Monthly Archives: April, 2008

It’s just so wrong

So very, very wrong.

My love and I both had crap days. We both got home tonight feeling the need for utter mindlessness, so when we discovered The World is Not Enough waiting for us, it felt like fate.

It’s just such utter crap!

Denise Richards – Dr Christmas Jones – argh! What an embarrassment to the sorority of Bond girls everywhere!

Even Sophie Marceau is pretty crap. And I loved Hamish Macbeth, but Robert Carlyle is also quite average.

As for Pierce Brosnan… well, it’s reaching Roger Moore levels of stupid one-liners, in this one. The stunts aren’t quite as daft as they get in the next one – and the speed boat chase is pretty cool – but still, I feel quite impatient watching it a second (third? Can’t remember) time.

Perfect, though, for a Monday night with the need to do nothing.

I think this won the Pulitzer Prize?

This article is long but truly – you must read it.

It’s about what happens when a seriously famous and uber-talented violinist goes busking.

It’s brilliant. The concept, the writing… part of the reason for blogging it is so I keep the link!!

Fish… the sad bit

Very sad.

My apple snails are no more.

In fact, they never were: they never came out of their shells in my tank.

Apparently – having called the aquarium I bought them from – some areas of my town have increased copper in their water due to the drought. And this kills snails, like, instantly.

Was there a mention of this at the shop? No. Was there any suggestion that there might be an issue? No. And how does the shop know about the copper? Because they had a batch of snails drop like flies a few months ago, got their water tested and found out about the copper. So this is not exactly a surprise to them.

Argh!! I sent a moderately-worded email expressing my disappointment.

No snails, again! I’m so sad. And one of my lovely new cloaches died, too. But the other three seem happy enough….


So I mooned a bit over Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter while at Swancon, to the amusement and probably boredom of a number of people. I think they’re both utterly, utterly splendid – I love everything I’ve read of theirs – and they’ve made me love space opera. It’s occurred to me I need to add another name to that list.[1]

Iain M Banks is a master.

This is not a revelation for me; more a rediscovery. I read Consider Phlebas when I thought that they were sequential… then discovered they weren’t, so just bought the first one than came to hand next time – Use of Weapons. Which has been sitting there, looking at me reproachfully, for… a while. With the release of Matter, I finally decided to go and read it.


This is one person where I am actually tempted to go into a shop and buy every single thing he’s written (scifi, at least… might have to test the mainstream first). I might go secondhand first, but still – I want to read it all! Now! might go on hiatus….

[1] Actually, two: Dan Simmons is also heroic. And I think that, if I deign to watch Hyperion the movie, I will have to go alone, since I may end up either piffing things at the screen or getting violent. Or both, escalating.

New fish!

Ah, the things that make me happy.

After being nixed in what I had hoped would be the completion of my want-a-blue-coat saga, I finally bought some new fish for my depleted tank.

I got 15 Colombian tetras, because they were on sale as a bulk – we had a fleet of them for a while but they’ve slowly died off over three or four years. So now we’ve got more, they’re happily schooling – and they have colour, too, which is nice (they didn’t in the fish shop).

To appease my love, we also got some clown loaches. Five of the beggars! (Another bulk deal.) I said we were never, ever going to get more, because it is just too, too heartbreaking when they die: they are my love’s favouritest fish ever (except for discus fish, which we ain’t getting because the tank isn’t big enough for more than, oh, one of them). They are terribly cute, and being all cloachy: going up and down in the corners, going around and around… they are like the excitable dogs of the fish world. And then they hide under rocks and don’t come out for days.

And, finally… mystery snails! It’s the first time our aquarium place has had snails in years – since my last wonderful snail died, in fact. J said I wasn’t allowed to name this one, because I was so sad when Ajax (the last one) died… but it was too late. Two snails, so I get to have Major and Minor (Ajax).[1]

So now the tank is looking more full, which is lovely. I can’t wait for them all to settle in. I still might go and get some more rasboras… but that should probably be in about a month, if not longer, to let these guys become acquainted with their tank mates.

[1] If you don’t get the reference, you haven’t read The Iliad.

History, being myopic and such things

This is an interesting little article, from ages ago now, by Daniel Lord Smail, author of On Deep History and the Brain, which certainly sounds like something I’d read. From the article, it seems like Smail is targeting that tendency of historians to ignore prehistory in accounts of human history – starting, instead, with Mesopotamia and agriculture, because that’s when you really get documents that can be used to examine history (this idea c/o Leopold von Ranke). The use of ‘prehistory’ to describe this period itself indicates this tendency, since it places undocumented times ‘before’ history proper – I really hope it’s something Smail addresses; if he doesn’t, he’ll have lost a bit of cred from me.

Couple of ideas that have been floating around in my head, thanks to reading the precis linked above:

1. I have never really understood the historian/archaeologist divide. I know, from the little bit of Sumerian/Assyian study I did in undergrad, that there is (or has been?) argy-bargy on both sides. I just don’t get it: it’s like animal handlers not cooperating with vets, or something. How can the two disciplines seriously expect to get the most out of their studies without talking to each other? It just seems daft.

2. An issue with the article itself: ” It is time we rectified our Christian-induced myopia, argues Daniel Lord Smail. … Before the 19th century, few doubted Genesis was historical truth.” Yo – if you want to argue for getting an Africa-centric beginning to history, being quite so Euro-centric probably isn’t the best way to go about it! Perhaps he is aiming his accusations primarily at European/American authors, from a Judeo-Christian society, but still… I think he’s also underestimating the amount of undermining of accepted Christian cosmology had gone on in the Enlightenment, and from then on too.

This is something that requires a bit more thought from me, and probably me actually buying the book and reading it. I can understand why historians have gone for the places with documents and so on to base their study on – and perhaps this reveals me falling into the Ranke trap that I was probably indoctrinated with in my undergrad days, and I am just so not post-modern enough to throw that off without a really good reason and several convincing arguments (with foototes).

Superior Saturday!

Oh baby!

Garth Nix reading the prologue to Superior Saturday. At last! I’ve been looking forward to this book for, oh, a year? However long it’s been since Lady Friday came out. What makes it sad is that as soon as I get hold of it… it will be read, in a couple of hours, and then I’ll have to wait a year or so until finally Lord Sunday, and I get completion. I hope.

Anyway: June this year! That’s not really that long away!

Call yourself a space fan?

If you do, and haven’t either seen In the Shadow of the Moon or made plans to do so – hang your head in shame!

Seriously, one of the best things I’ve seen at the cinema in ages. Ages and ages.

Take as many of the Apollo astronauts as are still alive (as far as I can tell; except Armstrong, who has apparently been basically a recluse almost since we got back to terra cognita), and make them talk about what it was like becoming an astronaut, flying in space and to the moon, and being home again. Splice this with genuine, rarely-seen before footage, and you have a spellbinding nearly-two-hour movie.

There’s no interviewer shown, so it’s just the blokes in their own words (and it is, by its nature, very blokey – there’s maybe two women who speak in the whole thing, and they’re in interviews from the sixties). All the men are given identical, nondescript backgrounds behind them – and they’re all only shown from the torso up. It’s almost like they’re floating in space, or outside of real time – which sounds daft, but bear with me: they’re utterly divorced from now – they only exist with relation to the space programme; they don’t interact with anyone except the viewer; and there’s nothing to date the film, except their clothes which are utterly nondescript as well. It was a fascinating way of compiling them.

The footage shown… well, I had to watch until the end of the credits to make sure it was all genuine NASA footage, with no CGI, because I’ve got a bit cynical in my old age. But, apparently, it was all real – and it was awesome. And so much that I, at least, had never seen! Views looking out as the stages separate – the moon buggies – that Earth-rise… I got goosebumps at several points, it was all just so beautiful. And there’s real audio too – Armstrong’s famous bit, of course, but also stuff from inside the command module (footage from there, too): it was almost funny listening to Jim Lovell’s voice, because I could almost recite his words along with him c/o Apollo 13. And I really did get goosebumps when they showed the first men who went around the moon – Apollo 8 maybe? – and they read from Genesis: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.[1]

Probably the person who was most interesting to listen to was Michael Collins – the poor sucker who got stuck in the Command Module, while Neil and Buzz went walking. He was fascinating, and a great speaker. Eugene Cernan, too, was also great… actually they all were, pretty much.

I cannot stress it enough: if you like this sort of thing, you really should try to see it on the big screen. Yes, it will be OK on DVD – but some of that footage just looks so much more impressive when it’s huge![2]

[1] And then to hear that some woman sued them, when they got back to Earth, for mixing church and state… hilarious!
[2] We sat in the second row, in a tiny little cinema… it was insane, but very cool.

Space Opera

Jonathan said it right:

“I also wouldn’t say that space opera is firmly entrenched within the confines of the science fiction field. Rather, I’d say that space opera is the truest, purest form of science fiction and it rightly occupies the very center of the field. Space opera has given science fiction its greatest icons and many of its greatest stories.”

From Mind Meld – it’s worth read in full if you like space opera; they’re answering the question of how to keep space opera relevant.

Me, I say: who cares about relevant?! I like what Tobias Buckell says, too: “massive spaceships, planets with two suns, big dumb objects (the deathstar), giant space battles, plucky heroes and larger than life settings.”[1] Yeh! Woohoo!

[1] I don’t even know who Buckell is, but now I might have to find out.