Saturday, August 30, 2008

tasty grub


tasty grub
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

This is a child's sweet here in Australia. mmm... sugary wichetty grub treat, complete with smiley face.

Friday, August 29, 2008

arabesk

Jon Courtenay Grimwood's "Arabesk" trilogy, "Pashazade", "Effendi" and "Felaheen", is a flawed gem. It is brilliant, funny, exciting, an exhilirating combination of white knuckle ride, crime thriller and travel guide. Set in an alternative and future North Africa, it dazzles and beguiles, drawing you into the dusty, hot, world.

Like the Islamic notion that perfection only belongs to God, these books are not perfect. It confused me, I was never entirely sure what was going on. This may have been intentional, since Ashraf Bey, the hero, spent almost all of the story convinced he was insane. It was still one hell of a ride, though.

Executive summary: arabs, German techno-assassins, female circumcision, arse-kickery. Read it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

scary plantpots


scary plantpots
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

Take a close look. Those plant pots are studded with what I hope are only plaster replicas of children's heads. These are in someone's front garden - I guess it must keep the trick-or-treaters away.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Selected Stories of H.G. Wells

Let me recount to you a tale I was told by a Mr. Jones of the Antipodes. I have verified as much of it as I could, corresponding extensively with the eminent Dr Whately of Crouch End, the expert in the field. I digress, my apologies, I will proceed directly with this shocking tale.

Mr. Jones claimed to have picked up a collection of absurd tales from his local library, "Selected Stories of H.G. Wells". This much I can vouch for: the library exists, and does indeed contain a volume under that name. The librarian would not tell me if Mr. Jones had indeed borrowed it, and rightly so. Down that road lies anarchy. Jones told me that the volume consisted of about two dozen short stories. The majority are recounted in a journalistic style: a tale told by an otherwise sensible person, to a writer, who supplies background checks to provide an element of verisimilitude to an otherwise fantastical story.

That these stories were a little dry, repetitive, but showing occasional flashes of wry humour, I have had to take Mr. Jones' at his word. My attempts to find this collection have been fruitless. While the library lists the book on their modern calculating catalogue of electric ledgers as being on their shelves, neither myself nor Miss Withers the librarian could find it. I have enquired extensively of the booksellers of Charing Cross Road, including Mr Croxcombe the foremost dealer in rarities, but thus far my search has proved futile.

As for Mr. Jones, he has not seen the volume since, inexplicably, succumbing to a curious ennui; a listlessness that even my medicinal application of cocaine (as every gentleman carries with him) failed to improve on. He remembers the tales as strange, well-written, but empty. Perhaps, lacking life of their own, they imbibed some of Jones' own. He no longer has any interest in the work of this Mr Wells, and I would caution any gentleman that finds the volume to keep it away from children, women and servants lest they succumb to its influence.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Little Brother

Another freebook, but not from Tor, this time straight from the horse's mouth. Cory Doctorow has a long history of giving away his stuff for free, and has championed the Creative Commons licensing system to help others give stuff away without missing out on the chance to make money. As he has done for most (if not all) of his novels, he allows anyone to download "Little Brother" from his site, and remix it into different formats and media - as long as you're not trying to make any money from it. The idea is that this kind of thing boosts publicity, aids in getting word-of-mouth out, and boosts sales of the dead tree version. It all goes to combat obscurity, an artist's main problem (paraphrasing Tim O'Reilly, I think).

The book is typical Doctorow standard - packed with great ideas, a neat plot and well-drawn characters. It details a city's slide into paranoia and fear after a terrorist attack, and the ways a small group of teenagers try to keep hold of their freedoms in the face of the government's determination to keep everyone safe/scared.

There's a tremendous amount of information in here: security systems, linux, encryption, the American constitution. It's like a Neal Stephenson book, entertaining, exciting, informative, but thankfully not 12000 pages long. This will drive up the numbers of kids wanting to become security consultants - it's even got an afterword by security guru Bruce Schneier. Great stuff.

UPDATED: now with linky goodness (it's hard to put links in when writing reviews on my phone).