Thursday, huh?

I had a nice lunch out this afternoon, at the local Japanese seafood buffet nearby. It wasn’t exactly cheap — it never is there for lunch — but I sort of found myself craving sushi. And they have plenty of other, cooked selections for when fleeting sushi cravings inevitably dissipate. (I used to hate sushi altogether; that I don’t now is, perhaps, a sign of the end times.)

Over lunch, I read two pieces by Adam Gopnik in the most recent issue of The New Yorker. I particularly liked his comment on the uniqueness of snowflakes:

In a way, the passage out from Snowflake Bentley to the new snowflake stories is typical of the way our vision of nature has changed over the past century: Bentley, like Audubon, believed in the one fixed image; we believe in truths revealed over time—not what animals or snowflakes are, but how they have altered to become what they are. The sign in Starbucks should read, “Friends are like snowflakes: more different and more beautiful each time you cross their paths in our common descent.” For the final truth about snowflakes is that they become more individual as they fall—that, buffeted by wind and time, they are translated, as if by magic, into ever more strange and complex patterns, until, at last, like us, they touch earth. Then, like us, they melt.

And his longer essay on “the power of the pastry chef”:

(Though, as we walked through the White House, it did occur to me that, from the point of view of a caterer, the White House might seem less like the nerve center of the free world than like a medium-sized, slightly shabby charming resort hotel in Virginia, the kind where your best friend from college puts everyone up when he marries that horsy girl you all have doubts about.)

In those le Carré and Deighton thrillers, the things the antihero learns on the other side of the curtain tend to be brooded on stoically rather than applied with spirit. What you saw on the other side of the curtain stays there. What I learned in Barcelona was that genius can produce what it chooses—but not much of it was really applicable to the table I sit at or the kitchen I cook in. It wasn’t just that you can’t do this at home; it’s that home is the last place you were ever meant to do this. The earlier great changes in cooking were a kind of baroque template, suitable for simplification—you made haute cuisine with cream and butter, nouvelle cuisine by leaving them out—but “techno-emotional” cooking was created only for the three-star stage. It was pure performance, cabaret cooking, the table as stadium show. As often happens with the avant-gardists, by advancing the form they had only deepened the crisis. There was nothing that you could do with what I had learned, other than serve cake and ice cream while the soccer game was on, which we knew how to do already.

Then this evening, I watched Batman: Under the Red Hood, a short direct-to-video animated movie featuring the Caped Crusader. It wasn’t at all bad, but I do feel like my knowledge of DC comics continuity was too limited to really appreciate large parts of it. I mean, I was aware of the whole A Death in the Family thing — enough so that I could jokingly suggest the other week Sweeney Jason Todd as a replacement show for the new Spider-Man musical — but I’ve never read it. Nor have I read many of the other comics that clearly influenced the animated film. Reading the description of the movie online, and of the two comics on which it’s directly based, basically just served to spoil the movie’s big reveal for me.*

Ultimately, I found the movie to be kind of a weird mix of gritty realism, sci-fi actioner, and mystical fantasy. It’s set in a very real world, full of brutal violence and no small amount of blood and death, but it’s also a world of superhuman android monsters, assassins clad in robot suits, and pools of magical life-restoring waters. I guess maybe that is the DC comics universe, but it was still a little strange.

In other news, how can it possibly be the day before New Year’s Eve already?

* Although I do see now that Sweeney Jason Todd might be more than just a bad pun. Maybe someone should write that musical. I nominate @DoctorHu.

Tuesday various

  • “This will end us.” Oh, Cooks Source, you say that like it’s a bad thing. (That you say it with many, many typos is just sort of amusing.)

    Seriously, though, had there not been scores of examples of Cooks Source being a copyright-theft-for-profit publication, and had each “apology” from Monica Griggs not smacked of arrogance and shifting of blame, I might be sympathetic. I might chalk it up to an honest mistake, crossed wires in communication, overly tired people saying things they later regret. But Cooks Source‘s actions and attitudes speak for themselves.

  • Far be it from me to badmouth a fledgling genre magazine, but…Sci-Fi Short Story Magazine launches with impressive art and no pay.

    In theory, I wish them really well. But seriously? $11.99 for 34 pages (that’s about 35 cents a page!), plus a site heavy with ads, and you can’t pass along any of the money to the writers and artists? I give next to nothing at Kaleidotrope — I recognize that what I’m able to offer is only a token payment — but I think it’s still important to offer it. And Kaleidotrope, it should be noted, does not turn a profit. If you’re charging twelve bucks and hosting lots of ads, and you’re still not making any money, maybe it’s time to rethink your business model. And if you are making money, I feel you have an obligation to share some of that money with the people who provide you with content.

  • Physician, heal thyself! A newly elected Maryland Republican, who campaigned strongly for repealing Obamacare, wonders why he can’t have his government-paid health care right away. [via]
  • Which lends itself immediately to this question for the Democrats: when it’s increasingly clear that your opposition is a walking Onion headline, why do you keep insisting on caving into them? It’s hard to argue with the position that “every time Republicans are on the opposite side of an issue from the public, it’s the Democrats who cave and talk about ‘compromise.'” [via]
  • And finally, the big news today is that the Beatles are finally on iTunes. As Rob says, “Hopefully now The Beatles will finally get the publicity and sales they deserve.”

Wednesday various

Monday various

Tuesday various

  • Paul, the World Cup predicting octopus, has gone to the great octopus’ garden in the sky.
  • Sony will stop manufacturing the Walkman. In other news, Sony was still manufacturing the Walkman. [via]
  • Further proof that science fiction is more about the time it was created than about the future: 5 Things ‘Back to the Future’ Tells Us About the Past. [via]
  • Meanwhile, Realms of Fantasy closes shop. Again, and this time it looks like for good. I’m really disappointed by this news, not least of all because I subscribed in their recent save-the-magazine effort. It raises questions about the viability of print magazines in general, which, as somebody who puts together a twice-yearly zine, is something I’m quite interested in. Realms was a good genre magazine, and I’ll be sorry to see it go.
  • And finally, kind of weirdly tying all of this together in a way: The Space Squid Cuneiform Clay Tablet.

    Of course, it’s not a real squid…and a squid isn’t the same thing as an octopus anyway…but there’s something fascinating about a zine (Space Squid) “printing one of their issues on the ultimate form of Dead Media: inscribed in cuneiform on a baked clay tablet.” Maybe that’s what Realms needed to do. Maybe that’s what I should do with Kaleidotrope. It’s a funny and clever stunt if nothing else. [via]