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See, Ken? I am getting meaner

So I have a new campaign plank if I ever decide to resurrect my Presidential ambitions. I will ask Congress to pass a law outlawing busking before noon and using amplifiers in enclosed spaces such as bus depots, and train or subway stations. Additionally, busking songs to which one doesn't know the words will be a civil crime carrying a $100 fine.

All this is inspired by my cranky, tired self having to listen to a busker with only a vague idea of the lyrics playing "Whiter Shade of Pale" on an out-of-tune electic mandolin thingie this morning. It's "and her face at first just ghostly/turned a whiter shade of pale," not, "and her face for something to see/something whiter shade of pale."


Get me out of this hell hole

I've noticed that when famous authors pass, their fans often express the wish that they find themselves in the worlds they created. When Douglas Adams died, all sorts of folks said they "hoped to catch you at Milliways," or the like. Again with Pterry, plenty of people hoped he would "swim with Great A'Tuin" or "visit Ankh-Morpork. To which I reply, "Wow, you must have hated them.

Certainly, when Anne McCaffrey died, it was cool to wish that she'd ride on a dragon, and I'm sure Tolkien would be very happy in the Shire, but Pern is pretty idealized and the Shire was the good Professor's idea of what England should have been like. No one with any sense would want to live in a fantasy or sf world written by a realist. (Hell, no one would really want to live on Pern either, if they thought it through.)

Yeah, the Disc runs on narrativium, and Adams' Galaxy was a wild and wacky place, but they had real things to say about society and a realistic view of human nature. I'm pretty sure the last place either would have wanted to end up was in a world that reflected their most deep-seated views of people. So instead, I hope Pterry (and DNA) find themselves not in the places they created, but in the places they really belong.


The badly written note of the banshee

In a better world, one where the profit motive was secondary to emotional well-being, and where our emotions functioned in more predictable ways, employees would be allowed to submit a bereavement list: a list of people whose deaths are, no questions asked, grounds for an employee to immediately go home and mourn. Of course, that's not the world we live in. My boss would laugh her ass off (and not with me, but at me) if I asked to go home because an author died and I just can't.... And of course, it's hard to predict exactly which deaths are going to have the most impact, once you get past parents and siblings and all that.

Of course, in this case, it wasn't hard to predict at all. Sir Terry Pratchett had been sick with early onset Alzheimer's for almost eight years, and the changes in his travel schedule plus the recent interview Neil Gaiman gave let us all know that his trip on this world was nearing its end. And I knew I would be wrecked when he went, and so I am, sitting here in this stupid cubicle, my eyes with with tears (for the second time in two weeks). My first Pratchett was The Light Fantastic, which was very much in the "Douglas Adams of fantasy" mold. It was funny as all get out--I'll never forget Mount Skund, whose name meant, in the local language, "Your Finger, You Fool." It wasn't very deep, though. It mostly said, "Yes, fantasy, with its pretenses and its reflections of the real world, is ripe for mockery and laughter as any other art form."

It probably wasn't until Guards! Guards! that I realized how amazing the Discworld and Terry Pratchett were. While Hitchhikers never really grew beyond the jokes, Pratchett's world did, in so many deep and wonderful ways. The satirist's eye grew sharper, and the deep and abiding love of his fellows shone forth more brightly, and of the humor remained as gleeful as ever. Death was "a shade reproachfully," and "Cantate and Fugue for Someone Who Has Trouble With the Pedals" was his idea of a simile. And now, of course, he's taken Death's hand, having finally succumbed to the embuggerance, and left us all behind, poorer for his loss but richer for having shared in his joy, and his wisdom, and his anger.

Farewell, Sir Pterry, I hope the harvest was as gentle and caring as the Reaper Man could make it.


The catchphrase as fitting epitaph

Usually when I weep quietly at my desk, it's because of my job. But today, we lost a legend, and a beloved elder of the sf tribe.

I'm having trouble encompassing the idea of a world without Leonard Nimoy in it. His passing is one of those that I didn't expect to resound quite so strongly, but it has and will, I suspect, continue to do so. Spock was never my favorite character on Star Trek. Bones (and to a lesser extent, Scotty) was.

But Spock best embodied the open-handed, optimistic vision of Star Trek, and Leonard Nimoy seems to have lived that vision most strongly. The outpouring of respect and love from everyone he touched, from costars to colleagues to fans, tells that story, as does the sheer breadth of his art: acting; directing; writing; photography; and even singing (which maybe wasn't as artistic as the rest). You could say that he lived out the Vulcan credo of "infinite diversity in infinite combinations" just in his own life.

Surely it's fair to say the he lived long and prospered and we also prospered for having shared in his art, even on Twitter, where he offered himself as everyone's honorary grandfather, because well, many of us needed a grandfather even if just in 140 characters. So thank you, sir, and ad astra. I loved you. Give my love to De, Jimmy, Majel, and Gene.


My take on Tom Brady's balls (hee-hee)

Sports aren't a morality play. I need to say this. I may need to say it over and over again. Quite frankly, the idea of sportsmanship, while nice in the abstract, isn't really relevant, especially in professional sports.

People are all up in arms about what a shitty cheater Bill Belichick is when his real crime is pretty much not wanting to work for a raving incompentent in an unstable organization. (That's why he resigned as H.C. of the N.Y.J.) And yeah, he probably did the spying shit, but he got punished for that.

I got news for you. Pretty much without exception, all NFL coaches are shitty human beings. They work 100 hour weeks to come up with schemes to exploit the physical gifts of people who will end up crippled both mentally and physically. Most of them have to claw their way through a cuthroat business by sticking shivs in anyone foolish enough to offer a back.

Just in case we wanted to fool ourselves about this, Tony Dungy, who is revered as a "good guy" suggested that having a gay player would be much more distracting than having, say, a <em>murderer</em> on the team (like Marvin Harrison). And he also suggested that the Cowboys needed to play their all-pro QB in a meaningless game against a bad opponent the week after he <em>broke his back</em>. And he's supposed to be a good guy!

Professional atheletes cheat all the time, and they play for awful people who make a living on their broken bodies. And we eat it up, and that's fine. I love sports. I love the bread and circuses. I love the sense of community that a successful team can bring to a region or fan base. Sometimes, I even love the smack talk between fans. But I don't ever, ever make the mistake that it's some measurement of morality. Winning doesn't make you good. Cheating doesn't make you evil.

Sports aren't a morality play

The order is important

So I learned an important lesson this week:

Don't read paranormal fantasy noir that apes Raymond Chandler right after reading Raymond Chandler.

I say this because I finally got around the reading The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely, the first two Philip Marlowe novels, and right after finishing the second, I started Something from the Nightside by Simon R. Green, which stars, you guessed it: a hardboiled PI hired by a mysterious femme fatale for a case that is more than it seems.

The difference, of course, is that Marlowe's world is the real (or close to real) Los Angeles of the thirties and forties, while John Taylor's is modern London with a twist—the Nightside, the dark, magical heart of London that exists in parallel with the mundane city. So far, so good. It's a nice twist.

The problem is that I can recognize Marlowe in everything, but an inferior knock-off of Marlowe without the author's own twist or sets of competing influences to make John Taylor a compelling character on his own. Hell, Green even mentions Raymond Chandler in the book. Real subtle. Also, Chandler's plots were twisty—there was never one crime or one set of motivations; instead, there were three or four, weaving in and out of each other. Green's plot is about as straightforward as it can be, so the twist ending isn't much of a twist.

The last thing that bothers me is the writing itself. Green writes in short, choppy sentences, and his paragraphs are littered with fragments. Again, this apes Chandler to a certain extent, but it apes the wrong things. The "noir style" that Chandler used was annoying. What saves it is that Chandler was a poet and therefore a wordsmith; he turned some glorious phrases. So what you've got is a book that steals from a master without realizing what makes the master great. And if I'm going to put up with a book like this, I'd better not do it when the master is still fresh in my mind.


I can't even think of a word that rhymes

So I haven't been writing because I suck and I'm lazy and I suck. Plus, and I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but writing is hard!

I should be posting to LJ more, I know, but really I'm talking about fictioning. I need to commit to doing at least an hour a day, even if I only grind out four or five sentences. I've noticed that's how it goes for me: if I put in the time and do the 50 word days, I'll eventually hit a day or two where I do over a thousand words. If I expect to have thousand word days, I don't get anywhere.

I suppose I could make that my Lenten resolution, except it's not really giving anything up. Anyway, I just felt like getting that off my chest.


They gave a funeral and I didn't care

Feeling a bit weird today about Tom Clancy's passing. A lot of people are very saddened by Mr. Clancy's death and understandably so. He was an immensely popular author with a rabid following, and a pretty amazing rags to riches (or at least polyester suits to riches) story. I feel like I should be sad, but I'm not.

I just don't like the guy. I never read one of his books and I don't like his politics. I think, because of things like Tom Clancy's Op Center, that his career arc is marked out by what's wrong with modern publishing. And he came across, to me anyway, as the kind of smug, entitled jerk who, once he made the big time, felt he could look down on anyone. But I feel guilty because I'm probably wrong. I felt the same way when Michael Crichton died.

After all, he doesn't fall into the "makes the world worse by being in it" category. He's not Jerry Falwell or Jesse Helms, so it's not like I'm going to dance a jig or anything. And like I said, I know many, many people, including friends of mine, are very sad right now-—as sad as I was when Jim Rigney or Mike Ford passed. But I'm not sharing in the sadness, and I feel the need to address it somewhere. So here it is, and I hope you don't mind.

And maybe somewhere Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton are hanging out, talking writing, and feeling good that so many people enjoyed their life's work.


Can't not post about Mo

I'd love to write a meandering, elegiac post about the greatness of Mariano Rivera and what he's meant to me as a Yankee fan and to the world as a person, but I really can't. His performance, his elegance on the mound, his humility off it, all defy description. So instead, I'll say this:

Thank you, Mr. Rivera. You've been a great pitcher and an even better person. It's been an honor and a joy to watch you ply your trade. Baseball will never see your like again.


I love my kitty. Sue me.

Still adjusting to the pet ownership thing and being slightly loopy about it. Hence this:

To the tune of "The Ballad of Senor Don Gato" (anyone besides me remember this?):

Oh our Missy Gato is a cat!
She is gray and sleek and not that fat!
Though she's no longer itty-bitty,
She's still such a pretty kitty.
We love our Missy Gato!

There are five or six more verses, but I'm done.