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Chris H

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Everything posted by Chris H

  1. First time I've stopped by in a while, so while I also miss the good old days I have only myself to blame for not helping to preserve the board's momentum...
  2. King Bullet is the twelfth and final Sandman Slim novel by Richard Kadrey. As always, huge, violent and gory fun; this time around, we get a pandemic (and much wearing of masks) that turns out to be not as straightforward as your common or garden coronavirus. The end was satisfying, but the fact that it's all over leaves me rather sad. I love these books and have done so since I read #1 after Bill recommended it.
  3. I seem to have locked into rereading a lot of paranormal/fringe science books from my bookshelves for the last few months. Some, I hadn't read since childhood or early teens. It's my reading equivalent of comfort eating. Or at least it used to be. I found myself getting annoyed by how badly written some books were; the rest were just bad. As a world-wise, cynical sixty-year-old I found myself wondering how anyone could take some of them seriously but clearly when I was younger I took them seriously enough to spend money on. Brad Steiger's Flying Saucers Are Hostile is probably the worst of the bunch, as he cites multiple UFO cases that he appeared to have made up on the spot. Donald Keyhoe's Aliens From Space is an ex-marine settling old scores with the Air Force and only tangentially discussing the USAF and CIA's fumbled response to the saucer scares of the 50s and 60s. Kenneth Arnold, the pilot whose sighting started much of the saucer craze, wrote a surprisingly sober account of his experience (and his subsequent encounter with a possible CIA asset by the name of Fred Criswell, who later made a living as a DJ on right-wing radio) in The Coming of the Saucers, which was co-written by Ray Palmer, who published the Shaver mystery stories in Amazing Stories. It's all connected, you see... But I have been revisiting John A Keel's body of work this past month and damn, they're a frustrating read. He had a keen mind and he was great at making connections with experiencers and getting them to open up. He put in the field work more than most (and he doesn't let us forget it) and his investigation of the Point Pleasant disaster and sightings of an entity known as Mothman led him to create an interesting thesis of the paranormal that owes more to The Trickster than it does little green men. Keel's encounters with Indrid Cold certainly read as such. But Keel became fixated on a number of urban myths that have long since been debunked (he had clear favourite bits of evidence: Florida's fifteen-foot-high penguin crops up over and over again in his work, as does the Socorro close encounter and the Oliver Lerch abduction—which appears to be a retelling of an Ambrose Bierce short story) and leaves me wondering if all the rest of his "evidence" is equally flimsy. He doesn't help matters by aping Charles Fort's disdain of science, either. He believes Velikovsky, but not Sagan. He espouses the hollow Earth theory, but scoffs at the idea of black holes. I'm left wishing that he'd brought his considerable intellect to bear on matters a little more critically. Operation Trojan Horse is probably his best and most convincing work. The Eighth Tower is probably his worst.
  4. I've just looked at the desktop app, clicked the Hamburger icon in the top left, then File | Preferences... | Notifications I believe that the "Send me email notifications..." option at the bottom is a subset of "When I'm not active on desktop..." settings, so if you're running the app, notifications will go through to the OS instead.
  5. Great idea! I'm currently releasing about an album a month (pay-what-you-want, which includes free) on Bandcamp: https://headfirstonly.bandcamp.com/ I stream on Twitch on Thursdays at 19:30 UTC and Sundays at 21:00 UTC, mainly talking about making music and playing what I've produced. I'm just five followers short of being granted "affiliate" status: https://www.twitch.tv/headfirstonly All my old shows are archived on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/headfirstonly There's some stuff of mine still up at Soundcloud but they have endemic levels of spam and do nothing about it, so I've pretty much given up on the platform: https://soundcloud.com/headfirstonly
  6. Ballistic Kiss by Richard Kadrey. Sandman Slim #11 and quite frankly if Mr K wants to keep writing these for the rest of his life I will keep buying them (sadly, he won't - this is the penultimate novel in the series). This time out, James Stark, the last of the Nephilim and LA resident has PTSD and depression (given what he's been through in the last ten books, that's not exactly a surprise to me) and is unexpectedly vulnerable. As a result he's a much more interesting character, and his "what's it all about then, eh?" ruminations are casting interesting light on where the series is going. But also as a result, his diminishment has meant that a lot of reviews of the book have been less than positive. Because some folks are only there for the power fantasy part of things, I guess. I loved it. And I am now obsessed with The Malin House (Stark's pad this time around.) https://www.archdaily.com/64345/ad-classics-malin-chemosphere-residence-john-lautner Piranesi by Suzanna Clarke. Her first full-length work since Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and deliciously weird. Describing the plot would only spoil things; go into it cold and enjoy the complete "WTF?" feeling of things as the work gradually reveals itself. Huge fun and completely mad.
  7. After we maxed out Twitter this afternoon so that I couildn't add more people to the conversation, I have set up a channel on Slack where we can hang out and share stuff like Zoom conversations privately. I've sent out emails to as many people as I have emails for, but if I've missed you and you want in, give me a holler.
  8. At least you have an incoming administration who aren't bumbling psycopaths who think that all they need to do to gloss over failings that are costing a thousand lives a *day* here at the moment is to muss up their hair and do their best Benny Hill impersonation. And at least you haven't just ignominiously crashed out of the largest free trade conglomeration in the Western Hemisphere. Here in the UK, things are looking bleak. The power's been flickering here tonight, which is unusual. I hope it's not a sign of things to come...
  9. I did get described as "The Bob Ross of prog metal" this summer, though, so there's that. Oh, and I'm on Twitch now, Sundays and Thursdays. Come say "hi!" in the chat! https://www.twitch.tv/headfirstonly
  10. I spent the summer (as I have done for the past eight years) taking part in the songwriting challenge known as Fifty/Ninety (the goal is to write 50 songs in the 90 days between July 4th and October 1st.) This year I ended up writing or collaborating on a total of sixty-five pieces of music, all of which can be listened to here: http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/user/headfirstonly I'm not sure if there's a viable album lurking in that lot. My process over the last few months seems to have predominantly been one of working through my anger at the current political situation at home and abroad and the seemingly complete absence of anybody behaving like a grown-up would. And the world really doesn't need another album from an old white guy taking that POV.
  11. How Music Works by David Byrne. I've had this on my wishlist for forever and it was well past time I actually read the thing. It's a really enjoyable set of essays about various aspects of music, some of which I'd read in a more abbreviated form elsewhere (the one about how architecture shapes music first appeared on BoingBoing, IIRC.) Byrne has an interesting (and very well-informed) way of looking at things, and there are some striking insights about creativity and the business of art. The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh. Even explaining the plot could be considered spoilery, so I'm just going to say that all the way through this I was thinking about how the protagonist was growing more and more like Hannibal Lecter. Not what I was expecting at all, and yet somehow exactly what I was expecting. On multiple occasions I found myself thinking, "oh no, he's not going to go there, is he?" And on each occasion, Welsh does. Children of Artifice by Danie Ware. Danie's a friend, and I felt guilty about taking so long to get around to reading this (life getting in the way of late means that my reading rate has nosedived) but it turned out to be one of the best reads of the year. It's an entertaining gothic romp that starts somewhere between Peake's Gormenghast and Herbert's Dune (young scion of ancient house in highly claustrophobic setting, unseen forces rising against him) but at the same time Danie makes some very interesting narrative choices. Looking forward to the follow-up. The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again by Mike Harrison. The minutiae of everyday life rendered unsettling and weird in a mostly inconclusive but occasionally disturbing way. Characters find themselves out of their depth in many different senses of the word, literally and figuratively. Delicious. I am still grinding through Persepolis Rising by James S A Corey. It's book 7 of the Expanse series and feels very much like it's getting all the pieces on the board in the places that they need to be for the endgame to play out (the 9th and final book in the series Leviathan Falls comes out next year.) Done well, shuffling between the POVs of a large number of characters can be exhilarating. Here it just feels like it's getting in the way because with each shift I have to remind myself what that character was doing last time we were with them. I get that a power struggle between different factions of humanity is extremely likely given the sort of scenario that the authors have used for the series, but foregrounding it at the expense of the more engaging aspects of alien space opera that were the focus of the earlier books really doesn't appeal to me. Instead, we get lots of conversations, meetings and videoconferences, interspersed with the occasional brawl. Worse, even the space battles are boring. So I've just started Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinaw. A jaw-dropping look at the inroads science is finally beginning to make into understanding the unconscious. I'm having a "wait, what?" moment every few pages so far. That's what I want from a science book.
  12. Chris H

    Tour dates!

    A few photos from Bill's UK appearances, and the associated WGB gatherings:
  13. Chris H


    I put my review up on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3159786704
  14. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. A non-fiction account of the Theranos affair. This is a salutory and disturbing tale of what happens when grandiose self-belief loses all touch with reality and moves to Silicon Valley. The supporting cast includes Henry Kissinger and General James "Mad Dog" Mattis. The most insane true story I've read for many years. The litigation continues to this day... After Atlas by Emma Newman. A bleak, Earth-based follow-up to Emma's Planetfall, which I really enjoyed. This is very different, and I enjoyed it even more (I burned through it in a single day). Future police procedural, heavy on augmented reality and interesting tech, with a big dollop of dystopia thrown in to really mix things up. Did I mention the bleak? This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan. A novel that soon begins to take on a distinctly "This Is Spinal Tap" shape, borrowing heavily on the Oulipo school of writing (so you can have fun spotting the techniques as they crop up). It's the tale, told through interviews and recollections, of legendary 80s pop group Memorial Device. The blurring of fact and fiction is so well done that it's difficult to know where reportage stops and invention begins - I suspect that even a citizen of Airdrie, where the novel is set, may find themselves wondering if they attended one of the band's gigs back in the day. I got a lot out of this one, possibly because I was even more heavily in to music in the 80s than I am now, and almost certainly because I'm very familiar with the sort of authorial tone that crops up in band fanzines. Really enjoyed this one. Their Brilliant Careers by Ryan O'Neill. Another novel that shows strong Oulipo influences, chronicling the remarkable lives of sixteen obscure (i.e. fictional) Australian writers. If you know even the tiniest bit about Australian literature, you'll recognise what's going on; this one really did have me laughing out loud. It takes a while for the scene to be set, but when the gags start landing I was howling. The final joke, which has been set up for almost the entire book, pays off *perfectly*. And like This Is Memorial Device, even the index has jokes in it.
  15. Much as it pains me to become involved with streaming services, my latest album is now available on Spotify. It'll be up on iTunes and Amazon Music in the not too distant future as well. As always, it's available on Bandcamp, where you can also read the lyrics and good stuff like that. https://headfirstonly.bandcamp.com/album/beyond
  16. I am currently reading: Embers of War by Gareth Powell. I understand Remote's reaction to the Trouble Dog books, but I enjoy them a lot. Like Banks, his characters often operate in moral grey areas. There are some interesting creations too: I've heard Gareth read scenes featuring Nod the Engineer which are particularly funny. Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber. A meditation on whether or not most of the work that people do these days is meaningful or not, concluding that it is not. The book comes complete with a taxonomy of different categories of meaningless jobs. I can only read it in short bursts, because the illustrative stories and examples gathered from messages to the author on Twitter and elsewhere following the publication of his original essay end up making me furiously, blisteringly angry. You need to read this one, so we can do something about fixing the things that Graeber is writing about. Psychogeography by Merlin Coverley. Reads like a sixth-former's essay and manages to make the Dadaists and Situationists sound dull. Seriously, this reads like someone who has never read an academic paper trying to write an academic paper. If this was a Wikipedia page, it would be plastered with [citation needed] flags. Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement. A memoir of the implosion of a significant talent and an examination of our self-destructive urges. A record of a time that is as far away from us now as the 1930s were from the Beatles, which is a very sobering thought. Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott. Very entertaining gothic weirdness along the lines of Hope Mirrlee's Lud-in-the-Mist, but about two hundred pages too long. When I finally got to the end of the book and found the story would be continued in the next volume, I concluded that it would have to go on without me... The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. The story of the cholera outbreak that took place in London in 1854, told in forensic and gruesome detail. The invention of cities helped human beings to live successfully at population densities that the planet had never seen before, but all those bodies provided an environment for diseases to proliferate in ways that had previously been impossible. This is a record of the replacement of one scientific paradigm (the miasmic theory of disease) with another, and how the evidence was compiled to discredit the old theory and support the new. It was also a pivotal point in the development of data mapping. Time to Think by Nancy Kline. Starts off as your typical "help your business grow" text focusing on how giving people your full attention when they talk, and not interrupting them, enables them to think more deeply and become more creative. Gradually gets more and more out there until by the end Kline appears to claim (and this is not an exaggeration) that her approach can cure cancer. So, yeah.
  17. According to Formula 1's own website, a modern racing car can generate 3.5g of downforce (3.5 times its own weight), which means that if the car's going fast enough through a tunnel, it could theoretically drive upside down: https://www.formula1.com/en/championship/inside-f1/understanding-f1-racing/Aerodynamics.html There have been complaints from race circuits that F1 cars leave ruts in the asphalt, like heavy goods vehicles do on freeways.
  18. It's called a splitter. They're designed to reduce the amount of air flowing under the car at higher speeds (by diverting most of it upwards, or to the side). This improves downforce, stops the steering getting too light at speed. And the number of cars I see on the roads over here with broken ones flapping about under the car is ridiculous.
  19. Fans of progressive rock might want to make sure that they reserve a copy of issue 98 of "Prog" magazine, out on May 3rd. For, like, reasons.
  20. Switched over to a Lexus hybrid this week. 60 mpg, up from the 44 mpg I was getting with the last car. All the bells and whistles. And because it's a 2015 model, road tax is £0.00.
  21. After completely rewriting the lyrics I'm kinda pleased with this. https://headfirstonly.bandcamp.com/track/off-the-edge
  22. I missed Incredibles 2 when it hit the cinemas, but now it's gained a digital release, I watched it last night. Spotted the villain almost immediately, but it was a fun watch. The sequence with Jack-Jack and a garden interloper was by far the highlight: Tex Avery levels of comedic mayhem. As if Brad Bird had looked at Scrat's appearances in the Ice Age movies and decided to show how they ought to have been done. Plus Isabella Rossellini!
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