June 30, 2004

And here’s an item from Lileks:

An interesting story from the AP — but only for the headline. Read the story. Read the headline. Find the concerned analyst.

Books-a-Million had a big sale this weekend. This is dangerous for me, because almost every time I enter a bookstore, I leave with some books. This is not an exaggeration; nine times out of ten, I cannot simply browse a bookstore and leave.

Partly this is because I love books. I own over six hundred of them, and they span a wide variety of genres—well-bred classics, rich historical references, lavishly illustrated cookbooks, cheesy mysteries, grand old comedies, straight-laced business how-to books, daring science fiction, dry computer guides, wild fantasy epics, and even wilder Japanese manga.

Since everything in the store was at least 20% off, I ended up buying nine books: Mike Nelson’s satirical novel Death Rat, Sara Douglass’ fantasy The Wayfarer Redemption (which sounds oddly like the title for a certain prison movie…), Christopher Paolini’s young adult fantasy Eragon, Roger Ebert’s The Great Movies, Robert Rodriguez’ diary of guerilla moviemaking Rebel Without a Crew, the “How to Draw Manga” book Making Anime (which guides the reader through the production process at AIC, the anime studio that made Tenchi Muyo!, El Hazard, and many other anime classics), the Berlitz Self-Teacher for Spanish (because, frankly, a working knowledge of Spanish can be exercised almost daily these days), and a collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s works.

By the time Saturday was over, I’d read Ebert’s The Great Movies and most of Rodriguez’s Rebel Without a Crew. The former is a very handy reference to classic films, why they’re classics, and their relevance for modern film viewers. It’s also wonderful to have all the cross-references that Ebert sprinkles throughout to various films made by the films’ casts and crews.

Rodriguez wrote a simply inspiring book. Most of it is simply his diary as he wrote, filmed, edited, released, and shopped an action film called El Mariachi at a total production cost of $7,000. The rest is a personal note to the reader, a “Ten Minute Film School” that provides some very basic information about film cameras, and repeatedly exonerates the reader to just go out and film something. His theme is that ordinary people can make good-looking movies without spending their life savings, and that it’s not about the tools. It’s about just going out there and doing it, finding ways to make it look good and sound good. He demonstrates that practical, real-world experience is much more important than theory.

(For the record, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico are both sequels to El Mariachi.)

And now, more VR story.

Thomas flexed his fingers, feeling the luxurious slip of the black leather gloves caress his hands. The gloves were heavily wired, but the wires were so well-integrated that a casual observer would think they were work gloves from ten paces.

He sighed in contentment, smiling at the gloves. This felt good. He was back in his chosen environment.

A fringe of blonde hair leapt up from behind a nearby cluster of servers and routers, followed by the head and shoulders of a teenaged boy. He had the desperate energy and rapid, bird-like moves of a young man who loved where he was and lived in constant fear he’d make a wrong move and be sent away.

“So, ya like it?” he asked, his words coming in machine gun bursts as he ran his fingers over various switches and scanned blinking lights for a dozen different power-up sequences. “It’s all the latest. Yaguchi, ARM, you name it. This is some top-of-the-line stuff.” He giggled. “Nothin’ like the best.”

Thomas grunted. Youngsters like this one just annoyed him. This kid was probably the persona behind a hundred different forum hacker aliases and script kiddies.

Doodlehopper walked up, cradling a mug of something hot between her hands, her face doing a poor job of masking worry. Now she was Trinity crossed with Florence Henderson.

He didn’t want to ask why she hadn’t volunteered to go in with him. It was odd. But he knew that if he asked, and she’d simply forgotten, then she’d insist on going in. Best to let it lie.

He looked over at the teen, who was now squinting into the screen of an ancient cream-colored laptop and beating an uneven staccato beat on the keys. “Hook me up,” Thomas said.

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