Inhuman Swill : December 2003

Just heard on the radio

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"One is not as important as the other, but they're both equal."


Okay, this isn't a real headline, but I kinda wish it were.

Help buying ein Buch

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Every so often I check amazon.de to see if there are any used copies available of a 1995 German edition of Fantasy & Science Fiction that contains a translation of my story "From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left." I have a copy myself, which Gordon Van Gelder kindly sent me, but my father, who served in Germany both as a missionary and as a soldier, would very much like a copy.

Well, today I found a copy:

Ein neuer Mensch: Die besten Stories aus The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction #91

I tried to buy it, but apparently the seller won't ship to the U.S. Here's the message I got when I tried to check out:

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Can't offer much comment on this:

Mormon temple clothing up for auction on eBay

That will do.

Down and out in Tikrit

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Just saw the mug shot of Saddam Hussein on TV. Are we sure the government didn't get Nick Nolte to play him in the capture?


My friend Andrew puts his finger on the real heart of the digital music revolution:

The Joy of Digital Music That I am rediscovering, or in some cases hearing for the first time, music I already own is symptomatic of what a lazy culture we have become (or least how lazy I am personally). Opening a CD case, carrying it to the player, putting it away again, these are inconvenient tasks! However, clicking the little shuffle button and going about your business is a piece of cake. Ironically, now I that have this archive digitized, I never use the corresponding search functions, the feature I once longed to have. I find I'm content to either select a song or album directly, build a playlist or just run the whole thing on random. Go figure.  [more]
Myself, I've written my very own music server so that Laura and I can listen to our CDs anywhere there's a fast internet connection. The collection is fully indexed and searchable on track title, album title, artist name, genre, subgenre, instrumentation, instrumental or vocal content, and other more esoteric designtations. We're nearing 19,500 tracks ripped, representing over 1,600 albums, and I estimate I'm 75 to 80% done ripping. I'm loading CDs into bankers boxes and storing them in the basement as they fill up. Ugly shelves are going away.

In the end, the entire collection will fit with lots of room to spare on a 200 Gb hard drive smaller than a hardcover novel. When I hit shuffle, as often as not I hear music I'm only marginally familiar with, if I know it at all.

If this isn't a science fiction world, I don't know what is.

Never too old

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We learned something new last night at the Met. (The Metropolitan Opera, that is, not Museum.) The Met has these amazing crystal starbust chandeliers that hang from the ceiling and can be lowered at least halfway to the floor, maybe further. They look like overgrown versions of something that wouldn't have been out of place in a swingin' space-age bachelor pad -- but far cooler than that makes them sound.

Every time we'd seen a show, the chandeliers were down while the audience filed in, then would rise to the ceiling just before curtain. Last night, though, the chandeliers were already at ceiling level when we entered. "I want to know why," said Laura. "I'm going to go ask someone."

So she did. She's good at things like that.

She came back, having questioned one of the program-hander-outers, and reported that the positioning of the chandeliers is left to the preference of the director of whatever production is being mounted. "This director apparently wanted them up," Laura said. "Also, there are three curtains, a red, a gold, and a black, which I knew, and the director gets to pick which of those gets used, which I didn't. I guess this director liked the black."

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So how were my last few weeks? I'm glad you asked.

Let's see. I mentioned the show at Iridium. That was exciting. Lee and Emily felt like they hadn't been cheated because they did get to see Elvis Costello up fairly close before the show. Lee studies mechanical engineering at Stanford, specifically the modeling of turbulence, and he was in town for a conference on fluid dynamics. Since the timing was right, Laura and I invited him to stay in the neighborhood a bit longer and come out to our place for Thanksgiving. He liked the idea so much that he brought his wife and kid too. While Lee was at his conference, Emily and Jack stayed with some friends near Columbia. On Wednesday, the night after Iridium, all three of them came to our place, where they stayed for the next four nights.

We've traditionally (well, since 2001) had a big Thanksgiving party for folks without family in the city. We managed to get Cory Doctorow out to that first Thanksgiving party, and happily he hasn't missed one since, including this year's. We were also supposed to have Laura's brother Tom and friend, but Tom had to cancel because of work. A couple other guests dropped out too, and most of our old standbys were not available this year, so instead of the rollicking drunken baccanalia of the last couple of years, we had a fairly low-key meal this year, followed by low-key conversation and a lot of napping. But the food and company were both as good as ever.

The next day, Lee and I joined Cory for a noon showing of The Haunted Mansion. It was fun, though not nearly as good as any of us had hoped, given the quality of The Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm a big fan of the Haunted Mansion (the ride), and it was a pleasure to see the movie with an even bigger and insanely knowledgable fan. The look of the movie was terrific, and the corners were jammed with cool bits of eye candy yanked straight from the ride. (I especially appreciated what they did with the barbershop quartet of headstone busts.) The plot, though.... Ouch.

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It didn't actually turn into a riot two weeks ago at Iridium, but it looked like it might for a few minutes there.

The first indication of trouble came early, though we didn't recognize it as such as the time. My brother Lee and his wife were in town from Stanford. They wanted to see a jazz show while they were here, so we made reservations to see saxophonist Lee Konitz play at Iridium. The evening was part of a week-long stand at Iridium in celebration of Konitz's 76th birthday. (Konitz was playing in Miles Davis's nonet way back in 1949, so it's not a small matter that he's still around and blowing.) Lee and Emily specifically wanted to see the Iridium show because guitarist Bill Frisell was playing with Konitz, and they're both huge Frisell fans. Rounding out the quartet would be Gary Peacock (perhaps best known for his work in Keith Jarrett's old trio) on bass and Paul Motian (who played in the Bill Evans Trio in the '60s) on drums.

However, there was an extra enticement to the Tuesday night shows. The Iridium web site proudly trumpeted that, for one night only, the set would feature SPECIAL GUEST ELVIS COSTELLO. We were quite happy to be able to secure three reservations for the first set of the evening.

Doors would open at 6:30, so I arrived at Broadway and 51st nice and early to queue up to secure a good table. I was fourth in line outside Iridium, in fact. A portly, hale fellow arrived shortly after me, and the line was not much longer when Lee and Emily got there and butted in line with me.

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The 49th Perpendicular?

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Having entertained two sets of Canadian visitors in the last couple of weeks and discussed plenty of social and political issues, I was quite interested to see this New York Times article, as offered by Yahoo! News:

Canada's View on Social Issues Is Opening Rifts With the U.S. Recently, while musing about his retirement plans, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said he might just kick back and smoke some pot. "I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand," he said with a smile. The glibness of the remark made it nearly impossible to imagine an American president uttering it. But in a nation where the dominant west coast city, Vancouver, has come to be known as Vansterdam, few Canadians blinked. [more]
I've chosen the most sensational paragraph to lure you over to Yahoo!, of course. Thanks to Canadian writer Michael Libling for sending me the article. You can find his most recent short story, "My Father's Club," online at SciFi.com's SciFiction, where it is currently the featured original.

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William Shunn

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