reading jan 2013

This year, let’s try doing it monthly!


The Wind-up Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi

I enjoyed this a lot. Tightly plotted, every character stuck in tight spots throughout, a fascinating post-collapse genetic nightmare world. My reading differs sharply from a number of critical reviews I’ve seen.

Story – Robert McKee

Mostly skimmed this classic on screenwriting. Very much the dehumanising abstraction version of story structure, but some interesting stuff. I would take Snyder’s ‘Save the Cat’ over this any day.

The Settler’s Plot – Alex Calder

Recent (2011) academic study of place in New Zealand literature. Surprisingly interesting, especially the early era stuff I had never heard of, but very much only relevant to specialists.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Jean-Dominique Bauby

French magazine editor has a stroke and is totally paralysed; dictates book letter by letter by blinking, about his experience as a shut-in and his life before. Short, bittersweet.

The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

This is what all the fuss is about? Crikey. Nicely told, anyway, but very lightweight. The dwarves are kind of… dicks. Anyway. Edging closer to finally reading LOTR.

Direct and Digital Marketing in Practice (2e) – Brian Thomson

Somewhat dry text, but comprehensive, and useful in places.

Adweek Copywriting Handbook – Joseph Sugarman

Really excellent text on copywriting from a master.

Ghandi on non-violence

Selection of Ghandi’s writings on non-violence. He is very much coming from a deep spiritual angle, rather than the diluted non-violent resistance of today; he is on about a process of being that seeks to transform both the non-violent and the aggressor.


And then the burn happened and unsurprisingly I didn’t touch a book for the past week or so.

Constitutional Advisory Panel


Apparently NZ is considering constitutional reform. Something you could easily not know about for all the government is doing to bury it.

If you are interested in amending the fundamental laws of the land, you could check out their website, which includes things like information on how to get involved, and their PDF summarising what they have done so far.


tinekaamos – the northland sessions vol 1: experiments


A few years back I had a home studio and did some recording. Naturally, the dozen or so solo tracks I had ready to record didn’t come out at all right on recording.

While I was doing those recordings, I spent some time messing around. I would lay a track of something down, and then improvise over that, laying in new tracks, including vocals on the spot. None of these took more than part of an afternoon, and they were kind of fun experimentation.

Naturally, a handful of those worked out more satisfactorily than the proper songs. These recordings come from those sessions. Stylistically they are all over the place. Experiments is an apt name.

I am under no illusions about their quality; proceed at your own risk. Mostly they are pretty short. The setup was ultra lo-fi (battered old synth, coupla guitars, various hand percussion, one mic) and I was learning how to record. At charitable best they could be considered evidence of some raw musical instincts. I suspect I have enough distance to no longer be actively embarrassed by them. At any rate these are the ones I still listen to sometimes. Now you can too.

If you are interested, you can download/listen free via bandcamp

Track by track comments:

Om Nama Shivaya This phrase is a mantra to Shiva to banish evil, which was written on a square of telephone paper and was lying around the house, so became the (probably mispronounced) lyrics. Easily the most disco and upbeat track, and it is pretty good spirited.

Ghost Harvest Sad, lonely and fragile. Probably the pick of the litter musically.

The Kids Fairly unclassifiable, one line repeats (“Hanging with the kids and they are, so beautiful so damaged”) over a bassline, until it all sort of evaporates in a swirl of digital effects that turn hand drums into weird insects. Mercifully short.

Bears Discover Fire Mysterious lurching bassline, very silly vocals, lots of odd noises. Bears Discover Fire is the name of a famous SF story I never read. (This track is dedicated to Ed, my patron from the Northland era, as it is somehow very Ed. Heh.)

Epic Bass Drone Most genre identifiable piece, ambient experimental weird ass synth drone. Pretty much what it says on the tin. Maybe a bit John Carpenter on this listening.

For Reasons Unknown Easily the most normal and songlike of them, which makes the haphazardness of the recording all the more obvious. The one I would most like to rerecord the vocals to.

( Tinekaamos is a word that came to me in a dream. No idea what it means.)


avatars and orgasms


Two random talks I watched the other day from TEDxSF. Very different, but both pretty fascinating.

The first is virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier talking about all kinds of stuff and managing to be interesting the whole time. He starts by blowing some ancient weird instrument and then explaining how it created the computer maybe, and from there goes all over the place, the unexpected possibilities of avatars, and man who knows what. An interesting mind.

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The second is Nicole Daedone talking about orgasms. First encountered this lady and her work via Tim Ferriss talking about 15 minute female orgasms. Here she talks about her work and what it means.

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Somehow I feel like this blog’s audience is people who will find both of these talks interesting.


reading 2012 vol 5

The Constant Gardener – John Le Carre

Surprisingly well written spy style thriller – apparently Le Carre is the top of the game in this genre, and based on this it seems true – mostly focused on how the West has fucked Africa, how unpleasant and corrupt it is, and how nasty and heinous pharmaceutical companies are – not really news, then, but this was written in 2000, when that sort of thing was more off the radar. Would be curious to explore what he is doing now.

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

Fun and vivid fantasy/romance set in a unique and wonderful circus that is the battleground between two real magicians. Smart and imaginative, a real crowd-pleaser, expect a film adaptation soon. Ending a little weak and cutesy, but the ride is really lovely.

The 50th Law – Robert Greene and 50 Cent

Author of the 48 laws of power teams up with rapper 50 Cent, whose life he uses as an exemplar of the application of the laws of power and getting ahead. A lightweight curiosity, but certainly has some good bits and bobs, and certainly left me with more respect for 50, who got dealt a pretty shit hand in life and did seem to claw his way up from nothing with a plan and a lot of balls.


Other than that, read over my travel diaries, which are longer than most books, which was pretty interesting in a self-indulgent way… and then the madness of the season descended.

Hmm. Skim read another book about consulting somewhere in there, too.


Currently on:

The Wind Up Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi

Really darn good so far. Set in Thailand in a very well realised near future post-ecological and economic collapse world with weird developments in biotech, really good and human characters. Can see why this won the big SF awards a year or so back.