Bookspotting: The Man With The Golden Typewriter

The Man With the Golden Typewriter is a collection of Ian Fleming’s correspondence relating to the Bond novels. It’s a hefty tome, but well-organized and an interesting peek into the state of the fiction publishing industry in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as well as Fleming’s personality.

Fleming was a likeable old sod, despite his flaws, and with a charming habit of thanking various helpers by naming related characters after them. His correspondence with the real-life version of Major Boothroyd (Bond’s armourer, introduced in Dr. No and only later called “Q”)  was particularly memorable. The flesh-and-blood version was a gun enthusiast in Scotland who wrote an articulate and impassioned letter to Fleming deploring Bond’s choice of sidearm in the early books, complete with facts and figures about muzzle velocity and whatnot. Fleming, v. appreciative of the advice, entered into a long-time correspondence with Boothroyd on that subject and, eventually, Boothroyd was hired on by Cubby Broccoli as a consultant to the Bond films on the same subject.

It’s not a book to read in a couple of binge sessions, but best kept by the bed (or in your commute bag) and enjoyed over an extended period of time, lest everything blur together and lose coherence.

If you’re a fan of the Bond novels and want to learn more about the man who wrote them, this one’s a must-read.

Phew. Made It.

I’ve come to the end of my self-imposed post at least 100 words a day for a month challenge and I think I can conclude that I don’t have it in me to keep this up on a regular basis. I’ll cheerfully blather about everything that crosses my mind to friends on Facebook, but in that venue I can post with minimal context. These past 30 days and on this blog, I’ve very much tried to keep the notion of writing for complete strangers on my mind as I’ve bashed these bits out. It turns out that’s not nearly so easy – big surprise.

Not that anyone’s reading, mind you. I have a couple of friends who stop from time to time, but that’s it. This is more about me practicing my writing than it is about getting readers. As frequent practice is better, I’ll keep on with this as best I can, but make no promises as to frequency, moving forward.

Politics. Again.

Herr Trump’s campaign is starting to make the kind of mistakes that, one hopes, presage a large scale disaster. The GOP has realized that uniting in taking him down is a better use of their time than disingenuously wondering how this happened in the first place*. I’m hoping for an entertaining bloodbath at the convention in July, but unless Kasich sells his soul to the ghost of Dwight Eisenhower, it’s either gonna be Cruz or Trump getting the nomination and I just can’t trust the Democratic party to stoop to whatever depths will be necessary to keep them out of office. Not that I’m dancing at the idea of another Clinton in office**, mind you, but the lesser of three evils, you dig?

Of course, since the GOP have got themselves a lock on the legislature until the day Citizens United is overturned (fat chance) it’ll be another four years of obstructionism but better that than starting a slew of new wars within a month of the inauguration, I guess.
*These guys never read Frankenstein, did they?

**As a reformed socialist, myself, I love Sanders, but he doesn’t stand a chance.

On Matters “Steampunk”

I’m building a Gaslamp fantasy rig to hallwalk with at certain conventions. I use the term “Gaslamp fantasy” because I cling – perhaps naively – to the idea that steampunk is our imagining what a bunch of 19th century Brits thought the future might be like. Whereas the outfit I’m piecing together belongs in a headcanon of my own that borrows heavily from the Discworld (specifically the keeping of swamp dragons), with the cracks filled in with dollops of Monty Python, Jasper Fforde and various other sources of absurdity. Still, it’ll be mistaken for steampunk at any distance and I guess I’d better get used to that idea.

I made myself a promise that should I ever make a steampunk ensemble for myself (accidentally or otherwise) that it would not feature goggles or corsetry. Corsets are very cute. I’ve made and worn quite a few through the years, but they’re over-used to the point of ubiquity. Besides, a slightly-scorched dragon-keeper is going to value mobility a lot more than an hourglass figure.

I might have to compromise on the goggles because, whoa, dragons breathe fire and eye-protection is often a good idea in those situations. They’ll be proper, functional things, though. Ugly as I can manage, in fact. And not an ornamental gear in sight.

Hoping For The Best…

I caught up with the rest of fandom and watched the trailer for Rogue One.

I must say, it’s engaged a whole hell of a lot more of my interest than The Force Awakens did. I didn’t see that in the theater and I doubt I’ll bother with it when it’s out on DVD, either. The more I heard about the plot, the harder I rolled my eyes.

Like TFA, Rogue One stinks of fan-service but at least they’re breaking some new ground with (mostly) new characters and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my cosplay fingers started itching by the time the trailer was halfway done.

I really hope this doesn’t turn out to be The Phantom Menace all over again.

Cheap Irony. Dire Predictions.

It drives me slightly bonkers that if Husband and I move to the UK – under the circumstances we’ve dictated* – it would probably be a step up for us in terms of quality of life, largely because it’ll mean that both of us are working full time for the first time in years. If we’re incredibly lucky, we’ll land somewhere outside southeast England and thus be able to afford more than a single-bedroom flat.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the southeast. I grew up on that coast and would cheerfully return, given the chance. But the presence of London acts like a black hole on the rubber sheet that is rent for anywhere within a hundred miles of the place. For the price of a single-bedroom flat in somewhere like Reading, we could get a two-bedroom house with parking and a garden north of the Watford Gap.

I lived in the San Francisco bay area, I know crazy rent. And the greater London area has gone completely and utterly mad. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but something’s got to give. There are only so many shithole houseboats on the Thames that can accommodate the city’s service personnel and what are the flash gits in The City going to do when even those cost too much for the folks who clean their offices and serve their food?

I like to think that when things finally snap, it’ll involve pitchforks and torches, but it’s more likely to feature the re-creation of the Victorian-era east end, with pod hotels taking the place of tenements. Once again, the working class will be forced into owning nothing more than they can carry because they’re dossing down at a different address every night – for a price that almost, but not quite, equals their entire wages.

At least the fast food industry will flourish as workers no longer have access to kitchens, but the knock-on effect on workers’ health – that stuff ain’t good for you – will drive health care costs even higher, thus giving some slimy bastards in Whitehall justification for dismantling and selling off whatever’s left of the NHS by that point.

Okay, that got dark, fast. But it’s barely any better here in the United States – and I only say ‘barely’ because the country is at least large enough to allow most cities a chance at expansion, even if it does take the form of bland, soulless suburbs. But as it takes a legislative gun to the head of property developers to offer “affordable” housing – and I put affordable in scare quotes for a reason – expansion is not necessarily a solution. Sigh.

*He must have a job offer in his chosen industry or else there’s no point in going. In fact, it would be impossible as he wouldn’t get a visa, otherwise.

Politics, Etc.

I watched the Wisconsin primary results with a mixture of relief, trepidation and annoyance. Relief to see the Orange Bastard finally lose a primary – and lose hard. Trepidation because he’s got such a lead that a contested convention might be too much to hope for. And annoyance because even when Sanders wins a state by double digits, the media can’t be arsed to spare him any coverage. Sure, sure, the Orange Bastard generates more clicks but, dammit, the bias in coverage has gone beyond ridiculous.

I’d love to see a floor fight at the Republican convention in July for two reasons. First, I’ve never witnessed such a thing and it might be somewhat entertaining to watch – from afar – although all the real action will be happening behind closed doors. Secondly, I’m rooting for Kasich to come out as the compromise nominee and so does he, otherwise he wouldn’t still be in the race.

July’s going to be interesting, but getting there might kill me.

This is Worse Than the Dental Procedure…

I’m only a couple of days into the mandatory “No chewing for you!” diet post tooth-pull and I’m ready to commit homicide for something crunchy and salty.

I’m currently getting by on mashed sweet potatoes, avocado, Greek yogurt and scrambled eggs. Oh, and pudding, of course. The Husband has offered to make pancakes for dinner tonight* and I think I can get away with those if I’m careful. But they’re not French fries, dammit.

For what it’s worth, you can eat hummus right out of the serving container, but it feels only marginally less trashy than doing ditto with peanut butter.

*We have pancakes for dinner about once a month because we’re grownups and we can do that.

Tea: A rant-ette

I’m told that Brits are getting the hang of making decent coffee – although Starbucks might be setting them back a few years – but Americans still don’t quite have the hang of tea. At least, they don’t at you average chain-store coffee place. I understand it’s too much aggravation to take the 190 degree water that’s already heated for the coffee and heat it further to 212 but, dammit, the stuff does taste different when it’s steeped properly. Oh sure, you can get something tea-colored and almost good enough but a Brit newly off the boat (so to speak) would probably be horrified. Me? I’ve gotten used to it. I refuse, however, to use Lipton tea bags. Fortunately, a number of British brands are easy to get over here and there are some excellent purveyors of loose tea, too.

Bookspotting: Ongoing Series Reads

Still chewing my way through the Mary Russell series and the Dresden files.

I’ve just started book four of the former – O, Jerusalem – and as the title suggests, it looks like the author will be putting her significant theological knowledge to the test. I found it a little wearisome in A Monstrous Regiment of Women (and fortunately absent from the following book, The Moor) but I like Mary and I like the setting, so we’ll see how it goes. The Moor was, I thought, a bit of a dud. The narrative lacked any sense of urgency almost throughout, and so it seemed to drag, even if the actual progression of matters was reasonably prompt. But the supporting characters were intriguing enough to keep me engaged – especially Holmes’ godfather.

There was an amusing hiccup with the Dresden files. I accidentally borrowed the fourth book – Summer Knight – instead of the third – Grave Peril – and had the ending for Grave Peril thoroughly spoiled for me before I realized the mistake. I can see what my friends who are fans meant about the overall quality of writing picking up as the series progressed. I hope Grave Peril holds up in the aftermath of my goof.