June 21st, 2010


The Windup Girl - The Archimedes Codex - LA Noir 2

Been getting behind in my books.

Between my buying it and reading it, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi won the Nebula Award (extra bonus yay for Night Shade Books), so you can rest assured this is a good 'un. Set in a future Thailand, Bacigalupi does a great job presenting not just a future history, but a future history as seen through a foreign lens. I've thought about writing stories about what life is like when cheap energy (oil) is gone, but it's always too depressing. "Haha, you fat Americans can't drive your cars any more; no TV for you unless you get on a bicycle. You all sit around and talk about how wretched things are, and how stupid the people of the 20th and 21st centuries were." Bacigalupi has gone the clever step further to replace the oil-energy economy with a calorie-energy economy, and all that entails. The Monsanto-esque food corporations of the future run things, and keep their copyrighted genetic material closely guarded.
Anyway, the story involves a lot of disparate elements, from the bottom of society to the top, and as the plot progresses, they all get tied together in an accelerating and escalating clusterfuck. An engaging story, and it's impressive how the plot builds slowly and then ratchets up faster and faster.

The Archimedes Codex by Reviel Netz & William Noel

I've already talked a little bit about this book. Very neat story. Part science, part detective work, part history, part mathematics... the book does a great job cataloging the story of how Archimedes' work has been trasmitted to the modern day from his time down to the present day, when sophisticated techniques are being used to read works long thought lost to mankind.
The manuscript was auctioned in New York in 1999, and was sold for a cool $2 million to a mysterious Mr. B (rumor) who thankfully was also willing to shell out still more money for the conservation and analysis of the book. Private owners are not always the best custodians, as is shown by what happened sometime in the mid 20th century -- presumably to make the book more saleable, some of the manuscript pages were covered in forged 'medieval' paintings, so that not only has Archimedes been scraped off and replaced by a prayerbook, but the prayerbook pages have been covered on gold-leaf. And yet... X-ray analysis allowed researchers to key off the iron traces from the ink to recover text from underneath the gold. It was also curious to see that one of the people involved in the initial X-ray analysis is someone I've met at Pittcon. But in order to do the imaging analysis rapidly enough, they took the codex and stuck it in the beamline at SLAC.
And the content is interesting as well, though I think the book sometimes overstates the importance or content of Archimedes' work or stretches analogies.

los angeles noir 2 - the classics - edited by Denise Hamilton

I enjoyed the first book, and this one was also excellent, though "the classics" really only refers to about half of the book. The cheesy use of "Modern Classics" allows some more modern stories to sneak in, but I think it's quite a stretch for several of them to classify as noir, much less classic. Be that as it may, the book injects you with some grade-A classic noir right from the start, with Raymond Chandler showing everyone how it's done in "I'll Be Waiting. His style gives me goosepimples at tiems - descriptive, but oblique, requiring thought to piece together what happened, and more thought to piece together what it means: "Tony pointed a stiff index finger at him, folded the other three fingers tight to his palm, and flicked his thumb up and down on the stiff finger."
Most of the other older stories are at least decent. Of the more recent stuff, Mosley's "Crimson Shadow" stands out, though I'm not sure it's noir; it helps that the story could easily take place in my hood. I think the previous LA noir book had some action set somewhere near the Scanlin's -- in this one, Jervey Tervalon's story namechecks their street.

This is a tribute, to the best cheeseburger in the world.

Long time ago me and Dr. Pookie here,
We was hitchhikin' down a long and lonesome road.
All of a sudden, there shined a shiny demon... in the middle... of the road.
And he said:
"Make the best cheeseburger in the world, or I'll eat your soul."
Well me and Pookie, we looked at each other,
and we each said... "Okay."

And we made the first cheeseburger that came to our heads,
A recipe from Sunset magazine we'd just read.
With bacon, grilled onions and horseradish mayo (very important).
Just so happened to be,
The Best Cheeseburger in the World,
it was The Best Cheeseburger in the World
Needless to say, the beast was stunned.
He asked us: "Be you angels?"
And we said, "Nay. We are but men."
And the peculiar thing is this my friends:
The cheeseburger we made on that fateful night
It didn't actually follow that recipe very closely.
And the pairing with Gruet sparkling white wine didn't really work.
Even though 'Gruet' kinda looks like 'Gruyère'.
Nor did that wine dance with wild strawberries, bright cherries, and creamy citrus
As had been promised us.

But this is just a tribute!
To the best cheeseburger in the world.
It was the best muthafuckin' burger.
And I wish you were there!
Except there wasn't enough for everybody.
And some of you bastards don't eat meat.
This is just a tribute!
To the best cheeseburger in the world.

and more randomly...

Dr. Pookie bought some weird old 'Indian' dolls at a garage sale some time ago. She took them to that free appraisal event. Turns out they are Chancay dolls from Peru. Possibly made from pre-Columbian cloth looted from graves. Muahahaha!

I had a strange dream last night. I was at a gala opening of a wackly tech-toy store - it was like a cross between Brookstone and Giant Robot. The owners were flamboyantly gay Asian guys, somewhat reminiscent of Razor and Blade from Hackers. And then I woke up.