Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bugs in the system

Can we talk about nanotechnology?

Seriously, when is it ever a good idea. It's as bad as anything that starts out with "on a routine salvage mission." Do not ever go on a routine salvage mission (especially not if Ludacris is playing a supporting role) because you are going to end up with alien eggs in your torso, or being chased by a flash-frozen Dracula, or something. Or with flash-frozen Dracula eggs in your torso, I don't know.

Anyway! Agh, nanotechnology, right? Steven Gould's 7th Sigma is set in a futuristic American Southwest, where tiny, self-replicating, solar-powered bugs devour anything metal, and if you're unfortunate to accidentally step on one and damage it, the otherwise more-or-less peaceful bugs turn into a fatal swarm and will straight up perforate you.

7th Sigma is an uneasy blend of science fiction and coming-of-age story, and although Gould's little bugs are pretty neat, Sigma gets tripped up by a one-dimensional hero straight out of a spaghetti Western.

Orphan(ish) Kimble hooks up with Ruth Monroe, an out-of-work sensei headed to a settlement to start her own dojo. In exchange for food and lessons, Kimble helps Monroe establish her school in the scrubby desert near the Rio Puerco, but Kimble technically still has one living parent, which makes him a runaway. When an inquisitive Ranger shows up, Kimble cuts a deal to work as an informant in exchange for the Ranger's silence. Kimble would be more interesting if he wasn't always self-consciously Doing The Right Thing, which gets boring after a while, and most of the action seems to take place off the page, which scatters the narrative. Gould also gives the reader an intriguing glimpse into what may be the next stage of the bug's development, but doesn't pursue it any further.

7th Sigma is a neat little novel, if you can get past the unrelenting optimism. Tor is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers, both for the diversity of their authors and their beautifully designed cover art.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Good vibrations

So, I am finally getting over my horrible mutant cold / general disgustingness. Well, mutant cold, at least. The general disgustingness is probably here to stay.

Got around to watching The Avengers last weekend. When you see this movie with a group of girls, it's just nonstop speculation about which one you want to sleep with.

Which. Duh. Captain Fury.

Perhaps this is not a surprise, since this is a Joss Whedon film, but I was pleased by how the movie handled Black Widow. Depending on your point of view, she's either the least or the most impressive member of the team. She doesn't have a super suit, an awesome hammer, a Brylcreemed side-part and an indestructible shield, or the ability to turn into a giant rage-monster who still manages to retain his pants, yet she still wades in and kicks ass, and even more impressively, none of the other guys question her right to be on the team. Instead of relegating Widow to a love interest, Whedon made her one of the more interesting characters.

Whiiiiich brings me to this movie, Hysteria, which I watched yesterday, by myself, because nothing says I am kind of pathetic than watching a movie about the invention of the vibrator by yourself on a Friday night. The punchline kind of writes itself.

Hysteria is, really, just a fluffy rom-com dressed up in Victorian garb with a pro-woman message. Jonathan Pryce stars as Dr. Dalrymple, who specializes in 'pelvic massage' for hysterical upper-class London wives, and Hugh Dancy plays his assistant, Mortimer Granville, who stands to inherit the practice (and the hand of Dalrymple's lovely, boring daughter Emily). A wicked case of carpal tunnel and Dalrymple's fiery suffragette daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) throws a wrench in Mortimer's plans, but he develops the first electric vibrator and the practice explodes (in ecstasy!).

Hysteria is almost insufferably cute, from the prim Victorian widows who flood Dalrymple's waiting room to Gyllenhaal's almost nauseatingly idealistic Charlotte. Although she gets to deliver a sermon in the courtroom where she's standing trial for assault, the movie still ends with her getting rescued from penury and spinsterhood by the puppy-faced Mortimer. Even Emily takes her jilting with surprising good grace.

Which isn't to say I didn't like it, but it's weirdly ironic that the spandex-clad Black Widow seems like Andrea Dworkin when compared with Gyllenhaal's Charlotte. If Black Widow needed a vibrator, she'd go make her own. OUT OF DEAD MEN'S BONES.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Manly men

Is anyone else as excited as I am about Mansome? I sure hope so.

You are all just jealous because I get to run my fingers through this glorious face-pelt whenever I want.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ye olde sexy times

So, is sex sexier today than it was four hundred years ago?

I don't know. I mean, maybe? Because we have things like floss and toothbrushes and anti-aging cream and spandex, so possibly? But at the same time, I feel like we also have these culturally-created expectations that are kind of ridiculous - okay, bear with me, we're going into Tangent Land - but I watched Year One (shuuuuttt upppp I never claimed to have good taste in anything) and there's a scene where Maya, a sexy cavegirl, lifts one arm and reveals - WAIT FOR IT - armpit hair.

Seriously. That's the punchline. And everyone in the audience let out a collective "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwuuuuuuuurgh!"

I know. According to some Republican lawmakers, ladies aren't actually human or due equal protection under the law, but we are still mammals.

Which is a roundabout way of saying, in the 1600s, probably it was not that big of a deal, but then also you may have gotten a pass for missing some teeth, too.

Anyway, Eleanor Herman's (local author! Went to Towson and lives in Maclean!) Sex With Kings is a snappy romp through the royal bedrooms of European nobility. All of the usual suspects are here, from Madame du Pompadour to the greedy and raging Lady Castlemaine to the equally greedy charlatan Lola Montez, and even wraps it up with the (former) Camilla Parker-Bowles.

Sex With Kings has sparkling prose and is sprinkled liberally with excerpts from diaries, love (and hate) letters, and snippets from diplomatic missives, such as the one that delightfully described Madame Conyngham's flashing the royal goods at a nonplussed diplomat. There are moments of pathos, particularly in Herman's description of the longsuffering Madame du Pompadour's relationship with Louis XV. Of course, royal mistresses are disposable, but du Pompadour held her position for a remarkably long time, although at great personal cost.

Sex with Kings is sometimes repetitive and is very Euro-centric - the kings of England, France, and Germany have center stage here - but it's a very intimate look into the bedrooms of Europe's kings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Breaking news, and bits and pieces

Damn. Nutella is a pretty fundamental part of my diet, since a pleasant looking white lady on TV told me that it was healthy.

See? I mean, how could you not believe this lady? She has kids, which we all know automatically means you are an expert in things like Healthy Eating, Cleaning Your House, and Not Letting Everyone Die In A Ball of Fire.

 Apparently this khakis-rocking mom is a lying liar who lies, and now Ferrero owes me some money, having settled a class action lawsuit brought by someone with even less powers of discernment than I have, according to this article.

I recommend that everyone who has a laptop, limited command of English, and a burning need to bestow millions of dollars on a stranger through the Internet email this lady, because she seems like an easy target.

Seriously, would you like to know how to figure out if something is good for you? Stick it in your mouth, and if it tastes good, it's making your ass bigger. And that, my friends, is SCIENCE.

Here's an excerpt from China Mieville's latest, Railsea, courtesy of Railsea. It is, from what I can tell, a retelling of Moby Dick, but on railways instead of the sea, and the harpooners are hunting a giant mole. Mieville is either a genius, or is legit going insane and this novel is a cleverly coded plea for help.