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18. Checkmate, by Dorothy Dunnett
19. Making Comics, by Scott McCloud
20. Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog!), by Jerome K. Jerome
21. To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
22. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
23. Rip-Off: A Writer's Guide to Crimes of Deception, by Fay Faron
24. Midnight Never Come, by Marie Brennan
25. Bellwether, by Connie Willis
26. Fire and Hemlock, by Diana Wynne Jones

Currently reading: Beggars in Spain, by Nancy Kress

Okay, comments on all these individually below the cut. )
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14. Pawn in Frankincense, by Dorothy Dunnett
15. The Ringed Castle, by Dorothy Dunnett
16. Dororo book 1, by Osamu Tezuka
17. Too Like The Lightning, by Ada Palmer

Currently reading: Checkmate, by Dorothy Dunnett

In queue:
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
Ash: A Secret History, by Mary Gentle (totally counting this as 4 books, just btw)
Jaques the Fatalist and His Master, by Denis Diderot

If I want to stay on track to hit 50, then I'd need to reach 25 by the end of June, which seriously doesn't look likely at this point. Not that this is a bad thing; the books I have been reading are all extremely good, very long, very dense, or all of the above. Probably things will pick up a bit once I wrap up the Lymond Chronicles, but it's not like the slow pace is due to a lack of time spent reading.

As for thoughts on books read... Dunnett remains absolutely excellent. I wasn't super-wowed by The Ringed Castle, but Pawn in Frankincense was absolutely amazing, and I'm really looking forward to the finale. I love that, as I get closer to the end, I start being able to see and recognize all the major plot structures that have been building since the very beginning. In particular, the plot thread which -- without being spoilery -- I can only characterize as the polar opposite of a romance is absolutely wonderful.

In only slightly related news, Rice Boy has actually, at long last, concluded. If you haven't read it, correct that fact IMMEDIATELY -- the best description I've heard of it is that it's like dark epic fantasy as told by Doctor Seuss.

Seriously, go go go read it.

Book #13

Apr. 5th, 2008 09:49 am
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The Disorderly Knights, by Dorothy Dunnett

Excellent book, which does a great job of seriously raising the stakes in the series -- it works beautifully as a midpoint. My only problem with it, in fact, is that I read the back cover description, which is an ENORMOUS SPOILER like OMG. Seriously: if you ever plan to read this book, don't read the back cover.

Next up in queue, of course, are the remaining 3 Lymond Chronicles (halfway through Pawn in Frankincense now), followed by Alexa's loaned copy of To Say Nothing of the Dog, followed by Lis's loaned copy of Ash: A Secret History.

I suppose you could also count the volume of Blame! that I read last night, but I wouldn't, since a) manga volumes take like 40 minutes to read at most, and b) this one took even less time than that since there was i) practically no dialogue at all and ii) I couldn't make head or tails of most of the artwork anyway. Excellent atmosphere, but I literally have no clue what's going on.

Anyway, in related news: Lymond is totally Loki. Like, not just in the sense that he's obviously a brilliant trickster-figure that everybody thinks is evil. This clicked into place for me a few nights back, and I realize now that there are so many parallels and comparisons that it cannot possibly be accidental. To phrase this without any spoilers: I'm now wondering whether the MacGuffin of Pawn will turn out to play a parallel role to its counterpart in Norse mythology.

50 books?

Mar. 25th, 2008 09:29 pm
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Seeing [livejournal.com profile] lowellboyslash's post about book-reading volume reminds me that, given the amount I read while commuting to/from work these days, I think I've got a genuinely good shot at reading 50 books this year. Given that I also want to be posting more often, I figured I should formalize this endeavour, and try and comment on what I read.

I'm not going to do individual reviews for everything I've already done, but I do want to record them all now, so I can keep count. Future updates should have real reviews/criticisms attached. Aren't you excited? I'm excited.

the first dozen )
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At the risk of turning this journal into a link-dump, I wanted to share this story I found: The 21 Steps.

What I find interesting is that the storytelling method is genuinely unique: it's a spy story told via Google Maps. And it doesn't take the easy road, of just using screenshots of Google Maps as illustrations: it actually turns the software itself into its storytelling medium. Narratologists in the audience, there's some really interesting stuff going on here.

The story itself is fun, though definitley a bit too short to be a really satisfying espionage tale, but it's definitely worth checking out just for the execution.
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Do you like Brawl? If so, we should totally swap Brawl friend codes! So we can play online! I played earlier this week with the Warmice, and it was much fun.

Relatedly: there do actually exist *good* Brawl webcomics. Here are some that I've found!

this one is okay

not super funny, but neat artwork

pretty much every Smash Brothers comic in this archive is gold. Worth reading the whole thing.
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Just in case I missed anybody on my recent calling blitz: given that everybody I usually hang out with is either away on spring break or at Anime Boston this weekend, I have been considering that there is absolutely no good reason why I could not pop down to NYC for a day or so to see the people I like there. This is still tentative, but the plan I was considering is to take a bus or train down tomorrow morning, and return early Sunday afternoon.

[livejournal.com profile] khyros has already, very generously, offered a place to stay for Saturday night, but I don't want to impose on his hospitality for the entire time, so whether I make this journey depends entirely on whether a sufficient number of other people would be interested and available to hang out for parts of the time.

So: if you're in New York City and would like to grab a meal or just hang out for a bit (show me the cool parts of the city?) this weekend, let me know! I'd love to see people!

EDIT: Due to lack of response (what, people, three hours isn't enough time for you?), I think that it makes sense to not do crazy impromptu trip. But I still want to see people! Will people be in the city next weekend if I came down then?

Note: LiveJournal for some reason has stopped forwarding received comments to my email, so while I will be checking this entry periodically, the best way to reach me is definitely to call me.
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We momentarily interrupt our ongoing coverage of The Dark Tower to bring you this special report on Dorothy Dunnett's The Game of Kings, as recommended here, which I finished reading about ten minutes ago:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

We apologize for the interruption, and assure you that normal obsessive and pretentious geekery will resume on schedule.
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So, I finished reading Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Nearly two weeks ago now, in fact. And I've been wanting to record my thoughts on it, but haven't really known where to start.

The short version for bored people: The Dark Tower series is really, really good. I don't care what preconceived notions you may have about fantasy, westerns, Stephen King or any of it, you need to at least pick up the first book and give it a shot. I'm still trying to decide whether it belongs on the list of works I will recommend to people unconditionally -- that is, the works that no matter who you are or what you usually read, you should read and will enjoy -- but it's firmly on the list of works I will unconditionally recommend that people at least try. At this point, I'm still willing to say that if you don't like the first book you may not like the whole series, but it's definitely in consideration for the category of "just keep reading until it grabs you by the throat because that will happen sooner or later." (For context and reference, works in this latter category include Tezuka's Phoenix, Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, The Time Traveler's Wife, Gundam Seed, Monster, "Digger" and *maybe* one or two other things that escape my memory -- it's not a long list.)

The reason it's taken me so long to sit down and write this -- aside from, you know, schedule issues with work and all that -- is that I just needed to get some distance from the series. The Dark Tower is BIG. It's seven books long, and except for the first one we're talking Stephen-King-sized tomes. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the total page count topped 5,000. So it was the project of a month and a half to read it all, starting the very beginning of January and putting down the last book right before Valentine's Day.

Aside from physical size on the shelf, however, the real glory of the Dark Tower series is that King is wildly successful at making the story itself feel big, huge, important, and Real. The first book, The Gunslinger, is set in a vast desert, and the action consists almost entirely of this one guy walking in a straight line across the desert on the trail of this other guy. Occasionally there are other people. At one point there is a flashback. Obviously, at this stage of the game the plot itself isn't going to be winning many readers, but the book pulls you in because of the atmosphere. To shamelessly steal an observation from someone I talked with at Vericon, King makes the desert feel vast and (as he describes it) "the apotheosis of all deserts," relying not on crutches like capitalization or metaphor (e.g. " the Desert") but just by the simplicity of his language.

As you get further into the series, however, Plot starts to happen and actual characters are introduced, and it becomes clear that the story of the Dark Tower takes place across many different worlds, including our own. The protagonist's quest is to reach the Tower, which stands at the center of all the worlds and, more or less, supports the universe. Just that last bit, successfully executed, would make for an excellent fantasy novel, but what brings the Dark Tower slamming home is that the alternate-worlds device itself feels utterly believable. King makes you want to believe that our world is genuinely part of the universe of the Dark Tower, and I actually found myself looking up details like what buildings stand at which addresses in New York City, just to see whether they were the same as the ones the heroes visited.

The Dark Tower succeeds because it is, bar none, the single best piece of escapist fiction I've ever even heard of. It achieves that by not asking us to believe that there is magic behind every corner, or that we ourselves might be the Chosen Ones and whisked off to a great destiny or wizard school or whatever. With one specific exception, King goes out of his way to not disallow the possibility that we are, in fact, already included in his world. So, what he gives us is a truly great story, full of heroism and friendship and danger and glory and all that stuff, but it is a story where we don't have to *wish* that we could be a part of it, because we already are.

So, yeah. Read the Dark Tower. Trust me.


*One minor footnote: the people that I know who have read the full series are divided into two camps: people who love the entire thing, and people who loved it but hated the ending. As near as I can tell, the people in the latter group are the ones that read beyond the author's note just before the very end of the seventh book, where King basically says "I didn't want to write any more, but SOME people just HAVE to have EVERY LITTLE DETAIL explained to them, so if you MUST know what actually HAPPENED in the end, read on, but don't say I didn't warn you." I stopped reading there, for instance. So when you get to that point, I would strongly recommend just putting the book down and enjoying the ending King wanted to give you.

**Additional footnote: there is another entry coming, in which I want to talk more specifically about what I liked and disliked without worrying about spoilers, but I'm not sure when that will arrive.

***Footnote the third: if you have not yet read [livejournal.com profile] swan_tower's recommendation of The Dark Tower, then I do suggest you check it out, as it was one of the deciding factors in getting me to pick it up in the first place. Hopefully between the two of us we can convince you.
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Hopefully this time the questions will be slightly more answerable; last round was disappointing. If you're still (somehow) new to this: no resources outside your own memory allowed. Go!

1. You're at a tremendously boring party with a hostess who keeps pressing drinks into your hand and this guy who keeps trying to give you a piece of fluff he found. Who are you?

2. Before you had a chance to win him over to your side, he was killed by a German airstrike. Who is about to exact your punsihment?

3. You've just deserted from the Easter Rising with your brother, and now you're lying undead in a ditch. What's your first name?

4. Two undead hyenas have just been bludgeoned to death by a patch of vampiric squash. To whom does this come as bad news?

5. After foiling the plans of a paranoiac llama farmer, dismantling a set of airport speakers and successfully securing a plane ticket, you are served a bowl of poisonous llama stew. What vital statistic should you be concerned with?
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I've been enjoying the iterations that other people have posted, so I'm taking a turn writing one. If you've not seen this before, the challenge is to answer as many as possible out of your own head, without any reference materials or googling.

1. In roughly what century are you likely to encounter an Anne Droid?
2. What did Moozh marry?
3. Against what power are the stick-eaters arrayed?
4. What instructions appear in the sky at Frog Rock?
5. Who are the parents of Dr. G. E. B. Kivistik? And, for bonus points, what do the initials stand for?

Answers will be added in invisible ink after they are guessed. Good luck!
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I can't tell whether the people upstairs were just having incredibly violent, bed-slamming sex, or whether someone was stomping around with a screaming baby. It was an odd combination of noises, either way.


UPDATE: Unless the chick upstairs orgasms with a continuous, seconds-long, ridiculously high pitched screech while her partner simultaneously stomps around the bed in a victory dance, it's looking like it was a baby. Though, I suppose that bed-banging sex could have woken up the baby and made it screech, causing the father to stomp around in annoyance. But I may be thinking too much about it at this point.
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.ecap fo egnahc a fo tib a roF

!oooooooW )
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Brief life update, since I've been sort of incommunicado for those not in direct personal contact with me.

My work pushed my start date back two weeks to the beginning of July, so my parents flew me home to California for a week and a half. This is where I am now. It's really wonderful to see Mom and Dad again, and being here is reaffirming my belief that this is where I want to move back to... more specifically, that this is where I want to settle down. But that's still a few years off, since my plan is to stay in Boston for at least a couple of years. So it's not that I'm totally bored here, like one might expect. I'm actually enjoying myself just fine. But I really, really miss [livejournal.com profile] tiamat360, more than I usually do after only this long a separation. I think what it is is that a couple days ago I was looking through the pictures that Dad took at commencement, and suddenly came to one of her without warning -- it was a really good picture of her, and it sort of caught me by surprise. So I'm really looking forward to getting back to Cambridge on Thursday, even though it means giving up this increasingly nice house (they got the pool resurfaced this spring!) for a tiny little apartment.

Speaking of apartments... Mom and I have been spending a lot of time shopping (or just browsing) for apartment stuff. We picked out a bed and mattress, and actually went ahead and bought a classy-looking comforter and nice set of sheets today. I'll be getting a full bed when I move into my and [livejournal.com profile] dergnoam's apartment in August, and that's way more exciting to me than I can really justify. We've also been looking around at kitchen stuff, since we'll have a real, full kitchen, and I intend to make good use of it.

On which topic, I've been taking full advantage of Mom's gorgeous new kitchen during my time here, to test out a bunch of new recipes on her tab and with high-quality equipment. Thus far, I've made chicken teriyaki and chicken fried rice, and Rae and I collaborated tonight to make bread pudding. Upcoming projects include a second trial of pad thai (which [livejournal.com profile] weirdquark and I made right before I left Cambridge) and a quiche with carmelized onions (which I intend to learn to carmelize myself).

While home, I've also picked up my guitar again. If the hard-sided case we ordered online arrives in time, I'll be bringing back my acoustic to Cambridge with me, but for now I've been playing around with my electric, which is a hell of a lot of fun. I think that, the last time I really had access to it, I wasn't nearly as into the kind of music that's good to play on electric, but now, having played Guitar Hero halfway to death, I'm having a blast. And yes, I am trying to learn to play several GH songs for real, but it's a lot harder. My big project right now is the riff from "Heart Full of Black." Kickass song, but deceptively difficult -- there's a lot of really fast back-and-forth movement along the fretboard. Much easier is the riff (and indeed the chords) from "Bright Future in Sales," which is sort of my ironic totem song of the moment (as I do, in fact, have a new computer). With any luck, I'll be able to get my electric out east sometime not too far in the future, though it remains a question whether it's more economical to somehow get my amp out there too, or just buy a new one.

Aaaand... that's what's up with me. A lot of mundanity, but I manage to be excited about it anyway.
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I didn't realize I was describing myself as "shy" and "modest," particularly. Perhaps you can help correct its misinterpretation?

I never claimed to be above memes )
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I've added short selections taken from the middle of the songs that have not yet been guessed in the music quiz. See if you can get any of them, now!

(And then: make your own quizzes so that I can play!)
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Cause I needed something else to do for a bit, and these are fun to make. Answers will be collected in the next post, but you may want to make your guesses before reading the comments, to avoid spoiling yourself.

This one will hopefully be a tiny bit more geared to my audience than the one last summer, in terms of music selection.

EDIT: I replaced song 7, because it was just too difficult/obscure. It was "Gin and Tonic and a Red, Red Rose." See if you can guess what it is now!

Have fun! )
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Here is what I am taking:

Folk & Myth 99 - Senior Tutorial (i.e. thesis)

Japanese Literature 123 - Manga (the sourcepack has Astro Boy on the cover!) - Pass/Fail (also, with [livejournal.com profile] tiamat360!)

Music 3 - Foundations of Tonal Music II (a continuation of Music 2, which was awesome)

Religion 1513 - History of Harvard and its Presidents (with the Rev. Prof. Gomes, who remains my favorite lecturer) - I may or may not take this one P/F, too, just because I can.


Total: 9 hours of class a week, hopefully only two of those before noon.
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