Archive for February, 2006

Hitchhiking in the Low Countries

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His Reading Materials

I read a good article in the New Yorker about Philip Pullman wherein he disses CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Not because they have initials for first names, but because they provide no useful moral lessons in their books. He feels this is the job of books, and that religion is therefore not as neccessary as some folks think, IIRC. In any case it inspired me to read his His Dark Materials, an excellent story. It’s a Yearling book so it’s a little embarassing to haul around, but worth the pain, unlike that Harry Potter drivel. I think “book for kids” means: the prose isn’t too flowery and doesn’t search for cool obscure words, and the story’s about kids coming of age right in front of your face. Rating: READ IT

I love a good Raymond Chandler, and High Window is no slouch. Representative quote: “You two are as cute as a couple of lost golf balls.” Rating: READ IT

That same New Yorker had an article about Knut Hamsun. Hamsun would be revered if he wasn’t such a Nazi, his apparently sympathy for whom doesn’t come through in his writing, I’m happy to report and Pan is great stuff. (It’s also on Project Gutenberg, but that’s probably the old, puritanized translation.) Its very reminiscent of Celine, who was also a Nazi and also an excellent author, who wrote with the same exuberance that made the author seem schitzoid, unless you understand it to reflect the turmoil of your own thought rather than the edited end product we see presented by others. Rating: READ IT (and that goes for Celine too)

I can’t believe I didn’t read the Elric saga back when I was into Conan. I guess it was loyalty to Robert E Howard. But Moorcock’s stories are better written, compelling and epic, and should be read by everybody with some geek in their blood. It’s a little tricky to put the series together since it’s out of print in its proper form, so here’s what to read, in order (but I’ll let you dig up the Amazon links, except to say that these white ones work fine):

  1. Elric of Melnibone
  2. The Sailor on the Seas of Fate
  3. The Weird of the White Wolf
  4. The Vanishing Tower
  5. The Bane of the Black Sword
  6. Stormbringer

I confess, however, that I’m only halfway through the list. Rating: READ IT while listening to BÖC

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Amazon sucks, sometimes

I buy tons of stuff from Amazon, and here’s a brief Amazonecdote. (And an Amazantidote.)

Of late, Amazon has settled on a new packing technique. It’s not a very good one. It goes like this:

  1. Pile up the items to be shipped
  2. Find a box much bigger than the pile
  3. Put the pile in the box
  4. Toss in a handful of Fill-Air bags
  5. Seal with a minimum of flimsy tape
  6. Ship it to me

I approve of the Fill-Air bags. They’re very convenient and seem environmentally decent. But this method, as practiced, doesn’t work very well.

Just recently now, I ordered a 31 lb slab of cast iron. I recieved a huge unsealed box full of Fill-Air bags. So I contacted Amazon and they shipped me a new one. I received a huge unsealed box full of Fill-Air — but with the item still in there! I saw the UPS guy carry it in – he looked pretty disgusted by the whole thing.

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