28 March 2013

Redshirts by John Scalzi

I don’t remember where exactly I came across John Scalzi’s Redshirts, but somehow it ended up on my list, and I’m glad it did.  It was a very enjoyable read: fun, fast-paced, witty, and yet thought-provoking as well.  It was quite refreshing after finishing up CS Lewis’s Space Trilogy.

Redshirts is named after - what else? - the red-shirted security personnel from the original Star Trek, who had an extremely high mortality rate.  It lovingly parodies the phenomenon, following a cast of low-ranking officers (and enlisted personnel as well) on the Universal Union flagship Intrepid.

Redshirts starts off simply enough, but before long, Scalzi takes us down the rabbit hole, into self-referential, meta-textual madness.  And what a ride it is!  I am wary of saying too much; the fun of the book is in the surprising turns it takes, and it’s hard to say much without giving away one turn or another.

I will say, however, that the characters are all fun, relatable - even when you don’t like them - and well-written.  The action is fun and keeps the plot going along.  After spending something like three weeks plodding through That Hideous Strength, I finished Redshirts in two days.  That’s how much I enjoyed it, and how well Scalzi’s prose propelled me forward through the narrative.

Redshirts was really, really fun.  I don’t really know how else to put it.  It was a great read and I am so glad it turned up in my list when it did.
---

Books: Still working on Wilderness Warrior.  It's quite long.

Bottles: Trying something new tonight...

Writing: Been very lazy...writing a synopsis is hard.

Guitar: Trying out "One of These Days" on my slide.  It's pretty fun to play.

26 March 2013

Kosta Browne 2010 Russian River Valley


Well, it was quite a while ago that I drank this bottle - several months, in fact - so I will try to reconstruct the experience as best I can with what notes I took.

I got the bottle at a restaurant in Smithville, MO called Justus Drugstore, which was (by the way) awesome.  If memory serves I had some beef brisket or something like that, with mashed potatoes and some sort of healthy vegetable as well...

My notes indicate it had a light, frothy body, with a rich ruby color.  I wrote down the note “Peppy.”  Not sure what that means.  It’s in the section with the other notes on appearance.

The nose I recorded as “spicy,” with hints of cinnamon, and earthy minerality.

The mouthfeel was smooth and supple; the wine had mellow fruit and mellow acidity to match, presenting a balanced structure with softer tannins than I was expecting.

One last note I wrote said that as it breathed I began to detect maple syrup - whether taste or scent the note is unclear, though I suspect may have been both.  I remember it being a very good bottle, and excellent with dinner.

I was attracted to Kosta Browne since one of their 2009 Pinot Noirs had won Wine Spectator’s 2011 Wine of the Year.  This was my first chance to have a bottle - indeed, my first time seeing it on a list since becoming aware of the winery - and it did not disappoint.  I remember that much!
Addendum: Turns out that this wine made Wine Spectator's Top 100 for 2012, in the #91 spot!

---

Books: Same.

Bottles: Inacayal Pinot Grigio 2011.

Writing: Working on the summary blurb for my letter.

Guitar: Looking at "Where We Start" right now.  Also started working on editing the tabs for Marooned to use the whammy instead of slide.

23 March 2013

CS Lewis's Space Trilogy

Okay, so back in the saddle with thoughts on CS Lewis's The Space Trilogy...where to begin.

Well, to start with, I read the first book, Out of the Silent Planet, some weeks before I managed to read Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, owing to the wait time at the library.  Why Perelandra alone had such a long wait time I do not know, but there we are.

I would have to say that, for my own sensibilities, the books seemed to get rather less and less enjoyable as they progressed: Out of the Silent Planet was the most enjoyable one to me.

Suffice it to say, I share JRR Tolkien's disdain for allegory, and of course there is no escaping it in CS Lewis's works; that said I found the allegory more agreeable in Out of the Silent Planet, which told the tale of Dr. Ransom's wanderings on Mars.  I suppose part of that might be because it told more of a tale of adventure, one which had greater precedents that I could relate to: HG Wells (whom the author himself acknowledges), Ray Bradbury (technically an antecedent, but I read The Martian Chronicles long before I read Lewis), and others.  I think there is perhaps something romantic about the notion of visiting Mars and meeting its inhabitants; and the fact that the Christian mythology presented was less blatant probably also made me able to digest it more easily.

Perelandra was not terribly difficult for me to read, either; it retained some of that sense of adventure, and I certainly enjoyed the world that Lewis created to represent Venus; nonetheless, it was, I suppose, less enjoyable to me because it spent so much time talking.  I'm not opposed to philosophical debate, but I was rather disappointed that the book descended from an exciting trip to Venus to a rehashing of the story of original sin, this time with green people.  Like, literally green, though they were also environmentally conscious.

Most troublesome of all, though, was That Hideous Strength.  I can't remember wanting to put a book down so much since Gravity's Rainbow - which I did, in fact, eventually give up on - but I finished That Hideous Strength eventually.  I don't remember ever reading a book where so much of nothing happened.  I know that's an oversimplification; and, indeed, I suppose my reaction is the same as the "skeptic" character, MacPhee, which Lewis himself included, who frequently asked why they were sitting around doing nothing, to which the answer was, they were waiting and obeying.

I think this is the greatest problem I have with That Hideous Strength: the philosophy inherent in it, that one should sit around and wait for divine intervention in the struggle against evil, instead of opposing it head-on.  Waiting faithfully on deliverance from heaven is, at least in my worldview, tantamount to doing nothing.  On the one hand I understand that Lewis wanted to show that the strength of the evil represented in the book was too much to be opposed by mere mortals; but on the other hand, I don't think that's a legitimate excuse not to even try.  Indeed, it seemed a juxtaposition of the banality of evil represented by the antagonists: in their goodness, the protagonists proved just as banal.

In a literary sense I suppose I understand where Lewis was going with all this; after all, in Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, the agency of man was in fact useful for opposing evil, and his point was, I think, to show that sometimes one has to rely on divine providence; but the sitting around waiting for it to happen just rubbed me the wrong way.

All in all, the Space Trilogy proved an interesting read, if not my favorite; and it was certainly refreshing to see such different viewpoints from my own.

---

Books: Still reading The Wilderness Warrior, which is quick thick, so I suspect that will be a long project.

Bottles: Nothing new.  Got some wine club wines but haven't opened them yet.

Writing: Still working on query letters.

Guitar: Same projects: "The Blue" and hopefully, soon, "Marooned."

22 March 2013

Back from Hiatus

Well, it's been quite a while since I posted...several months, in fact.  I have been putting pretty much all my energy into working on Into the Shining Sun, and it has paid off, because it is done, proofread, and I'm now working on the long, arduous process of trying to get it out there.  For now I'm working on queries to agencies and hope to have my first letter ready to send by next week or the week after.

I've read a lot of books and had quite a bit of wine in the interim.  I'll try to run down what all I've enjoyed, or at least can remember.

Books:
A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
(Yes, I did watch the HBO series as well...though I am a year behind since I don't have HBO and have to wait for it on Bluray)
Why is the Penis Shaped Like That: And Other Reflections on Being Human by Jesse Bering (which was way more hilarious even than it sounds)
The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - yes, December came and went, and with it my annual reading of them.  And it was good, as always.
Star Trek: Destiny omnibus by David Mack (because sometimes I read silly tie-in novels, and that one was fun)
Echoes of All Our Conversations - which is a collection of interviews conducted with the cast and crew of Babylon 5.  It's a 6 and a half volume series and I've gotten through I think volume 3.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I feel like I'm missing some...perhaps they will occur to me at a later date.

Meanwhile, the last two things I read: C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) and John Scalzi's Redshirts are still in recent memory and I will be sharing my thoughts on them soon.

On to the wine...several exciting bottles have occurred, several of which, sadly, I failed to even record - mostly Spanish and French bottles which I could not for the life of me remember the name of, and which were enjoyed at restaurants in which I would have felt awkward making notes.

But here we go...what I do remember.

K Vintners Syrah "The Deal" 2009
Continuum 2008 (750mL and, at a later and even more special occasion, 1.5L magnum!)
Kosta Browne 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (turns out I have some old notes on my phone, so I will share them soon as well)
Domaine de la Vieux Telegraph La Crau [red] 2009
Domaine de la Vieux Telegraph La Crau [red] 2010
Chappellet Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Orin Swift Palermo 2010 (I think...)

I know there were others, but those are the ones that stand out.

Now that I have a little more time for blogging I hope to get back to regular posting.  I was surprised to find that actual humans seem to have been reading my blog, or at least accidentally clicking on the link for it.  I hope they have enjoyed it.

---

Books: Reading The Wilderness Warrior by Douglas Brinkley.
Bottles: Drank some Columbia Crest 2010 Cabernet, which I was supposed to use for braised short ribs before I accidentally opened it...
Writing: Working on query letters for agencies, and meanwhile doing some note-taking and research (and brainstorming) on my next project.
Guitar: Quite a lot has gone on in this department.  I recently got a Whammy pedal, so right now I'm working on "The Blue" from On an Island.  I also want to tackle "Marooned" from The Division Bell soon.