Chamberpot of Secrets

August 30, 2008

I have 3 dogs, to which there is a long story.

We’ve always had working collie dogs. The latest in this line, Dog 1 (the eldest of the 3), was given to us as a stray. For a good long while he was fine, and we fussed over him, and cuddled and what not. Then one night he disappears, and we figure we’ve seen the last of him. Unfortunate, but c’est la vie.

Then we get a call – hes holed up at a neighbour’s a  mile or two down the road. Theres a bunch of other dogs there (but it wasn’t from there he strayed) and they don’t mind. So we bring him home. And he runs again. And again.

So he stays locked up during the day, with at least two very long walks for cattle herding. He still works, but you do like them to be able to do their own running around. We use all the little folk remedies we’ve heard on this subject, but nothing works.

This done, we decide to go for companionship, and we get a pup that was going spare. Dog 2 is a springer spaniel, atypically bred as a gun dog – hunt what falls, is not spooked by loud noises. He is a very good natured little chap who appears to have an irrational fear of people in dresses – not women in general you understand, just when they’re wearing dresses. I think he may have had some scarring encounter with a circus tent when he was very young. Not necessarily very intelligent as a cowdog – understands the concept of chasing not to kill, but is really bad at direction or cohesion – but that is not what hes bred for, and hes all cuddly and loveable. Leaps like he’s on a trampoline.

As such, Dog 3 is subsequently called into play. She was promised when we were looking for Dog 2, and we still need a working dog, which Dog 2 isn’t. 3 is the smallest of the bunch, a collie/mix which means shes also almost certainly the most intelligent of the three. Intellectually she is only behind a court cairn terrier we once had, ( Dog 0, if you will) and the resident rabbits and rats were driven before her tenacious will. Dog 3 is almost as intelligent, and can also do birds. She is an excellent cowdog, perhaps even as terrifying as Dog 1 despite her diminutive stature, or perhaps because of it, as she is prone to come out anywhere with flight and bark.

Dog 2 is so sweet-natured that, when we introduce the two and he is somewhat larger than Dog 3 and she is still very shy (which, in time, she overcame) he is very nice to the smaller dog, even giving her some of his bones. (Really. And shes been put out of heat, by the way). Dog 3 is so intellgent that, for fun, she works how to get out of her pen quite quickly, using both agility and patience. Dog 2 is so sweet natured that when she does this, he simply jumps over the wall and out of the pen, something which he could apparently do the whole time, merely saw no reason to.

And so, we introduce them to Dog 1. And while he doesn’t necessarily like Dog 2, he really likes 3.


And then he runs away. And so, we have 3 dogs for the purposes of keeping one, which has failed, and for the purpose of being cuddly little poppets, at which all three succeed famously. More next week.

On last week’s martian mineral madness:
NASA has announced that it has discovered perchlorates in soil
samples collected by its Phoenix robot lander. This suggests there
could possibly be Martian animals with perchlorate-fuelled
metabolisms, living off perchlorate-concentrating plants.

For those keeping score, twelve predictive rants mean the end of the world. And apparentl Irish meetings with the Danish says I’m right about a Lisbon Treaty reissue. Two down, ten to go.


Philosopher’s Scone

August 23, 2008

Finished Rookie – only a few on field deaths for the Krakens, and only one being devoured entirely by an alien race. Its a new direction for Sigler and I enjoyed it. Besides, Nocturnal is up and I’ve yet to listen to Infection which are, according to Sigler ‘topping Infection’ as his exponentially more violent story, which is always good to hear. Besides, his short stories are ust a click away.

The Olympics are just finishing up and I find myself watching things if they’re on in the background: windsurfing, ping-pong, triathlon, marksmanship, showjumping, women’s volleyball semi-finals, women’s volleyball finals, baton pass, etc.

Yeah, the Cuban volleyball team was overturned by the US in the semifinals in an astounding 3-0 victory of of a possible 5 matches. This is all the more astounding given that this is the score that the Cubans beat the US in the group matches, so the Us must have really brought things together, in the interim, with their Chinese coach, and then went on to defeat the Chinese team.

This obsession isn’t as perverted as it sounds, as volleyball and handball were the few sports I had some mediocre talent at in Phys Ed (less running around and so forth), and I can’t really sympathise with the men’s volleyball, being held on sand for some reason.

A mixture of coverage really: united in coverage on China, it varies on its accomplishments in hosting the games and its gaps in human rights violations. Like any culture, increased notoriety for a time is both a plus and a minus, just like its increased space program, and its patient national buying up of American national debt bonds. China is fast becoming the world power Firefly trumps it to be, even if there are no Asian people on that show/film.

Accomplishment, as the space race proved, is something to mark an important culture. It’ll be interesting to see how many burgeoning new space programs skip the Moon altogether and make a bid for the next step on Mars – a hamster, a chimp, whatever. This will bring up the issue of colony and conquest probably. I say probably, because I won’t live to see it of course, but after reading a lot of quite terrifying post nuke policies now available from the various circa 1950 defense departments, its strange how many contingencies are pre-planned.

There may be minerals, but it’ll be time out of mind until its economical and necessary to ship them back. There won’t be fossil fuels, but maybe there’ll be those WMDs.

Of course cultures than our own can appreciate moon travel. Why, its a well known fact that the first governmental-extraterrestial contact was in 1969 with the Venusians. Oh yes. While Aldrin and Armstrong were moonside, alien beings contacted Michael Collins (not to be mistaken with the other Michael Collins) and set up inter-species relations with him. Not with Armstrong or Aldrin of course – the Venusians are notorious for not respecting someone who would willing take the first step into alien territory.

And thats why Armstrong and Aldrin get Simpsons cameos and you never hear about Collins. Probably running Area 51. Yeah, thats it. No doubt he had something to do the robot Larry Hagman, the subterranean Gecko-folk and the many Vin Diesel clones we see these days.


Northern Brights

August 17, 2008

The Princess Bride; a strange book, but extremely witty and comedic.

The story is told as if written by an S. Morgenstern of an equally fictional land, which Goldman has ‘edited’ for the good parts. Those who’ve seen the film will be familiar with the premise – a father reading to bedbound son (editing for excitement) a tale of excitement and miracles.

Goldman works over a lot of thinking amid his hilarity. The concepts of happy endings, narrative imperative, exaggeration, love, skill and time. If its fairytale preachy, it does it with style, and ultimately comes out like Voltaire’s Candide: the concept that the fast must get old, good looks fade, arguments must arise among lovers and we all must, in time, tend our own gardens.

In other lit interest, after listening to the podiobook Ancestor by Scott Sigler I’ve been listening to some of his other works. I have listened to Earthcore, am listening to Rookie, will listen to Infected and am eagerly awaiting Earthcore 2 : Mt. Fitzroy.

Much like J C Hutchins, he has a talent for seizing on the known, the unknown, the barely conceivable and entirely inconceivable. Also, there is a lot of death, blood, bloody death, deathy blood, all of which coming from the blindspot. Kicking it Stephen King style, the violence is debilitatingly detialed and unpredictable, which is where the real horror comes from.

I’m liking Rookie so far. Its different to Earthcore and Ancestor ( which were monster killers chasing widowers who worked for corporations ) and, quite scarily, nobody has died in 12 episodes. Given that Sigler usually gets in a slaughter or explosion in by chapter 2, this is unsettling. There can only be a massacre on the horizon.

Its still quite violent of course. Its Sigler. And it is about football.

Its the American kind, but on other worlds, played by their inhabitants. I know that sounds terrible, but Sigler seems to be making it not only work, but bloom. Think Remember the Titans meets Star Trek. Usually trying to follow football terms makes me want to gnaw of my own arm, and thats when I can see them on screen. Sigler, however, has succeeded thus far at making come alive as a sport, rather than the usual thing of necessity, happy incident, a montage of the team winning, a bad incident, a montage of the team losing, a near victory, then a hooray.

As with all podcasters, he uses tech to spread the word – blogs, second life, podsafe bands, bonus shows, cross promotion, facebook, etc. The print transition continues, the books becoming available as Sigler has seized a highly loyal fanbase. Much like Mur Lafferty’s impending publicated Playing for Keeps and Matthew Wayne Selznick’s Brave Men Run, a podcasted work doesn’t seem to compromise the print work, but rather creates a fanbase waiting for it such as when Sigler’s print Ancestor came out on April 1st and reached 7th on Amazon’s top bought on that day, by co-ordinated fan power. As with all podcasters, fans become street team promoters, creators of original/complimentary content in the visual and tech arenas. The tight fan community is mirrored in the creator community with seemingly every podcaster reading ‘previously on rookie’, interviewing sigler, doing promos and playing a first chapter or two in their shows.

. . . .

Go Ionath Krakens!

The Amber Shotglass

August 8, 2008

Emma has arrived!

Alas, a problem, ( once again my fault, as have been all the other misadventures in book ordering, not my book shop’s); So excited I was in getting the concept across to the person I was ordering from that I wasn’t looking from a Jane Austen novel, and that it was on their ordering list, that I forgot to say vol1.

Instead, I got vol 5. I understand of who, what, when and where, the art is beautiful, the dialogue emotive – whether its comedy, tragedy or moe – and its got one of the funniest artist’s afterthoughts I’ve read in a manga. Doesn’t smell as nice as Del Ray manga, (printed by CMX, who now do my beloved Megatokyo), but beautiful overall. So Emma is something I’ll be puttering away at over the next several rounds of Christmas and birthday book shopping.

I liked Hellboy alot – the sheer originality of character made fighting undead nazis and the cthulu mythos new again. The dialogue alone was worth it, bleanding well with the panelling for effect, eg:

[Hellboy spends several frames beating nine types of frag out of a frog dude, and getting it knocked of him in turn. They fall from a balcony and Hellboy stands over the unconscious amphibian]

Hellboy: “Well . . . thats all for you!”

Hellboy thinks: “It now seems unlikely I will discover anything of Miss Sherman’s whereabouts from the transformed butler.”


[Hellboy starts fighting back]

Hellboy thinks: “I feel myself starting to get angry.


Sometimes I can accomplish more that way.”

[Hellboy gets tossed sideways]

“Sometimes not.”

I liked it as an origin story that didn’t tell me everything but set the character and the genre sufficient to leave me hungering for more.

Picking up Emma, I also got Starship Troopers and the Princess Bride (William Goldman’s abridged version) – the last of my birthday/grad celebration shopping, I assure you.

Haven’t read TPB yet, though I remember the movie as but a boy. The book seems very witty, pithy and adventurous, so I’m hoping for a good ride.

Starship Troopers leaves me somewhat ambiguous. Without a doubt its one of the greatest military fictions I’ve ever read, of course,  and definitely the best sci-fi military fiction I ‘ve read (I haven’t read Ender’s Game or Slaughter House Five yet), but, when considered alongside his other works, I’m left to think that either he is a satirical master, embracing a mindset of the laughably conservative, making it real, or he’s the biggest crypto-facist sci-fi series since the Lensman works. Women are in space but pilots only – no ladies in the Mobile Infantry, an organisation which Heinlein states over and again fights for the protection of women in particular, etc.

Given that its Heinlein, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt.

In terms of the film (lets pretend the sequel didn’t happen), its much like Shawshank Redemption – the film tied together variant themes, characters, plots, while keeping the heart of the novella, within reason. Its Heinlein, so if its one of his top works it stans head and shoulders above many others.

The book also has many things a film obviously couldn’t afford; powered armour capable of flight, open air atomic explosions, being shot onto the planet in iron eggs from in orbit spacecraft, etc. Awesome.

Next Week: The Princess Bride (probably)

The Dark Knight

August 2, 2008


An excellent contribution to Nolan’s Batman series. I know its hyped to heck with death of Heath Ledger, but that doesn’t take away from its deserved pole position.

The returning actors – Bale, Caine, Freeman, Oldman, Murphy, etc. put on a very good show, and Maggie Gyllenhaal steps surprisingly seamlessly to replace Rachel Holmes character from the first film. Ledger’s Joker is a definitive one – a mix of the Dark Knight Returns and the Killing Joke. He really can do comedy.

Indeed, all the ensemble get some development, though there is a little strange curve ball of Alfred’s ‘little work for the Burmese government.’ Not to denigrate Alfred’s oldschool cool, of course. The cast , when the opening features a star of Prison Break going down – you know nobody is safe.

Harvey Dent’s role is strangely bewitching. The concept that Batman desires to hand Gotham over to a white knight more effective than his playboy Bruce Wayne, and purer than his dark one, thats a clever one, and brings the love story into higher relief more subtly than many superhero movies are doing at the moment. The CGI for his disfiguration is immaculate, much more than I’d expected.

The role of justice dominates throughout the piece. Particularly, there are some not-so-subtle references to extraordinary rendition and phone monitoring in the face of terrorism. The dark role of Batman, and the fine line he walks exists, ultimately, as something that has to be disavowed, blamed, chased and feared.

The twists and turns do get a bit repetitive after a time, particularly in a 3 hour movie, especially in those that either condemn or redeem humanity. But the overall sense of shifting terror only builds throughout. We know, by the point of the film’s conclusion, that the clowns are captives and vice versa, before we have to be told. But, we also know the ferry’s occupants won’t kill each other. When the biggest, baddest, scariest prisoner on the boat asks for the trigger, you know hes going to toss it out the window. We didn’t know things at the start of the movie. It changed the way we thought for a brief time. Interesting.

Oh, and the Bat-pod? Best Bat-Bike ever.

Spoilers end.

Book Update: Red Son and Hellboy, Seed of Destruction received – Emma still en route. Picked up Heroes graphic novel (the online comics accompanying the tv show) and Robert Rankin’s The Da-De-Da-Da Code book. More on those stories next week.