Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt 1927-2008

Like many of you, my first time seeing Eartha Kitt was as Catwoman on the cornball 60's Batman tv show; what placed her permanently in my heart was listening years later to her rendition of "I Want to be Evil":

Monday, December 15, 2008

Yuletide Wish List

Inspired by my good friend over at Rollerblog, here is my wish list for the season: an archery kit and laptop (because I haven't gotten around to buying them for myself), Star Trek: The Motion Picture dvd (so I can stop listening to the soundtrack and driving my housemates batty), and a nice 1964 paperback edition of I am Legend by Richard Matheson (because Will Smith does not belong on the cover of this excellent novella).

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

This is one of those films we like to call a "hum dinger"...

As you can tell from the above image, Donald Sutherland is not pleased with you. Or to be more precise, the alien pod thing that has taken over Mr Sutherland's existence is not happy, really, with any human being remaining in the city of San Francisco. When he sees a human, he points, he squints, he screams. Not a happy moment for anyone involved, especially if you're human.

Wonderful film. Check it out if you happen to be in the mood for pod people (and when are you not?).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why I Enjoy Fringe

My one hour of television viewing each week is on Tuesday to watch Fringe. Last night sidling up to the tube, my housemate was watching the end of her show and when I sat down she said, "Are you watching 'Cringe' or whatever?" That's the love in our house. Against the grain go I. Esoteric science mixed with conspiratorial derring-do, smart dialogue and enough mystery to generate a thousand harebrained theories -what's not to enjoy?

Yesterday's was the last episode for a few weeks and quite eventful it was. One of the "fringe" elements in the show is memory overlap, specifically between the main character, Olivia Dunham, and the man who betrayed her, John Scott. In the show pilot (sadly the worst episode of the season thus far) Olivia entered his memory to retrieve information crucial to that week's plot. This was tricky: John was dead at the time.
Subsequently she has seen him pop up in random places. It turns out that parts of his memory overlapped with hers and now reside in her brain, and as a result she sometimes experiences his memory as her own.

Sound confusing? Over the stretch of several episodes, the show has worked admirably to explain this phenomenon to the audience, culminating in a great moment last night when Olivia mistook one of John's memories for her own. In a previous episode she actually went into one of his memories to search for clues, very Charlie Kaufman-esque with creepy overtones of lost love gone terribly wrong.

One of the show's core strengths is the relationship between Dr Walter Bishop and his son, Peter. They are wonderful. Joshua Jackson plays Peter with a lot of soul -which I suppose fans of Dawson's Creek will recognize. John Noble, last seen as Denethor in the Lord of the Rings, treads a thin line with his character, teetering between cute nonsense and scientific brilliance, finding at the intersection a fascinating study in obsessive behavior.

The show has it's problems. One of the villains is a Hannibal Lecter knockoff, while others are under-cooked. The actress who plays Olivia could use some coaching on how to act outside of the one-note range. Nevertheless, there's nothing else so weird and fun like Fringe on tv these days, and to judge from the season so far, it's just going to get better.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Farewell Old Friend

13 years ago on the eve of moving to San Francisco, I purchased a double-deck Sony cassette player. Last night the last of its belts gave out. After blasting Al Green in the late evening, I flipped the tape and after pressing PLAY was met with the telltale squeals of a tapehead belt that no longer rolls at the correct speed. This was the right-hand deck. The left-hand deck wore out a few months ago in the midst of a dubbing session. It was only a matter of time...
Thirteen years. Not bad. Nobody expects a cellphone to function that long, let alone the medium of a defunct technology. (Oddly enough, the CD player was the first component to fail, lasting less than a year.) I will miss my friend and companion.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Proposition

Damn good film.

It was inevitable that I would see a film written and scored by Nick Cave, and this was well worth the wait. Fittingly enough the director John Hillcoat is adapting Cormac McCarthy's The Road for the screen. Should be a perfect fit.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Though I am not versant with cooperative multiplayer gameplay online, I am aware that it is extremely popular. Call it the virtual option for competitive personalities who are not otherwise inclined to athletics. Folks get heated in these games, facing off against each other in virtual sports and shooter arenas, and often the language used reflects players' passion for victory. By hurling racial epithets, a player seeks to disorient others and thereby distract them from playing effectively.

Psychologists call this behavior “paradoxing,” and it’s a classic attempt to gain the upper hand, to become dominant. Competitively, writes Owen Good, this frustrates and angers and diverts player concentration out of the game. Cooperatively, this aggression trumps decision-making and leadership on the arena of play.

What's unique here is that online you cannot see your fellow players. Consequently, you can out-paradox someone and undermine their crude strategy by simply asking, "What if I told you I was a minority?" While you may or may not be someone sensitive to the epithets, this question causes the other player to stop and wonder and effectively fall victim to their own behavior.

Then again, you can always take advantage of another unique aspect of online play and simply hit "mute" on the other players and listen to your favorite mix of zen techno.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

The opening paragraph of Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting of Hill House, should scare the beans out of any aspiring writer. The grace and impact of the simple prose are awesome.

Music is a large part of my writing process. Of late, the 4th symphony of Brahms plays constantly on my decrepit cassette deck. Symphonies in general are conducive to the writing of novels, I find, and are in regular rotation when I am locked away inside my blue light pod pummeling at the page. The symphonies of Brahms lately drive me on, as well as those of Dvorak and (inevitably) Beethoven.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Arc of History

"The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice." -Dr Martin Luther King, 1963
"Americans put their hands on the arc of history and bent it toward the hope of a better day." -Barack Obama, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote

"Gum Election is a guerilla art project which started in New York City in October 2008. It should encourage people to vote on November 04th and also not to spit out their chewing gums carelessly on New York Cities already dirty streets."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Poehler and Arnett Talk About The Baby

Two of the funniest people on the planet now have a baby son, Archie. Awesome news and a terrific name, but it looks like they expect him to be a brooding, "little baby Sean Penn":

(Footage cribbed from the Blades of Glory dvd, in which Amy Poehler and Will Arnett presumably play a hilarious ice-skating duo; presumably, because I fear the Will Ferrell and have not seen the movie.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bravo Paul Krugman

Pundits are decrying the Nobel committee's selection for economics this year as just another jab at the current US administration. They are selling short on Mr Krugman and one would think by now, in light of the current economic meltdown, that short-sellers would be silenced. While Mr Krugman is unapologetically harsh when it comes to Bush, he should be recognised for his true talent: making economics comprehensible to noodniks like myself. His weekly op-ed column has been of immeasurable help during these tumultuous times, and I wouldn't understand half of what's gone down were it not for his concise, plain-spoken breakdowns of US capitalism.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio

From this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature:
My message will be very clear; it is that I think we have to continue to read novels. Because I think that the novel is a very good means to question the current world without having an answer that is too schematic, too automatic. The novelist, he's not a philosopher, he's not a technician of spoken language. He's someone who writes, above all, and through the novel asks questions.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Robert Redford on Paul Newman

REDFORD: There were a lot of times we played these gags on each other and they were great fun. And one of them was that he used to -- when he went into racing, he just drove me crazy talking about racing, because he was obsessed with it, and, obviously, great at it -- by the way, great at it.

And I said, "Geez, can't we talk about something else?" He said, "Well, I want to take you up to the track and we'll do this and we'll do that." So for his 50th birthday, I happened [to be], in Connecticut, to find a trashed Porsche and it was just totally demolished and I had them wrap it up and leave it on his kitchen back step, wrapped in paper with a ribbon around it, that said "Happy 50th."

And so a couple weeks went by and I didn't hear anything, and then I went up to my house a couple weeks later and walked in the living room and there was this gigantic box in the living room, and it was so heavy you couldn't lift it.

In fact, it was so heavy, it had created an imprint on the floor, and this was a rented house. Well, by the time I crobarred it out, there was just this block of metal that had been taken down.

The [towing service] came and took it away ,and they said, "This is great." I said, "OK, look, hang on." And I called a friend of mine who was a sculptor in Westport.

I said, "If I give you some material, can you create a sculpture." He said, "That's great, absolutely." So these guys come take the thing over to her, and she did a sculpture. I said, "Make it a garden sculpture."

So she did. Had the towing guys take it to Newman's garden and just plump it there. Now, to this day, neither of us had ever spoken about that, never even -- that was -- there were many other situations like that, but that was ...

QUESTION: No one ever says "gotcha?"

REDFORD: No, no. That would diminish it. No. The idea was you just never acknowledged it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

So Long Paul Newman

He was peerless, the best man in any crowd. It was my aunt who loved him and taught me to love him, taking me to matinees in my childhood to watch one great film after another: Cool Hand Luke, The Sting, The Verdict, Nobody's Fool, The Color of Money, and so many others. He was more than a talented actor: in philanthropy, he was generous to a fault; as entrepeneur, he gave us the gift of great sauces, popcorn and chocolate; and to the end he was a brave, outstanding individual with a heart like no other. The Paul Newman moment that lives forever for me is his "Plastic Jesus":

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Tuesdays at 9 on Fox: FRINGE, besides the "cool word" factor, is a fantastic show in every respect. Excellent writing and direction is compounded by talented actors and coherent intrigue. Check it out.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Har Har

Book of the Week

My good friend Jeffrey Overstreet is getting warmed up with his latest novel, the second in a four-part series. Cyndere's Midnight, which hit booksellers this week, is a darker work than its predecessor, managing to be more satisfying and more confounding at the same stroke. Rich characterizations abound, and nothing unfolds quite as you would expect; yet there are so many questions by the end of the book, I wondered if my copy had been truncated. A minor complaint, considering the author has done his job and left me wanting more and not merely wanting.

The overall impression is that he is getting warmed up for his masterpiece. Whether that book will be in this series is yet to be seen. The quality of writing is superb, especially in scenes of dialogue. Some of my favorite passages are characters simply talking to each other. When it comes to plotting, my impression is of coy reserve. Hints of greater things abound, and when you think a key point will be revealed the author adds another layer of mystery. Consequently the book feels incomplete and overly dependent on others to come. This bodes well for the time we can read the entire series and appreciate its full breadth.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Penny Arcade Expo 08

The intrepid Daniel, pondering his fate in the game arena, takes a moment to look at the camera when rightfully his attention should be on the dreadful and profound arrival of...

-the Penny Arcade mascot, the Fruit****er!

The Fruit****er descends

Like the airport, but fun!

The Fruit****er lurks and nearly encounters...

-the Rockstar mascot! If you can't tell, he's obnoxious

Castle Crasher celebrates another pyramid of dead pink bunnies

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Big Bang 2

What you see here is called the Compact Muon Solenoid. It is a massive particle detector, part of the Large Hadron Collider that is set to go online September 10th. This will be a day long remembered in the history of our planet.

When the LHC is turned on, it will recreate conditions that existed only once before in the universe, one-trillionth of a second following the big bang. While running, the LHC will run at 7 times greater energy than any other machine on the planet.

Where will you be September 10th? Since the LHC is located in France, I will be far away when this major event goes down. Considering the magnitude of scale we're talking about, maybe that's a good thing. It will be available to view on the web -for the initial event and those to follow through the end of the year.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

See TRON in Seattle this Friday, 8/29

"He fights for the users."

It has lately come to my notice that Tron is an obscure film. A bare minimum of my friends have seen this seminal film. Only last month did my sister -my own flesh and blood!- see it for the first time. This cannot stand.

This Friday we are screening Tron at Zoo Station and everybody is welcome to join us. If you have not seen it, here is a chance to see the movie that inspired Pixar and The Matrix.

If you are in Seattle and need directions, please let me know in comments.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Newer, Better Bus Stop

From the desk of Bruno Taylor, New York bus stop reconceptualizer:

“71% of adults used to play on the streets when they were young. 21% of children do so now. Are we designing children and play out of the public realm?

This project is a study into different ways of bringing play back into public space. It focuses on ways of incorporating incidental play in the public realm by not so much as having separate play equipment that dictates the users but by using existing furniture and architectural elements that indicate playful behavior for all.

It asks us to question the current framework for public space and whether it is sufficient while also giving permission for young people to play in public.

Play as you go…”

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Elinor Grace Proctor 1937 - 2008

ELINOR GRACE PROCTOR March 5, 1937 - July 4, 2008

Following a courageous battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Elinor Grace Proctor passed into God's care early in the morning of July 4th this year. Ellie was born in Eugene, Oregon and grew up in Redwood City, California. Her great passion in life was playing the violin, piano and organ. Each Saturday for most of her life she could be found playing her favorite hymns on a keyboard.

Ellie loved to vacation each year at her beloved Silver Lake, enjoyed keeping busy the rest of the year, working well past her retirement with undeniable verve. A deep, active faith inspired all who encountered her, and she loved meeting new people. Her great affection for cats was no secret to anyone.

Ellie's children, Rachel Marie and Wayne Allen, live in Northern California and Washington State, respectively; her twin sister Carol lives on Lake Tahoe and her sister Jeanette resides in Bellingham, Washington; she was preceded in death by her parents, Mary and Thomas MacAdam.

An informal memorial gathering was held on August 2nd, a special time for friends, family and coworkers to share in memories of Ellie and to celebrate the joyful life of a beautiful soul.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Though you can no longer find the pirated video on Youtube (yanked by Disney), it is true that test footage from the sequel to Tron was screened at San Diego Comic-Con this last weekend (thanks for the hot tip, Jeff!). I got a peek at it before the plug was pulled and what I saw was amazing.

The image above is from Tron 2.0, a videogame sequel that came out a couple years back. You can see Alan Bradley's son, Jet, leaning against a hot chopper with a hot cyberchick (Alan Bradley was the original Tron). Since there are no images available from TR2N, this will have to suffice... for now.

The test footage is startling for any fan of Tron. It was a long lighcycle chase being watched by a bearded Kevin Flynn. As you'll recall, Flynn was a hacker who designed videogames; he was translated into the computer world and saved the day (sound much like The Matrix?). This time around he is a Colonel Kurtz-type living at the heart of the machine. Why and what happens next is anybody's guess. Rumor has it that Alan's son Jet goes in to rescue him.

I am a big fan of Tron and I would love to see it get its due; along with my friend Rollergirl, we want to see TR2N now.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight

I went into Dark Knight with the wrong attitude: I let myself have high expectations. As a general rule I don't allow myself to do that, for the sake of being able to squeeze some enjoyment out of a movie if it is mediocre or worse. Fortunately The Dark Knight was much better than I could have ever anticipated and made for a viewing experience on par with seeing Die Hard for the first time.

When the first tv ads ran for Die Hard, it looked like a really stupid movie. Bruce Willis was known primarily as a television actor and the premise was lame. I remember mocking the movie's tagline with my friends: "40 stories of sheer adventure, oh wow!" We did see it opening weekend (we saw everything opening weekend in those days) and emerged from the theatre in a state of shock, as if we had seen our favorite football team just win the Super Bowl.

That's how it was coming away from The Dark Knight, all the more remarkable because we already knew it was going to be good; that it went so far beyond expectations is what really had us cheering. How often does that happen at the movies?

Actually, there's a scene in the film that's reminiscent of Die Hard, and others that remind me of Heat, as much for their style and setting as for the level of great entertainment they achieve; above all else, The Dark Knight is hugely entertaining. It's also quite smart. It might be the smartest movie about a man in tights we'll ever see.

Do not leave your thinking cap at the door for this one. The plot is complex, layers of reference thick, and the drama is presented in grand fashion that elevates The Dark Knight far beyond any other film I've seen this year so far.

When you go, pay special attention to Gary Oldman. As my friend Jeff Overstreet and I were discussing the film afterward, we shared a mutual admiration for the actor's performance as Jim Gordon, Batman's ally with the Gotham City police. It is noteworthy as a fine turn by a consummate actor: he represents the heart of the film. Heath Ledger's final performance as the Joker is a bravura piece of theater that deserves every bit of praise it garners, yet I find Oldman the more affective because of his subtlety and warmth. Check it out and see for yourself.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Movie of the Weekend

Nothing beats a great western. There's no doubt in my mind that Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is one of the finest westerns committed to film. Directed and edited by the brilliant Sam Peckinpah, it doesn't get any better than this, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly notwithstanding. Like Sergio Leone's classic, there is a great deal of pathos in the characters, more than you would automatically expect from a pop classic.

James Coburn and Kris Kristoffersen play the respective leads, and Bob Dylan shows up as a knife-wielding sidekick; you also have Slim Pickens in a memorable role along with many more familiar faces (like a young Harry Dean Stanton, fresh off Cool Hand Luke). One unforgettable sequence early on is Billy's escape from jail. After blasting his way out using a shotgun loaded with dimes (why not?), he proceeds to smash the gun and throw the pieces into the street. This is not the kind of action you usually expect from an Old West outlaw, and the film is full of little nuances like this. What's better, as the townspeople slowly gather around the corpse of Billy's jailer, he serenades them with a song; the fact that it is Kris Kristoffersen improvising on-camera makes this scene that much more mesmerizing.

Some weekend sit back with a few brewskies and sink into this classic film. You will not regret it!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Overheard Down at the Cube Farm

Down at the cube farm you hear no end of things, some that are funny, some that are strange, and sometimes even things that are unprintable. Though it is tempting to relate items from the third column, for the sake of peace I will refrain. Something strange I heard the other morning here at the cube farm was an upper management-type disrupting a confab with some body awkwardness.

Keep in mind that I did not see any of this. The soul of discretion, I cowered behind my cube partition and peeked not once. There was nothing, however, to prevent my ears from catching every word and rustle of cloth; like me, your mind will have to provide the visuals.

The manager was holding an impromptu meeting with three associates, barreling along with a commanding baritone about this and that live issue. Others piped in on occasion but for the most part it was the manager's show. Then something happened and there was complete silence. I heard a rustle, like a pants leg being slid up a calf, and then the manager offering an apology. "Sorry," I heard him say, "I don't mean to gross you guys out."

No response from the others. What had happened? Had the manager revealed a festering wound on his ankle, or perhaps an exposed shard of bone? Was he boldy proclaiming a choice of socks in bad taste? I don't know. As I said, all I could do was listen. The manager went on to say,

"I knew it would callous over and the spine work its way out..." More rustling. "I think that's happening." He apologized again and resumed talking about whatever business it was they were talking about. Eventually the others began speaking and within minutes the meeting had dispersed.

But the peace of my day had been permanently shattered.

Had the manager encountered a porcupine some days or weeks back and gotten one of its spines lodged under the skin? I heard him say "splinter" as well as "spine", so it might have been a rude collision with a bench to blame. Whatever the source of the manager's ailment, it certainly was provocative without some visual backup to provide more details. And what a scenario for a television comedy: a senior employee exposing a callous within which is lodged or half-lodged a sliver of some kind. I could only imagine the suffering endured by the man while he waited out the callousing process (is there a proper verb for that?), feeling and sensing day after day the intruder in his leg or arm, feeling it shifting around and making its way toward the surface with such slowness that a callous was able to form: what a pain threshold the man must possess, not to mention a good dose of patience while he waited for the whole thing to play out. I didn't get the sense that the offending spine was entirely separated right there at the meeting and it is most likely that even as I type the manager is enduring the slow migration of an invader from his limb.

My biggest question: Where do they teach that the best way to deal with something lodged under your skin is to let it callous over?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arte Y Pico Award

The fabulous Rollerblog has bestowed upon me the Arte Y Pico Award, an award shared among bloggers to recognize others who inspire with their art and creativity. Let me just say that Rollerblog is a definite source of inspiration for me and if there is anything like a "Right Back At You" award, she deserves it.

So, now that I have gotten up off the shag rug and dusted myself off, I can share with you some blogs that I believe are more than worthy of this prize. These are blogs I visit and take inspiration from daily:

Comics Legends and Lore

Waterrose Handcrafted Obsessions


Dead Rooster

Take a moment to check out these excellent blogs, and in the spirit of Arte y Pico, pass on the award to blogs that inspire you.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

All Hail The 70's

I will always think of the 70's as the "brown decade" -brown polyester, brown mustaches, brown air, brown shag... there was a lot of brown in those days. It is a time I remember with fondness. As a kid I used to buy comics at a Bait and Tackle shop in downtown Redwood City, or at the local Alpha Beta. Sadly, comics from that time get a bad rap from just about everybody, as if they belong in a big pile of brown. It isn't entirely just: some great books were created, and artists and writers famous today were cutting their teeth lo those nearly forty years ago.

I want to pay these artists due respect and will conduct a survey. In a post to come, I will publish the top ten comics of the 70's. Let me know if you're like me, if you think some great comics came out of that decade; results will be published at the end of the month.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Casting Call

To help me get a grip on the novel's central characters, I "cast" them with actors. Here we have Chiaki Kuriyama as "Yumiko"; I first saw her in Battle Royale, but she's more famous for swinging a spiked ball on a chain at Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol 1;
Lana Parilla as "Sally", whom I've seen in supporting roles on 24 and Lost, and currently resides in Swingtown;

Kurt Russell as "Macready", pictured here from one of my favorite movies, The Thing, and from whom I stole not only his likeness but his name as well (his name is Macready in the film);
and Keith David as "Ozzy", an actor who carries so much grace and dignity in voice and form, there was no better choice for the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

City of Destiny

Another prominent location in the novel is Edinburgh, city of destiny and the arts. My family is a sept of the Macgregor clan and when I visited Scotland for the first time a few years back, it set my native blood singing (which sounds like a disturbing experience but was actually quite pleasant). The hostel where I spent most of my stay was an incredible spot and left such an impression on me that I decided to use it as a location in the book. While I did take photos of it on real film, unfortunately I don't have any digital copies, so I can't share it with you. However, I do have some other images that give you a fair taste of what Edinburgh looks like. It really is an incredible city and I recommend a visit to everyone, whether you're Scottish or not.Lastly, a look inside The Elephant House, the "birthplace of Harry Potter". Legend has it that JK Rowling did some early writing here, and the staff confirm it as fact. It is a brilliant writing spot, full of students and funky community tables, with the castle on full display through the windows; most importantly, they can pull a mighty decent shot of espresso, roasted locally.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Movie of the Weekend

Come to Winnipeg, capital of sorrow, at the peak of the Depression: they are holding a contest for the saddest music in the world. The prize is $25,000 and all the Canadian lager you want. You will see Lady Port-Huntley dance on glass legs filled with beer; you will learn the prognostications of a tapeworm; the fate of a man's soul will be decided and sadly it goes badly for him; finally, witness the victor of Lady Port-Huntley's saddest music in the world contest, rendered in gorgeous Super-8.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Book of the Week

I can state with perfect confidence that the entire Philip K Dick catalog fits into a suitcase. I know this because I used to store his novels this way, slowly filling up a Samsonite until all 45+ titles were represented in the collection; then I promptly delivered the suitcase to my neighborhood bookshop and delighted the buyer by offering it to her at a bargain price. I had read each of the novels multiple times and knew them back and forward, and why not pass them on to fledglings. After all, I had gotten my start years ago discovering one of PKD's novels -UBIK- in a bookseller window and it gave me a little charge knowing that I would enable someone to have the same experience.

Lo and behold, that bargain dump did not mark the end of my relationship with the great author. So powerful and enthralling are his stories, in certain instances I cannot stop myself from going back and revisiting them. Recently I picked up Now Wait For Last Year, a novel of the future that touches on all of PKD's signature themes: conspiracy, questionable reality, body doubles, perception experiments, and the non-linear nature of time. It's the last theme in particular that comes to mind as I read the book this week.

Having experienced PKD's entire body of output, it's interesting to see what he does with his pet interests. Like other great artists -Woody Allen leaps to mind- he is not so much inventing a story as telling the same one over again and investing it with progressions of his themes. This touches on the non-linearity of time, as you can see him developing concepts of how time really works and the impact it has on characters in each iteration.

Since this a middle period novel, I can touch on later books and see where he went with the idea of overlapping time; I can also go back to earlier works and see where PKD first introduced his idea. This is one aspect of the author where he gets short shrift: he was a bonafide scholar working out a thorough schematic of perception, totally earnest and many times brilliant in his insight.

In Now Wait For Last Year, a narcotic is responsible for opening characters' perceptions to the overlapping nature of time. Once ingested, the drug causes them to recede chronologically; for the duration of the drug's effects, a character is literally in the past and can affect the present while they are there, sometimes literally plucking a past self and transplanting them to take over their life. One character who takes full advantage of being able to do this is Gino Molinari.

Here is the unforgettable introduction:

"The guest; the man they had come here to see. Reclining, his face empty and slack, lips bulging dark purple and irregular, eyes fixed absently on nothing, was Gino Molinari. Supreme elected leader of Terra's unified planetary culture, and the supreme commander of its armed forces in the war against the reegs.
"His fly was unbuttoned."

The Mole, as the character is commonly known, is a great portrait of a hypochondriac; he literally lives to be sick, having such a sensitive nature that he assumes the ailments of people around him; he is a wounded clown who rules from the gurney. I cannot do the complexity of the character justice here, except to say that he makes for very enjoyable reading. His exchanges with an 18-year-old mistress, who dominates him with crude bantering, are a prime example of PKD's antic powers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

History of the Internet

Remember Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, the 80's tv celebration of wealthy elites? It was hosted by this man, Robin Leach:

In printed form, the magazine Vanity Fair serves a similar function of the long-gone show, providing a telescope into lives of privilege otherwise barred to scruffies like me. I take guilty pleasure from reading about debutantes and their hair. However, there is more to the magazine than you might expect, and this month it offers a pleasant twist.

The latest edition has a fascinating oral history of the internet, the first history of its kind to address the still-unlimited possibilities of this profound leap forward in communication. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of ARPAnet, the progenitor of what we know today as the World Wide Web, the men and... more men (there's a female investment banker who pops in at the very end) talk about how it all began. I couldn't stop reading, fascinated especially by the goals of free community and universal protocols that these pioneers brought about.

(I might be biased, too; having grown up in the Bay Area where a lot of the early networking was laid out, I have to confess to a bit of hometown pride.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Midnight Run Greatest Hits

Abba Pentalewon

Throughout my novel several different locales are featured, ranging from Africa to the moon. Over the course of researching these different places, I have accrued a small collection of images to give me inspiration. It struck me the other day that it might be kind of fun to share them and build some anticipation for those who haven't yet read the book.A central point of interest in the book is a monastery in the Ethiopian capitol of Axum. Though it is greatly changed in the future setting of my book, the monastery itself is intact and frames a couple of important sequences. It takes its name from Abba Pentalewon, one of the Nine Saints who fled to Ethiopia to escape persecution after the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon proclaimed Monophysitism a heresy.

While my book does not take up the Monophysitism debate, it does prominently feature Abba Pentalewon. As you can see here, it looks like a lovely spot for bird-watching. Other locations used in the book are Seattle, Edinburgh, and a helium mine on the moon's Heraclides Plain; you will see them in future posts. I'm thinking also of sharing how I "cast" the book -let me know if this is something you would like to see!