Sunday, April 30, 2006

Book 10 1/2

"Red Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson

The first in one of the great SF trilogies, and one of the best novels about the colonisation of Mars ever written (a quote on the cover from whom I don't remember), this is not the easiest book I've ever read, but it is one of the most intricate. As the unattributed quote implies, it revolves around Earth's colonisation of Mars.

The book is divided into several sections, dealing with chunks of the history of the colonisation. We have a look at the arrival of the First Hundred, the impact of living for long times on Mars and the way the multinational corporations and national interests affect immigration and terraforming. In order to keep this review short, I'll not go into any specifics as the plot threads are multitudinous and interweaving. Suffice it to say we look at environmental issues, the nature of what it means to be human, social and political engineering and the impact of different religions and cultures on the creation of a new society.

The world Robinson has created is complete, engrossing and follows its own rules to the letter. The characters are a great mix of kind, mean, charming, withdrawn, egotistical and altruistic. In short he's put together a little cross-section of the best and worst of humanity and then sort of put 'em in a jar and shaken 'em up. I wans't always lost in the joys of the narrative with this one, but I was interested in what was happening and eager to find out what was going to happen next. This is one of those works (be it novel, film or TV) that I appreciated more for what it was than what I was getting out of it. It really is an amazing piece of work, and only a third of the piece as a whole.

It took me ages to read this one, 'cause I got distracted by other books and occasionally put off by the hard-core SF tone. I don't normally read sci-fi that's this hard-core, preferring cyberpunk and multi-genre works, so I did have to make an effort here, but that effort was rewarded. I only own the third book, so I'll have to find "Green Mars" somewhere because I do want to finish the trilogy. Of course, it'll probably take me ages to read the other books, too, but I reckon I'll still enjoy 'em.

Four descriptions of Martian dust that make our teeth feel gritty just to read them out of five.

Book 9 1/2

"Don't Stand Too Close To A Naked Man" by Tim Allen

If you've never read a book by a stand-up comedian, I recommend it. I've read both of Paul Reiser's books and most of Drew Carey's (I lost it halfway through. Must find a copy somewhere) and enjoyed them a lot. The text is usually delivered like a, and I know this sounds redundant, a written monologue. You get little blocks of narrative on different topics that aren't always directly related, but are usually quite funny.

Allen's book is very funny and at times extremely honest. He does talk - briefly - about his gaol time and when he does he is surprisingly open. Making jokes, as he does, about all manner of serious subjects, the candour wiith which he describes how going to gaol has effected his life is refreshing from someone who I have always seen as affected - albeit in a humourous and engaging way.

The rest of the novel is what you would probably expect, with much on the differences between men and women, powertools and the all important Great American Car [TM]. I was frequently surprised by the intellect behind the writing, as well as the polish and pace of it. As my previous statement will suggest, I had bought into the "Tim Allen is a macho, amusing twit" stage persona, and while I'm not expecting him to be honoured by the Nobel Council any time soon, I do now think he's at least able to string three cogent sentences together.

Check this one our. It certainly doesn't overstay it's welcome, and it is a very funny book.

Three and a half "more power" grunts out of five.

Play 2-up now!

[40s Newsreel Announcer Voice] What can you do to help your country? Why not pop out a wee-un? Breeding is good for the economy and good for you! [/40s Newsreel Announcer Voice]

It seems a Sydney businessman has decided we're not breeding enough. He's taken out full-page ads in several national and regional newspapers and he even has a website promoting his notion that if you can have a baby, you should. Maybe I should say "what I take to be his notion" in case he feels litigious.

If you're as curious as we were when we read the ad, head over to and have a look for yourself. I will say that this wee snippet surprised me. At first glance I thought this might be an off-shoot of some sort of right-to-life organisation, but what he says there seems almost level-headed. Unfortunately the rest of it seems to be just a couple of clicks left of sane, but at least he's thinking when it comes to unwanted pregnancies. I say left of sane, becuase he seems to be wanting the babies for nice enough reasons. If it was "stop the minorities out-breeding us" or some such, I'd be saying right of sane. And more than a couple of clicks, too.

Of course, that said, he could be looking to establish Dickensian workhouses when the population upsurge takes hold in four or five years and give Australia a morally-reprehensible but globally-competitive manufacturing base. It's also possible that he's read Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and wants Australia to be at the forefront of the world baby market. It is, as Mike Myers has already told us, the other-other white meat.

Euan The Author

I couldnae find the post that fatfingers commented to, but my gmail informs me that he wants to know when there'll be an update on the Euan The Author blog. Well, the short answer is when I pull my thumb out and put together a package of my Masters thesis to send to publishers. Some of my cafe time when I'm in Melbourne from the 6th to the 12th will be dedicated to doing this.

As a right to reply, I do have one question for Señor (or Señora?) fatfingers. I hasten to add that this question is born of curiosity, not hostility, but I was wondering who/where you might be. I've tried finding you online and been, well, singularly unsuccesful.

Whoever you might be, feel free to ignore this question, I'm just desperately seeking some context. I'll live if I don't get it, I'm just curious.

Thanks for your time (all of you).

Please help out...

Whether or not this is true, it's worth a click.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Not sure if this'll work

Flixster has a widget that shows what films I like. If it works, I might add it to my side bar...

Set phasers for cheese!

I'm at home today (crook tummy) and I'm watching daytime TV and there's an ad on for a Time Life collection called "Body Talk" which is, apparently, a collection of the most "sensual and sensuous love songs" ever.

He even sounded like Zapp Brannigan when he said it! :)

Sorry in advance

My "Y" key is playing silly buggers, so if from time to time I talk about "ou lot out there" or a "joll good time I had last Sunda" I hope you can bare with me.

Thank ou kindl.

Holy crap!

I want you to go back in time. Dust off the ol' Delorean and just pop back in time, like, two years. Then, all thought of temporal paradoxes and the continued wellbeing of the universe aside, I want you to find yourself and talk about movies. Then tell yourself that the creative duo behind one of the most successful (and annoyingly disappointing) movie trilogies of all time, along with the producer of such deeply philosophical masterpieces as The Last Boy Scout, Exit Wounds and the haunting Assassins, would produce a brave (for it's time) and socially important (when you think about it) film. You'd have to tell yourself that it'll still be a slam-bang action with plenty of blood and a few spent cartridge cases, I mean they're just experimenting, they haven't had personality transplants, but the basic fact remains that the film I'm talking about is not your usual high-budget fare.

As you've probably worked out, in case you've been living in a bubble, I'm talking about V for Vendetta and this movie suprised me like few movies have. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting Chicken Park with zany masks, but I was figuring I'd be in for a fun, flashy and entertaining evening more Daredevil than Sin City. I was not expecting the subject matter to be so potentially-controversial (and why hasn't there been a bigger stink? Have the conservative wowsers taken the month off? Or have they become self-aware enough to figure that complaining about and trying to get banned a film that features a fascistic conservative government that heavily censors the arts is a tad incriminating? But I digress...). A sympathetic terrorist? Destruction of historically-significant buildings as a legitimate form of protest? What were they thinking?

I know the storyline comes from an Alan Moore-penned (and you can tell. Two attempted rapes in the one film on the same character. God knows how many were in the original graphic novel) and (mostly)David Lloyd-drawn graphic novel from the same name, but too easily the themes could've been dumbed-down and watered-down. I know there are comic purists out there who are yelling at me now, saying "they did dumb it down! They did water it down!" but from where I was sitting it wasnae so dumb and it certainly wasnae watery.

Basic premise? Well, my snide poke at the knee-jerk complainers against film sort of summed it up. The England of the future - once more the major global power - is run by a fascistic conservative government. Stop laughing at the pure unlikelihood of it all and pay attention. No gays. No foreigners and the legacy of 80,000 dead from a biological attack to drive the fear. Then along comes this masked terrorist asking people to "remember, remember the 5th of November". He “kidnaps” a young woman, after having saved her from attempted rape (gosh, what a surprise) by officers of the nasty government. There is, of course, more to it, but I want you to go out and see this film because it is very, very good and no fuss has been made about just how good it is. Sorry, no media fuss. Most of the people I know who’ve seen it have raved. And now I have too. I haven't been as pleasantly surprised by a film since Sin City, so "I was expecting a fun film, but Jesus that was good!" knocked out of my chair was I.

Hugo Weaving squeezes every nuance of performance from the blank, kinda creepy mask and Natalie Portman is great as the young woman whom he “adopts” (with a most impressive, though not entirely flawless, Pommy accent). I’m rabbiting on a bit now, so I’ll just say – again – go and see this movie before it disappears from the screen. It’ll be okay on the telly, but the climax needs to be huge.

Four and a half forbidden jukeboxes out of five.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


As you may have read, I just finished "High Fidelity" and, as I finished it while ling next to Carmen as she snoozed, ocassionally pausing to give her a kiss on the cheek, I had the notion to make my own Top Five, All Time, Desert Island List (TFATDIL) up.

So, here you have Euan's TFATDIL of things you should never miss an opportunity to do;

  1. Kiss a pretty girl on the cheek. Or guy, if you're so inclined.

  2. Indulge in a favourite sweet or pastry. Within reason, of course.

  3. Cuddle a dog/cat/bunny. Though be careful, 'cause bunnies bite.

  4. Laugh long and deep.

  5. Stretch out and read a good book.

I might spout more crap like this from time to time. Feel free to ignore me when I do. :)

Book 8 1/2

"High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby

Another one to tick off my "really must read that some time" list and also another "read it in a day" one too. Well, actually, I read a wee bit night before last, but yesterday there was lunch hour and baths and early-to-bed readings all warm and snuggly.

What interested me most, coming at this one from my experiencial end, so to speak, was the little differences to the film. Or rather, the little bits of the film that were the same as the book. For the most part, this one would've been prett easy to translate to the US and - heretic though it might make me - I don't think much of the story was lost by that. Every chapter or so, I'd come up against a chunk of text that was verbatim in the film and I'd have an extra wee chuckle, but the Anglo-centric elements were also great. The pommie slang and the pommise attitude give the story a slightly different slant, but the basic "this man is a pathetic creature who needs to grow up and stop wasting his potential" premise still comes across. I couldn't help seeing Jack Black as Barry, but I had more of a Neil Morrisey in my brain for the main character, so I wasn't completely bound to the film in my head.

Having not read any other Hornby, I found the conversational tone engrossing and smooth. I also thought that the moments of honesty in the admission of his characters' weaknesses were nicely done. Like most honest, believable stories I found myself yelling (metaphoricall, Carmen was already asleep) at Rob and trying to get him to wake up to himself. How successful my yelling was is something you'll have to decide for yourself when you read it.

Four all time top five desert island lists out of five.

More news from Sussex

I found the doorpost where Cal and I were measured every time we visited and guess what?

I'm currently a good inch shorter than Cal was when he was 15. Lanky bastard.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

More fun.

Lots of animated .gifs here and, as the name suggests, there's lots of Movie Bad Girls.

Totally shiny!

How cool is this!?

It worked!!

I now have a shiny, new web comic.

It's basically a rip-off of Irregular Webcomic and Twisted Kaiju Theatre, with some craziness and dodgy humour thrown in for good measure.

To begin with it'll mostly be Joke Of The Week[TM], with characters and possibly even a continuity of sorts developing as it goes. Look for updates on Fridays (our time, gotta go in and fiddle with things a bit) and because I've already done a few in advance, there won't be an Easter-themed comic cause I didn't think that far ahead.

Hope you enjoy!

A Magical Drink

You may remember my search for and love of Rooibos, aka African Bush Tea. Well, I was looking it up on Wikipedia t'other day (just 'cause, really) and found this out.

Looks like Rooibos can help protect you from radiation. How cool is that!?

If nothing else, it could be a useful idea for a sci-fi medication.

Book 7 1/2

"Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick

Most of us are aware of some of the stories of Philip K. Dick, even if we don't know it. His works have been adapted into numerous films, including Total Recall, Minority Report and Paycheck. In fact, given the first and last entries on that list, and some of the other films made from his stories, there is an unfortunate trend for dodgy, fun sci-fi to be made, which is a shame cause Dick's writing - while maybe not the most polished in the world - is certainly fascinating and his ideas in SF were usually ahead of their time.

This one is, as you've probably guessed by now, not an entire novel, but rather a collection of short stories (among them, obviously, "Minority Report") and now that I've finished this book, I've finally caught up on all the Philip K. Dick short stories that films I've seen are based on (I still have Paycheckand Scanner Darkly to go, but I've heard that the film of the former is barely worth it). "Minorit Report" was pretty cool, with a significantly different plot to the film (less action, more temporal theory...), and the other stories were pretty good too. Not always clear in his description, Dick nonetheless has great ideas and interesting concepts in his work. There's "Second Variety", which was made into Screamers (continuing the theme of fun, crap sci-fi), about self-replicating, self-evolving killing robots and "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" (see Total Recall, above), which - like "Minority Report" - was less action-packed than the film adpation and more quirk.

That's the word I've been searching for.

Even by usual sci-fi standards, Dick's stories have a weird vein running through them, and that for me is half the fun. Whether it's about a human who keeps turning into a giant amoeba ("Oh, to be a Blobel!") or a man who suddenly finds out he's a cyborg ("The Electric Ant") Dick manages to fuse high-end SF concepts with believable characters and just a little nudge left of centre.

It didn't exaclty grip me and flow as smoothly as Gaiman, but I did enjoy this one.

Three and a half false memories out of five.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mind wanderings...

While I was working at my desk this afternoon, the Big Time Operator version of Sing Sing Sing With A Swing came up on my MP3 player. I had a sudden thought and looked around, but hope as I might my co-workers did not spontaneously burst into a perfectly-choreographed swing dance number.

*sigh* Sometimes the real world is a bit dull.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Who'da thunk it.

Well gosh.

I suppose that if I was on some kind of medication and it also had me spontaneously orgasming, that would be just a whole bunch of up side, right? Although, it could get distracting.

Possibly the best news in the Universe.

Kranksi lady will be taking the vouchers!

I won't explain it.

If you need to, you'll know what I mean.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Just cause I got curious...

DisorderYour Score
Major Depression:Very Slight
Dysthymia:Very Slight
Bipolar Disorder:Slight-Moderate
Seasonal Affective Disorder:Very Slight
Postpartum Depression:N/A
Take the Depression Test

Apparently, being annoyingly chirpy all the time puts me in a quasi-bipolar risk group. Who knew...

Also, the fact that they had to put a "I know this is a little meme thingy and not an actual diagnosis" checkbox on the thing that was a little sad (no pun intended). Is the common-sense gland in the average internet user so atrophied that a down 'n' dirty depression test has to point out that it isn't a qualified psychiatric care-giver? Well, I guess I should probably know the answer to that one already, right?

Book 6 1/2

"American Tabloid" by James Ellroy

Have you read any James Ellroy? No? Do you consider yourself a conno-sewer of writing? Then you jolly-well should have read some James Ellroy. He's the guy that wrote LA Confidential which, of course, the film was based on. His writing is (mostly) 50s-based gangster stories, usually set around LA and Hollywood, with a mix of real people and fictional characters. It's violent, fast-paced and quick-reading stuff with a minumum of syntactic fuss and a whole bunch of energy. In other words, it's cool, slick writing and enjoyable to boot.

"American Tabloid" looks at the events leading up to (brace yourself for some hard-core Wikipedia linking action...) the Bay Of Pigs invasion and it's effect on the assassination of JFK. Alongside a group of Ellroy-original bastards we have an examination of Bobby Kennedy's crusade against the Mafia and Hoover's FBI, Howard Hughes' quest to buy up Las Vegas and break the Kennedys and the CIA's attempts to get Castro. Throw in the Teamsters, Jimmy Hoffa and pro- and anti-Castro paramilitary groups and you have a tangled web of guns, drugs and violence.

I read this one quickly and it really got into my head. Ellroy's tone and turn of phrase are amazing. I don't know how much he edits and polishes, but the flow of the text is almost perfect. Also, I'm not normally one to notice character arcs (I'm usually too interested in the story itself) but watching the anti-heroes and post-heroes of Ellroys narrative respectively crumble and fail, then pick themselves up was enthralling. It is true that at times the convoluted plot was often confusing to follow (maybe I was tired when I was reading it sometimes), but overall - in case ye havenae worked it out - I loved this one.

Four Mob-connected CIA contractors out of five.

I'm sure you've seen it all before...

But if you want to see Bunnies re-enact famous movies, check this site out..

You can never go home...


Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Carms and I went down to Sussex Inlet this weekend and spent some time with Grandpa. We had a very relaxing weekend, with much playing of cribbage and Yahtzee (those who are in the know with the running "Yahtzee" gag can stop that giggling now) and it was great to spend some time with the old guy, especially cause I really don't do it enough. However, the big shock of the weekend was what they've done to Sussex.

When Cal and I were kids and we went cycling around the Inlet, we had (and, again I'll thank the peanut gallery to keep their minds out of the gutter)a plase which we called out Secret Place. It was down by a wetland and was a cool place with steep hills to cycle down and jelly fish to poke with sticks. Ah, simpler times. And now? It's going to be a frickin' housing estate! The area right on the lagoon is a protected wetland, so it's safe, but the bushland leading up to it has been subdivided and they've even sold 3 of the plots. But that's my childhood they're selling! They've already cleared out half the trees, so you can see the road from down in th ebushes (something you could never do before) and... it's... just... wrong.

Add to that the large buildings now lining the main street (including a pretty big holiday apartment complex) and the fact that Tradewinds Avenue (where Grandpa lives) is completely built up. Also, I went for a wander down one of the other tracks Cal and I used to explore and found two dumped cars! BASTARDS! I can live with the jumps that trailbike and BMX riders have built up on the track. At least they've added to the fun of the track, but two gutted cars! People! Respect my childhood and clean this shit up! One of them was so old and rusty, it even had grass growing on its roof for Gods' sake!