Friday, November 18, 2011

First get your facts...

"First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure." -Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

1Q84 : Haruki Murakami

1Q84
By Haruki Murakami

When I think about this book, I have this image stuck in my mind.

It's of a hypothetical sculpture/art piece, where there is a fur hide made of intricate caterpillar fuzz on the outside.  And like some caterpillars, it has neon bright yellows, blues and pinks contrasted against a dark felt-like black, where the colors spill out across the fuzz in mesmerizing recursive patterns like those on the most striking butterflies or seashells.  On top of that, the fur hide itself curls in on itself and it has its own hills, valleys, reaches and pulls in 3d space.

It's this piece that compels the viewer to examine and get lost in the details: to leisurely trace the intricate swirls of texture, color and presence.

And the artist's process of creation was done like that: by solely focusing on one detail at a time and then moving on to the adjacent detail.  There was some minimal stepping back and gathering of local perspective, but it was more focused on the creation of these details as a linear journey forward, not really knowing the global plan.

And when all had been said and done, the details were mostly beautiful and the one-step-at-a-time nature of the creation had led to some novel pathways. However, stepping back to take in the whole piece at once, it just did not quite come together.  

The details that worked, to which I am so vaguely and abstractly referring to were:

  • Murakami's writing style - his word choices, sentence structure and the way words just flow forward.
  • Murakami's description of mundane details and their interplay with some very far-out conceits
  • Tone - I suppose it's not surprising that Murakami is a music buff.  He has a way of setting up the environment and the mood and rapidly shifting it to a different emotion with ease.
  • Growth beyond the standard Murakami themes - One of my complaints about Murakami's earlier works was that there were recurring themes between novels.  Some of them are a bit indistinguishable in my mind.  This breaks through that bubble and explores new ground.
What did not work so well
  • Repetition - There were some spots where it felt like a tv show / comic recap moment, where he reminded the reviewer of what a character was feeling and why.  
  • The deep connection between the two central characters - it's obviously ambitious to take on both characters perspectives in a true love story, but it seemed to hinge too much on a single point of contact
  • The delving into the background of the antagonist - actually I'm unsure of whether this worked or not. Certainly, it made you sympathetic to the character in a challenging way, which was intellectually intriguing, but it did not support any additional details that could have added to the connection between the protagonists.

As a note, I ended up reading this in 3 days.  When I get a chance, I'll probably end up picking it up again and flipping through.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An ode

Dearest Lucille,

This technology is like some sort of magic trick.

To this day, I am still flabberghasted that I can hear your beautiful voice, whilest you are miles and miles away.

Oh, but it is wonderful and I would not trade it for anything else.

In my mind, I sometimes replay certain words and phrases that you say, like "lugubriousness,"  to remind myself of the wonderful sensualness and melodious lilt that I savor in your voice.

If only I had the talents to compose such wonderful compositions as to match how I feel about you, I would be the next Bach or Mozart.

Alas, I do not have the gift and my only reconcilliation is to wait another week, when I can hear your voice once again.

If I may be so bold and please do say if I am being overly forward, may I request that you play Giminiani's concerti grossi in D minor?


With unshakeable respect and admiration for you and 98.1 KRPE,

Markus

Attack

Get out your best cutting spoon
And your fave gimlet shoes
Cuz we gonna rumba
these sitting ducks wake
and eat them foie gras
no hesitate.

Jimmy Doodles, Mr. Mean
ain't here to besmirch
your good name, we here to
eat your dog,
jack your mom an
collect all them dere battered whites.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Flipback book

A super small type of book that uses the thin bible paper has come out in Holland.  Apparently, you can read it one-handed.  Certainly interesting.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/mar/20/could-this-kill-kindle

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tales of the City ; Armistead Maupin

Tales of the City
By Armistead Maupin

Not the usual stuff that I generally read.  It came across almost like a teen novel / soap opera and I seriously considered dropping it after the first chapter.

But what kept me reading was that it seemed to get at the nature of San Francisco back in the 70's / 80's.  That weird sense of people having extremely limited attention spans, superficialness and moral qualms when it comes to dating/sexuality - well, given my brief experience of living in San Francisco area a few years ago, I could imagine that this could very well have been the environment then and why San Francisco has the personality it does have today .

The novel has a broad range of characters, seemingly introducing a new character every other chapter.  Perhaps with the stretch of the imagination, it could be turned into a soap opera, if it was acceptable for characters to go very non-dramatic, mundane and non-explicit issues (actually googling this, it looks like this and the following books in the series were turned into TV series).  A number of the characters are younger folk, who seem to be serial daters, but never really finding the right long-term partner.  A handful of others are more well-off, but are dissatisfied with their social status party wives.

All in all, I did not really care much for the characters or the writing.  It comes across as very dated and in my eyes, was more informative as a historical observation than a piece of entertainment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's Kind of a Funny Story : Ned Vizzini


It's Kind of a Funny Story
By Ned Vizzini

Really liked this one.  Introspective, and unlike other books with protagonists who have particular mental issues, this comes across as  understanding the true nature of what it is like to be depressed, in particular that curious meta-feeling that one recognizes that they are depressed, but that recognition alone does not solve their depression.

Also enjoyed the apt descriptions of the emotions of being a teenage boy, the sarcasm and the modern culture references.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Hot Spotters : Atul Gawande

Gawande writes about a couple of doctors, with an approach to health-care, which may potentially help save the healthcare system a significant portion of money.   New Yorker - The Hot Spotters

[via mefi]

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Skirmish : Clifford Simak

Skirmish
By Clifford Simak

I had a rough time getting into the first story, but I really liked the rest of the short stories, which had great writing and a strikingly varied range of tone, characters and subject matter. Just an example of the range is a one-line setup of some of the short stories:

* An very old, out-dated robot, after last generation of the family he has served for 500 years dies out, goes on an adventure
* A man transforms himself into alien creatures to find out why the previous transformed humans have mysteriously disappeared
* A man awakens at the side of the road in the middle of the night clueless as to what he is doing there and slowly figures out the situation
* A superintendent's school results have slowly improved over the last years since two aliens arrived in town.
* A handyman finds that devices are mysteriously being changed and improved inside of his house in ways that he would be incapable of doing.

I really quite enjoyed this one.  I found that I really responded to the main characters, who tended to be relatively normal (as opposed to super-intelligent) people who are put into unusual situations.  Simak describes both the logic that the protagonist take, in addition to their emotional state, which I appreciate.  In addition, it feels like he takes a mind-bender situation and takes it as many levels deep and the resulting consequences as the situation requires, as opposed to other less-talented sci-fi authors who never really get beyond self-appreciation of their clever idea.