Previous Posts: Uncategorized / General: March 2008

Things To Do Dept.

In the next week or so I'm going to begin the next phase of the consolidation of all the disparate sites I've been managing.  The individual book blogs are all going to get slurped up and redirected, along with the...


In the next week or so I'm going to begin the next phase of the consolidation of all the disparate sites I've been managing.  The individual book blogs are all going to get slurped up and redirected, along with the comments attached to them, and the domain names I had pointing to them will be redirected properly.  I'll also be putting back the ad block that used to exist in the sidebar, although I have to learn a little about how to design proper MT-compatible widgets before doing that.

A big advantage to doing this is that all the news I'll be posting about everything will show up here, on the front page; you won't have to dig through a bunch of different places to see what I'm up to.  If things ramp up the way I hope, then that'll be crucially important.

And now some links:

  • Would you ask a judge to stop a science experiment on the grounds that it might cause the world to come to an end?  Someone did — but most anyone who's familiar with the experiment in question (which could tell us some extremely eye-opening things about our universe) is snickering.  (Then again, they were justifiably worried that the H-bomb would set fire to the atmosphere, so maybe this isn't totally bunk...)
  • One of the men who made "The Killing Fields" a household name has died.  The man who portrayed him in the movie of the same name was, amazingly, killed in Los Angeles 12 years ago by a gang member.  "Lies written in ink will never hide truths written in blood." (Lu Xun)
  • JustTheDisc.com has changed their shopping cart system and search interface. It's now a lot harder to find stuff, and you can no longer "park" items indefinitely in the cart (which made for some amazing shopping lists).  It was fun while it lasted, though, and I do plan to check in every now and then.

Tags: links Movable Type music science


Hither and Thither Dept.

A defamation suit against Kenzaburo Oe was thrown out of Japanese court, one originally leveled against Oe due to his assertion that the Japanese military was involved in the mass suicides of Okinawan civilians during WWII (something which had been...


A defamation suit against Kenzaburo Oe was thrown out of Japanese court, one originally leveled against Oe due to his assertion that the Japanese military was involved in the mass suicides of Okinawan civilians during WWII (something which had been substantiated by investigation).  The whole touchy subject of WWII in Japan has never been handled well, but it's gratifying to see progress whenever it happens.


Tags: Japan links


Prize Find Dept.

I keep an Amazon wish list of books on Japan which I periodically browse to see whether or not given titles have shown up cheap (i.e., as ex-library copies, which are usually only a couple of bucks even with shipping). ...


I keep an Amazon wish list of books on Japan which I periodically browse to see whether or not given titles have shown up cheap (i.e., as ex-library copies, which are usually only a couple of bucks even with shipping).  Several titles I'd been curious about have turned up, which I'll be writing about here shortly:

  • The Scarlet Gang of Asakusa: A fairly atypical Yasunari Kawabata novel, from what I've read of his other books, and one which focuses on a time period in Japan that's rapidly becoming a fascination of mine: the Taisho era.  (We most recently saw a manga-fied version of same in Nightmare Inspector.)
  • This Scheming World: Ihara Saikaku's cheerfully snide look at Edo-era commoners and their relationship with the almighty gold (and silver, and copper) coin.

There's more, but those are the big ones.  Asakusa will probably merit a full-blown review, since it just showed up this morning and I've been itching to read it.  (It is apparently a brand-new translation, only released in 2006 or so.)


Tags: books Japan


J-Words Dept.

While updating some older movie-related entries I bumbled into a Wikipedia entry about the longest novels currently known, with the serial novel (Nakazato Kaizan's Daibosatsu Toge) that inspired Sword of Doom as one of the entries.  5.7 million Japanese characters is...


While updating some older movie-related entries I bumbled into a Wikipedia entry about the longest novels currently known, with the serial novel (Nakazato Kaizan's Daibosatsu Toge) that inspired Sword of Doom as one of the entries.  5.7 million Japanese characters is a monster by any standards; the Japanese Amazon entry for the book lists it having a whopping 1,149 pages.  One wonders if there's any chance at all of this ever showing up in English.

While we're dreaming, here's some others I'd like to see translated:


Tags: books Japan links


Paper Dept.

From the NY Times Paper Cuts blog, a piece about bookshelf etiquette. If I buy something and read it and realize I've finished with it, it goes into a shelf that's reserved for giveaways.  I've donated sizable chunks of my...


From the NY Times Paper Cuts blog, a piece about bookshelf etiquette.

If I buy something and read it and realize I've finished with it, it goes into a shelf that's reserved for giveaways.  I've donated sizable chunks of my book collection to people a lot more starved for reading matter than I ever will be — like a friend of mine who lost most of his books when an upstairs apartment in his building flooded and drowned a good deal of his collection.

Also, the Brooklyn Museum is having an exhibition of Japanese woodcut prints!

Last but definitely not least: I forgot to post something about Arthur C. Clarke's passing, but that's only because so much of what I wanted to say has been said better by so many other people.  The one comment I could come up with was, "Sir Arthur now knows the Nine Billion Names of God."


Tags: books Japan links science


East Is East Dept.

A piece about Asia Week in New York, courtesy of the Times. Memo to self: win lottery, move back into NYC at first convenience....


A piece about Asia Week in New York, courtesy of the Times.

Memo to self: win lottery, move back into NYC at first convenience.


Tags: China Japan Korea links


Dreaming On Dept.

Like a lot of other movie/comics/anime fans, I sit around with friends and muse about the possibility of this or that show or book being made into a live-action movie.  Here's a quick updated run-down of my current wish list...


Like a lot of other movie/comics/anime fans, I sit around with friends and muse about the possibility of this or that show or book being made into a live-action movie.  Here's a quick updated run-down of my current wish list in that category, with discussion.  (There may be some repetition with an earlier post, but I have new material to go with it.)

  • The Guin Saga.  The fact that this hasn't been made into a live-action movie is nothing short of mind-boggling.  In today's post-300 digital-backlot world, why not?
  • Vampire Hunter D.  The animated features that were made from the books were just the tip of the iceberg: a live-action feature along the lines of the visual aesthetic that Tim Burton put together in Sleepy Hollow, for instance, would be magnificent.
  • Claymore.  Not exactly a household name, but a fairly easy story to adapt for the screen: the setting is rather generically European and so wouldn't require a lot of effort to be made coherent to Western audiences.
  • Berserk.  Probably impossible to pull off: R-rated at best, fourteen hours runtime at least, would cost $400 million and would never make back a dime of it.  Doesn't stop me from dreaming, though.
  • The Songs of Distant Earth.  Arthur C. Clarke's novel was to have become a movie as well at one point, although the deal for that fell through — but with today's technology it would not only be feasible but probably not terribly expensive at all.
  • The Divine Invasion or The Man in the High Castle. The former is probably one of Philip K. Dick's most difficult-to-film stories, but if tackled right it could be absolutely transcendent.  The latter is about 90% filmable, but how you tackle that last 10% will make all the difference in the world.
  • More Than Human.  Probably one of my favorite SF novels of all time.  This could be done for very little money, but would require a literate and thoughtful director to pull it off; my vote goes for Alfonso Cuarón.
  • Alan Mendelson, The Boy From MarsAnother favorite of mine as a kid, and it still is a favorite of mine as an adult.  (I have a weird idea: Rob Zombie as Clarence Yojimbo.)

Another pet project of mine would be a movie biopic of John Coltrane — how about Denzel Washington in the main role?  (They've already tapped Don Cheadle for Miles Davis, though...)


Tags: movies pipedream


Hither and Thither Dept.

Fascinating article in the Times about how some art from Disney ended up in a janitorial closet in a university in Japan.  A long, strange trip indeed. A new box set that culls together 13 hours of shorts from...


  • Fascinating article in the Times about how some art from Disney ended up in a janitorial closet in a university in Japan.  A long, strange trip indeed.
  • A new box set that culls together 13 hours of shorts from the pioneering director Georges Méliès has just hit.  This sounds like something to put into any film school library, to be sure, but I'm inclined to rent one disc every could of weeks and work through the whole oeuvre.
  • Disney/BV announced Lion/Witch/Wardrobe for Blu-ray — but in classic "double-dip" style, it isn't the extended version, just the bog-standard theatrical version.  Thanks, guys.  Way to make a bunch of people cancel their orders in disgust.  (And if history is any guide, an extended cut on BD will not be forthcoming because of "lack of sales".)

AND LOOK WHAT CRITERION JUST DRAGGED IN!

  • Yukio Mishima's long-believed-to-be-lost short film Patriotism (from his short story, also known as The Rite of Love and Death) is getting its own Criterion release.  It's coming out independently of Criterion's release of ...
  • ... Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (I'll be reposting my review of that at some point), which will be a 2-disc set with tons of urgently-needed extras; the original Warner Brothers disc was not bad, but was rather bare.
  • Claude Sautet's Classe Tous Risques is coming out as spine #434.
  • Anthony Mann's The Furies.  Two words: Barbara Stanwyck.
  • From the Republic of Macedonia, 1994: Before the RainRade Šerbedžija (Snatch) also stars.

Tags: Criterion links movies


Irregularly Expressed Dept.

One of the "fun" things I did with Movable Type (note the sarcasm quotes) was create some special URL handlers.  F'rinstance, if I want to link directly to an Amazon product, I just have to create a URL that points...


One of the "fun" things I did with Movable Type (note the sarcasm quotes) was create some special URL handlers.  F'rinstance, if I want to link directly to an Amazon product, I just have to create a URL that points to amazon:xxxxxx (the XXX being the product ID), and a regex will transform the output when the post is published.  Ditto Google searches, Amazon products with images, references to Discogs.com, and so on.

Getting this to actually work was frustrating beyond belief.

The biggest problem with regular expressions is, as someone else once put it, they're a way of solving one problem by replacing it with another, even bigger one.  Regex syntax makes Perl look like a model of beauty and syntactical elegance in comparison.  Worse, you may be at the mercy of whatever local variants of regex you're being forced to work with, so something that looks like it might work in System X doesn't in fact work in System Y.  And so on.

That said, I think I've climbed over most of the worst hurdles by this point.  The next step is to see how I can integrate the ideas I have more elegantly into MT so there aren't massive performance hits incurred by what I'm doing.

On the whole, I'm happy with having moved to MT4 and made the decision to re-architect everything.  I am, however, discovering certain limitations to the system that I'm going to have to engineer around.  Template hacking is not my favorite hobby in the world, and I hate the idea of hacking the system to do something only to find that one or two revisions down the line, they've created a native way to do it — which in my mind means I have to undo my work and do it their way to avoid future compatibility / performance issues.

Example: What would be the best way to create a block of text that appears at the top of a category index?  A "pinned post"?  Direct editing of the template?  (My instincts tell me the best thing to do would be to create a post with certain attributes and then create some kind of exception in the template that allows it to bubble to the top and have its date information suppressed — so I've done that to see how it holds up.)


Tags: Movable Type


J-Library 2 Dept.

Some more stuff from the Japan-studies bookshelf for your perusal... The Nobility of Failure, Ivan Morris: I've mentioned this book many times before, and it would be a huge mistake for me to omit mention of it in one of...


Some more stuff from the Japan-studies bookshelf for your perusal...

  • The Nobility of Failure, Ivan Morris: I've mentioned this book many times before, and it would be a huge mistake for me to omit mention of it in one of these "bookshelf" posts.  Morris's study of heroic failures throughout Japan's history is a classic of its kind: it tells you as much about how the Japanese see themselves reflected in their heroes (and vice versa) as it provides biographical overviews of figures that are sometimes emphasized in Japanese history precisely because of their psychological, rather than historical, importance.  The book is out of print and copies are not easy to come by at decent prices; I'm hoping this is one of the many titles on Japan that can be brought back through the magic of print-on-demand or similar technologies.
  • Feudalism in Japan, Peter Duus: A very good, concise overview of the history of the feudal governments in Japanese history; it's only about 120 pages including endnotes, so it's a fine way to get a bird's-eye survey of the topic without dropping tons of money.  (Note that there are multiple editions of this book available; I have just linked to the most recent one.)
  • Legends of the Samurai, Hiroaki Sato: A very readable and accessible (even for the layperson) cache of samurai tales, as translated from contemporaneous sources with commentary.  I picked up my copy while on my way through an airport, believe it or not, and I devoured the whole thing on the plane shortly afterwards.
  • Sources of Japanese Tradition: A multi-volume set that mines historical documents to explain Japanese tradition in context.  There's relatively minimal editorializing; the compilers have done their best to let the documents speak for themselves.  This is one of the more advanced books to have on your shelf since it presupposes familiarity with the history in question, but it provides a perspective that I haven't been able to match through just about anything else in my library.

Tags: books Japan library


Mon Mon Dept.

A fantastic site that has .EPS versions of just about every Japanese clan crest, or kamon.  I have a Dover paperback that has a catalog of them as well, but having them in this form is just about indispensable.  (I...


A fantastic site that has .EPS versions of just about every Japanese clan crest, or kamon.  I have a Dover paperback that has a catalog of them as well, but having them in this form is just about indispensable.  (I used the Genji clan crest as above, since it's my favorite of the bunch and also reflects my fascination with all things Genji.)


Tags: art Japan links


Eye of the Beholder Dept.

Now I have a reason to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art sooner rather than later: a spectacular exhibition of Chinese scroll paintings. The exhibition runs through August 10, which gives me plenty of time to check it out...


Now I have a reason to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art sooner rather than later: a spectacular exhibition of Chinese scroll paintings.

The exhibition runs through August 10, which gives me plenty of time to check it out in the company of a certain very good friend that I know will enjoy this.


Tags: art China links


The Blu Knight Dept.

Batman Begins has just been announced for Blu-ray.  There's an Amazon SKU for it already, too, so you can sign up to get notification for when it's officially solicited.  The word is it'll drop around July or so, when the...


Batman Begins has just been announced for Blu-ray.  There's an Amazon SKU for it already, too, so you can sign up to get notification for when it's officially solicited.  The word is it'll drop around July or so, when the next movie also hits theaters.

...yes, I'm excited.


Tags: movies


Paterson's Way Dept.

Now that Spitzer is stepping down as governor of New York, attention has turned to his replacement -- Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who is legally blind.  His perspectives on his own situation are well worth reading. I'm close to more...


Now that Spitzer is stepping down as governor of New York, attention has turned to his replacement — Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who is legally blind.  His perspectives on his own situation are well worth reading.

I'm close to more than a couple of people who are equally impaired, if not flat-out blind.  All of them, in my experience, have been adamant about having a life that is as close to one that any of the "rest" of us have been living — and for the most part, they get it, although there are times when things break down.  How they deal with those situations is, as they say, the other 90%.


Tags: links


No Country For Old Wars Dept.

"The Spoils of War in Peaceable Sweden" deals with a show at the Swedish Royal Armory (in Stockholm) called "War Booty": Speaking of northern Europe, Roger Ebert has a look at Ordet, a Danish Great Movie from a ways...


  • Speaking of northern Europe, Roger Ebert has a look at Ordet, a Danish Great Movie from a ways back courtesy of Carl Theodore Dreyer — simultaneously one of the best and least prolific movie directors on record.  (Also fun is his look back at Melvin and Howard, a movie I also feel a great affection for while knowing that the story it's based on is probably hokum.)
  • No Country for Old Men hits DVD and Blu-ray today; I'll be checking it out before too much longer.
  • William Basinski's Disintegration Loops albums (I, II, III, and IV) are now available at the Amazon.com MP3 store as DRM-free downloads.  I ought to review these at some point as I've been wanting to get my hands on them for a while now.

Tags: Amazon.com links movies mp3 music


J-Library Dept.

One of the shelves I keep next to the desk is my quick-reference library for all things Japanese -- which is proving itself more and more useful over time, especially with the research I've been doing for the hero story...


One of the shelves I keep next to the desk is my quick-reference library for all things Japanese — which is proving itself more and more useful over time, especially with the research I've been doing for the hero story and whatnot.  Here's a quick rundown of some of the most immediately useful books:

  • Everyday Life in Traditional Japan, Charles Dunn: This is the best quick-and-dirty, all-in-one reference to the ways of life in Japan before the modern era (essentially, everything from the civil wars to about the before the Meiji years).  It helps you answer quick questions, like what the months of the rice-planting season were or how many meals people date in the course of a day.  The emphasis here is on factual information and not history as such, with each chapter handling a different sector of life ("The Samurai", "The Farmers", "The Merchants", etc.).  This was probably one of the first books I bought for my own research on Japan and I've worn out two copies.  Start your crash course here.
  • Japan: A Short Cultural History, G.B. Sansom: Sansom's overview of Japanese history eschews a names-and-dates approach and goes instead for looking at the evolution of Japan through its cultural expressions.  It's a hugely absorbing read, one of the best ways to get a flavor for the sweep of the country's history without having to plow through a timeline.
  • A History of Japan [3 vols.], G.B. Sansom: If you want an even more detailed approach to Japan's history, this three-volume set from Tuttle (in paperback with a handy slipcase) is the really scrutinous version.  Great for zooming in on a particular detail you might be curious about after you've already had the thirty-thousand foot view.  The three volumes are also available individually.
  • The World Turned Upside Down, Pierre Souyri: Another very good study of medieval Japanese society that runs up to the Sengoku period.  Shorter than Short Cultural History, but with a flavor of its own.
  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Japan has proved really useful for quick lookups and other "hasty facts" work.  It could really use an updating, though (it's been over 10 years since it was published).
  • One set I don't have, but would eventually like to pick up is the six-volume Cambridge History of Japan, which is probably the most ambitious and fully-realized work of its kind.  And deadly expensive to boot, but that's what a savings account is for.

This obviously isn't an exhaustive list, but these are the books I've gotten more out of than most any other, at least so far.  I'll post more lists on specific topics as time goes by.


Tags: books Japan library


Sokoban Dept.

You've probably noticed a lot of stuff getting shoved around and appearing and disappearing and whatnot.  That's going to continue happening for quite a while.  A lot of the legacy data that I migrated into the new instance of MT...


You've probably noticed a lot of stuff getting shoved around and appearing and disappearing and whatnot.  That's going to continue happening for quite a while.  A lot of the legacy data that I migrated into the new instance of MT is in terrible shape — I don't know what the heck I was doing when I first started putting everything together, but it's horrendously inconsistent.  The DVD review stuff is in the worst condition, so I'll probably not bother migrating most of it back in any time soon — I'm more interested in getting the writing-work sections of the site booted up and migrating all the stuff from the other writing blogs into those areas.

One thing I do plan to do is migrate back in the DVD reviews that point to AMN, since those are in the best shape and can be added back in with relatively little pain.  Plus, I need to update them anyway — I published a bunch of things that slipped past me when I was still setting things up — so that will probably be a priority in the coming week.  All the old directory names (mainly Summerworld) should still work, at least provisionally, until I can get more elegant directory structures in place.

I'm just really glad I'm not trying to do any of this with FrontPage (shudder).  I would probably have thrown myself, and my computer, out a window ages ago.

OK, some other stuff:


Tags: links upgrades


RareBay Dept.

A rarely-seen copy of Toru Takemitsu's complete 2-disc score for Kurosawa's Ran is up on eBay (follow the image link). I've got plans to eventually snap up a copy ... when I'm not between paychecks....


A rarely-seen copy of Toru Takemitsu's complete 2-disc score for Kurosawa's Ran is up on eBay (follow the image link).  I've got plans to eventually snap up a copy ... when I'm not between paychecks.


Tags: Akira Kurosawa eBay Japan music soundtracks Toru Takemitsu


Ketchup Dept.

Busy week on this end, but time for some tomato sauce: A piece in today's Times about a variety of solar power that doesn't use photovoltaics, but instead heating a vessel to generate steam via a mirror array.  I've seen...


Busy week on this end, but time for some tomato sauce:

  • A piece in today's Times about a variety of solar power that doesn't use photovoltaics, but instead heating a vessel to generate steam via a mirror array.  I've seen this system in use before, although I wasn't aware it produced better overage than an array of traditional panels.
  • Tartan USA has some new Blu-ray announcements, apart from Oldboy: A Tale of Two Sisters (which I was not a fan of, sadly), Lady Vengeance (YES), and Chan-wook Park's as-yet-unreleased I'm A Cyborg But That's OK, which from what I've heard sounds like a dud to me but I'm going to check it out regardless.
  • Ebert has a fine piece on the Russian film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, now on DVD.
  • Amazing bits of animation that use movie dialogue and typography. [NSFW]
  • Watchmen main actors now have a great set of images.
  • One of my favorite and perennially-underrated SF movies of all time, The Quiet Earth, is getting a re-release domestically.

More when I steal it, as always.


Tags: comedy gold links movies


Don't Run, We Are Your Friends Dept.

I've followed news reports in the past about the underground railroad that exists in North Korea to aid escape to China or other countries. If you want to ride that particular railroad, you'll need money or some other way to...


I've followed news reports in the past about the underground railroad that exists in North Korea to aid escape to China or other countries. If you want to ride that particular railroad, you'll need money or some other way to bribe your way out — and there's always the chance that you'll get caught.

Any government that refuses to allow its citizens freedom of egress, on pain of a bullet in the back of the head, is clearly worried about something.


Tags: China Korea


...

R.I.P Gary Gygax. I don't think I would have met a good chunk of my friends if it weren't for what he's given all of us....


R.I.P Gary Gygax. I don't think I would have met a good chunk of my friends if it weren't for what he's given all of us.

Boondoggled Dept.

In a blind test, which do you think sounds better: audiophile cable, or coat hangers?The answers may surprise you....


In a blind test, which do you think sounds better: audiophile cable, or coat hangers?

The answers may surprise you.


Tags: comedy gold


What You Know Dept.

There was discussion elsewhere about the whole "write what you know" debate, and about how that relates to things like fantasy and SF.  Someone I know is taking a writing course, and the teacher appears to be discouraging the...


There was discussion elsewhere about the whole "write what you know" debate, and about how that relates to things like fantasy and SF.  Someone I know is taking a writing course, and the teacher appears to be discouraging the students from writing SF/fantasy on the grounds that it would be better to start with something closer to home.  (I'm paraphrasing a bit but that's the essence of the discussion.)

I and a few other people were of the feeling that if there's one thing that you're going to know well, it's a world you've created yourself.  Of course, I can see the devil's-advocate site of this argument: just because you've created a world doesn't mean it's automatically going to be infused with the kind of insight and observation that one gleans from real life — and which makes any story all the more interesting and absorbing.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to try, though.

More devil's advocacy: I've seen more than a few examples of people who dove into the deep end of the fantasy or SF pool quite early on, without quite knowing how they were going to swim.  In one of the round-table workshops I participated in, I had at least one young and enthusiastic writer who would present this whole massive family history and geopolitical analysis of their imagined far-off land, but wouldn't have a character for all of this to happen to.  That in turn requires the writer to have some idea of what people are like and why they do things.  You can see where this is going.

In short, I think I see why some insistence on sticking close to established reality, at least at first, wouldn't be a bad idea.  But if the writer wants to stick their neck that far out to begin with, why not let them try (and learn something from the experience)?  You could do lots worse.


Tags: writing



About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Uncategorized / General category from March 2008.

You can see alphabetical or chronological listings of all entries in this category.

Uncategorized / General: February 2008 is the previous archive.

Uncategorized / General: April 2008 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

About Me

I'm an independent SF and fantasy author, technology journalist, and freelance contemplator for how SF can be made into something more than just a way to blow stuff up.

My Goodreads author profile.

Learn some more about me.

My Books

Coming Soon

Out Now

More of my books

Search This Site


Other People We Like

Fandom

Archives