Archives : March 2000

2000 March 5

Ripping-20-foot-Trees-out-by-the-Roots Day

That's what it should have been called, anyway. I did a Community Impact project yesterday, ``controlling the spread of invasive non-native plant growth'' in the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District's Thornehill Preserve (I think it was called). That is to say, weeding out Scotch broom, and a bit of Spanish broom. Biggest damn weeds I've ever seen -- some of the ones we pulled out were bona-fide 15- to 20-foot trees. This was not a crawl-around-on-your-knees kind of day.

As Josh, one of the other volunteers, pointed out, weeding can be somehow more satisfying than planting. There's an instant-gratification aspect to it -- you can see immediately that you've done something, rather than having to wait until the summer to see if anything sprouted.

More than that, though, I think is the sheer physical satisfaction of committing a plant massacre, and not having to feel guilty about it. As the Maxx would say: ``They have no natural predators -- unless you count ME...''

2000 March 17


Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. Wow.

It's over 900 pages, and I think I read it in three days. Then went back to the beginning and started reading it again.

Insert obligatory rambling here, about how a book nominally about cryptography manages to be at once technically detailed and also a gripping treasure hunt; about how all the nifty complex, multi-layered and sometimes plain off-the-wall digressions and side stories manage to pull together and work; about the unfortunate tendency of any female characters with more than a couple of lines to be principally somebody's love interest; about how this is the most thought-provoking book I've read since Brin's Transparent Society; about how a substantial part of it is about the adventure of starting a company, a subject I'm fascinated by these days; about how sometimes it's plain fuckin' hilarious.

True, but not the point, I think.

Back in Grade 10, I was actually first introduced to SF by my English teacher, Mr. Farrell, to whom I owe a lot of thanks that I'm not sure I've ever given him. My point at the moment, however, is that I'm put in mind of his definition of the field -- SF is the literature of ideas. Being about the future is only incidental, normally required in order to find a setting where one can dig into big new ideas.

Cryptonomicon therefore marks the point at which the present has caught up to SF. I would argue that it's clearly an SF novel, written by an SF author, with classically SF motivations and themes, set in a future the world has already arrived in as the author was writing.

It's an important book. Read it.

2000 March 18

Fantasia 2000

Saw Fantasia 2000 at the Metreon IMAX last night with Straz and Mas and Moni. I liked it about as much as I liked the original, which is to say some parts worked brilliantly (Flamingos with Yoyos, the Steadfast Tin Soldier), some were just too much Disney for me to choke down (Donald and Daisy on Noah's Ark, the saccharine rendition of the Firebird), and some had a lot of promise that didn't quite pan out -- flying whales is cool, but flying whales jinking about like hummingbirds I can't quite swallow. The Pines of Rome I think was just too flighty a piece of music for the concept, or something like that.

But the winner, defined in the sense of the tune that remained stuck in my head while we were eating later, was Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.