Monday, March 30, 2009

The Fourth Circle - Zoran Živković (translated by Mary Popović)


buy - author

Another entirely unexpected story. Cracking open a book and flipping to the first page only to realise you have no idea what you're embarking on always causes a moment's hesitation. There are even chances you'll dislike or like the work in question. The hesitation is felt more when it's 6.19am and you're standing on the train station, unable to do anything about the book in your hands if you decide there and then that, actually, you dun wanna.

While I had no idea what the book was about, it had a lot of expectation to live up to. Always a dangerous situation.

The story is comprised of individual streams which, at first, appear to have nothing in common. An individual walking on an empty planet. An AI in a remote temple in a wild jungle. Echoes of historical figures; Archimedes, Nikolas Tesla, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A species of spheres. A giant ring of living electricity in space. Poor frightened painter's assistant. Some streams uncurl for the length of the book, others surfacing only briefly to counterpoint those coming before and following after. There are familiar things unfurled, exotic things, exciting things, whimsical things, ordinary things, odd things, and for some time each of these fragments appear unrelated to the others. They are in different times and different places with no hope of ever crossing, so how then do the threads tie together?

Each vignette is a masterpiece on its own, however. At the end of each chapter, I was equal parts joy at returning to a stream, and irritation at departing from the last. They are all of them utterly fascinating, beautifully crafted and with such diversity that there is no chance for the reader to get tired, or become glutted on the book. With the constant contrast and variety, every chapter is something new and refreshing.

After a while a sense of resonance emerges, and the still entirely disparate pieces start bouncing off each other in intriguing ways. In this way, these threads begin to coalesce, and so I read and read, and pieces connected to other pieces, the skirts began to overlap with each other, and everything was slowly coming into focus yet I still couldn't see what the end picture might be-

-until I got there.

And it's a marvelous thing to be so captured by a book, and so well fed yet still flying blind, and the book then serve to you exactly what you need, and more importantly, what it needed to say.

A special comment on the use of voice here. My goodness, it's so lush. Each thread has a distinct character all of its own, every individual voice is so rich and beautifully rendered, it felt positively decadent to flip from page to random page to see these identities standing strong next to each other, without a weakness among them. Mary Popović did an amazing job retaining this in the English translation. Seriously utterly totally delightfully exquisite.

Can I tell you what The Fourth Circle is? Imagine Morpheus, if you will. "No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself."

Well, actually I thought that was overly dramatic and he could have quite easily have told Neo, but the fact is, I can't explain The Fourth Circle, I can't even summarize it. And if I could, I wouldn't. It's better if you read it for yourself.

Verdict: Superb, brilliant stuff, with interesting things done in both nitty-gritty technical craft and over-arching story telling. Must dig out more, oh yes, must. Gods that was awesome.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Presents!Dénouement

You three are hilarious, heh. Best competition evah? Goodness yes. Sunken Russian nuclear submarines make the world a fabulous place to live in.

After much deliberating, the Committee of Me, Myself and I have reached a decision, and in this particular battle we name Aanimal as victor. The squid, shrimp and whales were excellent plans, but using the TSA to open the safe is a stroke of pure raw genius. It still makes me guffaw.

Aanimal, a postal address if you please!

But, such valiant and BLOODY OARSUM efforts should not go unrewarded. Mr Miller, Mr Moles, I do have in my possession copies of the previous issue of Weird Tales. If you wish it, give me a postal address and they're totally and utterly yours.

Now, you three need to go into business together, 'cause I see great potential for 'problem solving' here, and when your powers combine you are CAPTAIN PLANET you could rock the kazbah six ways from sunday. Would you like a project to start you off?



As found on the other 95%, this octopus uses both camouflage and imitation, which makes it a SEA NINJA. I'd like to order an army of these such beasties.

In red. I like red. Ooh, and purple. Yeah.

(Do you take credit?)

Little Brother - Cory Doctorow


read - author

I read this as far back as November. That's how behind on write ups I am. I am a bad person.

Interesting read.

It's already been talked about so much, chances are you've all heard of it, and have an idea of what it's about. No further surprises there.

The thing I keep coming back to, when thinking about it, is that it's actually two books in the one object. There's the 'how to undermine your rights-eating government and have fun with gadgets on the way' instruction manual, which is quite nifty. It's a field of knowledge that Doctorow has clearly spent a lot of time hashing over, and has a lot of love for. The excitement that comes through when reading about LEDs and toilet rolls is palpable, and it's impossible not to catch a mischief bug and dream of starting the revolution right now. This section ties in with the politics of today's increasingly security-conscious world, and how that impinges on the individual. It's a scary topic, even sitting here in Australia with the Great Internet Filter being a bit of a joke. If anything, it's worth pushing this book on the unwary just to get them thinking, really thinking, about the state of the world and their place in it.

Then there's the fiction.

Which, to be honest, plays second fiddle to the how-to manual.

As a piece of story-telling, it isn't great. It's an adequate vehicle for getting the how-to manual around, but it didn't taste interesting at all. The prose was bland, and I never really engaged with Marcus. 365 pages is a long time to feel nothing for a character written in the first person. He never really felt like a 16 year old, to be honest. His internal monologue was too busy explaining basic surveillance principles and occasionally showing off his intellect for him to ever really be a person.

One thing that did bug, and still bugs me, was the treatment of race. Early on in Marcus's crusade, his Korean friend, Van, bows out. She can see the sort of risks he's taking, and her own family migrated to the US from Korea to escape such trouble. She's afraid, and rightly so, and flees not just from partaking in any subversive activities, but in having anything to do with Marcus at all. She's shown as letting fear rule her, thus letting the system win without a fight.

Jolu, Marcus's Mexican (I think? It's implied with names, but I don't have the ground knowledge to be sure) friend, bows out shortly after. Because he's brown, not white, and with the stunts Marcus is pulling, any trouble that comes their way will be worse for him than for white boy Marcus. In this exchange, Marcus comes across as the brave one, deserted by friends and going it alone anyway, and Jolu as being a touch cowardly.

Which leaves the world to be saved by the 16 year old middle class white boy.

Maybe I'm oversensitive. Maybe I've read it wrong. Maybe only 16 year old middle class white boys can save America from itself because they're the majority. Any fight staged by someone who is considered as part of the minority will only ever be seen as railing against that classification. If the complacent majority wake up and roar, then clearly there is true action to be taken.

And maybe that's just horseshit.

Regardless of story-telling flaws, this is a book that will not go quietly. It is a deceptive creature, hiding itself in the skin of a young adult book. You go in with your buffers down, safe under the young adult label, and come out with your eyes open. It's a natural reaction to, on leaving such a tale, shake yourself, and tell yourself that that sort of thing just wouldn't happen here.

But the book stays with you, and you will ask yourself, 'but why not?'

And you'll think about it, and keep thinking about it. And thus the book triumphs.

Verdict: Not a literary masterpiece, which writerTess is a tad disappointed about, as such important ideas should come dressed in the beautiful clothes they deserve. With the various levels it operates on, you'll take what you want from it.

(If you think my hands look funny in that photo...those aren't my hands. There's so much foot stomping on the front cover - and that is a great cover - I figured I'd get my feet happening too.)

BEHOLD! MY DOMINANT CHEEK PADS!



I have assembled this diabolical Ikea product entirely on my own. And I was wearing a "That's right. I'm a gay robot." t-shirt at the time.

What does that make me?

TOTALLY FUCKING OARSUM. I'm a damn superhero furniture god! Constructorsaurus is channeling my SUPREME MAD SKILLZ fu! You marvel at me! MARVEL. Worship unto me as though I were a god! BOOYAH MUTHAFUCKA.

I can't actually stand it up, because despite my cunning devilry superfly Constructorsaurus powers, I'm still trapped in this measly little data entry operator body, and this meatbag has no upper body strength. It's taking up the whole lounge room floor.

And I kinda hurt now.

It would have been a hell of a lot faster just to ask for help, but, you know, the instruction manual issued a challenge, and apparently I have things to prove. Such as my ability to conquer furniture.

For those who may, for some reason, wish to emulate my oarsumness in this matter, the trick is to use your feet. Your heels are the best hammers you have.

Empress Tess, Conqueror of Ikea and All-round Badass Ninja is going to reward herself with food now. Before she falls over.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

NINETEEN SECONDS TO COMPLY

I've decided to grow a beard.



Here is photographic evidence of my progress. This is one day of growth. I'm new at this, so I still have a lot to learn about growing beards. It may take a while before I get the hang of it. Hopefully I will get better at growing beards faster.

Also, there are now cyborg whales involved in the battle for the copy of WEIRD TALES locked in a sunken russian nuclear submarine. And appropriate defenses cropping up against them. You have 20 hours to take out the trained squid, haxxors, and cyborg whales and make a copy of this Most Fucking OARSUM magazine yours.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

TWENTY SECONDS TO COMPLY

I'm not going to rant about IE and that it's a useless piece of shisno and all the security and network restrictions at work mean I can't get any updates for it so it tends to indulge in apoplexy every time I ask it to do anything strenuous, like look at a site, any site, and it has gone and twisted itself into a state of uselessness much earlier in the day than normal, and I can't even get blogger to load, so please forgive me for email posting, in particular for the enormous WARNING attachment that Outlook throws on the end of every email I send, and I don't have the option to turn that off, believe me, I've looked, and this signature will break my blog page and your f-list and crap up any feeds you're reading through.
It took us a while to figure out what the noise was.  We were walking by the river, trying to wake up, and I swear I could hear howler monkeys or gibbons or some nauseous primate, wailing loud and clear over the city.  Monkeys, F1 racing cars - same difference.
I'm still trying to wake up.  I'm not sure what happened this week, but I've had time to do nothing.  Haven't finished the reading that should have been finished days ago, haven't started writing up the books I've read, haven't written, haven't done the dishes or the washing, haven't bought food, have developed a monsterous email backlog, and I'm working up a considerable sleep debt.  I know I'm in a bad way when not even Daft Punk's DISCOVERY gets me chair dancing. 
Le blog has been neglected too.  See, I'm stealing time at work now to post, 'cause I won't have any tonight.  And even this post is only a longwinded and rambly placeholder for a real post, so's I can remind you about the copy of WEIRD TALES I have locked in a sunken russian nuclear submarine that COULD BE YOURS.  So far squid and haxxors are involved.  You have until Sunday to outwit the squid and haxxors.  There is also surprise! additional! thingie! thrown into the mix. 
The squid and haxxors clearly know what they're doing, but don't be intimidated by them.  Both taste great with a bit of lemon juice, ginger and chilli.
 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 22:29 @scribblefly turned her nose up at my small climax. Didn't like the texture. #
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Weird Tales & Hugo are most definitely sitting in a tree...



For the first time evah Weird Tales has been nominated for a Hugo! GO TEAM!

Now all that's left is for the people who can vote to go ahead and vote. Vote! If you don't agree with who wins and haven't voted, then you lose all rights to whinge about it. Can you imagine a worse fate? No, you can't. So vote! Vote for what you love and what you care about. And if you don't care or love, well your heart is a dessicated flea, you can vote on my behalf instead. Weird Tales all the way, baby.

I'm half way through the current issue, and am loving it. It's a very, very strong issue, immensely delicious. Stories I've read appear in it, so for the first time, I feel like I've almost earned having my name in the staff section. It'll also give you an idea of what timescale the publishing industry moves to, as I read these stories over a year ago.

I have one (1) copy spare. Just one. So, if this fine example of printed reading material was in a safe stored on a Russian nuclear submarine which has been sunk and is lying, airtight, at the bottom of the ocean, how would you go about securing possession it? Go on, grave robbers and treasure hunters and crazy people, get inventive! Bonus points for taking out your competitors. Shall pick a winner in a week.

While this isn't NSFW, I don't think it's entirely SFW.

Gakked from Deep Sea News; a video of flat worms mating.



It's known as penis fencing, and the worms are the swordsmen. From the midsection of each flat worm, double daggers protrude. Each dagger is actually a penis.


Dude. Dude. I totally lol'd. Probably because I don't see a lot of difference between flat worm and human sex. The only difference being, half the population is unarmed.

Gakked from Zooillogix; seed beetles have the scariest penis in the world.




A new study of C. maculatus seed beetles has proven the worst case scenario for most men: size and in this case the number of painful, injuring spikes on their penises do in fact matter. The C. maculatus have a series of spikes and barbs on their members that, during sex, become embedded in their mates, acting as anchors of sorts.


AAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa...No comment. I don't need to comment. It speaks for itself.

Penis. Funny stuff.

Shall we talk about something else? I'm going to talk about my vagina. I HAVE MY PERIOD. A real, honest to goodness tides of blood period! I'm a real boy ovary storage cupboard!

This is my first proper period since going off the pill in September. Six months, if you're counting. Prior to this, I've had two other half periods, which weren't really periods, wimpy little messes they were, barely worth the effort. Bah. They came with no other symptoms either, just a mess.

This period I class as 'real' precisely because its coming was heralded by the Harbinger Headache, which wasted no time turning into a Muthafucking Migraine. Had another mild headache today.

Bugger. Was seriously hoping going off the pill would get solve the migraine issue. Oh well.

Have also been cramping, which is an entirely new and exciting experience. And by exciting, I mean uncomfortable. I am hoping these do not get worse with time.

Other than lacking the whole monthly bleeding from the vagina thing, going of the pill was a simply super move. Depressive traits have lessened. Somewhat. That they have lessened, but that I have not suddenly become a little ray of sunshine, indicates that I'm just stuck with this lousy personality. Oh well. It's worth it. Every little bit helps. Never ever ever ever ever ever going back on the pill. Which means condoms for the rest of my life. Oh well. It's worth it. It's so worth it. I bounce back faster. I let go quicker. I don't sink so fast. These things still happen, but it's worth it.

Tomorrow is a great day for a hangover.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

There's a Blackhawk zooming back and forth outside my window. I'd guess it's circling over Kew, thereabouts, maybe further. Red lights flashing dee-der-dee-der and swoosh it turns and goes powering back the way it came.

Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. It's like a big red yo-yo in the sky.

Kinda hope it gets bored and zooms off somewhere else soon. Even at this distance I can hear it. I pity the houses beneath.

Monday, March 16, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 09:54 devastation. hold your breath. #
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 11:11 is in synch with the sky. #
  • 12:19 @scribblefly but were you successful? #
  • 12:25 @marared okay the spread on birth is highly alarming and disturbing. #
  • 16:05 is perplexed by the appearance of blue, and is no longer in sync with the sky. #
  • 16:26 @snarkattack when is it not complicated? when does it not end in tears? -__- #
  • 16:29 @snarkattack I'm of the opinion being grown-up and brave is highly overrated.Situations that call for such behaviour, also highly overrated. #
  • 16:51 @timsterne heh, well it was certainly the same rain that gotcha. #
  • 18:04 watches a peewee bird walk the neighbour's balcony railing, and wishes for its balance. #
  • 18:57 will hold off on her evening stroll till after this rain band has finished doing its business over her suburb. Which could be never. #
  • 19:04 Yep. It's never. Cup of tea then. #
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Advice For Writers*

When you buy furniture from Ikea, and all the pieces required for assembly come in three separate boxes, none of which you're strong enough to lift, this means you should not invoke Constructorsaurus on your own.

When you buy furniture from Ikea, and all the pieces required for assembly come in three separate boxes, none of which you're strong enough to lift, and the instructions specifically state that two people are required to put the item together, this means you should not invoke Constructorsaurus on your own.

When you buy furniture from Ikea, and all the pieces required for assembly come in three separate boxes, none of which you're strong enough to lift, the instructions specifically state that two people are required to put the item together, and indeed you are alone, this means you should not invoke Constructorsaurus on your own.

When you buy furniture from Ikea, and all the pieces required for assembly come in three separate boxes, none of which you're strong enough to lift, the instructions specifically state that two people are required to put the item together, indeed you are alone, and you're tired and brooding, this means you should not invoke Constructorsaurus on your own.

When you buy furniture from Ikea, and all the pieces required for assembly come in three separate boxes, none of which you're strong enough to lift, the instructions specifically state that two people are required to put the item together, indeed you are alone, you're tired and brooding, and you're drunk, this means you should not invoke Constructorsaurus on your own.

No, really.

Also the hammering pisses the neighbours off.

Still, partly assembled shelves make good cubby houses.



I expect I'll have to invoke Constructorsaurus for weeks to get this finished.

To add insult to injury, when pouring myself a drink, I ran out of mixer. First run out of drink, now out of mixer. Venture out to buy more? In this cold, wet, miserable night? I'm already doing cold and miserable just fine, no need for a hat trick.

I declare today over.

*by 'writers' I do of course mean 'everyone'.

until next time

An incredible cloud front just rolled past my window.



After that clear cut and dark leading edge passed, the belly was dragged by, green-tinged in the thinner areas, which you can juuuuust make out in the photo.



Then, it shat down.



Not bad, for pointing and shooting through my dirty-ass windows.

Rain bands have been passing by all day. Should be an immense help putting the fires out. Cleaned up the air. My imagination tells me the trees look greener. Some deeper sense of obligation that sees me conserving water where ever possible has relaxed, just a touch.

I could get used to this.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I don't trust my unconscious, if it can even be called mine. It tried to kill me every night last year, and even succeeded twice. Maybe that's normal for those of us who are not lucid dreamers, but not for me. I control my dreams, I have always controlled my dreams, yet twice I lost, and my unconscious killed me.

I didn't wait for it to happen a third time.

I stopped paying attention, and without that waking attention they faded. Without my spending so much effort dredging them out of sleeping and teasing a half-remembered structure out of them, they were nothing. Pale little things. Sad little things. Dull little things.

Perhaps it was regrouping. My unconscious appears to have put a new battle plan into action. Suddenly my sleep is populated by people from my waking life, and that's not right, that's wrong. It's all sorts of unnatural, it's world-destroying, soul-crushing, and mind-meddling. Is that overly dramatic? I don't think so. With real people in my dreams, I am forced to be Tessa in my dreams, and I'm tired of Tessa, I have enough of Tessa when I'm awake, and she's a pale, sad, dull little thing. Tessa can't fly, leap, shoot, fire, pilot, command, rescue, wrestle, climb, dive. Tessa is not immune to gravity. Tessa cannot breathe in water. What of Tessa? She is nothing. And now, with you 'real' people in my sleep, I have no time away from her.

Now, when I wake, I must dredge my dreams out of sleep and pan events from them, and tell myself, this never happened.

I cannot resent this person. I cannot call this person. I never kissed this person. We are not okay. We are not destroyed. This never happened. I must remember. This never happened.

I don't trust my unconscious.

If I could pour it out into a bowl, I'd put that bowl outside, and let it evaporate in the sun.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 16:36 hearts the water police. And their 90km dingys. Best job perk evah. #
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

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And another dead ant - drowned or boiled alive - spirals in my tea.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 17:15 screams. #
  • 18:33 @marared am i supposed to be laughing? is that intentional or unintentional smut? ;P i've skipped tea, and gone straight to liquor. #
  • 18:34 @miiru chocolate. *le sigh* #
  • 18:35 @snarkattack I AM JUST FINE. X____X NO REALLYletmejustpouranotherdrink. #
  • 18:39 also, i am not wearing pants. but i am wearing socks. #
  • 18:39 i shall leave you with that image. now, i must go fillet my tongue. #
  • 19:05 oshi- #
  • 19:05 the bottle ran dry well before i'm ready to stop drinking. #
  • 19:05 you know what this means. yes. trip to the store. and you know what that means. #
  • 19:05 yes. #
  • 19:05 i'm going to have to put pants on. #
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Monday, March 09, 2009

For The Record

My name is Tessa.

Not Teresa, Terese, Theresa, Therese, Contessa or any variation thereof. Any attempt made by you to use these names when addressing me will not make you professional, formal, or strip out what I'm guessing you perceive as a casual nickname with connotations of familiarity. You will not be exercising any sort of control over our interaction. You will just be wrong.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 20:59 Good old twitter. Confirmation of earthquake received. #
  • 21:06 @miiru nothing very exciting, but the first one I've felt. Shook the desk, so I figured it wasn't the downstairs washing machine. #
  • 21:06 @snarkattack saw someone in cranbourne reporting it. #
  • 21:23 @lvdpal same here, that's why my first thought was 'washing machine'. this place is concrete though. shook the windows, desk, and me. #
  • 21:35 RT @fatticus Magnitude 4.7 - NEAR THE SOUTHEAST COAST OF AUSTRALIA #melbourneearthquake is.gd/m4oF #
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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 11:55 @yunyu oh, I'm picking out my despot overlord outfit now. #
  • 16:27 @fatticus Yikes. Thanks for the tip. Still, must head in, shall not miss this concert. #
  • 16:47 @marared Oh heeeeey, we likes that we does. Crossing toes! #
  • 16:48 is waiting for her block of flats to be blown all the way to Oz. #
  • 16:48 is preparing a speech to introduce herself to the munchkins, as their new malevolent dictator. #
  • 16:49 has a battle plan to go along with it, involving the infiltration and undermining of the wicked witch and bribery of flying monkeys. #
  • 17:18 @marared Actually, I believe I do. Red & black striped at that. #
  • 17:24 @yunyu Plaque? Pffft. There will be statues. And parades. And public holidays. #
  • 17:25 @marared ...ew. I'll send some munchkins over as soon as I'm settled, and they'll personally suck your socks clean. #
  • 18:48 @zoecello & @amandapalmer are playing, thus I leap into the storm. (If you never hear from me again, I've been eaten by weathersharks.) #
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Monday, March 02, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 11:15 is sitting in a cafe with cake and chai, because the database is broken. Again. #
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Sunday, March 01, 2009

for archiving and propaganda purposes

  • 13:17 No, Tessa, you do not need a scrimshaw compass. Really. #
  • 20:26 can see the future and it looks like today and contains no time to be still. #
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