Monday, February 28, 2011

Visiting with Old Friends

As my to-read pile dwindles, I've been compiling a list of books that I intend to re-read in 2011.
  1. The Dark Tower series - A long time favorite of mine, I've been thinking about re-reading the Dark Tower off and on for years.  I've read and re-read the first four countless times.  In April, I'll be walking the long road to the Tower once again.
  2. The Elric saga - Michael Moorcock's albino with the soul-sucking sword is another series that I've been dying to re-read.  In fact, I discovered it during the long drought between Wizard in Glass and Wolves of the Calla.  I'll be re-reading the original books, not Fortress of the Pearl or any of the lesser Elric books that followed.
  3. Perdido Street Station - China Mieville's new weird masterpiece has been begging for a re-read almost since I closed it the first time.  Like the other books on this list, I'm anxious to write a review on Goodreads while it's still fresh in my mind instead of being blurred by the passage of years.
  4. The Earthsea Trilogy - Ursula LeGuin's tale of a young man's journey through his magical career is a book I wish I would have read a decade before I actually did.  Ged's passage through life is one I'm eager to experience for the second time.
Those are the volumes I've identified so far.  Others that I'm considering are Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series, The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, and Dashielle Hammet's Red Harvest.  We'll see how things go down.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Barbed Wire and Testicles Don't Mix

Catchy title, no?  I thought of it today while I was straddling the top strand of a barbed wire fence while walking in the woods with my dog.  Luckily, there was no mixing. 

Belle and I got a good walk in this morning.  I took some hawk pictures I'm fairly happy with (forthcoming) and Belle got to visit one of her vast pieces of territory that doesn't lie within the confines of our neighborhood.  I also availed myself of my parents' kitchen in their absence and made a bacon and apple butter sandwich.

I also entitled this entry This Flea Market Might Actually HAVE Fleas.  Here's why:
When I was a kid, the Pevely Flea Market was a magical place where a kid could score piles of old comics at the standard 25 cents each or 5/$1.00 price.  Many a summer Sunday saw me pile into the car with my brother, my mom, and Grandma Schwent.  I'd go in armed with ten bucks and return with a stack of comics and entertainment for a week's worth of lazy summer afternoons.

The decline of the Pevely Flea Market started when they erected a building in the center.  Instead  of being a communal yard sale where people could ditch things cluttering their basement, the Flea Market suddenly became a place where people were trying to actually make money.  It has been in a state of decay ever since.

Yesterday, I had some time to kill and visited it.  Apart from the accursed buildings, it was a ghost town.  I entered the buildings and it immediately reminded me of Bartertown from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.   Gone were all the deals, replaced by bottom feeders trying to sell used DVDs for fifteen bucks.  Sadly, Tina Turner was nowhere to be seen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Definitely feels like Friday

It seems like this week is taking forever.  I cursed this morning when I remembered it was only Thursday.

I'm slowly emerging from my post-Hyperion funk.  I picked up the first omnibus in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun yesterday.  I tried reading it a few years ago but circumstances got in the way and I abandoned it.  It's going good so far.  I'd forgotten how dense Gene Wolfe's prose was.  Once I get a little more distance from Hyperion, I'm going to put on my writing hat once again.

Belle apparently has a potential suitor, a pity since she's both spayed and hates most other dogs.  The strange old lady that lives at the top of the road told me yesterday her dog tries to escape her gaze and go up to the road every day around 4:45, the time I take Belle on the second half of her territorial survey.  The dog's name is Hannah.  I didn't ask why the woman would name her male dog Hannah.  I'll save that for another time.  In the mean time, she assured me he's all male.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Who would anyone steal that?

For about fifteen years, a lone yucca plant has grown in the rocky diaspora along the top of my road, presumably the product of a bird depositing a yucca seed there.  Last night, it was gone, dug up by person or persons unknown.

Why would anyone dig up the yucca plant?  It's not as if yucca is hard to come by.  If they're trying to help the environment, they should look in the belt of woods between 55 and Concord.  Yucca plants have been running wild there for years.  I might have to launch an investigation when I get home from work.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Post-Hyperion Funk

I finished the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons yesterday. I haven't been so engaged by an epic since The Dark Tower ended. The Cantos are now one of my measuring stick works, the ones I judge subsequent books against. Now I'm having trouble getting interested in any of the books on my to-read pile. None of them feature The Shrike, The Ousters, or seven pilgrims traveling to the Tombs of Time.

In other news, a couple months ago I added a security question to my Goodreaeds profile to cut down on the riffraff, most of which are too lazy to type anything in the message field. My security question is "What is your favorite insect?" The answers haven't been very varied. The overwhelming answer is praying mantis. I'd say out of the twenty requests I've gotten since adding the security question, fourteen have been praying mantis. Others range from scarab beetle to dragonfly, although one answer was a Kafka reference and my favorite was "I'm too busy killing them to see what kind they are."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Isn't it too early for this?

I was sitting outside and reading Fall of Hyperion during my lunch break when I felt something tickle my hand.  I looked to find a tiny black spider crawling on it.  I blew it off and returned to reading.  Isn't it too early in the year for the creepy crawlies to be emerging from their winter hiding places?

As I mentioned early this week, The Hyperion Cantos is phenomenal.  I haven't felt this attached to a story since reading the final three Dark Tower books.

In other news, I visited my Grandma in the hospital yesterday for the second time since she had her stroke.  She's doing really well, about 1000 times better than last week.  She still has trouble with names and finding the right words.  Her swearing procificiency has improved dramatically, though.  She said shit three times and damn it at least ten.  And she's good at using her Grandma catchphrases like "forever more," "bless your heart," and "I'll be darned."  It's good to see her progressing.  I was there about three hours until she made everyone leave so she could watch Dukes of Hazzard with my Grandpa on CMT.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The junk atop my bookcase... and more junk I'd like to have there

From left to right, top shelf:
  1. A replica of the 1960's Batmobile
  2. A spent shell casing from some WWII artillery
  3. My Pedro of Los Straitjackets mask
  4. My WWII era gas mask, courtesy of a trade to Don Kincaid for a metal detector and a book about samurai philosophy
  5. A samurai statue from Garden Ridge
  6. A small white box containing a trilobite fossil from last year's rock swap
  7. A post card from the Superman museum
  8. two microbrew bottles that look like medicine bottles from the 1800's
  9. A mug depicting a man picking his nose
  10. My memento box
Second shelf:
  1. Futurama postcard
  2. Stegosaurus and T-Rex Carrie gave me for Valentine's Day in 2009
  3. Triceratops and Brontosaurus, same source
Crap I'd like to display on my bookcase:
  1. Rusty old lantern or carbide lamp
  2. Clunky, steampunkish welding goggles
  3. Large fossil or geode
  4. The other four Los Straitjackets masks

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Imitation - the Hallmark of a Great Book?

As much as I rail against the swarm of Tolkien imitators that has been attempting to devour the fantasy genre like so many locusts in the years since Lord of the Rings hit the shelves, I find that when I'm reading a book that really speaks to me, my first impulse is to formulate something similar.

One of the first times I can remember consciously doing this was after I read the first four Dark Tower books and was waiting for the series to be completed. Van Owen, my horribly disfigured gunfighter in black, was born of Roland's quest and my impatience in waiting for it to be completed.

Next up was Trickter's Eve, the story of Loki and Coyote roaming the world looking for Pan. It was a stew of ideas scraped from various Neil Gaimain books. If Gaimain could write about gods in the modern world, why couldn't I?

After devouring Philip Jose Farmer's World of Tiers and assorted Roger Zelazny works, I immediately started work on The Warp Weaver's Legacy, the story of a world-hopping trickster and the hapless Earthling that gets entangled with him.

So what's that all have to do with current events? Since I started reading Hyperion over the weekend, I've been dying to use the same structure; seven people telling their stories while traveling toward a common destination, one of whom is a liar and a traitor. I keep thinking about the Dyson Sphere world I developed for Warp Weaver and throwing Van Owen into it. Among other projects.

One of these days, the thinking has to slow down and the writing has to resume.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hmm... What's that?

I was contemplating whether to read more of Hyperion or watch Machete when my washer stopped.  I went downstairs and quickly moved the wash into the dryer.  I looked down into the washing machine to make sure I grabbed all the socks.  I didn't.  Sure enough, one of the black socks tried to hide in the washing machine.  I picked it up and flung it into the dryer.  I looked inside the washing machine one more time and saw something else.

It was black but too small to be a sock.  I wracked my brain, trying to figure out what it could be, like a large mass of lint and dog hair or something of that nature.  I reached down and touched it experimentally.  It felt a little slimy, like the hair that gathers on the bathtub draining.  Knowing no good could come of it, I reached down and quickly picked it up...

It was a drowned mouse!  I dropped it into the laundry room trash can and shuddered in disgust.  Once the laundry is dry, I guess I'll be putting out the traps.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


It's seeming more and more that I need the pressure of a deadline to get a good amount of writing done.  Maybe I'll enlist someone to set deadlines for me and enforce them.

The two ideas most alive in my head these days are the heist story I've been thinking off (tentatively called The Kick-Off) and a new one that features people from various points in Earth's history transported inside a Dyson sphere by persons unknown (The Oubliette or The Sargasso).  The heist story seems a lot clearer so I should probably do that one first.

If I continue on the pace I'm on, I'll probably be finished with all of the unread books in my house by the time May rolls around.  I consider this a momentous occasion since it'll be the first time in seven years such an event has happened.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Insight that should have been obvious

Here is a rant on the fantasy genre that I wrote around this time last year:  Fantasy Rant

Here is the teaser for my NaNoWriMo novel that I've not written a word for in over a month: teaser

How much does the rant sound a bit like the main plot of Wandering the Web of Worlds, particularly the new infusion of DNA into the fantasy family tree?  The High Oligarch uses some of the same words to Valaric.

The other insight I had was "Why am I writing a tribute to Jack Vance when I find everything except The Dying Earth series painful to read?"  While I'm hellbent on reusing some of the characters and concepts, I think Wandering the Web of Worlds might end up being the biggest fragment on the unfinished pile.  Just like when I discovered I was re-writing The World of Tiers with The Warp Weaver's Legacy, I feel like I'm throwing together a bunch of Jack Vance elements for Wandering the Web of Worlds.  Some thinking is in order.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Back in the Saddle - Haven't I used this title before?

I'm back at work, the first time I've driven anywhere since Sunday, a couple days before the snow demons struck me down with their wrath.

Pros of working at home:
  • Money saved on gas
  • Easy access to preferred snacks
  • Two hours of my life given back
Cons of working at home:
  • Strained relationship with dog
  • Much less human contact
  • Uncomfortable chair
  • Many more distractions
  • Bruise the approximate size and shape of Texas on my ass from slipping on the ice
Not sure I could ever work from home 5 days a week.  Not at this job, at least.  Or not without that superb leather chair I saw at Office Depot the other day.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ashes to Ashes

In an effort to ward off (or as a symptom of) cabin fever, all day I've kept trying to figure out how to do away with the glacier that has kept me homebound all week.  Inspiration hit a little while ago.  Since the highway department throws cinders down on the road to melt the snow and ice, I reasoned I could do the same with ash.  My driveway is now sprinkled with ash from my woodstove, BBQ pit, and chimney.  Let's see if it works before nightfall.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

White Wednesday

This winter weather sucks.  I took today off rather than try to work from home again. In an effort to not go stir crazy, I took Belle out to survey her realm.  It was slick and treacherous.

I have set the following goals for myself in an effort to fend off cabin fever:
  1. Clean the bathroom
  2. Organize bookshelf and weed out things to trade in for credit
  3. Finish reading the New Centurions by Joseph Wambaugh
  4. See if I can clean off my sidewalk and driveway.  Since they're covered with sleet, I kind of doubt that will happen.
The third one is the only one I'm excited about.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 - 1/12th of the way over already

Sorry for no pictures yesterday so I guess the penultimate ones ended up being ultimate.  The winter weather has finally arrived in the form of freezing rain and sleet.  The few trees in my yard that still have leaves are drooping pretty badly.  I'll take some pictures later if I find anything photogenic.  It should be a real treat taking the dog out later.

I watched a Korean movie called The Good, the Bad, and the Weird last night.  It was a WWII era movie with a western feel, obviously inspired in part by The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  It was good and kind of cheesy.  I'd recommend it for a rental.  The Weird of the title three characters was by far the most interesting.

My grandma is still in the hospital and today is her birthday.  How much does that suck?  I sent her an e-Card through the hospital website.