Saturday, August 11, 2007

Recent recommendations

In no particular order, here are bits of media I commend to your attention. I'm sure I've mentioned some of them previously, but I felt like doing a brain dump, so here you go:

Book: Black Man, Richard K. Morgan
The U.S. version bears the title Thirteen, presumably for the same reason the U.S. version of the British TV show, Spooks, bears the name, MI-5. If you don't know Morgan's work, give him a try. This one is a fine place to start, but so is Altered Carbon. Think Gibson of the Neuromancer era sharpened to a finer noir edge.

Video: Hustle
This British show won't strain your brain or teach you major life lessons, but it will keep you tracking the plot and entertain you enormously. A family favorite here.

Movie: Curse of the Golden Flower
Mara brought this over for Chinese and Chinese tonight, and it was big fun. Part court intrigue, part costume drama, and a small part martial arts flick--who could resist flying monkey men screaming down from the sky?--I enjoyed this one from start to finish. Its sets are amazingly beautiful, as is the framing of practically every shot.

Video: MI-5
I mentioned it earlier, and I've probably mentioned it here before, but for my money this is one of the best shows going. Start with the first season, and you'll quickly buy all the box sets.

CD: Stand in the Fire, Warren Zevon
I miss Zevon. The last song on his last album can tear my heart apart, but sometimes I have to listen to it anyway. This CD is a new issue of a live show that was hard to find for a very long time, and it showcases many of Zevon's best-known songs. I never got to see him live, so this is as close as I'll get. His hair was perfect.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fair is fair

Sarah stopped the streak at nine and won the rock paper scissors title for day.

I'll be back!

I always wanted to live in a library

Growing up, I loved books. I still do. I thought the coolest thing in the world would be to live in a library, where books you loved were all around you.

To a significant degree, I've realized that dream. I live in a large house full of books, and they're everywhere--on many, many bookcases, in stacks on tables, all over the place. I love the look of the books, the feel of many of them, and, of course, reading them. I buy too many, but I don't care; they're joyful objects.

There's just one problem: I forgot to include a librarian in my dream. The reason the books are everywhere is filing time--well, that, and bookcase room, but I'm always working on that.

Infrastructure will get you every time.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The count is 9

Nine days of rock paper scissors competitions with Sarah, that is, nine days in which I have triumphed each day while she has gone for the loss.

Sad, sad.

Not that I'd gloat.

Apple's new iMacs

As tech geeks everywhere know, yesterday Apple announced its revamped iMacs. At one level, the announcement is a yawn: the iMacs remain all-in-one units that cost more than PCs and run Mac OS X. So what, big deal.

Except that they're beautiful: sleek, small footprint, aluminum and glass, and all the computing power most people need. Everyone knows that Apple excels at physical design, and with the iMacs they've done it again.

I don't understand why other PC vendors can't design equally attractive units. Sure, great design usually translates into units that command premium prices, but every major vendor now offers premium units, so why not well-designed systems?

I use MacBook Pro and Dell XPS notebooks every day. Both were top-of-the-line the day I got them, and they cost about the same. The Mac is simply more pleasant to use, feels slightly to significantly faster depending on the application I'm running, looks niftier, runs cooler, and weighs two pounds less.

I wonder how big Apple's market share has to become before Dell and HP and Gateway and Lenovo will start paying attention.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mortimer B. Ruggles

may be one of the funniest names ever. (I mean no offense, by the way, to any living people with the name Mortimer B. Ruggles; that's just how it is.)

The fact that he helped John Wilkes Booth attempt to escape after the assassination--something I did not know until my daughter told me about it while recounting bits of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, a book she's currently reading--in no way lessens the name's appeal.

Mortimer alone is wonderful and enough to make me smile.

Adding B. Ruggles simply tugs the smile into a grin.

Or maybe that's just me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Shins don't wow me, but Bourne was fun

I know that in Garden State a character told us this group would change our lives. I know that Wincing the Night Away is supposed to be hot. But, after listening to it and to Oh Inverted World, I just can't get excited about their music. It's nice enough, and the titles are clever, but I can pick up only snatches of lyrics, and the mellow sound of every song strikes me as repetitive.

The latest Bourne film, The Bourne Supremacy, by contrast did favorably impress me. It's far from perfect, with flaws such as Bourne's near invulnerability and intermittent limp, fight scenes that go on way too long, the always jumpy camera, and so on, but it's a lot of fun and an impressive velocity exercise that manages to mix in more than a dash of heart. Check it out if you haven't already.

Monday, August 6, 2007


I'm going to miss Bouchercon this year, and that's a shame. I've no real room to complain, mind you; I'm traveling more than anyone should, and I'm getting to attend WorldCon in Japan and roam the country a bit.

What I miss about Bouchercon is that every attendee I've met reads, loves books, and actively wants to listen to authors. Every panel I've attended has drawn a big crowd. The dealer's room is almost entirely books, and people seem, at least to me, to be buying plenty of them. (I certainly purchase my share.)

Contrast this with most SF conventions, where many attendees are there only for the socializing or media, many can't remember the last SF book they've read, panels for all but the biggest authors frequently draw tiny numbers, and the dealer's rooms are usually more than half full of tables selling things other than books. To be fair, hardcore readers definitely attend SF cons, buy books, and so on. Also, some conventions, such as World Fantasy Con and ReaderCon, draw a more reading-oriented crowd.

All that said, the rank-and-file mystery fans read and love reading, and I wish the same were more true of the SF crowd.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Steve Hickman is doing the cover for Slanted Jack

and I'm quite happy and thankful, both to Steve for doing it and for Toni for assigning the job to Steve.

Because I'm not yet done with the book, I couldn't simply email Steve a completed ms. So, he and I spoke at length Thursday night about Slanted Jack, its characters, some possible cover scenes, the general plot, and so on. Steve chose a scene and a composition to pursue, and I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with it.

If you don't know Steve's work, you probably haven't been reading much SF for the last three decades, but you can check out a small sample of at his site.

I was also pleased to hear Steve's reaction to what I told him of the book. He was very enthusiastic, which is always nice.

Yeah, I know: how sad and desperate are we writers for affirmation?



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