Saturday, July 9, 2011

South Sudan

At midnight on Friday, local time, South Sudan became the 193rd independent nation recognized by the United Nations.

That is pretty awesome. I had planned on being there (one of my goals is to be somewhere when that "somewhere" becomes independent), but I had shit to do... I know, right? Of the 364 days I don't have shit to do, I had shit to do on July 8th. WTF? Really... WTF?

Anyway... just to put things in perspective... it's taken the Republic of South Sudan the better part of 50 years, two civil wars, six years of a UN-enforced peace accord, and a voter's referendum to gain independence from Sudan. And, yet, there's still vocal extremist Americans running around the USA screaming about how bad we have it and how we're doomed. Sorry... I'll take an American version of doomed over a Sudanese version of blessed any day of the fucking week.

Some facts: Sudan itself is largely Muslim, while South Sudan is largely animist and Christian. It's also (voila) oil rich and depressingly underdeveloped. Its capital city is Juba, and several nations already have or are in the process of opening embassies there. It's completely landlocked, which may mean it's as screwed as most landlocked African nations, but... there's the oil. I'm sure a neighboring country (be it Ethiopia, or even Sudan itself) stands to gain from a potential pipeline agreement.

Whether it's destined to be accosted for the remainder of its independent existence (which, hopefully, is a long time) or it will find a way to maintain sovereignty without falling into political, religious, and tribal disarray, I think the formation of the country is pretty fucking cool. A little known fact about me is that I love maps... love 'em. Can't explain it, I just do.

And now I have to go buy a new world atlas.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Irreviews, 2011: Issue II

Song of Kali - Dan Simmons
Plot: A literary journalist is sent to Calcutta to verify the legitimacy of a new poem written by a poet long-thought dead. Disappointed with his initial findings, Robert Luzcak digs deeper until he uncovers a dangerous cult that worships the Hindu goddess of death... and practices resurrection.
Thoughts: Simmons' first horror novel (and first novel in general, I believe). It's solid, not all that scary. I like it because Simmons is a favorite of mine and it was interesting to see how he's progressed. He establishes himself as a research-oriented author in the vein of Michael Crichton.
Verdict: If you haven't read Simmons at all - or are (like myself) a huge Simmons fan - read it. Hard-core horror enthusiasts might be a little disappointed.

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
Plot: Richard Mayhew lives the rat race in London. A good job, a beautiful girlfriend, and a serviceable flat. One night, on his way to a dinner with his girlfriend's influential boss, Richard makes the fateful decision to help a wounded, disheveled woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere. He doesn't know it yet, but he's just crossed over into another reality... once that exists beneath the city.
Thoughts: Like Dan Simmons' work, I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's. The guy is just awesome... he gets "modern fantasy" and I'd almost be willing to go out on a limb and claim he's the late 20th century's/early 21st century's Lewis Carroll. Okay, I'll go out on a limb and claim that.
Verdict: Read it.

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls - Robert A. Heinlein
Plot: In a strange case of mistaken identity, and uninvited dinner guest is killed at the table. Richard Ames, an adventurer in his own right, is caught in a web of conspiracy that only his would-be lover can help him solve. People are never who they seem and actions are never what they are.
Thoughts:Robert Heinlein wrote one of my favorite books (Starship Troopers). I've read something from all of the "Big 3" of 20th century science fiction (Asimov and Clarke, the other two), but I've been wanting to expand my Heinlein. I should've went with Stranger in a Strange Land, but I picked this mess instead. My impression? That Heinlein read Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and felt he could do better. I realize that The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is part of a larger story, and I realize that it's not the first book in the (loose) sequence... but I still don't think I would've liked it.
Verdict: Skip it, unless you've a hard-on for Heinlein. Or have read the books you're "supposed" to read first.

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo - J.H. Patterson
Thoughts: The basis for the movie, The Ghost and the Darkness, I was a little disappointed that the titular man-eaters were such a small part of the book. It's mainly a British adventurer musing about his overall experiences in Africa, with the point of emphasis being his hunting excursions and the building of a railroad.
Verdict: Not sure... decent memoir, but I won't recommend it based on the misleading title.

The Third Man / The Fallen Idol - Graham Greene
Plot: The Third Man: Rollo Martins is a pulp novelist called to post-World War II Vienna to visit his longtime friend, Harry Lime. By the time Martins gets there, Harry's been killed in a tragic car accident. Problem is, the cops don't believe it was an accident, and neither does Martins. The search for the truth leads to more tragedy, and a revelation worse than Martins could have envisioned. The Fallen Idol (also known as "The Basement Room"): Young Philip is, for all intents and purposes, raised by two house-servants: Baines and Mrs. Baines. He idolizes Baines and despises Baines' wife. One night, while pretending to run away, Philip sees Baines with another, younger woman. Secrets are kept, truth rears its ugly head, and a cover-up threatens to drive a young boy insane.
Thoughts: Graham Greene is regarded as a literary giant. That's because Graham Greene is a literary giant. His style rocks, his characters rock, his plots rock. He just rocks. I will be reading a lot more of him in the near future. What else do you need to know?
Verdict: Read it (or them, depending on which edition you can get a hold of).

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tenth Daughters of Memory, 2011: Volume 1

Here they are... all of The Tenth Daughter of Memory entries for the first half of 2011.

Unlike last year's Volume 1, I've already posted February's River of Mnemosyne entry in a separate index. "Uncharted" appeared on Irreverent Irrelevance (the last bit of creative writing to do so) and all the rest are on Museless Propaganda.

Happy to say that "Uncharted" and "Departure" won their respective Muses, while "An Australian Breakfast," "Clandestine's Daughter," and "Eagle, Anchor, Trident" finished as runners-up.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Walk the Mindscape

Figure it out?

Don't lie. The only truth is that it's all fucked up. There's no intelligence in the design, just lobotomized ramblings of someone who doesn't give a shit. You have no idea what you believe, because someone else told you to believe it. The greatest story ever told hasn't been told yet.




Stop yourself before someone stops you.

What is the topic? Histories, geographies, and humanities of imagined people and places that are created by one who is real. But they are unimportant. The ones whose characters are good enough, bad enough, interesting enough, will be the stories told. With interpretations and interruptions as subjective as the reader.

They miss a beat, they skip a step, they are the memory you can't remember and the nightmare that wakes you up at night. Friends, enemies, lovers, and people you want to fuck or fuck over. Sex and vengeance make for good conversation, locker rooms and bureaus are the meeting places of the new gods. Good versus Evil, ambiguous depending on which side of the line you're on. Your god is not their god, and they want to kill yours. Always have. Always will.

Dreams do not exist here, for those stories are written and told. Life does not exist here, for the page does not breathe. Leafs and leaflets falling from trees of knowledge growing in the gardens of the mind. The Book's only truth is that it is already dead. It doesn't care what happens to you, as long as you teach someone else to read before you go.

It is ignorance that sparked the flame. Intelligence that ignited it. And intolerance that fans it. Everyone's an arsonist, but nobody knows what to burn.

The Sun, that pagan symbol of life, can kill you. The moon can do nothing but stare at its own reflection. Narcissism guides your hand, even as you claim modesty. Pride will be your downfall after it leads to your success. Secede from expectations, and chaos becomes wonderful.

Is she in the picture? Does the photograph truly speak thousands of words? Or do your eyes deceive you? If she's so perfect, why doesn't everyone draw her the same way?

She is model, actress, slut. Smiling when required, crying when alone. Suckling both nipple and cock at some point in her life. The end always justifies the means. Happiness is the goal.

He is model, actor, asshole. Shaking hands even if he doesn't like you, talking shit even if he does. Putting foot and crow into his mouth and washing it down with alcohol. Pride can be swallowed if your throat is wide enough. Power is everything.

Who are the heroes? Where are the deceivers who walk on water and grant three wishes, heal lepers and give great blowjobs, prophesy the end of times and make the best wine?

Has the sea parted? Or are we simply part of the sea? To rely on Noah for rescue is to realize that you're not allowed on board. Everyone else was clearly too stupid to build a boat, including you.

Is she worth it? Are her curves exhilarating enough in the blue light of the stars? Does the girl next door have a better squeal? She just wants someone to spend eternity with. He just wants someone to last through the summer. Does the paper boy deliver? Can the porn star perform on demand? What does he drive?

When a killer has standards, you know the world is in trouble. No women, no children, means overpopulation. The coming extinction of a privileged class too vain to harvest their own food. The rise of an uneducated population who would rather blame their problems on everyone else. When the lights are off, they're all the same... dicks still throb and cunts still drip. Just make sure you're doing it right.

Words are just words. Patterns of letters depicting concepts understood. Concepts created by those who needed to understand. Creations dreamed of by those who didn't know any better. Why invent language if you don't want to insult your enemies?

History proves that no matter how much you disprove, people remain unconvinced. Trust is a one-way street, since there's no way to know what the other guy's thinking. Is it a game? If it's chess, we're in luck. The smart will survive. If it's tic-tac-toe, kiss your ass goodbye. If it's Mahjong, you've clearly run out of things to do.

It's a game, alright. Is it over, already? If there's a stage 2, you'd better hope you're going the right way. You've convinced yourself you are. But why would you care? Isn't exploration what it's all about? Why the need to pretend you already know?

Knowledge is earned on the back of those who tried. Wisdom is learned on the back of those who failed. To stand on the shoulders of giants means to understand where they came from, not pretend they've always been there. It is with fealty that one shows love. Piety is spiritual masturbation. It's probably better to just pull your pants down and stroke.

You can shove your judgements up your ass. Where the Sun doesn't shine is as good a place as any. If you cannot stomach the musings of others, don't think they can stomach yours. Everyone's right, everyone's wrong. Take your rhetoric and go home. Leave them alone and they won't try to kill you. Stay, and you're on your own.

Sustenance isn't just about survival, it's about pleasure. In the garden of hedonism there was only one rule, and it was broken. She couldn't look at his phallus because it reminded her of the snake. She took it anyway. Endurance is the measure of man, woman, animal. Longer and harder wins the day, regardless of size. That's what we tell ourselves, anyway. And then we rot.

It's a short ride, so enjoy it. It's a rough ride, so learn the bumps. You won't avoid them again, but at least you'll have an idea of when to jump. The sky's the limit, and mankind has learned to fly. Where to next? That's the only question that matters.

Anything goes here. Leave your sensibilities at the door. Or don't come in. Laugh. Cry. Scream. If you aren't taken to the limit of acceptability - and beyond it - then this view is a failure.
Are you afraid yet? You'd better be. You're a fucking idiot if you're not.

I invite you to walk The Mindscape. If you want in, just ask.