Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

RIP Humphrey the Cat

Non-Brits, non-Anghophiles and/or non-catlovers can catch up on what I'm talking about here.

All these deaths have tempted me to start a blog solely for obituaries. "So, Farewell Then" is what I'd like to call it, but E.J. Thribb of Private Eye would probably sue.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

RIP Octavia Butler

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but I only just saw the obituary in the newspaper. Anyway, this seems to be another of these months were all sorts of people whose work I like and respect dies. I remember being riveted by Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy as a teenager, and I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't bought any new SF books that aren't at least fifteen years old since Oryx and Crake was released in paperback. It just seems like all of the recent stuff looks either boringly pulpy (just how many Honor Harrington novels are there?) or so literary and high-flown that one can't remotely enjoy it (I'd like to subtitle Michel Houllebecq's latest opus Cold, Boring and Whiny Lazarus). Even my old favourites are failing to grip me: I've completely given up on Sheri S. Tepper, for instance, as everything I've read of hers that's been written since Gibbon's Decline and Fall just reads like self-pastiche to me. I did get lent Paul J. MacAuley's White Devils recently and enjoyed it, but I can't say I feel much desire to read it again.

Something about a person dying seems to send me completely into curmudgeon mode. Right, my mission for the next few weeks, should I choose to accept it, is to find some new sci-fi writers to enjoy. Suggestions, as always, greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Can you catch psoriasis from watching too much Dennis Potter?

I've added "Ghost in the Shell" to my list of current recommendations, but with a few reservations. I think it deserves recommendation for the audio track alone, and the visual look of the piece is absolutely beautiful. The philosophy about what constitutes a human being/person is also great (I particularly love the moment when the protagonist remarks that she thinks that the only thing that makes her human is the fact that people treat her as such), and cleverly interwoven with the story; the political machinations are also believable, and the idea of [spoiler here, but not for the really big twist] using a computer program designed to simulate a terrorist to keep the government in power anticipates both the neoconservative philosophy of solidarity through fear of external threat and the BBC's documentary "The Power of Nightmares" by ten years.

However. The dialogue is flat and boring as all get out (I don't know if it's just a bad translation, or if the Japanese is equally stilted, but either way) and the voice acting is really below par: the protagonist in particular sounds like the director said, when she asked for her motivation, "well, you're a cyborg policewoman with issues about whether you're a robot or a human, so you should say everything in a flat, mechanical voice." Her sidekick manages a bit more emotion, but still sounds like he's ordering out for pizza rather than engaging in high-speed, life-or-death chases most of the time. So my recommendation is: be warned, and ideally watch it in small chunks so that the flatness of the dialogue and delivery doesn't obscure the thought-provoking messages.