The Alchemist

I ran accross a CD entitled The Alchemistrecently that blew me out of the waters. It is a musical adaption of Gerard Manly Hopkins' poems by the Irish singer Sean O'Leary. When I first heard about it, my resonce was typical. Another guy who thinks he can sing and somehow thinks it's his right to ruin a great man's poetry. But I guess I was wrong. Check it out for yourself right here

The forbidden security measure'd think that after about a decade of dealing with Islamic terrorists we'd start to notice some basic points. A) They mostly come from the Middle East; B) They are mostly male; C) They are mostly Muslim; and D) If they're Muslim, Middle Eastern and male, that means MOST OF THE TIME you ought to be looking for dark complexioned men speaking Arabic and waving the Koran around. But no. That would be rude. And if we're going to get wiped out as a nation, we might as well be remembered as polite. Despite the fact that the IRA hasn't been threatening us with utter annihilation lately and as far as I know Scandanavia has yet to send bevies of their braided women with the intent to kill, TSA continues to methodically chose people at random from among those in line and carefully search and probe them...and if we're lucky, we might actually choose someone who looks half-way capable of being a terrorist. This is not to say I've become a racist and accuse all Arabs of trying to kill me; it's just that mathematically the probability of Great Aunt Helga on visit from Lichstenstien attempting to wreak havoc at the airport instead of Mahmoud Hassan Ali from Syria is fairly remote.



Persepolis is a fairly recent graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi. It's actually an autobiography about her childhood growing up in Iran. The author is in her thirties now, and living in France, so the book comes out of the French/Belgian bande dessinée tradition that Tintin was born from. The "clear line" style is slightly apparent, but what stands out most of all is the european comics continuing tradition of creating comics that go beyond the stereotypes and fandom that usually go along with the art form, and create distinctly powerful stories. The perspective througout the book is revealing and fascinating. In a time where the middle east is constantly on the mind, Persepolis takes you into the head of a girl growing up in that culture during the Islamic Revolution; surrounded by torture, war, and "purges", but most of the time just trying to find ways to smuggle tapes of American rock into her room. The ordinariness of the situation is wonderful, in how it humanizes the Muslim population, and contrasts more strongly with the real moments of terror. There are some intense and mature themes in the book, so I wouldn't recomend it for young kids, but adults would most likely get alot out of it. She has written a sequel, about how her escape to France, but I didn't kind it nearly as interesting. What really captured my attention lately, was that Sony Pictures is developing the first book into a movie, apparently using an animation process that mimics the books stark illustrations. I always get excited when people experiment with animation, so I'll be keeping my eye on it.


Order of the Phoenix

Good to see Mr. Radcliffe has his hair back under control again; here I believe is pictured "Dumbledore's Army", as described in the book. I can't remember precisely when the movie comes out...soon, no doubt. As a matter of fact, I don't even know who's directing it. I seem to have dried up as a source of information. I do know that most of the cast is still there, including the original Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who were supposedly going to only do the first three movies. Whatever. I seem to recall book #5 being described as ten pages of plot and 8oo pages of fluff (roughly...I'm paraphrasing here). It may be an accurate description, but what fluff! I rather enjoyed it, but then again, haven't read in in a couple years. I am interested in the movie, though, because if the book is mostly fluff, then it shouldn't be too hard to cut the movie down to size and then retain some of the more humorous elements. Cheers!


report from the front

I just realized that I failed to mention my football teams over the weekend. It was bittersweet...while Notre Dame vanquished MSU, New England suffered a grievous defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos. To think that I rooted for Denver briefly as a child. The Notre Dame win was truly spectacular, though. What with everyone feeling that their football season was shot, they would never make it to the National Championship, Brady Quinn's Heismann hopes drifting away; and then the fourth quarter happened, and we realized Michigan State was not University of Michigan. That was last week! And with that epiphany, the Irish cleaned house. Huzzah. On the other hand, on Sunday, the Patriots were defeated. At home. All I can say is that it's a wonder they won the two previous games, considering the way their star players are defecting left right and center. Adam Vinateri (sp, probably...that's how it sounds anyway) sought greener pastures in Indianapolis, Deion Branch went West Coast into Seattle, and as for Willie McGinest (another terrible sp strikes) and David Givens, I completely forgot where they went. The main thing is that they're gone, and Tom Brady is having to deal with a bunch of rookies for the time being. Of course they'll all pull through in the end, once they've figured out how to play together, but for now every game brings about a severe fit of anxiety on my part. Next Sunday they'll be on the road in Cinncinatti (is that how you spell it?) and that won't be easy.



Me and a dozen other TACers are sitting in Amy Schneir’s house as I write this, waiting for the announcement that TAC has or has not been burned to the ground. It’s a lot of fun actually. Probably the first real vacation we’ve gotten since we got here. No work study, no homework, nice couches, and pizza. Real food. Yes.

Last night was not such a blast. We got sent to an evacuation center at the parish hall of Sacred Heart church. Where the Red Cross gave us stretchers for beds and a really thin blanket and no pillow. We ended up staying up so late watching Hellboy anyway, that the whole sleeping thing didn’t factor in much anyway.

Pictures are attached of the evacuation, fire, and flight. People I’m hanging out with right now, in clockwise fashion, Tim Cantu, Dagny Bach, a girl whose name I can’t remember, Lindsey Yates, Becca Cupo, Nina Mires, Juila Krause, and Brenna Saunders. Somehow I ended up in the girl car. John Hall, Kate Atkinson, and Annette should be around somewhere too. It’s a laptop party in the Schneir’s living room right now, while we wait for lunch. It’s like a library…

And Lunch is served. More later.

I’m back.

It all began during the Junior Dance. Which sucked, (the evacuation, not the dance) because the dance was the best yet. It had entertainment along with the dancing, in the form of a couple student-made movies, and Matt Grimm dancing in a grass skirt and coconuts. Everyone is unsure HOW that got approved, but it was hilarious regardless. The fire had been growing all night, and before the dance we could see the glow over the hills. Peter and Paul’s started a tribal drum-off on the second story, which, due to the concave shape of the dorm, got projected across the campus. There was also talk of sacrificing someone to the wildfire gods to appease them, and Carson was scheduled to do a fire-stick juggling routine before the dance, but he ended up not showing. When the Dean announced that we were implementing the evacuation process, there was a collective groan, but people caught on quick to the fact that it would mean no homework, and a nice vacation. Enough. Gonna go work on my chapter now. Laters.

I’m back again.

Me and some of the girls took a walk down the street, to this amazing open-air used bookshop called Bart’s Books. Never seen anything quite like it before. Selection was okay, but the whole gimmick of it being permanently outside (and open for anyone to steal from) is so trusting and amazing that I fell in love. Forgot my camera though, curses. The place is laid out around two central courtyards, and the shelves are set up in a really claustrophobic, mazelike fashion. Picked up copies of The Golden Compass, The Princess Bride, The Book of Merlyn, and another book by T. H. White I hadn’t heard of before.

Right. Done now. Pictures below.


Enough is enough

Yesterday I was reading the magazine Chronicles, but stopped after reading an article about "Bush's Legacy" by Joseph Sobran. Unfortunately, not being a reamarkably ariticulate person, I can't quite convey the depth of animosity I now feel toward Mr Sobran. It's one thing to label yourself a paleo-conservative and every other conservative who disagrees with you a neo-conservative; and I don't care if these paleo-conservatives disagree with Bush's policies and are frustrated with him...that's their deal. But I am so sick of them slamming Bush and being stupid about it. What does Mr Sobran prove by stating that "one glaringly obvious difference between America and France is that the French have a president who speaks fluent English." ? Aside from the fact that it's puerile humor at best, what's the point? He goes on to moan about Iraq, about our civil liberties disappearing, and then declares that Clinton's administration was a comparative "golden age". This is where I get violent. So now this supposedly Christian, conservative columnist wants back William Jefferson Clinton. The man whose screwball policies (or would that be non-policies?) on terrorism lost us opportunities to secure al-Qaida and Bin Laden, got two embassies and the Cole bombed, and ultimately led to 9/11; the man who opened the doors for abortions to peak in the 90's; the man whose deception and promiscuity led to only the second impeachment of a president in US history; we're to prefer him over a genuine Christian who has succesfully combated terrorism for five years, under whom abortions have dropped significantly, with abortion clinics closing so that there are now hundreds where there were thousands, who vetoed the stem cell research bill...pass the milk of magnesia.


Pan's Labyrinth

There's a distinct lack of truly creative fantasy movies out there, but a hopeful sign, for me, is the new film by Guillermo Del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth. Del Toro, who made the Hellboy movie, has an impeccable sense of style in the fantasy/horror genre, that, at present anyway, puts him ahead of Terry Gilliam on my list favorite directors. The film is also being co-produced with Alfonso Cuaron, who directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and has Doug Jones (Abe Sapien from Hellboy) playing the role of Pan. Pan's Labyrinth is a fantasy movie with an interesting twist: it's set completely in Spain just after the Spanish Civil war. I'm pretty sure it doesn't come down on Franco's side, but the historical context is a great idea and provides some wicked juxtapositioning. The movie is also entirely in Spanish (with subtitles), Del Toro's native language, which gives it an even greater sense of authenticity. I'm a little hazy on the story, but it has something to do with a girl finding her way down into an imaginary underground Labyrinth (a la Alice in Wonderland) ruled by the god Pan, where he sets her three tasks to accomplish, in order to bring the magical realm back into the waking world. It's also interwoven with the above-ground story of her adoptive father, who is in the army and hunting rebels. The movie is running with the tagline "Innocence has a power evil cannot imagine," which sounds like a nice change from the usual themes of horror movies, though it's unclear whether Pan or the Spanish Government is the evil being refered to. What I absolutely love about Del Toro is not only his sense of Gothic design (always more interesting than Burton's spindly twistedness) but also his dedication to making extremely original stories, and his unhesitating use of prosthetics and physical models over CGI. Pan's Labyrinth has already been selected for the Cannes Film Festival, and ought to be out in the US by December 29th. It is rated R, but early reports say that the rating is for realistic war violence. Click on the picture to go to the website, where you can also see the awesome trailer, and go here for some clips. Pan's Labyrinth currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.


good grief

I find this disgraceful. For pete's sake, the woman's 83 years old. This is what I don't get...critics will get on the late Francisco Franco's case for chasing down Spanish Communist war criminal several years after the fact; and yet, when it comes to Nazis, the war never ends! What possible harm could this lady do anyone? I decree it stupid; leave her alone.


Spinach crisis

By now, everyone should know about the bagged spinach scare and the 113 people infected with e. coli. Does it really help for the nightly news to drill into our heads that there are over a hundred people infected...out of about 300 million people who eat bagged spinach? What good does it do to go in depth and cover the stories of the e. colied, except to spread panic among other people who start thinking they may have eaten a piece of spinach a day or two ago? Odds are that I could get away with eating a bag of spinach and not get sick. But you wouldn't know that by watching the news...


Bush is a rockstar

No, seriously. Watch this and revel; I am so grateful to whoever put that together...even if you haven't heard U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday". And if that made you smile, enjoy this as well. Why am I in such a good mood now? Trust me, I still haven't gotten over the Irish yesterday, but the Patriots did win. Hence the picture of my hero, Tom Brady. See right.

Ring of Fire

So here we are at TAC, cellebrating its 35th aniversary. Right about when the people get out of the opening mass, they notice that it seems to be snowing, until they realize that that's actually ash, and that the sky has been blotted out and the sun is dim and blood red. After ruling out the possiblity that the second coming was at hand, we found out that a brushfire had been spreading for a while now, was headed south, in our direction. So here I sit, in the TAC computer room, wondering if they're going to start ringing the church bells soon to evacuate us, and thinking Hey, maybe if we WERE evacuated, I'd get some more writing done on my book. And, in a relevant way, for those who like both Johnny Cash and Coldplay: Ring of Fire


What a day

It started out bad enough when I had to ref a soccer game from hell. My only bright spot on the horizon after getting through the nightmarish second half (look, when you've got two teams of 15 year old boys, one entirely Mexican and the other very white...and neither very pleased with me...I'll leave it to your fertile imagination) was going home to watch the Notre Dame football game . And then THAT turned into a bloodbath. Well, there's always tomorrow...

If it's not one thing...

This probably isn't a good thing, but by now, if it make Muslims mad, it usually makes me happy. And this makes me happy. His original speech made perfect sense (look, the quote he gave was from a man whose city was being besieged by Muslims at the time) and I'm loving his reaction to the Islamic reaction. Basically, sorry I made you upset, but that's the way it's going to be. Most excellent.


This is so funny...and rumor has it that Mackay's erstwhile girlfriend left him for Bill Clinton! Not sure I believe that one either, but who knows. It's just odd to be hearing about political officials this way; it's like tabloids have gotten bored with the whole Hollywood thing. Ever since she wore those stiletto boots...



...Otherwise known as nesting dolls and held up as a traditional Russian folk art. However, these little dolls didn't actually originate in Russia! They're from Japan; the toymaker Vassily Zviozdochkin was inspired by a similar looking doll he bought from that country. He designed his own version of the doll and exhibited it at the 1900 Paris World Fair. Another odd thing I found out is that the dolls are still hand carved (real ones anyway) with the smallest one first and the biggest one done last. Also, traditionally, one artist carves the dolls from wood and another actually paints the dolls.


For those of you who enjoy Dorthy Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, I'm sure you'll agree that Lord Peter can't be played by just anybody. He is a very unique person, and Ian Carmichael in the BBC series, doesn't quite cut it. I just discovered recently that Sayers used the face of Roy Ridley (pictured above) to help her describe Lord Peter. Insidentaly, his face is very similar to the one I always envisioned, the face of Lesley Howard.


En Guard!

Fencing is one of the coolest sports ever. What can beat stabbing people with swords? But, it's very different from what people think it is. It isn't anything like dueling and it doesn't, in the end, have anything to do with killing people. The key word is 'sport'. Fencing is a mental game. It is about using your head to fool someone else's head. That is why it is such a fascinating game. It has multiple layers of complexity, each very difficult to learn, taking hours of experience and concentration. At the end, however, it is so rewarding that your hours of sweating and striving for perfection become a happy memory tinted with your knowledge of achievement. There is nothing like hearing "Bout!" ring through the salle and calmly saluting your defeated opponent. Sweat dripping from your face, your whole body exhausted, you stand there with eyes shining and taste the joys of victory. Anyways, if you ever have a chance, try fencing. It's a sport like no other.

Five years later

Over the the weekend, I've been reliving the events of September 11, 2001 in a number of ways. On Friday I became embroiled in an online debate over what really happened that fateful fall morning. On Saturday I watched the phenomenal movie "United 93". Last night I watched the first half of abc's controversial mini series, "The Path to 9/11"; now the anniversary itself has almost passed. The debate I've been having (or attempting to have) about what really happened on 9/11 is very hard to take seriously. However, the guy who insists that the WTC was really demolished by Zionists takes himself very seriously. As does the other young lady who thinks that these so called "neo-cons" brought down the towers to make an excuse for war in the Middle East. I think I'll just wash my hands of the whole it really that hard to believe that Islamic terrorists wish to kill thousands of Americans? Haven't they been trying to kill thousands of Westerners for several hundred years? As for the two movies I've seen, I have nothing but praise. "United 93" is an important movie with an important story to tell. As Mr. Bush said in his speech, those Americans on that plane won our first victory in the war on terror. The abc docudrama has been very fair, I think. Critics claim that the scene in which CIA agents wait in vain for the go ahead order to capture Bin Laden is fictionalized. I see no problem in creating a scene that pretty much covers all 12 times Clinton had Bin Laden within reach and let him go. I will be watching the conclusion tonight, and hope it will be as interesting and well done as the first segment. God Bless America



Well what do you know, the Patriots won their first game. Doesn't look like it was a spectacular game, and the Bills aren't particularly good, but what the heck. Made me happy. Unfortunately, Andy Roddick did not beat Roger Federer in the U.S. Open final; not that I expected him to. And the Portland Pilots ladies' soccer team lost to the University of North Carolina. Bummer.


Ickle Pluto

I'm just so mad that Pluto doesn't get to be a planet anymore. Just because it's tiny, composed mostly of ice, more or less identical with a bunch of other ice chunks floating around out there, and has an orbit that could get it a DUI, it has to get demoted. Personally, I think it should've been put up to a vote of the people. Who cares what the astronomers and scientists and other more informed people say? I want my planet back! I mean, now we'll have to learn "My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nachos" and get used to saying "all eight planets" and other such unpleasant changes. I say once a planet, always a planet. A planet's a planet, no matter how small. In my world.


The Ladies of Grace Adieu

Charles Vess, one of the preeminent fantasy illustrators, has put information up on his blog about the illustrations he's doing for Susanna Clarke's new collection of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu (at left is Vess' rendition of the Raven King). It will collect most of Clarke's shorter works, plus a new one involving Jonathan Strange, and ought to be out on October 16th. The blog also has pictures from the cell phone of Neil Gaiman from the set of the Stardust movie, an adaption of Neil's fantasy tale, which he and Neil are currently involved in. And speaking of Clarke, New Line Cinema has picked up the movie rights to JS&MN. This sounds hopeful, what with New Line's track record with The Lord of the Rings, and their upcoming production of His Dark Materials and Inkheart.


Come off it

Why on EARTH is this such a big deal???http:// Seriously, for the past month it seems, one has been unable to view anything on CBS without yet another ad for "Katie Couric, coming soon." The hype has been least she finally got here and I won't have to watch any more Cour-mercials...


The Crocodile Hunter

I can't believe this: http://,23599,20349888-2,00.html He's one of those people that you just assume will always be around. He did so many crazy things and worked with so many dangerous animals that I thought nothing could happen to him, for some reason. I had these images in my head of him still chasing crocs well into his eighties. It's all very sad, and kind of put a cloud over my day.


Graveyard of Buried Hopes

Recently I ran across some lyrics in an Irish song book that interested me. They go as follows: "When apples still grow in November, when blossoms still bloom on each tree, When leaves are still green in December, it's then that our land will be free, I wander her hills and green valleys, but still to my sorrow I see, A land that has never known freedom, and only her rivers run free." There were a few more verses in the usual style...tragic, stirring, patriotic, and fairly typical. What really caught my eye was the date this song was written: 1973. Normally, this kind of thing would be dated in the mid to late nineteenth century, certainly not post Republic of Ireland. This song made a strong impression on me because it's become more and more apparent that hoping for a re-unification of Ireland, hoping for the lost six counties to become part of the Republic is plain foolish. This cry of despair from whomever the poet was that wrote the lyrics touched me deeply because it's all so impossible. Northern Ireland was lost irrevocably when De Valera cut his deal with the British in the 1920's; there's no going back now. Of course it was horrendous for English families to come over to Northen Ireland in Elizabeth I's time and displace or kill the Irish Catholics whose land they took. But 500 years later those once English families now know Ulster as home, and have no reason to wish Northern Ireland's departure from the commonwealth. And in the end you have to realize that it has ceased to be a religious war. The IRA lost its identity when it forgot it was Catholic and started training with anyone who would help; from the Soviet Union to al-Qaida. It's not that the Northern Irish are Protestant and don't want to be one with Catholic Southern just that those in power can see no political or economic benefit in unification. Just as Partition has become a fact of Irish life over the years, so has secularization become a fact of life in the cities of Dublin and Cork. Scandals have hurt the Church in Ireland, and all but one of the seminaries has shut down. Ireland, quite simply, is not what she was, and probably never will be again. In a very real way, Anglican England won her war against the Irish papists; religion just isn't a good enough reason to take back Northern Ireland. Robert Emmet was a heroic Irish patriot, rebel and outstanding orator in the nineteenth century, who was executed by the British for sedition. He asked that there be no epitaph written on his grave until Ireland became a free nation once more, taking her place in the world alonside other free nations. Sadly, it doesn't look like Emmet's epitaph will ever be written. The dreams of all the Irish rebels who took their place in the rising of '98 and the Easter uprising of 1916 have been fulfilled in terrible incompleteness; their true desires for their country may remain forever buired with them.

Home Portrait

Jen Wang is a great cartoonist, and her new webcomic, Home Portrait, is a thing of beauty. I had a chance to meet her at the last Portland Stumptown Comics Festival, where she kindly signed both of my Flight anthologies. She's also not much older than me, (like many of the Flight authors) which is simultaneously cool and a little bit scary.


Star Trekkin' across the universe, On the Star ship Enterprise under Captain Kirk! Star Trekkin' across the universe, We're always going forward 'cause we can't find the reverse! ....yeah, anyway. For all you Trekkies (or is it Trekkers now?) here's a little something I dug up a little while ago. Personally, I've always been partial to the old, old show. Somehow it was just a lot more action packed, random, and hilarious than the later incarnations ever were. And a lot less preachy about stupid stuff. So here you go...http://


A little peice of cool knowledge: my friend Sarah Neufeld has gotten her book Visibility accepted for publishing! It'll be published as a young adult illustrated novel (not a graphic novel, as in comic book, but a book with pictures.) The illustrator isn't known yet, but regardless this is a really cool idea. More books ought to have pictures in them the way Coraline and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell do. If you haven't heard (or read it yet) Visibility is a modern-day story about a shy, introspective teen named Natalie, whose mother happens to be the only person on earth who can become invisible at will. It's an amazing story, one of my favorite young adult books, scifi or otherwise, and absolutely deserves to see a wider release than Sarah's current self-publishing effort can reach (iUniverse can only go so far.) If you haven't read it yet, you can buy it on, or if you're at TAC, I'll lend it to you.

Neko Case

Those who know me may have picked up on the fact that I like alot of female musicians. The first really good one I ran into was probably Aimee Mann, but after alot of poking around on places like the Hype Machine, I started discovering a veritable cornucopia of excelent female artists, like Neko Case and Regina Spektor. What they all seem to have in common is a driving focus on lyrics and melody. They're catchy, cool, and unfailingly interesting. To me, anyway. For starters, here's some Neko Case for you. Star Witness At Last Lady Pilot The Needle Has Landed And Happy Birthday Catherine!


More weird stuff

Today I heard about what happens to western literature when it gets translated into Arabic...Tom Sawyer converts to Islam, and Pollyanna praises Allah. The miniscule amount of conversions from Islam in the Middle East is making more sense to me now...not only are the people of that region coerced and threatened and intimidated until they're too scared to convert to anything else, but the options from the west must look limited when our children's literature is just like what they had in school. They must be thinking, "aha! they only pretend to be Christian!" Anyway, just thought I'd share that with you. And happy birthday to me! Tis the day...