The Den of Ubiquity

Monday, January 27, 2003:

I Could Make You Weep More Cheaply

I know it's shocking to post when I just posted the day before, but I saw
The Monday Mission and thought it had interesting questions, so I'll do that one:

1. Do you care for poetry? Do you have a favourite poem? Care to share some of it?

I've never been much for poetry. I will almost always tend to like rhymed and metered verse over free verse, because sometimes it seems that everybody thinks they can write free verse, when in fact it's probably crap. Of course, it's easy to write doggerel as well, but then at least you have crap that rhymes.* Also, I just tend to have greater difficulty parsing poetic writing, compared to prose. I look at a paragraph, and I can read it quickly as a series of sentences...but a sequence of lines in a stanza will flummox me every time.

I do like a few poets, though. Because of early exposure to "Cats", I've always had a soft spot for T.S. Eliot, and I quite like "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and, of course, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. There's also Ogden Nash, because he's often funny, occasionally Edgar Allan Poe, and Lewis Carroll(though I've never made it through "The Hunting of The Snark"). Maybe a few Robert Frosts. There's the occasional other one I've run across, but I'll go with "Prufrock" as my favourite.

I can quote a few lines, like "I grow old, I grow old/I will wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled", and of course "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each/I do no think they will sing for me". Both possibly paraphrased. I'm sure the rest of it is on the Net somewhere.

This doesn't count song lyrics, because IMHO those are different. Though there's a great poem read over the track "Upon This Earth" by David Sylvian, on his "Gone To Earth" album, which might count. A quick Google search(god, I love Google!)reveals that this is Robert Graves's "The Foreboding", and goes:

Looking by chance into the open window,
I saw my own self seated there
Gaze abstracted, furrowed forehead, unkempt hair.
I thought that I had suddenly come to die,
And to a cold corpse this was my farewell
Until a pen moved slowly on paper, and tears fell.

He had written a name, yours, in printed letters,
One word on which bemusedly to pore.  [I always had trouble making out that line in the song...]
No protest, no desire; your naked name, nothing more.

Would it be tomorrow, would it be next year?
The vision was not false, this much I knew;
And I turned angrily from the open window, aghast at you.

Why never a warning, either by word or look,
That the love you cruelly gave me could not last?
Already it was too late,
The bait swallowed, the hook fast.

Yeah, that's the stuff. Maybe I need to listen to it read out loud more, or something.

2. What does it take to "rock your world"?

I'm not quite sure what this means, actually. Something that makes me feel really good, perhaps...? (Where's a Random House Unabridged Dictionary when you need one!) Taking that interpretation, let me say that listening to most of the songs in my top 20 would probably do it, sometimes literally. Reading a really good book, watching a really good TV show... But that's too general, isn't it? This question, I don't like that much. Ask what you mean.

3. Have you ever done anything that landed you in financial trouble? Has somebody else's action ever caused you financial ruin? What happened?

Well, the most dangerous thing, I think, was when we bought my dad's car. He had a '94 Mercury Topaz that he was getting rid of, and for some reason I had it in my head that he was offering it to us for $3000. Even when he sent us an official appraisal, showing us that it was worth $6500, we didn't clue in. We had scraped up $3000--at the time, we were renting a condo, I had been at Joseki about a year, and Nicole may have been working at Blockbuster Video--and then Dad asked, "Where's the rest?" Well, we agreed to pay him off in installments, but he needed the money too, and eventually we had to take out a bunch of money on our Visa to pay off the rest. It was our mistake, really.

And then, most annoyingly, a few months later, I think even before we'd finished paying Dad for it, I rear-ended a pickup truck on the way to work, and it ended up being a write-off. It wasn't even that badly damage--I would never had used the word "totaled" for it, but apparently a few too many things under the hood, like the air conditioning(which, on some days in our short hot summer, I would really like to have again), were broken. Luckily we got close to $6000 for it, and eventually bought the '92 Dodge Spirit that we are still driving. It's okay, but I still think Ford cars have better heaters.

At the time of the accident, I was in rehearsal for the Walterdale Theatre production of "Ivanov". In a fit of epimethean lack of foresight, we had decided, when insuring the '94 Topaz, to not get the "loss of use" coverage...which would have, basically, paid for a rental car for us until the car was fixed, or possibly even until we got a new one. So I got lots of rides(luckily, the director lived reasonably nearby), and rode the bus a bunch of times, because it took us weeks to be able to get around to car shopping, even once we had the money.

Nobody else has really done much to us, unless you count the cretin at Vectoron who fired me two months after hiring me just to keep me from working for a different department. After we had moved from Grande Prairie down to Edmonton for the job(at least they still paid for our move). But that still wasn't "ruin", just setback.

4. Take a stroll down memory lane. There is a song, that every time you hear it, you think of this one person. What's the song, who is the person, and what memories does it conjure up?

Oh, there are dozens of them. I tend to associate people with music, songs or entire albums. Julia comes up in my head whenever I listen to Danny Wilson's "Meet Danny Wilson", The Cure's "Head On The Door" or "Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me", Malcolm McLaren's "Madam Butterfly", Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind", or The Nails' "88 Lines About 44 Women". Mike comes up when I listen to Tom Waits's "Bone Machine" or REM's "Monster". My brother has exposed me to so much music that it would be hard to pick just one, though Philip Glass would definitely do it. Trish turned me on to The Welfare $tarlets, and I remember seeing some more local people like Karl Roth and Bobby Cameron with her. Jody comes up with The The, Talking Heads' "Naked", Mike Oldfield's "Crises", "Five Miles Out", or "Q.E.2", anything by The Housemartins, or Shriekback's "Care". Jeremy--anything by Iron Maiden, among many others. Peter--Rush's "Hemispheres", "Signals", "Moving Pictures", or "Permanent Waves". Strange Advance makes me think of Kevin. Public Enemy's "She Watch Channel Zero" I remember a bunch of my brother's friends hanging out. Blue Peter's "Don't Walk Past" brings to mind a morning at my brother's waiting for him to wake up. T'Pau's self-titled album, and Club Nouveau's "Life, Love & Pain" make me think of Aaron Bielish, who recommended them to me. And so on. I have many associations for people I only know from the Net, where sometimes it's all that I remember about them...

5. Are there any occasions when you feel like you are missing out on something that everyone else seems to enjoy?

What, like reality TV? No, I already ranted about that one. In general, either I am grateful for all the time/money that I am saving compared to those poor slobs who watch sports/drink beer/whatever. Sometimes, if something gets popular enough without my being able to understand why, I will start to dislike it just on principle. That happened with "The X-Files", for instance. And when Jeremy, Dave and all their friends, even my brother at times, were obsessed with the game "Wing Commander".

I guess "Buffy" is the only thing I feel like I'm missing out on right now...I don't have the time to get into it, to even start watching it, but it sounds like something I would really enjoy.

6. What phrases "push your buttons" and why?

I'm pretty tolerant of these things, phrases and idioms. I try to be a descriptive grammarian, not a prescriptive one--not "Look what they're doing to the language now!" but "What an interesting new usage!" There are some "jokes" that really make me grit my teeth, though. Mostly they bug me because they rely on ignorance of etymology. Geeky, huh? A prime example is "If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of Congress?" Stand-up comedians come up with these things, and then everybody promulgates them. Or "Carpe Diem--seize the fish", which is just based on ignorance of Latin. (Though somehow "Illegitimi non carborundum--Don't let the bastards grind you down" doesn't bother me.)

I liked it in The Last Hero where Rincewind suggested their slogan should be "Morituri Nolumus Mori". Which is real, honest-to-god Latin for "We who are about to die do not wish to die."

7. Do you believe in life after death? What do you believe happens when our time is up?

At the moment what I believe is that there is little to no evidence for life after death...but it makes a whole lot of sense for people to postulate that there must be. For one thing, death is scary, and often seems senseless, or unfair. So to conclude, first, that death is not a real ending, that somehow life continues, is very reassuring, and so would be handy in that way. And then, of course, if you can use a "good" afterlife as a reward for a "good" life, and a "bad" afterlife as a punishment for a "bad" life, as judged by whatever moral precepts you happen to have, then you can make your meme complex really catch on.

Bonus Question: Everybody's talking all this stuff about me why don't they just let me live?

Probably because you're a public figure, which is tantamount to surrendering control over your privacy. Also, because you're a role model, you have to live to a higher standard than average anonymous people, because people look to you for cues on how to behave. That's probably at least part of it, but I'm sure there are many other reasons.

My wife and I often do the "Bacon chain" game, trying to link actors and actresses(or "actrons", as I like to call them generically)by way of the movies they've been in.

Tonight we tried something a little different--the "Endless Bacon Chain". In this, you start with an arbitrarily selected actron, and then try to see how long a chain you can make without duplicating an actron or a movie. So you could go, like:

1: Kurt Russell.
2: Madeline Stowe, from "Unlawful Entry".
3: Drew Barrymore, from "Bad Girls".
4: Steve Zahn, from "Riding In Cars With Boys"

Etc., until finally you give up because you've reached someone with no remaining links. Consulting reference materials is allowable, but only in positions of difficulty. We didn't keep count of the length of our chain, but we came up with a pretty damn long one. We missed a few people, like Keanu Reeves, but it's not a perfect system. We also managed to include four cast members from "Friends".

I've been working on my own little movie database, for work on Bacon Chain projects, like the standard chains, and the "Bacon box" proposed by Matt Enlow, where you select N actrons who have each starred in movies with each other. I talked about this one before, and am too lazy to go look up the reference. I think I managed to get a good set with Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, and possibly Rick Moranis all starring in movies with each other; other sets have proved more elusive, and I haven't gotten above four. But then, my database is far from complete. I wish I could just download it from IMDB, and winnow out the stuff I don't want. Maybe I should try to automate a program to do that...nah, too much work. I'm not that lazy.

Here are some of the foursomes I've got, anyway--you fill in the movies, if you want:

Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest, Jeff Goldblum, Peter Falk
Bruce Willis, Harvey Keitel, Jon Lovitz, Steve Buscemi
Bill Pullman, Carrie Fisher, Tom Hanks, John Candy
Andie McDowell, Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Madeline Stowe
Joe Pesci, Kevin Costner, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro
Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Tommy Lee Jones, William H. Macy
Ethan Hawke, Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, Robin Williams
Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris

I've got more, but those should do you for a start...

On to the countdown:

352. Queen: Funny How Love Is, from Queen II

When I listened to Queen albums a lot as a kid, I usually skipped the first two, since I didn't like them as much. I've still never really gotten into them, but this one song stuck with me. The lyrics are clever and catchy, and the sampled guitar work is pretty cool to listen to.

351. Brian Eno: The Great Pretender, from Taking Tiger Mountain(By Strategy)

This is one of those albums my brother got me to listen to(so is the above, for that matter), and I thank him for it. It's hard to pick out individual songs, but this one is a great combination of music and lyrics. I could probably do without the several seconds of electronic crickets at the end, though.

I'd like a Slow Comfortable Screw On The Beach With An Orgasm....

Aaron // 9:55 PM Clix me!

Sunday, January 26, 2003:

Swiftly Fly The Days

One famous(to me, at least)opening line from a novel comes from William Gibson's Neuromancer. It's something like "The sky over the harbour was the colour of television tuned to a dead channel." Pretty evocative, right?

Or is it? For years I've been thinking of gray, the gray of static. Except that static isn't really gray, it's white and black mixed. That's an odd colour for the sky to be, like plaid or something.

And then I thought, what colour does my TV show when it's tuned to a dead channel? I don't know if this is universal, but it's the same with our new JVC as it was with, at least, cable running through our old VCRs. It's blue. It's the deep blue of a warm summer day without a cloud in the sky, like the day I was watching the IAAF Championships at Commonwealth Stadium and got second-degree sunburn on my forehead.

I don't know which Gibson meant, now. From a near-future perspective, now, it would mean blue, but did he have that perspective when he wrote it?

He's got a web page up these days. I should ask him.

Sometime last week(I think--all weeks seem to bleed together after too short a time, due to a lack of distinguishing characteristics)we succumbed to the temptation, once again, to rent movies. It had been some time since last we rented, and we had forgotten what a hassle it was. We were also avoiding cooking, and possibly grocery shopping, by going out to get supper from Subway, right next to the Roger's we rent videos from.

It is completely impractical, these days, to expect to watch more than one "adult" movie when we rent. I think we've come to terms with that now. We have to watch after Simon's bedtime, you see, and Luke often gets fussy, so we have to frequently pause the movie to quiet him down, or keep jacking up the volume until it wakes Simon up. So by 10:30 or 11:00 we've watched maybe half of the movie, and Nicole is tired and wants to go to bed. I can rarely force myself to go to bed that early anymore. And then we repeat the next night, or a few days later, depending on how long we have the movie for, and hopefully finish it. We also have to try not to interfere with our regular TV-watching, which takes up enough complete evenings as it is.

Last time we rented "Monster, Inc.", for Simon, and "Minority Report" for us. We're not real intellectuals when it comes to movies--generally, action is what we want. At least, it's what Nicole wants. And "Minority Report" is, at least, SF.

"Monsters, Inc.", which of course we could actually watch with Simon, was pretty good. Simon had gotten a colouring book for it already, so he was somewhat familiar with the characters, at least. Not sure how much of the story he followed, of course, but he liked Mike, at least.

"Minority Report"...well, it had its moments, though it also had its anti-moments. Several of the action scenes seemed to be unintentionally funny--or, at least, if they were meant to be funny, they should've have been. There were also a few plot holes, but I haven't read the original Dick story so I can't tell which ones were introduced in the film adaptation and which just left in from Dick's own version. I somehow managed to avoid seeing any advertisement of this film when it came out--must have watched the wrong shows, or something. So it was mysterious for a long time, not overhyped like, say, "Mission: Impossible 2" was. But frankly, I think I might have enjoyed "Vanilla Sky" better.

And we still have more movies that we could watch. Not being renters, there's little or no impetus to actually do so. We've still got "Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom", which we haven't given up on, or at least haven't bothered to give back to Sharna & Nick yet. We've still got "October Sky" from two or three Christmases ago, that my dad gave to us. And Sharna gave us an extra copy of "Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone", that they had gotten for Christmas or something. We might try watching that one with Simon some time, but it might not be suitable. Still, he watched "Star Wars" without flinching... Maybe we have to start telling him "The Story of Harry Potter" the way we told him "The Story of Luke Skywalker".

I skipped the heraldry thing yesterday. My cold, of course--I did stay home sick on Friday--and the weather too. Which is getting weird--today it got up above freezing in some places, even places that had been -20 °C the day before. That's more chinook weather for you. Today we got some sleet, and possibly freezing rain, so it's possible that the streets of Edmonton will be a skating rink tomorrow morning. I'm trying to tell myself that I will only stay home if I really, really feel sick, but I don't know how true that is.

I finished River of Blue Fire, and feel much more impetus to read the next book than I did at the end of City of Golden Shadow. I'll probably still make myself wait, oh, probably four months before I go on to the next one. I like to space things out, or later I will never be able to remember what happened in which book.*

I whizzed quickly through The Last Hero this weekend, and it was pretty darn good. Shorter, textually, than many of Pratchett's books, but it is stunningly complemented by Paul Kidby's art, which is ubiquitous throughout the book. Almost all the characters are given their own illustration, and there are many pages from Leonard of Quirm's notebooks(the pacifist genius--think da Vinci--who is kept locked up in case anyone gets hold of one of his many ideas that could be turned into a weapon of mass destruction). I like the way they teamed up Leonard with Rincewind, the cowardly "wizzard", and Carrot of the Ankh-Morpork City Guard. It's something that might be worth owning in hardcover...

Now I'm on to Dean Koontz's Winter Moon. He's being a bit heavy-handed with his "society is breaking down" theme, which often dominates as his books often feature southern Californian police officers as main characters. I, personally, can't help but think of things in Generational terms, à la The Fourth Turning, where everything seems to be on a death spiral to hell in a handbasket, when in all likelihood, once the Crisis Era has passed, everything will seem hunky-dory, if spiritually dead, for another few decades.

But it's fairly good reading, anyway. Although I did spend a lot of today reading a book about "The West Wing" that I got from the library on Saturday. I confess that it never really occurred to me to look for West Wing web sites, though of course I was aware that there must be some. One of these days I'd like to find out for sure whether the show actually takes place two years in the past(because it's just last fall that Bartlet got re-elected), or whether it's in some weird parallel America that is two years off in the cycle, but happened to have all the same presidents. It seems to me that there would be some substantial differences in U.S. political history if the election cycle had been offset by a couple of years...

I also picked up a few more books off the library booksale table, perhaps inadvisably because, well, I have so many already. These were mostly nonfiction, too, which I am even less organized about reading. Well, I'd read comedienne Rita Rudner's Naked Beneath My Clothes already; I also got Unforgettable Fire, a book about U2(what vintage I don't know, but probably late 80's), The Unkindest Cut, the story of a critic who made a movie for $7000 just to show he could, and The Story of English...pretty self-explanatory.

Maybe I do need a system for reading my nonfiction books, because they tend to pile up, or get neglected. Generally I will read them at the same time as a fiction book, and switch back and forth depending on which one is more compelling at the time. But my reading time has dwindled so much that if I switched back and forth, I'd only get three fiction books read a month or something, which is intolerable to me. I also keep getting the urge to reread things like Isaac Asimov's science essay collections, many of which I remember fondly.

So maybe I'll just grab one of my nonfiction books and put it on the shelf with the rest of them. It'll be a better system that what I've got now, at least.

I'm so annoyed at the reality TV crap which is clogging up the stations right now.

Generally, I can ignore it. There's commercials, of course, and endless media exposure, by people who have to watch it because it's popular, and of course all those people who, for some unfathomable reason, actually watch it willingly because they like it. Even those who watch it and consider it a "guilty pleasure", still watch it.

Of course, the reason it's bothering me right now is that, between "Joe Millionaire" and the new round of "American Idol", "24" and "The West Wing" weren't on last week, and won't be on next week. That's right, crap is driving out good programming. Cheap-to-produce crap, I might add, driving out much more high-budgeted stuff, which includes things like actual writing and real actors, and you know how much that costs.

Maybe it's the Crisis Era thing again. The worse things get in the world, or seem to get, at least, the more people want to escape. "24", with its nuclear terrorists, and "The West Wing", with at least an approximation of real-world politics, don't count as escape. I note that "Friends" is on this week, and "Scrubs" was on both weeks. Though I missed last week's, because I just assumed it was pre-empted or a rerun, like everything else. Ah, well.

I was going to say, "no offense to those reading this who actually watch reality TV", but then I thought, I don't care. Be offended if you want. I don't like it, I never liked it from the beginning, and I refuse to watch a single minute of it if I can possibly avoid it--I keep finding out things about it, through the media, but never through direct exposure. You may say, "How do you know you don't like it if you've never watched it?" Yes, I admit to being prejudiced against it. I am, however vestigially, a writer, and I have a writer's disdain for the belief that reality, unscripted, makes good stories. If it's reality, then it doesn't make good stories, and if it makes a good story, then you're deluding yourself if you think that it's reality. And fake reality, I can so do without.

At work we're edging ever closer to doing things with Java. Actually, it looks like we'll be working with JavaScript as well as Java. I've been a bit disdainful of JavaScript, but I suppose mostly because it can be so easily abused. Now that I've started reading up on it, it looks kind of cool.

Now that it's so hard to find someplace to run CGI on, I might end up using it to replace my "stupid CGI tricks" pages that I used to have. First and foremost among those would, of course, be the Random Band Name Server. If I can get it to select random lines from a text file, and--which I imagine would be harder--to add user-submitted lines to another text file, then I can do it. But I'm still learning, and mostly learning at work.

We have the Linux box at work set up now, though it's not hooked up to the Novell network yet, or the Internet at all. I actually had to try to figure something out about Novell last week, which was a pretty mind-numbing endeavour, to figure out how to get the firewall to work so I could try to test this little program that tries to send out an email when you fill out a web form. Sounds easy, but it's plagued with the kind of hateful little problems that lurk in the interstices, between program and operating system, network hardware and network software. I guess we'd be talking about "interoperability" here, or "i14y" as some wags abbreviate it. It's what has been the main stumbling block to a working implementation of our Java programs up to now--how can we connect to a database? To a web server? To an application server? To a browser? Once we've finally figured that out, it's just a matter of writing code. I can write code, though I'm still learning Java. But these other kinds of problems wear me out, because it's like nailing jelly to a tree.

Still better than working for a living, though.*

I've actually started doing some exercise recently. Let's call it the result of an abortive attempt at pants shopping a few weeks ago.

My ideal exercise routine would probably be a combination of cycling and swimming. That's not really very practical right now, so for now it's been mostly situps and, well, shoveling snow. One of these days I will probably get an exercise bike, though god knows where I'll put it. If I have to put it outside, that'll kind of defeat the purpose.

I only have the vaguest ideas about exercise, but I like what I hear about the kind of early-morning exercise that gets your metabolism up and leaves it there all day, burning fat merrily away even if you're doing nothing more strenuous than double-clicking a mouse, and occasionally flipping open the heavy JavaScript book where it lies on your desk. I don't know if I've managed it yet, but I'm just getting started. I'm up to 24 situps at a stretch, and trying to go up by two every time I do it(with a break in the middle--I'm not a masochist). I figure that even if I don't lose that much weight, if I build up my stomach muscles(are those the mysterious "abs" I've heard so much about?)maybe at least my gut won't hang out so much...*

It's been a bit slower with them library CDs. In brief:

Chantal Kreviazuk's "What If It All Means Something" was a bit of a disappointment after her first two. The leadoff single, "In This Life", wasn't too inspiring, but then "Wayne", from the first album, wasn't that compelling either. But there's not much else on the album that commands as much attention as "Surrounded" or "God Made Me" from her first album, or "Dear Life" or "Before You" from the second. "Weight of The World" and "Ready For Your Love" are okay, but nowhere near. So, hopefully this is just a misstep, and not a wholesale descent into banality like afflicted Sarah McLachlan...

System of A Down's self-titled was just as dreary as I expected it to be, from what I'd heard, but I tried it anyway because I still like their name. That's pretty much all they have going for them, though, apart from sludge metal that Tool and Soundgarden would be unwilling to own up to.

LFO's "Life Is Good", which I thank Quincunx for letting me find, I did like a lot. The sprightly "Every Other Time", which is what I'd heard on the radio, was just the tip of the iceberg. They manage to take the best pieces of boy-band pop and alternative rock and find themselves a synergy somewhere in between. If that makes any sense.* Sort of like Len, but without the more techno-oriented numbers--this is still a vocals-oriented band. Probably a wishlist item.

Paul McCartney's "Driving Rain" was okay, but not spectacular. I think that "Flaming Pie" was a much stronger album overall; we'll leave "Run Devil Run" out of this, because that was trying to be a much different album. "She's Given Up Talking" was nice and brooding, and "Spinning On An Axis" was neat, but on the whole the songs didn't seem to distinguish themselves for me. Even the bonus track of "Freedom", which(what was I, living under a rock?)I hadn't managed to hear before, didn't sound that special. I guess you hadda be there.

That's most of what I went through in the last couple of weeks, really--I said it was slow. I did want to mention here a cool track that I caught on CJSR a little while ago. That's the Edmonton university radio station, if I haven't mentioned, and they of course play all sorts of things. I tune into their morning shows sometimes, and sometimes I hear neat songs. I keep thinking I should just stick in a tape when I get up in the morning and see what I get. Anyway, this one track was apparently off of a compilation of really obscure artists called "Songs In The Key of Z, Vol. 2". It's called "You're Out of The Computer", and apparently by "Bingo Gazingo / My Robot Friend", according to the All-Music Guide. It was really quite funny, some hacker who was telling an ex-girlfriend(?) about how he'd taken his revenge on her by, well, removing her from the computer. Haven't heard anything like that since Weird Al's "It's All About The Pentiums".

I don't know if I would like the rest of the CD, but I like that song, and I'll see if I can find it somewhere... Of course, the CD is not at the library or anything so simple. I might have to go onto Kazaa or something, because the whole Bearshare/Gnutella/Limewire network is like deserted these days.

Counting down the hours till we are here again:

354. Fiddler On The Roof: Sunrise, Sunset

I'm a big musical buff, really. At least, of the good ones, and Fiddler was always one of the best. I wouldn't have minded having this one played at my wedding, either, as non-Jewish as it was. It's a great song about the relentless progress of time, though not in a sad way at all.

353. 'Til Tuesday: Coming Up Close, from Welcome Home

This song, from 'Til Tuesday's second album, showed how much their sound had changed from the first album. The first was all edgy new wave guitar and bass, and Aimee Mann wasn't using her voice to full advantage. Here they move into something a bit more folky, and Mann's voice, low with restrained emotion on the verses, sweeps up higher for the choruses. A very uplifting, if melancholy, song.

BIG HONKIN' MUONS--The new release by Larry 'Bud' Niven!

Aaron // 9:56 PM Clix me!

Thursday, January 23, 2003:

Making Some Sense Where There's No Sense At All

I know it's been a while, once again, since I updated. Are you tired of my always beginning my blog entries with an apology for how long it's been? I'm starting to be. Still, this is a longer gap than usual, with no prior warning or a holiday to explain it.

The #1 problem, as always, is just free time. I don't have that much, and lately it seems like there's been less than otherwise. And, quite frankly, I have been doing other things with what I have had. Writing blog entries has not been my top priority for some time now, and now it's dropped quite far down the list. It's not that I haven't had things to write about--in fact, the paradox is that the more things happen in my life, the less time I have to write about it. Which is intuitive, but annoying. And I keep thinking of things to write about at times when I can't even note them down--in traffic, the bath, in bed, etc.

And let's not even get into reading blogs. I'm so far behind on that, too. I think I got caught up post-Christmas, but since then I haven't kept pace. See, it's such a major effort to catch up on everybody, taking hours of reading archives, so after that I don't feel like reading blogs for about a week. And then it takes a while to catch up on everybody...etc. Kind of like what happens with dishes around here getting washed only on Weekends.

I actually considered announcing a hiatus in blogging, which might only have lasted a few months, or been permanent if I had really reached my blogging saturation point, the way I seem to do with most of my hobbies after a few months of immersion and obsession and several more months of decreasing enthusiasm. But I do keep thinking of topics to write about, so as long as I can snatch an hour here or there... Don't expect anything more than once a week, by this point. I should probably switch my archives over to monthly, if I can...

Let's start with the weather. It's finally gotten into some real winter up here. We got a whole bunch of snow, several inches of it, over a few days, and now it's really cold, too. Yesterday it was -31 °Celsius, and it's been in the -20's for a few days now.

And while I pride myself in being able to handle such conditions, it is still not, of course, pleasant. I can't say that I actually enjoy freezing my fingers, even in my gloves, on the steering wheel as I drive home, because I have to keep all the warm air blasting on the windshield so it doesn't frost up, and maybe switching it to blow on my feet for a minute or two, because they are also very cold. I'm not fond of the little patch of ice that forms on the floormat underneath my heel, right where it sits when I press the gas pedal, from snow that melts off my boots and slides down to refreeze. And taking an extra 20 minutes to get to work because of roads that are icy or snowy, or at least people who drive as if they were, is not particularly great either.

Let me tell you--when it's -20 °C, then snow does not form into things like snowballs and snowmen. That requires damp snow, preferably above freezing, so that it sticks together. It does turn into ice when it gets compressed under the tires of a car, though. Which is what happens on most roads, because people do not stop driving as soon as snow starts to fall, and they do not wait until the snowplows have removed it all, either.

Just thought I should give some of you people, like in Arizona, or Seattle, or California, or wherever, some idea of what winters up here are really like. Except that at least two out of the last five never got this cold, or this much snow, really. Last winter was very dry(not much snow, that is), so last summer was very dry too, with bad crops and bad forest fires. Maybe this year will be a bit better, but considering this is practically the first snow of the season, it may not be enough unless things continue. Which would, frankly, be a pain.

Another reason that time has been of a premium recently is that Luke went in for a little surgery last week. Nothing major, let me hasten to say, but nothing I am going to elaborate upon for the invisible audience on the net, because it's frankly something that most people don't need to know about. Let's just say that it's a minor cosmetic problem that the doctors thought would be best taken care of soon, and that we agreed.

But the result was a very early morning last Wednesday, a long time in the waiting room while Luke slept off the anesthetic, a few days of extreme crankiness and tenderness in the affected area, and general sleep deprivation all around.

And now, we've all got colds! Well, Simon does, Nicole does, and I'm getting one. Maybe I'll get to stay home tomorrow! Otherwise it'll just be being sick on the weekend, which is, I'm sure you'll all agree, just not fair.

What else has been draining on my time? Well, I confess, it's The Sims. One of my Sim projects involves taking a household of eight people to the top of their respective careers...and then they all quite their jobs and pick new careers. Repeat. My initial goal was to have everybody go through every career, but they keep adding new careers with expansion packs, so I may never catch up.

So anyway, one such household is very close to finishing its first set of careers. All done, really, except for the Military woman, who fell behind by accidentally skipping two days in a row and getting fired. I also suspect that Military may just be the hardest career to get to the top of, because you have to train yourself high in so many different skills.

I'm not sure what I'll do after that, so my interest in The Sims may taper off for a little while, so I can do other things. But maybe not. Who knows?

Last night we went to see George Carlin at the Jubilee Auditorium. The opening comedian was a guy named Dennis Blair, who wasn't bad. The more standard stand-up kind of thing, with some snippets of musical parody as well.

Carlin himself...well, let's just say that by this time in his career he seems to be just trying to see how many people he can offend throughout his show. Highlights, the stuff that was really funny, involved suicide and car accidents. Some of his stuff was just curmudgeonly. I know that "Class Clown" and "Occupation: Foole" was thirty years ago now, but somehow he seems to have lost a lot of his finesse, and makes up for it with obscenity and bluster.

We were up in the second balcony, of course, not wanting to shell out more than the $60 that those seats cost. When we saw Les Misérables there some years ago, in the same seats(bought under the pretense of being students), we rented binoculars to be occasionally able to make out facial features on the stage. With Carlin, it wasn't really too necessary, luckily.

On the whole, I still kind of wish I'd gotten to go to Steven Wright instead(who I think is on tomorrow night or something). Oh, well. Nicole had already gotten me the Carlin tickets for my Christmas present before I found out about the other concert. And I accidentally opened the envelope with the tickets in it because it showed up on Friday, and Nicole hadn't expected them to get their until the next week, so I kind of knew what I was getting.

We ran into Kevin from the Cult of Pain there, too. Now that I think of it, he'd given me a couple of his George Carlin tapes, so I should have remembered that he was a fan. We gave him a ride home, since Kevin is a bike-and-bus guy, but neither option is that great in -25 °C weather. We were in the last row of the parking lot, so it took us fifteen minutes to get out. Everyone in front of us had to let in one person from each other row on their way out, so by the time we got out the first few rows were almost competely empty. (Maybe this is just the Canadian method of emptying out parking lots. I've heard that American drivers, at least in some regions, aren't courteous enough to let people in front of them.)

Right now I'm reading the second book in Tad Williams's "Otherland" series, River of Blue Fire. It's a tetralogy set mostly in the VR world Otherland, and right now, near the end of the second book, is just starting to pick up. The way the Robert Jordan series only picked up for me by the fourth book--before then, the characters are mostly just trying to run and hide and not get noticed, but after that they were actually able to accomplish things, gain ground, and thwart the bad guys. The Otherland people are not quite there yet, but they are getting closer. They are finding out things that they can actually do, to make them more than victims or passengers in the VR world.

I've been reading that book for pretty much a week now. Before that I went through a few more quickly--Maurice And His Educated Rodents, of course, which weighed in pretty good among Pratchett's works, despite its size. Almost all the main characters are intelligent animals, which is a bit of a departure, but not problematic.

Then there was Richard McKenna's Casey Agonistes, a collection of short stories, some of them award-winning. I might have read the title story before; it didn't feel familiar, though, so maybe I had just heard the title before. One of the most interesting stories in it was "Fiddler's Green", a novelette at the end of the book. In it, a group of shipwrecked sailors manage to open a portal in their minds to an imaginary world, the "Fiddler's Green" of the title, where there's fresh water and fruit and the like. The portal starts to draw others in as well, while two of the sailors struggle for dominance over the world. I can't help but think that Neil Gaiman has read this story--"Fiddler's Green" was one of the major characters in Sandman(under the guise of "Gilbert", the Chestertonian), and it could also easily have inspired the story "Soft Places", about places where it is easy to become disconnected from reality, like deserts, mountain peaks, and of course adrift at sea.

Next I will probably have to read the other Pratchett book we got from the library, The Last Hero, which is due back by the end of the month or so. We also have Marie Jakober's The Black Chalice out; she's a Canadian, maybe even Albertan, author that we met at ConVersion in Calgary a few years ago, and this edition of the book was actually published by a Calgarian publisher, EDGE Publications. Our initial request for the book at the library had expired, waiting for it to actually arrive on the shelves, but finally we thought to check for it again, and it was there.

I also picked up a copy of All The President's Men, the original Bernstein & Woodward book, on the booksale table. It just seemed like something I should read sometime. It's sitting on my desk right now, and occasionally I pick it up and glance at the names therein, many of them familiar from early Doonesbury cartoons, which is where I got most of my Watergate knowledge up to now. I thought I might want something more factual...

Sometime soon I should start working on my Top/Bottom Books of 2002 list. But I haven't gotten to that yet.

And I think that'll wrap it up for this entry. To increase the chances of my coming out with another one relatively soon, I will leave the reports on library CDs, a couple of movies we rented, and the exciting things going on at work.

Saturday I may end up going down to Red Deer to the inaugural meeting of The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada, Prairie Branch, masterminded of course by Darren. I'm not really too keen on actually going down to Red Deer, even though it's just an hour and a half drive or so. The snow and weather has doubtless made the roads treacherous, and it will take up a big chunk of my weekend.

I think my cold will be the deciding factor. If I feel like crap on Saturday morning, then I'm not likely to want to go down there and infect a bunch of other people from Red Deer and Calgary that I may not even know yet. Or the ones that I do know. I would like to support Darren's venture, because he's been working for this for a while now, but the inconvenience of the whole thing may be too much.

On with the countdown:

356. Icehouse: No Promises, from Measure For Measure

This song has lush musical backing and a stellar vocal performance from Iva Davies, which practically carries it all by itself.

355. Kate Bush: Breathing, from Never For Ever

One of those songs from the mid-80's when everyone was still worrying about nuclear war being imminent. The protagonist in this song is trying very hard to keep from going crazy after everyone she knows has gotten turned into nuclear ash. The voiceunders during the bridge, perhaps from some informational record about nuclear weapons, is especially chilling, and the way the largest explosion segues into the driving riff of the coda is truly wondrous.

If you catch an exploding manhole cover, you can keep it.

Aaron // 9:30 PM Clix me!

Saturday, January 11, 2003:

It Chilled Me To The Bone

Our living is currently undergoing a certain amount of redecorating. Well, perhaps "redecorating" is too strong a word--more like "restocking".

My Dad got us a TV set for Christmas. He works at a furniture store, and I'm sure can get a really good price on them, but still, it was a great present. We've been talking about getting one for a while now, and we almost did it this summer, but didn't. Probably Luke's fault.* It's a big JVC 20" set, with a built-in VCR. So we've moved the old TV(the one that only went up to Channel 36)and the other two VCRs down into the basement. I think there's a cable outlet down there somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. Not in the room where 80% of the walls are blocked off by bookcases, anyway.

When my dad was describing it too me, and even when he showed me the box at the store when we were up in Grande Prairie, I didn't really realize how big it was. The box was on the floor, for one thing, which probably made it look smaller. We opted not to take it back with us, which at the time would have involved cramming it into that overfilled car with Steve and his stuff and all the presents, so Dad sent it down on the bus instead. It came in earlier this week. Tuesday, it was, in fact.

I stopped by the bus depot on the way home from work. We were scheduled to go grocery shopping, which means that I like to get home a little bit earlier than what had been usual(5:00-5:30). These days I am able to leave work before 4:00, usually, so I didn't think it would be a problem, though of course the detour would add some time.

The girl at the desk wheeled the TV box out on a cart, because she didn't want to carry it herself. I rolled the cart out to the parking lot, and opened the trunk. No way the box would fit in the trunk. Well, no matter, that's what back seats are for. I might have to move one of the children's car seats, that's all.

The narrowest dimension of the box was ever-so-slightly wider than the aperture left by the back door. That is, if I had been able to remove the door entirely, or lift it up like on a Delorean or something, then I would have had many fewer problems. As it was, I spend upwards of ten minutes trying to get that damned box into the back seat. It kept jamming on every tiny protrusion, getting caught on the window frame, and just plain trying to convince me that it didn't fit. But, with some deformation of the box and compression of the cardboard, I managed to wedge it through the door and onto the seat.

It took me a little bit less time to get it out at the other end, thankfully. Also, it wasn't that cold out--I wouldn't have wanted to be doing all this today. Once we cleared out the old TV, then it fit quite well into our entertainment centre. It was Tuesday, as I said, which means that "24" was on. Since it comes on at 8:00 these days(so the kids can watch its disturbing scenes before going to bed--its old timeslot was taken by "The Osbornes"), we've taken to taping it and then watching it a little after 9:00. I read the manual, I put in a tape, and I set it up. On, as it turned out, the wrong channel. So that makes two episodes of "24" we've missed this season. Dammit.

Then there's the couch. When Nicole and I first got married, she had a red, almost paisley-ish, couch(with matching chair, I think)that she'd gotten when she moved out, or shortly after moving in, I don't remember. (Check the comments to see if she lets us know.) In Grande Prairie, we decided to get rid of it; we found a fairly cheap couch at a local furniture store(my dad wasn't selling furniture at that point), and bought that one. It wasn't as well-padded as it could be, but it looked nice enough.

Now it's got plenty of holes in the upholstery, and we decided to get another one. Last weekend we went couch shopping. We went to Wosk, which has always struck us as grossly overpriced, but was having some gigantic bankruptcy sale with heavily slashed prices. Not heavily enough for us, though--we settled, as usual these days, for United Furniture Warehouse, whose prices are usually right. We found something which we could live with(and also a bookshelf for Simon's bedroom, since his books are so numerous as to clutter the living room these days), and paid for it.

It hasn't gotten delivered yet. Nor has our old couch been taken away. It's good that we haven't had one or the other(two couches, or no couches, would not be fun), but it's annoying not to have our new couch yet. We're not sure if we'll manage to get rid of our old couch, either. Apparently the local charities are a bit fussy about their furniture--Edna at work says that it's because they can get tons of decent stuff from the hotels--and ours might be a little raggedy for them. The ones who were willing to come at all said that the driver would make the final call on whether it was worth taking.

So Nicole took the matching cushions that came with the couch, and cut them up to make patches for the biggest holes(and there were many of them)in the upholstery. If they don't look too closely, then maybe we'll be okay. Otherwise the old couch may get to live in the backyard or hallway or something until we can call someone to take it to the dump. 'Twould be a waste, since it is still perfectly usable, but people can be fussy.

Edna told me about someone they had heard on the radio talking about how they were in dire financial straits, with no money and no furniture. They(Dick & Edna)had an old couch they were getting rid of, and they phoned up the radio station, got the number, and phoned these misérables to offer their old sofa, free of charge, delivery included. The response? "I don't know if it's the right colour." Even the destitute can be fussy.

Oh, and since the VCRs went downstairs, and the new TV doesn't have a visible clock display when it's not on, we bought a clock today for the living room. Real classy number, with huge LED numbers that I can practically read from across the room with my glasses off. Well, not that good, but by god, it's readable. The old VCR clocks were sometimes a bit dim(and one of them I had never bothered to reset from Daylight Savings Time). I'm always a big fan of digital clocks over analog, however déclassé they may be considered. I guess I'm just a guy--I want functional, not pretty. The result of this is that I'm practically losing my ability to read analog clocks. Oh, well, who needs them.

By the way, in my Canadian spelling, I make a distinction between the words "analog" and "analogue". "Analog" is the opposite of "digital"--it means in a continuous spectrum rather than in discrete intervals. "Analogue", on the other hand, is something that is analogous to something else. American spelling uses "analog", and British uses "analogue", but as a Canadian, I keep getting exposed to different spellings at different times, and so they get different meanings. I still use "catalog" because of my early exposure to Apple ][ DOS, and I tend to think of "gray" and "grey" as slightly different colours. ("Grey" is...I don't know, a little darker, maybe even a little yellowish.)

Generally, though, I just pick and choose between the two available spellings. I write "honour" and "humour" and "valour", but I seem to recall(without being able to recall any specific examples)that there are some where "-or" seems more proper to me than "-our". Not even British use "motour"..."torpor"? "Rigor"? "Pallor"? All of those look totally wrong with "-our", so I don't know if the British spellings are consistent. The "-our" words would come through French, I guess, rather than directly from Latin. And Daniel Webster "cleaned up" the spellings for his dictionary, hence the difference in American usage.

By the way, did you know that there was originally no "b" in "debt"? What I recall is that the earlier form was something like "dette", but some scholar decided that it was actually descended from the Latin word "debit", so they put in a silent "b". He probably also thought that split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions were wrong, because of Latin. But I've ranted about that before, methinks.

I finally made my resolve, and on the evening of January 7th(the night after the arrival of the TV set), I ventured into a Chapters store and bought the hardcover of Crossroads of Twilight. This is the first time, that I recall, I have ever bought a book in hardcover on the day it came out, at least on purpose. I hate buying books in hardcover, in general, finding them inconvenient large and, well, poky. (I like to read lying down it possible.) Not to mention that dust jackets are just annoying. I know I've bought a few books for Nicole in hardcover, as Christmas or birthday presents, but aside from that most of my hardcovers are library booksale items. I've even been known to exchange a hardcover for a paperback copy if I can find someone amenable.

The book itself? Well, it was pretty good. It didn't resolve a whole lot, but I had been forewarned of that in reviews and expected it. There are already people grousing about it on the rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan newsgroup.

I think the problem is that Robert Jordan has changed his plotting style in mid-series. At one point in the Wheel of Time series things happened quickly, our lead characters made great strides, and things looked to moving swiftly to some sort of conclusion. A few books back there were a few setbacks, some larger complications entering the fray, but we were confident that our characters would deal with them.

In the last two books, though, things seem to have slowed down considerably. There was one major event at the end of Winter's Heart that dominated most of Crossroads--it took hundreds of pages just to bring all the other characters up to the same point in the timeline, and then it was a major subject of conversation thereafter--but apart from that little progress seemed to be made.

So I think that what's happened is that Jordan has decided that the present complications are not going to be just more hurdles to be overcome before everything falls into place. These are the final complications. Things seem to be getting further from solution instead of closer. And there are only two books left. So everything's going to come to a head at the same time, it seems. Maybe even at the same time as the overall climax of the series. And this frustrates people who want something to be tied off in each book, so we can feel like we're making progress, and like the author is not just stretching things out to pad his series and make more money.

It does feel like a bit of a cheat. Usually, if you have a series, each book should have its own internal plot arc, with at least some point successfully resolved by the end, even if the overall plotline continues onward. But I don't think that Jordan is writing that way these days. It seems, from as far back as Lord of Chaos(book six of ten to date), that he just writes and writes and writes, following one set of characters and then another, until he comes to some important event, and then he packages up the unpublished pages and sends them off to the editor. I'm sure that's not what actually happens, but that's what it feels like. His books keep coming out with nothing happening until the last few chapters. And Crossroads didn't even feel like it had that big a payoff at the end, not like Lord of Chaos or Winter's Heart.

Oh, well. Few people write series as long as Jordan's--well, some may have started, but who knows how long they'll go, and I'm only counting ones with a single overarching plot arc--so maybe we shouldn't be expecting him to do it the same as everyone else, but it can be a little frustrating.

I finished it late last night, and I totally did not feel like reading at all today, though I have gotten a few chapters into Terry Pratchett's The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents. And I got back into reading my Sandman comics. But I'm sure my reading speed will slow back down again. With Crossroads of Twilight I was spending all my free time(when I was not forced to play games with Simon)reading it; that's not usually how it works these days. Now I can spend more time on my computer again...

I haven't been keeping you up to date on the weather here, really. Not that exciting, of course, but it has been quite variable.

We did have a fairly brown Christmas, with hardly any snow, though we got some just after we got back to Edmonton. Since then it warmed up a bit, almost all melted, with a bit of a chinook wind(a strong, warm wind blowing off the Rockies, similar to what Europeans call a foehn)...and then suddenly, in the last couple of days, we dipped back down to around -20° Celsius. With snow forecast for tomorrow and a few other days this week.

So it is endlessly variegated, it seems. Of course, the nature of meteorology says that often you don't get snow and frigid weather at the same time, because clouds hold in the heat more--either it's -20 and clear, or it's -5 and snowy. Not counting blizzards, which I imagine have their own phenomonology to explain them. But we need more snow if the next year is not going to be as dry as this one was. Forest fires and bad harvests are getting to be a drag.

Another batch of library CDs:

The Full Nine This was a random pick off the rack, and it wasn't too bad. At first I was expecting it to turn into one of those grunge/sludge albums all too prevalent these days, like Creed or something. But there's a little bit more to this band(about whome I know nothing, by the way)than that. For one thing, their vocalist doesn't sound like he's trying to be Chris Cornell or Eddie Vedder or anything--he's got a cleaner approach to singing and isn't trying to shout his throat raw. They do perhaps have the same kind of lyrics, and similar music, with maybe a little bit more variety than some, so they may deserve a listen.

Mint Royale:On The Ropes I don't remember where I ran across this CD, whether it was a random pick or I'd heard the band's name or something. Anyway, it's an album of mostly drum'n'bass or techno type stuff, but I couldn't really get into it.

Weezer:Pinkerton I didn't much like the last Weezer album I listened to("Maladroit"? I don't seem to have blogged about it), but I gave them another try anyway. This one was better than that one, though I admit the listening circumstances might have been better. (Edna was out of the office, so I could turn up the volume a bit.) It's still not something I want in my collection, but it wasn't too bad.

Train:Drops of Jupiter I like the title track, of course, but from the rest of the this album, and its predecessor, this band may deserve to be a one-hit wonder.

Meat Beat Manifesto:Actual Sounds & Voices This is another kind of hodge-podge of techno stuff, some tracks with vocals and some without, some with samples and some without. On the whole I liked the vocal and sampled tracks better, like the powerful "Acid Again" and the opener "Prime Audio Soup". I haven't decided whether to add this to my wishlist or not.


358. Stan Ridgway: Peg & Pete & Me, from Mosquitos

Any "Twin Peaks" fans may remember the horrible second-season plotline where James Hurley went off and got himself into a "Body Heat" kind of situation where he ended up being used by a woman to try to kill her husband. Well, I figure whoever wrote that one must have been listening to this song, because that's practically the entire plot right there. The moral is, "Never trust a rich dead man's wife." Ridgway manages the right amount of intensity here, pulling it off without camp or silliness. Great song from a great album.

357. Godley & Creme: Under Your Thumb, from Ismism

A cool little ghost story set on a train in a British railway station. This is a strong track from what is one of my all-time favourite albums, with Kevin Godley's crystal-clear vocals and the train-rhythm synth accompaniment joining together to make a dark and sparkling song about the victim of an unknown tragedy.

Night is turning thin; the saint is turning to sin. --Rush, "Anagram(For Mongo)"

Aaron // 11:31 PM Clix me!

Sunday, January 05, 2003:

I'm Looking Hard For The Slightest Sign

Hello, and welcome to the new year...

I finally succumbed to the temptation that has been lurking since at least November, and have started rereading my Sandman comics. For those who may not know, these comics are where Neil Gaiman first really seemed to leap into prominence. He won a World Fantasy Award for one issue, for instance. Now he's turned mostly to prose, as far as I know(I don't venture into comics much these days, though I do check out
his online journal once in a while), and I know he did comics before this, but this seemed to be the real phenomenon.

At one point, when I was googling for "Horvendile", which had turned up on the NaNoWriMo web site(as the title of the allegedly longest novel for some time, whose excerpt consisted of one pejorative sentence repeated over and over), I ran across Ralf Hildebrandt's site, where he has annotations for all the Sandman issues(and a few other comics as well). But I knew that I had to finish writing my novel first...and then there were other books I wanted to read...but now I have thrown caution to the winds. (Oh, hang on--on Neil's site I found a more up-to-date link to the Sandman annotation project. The other one must be an out-of-date mirror?)

What I've been doing is reading the issues normally, and then later coming back and going through the annotations. I've learned a few interesting things, and have even found a few more that I could contribute. Some of the things I found were, for instance, printing mistakes in the original comic versions that were corrected in the trade paperbacks, word balloons missing or covered over with lace overlays. There are also a lot of thing that seem really obvious, to me at least, like, well, an explanation of "jack-o-lantern". I guess it's not culturally universal, but among the people who are likely to read Sandman?

"Sandman" is one of the comics I reread regularly. Others include "Grimjack", "X-Men"(though my collection of that is far from complete), "Cerebus", "Love & Rockets", and sometimes "Dreadstar" and "Silver Surfer"(the later series that started with Steve Englehart writing). I haven't done any of them in a while, though, just lacking the urge--once I even wandered around looking at the comics(which I have sitting in magazine files on the top of my bookshelves)and trying to summon up the impulse to reread one of them, but to no avail.

Now, though, it's been taking up almost all my computer time, doing the annotations. It seems to take as long to go through the annotations as it does to read the comic in the first place, for instance.

I have still been managing to make decent progress in my current book, though, which means that I chose right. I picked Mirabile by Janet Kagan...which impetus also came from the NaNoWriMo web site, when I spied Kagan herself in an online forum. Mirabile is really a collection of stories, mostly published in Asimov's, where I read them originally. As such, it's not quite up to her full-fledged novels, Hellspark and Uhura's Song, but it's still a rip-roaring good read.

The basic setup is the titular colony world, where humans landed some time ago after traveling in a(or more than one?)generation ship, packed with triply-redundant encoded genetic samples of Earth animals. By triply-redundant, I mean that the DNA for some creatures would be included in the "unused" sections of others. This might lead to things like dandelions hatching dragonflies, or weird hybrid creatures called "Dragon's Teeth" appearing, as the environmental context changes.

Our main character, Annie Jason Masmajean, is a jason(everyone has an occupation as their middle name), whose career is tracking down Dragon's Teeth, trying to stabilize existing species, trying to deal with the existing Mirabilan biosphere, and whipping up creatures from genetic samples. Each story takes a slightly new tack, and there are many other common characters running through the book, whose individual stories make more sense when you read things in order and close together. So I would recommend it, too, though it's not in my all-time top ten like Hellspark.

I did manage to finish The Satanic Verses early in the new year. I stand by my earlier appraisal of "interesting, but not compelling". And I wouldn't think it would be worth a fatwa, either. But then, I'm not a Muslim.

After Mirabile it'll probably be into Terry Pratchett's Maurice And His Educated Rodents, out from the library; if I'm still rereading Sandman, and I probably will be, then I will have both of the Good Omens authors going at once...

By the way, twice, in writing this post(in Wordpad, as always), I went into the Blogger interface to see if I had written about Mirabile or Horvendile before. I love that little search box on the edit screen. I don't know what other people use it for, but I, mostly, use it to keep from repeating myself too much.

Nicole and I went to see "The Two Towers", finally, this weekend. Separately. That is, I went on Friday night, and she went out Sunday afternoon.

It's not ideal, but it worked. Simon was asleep, and Luke close to his bedtime, when I went out to the 9:30 show(coming home at 1:00 AM), and Luke took his nap and Simon played on the computer while Nicole was out today. I had to do dishes, though.

Anyway, the movie was good, though "The Two Towers" was never my favourite book from the trilogy. The biggest problem with the movie, of course, is the fact that the second tower in the book is supposed to be Minas Morgul, which Frodo, Sam & Gollum reached at the very end--and they ended that storyline earlier in the movie. So Saruman made some comment about Sauron's tower(Barad Dagor?)and Saruman's(Isengard? Or is it Orthanc?)being "the two towers", and I guess that'll have to do. Oh, and I just realized that they also cut out the scene where Gandalf & Co. confront Saruman and Wormtongue at the tower at the end. At this point I hope they leave it out, because I always loved the opening of "The Return of The King" with Pippin riding with Gandalf on Shadowfax. (They could flash back, I suppose.) I'm willing to bet they probably cut out "The Scouring of The Shire", too. But I could be wrong.

I keep thinking that if you wrote a Douglas Adams version of the book, you could call it "The Two Towels".

A pretty good batch of library CDs this week, overall.

The three that I liked, unfortunately, I'm having trouble keeping straight, musically. Those three were "Bleed American" by Jimmy Eat World, Dada's self-titled album, and Geggy Tah's "Sacred Cow". They are all somewhere in that nebulous land between power-pop, alternative, and rock.

Geggy Tah seemed to be more alternative, with weird songs that kept reminding me of the Rheostatics, except with better singers. But "Whoever You Are" and "Don't Close The Door" were great songs, more in the power-pop vein. Or alt-rock. Man, I just can't tell. I just listened to that one, so it's clearest in my mind.

The Dada CD I seem to recall as being closer to mainstream rock, with one song, "Spinning My Wheels", that sounded just like Oasis. My favourite song was the whimsically titled "Beautiful Turnback Time Machine", which sounded more like Third Eye Blind or something.

And Jimmy Eat World...well, the two songs I remember, "The Middle" and "The Authority Song", are definitely more at the power-pop/alt-rock end of things, but I seem to recall the album as being more varied than that. It was all of Thursday that I listened to that one... But definitely all wishlist items.

Not quite so much fun was Stacey Earle's "Dancin' WIth Them That Brung Me". A bit too twangy, folk-country for my tastes, apparently. Didn't make nearly so much of an impression on me, anyway.

I confess I didn't really give Braid's "Lucky To Be Alive" much of a chance. But I discovered when I put it on that it was a live album, which is rarely a good introduction to a new band, and the sound quality was just so execrable(or maybe it was just the music)that I actually took it out after three tracks. Maybe I'll try a studio album if I can find one.

I've also had the privilege of listening to a lot of Jack Grunsky's "Imaginary Window" recently. It's a children's CD that we got from somebody a year or two back, but I've started actually putting it on for Simon downstairs, since often I'm not listening to anything else anyway. It's not too bad, though sometimes I have to wince at the cheesy "Our School Rap". But it's got decent covers of "La Bamba", "Hot Hot Hot", and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", and a very multicultural flavour, songs tinged with Chinese, African, Spanish, or Native influences. So it could certainly be worse. It could, you know, be Barney.

I still haven't written much about the whole Christmas vacation thing. Well, it was cramped on the drive up, mostly because of Steve and his luggage, and of course all the presents. Steve got the cramped between-the-car-seats position in the back, but he did help to keep Simon and Luke entertained. Bags were piled up on the floor in front of the car seats, Steve probably had one between his knees, and whoever was in the front passenger seat had a big present on eir lap. It was a major production when we actually got to a place where we had to all get out of the car...or, even, just Steve.

We stayed one night in Grande Prairie with my dad, who is at interim lodgings right now. He wanted to sell his condo and move down to Edmonton, but apparently there's some problem with the condo complex being built too close to the edge of the Bear Creek ravine, so there's a lien on it, and it'll take a few months to sell. So he's rooming with a friend in a small house, and we had to all fit into it. Simon was in a sleeping bag on the floor in our room, and Luke in a travel-crib, in such a way that it blocked closing the door of the room.

Then Dad caught an early flight down to Calgary, and we packed all our stuff up again and drove to my mom's place, where we could finally unload all our presents and stuff.

Probably the most fun I had the time we were there was when Steve and I were playing on Mom's keyboard. She's got a neat synthesizer keyboard and stand, with the usual selection of sampled modes and a few prerecorded melodies. So at first a lot of it is spent trying out all the sounds, and then picking out a few melodies. I tried playing some of the Christmas songs from the songbook, but I am extremely out of practice. I can barely read bass clef anymore, and I never did get the hang of playing accompaniment, so it was very stumbling when I tried with both hands, and often little better when I gave up and just did the right-hand part.

But one afternoon Steve and I were playing around, me with the high notes and he with the low. I'd been trying to pick out a few melodies by ear, trying to stump Steve, and I got him good with the Buggles "Video Killed The Radio Star"--which I thought was really funny because that's from one of our favourite albums, which Steve even said he'd been listening to recently. He got me with "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", though, which I confess is a melody I just don't know. Anyway, he started playing this low bass ostinato part, and I started switching the modes on him, and then doing a little bit of improvising before switching again. Near the end I was just trying to switch as fast as I could. And Steve just kept on going. I guess that's what you would call a jam session or something, eh?

I so want one of those keyboards someday. Or something. Try to reproduce a few songs I like, and then maybe see about creating my own. It'll probably never happen, but you never know. Sometimes I improvise weird songs for Simon and Luke, so maybe there's hope...

On with the first countdown entry(of my 750 favourite songs)of 2003. Will this ever end?

360. Mark Korven: Time Heals Slow, from Passengers

Mark Korven was an Edmontonian musician, who produced this independent album before going to Toronto and doing other albums, like "Ordinary Man" and "This Must Be The Place". This song is mostly synth with a little drum, probably also synthesized, in the background, in a slow but compelling rhythm, and vocals that start out low and dreamlike until they shift up into the higher register later on. The overall effect is quite powerful.

359. The Christians: Forgotten Town, from The Christians

A nice little pop song from a British band that came and went. At least, I never heard of them past this one album... This song's got a propulsive rhythm track, wonderful harmonies, and a minor-key melody, which brought it this high up the chart.

I'm starting up a line of evil voodoo greeting cards. --Meryn Cadell

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