Saturday, August 11, 2007

August 12, 2007 to August 18, 2007

Wherein damn it's hot

Two descriptive paragraphs from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere:
The Fop With No Name looked somewhat like an early eighteenth-century rake, one who hadn't been able to find real rake clothes and had had to make do with what he could find at the Salvation Army store. His face was powdered to white, his lips painted red. Ruislip, the Fop's opponent, resembled a bad dream one might have if one fell asleep watching sumo wrestling on the television with a Bob Marley record playing in the background. He was a huge Rastafarian who looked like nothing so much as an obese and enormous baby.

They were standing face to face, in the middle of a cleared circle of spectators and other bodyguards and sightseers. Neither man moved a muscle. The Fop was a good head taller than Ruislip. On the other hand, Ruislip looked as if he weighed as much as four fops, each of them carrying a large leather suitcase entirely filled with lard. They stared at each other, without breaking eye contact.

I love that. An economy of of description that gives you all you need to know before the action begins. I enjoyed the book, but it's those two paragraphs that will have me reading more Gaiman.

Even though I'd heard many good things about Neil Gaiman I'd stayed away from him thinking he was too much in the fantasy genre. A genre I've never had much luck with. But I was at the library looking for something else when I came across his name. What the hell, it's the library, it's free. Neverwhere was the only one of his they had on the shelves and I polished it off in an evening. As much as I enjoyed the Harry Potter books, Gaiman's take on an otherworld London made me wonder what he could have done with a school of teenage wizards and He Who Must Not Be Named. I think it might have been a richer story, though not one beloved by prepubescent readers making the author richer than the Queen of England.

Also occurred to me that many people must dislike London. Or maybe there's some other reason why so many books put forth alternative societies. By many I mean the five I'm aware of. I hope there's more, else my theory is weak.

The five I've read.

Harry Potter, JK Rowling. Magical folk live next to, amongst, and hidden from nonmagical folk. While magical abilities can be trained and enhanced, magic is created by some sort of genetic mutation. Without it, there appears no way that a nonmagical person can perform magic.

Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman. Richard, after helping a mysterious girl who can speak to pigeons and rats, finds his normal life falling apart. He then journeys down a particulary wicked rabbit hole to reveal an entire society living under London. Some are runaways and homeless who've drifted away and are no longer visible to London Above. Others are Barons, Counts, monks, hunters, and monsters; some of whom are centuries old. And there's a real angel. Can Richard survive and regain his former life?

Roofworld, Christopher Fowler. Odd gangs live and battle high above London. They've been there for decades traveling across roof tops with the aid of wire ziplines. Probably wouldn't be possible today with all the security cameras. Interesting story that bogs down with some unnecessary mysticism.

The Borribles, Michael de Larrabeiti. Borribles are runaway children hiding out in London. Somehow they transform and never grow big. They look just like normal children, except their ears get pointy. I read the first one back in the early eighties, and the full series of three books was rereleased a couple years ago. Entertaining books marketed towards the teen market.

Homeward Bounders, Diana Wynne Jones. Just found out she's also the author of Howl's Moving Castle, which I thought was a horrible movie. At least the last third--made no sense what so ever. Homeward Bounders finds two English children expelled from their world. They learn to travel between different worlds by means of the Bounds as they try to find their way home. A few mythological characters show up as the children learn they're just pieces in a game played by immortals.


Blogger Ahistoricality said...

I'm thrilled that you liked Neverwhere: the bad news is that I think it represents perhaps his very finest work, and almost everything else is a bit paler by comparison. The work which is usually considered his best -- American Gods, which sold so much better -- really comes second for me.

If it's his prose you really like -- and I do think he's one of the best -- his short story collections are well worth exploring (one of the greatest ultra-short stories ever is Gaiman's) and his "children's" writing -- Coraline, Wolves in the Walls -- is some of the finest horror ever written (I mean it: if you put that on the screen, nobody under 17 would be allowed in).

8/12/2007 01:40:00 AM  
Blogger XWL said...

I think American Gods is Gaiman's best book (that I've read, not his best work, though, that remains The Sandman).

(and I'll have to agree to disagree with ahistoricality regarding the relative merits of American Gods and Neverwhere, both are very good, though)

Stardust was my least favorite Gaiman book so far, yet that's the one that actually got made as a film.

And you could sort of slot in the Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently novels into the 'alternate London' genre.

Not a full-on alternate universe, but plenty of odd stuff going on.

Richard Morgan's Market Forces is set in a near-future London with heavy Road Warrior meets Wall Street touches (crappy book, though).

Also, in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition the lead character describes London as a bizarro land where everything is just slightly wrong (people drive on the wrong side, brands are different, people still have bar fights, people smoke indoors, etc.)

8/12/2007 01:42:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

What I've learned: Stop quoting Stephenson and start quoting Gaiman. Fill half the screen with ads and watch the money roll in.

8/12/2007 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger justkim said...

Gods, I love Gaiman. Neverwhere was also my first exposure to him, although I had been hearing about him for years before I finally read anything by him. (Stupid grad school kept getting in the way of fun reading.)

Neverwhere is my favorite of his novels, followed by Stardust, Anansi Boys, and American Gods. But, really, for me, ranking them is so superficial, as I'm really just talking about minor degrees of love. And the Sandman series just has to stand apart from all of the novels, because it is a sublime entity unto itself.

The film of Stardust is enough unlike the book (although still quite sweet and charming) that the book, especially the graphic novel version, should definitely be read for a greater appeciation of Gaiman's talent.

It should also be noted that Gaiman co-wrote the screenplay adaptation of the up-coming Beowulf film. I'm curious to see it.

And Ahistoricality is right about Gaimsn's short stories. I recommend Fragile Things, which is a new collection of Gaiman's short work.

8/12/2007 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger justkim said...

Oh, and you should check out Gaiman's Books of Magic, a graphic novel in which a young bespectacled boy named Tim Hunter discovers he's got magical powers.

8/12/2007 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

I'm poking around Funagain games looking for something new and see The War Game: World War II, which they describe as having enough pieces for all the babies in china to choke on (we lost count at 500)(no children were hurt in the production of this game... yet).

Boardgamegeek says Fans often call it "Axis and Allies on Steroids". But they don't have a game review, but say it's played on a 4'x8' board.

The game's website has this note: I created this game because I was obsessed with Axis & Allies and wanted something that was
bigger, expandable, and for which victory wasn't so dependent upon the dice rolls.
When you play The War Game: WORLD WAR II, you'll discover that it's just as easy to grasp
as A&A, but has the depth and possibilities that make it the most improvisational game of this kind.
By that, I mean, myself and the band of brothers that have played this game for over a decade STILL don't have
"pat" opening moves (though, we often choose from a half-dozen favorites). My peeps will attest that,
the moment play begins, you have a different game than the last and you MUST think on your feet to win.

Damn big game.

8/12/2007 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

2 out of 3 say Neverwhere is Gaiman's best novel. So the consensus is I should stop reading him because it's just down hill from here?

8/12/2007 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger justkim said...

Really it depends on a person's particular taste, and I love all Gaiman's novels to varying degrees.

If you like The Princess Bride, the you should check out Stardust. It's sweet, funny, whimsical, adventurous, and romantic.

American Gods is far more "adult" in overall content and tone. It's darker, more complex, and more ambitous. It presents a view of America that I think only an immigrant can see. And it might be the only thing I've ever read that makes me even consider the possibility of maybe someday taking a road trip. (But don't tell T I said so.)

And, unless you really hate the medium of comic books, you should check out the Sandman series. If you don't want to commit to a whole series, then I recommend Dream Country; it's Voume 3 of these series and is made up of four stand-alone stories. This volume includes "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which is lushly and richly drawn and beautifully told. You may not ever read that Shakespeare play the same way. Alternately, you could read Endless Nights which came out in 2003, several years after he ended the series. It is a series of stand-alone stories about each of the seven Endless. However, I think these stories would have much more impact if you had already ready the series.

Neverwhere isn't the top of the hill, it's just one of the more pleasant paths down which one can wander in the land of Gaiman.

8/12/2007 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

A week away from work. 251 items in my email inbox.

8/13/2007 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

And to quote Shakespeare, 'Get thee to a Hair Cuttry!'

8/13/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

When people ask me why I don't like cats

8/13/2007 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Fired for challenging conspiracy theories? As much as I used to enjoy listening to conspiracy theories, or more accurately to those who believed in conspiracy theories, I've never heard of Memorandum 46.

It may be that Memorandum 46 is just too good to be false. It could be the "smoking memo" that activists have been seeking to prove that the U.S. government is still plotting against black Americans. At the very least, it's a ready-made excuse for every disappointment or ill plaguing the black community.
The prominent psychiatrist Frances Cress Welsing has suggested that blacks should hang a framed copy of the document in their homes. Joe Madison, XM's lead talk show host and a longtime activist, spread the idea that Memorandum 46 was genuine as well. After a show in May that explored the topic, he noted that he'd received 600 e-mails asking for copies of the document.

On June 2, we shared our exchange with Brzezinski about the memo on the air. A few days later, Lartigue was in the studio recording a promotional teaser for a second show that would explore the topic in more detail. The production director was incredulous: "Are you telling me it's fake?"
We sent the production director some links to the Carter library Web site, which were passed along to Madison. Over the next several days, Madison took to the airwaves to blast those who questioned the veracity of Memorandum 46. Morgan called in to Madison's show to ask him for proof. We heard the response on the air: We were engaging in counter-intelligence, he said.

Armed with our research, we returned to the issue on Saturday, June 23. We tried to dispel other urban legends, such as claims that the first U.S. president was black and that fashion designers Liz Claiborne and Tommy Hilfiger didn't want black customers. In the final hour, we made our case that the anti-black Memorandum 46 never existed.

The following Monday, the station's programming director berated Lartigue in a phone call, threatening to suspend the show or pull it off the air. We agreed that we wouldn't "attack" other hosts again, if that was to be the station's policy. The programming director made it clear that he suspected that every source we cited was part of the cover-up. The tense discussion grew into a heated argument, and the programming director yanked the show off the air.

8/13/2007 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Man embraces his homosexuality through show tunes.

No, that's not a story in The Onion. It's Neil Patrick Harris discussing his outing:

But he credits a stint on the Broadway musical "Rent" for opening his eyes about how to interpret his sexuality. "That's a show all about celebrating life, living in the moment, appreciating diversity on every level," Harris told me last week, shortly before shooting a scene for "Mother's" Season 3 opener on the 20th Century Fox lot in Century City.

8/13/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Edit for Take Two. See original.

World to U.S.: We present you with David Beckham. The most recognizable and marketable sports figure in the world. We'll even throw in his wife, very attractive herself and about to rejoin with an insanely popular girl group. Your men will want her and your daughters will want to be her. Enjoy

U.S. to World(forgot to bring a gift, desperately patting pockets): Right...thanks...that's very generous of you...Oh, look! Here's a Cal Ripken, Jr. for you! What's he do? He used to play baseball and now...well, just wind him up, I'm sure he'll do something. Y'all got any chicken wings?

8/13/2007 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Tuesday Trivia LIX.

All answers must include their fighter nickname.

1. Hugo "The Boss" Chavez

2. SPAM "I can't believe people are paying for this lame retread" Alot

3. Feet "Otherwise known as shark bait" Fingers

4. Ve "Totally a wild-ass guess (and wrong)" Nice

5. Ja "I looked this up, so no points for me" Cuzzi

6. I "did not" Remember

7. What "Expecting the connection to be incredibly lame" Ever

8/14/2007 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Fake Steve Jobs:

It's a battle royale as the two most humorless and prone-to-outrage groups in the world (leaving aside Islamofascists, the perennial winners in the "easily outraged and lacking in humor" competition) duke it out to see who can be more angry about the above advertisement.

8/14/2007 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Matt Welch link to a Cathy Seipp tribute by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez.

8/14/2007 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Larry Lessig takes a stand against Senator Clinton:

It should be no surprise that I've been a Clinton skeptic for sometime now. As I said at a keynote at PDF , those of us in the free culture movement have lots to be skeptical about. Some of the worst changes in copyright law came under the watch of her husband (Sonny Bono Act, DMCA, NET Act). She's made no statements that I'm aware of to suggest she has any different view from her husband's. She was also the only major Democratic candidate not to endorse the idea of free presidential debates. Of all the Dems, I would have bet she was closest to the copyright extremists. So far, she's done nothing to suggest to the contrary.

But that skepticism could have been erased. As important as I believe those issues are, they are obvious not the most important. What is, in my view, most important is a candidate with a clear understanding of the corruption that is Washington. (Again, not corruption in the bribe sense. But corruption in the economy of influence sense I've described before.)

After her comments on the lobbyists, it is clear enough that Senator Clinton has no such clear view. Indeed, quite to the contrary: were she elected, we'd get more of the "let me do enough to suggest I think this matters but not so much as to make a change" we've seen for 30 years. And if this election is to matter, this is precisely the sort of view that we need to defeat.

8/14/2007 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Question #7. Thought I had it. It occurred to me that JFK died in Texas and FDR died in Georgia, maybe it has something to do with presidents. Eight states listed as clues and eight presidents died in office. Could it be a list of states sitting presidents had died in? Quick checking proved this to be an incorrect thought. Just in case I'm on the right track, here's the presidents who died in office.

William Henry Harrison (1841)
Zachary Taylor (1850)
Abraham Lincoln (1865)
James A. Garfield (1881)
William McKinley (1901)
Warren G. Harding (1923)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1945)
John F. Kennedy (1963)

8/15/2007 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Baseball question, probably easy. What do these 7 players have in common?

Jim Thome
Sammy Sosa
Luis Gonzalez
Greg Vaughn
Brady Anderson
Mickey Mantle
Jimmie Foxx

8/15/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Ahistoricality said...

Never stop reading Gaiman. Ever.

Especially now that he's famous and mentioning him gets you mondo hits.

Seriously, though, it's subjective. You know that, of course. I've never read anything by him that I didn't enjoy a great deal, and he's one of the few authors whose work I'll actually put down good money to own.

8/15/2007 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger XWL said...

Answer to baseball question:

They were all hitting some kind of 'juice' during their playing days.

(steroids, alcohol, amphetamine, electricity (when Jimmie Foxx would light up, he'd really light up))

Or not.

Not really a fan of the baseball anymore, and never was one for baseball minutiae

8/16/2007 02:26:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

All hit 50 or more home runs in a season without being the home run leader:

Jim Thome, 2002 (Alex Rodriguez)
Sammy Sosa, 2001 (Barry Bonds)
Luis Gonzalez, 2001 (Barry Bonds)
Sammy Sosa, 1999 (Mark McGwire)
Sammy Sosa, 1998 (Mark McGwire)
Greg Vaughn, 1998 (Mark McGwire)
Brady Anderson, 1996 (Mark McGwire)
Mickey Mantle, 1961 (Roger Maris)
Jimmie Foxx, 1938 (Hank Greenberg)

8/16/2007 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Google Music Trends

8/16/2007 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

A Texas man has sued 1-800-Flowers for giving his wife a strategic advantage in their divorce case by providing her with proof that he committed adultery.

8/16/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Ruhlman: Fried Pork Belly Caesar Salad

8/16/2007 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Limited/Lettered Editions of Snow Crash

That would look very nice next to my Hill House editions of the Baroque cycle. Still, I'm not sure I'm willing to spend $500. Maybe for Cryptonomicon.

Fifteen years since its initial release, Snow Crash remains one of the most popular and important novels in recent memory. Subterranean Press is proud to announce the Limited Edition, printed in two colors throughout on 80# Finch paper, with a premium cloth binding, and a number of illustrations and design elements by Patrick Arrasmith.

Limited: 500 numbered hardcover copies signed by the author
Lettered: 26 signed copies, handbound, in a custom traycase, with an original piece of art not in the Limited Edition

8/16/2007 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

For you Gaimanites, Hill House has some limited editions for you. For $200 you can have:

This edition of AMERICAN GODS is to be considered the Author's Preferred Edition.
Limited to a single edition of just 750 copies, the book is a beautifully designed example of the art of bookbinding. Each volume is numbered and signed by Neil Gaiman. Collectors and readers alike will welcome the chance to add this handsome volume to their Neil Gaiman collection.
The limited edition of AMERICAN GODS features over 12,000 words (over 40 pages of new material) that did not appear in the trade edition of the book.
The book is bound and slipcased in a beautiful Japanese silk cloth.
The trim size of the book is 7" x 10"—significantly larger than the trade edition.
The text of the book has been completely reset and designed.
The text is printed in a two-color process (dark purple and black).
The slipcase features a die-cut on the front panel.
The slipcase features a unique ribbon-pull which allows easy removal of the book.

I can attest that Hill House does lovely work. I can also attest you're not touching my Baroque copies until you've completed a ritual cleansing ceremony and put on the clean room suit.

8/16/2007 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger justkim said...

I would love the Hill House Gaimans. Alas and alack, the wallet is bare.

I've heard the extras for Neverwhere and Stardust are worth the price.

8/16/2007 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Poppy Z. Brite:

We didn't plan to evacuate for Katrina, but were eventually influenced by the pleas of family and friends. However, the responsibility for leaving (and for the animals who died/disappeared as a result of our leaving) was and is wholly ours. We regret that decision more than any other we've ever made. While we recognize and accept the dangers, we are as prepared to stay as it's possible for anyone to be. If we should happen to die as a result of this, we are OK with that; I'd far rather die than relive what we went through in the weeks immediately following Katrina and the failure of the federal levees. I'm very glad that people care about us and our well-being, but I will not respond to e-mails, community posts, or other communications asking me to change my mind. Please respect my wishes here. In return, I respect your right to think we are incredibly stupid and even selfish for making this decision, but I will not discuss it. Again, please respect this. Thank you.

Related, since he's been mentioned this week, Neil Gaiman is friends with Poppy and showed up at her house the week. Her occasional mentions of Gaiman might be another reason I'd never looked at his books. While I've enjoyed Brite's New Orleans Liquor novels she's most well known for horror/vampire books, of which I have no interest in. I had the impression Gaiman traveled in the same genre.

8/17/2007 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

And who knew Elvis sang gospel?

I thought everyone knew that.

8/17/2007 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Max Roach, 1924-2007

8/17/2007 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

Logic mazes

8/17/2007 02:54:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

Deadspin: So, how was your team's offseason?

Atlanta's kind of sucked. Former head coach Jim Mora Jr. talked himself right out of a job. New hire Bobby Petrino had to face accusations of jumping ship at Louisville. Jonathan Babineaux beat his girlfriend's dog to death. A woman was allegedly raped at the Atlanta home of Patrick Kerney, who just left Atlanta to sign with the Seahawks. And then there was...yeah, that.

8/17/2007 03:35:00 PM  

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