Friday, June 30, 2006

Amazing book

I cannot describe this novel for you. It is one of those unique, worthwhile journeys that speaks for itself only. Even the foreword avoids pigeonholing or summarising events and characters that follow. Mystery upon fantastic mystery is revealed as a small boy, who doesn't know the difference between "bad" and "good", strays into a world of spirits waiting for final judgment.

What amazes me in particular -besides the dizzying array of places, people and things to found in the Bush of Ghosts- is that African mysticism is freely mixed with Judaistic monotheism, and the two are presented as co-habitating the world. The latter is clearly in control, so much so that the ghosts (and ghostesses) are building Methodist churches and fearful of "the eternal fire" that shall repay them for lifetimes of sin.

But read it for yourself, from a Christian perspective or not, and you shall be rewarded with a tremendous piece of literature.

Sleeping in Edinburgh

I can't wait to see this adaptation!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hyper Injections of Sequential Art

Hoo boy, what ebay has done for my collection of sequential art -four-color funnies, that is, comic books. From two crates to four in a matter of months, until my shelf is fairly bursting with the weight of pulp and staples.
I suffer from a spot of pride about how I've inhabited my collection. Like everything in art, there is a lot of junk comics out there, but I think I've got a good representation of the finer examples of the form.
Even so, I don't want to spend my fortune exclusively on funny books! Maybe by confessing my mania I'll find the strength to stem the tide of outgoing cash... we'll see!

I chose these two images specifically because they represent great comics and comics characters. Ulysses Klaw, the "murderous master of sound", is one of my favorite characters, if only because he is made of pure sound. This issue of Captain America is written and drawn by Jim Steranko, a great designer/illustrator who made a brief but indelible imprint on the comics industry in the sixties; this issue represents what I think is his finest work.

Don't Bomb Schools

I believe Israel has every right to defend itself against kidnappings of its citizens, but to bomb a university? That crosses the line into dangerous territory and casts military motives, to my thinking at least, under a cloud:
GAZA, Thursday, June 29 Israel stepped up its confrontation on Wednesday with Palestinian militants over the capture of an Israeli soldier, battering northern Gazan towns with artillery and sending warplanes over the house of the Syrian president, who is influential with the Palestinian leader believed to have ordered the kidnapping. The crisis seemed to be tipping toward escalation as Israeli tanks hunkered down inside southern Gaza at the airport on Wednesday after warplanes had knocked out half of Gaza's electricity and pounded sonic booms over houses.
The Israeli defense minister, Amir Peretz, approved an extension of the incursion into northern Gaza, where Palestinian militants have been firing crude Qassam rockets into Israel. As of early Thursday, though, Israel denied reports that it was moving tanks into northern Gaza. About 9 p.m. Wednesday, after saying they would drop leaflets urging citizens of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya to leave their homes, Israeli artillery batteries began to shell.
On Thursday, an Israeli warplane fired a missile in Gaza City that an Israel spokeswoman said hit a soccer field near the pro-Hamas Islamic University. Reuters reported that the missile hit inside the university.
Political leaders of Hamas on Wednesday joined the militants to demand the release of Palestinian women and minors from Israeli jails in exchange for the soldier a condition that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, rejected. The choice, Israeli officials said, was the soldier's unconditional release or an escalation that could widen the conflict regionally: Haim Ramon, Israel's justice minister, raised the possibility of a strike in Syria to kill Khaled Meshal, the exiled political leader of Hamas; the men who hold the Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, are believed to be following his orders.
"We won't hesitate to carry out extreme action to bring Gilad back to his family," Mr. Olmert said of the soldier, who was captured Sunday in an attack near Gaza led by Hamas. In what the Israelis said was a message to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, four Israeli warplanes on Wednesday flew over his residence in Latakia, in northwest Syria, where he was believed to be staying. Syrian state television said Syrian air-defense systems had fired on the planes and forced them to flee.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, on Wednesday condemned Israel's attacks on infrastructure in Gaza, which disabled its only power plant and knocked down three bridges. In a statement, Mr. Abbas said he considered "the aggression that targeted the civilian infrastructures as collective punishment and crimes against humanity."For the Israelis, the operation is aimed at deterring Hamas, which now leads the Palestinian government, from carrying out similar attacks in the future.
Israeli newspapers carried articles on Wednesday speaking of the attacks on the infrastructure as a way to extract a concrete longer-term cost for the actions of the Palestinian leaders.For many Palestinians in Gaza, the refusal to back down seemed a collective effort to highlight their own sense of grievance. The economy has broken down under an embargo of Western aid since Hamas took power in January.
The Palestinians contend they remain under siege, even after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza last year, with their borders often closed and encircled by Israeli warplanes and ships.And there remains widespread approval for the capture of Corporal Shalit and Hamas's demand for an exchange, given that there are nearly 9,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, among them 95 women and 313 people under age 18.
"There is support for this because I am not safe when I walk on the street," said Mustafa Raghib, the director of Gaza's largest flour mill, forced to shut for several hours after the electricity was cut. "Give me a good life and I will not support actions like this."
The White House on Wednesday called for the release of the soldier. Mr. Bush's spokesman, Tony Snow, said that Hamas had been "complicit in perpetrating violence" and that Israel had the right to defend itself.Mr. Snow said the Bush administration was urging Israel to ensure "that innocent civilians are not harmed" and to "avoid the unnecessary destruction of property and infrastructure."
But he chose his words with precision, steering clear of questions about whether the Israeli response had been appropriate.
Israeli leaders said Wednesday that they had ordered the military forward after seeing little progress on diplomatic efforts including by Egypt and France to win Corporal Shalit's release. Amid sonic booms that shattered windows, Israeli military planes hit the three bridges, as Apache helicopters attacked all six of the transformers at the power plant an attack that Israeli officials said was necessary to make it harder to move the corporal around.
"Nobody understands the logic," Rafik Maliha, the plant's manager, said. "They want to keep people in the dark so kidnappers don't move? What's the relationship?"If there is no electricity, there is no water," he added. "It is more than collective punishment."The plant provided 42 percent of the power to Gaza's 1.3 million residents, and now Gaza is completely dependent on Israel for power.
Mr. Maliha said it would take as long as a year to replace the transformers.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Category: Fashion, Style, Shopping

Is it possible to go into public spaces and not see bracelets on every wrist you see? I don't know why they are called bracelets anymore; to name them properly, they should be called memelets.
Everyone is carrying around a meme carved in colored rubber wrapped around their wrist. If you look at any given memelet, you can see that it is far more than a simple accessory. The bracelet invariably represents an idea or a cause, and has a word or name embossed upon it. The yellow "livestrong" memelet was the first (as far as I know) appearance of a bracelet that was meant for more than just fashion; it was intended and succeeded handily at making its meme fashionable.
Now we see celebrities routinely advertising the latest memelet, Jessica Alba or some other famous face asking you to wear their meme. My personal favorite is an ad campaign for the upcoming film, A Scanner Darkly; it is a simple, thick, black band of rubberised synthetic material that has inscribed upon it boldly in white the word DESERTION. (On the inside it has another inscription, the tag line for the film, "Everything is not going to be OK".) I love this memelet and wear it all the time. It suggests Baudrillard's desert of the real, yes, that's true, but more importantly it makes me look tough having this band of black hanging on my arm.
So, what is the meme moral of this story? Wear a memelet, yes, do it now, and look tough doing it, its the only way.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Part One is done

I've finally completed "Even Siberia Goes Through the Motions", otherwise known as Part One of The Book (also known as Total Mass Retain). The goal was to finish it by the first of June, and I'm only three weeks late hitting that date. Sadly, meeting deadlines is one of my weaknesses.

It was also summer solstice on the 21st, an occasion here in rain city for hitting the beaches for those few slices of sunshine we get during this part of the year. I was able to join some friends quite literally on the beach, when we went out to the Celtic Swell in West Seattle to celebrate the completion of Jeff's movie book, Through a Screen Darkly. After attempting to order a Glenfiddich ("fiddick") and having my pronunciation roundly correctly by the server ("fid-ditch"), I went with a Glen Livet neat instead and we passed it around for what seemed like everyone's first go at a single malt scotch. The consensus was in the positive.

Now on to Part Deux...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Does a novel have vital organs?

For years now I've been drafting a novel of speculative fiction (not quite science, not quite space opera) and as I am nearing the finish for the current incarnation a question has been arising in mind time and time again, so much so in fact that I cannot ignore it: What is the book's brain? Now, this is an odd, anthropomorphic thing to ask, I know, and I have no end of scratching my head over what it means. Does a book cogitate? Does it have chemical processes? Is it connected to a nervous system? In literal terms, obviously the entertainment of these questions is at best absurd. Therefore I can only ask them in a literary sense.
My definition of a brain fits what most people probably think of when they think of a brain. A seat of reason, a foment of thought and motive and philosophy, a system of unconscious impulses and habit patterns, a reservoir of memory and apprehension. Can a novel sport these features? In my experience of reading literature, I feel compelled to answer in the positive.
A great work of literature engages the reader, that much is obvious. The manner in which it engages us is a sort of deep, mental inhabitation; a great book possesses our mind, moves into it and inhabits it and influences our thinking with its own. If a great novel doesn't have a brain, the words lay flat on the page lacking effect. A bad book turns off the brain, or at best skates over our dearest and most sincere thoughts and feelings.
Coming at the question this way provokes me to wonder what kind of brain is at work in my own feeble attempt at writing. Surely my own brain is there, but also there is something on the page that is unique and separate from me. When someone else reads it this thought process is more evident -or I can hope that it is, if I have done my job correctly and engaged the reader.
The real question that faces me, then, is how much do I manipulate the brain in the words? Do I even want to? This is an editorial question (not a rhetorical one, I promise!) and an artistic one to boot, because I want to release something in the work: I want to bring to life a vital system of activity and gentle provocation.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I looked up this word in the dictionary yesterday. For some reason it popped up in mind at the end of an emotionally precarious week. Actually for a very clear reason it came up, as a consequence of fussing and fretting over an ex-girlfriend. Things didn't work out with us and we broke up a couple months back, because our timetables for having children didn't line up. Major emotional doozy, since I really wanted to have kids with this woman! Unfortunately, I don't want to have them as soon as she does. It got to the point where the issue was so central to our happiness that we had to split up.

Even if I wanted to reconcile with her, I cannot. This is qualifiable, I think, as irreconcilable differences. Even best intentions can't pave a road for us going anywhere.

The subsequent backwash of feeling inadequate and all around mopy has thinned my skin considerably and I am reacting to everything around me with emotional extremes. In other words, I'm frangible. Not fun!

Lacking a sleeve, looks like I'm wearing my heart on my blog.