's the boffo 39th anniversary issue, and despite a lot of big names, there's not much that holds up twenty years later. Clive Barker's gross-out "How Spoilers Bleed" is disqualified for the sentence "Now those tribes were all but decimated." Frederik Pohl's "The Star War" has a cool setup but doesn't deliver beyond some stale snark.
On the plus side, Ray Bradbury's "Lafayette Farewell" is amazing, easily the best thing in the issue, and infuriating given that he probably wrote it in forty-five minutes based on a conversation he had with a friend. Wayne Wightman's "Rat Run" is worth reading if only because it totally slams the town of Coalinga. I didn't like Lucius Shepard's "A Wooden Tiger" as a story, but it was really well written.
No cover photo this time because I'm lazy and the art is nothing special. No good ads in this issue, either, thought there is a video club selling Star Trek episodes on a subscription model: $25 for each two-episode tape.
(2) Wed Sep 30 2009 21:51 Darwinmania:
I mentioned earlier that every museum in Cambridge had a Darwin exhibit for the bicentennial. Exhibits vary in impressiveness, of course. The Whipple Museum of the History of Science had "Darwin's Microscope", which was... a microscope. The Fitzwilliam Museum had the awesome exhibit I mentioned earlier, but photography was prohibited. The Zoology Museum had a few specimens collected by Darwin, including a jar of octopods and a beetle collection. Fun fact: on the Beagle voyage, Darwin was really excited because he thought he'd discovered the octopus's color-changing ability, and he was pissed off when he got a letter back from England saying that they knew about it already.
I haven't posted for a couple days because each of the things I was going to post required putting up a picture gallery from my Cambridge trip, and I didn't want to make a bunch of galleries. So I've just put up one gallery, and I'll mine it for a while, even though you can see all the pictures now.
But you don't need to go to Cambridge museums to enjoy Darwinmania. It's also occuring on the web. Here are some of the links on Darwin and/or evolution I've encountered in the past few days:
- A video lecture on "The World Before Darwin", seemingly to be joined by further lectures, on The Darwin 150 Project (the "150" is 150 years after publishing On the Origin of Species, which I guess is a more scientifically hardass milestone than the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth).
- Cartooning Evolution includes a lot of the silly 19th-century Punchesque Darwin caricatures that were featured in the Fitzwilliam. (But not the excellent 21st-century watercolors by Quentin Blake, which I couldn't find a good picture of online, though here's a video slideshow.)
- A roundtable discussion moderated by Douglas Adams, featuring Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, and Jared Diamond. Supposedly from 1998.
|Unless otherwise noted, all content licensed by Leonard Richardson|
under a Creative Commons License.