Crit

Examination, analysis, appreciation.

Pithyism #101

2011.09.02
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UNLESS IT CONTAINS A CRITICISM of what the writer didn’t say, no letters-and-opinion section is complete.

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First Graf: The Lore Of Sail

2011.09.01
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THE MARITIME SECTION OF MY home library is, like a captain’s yacht, small but well-appointed. I’ve been a ship geek since 1987-88, when I served as a deckhand/docent on a replica of the Golden Hinde, and my taste tends toward the practical: knots, rules of the road, sea survival, Bluejackets’ Manual, even a 1955 Watch Officer’s Guide published at Annapolis. One book whose slim size belies its comprehensivity is more theoretical and historical: I refer to the excellent 1982 volume The Lore Of Sail.

LoS’ 256 pages are divided into four sections plus index: The Hull, Spars and Rigging, The Sail, and Navigation and Ship-handling. Each is a well-illustrated guide to the historical evolution of ships from ancient Egypt to modern Europe. Its size makes it perfect for backpack or peacoat pocket while browsing the world’s great maritime museums or rigged ships, but it’s also museum-like in scope and scale. From the Introduction by Captain Sam Svensson:

From ancient times, sailing the seas has been a unique profession, with techniques and methods which have always puzzled the landlubber. One thousand years before Christ, Solomon said that the way of a ship in the midst of the sea was too wonderful for him to understand.

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Touching With Words

2011.08.22
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THE FIRST TIME I DISCOVERED that my words had an effect on other people was when something I wrote made other people cry.

The people were my fellow high-school English students, and the topic was a personal essay we’d been assigned. My take on it was to write about loneliness, and I wish I still had the essay because I can’t even remotely reconstruct it after 31 years and thousands of more words down the line. Read more »

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“Starbase 33 Minyan”

2011.08.21
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According to the Official Couch Potato Handbook, each official Couch Potato Viewing Lodge must have its own name. Ours is the “Starbase 33 Minyan,” mostly due to a love of science fiction in general (and Star Trek in particular). The photo at left illustrates our motto, an SFnal riff on the Lubavitcher Hasid motto “Bring Moshiach (the Messiah) Now!” (Could I have ‘shopped a combadge, I’d'a done.) Sometimes, a blog is just a good place to download your brain.

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The Purist’s Question

2011.08.21
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HOW MUCH CAN YOU CHANGE something before it no longer resembles the original — yet still call it by the same name?

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5 Thoughts: Comic Strips

2011.08.21
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1. THE MORNING ISN’T COMPLETE WITHOUT checking into the daily comics page and some of my favorite parallel universes. I scan most of what’s there (as my friend Gary Nordstrom says, “If the author went to the trouble of writing it, as a fan I should take the trouble to read it”), and while my eternal favorites are now but shrine-emplaced memories (Pogo, Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side and Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy) here’s a handful I look forward to each day. What they have in common is strong characterization, technical competency and good writing, but that’s not all:

2. Get Fuzzy. The only “funny animal” strip that “gets” the animal mind (in the way that Jack Vance “gets” the alien mind). Darby Conley’s Satchel Pooch and Bucky T. Katt are, well, not quite human — and they’re rendered that way, as they muddle through each day trying not to give Rob Wilco (their human roommate) one of his perennial headaches. Read more »

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Words To Bring Back: “Juggernaut”

2011.08.18
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- Definition: “1 chiefly British : a large heavy truck 2 : a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path”
- Used in a sentence: “My sister’s new baby is a juggernaut of cuteness.”
- Why: Because Old Hindi words sound so innately cool.

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First Graf: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1

2011.08.18
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THERE ARE BOOKS, AND THERE are books. This one contains “The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of All Time Chosen by the Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America,” and is standard issue to all geeks and geekettes who want to know the first thing about things SFnal. (It’s subtitled “Volume One, 1929-1964;” Volume Two (which I haven’t read) is itself two 1973 volumes devoted to novellas written and published between 1895 and 1961.)

I first read this (these? it’s an anthology, after all) when I was eight years old, as part of the first package I ever got from the Science Fiction Book Club. Without it for years, I now have a spiffy new trade paperback which seems almost a facsimile of the original contents in terms of fonts, layout, etc. And the memories! Stuck in Fredric Brown’s alien showdown (which became a Star Trek episode)! Trapped with Lewis Padgett’s mad teaching machines! Exploring Tibetan mythology with Arthur C. Clarke!
Read more »

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5 Thoughts: Difficult Cinema

2011.08.15
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1. ERASERHEAD. THE SECOND TIME I saw David Lynch’s mewling, puking masterpiece, I began to scream as soon as the opening credits rolled. It’s a dark, dark vision into the little world and lonely life of Henry, a printer whose misbegotten mutant child keeps him up at night with its mewling and you get it. But the lady in the radiator sings to him of Heaven, where “everything is fine.” So that’s something.

2. Tideland. Her little-girl-gone-weird’s broken home is peopled by doll heads, visions, and her father’s slowly wasting corpse. But somehow, she survives and even flourishes. The only Terry Gilliam film of which I’ve never seen the ending, and he’s one of my favorite directors, because it was bleak as only Gilliam can be. The man is just too brilliant. Read more »

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Dear Hollywood …

2011.08.12
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Fig. 1.

WHY DO YOU INSIST ON MARKETING to us as though we were all ignorant, venal, cynical, cruel, swinish oafs? We at The Metaphorager decry these loutish generalizations and will boycott the offending generalizers: we may not starve you into submission, but by Golly you won’t be riding to Happy Hell on our hard-earned nickels. Kindly cease and desist with the crotch-humor, the vomiting, the meanness, the glorification of skeeve and sleaze, the recreational character assassination. If you cater to the lowest common denominator, it’ll just get lower.

Your pal, Neal (PS: Have I got a pitch for you!)

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Another “Next Big Thing”

2011.08.11
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“LOOMING” (N): PEOPLE BEHIND STUFF.

Fig. 1.

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Storyteller’s Knot

2011.08.10
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THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF any story is the point at which it’s attached to the reader.

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