Archive for January, 2006

4 Down, 48 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

The Binewskis are unique. A carnival family running the “Carnival Fabulon”, they breed their freaks instead of merely hiring them. Owner Al Binewski has his wife Lil ingest all manner of drugs and chemicals in order to produce their “special” babies – Arturo the charismatic Aqua Boy, Iphigenia and Electra, beautiful twins conjoined from the waist down, Olympia the not-freaky-enough albino dwarf and the extremely gifted but doomed Chick.

From cult worship to incest to charity by mutilation, Geek Love is a world where being a “norm” is to be a failure and to be a fabulous freak, is to be worshipped. Intercutting between the heydays of the “Fabulon” and Olympia as an adult, author Katherine Dunn takes her time showing us the Binewski children growing up, living fantastic, warped lives – remaining steadfastly human to the core – while gradually revealing the Binewskis’ inexorable dissolution into tragedy.

The book abounds with freaks, not just the Binewskis, but a whole range of characters who’ve been self-mutilated or surgically ‘corrected’. I guess the point Dunn is trying to make is how her heartbreakingly human characters (and the rest of us) have always been freaks inside, with or without looking “special”, that theirs’ is the human condition – twisted and tragic but always looking for love wherever they can find it.

Geek Love
(ISBN No: 0446391301) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Bibliophilia: A Novella And Stories by Michael Griffith.


random bursts #2

Now that Google has opened up their Google Talk servers for federation with other Jabber servers, you can use Google Talk to connect to your friends on AIM, MSN, Yahoo or ICQ.
I’ll try it out when I get a chance this weekend.

LJ finds new Green Lantern meme, goes ‘meh’
I’m a way bigger fan of GL (Hal Jordan, mind) but its too close to the Batgirl meme and kinda smacks of being a wannabe.

NASA Stardust canister opens to reveal “wonderful samples”.
Is this the point which history books in the future will refer to as First Contact with our future alien spore overlords? Tom Cruise is too busy being trapped in the closet to save our asses though.

Nations will continue to launch new satellites into Earth orbit, meaning the total amount of space junk will start increasing much sooner. This is of concern to space-faring countries because even a centimetre-sized speck of debris, speeding along at thousands of kilometres per hour, could damage an operational satellite.
Great. So my grandkid’s first view in space will be the remains of some cosmonaut’s used gas tank instead of aurora borealis from above.
Is there anything we won’t pollute?!

A Milanese publishing house that had issued an anthology containing 30 lines from Pope Benedict’s speech to the conclave that elected him and an extract from his enthronement speech is reported to have been sent a bill for €15,000 (£10,000). This was made up of 15 per cent of the cover price of each copy sold plus “legal expenses? of €3,500.
I may be wrong, but isn’t it counter-intuitive to charge money when the idea is to spread the word of God?

William Gibson tells us how he started on science fiction.
Haven’t read this yet, I’m sure it’ll be illuminating. He’s William Gibson, dammit!

Ubiquity interviews Ray Kurzweil on the Singularity
I think he’s got a new book out, must go find at library. I remember a guy asking Bruce Sterling about the Singularity at the Singapore Writer’s Festival even though he was talking about something else. It felt like he was shoehorning the concept into the discussion just so people could hear that he understood the Singularity. Could tell Bruce wasn’t amused at kinda brushed the question aside quickly. Still, it’s an intriguing idea, and Kurzweil makes a logical argument.

Stereogum has the link to a kiddy cover of the now-classic Lazy Sunday skit, with video remix to boot!
The Lonely Island are comedy geniuses, as I’ve been trying to tell the blogosphere for months. Don’t worry, guys, I think ninjas are totally crazy delicious…

Finally, a tutorial on how to make a cat helmet.
Now you can put those mandarin oranges to good use.

3 Down, 49 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Road to Perdition
(ISBN No: 0743442245) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

I read a truckload of comic tradepaperbacks and graphic novels — mostly borrowed from the nearby Central Lending Library — but I’ve just somehow missed out on reading Road to Perdition despite all the movie hype a few years ago. However, I was looking for something light last week, and just happened across this on the shelf.
I took quick enough to finish it, but to call this light reading would be a grave mistake.

Richly laced with themes of tragedy, betrayal and innocence lost, the book is heavily influenced by the classic manga Lone Wolf and Cub; a father and son on a long, bloody road of revenge, albeit with a strong bent of prohibition-era Americana and 40s crime noir. Author Max Allan Collins is the pioneer of historical crime fiction, deftly writing in encounters with Eliot Ness and Al Capone and weaving entirely plausible explanations for actual unsolved crimes.

Historical accuracy aside, I especially enjoyed the emotional ride, as father and son get to know each other better, ironically while leading a life of crime and violence – hardly a family-friendly environment. It’s an archetypal coming of age story, with inevitably tragic consequences.

I’m glad I read the book first before watching the movie, I’d hate to have Tom Hank’s face superimposed on Michael O’Sullivan’s stoic, craggy face. Maybe Gabriel Byrne. Rendered realistically in black and white, artist Richard Piers Rayner manages to convey an almost stark aspect to the art while penciling in an enormous amount of detail. Keep your eye peeled for the John Woo balletic violence in this, comes off really well when executed by Irish gangsters in 1940s Chicago.

Now I’m definitely going to get my hands on the movie.

Road to Perdition
(ISBN No: 0743442245) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Geek Love, many thanks to Don for yet another loan.

note: I’ve given up on using elibraryhub, not only does it not support Firefox, the database is always down! I hope its a temporary thing, but I’m going to link straight from the NLB Catalogue for now. Sorry, but registration is required for both.

tagged: meme of 4

4 Jobs You’ve Had In Your Life
Yeo Hiap Seng Delivery dude
Toy Salesman
TV Producer
4 Movies You Could Watch Over And Over Again
The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (actually share this with Aaron, hmm.)
Scarface (the Pacino one lah)
The Empire Strikes Back
The Royal Tenenbaums
4 TV Shows You Love(d) To Watch
Project Runway
Gray’s Anatomy
4 Places You’ve Lived
Clementi (rocks!)
Jurong East
Clementi (rocks again!)
Lim Chu Kang Cemetery
4 Places You’ve Been On Vacation To
Taipei (actually for army exercise, but the R&R was shiok!)
4 Places You Would Rather Be At Now
at a Mogwai concert
reading on a beach
at work at the NLB (ha!)
unconscious on me bed
4 Of Your Favourite Foods
Mutton Murtabak
My mum’s potato stew
Fish Keropok (no prawns, thankuverymuch)
Ferrero Rocher
4 Websites You Visit Daily
Pink is the new Blog
4 Tagged
big fuzz

random bursts #1

The LJ community (all of em!! well, almost) draws Batgirl!
I’m sure everyone’s seen this but nobody’s made it to the end of the list yet.
Laur, join in leh!

Ultraviolet stars the delectable Milla Jovovich as a Aeon Flux-type badass chick.
Ooh yes. This excites me verily as director Kurt Wimmer directed the incredibly underrated dystopian sci-fi flick, Equilibrium.
Milla Jovovich excites me also. Willy, I know you likes it too.

Daring Fireball posts his sequel to the Brushed Metal series.
the first one.

Che Guevara meets Stormtroopers with scratchy hip-hop goodness.
Dunno bout you but TIE fighter squeals always make me feel all nice and warm inside.

Monster Island author Dave Wellington starts a new horror novel, Thirteen Bullets.
Spent an inordinate amount of time reading the Monster trilogy last year. Initial installment, Monster Island was a cracking, ripping read. Monster Nation started expanding the scope a fair bit, before becoming freaking epic, but weirdly D&D-esque in the final Monster Planet. Still, I stayed up for hours reading this.
Of course, having zombies always helps. Brains, blargh.

Lego finally cracks and releases mecha kits.
With spiky manga-inspired minifig hair, no less!
For you non-geeks out there, mecha are big-ass robots with people sitting in their heads or stomachs.
Courtesy of NextBrick.

2 Down, 50 Left (52 Weeks 52 Books)

I’ve been having a really looong week, so I’ve been putting off writing this review. The good thing is it’s been an extremely illuminating read. Although it’s published in 1998, 2 whole years (14 years in Internet-time) before the dot-com bubble finally burst, Unleashing the Killer App is full of ideas that interestingly enough seem to be reaching fruition today.

The authors outline some key principles of designing the killer app, of which I won’t go into that much detail. Some stood out in particular though, I could immediately identify online commerce sites today that’ve put them into good use, for example – which allows users to design their own tee-shirts, lets other users vote for the best designs every week, print in limited runs, while awarding credit to the winning designers.
Basically, Threadless is outsourcing to the customer, treating each customer as a marker segment of one, and creating communities of value. The cool idea here is the idea of people paying you to let them work for you, yet everybody gets what they want. Only because of the advent of digital commodity is this possible.

Another principle that I liked with me is give away as much information as you can. If that doesn’t scream open source, I don’t what does. And we’re now really seeing the effects of this, with Firefox breathing down IE’s throat, and the now de-rigueur practice of making API documentation available. Coolest thing is the author’s have put their money where their mouths are and put the entire book online.

The dot-com bubble might be over, but right now is also an exciting time for web technology, long-time goliaths (read: Microsoft) are faltering, open source is making a massive comeback, and AJAX is the newest breakthrough in creating rich, powerful interfaces. The book might be ancient by Internet standards, but the ideas are still very applicable by today’s standards. All in all, a great text to read if you’ve ever had a flash of inspiration for an online idea.

Unleashing the Killer App
(ISBN No: 1578512611) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

update: The coming month is going to be pretty bad, so I’m opting for some light reading till I can come up for some air. So my next book will be Road To Perdition. Didn’t catch the movie, so I’ll be experiencing the source material as it was meant to be.