Wow, it's been a bonanza week for gloves, eh? This one is satisfyingly well-worn unlike most I see which look like they were practically new before they were lost.
This one also gives me an opportunity to vent a little. It's sitting on the sidewalk in a construction zone that's been making my ride home from work each night an adventure. This is one of the streets between work and home and it's been closed to traffic all this week. The other street between work and home is open, but the sidewalk and right lane are closed and torn up with other construction. If I were driving it wouldn't be a big deal, but biking a busy street that's been funnelled down to one lane is not a recipe for happy fun time. Hopefully all this night work will get the job done soon.
Saw this on my way to dinner through one of the least pedestrian-friendly areas in all of Issaquah.
Saw this on Saturday. Today it was gone. At least one of my readers may recognize this non-Issaquah location.
I was looking at the photography section in the library and the subtitle of this bright yellow book caught my eye: "The Aardman Book of Filmmaking". I pulled it down and sure enough, Wallace and Gromit grace the cover in all their toothy plasticine glory. It's a neat book. It starts off with an extensive illustrated history of stop-action animation from the early days of Edward Muybridge's motion studies up through George Pal and Ray Harryhausen and all the rest. There are lots of names covered from all around the world showing that animation isn't just Disney. And if the various denizens of the Aardman studios get a bit more coverage than anyone else, well, they did write the book, after all.
The rest of the book has purely practical chapters about basic equipment, simple technique, modelmaking, set design, animation and performance, and finally putting it all together to make a film. Each chapter is generously illustrated with examples from Aardman films and these illustrations make the book worthwhile reading even if you have no intention of doing your own animation. It's a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of their wonderful films, mostly the Wallace and Gromit shows, but also the earlier stuff and a couple of peeks at Chicken Run which was in production as the book was being written. But even if you have no intention of doing your own animation going in, you'll surely be tempted by the time you finish.
The emphasis is, predictably, on film and model stop-action work. Even so, there's enough stuff in here about animation in general that any aspiring animator is sure to pick up a few useful tips.
This glove appeared in this spot a year ago today and hasn't moved more than a few inches since. You'd think it would be in some out of the way spot, but it's right in the middle of the driveway for a local motorcycle shop. It became one with the pavement almost immediately.
This one, on the other hand, reappeared last week. I first saw it back in July of last year. It sat in the gravel driveway to a water pumping station for a while and disappeared as the weeds grew up around it. Last week they came through and mowed and there it was in pretty much the same spot.
I thought I kept a pretty close watch on Dan Simmons's production, but this book slipped right by me until a friendly librarian recommended it last week. I might have missed it because Simmons is genre shifting again. This book is a straight crime drama thriller, not horror, not science fiction.
Protagonist Darwin Minor is an independent accident reconstruction expert. His job is to figure out what chain of events resulted in the aftermath that's usually all anyone sees of a fatal accident. Early on in the book, someone tries to kill him for reasons he can't fathom. It quickly becomes clear that the murder attempt is connected to an ongoing investigation of a suspicious series of botched insurance fraud attempts. And the rest is the mystery so I'll just shut up.
The book is written in a really interesting voice. It's third person, not first, but the things being told are all the things that Minor would notice.
The book is very tightly plotted and I'd be astonished if the film rights aren't a hot property. It's got car chase gun fights, explosions, snipers, elaborate car crashes, snappy dialogue, a little gratuitous sex, a sweet love story, and a glider vs. helicopter dog fight. What's not to love? I'd pay 8 bucks to see it in the theatre. Great fun.
If you step back and think about it, fiction is an amazing thing in and of itself. It's a little boggling that abstract symbols can be processed through your eyes to assemble a virtual reality in your brain that can seem nearly as real as anything in the outside world. I find that short fiction accentuates this effect much as the first bite of a sinful dessert is often the most intense and satisfying part of the experience.
Nielsen Hayden and Yolen have assembled a whole trolley full of intense experiences in this new (first annual) collection of speculative fiction short stories with maximum teen-appeal.
The first story is "The Faery Handbag" by Kelly Link which tells about a young woman's relationship with her grandmother and the grandmother's curious relationship with her possibly enchanted handbag.
"Blood Wolf" by S. M. Stirling is set in the world of some of Stirling's novels, an alternate history Earth where Nantucket island is sent back in time to the Bronze Age. The title character is a young, we might say "savage", viking man coming to seek his fortune in the new world.
Lynette Aspey's "Sleeping Dragons" is set in Australia and told from the point of view of a young girl whose human-seeming brother hatched from an egg.
"Endings" by Garth Nix is an ambiguous short-short about joy and sorrow.
David Gerrold wrote "Dancer in the Dark", one of the longer entries. In it, something bad has happened to the world and a refugee boy is transported to a small farming community in the American midwest to work for his keep in the strangely dark world of its denizens. As much as I agreed with the message of this story I found its metaphor a bit too transparent (no pun intended) for it to work well as a story.
"A Piece of Flesh" is by Adam Stemple who I know as the excellent guitarist of Boiled in Lead (he's also the son of Jane Yolen who disclaims having been the one to choose his story for this collection). The story is of a young girl who is the only one who notices that her little brother has been kidnapped and replaced with a changeling.
Delia Sherman contributes "Catnyp", a fun little urban fantasy set in the New York Public Library. Sort of.
The collection starts a tradition of including one story from the early days of the genre, and in this volume that story is "They" by Rudyard Kipling (published in 1904), a sort of ghost story that is as mysterious today for its unaccustomed style and setting as for its subject matter.
"The Wings of Meister Wilhelm" by Theodora Goss is set in North Carolina after the Civil War when a violin-playing German appears in town and captures the imagination of a rebellious young woman.
"Displaced Persons" by Leah Bobet tells what happened to the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys after she died. From the monkeys' point of view.
Finally, Bradley Denton's "Sergeant Chip" is told from the point of view of an intelligence-enhanced army dog explaining how and why he came to kill eighteen soldiers in defense of the people in his care.
It's a very good collection of stories, just as you'd expect from editorial superstars like Yolen and Nielsen Hayden. They accentuate each story with brief sensitive introductions along with suggestions for other books with similar subject and tone to each story. I look forward to next year's edition.
I don't have anything original to say in the face of the series of disasters the people of the gulf coast are dealing with, but I've been reading a lot of good stuff out in greater blogistan that I can point you to if you're not already overwhelmed.
First off, if you want to do something to help, money to the Red Cross seems to be one of the better options. Check if your employer will match your donation like mine did.
One of the disasters in the chain has been the complete lack of a command structure in the aid response. Jim MacDonald over at Making Light shows that it isn't that we don't know how to do it, it's that we chose not to.
Making Light is a blog written by editors and they've been busy doing what good editors do: highlighting the good stuff so you don't have to read slush. Their main Katrina post is a good example, but everything they've posted since before the hurricane hit is worth a look. And it's one site where reading the comments is nearly essential.
UK science fiction writer Charlie Stross has some sobering musings about the potential global economic impact of shutting down one of the world's most active ports for the forseeable future.
Finally, if nothing else, this mess should bring home the importance of your own personal disaster preparedness plan. Because no matter where you are, there will be a disaster near you some time. Making Light has you covered again with Uncle Jim's excellent guide to assembling a "go bag". This is one of my projects for this weekend.
After Theo got a close-up, Alice wouldn't leave me alone until she got one too.
I bought my first O'Reilly & Associates book in 1986 at the bookstore on the Cal State Stanislaus campus where I was a Math/CS undergrad. It was a book about Usenet and I still have it, though I haven't used a news reader in close to a decade (unless you count the web interface at http://groups.google.com/, which I suppose you should now that I think about it). O'Reilly titles were always written for geeks by geeks, and this current volume is proof that they still are.
This is not a reference manual, and it's not a "how to take pictures" tutorial. It is just what the subtitle declares: "100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools". They're a wild variety of tips. How to take pictures of a white board. How to take soft focus portraits with a panty hose filter. How to take pictures of fireworks or little kids or the moon. Useful things to do with a camera phone. Common photoshop touch up operations. And lots of other stuff. You can look at the Table of Contents for yourself. I won't use every single one of these hacks, but a majority of them sound like fun to try and a bunch more are things it's good to know exist in case I'm ever in a situation to need them (like the existence of a camera mount that clamps to a partially rolled-down car window, or how to take my own passport pictures) so I will be buying a copy of this to add to my multitude of O'Reilly titles.
The setting of this book is so nearly identical to that of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere (published in 1998 after the Gaiman-scripted BBC miniseries from 1996. Green's book is copyright 2003.) that I had a hard time not trying to fit Neverwhere into this book as backstory. It doesn't really work, though since the flavors of the two works are so different. Gaiman's is creepy in that humorous, insidious, fey way he does so well. Green's is more mean and malevolently dangerous.
For those who have read neither book and don't know what I'm on about, Nightside is about a private investigator, John Taylor, who gets a job that takes him back to the "Nightside", a place he has left behind and is reluctant to revisit. The nightside is a sort of parallel version of London existing alongside and within the one we know. Taylor is complete cliche wisecracking private detective and the style is verging on parody of the hard boiled noir trope. Green does okay making the style and voice of the book work on those terms, but the story feels rushed and arbitrary. The book's very clearly a setup for a series, but I didn't find the characters engaging enough to make me want to read farther. They got into sticky situations and then got out again through their special powers. They had relationships, but they didn't have any chemistry. In a similar way, the plot didn't feel like a story that was happening to people, it felt like a clumsily devised role playing game. Not my cup of tea.