July 24th, 2002

Two rather excellent RSS readers

Two tools that seem to have found there way onto my machines are Feedreader (a Windows RSS reader) and NetNewsWire Lite (a Mac OS X RSS reader). I've tried others, including Amphetadesk, Aggie, Pineapple, Slashdock and the like, but these two seem to fit with the way I work under the two main OSes I use.

(One thing to note though, if you're using earlier versions of Feedreader, the new 2.3 version doesn't seem to be able to read config files from the previous versions - and is only downloaded as an executable...)

Now, to persuade codepope to add an aggegator in Augur...
  • Current Music
    yet more helicopters and a steam train

The Wednesday Morning "Recuperation" Review: How To Be Cool

marypcb and I ran a convention a couple of years back with Philip Pullman as our guest of honour. While he may best be known for the His Dark Materials trilogy, his books have had a significant genre component for some time... right back to his early adult novels and his young adult stories.

The late '80s How To Be Cool is a both a light fantasy and very much a book of its time. A group of "cool" kids find themselves up against The National Cool Board. This is the organisation that sets the trends, and controls just what it means to fit in, and it doesn't like people getting in its way. In a fit of rebellion the schoolkids set themselves up as a rival organisation, and thansk to the "coolometer" find themselves on the winning side. Of course, like most Pullman novels, nothing ends in quite the way we'd expect, but at least the status quo has been upturned and there's a measure of choice and free will.

This isn't classic material, like The Shadow In The North or The Amber Spyglass, however it is a light fun read, and one that shows something of the promise of Pullman's later works.
  • Current Music
    Peter Gabriel - Long Walk Home - Go Away Mr Evans

The Wednesday Evening "Feeling Much Better" Review: The Pickup Artist

I'm always envious of writers who can shift from mode to mode between books. One such writer is Terry Bisson, who's covered everything from alternate history, to Hollywood on Mars, to space opera, to dying Earth fantasy. Now, he's trying his hand at Sturgeon-esque allegory in the shape of The Pickup Artist. Don't get it confused with Disch's similarly titled series of horror novels - this is a lot lighter, but just as deep...

In the world of tomorrow, an artist's work will not last for ever. At the whim of a machine the entire canon of his works will be deleted, and The Pickup Artist has the job of collecting the remaining pieces and copies. It's all to make space for the new artists - there's too much information and it's good to clear things out. But Hank has a problem, his dog is dying, and he's picked up a Hank Williams record he wants to listen to - just once. After all, they have the same name. His obsession leads him into a shady world of bootlegers, cloned indians, and strange drugs. And he meets a girl with the bluebird sweater.

This isn't a tale of a utopia. It's not even a dystopia. It's just a world where things are different. The Alexandrians (from the fire, not the library) have made the world in their image, but it's still a place where an ordinary joe has to deal with mountains of rubbish, pet HMOs, and voicemail. It's aplace where satire and pathos are a sentence apart, and talking dogs are the key to everything that is good.

Somewhere between Dick, Sturgeon and Bradbury, this is one of Bisson's best novels so far. It's short, but engrossing. It's funny and it's sad. It'll make you think about the clutter in your life, and what art really means to you. After all, what is an Immortal?

All in all, it's a damn fine read.
  • Current Music
    The James Bond movie on the TV...

Now this is taking pomo too far...

You've probably seen it in the cinema or on TV. You know, that trailer for the psychic thriller movie thing, the one with the guy who can't lose. What's it called now? Ah yes, Lucky Star. Could be a good movie when it comes out...

...except it's not a movie. It's an advert. For Mercedes Benz. One that you have to go to the web to find out about. One that they got Michael Mann to make for them...

And they're reserving the option of actually making the movie...

But I don't think I want to buy a new car just yet...
  • Current Music
    That haunting theme from the Lexus ad with the empty Rome...