June 26th, 2001

American Gods.

Neil Gaiman's on a tour for his newest book, American gods, and I happened to have the amazingly good luck to catch him at an engagement at UW. (Woof!) Despite having to deal with a crowd of about seven hundred people, Neil developed an instant rapport and liquid conversational style that made the lecture much more like a friendly conversation.

Neil started out by reading a passage from the book (pp. 35 - 43 in the hardback), then took some questions from the audience. Most of the questions were respectably narrow-spectrum; a couple were puerile (possibly relating to questions asked of Terry Pratchett, who was in the same room a couple of months back), but one elicited a satisfying avalanche of an answer: "What's the worst book you've ever read ?"

Neil answered the question directly, stating that it would be Terence Haile's Space train, and gave a short, and hilarious, synopsis of the plot: a super-high-tech train is developed to run between London and Birmingham, England. Problem: the train exceeds the Earth's escape velocity, goes orbital, and encounters huge space crabs between the earth and the moon. Rather embarrassing, considering that lords and dignitaries are on the train's maiden run. So the train's out past the moon. How do they get it back ? Someone turns the trick by reversing the polarity of the train tracks. The train makes it to Birmingham on time.

But he also told us of the latest book he read -- by an author with whom I am familiar, and strongly believe that everybody should experience: Henry Stephen Keeler. I'll not repeat or sum up what has been better done by by others, but Keeler is regarded as a literary anomaly; it has been said that the best synopsis of a Keeler novel is "nevermind."

Finally, after giving a short list of the statuses of his projects, including a big-screen adaptation of Sandman, Neil signed books for everybody -- no mean feat going on no sleep as he was. Plus, "Y Mabinogion" came up in casual conversation while I was waiting to have my copy of American gods signed. Odd.
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Stray thought: during the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, one of the grossest miscarriages of American justice of the last century, occured sporadic incidents of what American psychologists could only understand as fox possession.
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Atlantis : a semi-review.

Disney's trademark style of animation has gotten more and more idiosyncratic with every release. Being the anime no otaku that I am, I find the only disturbing thing about the increasingly experimental styles Disney is exploring is the fact that they're so tentative and apologetic about it.

If you'll let me get this off my chest first, I promise I'll be more coherent later in this entry: Disney's Atlantis is similar in its retelling to Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water) which appeared on Japan's NHK in 1990. Suspiciously similar, when you consider Disney's track record of creative "leveraging" of foreign conceptualizations. OK, done now.

Atlantis is, taken on its own merits, a great little film: immersive, detailed, engaging, well-voiced, and creative in animation. As usual, the character development is first-rate, and the storyline coherent and hyperactive, and I am happy to recommend it and to include it in my small pantheon of worthwhile American animation.

For you linguists out there, you might be pleased to know that Mark Okrand (of Klingon language fame) developed the Atlantean script, which is featured prominently in the film.

At this point, I have to digress; as it's one of my personal failings that my mind wanders the first time I see a film in the theatre, I have yet to see the Atlantis a second time so that I could pick up the nuances of the story and animation.

As a culture, we have become so accustomed to making choices (often to the extreme that we become victims of too much choice) that we have forgotten the importance of being chosen. In fact, the last time I even saw a reference to being chosen, it was a generation ago, on a bumper sticker in a church parking lot which read "Awana" -- which I took to mean "appointed workers are not ashamed". Even today, there's a disturbing revisionist trend in neo-pagans and New Agers to feel that one chooses, or has the right to choose, a totem animal. One does no such thing; in no culture possessing a totemic structure that I know of do the humans have any choice in their affiliation, but rather take deliberate and often dangerous actions to open themselves up, to attract the attention of a totem, and they become affiliated with the one, if any, that responds. Sometimes it's no surprise. Sometimes it is.

How did I get to this point ? Perhaps thinking of the requisite hard work in their respective fields that Joseph Sweet, Moliere, Vinny, and Milo did to be hand-chosen for the expedition to Atlantis; perhaps a corner of a frequent musing that love itself is a dispensation: wham, this is for you, take it or leave it. Hmm, what's that ? You don't think you deserve this love ? Tough. It's not karma, dipstick. You get what you get, and deserve don't enter into it. Sign for it or hit the road.
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