A small shout-out

So I’d like everyone to congratulate a friend of mine, Brian Morgan, who was recently appointed Senior Designer at Walrus Magazine. Not only that, but the cover of the current issue (October 2004) is also a Brian Morgan creation.

I feel like I know a celebrity! But please, buy the magazine, and should you care to, let Brian know how great he is.


Oblivion: stories is the latest short story collection by David Foster Wallace (DFW).

Now, to preface this, DFW is one of my favourite writers. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of his books (the sole exception being Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, which I blame more on me than him: I’m wretched at math, and couldn’t get past the explanation of the number line, which is one of those rather basic concepts from which all sorts of complexities build, and thus not understanding this foundation made it rather hard to follow anything else), and so was quite inclined to like this as well. Fortunately, he did not disapoint. If you’re looking for a brief summary review (I’ll leave any potential spoilers to the ‘more’ part), the best thing I can say about this book is that it made me want to write. Like no other author I read, DFW manages to re-instill a love of language (perhaps more accurately semantics) in me that inspires me to put pen to paper. Of course, I’ve no illusions I’m DFWesque, but just the exercise in playing with words. And really, I don’t think I could ask for any more in a writier.

Continue reading “Oblivion”


Eberron Campaign Setting Cover The Eberron Campaign Setting is Wizards of The Coast’s (WoTC) latest D&D Campaign Setting, following in the footsteps of Greyhawk, Dragonlance & The Forgotten Realms.

What makes this one different is how it was created: WoTC ran a $100,000 contest for the public to submit a campaign idea. The winner’s entry would become the new setting for WoTC. At the same time as they were offering Joe Blow all this money, WoTC was laying off their own development staff. Understandably, there was a lot of bad feelings by the ‘gaming community’ towards this whole process.

(BTW, I know posting this very review makes me the most nerdiest nerd that ever did nerd, but well, there we go. I’m a super-geek 🙂

Continue reading “Eberron”

The Confusion

I have just (last night) finished reading Neal Stephenson’s The Confusion, the second novel (of 3) in ‘The Baroque Cycle’. It follows right where Quicksilver, the fist book, leaves off and keeps up a fairly torride pace throughout most of it, despite the passing of several years within its pages.

If you liked the first book, I suspect you’ll really enjoy the second, as it is much in the same mode. Yes, it is a large (nearly 900 pages) book, but it never read like a large book to me. With only one or two exceptions, every section was a real page-turner.

The book is actually 2 volumes, interspersed roughly evenly throughout, one telling the ongoing adventures of Jack Shaftoe, the other detailing the adventures of Eliza. Their lives, despite being separated by continents, continue to intertwine, and the pacing between the two volumes is well-matched. I would advise anyone reading to keep track of the dates listed at each chapter-head, if only to have an idea of how what one person has done is about to affect the other.

The most fascinating aspect of this book, for me, was living vicariously through the transition from true-value money (that is, coin that is ‘worth’ what is in minted with) to more modern currency, which doesn’t have any inherent value except for the promise of value that it holds. This transition, which we simply take for granted, was truly revolutionary, and had catastrophic effects across Europe. During the course of the tale, both England and France essentially run out of money as the commodity markets grapple with and transition to this trade-base economy, away from a resource-based economy (where one’s worth is directly attributable to one’s own physical resources). Stephenson’s descriptions of how the various characters come to grips with this is excellent, allowing him to show all sides — those who get it and like it, those who get it and don’t, those who simply don’t get it, and those who simply likely to suffer because of it (along with other permutations of the same).

If you like historical fiction, or if you’re a Pynchon fan (as there’s definitely some Pynchon-esque elements to Stephenson’s writings, only I personally find vastly more approachable), I highly recommend this book. Of note, Cryptonomicon, his 2000 novel features characters that are probably descendants of those featured in the Baroque Cycle. Given that Cryptonomicon was supposed to be part of a larger series, expect these books to tie into each other sometime in the future. It is in itself, definitely worthy of a read. For that matter, read everything by Stephenson. It’s all good.

The Walrus

I’ve finally finished reading through the inaugrual issue of The Walrus, Canada’s newest magazine. It’s Harper’s-esque, and aims to be an issues magazine, with essays on relevent topics. It’s editorial policy states that it has no politics, but as we all know, there’s no such thing as apolitical, particularly in journalism. The first issue certainly reads left.

For a magazine whose preview literature was so witty, and indeed proclaimed coming wit in the magazine, there was a remarkable lack of wit within. No pithy Lewis Lapham-style editorial (despite an article by Hisself in the issue), and the selected ‘readings’ at the begining were suprisingly dry, really. Still, it’s finding it’s legs and while some of the potential humor or at least levity was missed, the information was definitely there, and was interesting.

The meat of the issue was a pair of articles. The first, which I had to take with a grain of salt lest I fall under the spell of a massive conspiracy theory, was about Paul Martin’s empire & business history. It was truly a fascinating read, and I learned all sort of interesting/scary things about Paul Martin. Combined with the new NDP-sponsored Fly Our Flag website, Paul Martin’s shipping history & practices are coming under some serious fire right now.

The other main story was a tale of how SARS spread in & from China to the world this year. The article suffered somewhat by trying to prove the triumph (or at least initial victory steps) of progressive politics in China against the old guard while telling on how and why SARS spread, but the snippets of politics intermixed with health was fascinated. I’m always intrigued at how national health, security & government intertwines at the upper echelons — look, as Leah suggested to me, how much the NIH toes the US Government’s drug-war line, even to the point of contradicting other current, accepted medical research.

Somewhat disapointing, but rather rewarding as well, was that I was able to solve the crossword in the back of the magazine in about 1 hour, yet I’m no crossword-expert. I don’t expect a Sunday New York Times-style impossibility, but something a bit more challening would be fun — it’s a monthly, so it seems reasonable to expect me to spend at least a few hours, over the month, figuring it out.

His Dark Materials

I just finished reading Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Oh man. So good. So, so good. Everything that Narnia was to me as a child, this was too. An amazingly crafted series, with intelligent, respectful treatment of children (and perhaps most impressively) children’s experience of emotion. An interesting take on religion (no wonder The Church doesn’t like this book), and a fully-fleshed out fantastic world (or, rather, word-system, there being more than one). I even had to look up a word in the dictionary, which is quite the rarity for me, and moreso, considering the target audience for these books (young readers — my best guess would be 10–14 year olds).

One fun fact. The dæmon artifice embodies what I used to wish for as a child: something to express my emotions for me (I’ve never been terribly good at it). And the honesty of it (although clearly, dæmons can lie too, to some degree): want to know what I’m thinking or feeling? See what my dæmon’s doing.

As a note, there are several editions in print. I read the recently released Knopf edition, and it’s quite nicely typeset, etc. In order, the books are (handily linked to Amazon.com (rather than .ca, because this edition isn’t available there)):

  1. The Golden Compass
  2. The Subtle Knife
  3. The Amber Spyglass

Le Cancre

Il dit non avec la tête
mais il dit oui avec le coeur
il dit oui à ce qu’il aime
il dit non au professeur
il est debout
on le questionne
et tous les problèmes sont posés
soudain le fou rire le prend
et il efface tout
les chiffres et les mots
les dates et les noms
les phrases et les pièges
et malgré les menaces du maître
sous les huées des enfants prodiges
avec les craies de toutes les couleurs
sur le tableau noir du malheur
il dessine le visage du bonheur

—Jacques Prévert

Sock you, you fuzzy socksucker!*

Apparently, the NY ‘Regent’ Exams, some kind of standardized test, have been hacking away at literary excerpts, so as not to make any students uncomfortable:

The modifications to the passages ranged widely. In the Chekhov story “The Upheaval,” the exam takes out the portion in which a wealthy woman looking for a missing brooch strip-searches all of the house’s staff members. Students are then asked to use the story to write an essay on the meaning of human dignity.


*(from an excellent Showcase ad campaign, in reference to the line read by the suspects in the lineup after being hauled in at the beginning of ‘The Usual Suspects’)

King Kauffman

I must say, I think I’m enjoying King Kauffman’s commentary on the olympics almost more than I am enjoying the olympics. A sample:

I decided I was a fan of the Canadian pair, Sale and David Pelletier, when I saw their outfits. She wore a charcoal miniskirt and a gray, clingy sweater that somehow made her — all 5-foot-1, 103-pound world-class athlete of her — look dumpy. He wore gray slacks, a gray shirt and a gray sleeveless sweater. She looked like the new temp in accounts payable and he looked like an assistant manager over at the J.C. Penney, but at least they didn’t look like a hooker working a Tinkerbell angle and David Copperfield, as most skating pairs do, and I found it endearing.
%d bloggers like this: