Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Stone Elephant

In the dream I am, at first, a young women with long brown hair in a tight red dress, scrawling notes on a clipboard in an ornate boardroom as stuffy aged white men argue over cocktails. There is a noise from outside the oak-panelled office and I step outside into a rock-floored cavern, where I am now the fitter, thinner version of myself that serves as my standard dream avatar, the red dress gone, replaced with a navy blue suit. From the dark end of the cavern comes a giant spider, speeding toward me on eight deadly legs. I run, my tie flapping over my shoulder, the spider quickly gaining ground until I burst through the giant wood and glass doors that seal the cavern, stumbling into a bellhop as I enter a sunlit city. I'm in grey sweats and a Star Wars t-shirt now, and though the spider is gone the guardians of Easter Island are milling around me now, emerging from an ancient hotel, and I raise my fists uselessly.

But they do not harass me; one slips the bellhop an invisible tip as if apologizing on my behalf. A behemoth stone elephant leaves the hotel and stands over me, trunk swaying, glowing red eyes boring into me.

"Ulnath grogaria mellor snu lau," the elephant says. And now I know what I must do.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Murder by Proxy

In the dream I'm a tall, reedy, dark-haired man in his mid-twenties, and I'm at the mall to buy shirts. But as my fingers stroll through a rack of shirts, there are screams from outside the store; I turn my head to see a huge fat man carrying a bundle of dynamite, and there is madness in his eyes.

Shoppers scatter as the man gibbers with insane laughter, but they're not fast enough; the dynamite explodes, and shredded bodies paint shop windows. I run into the mall, slipping on blood, joining other shoppers in terrified disbelief as more suicide bombers appear, all with the aspect of madness, all carrying lit dynamite. The bombers run to and fro, trying to distribute themselves in the densest part of the teeming crowds, doing their best to explode at the moment that will guarantee maximum carnage.

I duck into a utility corridor, panting, but before I can process my relief I feel an alien, mechanical intelligence insinuate itself into my mind. A network of printed circuits paints itself onto my arms, and my vision shifts, as if I can see infrared, ultraviolet. I find myself forced to walk back into the mall proper. There are still suicide bombers, but now I see them as they truly are; not mad, but calculating. One turns to me.

"Ah, you're one of us now," he says.

And he passes me a bundle of dynamite. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

McDonald's Malapropism

Yesterday Sylvia and I, in possession of some cash-saving coupons, braved the McDonald's drive-through for breakfast. Midway through placing our order, Sylvia suggested we make use of a second coupon. I turned to tell her you could only use one at a time, and while I was doing that the young man on the intercom was saying something else. Confused, I turned back to the speaker and said: 

"What was that, baby?" 

...as if I were still speaking to Sylvia. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, broken only by Sylvia's stifled hysteria. 

"I mean...what was that...sir?" I gasped, face flushed with embarrassment. 

"It's all good," he said. 

Our breakfast came out all right despite everything. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

February 2015 Review Roundup

As noted last month, at regular intervals I'll offer some thoughts on a few of the books and films I've enjoyed (or not) during each calendar month.

February was a slow month for movies; I only watched seven, all of them 2014 Best Picture nominees; I was playing catch-up before heading to the Fitzpatrick Oscar party. You can find my thoughts on the nominees here.

This year I'm making a conscious effort to get a little closer to gender balance in my reading, and my February reading list reflects that with seven books by women: three by the sublime Shirley Jackson (We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Come Along With Me and Just an Ordinary Day) and two by Ursula K. LeGuin (The Word for World is Forest and The Lathe of Heaven), one of SF's most-respected luminaries, male or female. Indeed, it's rather shocking that until this year I'd barely read any of LeGuin's work; you'll see next month that I've continued to explore her work. Una McCormack's Star Trek tie-in The Crimson Shadow and Jo Walton's Nebula-winning Among Others rounds out the works by women I read in February.

Of these seven works, the tie-in is predictably forgettable, while Jackson's Come Along With Me and Just an Ordinary Day are a bit of a letdown after the amazing We Have Always Lived in the Castle and her other earlier works. Castle, at least, is a wonderful story of small-town alienation and obsessive love; Jackson once again explores the frayed edges of the social universe and exposes all our human weaknesses.

The Lathe of Heaven is my favourite of the two LeGuin novels I read in February, both for its high concept (what if one man's dreams could re-write reality?) and its compassionate portrayal of both protagonist and antagonist.

Among Others is modern fantasy of the sort that's enjoyed considerable popularity in the wake of Harry Potter, but I don't hold that against Walton's work; I plowed through this engaging tale of a young British witch in a couple of hours, and regretted turning the final page. It helps that the main character is a voracious reader of science fiction; she and I had a lot in common.

I don't have much to write about the books by men I read this month, other than I found it interesting that Joe Haldeman's latest, Work Done for Hire, turns out to be a mainstream novel and only looks like SF. It's an interesting change of pace for one of my favourite SF veterans.

As of this writing, by the way, my books by men/women count is tied at 17 each. We'll see if that egalitarian reading record holds up as the months go by. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Keno of...

Back in 2011, I visited Dawson City and snapped a few photos of this vintage paddle wheeler. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.