15 books in 15 minutes

There’s a meme going around: in 15 minutes, come up with a list of 15 books that “will always stick with you”. Since lists on their own aren’t all that interesting, I’ve added some notes about why I’ve chosen these books. “The Man Who Folded Himself”, David Gerrold. One of the great SF time travel novels. Take one ordinary guy, a time machine, and the many-worlds hypothesis, and watch everything go completely nuts.

Life imitates Philip K. Dick

Washington Post: Finally it was down to one leg. Still, it pulled itself forward. Tilden was ecstatic. The machine was working splendidly. The human in command of the exercise, however—an Army colonel —blew a fuse. The colonel ordered the test stopped. “Why?” asked Tilden. “What’s wrong?” The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg. c.f. Second Variety.

Book surprise

As regular readers know, we’re moving, so we’ve been trying to clear out excess junk. When I put together a list of all the books we had to get rid of, I thought it would increase the chances of shifting them if I linked each one to its description and reviews on Amazon.com. As sara put it, “You have way too much time on your hands.” As I worked through the list, I discovered something strange.

San Francisco Part 4

On the Monday we went to SFMoMA. Much good stuff. There was a really wonderful Rothko painting; normally I’m not as big on Rothko as, er, sara… but this one had a wonderful ethereal translucency to it. Rather like San Francisco fog. I learned that Roy Lichtenstein actually painted all those little dots by hand. Later in his career he started using pre-made dots, but he still stuck them on by hand, individually.

Philip K. Dick was comparatively sane

A man in Oxnard, CA has been arrested and faces felony charges of animal cruelty. He was found to have tortured and dissected his daughter’s pet guinea pig because he thought it was a robot with a hidden camera in the back of its head, and that had been placed in his home by government agents to spy on him. This curious belief may be related to his being wigged out on methamphetamine at the time.

Philip K. Dick

John Johnson has forwarded me a pointer to a Washington Post article on Philip K. Dick which explains why everyone—even people who don’t think of themselves as SF fans—should read his work.


I watched Impostor last night. It’s a pretty authentic adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story, right down to making the “bug” ships look and work the way Dick described them. Production values are high, with some impressive sets that almost rival GATTACA, and good attention to detail. The making-of documentary mentions that they tried to avoid using CGI, instead using real sets filled with real equipment and video screens. A wise decision, as the CGI establishing shots somehow don’t work.

Minority Report

Was supposed to be going out on a boat last night, but there were storm warnings so the skipper cancelled. Mark called, and I ended up meeting him and sara downtown and going to see Minority Report. As a huge Philip K. Dick fan, I had to see it. I’d gathered that it was good from the reviews, but I wasn’t expecting too much. In the end, though, it’s probably one of the best movie adaptations of a Phil Dick story.

It’s a wonder I bother renting movies

Another incredibly elaborate SF movie dream last night. The premise: Three friends driving home late one night try to take a shortcut. They take a wrong turning and enter an unmarked tunnel. It seems to be unfinished construction work. They reason that it must come out somewhere, and decide to follow it. After a long while, they are surprised to find some kind of checkpoint, like the US-Canada border station, where they can park their car and enter… where?

Only apparently real

This is a scene a couple of blocks from where I live. The curvature of the pole isn’t just distortion from the cheap zoom lens; it really is leaning over slightly. When I first moved to America, one of the things I noticed was the ugly cabling everywhere. Not just cables, either—big cylindrical metal transformers are stuck out in plain view on the tops of poles. I’m not alone in noticing this; friends who’ve visited from the UK have also taken pictures.