Saturday, October 18, 2008

I just finished The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow.

I've only read two books by Morrow (I wrote about the other one here), but I liked both of them and will keep seeking out other books by him. Most books today are easily categorizable and seem familiar when read, even if they are new and the author has come up with an unusual plot, but Morrow's books aren't and don't. He is a self-declared secular humanist, and his books reflect that with themes of reason vs. faith, and other philosophical issues. This makes him rare from two standpoints - having an explicit philosophy that informs his writing, and having an uncommon one as well.

The Last Witchfinder is a good example. In some ways, it is a straighforward historical novel set around the time of the Enlightenment in both Europe and North America. The protagonist's quest is to see the practice of "pricking", i.e. witchfinding, ended and this quest takes them from England to British North America and back and involves Newton and Ben Franklin. But in a weird twist, the story is narrated by another book, Newton's Principia Mathematica, which provides background information, as well as waging a war with the Malleus Maleficarum ("Hammer of Witches". It starts slow, but definitely picks up steam.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

Yesterday, I attended the SF Burning Man Decompression/Heat The Street Faire.

I've never attended Burning Man, and I'd never heard of this event even though it was the 9th annual one, but a friend was in town and is a fan of a local psychedelic surf rock band, The Mermen, who happened to be playing there.

It turned out to be a good show, and a neat little street fair, worth the wait in a two+ block line. The street fair seems to duplicate a little slice of Burning Man on 5 or 6 blocks of San Francisco's Dogpatch neighbourhood. Entrance was half price for anyone in "Black Rock Couture" so there were plenty of people dressed up, mainly in leather, fake fur and fishnet stockings. They had a couple of stages set up, even though most seemed to be more for DJ's with dancers rather than actual bands, and there were plenty of things to watch in the crowd as well.

You can see a bunch of pictures others took here. These pictures all look to be from earlier in the day when it was less crowded.
I saw the new Coen Brother's movie, Burn After Reading, on Sunday.

Similar to my thoughts on No Country For Old Men, I can't find anything in this movie to recommend it. The all star cast (John Malkovich, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton) give either dull or over the top and un-convincing performances, with the exception of Clooney as the over-sexed bodyguard. The story is a by now standard confused melange of misunderstandings and people treating each other like crap. I think it is intended as a comedy, but there are only a few funny scenes.

If you're looking to be mostly bored, and a little depressed, check out Burn After Reading. Otherwise, skip it and watch The Big Lebowski or Miller's Crossing again.