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76 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I have been watching a documentary from the 1990s called American Visions which is about American art in all its forms from self-portraits and furniture of the Puritan settlers of Massachusetts Bay to the Abstract Expressionists to Abode architecture in New Mexico to Las Vegas Casinos meant to stimulate Ancient Rome.

    Yesterday I picked up a novel by William Carlos Williams called White Mule. I love WCW as a poet but I am curious and apprehensive to see how he is as a novelist.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I rather loved White Mule.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      It’s the first book of a trilogy. None of them are great novels, but it’s very much Williams, so if you like his poetry you’ll probably dig it and the second book, In the Money (I haven’t read the third book, The Build Up, but looking at Amazon, it’s not very expensive).

      Also, presumably the white mule is also beside the red wheelbarrow glazed with rain water. Had to be said, right? Who shall say I am not the happy genius of these comments?Report

  2. Avatar Will Truman says:

    In just over a day, I breezed through Barton Swaim’s “The Speechwriter” which is his account of being a speechwriter for an unnamed governor of a southern state that went missing for a couple of days that he was allegedly hiking but actually in Argentina. It’s… great. I will probably write a post on it, but if not I recommend it to all of you. Especially Tod and Burt.

    That’s after having finished the first two seasons of the Revolution Podcast. The first covered the English Civil War, and the second the American Revolution. It’s pretty entry-level stuff (if you remember off the top of your head who Nathaniel Green and/or Thomas Fairfax are, it may be too entry-level for you) but was quite interesting to me being pretty rusty on both conflicts, and apparently having a very skewed memory of the English Civil War (either that or the podcast was wayyyy pro-Cromwell).

    I also finally finished Arrow and The Flash for the season. DC continues to do very well with TV shows even as their new cinematic system looks like it’s going to be a trainwreck.

    Right now I am listening to Grey’s Anatomy, a couple seasons back. I’ve turned my TV watching to Person of Interest (second half of last season).Report

  3. Avatar aaron david says:

    Uhm, reading… Well, I am doing my weird usual thing in which I read a few hundred pages of a book, but another catches my eye. So I pick that up and start it and then a book I ordered from across the pond comes in and… well, you get the picture.

    Loving Darkmans, not sure about Blind Sight, sucking down chunks of The Golden Bough, etc.

    Watching HBO’s Rome. Very soap opreraish, but fun in a gigglesnort kinda way. Also watched some bad Australian SF film, very giggleshortish. Then again, I watched Phillip Seymour Hoffman last movie, A Most Wanted Man. Great acting across the board, silly hypocritical script that tries too hard to be anti-american. Too bad, in the end.Report

    • Start with I, Claudius. Give it ten times the budget and half the intelligence, make all the female characters drop-dead gorgeous and remove much of their clothing, and voila: Rome.Report

      • Caligula, without the explicit sex?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        Aw, I liked Rome a lot. I thought they did a lot with Roman atmosphere…little touches like the graffiti, and the mugs on chains at the local grog stand, and the ACTUAL adversarial legal process, that were both familiar and yet a reminder that you are observing a very different society than yours.

        And they even managed to do something a little unusual (and, I thought, uncomfortably realistic) with SPOILERS I SUPPOSE SOMEHOW FOR SOMEONE the assassination of Julius Caesar.Report

      • Avatar aarondavid in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        I, Claudius is one of the wife and I’s favorites. That is also what makes me despair over the current Masterpiece Theater offerings. And what makes me roll my eyes at Game Of Thrones.Report

        • Have you ever read the Robert Graves books? The first one in particular is awesome. His historical novel about Belisarius is also quite good.

          The last time I saw I, Claudius was soon after watching Rome, and it struck me that even the actress who played Messalina, whose character was entirely about being beautiful and sexy, wouldn’t have been good-looking enough to get a part on the HBO show.Report

          • Avatar aarondavid in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            I have, and I have also been eyeing King Jesus at the used bookstore. One of the things that gets me about Rome is, yes the women are good looking, but outside of Indira Varma (Lucious’ wife) as soon as they speak and show how heavy handed the script is and what attractiveness they have falls away.

            In I, Claudius, when the actors speak, they become more attractive, as they show the intelligence of Graves and how much skill they have as actors. Much better.Report

            • I’ve never seen Indira Varma give a bad performance . OK, maybe she’s a little over the top in Game of Thrones, but the character is written that way. She was terrific as John Luther’s wife. (Imagine if she and Idris Elba had kids. They’d be the best-looking people who ever lived.)Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to aaron david says:

      Is “Blind Sight” = Peter Watts’ Blindsight, or something else?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to aaron david says:

      Aaron David,

      Whelp, I just finished Urth of the New Sun, right after reading Book of the New Sun, right after reading BOTNS right before reading it again, and I have to say two things about how it all comes together.

      1. When Wolfe says that there’s no magic in BOTNS he’s full a ****. Plenty of magic in it, if by “magic” we mean “stuff that happens for no physically explainable reason.

      2. The time travel stuff coupled with the idea of the Anima (as defined in the book!) makes sense of the rest.

      Not bad, really. Pretty dang fine, in fact.

      I think I’m gonna read it again now that I unnerstan sortamaybe what’s going on. I mean, how bad can it be to read beautiful prose and a great story for a third time, ya know?Report

      • Avatar aarondavid in reply to Stillwater says:

        Why do you think there is magic? There is no magic.

        (One of my favorite parts of rereading it is when you come across his father in the first book, searching for his mother in the lake.)

        The writing is deceptively good, effortlessly good. Bear in mind that the primary influence for the books is Proust.

        (I am laughing out loud writing that.)Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to aarondavid says:

          THe manifestation of anima’s as material(like) entities is effectively magical, as well as a bunch of the time travel stuff (that at one point Severian can access the corridors of time). Even the powers he manifests when he’s embodying the power of the new sun are magical. That whole thing is magical.

          Again, just because Wolfe says there’s no magic in the book does not make it so. Especially if the meaning of the term “magic” is something like “actions that cannot be physically explained”.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

            I prefer magic as “stuff that’s WAY too complicated for people in the system to model”

            Then again, I knew a gamemaster that used a supercomputer to model his world’s magically induced weather patterns. (apparently not specifying which world’s weather you’re modeling will get you time on underutilized clusters)Report

          • Avatar aarondavid in reply to Stillwater says:

            Sure, but one of the central issues of the book is that Wolfe rather severely follows the dictates of the first person narrator. In other words, if Severian cannot explain how something works, then it appears to him as magic and he in turn relates it to the reader as magic. Hence the comparison to Proust and his world of memories.

            Also, again following the Proustian model, everything that is related to the reader is a memory and within memories lie half truths and outright lies by the narrator. Severian does not want you to think he is stupid, nor does he want you to think he is weak willed, etc.

            The corridors of time crop up in all of the books, indeed are one of the central facets of the story. They relate to how the Claw is working (or rather how it is just a gem and later a thorn) and that it is Severian, moving through the corridors, that is “raising” the dead.Report

  4. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    It’s bad TV night for me, so am looking forward to and fearing FTWD both as an extension of the zombie genre and as an extension of the destruction of L.A. sub-genre (as I was just posting about elsewhere ).

    Despite myself, after finishing FROM DUSK TIL DAWN S1, I watched episode 1 of S2. (It’s a bit confusing, since the promos tell us it’s premiering this Tuesday, but On Demand is showing it already – as sometimes happens…). As for the issue of divergence from the film, from the commencement of the Events at the Titty Twister and the inevitably underwhelming re-creation of the Santanico Pandemonium snake dance, expansion of the backstory went from back-fill to front and center, and the plot started to spin out of control, following the same pattern as in the movie, only more so.

    I can’t recommend it, and am not committed to watching the rest of it, though I suspect I will continue at least for a few more episodes. The producers might take heart in knowing that it’s at least moved the El Rey Network onto my main “wonder what’s on” list.Report

    • Avatar aaron david in reply to CK MacLeod says:

      I had seen that listed on some sort of Hulu/netflics/other and went “oh well..? to it, but..BUT, that caused me to run across (my new favorite word) the TeleNovela La Reina Del Sur, which is campy crap but at least is from a good back story.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to aaron david says:

        You mean – or was it based on a true story (distantly?)? – or something else altogether?Report

        • Avatar aarondavid in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          Yes, that. With Perez-Reverte, I am never quite sure what is borrowed and what is true. Which sounds stupid, until you realize his backstory as a war corespondent.Report

          • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to aarondavid says:

            Am a big fan of the Captain Alatriste novels – His other works, like QUEEN OF THE SOUTH, seemed of high quality, but not as diverting and rewarding.Report

            • Avatar aarondavid in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              Yes, they tend to be very high quality thrillers. I am a huge fan of The Club Dumas, in part because of the pathos he brings to the main character and his constant thoughts of an old relationship. Also, used books.Report

              • Also, used books.

                I’ve started using thriftbooks and have been quite pleased so far. Prices are good. Their standards on quality ratings seem to be higher than mine — one of the last ones I got was rated “good”, but I think it’s somewhere between excellent and barely-touched. Free shipping for orders over $10.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I have worked in used books on and off my whole adult life, and am rather a snob on even little things such as how someone lists a book online. If the seller can’t use correct bookseller terms such as 12mo, quarto, foxing or holograph then I am not sure I am getting what I am paying for. Sometime that works in my favor (a first of Wild Sheep Chase for $5) sometimes not (buying a first edition, and it is a book club, determined by the blind stamp on the back cover.) These terms were created to accurately list books in trade magazines and catalogs of the print kind, where the seller is paying by the line. When I sell on line, I tend to depreciate what I am selling also, so if it is VG+ I would downgrade it to VG, just to make sure it doesn’t bite me in the a**.

                I will check out Thrift books though, as any new source is good!Report

              • @aarondavid
                Ah, very different needs then. I go the used book route mostly for odd academic works that I’ve decided I need on my shelf, usually after reading a copy borrowed through my local library network. So I don’t care about most of the things that a dealer or collector would, mostly just intact and clean pages. These days, a PDF version would probably be better for my uses — searchable, doesn’t take up the volume, and overlays allow for copious note jotting.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Gotcha, and for my own technical library (extensively on test equipment, hydronic systems, etc.) is on PDF for that reason. Though I do have a love of prewar technical manuals, if for no other reason than the clarity of writing and the non assumption of prior information.Report

  5. Avatar Chris says:

    Watch Bojack Horseman, even if you weren’t thrilled about the first season. Season 2 is really good.

    Don’t watch Insurgent. It is awful.Report

  6. Avatar Glyph says:

    I have the finale of Humans to watch tonight. It’s a pretty good, not great show – the family stuff is sometimes pretty goofy, but there are a couple of really nice performances (Anita/Mia, and Niska). For whatever reason, one of the most affecting moments was one of the synths attempting to pray (with William Hurt’s death a close second).

    Hannibal is almost over, and I think I am ready to let it go. As much as I love it, the scene in this last episode (you know the one) was just too YEEEEESSH. And the show has always been aggressively unrealistic, but seriously, there is some epic psychiatric malpractice going on all up in this mess. And poor, poor (yet indestructible) Dr. Chilton.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

      Well, that was a pretty disappointing season finale. I give Humans S1 a B-minus; if not for a couple of the performances, it’d probably go into C territory.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        I think we’ll all be disappointed in the humans finale.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

          If I ever get caught up on my other comics, I want to try this one.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

            That sounds… interesting, and more than a little bit disturbing.Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

              Are you caught up on Hannibal? If you aren’t watching the back half of this season, don’t click this, but what professional ethics would allow for Alana (Hannibal’s former lover/thrall, whom he defenestrated) to be in charge of Hannibal’s care/imprisonment; or Will to be treated by Bedelia, ANOTHER former lover/thrall/accomplice of Hannibal, and who appears to be STILL under his influence?!

              Who is running the ethics boards around here?!Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                I’m not even close. I may restart it, because it’s been so long.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

                If I can find it, I may try Mr. Robot next.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                I really enjoy it. I know nothing about hacking, so I always worry that people who know stuff about computers will be turned off by inevitable inaccuracies, but everything else about it is really good. Let me know when you get to it.Report

              • Avatar Fish in reply to Chris says:

                I like Mr. Robot, and here’s why: Real analysis of a penetration event involves endless hours poring over masses of logfiles, which would make for very boring TV. Recognizing this, the Mr. Robot folks still do the “computing made for TV” thing, but when they do a closeup of the screen, they’ll throw things like a real UNIX command line in there, and have the characters say something about using secure salted hashing algorithms to encrypt a shadow file–just enough to let the nerds in the audience know that they’ve done some homework, but not so much that the non-nerds’ eyes glaze over.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Fish says:

                Ah, that’s good to know.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

        B- seems about fair. Similar pattern as with From Dusk Til Dawn, when the “1st Season premise” gives way to “the basis for further development.” Reminded me even a little of the Penny Dreadful S2 finale, though PD seems much more under the control of an overarching vision.Report

  7. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Speaking of sexy criminals, anyone here ever see that old show Dangerous Women? It used to be one of the few broadcast shows on Sunday afternoons. I was too young for it, but all these years later I still remember it.Report

  8. Avatar Morat20 says:

    I’ve been watching Heroes (never saw it the first time around) while jogging, and caught up on the latest season of Doctor Who on Neftlix.

    Of course now my treadmill is being…broken-ish? so I’m gonna have to put Heroes on hold until I get that fixed. (I can tighten a belt and lubricate it, but after that I’m done. It’s squealing and slipping, the fan started making a weird noise. I think maybe the motor belt is going, but that’s just a random guess. I guess tomorrow will include some ‘Who the heck fixes a treadmill’ time).Report

  9. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Things have been busy to the point of madness here at Maison de Kelly. I’ve had no time for either reading, television, or movies for a while. My hope is that by the end of this week that will change, and I can settle into the new Louis de Bernières novel, The Dust that Falls from Dreams.

    (I may not be able to hold off reading The Speechwriter, which I gleefully picked up last night on Will Truman’s recommendation.)Report

  10. Avatar Patrick says:

    Take this idea and compare and contrast “Mad Max”, “The Road Warrior”, and “Mad Max: Fury Road”.

    Because it appears to me that Mr. Miller learned something in there, and I think this post relates to it more than a tad.

    Aside to @ck-macleod

    I watched Fear the Walking Dead last night and it’s a slow burn so far. I wasn’t expecting a slow burn. The slow burn aspect is bugging me.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Patrick says:

      I didn’t bother with Fear the Walking Dead, and here’s why:

      Although I understand the premise is that we are going to actually see society break down, and THAT has me interested (the best part of The Stand is the first part, when King details exactly how civilization falls apart, in a series of vignettes that are stomach-churning in their grim inevitability), I just don’t understand how you sustain that dramatically for very long without inducing the unintentional comedy that The Strain has, in which New Yorkers appear to be still going about their daily business, ordering takeout and going to restaurants and walking around on the streets and watching TV while the apocalypse occurs around them.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Man, that’s just daily live in the City.

        u see a zombie on your subway ride and report it, they're taking that train out of service. I got places to be, b.— Desus Nice (@desusnice) August 24, 2015


        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

          It’s easy to play it for comedy (Shaun of the Dead certainly did), but you can’t really play it for drama. It’s too hard to get the interstitial states right. People are either getting by or the world is ending, it can’t really be both. The Strain is seriously ridic in this regard (and many others).Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

            I imagine. OT writing project: a collection of stories, loosely tied together with some character(s), location(s), or theme(s), set in the period from the realization that we are on the brink of collapse to the moment when the collapse is fully realized.Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

              Like I said, King does a fantastic job of that in the first part of The Stand, but even he seemingly realized you have to abandon that part, treat all of it as prologue for your *actual* longform post-apocalypse plot.

              I don’t mean to say it could never be done, but I think it presents challenges that are big enough that most writers just sort of instinctively avoid the liminal area.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                I read The Stand 20 odd years ago, when I was 16 I think, so I don’t really remember anything but an old lady on a porch.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

                The first bit, with the world falling apart, is worth a re-read. I did just that about 7 or 8 years ago, it’s really well done and uses some of King’s stylistic tics to great advantage. I stopped when the actual plot kicked in.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

              Isn’t that what we’ve been doing here? Chronicling the downfall of civilization? I figure the climax comes in 2017, right after President Trump is inaugurated.Report

            • Avatar zic in reply to Chris says:

              I have several characters.

              My favorite is a man; devout Catholic, who cannot even question if he might be a woman.

              So he invents this perfect blog wife. She writes these incredible, incredible thought provoking passages about virtue. But she’s no Madonna, for she’s barren.

              At the point collapse is a known known, people start asking her to speak in public, to guide them through the end of times. Only there is no she; so he starts to speak for her, her public face; she’s too exhausted from another miscarriage to speak publicly. Which is fine, until her guidance goes viral.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

        Without venturing into spoiler territory, FTWD is handling that potential problem very well, I think – thus among other things the “slow burn” that Patrick is complaining about.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          Thanks for not spoiling (who knows, I might end up watching it anyway), but what I am getting at is that to me, the very concept of “slow burn”, seems almost inherently-incompatible with this type of story.

          It’s kind like (traditional shambling) zombies in general, where the biggest disbelief that you must suspend is that organized modern militaries and police, with all the tech and training at their disposal, cannot make any headway against unorganized, mindless, slow, weaponless bipeds.

          The only way to sell a zombie apocalypse reaching the point of no return, is to assume that the transition from state A to state B must have happened very rapidly (this is why many zombie stories simply start right after the transition has occurred).

          Part of the problem The Strain has (vs. OG TWD) is that it’s set in a densely-populated city, vs. ruralia. That means getting depopulated shots is much harder for The Strain. Is FTWD set in L.A.? If so, my worry is that we end up like Strain‘s utterly-unbelievable-even-by-comicbook-standards NYC.Report

          • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

            Glyph: Is FTWD set in L.A.?


            Reacting according to preliminary conclusions on a show you aint watching, that is taking the issues you’re describing head on, not a great look, Glyphster!

            One old trailer I ran across while collecting material for the post linked above, but that didn’t fit with it much, but is great:


            • Avatar Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              Hey, we all need filters to preemptively-moderate our firehose-quaffing. And I am definitely leery of getting caught up in another series that I don’t love, yet can’t seem to quit for some reason.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              “Reacting according to preliminary conclusions on a show you aint watching, that is taking the issues you’re describing head on, not a great look, Glyphster!”

              Does that mean the only two choices I have regarding Real Housewives of New Jersey are either giving it respect or committing to watching a full season?

              I can’t just say, “good Lord, that looks extraordinarily imbecilic” and refuse to watch even the pilot?Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Sure, you can do that. But this is more like “The reason I’m not going to watch RHs of NJ is that there’s no way there are any housewives in New Jersey who are real.” Then someone says, “Hey, I watched the show, and they looked kind of real and probably of New Jersey, and married, in houses,” and you say, “No way, can’t be, it’s impossible, I refuse to view the evidence.”Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                Eh, I wouldn’t review a piece of art without seeing it, but I see nothing wrong with erecting largely-arbitrary filters simply as a means of controlling the input flow. There are bands I’ve refused to listen to, because I hate their name or promo pic or cover art.

                Sometimes, I’ve been wrong and there was much of great worth there, and I’ve missed out. But such is life and you have to keep your head above water somehow. It’s not as though FTWD is coming into this with impeccable cred with me – I gave up on the comic a long time ago, and am not sure why I still watch TWD. So I am definitely giving greater weight to my fears than my hopes, based on my confidence level in the creators.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                One of the great things about the internet age is that you can make preliminary judgments about a show or movie or book or restaurant or potential romantic partner or whatever, and if you decide it’s not worth your time, or even worth the time to seek out reviews, you can still avoid missing out if someone whose opinion you respect makes a point of telling you how much he or she loves it.

                Before the internet we just had to rely on our one stupid friend who had HBO and Cinemax just so he could watch boxing and the late night nudity.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

                Aint trine a make you watch it, just disputing your rationale as previously articulated. “Just over it all” is fine by me, but the comparison to THE STRAIN is quite favorable to FTWD precisely on the “getting from A to B” challenge. FTWD will I think be taken as something of a model on that one.Report

      • Avatar Fish in reply to Glyph says:

        The thing I love about this show is that we get to watch it from a perspective of knowing what’s going to happen, so when Travis goes knocking about in the church, making noise and calling out for people, we in the audience are all going, “What are you doing, dumbass?! Stop making so much damn noise!” And the inevitable “oh, he’s just sick and we can help him–uh, why is he eating my face?” moments to come. I agree that I don’t know how sustainable it is.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Patrick says:

      Worked OK for me. I had wondered if we were going to get more in Ep 1, but in retrospect the choices seem quite sensible to me: The objective was to bring sufficiently sympathetic and complex characters, and their larger community, into confrontation with the unbelievable somewhat believably, while pointing to orgies of by turns mass-destructive and intimately horrific ultra-violence to come.Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        My complaint is that they put the seed in there, but they didn’t deliver on it sprouting really… and the avoidance of the sprouting seemed a little contrived.

        That is, things were set up to show us that Things Are Happening and The End has Begun… but then the next thing that should have happened right after that thing didn’t happen, because of coincidence or something.

        The end was okay. I dunno, I’m being critical because the original show is one that makes me critical all the time, so maybe I”m being overly critical.

        I’ll watch the next few episodes, at least, so there’s that.Report

        • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Patrick says:

          Patrick: I’ll watch the next few episodes, at least, so there’s that

          I’m guessing if you watch the next few episodes, you’ll watch the whole season. If you watch the whole season, you’ll probably watch the second season. Eventually, all of TV will be zombie shows. In a way that’s already taking place. The thing about the zombie genre is that the zombie genre spreads just like zombies in the zombie genre spread.Report