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December 11, 2003
[books] His Bright Materials — another article about Philip Pullman … ‘I saw the first preview [of the His Dark Materials Play], playing to a packed Olivier Theatre. It is a beautiful production, the daemons of the novels criss-crossing the stage with shafts of light, tissue paper creations lit from the inside. Afterwards, people filed out past the tired-looking man in red socks, sitting with his wife. Pullman looked emotionally stunned, his face showing the impact of watching his words brought to life with the full might of the Olivier’s huge chunks of stage which can be raised and lowered and wheeled round at the director’s will.’
December 10, 2003
[blogger] Jerry Pournelle claims he created ‘The Original Blog’: ‘I can make some claim to this being The Original Blog and Daybook. I certainly started keeping a day book well before most, and long before the term ‘blog’ or Web Log was invented. I note that a Google Search on Blog doesn’t show me, at least not in the first 10 or so pages, but then I long insisted I don’t “blog” because I find the word ugly. But I have a fair amount of traffic and a quality readership, so I can hardly complain.’

(update) How Jerry Pournelle Got Kicked Off The ARPANET — bit of ‘Net pre-history … [thanks Phil]

*:login pourne
That account has been temporarily turned off.
Reason:
Think of it as evolution in action.

November 30, 2003
[books] The Daemon King — profile of Philip Pullman‘His powerful trilogy touches on the great issues common to all human imagination. Eternal oppositions such as love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, life and death, truth and lies, courage and cowardice are common themes in the experience of his main characters. In epic style, these leave the security of home in the quest of something far greater than themselves whatever the danger – a plot as old as Beowulf, but as resonant as ever. Stories have always had the capacity to show us the best as well as the worst of ourselves.’
November 26, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#8): The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams …

‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has-or rather had-a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans. ‘

November 20, 2003
[retro-games] Masters of their Universe — extract from Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford about the creation of the computer game Elite‘In 1982, popularised science hadn’t yet risen above the horizon in Britain as a cultural phenomenon. No chaos theory as a universal reference point; not much evolutionary biology, since Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould were only then beginning to make their mark on public consciousness; no cosmology deployed à la Stephen Hawking as a modern replacement for religious truths. In particular, computing in its DIY phase didn’t resonate as it would later. You wouldn’t have found French literary theorists writing about cyberspace in 1982, any more than they’d have written about household plumbing. Computers weren’t glamorous. The result of all this was that what Braben and Bell achieved together while they were at Cambridge was, effectively, invisible.’
November 11, 2003
[books] A Writer’s Life — an interview with Iain Banks‘At 14, he wrote his first novel, The Hungarian Lift Jet, which he wrote in pencil on a series of jotters. “The idea,” he tells me, “is that Hungary has invented this radical lift jet” – a sort of hovering warplane – “and the secret service had nicked it. It was just an excuse for vast amounts of mayhem. It all ended badly. Everybody died.” Meanwhile, Banks was developing “a really bad pun habit”. Pun habit? “Well,” says Banks, “say you’re describing a chandelier. You would have a character who was drinking shandy and leered at somebody. It’s that bad, I’m afraid.”‘
November 10, 2003
[books] You Ask The Questions — Philip Pullman‘Q: Do you crave adventure? A: No. On the contrary, I crave dullness and routine – that’s when I work best. What I would really like is a fairly long period of imprisonment, in a reasonably comfortable prison with a good library. That would keep the outside world at bay. I have no desire to be out on the ocean again. It would give me inspiration, but I’ve got plenty of that. What I don’t have is time.’
October 24, 2003
[comics] Philip Pullman interviews Art Spiegelman at the ICA on the 4th. November …. ‘Best known for the Holocaust narrative, Maus, Spiegelman is also co-founder and editor of the avant-garde comics magazine, RAW, and edits Little Lit, a series of comics anthologies for children. He is currently working on an opera, Drawn to Death about the history of comics, and has recently published a series In the Shadow of No Towers in several papers and magazines.’
October 22, 2003
[comics] Behind The Masks — Philip Pullman on Art Spiegelman’s Maus [Buy: UK | US]…

‘Maus does have a profound and unfailing “strangeness”, to use Bloom’s term. Part of this is due to the depiction of Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, and so forth. This is what jolts most people who come to it for the first time, and still jolts me after several readings. It is such a risky artistic strategy, because it implies a form of essentialism that many readers will find suspect. Cats kill mice because they are cats, and that’s what cats do. But is it in the nature of Germans, as Germans, to kill Jews?

The question hangs over the whole work, and is never answered directly. Instead we are reminded by the plot itself that this classification into different species was precisely how the human race was then regarded by those who had the power to order things; and the question is finally dispelled by the gradual gentle insistence that these characters might look like mice, or cats, or pigs, but what they are is people. They have the complexity and the surprisingness of human beings, and human beings are capable of anything.’

October 15, 2003
[blog] Feeling Listless — Unmemorable Book Openings (#1): Star Fighters by Robert E. Miles‘The forces of the Dark Empire seemed to be irresistible: its black star fleets ranged far and wide, extinguishing the light of freedom in galaxy after galaxy, creating in this manner the mightiest empire ever known among the stars.’
October 10, 2003
[books] Thomas Pynchon to do a guest voice in the Simpsons … [via Boing Boing]

‘Al Jean: We have a show coming up where Marge writes a novel and gets endorsements from writers playing themselves, including Tom Clancy, Thomas Pynchon-

IGN DVD: How did you get him?

Al Jean: We got him. (laughs) He was really nice.

IGN DVD: Oh well of course, he’s not seen, right?

Al Jean: He’s wearing a paper bag over his head, but it is his voice.’

October 9, 2003
[books] The Source of the Modern World — Glenn Reynolds interviews Neal Stephenson … ‘I do think that society has a craving, hardwired in somehow, to have a few people, no more than a couple of dozen maybe, who are universally famous, people like J. Lo or Britney Spears. However, once you get beyond that level, I think it is going to be a kind of highly fragmented, focused kind of fame. It makes for interesting situations. I’m sitting in a Marriott outside of Ypsilanti right now, and there’s a dental convention here. I’m totally anonymous. I can get a drink in the bar, go down to the restaurant, whatever and nobody will recognize me. But if I went to a science fiction convention, I’d be famous in those confines and I’d probably be recognized if I went anywhere.’ [via Fimoculous]
October 5, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#7): The Eye in the Pyramid by Shea and Wilson …

‘It was the year when they finally immanentized the Eschaton. On April 1, the world’s great powers came closer to nuclear war than ever before, all because of an obscure island named Fernando Poo. By the time international affairs returned to their normal cold-war level, some wits were calling it the most tasteless April Fool’s joke in history. I happen to know all the details about what happened, but I have no idea how to recount them in a manner that will make sense to most readers. For instance, I am not even sure who I am, and my embarrassment on that matter mates me wonder if you will believe anything I reveal. Worse yet, I am at the moment very conscious of a squirrel – in Central Park, just off Sixty-eighth Street, in New York City – that is leaping from one tree to another, and I think that happens on the night of April 23 (or is it the morning of April 24?), but fitting the squirrel together with Fernando Poo is, for the present, beyond my powers. I beg your tolerance.’

October 2, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#6): The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker …

‘At almost one o’clock I entered the lobby of the building where I worked and turned toward the escalators, carrying a black Penguin paperback and a small white CVS bag, its receipt stapled over the top. The escalators rose toward the mezzanine, where my office was. They were the free-standing kind: a pair of integral signs swooping upward between the two floors they served without struts or piers to bear any intermediate weight. On sunny days like this one, a temporary, steeper escalator of daylight, formed by intersections of the lobby’s towering volumes of marble and glass, met the real escalators just above their middle point, spreading into a needly area of shine where it fell against their brushed-steel side-panels, and adding long glossy highlights to each of the black rubber handrails which wavered slightly as the handrails slid on their tracks, like the radians of black luster that ride the undulating outer edge of an LP.’

September 29, 2003
[books] The World Outside the Web — a review of Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson’s new book … ‘Quicksilver infuses old-school science and engineering with a badly needed dose of swashbuckling adventure, complete with a professor-versus-the-pirates battle at sea. Who knew the Natural Philosophers were so cool?’ [Related: Preview of Quicksilver | Stephenson’s Home Page]
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#5): The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes …

‘In London, where Southampton Row passes Russell Square, across from the British Museum in Bloomsbury, Leo Szilard waited irritably one gray Depression morning for the stoplight to change. A trace of rain had fallen during the night; Tuesday, September 12, 1933, dawned cool, humid and dull. Drizzling rain would begin in early afternoon. When Szilard told the story later he never mentioned his destination that morning. He may have had none; he often walked to think. In any case another destination intervened. The stoplight changed to green. Szilard stepped off the curb. As he crossed the street time cracked open before him and he saw a way to the future, death into the world and all our woe, the shape of things to come.’

September 25, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#4): Something Happened by Joseph Heller …

‘I get the willies when I see closed doors. Even at work, where I am doing so well now, the sight of a closed door is sometimes enough to make me dread that something horrible is happening behind it, something that is going to affect me adversely; if I am tired and dejected from a night of lies or booze or sex or just plain nerves and insomnia, I can almost smell the disaster mounting invisibly and flooding out towards me through the frosted glass panes. My hands may perspire, and my voice may come out strange. I wonder why. Something must have happened to me sometime.’

September 23, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#3): White Teeth by Zadie Smith …

‘Early in the morning, late in the century, Cricklewood Broadway. At 06.27 hours on 1 January 1975, Alfred Archibald Jones was dressed in corduroy and sat in a fume-filled Cavalier Musketeer Estate face down on the steering wheel, hoping the judgement would not be too heavy upon him. He lay forward in a prostrate cross, jaw slack, arms splayed either side like some fallen angel; scrunched up in each fist he held his army service medals (left) and his marriage license (right), for he had decided to take his mistakes with him. A little green light flashed in his eye, signaling a right turn he had resolved never to make.’

September 20, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#2): One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey …

‘They’re out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them. They’re mopping when I come out the dorm, all three of them sulky and hating everything, the time of day, the place they’re at here, the people they got to work around. When they hate like this, better if they don’t see me. I creep along the wall, quiet as dust in my canvas shoes, but they got special sensitive equipment detects my fear and they all look up, all three at once, eyes glittering out of the black faces like the hard glitter of radio tubes out of the back of an old radio.’

September 19, 2003
[comics] Metacommentary (f) — Extracts from Warren Ellis’ new novel … ‘I sat down and basically wrote the first thing that entered my head. Mostly in the pub. Got to 50 pages, stopped and handed it over to Lydia. “Go on then,” I laughed, “do something with that., It’s got a Godzilla bukkake scene. You’re doomed.” Lydia sold the book to HarperCollins in New York within a couple of weeks.’
September 18, 2003
[quote] Memorable Book Openings (#1): Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney …

‘You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge. All might come clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder. Then, again, it might not.’

September 14, 2003
[books] Under the Skin — interview with Eric Schlosser author of Fast Food Nation‘Fast Food Nation captured, and intensified, a mood of visceral disgust with tainted and tasteless branded fodder. The backlash has forced McDonald’s itself to raise its PR game through the pursuit of cattle-friendly ranches and organic milk suppliers. Schlosser suspects this greener-than-thou campaign might be too little, too late: “I really do believe that this industry and this phenomenon has peaked and is in decline.”‘
September 9, 2003
[blogs] Salam Pax is on the promotion trail for his new book [Buy: UK | US] …

  • How I became the Baghdad blogger‘I spent a couple of days searching for Arabs blogging and finding mostly religious blogs. I thought the Arab world deserved a fair representation in the blogsphere, and decided that I would be the profane pervert Arab blogger just in case someone was looking.’
  • Salam Pax on the BBC’s Today Programme — requires Real Player.
  • Webchat with Pax … On the Internet in Iraq: ‘…the US would use the internet for email attacks: everyone who had an email in Iraq got an email telling you to cooperate with the coalition forces, to stay at home. All the military commanders got their phone numbers changed because for hours when they picked up their receivers they’d get a voice message saying “don’t fight, go home” from the coalition. ‘

August 27, 2003
[books] Close to the Edge — Interview with Douglas Coupland‘I remember growing up, the stories in which they live happily ever after, and the only part that I was interested was, like, after that. Well it was fun for a while then they broke up and she got into crystal meth, found religion and turned into a lesbian. That’s the part I wanted to know. That’s far more interesting to me.’ [Related: Excerpt from ‘Hey, Nostradamus!’]
August 26, 2003
[book] Neal Stephenson Rewrites History — brief Wired interview. ‘…for a while, information technology was incredibly important, yet it had been ignored or gotten wrong by science fiction. There was this vast terrain of virgin territory, and there was a land rush. Now the revolutionary nature of that technology has become familiar. To make the obligatory social criticism kind of comment here, the bursting of the Internet bubble has proven that information technology is just another technology’ [Related: Preview of Quicksilver | Stephenson’s Home Page]
August 8, 2003
[science] You Ask The Questions — Michael Crichton‘Q: In ER, what is wrong with Kerry Weaver’s leg? A: I’m sorry, but that’s confidential between doctor and patient.’
August 4, 2003
[books] Something Might Plummet. Something Might Soar — an excerpt from Dave Egger’s new novella … ‘Mrs Gunderson. Whahaooaoooa. Mrs Gunderson. This is about Mrs Gunderson and it gets dirty. You know she’s got to be in her fifties but whahaooaoooa, what is it about her that’s got you thinking?’
June 16, 2003
[books] Excerpt from Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Everything

‘…experts believe there may have been many other big bangs, perhaps trillions and trillions of them, spread through the mighty span of eternity, and that the reason we exist in this particular one is that this is one we could exist in. As Edward P. Tryon of Columbia University once put it: “In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time.”‘

June 13, 2003
[books] Life, the universe and everything — profile of Bill Bryson … Regarding his new book: ‘…the result is 30 chapters of slightly awestruck potted science – cosmology, palaeontology, evolution, cells, oceans, forests, the birth of self-creating life, the rise of man. Sensibly, Bryson leavens the jaw-dropping statistics and atomic physics with some droll stories of scientific endeavour from the last 300 years. Such as the astronomer Percival Lowell, who believed that Mars was covered with water-ferrying canals built by industrious Martians; few sought to disagree with him because he was, after all, endowing the expensive Lowell Observatory (which discovered Pluto in 1930).’
June 12, 2003
[books] A Beautiful Mind — profile / interview of science writer Paul Broks (“the new Oliver Sacks”) …

‘What would he tell a stranger the book is about? “Without putting them off?” he asks with an uncertain smile. “That’s the difficult thing. Well it’s about how personal identity is fragile, and how at one level we’re basically meat and at another level we’re basically fiction – human beings are storytelling machines, and the self is a story, and we tell a story about ourselves, and we just pick up on the story.” He stops, defeated…’

June 9, 2003
[books] Excerpt from /usr/bin/god — Two thousand word extract from Cory Doctrow’s new novel … ‘Everyone was a font of creativity and interesting factoids. Conversation was solidly anti-idiotarian, a form of discourse that ran, “Here is a $THING. It is stupid. I am smarter;” “I see! Here is $ANOTHER_THING, it is likewise stupid and I am likewise smarter.” It wasn’t just a fucking stock-market bubble — it was nerdvana.’
May 20, 2003
[books] An interview with Zadie Smith — yet another one … [via kottke]

‘Q: Did the Rushdie fatwa cause you trepidation when you were writing your book, in which you lampoon Islamic separatists?

Zadie: I wrote White Teeth in the late nineties. I didn’t really feel trepidatious about it. It was a different time.’

May 19, 2003
[obit] He was a Crook — Hunter S. Thompson’s classic obituary for Richard Nixon … ‘If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.’
May 18, 2003
[books] The Honest Outlaw — Paul Theroux on Hunter S. Thompson … ‘One of my favourite Thompson pieces (reprinted in his collection Better than Sex) was written after the death of Richard Nixon. As the funeral orations were being delivered and everyone was praising Nixon, Thompson wrote “He Was a Crook”, one of the best, the funniest, the most sustained polemics I have ever read. Midway through it, in a burst of candour, Thompson reflects on his harsh words and says, “but I have written worse things about Nixon many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it.”‘
May 14, 2003
[books] The Baroque Cycle Is Coming — preview of Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson’s new book … ‘He hadn’t really known what to expect of America. But people here seem to do things — hangings included — with a blunt, blank efficiency that’s admirable and disappointing at the same time. Like jumping fish, they go about difficult matters with bloodless ease. As if they were all born knowing things that other people must absorb, along with faery-tales and superstitions, from their families and villages. Maybe it is because most of them came over on ships.’
May 11, 2003
[books] Luke Rhinehart: Throw and tell — interview with the author of the Dice Man [Buy: UK | US] … ‘His idea was a serious one: he wants us, if not actually to take up dicing to dictate the course of our lives, at least to realise that we have options and that escaping the patterns of our existence is at least a possibility. Yet he is also a comic writer. The Dice Man is anti-political correctness and is consistently terribly funny. So, naturally, he is joking. Let’s pretend that there are millions of dicers sabotaging the normality of their lives and those of others around them because, hell, it will promote the book. Seriously, though, how many devotees of the dice way are out there? “I think very few,” he replies, finally.’
May 7, 2003
[books] Have You Seen This Man? — a look at the reclusive life of Thomas Pynchon‘In 1997, a CNN crew spent days staking out Pynchon in New York, eventually capturing him on film. After the novelist’s heated objections, they finally broadcast three minutes of footage of street scenes without identifying the one-second clip that featured Pynchon himself. Some fans believe they have identified the man nevertheless, and the Dubinis’ film ends with a digitally enhanced loop of the man in army-surplus jacket and red baseball cap that one contributor believes to be Pynchon. The “fan” who has enhanced the clip affects sadness that Pynchon has finally been “caught”, even as he gazes at the TV monitor with something like possessive lust.’
May 3, 2003
[books] Tomorrow’s Man — profile of William Gibson

‘”…I find myself thinking sometimes that there isn’t anything other than the impact of technology on society – possibly that has been more significant historically than any sort of political thought, in terms of bringing us to where we are now.” Gibson chooses a contemporary example: his friend’s camera-phone. “I get these pictures every once in a while – no explanation – and it’s just so cool, and it’s such an intimate thing. The view down an airport corridor, or something that struck him as funny.” But to every silver lining there is a cloud. “If that becomes very common,” he points out, “that’ll change the texture of life. You’d lose things. Someone telling you about their new girlfriend, for instance, and you don’t meet her for six months, so you have this picture in your head of her, and then you meet her … and that won’t be happening because he’ll have emailed the photograph right away. Apparently small things like that have a huge cumulative effect on how people experience reality.”‘

May 1, 2003
[books] A couple of William Gibson links from the Guardian …

  • Talk time: William Gibson — brief interview on Blogging, Google and the Internet … ‘Q: Is brevity the key to good internet communication? A: It’s hard to say whether it actually is brevity when it involves a hyperlink. If what you’re presenting is a customised node, then the node is the message and you don’t want a lengthy node!’ [Related: Slashdot]
  • Back to the 80s — review of Pattern Recognition [Buy: UK | US] … ‘Pattern recognition, as a human phenomenon, becomes something else when it goes too far; it becomes “apophenia… the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things”. One of the disappointments of the novel is that it doesn’t push this far enough as a potential plot device. If there were an insane number of interconnections by the end, as is sometimes the case in thrillers, then the reader would feel more fulfilled.’

April 15, 2003
[books] E is for Excess — An A to Z of Brett Easton Ellis‘O is for Onica, David. Patrick Bateman buys an expensive original by the contemporary artist to hang over his fireplace. An ex-girlfriend suggests he may have hung it upside down. He kills her with a nail gun.’
April 7, 2003
[books] Pullman brings back Lyra for Oxford mystery — update on Philip Pullman … ‘”At the heart of it is a new short story called ‘Lyra and the Birds’, explained Pullman this weekend. “It’s set a couple of years after the end of The Amber Spyglass, and refers both back and forward – so it’s a sort of bridge between the trilogy and a longer book coming later, to be called The Book of Dust.”‘
March 4, 2003
[war] The Palace of the End — Martin Amis on the coming war in Iraq … Three quotes:

‘Osama bin Laden is an identifiable human type, but on an unidentifiable scale. He is an enormous stirrer – a titanic mixer. Look how he’s shaken us up, both in the heart and in the head. One could say, countervailingly, that on September 11 America was visited by something very alien and unbelievably radical. A completely new kind of enemy for whom death is not death – and for whom life is not life, either, but illusion, a staging-post, merely “the thing which is called World”. No, you wouldn’t expect such a massive world-historical jolt, which will reverberate for centuries, to be effortlessly absorbed. But the suspicion remains that America is not behaving rationally – that America is behaving like someone still in shock.’

‘We hear about the successful “Texanisation” of the Republican party. And doesn’t Texas sometimes seem to resemble a country like Saudi Arabia, with its great heat, its oil wealth, its brimming houses of worship, and its weekly executions?’

‘Saddam’s hands-on years in the dungeons distinguish him from the other great dictators of the 20th century, none of whom had much taste for “the wet stuff”. The mores of his regime have been shaped by this taste for the wet stuff – by a fascinated negative intimacy with the human body, and a connoisseurship of human pain.’

February 17, 2003
[books] Eggers v the Establishment — update on Dave Eggers‘He is what every young literary publisher in New York would love to be if only the accountants didn’t keep telling them the money is in self-improvement books. In short, Eggers can do it all. What he will not do is sit down and be interviewed, having learnt on the road to literary fame that accessibility is the death of journalistic curiosity.’
February 6, 2003
[books] AL Kennedy’s top 10 controversial books … [via I Love Everything]

‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S Thompson. Insanity, obscenity, profanity, illegality and reptilian paranoia – but which is more distressing, HST’s lunatic chemical life and Gonzo prose style, or Richard Milhous Nixon and co taking a whole country for a nasty ride? And where, by the way, is the energy of Gonzo now when we need it?’

Brief Extract from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

‘On page 39 of California Living magazine I found a hand-lettered ad from the McDonald’s Hamburger Corporation, one of Nixon’s big contributors in the ’72 presidential campaign: PRESS ON, it said. NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN TAKE THE PLACE OF PERSISTENCE. TALENT WILL NOT: NOTHING IS MORE COMMON THAN UNSUCESSFUL MEN WITH TALENT. GENIUS WILL NOT: UNREWARDED GENIUS IS ALMOST A PROVERB. EDUCATION ALONE WILL NOT: THE WORLD IS FULL OF EDUCATED DERELICTS. PERSISTENCE AND DETERMINATION ALONE ARE OMNIPOTENT. I read it several times before I grasped the full meaning.’

January 30, 2003
[books] Logomancer — a review of William Gibson‘s new book by Rudy Rucker‘Cool hunting, advertising, and marketing pervade Pattern Recognition – the book’s acronym is PR, after all. Pollard “knows too much about the processes responsible for the way product is positioned in the world, and sometimes finds herself doubting that there is much else going on.” But The Footage is there to prove her wrong. The Web makes it possible for an independent artist to gain a global following for no commercial purpose whatsoever. Gibson exploits the inherent tension between the monoculture and the emergence of novelty. On one hand, the monoculture lives by assimilating originality. On the other, new art has nothing but the monoculture to launch itself from. It’s one of the happy paradoxes of modern life.’
January 23, 2003
[reading] At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft‘Through the desolate summits swept ranging, intermittent gusts of the terrible antarctic wind; whose cadences sometimes held vague suggestions of a wild and half-sentient musical piping, with notes extending over a wide range, and which for some subconscious mnemonic reason seemed to me disquieting and even dimly terrible. Something about the scene reminded me of the strange and disturbing Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich, and of the still stranger and more disturbing descriptions of the evilly fabled plateau of Leng which occur in the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. I was rather sorry, later on, that I had ever looked into that monstrous book at the college library.’
January 21, 2003
[books] Extract from A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker. ‘…when the hole in the sock on my foot became intolerable, I reached down and pulled it off in a clean, strong motion and flipped it across the room in the direction of the trash can — although I have to say there is something almost painfully incongruous in the sight of an article of underclothing that one has worn and warmed with one’s own body for many days and years, lying bunched in the trash.’ [via Anglepoised]
January 13, 2003
[books] Particular Obsessions — profile of the author Nicholson Baker and his new book‘A Box of Matches isn’t just about groping around the house before dawn and lighting fires. It also deals – in exhaustive detail – with such domestic mysteries as hole-ridden socks, belly-button lint and emptying the dishwasher. It features a protagonist/narrator practically indistinguishable from Baker himself and a family suspiciously like the wife and two children sleeping soundly in various rooms around Baker’s 18th-century wood-panelled, oak-beamed house. Even the pet duck that features prominently in the book is instantly recognisable as one of two now quacking in the yard. Baker has made a virtue of celebrating daily existence, whether it is the kaleidoscopic detailing of a single lunch hour in The Mezzanine [or] the labyrinthine sexual obsessions of The Fermata…’
January 8, 2003
[books] Pattern Recognition — extract from William Gibson‘s new book … ‘Damien is a friend. Their boy-girl Lego doesn’t click, he would say. Damien is thirty, Cayce two years older, but there is some carefully insulated module of immaturity in him, some shy and stubborn thing that frightened the money people. Both have been very good at what they’ve done, neither seeming to have the least idea of why. Google Damien and you will find a director of music videos and commercials. Google Cayce and you will find “coolhunter,” and if you look closely you may see it suggested that she is a “sensitive” of some kind, a dowser in the world of global marketing. Though the truth, Damien would say, is closer to allergy, a morbid and sometimes violent reactivity to the semiotics of the marketplace.’
January 7, 2003
[blogs] William Gibson has a blog‘In spite of (or perhaps because of) my reputation as a reclusive quasi-Pynchonian luddite shunning the net (or word-processors, depending on what you Google) I hope to be here on a more or less daily basis.’ [via Boing Boing]