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Darth Paradox

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Books 62-73 [Dec. 12th, 2010|08:27 pm]
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62-67. Scott Pilgrim (all six volumes) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
68. Star Trek: The Manga by various authors and artists
69-71. Serenity: Those Left Behind, Better Days, and The Shepherd's Tale by Joss Whedon et al
72. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
73. The User's Guide to the Universe

November doesn't usually leave me with a lot of time for reading, since I spend my time on the bus working on NaNoWriMo, so I decided to catch up on some of my comics reading last month. (The five-minute shuttle trips between the bus station and the office make for good chunks of comic-reading time.)

Scott Pilgrim took on the conceit of "what if life were more like a video game?" pretty awesomely, and the book managed to make me feel sympathetic towards the eponymous character for most of the book even though he doesn't have a lot to recommend him as a person. I liked him as a comic character far more than I would have liked him in real life, at least. But the way the video game tropes were embraced, parodied, and occasionally subverted was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to watching the movie at some point.

The Star Trek manga basically felt like five short TOS episodes, parsed through a manga lens. It was no more and no less than what I was expecting. If something called "Star Trek: The Manga" sounds like something you'd enjoy, I think you will in fact enjoy it. If not? Well, it does what it says on the tin, is all I'm saying.

The Serenity comics seemed like an excellent way to fill in the gaps and plot holes left by Firefly's premature cancellation and the movie Serenity's departure from the TV series' status quo. Sadly, "filler" is pretty much what they end up feeling like. "Those Left Behind" is just an effort to explain what happened between the end of the series and the beginning of the movie, and so it feels like it was written off of a checklist. "Yep, we covered Inara leaving, Book leaving, and the blue-hands getting replaced by an Operative. Time to call it a day." "Better Days" feels like poorly-thought-out Firefly fanfic; despite its transparent attempt to examine the characters' personalities, the climax of the story comes off as extremely unrealistic. "The Shepherd's Tale" was the best of the three, but even so, it ended up cramming what should have been two seasons' worth of slow, occasional exposition about Book's character into a few brief, rushed-feeling scenes. So, I'm pretty disappointed with that.

The Difference Engine, on the other hand, was fantastic. Gibson and Sterling are widely considered to be the fathers of cyberpunk; this novel, written in 1991, likely renders them something like the godfathers of the steampunk movement - and I don't think it's quite been the same since. A ridiculous majority of modern "steampunk" completely forgets about the "punk" aspect of the term, ignoring the anarchy and the oppressed part of society in favor of well-bred ladies and gentlemen up to their elbows in engine grease, seeking swashbuckling adventures. Happily (and unsurprisingly), Gibson and Sterling's transfusion of their cyberpunk sensibilities into the bright morning of the Industrial Revolution works quite well, particularly the concept of information and knowledge being more important than issues of class or birth.
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Musings and books [Nov. 3rd, 2010|04:06 pm]
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The silver lining to the shit-filled cloud

Now that the Republicans have half of Congress, they have to start delivering, or the same wave of populist anger that swept them into the House of Representatives will sweep them right back out again. And I think they're completely incapable of actually getting anything fixed, because the greedy corporations and rich fuckers backing them will actually be better off - in the short term, anyway, but they only count their money three months at a time - if everything stays broken.

Also, the vast majority of Democrats who lost their seats yesterday were of the sort all too willing to give away anything and everything to the Republicans anyway. Here's hoping that in two years we get some people back into the Democratic Party actually capable of fighting for their principles.

NaNoWriMo

On target so far; finished last night at 3651 (against a goal of 3334) and got another 500-some words down on the bus this morning. The story - about a high-schooler's adventures on the competitive math circuit; not autobiographical but definitely drawn in parts from my experience - hasn't actually gotten out of what I intended to be a fairly short prologue set in middle school. It'll come, but it's given me some good ideas for additional plot points, so I'm not too worried right now.

Books

57. Trial of Flowers by Jay Lake
58. The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross
59. On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony
60. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
61. Triplanetary by E.E. "Doc" Smith

Discussions of fantasy cities, casual misogyny, emo princes, and space battles.Collapse )
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And an addendum... [Oct. 28th, 2010|02:07 pm]
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The preceding rant was mostly about national politics, though most of it applies at the state level as well. I have a few words about some of the specific Washington initiatives, though.

DetailsCollapse )
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I hate politics. [Oct. 28th, 2010|01:21 pm]
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I used to be a political junkie, and I was convinced that with the Democrats in full control of the White House and Congress, we'd actually get some stuff done. And we have - health care reform is going to be pretty big once all the provisions come into effect, even though it's going to take another four years for that to happen. Other stuff's been pretty big, too - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, several attempts to turn the economy around (of varying success, but we've at least stopped the bleeding), and so forth.

But it's not enough, and I'm frustrated. Because our political system only gives us two choices1: a party that allows itself to be rendered ineffectual on a regular basis due to a third of it constantly defecting to their nominal opponents at the drop of a hat, and a party that is working as hard as it can to transfer as much wealth as possible to the corporations and the top 1% while keeping its non-wealthy base distracted with attempts to impose its moral code on the rest of the populace. It gets worse - the Republicans are willing to play dirty, whereas the Democrats are rarely even willing to bring their full range of procedural options to bear2.

There are a lot of really good individual Democrats, but their party leadership is too willing to compromise and rarely seems able to stand up for what they believe in. There are a decent number of upstanding Republicans who aren't trying to screw over the middle class, but their party leadership is at best completely unconcerned about the fate of 90% of the population, and at worst actively evil. It's quite clear that the Republican strategy for this legislative session has been "prevent the Democrats from implementing any solutions, so as to prolong the economic crisis so we can blame it on them for the election". They've said as much - they're more interested in obstruction than any real solutions at this point.

(Edit: And for further examples of the evil pervading the Republican Party, look no further than the recent spate of violence from various GOP supporters and campaign staff. This is how these people think political discourse works in this country: if you don't like what they're saying, shut them up however you can.)

But the choice between "well-meaning but incompetent" and "indifferent and possibly evil" isn't much of a choice at all. I'm voting for the Democrats, because as frustrated as I am with their slow progress in some areas and lack of any progress in others, they're far, far better than the alternative.

And, as unenthusiastic as this defense of the Democrats may be, I have to implore everyone else reading this to consider doing the same. Please don't give the Republicans another shot at fucking this country over.


[1] Only in exceptional circumstances do independent or third-party candidates stand a chance of election to federal office. Until our system allows me to better represent my preferences, I'll vote tactically every time.
[2] In the past I've likened the conflict to that between Gryffindor and Slytherin; the Gryffindors have to work harder just to keep up, because they're playing by the rules and the Slytherins aren't, but at least they're generally capable of it. But our current Democratic leadership is more akin to Hufflepuff than anything.
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Sigh. [Oct. 25th, 2010|09:46 am]
Darth Paradox
Dear AT&T,

Bullshit.

No love,
Me
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Books 49-56 [Oct. 7th, 2010|11:50 am]
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49. Belle de Jour: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl
50-52. The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks
53. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
54-55. Turn Coat and Changes (Dresden Files 11 and 12) by Jim Butcher
56. The Selfish Gene

And now, some discussion and a little bit of soapboxing!

Surprise, this got long again.Collapse )

So, yeah. Current book is Jay Lake's The Trial of Flowers, on loan from aprivatefox and mufi. Not very far into it yet; it's slow reading, since the pages are so crunchy (though not quite in the Baroque Cycle way). But I'm enjoying what I've seen.

And a footnote.Collapse )
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Two years now. [Oct. 1st, 2010|03:49 pm]
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My mom died early in the morning of October 1st, 2008.

I can't decide whether that's longer than it feels, or shorter.

I've had some thoughts tumbling around in my head about how I, and people in general, handle pain and grief. It ended up as sort of a poetic-looking pile of prose. I have no idea whether this is any good, but it's been on my mind regardless. (It's also not completely representative of how I'm handling things, but it's not terribly inaccurate either.)

haven't bothered to title it yetCollapse )

(It occurs to me that this would look more "poemy" if I sprinkled some extra line-breaks throughout it and dropped some punctuation. Wonder what that says about the general perceptions of poetry I've been exposed to.)
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Facebook integration?? [Sep. 1st, 2010|10:07 am]
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Apparently LJ's new Facebook integration allows comments to friends-locked posts to be automatically reposted without any permission from the original poster.

Insert unsurprised rage here.

Long story short: Please tell me if you've linked your FB account to your LJ account so I can adjust my important-stuff filters appropriately.
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Books! [Aug. 13th, 2010|07:21 pm]
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42. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
43. White Cat by Holly Black
44. QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman
45. The Cat who Walks through Walls by Robert Heinlein
46. The World According to Twitter by David Pogue and a bunch of twits
47. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
48. Elric: the Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock

Details! I meant this to be short, but it seems I have a lot to say.Collapse )

Next up? Not sure. Possibly the Scott Pilgrim comics, the first three of which I picked up a little while ago.
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And more books [Jul. 15th, 2010|03:22 pm]
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40. Hobby Games: The 100 Best, edited by James Lowder
41. Adverbs by Daniel Handler

Hobby Games was a fascinating read, as an aspiring game designer. One hundred game designers, each writing about the game they think is the best, most well-designed, on occasion most-influential... It felt a little heavy on the historical-simulation wargames, though I'm well aware that that's more due to my relative inexperience with them, and I understand they have a relatively direct hand in the creation of D&D. But seeing a multitude of eminent game designers discuss elegance in mechanics and gameplay is a fantastic bit of study for someone who wants to create them himself.

Adverbs was... weird. A couple dozen vaguely interconnected short stories about people in all kinds of love. Handler's writing style is sometimes simplistic, sometimes eloquent, sometimes matter-of-fact, sometimes rambling to no particular purpose. At times it reminded me of the way children of a certain age will tell stories - they don't particularly care about narrative structure or strong characterization, so much as relating what happened and inserting little details about the people wherever it occurs to them. And yet the whole book hung together really well. I'd love to see him take on a slightly more conventional novel, so perhaps I'll seek out one of the other things he's written (besides his work as Lemony Snicket, which I greatly appreciate for getting kids to read, but doesn't really have the same adult appeal as the Harry Potter series).

Next up? Well, I'm about 140 pages into Les Misérables. Yes, I'm reading the unabridged version; this paperback weighs in at around 1460 pages. By reputation, reading the unabridged Les Misérables feels like climbing one of the great mountains of literature. I wouldn't quite equate it with Mount Everest - that honor, I feel, goes to Ulysses, as a forbidding peak where the very act of breathing is difficult, a summit that few people attempt and fewer survive - but it does feel like a Kilimanjaro or perhaps a Rainier, standing tall, dominating the entire landscape of French literature. I'm enjoying it so far, though it helps that I went in not really expecting anything in particular, so the fact that 90% of the book so far has been devoted to detailed character portraits and backstories of a pair of side characters isn't bothering me like it would some readers I know.
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