Friday, December 30, 2011

Zero History

Another delight by William Gibson! Like Spook Country, Zero History satisfies my need for intricately-described stuff (in this case, interior cor and fashion clothing lines).

Yet again he reprises his apparent obsession with brand identities, in particular their absence. Secret brands, and then super-secret brands. Who advertise not even by word-of-mouth, but by scarcity and failure to advertise or even sell clothing. Sheer unavailability. This is related to a criticism of disposable mass-produced items and consumerist culture: almost all the main characters are (1) rich, but (2) own no physical possessions. They constantly list their full personal inventory, which is the same as their total worldly assets. An entire book is spent to track down the designer of a single jacket... but that jacket was designed to last forever, to be appropriate for all occasions, a unisex garment reminiscent of a fashionable dark thneed.

Plots are hatched, schemes are devised, and once more an international publicity company (run like a high-stakes terrorist cell) unfurls its curious tale across these pages.

He saw a magical-looking bookshop, stock piled like a mad professor's study in a film, and swerved, craving the escape into text. But these seemed not only comics, unable to provide his needed hit of words-in-a-row, but in French as well. (p 150)
My needed hit of words-in-a-row is fulfilled indeed.

This post's theme word is meretricious, "appealing in a cheap or showy manner: tawdry," or "based on pretense or insincerity." (From a Latin word meaning prostitute, although interestingly enough, the same root from which we get "merit" -- merere, to earn money.) Gibsonism is concerned with a focus on the antimeretricious aspects of popular culture, lightly sprinkled with -- and across -- cyberspace.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Octopus returns... knitted-style

You may recall this lovely dearie who joined my household in October. Well, I asked for the pattern and then learned to knit. And -- lo! -- behold what I can create over Christmas break: a monster is born!Knitting is apparently an art wherein the consistency of the yarn tension matters a lot. My yarn tension was varied, so the tentacles turned out rather more kinky than the nice, even, smooth ones previously shown. For this pattern, the unevenness of my knitting worked in my favor. It gave the tentacles a grasping look, as if the devious, malicious mind behind those protruding pink eyeballs (and distributed throughout the octopus as a series of decentralized, interdependent neuron clusters) is reaching with intent.
This octopus is on the prowl against a delightfully Goreyesque backdrop.
It has found a crevice for lurking.

This post's theme word is mazard, "face, head, or skull." That animal is all malign mazard!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I hope you are enjoying a vacation day, wherever you are, in whatever way you most prefer.Even cultural institutions as innocuous as a benevolent chubby man who uses a massive slave-labor force to manufacture and distribute candy and gifts can be eldrich, when viewed properly. (GIF from

This post's theme word is Caganer, "a nativity figurine depicted in the act of defecating." No nativity scene is complete without a Caganer; I shall have to find one to add to my family's set.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Storm of Swords, revisited

The first time I read this book in 20 hours. The second time took me about a month, because I sequestered the book and only read it at the gym while bicycling.

More stuff happens. Mr. Martin makes A Storm of Swords as interesting as the earlier books, although in retrospect there is a lot of wandering back and forth through the riverlands, during which nothing happens. We keep having Arya chapters even though she's not threatened or learning anything new; we have only few Bran/Rickon chapters even though they are experiencing really cool storylines and events. Daenerys' story is suddenly more about politics than about myth-fulfilling dragons, much to my disappointment. As if in response to the criticism I highlighted last time, one boy in this book is threatened with rape. (Oh thanks, the numbers are even now!)

Apparently realizing that he has killed, or is killing now, or is planning to kill, all of the likeable characters, Mr. Martin attacks the task of taking an unlikeable character (Jaime, the incestuous oathbreaking kingslayer who pushed a 7-year-old boy out a window!) and tries to retro-justify his actions so that he's actually just extremely misunderstood. As you might imagine, this is difficult. I do not think it works, although I can see that he wants us (readers) to start liking or maybe sympathising with Jaime. After all -- look! -- Jaime is standing up to Tywin, who is really really evil. And by the time book 4 rolls around, Jaime will be the most pleasant character still alive! Please like him, ok? He is trying to correct injustices! He got a hand amputated so now he understands suffering!

Also noticeable on this read-through: this book suddenly delves into the musical culture of Westeros, with people quoting and singing all over the place. Certain songs are clearly of political/cultural importance, because they are sung everywhere... but were not mentioned in the first two books. Hah. It's as if someone pointed out to Mr. Martin that his world was missing this huge facet of culture, and so he had a post-it over his writing table that said: SING SONGS. Everyone's singing, and paying musicians, and composing, and humming to themselves left and right.

This post's theme word is coffle, "a line of animals or slaves driven along together." The coffle of readers shuffled into the bookstore to buy book n+1 of the series.