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|Sunday, November 22nd, 2015|
|Book Review: Oathbreakers
I said before that my next book would be Musicophilia
by Oliver Sacks. Alas, after about 100 pages, I decided I'd read enough. It sorely misses the variety of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
. So I picked up another high fantasy.( Cut for lengthCollapse )
In some ways, it's an improvement compared to Owlflight
. Ultimately, however, it doesn't whet my appetite for anything more from Lackey. Thanks anyway to whoever got me interested in the first place.
I have now started a more old-fashioned adventure novel: She
by H. Rider Haggard. The same binding includes King Solomon's Mines
, which I've enjoyed as a movie
|Saturday, November 21st, 2015|
|Feeling Driven...or Not
I’ve had a driver’s license since the age of seventeen,
Yet I haven’t driven anywhere in years.
My parents would’ve given me a car; I wasn’t keen,
Even with its automatic-shifting gears.
I never drove so well; I had to take the test full thrice,
And I think the final tester had a reason
To be generous, aside from little areas of ice:
He reminded me it was the Christmas season.
I can reach most destinations by the bus and/or the train,
And my family can help me reach the rest.
If I owned a car, I might forget some features to maintain,
And the local parking’s really not the best.
In addition, I need exercise, and so I like to walk,
Whether all the way or to and from the stations.
Thus my license serves as only an ID; now you may balk,
But I think it fits my common situations.
|Saturday, November 14th, 2015|
|I'm Going to Vietnam
Imagine the surprise I gave to both my dad and mom
When I announced to them, “Guess what? I’m going to Vietnam!”
It sure meant something different circa 1969,
But I’ll be just a tourist, not a soldier, so it’s fine.
…Okay, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous.
They speak a bit of English, maybe not for every service.
I’m studying some phrases in their language, and it’s tough,
With different tones and accents; will my efforts be enough?
At least it has our alphabet, much easier to read
Than Japanese or Chinese, but a phrasebook I will need.
Of all the foreign countries that I’ve visited before,
Not one was so impoverished, not even Ecuador.
I can’t be sure a socialist republic won’t feel strict,
And worst of all, the bugs and food could make me very sick.
So why’d I choose to go there? Well, I’ve learned to hate the cold.
I leave in February when the weather’s gotten old.
I could have picked a safer bet like Chile or Brazil,
But moving from my comfort zone may mean a greater thrill.
I’ll spend most days there touring with a younger singles group.
My first day is their new year’s day; now there’s a cause to whoop.
The journey won’t be easy, so I’m feeling trepidation;
But nearly three months’ waiting gives me time for preparation.
|Saturday, November 7th, 2015|
|A Nightmare of Conjugations
Down the country road we drove
Until we finally arrove
At an eerie cottage long forgotten.
Would this visit be regrotten?
With the tools that we had bought,
We then ensured the lock was prought.
Moving softly, no one spoke.
I pushed the door; it slightly croke.
Upon our tiptoes, in we crept
And into every corner pept.
Was this the place for what we sought?
We didn’t see when first we pought,
But soon we had a candle lit;
We looked around and were delit:
A treasure chest on which was written,
“For the poor”? We felt invitten!
Opening the chest, we found
A hundred coins that nearly blound
Us with a golden light that shone
Like no plain ore that’s ever mone!
We didn’t know how that was made
But didn’t care; our claims were stade—
Alas, for that was when we heard
A booming voice whose words we feard:
“You thieves who’ve broken in and stolen
From the poor will now be dolen
Harshly with before you’re slain.
I think I’ll have you scorched and flain.”
To put it mildly, we were shaken:
Such effects aren’t eas’ly faken.
Once the shock wore off, I ran
Outside, jumped in the truck and gan
The engine, but my friends had fallen
On the ground. I was appallen.
Suddenly, where they had lain,
The ground was vacant! Had they dain?
From the truck seat I had risen
(What I did is ill-advisen).
Could I help? No, I was caught!
My greatest nightmare had been maught!
…In fact, I had the whole thing dreamt,
And none of us was getting creamt.
I guess if there’s a lesson taught,
It’s that some loot must not be raught.
|Saturday, October 31st, 2015|
|Something to Stimulate the Braiiins
What’s the deal with zombies? Why do people fear ‘em?
They move so fricking slowly, I’d never get too near ‘em.
The vampire thing I understand; they’re powerful and smart
And rather hard to stop without a stake to the heart.
On second thought, they also have a weakness to the sun
And garlic, crosses, holy water…man, they’ve got a ton.
Besides, they can act civilized and sometimes pass for normal.
I’ve never seen a zombie acting anything like formal.
And what if you get bitten and face assimilation?
The zombies moan; the vampires seem to border on elation.
Okay, I see the scariness of all the walking dead.
And now I think I’d better buy some silver and some lead.
|Saturday, October 24th, 2015|
|To the Persistence of His Memory
Many people remember Dali
For The Persistence of Memory
And little else. It seems ironic;
His other work's deemed less iconic.
What a shame; it's all terrific,
Coming from a man prolific.
He could paint whatever he dreamed
With artistic skills to be esteemed,
Usually weird and sometimes gross
But never dreadfully morose.
"Take me; I am the drug; take me;
I am hallucinogenic," said he.
About as arrogant as bizarre,
He earned that arrogance as a star.
He may have been something of a jerk,
But I'm glad he lives on through his work.
|Thursday, October 22nd, 2015|
As of yesterday, it's been a year since I launched my Watched and Learned
blog. As with "Downscale
," I have little to show for it. Few posts get more than five views; fewer still receive comments, including on Facebook. Even without a deadline, it can feel more like a chore of questionable value than anything else. And movie reviews seem less of an exercise in artistry than webcomics are.
Nevertheless, I plan to keep writing in it. If nothing else, I enjoy looking back at my own work from time to time. (Artists may cringe at their early efforts, but this isn't that early.) Besides, I don't have as good a memory for movies as I used to, so I may like to jog it.
Does this sound silly to you?
|Saturday, October 17th, 2015|
|Just My Less than Two Cents
A penny for my thoughts, you say?
I wish the penny’d go away.
It costs ‘bout twice as much to make,
And cheaper metal might just break.
Show me any modern store
Where items cost a cent or four.
Many people won’t bend down
To pick a penny off the ground.
Most machines will not accept them.
Shoppers often wish you’d kept them
‘Stead of taking time to count
An overly precise amount.
Since other nations said goodbye
To their small coins, I must ask why
We cling to ours, espec’ly when we
Safely ditched the old half-penny
Back when it could buy more stuff
Than dimes today can. Had enough?
Thanks for hearing what I think,
But you can keep the penny (wink).
[Note: By semi-popular demand on Facebook, I have agreed to write a poem each week from now on.]
|Friday, October 16th, 2015|
|Book Review: The Wise Man's Fear
It's been more than four years -- longer than I thought -- since I read and reviewed The Name of the Wind
. By the time I picked up this immediate sequel, I'd forgotten many character names, but I re-connected most of them to familiar personalities soon enough. To my shame, I'd completely forgotten every female character who was still relevant at the end of the first book. My memory must be sexist.
Fortunately, Patrick Rothfuss doesn't expect his readers to remember. And unlike J.K. Rowling, he doesn't simply repeat details as if stating them for the first time, apart from the prologues and epilogues, which are designed for symmetry. His characters have non-contrived reasons for saying enough to fill us in. If you decide to jump in without ever reading volume 1, you won't feel lost for long.( My reactionCollapse )
I am now very curious indeed what Rothfuss has in store for the finale. In all likelihood, I'll feel ready for more of the Kingkiller Chronicle Trilogy in less time than before.
Meanwhile, in honor of the late Oliver Sacks, I've borrowed Musicophilia
. I liked The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
, so this should be good.
|Sunday, October 11th, 2015|
|Poetry Week, Part 7
What would I give for a car that can fly?
That really depends on a whole lot of things.
For obvious starters, I want to know why
I’d pass up a jet for a car that has wings.
Just what’s the advantage? It doesn’t look cool
To sacrifice aerodynamics for style.
Perhaps it relies on alternative fuel
Or proves more efficient in fuel use per mile?
How long of a runway is needed to start,
And how many places accommodate landing?
If shaky, the ride could be bad for my heart.
I doubt it would keep much stability “standing.”
There’s also the question of whether the car
Is given to me or the whole human race.
The former scenario makes me a star
But garners attention I’d rather not face.
The latter? You’ve seen what some drivers are like.
To add a dimension would spell more disasters.
No thank you; I’d sooner agree to a bike
And leave aviation to capable masters.
|Friday, October 9th, 2015|
|Poetry Week, Part 6
One night I took a bullet in the back
But gave no further thought to my assassin.
Instead, my mind was on a single track:
To treat my wound before it meant my passin’.
I asked a passerby to help me out.
She handed me a phone and said to dial
A certain number. Too confused to doubt
The wisdom in this move, despite her smile,
I called and heard some prerecorded tips
On staying fit and healthy, like I’d learned
In kindergarten. What the heck was this?
My common sense had finally returned.
With that I punched in 911. Alas,
I heard the same recorded woman’s voice
Dispensing safety rules I’d known from class
When I was five. Was there no better choice?
One thing I ought to mention: I had felt
No pain upon the shooting, and indeed,
It turns out my subconscious mind had dealt
A silly dream, from which I soon was freed.
It fits some dreaming patterns that I’ve found
From year to year: I’m often getting shot,
And medics and police, if they’re around,
May try to be of service but are not.
In retrospect, this nightmare strikes me quaint—
Hilarious, in fact, unlike the rest.
I’m trying not to let the darn thing taint
My real-world views. I think that’s for the best.
|Thursday, October 8th, 2015|
|Poetry Week, Part 5
Perching in a forest, it can be hard to see,
Because its coloration often blends in with the tree,
But rest assured it sees you, in twilight or at night.
Its head turns all the way around to maximize its sight.
It’s also good at hearing, yet you’ll never hear its flight:
The wings are nearly silent as it bears down on its prey.
Its talons crush the skull before its beak tears flesh away.
(Sounds scary, yes, but I presume you’re much too big to eat,
For owls mostly live on rodent, bird and insect meat.)
|Wednesday, October 7th, 2015|
|Poetry Week, Part 4
The good news was my full-time job; the bad news, my commute.
The subway stopped near work but took a long, expensive route.
Most days I’d take the bus instead; alas, the stop by home
Received infrequent visits, with delays to make me groan.
I had to make a transfer, too. I always came home late.
When summer turned to fall, it meant a dark and chilly wait.
I’d hate to keep that pattern through the winter; if it snowed,
I’d surely take the subway, not take chances with the road.
I sought a close apartment at a slightly higher price,
Then raised my budget limit at my parents’ good advice.
Not long before the solstice, I was on the fifteenth floor
With a fifteen-minute walk to work. I feared the cold no more.
|Monday, October 5th, 2015|
|Poetry Week, Part 3
On Monday, a co-worker said after greeting,
“You planning to come to the afternoon meeting?”
—Except that she really said something quite jarring:
“You palming to vote to the anteroom marring?”
I asked her to clarify just what she meant,
But her clarification was equally bent:
“You loaning to time to the fattening mowing?”
I didn’t like where this discussion was going.
She tried it once more with “You blabbing to cow
To the safranin narrating?” Up until now,
I suspected she’d suffered a blow to the head,
But I finally followed the clues where they led.
I told her to open her settings for language:
I thought a default was producing her anguish.
It was, and she soon had the feature unchecked.
No more would she trip up on autocorrect.
|Sunday, October 4th, 2015|
|Poetry Week, Part 2
I start by thinking where the plot may go
And what the present characters may say.
I jot it down, revising till I know,
And pencil in the words the chosen way.
A thicker pencil makes the speech balloons
And borders for the panels (two or three).
Then starting with their heads, I draw the toons,
Their postures chosen almost randomly.
With different artist pens, I then will trace
On tracing paper, hopefully with care.
I scan the page, and software helps erase,
Redraw and color till it’s fit to share.
It’s not a process experts are proposin’,
But for my “Downscale,” it’s the one I’ve chosen.
|Saturday, October 3rd, 2015|
|Poetry Week Returns!
We celebrated my Mom's birthday a day early. I gave her a card with this inside:It's been a few years since the last time I tried
Writing poems each day for a week.
This year, when I looked at your wish list, I sighed
And regretted my poem-free streak.
At present, I don't know what subjects I'll use
That appeal both to me and to you,
But I'll sound the alarm to awaken my muse,
And the rhythm and rhyme will come through.
(The poetry wasn't my only present to her, but she acted surprised to receive anything more. She loves it that much.)
Well, I would have liked to come up with this earlier in the day, but here goes:I once knew a six-year-old boy
Whose one so-called friend was a toy,
Or at least that's what other folks thought,
Yet time and again the two "fought."
The "fighting" would leave him a mess,
Thus causing his mother some stress,
But she always blamed no one but him.
In hindsight, this story looks grim.
Was the toy as alive as the lad?
If so, it was certainly bad,
For who but a demon would cast
An illusion that few could see past?
On the other hand, maybe the kid
Just imagined that life. If he did,
He was causing himself lots of pain.
Either way, were his parents insane?
This behavior's not normal in youth.
They should seek out the terrible truth.
But nobody normally sobs
When thinking of "Calvin and Hobbes."
|Friday, August 28th, 2015|
|Book Review: Haroun and the Sea of Stories
I'd heard a middle portion of Salman Rushdie's kid book read aloud at a weekly story session in college (yes, we nourished our inner children together). More than a decade later, I could remember a few funny moments, but they turned out to be surprisingly far apart, so I must have spaced out. That's strange, since the story isn't dull the rest of the time.
Some of you may recall that I reviewed the much later sequel, Luka and the Fire of Life
, dedicated to the younger Rushdie son, whose brother had inspired the character of Haroun. I'd enjoyed that book, but Rushdie was a tad out of his element in trying to incorporate video game aspects. HatSoS
is a more traditional rabbit-hole fantasy (not sure of a traditional term for it), and that's fine by me.( Plot summaryCollapse )( Some of the charactersCollapse )
Classic? Probably. I don't put it on par with The Phantom Tollbooth
, but it has some dynamics reminiscent thereof. If you can find it at the library, you should be able to breeze through it before the due date.
With that in mind, I decided to move on to the longest book on my shelf: The Wise Man's Fear
by Patrick Rothfuss. Exactly 1,000 pages from start to finish, with a pretty small typeface.
|Monday, August 17th, 2015|
|Book Review: Starship Troopers
I went into my third Robert Heinlein book with a bit of trepidation. It's reputedly one of his most controversial, if not the
most. I really like The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
, but that's pretty controversial in its own right. And Stranger in a Strange Land
becomes downright repulsive toward the end. Could Starship Troopers
be much worse?
Nope. Not to me. I found it no more troubling than TMIaHM
.( SummaryCollapse )( Addressing the complaintsCollapse )
Oddly enough, the book made me want slightly to check out the movie. I know it's not made for fans of the book, but I'm curious how it handled the parody.ST
isn't very long, so normally I'd start on a tome next. Instead, due to a library whim, I'm on the previously hard-to-find Haroun and the Sea of Stories
by Salman Rushdie.
|Sunday, August 2nd, 2015|
Lately I've given thought to a possible phenomenon for which I know no name. I tentatively call it the lemming lore principle.( What I meanCollapse )( How else it applies todayCollapse )
Maybe you know an already existing name for the phenomenon. A better one, most likely. Or maybe you think I'm on the wrong track and simple ignorance prevails. But the idea seems worth entertaining.
|Saturday, July 11th, 2015|
|Book Review: Hunter's Moon, a.k.a. The Foxes of Firstdark
I had not heard of Garry Kilworth or his 1989 work before receiving it for my birthday. My folks had read good things about it, but it's pretty obscure. My copy appears to be a first edition, with no praise on the cover or the inside (and many typos).( Cut for lengthCollapse )
The reading goes rather quickly, helped along by short, neatly divided chapters. It does a good job of putting you in the head of a fox, more or less. Kilworth insists that he studied the species well; I can think of no example to shed doubt on this. I recommend the book to fans of the subgenre and possibly others.
Up next: Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers
. It's highly polarizing, so I've braced myself.