Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.
I keep meaning to post a quick overview of what we've done since the start of the weekend, but as I put it off the list of things to mention becomes longer and the task of reporting more daunting. I'll just plunge in, like a dog into April snow.
Friday evening, as I mentioned before, Laura and I went to a stage production of Fahrenheit 451. At the theater bar before the show, Laura ran into an old coworker of hers and her new husband, who were there to see the same play. (There are three theaters at 59E59.) A lovely time was had catching up, and everyone in the impromptu party seemed to enjoy the show immensely.
Saturday Laura and I braved the wilds of New Jersey to call on asphalteden and his multiadjectivial bride. (Don't worry! They're all appealing and impressive adjectives.) The evening's debauchery has been ably touched on elsewhere (WWMD, indeed!), but let me add that Laura and I were so full by the time we left we could barely walk. Good thing there are trains.
Sunday was a whale of a day. It went well for Laura, but for me it was one step forward, two steps back. We had a perfectly delightful time with Ella at Astoria Park in the morning, but in the early afternoon, while Laura was out and I was trying to get my Fahrenheit 451 review written, there was a colossal misunderstanding with the bathroom fixtures, and a rather unappealing tide began encroaching on the hallway. The worst part was, just as I was slapping down a towel to keep the foul brew from engulfing the pantry, the toilet gave a satisfied gurgle and suddenly the contents all drained away. It was as if the porcelain god were flipping me the bird.
A new old story has gone online for purchase and downloading at Fictionwise this morning: "From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left."
This isn't just my first published story; it's probably the most political story I've written, and forgive me if I consider it also to be my most prescient. It made The New York Review of Science Fiction's recommended reading list for 1993, and the good folks there called it "a political fable about near-future America as odd as its perfectly appropriate title."
It's on sale for 15% off the already low price of 76¢, so grab a virtual copy now!
It makes me sick to my stomach to read the words of America's brilliant and articulate founding fathers and to contemplate the treatises our newest King George would write were he ever to take up quill and ink for more than declaring war on feckless dictatorships, signing away American civil liberties, and doodling on the Constitution during Cabinet meetings.
Still, it's important to understand how far we've fallen as a nation, so let me be the umpty-umpth patriot to link to...
...and ask aloud why these comparisons aren't being made on the front page of the New York Times and all the rest of the toothless Fourth Estate.
I just read the first chapter of East of Edenyes, Classics Clubbers, I'm grateful for the extra reading time this time aroundand to me it read like science fiction. The world-building in that chapter, with its careful portrait of the seasonal and climatic cycles of the Salinas Valley, is wonderful and beautiful. Especially this paragraph:
The floor of the Salinas Valley, between the ranges and below the foothills, is level because this valley used to be the bottom of a hundred-mile inlet from the sea. The river mouth at Moss Landing was centuries ago the entrance to this long inland water. Once, fifty miles down the valley, my father bored a well. The drill came up first with topsoil and then with gravel and then with white sea sand full of shells and even pieces of whalebone. There were twenty feet of sand and then black earth again, and even a piece of redwood, that imperishable wood that does not rot. Before the inland sea the valley must have been a forest. And those things had happened right under our feet. And it seemed to me sometimes at night that I could feel both the sea and the redwood forest before it.Rarely does a "mundane" novel give you that sense of deep time. I am delighted, and eager to continue.
We were having an email discussion with some friends about what musicians we like are Scientologists. It started at Chick Corea, but by the time it got around to Beck our friends were asking if this means the money they spend on Beck albums might end up in L. Ron Hubbard's skeletal hands, and if they should be concerned by this. I said:
I'm sure that's what it means, yes. But part of your money will also go to getting Beck's children braces, and organic soy milk, and some of it will end up in the pockets of evil record company executives. I guess my feeling is that all the money we spend will eventually pass through hands we don't approve of, the same way all the atoms in our bodies will eventually recycle through other people and animals and trees and clouds and landfills. I guess I look at the pool of available money as a closed ecosystem, and some of it will always be in the hands of organizations we don't like. But it won't necessarily stay there. It will keep cycling and maybe do some good too.What do you think?
I feel like money to Beck is a reward for talent, and for giving me some aural pleasure. ("Heh heh, he said aural pleasure.") I feel better about rewarding talent, even if the talent might give the money to L. Ron Hubbard Inc., than I do about giving money to faceless companies like Blockbuster and Land's End (is that right?) that donate huge amounts of money to causes I dislike. I can go elsewhere for videos or yuppie hippie clothing, but I can't go anywhere else for Beck music.
Medical emergency on the downtown 6 uptown this morning, messing up subway service roundly. I keep forgetting why I hate coming to work during rush hour.
Anyway, I had another lovely U.N. night last night in Astoria. Actually it started right after work in Murray Hill, where I went to Artisanal for mostly French cheeses and white wines with an out-of-town colleague and his wife. The best cheese we sampled was the Bleu de Basque from French Basque country. Yum. One wine from our flight had gone badfull of sediment and tasting very thinand our waitress promptly replaced it with a similar Spanish wine. Yum.
Later that evening, back home in Astoria, Laura and I walked over to an Irish pub called The Quays that we'd been meaning to try for some time. (Sadly, there was no live music, though I have it that Shane McGowan of the Pogues has appeared there in the past.) But when I say Irish pub, I mean Irish pubI.R.A. ballads on the stereo and the whole nine yards. We might have had the only American accents in the place, and Laura was one of only three females. The third female, by the way, was a young pug named Lucky (yes, a dog) whose owner was feeding her Guinness from a plastic cup. The Guinness was four bucks a pint, and we had a great time. We'll have to come back when there's music.
Laura was hungry on the walk home, so we stopped at a place called Ukus, offering Balkan pie, for a late dinner. We each had a huge pizza-like slice of spinach pie, and the nice owners brought us each a mug of a cold, thick, sour, yogurty drink the name of which I can't now recall, on the house. They told us that this drink goes with the pie, and damn if it didn't. We watched American Inventor on the wide-screen televisions as we ate. I went home feeling happy and full, but poor Laura had a stomachache by the time we were greeting the dog again.
It seems that Shunn.net and the usually ultra-reliable Pair.com (my Web host) are completely inaccessible this morning. Wondering if it was just a local DNS problem, I VNC'd to my work machine and tried from there. No go. No word on how long the outage will last, since of course I can't get to Pair.com for email or news on the subject. I'm hoping it's just a bad DNS table at some important node between here and there and not something more serious.
Update: We're back. If you sent email in the last hour or so, it might not have gone through.