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27 November 2015 @ 09:48 am
I checked the previews of Expanse, and it does look pretty gritty and sexy, though the Campbellian aspects (pick your Campbell!) aren't obvious from that short excerpt.  I do look forward to seeing the first episode.
Though I think I'll wait for the December premiere, rather than squint at it on YouTube.

(I should stir my stumps and get the machine working that puts the computer screen up on our console teevee.  But it wasn't plug-n-play, by a long shot, and I've been putting off messing with it.  Should get it going before it becomes obsolete.)

(There's a domestic factor at work that's not uncommon, I think . . . the teevee is Gay's domain, and I'm reluctant to change anything there working by myself.  Even if it worked she wouldn't trust it – and for good reason.  I think the machine knows I come from the book universe, and treats me with contempt and distrust.  Or maybe it's the other way around.)

26 November 2015 @ 10:36 am
Department of odd coincidences . . . on the news last night there was an interview with a General John Campbell, who's in charge of the army forces in Afghanistan.  Common enough name, which of course has considerable science-fictional resonance.

A military resonance, too, for me.  The guy looked about my age, a little younger – and in fact I knew a John Campbell in the army.  I met him in Vietnam; we were in the same platoon, in a fire base together for a month or so.  He was an NCO, and not a draftee, which was a little odd at that time and place.  A little younger than me.

John W. Campbell was the most important science fiction editor at the time, and I had met him a short time before being drafted, and I remember telling Sgt. Campbell about the coincidence.  He had read a little science fiction, and was interested.

Well, I checked the general's military history, and unfortunately he's too young for us to have crossed paths out there in the jungle.  It's kind of nonplussing to see an old guy in a position of huge authority and find out he's fourteen years your junior.

That makes me a, an . . . what's the term . . . an old person?  Dog my cats.  By cracky.  Too old to be a whippersnapper.

(Incidentally, I looked up "by cracky" and found a really unlikely explanation having to do with pubic hair.  It's just a euphemism for "by Christ.")

26 November 2015 @ 09:12 am
Maybe I love Fargo so much because it's so unrelentingly dark that it comes out the other side – funny, if sort of like  rubber-crutch funny.  Franz Kafka funny.

I liked Longmire a lot, too.  Glad to see that they've signed up for another season.

Yes, Elementary is the version I like, with the long-suffering and sexy Asian woman as Watson.  Holmes as a dysfunctional beyond-geeky polymath.

I wonder how many versions of Holmes have been on teevee.  ("Look it up on Wiki" is not an easy answer.  The list goes on and on, with variations fantastical and obscure.)

I don't read a lot of detective stories, but in high school and college I loved Nero Wolfe, and probably read about all of them.  Should pick one up again for nostalgia's sake.  Any opinions as to the best one?

(Cannon was a reasonable facsimile, given the limitations of teevee drama, but he didn't have Wolfe's absolute inertia.  I loved his counting beer-bottle caps and fussing with his orchids.)

The Holmes story pattern and character archetype are rock-bottom basic to modern western storytelling, of course, and certainly to science fiction.  Evil is mysterious and murky; rational action is human and pure.

25 November 2015 @ 09:55 am
Mitch Wagner asked this on sffnet . . . are you watching anything interesting on teevee?

Mitch, we're watching _Fargo_, which was especially harrowing last night -- can they _do_ that on TV? -- and other light entertainment, like _Sherlock_, _Doc Martin_, and the one about the crazy graduate students with the cute blonde across the hall (I'm great with titles), and the one about the beautiful policewoman with the bumbling writer boyfriend, and National Geographic specials about strange creatures on inaccessible islands.  On Saturday I watched five minutes of a football game, so nobody can call me unAmerican.
I love Antiques Roadshow, but it puts Gay to sleep.  Haven't believed the news since Walter Cronkite died.

24 November 2015 @ 10:35 am
Haven't thought about a winter reading list, Bib, as such.  Finished reading Doctorow's Welcome to Hard Times – a re-read, actually, after thirty years, which was good, and now I'm devouring Stephen King's Bazaar of Bad Dreams, a few stories at a time, a taste treat for us tasteless types.  At my elbow now, a graphic novel by Marjorie Liu, Monstress, and Jeff Lemire's Animal Man, which will join me in the tub later.  (The King book, a hardcover, is too big for bathtub reading.)

At the couch, when I'm not consumed by the boob tube, I'm re-reading Helen Vendler's edition of Emily Dickinson, always new, always transformative.  (I suppose some people think of her as a springtime poet, but to me she's winter, surviving.)

Took Gay to the doctor yesterday to have her gall bladder out.  A pretty quick job – though not quick to her! – and she's recuperating pretty well.  Thank the gods for endoscopy.  That used to mean a foot-long incision and a pretty long confinement.  But she's up today having a pretty normal breakfast.

Otherwise, a sunny winter morning in Florida.  Up in the seventies.  The birds are birding and the workmen are hammering away on the neighbor's roof.  Those explosive tile hammers, somewhat distracting.  (To me they look like an accident waiting to happen; I'm glad I never had to use them.)  Not the best writing environment.  Guess I'll hop on the bike and go grocery shopping.

17 November 2015 @ 03:39 pm

A reminder for night owls and early risers . . . there may be an impressive display of Leonid meteors tonight/tomorrow morning (November 18th) between two ayem and dawn, Eastern time.

Astro Joe

17 November 2015 @ 03:11 pm

Nobody reads Playboy anymore, except me, so I thought I might pass on some useful information that appeared there this month, to prepare partygoers for the holidays -- from the Holiday Party Survival Guide --

The Kaboom App is a free app that will automatically delete any shit-faced message you sent, after a preset delay.

The Evap Rescue Pouch is a bag full of extreme desiccant.  If you drop your iPhone in the punch bowl or the toilet (you were _that_ drunk?) you can seal it in the Rescue Pouch and have a chance at saving it.

The Pax 2 vaporizer supposedly allows you to discreetly inhale marijuana fumes with no one being the wiser, until you sit down on the floor and say "Have you ever really _seen_ your hand?"

If you're of a mind to flout the behavioral standards of your peers, just for a night, a free iOS app called The Cloak App can tell you whether anybody you've flagged from your contact list (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is nearby, before you misbehave.

New Year's Eve is only six weeks away . . .


15 November 2015 @ 08:50 am

There was a wonderful photo essay from National Geographic online this morning.  A couple who fled the Katrina flooding came back to their home to assess the damage and found that most of their unexposed film was soaked.  (Both husband and wife are serious photographers.)  They found a working refrigerator in the mess and plugged it into a generator, and halted the film's degradation.

When they developed the pictures and looked at the proofs, many of the pictures turned out weirdly transformative.  I don't know whether sfff.net will let me transfer them, but here's the url --


13 November 2015 @ 08:20 am
We went to see the new James Bond movie yesterday.  It was standard fare, but I enjoyed it enough.  The female lead lacked spark; I couldn't really believe Daniel Craig falling for her, even though she was pretty cute and a much tougher bar-fighter than I could ever be.  Craig delivered the product pretty well, although it more than stretched credulity.
It seems to me that there's a not-so-elusive balance in this kind of movie, which has to do with suspension of disbelief.  Yes, you know that actual human beings can't crash airplanes during a high-speed car chase and leap out of the burning wreckage and steal a passing car.  I guess any one of those elements would be okay, but when they happen seriatim, every forty seconds or so, you do get worn down.  I suspect that on paper -- in the script -- it looks like good grim Bondian comedy.  But it's too much too fast to be actually amusing. 
The dramatic character development that might rescue it is there in outline, but it's too dilute.  Bond is about to be retired, along with his whole section, his whole way of life, because he is in fact a half-century out of date.  It may be asking too much of a movie, even as long as this, to explore this premise while also supplying the requisite fist-fights and gun battles and car chases and high-tech mayhem.  I guess it feels like several stories all compressed into one.
Oh, Judy Dench has a lovely little posthumous cameo, expertly inserted into the plot.  I wonder if she knew when she filmed it that she would probably not live to see the movie.  What a pro.

11 November 2015 @ 04:22 pm

This was my temporary apotheosis as Master of the Beer in Vietnam (Ban Me Thuot, II Corps).  Through a slight clipboard mix-up I was able to order 500 cases of beer, which I distributed to the guys in the field at cost, I think $1.20 a case.  I was a popular guy for awhile there.  But then I had to go back to blowing stuff up, which was my actual Military Occupational Specialty.

Happy Veterans' Day to the survivors.