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Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Fanboy

He is one of the Clueless, an ancient family of mysteriously inept entities that think they rule the multiverse. When his sister Futility goes missing during her summer project to square the circles of hell, the distraught Fanboy assembles an imaginary team of his greatest heroes, and leads this Fellowship on the quest to try and save Futility from, like, whatever.

Fanboy starts the quest in a bar, planning to make friends and thus collect information about Futility. Things seem to be going comparatively well, until Fanboy’s younger twin brothers Fart and Fondle show up unexpectedly, and the evening quickly deteriorates.

The following morning, when Fanboy wakes up in an unfamiliar apartment clearly belonging to a female, he knows he really is in trouble. Then strange noises are coming from the kitchen.

And so it begins.

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

ciphers

I hate to bitch. Okay, that’s a lie, I love to bitch, sorry. But at least I can spare you my prefacing this newest bitchfest with the qualifier that the book I’m bitching about is great otherwise. We’ve been over that already, it’s scorched earth. There, spared you. Considerate me.

What is going on with the Wallacester and the math? I’m now about halfway through Infinite Jest (what’s half of infinity? Am I done, then?), and as of yet there is nought in terms of indication that his shortcomings in the land of numbers are a jester’s crown worn for some – however obscure – purpose of Jest, finite or otherwise.

The newest item from DFW’s confoundry: Eschaton’s rules are only touched upon tangentially in the main novel’s text, vague hints at complexities of being hit, influenced by weather and all sorts of other variables, which is fine. But then we are taken into lengthy details in an endnote about how the First Mean Value Theorem of Integration allows Lord to get by without calculating complicated integrals for setting up the game. In some rather unspecified way the initial allocation of resources to players for a game’s new round depends on the average value of some equally underspecified ratio, and so Lord needs to calculate the integrals of this variable over previous game time. Except that apparently he doesn’t, because this magical Theorem allows him to use a shortcut right out of the convolved space of higher math into a paradise of simplicity. Which sounds quite nice. And is quite untrue.

The average value of a variable over an interval of time will be it’s integral over said interval divided by the interval’s length. Now, the First Mean Value Theorem indeed guarantees that the integral comes to the same as the intervals length multiplied with the value of the function at a point within the interval, and so that the average itself is identical to the value of the function at this point within the interval. The logic of this is nicely developed in the lengthy endnote’s lively interchange between Incandenza and Pemulis. But nohow does this integral theorem allow you to infer which point within said interval you’d have to choose, and thus for all practical purposes of setting up tennis socks and buckets of bald nuclear balls, this little piece of abstract mathematical wisdom, rather than being the prized insight allowing young kids to cheat the forces of nature Pemulis wants to sell it to us as, is utterly useless. Plus also, in the sloppy plot nicely labeled Halsadick, the supposed average value doesn’t even look like the actual average value, for crying out loudly in complicated semantic structures.

A bit later we read that computer discs squeeze whole high definition movies into 4.8 MB of binary space, which claimed figure must have been ludicrously and unrealistically low in the B.S. 90s already. Such a disc wouldn’t hold two single uncompressed HD images of finely rendered water (assuming 24 bits of liquid color shades). A typo, one hopes. The DVD was introduced in 1995, by the way.

They still are a puzzle, these oddly shaped holes in the otherwise beautiful fabric of this tome, and I’ll keep on logging them. It amuses me.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Kurt Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle (1)

150_cckv.jpg Every time I read one of Vonnegut’s books, I feel like hugging the whole world, or the members of my karass, at the very least, or do something powerfully meaningless, yet poetic, to make someone else happier than they have been. Which, of course, seems to be a pretty accurate description of what Vonnegut did with any and all of his books.

And if I have to fill in some words here, just so the layout of the page doesn’t clash with the size of the book cover illustration, would not Bokonon approve?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Steven Aldiss – Haiku Humor (1)

haikz.jpg

One umbrella
The person more in love
gets wet

Even the winner
of the argument
has a hard time sleeping

By saying not to worry
he says something
worrisome.

Thursday, March 8th, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut – Timequake (1)

Timequake “You have been sick, but now your well again and there is work to do.” This is one of the repetive mantras Vonnegut uses as a shield against the futility of being, and the certainty of destruction and decay. In a touching and hilarious collection of ramblings and biographical fragments, he explores the frailty of the human spirit, and it’s extraordinary strength in finding the good among the evil. “We’re here to help each other through whatever this is.” Indeed.

sunshineposter.jpg The beginning of this movie is excrutiating. We observe the inner workings of a dysfunctional family, partly through the perspective of the suicidal academic uncle, and the acting and writing is excellent enough to make the pain of what is going on palpable. There also are funny jokes, made more poignant by the underlying darkness, and a developing plot of the little daughter embarking upon a beauty queen endeavor that is obviously doomed. A dark comedy is well on its way, but then the author and the directors couple take a wrong exit, and turn the whole thing into one more suada on how the importance of being oneself and the overarching formative power of familial love. That weary propaganda piece is hard to bear from a mainstream outlet, but to see a supposedly indie movie pander this, and betray all it was trying to show us in a feelgood finale pitting the family unit against the shallow and vain outside world, is hard to bear. The movie still has its nice moments, but overall is a disappointment.

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Neal Stephenson – Snow Crash (1)

snowcrash.jpg A very inventive story and cool story, with the same weakness Stephenson’s other books have in my opinion, a forced ending. Creating complexity, just to then shoehorn it into some resolution so readers can feel better is not something I approve of. Otherwise it’s quite flawless, though. It’s also quite interesting to see how Stephenson obviously churned on the themes he scratched upon in this novel for the later Diamond Age, and then took them into more realistic contemporary fiction with the Cryptonomicon.

stewie.jpg If you need to be told that Familiy Guy is funny, you shouldn’t be surfing the web, you should watch TV and fill the gaping hole in your life. Go. Now.
All right, where were we? When Fox cancelled Family Guy after its third season, things looked as bleak for Stewie’s and Brians fans as they do now for the fans of Arrested Development and Firefly, and soon will for those of Deadwood, may the old cocksucker have mercy. But consistent nagging of fans, and a glorious second life on the Cartoon Network brought the show a second chance, and the writing staff the chance to produce something as close to a full movie as they could get within a limited budget. They wrote three episodes that tie into a coherent story, and released it directly onto DVD. Some parts of the movie drag a bit, especially the additional material framing the movie-in-the-movie, but frequently pure gold shines. Stewie standing on the table celebrating his chess win couldn’t possibly be any better. And Meg’s sex scene is very tastefully done. What more could you want?

Friday, June 9th, 2006

Kinka Usher – Mystery Men (3)

mystery_men.jpg It could have been a delightful superhero spoof, with touching undertones of melancholy and underdog happyness. But bad direction, design and editing destroy much of the movie, which occasionally shines (the confrontation betwen Captain Amazing and Casanova Frankenstein is hilarious, for example), but most of the time drags. It’s too bad, the writing is good, and some of the acting and improv (Stiller mentions in the specials that the script wasn’t fixed and actors would ad lib) could have been quite hilarious. Maybe it was meant to be watched in large groups, and the gaps are so people can finish laughing without missing a joke, but I’m not sure whether that would make the bad editing better or worse.

funnyabout.jpg Sadly, this collection of cartoons mostly shows why Science and Humour are commonly considered to be unmixable substances. A few of the jokes are actually funny, but they’re rarely the ones that actually deal with scientists, or science as such, but rather ones inspired by or loosely based on scientific ideas. A few years back, Carl Djerassi wrote several novels in a genre he calls science-in-fiction (early Science Fiction writers probably would have been horrified by the necessity for that distinction), and if I remember correctly, none of them turned out particularly funny, though he sure tried. These cartoon have the additional disadvantage of stemming from strange, past decades, and so are mainly of interest to historians. Ah, historians, don’t get me started on those. Hilarious!