Yearly Archives: 2004

Books 2005

What I plan to read:

Left over from 2004
Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake (a big book).

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen.

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding.

Comitted
Life, by Gwyneth Jones. I’m addicted to the author. Science fictional life of a feminist scientist.

Warlords of Utopia, by Lance Parkin. I’m addicted to the author. What if every parallel Earth on which the Roman Empire never ended fought every parallel Earth where the Nazis won World War II?

Darkling I Listen, by Dave Fiore. Interesting blogger.

The Nature of the Universe, by Lucretius. Epicurean philosophy.

The Book of Job. To get started on my religious reading program. I hear the ending’s a doozy.

Recommended
The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks. Vicious lit. Recommended by Damien in ’95.

Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust (a big book). The samples I’ve read are VG and this is supposed to be (the start of) one of the great novels.

Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes (a big book). Supposed to be one of the great novels.

Little, Big, by John Crowley. This guy can write and this is the only substantial novel of his in print!

Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman, by Richard Feynman. My science hero. Jeans reminded me to read it this year, she says it’s good.

Arabian Nights and Days, by Naguib Mahfouz. Recommended by Rose Curtin.

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer. Recommended by Anja Rau.

The Blithedale Romance, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Recommended by Dave Fiore.

Birthday Book
God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut. Because I’m counting down the last Vonnegut books for a timequake on my thirtieth birthday.

Plays
More Shakespeare, of course (Henry IV part I, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Loves Labours Lost, and The Winter’s Tale; all sound interesting).

Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller. “I’m looking for a man. A salesman.” (I know nothing about it.)

Intersections

Another life that I have intersected with.

It’s funny that so many people I know (including myself) have low self-esteem, when they are some of the most impressive people I have ever met.

The lists are evidence of that alone; but there is more to life than lists, employment, and direction. It’s A Wonderful Life: “Remember, no [one] is a failure who has friends.”

Looking Back

What I have done, abridged, off the top of my head:

Started going out with Penny; moved in with Pen.
Births: my niece Maniesha; Pen’s nephew and godson Sam.
Marriages: Marc/Belinda, Jennie/Liam, Daniel/Hiroko, Rebecca/Paul, Mark/Katie.
Music: Walken EP, Meebar EP; me, Bowie, and Jeans having been making compilations for each other.
I read Rob’s fantasy novel for young adults, A Weave of Darkness.
Pen and I travelled to Mildura, Northern Territory, Sydney and the Hunter Valley.
We saw Carravagio, the Impressionists, Munch, and Gleeson (and I discovered the difference in seeing art “live” and seeing it in a book).
I introduced Penny to the complete Miyazaki; the Ghibli DVDs started to come out from Madman.
Grant Morrison: I caught up with The Filth; Sea Guy got me buying individual comics; I made my fourth and fifth Invisibles loans.
Mark discovered Purple Goannas in the Phillipines (sadly I have not been able to meet with Rob and Bowie to drink them).
I attended theatre for the second and third times ever (The Producers, The Busker’s Opera).
I pretty successfully quit watching television (as did Pen); I also gave up on newspapers, though, alas, politics draws me in still.
And it’s been 10 years since I graduated from high school.

Whew!

Christmas Period

Hope you had a nice Christmas Period!

Pen and I drove out to Oakleigh on Christmas Eve for the Jean’s annual friendly drop-in. Shared some Laphroaig with the Lee, then headed home at about 10. Far from being lame we intended some adult time as the eve rolled over to Christmas.

Christmas Day was spent with my family. We had a picnic lunch at Cardinia Reservoir, then retired to my parents home for a leisurely evening. Watched Finding Nemo, which my parents hadn’t seen – Maniesha loved the bright colours!

Boxing Day afternoon was spent with Pen’s extended family at her brother’s place in Melton. BBQ lunch, followed by games.

After returning home in the evening, we walked into the city to see The Incredibles (“falling, with style” – tired and soulless, but the visuals are breathtaking).

Can’t remember what we did on Monday, or perhaps I’m just not telling you. We did watch Monsters Inc at some point.

On Tuesday we went for a drive north to Kinglake National Park. Had a quiet, cool walk out to Mason Falls. Then we drove east to Yarra Valley; and home (noting the distance from Maroondah Hospital to home for Pen). That evening we rented and watched It’s A Wonderful Life (a great, gruelling story).

Late – Victorian time – but not so late – SA time – I called my cousin Daniel and had a chat to him before his Aussie wedding.

And what did I get for Christmas? Nice things: comics, CDs, DVDs…

Movies, Fourth Quarter

Movies, Fourth Quarter

Again, a lot; 6 movies I wouldn’t recommend, plus:

Van Helsing, Conan, Way of the Gun, Attack of the Clones, Princess Mononoke, Before Sunset, Kiki’s Delivery Service, 24 Hour Party People, Seven, Ring, Transformers, Saved, The Limey, Return of the Jedi, Wings of Honneamise, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Team America, I Heart Huckabees, Finding Nemo, Incredibles, Attack of the Clones, Monsters Inc, It’s a Wonderful Life

Yes, I watched Episode II twice. And at Pen’s behest!

23 movies; 12 I’ve seen before (plus I’ve seen one of the not recommended films before).

As for televion:

Cities of Gold, Dragonfire, Buffy s5, Buffy s6, Coupling s3

PS
In summary for 2005: 117 movies seen; 33 at the cinema, 13 on a projector, 40 I’d seen before, 29 recommended and 39 highly recommended (58% success rate). The number of films seen is way up on last year, but the number at the cinema was down slightly. Almost everything I saw on video I’d already seen before.

This was a weak year for film, but the best stand tall with the best of any year. Best Films of the Year: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman), Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy), Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg). (OTOH, Pen didn’t think any films this year were wow films.)

Best older films discovered: Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer; 1973) and It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra; 1946).

PPS
Mark Bernstein, the inspiration for my list, asks how many movies should one watch in a year? I was wondering that myself. I was also wondering how to deal with my To See list (and Top 100), which, unlike my To Read list, has hardly been touched this year. I’d like to see more, yet my selection process is basically working for me.

PPPS
Still waiting for 2046. At least I know that Episode III will come out.

UPDATE (30/12)
Leeboy reminds me: the best older film discovered this year is Nausicaa (1984; Hayao Miyazaki); in which case I don’t know how I didn’t think Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) was the best older film discovered last year – I do now.

Books, Fourth Quarter

Books, Fourth Quarter

Looks like I’ll read six books from my reading list this quarter: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Bold As Love, Jailbird, Old Man and the Sea, On the Road (I had to stop half way, it was killing me), Illiad (still reading). That makes for a final tally of 21 books read from an initial list of 28. VG.

I also read two non-fiction books (philosophy and psychiatry), various comics, a collection of short stories, and a collection of short comics.

PS
Totals for 2004: 2 short story collections, 18 novels, 8 non-fiction books, 20 “comics”, 4 novellas, 1 play, and 1 epic poem. 54 items read. 32 I would recommend.

Novel reading is down from last year, but I think total reading is up, and with more variety.

Books of the Year, a tie: Animal Man (Grant Morrison and Chas Truog) and Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte).

PPS
My reading list for 2005 is looking good.

Tsunami Tragedy

An earthquake raised tsunamis that have been responsible for over 18,000 deaths in South and SE Asia.

Magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off Indonesia. Moved the entire island of Sumatra 30 metres south-west. One of the largest ever recorded. Ruptured a 1000km-long stretch of the Earth beneath the Indian Ocean, causing one side of the fault to slide past the other, causing the tsunamis.

More than 6,289 people were killed in southern India, including about 3,000 in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; at least 5,880 people, including 70 foreigners, died and many more are reported missing in Sri Lanka; at least 4,491 people were killed in Indonesia; more than 839 were killed and another 7,200 injured in southern Thailand; and 44 people were killed in Malaysia.

Aid info here, here and here.

What I Intended To Read This Year

A year ago I created a list of books that I intended to read in 2004. So how did I go?

Light (M John Harrison) – Sentences gleam like quicksilver; no one can take a line that should devolve into cliche and spin it like Mike. Unfortunately the larger structures are a quagmire. Reviewers like to pick on imaginary readers who don’t get it, but none are willing to actually nail down what they like. There are images that haunt me, unstuck from the book itself which unravels worse every time I try to re-read it. Like a character in the novel I keep asking people to read this one to explain what I’m missing.

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (Cory Doctorow) – Didn’t read because it became to hard to procure a copy.

Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C Clarke) – Juvenile pap, weakly imagined. Clarke’s grasp of either social realities or the current science of his own time are laughable. Particularly offensive: musings about breasts in zero g; computers whose lineage doesn’t include networked multi-tasking interactive personal computers with mouse-driven GUIs.

Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert A Heinlein) – I read The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress instead. Polemic undoes the great ideas in this one. Too many thoughts go undeveloped while Heinlein sets up straw men to prove himself superior against. I’ll stick with Starship Troopers.

Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake) – I ran out of time to pick this up. Next year.

Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad; 1902) and War of the Worlds (HG Wells; 1898) – The former wallows in conceited literary descriptions that bury whatever it’s point is supposed to be; bad like Wuthering Heights rather than good like Apocalypse Now. The latter sings, every literary conceit more than justified – including it’s “genre”; here is literary hard SF social critique that works.

Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) – I remember enjoying this a lot, and also reading it at odds both to the received meaning and the authorially stated meaning. But I can’t remember how any more. What stays with me is the driving narrative and the success of the audacity to tell a story where the protagonist succeeds against ever more wildly outrageous odds. I’ll have to reread this one and take notes.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (JK Rowling) – A rather simple children’s novel, an OK snack rather than a great meal. (I now know never to read The Da Vinci Code.)

Voice of the Fire (Alan Moore) – Extremely disappointing. Half the ideas are better worked out in From Hell and Promethea, the other half seem both uniquely suited to comics and clumsy in the written word alone.

Illustrated Man (Ray Bradbury) – There are a few nice shorts in this, along the lines of Borges in space, but most of them seem like bad educational stories, morals disguised as anecdotes.

Phoenix Cafe (Gwyneth Jones) – An excellent end to the Aleutian trilogy. I’ve seen people recommend this as the first novel to read in the series as it is the most clearly written, however I think a lot of success of the series is in multiplicity and confusion, and this novel works best in reopening old interpretations, making new arrangements with old images, and keeping the universe alive rather than closing up shop. The ideas of humanity in this novel have stayed with me, haunting.

Bold As Love (Gwyneth Jones) – There’s so much that’s great about this novel, yet so much frustrating too. The creation of a near future high fantasy is thrilling, but also undercut by high fantasy staples I dislike: insufficient world description, too much going on for reflection, the intention to write the first book in a series rather than just a book…

Jailbird [read], Sense and Sensibility [next year], Vineland [started reading, disliked], Catcher in the Rye [lost interest], Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas [read], Lord of the Flies [next year], Old Man and the Sea [read], Quiet American [read], Voss [lost interest], On the Road [half-read, disliked], Jane Eyre [read, liked immensely!], House of God [read], Picture of Dorian Gray [read], Taming of the Shrew [read], Illiad [aiming to finish by the year's end].

Not bad!

Christmas

My first Christmas with Penny. Lovely waking up in our house, finding presents beautifully wrapped (by Penny) beneath our tree. We gave Drusilla catnip, which she went wild about (but no time for cat stories now).

Christmas Dave and Pen with elbows:

Today we drove out to the South Eastern burbs to meet up with my family. Following the success of last year, we returned to Cardinia. This year I was sun smart.

Christmas Melody and Maniesha:

Here’s mummy Melody (my sister) and baby Maniesha (my niece!).

Christmas Janaka:

Here’s daddy Janaka (brother-in-law) taking a well deserved nap.

Christmas Dad:

My dad.

Christmas Pen and Dave with glass:

Christmas Hayley and Katie:

More sisters. Katie (on the right) trying to wrestle Hayley (left) into shot. Good work.

Christmas Andrew and Maniesha:

And here’s uncle Bowie (my brother-in-law-to-be) with baby Maniesha.

Of course, as always, there is one face implicit rather than explicit in the picture – the photographer, my mum.

Just think, before the age of digital cameras I couldn’t have presented Christmas photos on Christmas Day (unless I had a darkroom of my own…).

I promise to post a photo of my mum once my photos are developed on my real camera.