Monthly Archives: August 2010

More Covers

Good Show Sir is a blog devoted to “Only the worst Sci-fi/Fantasy book covers”. As always, “worst” is a matter of opinion. A few are, as advertised, really bad, but more of them are good – or at least, not bad. Here are my opinions on a few of the recently posted covers.

Songs of the Dancing Gods – Good. Okay, maybe a little cheesy but I like it. It’s colorful and busy.

Honorable Mentions – Three books in one post. Bad. Bad. Eewww!

Brother to Shadows – Good. Typical but not bad.

The Star Beast – Good. Wonderfully weird.

Clans of the Alphane Moon – Good. Another typical classic sci-fi cover. Not great but interesting enough.

The Painful Field – Bad. Neither the picture nor the title appeal to me at all.

Hrolf Kraki’s Saga – Good. Oh come on! It’s got a big burly beast-man and a cat on it. How could you not want to pick that up and read it?

Mind Bend – Good. Just the right amount of creepy.

UFO Trek – Good. Or fair. Typical, not especially memorable but certainly not one of the worst.

What To Wear While Saving the Universe

Fantasy fashion trends. Heroines are starting to wear more sensible shoes these days and their weapons are more compact. Damsels in distress have almost disappeared but cleavage is here to stay.

Well thank goodness heroines are wearing more appropriate footwear these days. I feel better about the future of the universe already. Seriously, I’ve never been too hung up on the accuracy, or even the plausibility, of fantasy and sci-fi cover art though I do appreciate good cover art. The worst covers, in my opinion, are those that are too simple, lacking in detail. It’s nice if it appears to be somehow related to the story inside but mostly, just give me something fun to look at.

Thanks

UPDATE: Oops. I think I must have typed this in my sleep. Fixed two really, really stupid errors.

A New American

Congratulations and welcome! Not only a new American but a new Okie too. I’ve been reading Sarah’s blog for a year or two now. At first it was a little bit amazing to me that a person from England had found her way to our little “redneck” state and it has been interesting sometimes to read her impressions of us but the more I read the more it seems that she really isn’t all that different and now she is truly one of us.

Quotes From Here and There

I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves.here

Many people … are scared of not being “normal”. But nobody is normal. And appearing normal is a lot of work, for no reason.there

If I’m going to have voice recognition, I want to start commands with “Computer -” and have Majel Barett reply. Anything else is unacceptable.here (via)

We can be sure of one thing – no one has a fundamental right to a radio show.there

“…it’s an awful thing not to have doubts.”here

Can Fanfare for the Common Man blast in any other way other than majestically?there

Reading

This morning I finished reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer. For quite a while, I had been thinking about reading it but the reviews and descriptions of it made me think that it would probably be not exactly my cup o’ tea. But it’s considered an “important” book so I kept thinking about it. Then Thinkgeek added it to their list of stuff you can get with Geek Points and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. (I still have lots of Geek Points)

It turns out that I was right about it being “not exactly my cup o’ tea”. (My cup o’ tea being space ships, strange planets, bizarre aliens and so forth, though I do enjoy something a little different once in a while if it’s good.) For nearly the first half of the book I considered giving up on it but I have often read books that took that long to get interesting so I kept going. It did get somewhat more interesting and I’m glad I stuck it out to the end. My biggest problem with it is that I didn’t care about any of the characters. I just couldn’t really feel anything about them. I expect a book to make me love the good guys and want to help them and then hang out with them after the adventure is over and hate the bad guys and want to participate in their destruction. I did not like any of the characters in Neuromancer but I couldn’t really hate them either. They were just blah.

I’m not sure about Neuromancer‘s status as an “important” book. I don’t really care. I’m glad I read it because now I know. It was not bad. It had some good ideas and an okay story.

Next on the reading list? I think I’ll go back to Andre Norton for a while. Because it’s there.

This ‘n’ That

Nathan Fillion has found his dream car. That makes me a wee bit sad. It used to be that a hot guy wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but a hot sports car or muscle car. I suppose it is kinda cute and spacey though.

By the way, that Ecorazzi site is sort of pretty. It’s too bad they had to cover up most of the pretty, flowery, scrolly stuff with a big banner ad. I know they need to have it to make money but it’s still really a shame they had to cover up most of the header image. They could have arranged things differently.

Eolake Stobblehouse thoughts is a very nice art, technology and miscellany blog. I love this. It’s one of those silly little things that make me laugh way out of proportion to its actual funniness. I’m probably going to burst out laughing at inappropriate moments for the rest of the day.

The Diary of William Thuck is a history blog. I should probably start at the beginning. Fortunately it’s only been around since July so it should be possible to catch up.

Leonard Nimoy on stage in 1971. As a Nazi! By the way, I hate when I click on “view larger” or “view full size” and the “full size” is not any bigger.

Behave Yourself; Everybody’s Watching

I’m sure you’ve heard about the cat in the garbage bin woman. I first heard about it on the CBS Evening News a few days ago and I thought, “That was mean but is it really worth making an international incident out of it?” There are many cases of animal abuse that are much worse. Why isn’t the world outraged about any of those?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not defending the woman. That she said, “It’s just a cat,” really pushes my buttons and makes me wish I could have a word with her. There’s no such thing as “just a cat.” But what’s bad about this whole thing – what’s scary about it – is that any one of us could have a moment of stupidity and do or say something we wouldn’t normally do or say and have it end up on YouTube and become next week’s “Most Hated Person in the World”.

I would bet that the majority of people don’t think the woman putting the cat in the garbage bin was all that big of a deal but it doesn’t matter what the majority thinks; it’s the shouting minority that counts. A person could lose her job because 10% or so of the world’s population is upset about one thoughtless act. Don’t think it could happen to you? Well, be careful because you never know.

Another Sci-Fi Trope

Yesterday I mentioned that nearly every sci-fi TV series does a rapid aging episode. Both Warehouse 13 and Haven did it in the same week a while back. Another common sci-fi trope is body swapping. (Or mind transfer) Last night’s episode of Warehouse 13 had Pete’s and Mika’s minds transferred into each other’s bodies. (That’s not a spoiler since they showed that much in the commercials but I won’t say any more.) Now I’m wondering what this week’s Haven will be about. I think Eureka has already done a body swapping episode but I can’t remember anything about it.

Growing Up

There has been a lot of blogging going on about what it means to be adult in response to a NYT article (which I haven’t read) about twenty-somethings’ failure to grow up according to sociologists five criteria:

“Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. “

One is an adult when one’s body has stopped growing. Those who are physically adults naturally want to be seen as being socially and emotionally adult also. Those who have only recently become physically adult, or who are still in the process of becoming adult, are especially concerned about this. The “five milestones” are the traditional criteria for adulthood but traditions have changed. In terms of the traditional system, one thing leaps out at me right away: “becoming financially independent”. Before the 1970’s a majority of women were dependent on their husbands so according to these criteria most women never became adults. This was part of what was behind the feminist movement of course but, contrary to feminists’ claims, most women were seen as responsible adults before 1970, though their responsibilities were different from those of men, so that invalidates the list even as traditional criteria. But I don’t want to go down that side track.

The age of transition from childhood to adulthood has changed or been extended. It used to be late teens through early 20’s. Now it’s early to mid-20’s or possibly even early to late 20’s. While you’re at this transitional age other people are looking for evidence that you are truly an adult. Once you get past a certain age people simply accept you as an adult without considering the criteria. I got married when I was 19. One of the biggest surprises was that suddenly both adult males and kids only two or three years younger than I was were calling me “ma’am”.

I think the list is not so much about reality but about people’s perceptions. A lot of people – maybe most people – still think traditionally. They see people in their 20’s who have not passed any of the traditional milestones and they see them as not fully adult yet. But once those same young people approach their 30’s other people will start seeing them as adults even if they have met only two or three of the criteria.

What about emotional adulthood? That’s more difficult. I’m not sure any of us ever become fully emotionally adult in terms of traditional ideas about adulthood. Nearly everyone is haunted by childhood insecurities and many of us still like some of the same things we liked as children even though we might think of those things as “childish”. But if there are any essential criteria for being emotionally adult I think they are, at a minimum, 1) understanding that everything is not “all about me” and 2) behaving accordingly most of the time. (Nobody’s perfect.) As for the rest of it – the childhood insecurities as well as the enjoyment of “childish” things – I wonder if these might not be unfairly labeled as things belonging to childhood. Maybe these things are, in fact, not childish but universally human. As long as you can continue to function as a normal adult why shouldn’t you hug a teddy bear once in a while if it makes you happy? And, more importantly, I think that what is usually considered “child-like” wonder and curiosity is something we should all hang on to throughout our lives.

Promoting Values

The other day I mentioned that I’ve started following the Dalai Lama on Twitter, entirely out of curiosity. This morning he “tweeted” this:

There must be a way of promoting human values without involving religion, based on common sense, experience and recent scientific findings.

Wow. That is exactly what I’m always thinking. I don’t intend to bash religion. It’s great when people can find comfort in religion and enjoy the fellowship of other people of like mind, but, it has never been very effective as a way of promoting values. This might seem like a shocking statement since promoting values is a big part of religion but it’s actually rather obvious.

Why should we be good? Because God said so and He will punish you if you’re not good. But what about people who don’t believe in God? What reason to be good are Churches giving atheists? They cannot do so because in the minds of believers there can be no morality without religion and so they must convert non-believers and they become ever more aggressive in their attempts to promote not morality but religion itself. For those who do not and cannot believe in what they see as mere fairy tales the greatest efforts of believers will have no effect except to turn them even more against religion.

Churches can’t change. They are what they are. But values need not be tied to religion. Most non-believers are good people who share many of the values taught in churches. I think most people want to be good. However there will always be people who are immoral, evil and selfish. How to get across to these people is a problem for both the religious and secular worlds.

Random Linkage

Little Black Book – They need to make one of these for the Kindle. And make it lots more steampunky, please.

Oddly Specific – Very weird signs.

2010: Living in the Future – A 1972 children’s book. I was in the middle of the future school part of it when Firefox crashed and I haven’t tried again yet. Like most vintage futures, it’s mostly way off but there are a few things that are somewhere in the neighborhood of reality.

The Internet 2025 – a nightmare scenario

Unusual Globes

Offbeat Earth – all kinds of strange stuff

DuckDuckGo – A search engine. I’m not ready to abandon Google yet but I’ll try to remember it in case Google turns too evil.

Rapid Aging in Science Fiction – If you make a sci-fi TV show sooner or later you have to do this. Bonus: There’s a great captioned image related to TV Tropes. That one is for real! Not because it will age you rapidly but because if you go to TV Tropes you could easily be there long enough to die of natural causes.

Star Wars licensed flash drives – Storm troopers should not be cute.

1922 Kodachrome Film Test – early color in motion pictures

Twitter Stuff

Yesterday I saw this great line, here.

“Why should things be easy to understand?”

I liked it so much I “tweeted” it. @dustbury responded:

“I don’t mind putting a little work into comprehending something, but things can and do get out of hand.”

Yeah… I guess that’s true. As with so many things, it depends. If the “something” is intended for regular use by the general public then, yes, it should be easy enough for a person of average intelligence to understand. I don’t see any need to dumb it down to the point where someone who’s so stupid they make you think, “OMG! How does he even live?” can understand it but you shouldn’t need to be a rocket scientist to be able to use all the functions on your digital camera. (for example) But what bugs me, and is the reason I really love that quote, is people thinking that everything must be easy for everyone to understand and the way some people don’t even try. Anything they don’t immediately get is labeled “boring”. But you know… actually, that’s okay. I sort of like that the world has exclusive little cliques of nerds and eggheads.

I’m not sure I can explain my thoughts completely. I simply like that some things are hard to understand, or, to put it another way, challenging. And, while I do want to understand everything, if I woke up one day and just magically knew everything I think that might be quite sad. Oh, I would be thrilled at first, of course, but if I already knew everything, then what would I do with the rest of my life?

* * *

I sometimes think I’m not really a Twitter person. I like Twitter but I don’t “tweet” all throughout the day and I don’t go there and read other people’s tweets more than once or twice a day. Most of the people I follow are like that too, which works out pretty well. I once unfollowed a guy because he was tweeting too much and I would sign in to Twitter and see nothing but his tweets. It wasn’t just that he was tweeting too much though; most of his tweets were links to articles I wasn’t interested in reading and he had something like a bazillion followers so I thought he probably wouldn’t notice me slipping out the back door. (Heh. “Bazillion” is a real word according to the infamous Firefox spellchecker. And yet, it doesn’t recognize “unfollowed”.)

* * *

Did you know that the Dalai Lama is on Twitter? Actually it’s “the office of” the Dalai Lama. I don’t know anything about the DL other than he’s the religious leader of the Buddhists and he’s for peace and harmony and all that good stuff. But anyway, I like trite, preachy sayings (though I like them better when I come up with them myself but that doesn’t happen often) so I decided to follow the (office of) the Dalai Lama for a while. Here’s a recent “tweet”.

We find that patience is the best means we have of defending ourselves internally from anger’s destructive effects.

Yeah, that sounds good. Where do I get some of this patience of which he speaks? Can I buy it by the case?

What’s Wrong With Branson

I’m probably going to be talking about Branson all next week. There’s too much to say for just one or two blog posts. I do enjoy Branson but I have one complaint about it. The main tourist area is not pedestrian friendly at all. In fact, you might say it’s downright pedestrian hateful.

Highway 76, a.k.a. Country Boulevard, is “the strip” in Branson Missouri. It grew to what it is today without any kind of plan. Thirty years ago when we first visited the area Branson was just the little town on the way to Silver Dollar City. There were a couple of theaters, a scattered handful of souvenir shops and restaurants, and maybe a motel or two. Those did well so other people came along and built their theaters, stores, restaurants and motels. More people came and so more attractions came and so on and now it’s solid tourist attractions for several miles along both sides of 76.

Highway 76, or Country Blvd., is three lanes wide, the center lane being a turn lane. Each business has its own little parking lot. Some have sidewalks, many do not. To see the attractions of Branson you have to drive from one to the next. Drive along the strip, see something you want to see, turn in, hoping you don’t miss the parking lot, then when you’re done with that place get in your car and drive to the next one. There are no public parking lots where you can park for several hours so you can walk from place to place and even if there were, there are few sidewalks and no way to safely get from one side of the street to the other. There are only two traffic lights along the strip and no cross-walks. There is not even so much as a sign warning drivers to look out for pedestrians.

There are areas in Branson where you can walk. Old downtown Branson is typical of traditional downtowns and there are some stores that look interesting. I haven’t spent much time there. It also has the same drawback as most other traditional downtown areas: limited parking. Branson also has a huge open air mall near downtown, called The Landing. It’s lovely if you just want to walk for the sake of walking or if you mainly want to shop for clothes. Almost all of the stores and restaurants in The Landing are the same ones you see at indoor malls across the country – nothing unique or touristy. There are two outlet centers off Country Blvd but, like at The Landing, the stores there are 75 percent or more fashion clothing stores and shoe stores.

But, though they have some good points, having these places where you can walk does not make up for the difficulty of getting around in the main tourist area. They could and should build continuous sidewalks along both sides of Country Blvd. and elevated sidewalks at least every mile, preferably every half mile. With the huge revenue this small town (population 6950 according to City-Data.com) gets from tourism, I find it extremely difficult to believe that they cannot afford to make such improvements. But from their point of view there’s no reason to. People keep coming in spite of the inconveniences and, I have to admit, that includes me too.

Me, Credit Card, Branson

Branson Mug

My husband went to Branson Missouri on business for two and half days and I got to tag along. I thought it would feel a little strange to be wandering around Branson alone and at first it was but I actually had a lot of fun. It’s nice to have someone to share the fun with but there are certain advantages to being alone too. You get to do exactly what you want without worrying about your companion being bored and without having to put up with any grouching.

Branson Missouri has been called the “redneck Las Vegas” and, where the shows are concerned, the description fits but what I like about it are the stores and museums. I had been to a few of the stores before but never did much shopping. This time I actually bought stuff. The mug in the first photo is the last thing I bought. Just about every gift shop in Branson had these and a standard, straight, non-footed version. I had been resisting temptation, telling myself that I really do not have any place to put one more mug but at the last minute I decided I couldn’t leave Branson without it.

Other purchases included: * Four Blue Willow “soup bowls” – the kind that are so shallow they’re almost plates, not bowls. I plan to use them for salad and pasta. (not at the same time, of course) I can’t see using a shallow bowl for soup; it would cool off too quickly. * A t-shirt for myself – insanely bright red/orange tie dye with dragons on the front. Three pieces of fabric which I plan to use for long-sleeved shirts. There’s a really great fabric/quilt store in Branson. It was really really hard to limit myself to only three. * A small decorative tin sign. * A refrigerator magnet. * Several items for other people.

Now, it really doesn’t seem like all that much but every time I found myself walking up to the cash register with something I cringed a little bit. It’s not my nature to indulge. Well, maybe it is my nature but I usually don’t let that part of my nature have its way. I did pass up several items that I wanted. In particular, there was a set of four milk glass tumblers that greatly tempted me but I thought they were rather small so I talked myself out of them on that basis. Even more tempting, was a print showing an abandoned house with a tire swing hanging from a tree in the front yard, all surrounded by bluebonnets. It reminded me so much of scenes that were familiar to me when I was a little kid, it almost felt like the painting was done especially for me but for some reason it just seemed like buying it would be too much of a self-indulgence.

This was in one of the craft mall/flea markets. I’ve never seen one like that with only one drawer on each side. Most have either two or three. The cabinet was painted that color. In the photo it almost looks like it could be natural wood color but it was more obvious in person – sort of a faded orange color.

Antique Singer Sewing Machine

I also went to the Branson Auto Museum. Lots of beautiful old cars and trucks, some of them for sale.

GMC Flatbed Truck in Branson Auto Museum

This is the restaurant where I ate lunch on Wednesday – the El Portal Mexican restaurant. I love these carved and painted booths. The tables were carved and panted too and coated with a thick layer of clear resin. No two were alike. The food and service were very good too. This was my favorite of all the places I ate while I was in Branson.

El Portal Mexican Restaurant in Branson

I might post a few more photos later.