Archive for January, 2003

RIP New Architect

At one point, I was getting ten different magazines and trade journals at work (all free, of course). The majority of them just rotated on and off a table until the free subscription expired. The one exception was Web Techniques, which became New Architect a year or so ago. It always had a nice balence of technical content, development philosophy, and opinion on what was happening in the industry. I always enjoyed reading Amit Asaravala‘s (not to be confused with Lorem Dolor Ipsum Sit Amet) editorials; though I missed him when he left the position, the rest of the magazine continued to be good reading.

Now, New Architect is no more. The magazine had a good, long run (it launched in 1996) and I’ll certainly miss it each month. (via Ev)

The Towing Company Posse Hits the Ping

Wow.

A towing company discussion forum must have linked to the Daily Ping because slews of people converged yesterday on Why Towing Companies Are the Scum of the Earth. Most of them weren’t very happy, either. I’m not quite sure why.

(Also noted: that Ping is the fifth result for “towing companies” on Google.)

A truly free library

Check it out: If you borrow a book in Blue River, you’ll never have to worry about a due date, a fine or library card

This is a great little special interest story about a library in Oregon that allows anyone to check out books, with no library card required. There are also no due dates, and hence, no overdue fines. It started simply as a pile of books on a woman’s porch and eventually grew to its current location, not far from the woman’s house. The library has been around for 75 years and its card catalog is still maintained by hand, with only a few typewritten cards.

The truth hurts

I can only bite my lip for so long before it starts to hurt.

RAW’s 10th Anniversary

Tonight: the 10th Anniversary of WWE RAW.

Wrestling geeks will want to check this insane spreadsheet which lists the win-loss record of every person that has wrestled on RAW, right down to early-90s jobbers who only appeared once. Amazing. (Did you know Jim Ross has won as many RAW matches as Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka? One.)

Fool Me Twice

Slate has a great article on the media’s willingness to accept anything, whether or not evidence exists to support it. Some great stuff here, with a nice little twist.

From now on, I’m only going to believe what I read in blogs. Who’s with me?

Laze, Kill! If you live, shoot!

After a week of 12- and 14-hour workdays, I got some much needed rest on Saturday and Sunday. Maybe even too much rest.

Saturday a couple of friends came over for some dinner and a rousing game of Zombies!!!. It’s been a year since we played a board game… I forgot how much fun they can be. Sunday I spent watching football, catching up on some of my “to-do” list and, and watching a little spaghetti western action.

Though my workload at work will lighten up a slight bit this week, I have a lot of stuff coming up in the near future. I’ve been working on content for Pint‘s upcoming DVD, preparing to act like a haggard old professor for an individual study where I’m actually playing the teacher role, and talking to a guy about possibly participating in a panel or two at a hip-hop conference at the University of Maryland in March.

And, you, why not buy the illest lunchbox ever.

Review: Speaks the Nightbird by Robert R. McCammon

Robert McCammon has been away from the publishing world for quite a while. His previous book, Gone South, was published just over ten years ago. McCammon had tired of the publishing industry and wasn’t feeling the same passion he had been for writing. Odd, considering the huge success he had with Boy’s Life in 1991, my favorite book of McCammon’s and the one that turned me onto him in the first place.

Thankfully, McCammon decided to return to his writing desk and has churned out quite a piece of work with Speaks the Nightbird, a 725+ page horror novel that speaks more of the evil of man (and the good of man) versus the perceived evil of the supernatural. McCammon shopped the books to the larger publishing houses, but wasn’t willing to let them have the control of the content that they wanted. Instead, he signed on with the relatively small Montgomery, Alabama-based River City Publishing in order to keep his original vision for the book in tact.

Speaks the Nightbird takes place in 1699 Carolina, where a magistrate and his young assistant travel to the small town of Fount Royal to hear the case of a woman accused of witchcraft. But the case isn’t as straightforward as the townspeople would make them think; there’s a lot of evil in the crumbling town and the magistrate’s clerk is determined to find out where it’s living.

Even though Robert McCammon is my favorite fiction author, I still approached this book with a little hesitation. First of all, I’ve never taken on a book of this size before… 725 pages is a big commitment, especially for someone who’s only read one fiction book in the last three years. Secondly, I’m not the biggest fan of period pieces. When it comes to fiction, I don’t gravitate towards stories that take place in the distant past. No particular reason, just personal preferences. Nevertheless, within a few pages of starting McCammon’s latest, I was hooked, and all my prejudices were out the window.

I venture to say that Speaks the Nightbird is the best written book that McCammon has turned out yet. While in some of his earlier efforts, I felt that his dialogue occasionally felt stilted, he really came through this time around. The dialogue wonderfully crafted; it manages to be both authentic enough for the time period, avoiding anachronisms of speech, but at the same time doesn’t strive to be so authentic that the dialogue feels weighed down with language of the time. I can forgive some speech that is appropriate for the era, but when an entire book is crafted as such, I end up feeling like the writer is trying too hard to be authentic, rather than focusing on getting the point across. McCammon doesn’t fall into that trap.

The plot is also surprisingly engaging with a number of twists and turns that are occasionally predictable, but more often than night, keep the book moving at a nice clip. McCammon’s characters are carefully detailed, especially the paternal magistrate, the enthusiastic and skeptical clerk, and the beautiful Portuguese Rachel (the accused witch). McCammon’s favorite theme is the battle between good and evil (see Boy’s Life, Mine, Stinger, Swan’s Song, etc.) and Speaks the Nightbird is no different in that respect. But you know what: he does it so well, in a way that goes beyond typical genre labels, it doesn’t matter that the theme is recycled. I’d say that Speaks the Nightbird is second only to Boy’s Life in terms of straight-ahead storytelling. McCammon’s one of the best, no doubt.

I hope that there’s not another ten year hiatus between stories, though McCammon has indicated that this may be his last book. The door seemed to be left open for a continuation, though, so perhaps we’ll see a sequel, something McCammon hasn’t done with any of his other stories. Whatever the case, Speaks the Nightbird is personal milestone, in that I tackled a novel of signficant length in a short period of time, and one that based on the book’s description alone I might not have tried if it wasn’t for the author that I’ve come to trust over the years. Great stuff, and definitely worth checking out if mystery with a dash of horror and historical fiction is your bag.

Be sure to also check out Robert McCammon’s site, maintained with the detail that only a dedicated—and slightly obesesive—fan could provide. So much so, that Speaks the Nightbird is dedicated to the site’s webmaster, Hunter Goatley.

Curse crappy CSS handling

If everyone in the world used Mozilla or Opera, life would be so much easier for me.

I am the Punctuation Police

Former teacher faces charges

The story’s about another sicko teacher making inappropriate comments to students and “crossing the boundary.” Whatever. These stories are too commonplace these days. But dig this sentence:

Abbott would comment on his young student’s bodies and shoot rubber bands at girl’s butts, she said in her statement.

His “young student‘s bodies?” Apparently, one of his students can shapeshift or transfer their soul into another body at will. That I’d like to see.