February 21, 2002
Disgruntled, Freakish Reflections™ on Happiness Civilization, Thermodynamics, and 7-Eleven : "Man has never really solved problems so much as exchange one set for another, and what we call progress has simply been a series of shrewd trades that, while never reaching utopia, have at least left us with more desirable issues than the ones before." Everything has advantages and disadvantages, and we attempt to maximize our advantages while minimizing our disadvantages. But you'll notice that the disadvantages are never really eliminated. This is all well and good, but why do so few people see it? Its almost like we were raised to be unhappy. We're shown what we don't have, we learn that success means winning trophies and money, and that happiness relies on how much stuff we have. We're expected to live our life in constant, multi-orgasmic bliss, and if we find ourself unhappy, then we're a failure. Of course, since we don't live in a Utopia, we will always be unhappy, and thus we will always be seeking new trophies to make us happy. Striving for self-improvement isn't wrong (its quite honorable), but it won't necissarily make you happier. All too often, we set our sights on that one mystical thing that, if we could just achieve it, would make us happy. The only problem is, if you can't be happy now, chances are, you won't be happy in the future, even if you do achieve your goals.

To paraphrase Dennis Miller, happiness doesn't always require resolution, but rather an in the moment, carefree acceptance of the fact that the worst day of being alive is better than any day of being dead. Happiness isn't settling for less, its just not being miserable with what you've got. So reach for the stars, but remember, you're just trading one set of disadvantages with another, and you might not be any happier than you are now...
Posted by Mark at 01:02 PM
January 21, 2002
Why be a Magician? alan moore: magician is a site with various odds and ends written by Moore. I found most of it to be interesting. It includes some loose plans for a comic-book Grimoire, an article explaining why he became a magician, and some interesting correspondance with Dave Sim (creator of the long running independant Cerebus comic that I wrote about a while back).

Completely unrelated: Steven Den Best comments on the timely release of the new Ridley Scott directed, Josh Hartnett vehicle, Black Hawk Down.
Posted by Mark at 01:55 PM
January 18, 2002
Very Secret Diaries Time to lighten things up a bit. This Cassandra person is doing a series of stories about Lord of the Rings characters' secret diaries. Its hilarious. Homosexual overtones abound. Check them out: Funny stuff, unless you think the homosexual overtones are heresy or something. Also, check out this Ninja site, its funny too. Mighty fine basassery. [thanks Såmæl]
Posted by Mark at 09:33 AM
January 11, 2002
In the beginning... In the Beginning was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson: An intelligent essay dealing with the trials and tribulations of computer Operating Systems. Of course one of the big problems he discusses is Metaphor Shear (which is basically the point at which a metaphor fails), which is ironic because he uses quite a few metaphors himself in the essay. One of the best is when he relates the Hole Hawg (an incredibly powerful drill that with drill through just about anything, but also incredibly dangerous because it has no limitations or cheap safeguards to protect the user from themself.) with the Linux operating system. The essay is a great read, and goes into much more than just Operating Systems. Highly recommended.

If you like Stephenson's fiction, you might also want to check out The Great Simolean Caper, an interesting story set in the not to distant future. It shares some common ground with Stephensons other work (namely, Snow Crash) and is quite an enjoyable read. Its also a bit scary, because it brings up quite a few security and privacy concerns. With the advent of digital cable and set-top boxes, companies are starting to track what you are watching on television, whether you like it or not. I've seen the data myself, and I think the advertising industry is going to go wild when these numbers start piling up (the data I saw showed enormous spikes and troughs roughly coinciding with commercials). The sneaky set-top boxes in Stephenson's Caper might seem unlikely, but we're really not too far away from that right now...
Posted by Mark at 03:27 PM
January 10, 2002
THEY are coming! The Day They Let Bernard Leave by John Robinson (.pdf file) : A cryptic and ambiguous short story in which a man named Bernard has a very strange day. Everyone is staring at him; even, sometimes, being nice to him. Strange. Anyway, its a good read if you don't mind the ambiguity of it all. Is Bernard as lucky as everyone thinks? I'm not so sure. Anyway, Robinson is an interesting fellow, known to many as "Widgett". He runs a website called, NeedCoffee.com which is quite an interesting mix (not unlike Kaedrin, but more interesting and older:). He also has a production company called One Tusk and recently pubished a book of poetry called Love Letters Unsent to People Unmet. Check it out. Another story by Robinson: Necrogarchy, another interesting offering...

Sorry for the lack of updating lately. Things got a bit busy during the holiday season, plus I can't seem to run into much in the way of interesting stuff lately, so you'll have to bear with me. I did get my Best of 2000 movies list up (yes, thats 2000, its a year late, I know). Lets see, what else? I've been spending a lot of time at Everything2 lately. Its a fun place.
Posted by Mark at 09:06 AM
December 20, 2001
Tabula Rasa! Dialogue on Film and Philosophy by Ulf Wilhelmsson (in rich text format) : What if, say, Quentin Tarantino met Aristotle, Herakleit, Plato, Jean-Paul Sartre, David Hume, Immanuel Kant and other famous philosophers. What would it be like if they all sat down and had a conversation on film and philosophy? Ulf Wilhelmsson attempts to expore these ideas in this interesting little essay. Much of it plays out like an informative introduction to various philosophies, as the aformentioned participants spout off about their particular areas of interest and eventually apply them to film. Obviously, this is much more entertaining if you are at least somewhat familiar with the various participants. Most of the philosophers are very well known, but I'd be suprised if many people knew all of the film scholars mentioned (Wilhelmsson thoughtfully includes explainations for the more obscure folks that show up). Theres also a bit of a lighthearted tone that lets some of the philosophers even get rowdy (at one point St Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle yell "Tabula Rasa!" in unison). Interesting reading. [via Wood S Lot]
Posted by Mark at 10:43 AM
December 07, 2001
Fellowship of the War Tolkien on Homeland Defense by Chris Mooney : An interesting article that draws parallels between Tolkien's classic Lord of the Rings trilogy and the 9/11 tragedy. Mooney cites two passages from Fellowship of the Ring that are particularly poignant and resonate with our current situation. The first is an exchange between Frodo and the elf leader Gildor, when they meet just as Frodo and his companions embark on their journey from the Shire:
"I cannot imagine what information could be more terrifying than your hints and warnings," exclaimed Frodo. "I knew that danger lay ahead, of course; but I did not expect to meet it in our own Shire. Can't a hobbit walk from the Water to the River in peace?"

"But it is not your own Shire," said Gildor. "Others dwelt here before hobbits were; and others will dwell here again when hobbits are no more. The wide world is all about you; you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out."

"I know -- and yet it has always seemed so safe and familiar."
Sound familiar? We were all aware of the threat of terrorism, but our daily lives just seemed so safe. The second passage Mooney quotes is delivered by the character Aragorn, in which he makes the Rangers sound kind of like the FBI or the CIA. Mooney then goes on to compare LotR with the Harry Potter series of books, taking care to comment on the various religious nuts who are denouncing Harry Potter as satanic. Its a good read, check it out. [thanks Widgett]

By the by, the first reviews of Fellowship of the Ring (the movie) are in, and they all seem to be positive! Entertainment Weekly gives it an A, and Rolling Stone's Peter Travers lists it at the very top of his list of films for 2001. Regular guy, "Rob", was slightly less impressed (scroll down to bottom), but still gave the movie an 8/10 and said "It lived up to my expectations." Score. I am encouraged by this...
Posted by Mark at 12:30 PM
November 21, 2001
Taking Heat on The Squint™ Some Thoughts on Clint Eastwood and Heidegger by Bruce Jay Friedman : I don't much know what to make of this. I know I like it, and that it made me laugh a couple of times, but it also has some sort of wierd, deep quality to it. On the surface its a spastic and completely absurd article, but its actually quite complex. In fact, thats the point Friedman makes about Eastwood.
If you must know, I believe Clint Eastwood's remote, alienated style is a goddammed metaphor for our time. Which is why I salute him—as a man, as an artist, as a professional (and I understand he's an outrageous stickler for detail on the set, even though the net effect emerges as being casual), and as a complex human being.
The article is an excerpt from Friedman's book Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos and was originally published in Harpers in 1976. Friedman sounds like an interesting fellow. I shall have to check out some more of his work...
Posted by Mark at 02:55 PM
November 19, 2001
Shifting Perceptions Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman : An interesting piece of short fiction written by Gaiman in 1994. To be perfectly blunt, I don't want to ruin it, so just give it a read. Its a great idea for a story. You'll see, just read it. I enjoyed it muchly. Its nice to have perceptions rewired every now and again...
Posted by Mark at 11:00 AM
October 29, 2001
Watchmen Referred to by Terry Gilliam as the War and Peace of superhero comics, Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen (illustrated by Dave Gibbons), along with Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, paved the way for people to actually start taking comic books seriously. In fact, it even won a Hugo Award in 1988. The story takes place in the 1980s when superheroes have been outlawed and the only ones still in operation are under direct control of the United States government. Suddenly, those heroes both still in action and retired find themselves targets by an unseen enemy, who wants to kill them one by one. Of course, there has long been talk of adapting it into a movie, though many doubt it can be done faithfully. The biggest name associated with the project was director Terry Gilliam, but with costs spiraling and no major stars attached, Gilliam never really got the project off the ground. The first draft of the screenplay was written by Sam Hamm, and many, while enjoying some of the subtle touches that Hamm provides, consider the major plot changes (specifically, the ending) to be a bit of a letdown. Recently, there appears to be somewhat of a revival in the project, with screenwriter David Hayter (X-Men) becoming interested in writing and possibly directing a Watchmen movie, but I'm not holding my breath quite yet... [Thanks to MLP for the Hamm Script]
Posted by Mark at 09:21 AM
September 10, 2001
Wasting Time I Play Too Much Solitaire, and it's Putting Me in a Time Warp by Douglas Coupland : Why do I choose to waste time playing solitaire? And why will I, in all likelihood, cheerfully continue to waste thousands more hours playing solitaire? These are questions Coupland, and no doubt, millions of others, have pondered. Interestingly enough, I find that this spills over into much more than solitaire. What of my thousands of NHL 98 or Unreal Tournament games? Or the countless hours spent trolling the net? Time wasted? Perhaps. Will I continue to waste it? Undoubtedly. Why? I have no idea. Coupland's father used to play solitaire all the time, and now, thanks to a computer, he still plays almost every day. When asked why, he replies:
"That's easy. Every time I press the key and it deals me a new round, I get this immense burst of satisfaction knowing that I didn't have to shuffle the cards and deal them myself. Its payback time for all the hours I ever wasted in my life shuffling and dealing cards."
Which brings me to the thought that maybe we aren't really wasting time at all. Maybe we just need to realize that the past is gone, whether we like it or not. By the way, I found Coupland's site insightful and fun, though I'm a bit annoyed at the use of Flash (is it really necessary to put a full text article into flash? It sure as hell makes it difficult to pull quotes!)
Posted by Mark at 11:15 AM
August 27, 2001
Dark Tower V Prologue: Calla Bryn Sturgis by Stephen King : A preview of the highly anticipated forthcoming volume of King's Dark Tower series. An interesting entry; its plot is higly reminiscent of Kurosawa's classic film, Seven Samurai, though I've yet to figure out if that's a good thing. In his words, King is "hoping to press on to the very end and publish the remaining volumes all at the same time. That probably means three books, one of them fairly short and one of the other two quite long." This strikes me as joyous news, but I can't help feeling apprehension - for I've never known King to end his stories all that well (just look at the ending to The Waste Lands). However, if the new novels continue the successive exponential increase in quality and intelligence that the first four have established (especially in the last volume, Wizard and Glass), we'll certainly be in for a treat. Only time and Ka will tell. Ka like a wind...
Posted by Mark at 11:09 AM
August 13, 2001
American Writing Today A Diagnosis of the Disease by William T. Vollmann : An interesting article about the woes of humanity, and how best to set things right (through art). A bit remeniscent of Orwell's Politics and the English Language, Vollman puts forth some good rules on how to write with a sense of purpose. He also touches on people's tendency to treat the symptoms instead of the actual causes. As a country we have become reactionary to specific events, but not wide trends, blaming miniscule influences for major catastrophies. Does anyone really think something like Columbine happens solely because of the music two kids listened to? Its something I've been noticing a lot lately, and it really suprises me how pervasive the idea is. Anyway, I've been meaning to pick up one of Vollman's books, but its pretty low down in the book queue and my spare time is dwindling, so it probably won't happen anytime soon. I hear he's a... strange... fellow.
Posted by Mark at 12:50 PM
August 07, 2001
Cerebus the Aardvark The Man Behind the Aardvark: Dave Sim created an influential and prolific comic book series called Cerebus the Aardvark. "When I started Cerebus in 1977, uppermost in my mind was the thought that i wanted to produce 300 issues if a comic book series the way i thought it should be done; as one continuous story documenting the ups and downs of a character's life." Few comic book series ever reach the 300-issue mark, and those that do are usually backed by big publishers, star big-name superheroes, and are written and drawn by scores of different artists over the years. Cerebus, a black & white comic, is written, penciled and inked by Sim (with some help from a friend named Gerhard). Its also self-published, giving him complete control over his creation. In the past few decades, the character of Cerebus has gone from being a barbarian to a politician to a pope. During one story arc, Cerebus became a supporting character; in fact, nearly a year went by in which the title character didn't appear in his own comic book! These are the sort of things you can do when you have publishing freedom and 300 issues with which to tell a story.

Say what you will about the man's thoughts or philosophy (he's regarded as somewhat of an infamous misogynist), but you have to admire the man's initiative, dedication and resolve. He hasn't reached the crucial 300th issue just yet (the series is planned to end sometime in 2004), but the final story arc has begun and shows no signs of slowing down.
Posted by Mark at 03:05 PM
July 26, 2001
The Dune You'll Never See Dune: The Movie You Will Never See by Alejandro Jodorowsky : The cult filmmaker's personal recollection of the failed production. The circumstances of Jodorowsky's planned 1970s production of Frank Herbert's novel Dune are inherently fascinating, if only because of the sheer creative power of the collaborators Jodorowsky was able to assemble. Pink Floyd offered to write the score at the peak of their creativity. Salvador Dali, Gloria Swanson, and Orson Welles were cast. Dan O'Bannon (fresh off of Dark Star) was hired to supervize special effects; illustrator Chris Foss to design spacecraft; H.R. Giger to design the world of Geidi Prime and the Harkonnens; artist Jean 'Moebius' Giraud drew thousands of sketches. The project eventually collapsed in 1977, subsequently being passed onto Ridley Scott, and then to David Lynch, whose 1984 film was panned by audience and critics alike.

Interestingly enough, this failed production has been suprisingly influential. "...the visual aspect of Star Wars strangely resembled our style. To make Alien, they called Moebius, Foss, Giger, O'Bannon, etc. The project signalled to Americans the possibility of making a big show of science-fiction films, outside of the scientific rigour of 2001: A Space Odyssey."

In reading his account of the failed production, it becomes readily apparent that Jodorowsky's Dune would only bear a slight resemblance to Herbert's novel. "I feel fervent admiration towards Herbert and at the same time conflict [...] I did everything to keep him away from the project... I had received a version of Dune and I wanted to transit it: the myth had to abandon the literary form and become image..." In all fairness, this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in the case of Dune, which many considered to be unfilmable (Lynch, it is said, tried to keep his story as close to the novel as possible - and look what happened there). Film and literature are two very different forms, and, as such, they use different tools to accomplish the same tasks. Movies must use a different "language" to express the same ideas.

I find the prospect of Jodorowsky's Dune to be fascinationg, but I must also admit that I, like many others, would have also been aprehensive about his vision. Would Jodorowsky's Dune have been able to live up to his ambition? Some think not:
Theory and retrospect are fine and in theory Jodorowsky's DUNE sounds too good to be true. But then again, anyone that reads his desrription and explanation of El Topo and then actually watches the thing is going to feel slightly conned. They might then come to the conclusion that Jodorowsky says lots, but means little.
Having seen El Topo, I can understand where this guy's coming from. I lack the ability to adequately describe the oddity; the disturbing phenomenon that is El Topo. I can only say that it is the wierdest movie that I have ever seen (nay, experienced). But for all its disquieting peculiarity, I think it contains a certain raw power that really affects the viewer. Its that sort of thing, I think, that might have made Dune great.

In case you couldn't tell, Alejandro Jodorowsky is a strange, if fascinating, fellow. He wrote the script and soundtrack, handled direction, and starred in the previously mentioned El Topo, which was hailed by John Lennon as a masterpiece (thus securing his cult status). His followup, The Holy Mountain, continued along the same lines of thought. It was at this point that the director took the oportunity to work on Dune, which, as we have already found out, was a failure. Nevertheless, Jodorowsky plunges on, still making his own brand of bizzare films. As he says at the end of his account of the Dune debacle, "I have triumphed because I have learned to fail."
Posted by Mark at 09:38 PM
July 20, 2001
Aspiring Sparrows A note to aspiring novelists by Mary Doria Russell : Mrs. Russell is amazed that so many aspiring writers are encouraged by the fact that her modern sci-fi classic, The Sparrow, was turned down by 31 literary agents. She relates that asking her for advice is like asking someone who's been in 31 car wrecks to teach you how to drive. Nevertheless, she give a few helpful hints which basically amount to not paying to have your manuscript read, among other publishing scams (they reminded me of the scams pulled in Foucault's Pendulum).

I just finished reading The Sparrow, and I must admit, I'm not suprised that it was turned down 31 times. A book that can be summed up "Jesuits in Space" has got to be a hard sell. And no, it is not a comedy; it's actually a very disturbing experience (making it that much harder to sell). James describes it better than I ever could:
"It's a wild idea, sending off a Jesuit mission as humanity's first (secretively-sent) ambassadors to see what they make of the experience, and Russell pulls off this odd choice, makes it necessary to the deeper workings of her plot. She drives at cross-cultural misunderstandings without demonizing any particularly short-sighted view, sets up a terrible theological and personal conundrum, and is absolutely, utterly, completely and totally merciless in driving her unsuspecting characters into it. The conclusion is quite literally terrible, unswavering in its stripping down of that word to the terror at its core."
Its a fantastic book with excellent character depth, good plotting, and thought-provoking content, but, as you may have guessed, its certainly not for the faint of heart. The Sparrow ruthlessly challenges faith and ones sense of purpose in the universe. It's emotionally grueling, to say the least.
Posted by Mark at 02:28 PM
July 11, 2001
Searching for Bobby Fischer A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma by William Lombardy : A 1974 Sports Illustrated article providing a detailed account of Bobby Fischer's struggle and eventual victory in the 1972 World Chess Championship. I've never been much good at Chess, but I have a certain fascination and respect for those who are. Fischer comes off as emotionally unstable in the article, but I have this sneaking sort of suspicion that every little move (or complaint) he made was calculated. Sometimes he won before he even entered the arena. But then, he is definitely an odd person as well, so who really knows?
Posted by Mark at 04:49 PM
July 02, 2001
Celery + Gravity = Art Art Frahm : A study of the effects of celery on loose elastic. I don't know what to say here. This is truly disturbing stuff. Its also hilarious, thanks mostly to the insightful commentary of one James Lileks. Essentially, Mr. Frahm made a name for himself by painting pictures of women whose panties had fallen down, usually while holding a bag of groceries (including, oddly enough, celery). Many times theres a dog involved, as well as leering bystanders. Even funnier is that these battles with gravity used to actually happen. According to the FAQ: "Elastic back then wasn’t what it is today." [special thanks to Wisdom for the link]
Posted by Mark at 12:20 PM
June 29, 2001
Industrial Luddite Is It O.K. to Be a Luddite? by Thomas Pynchon : Luddite. It sounds like an element doesn't it? Basically, a Luddite is someone who opposes technology. Pynchon tackles the subject with his usual gusto:
Except maybe for Brainy Smurf, it's hard to imagine anybody these days wanting to be called a literary intellectual, though it doesn't sound so bad if you broaden the labeling to, say, "people who read and think." Being called a Luddite is another matter. It brings up questions such as, Is there something about reading and thinking that would cause or predispose a person to turn Luddite? Is It O.K. to be a Luddite? And come to think of it, what is a Luddite, anyway?
Pynchon goes into the history of Luddites, from the Ned Lud, straight through to Frankenstein and Star Wars references - oh, and lets not forget that all important folk hero, the Badass. Theres something about scholarly discussion of the Badass that I just find compelling. Anyway, if anyone wants to give themselves a headache, check out Pynchon's acclaimed classic Gravity's Rainbow (and for people who want to lessen the strength of said headache, you can buy a 345 page book containing the Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel). Actually, from what I've read of it (which is, admittedly, not much), its quite good. [via wood s lot]
Posted by Mark at 02:31 PM
June 28, 2001
Special Effects Porn F/X PORN by David Foster Wallace : If you substitute F/X for intercourse, the parallels between the two genres [F/X blockbusters and porn ] become so obvious they're eerie. Wallace makes an interesting and wholly reasonable case against Terminator 2, which, he claims, is an appalling betrayal of 1984's The Terminator. I've always considered T2 to be inferior in many ways to its predecessor, but Wallace tears into T2 with both intellectual and practical arguments that can't really be denied. The main thing that always upset me about the sequel was its blatant departure from the ironic way in which T1 solved the time travel paradox... in effect, T2 succumbs to the paradoxical nature of time travel! Why would you do such a thing? Apparently it has something to to with Wallace's Inverse Cost and Quality Law (ICQL), which states that "the larger a movie's budget is, the shittier that movie is going to be."
Posted by Mark at 01:14 PM
June 26, 2001
12:15, Press Return Insert Clint Mansell techno music here
Techno-Thriller, by Ian Frazier : An interesting little parody of computers in movies. I always found it funny that every computer in a movie has its very own unique graphical interface and hardware that is able to process even the most complex calculations in about 3 seconds - complete with comprehensive pie charts and bar graphs. An excerpt:
KEYS: Click-click-click. Click ... click ...

Shot of the fingers moving over the keyboard. Extreme close-up of right index finger moving slowly, slowly, to the Enter key. It pauses above the Enter key for several seconds. Then it hits the key.

Burst of loud, suspenseful music. Sudden close-up shot of computer screen. Flashing, in greenish computer type on the screen, the words ILLEGAL OPERATION ILLEGAL OPERATION ILLEGAL OPERATION
My favourite part of the screenplay is one scene towards the end: "Scene 55: Shot of Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts embracing." There are only two lines of dialogue in the screenplay. Brilliant. [via Ned Blog]
Posted by Mark at 09:19 AM
June 19, 2001
How Science Ignores the Natural World Where the Buffalo Roam - How Science Ignores the Natural World : An interview with Vine Deloria, one of the most important living Native American writers. Central to Deloria's critique of Western culture is the understanding that, by subduing nature, we have become slaves to technology and its underlying belief system.
"...Indians experience and relate to a living universe, whereas Western people - especially scientists - reduce all things, living or not, to objects. The implications of this are immense. If you see the world around you as a collection of objects for you to manipulate and exploit, you will inevitably destroy the world while attempting to control it. Not only that, but by perceiving the world as lifeless, you rob yourself of the richness, beauty, and wisdom to be found by participating in its larger design."

"Science insists, at a great price in understanding, that the observer be as detached as possible from the event he or she is observing. Contrast that with the attitude of indigenous people, who recognize that humans must participate in events, not isolate themselves."
This is the sort of thing you don't hear very often and its very interesting. Deloria makes some great points (along with some I don't particularly agree with, but are interesting nonetheless), especially about science and how it attempts to reduce everything to a paradigm. Doing so certainly has its value, but much like every other version of reality that is forwarded, science is not completely satisfactory.
"...the point is to ask the questions, and keep asking them."
Right on. [via liquid gnome]
Posted by Mark at 11:49 AM
June 04, 2001
How Dare You? The Soul of America by Neil Gaiman : In a preemptive attempt to answer a question he was dreading, Neil Gaiman askes of himself (in an extended version):
How dare you, an Englishman, try and write a book about America, about American myths and the American soul? How dare you try and write about what makes America special, as a country, as a nation, as an idea?
Much like his weblog (from which I lifted the link), the article is candid and fun to read, and it makes me want to read his new book, American Gods, right now (sadly, its not being released until June 19th). Also of note is this advance review by Mikewhy, webmaster of a popular Tori Amos fan site. Thanks to DyRE for that review.
Posted by Mark at 09:38 AM
May 31, 2001
explicit discouragement Why I am a Bad Correspondent by Neal Stephenson : A perfectly reasonable document that tries to explain why he is not very diligent about answering his mail, and why he doesn't accept speaking engagements. He gives a summary:
"I am not a recluse or a misanthrope or a grouch. I simply cannot respond to all incoming stimuli unless I retire from writing novels. And I don't wish to retire at this time."
I found the document at Stephenson's webpage, which is, in itself, a plea for people to leave him alone so that he may write his next novel. He cites the quote "We live in an age of continuous partial attention." and goes on to explain that writing novels is one of those activities that requires ALL one's attention. I find the idea of "continuous partial attention" to be a fascinating one, as it is something I try to avoid whenever possible. There is a certain attitude in our culture that expects us to be able to do everything at once and be happy about it. Personally, I would rather do one thing really well than do many things averagely. So I can see where Mr. Stephenson is coming from, I recognize it as a completely reasonable request and I am determined to do my part in helping him achieve his goal. That is to say, I am going to do nothing.

Nothing except link to The Big U, Stephenson's first novel, self described as: a first novel written in a hurry by a young man a long time ago. Which basically means its not that good. I only mention it because its reproduced there in its entirety, and, until recently, its a hard book to find.
Posted by Mark at 01:01 PM
May 10, 2001
Hope and Gory Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) writes about the Olympic wrestling trials. Amateur wrestling, not WWF or any of its ilk. The article for the most part gets it right. I was a wrestler. I have cauliflower ear. I cut too much wieght. I've walked off the mat and puked in a trash can. I broke my thumb once. I had ringworm. I did it all. And I wasn't even that good. So why did I do it? For the life of me, I really can't nail down a solid answer to that question, yet I know that if I could do it again, I would. Palahniuk focuses mostly on the physical pains of wrestling, but there's more to the sport than pain. Pain is a part of it, and its not a bad thing either (and Palahniuk does a good job describing this), but theres a lot of technique, elegance, and beauty in the sport as well. Sometimes it just takes a wrestler to recognize it when its happening. Which, I suppose, is why the sport has such a wierd reputation...
Posted by Mark at 02:04 PM
May 07, 2001
Newspeak One of George Orwell's most interesting essays is Politics and the English Language. His insight into the use and abuse of language is astounding, especially in his argument that the abuse of language is a necessary part of oppressive politics. Furthermore, Orwell does not just equip us to detect this corruption of language, he actually suggests how writers can fight back (giving simple rules for honest and effective political writing). Who knows, maybe the business perversions of the english language and dot-com communism actually did have a lot to do with the internet's collapse....
Posted by Mark at 01:38 PM