This Charming Mystery

Hey. You can listen to a bunch of songs by my new band This Charming Mystery at our myspace page, which has just gone live. If you are a msypace-enabled person you can add us as a friend and make us look loved.

But yeah. Head on over and have a listen. Tell us what we sound like, because it’s a bit of mystery to me. There’s quite a bit of variety in there. (And for those wondering, it’s a million miles away from what Idle Faction were doing 😉 TCM is a mostly instrumental 3 piece doing… well. Go find out 🙂 I am guitars and occasionally vocals when there are vocals.)

I’d recommend maybe Kilimanjaro, Seems That Way, Portobello Road or Monday Morning Traffic to start with. But then I’d recommend all of them…

it's rough out there

Seems like it’s a not an easy time for a bunch of people right now. Love to you all.


Meanwhile, crazy shit continues apace.

From the I-really-wish-these-delusional-psychos-running-the-world-would-get-their-priorities-straight and start funding, say, research into geothermal power files:

the U.S. intelligence community is working to develop software that will detect violent extremists infiltrating World of Warcraft and other massive multiplayer games, according to a data-mining report from the Director of National Intelligence.

The Reynard project will begin by profiling online gaming behavior, then potentially move on to its ultimate goal of “automatically detecting suspicious behavior and actions in the virtual world.

Total. Fucking. Insanity.

There seem to be a few articles floating around at the moment about the coming autonomous-robots-with-bombs-and-guns being scary thing (and its something I’ve been tracking here, if you recall). Here’s one.

Prof Noel Sharkey fears increased research and spending on unmanned military systems by countries including the US, Russia, China and Israel will lead to the use of autonomous battlefield robots that can decide when to kill within a decade.

He goes on to freak out that the terrorists will get them and use them for suicide bombing.

Meanwhile, in the Arctic, a seed depository has just opened, containing all of the world’s crop diversity in seed form, in case of disaster. Yay. The shrinkage in crop diversity is a really freaky thing for our food security and survival on this planet. Though I wish the vault was in, say, Fiordland.

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at the Onion, but this is pure gold satire.

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

On writing characters

Have been meaning to post something along these lines for a long time.

Often I have heard that “male writers don’t write female characters well”. However, I cannot recall anyone ever giving an example of a female character that was written particularly well, by any author. So, my first question is, can anyone give me an example of a really well written female character, by any author, male or female?

Musing further, however, there seems to be some kind of implicit corollary assumption that male characters *are* being written well by male authors (and presumably female authors). From a fairly extensive amount of reading that seems really unwarranted to me. Most characters are by necessity shallow and service a plot. They reflect the limitations in awareness and insight of their authors.

I have long had severe reservations about the ability of anyone to write any character convincingly – and certainly of my own ability to do so. And here, by convincingly I am meaning to write a character of the depth and complexity that I experience in myself and people I know. I don’t think we are particularly unusual specimens of humanity, but personally, I think that if I were going to write a character of that depth, it would take a very long novel, and that would be *all* the novel would be doing. (Notwithstanding that we are creatures of habit, that patterns recur, and much of our nature and disposition can be represented well and discerned by those who know us… but each perception is only a fragment of the whole, and it is the whole that is the character.)

An entire field of writing – namely, biography – sets out to examine the character of an individual human in depth. Yet two biographies of the same person can paint radically different pictures of their character.

I think it is entirely possible to write characters that ring true, that are emotionally resonant, that act believably, even that we feel as though we are inside the skin of. Further, it is the duty of the writer to ensure that all their characters achieve this.

My second question, then, is what is the most completely realised character you have ever read?

want to read a book?

Some copies of The United States of Dave have returned from readers. Anyone feel like reading it? Priority to those who can promise a reasonably quick turnaround. Good to keep ’em circulating. 🙂

so much music

I bought CDs yesterday. First time in over a year (unless I bought something at a gig.) And it’s not like I’m downloading music. Weird.

Anyhow. I now have A Noise Severe, The Gathering’s new double live album (*squee*), and Agua de Annique’s debut album, Air (*swoon*).

This is still nowhere near as exciting as getting the This Charming Mystery recording back today and giving it a crank just now.

🙂 🙂 🙂

fantasy reviews

The moose has been reading a few fantasy novels lately, the first time in many years. While in many ways this is the psychic equivalent of staying in bed with the covers over my head, it has been an enjoyable process.

Went online and snooped around for recommendations. Seems the field has developed a bit in the last decade. Read, in order of availability from library:

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Tightly plotted, consistently entertaining, refreshingly nasty. An impressive debut novel by any standards. Essentially the tale of the ultimate con man in a fantasy context. The hero, Lamora, can’t fight for shit, which makes for a fun dynamic. Quick wits and acting are his forte. The scale works well – one large complex city with messy factions, horror and brutality – and magic, on the rare occasions when it appears, is genuinely disturbing. The dialogue is modernised – no ponderous stretching after high fantasy – which really appeals. (Hey, it’s amazing when Eddison does it, but most don’t have the knack.) When the hero can say things like “Now cut out that bastard’s fucking tongue” – and mean it – something has grown up. Possibly the most straight out pleasurable read of the bunch, as it has a much greater emphasis on the humourous side, though definitely harshly tempered with ouchie ouchie nastiness.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erickson

Holy shit. I am a little jealous of what this guy has done – single-handedly redefining epic fantasy, injecting it with a post-modern sensibility and pure scale that is a little awe-inspiring. Getting away from the excessively clear cut Good vs Evil motif and muddying the waters is something traditional fantasy desperately needed – and i realise it has been seeping through – but this feels like a benchmark. The world is dense, dark, and complex; rich with history, positively drowning in chaotic magics, with always a new level of freaky weirdness beyond what has been revealed. A world where men can become Gods, where Gods interfere in the lives of men, where magical dimensions intersect, and it really doesn’t matter how badass you are, there is something out there that can tear your face off and use it for toilet paper. Great characters going through the wringer. So many races, cultures, factions; so much murder, betrayal, double-dealing, and pyschological devastation… yup. Impressed. And he can write pretty well. There’s a real philosophical angle behind the scale, brought out by emotionally aware and mature characters. I’d definitely recommend Gardens of the Moon to anyone into fantasy, and even those who are just curious and want a good read. It’s a little confusing at first, but holy crap does it deliver, and keep delivering. Pretty much no guarantees on who will live and die, or what fates worse than death will befall them. Also a plus is that it is completely satisfying as a standalone novel, which is handy at the size Erickson churns them out.

The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

The first volume of the Prince of Nothing took Bakker 15 years to write. It’s pretty damn extraordinary. Anasurimbor Kellhus is basically the most interesting, philosophically fascinating, and flat out ballsy (to undertake the writing of) fantasy character I think I’ve ever seen. Across the board, the characters, the intrigue, the world, are excellent. What really pulls me in, personally, is the philosophical resonance. Kellhus is somewhere between a genuine adept (or Conscious Man) and a babe in the woods. His power is awareness; the question is what does one do with the freedom accorded one who is aware and awake in a world of sleepers?

I really like the way this book goes about things. How many books would follow a character like Drusus Achamian, theoretically one of the most powerful magicians around, and never show him using any magic? The world is a curious analogue of our own, with its religious wars and the specifics of the time scale and its history. The bad guys are kept mostly in the wings. We are aware they are present but rarely see them or their works. Humanity is the focus – the desires, drives and flaws of characters as they vie for worldly ends – and the way those drives are dwarfed by the horrors they unleash.

Biggest bummer is it is in no way a stand alone novel. If you start this journey, you’re going to need to read the next two books. Excellent stuff.

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erickson

Second of the Malazan Books of the Fallen. The full scale of the epicness becomes clear. Set on a different continent, in another war, with a cast drawn unexpectedly from minor characters and rumours from Gardens of the Moon, a long, hot, nasty desert tale unfolds. We learn a lot about the history of the world, and the tangled fates of certain characters. Nothing is what it seems. Much becomes clear. More becomes unclear. There are no fixed poles in this book, just people struggling to find meaning in the face of horror, to make choices in an unforgiving world, and flat out struggling to stay alive, because in the end what else is there? And any book where a powerful character can turn his back for a moment, and, without warning, another character turns into a flood of rats and eats him in a couple of seconds has something going for it. But yeah. Breathtaking scope and invention. Seriously. The mind boggles trying to hold it all. I wonder how much of this he knew in advance and how much was retrospective juggling? Still, requiring some dedication to get through at this point, 900+ pages? May do another of them, but probably not anytime soon, though the series is an obvious towering masterwork of the field.

Currently reading The Warrior-Prophet, book two of The Prince of Nothing. Vaguely planning on reading the first book of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire sequence, since that has been talked up a bit too, and I think I actually have it in a box somewhere. Is there anything else out of the last decade of fantasy that is particularly noteworthy? It’s about that long since I’ve paid any attention…

back online

Have a new temporary abode.

Top ten emerging technologies for 2008 from technology review. some interesting stuff in there, from mobile augmented reality (another eidolon-coming-true moment) to metamaterials to quantum dot solar power.

A tonne of good psychedelic and consciousness talks free to download. Also home of the palenque norte talks.

A lack of inner awareness makes you a fat bastard; differences in whether people respond to internal (feeling full) or external (whether plate is empty) cues correlate with whether people keep eating and hence weight. Nice microcosm for general diagnosis of our ills; not being self-aware causes negative manifestations.

Also: people die from pepper spray!? Someone told me a dude in Auckland got killed by taser but I can’t find anything about it. Wondering if he got confused.

And Fidel steps down. And Musharraf is out


Web access may be erratic for a while as the moose enters the flux. Available via txt.

There are no guarantees, become what you are

Christopher Hyatt is dead.

Wow. A mere 12 months after RAW?

Love him or hate him, Hyatt was another important occult philosopher, and his Undoing Yourself With Energised Meditation is (despite the title sounding a bit daft) unconditionally recommended by this moose (though with the caveat it is not a gentle awakening).

Steve Gerber is also dead, possibly in ten dimensions. We’re losing some weird heroes. 🙁

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