There is a town in north Ontario

September 11, 2010

The past month has been the longest and hardest to endure that I can remember. That said, my lungs are busy ventilating and exchanging gases; my heart is busy circulating blood; and my GI tract is, as usual, uncomplainingly going about its business. I am enduring; I will endure. I have it pretty good. My limbic system doesn’t always agree, but so it goes. I’m not here to write about that right now.

What I am here to do is issue my obligatory periodic apology for neglecting this space again, make a good-faith effort to un-neglect this space a little, show off some pictures, and put off applying tung oil to the raw parts of my desk—my desk, which has prominently featured raw pine for over a year now, and which it only recently occurred to me to apply any kind of finishing treatment to. When I finally cleared it off, so I could transport it half a mile down the road, I noticed some discoloration in parts. So, after procrastinating some other tasks by reading about wood, I decided on tung oil. After further procrastination in the form of further reading, I decided on actual tung oil, rather than one of the easy-to-find “tung oil finishes” that contain about as much tung oil as lemon-lime Gatorade contains actual lemon or lime juice. So, after tracking down a local store that actually carried tung oil, a task in itself, I stopped by only to discover that they were fresh out and their weekly merchandise shipment was delayed by the Labor Day holiday. I’ve since been back, and acquired some tung oil, as well as some thinner with which to thin the first couple of coats.[1] Now that I have all my equipment assembled, the next course of action was, obviously, to take my car in for an oil change, then sip coffee in a bookstore all afternoon while reading, and subsequently purchasing, a couple of books I’ve been intending to read for a while.[2] The desk can wait.

Last night, in a welcome diversion, was movie night at a friend’s apartment.[3] One of the movies I’d seen before (The Maltese Falcon); and one I hadn’t, though I’d seen a few very similar films (Blade Runner)[4]. Both are classics, based on equally classic books. Seeing the movies back-to-back, and wanting to procrastinate today, inspired me to finally get the books. Not that I’ve read either one of them through yet, but here are some of my early impressions.

The Maltese Falcon. Two things I know for sure. One, Dashiell Hammett can write. I really should’ve checked out his work sooner. And two, Humphrey Bogart sure as shit isn’t a barrel-chested six-foot blond with a body “like a shaved bear’s”. Yet I can’t stop picturing him as Sam Spade. Obviously my judgment is clouded by the fact that I’ve seen the movie half a dozen times and have come to associate Bogart with Spade, but so far I really do feel that Spade works better as a short guy with a lisp than as some kind of gleaming god of masculinity.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I’ve just been reading and rereading the first chapter. Not only is it great to have an actual context for Deckard’s character, but (as has been pointed out to me) it’s a fantastic example of how to do sci-fi right: the futuristic aspects that Philip K. Dick explores are introduced intelligibly and painlessly—and with a sense of humor to boot. It’s the polar opposite of Frank Herbert, for example, who drowns you in deadly-serious gibberish before you can even turn the page. (And, I have to say, the line “My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression” is pure brilliance.)

* * *

[1] Having to thin the oil for the first few coats, and indeed having to apply several coats in the first place, are only a few of the benefits of using 100% pure tung oil.

[2] I fucking swear, I’m not going to buy myself any more books until I read at least, say, six of the ones I’ve already acquired with the honest but yet-unrealized intention of reading. Goddamnit.

[3] If there’s one thing I learned yesterday, it’s that it’s good to have a friend with Blu-Ray player and a 1080p projector pointed at a wall that happens to be roughly 16:9. Very good.

[4] I’ve actually seen three or four different films named Blade Runner over the years, none of them more than once. There are enough different cuts of the movie out there that this is pretty easy to do, and they’re generally different enough from one another that they really do seem like completely different movies. For what it’s worth, the version I saw last night was probably my favorite so far—it told the most coherent story, without having to rely on voiceover narration, and without tacking on an unnecessary, shitty happy ending.


  • Mark says:

    Google Reader was on the scene to tell me you had a new post.

    What was this town in Northern Ontario you were at? Why were you there?

    Congrats on the working GI tract, I envy you.

    I really really need to check out the Maltese Falcon. It’s been on my list for ages, I’ll try to watch it tomorrow.

    There’s so much fantastic sci-fi out there… I’ve been obsessed since childhood. I don’t read as many books now, but I’m working through 70s movies at the moment. Just watched A Boy and His Dog; Soylent Green & Dark Star are up next to name a couple.

    Regarding note #2, that’s how I feel about video games. I’ve been doing a pretty good job on books ever since I bought an e-reader, but I still have piles of physical ones I haven’t been able to pirate to my reader. I don’t exactly feel like rebuying each of them for $8-16.

    • Märt says:

      I [sadly] haven’t actually been to north Ontario in quite a few years. (Does Muskoka count as ‘north Ontario’? I think that’s the furthest north I’ve been.) It’s just a line from a song, more evidence of the Neil Young kick I’ve been on since about 2006.

      And, yeah — the more people I talk to, the luckier I feel about my GI tract.

      I saw Soylent Green a year ago or so — I had a hard time avoiding busting out laughing at just about everything. The movie just feels so dated, and Charlton Heston is, well, Charlton Heston.

      And regarding video games, I’m trying to avoid thinking about how many games I’ve bought from Steam or GOG or Impulse and have yet to play.

      Incidentally, what e-reader do you have, and how do you like it?

  • Mark says:

    Ah yes, I was addicted to Steam & GOG too. I only ever bought GalCiv2 and Elemental from Impulse. I learned to restrain myself a while ago, but I’ve still acquired an insane number of games. My Steam ID is “greycell” for what it’s worth.

    I have the Sony Touch Edition, though I see from their website that they’ve updated it since mine, so I don’t know if my experience is still accurate.

    I bought it because I liked the aesthetics of it — I hate how most e-reader models have buttons taking up half the face. However, the touch screen on mine caused there to be a layer of glare on the thing that all other models/brands do not have. It’s really stupid. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s pretty damn annoying. I don’t know if the new version of the device still has this problem. Also the battery life on mine seems bugged. I only get a few days out of it, whether I actually use it or it just sleeps. It should last two weeks I believe. My brother has the same model and the same problem, but no one else online seems to complain about it. I had the battery replaced by warranty, but it didn’t fix anything.

  • _grisha says:

    Just out of curiosity, you never mentioned what made this last month so hard. Did anything happen? The feel I get from the post is that everything is chugging along very calmly. Though of course, it is generally only during my worst, most trying episodes that I need to remind myself just to appreciate my health.

    Thanks for the reading suggestions. I drive a LOT, and am always looking for good audiobooks or lecture series.

    • Märt says:

      Yeah, something happened. I still don’t know how it’s going to end up — I’m sort of staring at a question mark. But like you said, it’s when you’re at your most uncertain that you need to remind yourself what you do have.

      And here are a few more reading suggestions for you.

      Books that I wish were available as audiobooks: The Night Inspector, by Frederick Busch; Something Happened, by Joseph Heller. Both are wonderful books with very strong narrative voices that I think would translate particularly well as audiobooks. (In fact, I’m so intrigued by the narrator in Something Happened that from time to time I’m tempted to try my hand at reading a chapter or two myself.) But for the time being, they work just fine as printed books.

      Books that I just checked are available as audiobooks: Jasper Fforde’s “Nursery Crime” series (The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear); Death from the Skies, by Phil Plait. The Nursery Crime books are murder-mysteries that take place in a world where characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales actually exist. They’re lighthearted, and pretty quick reads, but extremely literate and well-crafted. You can tell they’re written by a guy who loves words and books. As for the other one — I read the guy’s blog, and I’ve been meaning to check out the book. No idea whether it’s any good, but the book’s subtitle (“These Are the Ways the World Will End”) is intriguing.

    • Märt says:

      Also, if you have a subscription to The Economist, you can download an audio version of the magazine each week.

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