Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Books I've Read: June

Tailchaser's Song by Tad Williams. This is a dorky fantasy novel about talking cats who go on a quest. It was my friend Lindsey's favorite book as a kid, so I read it, and I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. It's like Watership Down with cats, and I do love cats. It also had a fascinatingly down-beat ending. It totally skips the standard fantasy-trope "Everything is all right, here's your reward in the form of a title / a love interest / a big wad of magic or money" ending and goes for something really ambiguous and cool. I won't spoil it in case you ever read it.

Masters of Doom by David Kushner. This is the biography of John Romero and John Carmack that I think I mentioned earlier. It was really interesting, full of cool details of video game development in the early nineties, and a blow-by-blow description of how these two titans of game development fell out (Ion Storm--yikes). I was thinking about this and the Salinger biography, and it's fascinating how often geniuses are douchebags. John Carmack was the worst kind of programmer-nerd--no social skills whatever, he talked like a robot for years just because he thought he could, lived in an empty apartment with a computer and a mattress--and made a habit until his late twenties of just being a dick and generally mistreating people. This guy was also singlehandedly responsible for creating the PC gaming industry in the early 90s. Every single graphical breakthrough came from his brain. Odd how often genius and douchebaggery coincide.

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness, Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley. I had never heard of this series of graphic novels before I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie (which could either be an awesome guilty pleasure or just really, really, really, really bad), and I was intrigued because of how they were supposed to treat video games, anime, and nerd culture--as an integral part of the narrative and visual style. I loved them for their witty banter and jokes about NES and Genesis games that made my childhood nerdiness feel hip. They're quite funny, and total fluff. I read all five books in about seven hours. The sixth comes out in a few weeks, and I intend on parking my ass in a Barnes and Noble and reading the entire thing to find out how it ends. Highly recommended.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Okay, this one is in progress, but I felt guilty about how little I've read this month, so I'm putting it on here to make myself feel better. This book is crazy! It's set in an alternate history where after World War II, European Jews sheltered in Sitka, Alaska instead of Israel. And it's a Chandler-esque literary crime thriller, full of hard-drinking, fast-shooting, Yarmulke-wearing police detectives and black-hatted, side-curled, corrupt Orthodox Jew crime families. Pretty awesome stuff. I won't say too much about it, since I'm only 2/3 of the way through, but I'm really enjoying it so far, and I know I'm missing out on a ton of awesome stuff because I don't know that much about Judaism. There are whole paragraphs that I just don't get at all, which is kind of too bad.

Josh, you're next.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hey look

New format! Also, to try to counter some of my nerdosity, I hiked up to the top of Tiger Mountain today, and regretted not bringing my camera. Oh well. It was a lovely hike, nice exercise, and now I am very, very tired. I bet tomorrow I will need to eat ibuprofen like popcorn. Worth it.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Perhaps this summer I have aged backwards and become, once again, a twelve year-old boy. When I was a twelve year-old boy I was a huge nerd, and I am reaching impressive new levels of nerdiness. Ladies and gentlemen, the facts:

  • My friend from college has got me getting back into Magic: The Gathering. Gabe dug up my old cards for me, and I have been building decks and realizing how hopelessly outclassed my cards from the mid-nineties are compared to the new stuff. My creatures stand no chance! As much as I love the game, what I really want to do is buy a booster pack, rip into the foil and smell that vacuum-sealed fresh-ink scent all new Magic cards used to have. It is the smell of my young nerdhood.
  • I have been babysitting Kaylee at Gabe and Amanda's house, which seems to have a never-ending supply of DiGiornio pizza. DiGiornio pizza is my weakness--once I bake one, it is hard for me not to eat the entire thing. I love it, and I have been eating it almost every day for lunch. Turns out when you eat pizza almost every day, you get really greasy. Greasy hair, greasy skin, lots of zits... and yet I can't help myself. DiGiornio truly is the food of the gods. Soon I will be stuffing it into my head--which will be attached to my ginormous blob of a body by a neck the circumference of a five gallon bucket--while I drink Mountain Dew and play World of Warcraft.
  • I'm not at WoW yet (nor will I ever be), but I am enjoying the hell out of Assassin's Creed 2, which, believe it or not, is better than the first one (Holtmeier take note). I play it on Gabe's PS3 when the young ward is sleeping or willing to entertain herself. There's even more great stabby action, and I'm learning a ton about renaissance Italy. It's pretty cool when I can play a video game and nerd out over architecture, art, medieval politics, etc.
  • That same friend who got me back into Magic is exposing me to a bunch of really solid electronica (cheers, Lindsey). I highly recommend Discovery, Jonsi, Passion Pit, and especially Miike Snow. I know electronica isn't really nerdy--it's rather hip at the moment, as far as I can tell--but I can't shake my old techno and electronica stereotypes: ravers, comp-sci students, weird skinny guys who do modtracking and never leave their rooms. Well, the music is damn good anyway.
  • Up until this morning, I have had no car for a while, which means most of my social interactions have been through texting, gchat, and Facebook. Ugh.
  • I am reading a book about John Romero and John Carmack, the two guys who designed and programmed Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. It's a fascinating book full of lots of cool details about how video game development worked in the nineties.
Well, that's about it. There are other, non-nerdy ways I'm spending my time, too: taking Kaylee on walks, playing catch with dogs, listening to the Avett Brothers (awesome, Kate!), other stuff. More updates soon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hey look, I'm a guest blogger

I wrote a guest post, ramblings about short story form, for Jory over at Literary Magpie. Check it out here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Random Facts: Like a Horse and Carriage

Apparently I have entered the stage in life where the next natural step is to get married. Over the past year a frightening number of my friends have become engaged, and since I came back only a few weeks ago, four people I know have made the pledge to tie the knot (okay, so two couples). Almost certainly, before I leave, somebody else will pop the question. It's exciting, and I'm really happy for all of them, but man I'm glad it's not me carrying a ring around in my pocket, waiting for the right time to ask. I'm just not at that point.

Anyway, this has got me thinking about love, and when I start thinking about something, I usually wind up poking around on Wikipedia and the internet until I find some interesting facts. Well, here they are:
  • Falling in love activates the same areas of the brain that see increased activity in people diagnosed with OCD. Also, estimated serotonin levels drop to those of OCD sufferers. Scientists and psychologists don't really have an explanation for this, but one psychologist notes that obsession has been the go-to metaphor for love for poets and songwriters throughout all of human history.
  • To lessen the effects of lovesickness, Ibn Sena, the tenth century Iranian physician/philosopher recommends that the affected man (and it's an unstated assumption, for some reason, that the afflicted is always a man) go hunting, take part in intellectual arguments, or, because "The image that he [the lover] has within himself is nothing but a delusion," engage in shit-talking about his beloved to help bring him down to earth.
  • Look at this hilarious picture I found on Wikipedia.

  • In 1960, the average groom was 23 years old and the average bride was 20. In 2008, the average groom is 29 and the average bride is 27.
  • Also in 2008, experts estimated that weddings in the US are a fifty billion dollar industry.
  • Sixty-five percent of people surveyed tilt their heads to the right when kissing.
  • And finally, a man's beard grows fastest when he's anticipating sex.