Inhuman Swill : Page 172
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

Ella pix

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Ella in the grass, with cone
Pictures o' the dog, sans cone and avec.

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Not I, robot

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I saw Kill Bill Vol. 2 yesterday for the second time—I had seen it before, but Laura hadn't—although that's not what I want to post about now.

Before the main event, there was a preview for the Will Smith SFXtravaganza I, Robot, coming to a googolplex near you sometime this summer. The movie is somewhat vaguely based on the classic and beloved robot stories by Isaac Asimov. The robot stories explore the consequences of the Three Laws of Robotics, formulated together by Asimov and Golden Age editor John W. Campbell, Jr. If you don't know the Three Laws, I won't repeat them here, but suffice it to say that the stories are elegant considerations of the unexpected logical implications of those immutable behavior-governing laws imprinted on the positronic brains of Asimov's robots.

The preview I saw featured Will Smith interrogating someone offscreen about a murder. The someone turns out to be a robot, and for a while it actually looks as if the movie will be a thoughtful consideration of robotics in an Asimovian vein. That's before the executives of U.S. Robotics & Mechanical Men start to look like maniacal villians, and factories full of robots begin busting loose to wreak cybernetic mayhem in futuristic city streets, and Will Smith bursts into action, saving the day with firepower and acrobatics, not the cool, keen ratiocination of Powell and Donovan, of Susan Calvin, and of Elijah Bailey.

Ask Laura. I practically wept openly. "Never," I said. I will not see this film. I will boycott it as firmly as I boycotted Robin Williams in the desecration of The Bicentennial Man. I know no one in Hollywood will give a shit, but I won't be a party to the toppling of Asimov's vision.

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JPEGs to Helen Keller

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Hey fella, I bet you're still living in your parents' cellar
Downloading pictures of Sarah Michelle Gellar
And posting "me 2" like some braindead AOLer
I should do the world a favor and cap you like Old Yeller
You're just about as useless as JPEGs to Helen Keller....

Play me online? Well, you know that I'll beat you
If I ever meet you I'll CTRL-ALT-DELete you

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Her master's scalpel

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RCA Victor Conehead Dog
I used to think that dogs with their heads wrapped in plastic cones were the most comically ridiculous sight imaginable. That was until last night, when I came home from work to see Ella in her cone in the wake of her spaying.

There is only one sight more pathetic and heartwrenching than a dog with her head wrapped in a plastic cone. That's a dog with her head wrapped in a plastic cone, stoned on painkillers and barely able to move.

When I say barely able to move, I don't mean that she couldn't stand up if she wanted to. It just didn't occur to her. When we stood her up to see if she wanted water, she just stood there for several minutes until we sat her down again.

We piled pillows around her for comfort last night, and to support her head, while she variously sat, stood or lay on the living room floor. We watched the Chris Rock HBO special on DVR, but it felt like a betrayal to laugh at anything while Ella was so miserable. Laura fed Ella water from a little glass mixing bowl that was small enough to fit inside the cone.

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Beyond the zenith

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As of today, with this review of Bruce Sterling's The Zenith Angle, Salon.com begins a regular biweekly SF review schedule:

http://www.salon.com/books/review/2004/04/30/sterling/

Cool.

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My interest has peaked

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Okay, here's another one that really puts me in a fit of pique. I keep reading how something has "peaked" somebody's interest or curiosity or hunger. I guess it's all downhill from there.

But I'm one to talk. I just placed an order for a black-and-tan shake. D'oh! Freudian slip?

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Run while you still can

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William Shunn
I knew I'd be nervous, but I really didn't anticipate how badly my hands would shake when I stepped up to the podium. I have plenty of experience speaking in public; when you grow up Mormon, you give at least half a dozen talks in church by the time you're in high school. Besides that, I've done a decent number of readings and I've appeared on local radio. Always before, the nervousness has subsided and my hands have stopped shaking in fairly short order.

But I hadn't addressed an auditorium full of teenaged writers before last night, at the awards ceremony for the New York City Region of the Scholastic Writing Awards of 2004. It was a humbling and terrifying experience. Laura reports that she couldn't hear any quaver in my voice, but I sure could. The shaking of my hands lasted all the way through my remarks and didn't end until well after I had sat down.

Before my address (the text of which is here), approximately seventy young writers had mounted the stage to be recognized for their receipt of Gold and Silver Key awards in the regional competition. If memory serves, there were three winners from the SF/fantasy category in attendance, two of them girls. My heart swelled seeing these kids announce boldly that they were science fiction writers. I couldn't help thinking back to my first clumsy submissions to Asimov's and Omni was I was fifteen, how hopeful I was when I sent out the stories—and how devastated when the inevitable form rejections from Shawna and Ellen (or their slush-pile minions) came back. What a scary and exciting road those kids have ahead of them.

After the ceremony, Laura and I led much of the staff of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers back to our apartment (a short walk from Long Island City High School, oddly enough) for delivery diner food, Girl Scout cookies, lots of beer, and Scotch tasting. (The 37-year cask-strength Auchentoshan, served with just a splash of water, was a brilliant highlight.) I probably shouldn't mention that part of the evening, but it was terrific fun and great company. That's why I'm still moving slowly this morning.

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Pilgrim's progress

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My sister-in-law reports that my brother Tim is now being debriefed—in Maine! If not yet home, at least he's on American soil.

Genuine non-colonial American soil, that is.

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Ella and Spy vs. Spy

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Separated at birth?

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The continuous princess

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Lest I acquire a reputation for beating up exclusively on innocent correspondents, how about this horrifying sentence from Salon?

Diana, queen of the English-gossiping world in the last two decades of the 20th century, the celebrity princess, was anything but discrete herself (CBS was responding to rival NBC's recent airing of tapes recorded by the princess talking about her marriage and confrontation with Camilla Parker Bowles in the early '90s).  [full story]
I understand that Princess Di wasn't necessarily her own person, but was she really not distinct and distinguishable from other members of the royal continuum?
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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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