Words, Words, Words

November 29, 1999

Two readers e-mailed me with additional information for my World Fantasy Convention report. First, the comment about nurses constructing narratives was made by Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Second, a shoe mitt is either put on the hand and used to apply shoe polish, or put over the shoes to protect them in your luggage. I did not look at the ones in my room closely enough to tell what kind they were.

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A few people in the Not-A-Webring have made statements that I feel I need to address. I really don't want to make people uncomfortable, and so I'll try to be brief and as nonjudgmental as possible, given that some people (I don't think I need to name names) are just plain wrong.

So, in the spirit of accuracy: My first name is "Steven". Not Steve, and not Stephen.

I hope I don't need to bring this up again.

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I promised you book reviews earlier, and I'm finally catching up.

Mean Justice by Edward Humes is a true-crime book about a murder in Bakersfield, California and the prosecutors who convicted an innocent man. Bakersfield is the town that gave us the quote, "The children never lie", in connection with lurid accounts of ritual child abuse. Bakersfield is a town that prides itself on being tough on crime. Bakersfield is a town that shows what can happen when winning becomes more important than justice, and paranoia overmasters reason. Humes' account is detailed, compelling, and damning. This is a book that will make bleeding hearts bleed, and thinking men fear.

Portrait of Jenny by Robert Nathan is a sweet little time travel fantasy, beautifully written but slight. It's worth reading, but the book cover hype seemed a bit overdone to me.

The Search For the Giant Squid by Richard Ellis would be a good book at a quarter the length. Unfortunately, not much is actually known about the giant squid, which historically has been most often encountered in the form of half-digested whale vomit. No scientist has ever seen a living Architeuthis, and Ellis is forced to pad his book with accounts of fishermen who cut up floating corpses for bait and plots of old sci-fi movies. It's a pity, because the informative parts of the book are fascinating. (Did you know the smallest giant squid ever found is less than an inch long? Nobody knows how long it takes for the squid to grow to its adult length of forty to sixty feet, but the best guess is they live only three or four years.)

I couldn't find my old copy of The Forever War until I bought a new one; when my sister saw it, she told me she had it. The new copy is the author's preferred version, restoring some material deemed too depressing for Analog, so it was probably worth the money anyway. A classic well worth rereading.

A Fatal Friendship by Arnold A. Rogow is a biography of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, purporting to explore the special relationship that culminated in the infamous duel. The problem is there isn't really much evidence that there was any kind of special relationship, except in hindsight; like most of the Founding Fathers, both men had plenty of enemies. But that doesn't stop Rogow from mindreading and psychoanalyzing them. Fortunately, his biases fail to obstruct his material. An interesting book about two complicated men.

The Space Eater by David Langford is what an E.E. Smith novel would be like if he cared how many people he blew up (and was a good writer). The ultimate soldier is sent to stop a colony world from experimenting with very dangerous physics; the farther removed he is from his training (which involves being killed on a regular basis), the more human he becomes. A good book that takes a fresh and humane approach to some old s.f. ideas.

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A couple months ago I bought Shakespeare in Love on DVD. I didn't actually have a DVD player, but I knew I wanted this movie in the best possible format. Yesterday I finally bought myself a player. My sister went with me to Circuit City, where I found a JVC model that seemed to have the features and quality that I wanted, and after I mentioned that I was going to look at Best Buy also, it suddenly was "on sale" for $20 less. I figured that was as good as I was going to do and bought it.

Susan and I went to see Dogma (which I recommend) and a trio of Arthur Miller one-acts as well, so I didn't actually have the chance to use the player yesterday. So tonight I finally watched Shakespeare in Love and, wow, it was every bit as good as I'd heard. Wow.

I've indulged myself with some other DVD purchases, but those will have to wait, because I'm leaving for a family vacation in Jamaica and won't be back until next week. See you then--I'll try to have something to write about while I'm gone.

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