Harbingers

As you may have gathered from some of my past writing, I’m a big Neal Stephenson fan. He is one of my favorite authors. I was discussing with Marco the other day how when reading, say, the fifth Harry Potter book,  it felt like Rowling’s editor needed to step in and convince JK to tighten it up a bit. But with Stephenson, even when he’s plowing into a chapter-long tangent, you don’t mind, because he takes you interesting places. That’s not to say that Rowling is not a talented writer, but the voice that Stephenson writes with is just on a different, more stylistic level. His sometimes indulgent asides are what make him so much fun.

I’d like to talk about a concept of punishment he puts forth in his novel Anathem. It’s called the Book. A brief primer: Anathem takes place in a world similar to our own, but where scholars live a quasi-monastic life of simple means behind the walls of big stone concents, cut off from the rest of society for a period of one, ten, 100 or 1000 years. This separation allows the “avout,” as they are called, to dedicate their lives to scholarly work without distraction or interruption. While there are your typical chores and kitchen duty that can be assigned to reprimand bad behavior, there is also the Book. When an avout needs sterner discipline, the administrators can “throw the Book” at them.

The idea of the Book, as the main character Erasmas explains it, is to punish the mind of the wayward avout. It’s 12 chapters long, filled with inane, inaccurate and possibly insane content that must be memorized and tested against. Imagine a mathematician being forced to learn and apply false proofs, or a writer who must memorize incorrect definitions. The Book is designed to poison the mind, taking a sledgehammer to the foundations of an avout’s critical thinking and logical faculties. And each chapter is exponentially harder than the one before. In the novel, it’s said that only 3 men ever completed all 12 chapters, which took a lifetime, and they were all thoroughly insane when they finished. That the avout have dedicated themselves to learning makes it all the more heinous a punishment to them, as they are forced to corrupt their minds and waste their time working counter to their own life’s work.

One example Erasmas gives is a chapter full of nursery rhymes that almost, but do not quite rhyme. Another is five pages of the digits of Pi. In the novel, he is assigned the first five chapters as penance, which takes him several weeks to complete. And the idea is that, if you get in trouble again, you could get assigned even more. It is suggested that going higher can permanently damage one’s ability to process and organize information effectively.

I mention all this as prelude to my latest movie review:

this is the end, my friend

Surely, if the Book were real, Chapter 6 would be the shooting script to Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. And the less said further the better.

–Benjie

Go write your novel.

It’s NaNoWriMo, so go write your novel. Though you probably shouldn’t wait just until it’s NaNoWriMo to be doing that, but whatever. And while you’re at it, go vote.

Meanwhile on the internet…

How to blog.

Why we always vote on Tuesdays.

5 year old girl gives birth.

A man fights a shark to save a woman’s life!

Roger Ebert hates top 10 lists. And your face!

Brazil elects first female president.

Nerdiest signs from the Rally to restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Good NaNoWriMo advice from Merlin Mann.

A look back on the possible alternate futures of Back To The Future.

Gavin Rossdale’s past is more interesting than this present.

I don’t understand the appeal of Bret Michaels, or his dick (featuring Miley Cyrus’ mom).

Carey Mulligan looks amazing after finally dropping that dead weight otherwise known as Shia LeBeowulf.

Here’s the plot of a potential romantic comedy for you: Justin Long and the internet film critic (who thinks he sucks).

It’s so wonderfully dorky, but I think this TARDIS dress is really cool and adorable:

from here and here.

Schwarzeneger bans welfare use for psychics and pot.

NaNoWriMo/LOL Cat pictures from here, but also from here, here, and here.

Shirley Manson says that Garbage is coming back with an album and a tour.

I think it’s time I started developing shows for either CBS or ABC.

Could you give up showering?

The GoldenEye video game getting remade with Daniel Craig.

Can social media break up a marriage?

Kill your co-workers (with kindness)!

Binary day.

from here.

Today is 10-10-10!

Mad linkage:

Douglas Adams and the answer to the ultimate question.

Susannah Breslin on This Recording.

John McTiernan is going to jail.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master delayed indefinitely.

Remembering David Bowie’s Station To Station.

Anthony Bourdain is writing a graphic novel “about ultraviolent food nerds.”

Great new albums coming out of the Milwaukee music scene.

David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King gets a release date.

This is some ridiculous bullshit.

John Gabriel’s G.I.F. theory.

from here and here.

More actors added to David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Bob Woodward on President Barack Obama.

Are tests biased against students who don’t give a shit?

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.

Al Pacino to play Phil Spector.

Shia LeBeowulf wants to play Karl Rove. Suck it, Frankie Muniz!

Doctor Who is coming to America next season (and is going to face Nixon).

Scientists explain the parting of the red sea.

Rob Liefeld is writing a script about the founding of Image comics/the comics boom of the 90s. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!

Yoda’s cousin: Night Eyes.

The year in pictures, part two.

Almost there. Not quite yet though…

But, man, what a frustrating year.

I felt like Tyler Coates‘ picture here summed up what my attitude was going into this year. And what all of our attitudes should’ve been. As it always should be.

And now Alec Baldwin sums up how I felt about this year.

Though this year has brought some things that I desperately wanted to see.

Or never thought I would see (all together in the same club).

Or things that I would be okay never seeing again.

And some things, things from my childhood, came to an end.

Some things, I think, I realized I was glad to see go.

And it really hit me in this past year that some things will not last forever.

And some of those things are through. Professionally, I mean.

Oh well. Shit happens. Things come. And things go.

And they keep going.

It’s all about perspective.

Isn’t that what they say?

This was the year of hope.

This was the year of rejections.

This was the year of saying that you wanted a revolution.

And it was also the year where you said, “Could you try not to rub your beard up against my forest of tears?”

It was about new things.

And new things to regret (in the morning)(probably)(but hopefully not).

It was, for me, the year I just accepted the often hellish, nonstop barrage of celebrity bullshit.

…Especially in the face of weird hookups that I just can’t condone.

And seeing things I loved shat upon.

But these things happen.

We hold onto the good.

And let go of the bad.

Time to dust yourself off.

Maybe you’ve learned some things. About life, the world, and yourself.

And made some decisions.

And had some fun.

But just remember…

It’s easy to ride off into the sunset.

It’s hard to still be there when the sun rises. But that’s where the true excitement and the fun lay.

Hopefully we’ll see you there.

from here.

Gone to the movies…

In the men’s room of the cinema beforehand, for a pre-movie evacuation when two kids, probably around 10 or 11ish, and the bemused dad who accompanied them walk in and take up all the urinals directly around them.

Kid #1: OH MAN, that was so awesome. The way he killed The Fallen. RIGHT?!

Kid #2: YES! OMG YES!

Kid #1: Yes. But I wonder if he’s really dead.

Kid #2: The Fallen? Yeah, the way he killed him? Awesome. Totally dead.

Kid #1: Unless there’s a third one. Do you think there’ll be a third one?

Kid #2: OF COURSE there’ll be a third one. That was SO GOOD. Better than the first!

Kid #1: So you think he’s not dead then?

Kid #2: Who?

Bemused dad: I don’t think there’s enough explosives left in the world to make another one of those movies, guys.

The kids ignore him, go to wash their hands.

Bemused dad (continuing, presumably to me, since he started staring at me): That might be the cure to all the troubles of the world, right? Take all our explosives and destructive weapons and give them to Hollywood to fight computer alien robots, right?

I just shrug, then go over to wash my hands. I use soap, the kids at the sinks next to me, however, do not.

Kid #1: Man, I want to get high later.

Kid #2: Yeah, me too. You think this guy (gestures to me) could sell us drugs?

I leave in a hurry.

And then: I decide, Fuck it, I’ll get some popcorn, and I go and get in line. Me and this group of two girls are both angling for the same slot and get there at the exact time. I decide that, even though my movie starts in less than 3 minutes, I’ll be a nice guy and let them go first. I start to drift back when…

Girl: Fuck this guy. He needs to move.

I hear that and decide, Okay, chivalry’s out the door. I’m gonna get some popcorn. These girls can wait.

Girl: Hey ASSHOLE!

I hear that and just smile.

Girl: Don’t smile. I’m talking to you!

Me: Oh, I’m sorry, are you talking to me?

Girl: Yes!

Me: Okay.

And I turn back to the dude behind the counter and order what I want.

Girl: HEY!

Me: Yes?

Girl: You should’ve let me in front of you.

Me: And why is that?

Girl: Because I’m hotter than you!

Me: What?

Girl: I am! I’m hotter than you. You should’ve given up your spot in line for me.

Me: What?

The girl continues on but I decide to save everyone a little trouble and cut her off, then…

Me: Okay, listen up. You’re like 13. You’re not hotter than anyone. Fuck off.

The girl is shocked, but eventually goes and gets into another spot in the line to get popcorn/sodas/milk duds/whatever.

Guy behind the counter: Dude, she was hot.

Me: Dude, she was 13. Actually, you know what? I’m not even going to debate this with you. What do my popcorn and soda cost?

Guy behind the counter: 15 bucks.

Me: What?!

So, after a time, I get into the theater and the movie starts. The movie, by the way is the new Harry Potter movie. Don’t judge me. I went with my mama, who loves them, and we’ve seen them all together. I don’t know anything about the books other than what I can ween off the wikipedia, but you could tell that much was sacrificed to continue the ongoing story in this film, which just feels daunting knowing that there’s at least two more films to go in this series.

Also, poor Emma Watson, who is usually one of the most delightful part of these movies, is barely in this one. And that red headed kid who got the swine flu? He looks like swine flu.

Earlier in the day, I had been in line to buy the tickets for the showing we were going to see and the line at the box office was long. In front of me was a couple that were on a first date.

Girl: So, when did you first realize you wanted to ask me out?

Guy: It was a synergy thing, actually.

Girl: What’s that mean?

Guy: Synergy is when two things-

Girl: No, I know what synergy is. What was the synergy thing?

Guy: Oh, oh, sorry. What I meant was, I knew we had to go out at the time I realized, “Hey, I haven’t seen the new Transformers movie yet,” you know?

Girl: Right.

Guy: The movie just looks so good, right? Just soooo good.

On the inside I’m thinking to myself, “Come on, man. Tell her that she looks good too!” Alas, he does not.

Girl: Yeah, sure. I barely remember the first one.

Guy: So where do you want to eat after this?

This is the question I pose to you, ladies and gentlemen: Do you really want to fuck somebody who actually really wants to go see Transformers 2? And because they think it looks good too?

Then again, you’ll notice that I’m careful not to ask if you’d want to fuck a guy who went to see the Harry Potter movie.