it's where the hearth is
I have seen the future, and it is squishy.

Now & Then (a Log)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007
 Warning: This Blog Has Moved!

Nearly four years and countless broken promises later, I've finally relaunched this weblog. The new blog can be found on this site's index page: Things to Come.


Wednesday, May 14, 2003
 
Hiatus

You may have noticed that things have been a little, um, sporadic around here lately. In between not having time to gather my thoughts sufficiently to post, I've been thinking about what I want to accomplish with the Log. Needless to say, what I've been doing lately (or the lack thereof) isn't cutting it. What I need is a wee break to re-think and re-format, to figure out how the Log fits into my life, and hopefully to come back with a stronger and more meaningful presence.

In addition to uncovering my motives for maintaining this thing (and hopefully discovering new ones), I must get the new MT system working to my satisfaction. I'm estimating it'll be a month or so before I'm up and running again. So wish me luck... and I do hope you'll come back and visit!


Saturday, May 03, 2003
 
Little Bits

If you're in Pittsburgh, I encourage you to attend a screening of Brian and Max's short film Follow Your Bliss. Here's an invite with all the info. I haven't seen it yet myself, but if it's anything like its creators it will surely be odd, whimsical, and funny. (Guys, correct me if I'm wrong. But I can't imagine you doing a dark, depressing, high drama sort of thing.)

Hmm... I've been futzing around with Movable Type in those rare moments when I have a moment to futz. The question now is whether I continue to futz, or wait for Michal (owner of Cornerhost) to release Rantelope. If Michal runs this new gig with even a smidgen of the dedication he's shown to maintaining Cornerhost, it's bound to be a fine thing.


Tuesday, April 29, 2003
 
The Long and the Short of It

Recently I finished reading two books, one of which was among the longest I've read and the other was among the shortest.

First the long. The Way We Live Now is a sprawling tale filled with intrigue, despair, redemption, and some boring parts. Think of it as Dallas retrofitted to a Victorian scale.

I refer to the book's "boring parts" -- and in truth, I must confess that I was more taken in by Trollope's folly-filled romances than his dissections of London's changing economic and political climates. But that's why I'm an Austen fan; I adore fiction that explores a time when love was considered to be a luxury only enjoyed by the less fortunate after many hard-won trials. Trollope delivers these goods nearly as well as Austen, but long passages filled with commercial concerns -- most notably those pitting old-fashioned hard work against the newfangled speculation game -- are interspersed with the lovin'. (Perhaps I'll grow up one day and enjoy these just as much.)

Now the short. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, Cory Doctorow's debut novel, is a competent near-future tale of intrigue, despair, redemption, and not as many boring parts -- simply because it's too short to warrant them.

Down and Out (which I just discovered, via Boing Boing, is the subject of BookFilter's first monthly book discussion) was a fast, enjoyable read, but often felt more like a novella than the novel it claimed to be. I can't fault Doctorow's worldbuilding skills; I'm amazed that he was able to create a future society that feels as real as the Bitchun one does out of today's wacky transhumanist ideals. But the world isn't richly developed enough to suit my taste, and the story that unfolds inside it -- albeit an enjoyable one -- isn't the sort of thing that stays in your brain long after you've finished the book.

Having grown up near Disney World, I was looking forward to reading a story that took place primarily within its environs. But by the end of the book I was wishing I'd gotten to know more about the world outside that insular place. Perhaps Doctorow will further develop the society he's created here in future novels, because, having had a little taste, I am hungry for more.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003
 
In the Beginning, an End

Zoot Organizing Kit loses a dear friend to a noose made of velvet.
Here was one of the kindest and most decent people I have ever met, with a gentle wit and a humane intelligence so unprepossessing you almost wouldn't recognize it for what it was; and you can see how the dynamics of pose and posturing and display in our society can make such a person's worth utterly invisible, so while people may like him, they pass into and out of his company without a full appreciation of his value.
Here's to making him visible at last, if only through ZOK's intense act of remembrance.

In the other corner, Diane Greco offers a disturbing but ultimately exultant account (scroll down to the 4 April entry) of the recent birth of her daughter, ending with an appeal my sister will surely appreciate:
If you have a choice, have a natural birth. My labor was longer and more painful than high-tech labors augmented with pitocin, but I'm convinced that Jane is here because we did everything we could to avoid unnecessary (including palliative) medical interventions during labor and birth. Every intervention increases risks for you and the baby. Especially the risks you don't even know about.


Sunday, April 20, 2003
 
A Question of Faith

It's Easter, so let's consider religion and spirituality.

Listening to Whad'Ya Know -- which I've somewhat disturbingly started to look forward to while in the car on Saturdays, due to in part to the steady endorsements from Pat, and the fact that it recently joined This American Life on the list of Public Radio shows During Which I Have Laughed Out Loud -- the other day, I was treated to an interview with John D. Spalding, who must have the coolest gig in these here parts. He gets paid to uncover, dissect, and write about the abundant oddities found in American religious practices.

Among his many articles at Beliefnet is "Laughing at Death," about a company founded to explore the notion that "the key to enjoying life is to adopt an irreverent attitude toward death." In addition to offering such experiential activities as cathartic rides in a pink hearse and cemetery tours, the company peddles ash dispersal packages like the "Surf and Turf Combo" ("scatter at sea and save some for land"). Says one of the founders of her own post-death plans:
"First, I realized I don't want to be interred," Gerri said. "I want to be cremated. So then it's a question of what to put my cremains in. A bronze urn? Sorry, I am not a bronze urn. Well, one day I was in a Kay-Bee Toys store, and I found the solution. It was a novelty item. This little toy box that when you press a button, a voice shouts, 'Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me! Can you let me out of here?' Perfect! I decided I would build a large crate--a multi-material thing, involving various types of wood and ceramics--in which to place my ashes. And the voice, my voice, will say, 'Lemme outta here!'"
At Beliefnet, I was moved to take the "What's Your Spiritual Type?" and Belief-o-matic quizzes, which both yielded some mildly surprising results. The type quiz cast me as an active spiritual seeker, a role I certainly wouldn't assign myself but can acknowledge the origins of. When asked, I say I'm agnostic, which certainly doesn't preclude having a seeker mentality. And I'll admit that most of those Myers-Briggs-type personality tests tell me I'm a seeker, but I do take issue with the "active" part. There's nothing active about my passive consideration of the big S (spirituality) nor my resigned aversion to organized religion.

The Belief-o-matic tells me the faith that most closely matches my beliefs is Unitarian Universalism, and I attribute this result to that group's inherent indecisiveness. (I'm also 98% Secular Humanist, with Liberal Quaker squeaking in at third with an 88% rating. Scientology weighs in at a refreshing 33%.)

What bothers me about the Belief-o-matic, and Beliefnet in general, is the lumping together of atheism and agnosticism (I scored 70% Nontheist, and most questions in the tests grouped the typical atheist and agnostic responses together). Saying you don't know whether something exists is patently different from believing with certainty that it doesn't. I group the atheists with religious folks -- their conviction is solid. Of course, even the most stalwart of the faithful have their occasional moments of doubt, but that's much different from having a propensity to constantly question.

If you bother to take the quizzes, let me know if you get surprising results.


Wednesday, April 16, 2003
 
At the Guillotine

Ray kindly emailed to say I needn't respond to his collage-o'-quotes (he wasn't trying to argue, but to draw certain parallels), but reading my quote in that context prompted me to re-think what I'd said.

When I read Lanier's comments (scroll down), what struck me most was their elitist overtones. This elitism is what I wanted to respond to, and in my rush to say something meaningful about the actual content I didn't fully think through my argument against it. Having now done so, I'll say that sure, Lanier and his cohort may be better prepared to appreciate beauty in nature in a way non-specialists aren't, precisely because of their scientifically informed worldview. But we all have the capacity to appreciate things; we just appreciate them in different ways. What ruffled my feathers was the implication in Lanier's comments that the appreciation of beauty in nature achieved by his cohort is somehow more real or valuable than that experienced by the layperson. And that's just a bunch of elitist hooey.

Don't agree? Go ahead and chop my head off, courtesy of Phil, my swell coworker.


Tuesday, April 08, 2003
 
toward a lightless place too conspicuous to pass

The new issue of sidereality is out, and with it a poem of mine, "From the Roots, Out." Go there and find my name to read the poem (frames, alas), or visit this page to read the printable version.

Lately I've been too busy and/or exhausted to post; the kitty gave me a mild scare that resulted in a trip to the vet tonight and no small amount of hand wringing. And of course there's the School Thing to resolve, as well as other paperwork-related tasks I dread even contemplating (ack, paperwork), much less doing.

I'll soon do my best to respond to this post by Ray, if I can figure out what the hell he's trying to say. Ever the oblique collage artist is Ray. And I do admire that, but I sometimes don't have the mental strength and stamina required to fully appreciate it.


Friday, April 04, 2003
 
It's About Time...

Outside my window at work, down at the Point: trees with pink leaves! Like they're wearing coats made of raspberry sherbert. And behind them, trees with bright green leaves make themselves at home among their still-barren neighbors. Everywhere around the city, tulips trumpet the season. I do love Pittsburgh in the spring.


Thursday, April 03, 2003
 
Come Together

After being away for a week on my recent trip, I had a work anxiety dream on the eve of my return to the office. I was among some co-workers, in the office I believe, and something mildly negative was happening (can't remember what). My boss then started handing out books to everyone. (This was a riff on something that actually happened during waking hours; for Christmas he personally selected books for each of us as gifts. I was the surprised recipient of Wittgenstein's Poker.)

In my dream he gave everyone the same book. The title? Dialogues on the Iraqi War. I remember thinking to myself in the dream, "Finally, someone is enabling opposing viewpoints about the war to share the same space... but I'd better wake up now before this book-giving somehow leads to mass destruction."

Anyway, a friend of mine has struck on an interesting idea to promote such a dialogue (sans the potential for mass destruction). She got sick of feeling like discussions of the war were all argument, delivered with the kind of rhetoric that only serves to sustain polarization. Although it would be premature to discuss the actual idea right now, I'm intrigued with it and look forward to helping her make it a reality.

In other news, I'm quite busy right now with various endeavors. The two I'll mention here are finishing up the grad school app and playing around with Movable Type. It may be a while before I make the switch, simply because I can't bear the thought of using one of the standard MT templates but I don't know enough CSS yet to be dangerous.


Wednesday, April 02, 2003
 
Miss Melmotte's Mind

From The Way We Live Now:
Lord Nidderdale was, she thought, not at all beautiful. He had a common-place, rough face, with a turn-up nose, and bright laughing eyes -- not at all the Adonis such as her imagination had painted. But if he had only made love at first as he had attempted to do it now, she thought that she would have submitted herself to be cut in pieces for him.


Thursday, March 27, 2003
 
Slander!

No, this post won't be about Bruges, a promised in the last post. I've decided to wait until I get the digital pics from my dear sis so I'll have some "show" with the "tell."

Speaking of the dear sis (and she is quite dear), I was mistaken when I said she refused to keep a TV in her flat. I'd made that assumption based on her distaste and all but abandonment of American TV prior to her move overseas. In reality, she wrote to say, she has more important things to spend money on right now than the license required to view programs -- and she'd be more than happy to have a TV if it weren't so expensive, if only to put a Graham Norton fix within reach.

Further, as she helpfully pointed out, I could have easily bought a newspaper to fill the info vacuum. Indeed, I have only myself to blame for the pathetically ignorant state in which I returned to my home country... and the only slightly less ignorant state I'm currently in.

At least I can take comfort in the fact that my baggage has finally returned.


Tuesday, March 25, 2003
 
Are They in Paris?

So my lost bags still haven't arrived, and US Air can't even confirm that they've been found at Gatwick, whence I departed on Sunday. Of course I'm not supposed to refer to the bags as "lost" -- I've been chastised for this verbal faux pas by more than one US Air rep, who like to insist that "lost" is too strong a word -- but instead describe the situation as a "baggage irregularity." Uh huh. I'm already composing a mental tally of items and their respective values in the increasingly likely case that they won't ever be found. Perhaps I'm being a bit melodramatic, but I do want my bags.

In a happier (or at least much more interesting) vein, go read "Rich and Pam Go to Fermilab and Later See a Dead Man" over at Strange Horizons. A masterful speculative poem.

Must we attempt to count even the dolphins as members of the U.S.-led coalition? (Thanks for the link, Mr. Staszel.) Because I'm only beginning to emerge from the information vacuum caused by my sister's refusal to keep a TV in her flat, I didn't learn until yesterday that the war is being called Operation Iraqi Freedom. How embarrassing it is to be an American these days. I will say that I didn't encounter any anti-American sentiment overseas, but that's probably because I had substantive conversations with only a few foreigners. The proprietor of the Indian restaurant my sister and I visited on my last night in London was quite sweet to us, and we managed to convince him that only some Americans carry guns with them wherever they go. (He was under the impression that we're all gun-toting crazies willing to shoot each other at the slightest provocation.)

Next post will recount a bit of my trip to Bruges.


Monday, March 24, 2003
 
A Happy Return

Made it back from London but unfortunately my checked baggage didn't. Hoping it arrives today. I'll write more about the trip at some point; right now I'm trying to catch up from having missed a very deadline-driven week at work.

It seems a poem of mine that appeared in Strange Horizons has been nominated for a Rhysling Award in the Long Poem category. I'm a bit shocked and quite pleased, and wish I knew who liked it well enough to nominate it. (In case you missed it, that's a gentle hint to said nominator to get in touch, should s/he be one who reads this log.)

Anyway, this makes a couple recent rejections from mags I greatly respect easier to take. Both rejections were of the positive, "want to see more work but don't have the space to publish this piece" variety, which is encouraging, if not the type of response I'd most like to receive. I'm having a tough time identifying potential markets for my newer stuff. It isn't as overtly speculative as the poetry I used to write, but I don't see it as an ideal fit for the purely literary markets, either. Ah... well.


Thursday, March 20, 2003
 
Londinium

So the plan to post while in London didn't work out as well as I'd hoped; my sister doesn't have a broadband connection yet (alas, no pics till I return) and their current ISP charges per-minute fees.

Briefly, I'll say that I'm really enjoying my time here, it's been sunny every day of my visit, and I finally went to a pub last night (a lovely one, too!). Today we're flying to Brussels and then taking the train to Bruges, a well-preserved medieval city where I will drink some authentic Belgian beer.

I'll post more upon my return...


Monday, March 10, 2003
 
Anticipating London

OK, so I've been a little busy lately with work and stuff... and I spent my day off this weekend (Saturday) walking around Squirrel Hill, checking out some mom-and-pop shops, and playing Myst III: Exile instead of tending to this here log. Sorry.

I leave for London on Friday. Anybody have suggestions for Things I (Absolutely!) Must Do during my stay there? Any creepy castles with histories of beheadings I should visit? Particularly jolly pubs? Offbeat stores featuring oddities I've only seen in dreams? Please email me at the address in the sidebar, should a suggestion occur to you.

I do plan to post to the log while there, but I have much to do this week before I leave. Which means it's unlikely (but not completely out of the question) that I'll post again before the weekend.


Tuesday, March 04, 2003
 
Marriage of the Future

Oh, this quiz is just too clever (via Making Light, from which I seem to filch all of my good links). For some reason it says I'm going to marry Neil Gaiman, who's OK, but given the choice I'd certainly rather wed Ted Chiang or China Mieville. Not that I'd have much to say to China; Perdido Street Station has been waiting patiently on the bookshelf for my attention for longer than I care to say. And my grasp of Marxist theory is tenuous at best.


Monday, March 03, 2003
 
Mini-rants

Grrr... I've lost the log archives again. No idea what's happening, but hopefully I'll figure it out soon. Annoying, this.

And while we're on the subject of annoying, I'm beginning to tire of my role as negotiator between the visual designers ("let's make it pretty") and the developers ("let's make it functional," or "don't make me redo this page again") at work. As a project lead I am forced to live between two diametrically opposed mindsets, and it's wearing on me. We get site design approved early in the process, do the development work, and then inevitably the designers come back and want to tweak. This isn't in itself a big problem; I'm a believer that if the budget is there one should make improvements, but oftentimes the requested changes aren't real improvements -- they make the UI prettier but less usable.

Because I approach things from a user-centric perspective, this raises my ire. And it raises the ire of the developers even more, since they end up doing lots of rework. So I try to "push back." But this doesn't often work. And once you've lost enough battles, you lose the will to fight. That's what's happening to me, and I feel like I'm doing a disservice to potential users of the systems we're designing. I will say that the designers have often made suggestions that make the interface more usable, but that's the exception, not the rule.


 
Corridors and Walls

sidereality, an online speculative/experimental poetry mag (hey, they'll be publishing one of mine in April!), has a new companion blog. Editor Clayton Couch says he created the blog "with the idea that it would help to generate more discussion and conversation on the website." I'm not sure whether his "on the website" statement refers to discussion about the website or that he's hoping to feed content from the blog to the website proper, but it'll be interesting to see how this little experiment unfolds.

So far the blog doesn't appear to be taking advantage of the tools that would be most useful to it; there's no comments feature yet and the posts aren't categorized. From the two posts currently up I gather that the flow will be loose and free-form -- a sort of mish mash of call and response driven by the linearity of page's chronological orientation. That's where some categorization would come in handy, as well as a comments feature to allow for easy discussion within a topic.

Online mags like Strange Horizons, which has an uncategorized (read: simple chronologically ordered list of comments) message board -- used mainly for commenting on specific pieces -- could benefit from a bloggier format. It would be nice to see a link to "create/view the blog entry for this piece" at the end of a story or poem, or at least an easy way to navigate to posts related to specific piece on the site.

Certain publisher message boards (notably the one over at Night Shade Books) show that discussion isn't always limited to literature published in-house but tends to branch off into musings on the theory and practice of writing, among other topics. Blogs aren't necessarily tailor-made for this tangential, interwoven stuff (not that they couldn't be, but they aren't quite there yet -- I'd imagine such a scheme would involve non-linear categorization and the requisite UI to handle that, with the option to view posts in traditional and nontraditional ways) -- but the ability to use trackback and other mechanisms to expand and evolve the discussion could be quite useful. I've seen plenty of conversations in the SF community that would benefit from the cross-linkage.

'Course who am I to talk? I haven't implemented any of these features. But I'm a lone fish in a big sea, and have a hard time believing many people would link to or comment on my posts, so I haven't moved to Movable Type because I dread seeing "0" next to the goodies at the end of a post. Maybe one day...


Thursday, February 27, 2003
 
Just Testing

I've been getting the dreaded 503 error in Blogger lately, so I've replaced my template. Just want to see if everything's working properly.


Monday, February 24, 2003
 
Sadly, Art Imitates Life

Once again, Matt nails it.

Lovely travel day today. I arrived at the Pittsburgh airport an hour before my flight was supposed to leave, which is usually more than sufficient. What I didn't take into account was the overflow of travelers from the night before, when many a flight was canceled. The serpentine line to the boarding pass kiosks cost me more than 20 minutes, and then the security line (backed up all the way to the entrance doors, for those of you who know this 'port) took at least another 20. Upon exiting the tram, I ran dutifully to the gate to find the door closed and the waiting area empty. Fortunately a helpful ticket agent was able to get me aboard in the nick of time.

Of course my travel troubles didn't stop there. At O'Hare I happened upon a bumb taxi driver who ran up over $80 worth of fees (and precious minutes of client-site time) trying to find my destination. Needless to say I didn't pay anything close to the full price, but hey, time is money. All of my travels woes were redeemed, however, when I arrived quite early for my return flight and scored a seat on an earlier one (since my own flight was delayed), getting me home an hour earlier than I'd expected. Karmic travel gods working their magic, or just plain good luck?


Friday, February 21, 2003
 
The Great Divide

Not sure why only one week's worth of archived posts are visible over there in the sidebar; I keep trying to republish them but they won't show up. Perhaps Matt will be kind enough to share his Blogger wisdom with me when he gets into the office today.

I've been reading John Brockman's "new humanists" propaganda at Edge. While his essay is a dangerously dewey-eyed paean to the primacy of science, some of the responses to it are well reasoned and worth reading.

I'm sorry, but I don't think the empirical approach of science can answer every human question, as Brockman implies, or that the only role of the humanities is to "evaluate, select, and transmit valuable knowledge," as Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi says in his response. As some of the other responders pointed out, Brockman seems to be as ignorant of the interesting stuff going on in the humanities as he claims humanities scholars are of science. Sure, plenty of suspect scholarship emerges from the humanities wing of the academy, but it ain't all bad.

And wow... Jaron Lanier is a smart dude, but I must take issue with his statement about how scientists and technologists are "often enchanted with the beauty we see in nature—beauty that's harder for nonspecialized people to appreciate." As if his scientifically informed view of the natural world somehow means he's better equipped than the rest of us to appreciate it. Comments like this make the "new humanists" seem just as elitist and insular as their second culture counterparts. No wonder they have a hard time playing in the same sandbox.


Thursday, February 20, 2003
 
Unmentionables

Her name was Carol Wallace. On any given day she looked polished in a way only some tough girls are capable of achieving, with her meticulously feathered hair sprayed into a motionless parfait and her carefully selected clothing a close approximation of what the popular girls wore. Every day she stalked the cafeteria and surrounding area with her group of mindless girl thugs, order-takers, and hangers-on. And every day she made it her mission to torment a nerdy girl.

She'd pick a victim and go at her for days, sometimes weeks, first uttering a few rude comments as she passed by with her clan. The offhand comments then became insults, delivered in a haughty and increasingly loud tone, with perhaps an after-school following or two to rub salt in the wound. The culmination of her bully visitation was often a beating, as was the case with my friend Debbie, who was knocked down one day near the blessedly student-free parking lot.

Although I didn't receive a beating, I wasn't lucky enough for my own bully run-in to occur far from prying eyes. No, Carol had special plans for me; she'd honed her method of attack to guarantee maximum humiliation. And this new, insidious approach involved a condiment I now find so repugnant I can't bear to smell it, let alone eat it: ketchup. She had begun the assault in her usual way, feeling me out for days with casually delivered insults to make sure I didn't have enough of a spine to fight back. And then at lunch one day, in the courtyard, she and her friends surrounded me and pelted me with as much ketchup as they could squeeze out, all the while hurling insults. The only one I've retained had something to do with my "shit brown eyes."

Afterward I stumbled to algebra class, where Mrs. Slayton -- a large, black woman who, in her rather abrasive way, had tried her darndest to introduce me to a type of mathematics I refused to wrap my head around -- comforted me, as did my fellow nerds. (In Jr. High, they grouped us nerds together for every class, thus ensuring both zero exposure to the rest of the school and our grim reliance on each other.) I sat at my desk crying as people hovered over me, telling me what a bully Carol was and that it didn't mean anything. But I wasn't open to their kind-hearted words; I was so ashamed that I couldn't even tell my parents. My mom, sensing that something was amiss (or perhaps simply shocked that I was actually laundering my own clothes that evening) asked me what was wrong. "Oh, nothing," was all I could manage, giving her my best impression of the normal teenage sulk.

It doesn't seem so bad in the retelling, but at the time (eighth grade) I was devastated. I couldn't understand why Carol tormented nerds in the first place, and of course I couldn't understand why she had chosen me as her victim. Now that I'm older and wiser, and have entered a grown-up world where nerds aren't reviled but revered, I can appreciate Paul Graham's essay Why Nerds Aren't Popular, particularly this passage:
If it's any consolation to the nerds, it's nothing personal. The group of kids who band together to pick on you are doing the same thing, and for the same reason, as a bunch of guys who get together to go hunting. They don't actually hate you. They just need something to chase.
The essay is long, but well worth the read. Paul believes nerds aren't unpopular because the popular kids envy their smarts, but because nerds are too focused on other pursuits to bother with making the (considerable) effort to be popular. He delves deeply into topics ranging from the social structure of school clans to the ramifications of job specialization in our modern economic system to make interesting conclusions about why bullies feel the need to bully -- and why school is such a drag.


Sunday, February 16, 2003
 
The Accidental Diet

So I have real excuse this time for the lack of posts -- my first experience with gastroenteritis (AKA "stomach flu"). The affected organs seem to be functioning properly again, but I don't yet look forward to meals and I'm still quite tired. Also managed to lose some weight that people who know me would say I didn't need to lose.

One of the things I hate about the kind of sick that confines one to bed is the frustration borne of having so much time to just, well, think, but not being able to do so productively. And I'm not talking about when you're halfway asleep and apparitions from your subconscious meld with what's left of reality to produce a compellingly disjointed narrative. I'm talking about the stupid stuff your brain insists on torturing you with when you're down -- the mindless replaying of insignificant events.

More later when I'm feeling up to it.


Saturday, February 08, 2003
 
Branches and Leaves

I must admit, Dorothea's enthusiasm is infectious, and comes serendipitously at a time when I myself am contemplating graduate work in library and information science. Her interests are similar to mine, albeit more focused and better articulated. Her post-graduation plans to "create, manage, and expose for public use electronic-text repositories" resonate with me, as I'm looking for ways to combine my information architecture skills with an interest in humanities-based digital media. Granted, I'm not sure exactly how I'd like to do that, or what form it would take, but a grad program combined with some focused, independent research seems like a good first step.

In some ways I enjoy what I'm doing now -- project management and information architecture for corporate web sites, intranets, extranets, etc. -- but it doesn't give me the kind of deep satisfaction I suspect I'd get from working with information I actually give a hoot about. So I'd like to ditch the corporate thing in favor of helping to make humanities-based information more accessible and meaningful by, say, leveraging the power of hypertext to open connections between ideas that wouldn't have been apparent otherwise.

Before this starts sounding like an application essay, I'll close. But I must thank Dorothea for sharing her enthusiasm.

I won't even bother to apologize for the past week's sad lack of posts; the day job drained any mental energy I could have devoted to the log.


Sunday, February 02, 2003
 
Si, Neko

Forgot about this gurgle yesterday, but I want to warn fellow Pittsburghers away from the "Junior" wraps at Si Señor. I thought the Junior would be the perfect size for me since I can never finish the regular ones, but these things are tiny! And at a dollar less than the regulars (making them $5 a pop) they're a rip-off to boot.

I keep meaning to say something about the new Neko Case album. I've enjoyed her turn with the New Pornographers, and although this is more quasi-country than pop I'm enjoying it as well. Neko's songwriting is tight, the music behind it is delicious, and the voice bringing it to life is simply amazing. Of course, half the time I can't hear it 'cause I'm shamelessly belting out the tunes along with her. (I especially enjoy screeching along with "Runnin' Out of Fools," which is a pity since she sounds particularly great in that one.)


Saturday, February 01, 2003
 
Columbia Down

Wandered over to Making Light just now and got the bad news. Many people consider the space program a frivolous waster of resources, but the dreamer in me doesn't like the fact that Columbia's fiery descent will be another stumbling block on the road into space.

As usual, Teresa breaks it down (as little as one can at this point) with sincerity and style, with the help of an interesting comment by John M. Ford.

I should have eaten breakfast today.


 
Mishmash

Because it's been so long since the last post, this one is sure to be filled with a hodgepodge of unrelated gurgles (i.e., shouts and whispers, but mainly whispers). So let's begin...

Gurgle 1: The proprietor of WinePoetics is such a tease. Please, dear caretaker, reveal the Mystery Poet!

Gurgle 2: I've been reading bits and pieces of Cyberspace: First Steps, published in 1992. I think at the time the editor hoped the book would be among the first to map the ontological terrain of cyberspace, that wooly concept first popularized by William Gibson. The problem with attempting that at the time, of course, was that there wasn't much real terrain to base said ontological map on, and so the book today comes across as being really dated and pie-in-the-sky.

I remember when I first saw the book. We had ordered it for the media center at the museum, and the name alone ("first steps") made me feel all wiggly inside. I would recall the title from time to time after I left museum, to evoke the sense of wonder it instilled in me. (Yeah, I know this sounds incredibly cheesy, especially given the fact that I never actually read the book but was moved by its title alone.)

Reading through it now, after procuring a used copy, I'm struck mainly by what theorists at the intersection of critical theory and technology can get away with. But in the interest of Getting Ideas Out There, I'm not bothered by the occasional baseless logical leap or unrestrained dance into uncharted waters; heck, I welcome it. Leave it to firmer minds than mine to sort the gems from drivel. For now I'll revel in the unchecked wonder and heady optimism put forth by the anthology's writers.

(Aside: will Cory's notion of whuffie be as big as Gibson's cyberspace? I'm seeing it all over the place. Now that we've started theorizing about how individuals might contribute to a shared virtual reality instead of participating in one built by a god-creator, the concept of whuffie is gaining speed. Sounds better than karma, at any rate.)

Gurgle 3: Completely forgot to partake in the apocalyptic GNE festivities. I grew bored with it in recent weeks and didn't bother to visit. I am, however, looking forward to beta testing and the release of the real game, which promises a tenfold increase in stuff to do. It'll be nice to enter a hub and not be faced with locked properties.

Gurgle 4: An intelligent response to the His Dark Materials books from a Christian group in the UK. (Mom, this one's for you!)


Tuesday, January 28, 2003
 
Fear the Melon

From "10 Ways to Tell If Your Co-Worker Is an Extraterrestrial!" (via Spinster Librarian):
Aliens often wear huge sunglasses to hide their eyes. Most aliens have large, staring eyes that are hard to conceal. Sunglasses help them appear more normal.

Aliens have strange diets. Aliens may not be able to digest most human foods. Because of this, they are limited in the types of foods they can eat, and they may become vegetarians. Watch out for people who eat a lot of melons -- that's an alien favorite.



Sunday, January 26, 2003
 
New Era

This makes me want to run to the nearest bookseller and buy some Trollope. T'would be a nice break from the science fictiony stuff I've been ingesting of late. I haven't read much Victorian-era fiction, although Jane Austen has long been a favorite. Rachel's intriguing take on Trollope has left me eager to devour some, and I love the humor and vigor accompanying her analysis. So, time to abandon the future for the past again.

Perhaps I'll read about what the future holds for the Magic Kingdom after that, and in between continue the P.K. Dick collection I'm reading here and there.


 
Nothing Out of Something

Explain something to me. Like, why does it have such a high PageRank?


Saturday, January 25, 2003
 
I Was Never a Skater, But I Play One at My Job

Doing skater culture research for a project at work, I came across these nifty Quiet Life tees (click the "teeny tiny store" link). If I thought bright yellow wouldn't make me look like a corpse, I'd be tempted to pick up the "Snorkeling with Snacks" tee. I have this strange compulsion to print out the OHIOGIRL maze... quite a lovely home page. And this is kinda cool... Crailtap sells short stories! Gotta love the DIY thing. The Crailtap site is, in general, a big mystery to me.

Skater ads come in a variety of flavors; while some attempt to be slick, others cling to a wink-and-nod "yeah, we're trying to sell you some crap" mentality. I saw these self-aware enjoi ads the last time I did skater research, and they made me giggle again this time. Sure, some of them are pretty juvenile, but others border on ad genius. I'm particularly drawn to the "follow the heard," "more issues than national geographic," and "the scandal/potty-training my old lady" ads. I also dig some of the Toy Machine ads.

I could write more about about how researching this stuff gives me an odd disembodied feeling and reminds me ever more of my passing youth, and the fact that skater culture is filled with foreign tropes I could never hope to understand from my limited perspective, but I'm feeling lazy.

Meanwhile, it's all Elvis, all the time over at Bellona Times. If you've a hankering to learn more about the King, sidle on over there.

Just a wee Travis update today. He's doing well; went into the vet yesterday for a re-check and they didn't have to place a feeding tube (thank the gods!). They said he's looking well, or at least as well as can be expected, and now he just needs to get his strength back.


Wednesday, January 22, 2003
 
The Trav, He Eats!

Yes, it's another Travis update. His condition is consuming most of my mental energy right now, so pardon the cobwebs around here.

I brought him home last night, after a week of hospital care. He's looking well, purring contentedly, and mostly managing to make his way around the house. His belly has been shaved for an ultrasound (the hair had almost grown back from last time) so while he's probably a bit cold down there his bare belly looks awfully cute.

What he really needs to do now is eat; if he's not eating well by Thursday afternoon they'll have to place a nasal feeding tube. I went through weeks of tube feeding with him the last time he was sick, and it's a pain in the ass for both of us. This morning he ate some canned food (yay!) and let me give him some pills without too much of a fuss. I think he's so happy to be out of the hospital that he's not being as much of a brat as usual about the pills.

Last night he slept peacefully at my side, waking occasionally to purr and preen. Hope you'll send some eating energy to the Trav. We'd both appreciate it.


Friday, January 17, 2003
 
Travis Update

Mainly for friends and family, or anyone else who cares how the kitty is doing...

I went to visit him last night at the hospital. The vet tech said he'd been grumpy, and of course he wouldn't eat anything. He was slightly alert but wasn't interesting in getting much attention.

The vet says he's not out of the woods yet -- there's still a chance things could go horribly awry -- but generally animals recover fully from ketoacidosis. Last time he was in the hospital for six days, I think. We're on day four now. Hoping he'll eat something and be able to come home soon.


Thursday, January 16, 2003
 
In the Garden

Driving in to work this morning I heard a story on NPR about landscape designer Piet Oudolf, who's been chosen to create the Gardens of Remembrance in The Battery. From an article on the NPR web site:
Oudolf likes kinetic plants: Dierama, Molinia and Miscanthus. Oudolf likes edgey plants: Eryngium, Echinops and Angelica gigas. And Oudolf likes plants with purpose, that romp, sway, tickle and cavort. He likes them red and orange, blue, purple and pink; he uses them as curtains, globes, buttons and spires. His grasses weep with joy.
Oudolf's landscapes convey a not unpleasant strain of controlled naturalism. I tend to prefer less ornamental gardens, such as Winnifred Lutz's installation at the Mattress Factory, which combines prairie calm, urban residue and an organic electronic soundtrack. But something about the formalness of Oudolf's designs strikes my fancy -- probably the dynamism of the plants, in their wild combinations, as they sit in constructed space.


Tuesday, January 14, 2003
 
Ugh

My cat has another nasty case of ketoacidosis. If you're reading this, perhaps you could send a little positive energy his way? Updates to the log will probably be less frequent than usual for a while (not that they're usually frequent, but whatever).


Sunday, January 12, 2003
 
Here're Your Damn Links

A coworker (Pat) pointed out that I didn't link to Doonesbury in a recent post about how those comics helped me get over my post-Shining blues. To correct this stunning faux pas, I hereby offer not one, not two, but three exciting links for your perusal.

And I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't link to the already linked-to-death Doonesbury strips on blogging.


 
Contrast

Among the many fascinating search terms people use to find this site:
gun related deaths in foreign countries
pee my pants
Let it not be said that we don't offer content for every readerly taste.


Tuesday, January 07, 2003
 
Love Thy Mess

For those seeking to validate the mess that surrounds them, here's a great article correlating productivity and desk clutter -- at least among the knowledge worker set (via Arts & Letters Daily). On filing versus piling:
According to Mr Whittaker and Ms Hirschberg, the assumption that filers can find stuff more quickly is wrong. Filers, they say, “are less likely to access a given piece of data, and more likely to acquire extraneous data...In moderation, piling has the benefits of providing somewhat ready access to materials as well as reminding about tasks currently in progress.” Filers have two problems finding stuff: they tend to file too much, because they have put so much effort into building a filing system, and they often find it hard to remember how they categorised things.
The article also points out the fallibility of the "virtual office" concept via a discussion of Chiat/Day's notorious experiment. This splendiferous Wired article tells the whole tawdry tale.


Monday, January 06, 2003
 
The Debt I Owe Doonesbury

This is the second in an occasional series on my childhood obsessions (read the first here). I'm sure I'll veer into teenage obsessions as well, since those are ridiculous and fun. My goal is to capture the past: to remember what I found compelling back then and reflect on it. My childhood memories are hazy at best -- quiet apparitions begging for flesh. We'll see how it goes...

A particularly dark period of my childhood emerged right after my first viewing of The Shining. The Shining is not scary in the “why are you going into that room when there’s an axe murderer in there, you idiot?” sense, but in a steady and pervasive ill-at-ease-feeling sort of way. That kind of scary leaves a much more visceral impression on a young mind, and mine was duly scarred.

As I closed my eyes to go to sleep at night my mind was haunted by images of eerily pristine twins confronting young Danny in the hallway, naked old women in showers, receding footsteps in a snow-drenched labyrinth, etc. One of the interesting things about the movie is that it’s Danny’s fears that become your own. Shelley Duval’s fears never really do -- partially because of the way she played the character -- but Danny is someone you can identify with. So it was Danny’s experiences that came back to haunt me, along with the score. (The music in a Kubrick film -- generally stuff that wasn’t composed specifically for the screen -- just seems to belong there in a way that a John Williams score never does. It enhances the viewing experience rather than drawing unnecessary attention to itself.)

So anyway, I was a frightened little child who had a miserable time getting to sleep at night. And only one thing could cure the dis-ease that haunted my mind: Doonesbury comics. My parents, being good liberals with a sense of humor, had a large stash of books filled with past Doonesbury strips, none of which I remember well enough to describe. What I do remember is the effect they had. Slowly, gently, I was pulled out my fear- and depression-filled rut, and learned to laugh and fall asleep easily once again.

For a while there afterward I tried to read Doonesbury in the paper. But I couldn’t really follow it; the characters’ lives had taken turns I didn’t understand from a perspective limited by what I had read in the books. I haven’t read Doonesbury since. But I’ll always feel grateful for it, and cheer it on, for the cheer it brought into my life. I felt pretty darned good there for a few years, until thoughts of nuclear annihilation began to invade the ol’ brain, forcing out an unanswered letter to Ronald Reagan. But that’s another story.

Further reading:

The Kubrick FAQ: Clears up some misconceptions about his involvement in A.I. (e.g., he really did want that ending, but not exactly how Spielberg ended up shooting it).

Another great mood-setting film score whose resonance stems from music composed for other purposes: The Hunger.

One of my all-time favorite film scores is Ennio Morricone’s for Days of Heaven. Not a great film, but the cinematography and soundtrack combine to deliver a unique cinematic experience.


 
Many Happy Returns?

Argh! Say it isn't so! Leuschke makes me cry.


Sunday, January 05, 2003
 
Don't Read My Mind

Last weekend I went to happy hour with some friends, and the inevitable "what are your New Year's resolutions?" question came up. I responded with my stock answer -- "I don't make them" -- and felt a bit guilty about the fact that I don't make resolutions because I'm afraid I won't keep them, that the practice has rarely proved worthwhile to me.

Last year Matt, who I didn't know very well at the time, impressed me his sole resolution: No one will ever wonder what I'm thinking. This is the sort of resolution I can get behind, one that demands to be acted on (especially for an internal type like me), and it stuck with me for most of last year. I didn't lay my soul bare at every opportunity, but being mindful of the resolution did lead to some small epiphanies in my interactions with coworkers and friends.

I'm glad Matt has it on his list again this year. Being as open as the resolution requires isn't something one can achieve in the span of a year, but it's a damn fine goal to aspire to over the course of a life. Maybe by the time I hit 80, no one will have to read my mind.


Wednesday, January 01, 2003
 
Consensus Reality

David Chess posted a nice riff on what he calls the consensus interpretation of Mulholland Drive, wherein he expressed his unease with interpretations such as this one in Salon. I second his distaste for such analyses; the beauty of the film lies in not trying to overly interpret what's going on but in surrendering to the madness.

As in his other films, Lynch uses a wholesome v. sordid dichotomy in Mulholland Drive to underscore the notion that those two extremes aren’t really as different as they seem. Ambiguous polarity is at the heart of Lynch’s movies. It’s a structuralist’s worst nightmare and a postmodernist’s fondest dream, because only a lover of gray in-between-ness can embrace such ambiguity and deem it eloquent. And it's this gray that's worth embracing, that elevates Mulholland Drive from being a film that begs to be picked apart and reconstructed into a sensible framework (à la Memento) to one that speaks the vibrant language of art.

I think the best way to view a good Lynch film is to give in to the sensations imposed by its moving images and sounds without attempting to follow the plot (or lack thereof). An inability to do this with Dune is probably why many people didn't think that movie worked; it’s based on a beloved SF story that has very particular meanings to most. But if you can turn your internal critic/movie logic meter off, there are many delights to be found within Lynch’s dreamscapes. His is a visceral sort of storytelling that unfolds through imagery and dialogue, and it reminds me of hearing a really good myth or fairy tale whose meaning relies on what the listener projects into it.

Mr. Chess brought up a couple of points that work against the consensus interpretation defined in the aforementioned article:
Down in the details, I see two problems with the consensus interpretation's actually working as a full reading of the film: it requires a character to have a dream or fantasy that is influenced by the details of her own death (tough to fit into ordinary reality), and I'm pretty sure (but prepared to find myself mistaken on a careful rewatching of the relevant scenes) that the Blue Key shows up at least once in a place where it couldn't be under the consensus interpretation.

But who knows; maybe when I watch it again with this reading in mind I'll still like it, for reasons similar to and/or entirely different from the reasons I liked it the first time.
I certainly wouldn't put it past Mr. Lynch to throw a little wrench (or in this case, a blue key) into the mix to deceive any logic some might try to find in the plot. I'll have to watch more closely for blue key appearances next time. I will say to Mr. Chess that my own experience watching the film for the second time, after having read the consensus interpretation, was less fulfilling than the first. Much of the magic was gone.


Tuesday, December 31, 2002
 
White Elephants

If you were tortured with postmodern theory in school, you might enjoy The Elephant and Cultural Studies, a not-so-serious conference proposal. I think I'd like to attend the "Elephant as (Post)Modernist Construction" panel to be treated to papers like these:
THE ELEPHANT AS (POST)MODERNIST CONSTRUCTION:
Post-Modern, (Post)Modern, or Postcontemporary Elephant? Epistemic
Privileging and Discursive Spaces in MLA Debates.
Wild Elephant, Tamed Elephant, Zoo-Confined Elephant, Extinct Elephant:
Alternative Modernities for a Culturally-Constructed Ani(male).
Elephant Ears: Symbolic Excess in (Post)Nouvelle Pastry Culture.
Situating the Paradigmatic Other: The Elephant in Weight-Loss Discourse.
Also see Baseball: A Marxist Analysis (thanks, Alex).

Christina points to this nifty IE extension, a spell checker for input boxes on web pages. 'Bout time we had something like this.

Have a safe and jolly New Year's Eve!


Monday, December 30, 2002
 
Stay on the Path

Another lovely short short from Vestal Review, this one by Christopher Barzak. Constructing short short fiction seems deceptively simple; writing with clarity and resonance while sustaining the flow the form requires is really quite difficult. (My own short short attempts have either fallen flat or seemed upon reflection to be better suited to short story or novella lengths.) Barzak loaded this one with insights that linger and turn in the mind long after you've finished reading. Yum! A little taste:
When my heart was breaking, I went to my grandmother and said, "Grandmother, my heart is breaking over and over. My insides are like broken glass. Tell me how to cure this pain."

Grandmother leaned on her gnarled crook. She tapped it against the floor and said, "Your heart, dear girl, cannot break over and over. It breaks once. What you feel afterwards is the memory of its breaking. A broken heart cannot be healed."
Working my way through the taint archive (a magazine that tells prospective authors their work will likely be rejected) I came across this strong-bodied poem by John Rybicki.

In other news, I can't write lately. My brain is full of nonsense and I'm unable to untangle the mess; it's at once unsettling and oddly comforting. Silly brain.


Wednesday, December 25, 2002
 
One Word. 60 Seconds.

Nice little writing exercise over at One Word, which gives you sixty seconds to write about a word of their choosing (via the excellent Invisible Shoebox).

I haven't done a lot of timed writing exercises, but they're invaluable to someone with a writing process like mine. Instead of getting things out in a burst, I tend to reshape the text as I'm writing -- a very bad habit that at its worst yields lifeless prose and poetry. I've noticed this most in poetry writing; what I write when I'm in flow is much better than the dreck I churn out when I'm trying too hard. It's like Csikszentmihalyi (and his disciples) said:
Archer Tim Strickland has noted that conscious intervention is the great enemy: "Your conscious mind always wants to help you, but usually it messes you up." Csikszentmihalyi has warned "You can't make flow happen. All you can do is learn to remove obstacles in its way."
Perhaps a timed exercise like this will help me alter my current overthinkified process. Here's my exercise from today. Not a good piece of writing, but that's not the point:
ORNAMENT: It bobbles plaintively inside the glass globe, spilling stars out of context on the rim of a tornado. Where is it going? To the festival, where another star will take its place. This feast is neverending.
Oh, I hope everyone's having a nice holiday. It's a white Christmas in the 'burgh, something I've never seen before. Growing up in Florida, I assumed every northern Christmas was a white one; now that I've lived here for five years I realize it's not a given. It's beautiful, but I hope it doesn't prevent me from driving around later.


Tuesday, December 24, 2002
 
Revisionist Tolkien

Here's a clever re-imagining of Lord of the Rings with Humphrey Bogart as Frodo. Half Tolkien (you still get a sense of Frodo's endless traveling and crossing of terrain) and half noir (dark alleyways and fedoras and such) with a little Monster Movie goodness thrown in. Go watch it!

From the credits, a link to the Tolkien Sarcasm Page, which I haven't come across in quite a while. The Tolkien Crackpot Theories Page is a gem, if you haven't seen it. From a whacko interpretation that sees Saruman as good and Galdalf (or ganDOLT, as he is affectionately called) as evil:
The "Uruk-Hai", which GanDOLT's minions claim were interbred man-orcs that pillaged Rohan under his orders, were actually part of a humanitarian project of Saruman's to "reconvert" the Orcs into peaceful, non-evil creatures. That they looked like half-men and did not fear the Sun attest to his progress on this front. Sadly, when they tried to join up with the Rohirrim to ride to Gondor, they were brutally massacred. To be fair, the Riders were not mere butchers, but were misled into the act by GanDOLT, who did not want to see Saruman succeed in so mighty a task.

Grima, or "Wormtongue" as ganDOLT's people unkindly called him, really did have Theoden's best interests in mind. But ganDOLT wanted Theoden out of the way so his patsy Eomer could rule in Edoras. He played on their family loyalty to get them to kick out Grima, and sent Theoden to his death at the Pelennor. Come on, sending an 80-year-old man fighting hand-to-hand in a war? Only the silver tongue and staff of ganDOLT could have had the heart to do such a thing.

Saruman was indeed looking for the Ring but that is because he did not know where it was, since he was not invited to Elrond's council where the Quest was formed (another attempt by ganDOLT to supplant Saruman as head of the Order). He wanted to find it before Sauron did, and not knowing of the Quest to destroy the Ring, sent out some of his cleaned-up Gorcs ("Good Orcs") to see if they could find Frodo and convince him to hand it over. Saruman would have broken it apart and used its power to fuel his new non-evil Ring, and raised up Numenor and Beleriand from the Sea, restoring the grandeur of the Second Age. Alas, ganDOLT's ego ruined all this, and the Elves and Numenoreans were doomed to diminish forever.
Uh, yeah... Incidentally, I enjoyed The Two Towers. There were more pacing issues in this one than the last -- it's difficult to weave so many plot threads together effectively -- but a sense of the story's epic proportions was rendered much less cheesily this time. Although Smeagol's CGI origin was evident in scenes where you see him crawling around, his exteriorized battle with two interior personalities was amazing! Looking forward to the next one.


Thursday, December 19, 2002
 
Fo Shizzle

The Shizzolator entrances me. Here're some examples of what Snoop's algorithms did to my page...
The tagline: I has seen da future, 'n that shiznit is squishy.

The Strange Horizons post: The izzall-volunteer staff at SH is known fo' expanding da boundaries of speculative fiction -- i.e., publishing genre-bending stuff yo' ass won't find in Asimov's or Analog -- 'n fo' cultivating da field's emerging voices, know what I'm sayin'?

The "winters are too harsh" post: It's beginning warm up 'n da sky is bright 'n clear n' shit. Outside my office window, da ground near da Point looks as though that shiznit's been sprinkled liberally wit powdered sugar.
Oh, the lovely dissonance! Marred only slightly by the fact that Snoop "recommends" the following sites: CNN, Yahoo!, and Capitol Records.


Wednesday, December 18, 2002
 
Wisdom for the Sages

I don't always agree with him, but I enjoy the fact that Mark "The Instigator" Bernstein regularly takes on the IA community.

I do agree with Mark when he says it's not so astonishing that a company would hope to glean some wisdom from a software product. He's reacting to Peterme's amazement that a company would expect an application to guide their process, rather than let their existing process drive the design of the tool they will use.

Some tasks are broad enough to encompass a large variety of potential users, e.g., accounting applications. Many broad applications have benefited from years of design input from a wide user base; surely the wisdom gleaned through an iterative development and release cycle favorably impacts the usability of the product in a variety of settings. Is it such a stretch to think that this type of application might help inject some wisdom into a company whose own process isn't running efficiently?

Granted, this doesn't always apply to applications built for very specific purposes, or even some broad applications built to support processes that can vary extraordinarily from company to company (customizable content management systems come to mind). But I don't think it's astonishing for a company to expect their applications to impart wisdom to their workflow processes, especially given that their frame of reference is often limited to Microsoft's ubiquitous Office products.



Saturday, December 14, 2002
 
It's All Relative

I'll admit to taking just about every online quiz I come across (even the really idiotic ones), but rarely do I find one as delightful as "Which Science Fiction Writer Are You?"

For some reason, I'm William Gibson. Perhaps that's because, in answering some of the questions, I was forced to picked the most nihilistic response among a bunch of ill-suited contenders. Changing one of my "on-the-fence" responses makes me Octavia E. Butler, which I'm much more comfortable with.

Someone posted the list of possible authors in Making Light's comments:
a: Isaac Asimov
b: Alfred Bester
c: Arthur C. Clarke
d: David Brin
e: Octavia E. Butler
f: Philip José Farmer
g: Gregory Benford
h: Frank Herbert
i: Samuel R. Delany
j: Jerry Pournelle
k: Mickey Spillane
l: Ursula LeGuin
m: Stanislav Lem
n: William Gibson
o: Olaf Stapledon
p: Philip K. Dick
q: Hal Clement
r: Robert A. Heinlein
s: E.E. "Doc" Smith
t: James Tiptree, Jr.
u: Jules Verne
v: Kurt Vonnegut
w: H.G. Wells
x: Cordwainer Smith
y: Ayn Rand
z: John Brunner
I can almost understand Ayn Rand's presence on the list, but Mickey Spillane?!



Friday, December 13, 2002
 
Spiffy Skiffy

It's donation time over at Strange Horizons, the exceptional non-profit speculative fiction magazine. I'll admit to being a wee bit partial to this cause (they've published a poem of mine), but donations are their lifeblood, and as a rare non-profit pro-rate market they deserve to get some juice. The all-volunteer staff at SH is known for expanding the boundaries of speculative fiction -- i.e., publishing genre-bending stuff you won't find in Asimov's or Analog -- and for cultivating the field's emerging voices.

To make donating even more worth your while, SH randomly selects some donors to receive prizes donated by SH authors -- a great way to get a hard-to-find item or an interesting small press publication you wouldn't have heard of otherwise. After the last drive I was gifted with an advance copy of The Annunciate.

Some of my SH favorites from the archive:

Tim Pratt's mythological series of Bestiary poems includes the enchanting Poor Bahamut.

In the spirit of Ursula Le Guin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," Benjamin Rosembaum's "Other Cities" series weighs in with some imaginative sociological extrapolations. Ylla's Choice is among my favorites.

C.A. Conrad's surreal Frank poem tickles my fancy to the extreme.

Go read; then donate!



Tuesday, December 10, 2002
 
The Apocalypse Ain't So Bad...

On a whim I just went to the GNE for the first time in weeks, and unexpectedly found myself in the midst of the apocalypse. As the developer announced an imminent wipe to load the beta code via the global chat, talk turned to ruminations on the Four Horsemen and the afterlife. Then suddenly, as though it had never existed, the game was gone... taking with it the experience points, making skill levels, belongings, and virtual homes of the intrepid alpha players.

Sign up for the beta and join the next round of goodness.


 
Lawn Cake

It's beginning to warm up and the sky is bright and clear. Outside my office window, the ground near the Point looks as though it's been sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. The part of me that never got used to cold, sunless winters is enjoying this short spring-like interlude while it can. It imagines that the snow on the ground is a remnant of the last snowfall of the year, and that little budlings are even now beginning to make their way to the soil's surface.

At the same time, it can't help but contemplate what the prognosticators say we're in for tomorrow: freezing rain.


Monday, December 09, 2002
 
Turtle and the Bomb

This is the first in an occasional series on my childhood obsessions. I'm sure I'll veer into teenage obsessions as well, since those are ridiculous and fun. My goal is to capture the past: to remember what I found compelling back then and reflect on it. My childhood memories are hazy at best -- quiet apparitions begging for flesh. We'll see how it goes...

I was probably ten or eleven when I first read The Westing Game, a delightfully dark and complex children's book by Ellen Raskin. I'd read some good books -- a little Judy consumed guiltily under the covers at night; a little Tolkien, which inspired me to write my own incredibly derivative fantasy -- but I hadn't read anything quite like this.

The Westing Game is a sublimely layered murder mystery that assumes its audience has a brain and treats it accordingly. It takes place largely in a high-rise apartment building, where we meet a cast of characters whose lives become entangled when they are all invited to live there. One can't underestimate the impact of such a setting on the mind of a youngster; I was fascinated back then by exotic resorts, grand estates, luxury liners -- basically any place populated by strangers where anything might happen. Sunset Towers, in close proximity to the fanciful mansion of the late Sam Westing, fit the bill nicely.

Because I'm feeling lazy at the moment, I won't go into details about the plot or characters; you'll have to read the book for yourself it you haven't already. Reading it as an adult, you'll probably untangle the web of events that comprise the mystery before it's revealed at the end, but you'll most likely have fun doing it.

As a child I was so dazzled by Ms. Raskin's literary achievement that I formed the Ellen Raskin Mystery Fan Club. Mind you, the only other member was my friend Susan (who was also my co-conspirator in forming the Code Club -- which you're not allowed to know about 'cause we swore never to divulge its secrets; and the Terra Tribe, which furnished a foundation for imaginary priestess play), and we had nothing even remotely resembling a mandate, but... consider it a rudimentary version of the modern-day book club.

After reading the book, I also wrote my second fan letter (the first was to my very first crush; perhaps he deserves his own entry). I told her I wanted to be a writer myself someday, talked about what I'd been working on to get there, and gushed over her books. Soon after I sent it off a reply came in the mail. I remember it was typewritten, and that she'd signed her name with a green colored pencil. In it, she encouraged me to do what one must do to become a writer -- keep writing. Although I'm no novelist now, I appreciate the fact that she spoke directly to a fan and told her what she needed to hear. (And perhaps one day I'll get that YA novel out of my system after all.)

R.I.P., Ellen. You'll long be remembered.


Sunday, December 08, 2002
 
The Third Kind of Lie

In another exposé of government agencies skewing and misinterpreting research data to foist policy initiatives on defenseless citizens, Steven Milloy neatly deconstructs a recent initiative from our nation's friendly Drug Czar and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Not only did Mr. Czar and the NHTSA take liberties with numbers to justify a new crackdown on "drugged driving," but the NHTSA recently sponsored a program in the Netherlands to study the effects of marijuana (and the combined effects of alcohol and marijuana) on driving -- using human subjects in real traffic. This is the sort of thing that brings out my inner libertarian. And my inner libertarian doesn't appreciate being acknowledged.


Tuesday, December 03, 2002
 
Like The Beatles Said...

I'm so tired.

Got home from the airport last night after midnight to find my cat more needy of attention than a colicky infant. Apparently he missed me. Since we moved into this new place, he's started emitting a noise I can only describe as a "me-yowl." It starts as normal meow and then ends in a dramatic, elongated yowl. And he repeats this sonic atrocity over and over until someone yells his name at the top of their lungs to get him to shut his yap. During a normal evening, he may me-yowl three or four times, perhaps more if he's feeling especially estranged.

Last night he decided to vocalize a medley of me-yowls, varying his pitch to match the nuances of his distressed mood. I thought he would stop when I went to bed, and that he would curl up peacefully next to me as he normally does. Instead he modified his me-yowl to constant a low gurgle, and insisted on licking my hands in-between me-yowls. I think I slept fitfully for perhaps two hours before being rudely awakened by the alarm clock, my unwelcome signal to rise and prepare for another day working for The Man.

Today sucked. Pittsburgh is a cold, unforgiving wasteland, a stark contrast to the balmy charms of Florida. When I've recovered from this current malaise I'll be back to updating the log.


Saturday, November 30, 2002
 
Pretend Food

Home in Florida for the holidays... My nephew (he's almost 4) is becoming more inquisitive by the hour. The question burning in the back of mind the other night: Do stars poop?

Of course I'm preoccupied by more practical concerns, e.g., the effects of hard-rock music on mice. One study, purportedly done by a high school student, uncovered the nefarious nature of such music.
His experiment was prematurely cut short, "…Because all the hard-rock mice killed each other," David told us. "…None of the classical mice did that at all!" Is it any wonder, therefore, that if these lowly little rodents are so easily affected, why so many of today’s young people are being driven—literally possessed—to kill one another for apparently no reason?
Any wonder indeed. We'll have to keep the nephew in check.


Tuesday, November 26, 2002
 
Playmobil Sees the Future



A combination better than chocolate and peanut butter (via Boing Boing).


 
What Can I Do to Get that Rooster?

This (link removed; see update below) was also in my inbox this morning. Read it if you want some insight into how I spend my weekdays. I think I'm going to pee my pants, unless I make it to the bathroom first. But of course then, before reaching said bathroom, I'd be tempted to admire the exalted rooster as it roosts in its new home, and I'd pee my pants anyway.

Update: A little mischief.


Monday, November 25, 2002
 
Eastward Bound

I seem to be planning a trip to London, where my dear sister will soon be moving. Problem is, I'm totally new to this foreign travel stuff. I bought a couple of icky travel books yesterday, and they're not helping to demystify the whats and hows of the city.

I think I'll be there for eight days, and I plan to take one extravagant side trip to an as yet unspecified destination. I'm considering Paris (seeing as it's but a Chunnel ride away), Glasgow (mmm... Scotland!), and Wales (I've been utterly fascinated by its craggy coastal terrain since reading this).

Email me at the address in the sidebar (on the right) if you have general recommendations, friends I can drag to bars, or tips on how I can extend the formidable British pound. I want to experience the city, but I don't go much for touristy stuff. Suggestions on interesting, away-from-the-throng locales are welcome, as are opinions on where I should take my side trip.


 
Extensions

When I bought the thingstocome.net domain nearly a year ago, I checked out the sites using thingstocome with the .org and .com extensions to see what weirdness might exist there. The .com site is owned by a record label which represents a bunch of "underground" electronic artists I've never heard of. Innocuous enough.

The .org site, on the other hand, features a cornucopia of oddities any apocalyptically minded person would appreciate. In the editors' own words, it's "an apologetics website dedicated to defending orthodox eschatology and biblical futurism." A weighty mission indeed. Although I don't support their position (or many organized religion positions, for that matter) I'm rather impressed by the rhetoric they use to promote it. And if you thought biblical futurists were lacking a sense of humor, you need only read the article "Why it is Perfectly OK to Call Heretical Preterists Naughty Names" to see otherwise.


Friday, November 22, 2002
 
Love Thy Alien Neighbor

a universe person


Wow. Crazy NRM goings-on over at Universe People. (Thanks, socket.)


Thursday, November 21, 2002
 
Decay Calmly Now



Photograph copyright © Shaun O'Boyle


This Boing Boing post reminded me of Shaun O'Boyle's absorbing photo essays on abandoned buildings. The Seaview Hospital essay is my favorite, with its opening exterior shot reminiscent of Rebecca and other gothic goodies within.

A link from O'Boyle's site took me to Keizou Maekita's site, which houses photos of abandoned Japanese buildings taken at a once popular resort. So much to see here, and I haven't had time to absorb it all yet. Anyway. Here's the caption text, translated from Japanese to English, from one page (visit the page to see the corresponding pics):

White clouds have flowed to the empty of ruins where summer grass grows Luxuriantly.

It will be that what people enjoyed themselves in the past. It only waits to finish the duty and to decay calmly now. Again, a cheer cannot be heard.

The inside of a hotel on which pamphlet red is scattered has become ruined.

Although used as a garden, it does not put in with summer grass, and the reverse side of these ruins is until to a cherry tree.

A zoo is here once, a monorail runs and many Jolo Jolo birds are lying idle.

Oddly poetic, and the eccentric pockets of reconfigured text more than make up for any meaning lost in the translation.

The dream in 100. (Mannequins are melancholy: "Ruins which mannequins were govering. They had tedious days.")


Monday, November 18, 2002
 
Repackaged for Viral Distribution

I remember seeing this lovely Flash piece a while ago; at the time it was being described as digital art. Yesterday I received an email from my parents (forwarded to them by a cousin) that linked to it. The email's subject line? Polish Digital Clock. Surely this new presentation context has dramatically expanded its audience.


Saturday, November 16, 2002
 
On Eating Elephants

Small, lively, wonderful.


 
Miscellany Part 2

Last night I went to see Punch Drunk Love after failing to get tickets to the new Harry Potter (not that I was expecting to, what with arriving at the bustling multiplex after 7 PM; and not that I was terribly disappointed, since my motive for wanting to see it was pure escapism).

I'm still trying to work out my impressions of the movie, but so far they're mostly negative. After Magnolia and Boogie Nights, I've grown to appreciate the way P. T. Anderson handles ensemble casts and multiple plotlines. This film felt small in comparison, and suffered from poor character development (not a problem in an ensemble film, as long as the characters are interesting) and a carelessly conceived plot. In his other films (more so in Magnolia), Anderson deftly wove together disparate plotlines so that they played off one another in a way that magnified each story's impact, resulting in a "whole is greater than the sum of its parts" sort of clarity. This film staggered along aimlessly, which I actually wouldn't have minded had the journey been an interesting one.

My chief complaint is that I never reached an understanding of what motivated the primary characters, much less why they did what they did. Stylistically the film was on target, with strange kaleidoscopic interludes full of vibrant color that contrasted nicely with the grittier realistic scenes. The soundtrack was comprised mostly of experimental music, a departure from the cultural reference-happy pop songs in his previous efforts. At times I found the music overly loud and irritating; at other times it was subdued and appropriate.

At any rate, I wouldn't recommend spending theater dollars on this one. Rent it if you're curious.


 
Miscellany Part 1

Too much time has passed since the last post (*slaps self on wrist, then beats ankle viciously*). This week was a busy one, filled with time-consuming presentation prep at work (during which I attempted to soak up as much knowledge as I could about the pharmaceutical industry in general and infertility in particular) and more goings-on than I usually manage to fit in on weeknights.

On Wednesday I spontaneously attended the Beth Orton show after a friend's friend couldn't make it. I don't really know her work. When Trailer Park came out I remember hearing a few songs and not being turned off by them, but I haven't heard much since. The show was at Rosebud, a decent venue which is at once large enough to hold a crowd comfortably and small enough to feel intimate.

Karl Mullen, a fixture in the Pittsburgh music scene, opened the evening with a nice set of intense strumming, song, and saxophone. And then Ms. Orton came on, with a stand-up base player, cellist, and guitarist. I enjoyed it, but was disappointed that it was an entirely acoustic set (I was hoping to hear some groovy electronics). Ms. Orton, as evidenced by her on-stage banter, is witty and effervescent; of course her music didn't bear that out -- not an upbeat number in the bunch. By the end I was sleepy and my back hurt, another reminder that youth is no longer at my doorstep.


Tuesday, November 12, 2002
 
Trolling for Columbine

Went to see Bowling for Columbine last night. Not, of course, at the freakishly Disneyfied but insanely comfortable multiplex, but at the quaint neighborhood theater that makes my butt hurt when I sit in it for too long -- as was the sad case last night.

Despite the numbness in my nether regions, the movie was pretty good. I don't completely trust Michael Moore (never have), but the man is a master propagandist and entertainer, and his stuff if enjoyable to watch -- even if his tactics are often as subtle as a punch in the face.

In one segment, e.g., Moore displays on screen the number of annual gun-related deaths in several foreign countries, ending dramatically with the much higher U.S. number. But because it didn't bother to offer the slightest bit of context (like, how populous is the country in question?) the segment left me feeling as though I'd been sucked into a rhetorical vacuum. Now, I'm not saying that gun-related deaths aren't disproportionately higher in the U.S., but his numbers (as they often do) paint an incomplete picture weighted heavily toward his point of view.

I do admire Moore's interviewing style, and he has a knack for choosing subjects who aren't afraid to be themselves on camera. Among the wacky interviews in Bowling: Charlton "I love guns 'cause it's my right" Heston, a couple of bullet-ridden Columbine massacre victims who attempt to return said bullets to K-Mart, Marilyn Manson in a reflective mood, some "we're just normal people, really" militia dudes, a trio of peaceful Canadian teenagers, and a clueless PR lackey from Lockheed Martin (a major employer in the Littleton, CO area).

The one segment in which I was too glued to the screen to munch my popcorn involved a replay of surveillance camera footage from the Columbine massacre. It was thoroughly chilling. What struck me most was how choreographed it looked -- from the fluid sea of students moving swiftly into and out of their makeshift table-top shelters to the studied swagger of the killers as they scoped out the joint, I might have been watching the staging of a high school play.

The movie's biggest takeway, however, is that -- if Moore's Canadian subjects are representative of the populace at large -- our neighbors to the north appear to be much saner than we are. Where have you been all my life, Canada? (Starting Canadian grad school research posthaste.)


Sunday, November 10, 2002
 
Doing Something While Doing Nothing

36% complete of protein p208, in addition to 4 units of 137 and 2 units of 203. Will these be the proteins that revolutionize modern medicine? Time will tell...


Saturday, November 09, 2002
 
Fighting the Good Fight

Fancypants implemented a CSS-based layout sans HTML tables. If I can gain me some technical knowledge, I'd like to try it too.


 
Death to Pagerank, Long Live Folding

After ignoring it for weeks, I finally clicked the "New!" button on my Google toolbar. It seems I've been randomly selected to participate in a new Google initiative, enabled by said toolbar, which leverages the power of distributed computing to help scientists understand how proteins fold into shapes.

The romantic in me wishes I could toggle between helping the folders and SETI, but Google (at least initially) has a more noble cause to support. Future releases, they say, will support multiple projects.

(Interestingly, I tried to link to Google's FAQ page for the new program, but the ghost in the machine won't let me!) No ghosts, just me being foolish. Linkee works now.


Wednesday, November 06, 2002
 
Like Water

The Chronicle weighs in on the Bogdanov affair. Notable, if only for the fact that an MIT physics professor uses the phrase "ass backwards" in the article.


Monday, November 04, 2002
 
The Unbridgeable Gulf (in which I take generous liberties with the limerick form)

There was an inciter named Sokal
who laid bare the sins of a journal.
Whether for or against
his true aim was not sensed;
'twas really an hommage to Urkel.

* * *

Came across this today (via Robot Wisdom), which is serendipitous considering I'd just the other day been reconsidering the Sokal Affair (while reading a lengthy but well considered opinion piece I can't seem to find now). A little more digging unearthed this account of the new scandal, which closes tantalizingly with the author's admission that he can't disclose some new tidbit of information he's come across.

Seems that while pomo journals sometimes suffer from a lack of understanding of the subject matter they attempt to dissect, the referee process used by physics journals (or some of them, at any rate) isn't much of a process. More bloggy analysis here and here (scroll up to read more commentary).

These things that poke holes in the academic system are a source of endless fascination for me. Whither thou goest, and why? (And perhaps more importantly, why are there so many German-language sites devoted to Steve Urkel?)


Saturday, November 02, 2002
 
Unwhacked

My first googlewhack is no longer a googlewhack. :(


Friday, November 01, 2002
 
Conned

Teresa Nielsen Hayden posts an insightful analysis of why people fall for confidence games, along with some delicious examples of the recent Nigerian 419 scheme. Makes me thing fondly of one of my favorite movies, perhaps the only Mamet film I could watch again and again.


Thursday, October 31, 2002
 
Kittenful Indeed

Left some little lumpkins for Leuschke the other day, and he's finally responded. Perhaps because my constructions were too obtuse, and because I submitted each snippet separately and the context wasn't apparent, he didn't attempt to solve the mystery but looked outward instead. Here is how I should have submitted it to his aptly named "Say Anything" box:
chills like bright Della punts.
contortion or an option?
sleep kit.
Can you figure out what I was trying to say, and thus the source of these ramblings? If you enjoy partaking in such folly, try saying it aloud several times, stressing different syllables with each iteration. Email me (address in the sidebar) and I'll tell you if you're right!

Oh, and BOO to YOU! [insert sinister yet oddly compelling laugh here]


Tuesday, October 29, 2002
 
Living at the End of the World

Sure, everyone feels anxious sometimes. But for those whose sense of impending doom overwhelms them, there is often little else to turn to save the solace to be found in creating things. Such is the tale told by the remarkable coffee table book The End is Near: Visions of Apocalypse, Millennium and Utopia. Cataloging the exhibition of the same name (curated by the American Visionary Art Museum), Visions of the Apocalypse gives print space to outsider artists who focus on themes of apocalyptic destruction, and even closes with a tasty reprint of the Book of Revelation.

One of the artists represented therein, Paul Laffoley, believes (thanks to M.U.F.O.N., the book's bio implies) that a metal chip found in his brain is an alien nanotechnological laboratory. This mysterious chip is the source of his inspiration. From his 1967 painting Mind Physics - The Burning of Samsara:

MIND PHYSICS WHICH STEMS FROM THE THEORETICAL BASIS OF PHYSICAL RESEARCH PORTENDS THE HISTORICAL END OF A LOGICAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE FORMS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE: ART, PHILOSOPHY, SCIENCE, RELIGION WILL BE NO LONGER RELATED BY LOGICAL IMPLICATION OF SIMILAR CONCEPTS BUT THEY WILL BE THE SAME PRACTICE AND CONCEPT. MAGIC WILL ABSORB THE HISTORY OF EXTERNAL TECHNOLOGY SO THAT MAN WILL HAVE NO INTERFACE BETWEEN WILL AND ACHIEVEMENT BUT THE HUMAN NATURE: THEN BOREDOM WILL BE ENGINEERED.
More on Mr. Laffoley here (including pics of his intricately constructed painting The Orgone Motor and the interesting bio from the book), and more on this intriguing book later.



Sunday, October 27, 2002
 
Game Neverending Was Just That

Yesterday I finally got a cable modem. I'd been considering it for a while, and then my interest in playing the GNE via a faster connection tipped the decision into "favorable" territory. For the most part the installation process went smoothly; the only glitch came when I found that the install disk didn't work. Fortunately, a technical support specialist was able to talk me through a back-door install in 10 minutes, thus saving the day.

Or did he? The rest of the day, I'm sad to say, was given to a lengthy and intense GNE session. I've never played a massively multiplayer online thingy before, and this one is so intelligently conceived that I'm hooked. The game isn't even fully functional yet (it's still in alpha) but I can't bring myself to stop playing. So what is my high-speed Internet connection, really? A blessing or a curse? I'm beginning to suspect the latter.


Friday, October 25, 2002
 
Score One for Knowledge

Thank the gods! Arts & Letters Daily is back, having been saved by these guys.


Wednesday, October 23, 2002
 
This and That

I fixed the issue with the gray bar to the right; programmer-types (you know, the ones who have their monitor resolution set so high that items on the screen are just barely visible) were telling me that it got huge when they expanded their browser windows. (Away, huge gray bar!)

Here's a little something for everyone's inner programmer, as well as an amusing account of the wacked-out calls gamely fielded by NASA's public affairs office (both via SciTech Daily).


Tuesday, October 22, 2002
 
Disney Ambivalence, Part 2

One of Disney’s scarier recent initiatives is the creation of Celebration, an entire town devoted to the Disney lifestyle. The idea for Celebration came from Uncle Walt's dream of building an Experimental Prototypical Community of Tomorrow, which eventually became a theme park (EPCOT Center) instead. In the '90s, the Disney people turned Walt's utopian, Space Age dreams into a community bearing the well-intentioned tenets of New Urbanism as well as the problems that often come with trying something new and different.

My one glimpse of Celebration came when I was working as programs coordinator at the museum, where we happily took advantage of the fact that the Disney Institute was flying in Alloy Orchestra for a performance to stage one of our own. The caveat was that I would have to transport the band to and from Celebration, where the group was workshopping and performing.

What struck me most -- and I'm not sure why this came as a surprise -- is that Disney had managed to inject the artificiality of its parks (which work well for the parks, mind you) into a residential community. In Celebration, the design of every home, townhouse, and apartment building strictly adheres to one of the six approved town styles. The inclusion of different styles, instead of cultivating a diverse yet unified appearance, was stifling, as the styles played off each other in a disturbingly fluid manner. In the downtown area, the exterior of the theater where Alloy was to perform was awash in garish hot pink, a striking contrast to its minimalist design, and a successful attempt to bring the more overt qualities of the Disney brand to the heart of the town.

Soon after Celebration's opening, a husband-and-wife journalist team, and cultural theorist Andrew Ross (whom a friend in college was fond of calling "the annoying Andrew Ross"), moved briefly to the community to breath it in, live in it, and write books about it. A nice analysis of the books (and in turn, the town) can be found here; a more personal and equally good account of the author of that article's visit to the town is here.


 
The Reader and the Text

It's not fiction, but Ray's latest entry is itself an example of the "writerly" quality he explicates within. Writerly as compared, in an admittedly extreme example, to Lucky (a hard copy of which I perused at my friend's house last night, and found -- much to my dismay -- I couldn't put down; I finally threw it forcibly onto the couch in an effort to exorcise it from my increasingly soulless soul), with its overt and tantalizing readerliness.

Ray's may not be the easiest weblog read of the day -- requiring, as it does, a certain amount of mental stamina -- but the rewards greatly outweigh the effort (the effort being its own reward, sometimes). A side benefit is the pleasure found in watching him taunt his prey with a well-chosen word or phrase and finally skewering said prey with a damning argument too cogent to refute. (I'm terrified of him, personally.)

In fiction, I like to see the writerly and readerly bound interestingly into one text; I want to escape, but I also want to be challenged during the journey, as I was with Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. (Of course, when life stresses me out, I'm also prone to taking in purely escapist reads; hence my recent devouring of Kushiel's Dart.)

Disney Ambivalence, Part 2 is coming soon...


Sunday, October 20, 2002
 
Disney Ambivalence, Part 1

Cory links to The Sound of Magic, a site collecting and sharing music from the various Disney theme parks. Pity they don't catalog much of the older stuff; one of my most salient childhood memories involves the now defunct If You Had Wings ride in Tommorowland at Disney World, which I lived just over an hour away from.

Back when rides required tickets of varying degrees of expense my sister and I would make a beeline for "If You Had Wings," one of the scant free rides in the park. (I was also quite fond of the People Mover -- probably the most boring ride ever conceived -- simply because it was free.)

The theme song for "If You Had Wings," sung by a choir of celestial yet corporate sounding voices (the ride was sponsored by Eastern Airlines, and after that airline's demise, by Delta) became something of a standard for my sister and me, and we probably drove my parents nuts on the ride home with our attempts to recreate it.

I can’t say I’m entirely fond of what Disney has come to stand for, but having visited Disney World nearly every year during my formative years I can’t help but feel nostalgic about the park. The best site I’ve found to stoke the flames of nostalgia is Yesterland, which lovingly pays homage the rides of yore.

Listen to the “If You Had Wings” theme song (and read the wacky lyrics!) here.


Copyright 2002 Abbi Ball

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