East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Leave a comment

In my previous life

I was on my friend’s G. Facebook profile, a moment ago, and she was posting some old photos of her on some coral reef somewhere, surrounded by brightly colored fish, and diving alongside a shark, and other adventurous things like that, because she’s always been an adventurous woman, and she described these pictures as

memories from another life

And that gave me a strange shiver.
We’ve been knowing each other for something like forty years, and we’ve been in and out of each other’s life, maybe not always there but somehow never gone… what was I doing while my adventurous friend was diving in some hot tropical ocean, I wondered?
Where was I?
What have I to show of my previous lives?
Are they any different from the current one?
Where are my adventures?

Continue reading

1 Comment

Living in the past…

… for a few days, at least.
It struck me as funny, this morning, the fact that I am spending the Easter weekend reading a game tie-in fantasy novel about a bunch of questing heroes (I’ll post a review as soon as I’m finished), and watching the first two seasons of the old Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki OVAs. And eating ice cream.

My, this is like, what, 1993?

But really, I needed to take a few days off.

Have a happy Easter out there, and stay safe!


Kingdom of Heaven, the director’s cut (2005)

There’s been a lot of talk about a director’s cut of a superhero film, recently. Everybody’s going on about it. The problem is, I am rarely interested in superhero movies – let’s say I still love the old Christopher Reeve/Margot Kidder Superman movies (well, the first two, at least) and after that … yeah, OK, Michael Keaton as Batman, maybe a few others. But I am not a big superhero fan to start with, and so I am not at all invested in this latest release.
But there are other movies that have come out in a Director’s Cut, and that I would be interested in catching.
So, why not today?

And when one talks about director’s cuts, Ridley Scott must be the world championship holder in the category. How many times did he recut Blade Runner?
And in 2005, his Crusader epic Kingdom of Heaven was distributed with 45 minutes cut after some test audiences groaned, and later re-released as a Director’s Cut.
I saw the theatrical release, and found it boring and unsatisfactory. But up until today, I had missed the Director’s Cut.
So today I watched it.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

World Sleep Day

I just found out today is the international World Sleep Day, a day dedicated – you probably guessed it – to sleep. And as a chronic insomniac, I can really appreciate the need to celebrate this absolute basic human necessity. And had I known before, I would have devoted this day to sleep – in the last few weeks I’ve been able to sleep more or less soundly.

But I’ll make up for that later.
Right now, I think I’ll just devote some room to this idea of first sleep and second sleep – basically the theory (that seems to be confirmed by facts) that the “good eight hours” is a modern invention: people in times of old would sleep four hours, than wake up and do something for two hours, like writing letters or a diary, or reading a book, and then four hours of sleep again.
These are what are called first and second sleep.
And indeed, this seems to be a well-established pattern, verified by experiment: if allowed to follow a natural sleep cycle, a lot of people will fall in the four/two/four sleep and wake pattern. It is called segmented or biphasic sleep.

And I will have to try it sometimes.
But right now, I feel like I could sleep for 36 hours straight.
Good night!


Down the Ulamba river

I am reading C.S. Forester’s The African Queen, the classic 1935 adventure story that in 1951 was turned into a movie by John Huston, featuring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. I must have seen the film a thousand times, and it remains one of the all-time great romantic adventure films, but I had never read the original novel – nor was I particularly familiar with C.S. Forester’s other books. Sure, I saw a number of adaptations of his Hornblower stories, but I had never read any.

And I must say I am impressed by Forester’s narrative economy and skill in creating characters and bringing them alive on the page. The prose is lean and direct, the images vivid, and the psychology of the characters masterfully presented. The lot, with an almost total lack of artifice. This is entertainment, without any conceit or affectation, and yet it manages to be literature.
Really, I am surprised they don’t study this book in schools – and it really is a concise, fun master class in how to write an adventure story.

And the good news is, while I spent some of my hard-earned money for a copy of the novel, you can actually download an ebook edition for free, from this page.
I really recommend the novel – if you are a fan of the Bogart/Hepburn movie, doubly so.
And if you read it – or if you knew it already – tell me what you think of it in the comments.

Leave a comment

The long and short of it

The Shortlist for the BSFA Award‘s been published, and I am not in it.
Ah, what a pity.
But this was my first, if marginal, nomination for an international professional award, and it was great as long as it lasted. It means I’m doing something right, sometimes.
For the rest, as the Buddha said, expectations are the root of suffering, and indeed I held no expectations – for this reason I say that not making the Shortlist is a pity, but actually not a disappointment.

On the plus side, the interview I gave one month ago to the local newspaper and apparently was lost or otherwise disappeared and vanished, will now probably resurface. And they’ll get my name right this time.

Back to writing.