September 30, 2003

Weirdness abounds. Someone nicked the plates from our car yesterday while it sat in the parking garage. I didn't learn this until I staggered home from rehearsal last night; Stacy had to deal with this nonsense from the get-go of coming off the Metro. (She stayed home today as well to get our new plates and so forth form the DMV. I hear it went alright, and we're more or less fine now, if a bit frustrated.)

Stacy says the car is cursed. I don't know. We've certainly had more than our share of car-related troubles in the last couple of years: rear-ended twice (one of which put her in surgery), a break-in, numerous trips to the shop, lots of parking-lot dents and scrapes, and now this. Still, for the most part, lots of this stuff wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been. We got broken into, but lost nothing of great value; we had to have repair work done, but discovered it before taking a road trip; we had our license plates stolen, but not the car itself. With the exception of Stacy's back injury (which was very serious indeed), most of what we've endured has been inconveniences, not disasters.

Am I a Polyanna for trying to make the best of all this? Maybe, maybe. It would be a fair accusation, I suppose. But I don't see the value in underlining the negativity of it all either. Two years ago, having our car broken into was an afterthought to a year that had already brought losing two members of my family, then enduring the accident and my wife's surgery, and finally September 11. I think I've got a good picture of what a real tragedy is, and this ain't it.

Robert Fulghum has an essay in one of his books about this. It's the one where he says that life is lumpy - but a lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in a breast are three different orders of magnitude. It's good to be aware of which one you're coping with.

(None of which is to say that it isn't a big pain in the ass to stand in line at the DMV on a Tuesday morning because some miscreant got a wild hair. Which is something that I didn't, admittedly, have to do today. I love you, sweetie.)

Anyway, I suppose the point of all this is that I still feel like life is good today, and that I've been blessed with good fortune. For all the reasons I have to be happy, I can endure an inconvenience or two. So it goes. So it goes.

(Nonetheless, if anyone out there has a good way of de-jinxing a car, let me know...)

September 27, 2003

"Desire's a terrible thing, but I rely on mine"

It's Recommendations Night here on the Danblog - I've been listening to the Sundays, who I became a fan of eleven or twelve years ago by way of Andy, and thinking about how so much of the stuff in our lives we get from exposure to by our friends. (Also, tangentially, it made me contemplate the implications of being nostalgic about the music of the early '90s. At some point I must have gotten over learning that Harriett Wheeler was already married, but I don't recall when. I wonder what my 17-year-old self would make of that?) In any case, here are a few recent discoveries of mine:

First off, a heads-up to all my gamer peeps - Eden Studios has made their excellently cool Witchcraft RPG available as a free download, so go get it. It's spooky and Gothy and loads of fun - imagine putting Hellblazer and The Craft and Clive Barker and Lovecraft monsters in a big blender with a dash of Foucault's Pendulum and a Changelings soundtrack. Yeah, that kind of kewl. And there's even a way you can play using Tarot cards, for that extra dose of occult-nifty. And now there's no excuse not to have it. Bright Blessings, indeed.

In musical (but equally spooky) realms, Live at St. Olave's - recorded from the Current 93/Antony and the Johnsons 2002 London concert, which I picked up last weekend at Kim's in NY - is pretty good, if all too short. It's my first real exposure to Antony and the Johnsons, who do some weird and lovely stuff to judge by this; their second of three tracks on this CD is a musical rendition of Poe's "The Lake" that is certainly both of those things. Antony has a really gorgeous voice - angelically so - and the songs on here reward repeat listenings. C93 also do three tracks here, one of which is a truly incredible short version of "Sleep Has His House" that takes my breath away every time I hear it, and a performance of "Walking Like Shadow" that has some exquisite and gorgeous guitar work from the uber-talented Michael Cashmore. It's more of an EP than an album proper, and falls maybe more towards the "get this if you're a completist" end of the C93 canon, but I've no regrets in giving one a home. If you liked the melancholy, contemplative turn Tibet's taken the Current in the last few years (Soft Black Stars, Sleep Has His House) you won't either.

On the comics front, I've become a big fan of Carla Speed McNeil's Finder of late. Genre-wise, it's a kind of folkloric SF - imagine a bastard child of Joan Vinge's The Snow Queen and Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, set in a weird future of domed cities and insular ruling clans. Through this landscape wanders Jaeger, sin-eater and Finder (a kind of tracker-cum-detective), who's a bit like a bishounen Wolverine; he has amazing powers of healing and sensory acuity, and a good dose of angst by way of his conflicting obligations and a troubled past. The first two volumes deal with Jaeger's connections to a divided and disfunctional family who share part of that past in various ways, and the hard decisions he makes about what his duty to them is. Great stuff - intricate and interesting world-building, solid characterizations, and art that just gets better as it goes (and a great example of what can be done using a fairly simple style in black and white, which I imagine might be inspiring to one or two of you out there; yes, Maija, I'm winking at you).

I've managed to consume quite a bit of slack of late on Making Light, the weblog of Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who (along with her husband Patrick) edits at Tor Books and does other fine things besides. There is much good stuff to be found here, both onsite and as a goldmine of fascinating links, and the little community that springs up in the comments is a fascinating bunch of folks. (And speaking of which, I should also wave here to Space Waitress, who was nicer to me than I deserved when I derailed a recent thread with some Shakespeare-pastiche doggerel, and who also has a site well worth visiting.)

And, finally, if you haven't found your way over to gaze in wonder at iLevel, our own Vishal's fascinatingly quirky camblog - you really ought. With the same sense of slightly askew whimsy he brings to his Savant stories, Vishal opens the camera eye on the small, sometimes disorderly details of commonplace things so that they seem like the artifacts of some alien world. It's found-object art of the sort only truly weird minds can produce, and I love it. It's both reassuring and unnerving to know there are folk like this on my friends-and-relations list, which is of course exactly as I would have it.

September 23, 2003

Autumn is officially here today. It sort of feels it. Happy Equinox.

And speaking of the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, the big news is that while we were in NYC last weekend, Spyder and I went to see Neil Gaiman's talk at New York is Book Country and got to meet the mop-headed dreamer himself at the signing afterwards. He is absolutely as nice as everyone says - very warm, very genuine, very kind to his adoring legions of fans. He drew a Morpheus in silver pen on the endpaper of my first-edition hardcover of Season of Mists (carrying which earned some appreciative looks from my fellow geeks) and shook my hand when I mentioned I was directing The Tempest. And I didn't even make too much of an idiot of myself right then. So that was alright.

It's really cool as hell to go to that sort of thing with Spyder, who as a Jim Hanley's Universe employee is plugged into the NY comics scene enough to be recognized by folks at such events, making me feel much less like a random dork (not that Gaiman fans don't know their own anyway; before the reading, I was waiting outside the Equitable Center and got asked by a stranger "Where are we going?" and when I looked confused he said, "Okay, you're wearing a Sandman shirt and smoking a clove. Where are we going?"). Spyder, for her part, is an excellent partner for doing geeky things with, and maintains an almost zenlike balance of enthusiasm and calm, which I guess is one of the things you learn when you attend on Mike Mignola for four hours. Still, my hat's off.

Saturday night was a big slumber party at the Marthas', who put their big bottle of Fijian rum to good use almost immediately for a round of I Never (and I got to tell the usual round of embarassing stories about myself, some of which I'd almost managed to block from memory, hurrah). We do miss the Marthas something terrible. But it was really excellent to spend good quality time with them, if only for a couple of days. More often, more often - NYC's not that far, and family's family, after all.

Back home, Isabel has left us without air conditioning or hot water (but with electricity and cable, and got us out of work for two days, which is a pretty fair trade-off) for what looks like the rest of the week, so it's weenie-shrinking cold showers for the next few days. I almost envy Matt's T&D excursion into West Virginia this week. Almost.

Rehearsals progress apace, though I'm all too aware that Full Fathom Five badly needs an update, not to mention I have a Last Dark Art long overdue. So it goes. For now, I ride out the whirlwind. I'll catch up when I get a chance to grab hold of something.

September 12, 2003

There is a wait so long (so long so long)
You'll never wait so long...

Wasn't I just making wiseass cracks about this, it having been the "when pigs fly" event of alternative rock for the last dozen years? "Now I will believe that there are unicorns."

September 11, 2003

Nothing more to say today than this.

September 08, 2003

Moce Fiji

Back in La-la Land now, where I write this at an internet station in LAX and we await our flight out at 10 tonight. I slept for much of the 11-hour Air New Zealand flight in, but we managed to score a direct flight back, so the wait's worth it. Huzzah!

It was tough leaving, but it's good to be almost home.

Report, Mr. Sulu

So, Fiji. Fiji is a delight. Our room faced the ocean, which we could hear crashing nearly at our door at high tide. At low tide, we could walk out nearly to the edge of the reef (the ground underfoot was sand and mud and shelss and crushed coral) and see the wondrous miniature wolrds in the tidepools: turquoise fish like little jewels, sea urchins in crevasses, electric-blue starfish. There was some kind of bizarre black sea-slug or worm that was everywhere; they looked like machine hoses jutting out from under the rocks, groping slowly around their shallow pools. And in the deep places, brilliant coral was everywhere, branches and clusters and knotted brains.

The Fijians are great people - a touch conservative, but warm and friendly almost to a fault. Even the con-men are nice enough to strike up more or less genuine conversations before they try to filch you. The population is about 53% native Fijian (a racial blend of Melanesian and Polynesian), 40% Indian, and the rest "other" (mostly Australians, New Zealanders and Chinese), with a few pockets of racial tension but more harmony than you might expect.

Everywhere you see the sulu, the skirt that's the national garment (unisex, though men favor a version with pockets and a beltlike strap - I bought one, naturally, and wore it to happy hour). Every city has handicraft stalls selling local wares made by the villagers - baskets, beads, penadants, and the ubiquitous war clubs and cannibal forks. (I didn't leave with a club, alas, but we made off with quite a few forks and other neat things.) And Fijian beer, both Fiji Bitter and the lighter Fiji Gold, is quite excellent. I could go on at some length about the food (and the best calamari I have ever, ever had), but I risk tedium already, so I'll stop.

Got just a touch homesick by the end of it all, wishing for my big fearsome cosmopolitan city. So it goes. We're almost there now, and happy to be so.

I'm sure I'll be missing the sea all too soon (and spending days on our villa porch, smoking Silk Cut like my literary heroes John Constantine and Bridget Jones), but for now - it's nice having home in sight.

September 01, 2003

Bula all and sundry from lovely Nadi, Fiji, where I write this from the Cyber Net Space Cafe. It's wonderful here.

Our resort is right on the beach, where we watched the sun set over the ocean last night before falling asleep (bloody jetlag). It's winter here, which means it's warm but dry, and cool at night and in the morning. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Too much to tell all at once, so I'll write a more detailed account when it's all over.

In the Hills, the Cities

Los Angeles is not a city. Los Angeles is a veritable world, like Faerie. It's hard to appreciate how huge it is until you fly into it and see it coruscating beneath you, consuming the horizon in every direction. L.A. is vast, it contains multitudes.

I was ultimately underwhelmed, though. Something about the culture of California puts me off. I think L.A. and I are at odds in philosophy. It's a fine place to visit, but... well, you know.

It was actually quite a relief to come from there to a place where the people are about as real as can be imagined. Fiji is a jewel, and full of exactly the sort of kind and open people you'd hope would be there. You should go.

That's all for now. More later.