ironphoenix: (bookgasm)
( Apr. 19th, 2015 10:46 pm)
I just finished [livejournal.com profile] truepenny's novel The Goblin Emperor, and loved it. There are not enough novels about good people, I think. Not that everyone in the book is good--saccharine doesn't appeal to me any more than anyone else--but it allows for the possibility of goodness, where too many other books suffer from an excess of cynicism under the guise of realism (see Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!). It's not a fast-paced or "active" novel (in contrast to, say, Scott Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards series): conversations and thoughts consume the pages, and their material consequences generally occur off-screen. The general flow was good, although I will admit to needing to stop now and then to get my bearings amid a fairly vast array of names, some of them very similar to each other and/or long. For all that, I found it quite absorbing from start to end, and recommend it highly. I hope that it finds some awards worth winning, too!
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ironphoenix: (wake up call)
( Apr. 28th, 2014 08:53 am)
I just read an interesting book review of C. Wright Mills' White Collar: The American Middle Classes. The book was written over 60 years ago, but the article is fresh, and makes me keen to read the book. The article highlights some of the issues we white-collar folks contend with and how the Mills anticipated them; I can recommend reading at least that much!
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ironphoenix: (bookgasm)
( Oct. 20th, 2013 02:06 pm)
This seems to happen to me whenever I get close to a bookstore.

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ironphoenix: (bookgasm)
( Mar. 1st, 2010 01:23 pm)
[livejournal.com profile] ursulav wrote a very good little reminder about how writing can work; some of you may find it helpful for getting back on track someday.

Also, this may have poked me in a place that could cause me to try writing something myself... we'll see.
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ironphoenix: (bookgasm)
( Jan. 10th, 2010 10:59 pm)
Je cherche à lire plus en français, surtout des œuvres modernes écrites originalement en français. Il doit sûrement y avoir des romans et des nouvelles de science-fiction, du fantastique et de la fantasy qui valent la peine, mais ce qu'on m'a recommandé en Gaspésie n'est pas des gros chars (du moins, à mon avis). Vos suggestions seront appréciées!
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ironphoenix: (pimp)
( May. 22nd, 2008 12:53 pm)
Kim Stanley Robinson - Sixty Days and Counting: Read more... )
Eddie Goldenberg - The Way it Works: inside Ottawa: Read more... )
Lisa Tuttle - The Silver Bough: Read more... )
Madeleine Albright with Bill Woodward - Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership: Read more... )
William Gibson - Spook Country: Read more... )
Guy Gavriel Kay - Ysabel: Read more... )
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ironphoenix: (bookgasm)
( Mar. 22nd, 2008 10:15 am)
Ellen Datlow and Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant, eds.--The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: 20th Annual Collection: Read more... )

Kim Stanley Robinson--Forty Signs of Rain: Read more... )

Kim Stanley Robinson--Fifty Degrees Below: Read more... )

Neil Gaiman--Anansi Boys: Read more... )

Jean Vanier--Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John: Read more... )
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ironphoenix: (bookgasm)
( Jan. 23rd, 2008 11:58 am)
Books read this year:

1. Jacqueline Carey--The Sundering vol. 1: Banewreaker: Read more... )

2. Terry Pratchett--Making Money: Read more... )

3. Valentin Tomberg--Lazarus, Come Forth: Meditations of a Christian Esotericist: Read more... )

4. Jacqueline Carey--The Sundering vol. 2: Godslayer: Read more... )

I'm currently reading Ellen Datlow and Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant's 20th Annual Year's Best Fantasy and Horror; the second story, Nik Houser's "First Kisses from Beyond the Grave" is one for [livejournal.com profile] torrain's must-read list, in my opinion, along with any other zombie afficionados on my flist!
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Things I've read or watched recently:

Dion Fortune--Psychic Self-Defense: A little book of somewhat uncharacteristically hard-headed analysis of how to identify and deal with psychic troubles. A good deal of the book is spent on how to discriminate these from psychological effects, which is excellent, and also on how to discriminate effects caused by malicious attacks from those which are impersonal, rather like the difference betwteen a fire started by arson as opposed to one started by faulty wiring or accident. If you believe you may be afflicted by some psychic effect, this is a book to give to someone you know and trust. One of the points she makes is that for someone inclined towards psychism, neurosis is also quite close, and thinking about psychism (even with the best intentions) can make one more vulnerable to these effects. Thus, and external observer is likely to be both more objective in their evaluation and less likely to be negatively impacted by the analysis itself. My reservations about it have to do with the slant of her perspective: she was a student of a Christian initiation school, and has some of the biases that go with that. "Secrets" are generally revealed only to initiates, for their supposed protection; I have no secrets of this kind, and have not encountered things which would require such treatment. (I favor symbols, arcana and mysteries, whose meanings reveal themselves according to the person's readiness and God's inspiration, over secrets.)

Joe Sacco--Palestine: A graphic novel, only it's non-fiction. Graphic reportage, perhaps. It reads a bit like a reporter's diary as he travels to and in Palestine and Israel, describing the people and their stories without heavy-handed judgements. Very evocative, it presents an image of a society stunted by repression, and the reasons and consequences of that repression, all without theorizing or hand-wringing. Sad, even haunting, this is not an easy read, although the pages seem to turn quickly.

Joe Sacco--Safe Area Gorazde: Another graphic reportage, this time about the UN-declared safe area of the title, in Eastern Bosnia, during the war from '92 to '95. He gives more political context here, including a view of the international and UN game-playing that complicated matters considerably. This book describes a much more brutally violent situation than Palestine. Here, a formerly peaceful society is ripped apart and plunged into a genocidal war by relatively small factions. If Palestine is haunting, this can be the stuff of nightmare: it hints at how close we all could be to the unthinkable.

Stephen King--Wolves of the Calla: The fifth book of seven in the Dark Tower series, this would be a side note if only the resolution of the battle it sets up in such detail weren't so important to the aim of reaching the Tower. Character development abounds here, probably to set the stage for the last two books. Father Callahan, from 'Salem's Lot, enters the story as a major character, which will make [livejournal.com profile] torrain happy. Truthfully, I'm not quite finished yet; still about 70 pages of 900-and-some to go. These are all long, lush books, and the off-kilter weirdness of the universe they describe is, at least for me, vividly evocative.

Pan's Labyrinth: A Spanish film, played here with English subtitles, in the great traditions of fairy tales and magic realism. Sad and uplifting, triumphant and tragic, and heroic throughout, this is probably the best modern Weestern fantasy I've seen on film. (I'm not counting The Lord of the Rings because it's classic fantasy, even though the movies (the good ones, not the horrid things of decades ago) are modern. Also, some Japanese and Chinese fantasy movies such as Spirited Away and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would rival or excel it.) Special effects were used, but not at all excessively; the emphasis was on characters and their interactions with each other in the situation given, not on OMGDeusExMachinaPlotDevice!, or flashy and/or grotesque visuals. Is it all a dream? Almost maybe, and, as with real miracles, it's easy to ignore and put aside the signs that it's not, if one is so inclined. Worth seeing; bring tissues.

Best of the Cannes Advertising Festival: The annual best advertisements from around the globe. My favorites were: a Mexican Red Cross ad, a French ad for the movie channel Canal Plus, a Southeast Asian skin cream ad series1, an ad for Carlton Draught beer, and last but definitely not least, an Argentinian political ad. The grand prix winner, a Sony ad, didn't do much for me, despite being oh-so-artsy and cool.


1: The second half of the video is a repeat, but it's the best I could find with subtitles; sorry!
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ironphoenix: Raven flying (Default)
( Jun. 20th, 2006 04:00 pm)
I burned my way through John Perkins' book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man over the weekend, dropping all other reading for it.

The basic scheme he claims to have been a part of runs like this:

Premises:
  • The US Government (and, to a lesser extent, European powers) wants to control other countries and enrich the US.

  • The US Government (and, again, the Europeans) controls the major "international" financial structures (World Bank, IMF, etc.)

  • Companies want to increase their profits.

  • People in power in developing countries want to have The Good Life and stay in power.

  • Some developing countries have valuable resources.


Method:
  • US Government encourages a US company to propose an infrastructure development scheme to a developing country.

  • The project is presented to target country's rulers as enhancing the country's total wealth as represented by GNP.

  • The contract is awarded to US companies, and financed by loans from the WB, IMF, etc.

  • The terms of the debt are set so that the country cannot successfully pay it off.

  • The US Government "rescues" the country in exchange for UN votes, resource extraction rights, etc.

  • The resource extraction rights are given to US companies or subsidiaries.

  • The cooperative local rulers are given a sufficient cut of the proceeds to keep them onside.

  • The consequent environmental and societal damage causes hardship for poor, often unemployed, rural natives and aborigenes.


He gives examples, of course, and discusses a bit of where to go from here. It's a big, complicated problem in which the pieces fit together snugly, so alleviating this is hard. In essence, though, he seems to me to propose that we:
  • Reduce consumption, particularly of products and services (especially energy) whose prices are kept low by unethical extraction and exploitation practices;

  • Become informed about current projects like this; and

  • Protest against governments and comapnies which use these tactics.


  • It's a pretty interesting book; he tells the stories well, and gives them a personal angle. I recommend it highly. If you agree with him, it ties things together nicely; if not, I'm looking for a credible, thorough refutation.
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ironphoenix: Raven flying (Default)
( Jun. 8th, 2006 11:12 am)
A few capsule book reviews...
  • Charles de Lint--Waifs and Strays: This collection of short stories (a couple of which are long enough to shade into novellas) is worth a look, gathering some of his urban and mythic fantasy stories from different periods. These stories haven't been collected in a de Lint book before, but at least a couple of them have appeared in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collections (Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds.). If you haven't read any of his work, it's a good introduction. My main objection to de Lint's work is that it doesn't cover as wide a range as I might want, so I read him in small doses. The reason I keep coming back to his stuff is the compassion he generally has for his characters, who are generally richly rendered, not one- or two-dimensional stereotypes.

  • Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson--Transmetropolitan (vols 1 and 2 = issues 1-12): This is a comic book series about a journalist on a social mission. The protagonist has a bit of antihero about him, but is clearly a Good Guy. Unsurprisingly for the medium, he gets away with and survives an improbable number of insane activities and situations along the way, but the overall effect is still pretty human. Overall, a witty, cutting, but not heartless social criticism with echoes of Aldous Huxley's Brave new World.

  • Dan Simmons--Hyperion (Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion): This series, a relatively recent sci-fi classic, is an absolutely great two- or three-book series in need of extraction from a very good four-book series. The characterizations are fair, and quite diverse, but not as rich as they might be. The plot and the vision of the future, however, are top-notch. This series is a magnum opus of the imagination, and many of the ideas raised bear a good deal of thinking about. The handling of time-affecting technology and its effect on narrative flow is particularly intriguing. My main beef is that it needs more editing to get to a leaner, better-paced end result. The storyline sometimes gets lost in lush descriptions and discourses, which sometimes drop the tension of the plot more than they should. Overall, though, not a series I'm sorry to have read!

  • Bill Willingham--Fables (vols 1 and 2): Another comic book series, this time about characters from fables who have escaped the conquest of their world and now reside in ours. The characterizations are, well, interesting. These are not sugar-and-spice sanitized fairy tale characters; they are generally at least as bad as real people, in the style of the old meaning of fairy tales. Not that everyone is evil, but rather that everything is shades of grey instead of black and white. A significant part of the fun is seeing the characters in the new context of the modern world. Entertaining, and the plots aren't bad, but lacking the depth of meaning found in Transmetropolitan.

  • Wizard Entertainment--Toyfare (a collection, not sure which volume): Well, if amusement without *reverb on* Deep Thoughts *reverb off* is what you want, this is a good place to start. This is a very silly comic book which features action figure montages of satirical superhero storylines. I suspect that someone more familiar with the source material would find it even funnier than I did, but I wasn't diappointed by the experience. Something to consume in limited doses, perhaps, because the flavor of the humor might otherwise get a bit monotonous, but very well-done. Kind of the National Lampoon of the comic book world.

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