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Friday, August 29, 2003
TTB2
posted
9:33 PM
RETURN OF TALKING TO THE BLOG

I was indeed imagining Western versions of the genre. Blair hunched over a steaming cuppa in the motorway cafe. Bush waxing laconic on a bench in Rock Creek Park. ("He looked so lifelike," declares the retired secretary who shared that bench, and those magic moments.)

In a warmer, more global scenario, leaders start to drop in on ordinary folk in other countries: Jacques Chirac enthuses over the California rolls at Tokyo Duane's Sushi Barn in a Denver strip-mall...

GOOD LUCK

To the meatspace explorers in Toronto!

A BRAIDED MEGA-NOVEL, PERHAPS?
posted
10:18 AM
LITERARY GENRES OF NORTH KOREA

http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0829/p01s03-woap.html


RIVERBEND 2
posted
9:36 AM
RIVERBEND REDUX

Someone should start a Riverbend thread. Better yet (for me, anyway) start a new Talking To the Blog thread. That was working for me, as a faster feedback loop, but lately people haven't been using it -- I suspect because the original thread has gotten too cumbersome.

Someone has questioned Riverbend's authenticity. The same thing, you'll recall, happened with Salam Pax, whose Iraqiness and whereabouts in meatspace were hotly debated, with some declaring him the subtle tool of devilishly clever Iraqi intelligence operatives. He turns out to be the subtle tool of his very own clever Iraqi intelligence, not to mention his droll and extremely resilient Iraqi sense of humor.

I posted the link without having read more than a few of the more recent posts and a few at the very start. I found it on The Agonist, where the bridge-pricing episode had earned it a place amid yesterday's semi-hard news. Still haven't had time to go through the whole thing.

I have doubts about the assumption that there could not be, today, in a population the size of Baghdad's, Iraqi's in their mid-twenties whose English is fluent and idiomatic.


Thursday, August 28, 2003
RIVERBEND
posted
11:13 PM
ANOTHER BAGHDAD BLOGGER

This is Riverbend. Iraqi, female, 24.

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/2003_08_01_riverbendblog_archive.html#106208201838841818



Monday, August 25, 2003
WHAT I THINK
posted
5:07 PM
WHAT DO I THINK OF THE PEOPLE WHO POST ON THE BOARDS, HERE?

Someone asks.

Well, really, one of the very last things I ordinarily spend any time thinking about is fiction that I've already written. And while it's naturally gratifying if someone expresses pleasure at having read same, I generally try to take the position that how people react to my fiction is basically none of my business. So I tend to pay less attention to the boards where people are mainly doing that, and more to Random Thoughts.

But, that said, I've been very pleased with how the culture of the boards has evolved, and that always, in my experience, has to do with a core of regular posters who are, in effect, the generous contributing talents who generate that sense of place that any board-culture needs in order to be worth revisiting. And in that regard I've felt, and continue to feel, very fortunate.

And while I've sometimes been tempted to comment on more threads more directly, I continue to think that that would turn into exactly the sort of tar-baby timesink that keeps books unwritten, so I don't.

It's really all about *you*, a conglommerate of mediated selves in your own right. Is it a Relevant Experiment? You decide.

BACON MASK
posted
8:57 AM
IN THE SEASON OF SLOW NEWS

Career-changing attack of apophenia strikes media-saturated burglar. The various subsidiary narratives that can be inferred from this story are so rich as to lead me to suspect the hand of the Silly Season.

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/0819baconmask19-ON.html




Saturday, August 23, 2003
ONE DAY WITHOUT BROWNIES
posted
11:21 AM
JOYS OF MACHINE TRANSLATION

"Hang the premiere world war, known as the Large War, aviation is yet only with the premices. Of droles of machines the battle fields fly over. Airships, monoplanes, biplanes qul have the made paper air a' cigarette. So that the civil ones do not confuse the German planes with English, of the descriptions with drawings a' the support are placarded on the walls. It is highly recommended to plunge in the cellar nearest, if a long aeronef as one day without brownies is profiled in the sky. This one is an enemy teuton."

Friday, August 22, 2003
SUPER FLY; ONE THAT GOT AWAY
posted
10:57 PM
FLY FISHING?

Sheer apophenia, that.

I said "GONE FISHIN'", as in gone to do nothing in particular. The only fishing I ever do that doesn't involve the excercise of literary imagination is with search-strings, on eBay.

BUT THIS IS NOT TECHNICALLY A FISH...

Yesterday I took this picture of a member of J Pod, while I was technically, in my sense of the phrase, "gone fishin'". Mammalian and roughly the size of the fusilage of your smallest Cessna...

http://members.shaw.ca/wxy123/orca-s.jpg

Taken with a Canon Ixus 400 courtesy of DAZED & CONFUSED and (oddly) the International Red Cross. (The Ixus 400 is called something else, in North America; mine came via London, hence has an actual *mirror-world plug* on the battery recharger -- getting the adaptor-gizmo for which introduced me to an amazingly cool shop called Foreign Electronics.)




HAL
posted
8:13 PM
HYBRID ASSISTIVE LEG

I used something like this in a screenplay recently, but presented it as a cross between a treadmill and a personal trainer:

http://sanlab.kz.tsukuba.ac.jp/HAL/indexE.html

My version *resists*, when you try to move, but simultaneously urges you on.

The manufacturer's use of "gait disorder", here, reminds me of the Invisible Scooter said to ferry pub-damaged British drinkers home.

"You were uttered knackered. Legless. How'd you get back, then?"
"No idea. Must've ridden the Invisible Scooter."

MUNDWINKEL?
posted
2:23 PM
"MUNDWINKEL"?

"Then again the face. Merrily. A teacher could be. It would remain however not for a long time, with this easily amused skepticism around eyes and mundwinkel. Strange nose."

I love it when German makes Babelfish give up. I love Babelfish hugely, anyway.

I got rid of those pants because they had pleats, albeit not very pronounced ones. Plain front, please. Photograph by the very excellent Karen Moskowitz of Seattle.

If you have a strange nose, by all means cultivate an easily-amused skepticism around your mundwinkel. Use a mirror, if you have to.

Thursday, August 21, 2003
FIRST STOLEN SEGWAY RECOVERED IN NYC
posted
12:46 AM
"THE STREET FINDS ITS OWN USES FOR THINGS."

Even things like the Segway. I guess.

A socio--technological first for New York City. And dull as ditchwater. Maybe they were using it to glide silently around in the blackout, doing crimes. But it still would be boring. Why do I find this device so irritating? I don't know. Lots of people do, though.

http://www.ny1.com/ny/TopStories/SubTopic/index.html?topicintid=1&subtopicintid=1&contentintid=32558


Wednesday, August 20, 2003
ROCKIN' IN THE 70s; VIRTUAL MOSCOW
posted
7:53 AM
U-J3RK5

I think I only just became a U-Jerk retrospectively, and recently, via a couple of articles about Rodney Graham. In truth I was only a sort of hanger-on and vague wannabe, attempting to write lyrics at one point. But the lyric base was massively covered by the visionary Frankie Ramirez-Johnson, so in the end I mainly just drank beer and watched them reherse. A peculiar outfit in the history of Canadian rock, as three of its members would go on to become luminaries in the international gallery-art scene. This was between my having written a first short story and the decision to get down to it and write a bunch more.

VIRTUAL MOSCOW

Someone asks how Cayce's Moscow was researched.

Russia is the only locale in the book that I wasn't able to base on actual and fairly recent experience (if you don't count post-9-11 New York, which I didn't visit until the book-tour). To my great good fortune, though, my friend Eileen Gunn went to Moscow just as I was getting Cayce onto Aeroflot. She most magnanimously volunteered to act as remote-sensor, emailing wonderfully quirky descriptions illustrated with copious digital snaps. That took care of the hotel, adjacent neighborhood and cafe (and if I hadn't had her on-site, I can't imagine what I would have done).

The squat, however, was based on Jack Womack's account of a similar environment he visited there several years ago. "Do you have an an American Express card?", a young man asked him, looking up from his computer screen. Jack allowed as how he did. "Would you like another?"

Everything else, down to the names and approximate locations of shops Cayce notices on her way to the squat, was gleaned via Google.

It was a relief, at that point, to finally be working in a relatively imagined construct. Someone posted recently about a Norman castle near Poole, wondering if it might be the one Cayce glimpses. Well, it might be, her journey having been based on a friend's email account of a daytrip that wound up, quite by chance, at some sort of disused Ministry of Defense facility, which did in fact have a caravan exactly like Baranov's. I say "exactly" because Baranov's caravan is based on the one my friend photographed there, and Baranov is near Poole in the first place because of that photograph, which also has the MoD warning-sign that closes a chapter.


Thursday, August 14, 2003
THINKING OF ENGLAND
posted
8:52 AM
AND BRAVUS NAILS IT ON ITS POINTY LITTLE HEAD

Yesterday's blog, that is.

"But more than that, I think he was making quite a funny joke about 'close your eyes and think of England' (the advice allegedly given to Victorian women for enduring sex). I think maybe he'll be a little disconcerted to see all this analysis of what he dislikes (which may well be projection of what we dislike, at least in part), when the intention was probably to make a (wry) funny."

Yep. Indeed, I was attempting a wry funny. In fact, I continued to attempt them all day, privately, having constructed the following blurbic boilerplate :

"[TITLE] is like watching [AUTHOR 1] worry the bloated corpse of [AUTHOR #2]." And some of them were *really* funny, or so I thought, but I'd never post them here, else someone assume I had it in for whomever I'd happened to plug into slots #2 and #3. (Hint: Filling #1 is at once the most challenging and most rewarding.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2003
DIREST MIDWIFERY
posted
1:22 PM
SOMETIMES ALL YOU CAN DO IS CLOSE YOUR EYES AND THINK OF ENGLAND

"Imagine Tom Clancy mated with William Gibson, with James Michener acting as a midwife, and you begin to get the idea."

--SEATTLE TIMES review of CRYPTONOMICON










Monday, August 11, 2003
EXPERIENCE > FICTION
posted
10:38 PM
EXPERIENCE > FICTION

Visiting San Francisco shortly before I began writing ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES, I had the experience, in Market Street, that the novel's Taoist assassin has:

"Drowned down three decades, she steps fresh as creation from the bronze doors of some brokerage. And he remembers, in that instant, that she is dead, and he is not, and that this is another century, and this quite clearly another girl, some newly minted stranger, one with whom he will never speak."

The woman I momentarily mistook a much younger woman for is neither dead nor a former lover, but the experience, I immediately understood, never before having had it, is one that you can't have until middle age.

At this point I had neither the character of the assassin nor a narrative in which to find him.

But soon, still in San Francisco, I happened to be introduced to an FBI sniper.

He was a small man, much smaller than FBI agents were allowed to be in Hoover's day. In the right clothing, he might have passed for a young teen, and I wondered how useful that might be, in certain situations.

He explained that he was required to constantly re-qualify, to an extremely high level of proficiency, with a variety of firearms.

He mentioned "cold shots", the first shot out of the barrel of a rifle, and how these differ from subsequent shots, when the barrel has warmed up, and how a sniper has to train to cope with that, as his first shot should also be his last.

But what most struck me about him was his serenity.

Alert, relaxed. Present.

There was nothing that would suggest anything about my Taoist. Nothing but that sense of some inner transparent stillness.

And then somehow the ">" of imagination, connecting the two experiences.


Sunday, August 10, 2003
FICTION
posted
10:30 PM
INHALING VS. THE POWERS OF OBSERVATION AND IMAGINATION

The recent thread on whether I'm qualified to have described the subjective effects of amphetamines... Well, actually, as I recall, I didn't. Describe them, that is. I described the imagined subjective effects of various imaginary substances presented as being both more effective and even nastier than amphetamines. Nobody, myself included, has ever done any "dancer" (which was cobbled together mainly from a couple of truly eye-popping first-hand accounts in Dr. Shulgin's book of homebrewed exotic amines -- in particular the one he nicknamed "Hecate").

As someone else points out, I'm not experientially qualified to describe what it feels like to be a woman either, but I persist in doing that as well.

Being able to do that is in my opinion a big part of what I get paid for, but the idea that some readers have to assume that if I describe it, I must have done it, or been it (and otherwise it's somehow inauthentic) is sort of...disappointing.

You are paying, it seems to me, for me to do a number of things on the page, and one of them is the excercise of a disciplined mimetic imagination on an acquired body of (often anecdotal) experience.

A friend of mine, for instance, a police officer, was recently describing his subjective experience of a gunfight, at very close range, in which he shot someone. His account of how he experienced this, and of certain bizarre alterations in perception he now takes for granted as being a part of this sort of experience, were, from a novelist's perspective, pure gold. But what I immediately pegged as being of even greater value was something he mentioned about what happens, in a room, when stray bullets are penetrating a gyprock ceiling overhead. That one little detail, which I could never possibly have imagined, is *it*, and will be with me until I find a fictional use for it.

By the same token, the poster who wonders if my account of systema, the Russian martial art, means that I practice it, is underestimating both the reach of Google and the power of *both* our imaginations.

Aspiring writers who might one day need to describe the subjective effects of amphetamines are referred to the autobiographical SPEED, by the late William S. Burroughs Jr. (WSB's son, a very talented writer in his own right, whose brief and extremely uncomfortable life brought new meaning to the word "hapless").

I do, however, practice the Pilates system of excercises. Twice a week.


Friday, August 08, 2003
UNLISTED
posted
10:11 PM
NEITHER THE NUMBER...

Gaijin posted, nor the other one that that search turns up, are mine. Whoever those people are, they have no connection with me whatever, and deserve to not be disturbed. Please don't call them.

And please think twice (or maybe even once would do it) before posting anything like that.




FLASH MOBBING
posted
1:00 PM
IT WASN'T ME. HONEST.

http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/internet/08/04/flash.mob/index.html

Odd echo here of "flash mob" in the Victorian sense...


Thursday, August 07, 2003
TOKYO TO-DO
posted
5:01 PM
THINGS TO DO IN TOKYO

Re the recent thread, here, in no particular order, are the things that I'd be sad if I hadn't managed to do all of on a given visit:

Go to Shinjuku and hang out in the streets. Do this by day, but also, most particularly, and preferably at great length, at night. Eat things from street stalls. Shinjuku at night is one of the human world's greatest wonders.

Shinjuku Watch Kan, a multi-floor watch depato, for esoteric Japan-only Casio, and, often, clearance prices on discontinued Japan-only Seiko. (The Japanese won't export their coolest watches, for some reason.) I like watches. I also like crazed, in-depth retail operations offering thousands of different varieties of the same object -- something the Japanese to with great vigor.

Go to Tokyu (not Tokyo) Hands, a sort of hobbyist department store (and much, much more). if you like the retail experience, and like any of the sorts of things I like, an initial visit to Tokyu Hands is good for about four hours of in-depth browsing and a solid denting of wallet-plastic.

Go to whatever branch of Parco, probably more to marvel than to spend. If you haven't already done so at Tokyu Hands, buy an all-synthetic wallet or shoulder-bag by either Porter or Luggage Label (both brands of Yoshida & Co.). They last forever.

The Akihabara experience. Try to give equal time to the areas that sell last year's stuff that nobody wanted, Soviet-made vacuum tubes, etc.

Kiddyland, near Harajuku. Multi-floor toys. Beyond Hello Kitty. Way beyond.

Harajuku -- preferably when the kids are out in force, as this is more a people-watching than a shopping experience (for me, anyway).

Eat. Lots. Okonomiaki, the pizza-looking stuff, which actually seems to be griddle-fried cole slaw (or something that looks like it) is, as one of our posters indicates, not be missed. (If you're in Vancouver and want to try okomomiaki, find a place called The Modern Club on Dunbar.)




Tuesday, August 05, 2003
LATVIAN
posted
11:27 PM
FORTY MILES FROM THE ZONE

Got this via Bruce Sterling today. Looks like another Walled City scenario, this one Latvian and post-Soviet. I have a special fondness for descriptions of places like this. They trigger ghost-dialog: "Forget it, man, she's *Karostan*. Latvian 'alien' passport. It's not going to happen."

"The Soviet army
evacuated Karosta in 1994, following Latvian independence, leaving behind
some 6000
people. Mostly Russian speaking, the stateless citizens of Karosta either
carry
Latvian issued so-called 'alien' passports, or old Soviet ones. Today the
town
appears to be a landscape of ruins. Many houses are completely destroyed,
and the
town is plagued by mass unemployment. After and experience setting-up arts
workshops
there, documentary film-makers Kristine Briede & Carl Biorsmark began
making a film..."


Begin forwarded message:

> LOCATIVE MEDIA WORKSHOP
> July 16-26, 2003, K@2, Karosta, LV | Longitude 21.00, Latitude 56.55
>
> CLOSING REPORT [01/08/03]: Mapping �the Zone’
>
>
> With portable, GPS-equipped networked computing devices, people can
> produce and
> share their our own cartographic data, and map their physical environments,
> providing artists a tool by which space becomes their canvas.
>
> The Locative Media Workshop brought an international
> group of
> artists and researchers to the K@2 Culture and Information Centre in
> Karosta (a
> partially abandoned military installation on the coast of the Baltic Sea
> resembling
> �the Zone’ from Tarkovsky’s �Stalker’) to explore the potential of this
> new mapping
> paradigm, both conceptually and through the creative use of GPS
> technologies.
>
> The workshop utilized mobile, location-aware networking devices/software
> (courtesy of and developed by the Waag Society/Esther Polak), to trace the
> movements
> of workshop participants in real-time as they mapped Karosta’s so-called
> �elephant
> trails’, a web of footpaths criss-crossing the installation’s rigid
> military grid
> structure. A unique application was produced during the workshop (by Pall
> Thayer)
> for dynamically visualizing these track-logs
> in
> addition to making use of the �Real-Time Riga’ application featured at
> RIXC’s Media
> Architecture festival in May 2004 .
>
> To provide participants with a conceptual framework for conceiving of how
> to
> geo-annotate their physical environment Jo Walsh and Andrew Paterson
> developed a
> semantic web model for creating �locative packets’ > i.net/karosta/>.
> Based on this model, participants sampled local sights and sounds, wove
> their
> interpretations into vignettes and uploaded the packets to a file server
> in order to
> create an interactive, artist-generated map of the site --accessible via
> the
> Internet, but also designed to interface with mobile locative networking
> devices.
>
> The workshop participants pondered techniques for the cultural
> appropriation of
> military technology (GPS) from within the decaying ruins of a former
> military
> empire, perched on the edge of integration into a new regime (NATO & EU).
> With
> participants attending from as far a field as Pyramid Lake Indian
> reservation in
> Nevada to Iceland and New Zealand, the workshop produced a diverse range
> of
> perspectives on this unique location.
>

NO NETFLIX MAPS
posted
10:36 AM
NO MAPS ON NETFLIX

Thanks to Kevin Kelly for pointing this out:

You can now rent NO MAPS FOR THESE TERRITORIES, Mark Neale's Lexus-bound, pencil-camera documentary of your truly, from Netflix. I haven't tried Netflix, have no idea what it costs, but it might be easier than trying to buy the DVD:

http://www.netflix.com/MovieDisplay?movieid=60028592&trkid=73




Monday, August 04, 2003
SALAM PAX READS ME?; RODNEY GRAHAM'S TIME MACHINE
posted
10:34 PM
MESSAGES IN BOTTLES: THE SUBLIME GLOBAL WEIRDNESS OF CALL AND RESPONSE

I'm still trying to fit my head around the idea that Salam Pax read my books. It makes me proud and happy. But Salam Pax, more importantly, made me proud and happy before I knew that -- at a purely *species* level. And continues to.

MY FRIEND RODNEY BUILDS A TIME MACHINE

Rodney Graham has been my favorite Vancouver artist since he started doing what he does (about the same time I started doing what I do). He recently donated this extraordinary object to the city. I haven't gone out to sit in it, yet, but everyone I know who has comes back raving about it. Not just art-raving, but some species of more primary human delight.

The crucial but unknown collaborator on this piece is the Roman luggage-thief who made off with Rodney's camera, years ago, leading him to build a pinhole job out of a wooden matchbox, aluminum foil, and black tape. The matchbox mutated, over the years, into larger and more intricate structures, of which this landau is the most recent:

http://www.belkin-gallery.ubc.ca/webpage/online/millennial.html







Sunday, August 03, 2003
HEADLESS CARGO; SIGN IN, STRANGER
posted
8:04 PM
HEADLESS CARGO

RUR's thread about the oddest thing you ever (thought) you heard reminds me of a dinner I worriedly spent (I think there were mild recreational psychedelics of some kind involved, beforehand) under the impression that I had overheard the man at the next table use the sinister and mysterious term "headless cargo" several times. On leaving, and telling my wife about my bizarre eavesdropping experience, she explained, while trying not to wet her pants laughing, that he had in fact been discussing the last time he and his partner had "had l'escargot".

SIGN IN, STRANGER

Somone asks what I think of the people who turn out for booksignings.

Well, I'm grateful that they do, since the publisher might look askance if they never did. Publishers do count the house at signings, though not as closely as they count copies sold. But if that were the only reason I'm glad to be there, it would still be a pretty dire experience -- and it never has been, so far.

I enjoy the reading, the Q&A, and signing, though on a given night I might enjoy one more than another, depending on any number of things. Nothing like eyeball-to-eyeball connection with a reader who quite clearly has *gotten it*, to momentarily banish the eternal imposter-syndrome of being a published novelist.

I think that what I like least, particularly in this age of big-event, heavy-turnout signings, is the brutal, cattleyard efficiency with which people are moved through, getting usually no more than a "Hi, how are ya" and a signed book. But given the way tours work, and the numbers of people involved, I can't imagine what else one could do. Doug Coupland once gave each signee (?) on one particular tour a personal gift: a souvenir moist toilette.

The very first time I ever sat at a signing table was at a Norwescon in Seattle. I had been roped in because I had published a single story in OMNI, and they were short of actual authors to fill up the group signing table. Nobody there had ever heard of me, but a few determined souls had me sign their program books. I think that was where I first opted to use the now-familiar hand-printed "WM. GIBSON" logo, which I'd worked out years before to sign cartoons, rather than the labored cursive signature I use otherwise.


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