I decided to sign up for The Ultimate Journaler Challenge, which is just to see who can post the most days in succession. Since I was trying to do it for my countdown anyway, I thought I might as well. So far I only go back a few days to when I got back from holidays, so I've got some work to do...
Today we went to the "Odyssium", formerly the Edmonton Space & Science Centre, with Simon. As usual--I remember this problem from when we went to Toronto last October--there was no time to see everything, especially since we wanted to see the IMAX movie "Amazing Caves". I've been doing all this cave research for "The Shadow & The Flame", so I thought I'd see some actual moving images of it.
Anyway, we took a quick look at some of the space exhibits, which seem a little bit dumbed-down and sensationalistic for someone like me who's well-educated in this stuff, but Simon may like it when he gets older. Right now he just wants to push buttons and play with trackballs and stuff, so there was a little bit of conflicting interest.
The movie itself...was not quite what I was looking for. We didn't get to see a lot of exciting scenes of cave exploration, really. We followed these two explorers who were mostly looking for rare bacteria, which, they repeated every two minutes, could conceivably cure every known disease. It did make sense, that bacteria living in extreme conditions would evolve better defense mechanisms which could be used for medicinal purposes, but they said it a few too many times. And it meant that exploring caves per se was not what they were after. There was one brief look into a plain old limestone cave with stalagmites and stalactites and all sorts of pretty flowstone, but I'd seen pictures of those in the Time-Life book I got from the library, too.
Instead we got them going down into ice caves on the Greenland icecap, taking samples from 500 feet below the surface(something you can only do after a freezing cold snap of four days of typical northern Alberta weather), and then doing a lot of cave diving trying to find the fresh/saltwater boundary, another "extreme" environment. Since I wasn't planning on giving the fantasy characters in my book that much scuba equipment, that was pretty much out. (Unless I want to introduce a goddess of subterranean water, I suppose...hmmm.)
Nicole actually got some useful information too, because the flooded caves were on the Yucatan peninsula, and one of her(unpublished)books is set there, so she got to see what a real cenote looked like--a big natural well with very high sides, or at least the one in the movie was.
And now, maybe I can make myself work on my Top & Bottom Books of 2000 list, if I stop now, so here's the latest installment of my favourite-250-songs countdown:
690. John Cougar Mellencamp: Rumbleseat
This song, from his "Scarecrow" album, is a great rock & roll song about teenage geekiness, social insecurity, and all those things that most of us remember vividly from high school, if not more recently. I remember a quote, which turns out to be from Ellen Kushner, where she says, "I've found that everybody worth knowing as an adult says they were hated by other kids. Either every single kid always feels like a reject, or we're onto something." So if it's not universal, it's probably close to universal among people worth knowing.
689. The Pretenders: Light of The Moon
The first time I really heard much of The Pretenders was from their "Get Close" album, which I've seen critically lambasted everywhere since then. Maybe it was just that I didn't have earlier Pretenders music to compare it to, but I liked it just fine. It's not 70's punk, it's 80's pop, but that doesn't make it any less worthwhile in my books.
This sentence refers to every sentence that does not refer to itself.
So there's 2000, which I think I might have done part of the first step on, and soon there will be 2001. If you're interested, it seems that so far I've read 104 books this year, which is two a week. I think some previous years have had a few more than that. It may explain why my top & bottom lists tend to get shorter every year.
Simon was a little bit sick today, perhaps with what I had last week, so he was pretty quiet, and content to let me play Sims Hot Date. I managed to discover a bug, where my Sim was cuddling his date on the couch, I went to check on another Sim in the house, and when I returned his date was standing behind the couch, the first Sim was still in cuddle position, and when I tried to cancel it he went catatonic. We'll see if he's still like that when I start up again. If that doesn't work, then I can always try what I did last time I had a catatonic Sim--marry him off into another household. I can always marry him back in.
I just noticed that the "L" key on my keyboard is noticeably faded on the bottom leg of the L. I must use that key a lot. Probably in vi or something.
Winter's Heart is out in paperback! Yay! And with the Darrell Sweet cover, too! I don't care what anyone else says about his covers, I like them. Better than the stupid vestigial art they had on the copies of The Path of Daggers and A Crown of Swords that came out first. I have noticed that more and more SF books won't have actual painting covers, but some "graphic design" thing, or something photography-based. Violet Eyes and Silver Eyes are basically modified photographs. But fantasy should still be a haven for painted covers.
I keep feeling like I should rebut or explain some of the things in my weblog review. For instance, I apparently "seem like the guy next door". Which I find funny because I barely know the names of me neighbours, and certainly don't seek out their company. I spend all my free time downstairs on my computer. I'm practically more of a serial killer type. Though I like to think of myself as "affable but reserved". I don't actually dislike people, I dislike putting energy into activities that involve spending time with people...or taking that energy away from my solitary projects. "Little to not grammatical or spelling errors"--well, that's true. I confess that I am proud of it sometimes, how clearly I can communicate in written form. Though I hate writing documentation. Not chatty enough, I guess. I usually notice typos as I make them, and I generally know how to spell. (Though I have, in recent years, discovered a few words, like "exhilarate" and "sorcerer", where I had an incorrect spelling filed in my head, and the correct one still look wrong.)
Also, I don't really think of myself as a "techie". A techie is someone who can build their own computer out of spare parts, hack around on the operating system(or beneath)to tune it, and even install hard drives from two different manufacturers on a non-Windows machine. I learned in my brief time at Vectoron that I am not one of those people. Sure, I know several programming languages to varying degrees, and I write Windows-based software for a living, and often write programs at home for fun or to aid in one of my projects. Does that make me a techie? I'm sure there are people more deserving of the title than I.
I'm still not sure about Clix, because it seems merely to show, so far, that sex sells, or in this case, sex generates hits. Most of the top-clixed sites seem to have sex as a major or minor theme, or if they don't, they are trying very hard to make it look like they do. Me, I avoid clicking on those sites purely on principle. Actually, I'm not actively searching for new blogs to read right now. I've got enough promising ones bookmarked that I never read unless I have extra time to kill, and extra time is an endangered species right now. Though it will be time for the diarist.net awards soon, and I would like to contribute to that more fully this quarter. Most of the people on my sidebar should expect nominations from me. Be warned.
I just finished reading The Shadow Within by Jeanne Cavelos. It's a Babylon 5 book, which is the only tie-in series I read right now, mostly because it was such an amazingly great show, and everything's done from a J. Michael Straczynski outline so at least that's got to be good. One problem I had with this book was that it didn't concentrate strongly enough on its main storyline, Anna Sheridan's expedition to Z'ha'dum and capture by the Shadow. Her husband John Sheridan, who was admittedly a more popular character, gets his own subplot which hardly intersects Anna's at all, and certainly has nothing to do with the Shadow. In that sense it felt just a little bit more like a TV episode than a novel, and that is, in general, a bad thing. I wanted to read it mostly because I started Ms. Cavelos's "Passing of The Techno-Mages" series, and there were some references in there that I thought this book would clarify. It did to some extent, but we'll see how the other books fit in.
Next up seems to be The Dream Years by Lisa Goldstein, in my new "New Author" slot. I thought it would be fair to have a reading slot for authors I hadn't read previously, or at least not in novel form, since I often do like to try new people, and under my current system they can languish for years, so if I do decide I like them, most of their books are probably out of print. I have read Ms. Goldstein before, though(why am I referring to authors as "Ms." today? Hmmm.); I remember a striking story of hers from my early years of reading Asimov's called "Cassandra's Photographs". In it, the main character receives a number of photographs from a friend(named Cassandra, of course)that all seem to be from his personal future. They all come true, though not all in ways he expects, or even notices at the time. It's an interesting examination of the effect of prophecy on human behaviour, in a modern context. I don't really know what to expect from this book, though. Which is more or less the point...
It's getting a bit late here, so I'll move on to today's countdown entries:
692. Lauren Wood: Fallen
This song is a little bit obscure, but it's a sweet soulful ballad, from the "Pretty Woman" soundtrack I believe, by a woman I've never heard of before or since. Her voice has a deep Anita Baker-ish quality, gentle and somehow a bit oblique, with soft synth-organ accompaniment. I'd say check it out if you have a chance, and if anyone knows anything else about this woman, let me know.
691. Chris de Burgh: Crying & Laughing
I used to like Chris de Burgh quite a bit, but he's worn off a bit over time. He peaked, IMHO, with "Man On The Line", "The Getaway", and "Into The Light", before going into soppy-land after the huge success of "The Lady In Red". I forget exactly which album this is on, and it does get a bit overwrought at times, but it's really a nice treatment of the "love her or let her go where she'll be happy" school of love song, with a bit of Iron Curtain drama thrown in as well.
And here I am back again. A quick look at my sitemeter logs(yes, I did get that set up finally)show that I have been reviewed at The Weblog Review. Also according to my sitemeter log, I can make an educated guess that the reviewer only hit my front page and didn't spend a lot of time in my archives. But I guess these are busy people. I usually don't have time to read archives either. (Sometimes it's nice to find someone who's only been blogging for a few days, so there's not as much catch-up...) Anyway, the review says some good things about the Den, but it also says that it's lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. Which is probably true. I don't put a large amount of effort into this writing, just what flows freely into the keys. I also don't have a life which is full of large numbers of ups and downs, like some people, so there isn't a big storyline going on in the background. I'm happy to have an on-kilter kind of life, but it doesn't make for very exciting reasons. Maybe I need to rant more or something, except that I am, by nature, equipped to see both sides of most major issues open for ranting.
So I'll just keep doin' what I'm doin', but it you sais quoi, let me know.
Christmas was good. I often bring a lot of books with me up to Hawk Hills when we're visiting Nicole's parents--I've gotten through some thick ones, like Mary Gentle's Golden Witchbreed, John Irving's The Cider House Rules, and even The Complete Stories And Poems of Edgar Allan Poe, up there. But this time I only managed to get through Mary Stewart's The Hollow Hills, book two of her Arthurian series. That's probably because Nicole's whole family managed to make it this year--her brother Wayne, and the aforementioned Sharna and Nick. There weren't enough chairs in the living room for everyone, not even counting Simon, who tended to steal your chair if you stood up.
I also never developed great skills with avoiding distraction. Nicole learned to read on the school bus, which drove for over an hour on gravel roads and the highway, with dozens of shouting kids, so she is easily able to tune out distractions. Sometimes you have to say her name three times before she even looks up. She can read while facing towards a big TV screen that's playing a movie on it. I can't. This may be why I ended up watching "Demolition Man" this week. I have to retreat into the bedroom to get real reading done, and with bedrooms also at a premium, Simon was napping in there, so I couldn't resort to that very often. Besides, I was seized with an occasional urge to be sociable as well. And we were only there for three full days. The driving days don't count.
We didn't have room to bring Simon's travel crib up, so Nicole's mother improvised a bed for Simon on the floor beside our bed, which he took to quite well. Except for Wednesday night when he kept rolling over into the bed and waking us all up. It may be time to start considering shifting him to an actual bed, if we can find some way to rig up a temporary siderail on the one side.
Nicole, bless her heart, got me The Sims' "Hot Date" for Christmas, which I have only begun to dip my toes into this morning. I thought I should get my blogging out of the way first. Any other plans I have for the next few days may go out the window. (I see from my blog readings that I am far from the only person with "Hot Date" right now...we should get together and exchange downtowns or something!)
Simon got a sled(from us)and a little shovel(from Wayne), so we took him outside on Christmas Day, when it was actually about -4 C, not as cold as some other years. (The Weather Network showed us a kinked jet stream that put us just on the warm side of it. Must be an Idaho high.) The sled turned out not to be great for actually going down hills, so they dug out some yellow plastic saucers and tried that instead. Simon liked it, but the snow wasn't very packed down on that hill, so we had to give him frequent pushes to get him down any distance. My feet and legs lost little time in informing me that I was not in shape for going up and down snowy uneven hillsides, and I eventually retreated.
Even with the close-to-freezing temperatures, the snow was very powdery and anyone who thought from watching American TV and cartoons that it was a perfect day for snowballs or snowmen was sadly mistaken. That was one of the disappointments of my childhood, that the snow was rarely wet enough to pack like that. You could make a passable snowball with a lot of pressure from your hands, but forget snowmen unless it's actually above zero.
I got Nicole a jigsaw puzzle, and I got one as well, which we(mostly not me)did over the next couple of days. It was a bit different, being not square but in the shape of a wolf; it was based on an oil painting, which made many of the pieces a bit low resolution to even identify. (Better than photomosaic, though, in many ways.)
I mentioned a bit of sleeplessness on Wednesday night, which put a kink into our plan to return to Edmonton on Thursday. You may have thought I was exaggerating the travel time/daylight ratio, but when we drove up on Sunday we did leave before sunrise and arrive after sunset, although in both cases there was still some light, at least, for our travel, though we were pushing it for the arrival in Hawk Hills. Thursday morning we decided we couldn't face traveling right then, and I went back to bed while Simon got up with Nicole and Grandma and Grandpa. I woke up about 10:00, and decided that I didn't feel like sleeping there another night, I didn't feel like spending the night in Grande Prairie or Beaverlodge with either of my parents either, and I wasn't keen on trying to stay overnight in Slave Lake, as we have done on some prior trips. So, though it was 11:00 when we got out the door, we tried the drive back yesterday anyway.
Instead of taking the Peace River-High Prairie-Slave Lake-Westlock-Edmonton route, we decided after some debate to go for the Peace River-Valleyview-Fox Creek-Whitecourt-Edmonton route, which is close to the same length, and slightly more familiar to me because a large portion of it is also the Grande Prairie-Edmonton route. (See accompanying map--for best results, click on "big map" once you get there. Hawk Hills is quite close to "Notikewin Provincial Park.") The reason we usually take the Slave Lake route is that it's less busy, and this is usually a good thing because there's less traffic, less big trucks to pass, etc. But this time it would work against us, because we would hit Slave Lake around 4:30, too early for supper or to get a motel room, but the stretch to Westlock was one of the longer ones, and would leave us driving in the dark...and there was next to nothing on that road, for towns, or even roadside gas stations. And they have been working on "twinning" the Grande Prairie-Edmonton route, so it's not as bad as it once was for passing.
Luckily the road was fairly dry(it was wetter up near Manning and Peace River), because the northbound traffic on the road consisted of large numbers of big trucks, usually carrying what looked like road construction equipment, followed by the requisite convoys of people who have not managed to pass them yet. On a wet road, we would have burned through our entire windshield-washer fluid reservoir as dirty water got flung in our face with every passing truck. We got to Whitecourt at around 4:45, and then the question is, do we continue? It is, once again, too early for supper or to find a motel room, but too late to get to Edmonton before dark. I, feeling optimistic, decide that we should press on as far as we can.
The sun was already set when we left Whitecourt, and the light began to fade. We put on our headlights, and all the other traffic of course had theirs on too. The highway was divided for a little ways out of Whitecourt, but soon turned back into a two-lane and I once again had to cope with oncoming traffic. I relearned quickly the technique of driving by looking at the white line on the right-hand side of the lane, so that I didn't get dazzled by the endless stream of headlights coming my way. (This works fine except when there's a turnoff and the lane line disappears, or a big patch of black asphalt not yet repainted. Then I swear to myself and try to stay on something approximating the road until my line reappears.)
Finally, at 5:30, we are still some distance out of Edmonton, and Nicole declares that we better find some food quick before her nausea starts hitting her full force. There is actually not that much between Whitecourt and Edmonton either, nothing substantial at least--a whole bunch of small towns, like Mayerthorpe and Onoway and Gunn and Glenevis and such)--but we decide that we will settle for whatever comes up. We originally plan to make Onoway, but just near Gunn, where the highway divides again(and remains so the rest of the way to Edmonton), we spy a roadside gas station with diner, and we stop there for some diner food and a substantial rest break.
Nicole, who is much better at night driving than I am, despite her fatigue from not having had any catch-up sleep like I had, takes the last leg, and we eventually pull into our own driveway at about 7:45. We put off most of the unpacking(indefinitely, if we can manage it), I take Simon downstairs to play Hard Hat Mack(as I kept promising him when he got upset about leaving Grandpa & Grandma), and after we put him to bed at 9:00 we watch "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" to turn our brains off before going to bed.
So we can drive in the dark, but we really, really don't like to. In the summer, when the road conditions aren't as bad, the sun stays up late enough that you rarely need to. In the winter you get early light and bad weather, so it's just bad all around.
Nicole's parents have promised that they will sell the farm and move closer to Edmonton in a couple of years. That will be a godsend, it really will be.
To give you an example of where Simon's brain is at, humour-wise:
During the trip he came up with the most clever joke ever. I've been teaching him recently such statements as "Daddy is a man. Mommy is a woman. Simon is a boy." But now he is discovering the joys of untruth. His joke consisted of: "Mommy a man?" The inevitable denial is met with shrieks of laughter. After twenty or thirty repetitions of that, he moves on to "Daddy a woman?", with similar results. The crown of his routine, though, is when he goes into "Simon a woman?" and then, unexpectedly, into "Simon a car?" Nicole and I also laughed at that one, so now you also know where we are at, humour-wise, after six hours of driving.
Resuming the countdown:
694. Pat McCurdy & The Confidentials: In Pursuit
Pat McCurdy is one of those totally obscure people I can feel smug about knowing about. He's from Milwaukee, where as far as I understand he does a lot of live performances and have devoted fans who attend as many as they can(called, of course, "PatHeads"). The live tracks are usually his best, that I've heard. His songs are generally straightforward guitar pop musically, with clever lyrics, and he's got a great rock singing voice. Much appreciated on talk.bizarre when I was there, and one t.ber sent me some of his music. This is from his first album, "The Good Life", which is his most straightforward musically and not generally as clever lyrically; this song, though, has some great jerky rhythms to it and I like it a lot.
693. Sally Oldfield: Mirrors
Sister of Mike Oldfield, if I recall correctly; I only know her music from one collection of hits, of which this is the most striking. She has a shimmering soprano voice, and "shimmering" is a good word to apply to the rest of this song as well, with sleigh bells and high-octave piano as well as what sounds like multi-tracked self-harmony.
Lest you think that Shriekback had only one good album, "Oil & Gold", here's a song from their followup album, "Big Night Music". It's fairly atmospheric, mostly about the road to enlightenment. It also contains a verse in French, for extra points. (And correctly pronounced French at that, which puts them ahead of The Police or Talking Heads.)
697. Prince: Purple Rain
The big finale to the eponymous movie and album, and it's certainly got what it takes. (In the movie it was ostensibly written by Wendy & Lisa, but somehow I doubt that it really was...)
I am now extremely impressed by Zannah. I first noticed her blog, #!/usr/bin/girl, but I'm not really into blogs per se(the "here's a neat link from the Web" kind, that is, as opposed to the more journalesque kind). Even so, I saw some neat links there, so I went back every once in a while. Then I happened to try some external links on the page, and discovered that she's also got a full-fledged journal and three or four other places for miscellaneous assorted online writings. That and a funky sense of web-design, which makes sense because she seems to do this for a living. So go check it out.
I've seen a number of blogs and such where every reference, no matter how small, is linked. If they mention Star Trek, there's a link to a Star Trek site(or possibly two, one for each word). If they mention Jim Carrey, then there's a link to his IMDB entry. If they mention Chicago, there's a link to some Chicago site. And so on. Personally, it drives me crazy. For one thing, it must take a hell of a lot of work to put in all those links, unless there's some kind of automated web-page processing software which puts in those links by itself, and frankly I don't think we're there yet. For another, it distracts the one who's reading it.
Yes, I know, it is purer "hypertext" that way, but let's face it, the Web is really not very hypertextual. It is a little bit, but I don't think it's headed in the direction the original HTML designers might have expected.
In the long term, I imagine that what will happen is that any hypertextualization(did I make up a new word?)will happen at the browser level. If you hover over Jim Carrey's name or right-click or direct your mental cursor at it through your built-in biolink, it'll bring up all his information on your screen or in your visual cortex or wherever. It won't require an effort on the part of the person who happened to create the text including the name. And until it's at that phase, I'm not going to put in a lot of that effort. Besides, this really is more of a journal than a blog.
In my brief time here, I've noticed that there seem to be two different types of comments you can put on your blog. First, there are comments that you host on your own site, like cgicomments and phpcomments and whatever else, which require your site to support one type of page or the other. I know absolutely nothing about PHP, but I am an old hand at CGI, and I know that a lot of sites don't allow it without charging extra. And then there's the other type of comments, where you don't need to do anything but put a piece of script or something into your template; it's all handled at someone else's site. These ones seem to crash after a short period of time, as 200,000 bloggers who are unable or too lazy to put up the first type of comments all try to use this one hapless guy's site at once.
Yeah, it's probably better to have your own site which you are paying for, and do everything yourself, so that you know that it works. Unless, of course, you're one of those people who can guarantee that nothing you do yourself will work. Myself, I'm just hoping that Reblogger(I think that's what I was using, at least)comes back up after Christmas as promised, and works perfectly from then on. 'Cause I like comments. It helps prove that people are actually reading this. (Memo to self: Really, you should try to install one of those site stats counter things. Are you reading these memos, self?)
Closing in on the big Top 700...can you stand the suspense? Just be glad I'll be there before New Year's.
704. The Grapes of Wrath: O Lucky Man
The Grapes of Wrath are a Canadian "jangle-pop" band, whose sound was inspired a bit by REM and a bit by the Beatles(IMHO, anyway), and were really quite big here at their peak. I saw them in concert a couple of times; once Sarah McLachlan, then with only one album, opened for them, and the next time the Skydiggers. (A few years later, Ginger, basically the Grapes minus one, opened for Sarah. How things change.) This is from their most solid album, "Treehouse", produced by Tom Cochrane, and is about a man who is lucky because he is about to get even with those who have wronged him in the past. Good vocal harmonies over the jangling guitars.
703. A-Ha: Dream Myself Alive
I confess to being fond of A-Ha, from their first album onward, except for that annoying "Take On Me" song. Okay, I liked it at first, and the cool video, but now it's just an overplayed "one-hit-wonder" song. Everyone else can listen to that one if they want, I'll take the rest. This song is from that first album, "Hunting High & Low", and while it's certainly synth-pop, Morten Harket(the vocalist, if I'm not mistaken)is able to convey a lot of emotion with his voice, always one of their biggest assets.
You must serve the goddess of Trivia before you deserve to serve any others.
I was just looking at Open Pages(diverted to reading a rant about why most web journals suck), and after some thought have decided not to go along with it. Mainly because of the web-ring thing.
I remember joining the "Ring of Words" at some point in the past. I put the little graphic thing and HTML fragment on my web page. But somehow in the last few years I have become disenchanted with webrings. There's too many of them, and they're all over the place, and I never click on them. Even though I've started to see the non-graphical ones(|< < webring > >| or whatever), I still can't bring myself to put one on my site. Maybe I'll change my mind about that in the future, but for now it's relegated to the same place as splash pages.
It also makes me wonder whether or not I actually have a good journal or not. It's true that I don't have a particularly interesting life right now, and I'm interested in a lot of things that other people find mind-numbingly boring, but I try to write about things that interest me. And when it comes right down to it, maybe I do just have a need to get things out. Not that I did before, very much, but so far I'm enjoying it.
I often find that my involvement with things, especially online, goes through phases of mild interest, rising to fanatical, taking on a bunch of related responsibilities or otherwise doing all I can in getting involved, then finally collapsing when the responsibilities get too heavy. It's happened a few times, and I sometimes think that with my blogging it's still on the upward side of the curve. We'll see if I do something foolish like volunteering to help out with the Diarist.net awards or something.
Gee, a coughing fit that felt like it went right down into my larynx and came back up. Any more of that and I'll be puking. Hope that cough syrup kicks in soon. Why do I always have a cough that lasts for weeks after the rest of the cold has gone away? Did I hang around my brother and his smoking friends too much many years ago and wear away those little protective hair things in my lungs? (Technical term escapes me.) Is it because our house is pretty much a mess, and no doubt rife with bacteria? (I'm just around the corner from the cat's litterbox right now.) Or does this happen for everyone? Somehow I suspect it doesn't.
Not looking for specific medical advice here, just whinging. Pay no mind.
Got "The New Paranoia Album" back from Cemetery Dance magazine, with a rejection. Well, it was worth a shot. It's not really a horror story, but it has supernatural elements and it might have fit in. Horror is a genre I don't understand anyway, but if someone else thinks my stories fit in, all the better for me, because there's more markets. And Cemetery Dance has great payment rates, as far as stories go.
So now I should go and find another market for it, and send it out right away. A turnaround time of one day would be better than my usual 2-8 months. (Roll 2d4.*)
Maybe Interzone. I don't know if I have a particularly British writing style(from some of the British SF I've waded through, I suspect not), but I might as well try. They say to read a couple of issues first, but to heck with that. If they publish my story, then maybe I'll subscribe.
Heard from two people today that I haven't in a while. One of them a friend, Peter, from Grande Prairie, a fellow gamer and writer, and friend of Jeremy as well. Calling after ten PM, violating that unwritten rule, but that's okay.* Also Erik the BFG, from my Usenet days, who asked me about starting up a game of Ye Olde Rusty Lantern. I know I still have my story-element cards around here somewhere...
Among my favourite comic strips right now, I number Doonesbury and For Better or For Worse, for the same reason: they both have a cast of characters and develop and change over time. I never understood Doonesbury as a kid, but then it was a lot of political stuff, often with characters watching TV. I also thought Garry Trudeau was weird for not using real word-balloons, just blocks of words floating in midair with lines going to the speaking character. But it taught me most of what I know about American politics, even if the whole "primary" thing still confuses me. And "For Better or For Worse" has such an engaging cast of characters.
Of course, I also like Bob The Angry Flower, which has little to no continuity whatsoever, so it's not like I'm consistent or anything.
I often think of potential blog topics while I'm driving, and then forget them entirely when I'm actually blogging, and what I think about, as I see bad drivers all around me, is driving. Traffic laws are broken all around me every day, while I try hard not to because I'm an anal-retentive sort who's deathly afraid of getting tickets. Or maybe I was just taught right. Depends on how you look at it.*
But thinking about traffic laws, the majority of them are just designed to enforce courtesy to other drivers, and breaking them entails a certain amount of risk. If you change lanes without signaling, you risk getting creamed by someone else who is changing into the same lane, or just pulling past you with no idea of your intentions. If you make a left turn into the right-hand lane, you risk running into somebody who's turning right into the same lane. (This is one of the ones that really pisses me off, although I realize in practical terms that if you're turning left, your next turn is much more likely to be right, going in the direction of your original travel, rather than doubling back, so you will often want the other lane.) If you don't leave the intersection clear and the traffic in front of you strands you in the middle, then you're blocking cross traffic and generally annoying people. If you cross the intersection on the yellow light, you annoy people trying to turn left across you, and they have to go on the red and they slow down the cross traffic. And so on. So breaking these laws is just basically trying to selfishly grab a little teeny bit of advantage for yourself, and it's just plain rude. Of course, to the people who do it, not doing it is probably considered "weak", but I can deal with that.
But then there's speed limits. And I confess that there, it's not necessarily not driving the speed limit that's discourteous. If everyone is going ten km/h over, then if you go the speed limit then everybody else has to slow down or go around you, annoying them. You can feel self-righteous doing it(I know I do), but you are nonetheless a wee bit of a traffic hazard...as long as other people insist on speeding.
I recall reading somewhere that the posted speed limits are not actually the fastest that it is safe to drive in a given area, or even how fast they want you to drive. Instead, they look at the distribution of actual speeds around the posted speed limit--I imagine they probably average about 10 km/h faster--and then pick a speed limit that puts an acceptable number of vehicles under the safe maximum. Of course, they could just use voodoo to pick numbers that sound right, too. I'm not sure. But if it's true, then I think the whole idea of posting a speed limit knowing that people are going to exceed it is wrongheaded. I say, post a higher speed limit with zero tolerance speed tickets, random unannounced photo radar, and all that. If you don't want to risk going 61 in a 60 zone, maybe you will try to go a little slower than the limit, and it will become an actual limit, not just a reference number.
But hey, remember, I'm an anal-retentive ticket-fearing geek, and I can deal with getting someplace ten minutes later than some guy in a Ford F-150 who decides he can drive 80 in a residental area. 'Cause sometimes it's not about keeping up with the pack of vehicles, sometimes it's being able to stop in time to avoid hitting some kid chasing his rubber ball onto the street.
Counting down some more...
710. The Pursuit of Happiness: Walking In The Woods
The Pursuit of Happiness is one of those bands that can get played on the pop station and the university station at the same time, or at least they were with their first album. They made some indie videos that got played heavily on MuchMusic, leading them to a record deal, and their first album, "Love Junk". This sung/spoken song about the dangers of city life(though sometimes I imagine a more sinister overtone as well)was the one from the indie station, and it's got a wicked drumbeat and bass riff in the background as well.
709. The The: Soul Mining
The eponymous track from The The's first "real" album, on the tried-and-true topic of dealing with rejection by retreating within oneself. Not as edgy as their later work, like "Infected" or "Dusk", but Matt Johnson's growling vocals still convey a lot of pain.
In the language of violence, death is a silence. --Maestro Fresh Wes, "Death Is A Silence"
Quincunx told me that he also used the term "Den of Ubiquity" at some point. Now I feel so unoriginal.* Anyway, he mentioned that were a few other words that rhymed with "Iniquity" that I could use. Does anyone out there think I should go to the effort of changing my blog's name(at least)to "Den of Obliquity" instead? The technical term for obliquity is the degree of a planet's axial tilt, or something like that, but I'm pretty sure one could also use it for "the state of being oblique". I don't know if I'm necessarily that oblique all the time, but it's a cool word anyway. So let me know, gentle readers.
I'm also thinking of trying to tinker with my template a little bit. Or maybe I should ask my brother to do it. He's got a better sense of design than I do. I guess we'll see if he has time...
Everything I want to write here today seems to come out incredibly lame, so maybe I should cut it off now and go straight to the countdown again. Maybe tomorrow I'll be back on form.
712. The Jam: The Butterfly Collector
I spend a lot of time listening to song and albums that I don't particularly like, but that I accumulated somehow from the library booksale or something. Some of you may wonder why, and sometimes I do as well. But every once in a while some neglected album really strikes me, which makes it all worthwile. In this case, The Jam's "Setting Sons" grew on me after a few listens, though initially I was only lukewarm towards it. This is a great little song about the psychology of the groupie. (Also covered by Garbage on a Jam tribute album, I think.)
711. Pete Townshend: Somebody Saved Me
I never have gotten that much into The Who, but I like most of Pete Townshend's stuff, especially his album "All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes". I don't know how autobiographical this song is--I suspect a little bit, but it's always dangerous to assume. In any case, while the lyrics sometimes seem to be trying to fit too many words into too little song, they tell a decent story, and Townshend is in fine form.
Maybe I should try talking about "Evangeline", my intended next writing project. It's got an interesting history. It started out with Nicole and I bored at her parents' house at Christmas, so we did a little writing game, where we would take turns adding sentences until it just got too silly. It was something about a woman named "Evangeline", a telegram which incited her to kill her clown friend, and then the man with the red umbrella who gave her a token payment for it and then disappeared. It was completely bizarre, but there was something to it. So I expanded it in fits and starts over the next few years, until it came to something resembling a resolution(but a very open-ended one, as is my wont). I sent it out to a few editors in that form, but it came back. At some point somebody(probably Ann Marston from the Cult of Pain)told me it was actually a novel.
As with most of my stories, I had no idea what was actually going on, and why things were happening. I'm still reluctant to do that, as fond as I am of the stories of R.A. Lafferty, which are bizarre but have their own internal logic. But I have gotten many comments on it, including from Allen Steele and Michael Bishop(from the abortive ConSpec workshop pre-empted by 911), and I have a couple of other stories I could toss into the mix as well. (See "Slit", for instance.) But since I am still using the name "Evangeline" for the project, I'm tempted to actually investigate the Faulkner novel, the Longfellow poem(which I also have in a book I bought at a library booksale--love those things!), or at least the American folktale. And the opening scene takes place in the circus, about which I know little that wasn't in a book somewhere. (Like Dean Koontz's Twilight Eyes, for instance.) So there might be some research afoot.
But hopefully it will be fun, once I get started again. And hopefully that will be before Christmas. Of course, Nicole's parents only have the one computer, and if Nicole and I have to fight over it while we're up there...
He calls when I'm alone, and he calls when I'm not home --They Might Be Giants, "Absolutely Bill's Mood"
I was really impressed with Shakespear's Sister when I first heard them(which was about the time that "Stay" came out, so I wasn't exactly ahead of the pack). Now I tend to think that they're just okay, but this song, from their album "Hormonally Yours", has funky bass and guitar on it, and the lyrics aren't too silly...
We did do the Christmas tree last night, and Simon seems to be extremely impressed with it. I'm impressed that he knows, and can say, the word "decorate"(okay, he doesn't quite manage the "r" sound, but you know exactly what he's trying to say, at least). He's gonna love the Christmas thing.
It could be interesting at Nicole's parents, though, since their living room is a bit small, and there's going to be at least seven adults plus Simon. They're threatening to put the Christmas tree outside on the screen porch, which would be fine if winters up there didn't tend to average -30 C in temperature. They'd need to put outside lights on it, I bet.
Some people in our neighbourhood have big huge trees, taller than their house, in their front yards...with Christmas lights going all the way up. I have to wonder how they did it. Did they rent a dolly truck, or get a really big ladder? Did they actually climb the tree? If I were going to do that, I'd start when the tree was small, and gradually add lights onto it as it grew. A bit of a long-term project, true, especially since people move more frequently than that most of the time anyway, but it might be a good selling point.
Just listened to a CD by Dogstar, the band with the most famous bass player ever, and I agree that that's pretty much the only reason to listen to it. The only song that impinged on my consciousness was their cover version of the Carpenters' "Superstar", which I at least like better then Sonic Youth's(but then I'm not a big fan of them either).
Over the weekend I listened to Canibus's more-or-less self-titled album. Just another profanity-laced hip-hop album, mostly, but I was amused by the one track(whose title I was too lazy to look up)where he was ranting on, with a straight face, about UFO's and pyramids and stuff like that.
Y'all might have gathered by now that I admire rock critic Robert Christgau. I have a few reviews that I wrote of a few randomly-selected albums(they were the ones I was listening to that day)that I thought I might as well blog here next time I thought of it. Guess what? That's now.
Bruce Cockburn: Further Adventures of Bruce Cockburn
A fairly uninvolving album, but indicative of Cockburn's transition at the time from his early folk albums like "Salt, Sun & Time" to more rock-based albums like "Inner City Front". Perhaps the best song on the album is "Laughter", which seems to gently and tolerantly admonish several of the things that he obviously finds wrong with the world(as well as celebrating things he likes)over a catchy folk melody. The two real "rock" songs, "Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand" and "Feast of Fools", are harder and more pointed, and the latter is almost vitriolic. The rest is rather uninteresting folk, vaguely spiritual or vaguely romantic or vaguely jazzy, with the most interesting being the spare closer "Nanzen Ji". At best this album is indicative of better things to come.
Elton John: Reg Strikes Back
An uneven effort from Elton. It has a few good songs, including the singles "I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That" and "A Word In Spanish", the bouncy "Heavy Traffic"(the only song not solely an Elton-Taupin composition), the lovely ballad "Japanese Hands", and "Poor Cow", the tale of a downtrodden and battered English housewife. It is marred, though, by bombastic songs like "Town of Plenty", "Goodbye Marlon Brando"(a philippic about a number of things that seem to be bothering him/them, but too scattered to have any impact), and the totally unnecessary sequel(when has a sequel song ever been a tenth as good as the original?)"Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters(Part Two)". And the good songs are not good enough to outweigh the bad ones, or to make it, on the whole, a rewarding listen.
Tanita Tikaram: Ancient Heart
She has an intriguing voice, deep and rough, almost husky, and has obviously put a lot of work into her lyrics. I can't help but wish, though, that she'd put the same work into the music, which I found dull on several of the songs on this album. Uncomplicated rhythms and bland major-key-sounding poppy melodies jar with the vocals and undermine the lyrics. Actually, the above is not as true as I tend to remember; the impression is reinforced by the fact that it is true for most of the first half of the album. When the music does match, though, there are some good songs, like "Twist In My Sobriety", which benefits from Malcolm Messiter's oboe, and "For All These Years", with Mark Isham's trumpet and flugelhorn. On both, Tikaram's voice evokes the bitterness and melancholy to which it seems to be uniquely suited. (I still don't know what she means, in the former song's chorus, when she sings "You'll never be/more than twist in my sobriety". But a little inscrutability never hurt.) "He Likes The Sun" manages a kind of pleasantly slow bluesy feel(except for a jarringly uptempo bridge)with the aid of no less than three guitarists. But the fact that I have to get through the beginning of the album first(since I don't have this one on CD)makes it less than a favourite for repeated listening.
You see, a few weeks ago on the NaNoWriMo site, under "World Parties", I saw a listing for an Edmonton party, which said something like "December 8, 7 pm, at Audrey's, email for adddress". And I thought, heck, I know where Audrey's is! Used to go past it all the time! Audrey's Books, that is. It seemed appropriate, and I surmised that perhaps the eponymous Audrey was one of the contestants. I thought no further about it. It even seemed more appropriate when I went to Candas's book launch there the Wednesday just before.
Can you see where this is going? Saturday night at 7:10(had to stop and gas up the car), I get to Audrey's Books, and discover that it is closed and locked. There may possibly be lights on downstairs, but nobody comes up to check for people coming to the party a bit late, there's no "doorbell" or anything. I think maybe it was actually 7:30, so I hang around for 25 minutes. Luckily it's pretty warm out, just around freezing, and standing around outside is not a problem. I'm only accosted by one panhandler. Finally I give up, extremely indignant about having wasted my time because nobody said anything about a change of time or venue or cancellation of the party.
So I get home and go to the website again to see if there is some information there that I missed. And I reread it: "Audrey's". Not "Audrey's Books". The house of some person named Audrey, who is undoubtedly in the contest, but does not necessarily own and/or operate an eponymous bookstore. I am an idiot. I am a fool. I am a nincompoop.
So I hope that Limegirl actually checked out the information and went to the party, perhaps wondering why I wasn't there, and that either she had a good time, or if neither of us made it, that it sucked big time and we didn't miss anything.
There. I got it off my chest. I admit my failure, however hard it may be to reveal cluelessness before the anonymous heaving masses of the Internet, and also the real people who probably read this too.
Reading Soulworm by Ed Willett: All finished. It's a nice little fantasy/teen novel which blends the two fairly well. Recommended to anyone who likes Nicole's books. (Well, of course you should read them first and find out, shouldn't you?)
Going to the library: At least briefly to pick up items on hold, since we just wanted to go home by that point.
Sleeping in Saturday morning: Not so you'd notice. I got up at 8:00, about an hour after Simon & Nicole, because I wanted to get the Christmas shopping out of the way before the parking lots filled up.
Going to see Harry Potter: Ah, yes! We did manage that one. Our friend Trish let us know that she would be busy until about 3:30, so evening would be better, but we discovered some late-afternoon showings of the movie as well, and eventually arranged to go to the 4:45 show so she could still have a little bit of daylight to take Simon out to the park. (Oddly enough, we ran into her and her husband at the mall while Christmas shopping--she was getting her car fixed at the Canadian Tire next door, since apparently her car's lights had stopped working, which is a Bad Thing.) We made it pretty much right on time, and thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I can't say that it matched precisely my vision of the book, but then I have a habit of badly visualizing books when I read them. And for some reason my vision had everything on the other side--if I'd watched a mirror-image of the movie, I think it would have looked more like I wanted it to. Go figure. Oh, and even the night scenes were better lit in my imagination. Alan Rickman as Severus Snape was outstanding...
Today, by the way, I am staying home sick, in case you're wondering. That's another reason I didn't sleep in much on Saturday, because I can't sleep in very well when one of my nostrils is completely plugged up. Though I did manage this morning... Last night I felt awful, and this morning not much better. Right now, of course, I'm mostly okay, but Nicole had commandeered the car again today to take Simon to his weekly play group(last session today), so I would've had to take the bus, and that I couldn't have managed. I am tired of being sick, but I figure that if I'm going to be sick, I should at least get the compensation of getting to stay home.
I should be starting on writing again soon, too. I promised myself that I would not just do it for a month and then stop, that I would try to make it part of my regular routine since I had managed to do it for a month, if with smaller quotas, but I would give myself a week off. It's been more than a week, hasn't it?* We'll see how much time the Christmas tree thing takes tonight--I can't seem to make myself write during the day, if I'm home. When I was sick for a week there in November, I got less writing done than in weeks when I was working. It's all in the attitude, I guess. When I'm home all day I feel free to do something that takes all day, and doesn't leave time for anything else, but when I've only got an hour or two to dispose of, then it's easier to stay focused.
I neglected the countdown for two days, but I won't play catch-up here. Quincunx said something about this list putting 80's songs in his head, and I have to say that I do try to be not completely 80's in my listening, but it is hard. I concentrated very intently on the popular music of '85 to '88, my high school years, and have only paid occasional attention since, so I'm sure it shaped my tastes quite strongly. But I assure you I'm not just a "child of the 80's", and I'm sure the 90's had just as many one-hit wonders. (Eagle Eye Cherry, anyone? Shawn Mullins?)
Anyday, today's entries:
718. Chaz Jankel: Questionnaire Chaz(sometimes spelled Chas)Jankel is an odd sort, a sometime collaborator with Ian Dury but kinda funky in his own right. I saw a video for this song on MuchMusic a few times, but that was it; later, though, I found the album for which this is the title track, and another one, "Chazablanca", at a garage sale with my Dad. This is very upbeat and peppy and jazzy and all that; hard to think of what else it might remind me of, except a more energetic version of Donald Fagen's "New Frontier". Lyrically, it's got a bunch of questionnaire questions, cleverly strung together, which I also find cool.
717. Bruce Cockburn: The Coldest Night of The Year This is actually a fairly new addition to this list, which is to say that I forgot about it until I was listening to "Waiting For A Miracle" the other day and I ran across it. I eventually decided to bump "Wondering Where The Lions Are"(which I seem to recall was Bruce Cockburn's only American hit single)off the list and replace it with this one.
Bruce Cockburn is one of the people I would consider a "grand old man" of Canadian music, since he's been making music for thirty years now, with almost as many albums under his belt. He's often unremittingly political in his songs, but he can go for the personal angle as well, like on this song. I find it hard to analyze lyrics a lot of the time, but essentially it's about a guy who misses someone and is trying very hard to keep from thinking about it. I don't remember right now what album it's from--"Waiting For A Miracle" is a "best-of" where I first heard a lot of Cockburn songs. And this one is just the tip of the iceberg.