Monday, September 27, 2010


     Ascetic is not to be confused with aesthetics. Just leave it to some obscure Korean movie to improve my English vocabulary. I watched Come, Come, Come Upwards (1989) last night, which is about the lives of female Buddhists and, of course, asceticism.

     It's not my job to elaborate the difference between ascetic and aesthetics. I just wanted to point out I was forced to run to an English language dictionary while watching a Korean movie.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine

     I can not explain to you what I have just finished reading. My first exposures to the writings of R.A. Lafferty made a significant impact, but this novel just left me irritated and confused. And running to the dictionary every few moments (but sometimes laughing out loud, which makes reading this bilge worthwhile).

      Here are some (I left out the really woolly ones) of the words that I had either never seen before or did not readily know the definition:

callow - lacking adult maturity or experience; immature
purlieu - a neighboring area; outskirts; a place that one frequents
aerie, aery, eyrie, eyry - the nest of a bird, built on a cliff; a house or stronghold perched on a height
tor - a pile of rocks on top of a hill; a rocky peak or hill
fulgent - shining brilliantly; radiant
urbane - polite, refined, and often elegant in manner
fellah - a peasant or agricultural laborer in an Arab country  (plural is fellahin  or fellaheen)
poseur - one who affects a particular attitude, character, or manner to impress others
aestivation - the act of spending or passing the summer (also spelled estivation)
eutectic - formed at the lowest possible temperature of solidification for any mixture of specified constituents; used primarily for alloys
eidolon - a phantom, an apparition; an image of an ideal
chthonic - of or relating to the gods and spirits of the underworld (Greek mythology)
bilge - the rounded portion of a ship's hull; stupid talk or writing, nonsense
abscond - to leave quickly and secretly and hide oneself, often to avoid arrest or prosecution
cloy - to cause distaste or disgust by supplying with too much of something originally pleasant
subtile - accepted variant spelling of subtle
cybern - [not in my dictionary, could be a made-up word]
roue - a lecherous, dissipated man
intramuros - [not in my dictionary, could be a made-up word]
intraficies - [not in my dictionary, could be a made-up word]
paean - a song of joyful praise or exultation
palimpsest - a manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible; an object or place that reflects its history
gamy - ill-smelling; rank; showing an unyielding spirit; corrupt, tainted
prescind - to separate or divide in thought; consider individually
philology - literary study or classical scholarship (literally 'love of learning')
numinosity - related to 'supernatural' in meaning
amnestic - adjectival form of amnesia
Faeroes - a group of volcanic islands in the northern Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the Shetland Islands
outre - highly unconventional; eccentric or bizarre
caul - a portion of the amnion, especially when it covers the head of a fetus at birth; also called pileus
gravid - carrying developing young or eggs 
quoit - a game in which flat rings of iron or rope are pitched at a stake, with points awarded for encircling it (sounds like horseshoes to me)

     A few quotes from this book:

"There is nothing the matter with matter. Life is no more than a privileged form of matter. Love is no more than a privileged form of life."

"You never get anything out of the ones who have the most."

"There is a man and a woman walking on the walkway; I would have to describe them as congenial-appearing crabs.
'Are you two married to each other?' Gregory asked them lovingly.
'Got to be,' the man said. 'Who else would have us?'"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Angels on the Streets

     I finally got around to cracking open "THE PAST UNEARTHED: Collection of Feature Films in the Japanese Colonial Period". It's a 4 DVD box set of Korean films from the early 1940s. In 2004, the Korean Film Archives found them in China, in a vault. The first movie in the set is titled "Angels on the Streets"

     The picture and sound quality made the experience rather trying. I could barely hear the Korean above the static and the picture was very dark. Thankfully, the producers included quality English subtitles. The extensive booklet is also written in Korean and English. The movie is 73 minutes long and I watched it in two parts, to make the experience more tolerable. 
     This movie is about the street urchins, which refers to the thousands of homeless children. They are never referred to as angels in the film. While the quality of the movie left much to be desired, the story and acting were not so bad.
      At the end of the movie, all of the actors (all Koreans) got into formation and pledged allegiance to the Emperor of Japan, under the crimson eye of the Japanese flag. I seriously doubt that was voluntary.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My newest favorite authors.

     Greg Egan and R. A. Lafferty are my newest favorite authors. They are pointedly different from one another, as Egan focuses on hard science and Lafferty essentially wrote tall tales, with very little science. I have read all 7 of Egan's published novels and I'm currently waiting for Zendegi to be published. Egan doesn't write that much, so it's easy to keep up with him.
     Lafferty is a bit more complicated. He wrote a lot; more than 30 novels and 200 short stories. What's impressive is that he didn't start writing until he was in his 40s. His first novel, pictured below, was nominated for the Hugo Award:

     The above novel features Thomas More as the protagonist, the inventor of utopia.

     Both of these authors are not for lazy readers. They either use vocabulary or concepts that will require the use of dictionaries or other supplemental material. Lafferty makes me use the dictionary every 22 seconds, while Egan makes me use a Physics textbook every 22 attoseconds. That's great and it's what I enjoy about reading.
     Although a great deal of information can be found about these authors at other sources, I can summarize by writing that Egan is the hardest of hard science fiction writers (read Schild's Ladder if you want proof) and Lafferty is the funniest (read Through Elegant Eyes).