29 December 2010

Not a Best-Of.

So... Everyone else is doing best-of lists. For 2010, for the decade, whatever.

I have a secret reason not to do these: I can't remember the dates of anything.

No, seriously. That, and also, I tend to hear/see/read stuff late. So, for example, a best-of for albums for 2010 for me would include such excellent works as Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest by As Cities Burn and The Book of Secrets by Loreena McKennitt. So this is not a best-of.

That said...

It is definitely a best-of.

Just five each, though, okay? Maybe?

- The Book of Secrets, Loreena McKennitt (though I hear she's got a new one out -- which, of course, I have not heard).
- Son, I Loved You at Your Darkest, As Cities Burn (now defunct -- of course).
- Hunting My Dress, Jesca Hoop (which actually did come out this year).
- Lustre, Ed Harcourt (lousy Pitchfork review notwithstanding).
- Becoming a Jackal, Villagers (which is a very excellent album, for fans of early Bright Eyes [which, of course, I am]).
Honorable Mention:  Recovering the Satellites, Counting Crows. Yes, Counting Crows. This album is entirely underrated and is awesome.

- Legends of the Guardians:  The Owls of Ga'Hoole (I haven't read the books, but this movie was the cutest thing ever).
- Inception (Was this movie hard to follow? It didn't seem like it to me).
- How to Train Your Dragon (again, I haven't read the books. I really want to now. This takes the prize as one of my new favorite children's movies ever).
- He's Just Not That Into You (I only just saw this movie a month or so ago. It was very sweet, and I enjoyed it immensely).
- Where the Wild Things Are (I know it was self-indulgent and all that; I still liked this movie a lot).
Honorable Mention:  The Darjeeling Limited, which was certainly one of the loveliest films about sibling relationships I have ever seen.

- Mystical Theology and the Divine Names, Pseudodionysius. (It was written 1700 years ago -- and yet, somehow, portions of it echo modern mathematics. What gives?)
- A Game of Thrones/A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin. (Like Suetonius, in the middle ages, WITH DRAGONS.)
- The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. (I've been going around pretty much all year, apologizing for bashing this series for so long.)
- Le Jouer, Fiodor Dostoïevsky. (Sad, frantic, terrible, beautiful. 'Course, that could describe pretty much any Dostoevsky, but this was something else.)
- L'Orthodoxie, Serge Boulgakov. (Although sadly available to only a limited degree in English, this was a singularly excellent and very interesting look at Orthodoxy for the theologically-minded.)
Honorable Mention:  The Napoleon of Notting Hill, G.K. Chesterton. (Dear old Chesterton. He is actually happy to be here -- and is wonderful at expressing it.)

So... There's the best-of. That's all. Happy New Year. See you there.

26 December 2010

The Day After Christmas.

Hello, Boxing Day!

I had a lovely, lovely Christmas with my family. We all gave each other presents and had a merry old time. (Please note that, although I am Eastern Orthodox and typically celebrate Christmas in the usual sense on December 25, I am aware of the calendar difference and usually try to remember January 7, as well.)

For Christmas, I received a number of very nice things, including three books relating to knitting. These were Japanese Inspired Knits by Marianne Isager, Haiku Knits by Tanya Alpert and -- less related to actual patterns than to ideals -- Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting by a number of different people. I'm already working on one of the projects in Haiku Knits. It's a beautiful little capelet-type cardigan thing. Pictures will follow eventually. Both books have such beautiful patterns in them; it was very difficult for me to decide what ones to pick.

Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting, however, is a different kind of animal. It is, I think, the catalogue of an exhibit put on recently by the Museum of Arts and Design. It features works by Cat Mazza, Shane Waltener and Hilal Sami Hilal, among others, and highlights the use of "craft" -- in this case, knitting, crochet and lace-making techniques -- to showcase ideas about, for example, domesticity and societal appropriateness.

While I find the idea of using knitting and other "craft" techniques to create fine art, I question the inclusion of some of the works and artists in the book. The problem I see with many of the works -- Dave Cole's fiberglass and lead teddy bears, for example -- are interesting, from the technical standpoint (knitting with lead? Sweet Jesus!) but less so from a conceptual standpoint. By this, I mean that the ideas being explored, things like "domesticity" and "body image" and "Femininity" and even -- no joke -- "self-obsession," are just not that interesting. The entire appeal, and most interesting aspects, of the works shown in the book lies in the medium. "The medium is the message," or so they say.

But I don't believe that.

The medium is not the message. The medium is part of the message, but, in my opinion, is not all of it. For an example, take James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. In Ulysses, Joyce not only has made radical changes to the medium -- novels have not been the same since, to put it mildly -- but he also had an interesting message about why and how life is and should be lived. (For more on this, see Harold Bloom's The Western Canon and Declan Kiberd's Ulysses and Us.) Ulysses is interesting, readable (yes, really), engaging and, at times, hilarious.

Finnegan's Wake, on the other hand, is none of those things. It is virtually impossible to read. It is incoherent, and a sad comedown from the glory that is Ulysses. This is because Finnegan's Wake is entirely focused on the medium. It has little in the way of a message, little of character -- on the parts of both the "characters" in the novel and the character of the author, which was, by then, entirely self-obsessive. Finnegan's Wake is all about the medium... And it is boring. It is good for divination, maybe, and little else.

This is the problem with Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting. It is all about the medium, which I suppose is implicit in the title. But the artists themselves have so little to say, and no decent way of saying it.

Not that I'm ungrateful. I like the book and, as I say, it is inspiring. I just wish that the medium wasn't everything.

Oh, and, erm, happy Boxing Day.

19 December 2010

Them Older Boys.

So, College, guys.

I think I have to go back, but I don't know. It's all pretty confused.

Other than that, I finished a story I've been working on for a couple of weeks. I think it's a story, anyway. It might just be backstory for a longer novel I'm working on.

If I don't post before Christmas, have a good one.

On the other hand, I know I won't post before the Solstice, so if that matters to you (and it should), have a good one of those, too. The Crippled God will rise again.

10 December 2010


I am currently finishing up A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin. I am also listening to a great deal of a band I've just discovered called Wolves in the Throne Room. They work astonishingly well together.

People who haven't read Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series (which tale has, apparently, grown in the telling) should know that this series is about as close as you can get to actual history, but with dragons, wizards and other stuff that just turns real life (circa approximately 1375-ish, if I'm reading it right) up to eleven. It's bloody (literally) amazing. The characters are as vivid as anything Suetonius ever wrote -- or perhaps Procopius would be a more accurate comparison. (Since, with the magic and stuff, people's heads might actually go wandering around on their own. It wouldn't surprise me, in this series, though I'm kind of hard to surprise at the best of times.)

Wolves in the Throne Room, on the other hand, is a pagan-influenced band from the pacific northwest, someplace or other. Unlike many bands, however, that interpret "pagan" to mean "Satanic," Wolves in the Throne Room display a refreshingly organic sensibility, their music growing naturally to fast-paced crescendos from slow, growing beginnings. At least, that's what their second album (I think it'sthe second one, anyway), Two Hunters, sounds like. I've been given to understand, by Pitchfork, anyway,that their other stuff is more straight-up metal-icious.

Listening to Wolves in the Throne Room, on the other hand, while reading George RR Martin, is an experience not to be missed. Like wine and cheese, man. The music perfectly suits the appalling tension Martin builds and releases so expertly (usually in the form of someone dying horribly). It's wonderful.

(There is a bunch of other stuff going on right now, too, mostly involving plays I don't want much to do with but have been told to direct anyway, and trying to get back to school without incurring mountains of debt, but this kind of thing is more fun to talk about, anyway.)

09 December 2010


Hello, everyone!

Here is the recipe for some nut butter cookies I'll be making for lots of people very shortly.

Nut Butter Cookies.


08 December 2010

I am 21.

I am 21. Hello, adult world. What have you got for me?

Lately, it looks like a lot of student-loan debt, lots of rejection letters, and probably not much in the way of relationships and other personal stuff. On the other hand, if I can keep parlaying my limited experience into less-limited experience-building stuff, I may actually be able to get a job that I'm mildly interested in. I may get a few less rejection letters, because I might get to be a better writer.

Maybe someday I'll be able to run at a reasonable speed, or at least for a reasonable length of time. (I can't run for crap.) Maybe I'll get to live someplace where my hands aren't cold all the damn time.

Hello, adult world.

Maybe none of these things will happen. But by God, one day I will own a spinning wheel, run a mile and see my name on the front page of a webzine that paid me or, better yet, on the front of an honest-to-god book. Wouldn't that be sweet?

Anyway, not much swinging.

What would have happened if the "sacred heart" had appeared to a robot programmed to believe?

I believe I'll go climb some stairs for a while. 

29 November 2010


So, I've spent the last week and a half mainlining season 6 of Lost with my family. It was one of the most interesting narrative experiences I have had in a long time. (Or at least since I read The Lord of the Rings back in spring/summer.) However, I must warn you that if you have not watched the show prior to this, you should probably stop reading this post and go read Bull Spec instead, since they're publishing a poem of mine some time at the beginning of next year. (Oh yes. Yes yes yes.)

Anyway, I loved the use of parallel timelines/storylines in their "flash-sideways"s. That was beautifully handled, and a fascinating way to flesh out the characters in ways that are usually reserved for fanon. I loved that the writers were able to find a way to do that for their own show -- and not only to do that, but to make it make sense within the context of the plot. It wasn't just random crap to allow the writers to have a good time (well, okay, most of the show seems to have been that, but in a good way).

And the plot itself I found highly rewarding. Although I had difficulty following it, and it would have taken me a lot longer to figure it out had my little sister not been hanging around to follow it for me, I loved the way they drew it all to a close in a way that had the finality required to end an epic (and it is an epic), but still maintained the open-endedness that has characterized the show. I thought it was awesome, basically.

I didn't just slip in the word "epic" there for kicks. I would honestly consider Lost, in its totality (much of which is distinctly cheesy -- like, rocquefort-level cheesy) to be an incredible epic, easily comparable to The Lord of the Rings. I felt that the way it explored, discarded, inverted, celebrated and, finally, added to, philosophical debate was truly valuable, in terms of modern cultural development. I thought its treatment of very religious subject matter, as well as the idea of what is and is not sacrosanct (I'm thinking in particular of the two-hour finale) was intelligent and stimulating. The audacity of the show's use of blatantly religious symbolism was, frankly, genius:  By specifically referencing religious symbols (such as Charlie's dream of Claire as the Virgin in the first season, I think, as well as the use of the Catholic cathedral as both the headquarters of secret operations by the Dharma initiative), the show's writers deliberately caused viewers to not view the show as being as explicitly religious as it ended up being. (Frankly, if C.S. Lewis had done that as well as it was done on Lost, The Chronicles of Narnia would have brought a lot more children to religion.)

In fine:  Awesome.

15 November 2010


If you can't read and you can't write, get the hell out of college so I can get more financial aid.

The reason for the vitriol.

I hate text-speak beyond all reason and beyond all measure.

13 November 2010

Reading Things.

So, I have recently cycled through the last set of books that I read, and am now indulging in new ones. Thus:  Midnight Never Come and Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History. Good stuff. Eusebius is... too early to tell how I like it. Views/rants to come later on that.

Midnight Never Come was ordered on the strength of this story, which I enjoyed very much. So far, though... I don't know. I like the Shakespeare references, though, so it's all good so far, as far as I'm concerned. (Of course, the book that I finished before this that was my "fun reading" was The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies, which is kind of a hard act to follow.)

Also, for fellow Dostoevsky geeks, this is a series I helped transcribe for The Fortnightly Review, the New Series. Part 5 is especially good.

09 November 2010


My long-time internet friend Cameron Summers just posted a story of mine that was recently rejected (very cruelly) by some Frenchies. You can read it (along with many of his wonderful writings) here:

A Tail

Other than that, I'm almost finished reading this. Good stuff. My translation (by C.W. Rolt, which is not the one behind the link, unfortunately) has excellent footnotes. Very confusing, though, in that "Is this a drill bit in my temple? Or is't a drill bit of the mind?" kind of way.

Also, I am on Twitter. You can follow me and we can tweet in harmony!

08 November 2010

Brave New Blog.

Well, hello world.

This is my new blog. I am a writer, and it seems like a prerequisite for the job.

My work has appeared under my pseudonym, Edgar Mason -- the name I'm using here -- in these places:

Basement Stories

Poor Mojo's Almanac(k) 1

Poor Mojo's Almanac(k) 2


And some rather ignominious trade magazine for online businesspeople.

As Theo deRoth, I've published reviews at Rambles.net and in Legends Magazine.

Right now, I'm a student "between colleges," living with my family in France.

Not much else to say, really.