Jill has decided to serialize her new book, The Minäverse, and you can read the first chapter here. Jill was kind enough to send me an ARC* and it’s definitely a good ‘un if you like absurdist sci-fi, a la Douglas Adams and that other author of that one book I can’t recall right now.
Who wouldn’t like this wordplay?
Indeed, golf had become a great sporting event, with bonding between man and beast. Men would choose their favorite bionimals, and the favorites would smugly go out to play the game, while the less desirable bears were left behind. It was par for the course.
* “ARC” is an annoying publishing industry acronym meaning “advanced release copy” or “advanced reader’s copy” or “aardvark reticulation control.”
Shut Up About ‘Whitewashing’ in Ghost in the Shell 2017
Good idea, since “cultural appropriation” is usually a one-way criticism. I didn’t like the idea of Motoko played by an Anglo actress for different reasons, but the narrator makes a decent case against it. A related video.
A Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him: February 24th Mass Ritual
Did this do anything?
Ancient Toilet Reveals the Unique Way the Judeans Fought Idol-worship
Wonderfully intolerant and exclusive.
Questioning the “Science Says” Attitude
Someone should write a browser plugin that will replace all the “Science Says” articles with “Survey Says,” and replace any article photos with action shots of Richard Dawson. Speaking of stupid ideas…
STUPID SHIT NO ONE NEEDS & TERRIBLE IDEAS HACKATHON
These are not stupid ideas.
Here Is Why You Should Stop Using PDFs for Your Restaurant Menus
No more PDF pages!
Why You Need to Stop Using PDFs on Your School’s Website. Now.
I said no more!
Underworld Inc: Illegal Hand Made Colt 1911 Pistols Ghost Gun
“I live in a haunted house. How can i get a hold of one of these ‘ghost-guns’? Also, where can i get some ghost-bullets?”
Boston Dynamics’ New Robot Dog Is Defeated By Banana Peels
Slipping and falling like any ambulatory creature isn’t really being “defeated.” They were probably using the peels to show how it recovers from a fall—which it did successfully. Original video here.
Chris Rock Draws Laughs, Controversy at Salesforce Sales Meeting
If someone gets offended, a comedian did his job right.
They Will Say They Had No Choice
“It will be a rather quiet revolution.”
“Stop Crying” subreddit – That link doesn’t go anywhere because the subreddit doesn’t exist. Someone needs to start it, though, kind of like the “I Am Very Smart” or “Le Wrong Generation” subreddits, to highlight all the people who comment on Facebook images or Youtube videos of overtly sentimental subject matter with tears in their eyes (“damn those onion-cutting ninjas!” etc.). It’s getting out of hand.
LOL – LOL
Red Deer man punches cougar at Tim Hortons to save dog – I thought cougars would be more into Bob Evans.
SpecFaith: The Need for Diversity in Christian Fiction – No. God, please no. God doesn’t need diversity in anything any more than He needs a peanut butter sandwich or a stovepipe replacement. Evangelical Christians are like conservative Republicans—they hop on cultural trends 5-10 years too late, when everyone else has moved on to the next progressive cause.
Oh No, a Shortage of Dead People – Some folks are too retarded to figure out the negative, unseen, unintended effects of their favorite public policies, but the moment the private sector does something, there’s a sudden burst of insight!
The world is getting more frighteningly stupid by the day. – Yes it is, Jill. It is.
Megadeth’s “Hangar 18” – Ending on a positive note! One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums…and it still holds up today, 25+ years later. This seems to be the remastered version, and thankfully they didn’t quiet down Dave Mustaine’s and Marty Friedman’s solo dueling. Hey, speaking of solos, as far as metal it doesn’t get any better than these solos. Keep in mind this was pre-Protools, make-everything-sounds-the-same era. You can feel them beating the crap out of those strings raw to get them to sound the way they want: lots of string scraping and accidental pinch harmonics. As one user commented: “Best solo battle ever, best solos ever, best solo tone ever.”
This stuff can be hard to write this kind of subtlety. There’s few who can pull it off well. Bradbury was one of them, as is Jill Domschot. Scott Adams went overboard in a fine way, in this regard; you could tell he was trying to drive the jokes home with an elephant gun. Forster has a pea shooter and the peas have troll faces on them.
From Room with a View:
Miss Bartlett looked in her purse. Only sovereigns and pennies. Could any one give her change? Freddy had half a quid and his friend had four half-crowns. Miss Bartlett accepted their moneys and then said: “But who am I to give the sovereign to?”
“Let’s leave it all till mother comes back,” suggested Lucy.
“No, dear; your mother may take quite a long drive now that she is not hampered with me. We all have our little foibles, and mine is the prompt settling of accounts.”
Here Freddy’s friend, Mr. Floyd, made the one remark of his that need be quoted: he offered to toss Freddy for Miss Bartlett’s quid. A solution seemed in sight, and even Cecil, who had been ostentatiously drinking his tea at the view, felt the eternal attraction of Chance, and turned round.
But this did not do, either.
“Please–please–I know I am a sad spoil-sport, but it would make me wretched. I should practically be robbing the one who lost.”
“Freddy owes me fifteen shillings,” interposed Cecil. “So it will work out right if you give the pound to me.”
“Fifteen shillings,” said Miss Bartlett dubiously. “How is that, Mr. Vyse?”
“Because, don’t you see, Freddy paid your cab. Give me the pound, and we shall avoid this deplorable gambling.”
Miss Bartlett, who was poor at figures, became bewildered and rendered up the sovereign, amidst the suppressed gurgles of the other youths. For a moment Cecil was happy. He was playing at nonsense among his peers. Then he glanced at Lucy, in whose face petty anxieties had marred the smiles. In January he would rescue his Leonardo from this stupefying twaddle.
“But I don’t see that!” exclaimed Minnie Beebe who had narrowly watched the iniquitous transaction. “I don’t see why Mr. Vyse is to have the quid.”
“Because of the fifteen shillings and the five,” they said solemnly. “Fifteen shillings and five shillings make one pound, you see.”
“But I don’t see–”
They tried to stifle her with cake.
Reviewing Darkness 03 – Ed throws down a gauntlet, too: “So no one should be surprised if we suggest that the major flaw with Western Christian religion in all its forms is the insistence on subjecting faith to human reason.”
The Christian Philosophy Cafetorium – Friend Azure Ides-Grey starts a new blog.
Oh You’ll Get Used to Robo-Cars—Uber Will Make Sure of It – Mostly because it hits close to home. I want to see one but staring at the driver’s seat of every car that passes near me isn’t as fun as it sounds.
The Italian government is giving teens €500 on their 18th birthday to spend on books – They will trade the vouchers for weed and Doritos.
Villagers fear occult after schoolgirl found with Satanic symbols carved into her body – A bunch of 80’s horror movies just called me and they wanted their premise back.
Star Wars Ring Theory: The Hidden Artistry of the Prequels – Very long but fascinating read.
They Gotta Regulate People Helping People – Is something working reasonably well? Just add a bureaucracy and we’ll fix that problem.
I don’t pay attention to literary awards, so the Hugos are off my radar unless someone I listen to already sends a signal through. Hence, Jill on the 2016 Short Story winner, “Cat Pictures Please,” about a self-aware search engine that tries to help people with their problems:
See, the AI helps people by meddling in their lives. The AI is a classic do-gooder that thinks it knows what’s best for a person — you know, what the person should eat, where he should live, whether he should come out of the closet and therefore live happily ever after (in the story, the man who comes out is a pastor with a family; the AI is irrational enough to not consider the possible fallout from the man’s decision). The AI determines that it is rational for people to, say, get flu shots and go into therapy for depression. In other words, the AI is like every other well-meaning meddler.
How much do you want to bet that whatever the AI thought was rational was whatever Naomi Kritzer thought was “morally good,” as though the two were the synonymous?
At least that makes some sort of sense, compared to some high fantasy worlds, where the protagonist has the exact same morals as a 21st century American liberal, when the philosophy is nowhere to be found elsewhere in the world’s cultures.
I finally got around to reading Jill Domschot’s The Jaybird’s Nest and other stories (disclaimer: Jill is an Internet acquaintance of mine and has been my editor in the past). The seems ordinary but the stories are not: they are mostly absurdist sci-fi and fantasy, and there’s plenty of humor, mostly subtle or satirical, in the vein of something by Ray Bradbury, or Scott Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, or a Guy Ritchie film, without all the profanity and bloodshed…or any musical film with a sci-fi element to it. I’d say, in that last example, it’s harder to not have humor in that genre—maybe it has to do with spontaneous singing and choreography that puts human (plus alien, maybe?) interactions in an absurd light by its nature? Just a guess.
But I think it’s harder to write humor, since the to “force” a humorous visual into a readers’ mind is much harder without a glowing screen to assist. Not to insert my own book in a review, but humor of technology or world-view, not necessarily slapstick, was something I tried to do with Pale Blue Scratch. I don’t think I really pulled it off well. I had to concentrate on the story and message more so; the humor of it all came a distant third in the priority list. It’s a noticeable deviation from my intent, but thankfully no one shares my mind so it’s not noticeable to anyone else.
4.5 stars. I would’ve given it 4 stars but the titular story is in second person and that’s hard to pull off well.
Jill asked me in a comment to describe my ideal state. I obliged:
You know, I don’t think anyone has asked me that directly.
I don’t know what the ideal state is, but it probably isn’t a state. I can’t really decide for other people under what rulership they should be living–deciding for other people is why the modern state is so terrible. You could probably at least partially agree with that.
But if I could decide for me and my domain (i.e., my household), I’d probably choose to live under a contractual/covenantal feudal religious rule…no, not a theocracy, which nowadays means religious rule combined with a lot of other things I don’t care for. Think of pre-exile Israel, where families were the rule of law, and some things cascaded down from the priestly class. In the modern sense of the “church age,” the priestly class would be whichever church we’d happen to be a member of. Something like that. Churches would have to be a lot different than they are now to accommodate this, so I wouldn’t think something like this could be airdropped in the middle of America or anywhere else to make it work. Someone. somewhere with a lot of guns and resources will have a problem with this, so I wouldn’t expect this kind of “state” to last very long or be peaceful.
I don’t care about answering “what ifs” in depth because they aren’t arguments, nor things to even think about comprehensively. One can give “what ifs” for every stupid idea for organizing a society; if they were seriously entertained, we’d be paralyzed by doubt.
The government other people choose is of no concern to me. The can do whatever they prefer, but most of what people may choose involve a lot of guns and forcing people to do things, so I supposed in a moral sense I’d advise against that. People tend to make every excuse they can for government behavior when the behavior benefits them personally, so this ethical consideration is going to pass right by them.
To stick some further meat on this: there are degrees to what I prefer here, though I try to stick to what I know what God has in mind. I’d be okay, in a practical and moral sense, with some kind of functioning monarchy, since that is closer to what I described above than lots of other systems one could come up with. A tribal-based system seems to work the best because our tribal hindbrains are always running its protocols. Modern systems (democracy) exacerbate the worst parts of those mental subroutines. God didn’t need to institute the tribal structure since it was built in to our hardware. He did, however, take advantage of it for His own purposes, imperfect however it is, and I don’t see any markers that He thinks other systems would be any better.
The Ghost Box is Mike Duran’s third full novel, about Reagan Moon, a journalist of the paranormal who gets caught up, to put it mildly, in some otherwordly happenings in SoCal. I don’t dabble too much in modern science fiction or paranormal (see below), so I can only really competently comment on Moon’s first person skepticism and its “enlightening,” a certain archetypal progression in literature.
Moon comes off as a middle-quality man: not quite a loser but not achieving any great heights, motivated by money (understandably, since he’s barely getting by) and by a vague promise of discovering the true circumstances of his girlfriend’s death. In this way, his willingness to play extra-legal paranormal investigator for a wealthy industrialist is merely an extension of his day job. Not a huge stretch of talent or character for Moon. That event comes after he dons the a certain pair of goggles and is presented with near-irrefutable sensory evidence of the supernatural. In this way, Box‘s theme is more about rationalizing a strained worldview than a material-world problem-resolution scenario.
Reading The Ghost Box is not an untoward experience: plot, style, pacing, and characterization are all on point. The only drawback for me personally was Moon’s voice. His cultural references and attitude were appropriate to his vocation and station in life but it took some mental adjustments on my part. I’m too used to reading first-person narratives like Casaubon’s exhaustive academic logorrhea from Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, or the gradual crescendos of horror in Lovecraft’s short stories. This is more of a personal preference than a character flaw (heh) in Duran’s style.
Having not read anything else of Duran’s prior—except for the Subterranea collection of stories, which I enjoyed—I didn’t know how this book exactly fits in with its predecessors. Additionally, besides Jill Domschot’s Anna and the Dragon, and a forgettable Christian spec-fic/horror novel (literally forgettable; I don’t remember the author, title, or major plot points) my frame of reference with respect to Duran’s peers is close to non-existent. Take this review as such, from a reference point lacking a certain context.
Disclosure: I was a beta reader for The Ghost Box, in addition to working with Mike in the past on some other projects of his. This novel was sent to me specifically for reviewing purposes.
I am currently on the first draft stage of Retardo Montalbán, and I have onboarded Jill Domschot as the semi-formal editor of the project. We have a verbal agreement for services and payment, where I will remite payment at the end of her editing duties. So this public post carries with it the accountability factor—mostly on my end—to uphold my part of the bargain in good faith.
Before I go deep-diving into Retardo I’m going to finish the dead tree version of Bored in the Breakroom. The ebook version is still free and I don’t foresee it ever being not free, but the print version will have bonus stories and will obviously carry a cost. But that cost is heavily in your favor after the dolphin apocalypse arrives and there is no electronic grid to speak of.