Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ephemera 2009 (7)

-- Better Off Ted handily fills my entertainment requirements for 22 minutes. Good geek comedy.

-- (Sawyer thinks) >> (Jack reacts). Somebody's being very meta over at Lost. Much to my approval.

-- In just two days, the file-syncing software Dropbox has revolutionized my workflow. Dead easy to use, great interface, solid tutorials and guides. I love it.

-- For what it's worth, I cannot believe I just used the word "workflow."

-- Despite my unhealthy love of my Kindle, I recently spent lunch in a used bookstore Chris Downey found near work, and bought a couple vintage 1948 hardcover mysteries. Not much on style, but man those bastards could plot.

-- It turns out there IS a maximum number of pages you can type per day. Ow.

-- I rarely do follow-ups on the mini-posts, but I've mentioned the Lovecraftian police procedural The Translated Man (also available on Kindle) before, and it deserves more than that glancing blow. There was a day reading this that I wanted to be able to read faster, because I wanted it in my brain faster. Blind sonar-using forensic maidens! Teen sidekicks practicing forbidden geometries! A skin disease that turns you invisible! Foppish gentlemen detectives dual-wielding pistols! A frank discussion of the shortcomings of adding a third leg to your shuffling undead behemoth! The heroes fight frikkin' science crimes. I WANT TO GO TO THERE.

-- Setting aside my innate fondness for Wil Wheaton, his series of posts about DM-ing a game of Dungeons & Dragons for his son and his friends pleases me to no end. They are, in the end, about a father sitting down at a kitchen table, for hours, teaching and telling stories with his son.

-- The news that there is now a retractable version of the Uniball Vision pen matters to no one ... except those few of us to whom it matters more than our mother's love.

-- There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

91 comments:

Rebecca said...

You're never too old for Mama to give you a smackdown! More than your mother's love, indeed.

I do, however, like the sound of The Translated Man. I am very curious about the types of crime that "Only a drug-addicted detective and a young man with a gift for mathematics have the means to solve".

kinesys said...

Aw. Why you gotta go bust Ms. Rand.

I read Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged when i was in high school and i thought she had a lot to say about artistic integrity that i needed to hear at that point in my life. I do suspect that she would be horrified at the way capitalism has turned.
I do think that Objectivism is better used as a tool kit for philosophy than a whole philosophy of itself. But then i think that covers a LOT of philosophies.

I do think they could use more Orcs though.

R.A. Porter said...

Damn you, Rogers. I was making that "wind it up" motion *to myself* for the couple of seconds it took to read your Rand joke. That construct's getting pretty ripe and it was obvious where you were going, except I didn't know what your punchline would be. Amazing that a clam can still make me laugh just by ending on the word "orcs".

Well done.

Vince said...

I stumbled onto a trove of G.H. Coxe titles in a used book store a few years ago and snapped 'em all up. Engines of pure story.

Richard Jensen said...

When I was fourteen, you know what I read in lieu of "Rings" and "Atlas"?
"The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" by Harlan Fracking Ellison!
That's some literary Mother's Milk for you.

Dorkman said...

Re: Translated Man -- you had me at "Lovecraftian." And it's only four bucks for Kindle!

Rogers said...

Amazing that a clam can still make me laugh just by ending on the word "orcs".

Sometimes you need a fancy joke. sometimes you just reach into the toolbox and pull out the 3/4 inch wrench.

Michael Clear said...

I'm curious as to whether or not you liked "Kings" since you spoke well of it before it premiered.

And Richard Jensen, I too spent my formative years on a diet of Harlan Ellison. the only drawback being that I compare everyone and everything I don't like to Cotton Mather.

Richard Jensen said...

"the only drawback being that I compare everyone and everything I don't like to Cotton Mather".

With me, it's a gift for hyperbole and deeply conflicted feelings whenever I watch a Brian DePalma film.

John Seavey said...

High school? Neil Gaiman, branching out into Alan Moore and Terry Pratchett.

Junior high? Weis and Hickman.

Ayn Rand? After reading about her actual life, it's kind of hard to take her philosophy seriously.

(Hey wow. My word verification was an actual word. "Lions".)

Erik said...

I don't want to be a nit-picky jerkwad, but the 30 Rock quote is actually "I want to go to there". The extra "to" gives it that extra funny childish air, which it technically is since Tina Fey got it from her daughter when she first saw a Disney World ad.

Chris said...

Retractable. Uniball. Vision.

John Rogers, I think I love you you, sir...

The Minstrel Boy said...

rogers, just want to give a shout out for life changing books.

i gave "the first law" trilogy to my 17 year old niece. this is a girl who grew up at the same rate as harry potter and she is enthralled.

give your teenagers abercrombie and watch the joy ensue.

say one thing about abercrombie, say he's damned good.

Dan said...

For me it was Ellison's "Repent Harlequin, said the TickTockman". Never thought about time in the same way after that. Never wore a watch again, either.

Rogers said...

don't want to be a nit-picky jerkwad, but the 30 Rock quote is actually "I want to go to there".

Thanks, fixed. fuzzy-headed posting.

Glen said...

I love your Ayn Rand summation, but the fact is that at 14, the books that changed my life were - oddly enough - Asimov's Foundation, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, and Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. At 16, The Fountainhead struck me as a good book with a morally reprehensible theme.

gwangung said...

USed to think more highly of Rand (but not to the point of being a fan); there were some points that got me to thinking.

Recently, I came across this essay:
http://michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm

That's just CREEPY.

Theliel said...

Ann Rand's (sp bt whatever) ideal man was a sociopathic child kidnapper/rapist/murder.

Objectavsism is also completely at odds with free market theory and natural selection (see: going galt. I know it's from fountian head, but whatever).

Theliel said...

also, the books that changed my life at 14 were Terry Pratchet's Wyrd Sisters and Shadowrun, 2nd edition:)

Glen said...

Thelliel - actually, I think Going Galt is Atlas Shrugged. That character goes by the name Howard Roark in Fountainhead.

Michael Bourgon said...

Translated Man - based off your reviews, I went to Lulu and tried to buy a copy. $8 for the book - fine. $6 for shipping - to quote Hardison, "hell no". I want a hardcopy, a physical object to set on my shelves. I don't want the Kindle/iPhone version, and I don't want to have to print out a copy on my Laserwriter. Amazon only carries the Kindle version, so it looks like I'm SOL.

Damn. Oh well.

Kassiday said...

Ephemera right back at you.

Thank you for Leverage. I was hooked with the pilot. Well done!

Regarding, "The heroes fight frikkin' science crimes" and wanting to go there - Either Trail of Cthulhu (ToC) [http://www.pelgranepress.com/trail/index.html] or Mutant City Blues (MCB) [http://www.pelgranepress.com/gumshoe/mutant/index.html] or some combination of the two should get you there. ToC and MCB are pen and paper RPG's that are designed for people wanting to play an investigative rpg game. They are really worth checking out.

Mike Cane said...

>>>The other, of course, involves orcs.

I am sooo glad I did not have liquid in my mouth mid-swallow. I would have drowned.

Seen Castle yet? (Shut up, Murder She Wrote peons!) I liked it. Lead reminds me a lot of Paula Marshall. (Yes, I still miss the original Cupid. Shut up!) Patterson & Cannell had real speaking bits in the first episode.

Yes, I haz proof (scroll down).

jenniebee said...

I'm a firm believer that we could stop creeping Galtism in a generation if we made a concerted effort to introduce young people to Aldous Huxley before they have a chance to find Rand. It's not only that they have competing visions, it's simply that Huxley is one of the few authors who can compete with Rand for teenage attention because his writing is approximately the same level of difficulty as hers is, and he does better porn.

Wil Wheaton said...

Thanks for the link and the kind words, John. It means a lot to me that you enjoyed the series.

Rogers said...

Wil: It means a lot to me that you enjoyed the series.

What do you mean "enjoyed"? As if the series is over. I want constant campaign updates.

Wil Wheaton said...

What do you mean "enjoyed"? As if the series is over. I want constant campaign updates.

Heh. Well, we'll see what happens. It's surprisingly fun to write about it, and maybe it'll inspire me to scrape some kind of fantasy novella out of my head.

(That's swords and sorcery fantasy, not the kind that features me and Grace Park and starts out, "I never thought it would happen to me, but...")

gil mann said...

A retractable Uniball?

Damn it. Filed under "things I wish I had known before I went apeshit at the RiteAid liquidation."

Oh, and Wheaton, it's finale week, man. You gotta get in line just to fantasize about her.

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gwangung said...

(That's swords and sorcery fantasy, not the kind that features me and Grace Park and starts out, "I never thought it would happen to me, but...")

More of a fantasy for me than for you (and, yes, I'm taking into account that you're married)(grumble, grumble)

Stu said...

I, too, went crazy for the Harlan Ellison as a teenager/early adult, and have a couple dozen books within arm's reach to prove it.

It's a shame he spends more time writing lawsuits and stories these days.

Crawford Tillinghast said...

-- There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

No, actually the other book features orcs as the villains....

Frank said...

One of my favorite quotes about Ayn Rand is from a column by comic book writer Steve Grant:

"I've always suspected that Rand, who fled to America as a result of Stalinist persecutions, at least according to her data, was a Soviet sleeper agent sowing discord in America by effectively starting a religion that raised self-satisfaction to the highest of human aspirations (but, as T-Bone Burnett sang, you can't want nothin' if you want satisfaction) and openly mocked and scorned concepts like altruism and charity; her view, enshrined in ATLAS SHRUGGED, that men of great talent should step away from society and await its inevitable collapse under the weight of its own corruption is oddly similar to Marx's conviction that communism was the natural and inevitable end result of capitalist society."

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=17875

marag said...

My father never worried about whether he was giving me reading material that was "suitable" for a kid...so by age 11 or 12, besides Tolkien, I was reading Cordwainer Smith, Harlan Ellison, George R.R. Martin (I still have "Sandkings"-related nightmares), Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov...

My father permanently ruined me for bad SF/fantasy. (I also suspect his opinion of Ayn Rand is probably unprintable.)

And I can't go look at the retractable Uniball because then I will need to buy more pens. ::whimper:: Pens!

Toldain said...

Me too on Wheaton, Rand, orcs and interest in Lovecraftian science crimes.

I just downloaded Dropbox for a try. I see the ToS give Dropbox the right to "use and exploit" any and all files you put in their system.

If you use this for professional workflow, you are a far more trusting person than I am.

Stefan Jones said...

My appreciation of Wheaton's D&D&Sons accounts is tinged with bitter envy of his kids. A dad that spends time with his kids, doing fun imaginative stuff? *Sigh*

My high school Rand period was very short. What nipped it in the bud was finding and reading Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker. Which was a eye-opening as an acid trip.

Also, perhaps, my interpretation of the last episode of McGoohan's "The Prisoner," which was running on PBS at the time. Number Six, proud egotist, rips the mask off of Number One and finds . . . himself. And escapes physically, only to find that the front door of his London townhouse works just like the one in the Village. Prisoner in his own mind, forever.

Verification word: "beash" I imagine this is an indoors faux-beach catering to the wealthy of a future where real beaches are liberally slathered with dead sealife and coastal waters thick with poisonous jellyfish.

ROSSinDETROIT said...

I used to think that despite a singular focus on individual rights and the absolute value of goods and services over all other concepts, Ayn Rand had some good ideas that were worth considering. After years of reflection I have revised this opinion. Actually she was batshit crazy, wrong and a dangerous crank

WWWeaves said...

I think I am a little older and female than some of you. As a teen: RA Heinlein, MZ Bradley and Georgette Heyer. Now? LM Bujold, Judith Merkle Riley, Terry Pratchett, CJ Cherryh, Robert Crais, Lindsey Davis, Jane Haddam, JK Rowling, Firefly, West Wing and...Georgette Heyer. I think I do not want to know what this says about me.

JoeBuddha said...

I recall a short story called "Dusty Unicorn" as being a turning point. Basically, it involved a totally alien way of thinking, and taught me that not only do I NOT know everything, but I CAN'T know everything. While I love the classics (Asimov, Heinlein, Doc Smith, Van Vogt, etc.) I don't think anything else (including the inimitable Ms. Rand) had quite the same influence.

CKL said...

100% agreed on Better Off Ted and Dropbox.

But I have to admit, I've never read either Lord of the Rings or Atlas Shrugged. It was Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke in my formative years.

Anonymous said...

It was always the non fiction that blew my mind when I was 14. I read the Vietnam testimonial Dispatches, The Guns of August and All Quiet on the Western Front. Ok the last one is fiction, but barely. Collectively they messed me up a bit. There was also a technical document out of the UN medical committee on the different mortality rates for various sized nuclear explosions over various sized cities. That one was good too.

Needless to say man as hero has never had much of a hold on me. At best we can give good directions to a stranger, after that it gets conflicted.

Robert N. Emerson said...

If I possessed god-like powers, I would give Ayn Rand balls just so I could kick her in them until they turn so blue, that they were black and exploded. *grins* Thanks to her I've had a generation or two of asshats who adore her, as much as they adore Machiavelli, without realizing that both folks were socially retarded asshats of the most epic of orders. Plus, I have often had to punch them in the throat.

Tolkien, on the other hand, I would avoid, else he fail me as nothing more than a puissant amateur.

grendelkhan said...

Apparently I'm unusual in that the books that changed by life were nonfiction. First and foremost was Gödel, Escher, Bach; I read it in my senior year of high school, and it formed my entire philosophical outlook from that point forward. Before then, I was, philosophically speaking; after, I was an adult.

Jason said...

Thanks for the heads-up on Better Off Ted. Always nice to see some Andy Richter Controls the Universe alums on TV again, and their choice of background music is perfect for the tone of the show. Seconding the recommendation on Castle too, even if just to keep Nathan Fillion on TV as long as possible.

grendelkhan said...

Pardon me; the end of my comment should read:

Before then, I was, philosophically speaking, a child; after, I was an adult.

Apparently, I'm an adult who can't be bothered to proofread.

Mike said...

Did you ever get the feeling that the creation of Gult's Gulch was an endorsement of communism in some fashion?

I liked Rand when I was young, but her writing is a struggle to read.

Anonymous said...

http://www.neilgaiman.com/mediafiles/exclusive/shortstories/emerald.pdf

Set after the coming of the Old Ones, but in Sherlock Holmes' time.

You don't have to pay for shipping or a tricorder. Neil Gaiman just wants to be your friend.

Anonymous said...

You people do realize that Atlas Shrugged was basically the "Everybody Poops" of Ayn Rand's philosophy, right? To truly hate on the women, I think one would have to read her actual direct philosophical writings (instead of a philosophy wrapped up in a rediculous fiction).

Either way, books that changed me most were "Ishmael" (and all the other Daniel Quinn fictions), and I agree with another poster here - non-fiction is what blew my mind as a kid (and still does). On that - 'Guns, Germs, and Steel' by J. Diamond made me rethink everything I was taught about human history.

Lene Andersen said...

"the other, of course, involves orcs"

Fabulous. Best laugh of the week so far. Thank you for that.

Robyn said...

The other has orcs! :-D

This after reading a license plate frame at church Sunday -- Who is John Galt? I'm going to find out which YSA owns that car and send them this post.

hehehehehe word verify is whogism.

Greg said...

Brilliant jab at the Randroids.

Threat Quality Press said...

!!!

I know this post is from a month ago, so I'm a little late to the party, but I want to say thanks for your words about The Translated Man.

They mean a LOT to me, probably even more than your similarly kind words mean to Wil Wheaton.

Wil Wheaton is very nice, too, I'm sure, don't let me sound like I'm disparaging him.

Is it declasse for me to go around and put giddy comments up on posts that mention my book? I feel like there's no acceptable etiquette for this.

--braak

The Fuzz said...

You're never too old

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nihilix said...

Linked the Atlas/LOTR snippet

Very funny.

Whitney said...

Loved the last quote. I laughed out loud. Good thing my cube mate went home early.

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Just got here, very late via CafeAuLait (props to Elliotte). Once you've used the Lamy fountain pen, the Uniball is childish.

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Anonymous said...

I do suspect that she would be horrified at the way capitalism has turned.I do think that Objectivism is better used as a tool kit for philosophy than a whole philosophy of itself. But then i think that covers a LOT of philosophies.
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Term Paper said...

That construct's getting pretty ripe and it was obvious where you were going, except I didn't know what your punchline would be.

edmundharris said...

Ahh, I'll agree with the Harlan Ellison posts.
I didn't go for "The Beast TSLATCOFW", but I went for Repent Harlequin.

And "The Glass Teat."
Nice read. Especially the two chapters on "The Common Man" about the 5 white guys who scared the crap out of Harlan after their appearance on the David Susskind Show.

(My word is genet)

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Jayemel said...

It's ironic that you celebrate the Sawyer moment from "Namaste," yet don't see its connection to "The Fountainhead."

a progressive crank said...

Yeah, orcs. That graf still has the power to draw a laugh as TBogg reminds us.

How rich to learn recently that the champion of self-starters and rugged individualists applied for and received Social Security, under her married name, ie not her own personal independent autonomous name.

As for whether she would be horrified about modern capitalism, I suspect she would be delighted until she realized that, just as when she helped herself to stolen property (or government assistance, as the rest of us call it), none of her heroes loved her back.

Anonymous said...

"-- It turns out there IS a maximum number of pages you can type per day. Ow."

I no longer have my copy of David Gerrold's book "The Trouble with Tribbles" {Ballantine} but your line above reminds me of his observation that after changing from a manual typewriter to an IBM Selectric he could type "'X' more pages of s**t a day!"

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JGF said...

Raj Patel included your quote without attribution at the beginning of chapter 10 of "The Value of Nothing".

See: http://notes.kateva.org/2011/04/patel-value-of-nothing.html

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