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24 April 2016 @ 10:47 am
Today is Avram Davidson’s birthday.  A great and funny writer – his story celebrating the IBM Selectric typewriter is one of many classics.  His award-winning short story “ . . . Or All the Seas With Oysters” has to be on anybody’s Top Ten list.  I only met him a few times, a kindly and amusing man.  Wish I had known him well.

22 April 2016 @ 02:52 pm
A beautiful Florida morning here, almost cool enough for a sweater . . .

Wait!  A visitation.  A small eagle or large osprey just drifted down to land in the trees just on the other side of the back fence.  I tiptoed in and got the camera and snapped a picture. 

Then it came closer for a minute, pausing in the branches of one of our backyard trees.  Long enough for me to definitely identify it as a young (scruffy) eagle.  Then it decided we didn’t have a well enough stocked larder, and flew on.  If any of the pictures turn out I’ll send it on.  Very well camouflaged, so it may not show.

(Back to your regularly scheduled feature . . . )

We went out with Chuck and Judy last night for Italian dinner and a show.  It was a Hippodrome presentation of “The Elephant Man,” pretty well done, very disturbing.  And it ran late, so the ice cream shop was closed – which added another dimension of tragedy.  (Actually, though, we found a student place that was open late and had chocolate-chip cookies, sinful enough for me, and thick shakes, good enough for the female side.  Poor Chuck can’t have such sinful fare.)

We saw the play when it opened on Broadway back in the seventies, and I don’t recall it being so disturbing.  It may affect an old person more than a young one.

We saw the movie, too, and it may be that my 40+ year-old memory of the Broadway play is conflated with the movie.  Whatever, my memory of the story is more grotesquely protracted and tragic.  An admirable man, to be able to keep on anything like an even keel in all that emotional and physical complexity.


20 April 2016 @ 08:22 am
The Jungle Book might be a movie that has to be made every now and then to remind us who we are and who we have been.   The current incarnation is technically brilliant; you would probably want to see it even if the story were stupid or offensive. 

And it’s neither.  It does have its cutesy moments – how could it not? – but no cringing ones, and a lot of the animal and human characterization is much more adult and subtle than the story requires.  The animation is breath-taking. 

Kipling was an irreplaceable genius.  Disney reincarnates him well.

(The human character Mowgli fits in so well with the animals that as I was leaving the theater I couldn’t recall whether he was done by a live actor or photorealistic animation.  It was a very live actor, Neel Sethi, who must have the toughest feet and hide in Hollywood, running through jungle brush and then scampering up tree trunks and vines like a shaved spider monkey.)

(“All right, cue the monkey – who’s got the god-damned bananas?”)

The voices are great.  Scarlett Johanssen gives great hiss as the sexiest cartoon snake ever.  Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, and Christopher Walken also inhabit their cartoon characters with sly comic verve.

It doesn’t quite make me homesick for the jungle.  But close.

In fact, I missed the 1967 original since I was out hacking my way through my own jungle at the time, writing my own less entertaining  jungle book.  Loads of gratitude to the current possessors of the Disney crown for a worthy, greatly entertaining, often majestic, incarnation.  I’ll go see it again, and even spring for another movie ticket, although I think I have the DVD as a Writers Guild freebie.

17 April 2016 @ 11:05 am
We had a good model at studio yesterday, but the portrait I drew  is not very accurate.  I put eight or ten years on her face.



This was her first experience modeling, and she did pretty well.  Very still, and she had that ability to project personality.  Her name was Trish.  Seems to me I’ve had several models with that name.  (In a list of the thousand most common American girls’ names, Trisha is #539; plain Trish doesn’t appear.)

After studio we went to the Swallowtail Farm fair, about thirty miles away.   It was okay, good clean fun, nice ice cream and good fat sandwiches on home-made bread, crispy country bacon with fresh sliced tomatoes.  I sat and watched farm girls while Gay went off to look at the animals.

The girls weren’t moving slowly enough to draw – it only occurs to me now that I might have done some quick sketches, but I was still in a kind of “studio” mode – why don’t you just stand still and take your clothes off?

(That was one of my father’s four or five jokes . . . this sailor is sitting on a park bench, checking out the girls.  He asks every pretty one to take off her clothes – and of course every one of them slaps him and storms off.  [My father] asks him why he persists in this fruitless enterprise.  “It’s true,” the sailor says, “that nineteen out of twenty of them slap me and run off, but one out of twenty doesn’t.”  At some level that’s an American koan.)

Little kids had a great time, going crazy and running around.  They had a large inflatable slide.  Interesting that (sticking to the topic) the girls played in the water nude, but the few boys who participated wore bathing suits.  There’s a master’s thesis in there, but unfortunately it would only be one sentence long.

Actually, they were naked, not nude.  Interesting difference.  Everybody’s naked under their clothes, but you’re not nude unless skin is your costume.  Which is almost equivalent to “you’re not nude unless somebody is watching you.”  Even if he’s just a serpent.

Well, it was good clean fun, as I say, especially for the ones who were splashing around.

In the evening we joined Brandy and Christina and another couple for cocktails, which wound up being quite an enterprise, with about twenty bottles of booze of various kinds, and every conceivable mixer.  The kind of party my parents used to throw.  It was kind of fun, but I did drink a little too much, and had a raging thirst this morning.  Okay after breakfast, though.

On the bike and off to work.

14 April 2016 @ 07:25 am
This is forwarded from Sherry Gottleib – “Jefferson on Trump” --
"There is also an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents... The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provisions should be made to prevent its ascendancy."
-- Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect, and author (13 Apr 1743-1826)
06 April 2016 @ 08:40 am
Yesterday we went to the new Disney feature Zootopia, which was well done if predictable.  A cute young bunny goes to the big city to test her mettle as a cop.  She meets various anthropometric animal characters, some among the best minor characters Disney has ever done.  The sloths who play civil servants are hysterical.  The sex and poop jokes are pretty clever – the one character who is presented as seductive, a night club singer and dancer, is surprisingly erotic.  A slinky mink.  Of course Disney has been studying the abstract representation of sex ever since Steamboat Willy.  Our great-great-grandparents knew that he was referencing forbidden sex.  Uncle Walt has had his grip on our collective dick for more than a century.

05 April 2016 @ 08:49 am
Sorry to see that Justin Leiber has died. Met him at a few conventions in the South and in England.  I didn’t know him well, and wish I had known him better.

I knew his father Fritz Leiber, in fandom, many years before I met Justin.  A legend who looked and acted like a legend.  Justin was also handsome, but he didn’t have his father’s uncanny and somewhat stagey presence.  (Though one never knows how much difference it makes when you know someone is a legend when you meet him.)

Hale fellow well met.  A lot of fun to hang around a con suite with.  Very well-informed (and opinionated) about computer science and AI.  He seemed a lot younger than 77.  An enthusiastic and charming man who apparently idolized his father.  Well, who wouldn’t?

04 April 2016 @ 10:24 am
A very interesting remark in Pepys’s diary: 

. . . Thence going out of White Hall, I met Captain Grove, who did give me a letter directed to myself from himself. I discerned money to be in it, and took it, knowing, as I found it to be, the proceed of the place I have got him to be, the taking up of vessels for Tangier. But I did not open it till I came home to my office, and there I broke it open, not looking into it till all the money was out, that I might say I saw no money in the paper, if ever I should be questioned about it. There was a piece in gold and 4l. in silver.

This is kind of fascinating.  Pepys is a pretty honorable and trustworthy man, and represents himself as such in his diary.  But “I can honestly say that I didn’t see any money in that envelope” profoundly separates the letter from the spirit of the truth!  Do lawyers still employ this kind of literal sophistry?

“Your Honor, I can honestly say that I never opened that envelope.”  (My secretary did.)

He knows that God is watching him.  Does he think that God can be flimflammed this easily?

Then again, what do I know about God? 

02 April 2016 @ 08:24 am
I just saw in Ansible that our pal Jack McDevitt has an asteroid named after him, Asteroid 328305, discovered in 2006:  Jackmcdevitt.  So I checked, and no, nobody has accidentally honored me in that way – in spite of the fact that I have colonized asteroids and flung them at the Earth and even given them consciousness and personality and criminality – one even destroyed the human race.  There’s plenty of room between Hal – not even a person – and Haldane, whose name keeps getting interchanged with mine anyhow.   And the next one is Hale, who didn’t do anything but fund the largest telescope in the world --

(9000) Hal                           Hal
(5028) Halaesus                      Halaesus
(238710) Halassy                       Halassy
  (518) Halawe                        Halawe
(30372) Halback                       Halback
(7368) Haldancohn                    Haldancohn
(36061) Haldane                       Haldane
(1024) Hale 

So that gives me something else to complain about all day.  As if a constant driving downpour weren’t enough.  You know, if you lived on an asteroid, at least it would never rain.

30 March 2016 @ 05:26 pm
(From Keith Stokes's blog . . . . )

I started writing my original drafts with a fountain pen in 1983, and with every book save one, the first drafts have been handwritten. I feel more flexible without a keyboard. (The novel THE HEMINGWAY HOAX was written on a manual typewriter, because the story's about a manual typewriter. For youngsters, that's like a word processor that has paper instead of a screen, and has the same amount of memory as a pencil.)

-- Joe Haldeman