Sunday, May 31, 2009

There Was No Post Today

You didn't miss anything; I did.

I try to post here daily, but it just didn't work out today. However, tomorrow will see the auto-posting of my usual weekly and monthly round-ups of books coming in and books read, which I hope counts for something. See you after that for possibly more substantive blogging, particularly if anything happens that's worth fulminating about.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Competitive Physics

I spent the day at BEA, and may write a bit about that tomorrow. But, for today, I'm tired. So, instead, I reached into the vaults for this bit of frivolity. It had very little to do with the thread on the Straight Dope Message Board in which it appeared in 2000, and it has even less to do with whatever posts will surround it here. But I wrote it, and I still think it's funny, so...

Hello and welcome to the 2000 Niels Bohr Open. It's a sunny day here in Los Alamos, where thirty of the world's top physicists have gathered to compete for the most coveted award in all science: The Golden TOE.

First up will be Tsatsumaya, from Case Western. He's chosen a very difficult opening, the Kip Thorne superstring variation, but he looks to be in good form. His arm is racing across the whiteboard, but wait! Oh, no -- he can't cancel the infinities! And Tsatsumaya is out of the competition!

Next up will be Jorgensen of Caltech, but first, a word from GE...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Picking Up Girls -- a Controlled Experiment

Two British guys recently realized that their success (and the success of men like them) in attracting women was directly related to whether they had a puppy with them at the time. So, clearly, women respond to men with puppies, but they wanted more data -- they wanted to find out which breeds women responded best to.

So, with the aid of a phone that automatically takes a picture when it detects a smile, they devised an experiment to test the "puppy pulling power" of ten different popular breeds in the UK.

I'm sure there's something deeply dubious, sexist, and otherwise horrible about this, and the various Humorless Forces of the Internet will soon put their boot in -- but it's also a wonderful example of using geeky advantages to counterweight geeky disadvantages, and I have to salute that.

(I also note that there's a distinctive posture of the young women as they lean over to pet the dog -- I'm uncertain if capturing that was part of the point, or a serendipitous bonus. One excellent example is below.)

[via Geekologie]

Free MP3s!

And these are the legal kind, too!

If I weren't crazy busy right now -- which, of course, I am -- I'd be poking through this selection of free MP3s (from Amazon, of course, who have proven themselves masters at hooking consumers with low prices and then landing them with higher prices once that hook is firmly set) for stuff I like right now.

If you have more time than I do, click this banner. (Amazon seems to think I might make some money if you do, which seems like an Underpants Gnome Scheme to me, but what the heck. I could use a blog post tonight to prove I made it home safely.)

Quote of the Week

"Never miss a chance to have sex or be on television."
- Gore Vidal

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Report from the Land of Certified Valuation Analysts

Yesterday I was in the exhibit hall at the ungodly hour of 6:15 AM -- when it was supposed to open -- only to find it already populated by accountants, some of whom (my colleague told me) had been there when he arrived at 5:55. I know not what breed of creature these strange "CVAs" are, but I am sure that they are not men.

Business in the hall ebbed and flowed with the rhythm of sessions and breaks, as always, and we'd made an encouraging amount of sales when we closed up at 6:45 PM. (I was in that hall, more-or-less continuously, for over twelve hours. When I wasn't selling books or rearranging books, I was mostly catching up on e-mail.) Then we went out to dinner, so I got back to my hotel room at about 9:30.

Today was pretty much the same, except the hall didn't officially open until the princely hour of 7:00. I was there five or ten minutes early to find it already full of CVAs eating breakfast. Again, sales were encouraging; we have a shot at beating last year's meeting.

Tomorrow I've got another 7:00 start, though the hall supposedly closes at 4:00. (Nobody's been pushing people out the door so far, though, so it might not happen that way.) Then we get to pack up everything, mark it for shipping via two different carriers, and bug out. (And that, for me, means driving straight home so I can get to BEA Saturday.)

I hope to do nothing more strenuous than spreading cream cheese on a bagel on Sunday. If I feel really ambitious, I may drag the family out to see Up. But maybe not.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It Must Be True -- It's Science!

In case you haven't seen it yet, an earth scientist explains exactly How Gay Marriage Causes Earthquakes.

I'm looking forward to a similar explication of the mechanism on the East Coast, which is less well-known. But I believe the love waves from Christopher Street cause flooding in Central Jersey.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Never Drive a Car When You're Dead

Here's my day so far:
  • Get up late. (Sleep until almost 7 AM!)
  • Finish packing, check e-mail, walk kids to school.
  • Drive four hours to Boston.
  • Spend nearly two hours getting our boxes released from the bowels of the hotel.
  • Spend over two hours unpacking boxes and newfangled computer system and arranging them pleasingly on tables in the basement of said hotel.
  • Answer work e-mails for another two hours or so.
Here's what I'm looking forward to:
  • being back in that hotel basement at 6:15 tomorrow morning for the opening of this conference
  • working through breakfast and the morning break
  • running over for a meeting at eleven elsewhere in Boston
  • running back for the hoped-for lunchtime rush
  • working through a couple of afternoon breaks and trying not to fall over before the end of the evening reception at 6:30
I may perk up and type something substantial here before I go to bed in a couple of hours, but I tend to doubt it. So this post serves to note that I am in Boston and tired, and that I expect to be tired until sometime on Sunday, at best. And I really hope these valuation guys buy books this year like they always have before....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nation by Terry Pratchett

The last book Terry Pratchett wrote outside of a series was Good Omens, with Neil Gaiman, about twenty years ago. (Although, if one is being nitpicky, one could count Only You Can Save Mankind from two years later, which wasn't a series for nearly a year until a sequel appeared.) The vast majority of his output has been in the ever-unfolding Discworld series, and the few times he's ventured outside that -- the three Johnny Maxwell books, the Bromeliad trilogy -- it's been to write books in sets of three for young readers.

Nation is positioned as a book for young readers, but it shows no sign of being the first of three; it tells its story definitively and has an ending that doesn't leave much room for more stories about these particular characters. Given Pratchett's history, it might be dangerous to be too definitive, but Nation is, and I expect will stay, a single novel.

The tone is very similar to the recent Discworld books; that's Pratchett's mature voice, and it invests everything he writes. He's wry and thoughtful and quietly omniscient, as usual and as always. Nothing is a surprise to the narrative voice, which gives a sense of inevitability to everything that happens. It's a tone derived from the classic British books for young readers, from Nesbit and Lewis and the rest, shorn of most vestiges of talking down -- Pratchett only talks down to his readers as a god talks down to humanity -- but still with those undertones of knowing best and just simply knowing. The narrative voice in a Pratchett novel is never surprised or perturbed, no matter what happens.

Nation is a mildly alternate history, set in a world that's very much like our own in the 19th century, with many names changed, some probably altered geography, a few unfortunately silly names, and a convenient tsunami to start the plot. There's nothing there that Pratchett couldn't have worked around in the real world -- there were major tsunami in 1833 and 1883 -- but perhaps the habit of fiction is just too strong with him at this point. It's unfortunate, though, because the small shards of alternate history push Nation away from the realistic novel it's mostly trying to be and towards the realms of Fantasyland, where anything can and does happen according to the author's whim.

That tsunami I mentioned hits the Nation, an island somewhere in the unfortunately named Mothering Sunday chain -- it's never a good thing when you can hear the author guffaw at his own joke -- and the sole survivor of the natives is Mau, a young man who was in the process of becoming a man at the time. Since he was on his way back from Boys' Island, site of the usual vision quest, the tsunami's wave lifted his canoe and battered him senseless, but didn't actually kill him.

It did kill everyone he'd ever known -- his entire village, his entire island, his entire Nation. He paddles back to discover the carnage, and, not completely sane, to bury the dead while trying not to think about what he's doing. These early chapters are the most powerful in the book, and Pratchett does an excellent job of portraying Mau's shell-shocked disassociation and his gradual return.

There's another important survivor of the storm: Ermintrude Fanshaw, a young woman who was a passenger on the English ship Sweet Judy. The Sweet Judy found itself tangled in the trees of Nation, and, through the kind of happenstance that Pratchett has always made careful use of, every single sailor on that ship was cleanly killed and Ermintrude was left untouched. Ermintrude is also Very Important, and that fact is vitally central to the novel -- it's the whole basis for the alternate history, so Pratchett must have decided that she must not only be a young woman from another culture on the other side of the world from Mau, but that she also have social and political responsibilities and a position he could barely understand. (This reader started suspecting Pratchett of stacking the deck at about this point.)

So Mau meets Ermintrude (who, once they have any words in common, calls herself Daphne, joining the long Pratchett tradition of women who name themselves). They start to communicate, with the usual wry Pratchettian commentary on miscommunication and disparate worldviews. They begin to build a new community, as other damaged survivors, from other islands and places, come to join them in ones and twos. Pratchett is a traditionalist, so this is all much more Robinson Crusoe -- stolid, serious, constructive -- than Blue Lagoon. (One never goes to Pratchett for romance.)

Nation could have been the story of two young people meeting after a vast tragedy and finding each other, but that would have been too inwardly-focused for Pratchett: his work is essentially focused on societies than on individual people, and he takes the importance of the eucatastophe much more seriously than most. So it instead is the story of the rebirth of civil society in the wake of destruction and anarchy, and all of the events of the novel line up according to that schema.

The writing is supple and powerful, and the characters -- particularly Mau and Daphne -- are fully realized and deeply rendered. But there's a definite feeling, especially as Nation rises towards its climax, that this is a novel of the old school, teaching a moral that would not have been out of place in this world's 19th century. The great failing of Pratchettian societies is that every person has a place in them -- one place. It's not fair to argue with a novel's premise, but Nation's left a vaguely unpleasant taste in my mouth. Pratchett does make the ending feel inevitable, but it's the bad kind of inevitable -- the one predicated by a world in which horrible things like tsunami happen, and where humans must bend under the storm. Our own world is one such, and it's not inappropriate for fictional worlds to be the same way. But when those fictional worlds have places named the Mothering Sunday Isles, and plucky girl heroines who change their names to Daphne, and two teenagers who can found an island nation and outwit nasty pirates, that tightening of possibilities in the last act feels like a demand of the author rather than of the world.

Nation is a fine standalone Pratchett novel, and very suitable for younger readers. (In fact, my objections to it are mostly in the ways that it's "suitable for younger readers" in an old-fashioned way.) Again, it exemplifies all of his mature strengths and weaknesses -- it's a fine yarn by a great storyteller that wants to be more inevitable than it organically should be. The old Empire is not quite dead as long as Pratchett is still writing, and I hope he continues to do so for years to come.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/23

This was a good week, leaving me with an interestingly varied -- and not too tall -- stack of books to write about this week. To explain, once again: these books all came in the mail, from their publishers, for me to review. But time is limited, so I know I won't manage to review all of them. And thus I note all these books as they come in, with some brief thoughts, every Monday morning.

First is the new novel by Kage Baker, The Empress of Mars, which is an expansion of her novella of the same name and a sidebar to her "Company" series. (There weren't any immortal time-traveling cyborgs in the novella, since they all stayed on Earth.) Baker is a writer who at her best can effortlessly blend wit and adventure, so I'm looking forward to this one. (Though I still haven't read her novel from last year, The House of the Stag; Baker isn't a particularly rigorous SF writer but I do like best her stories with a SFnal patina rather than a fantasy one. I expect I'll get to this one before Stag, though I do want to read Stag eventually.) Tor published Empress in hardcover on the 19th of this very month.

Switching gears entirely, I also have here Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales, Volume 1: Sanctuary, a manga-sized and -styled volume (reading left to right, though) written by Melissa Marr with art by Xian Nu Studio. Marr has written three contemporary fantasy novels -- for young-adult readers, I believe -- about fairies in the modern world, and Wicked Lovely is the first of them. The books look to be from the gritty side of faerie -- like Holly Black's Tithe and sequels -- though I suspect there's a dose of romance-novel in them, to judge from the yearning look Female Figure is giving Male Figure on the cover of this one. This volume is a Tokyopop/HarperCollins co-publication, one of a number that I've noticed lately, and came out at the beginning of this month.

Also from the manga world is the first volume of Yokai Doctor by Yuki Sato, beginning a series about a doctor for yokai -- spirits or demons. This one was published by Del Rey Manga on the 19th, and it's rated for 16+, which means, I imagine, a lot of panty shots.

Publishing in June from DAW is Faery Moon, the third contemporary fantasy in the "Tess Noncoire" series by P.R. Frost. Now, I haven't read any of these, and what I can vaguely remember about what I knew about the first book (Hounding The Moon) are not only hearsay but not positive, so I'll just assume I'm misremembering. These are stories about both convention fandom and real faeries -- and look to be serious rather than silly -- which means they probably wouldn't be too my tastes. But if you really like one or both of those things, try it and let us know your take.

The seventeenth book in the"Graphic Classics" series, all edited by Tom Pomplun and published by his Eureka Productions, is Science Fiction Classics, coming in June. This is the first volume of the series to be printed in full color -- and it's gorgeous color -- and it contains adaptations of Wells's The War of the Worlds and shorter works by Jules Verne, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dunsany, and E.M. Forster. (All safely out of copyright, I note -- but that's the point of the series to begin with.) And the comics creators involved here include Pomplun himself, Roger Langridge, Ellen L. Lindner, and Johnny Ryan (!).

Personal Effects: Dark Art is a "multi-platform transmedia experience" by J.C Hutchins (previously author of a "podcast trilogy") and Jordan Weisman (a designer of alternative reality games -- wait, aren't all games an "alternative reality?") and only looks like one of those creaky, old-fashioned words-on-paper novels. There is a book in here -- with pictures, too, so the consumer doesn't have to be shocked by a trackless expanse of words -- but also a sheaf of other documents (IDs, photos, official documents, and so forth) and references to websites and voicemail messages. So it's a high-tech thriller version of Griffin & Sabine, I suppose. St. Martin's Press is publishing this collection of media objects on June 11th -- many of them are free if you can find them, but the physical object of the book and documents is the central element of whatever-you-call-this-kind-of-thing. (Oh, and there's a quote from a TV producer on the front cover, saying that this is the future of storytelling -- which kinda sucks for him as well as for novelists if it's actually true.)

Next is a collection of manwha (Korean comics) stories by Byun Byung-Jun, called Mijeong. Byung-Jun also is the creator of the graphic novel Run, Bong-Gu, Run!, which I haven't read. Mijeong has a heavily textured art style that doesn't look much like the Asian comics we mostly see over here, and looks to fall more on the literary than the popular side of comics. NBM ComicsLit will release it in July.

And last for this week is a Seth-o-rama from Drawn & Quarterly -- two books of classic comics for kids that he designed, and then a new collection of the Seth strip that recently ran in The New York Times Magazine.

Melvin Monster is a volume in D&Q's ongoing "John Stanley Library" -- which aims to reprint a lot (most? all?) of the work of Stanley, a comedic writer/artist active in comics from the '40s through the '60s. This book reprints the first three issues of the 1965 Melvin Monster comic-book series, about a monster kid. I think that Stanley both wrote and drew the stories here; the biography in the end of this book mentions only Stanley's writing, but no other artist is credited. (The book also has that faux-old-timey look that I loathe in classic comics reprints; the page appears age-browned, as if the reader were actually looking at the old comics issues.) The front matter is very heavily designed -- it's attractive, but it doesn't mesh all that well with the pseudo-naif presentation of the comics stories, or the old-fashioned juvenile virtues of those stories themselves. Melvin Monster was published in April.

Taking a closer look, I'm now not sure Seth had anything to do with Moomin Book Four: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip. On the other hand, it's from D&Q, so it's certainly possible. I know Jansson's Moomin empire is deep and vast, encompassing comic strips, novels, and probably tea-towels, biscuit tins, long underwear, and decorative ropework, but I've never encountered any of it before. This is the fourth (probably of five) volumes reprinting the comic strip, which the Scandinavian Jansson ran in a London newspaper for most of the 1950s, concurrently with her ten novels for children about the same characters. It was published earlier this month.

Last and largest is the book by Seth -- George Sprott (1894-1975), which was also published in May. It's an expanded version of the story from the NYT Magazine -- a quick glance through found a lot of new pages -- but the focus looks to be the same: a series of snapshots from the life of a (fictional) minor Canadian TV personality from mid-century.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Saturday Is Bond Day #11: Moonraker

Bond Day fell on a Monday this week, since that's when Moonraker arrived in the mail from Netflix. The boys had a good day at school -- if it's been a bad day, all electronic devices are disallowed -- so we settled in to watch the very obviously post-Star Wars part of the Bond canon.

It was a crowd-pleaser in that room, but I'll tentatively say -- before seeing For Your Eyes Only next week -- that this is where the Roger Moore Bonds teetered over into self-parody. As I noted briefly in the last entry, Moonraker is one part Star Wars and one part photocopy of Spy Who Loved Me: space battles, a tough competitive female agent as the Bond Girl, a world-destroying villain with a secret lair to top the last one, and so on. In fact, the only obvious thing for a big 1979 action movie that it doesn't have is a monorail in the villain's lair. (I explained my theory of villain monorails to the boys when we saw You Only Live Twice -- which has the platonic idea of a lair, with not only a monorail, but a volcano, space-launch capacity, and Blofeld -- and Thing 2 has joined me in my love of all things monorailian.)

Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax is a surprisingly good villain, and Lois Chiles is a decent Bond Girl even working under the snicker-inducing name "Dr. Holly Goodhead." But this movie really belongs to Richard Kiel's Jaws, who was brought back from Spy either as part of the general transplantation or because of his popularity. Either way, Moonraker almost turns into his story, and he not only gets a girl, but also gets his own face turn near the end and a happy ending. Speaking of happy endings, Moonraker exactly matches Spy's ending as well, making this viewer wonder when, precisely, cheap Xerox machines reached the offices of United Artists.

Watching Moonraker soon after Spy inevitably diminishes it, as does watching it with any solid knowledge of physics. (The "zero-gee" space scenes are particularly painful, or laughable, depending on your tolerance for such things.) This is where the Moore Bonds lost their tenuous attachment to consensus reality and started floating away into their own realm, which was fine as long as Moore could sustain them. He still could, this time. Next up is For Your Eyes Only, and we'll see how he did there.

And I'll end with a question for the audience: how far into the series should we watch, myself and my two sons (aged 8 and 11)? I'm committed to running through the last Moore, A View to a Kill, and I'm tentatively planning on including Never Say Never Again (the tepid return of Connery in an unofficial film) and The Living Daylights (the first Timothy Dalton, in a script only mildly changed for him). I'm pretty definite that we'll miss License to Kill, the bloody and depressing second Dalton film, but I'm unsure whether to queue up any of the Pierce Brosnan movies. Any opinions on their suitability for two boys who will have seen all of the Connery and Moore films by then?

Saturday, May 23, 2009


(I've always wanted to use that particular initialism, but never before found the appropriate place.)

Yesterday's "Manga Friday" column at ComicMix, written by yours truly, reviewed the first volumes of three manga stories about (and, presumably, for) schoolgirls: Orange Planet, Ichiroh!, and 13th Boy.

Movie Log: Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Every so often -- maybe once a decade or so -- Kevin Smith makes a movie that I think I can watch with my wife. Chasing Amy was the last one, but I thought I had a good chance with Zack and Miri Make a Porno. (It's not all of the Kevin Smithian sex I think she'd object to; it's the endless, pointless conversations among emotionally stunted man-boys who swear every other word that would drive her to throw heavy objects at my head. Well, that and the obligatory smirking juvenile grossouts like the donkey show in Clerks II.)

The title explains it all here: Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) are ten years out of high school, stuck in dead-end jobs, living platonically with each other, and chronically out of money. When all of their utilities are cancelled over Thanksgiving, they decide to break out their last-ditch money-making scheme: to have sex with each other and film it as a porn movie. (They're also somewhat inspired by meeting the gay-porn-star boyfriend of an old high school friend, played way against type by Justin "I'm a Mac" Long.)

So they assemble their cast, including such nudges to the viewer as ex-porn star Tracy Lords and current porn star Katie Morgan. And then most of the movie is a "hey, let's put on a show!" plot, renowned on stage and screen for at least the past eight decades. It's a Kevin Smith movie, so there's plenty of cursing and a few disgusting supposed-to-be-funny moments, but the actual funny luckily outweighs the supposed-to-be-funny this time. But he's still not a master of pacing, so Zack and Miri lurches from scene to scene arbitrarily, and wanders away from itself several times.

It's a big shaggy lunkhead of a movie, as Smith's better films are, and it's got a fair bit of heart, for which Smith never gets enough credit. But there's still something essentially juvenile about Zack and Miri; it's the joke told by that AV Club geek behind his hand in the lunchroom. If you can be satisfied with that, Zack and Miri is cute and even approaches honest emotion at times.

Quiet Disappearances

Sometime in the last six months or so, the ghost of my other blog -- and the ghosts of its sister blogs, all done for that company that changes its name about as often as I change my socks -- quietly disappeared from the Internet. (There are echoes of it on the Wayback Machine, but I doubt it's all there. And it was mostly linkblogging, so it's not anything that needed to be saved in the first place.)

Yesterday is the two-year anniversary of my final post there -- and of the unpleasant meeting I had that very same day, which led to lots of good and bad things in subsequent months. The lesson from that is that all things pass -- and I hope that the current crop of the laid-off in the publishing world can take a little comfort from that. Things do get better -- they get different, too, but they do get better.

Great Moments in Bullshit

Writing about art always has dangers for the unwary, and never more when it's modern works being rhapsodically described. Here's one unfortunate partial paragraph by Peter Schjeldahl from the May 4, 2009 New Yorker:
If any single work at the Met show ["The Pictures Generation," of '70s and early '80s work] could stand for all, it would be one of a series executed with minimal labor, in 1979, by the artist Sherrie Levine: fashion ads from glossy magazines trimmed to the contours of the profiled heads of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, and framed. Looking at them, you register the sainted Presidents and the soignee models -- and the forms of silhouette and of color photography -- in stuttering alternation. Your brain can't grasp both at once. Nor can your heart. The images aren't neutral. They come loaded with political and social associations, bearing on notions of "America." With diabolical efficiency, Levine made good on a claim commonly advanced for Pictures art: spurring consciousness of how, and to what ends, representations affect us.
Uh huh. Sure they do.

(Example one. Example two.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Incoming Books: 22 May

Because of the holiday, my company's offices closed at lunchtime today. And, since my train line runs almost entirely during rush hours, the easiest way to get back to where my car was parked was to take the PATH into New York, and then a bus back out to the appropriate part of Jersey.

But with an afternoon free, and being in NYC...I ended up at the Strand, one of the great bookstores in the world, and of course I didn't walk out empty-handed. I bought a Garfield book for the boys, and a whole stack of good things for myself:

Death By Laughter, a collection of cartoons by Harry Bliss, all on the subject of death. I like dark humor, I like Bliss's work, and I hadn't even suspected that this book existed -- it's all good.

Explainers: The Complete Village Voice Strips (1956-1966) by Jules Feiffer, collecting the first decade of his cartoon for The Village Voice. It's great work, and I've read in this book without having a chance to run straight through it yet. Another interesting thing -- and one that proves there truly is nothing new in the world -- is the fact that Feiffer drew these cartoons for free for the first eight years of his run. Yes, folks, he did it to get exposure and to generate other work, which of course it did. So don't let anybody tell you that no creator ever did anything for free before this newfangled Internet thingy.

The Idler's Glossary by Joshua Glenn and Mark Kingwell, designed and illustrated by Seth. It's a cute little book with definitions of lots and lots of word about work and the shirking thereof. I don't detect any specific connection with the periodical The Idler, but I might have missed it.

Poems and Translations by Ezra Pound, the Library of America edition from 2003. I've given up on the LoA at this point -- I've joined a couple of times in the past decade, but I end up getting one book and then they mysteriously (and silently) cancel that membership without sending me any of the books I wanted to pay real money for -- like this one. And Pound is a writer I've meant to read for a long time.

A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross. Lasko-Gross is a major up-and-coming cartoonist, and I didn't read her first book, Escape from "Special." And I've seen short work from her that was impressive, so I grabbed this new book of hers. And about her name: I've heard, but don't know for sure, that "Miss" is actually her first name, and that people who know her call her "Missy."

Sounds of Your Name collects early comics by Nate Powell, author of the amazing and powerful Swallow Me Whole. (Vote for it for the Eisner, if you're eligible!) This was published by a tiny press three years ago, and I'd never heard of it before -- but it was on a shelf at the Strand next to a couple of copies of Swallow (which I almost bought, since I only have a galley and not a finished book). This is early work, and a variety of shorter pieces, so I don't expect it to have the ominous, overwhelming impact of Swallow, but I'm eager to read more of Powell's stuff.

The Time Engine by Sean McMullen, the fourth book in the "Moonworlds Saga," an extraplanetary fantasy series set on worlds of humanoid non-humans on the moons of a super-Jovian that may be sometime in the far future. I'm quite fond of this series, and I'd listed it (among many others) on the Tor publicity checklist a few season back, when it was published. (And what that teaches, as if I needed to learn it, that it's the publicity folks who decide how many books to send out and to whom. As a reviewer -- or a "media outlet," as we tend to call them on the other side -- what I do is ask nicely and be happy when I get free stuff.)

Stop Forgetting to Remember by Peter Kuper -- a well-reviewed semi-autobiographical graphic novel from a couple of years ago that I missed at the time.

And last was The Blue World by Jack Vance, in a classy Gollancz SF Collector's Edition from earlier this decade. I might already have this in a crappy mass-market, and I'm not sure I've read it, but this one is definitely an upgrade. (And I have to mention that I didn't spend much time in the Strand's SF section -- or mysteries, for that matter. I don't know if it's the setting, or the selection, or what, but those sections just feel like they're packed with disposable, horrible junk compared with the books they're surrounded by. So don't go to the Strand for genre fiction.)

Tomorrow is a trip to the library, which may mean another book or two for me. And then I need to write up what came in for review this week -- including two Seth-intensive boxes from D&Q today -- for my Monday-morning post. In short: there are a lot of books here, and that's wonderful. I hope your lives are equally filled with good books.

Movie Log: I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single

I'm still seeing mostly short and funny movies, though I don't care where they come from -- I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single is a French film, with an original title of PrĂȘte-moi ta main (Lend Me Your Hand).

Alain Chabat is Luis Costa, a professional "nose" who develops perfume and is utterly under the thumb of his widowed mother and five sisters. So much so that when they decide that it's time for him to get married -- he's in his early forties, and presumably has had some relationships, but we see no actual sign of them -- that he doesn't know how to say no politely.

So, instead, he hires the younger sister of a friend from work to pretend to be his fiancee and then dump him at the altar -- then, he's sure, his family will let him wallow in his sadness in peace. Unfortunately, the women in his family immediately prefer Emmanuelle (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to him, and so they blame him when she doesn't show up at the wedding.

Another plan follows, intended to make the Costa women hate Emmanuelle, but, of course, this movie really is the story of two things -- first, how Luis finally grew up and stood up to his family, and, second, how he and Emmanuelle finally fell in love. He does, and they do, but none of that really happens until very late in the movie -- it's not a conventional Hollywood rom-com, which is a very good thing.

I Do gets silly at times -- very early on, it telegraphs that it will not be overly serious when, in a flashback, Luis cannot remember if he was in one of two musically-named phases, with the appropriate over-the-top costumes for each. It means well, and it has fun along the way, but it's not out to do anything but entertain, which is just fine.

The one way I could fault I Do is to say that, for a French movie about love, there's vanishingly little sex in it. Most people could watch this movie with their aged mothers or maiden aunts without raising a blush. For many, this may be a positive -- but, when I see a French movie, I expect a bit more joie de vivre.

We Have Ways of Making You Have Fun

Amazon has an Outdoor Fun Store this year, and you know what that means -- you must have fun, and you must do it outdoors, and you must purchase the appropriate implements of fun to do so.

Your e-commerce overlords trust that only one notice will be necessary....