Tags: sci-fi

william morris

brief update

I've been pretty busy and haven't done much with LJ for a while. Maybe that'll change in the near future, maybe not - I just don't feel like I've got a lot to say lately. Instead, I'm reading and thinking (and watching movies). Anyway, here are a few things I've been up to:

  • We recently opened an account with Netflix. There's a feature that recommends movies based on your ratings of movies you've seen. In the last couple of days, I've rated 594 movies and TV shows. It was like the quiz that never ends.

  • I've been feeling like reading sci-fi. After the extraordinarily bad prose in Commune 2000 A.D., Asimov's I, Robot almost made me cry. From there, I went to Ringworld - again, sad prose and cardboard sexist characters wrapped around a couple of interesting ideas. Larry Niven can eat Mack Reynolds' lunch any day. From there, I started Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow - a parallel story to Ender's Game written around another character - so far, so good...

  • I've been reading Mary Daly's autobiography Outercourse. What fun! I'll probably write more on her later.

  • I've started going to my company's fitness center, usually at night when no one else is there. After three years, I think I'm in the final stages of mourning the loss of my invulnerable twentysomething body. From here on out, I'm going to require regular maintenance.

    That's my life, a bit.
  • topsy and hat


    Who the hell is Gregory Benford and what is he doing in my psyche?

    I am:
    Gregory Benford
    A master literary stylist who is also a working scientist.

    Which science fiction writer are you?

    The real Greg Benford once took this quiz, and it told him he was Arthur C. Clarke.

    I tweeked here and there, got Ursula K LeGuin, William Gibson (great...) and a lot of geezers, but no Arthur C Clarke... perhaps the test-taking Greg Benford was lying, or possibly he was a pod-person similacrum.

    I am:
    Arthur C. Clarke
    Well known for nonfiction science writing and for early promotion of the effort toward space travel, his fiction was often grand and visionary.

    I just needed a dash more optimism.

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    william morris

    interesting to see where this study will go

    Take the MIT Weblog Survey

    On the personal, "what's going on in my day-to-day life" front, I've had the urge to read more science fiction - hence the Mack Reynolds experience. The last couple of days, I've been reading Asimov's I, Robot, cleansing my palate of said Mack Reynolds experience. After the first two pages, I almost cried - the prose was so well-written in comparison. Joy, joy. I'm curious to see how long this novel-hunger lasts.

    We got a new Owain CD at PSG, which is actually his first release. Now, our collection of Owain is complete (though he appears on other CDs). I have fallen madly in love with the song "Es warb ein schöner Jüngling" - a German love-song - flowing, powerfully resonant strings, woven with pipes and harp, all with the heartful Riesling-like tenor of Owain wafting over the currents beneath. It strikes the same parts of me that his "Quantas Sabedes" does - the song to which lillassea and I danced at our handfasting. Mmmmm....

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    In other news,

  • I've discovered that, though coffee in any form is akin to the Nectar of the Gods, iced coffee tastes better with ice.

  • Becoming bored with not being able to beat my high score at Spider Solitaire, I've moved up to a more difficult level and now I'm just concered with finishing a game.

  • I've been periodically on a poetry kick - moved quite a bit by AC Swinburne and Dylan Thomas, though neither has usurped the very special place in my heart reserved for Gerard Manley Hopkins... the Man! ..the man's Man ;-) Though it's hard to beat the unperturbed Jeffers, who couldn't care less who is the better poet, since the work of Swinburne, Thomas, Hopkins and himself will all be swallowed up by our dying sun, centuries after Man, myopic Man, has annihilated his species through war technology and other casualities of civilization. Hmph! Take that, Bard!

  • Incidentally, through a mixture of circumstance and resistance, I haven't been on medication for over two weeks - I can't decide if that's a good thing or not... I'll see how it develops.

  • Shifting interests in politics again. I've found it difficult to resist being a passive consumer of commodified political discourse, since there are so many brands available with such shiny packaging. But (as the warning label reads) "consuming X in large quantities produces a laxative effect" or at least gives me indigestion, so 'resist' I must.

    I'm interested in reading and talking more, creating more, but about the structures of lived experience, rather than getting lost in leftie alerts. The fact is that I'm not happy with the unconscious structures of my life - the decisions made for me or unseen alternatives. The dissonance stirs an anxiety that won't vanish when X leaves office, that won't vanish when XYZ-Inc stops polluting Y, that won't vanish when I join this Party or that. Yes, these are all important issues, and it's good to share information. But information in our society takes a commodity-form like anything else, and thus we tend to foster passive consumption rather than supply a resource for people's autonomous projects; we market identityTM while the actual bones of life remain unchanged, Walden's unsucked marrow. I'm interested in the bones.

    Anyway, now accepting applications: any urbane Thoreaus or communard-curious folk interested in talking dreams and nuts & bolts regarding intentional living, intentional community, voluntary simplicity et al., feel free to contact me.
  • topsy and hat

    even mediocre sci-fi can have a point

    Combining my dual interests of utopian novels and stuff to read in the bathroom, I've been reading Mack Reynold's Commune 2000 A.D.. The book is inspired by a dystopian look at a world similar to Bellamy's 1887 utopia Looking Backward (which I have available to anyone via my BookCrossing hobby); a few of his other books are also inspired by Bellamy, for better or worse. Considering we shared an interest in Bellamy (and Bellamy's flaws), not to mention an interest in Esperanto, I figured I'd give Reynolds a try.

    The book reads like someone who really wanted to make one point, but felt it necessary to build an incidental story around the points rather than just writing a more direct essay. His attempt at inventing the slang of the future is embarrassingly lame and the sexism is unbelievable at times; the plot was predictable and I caught on to the sinister dystopian master plan 154 pages before the PhD protagonist (the book is 181 pages long). Despite its failings, it has a couple of good points, which I will reproduce here to save anyone else undue pain (unless you're looking for 'undue pain', in which case, by all means read the book).

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    And the climax of the book... a rant against collectivism, couched as a revolution against the welfare state, which demonstrates well that the cradle-to-grave welfare state is Collapse )

    I'll probably muse on these thoughts in a later post.
    william morris

    Distracted from my distraction

    I've been spending time writing responses to semi-Hannity-esque idiots on news groups I otherwise don't frequent (does this violate my kosher-like purity?) - I guess it's not too much a waste of time, at least if I'm getting a bit of smug satisfaction by skilfully demolishing the crafty-yet-inferior wiles of the Hannity-ite soundbite Jedi mind trick version of what passes for common sense. Afterall, it's much easier than coming up with thoughtful posts of my own.

    Along the way, I remembered something I read in an essay by David Brin regarding the genre of science fiction. SOooooo, I jumped over to Brin-world and got sucked into reading more of his essays - some very good stuff - and I promptly lost all desire to finish my witty retort to SoundBite. Just a few words tonight that resonated with me and I'm going to bed:

    In his article (written after the 2004 election) The Real Culture War, he points to the inadequacy of the left-right axis in discussing political options and shows how it lumps together people who would otherwise be at odds and divides people who could otherwise reach agreement. To him, the divide is really about modernity, which he categorizes as modernists vs. romantics (which I disagree with the firm distinction). Anyway, the piece I liked the most (so far):

    "Alas, people who identify themselves on the left will seldom recognize authoritarian tendencies in paternalistic tolerance-police. Conservatives won't see that corporate power is a temptation all-too readily abused. And libertarians seem incapable of recognizing that more markets, throughout history, were ruined by aristocratic cheaters than ever were by socialists."

    Agreed. Authoritarianism in any paternalistic guise bothers me more than conservatism; there is just a preponderance of authoritarians who identify as "conservative" and paternalism is sometimes harder to see.

    Good night.