Unkindled

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To save some trouble, let me just point you to my twitter stream today. I got a Kindle last night, played with it for a few hours, and have decided to send it back. The tech just isn’t there yet. As the twitter-world is asking all sorts of questions, you should go there if you’d like to see the running commentary.

It comes down, in many ways, to the argument that Amazon wants the Kindle to be invisible, as much of a book as a book. And it isn’t. Not even close. The case that would have prevailed for me was if it was able to replace the several thousand books at home. It doesn’t.

The easiest comparison I have is the iPhone/iTouch and my physical CD collection. The CDs take up about fifteen feet of wall space and I stopped counting when it passed 3000 discs. They are useless to me if I’m not at home, and more often than not, I am not there. And, even if I am there, there’s too much to listen. Digitizing the whole collection (which is about a year’s worth of work, probably) means that I can carry a lot of it with me, and we can randomize it by genre and pipe it through the house. And I can put all the discs into storage and get that wall space back for . . . ah, bookshelves. What makes it easy to do this is digital distribution channels of music are much, much better now (Ad Noiseam, one of my favorite labels in Germany, is now selling all their releases as MP3s, which means that I don’t have to spend $20 in shipping to get them from Germany, and emusic.com is still the best deal out there; and Positron Records’ decision to all-digital was probably a risk for them, but they pull it off by having a fantastic interface), the mechanism for ripping and organizing is nearly painless (other than iTunes’ insistence on squatting on my processor while it rips), and the portability of the iTouch.

Not to mention the iTunes App Store and all the goodies it contains (anything by Chillingo right now, Loot Wars, the Buddha Machine, Brian Eno’s Bloom, Stanza e-reader; that’s all on the first screen of my iTouch, there are three more filled with fun distractions).

The Kindle? Nothing about it is as simple, and therefore it is unpolished technology. After eight years of having Windows machines in the house, we recently switched back to all Macs, because doing so makes our lives less complicated. And I’ve decided that tech must make my life simpler and easier or it’s not for me. The Kindle, while it does some things nicely, is still too filled with things that make me annoyed that it isn’t better technology. Technology that is readily available. So, yeah, this version? Not for me.

And really, all I wanted was to put Manly Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages in a portable format that I could read anywhere. What happened when I tried to convert the PDF version that I have? Crappy formatting and no pictures. FAIL.

Dreaming Again

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Recently, I realized I was googling phrases like “vascular constriction” and “tingling in the extremities” more often than normal, and took a long look at the medication I was tossing down my gullet every morning. Because I was too much of a chicken, I opted to go off one of the pills instead of giving up caffeine, and over the next few days, I went into a lethargic haze that, well, sucked. More googling dredged up the note that that “side effects can be magnified by caffeine” and so I opted to deal with the week of caffeine withdrawal headaches instead.

The upside, in addition to being able to hold a coherent thought for more than five minutes, is the dreams have come back.

Monday morning’s was a new yoga morning workout DVD. Now, while Rodney Yee may be the most spiritual centered man in the universe, at 5:00 in the fucking morning, that “I’ve transcended a need for sleep” tone of his voice isn’t relaxing. It’s fucking annoying. What we need is something that more appropriately corresponds to what we’re feeling at the ass crack of dawn. Like the Mickey Rourke’s Post-Oscar Yoga Workout.

It’s the morning after the Oscar ceremony, and the setting is some suite at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. Rourke hasn’t gone to bed yet, and he’s, you know, looking like Mickey Rourke after a night of partying. He’s half undressed, a beer in his hand, a few more scattered around the room, and he’s about to do some yoga to unwind after the disappointing evening. The mike on him is a little hot, and so you hear ever wheeze and crack as he goes through a routine. And it’s not some voice-over afterthought, he’s providing a running commentary about the routine as he does it, including a near Tourettian stream of invective about the Oscar voters in between each move. You start worrying that he’s going to realize that his clothes are falling off and actually remove them.

Rourke, for all the fun everyone has at his expense, has been an underrated actor for a long time. Everyone remembers Robert De Niro from Angel Heart, but Rourke’s Johnny Angel was a great sympathetic sinner. He was perfect as Marv in Sin City, of course, and his fatherly Ed Moseby in Domino grounded an otherwise chaotic and frenetic exercise in cinematic masturbation. The thing about Rourke is that he doesn’t have to try to exude noir.

Take Bruce Willis, for example. His Hartigan in Sin City was a man who had been pushed to violence. Like most of Willis’ hard-boiled guys, they have been driven into a corner, where contrary to their nature, they become bloody-handed men, and this fracture of their moral rectitude weighs on them. They would break shit, but only because we made them that way. Rourke, on the other hand, feels no sorrow at violence because it is as much a part of him as breathing or shitting or cradling a puppy in his arms.

And so, on the yoga tape, when Rourke pops out of an awkward half moon pose, picks up an end table and throws it through the French doors of the hotel suite, and then calmly notices a beer on the cocktail table and finishes it, you don’t mind. He turns, looks right at the camera (which zooms in for a close-up, naturally), and says, “Sometimes the toxins don’t come out when you coax them, you know? Sometimes you have to tell the little motherfuckers that it is time to go.” He smiles that creepy smile that doesn’t go all the way to his eyes. The one where you know he’s trying for a facial expression that will make you feel less frightened, but he’s not quite sure if he’s got it right.

And then he goes into downward facing dog, farts a little, and sighs. “Yeah, that’s it. That’s much better.”

# # #

That was Monday. This morning, I was dreaming that Richard Kadrey and I were going to a horror convention in his black Deathproof-esque limo. It was bigger on the inside than outside (of course), and he had a full bar, two leather sofas, and a heart-shaped bed covered in a spread of black shag and dyed peacock feathers. He’s lying spread-eagle on the thing as the car screams down the highway, wearing a face mask that provides a constant flow of some sort of psychotropic inhalant, and he’s laughing his ass off.

I have no idea what’s behind the bed, but based on some of the pictures on his flickr stream, there’s probably a cage with someone in it. I don’t dare look; I’m too busy trying to stay on the slick leather sofa as the car careens through traffic.

Kadrey’s Butcher Bird is available as free download, and if you haven’t read it, well, there is no good excuse, really. I found a copy of his Kamikaze L’Amour on the shelf at Night Shade HQ last year when I was visiting, and I read the first few pages and raged for a half hour or so at the injustice that this book wasn’t still widely available (though, I have since found a copy of my own). He’s got new books coming out from EOS this year and next, and I’m looking forward to them.

His twitter is a subversive stream of surrealistic anarchy. In among all the mundane tweets about what people had for lunch and “I saw a squirrel this morning!” and “Should I get the red or yellow shirt? Reply to vote!” that I seem to have signed up for, Kadrey’s posts are little IEDs for the brain. Yesterday, there was one about thawing octopi and the fact that the neighborhood cats would be thrilled later. When he was done with them.

Srsly. And what wakes me up from this dream isn’t worrying that the car is going to crash (it isn’t; not only is it Deathproofed, but there’s a demonic lieutenant from the sixty-third circle of Hell under the hood, chained in place by six hundred and sixty-six lines of EEML*), it’s the fact that I don’t know what the hell is so goddamned funny.

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*Enochian Evocation Markup Language