Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Splendiferious Ninth Anniversary Panjandrum!

Nine years ago today, some minor demigod nodded briefly, and Antick Musings was born into the world. As I've said every year since, this wasn't meant to last: my employer at the time was launching a series of blogs for each of its book clubs (blogs were very hot in 2005), and one of my duties was to feed that particular beast. But the employer and I parted ways a couple of years later, under unfortunate circumstances, and their blog was soon scrubbed entirely from the Internet, while Antick Musings lived on.

I'm as surprised as anyone. It turns out I'm yet another one of those people fascinated by the sound of his own voice, and there are enough other people out there reading this blog to keep me from feeling entirely self-indulgent. I do appreciate you folks, even as I suspect you aren't really the point of the exercise: I'm never going to gather a large enough audience to mean anything, and that's just fine.

Past anniversaries were marked by varying degrees of festivities, e.g.: the plain first, the hoopla of the second, the hullabaloo of the third, the excitement of the fourth, the missing fifth, the razzamatazz of the sixth, the fantabulous seventh, and the gala eighth.

I am in marketing these days, which is probably why I focus on trackable metrics. Each year, I take another look at how many posts Antick Musings has piled up:
  • 2013-2014 -- 434 posts
  • 2012-2013 -- 285 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 332 posts
  • 2010-2011 -- 445 posts
  • 2009-2010 -- 711 posts
  • 2008-2009 -- 880 posts
  • 2007-2008 -- 834 posts
  • 2006-2007 -- 841 posts
  • 2005-2006 -- 809 posts
But the great thing about metrics is that they can be manipulated, so let me throw in the fact that I also had a blog called Editorial Explanations,  which ran from February of 2011 through the end of 2013, and which started as a series of posts on Antick Musings. So I consider it something of a failed brand extension -- my New Coke, if you will -- and it should be included in the totals.

Editorial Explanations:
  • 2012-2013 -- 560 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 802 posts
  • early 2011 -- 760 posts
And that means, when you put all of the Hornswoggler bloggery together, you get:
  • 2013-2014 -- 434 posts
  • 2012-2013 -- 285 + 560 =  845 posts
  • 2011-2012 -- 332 + 802  = 1,134 posts
  • 2010-2011 -- 445 + 760  = 1,205 posts
  • 2009-2010 -- 711 posts
  • 2008-2009 -- 880 posts
  • 2007-2008 -- 834 posts
  • 2006-2007 -- 841 posts
  • 2005-2006 -- 809 posts
What any of that means, I really don't know. But I've typed a lot of words into this Blogger box for a lot of years.

Antick Musings has turned mostly into a book-review blog, as my hopes of getting back into the SFF field dimmed and finally died -- I didn't want to shit where I ate, but there's no food for me there anymore -- but, even there, I don't review SFF all that much. I'd like to think that I have wide and eclectic tastes, but I'm probably just frivolous and unserious. Anyway, continuing a tradition I started in the similar post last year, here's some of my more interesting book reviews from the last twelve months, linked as quotes from those reviews:

"The great sin of mainstream American comics is that they never end."

"If you live long enough, and pay attention, everything comes into vogue in publishing, which is either encouraging or frightening."

"There's sometimes a sense that short books are less impressive than long ones, as if words get better the more of them you stack together."

"It's important to remember that the story now is not the story that always was. Today, China is the surging Asian country with a swiftly growing economy and opaque government, the one that's going to overtake the US and dominate the world any day now. But, twenty-five years ago, that country was Japan."

"Mostly without attribution and without context, because that's what the Internet does: strips things of their context and source and purpose, just like Bruce Sterling warned us "the street" would do thirty years ago."

"Delilah Dirk looks gorgeous, moves at high speed, never fails to entertain, and can be given to your infant cousin or maiden aunt without any trouble. But it has the kind of smile that -- to my mind, at least -- never touches the eyes."

"Would it be cruel to say Genius reads as if Seagle was offended by the treatment of physicists on Big Bang Theory and proceeded to make entirely different stupid mistakes?"

"We need more frivolous fantasy, more fantasy about scoundrels and criminals, more fantasy set in the gutters and grotty rooftops."

"It's not always a pleasant experience, being pandered to. Some books are just so slobbery, so obviously trying to butter you up -- O!M!G! aren't fantasy novels totes awesome! and aren't those nasty Christian types just so sad and lame? -- that you want to edge away from them as quickly as possible, and start to reflexively disagree with them out of pure cussedness."

 "Capitalists are entirely upright, honest citizens who are happy to pay their employees fair wages, and government is incorruptible, with a hand precisely as light as necessary in all things. Pratchett is positively Panglossian in his optimism and positive thinking."

 "Because, unlike what some stupid people would tell you, the possibility of interesting, compelling stories doesn't go away in a rich, peaceful future: as long as there are people (or whatever species or type), they will compete and bounce off each other and cause trouble."

"She wants to be his friend, in the way that slaveholders who consider themselves benevolent think they can befriend their property. Arin knows better, and, eventually, things change enough that Kestrel comes to understand the difference between friend and owner."

"Howard Philips Lovecraft is endlessly fascinating to the SFF world: half because of his creepy, adjective-stuffed work, with its dark vision of the universe and man's place in it, and half because of the man himself, nearly incapable of living in the real world, alienated and alone and neurotic and hating everything that isn't him only slightly more than he hates himself. Even though he was clearly a racist and anti-Semite and misogynist -- even for his era, which is worth noting a century later -- his work retains energy and power eight decades after his death, and his life remains of interest even while his personal views make modern readers squeamish."

"They're the BASF of the conspiracy world: they don't make the world; they make it better. Or so they claim."

"You might know someone who thinks comics can't be good books -- that there's something about sticking words and pictures together that inherently degrades both of them, turning the final product into junk no matter whose words and whose pictures."

"The big things are always the same: be considerate of others. Pay attention. Think before you act. Those three rules will get you through more than 90% of life."

"But it was amusing to read through this book and tick off all of the boxes: self-identified punk, getting too old to skateboard, drifting and working at dead-end jobs, obsessed with the correct style for a minor self-indulgent artform (zines), anti-military, anti-war, anti-war-hysteria, teetering between anger that cute girls won't give him the time of day and a semi-feminist realization that mindset is profoundly creepy, and huffy about how badly he was treated after actually stealing something."

"That was the era when the second-tier companies didn't exactly do superheroes -- sure, all of those books focused on iconic, heroic central characters with distinctive clothing, who saved the world or their friends regularly and who often had special abilities, but they didn't have codenames and masks, so they definitely weren't superheroes. (This was really important to a lot of people at the time, in the way finicky distinctions are always important to those making them.)"

"Zita is one of those iconic adventure-girl characters: defined equally by her rambunctious headlong flight into danger and her unshakable moral compass. She's a girl who's not just always doing something; she's always doing the right thing (by her own lights, at least) -- befriending the friendless, helping the helpless, standing up to bullies and crooks and nasty people everywhere, the way we all thought we would when we were ten."

"Books that can surprise you once are a joy. Books that can surprise you repeatedly are even more precious than that. La Quinta Camera: The Fifth Room -- a manga complete in one volume by Natsume Ono, whose work I haven't seen before -- surprised me at least three times, which is quite impressive."

"There's minimalism, and minimalism. Some achievements in the annals of tininess are unlikely to ever be beaten."

"With wrestling, you need to establish your bona fides up front, so I'll lead with this: I saw Andre the Giant lose to Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III. Not live; my bunch of college friends saw it at the mighty Mid-Hudson Civic Center, back when "pay-per-view" meant "go to a local arena and look at a big screen". We were rooting for Andre, even though he was the heel, even though we knew he would lose -- we were heel fans, most excited about Ric Flair or the Road Warriors but happy to see Andre come over to the dark side. We even left the hall like wrestlers ourselves, loudly proclaiming Andre was robbed, the ref was blind, and that he'd be back to take the belt from that pretty boy Hogan. Even in those days before "kayfabe" became an open secret, there were pockets of guys like us: we liked the bad guys because they were allowed to be looser, funnier, meaner, and more outrageous. And we loved that, even as Vince McMahon relentlessly expanded his empire, dumbing down wrestling to sell more plastic junk to five-year-olds." 

"All of life is about sex and money, to a first approximation."

"There's just something special about Florida. Sure, other states are as corrupt, crime-riddled, and full of slimy politics -- Louisiana, Illinois, and my own state of New Jersey can take good runs at that dubious distinction -- but Florida is always flamboyantly horrible, the kind of place where bribes aren't even hidden, the dead vote regularly, and the criminals believe in their own PR."

"Bad taste doesn't get into the history books very often. It get cleaned up and tidied away, pushed aside in favor of the stuff that makes us feel better about ourselves, the uplifting or serious or just more acceptable in mixed company. But bad taste can be great and liberating and, even more importantly, show exactly what people of that time cared about and laughed at. Bad taste should never be forgotten."

"You don't always want what's good for you. You don't always want what you can get. You don't always want a thing you can even explain. But that doesn't mean you don't want it."

(All of those are from the current string of Book-A-Day posts, which started with 2014 and will end with it as well. As of right this moment, I've posted 274 posts covering 299 books in that series, and an additional 91 posts covering at least 91 books will follow, assuming I don't get hit by a bus.)

Oh, and my anniversary last year was early in the month of Starktober, where I read through all of Richard Stark's novels -- mostly about the very self-directed thief Parker -- and posted a review of them each day that month.

To stand in for all of those posts, here's a line from the last one:

"Somewhere out there, there's an unguarded fur warehouse, or a shipment of worn $20 bills heading to a furnace, or a pile of bearer bonds -- something very valuable, not guarded as well as it should be, and ripe for the picking. And Parker is casing that job, as he will be casing the next one, and the one after that."

Turning to every other possible subject in the universe...about which I wrote much less:

The one consistent thing about Antick Musings over the past nine years is that it has lots of lists of books -- primarily the Reviewing the Mail weekly posts about the review copies I get, but also my monthly Books Read posts and the intermittent Incoming Books notices as well. If I do nothing else, I stack up books and describe 'em.

I don't do a whole lot of other kinds of posts these days, despite Antick Musings being much more varied in the early years. But some of that variety can still be seen occasionally in political posts like A Fiendish Plan, or when I mention that I've spent much of the past six months obsessively playing Grand Theft Auto games.

I used to write about publishing regularly, but I guess I got tired the fourth or fifth time the same issues came around again. (Or, maybe, my current work is sliding further and further away from trade publishing, so I'm not as plugged in as I used to be.) But this year I did point out some confusion about what "women's fiction" is. And I weighed in about the Amazon-Hachette kerfuffle, then came back a few weeks later to poke at Amazon's insistence that $9.99 is the absolutely perfect price for an entire category of consumer good. In between, I also described The Co-Op Shuffle.

When I have a favorite song, I tend to post about it here. In January, I had two at the same time, by Lissie and Kate Tucker & the Sons of Sweden. In February, there was a song by I Am the Albatross. Then there was a long gap until August, when I discovered Ages and Ages.

Speaking of music, this last year I listed the Things John Darnielle Has Taught Me.

And every year, I try to gather the more unusual news that comes out on the first of April. This year seemed to have less than usual, so perhaps that particular idea has lost its juice.

That was the ninth year of Antick Musings, more or less. I don't see any indication that I'll stop this coming year, so a post like this will probably be coming next October 4th, as well. (Of course, I completely forgot my first milestone anniversary -- that's why there's no 5th anniversary post -- so it could happen again.) I hope these ramblings are entertaining someone other than myself, but I'll likely keep going even if that's not the case.

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