Print Story Maybe tomorrow I'll want to settle down
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 01:25:59 PM EST) Reading, Watching, Museums, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The Magicians", "Ghost Story". Watching: "Super 8", "Hobo with a Shotgun". Museums: BP portrait awards, altarpieces and rocks.

What I'm Reading
The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Fantasy novel with a high reputation. Reminded me of Stephen Donaldson in the way it works: it takes a kind of standard Fantasy premise, but breaks out of the cliché by taking it more seriously and applying darker motivations and deeper characters.

In this case it's a kind of Harry Potterish scenario, dealing with a group of students at a magical college. In this case though, the training is gruelling and intensive; and the the students are highly-strung high-achievers. When they finally leave college, life presents even more challenges.

Liked it a lot. You have to suspend quite a bit of disbelief, especially with the metafictional aspects: it also involves a Narnia-like parallel world called Fillory. But it's an enjoyable read, feels psychologically plausible, and has some imaginative fantasy touches.

Well worth reading.

There's also a sequel, "The Magician King", out in paperback at the end of month: I'll be looking out for that.

What I'm Reading 2
Ghost Story by Jim Butcher is the latest entry in the Dresden Files urban fantasy series.

The series has been going a while, but Jim Butcher's very good at keeping things fresh. There are long-running plot arcs that extend across the series, but he's good at giving each book a distinct resolution. He also varies the tone from light to somewhat darker. The last book "Changes" also shook things up a bit, with some familiar elements destroyed.

Even so, I was surprised when this book started to see him carrying things forward. Jim Butcher manages to give Dresden a whole series of challenges we haven't seen before.

As ever, it's fast-paced, with plenty of action and wisecracks.

This book would be a terrible place to start the series as you definitely need to know the background. If you've been following the series though, this is a very good entry in it.

Only one tiny little detail of consistency bugged me. When Luccio's soul was transferred to another body, her magical powers were diminished. So how come when Harry's soul occupied other magic users' bodies, he was able to do his usual fire spells?

What I'm Watching
Saw J.J Abrams Super 8 at the cinema. In 1979 some young teens making a movie project stumble across a mysterious event.

Very well done, with a lavishly nostalgic backdrop that's infinitely nicer than the actual period, which was one of grim recession and stagnation unpleasantly like today. Some decent performances from the young cast, and efficient story-telling.

Overall though it might suffer from some uncertain positioning. Not sure that actual kids will appreciate or understand the setting, and for grown-ups the teen angst seems a bit laborious.

Worth a look though: an entertaining, well-made film.

What I'm Watching 2
Saw Hobo with a Shotgun on DVD. Coincidentally this is also a retro movie set about the same time as Super-8, with less lavish detail from the prop masters but a rather more accurate atmosphere of greed and decay.

It's another movie based on one of the mock-trailers from Grindhouse. This one isn't nearly as good as Machete, however. There's a lot of over-the-top gore and cheesiness, but this one doesn't feel like gloriously bad taste, but more moderately distasteful.

Does capture the feel of a low-budget horror from the period, and it's not unwatchable. Not really recommended though.

Went to the National Gallery. Both exhibitions there are free at the moment.

The Devotion by Design exhibition of altarpieces mostly uses their existing collection, which they've just carried down a couple of flights of stairs. It does display them well though, in a quite atmospheric way, in some rooms laid out like a church. I did find it fascinating to look at the alterpieces from the back: somehow strange to see the unsmoothed chisel-marks from carpenters who died centuries ago. Worth dropping in if you're in the area.

They also have a Forests, Rocks and Torrents exhibition of Nineteenth Century Norwegian and Swiss nature painting on. Seems like a curiously literal title: I wonder if they're slightly embarrassed by the uncool period and genre and are hoping we won't notice it's on.

I really liked it. Though the paintings are mostly medium or small rather than spectacular huge canvases, they're fantastically beautiful: lovely subjects lovingly painted with elegant effects of light and texture. Was particularly impressed by Alexandre Calame's paintings of the Swiss mountains. Well worth seeing.

Also had a quick look through the 2011 BP Portraits round the corner at the National Portrait Gallery. Was in a bit of a hurry, but they seem to have a very good crop this year. Includes the controversially kitsch Holly by Louis Smith which is impressively skilled. Can't remember the names but liked a couple of others: one with a realistically-painted model gazing with apparent horror at a Picasso-ish portrait of her; one a self-portrait of the artist painting herself nude while her husband looks on with exasperation from the doorway.

Economics. The Glorious Revolution and current fiscal crises.

Pics. Serpentine pavilions.

Tech Politics: Top Gear fakes another electric car segment. (Don't really get it, electric cars really are pretty shit and impractical so far, why do they have to keep faking it?). Groklaw: A Brief Explanation of Microsoft's Anti-Google Patent FUD. Yet more on pseudonyms: "in real life, we expect very few statements to be public, persistent, and attached to your real identity".

Video. Adam Buxton on WebGL (watch to the end).

Random. Why blind mathematicians study geometry. How to Write a Book in Three Days: Lessons from Michael Moorcock. Creepy iphone case. US 20th century, World food timelines.

< Summer books | power went out last night. >
Maybe tomorrow I'll want to settle down | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden)
Answer to Dresden question by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 02:08:08 PM EST
When Luccio was transferred into the other body, the other body had only minimal capacity for doing magic. Luccio can still do magic, just not as well or as powerfully as she could before (like she can't make the swords anymore), but she's still the Captain of the Wardens, so she's clearly doing pretty well for herself. In Ghost Story, Dresden was inhabiting the bodies of people with already very strong magical abilities - both Morty and Molly were near-White Council strength wizards in their own rights.

At least, that's my theory on the issue. Like you, I've been impressed at how Butcher manages to keep things fresh while following story arcs, having old villains/friends show up later, etc. He said at the talk I went to that he actually planned the entire series out in advance, and he is sticking pretty close to what he'd set out to do originally (as he said, he knows that "the rock hits the window, but not how all the pieces will fall out."
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin

Could be by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 02:26:22 PM EST
Though I thought the thing about Molly was that she was too weak to throw fire around, which is why she had to become the Ragged Lady. Maybe she just never got the hang of fire though.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Right by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 02:45:31 PM EST
She was really good at veils and illusions, for instance, which Dresden wasn't good at really at all. And she was scary good at mind magic - also something that wasn't one of Dresden's strengths - but she wasn't good at offensive magic, like the fire and whatnot. It wasn't that she wasn't as strong as Dresden, but that her talents were in different areas.
The amount of suck that you can put up with can be mind-boggling, but it only really hits you when it then ceases to suck. -- Kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Possibly by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 03:33:31 PM EST
But Molly did have a line which went something like 'You had a firehose of power and I had a squirt gun', though maybe she was exaggerating.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Dresden files by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 04:46:57 PM EST
How does the book compare with the TV show and comic?  I've watched a few episodes and found it mildly interesting.  I read a comic, and thought it was pretty good, but not enough to drive me to get more.  Are the novels better or the same?
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
I prefer the books by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon Aug 08, 2011 at 04:57:13 PM EST
I watched some of the TV show, it seemed pretty decent, but it was lighter than the books, and the plots seemed a bit rushed when they try to get a whole book into one episode. I think it would have helped to have a continuously-building plot rather than have it so episode-based.

I read one of the Jim Butcher scripted comics, again thought it was pretty decent, but I prefer the novels.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Lev Grossman on Harry Potter by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #7 Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 09:10:37 AM EST

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Top Gear electric cars. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 09:17:55 AM EST
I suspect there's quite a bit behind it, but I'd have thought it's mainly pandering. Easier to tell people what they want to hear than to tell them they need to decide whether a compromise is worth it.

Also, when electric cars become mainstream, it will remove a lot of the mystique of the car and reveal them for the appliances with a side helping of status symbol that they are. That's not in Top Gear's interests.

Top Gear wankers by Herring (4.00 / 1) #9 Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 12:32:56 PM EST
They also costed a recharge on the basis of something like 35p/kWh - rather than the night time rate of around 5-6p.

I used to watch it but it's just immature libertarian posturing. And I don't particularly care for sharing a road with Clarkson's knuckle-dragging acolytes when I'm out on the bike.

Anyway, I'll leave it to Stewart Lee

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Stewart Lee, by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 01:28:01 PM EST
but, but, but he said nasty things about nice Mr McIntyre.

I think you'll find it's the average cyclist who's a knuckle dragger. Well, that was the impression I got from the terrified look on the face of the man whose car I was walking back to to ask him not to beep his horn at me. Just because I cycled round him at over 2 metres distant while he was leaving a parking place after inadequately looking in his mirrors.<sigh>

[ Parent ]
BP portraits by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 07:27:08 PM EST
I like the reviews in the Evening Standard:

"Holly by Louis Smith is a huge vulgar pastiche of a Salon nude" and goes on "... set in the fake glistering gilt of a hideous tabernacle frame - so far from portraiture that it has no business in this exhibition or anywhere in the NPG"

As for the one of the artist painting herself nude: "... Wendy Elia's 'I could have been a Contender' [is] an unfunny and appallingly ill-proportioned nude beavering away in her studio on a painting so bad that nothing kind can be said of it"

And as for the exhibition in general : "... I treasure the response of a judge a year or two ago .... there is here nothing worth 25000" (the total amount of the prizes).

This same reviewer panned, rightly, Tracy Emin's egocentric and talentless retrospective in the South Bank.

Oh yes, that was the name by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #13 Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 02:10:12 AM EST
I Could Have Been a Contender by Wendy Elia was the other one I liked. Also Ohh! by Cayetano de Arquer Buigas.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Electric cars are not shitty. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #12 Tue Aug 09, 2011 at 07:36:22 PM EST
They just have to fight for a reputation and infrastructure against the bad press brought to you by parties interested in seeing the electric car fail.

A former colleague of mine used one to commute everyday and it served its purpose fine: charge it at night, drive to work, charge it a bit more in the office, drive back home: no problems at all.

The problem with Top Gear and their ilk (and as a Mexican I have lost patience with them for obvious reasons) is that the oil will be finished at some point (anybody not understanding this can't be helped) and we need alternatives that they are not offering on their monotone message of a show.

Ha. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #14 Wed Aug 10, 2011 at 09:58:52 AM EST
My craptacular phone browser renders that as "clich*eacute"

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Typo, should be fixed [nt] by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #15 Thu Aug 11, 2011 at 01:01:41 PM EST

It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Maybe tomorrow I'll want to settle down | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 hidden)