Archive for January, 2010

DVD’s that are going, part 1

January 30th, 2010 by Reinder

There are still a lot of books from Books that are going, part 1 and Books that are going, part 2 that haven't found new owners yet. Just ask about any of the books. Also, I'm a wee bit behind with shipping some them out because I had to buy shipping boxes for the ones that had to go overseas. I'll get to it, soon enough. Meanwhile, the next big cull from my media collection consists of CDs and DVDs, split over two posts, because the list of CDs is very long. Here's what I've got to offer. As before, I am giving them away, all you need to pay for is the shipping if I have to mail them out.

Hayao Miyazaki: Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle. I like Miyazaki, but those two movies did nothing for me. Both are region 2.

Deep Purple: Bombay Calling. Live DVD from the early days after Steve Morse joined in 1995. A good performance with an extended stage set and some early stabs at new songs that would end up on their next album Purpendicular, but filmed in an unexciting manner and with poor sound quality. Also, the opening seconds of the first song are missing, which is papered over by including a press conference before the start. You'll still like this if you're a Deep Purple completist, but it's a very flawed release, more of an official bootleg. Region-free.

TV series: Doctor Who
I have the following Doctor Who DVDs to give away.
William Hartnell, the First Doctor: The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor: The Tomb of the Cybermen.
Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor: The Claws of Axos.
Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor: The Ark in Space, The Robots of Death, Horror of Fang Rock, Pyramids of Mars. All Region 2.
Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor: Earthshock, The Caves of Androzani.
Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor: The Curse of Fenric, Ghost Light.
All Doctor Who DVDs are BBC editions and are Region 2 + 4, except the Fourth Doctor ones, which were reissued in the Netherlands with (optional) Dutch subtitles and in Region 2 only.

Next up, CDs! I have really done a major cull with the CDs, and it helped that as I reorganised them a bit after pulling the first few dozens out, a whole teetering stack of them came tumbling down. I really do need to get rid of even more of them.

Books that are going, part 2

January 20th, 2010 by Reinder

Here's the next batch of books readers of the blog can pick through before I sell them! The previous giveaway found new homes for the Stainless Steel Rat omnibus and the three Vlad Taltos collections, but the others are still available if you either live in Groningen or are willing to pay shipping.

The next batch is a bit more diverse and contains some non-fiction and some comics, but we'll start off with some more science fiction & fantasy:

Douglas A. Anderson, editor: Tales Before Narnia, an anthology of fantasy stories that inspired, or in some cases may have inspired, C.S. Lewis and includes stories and poems by Robert Louis Stephenson, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott and others.

David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, editors: The Hard SF Renaissance. A range of hard SF stories by a wide range of older and younger writers. Few of the stories left any impression on me but I recall that "Bicycle Repairman" by David Brin delivered the goods. In any case, it's almost 1,000 pages so there should be something for everyone in there.

Diana Wynne Jones: The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land. A classic guide to fantasy clichés that's well worth a read and won't suck up your time as much as TV Tropes will.

Aloys Winterling: Caligula: Een Biografie, Dutch, translated from German. What it says on the tin: a somewhat contrarian biography of the Roman emperor, attempting to sort the truth from the accumulated legends and giving an overview of the kind of political landscape in which someone might want to appoint a horse as a senator.

Anonymous (Michael Scheuer): Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. I bought this before I realized that Scheuer was nuts. At the time I thought the analysis, especially of Osama Bin Laden's motivations and of political and intelligence-related errors in the War on Terror was strong, but re-reading the preface now for a recap of what's in the rest of the book, it looks absolutely hysterical. Nevertheless, it was an important book in its day and still has some worthwhile analysis in it from a former CIA insider.

Christopher Hitchens: The Trial of Henry Kissinger. An overview of the case that might be made against Henry Kissinger if he was ever charged before the International Criminal Court.

Thomas von der Dunk: De Vader, de Zoon en de Geest van Pim: Nederland in het Rampjaar 2002 (Dutch, obviously). A collection of newspaper columns by von der Dunk, written in what was really quite a turbulent year for the Netherlands.

Eric S. Raymond: The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary. It must have seemed interesting at the time... I expect in another ten years, it will be again as a piece of social history of the geek movement.

Kamagurka: Bezige Bert, De Zanger is Ziek Vandaag: two latter-day collections from the Belgian absurdist cartoonist, in Dutch.

Jakob Nielsen: Functioneel Webdesign (Dutch, translated from the English). I used this in a previous iteration of the site. Unfortunately, web design and development bore me to tears and designing for usability is no exception, so it hasn't helped me all that much; the big takeaway I got from this was that for someone like me, following the herd works, especially when combined with simplicity. I still try to keep the number of design elements low and use labels that people recognise from other webcomics, but beyond that, I simply don't spend enough time on design to benefit from this book. Still, Nielsen's insights usually hold up well over a long period and if you are interested in usability design, this is still good despite its age.

Steve Krug: Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. See above, mostly.

Ian McEwan: The Child In Time. Egads, I read this for school before I went to University. Honestly, I don't remember if this is any good or not.

Bernard Malamud: The Assistant. Egads, I read this for University. Bored me to tears, it did!

Momir Stosic Moki, editor: Signed By War. International benefit anthology for independent comics artists in the then-war-torn republics of the Former Yugoslavia. Black and White. Contributions by Enki Bilal, Marcel Ruijters, Lian Ong, Zoran Janjetov, Sasa Rakezic, Edmond Baudoin, Peter Kuper, Lorenzo Mattotti and others.

Scott Adams: Dogbert's Clues for the Clueless. A collection of Dilbert strips featuring Dogbert.

Breathed, Berkeley: Tales too Ticklish To Tell. A Bloom County collection.

Breathed, Berkeley: Politically, Fashionably and Aerodynamically Incorrect, His Kisses Are Dreamy... But Those Hairballs Down My Cleavage...!. Two Outland collections. I liked those at the time but they now leave me cold.

If you want any of those books, drop me a line in the next few weeks. If you live outside of Groningen, the Netherlands, I'll need you to pay shipping; if you live in Groningen, I can hand them over in person or just drop them in your mailbox.

Working on it!

January 17th, 2010 by Reinder

There's some more new ROCR material written, but I need to buy new paper - I got the wrong size last week. Turns out there's another size between A4 and A3 that I hadn't seen in the shops before, so I picked it up thinking it was the A4+ I have been using for the Feral storyline. I expect to have a little bit of drawing time during the week and in the weekend though, so there will be new pages soonish, hopefully maybe.

Books that are going, part 1

January 13th, 2010 by Reinder

In the next few months before I go back to Tennessee to get married, I expect to be using my media collection as my ATM a couple of times - it's a way to declutter and get back some of the money I spent on DVD's, CD's, vinyl records and books over a quarter-century. None of it is going to make me rich but there is a lot of volume to get rid of.

Today I've been sorting out some of the books that I no longer want to keep. Into the "to sell" box went:

Four Glenn Cook "Adjective Metal Noun" PI Garrett novels, the latest of which I got only last Christmas. When I first read Petty Pewter Gods in the late 1990s, I loved it, but the concept and style have lost their appeal to me, so out it goes, along with Angry Lead Skies, Cold Copper Teads and Cruel Zinc Melodies.

Four Christopher Moore novels: Fluke, A Dirty Job, Lamb and The Stupidest Angel. Another writer I used to love in the 1990s, I now find time and time that his novels are fun to read once, but then I don't want to read them again (unlike with, say, Terry Pratchett, whose novels I re-read regularly).

Harry Harrison, The Stainless Steel Rat omnibus. I still like the Stainless Steel Rat, but this recent, newly typeset reprint duplicates two novels that I already had and was riddled with punctuation errors, making me wonder if perhaps I had misremembered the style of the originals.

Steven Brust, The Book of Jherek, The Book of Taltos, The Book of Athyra. A lot of people whose opinions I respect love themselves some Steven Brust, but after three omnibus collections I can safely say that I'm just not that into him.

Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon, a book that I've read several times. Stephenson was at one time one of my favorite writers, but this was the last one that I really liked (I gave copies to several people including my brother) and he is another writer who has lost his sheen for me - the ever increasing bloat of his work put me off it if I remember correctly, he said somewhere that his novels are supposed to end like they do, which just doesn't make sense to me. In any case, I don't want to take this big heavy trade paperback edition with me to the States; if I change my mind again, I can always re-buy it in an edition that is less of a doorstop.

That's the first batch of books I want to get rid of, but: if you are a reader of this blog and you're willing to pay shipping (or if you live in Groningen and I can just meet you to hand over one or more books), I'll happily send any one or more of them to you for free. Just let me know sometime in the next week or so, because once they're gone, they're gone.

There’s no better welcome home and no better start to the new year than a dead computer

January 4th, 2010 by Reinder

As you may remember, the day before I left for Tennessee in mid-October, my Macbook died (it got better, especially after I gave up running Parallels on it).
I just came home from Tennessee after a trip that included delays, lies about delays, the worst airline information I have ever come across and 1 hour and 45 minutes of standing in line for the Lost Luggage service because Iberia airlines, the worst airline I've ever flown with, is part of a partnership that can't be bothered to assign more than one person to the lost luggage desk. On returning to my apartment, I found most of it OK, but within about an hour of me switching on the PC, it dies suddenly, and it doesn't take a lot of work to find out that once again, a hard drive has given up the ghost. Of course, all my data are backed up. Of course, all my back-ups are in a suitcase that's stuck in Madrid and that Iberia may or may not manage to retrieve. Except for the one that is in Aggie's house in Tennessee.

I really feel like I can't win. Multiple redundancy gets defeated by multiple points of failure failing at the same time. And you know what? I've had enough. I'm not replacing that drive. I'm retiring that box now and will be working exclusively on the resurrected Macbook until either that dies permanently too, or I have saved up enough money for a really good new desktop. No more rear-guard battles and hurried replacements for me. I have better things to do with my money than buy replacement parts that get blown up within the year. I didn't use that desktop for nearly three months; I can live without it.

I would, however, like to get my life's work back. Not having that at my fingertips in any form makes me very very nervous and twitchy.

The Princess and the Frog: fun movie, great music

January 2nd, 2010 by Reinder

When I was a kid, it was a family tradition to go see a Disney animated feature every Christmas vacation. Yesterday, after 25 years, my parents, Aggie and me restored that tradition, complete with ice cream after the showing. The feature this year was The Princess and the Frog, which Aggie and I were a bit skeptical about when we saw the early trailers, but we both warmed to the idea over the past few months. It just so happened that we wanted to go to the movies and had to pick one that my parents could follow without subtitles, so as with last year's Tales of Despereaux, we picked an all-ages feature. And we loved it. It is not up there with the very best of the Disney features, but it had the strengths of the ones that I remember from when I was growing up, and kept the weaker aspects, such as the sentimentality and the trite moralism, to a minimum. It had fast-paced humour, action and engaging characters. Most of all, it had a very strong villain in Facilier, the Shadow Man.
Overall, the characterisation is done in broad strokes, but those strokes are well-placed: Facilier is thoroughly evil, powerful and scary, but it was clear what he wants (to control New Orleans) and why he wants it (he is in debt to the spirits that gave him his powers and is going for broke). He is also armed with a strong understanding of human nature and the weaknesses of those he manipulates. Plus, he is well-designed for maximum scaryness. Likewise, debutante character Charlotte LaBouff is convincingly portrayed as greedy and spoiled (not to mention dumber than a bag of hammers), yet kind-hearted.

The racial politics of New Orleans in the 1920s are mostly danced around, but they are not avoided entirely. It helps to know a bit about New Orleans, but adult viewers won't have much difficulty filling in the blanks there.

Visually, the movie is a treat, with the stylized dream sequences that look like posters and postcards from the era being especially beautiful. But what lifted the movie to a higher level for me was the music. I immediately recognized Randy Newman's writing style in the first notes of the title sequence (indeed I mistakenly thought it was him singing when it was in fact Dr. John) and knew that the combination of Newman's writing and the setting meant I was in for something special. As in Ragtime nearly 30 years ago, Newman nailed it. At every moment, the music fit the rhythm and pace of the movie, the lyrics expressed the action and the humour in a natural, effective way, and the melodies and arrangements sounded simultaneously like the speaking voices of the character and the writing voice of Randy Newman. I never rated his singer/songwriter work all that highly, but Newman's score made the case for what a great songwriter he is. Indeed, at many times it seemed like the music drove the action and the plot instead of merely accompanying and supporting it. I bought the soundtrack record the next morning, something I almost never do.

As I said, The Princess and the Frog isn't up there with movies like Snow White, but it is a very good movie and a feast for the eyes and ears. Go see it and listen to it. If you're going with a small child, you may want to hold its hand during some of the Facilier scenes, and you WILL want to have ice cream afterwards to cap it off.