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alChandler's Halls

Serving dozens since 1999


One of the perks of running the Inquisition is a damn nice view from the balcony outside my bedroom in Skyhold.

April 26, 2015

The Last Continent

When I learned that John Pelan was putting together an anthology of stories set in Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique, I knew I had to have it. The book was expensive, $60, but that didn't matter, I wanted the bastard. I got it as soon as it was published and promptly put it on a shelf for 16 years. You have to be in the right mood for Zothique. It's the last continent on a dying Earth. Science is dead, old magics are reborn and in general life is pretty shitty.

It just so happens that after 16 years I am in the mood for Zothique. I've always had a fondness for the dying Earth genre. I was introduced to it via Arthur C. Clarke's scientific take on the subject, The City and the Stars. I've also read Jack Vance's The Dying Earth and its sequels, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun all of Clark Ashton Smith's original stories of Zothique and the book that started it all, William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land.

It's a rather depressing genre and if you're inclined to give it a try, I recommend Clarke's book to start you off. Compared to the other books it's giddy with optimism. Pelan's anthology is not giddy with optimism. In the first story, which I just read, a reanimated corpse falls in love with a student who comes to the necropolis he guards for his master, the necromancer Xipe Uthala. Eventually the necromancer takes an interest in the student and they go off together. Life starts to come back to the necropolis, the spells that keep our hero, Estoc, in unlife start to fail and in revenge Estoc commands the worms he controls to eat the couple alive. Then he gives his own body to the worms.

Just one life affirming tale after another.

April 26, 2015

The Last Mechanical Monster

In 1941 Max Fleischer released a Superman cartoon called The Mechanical Monsters. You should watch it:

It's very good and all the Fleischer Superman cartoons are in the public domain, which is nice.

At the end of The Mechanical Monsters the evil mastermind is thrown in jail. At this point Brian Fies' The Last Mechanical Monster begins. Or rather it begins in the year 2005. The evil mastermind is now 99 years old and having served his 64 year sentence he's now a free man. But, being an evil mastermind and all, he's out for revenge. And who's going to stop him? There's no longer a Superman. In fact there can't be. DC owns Superman, Clark Kent and all the other trappings. But the evil mastermind and his robots are in the public domain.

It's a wonderful thing and it makes me happy.

April 25, 2015

alChandler Goes to a Party

Just be cool, nobody will even notice you're climbing up the trellis.

Actually I have to keep running in and out of the library, it's on a timer. Right now my approval rating among the guests stands at 61. It goes down by one every couple of seconds while I'm in the library. If it goes down to zero I'm kicked out of the party and the game is over. It goes back up when I leave the library but it's still annoying as hell. I hate timed bits in RPGs. Most of the time I don't even pretend to do them legitimately, I just go straight to a walk through.

There are people who thrive under pressure. I'm not one of them.

April 24, 2015


I pay just about every bill online. The exceptions are my condo fees, property taxes and my insurance bill.

The Insurance thing is kind of weird. I've been doing electronic payments for some time and when I was setting them up Bank of America couldn't transfer money to my insurance company that way. So I'd just cut them a check, and I kept on doing it.

And I'm only talking about it now because of an article in Bloomberg about rent payments. Most people still pay their rent by check. It's not that they want to it's just...reasons.

And that made me check to see if I could pay my insurance bill online. As it turns out a lot has changed in 15 years and I can. That means I'll use a lot less checks and a lot less stamps. These are good things.

Well, not for the Post Office I suppose.

April 23, 2015

Town Hall

Diane always tweaked me about voting Republican in gubernatorial elections. She'd say, "You're not really a liberal if you vote Republican in some elections." But for me it was a matter of my own self interest. Republican governors, on the whole, left the Casino Control Commission alone. Democratic governors tended to mess with the agency. So I'd vote Republican.

But in 2009 I voted for Corizine, even thought I thought he was a schnook. In 2009 America was in a recession and the Republican candidate, Chris Christie, was snarling at state workers during his campaign. I bring this up to rehash ancient history, just to admit my biases. I don't like him. Not as a governor and I doubt I'd like hanging around with the guy. That's why I blocked his friend requests on Facebook.

Governor Christie gave one of his town hall things in Ceder Grove today. Democrats in the Legislature have joined the lawsuit that the unions brought against the governor over pension payments. In his town hall today the governor accused the Democrats of suing themselves, after all they're the ones who pass budgets in the first place. If there was no pension payment in 2013 and only a partial payment in 2014 then the Democratic Legislature has no one to blame but themselves.

I'm used to Christie spewing out bullshit but for some reason that made me mad. In 2014 the Legislature passed a budget that included a full pension payment of $2.25 billion, as mandated by the Governor's own Pension Reform Act of 2011. In NJ the governor has a line item veto and Christie used his to cut the payment back to $650 million. Although the Democrats control the Assembly and the Senate, they don't have the votes to override a veto. So the governor's veto stood.

It's a little thing, I know. Politicians are duplicitous bastards, they almost have to be. But it does anger me.

April 23, 2015

The Just City

In 380 BC Plato wrote The Republic a Socratic dialogue about the ideal city state. Never read it myself but from what I understand, Plato's idea of an ideal city state just wouldn't work. In Jo Walton's The Just City Apollo is wondering why the nymph Daphne preferred being turned into a tree rather then being raped by him. Athena tells him that it's a matter of volition.

Apollo, to learn about things like volition, decides to become mortal for a bit and he decides to do it in a side project of Athena's. She's gathered people from various times who've prayed to her to live in Plato's just city. These folks, masters, as they modestly call themselves, plan the city, aided by machines Athena has gathered from the future and then they buy slave children from various times to start the whole thing rolling. Athena really doesn't think the experiment will work but living in her city is better then slavery.

Then, when the masters decide it's time to instruct the children in rhetoric, they grab Sokrates, the one fellow who thinks that Plato was a fucking idiot and who doesn't want to live in the Just City.

I'm pretty far into it and it's pretty good. I know things are going to go south before the end but just how things will go south is holding my interest. And there's a sequel coming out at the end of June.

The Greek gods get something of a pass with me. They could be absolutely shitty at times but unlike Yahweh they never claimed to be all knowing and all just. Athena starts the project out of intellectual curiosity and Apollo joins to learn about humanity. While the masters and children believe the gods are wise, Sokrates, who's friendly with Apollo and knows instantly that the boy Pytheas is the god, knows better.

It's good stuff and it's quite refreshing after my detour into China.

April 22, 2015

Twenty Years Ago

Amazon opened for business on July 1995. On 8/13/95 I bought Styrbiorn the Strong by E. R. Eddison for $30.90. I guess I qualify as an early adopter of online shopping. That year Amazon gave their customers calendars. I haven't gotten a gift from them in ages but they haven't turned a profit in several years so I'm not upset.

April 20, 2015

George Harrison

I've just watched Martin Scorsese's documentary on George Harrison, all three and a half hours of it. I like Martin and I liked George but I haven't had to sit though that much spirituality since high school.

April 21, 2015

Childhood's End

Childhood's End is a novel by Arthur C. Clarke. It's a very good book. The non-spoiler way to describe it that vast ships appear over every major city on Earth. The Overlords have arrived and they turn Earth into a utopia. Because they're altruistic bastards with no other motives then our happiness.

Syfy is making it into a miniseries, or as they're calling it, a three night event. I really hope they don't fuck this one up. I'll find out in December.

April 20, 2015


If you define entitlement as being pissed off because it's after three, the bagel places are closed and you have to get your breakfast bagel sandwich from Dunkin Donuts and they were out of onion bagels then you're goddamn right I have a sense of entitlement. Where the hell am I living where bagel places close at three? Mordor?

April 20, 2015

Meanwhile On the ISS

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

April 19, 2015

alChandler Attends a Party

That's me at a party thrown by the Empress of Orlais. Orlais is the Dragon Age version of France. I've gotten word that Empress Celine is going to be assassinated so me and the gang have finagled invitations with a mind to stopping it. Let to my own devices I would have just told her that she's going to be killed and advised her to watch her ass. But Josephine, my political adviser, told me to be subtle and cagey. I figured that ranting about death threats in front of the Empress and half the nobility of Orlais wasn't the way to go. Instead I'm mingling, looking for clues.

I've been away from Dragon Age: Inquisition for almost three weeks. I almost always take a short break when I'm playing a long game. After tree weeks my palate is clear and I'm ready to dive in.

I'm looking back on the Bioware games I've completed:

Baldur's Gate
Neverwinter Nights
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Jade Empire
Mass Effect
Dragon Age: Origins
Mass Effect 2
Dragon Age II
Mass Effect 3

That's not every Bioware game, just the ones I've finished. Of the lot, I'd say Dragon Age: Inquisition is their masterpiece. In fact, in my hierarchy of RPGs, it's starting to Rival Ultima VII. For me, that's the highest of praise.

Sometimes I experience gaming droughts, times when I can't find anything that interests me. Now there are several games that I want to play. Unfortunately, I can only really get into one game at a time. For instance, I'd love to play Pillars of Eternity but I don't have, and never did, the attention span to switch from Dragon Age: Inquisition to that game and back again.

But that's the beauty of it all, Pillars of Eternity isn't going anywhere. Neither is Witcher 3 or Elite Dangerous.

Oh, and while I don't play two deep role playing games simultaneously, I can play a role playing game and a first person shooter. But the FPS has to be fairly mindless for me to pull that off. I could play Dragon Age: Inquisition and Quake 2 but not Dragon Age: Inquisition and Half Life 2.

At any rate, it's late, the cat is sleeping in his bed, I'm drinking a Bass Ale and looking forward to working the crowd at the party tomorrow, life is very good right now.

Oh, one last thing. I don't know why but my games never look dart to me while I'm playing them but they do look dark when I look at the screen shots I take. I used Gimp 2 to lighten that picture of alChandler at the party. Here's the original version:

It looks dark to me too but while I was playing it looked just fine.

April 19, 2015

Gaming Update

I tend to step away from games from time to time. I've been away from Dragon Age: Inquisition for about three weeks. I played for a bit today and it was fun. Oh, if you've been wondering how I'm doing with Dark Souls I think the phrase is fuck that shit. Still, the controller may come in handy.

April 17, 2015

Batman v Superman

I didn't see Man of Steel in the theater but I did watch it on DVD. I didn't change my mind about the stuff I disliked, that mostly centered around the characterization of Jonathan Kent, but I had to admit it was almost the best Superman film to date.

The climax was the battle between Superman and Zod. Superman killed Zod in the end, an action some found indefensible but I thought worked. And it somehow managed to make Superman sound like a badass while saying, "You think you can threaten my mother!"

In the end it was the second best presentation of Superman ever made. The Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons are still the gold standard

It looks like Batman v Superman is going to deal with the world reacting to Kal-el, a being who could probably sterilize the planet if he wanted to. Judging from this well, extended teaser, some worship him as a god and others see him as the ultimate existential threat. And keep in mind that while Superman saved Metropolis, the collateral damage must have run into hundreds of billions, with a horrible loss of life. This is going to be a rather dark film.

And it's not as if Warners didn't try to give us a lighter version of Superman. Superman Returns came out in 2006 and was a direct sequel to the first two Superman movies. Its box office was somewhat disappointing. So Brian Singer and light were out, Zack Snyder and Darkness were in.

Just as Iron Man launched the Marvel cinematic universe, Warners wants Batman v Superman to launch a series of DC films. Unlike Man of Steel I'll make it a point to see Batman v Superman in the theater.

And as for the previous Superman, Brandon Routh, he's currently starring in Arrow as the Atom. He's sort of their version of Iron Man. But Ray Palmer is a lot nicer then Tony Stark.

Meanwhile, what the hell is Superman doing at a juggalo party? He looks like he lost a bet.

April 17, 2015

Everything You Need to Know About CSI: Cyber

April 16, 2015

I Tend to Over Think Things

But I can't help wondering how did it survive reentry so intact?

April 16, 2015

Don't Break My Heart Again Star Wars

April 16, 2015

A Matter of Humility

Rather then see if I became any better at this, I thought I'd show you what I'm like at Dark Souls right now. I'm uncoordinated and I'm not sure how to manage my inventory. This is a long (for me) video clocking in at seven minutes and change.

April 14, 2015

So, This Is A Thing I Have, Apparently

I'm on Trazodone for my insomnia, it doesn't work as well as the Ambien and so I was up at 7:30 in the morning. Today was Newton's exam. He wasn't sick but I'm going to try to keep him current on his shots and stuff. Anyway, I wasn't going back to bed so I did errands and then dicked around with Steam. I haven't really been in a gaming mood the last couple of weeks so I didn't intend to play anything, just look through my list of purchased games. And I saw that I had Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition on my list.

I had picked it up last year for $20 during a Steam sale, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I never found out because while From Software ported it to the PC, they made no attempt to customize the controls. It was unplayable. And I had no intention of buying a controller so that was that, I uninstalled it and went on with my life.

So I did more putzing about then Newton went to the vet. He's healthy, he got his shots and he was reasonably cool about things. And me, I booted Kosh and reinstalled Dark Souls. Then I went to Best Buy and bought an Xbox (I think an Xbox sounds more natural then a Xbox, don't you?) controller. I've since played a little DS and I'm still trying to work out the controls. But yeah, as much as I suck with a controller, it plays better with one.

Supposedly DS is to gaming as marathons are to running. I don't know about that but I do know that there are certain games that take advantage of a PC's graphic abilities but still work best with a controller. I'm a stubborn bastard but perhaps DS, a game I have no chance of finishing, would be an ideal opportunity to get comfortable with the things. And as for Dark Souls, I'll post a movie once I get things like inventory management down. So probably nothing there until next week. I'll warn you about one thing right now, after playing Dragon Age, Dark Souls will look pretty bad. The game was designed for the Xbox 360 and the PS3. The publisher, Namco Bandai, made no attempt to take advantage of the PC's capabilities so don't expect too much. I've been watching Jeff Green play Bloodborne for the PS4. It's by From Software and is a beautiful game. But a PS4 is a more powerful beast then the PS3.

But why am I carping about a four year old game? I'll play some this weekend and see what happens.

April 13, 2015

Journey to the West: Book 1

So, 200 pages into this thing and the pious monk Xuanzang has only just begun his trek to recover Buddhist scriptures from India. Indeed the first 150 pages were all about Monkey. or as he called himself Great Sage Equal to Heaven. The sage did indeed ascend to heaven where he acted like a complete asshole until the Buddha intervened and dropped a mountain on him. The action moves to the Earth where we see what led up to the birth of Xuanzang. He just volunteered to make the trip to India, Emperor Taizong swears brotherhood with him and now the Kindle is recharging.

Four books and 2,000 pages is a lot but I'll at least finish volume 1 and take a crack at volume 2. I'm getting the impression that of the four classic Chinese novels, Journey to the West is the most accessible to the general reader.

April 12, 2015


Occasionally someone like Warren Ellis will mention that it's 35 degrees out and boiling hot. That's because Warren isn't an American. He doesn't live here and he's using the centigrade system of temperature. Water freezes at 0 and boils at 100. But I don't know centigrade, I know fahrenheit. I knew that 35 degrees was hot but I didn't know how hot.

But I realized today that there's probably an app for that. And there is and now I can tell you that 35 degrees works out to 95 degrees fahrenheit. That knowledge makes me as happy as a cat in a bag.

The next project will be to get the moldy smell out of some of my clothes. I'm told that vinegar works so that's what I've added to my laundry. If it does work, I'll be very happy indeed.

April 12, 2015


The entities in the Marvel Cinematic Universe exist in a shared space. So Phil Colson and his agents are in the same universe as Thor and both exist in Matt Murdoch's universe, even though Matt lives on Netflix.

If you've never heard of Daredevil, or only know of him from the bad movie, he's pretty simple to understand. He was blinded by chemicals as a kid but the chemicals that destroyed his sight left his other senses heightened to such a degree that in a fight with a sighted opponent, he has the advantage. And, of course, he uses his abilities to fight crime. Because that's what people do in the MCU, unless they're using their abilities to commit crimes. Nobody seems to just use their abilities to have fun and maybe make a little money from them legally.

Murdoch grew up in Hell's Kitchen, it was a blighted neighborhood when he was a kid and it's still a shithole. Except it's not. It's a very nice part of New York and you can't afford to live there. But in the MCU Loki and an army of Chitauri invaded NYC. The Avengers saved the city but Hell's Kitchen was trashed. So by day Matt Murdoch tries to save it as a lawyer. By night he tries to save it by beating the crap out of people.

The other major player is Wilson Fisk. He wants to gentrify Hell's Kitchen, just like what happened to the neighborhood in real life. He finances his efforts through criminal enterprises and he'll kill anybody who stands in his way. Thus stand our protagonist and antagonist.

Now, Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was, to date, the darkest depiction of a superhero. But Daredevil makes The Dark Knight look like, no let's be honest, The Dark Knight was pretty fucking bleak. But Bruce Wayne's a billionaire and has a lot of resources to throw at bad guys, Murdoch doesn't. Batman is protecting a whole city the size of New York, Daredevil is protecting one little neighborhood and half the time he can't pull that off.

In fact, one of the things I lie about the show is its scale. Murdoch isn't saving NYC, he can't. He's just trying to save his neighborhood and having a hard time with that. Thor and Captain America exist in Murdoch's world just like Beyoncé and the Dali Lama exist in mine. But Murdoch and I exist on a whole other level from those people. Iron Man isn't going to be flying in to punch out Fisk. Indeed, he's probably unaware of his existence.

I note that one of the criticisms leveled against the show is the length of some of the scenes. And it did take a bit of getting used to. But Netflix, like HBO, doesn't have to worry about commercials or act breaks. Thus when the gang learned of Grant's betrayal on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D there was time for a short, "Well this sucks," moment from the cast before breaking for commercial. Daredevil has the luxury of time.

I could go on here but I'm not. It's the best life action depiction of a super hero that's been done to date. But it's not going to change your mind if you don't like the genre. I can accept the fact that Hank Williams was a great artist but I don't like country and western so I don't listen to his stuff. But if you've nothing in particular against super heroes and have Netflix, you should check it out.

Update: I'm going to indulge myself and post the opening titles, because it's pretty cool:

April 12, 2015

House of Cards

I'm slowly getting through the third season of House of Cards. In the first two season Frank Underwood schemed and even killed on his his way to the presidency. Now he's President Underwood and the show seems to have lost something. It may simply be this:

Stonn. She is yours. After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.

It's still good but it's not binge watch good, if you know what I mean.

April 10, 2015

Blade Runner

There's a series of photos on Instagram called Blade Runner Reality. The idea is that the world in 2015 is starting to resemble the Los Angeles of Rick Deckard, circa 2019. The picture above isn't from there. It's wallpaper of the City of London. But it does have that Blade Runner vibe going for it doesn't it? It's one of my favorite wallpapers.

April 8, 2015


This Friday Netflix releases all 13 episodes of Daredevil, the next entry in Marvel's cinematic universe. DC seems to have three live action universes at the moment, the one with Arrow and the Flash on CW, the movie universe with Superman and (next year) Batman and Gotham on Fox off in its own little world. Marvel's strategy has its movies and shows all part of a larger whole.

Daredevil will be the first Marvel hero on a screen to have a secret identity. All the others, so far, have been known to the public. All of DC's current live action heroes have secret identities. I suspect it's a product of when they were created. Superman launched in 1938 and Batman in 1938. With the exception of Captain America, all of Marvel's heroes launched in the 60s and because they were new their creators felt free to experiment a little.

One of the few disappointments I have about the decisions I made when I was young involve Marvel Comics. They were launching a new line and I never bothered to check them out until the 70s. For me comic books meant Superman and DC. Unfortunately all the exciting stuff was being created by Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee. I doubt reading Spiderman as a kid would have changed my life, but it might have made my childhood a tad easier.

April 8, 2015


I met my sister and brother in law at Caesars this morning, I watched them play a little roulette then we had breakfast. It was pleasant, I don't get to Atlantic City very often these days and that's kind of a shame. It's not what it was ten years ago but it still has stuff happening.

April 8, 2015

Learning How to Cat

Yes, they'll be some Newton stuff this week, this Thursday will mark our first anniversary. When I got Newton he was six months old and had spent his life in a cage at the Atlantic County Animal Shelter in Pleasantville. There really wasn't enough room in his cage to sit so he wasn't very good at it. He's since mastered it but he's still got issues. Turning around when he's on the windowsill is an operation that involves cranes and police helicopters.

The picture was taken on the very day I got him. I expected him to hide under the bed or something but he was just gobsmacked by the space in my condo and by the fact that it was all his. He was just too happy to be scared.

April 6, 2015

Copper and Newton Face to Face

April 6, 2015

The 2015 Hugos

If you don't know the Hugo Awards are given out by the World Science Fiction Association, if you're a member you can vote in categories like Best Novel and Best Short Story. The Hugos are a very big deal if you're into science fiction. They're not quite mainstream, like Tolkien and Trek, but more people know of them then they did when I was a teenager.

If you're a member of the WSFA you can vote, and if you don't want to pay $240 for the full membership that allows you to go to Worldcon, you can pay $40. That gives you the right to vote for the works to be nominated for Hugos and vote for the winners. It's all very democratic and above board. This year it also got political.

First off, here are this year's nominees and, as always, it's an honor just to be nominated. This year there was a campaign called Sad Puppies, which wanted to make sure that the nominees were not, well fuck it, I'll let Brad Torgersen say it in his own words:

And here it is! After much combobulating, the official SAD PUPPIES 3 slate is assembled! As noted earlier in the year, the SAD PUPPIES 3 list is a recommendation. Not an absolute. Gathered here is the best list (we think!) of entirely deserving works, writers, and editors - all of whom would not otherwise find themselves on the Hugo ballot without some extra oomph received from beyond the rarefied, insular halls of 21st century Worldcon "fandom."

And if you compare the nominees with the slate suggested by Sad Puppies you'll see that the puppies have no reason to be sad at all.

So, a couple of thoughts here. First of all, a quote from Mr. Torgersen:

In other words, while the big consumer world is at the theater gobbling up the latest Avengers movie, "fandom" is giving "science fiction's most prestigious award" to stories and books that bore the crap out of the people at the theater: books and stories long on "literary" elements (for all definitions of "literary" that entail: what college hairshirts are fawning over this decade) while being entirely too short on the very elements that made Science Fiction and Fantasy exciting and fun in the first place!

Now I loved The Avengers. I have the movie and I've watched it several times. But Jesus, it doesn't deserve a Hugo. Lot's of stuff I like is not worthy of an award. Hell, I watched all ten seasons of Smallville. There's a reason I like some of the stuff I read and watch curated. It's because left to my own devices I'd be reading stuff like The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City. If you don't want to expand your aesthetic horizons there's nothing wrong with that. But there's a difference between not wanting to go to the Jackson Pollock exhibition and wanting Bob Ross names artist of the century.

But there's a bit more to the story then that. Nine of the nominees were published by Castalia House. Here's there mission in life:

Castalia House is a Finland-based publisher that has a great appreciation for the golden age of science fiction and fantasy literature. The books that we publish honor the traditions and intellectual authenticity exemplified by writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard, G.K. Chesterton, and Hermann Hesse. We are consciously providing an alternative to readers who increasingly feel alienated from the nihilistic, dogmatic science fiction and fantasy being published today. We seek nothing less than a Campbellian revolution in genre literature.

Now, as it turns out I've read all those authors. But I'm having problems imagining all of these guys chatting at a dinner party. But here's something interesting, Castalia House was founded by Vox Day, who used to be Theodore Beale. Here's a primo quote from his editorial WHY WOMEN'S RIGHTS ARE WRONG:

In fact, I very much like women and wish them well, which is precisely why I consider women's rights to be a disease that should be eradicated. For what is rather more difficult to dismiss are the simple and easily verifiable facts that indicate women have seldom been less able to pursue their dreams and less able to achieve their desires than today, the Golden Age of Feminism.

Consider the two great laments of the modern American woman. For the unmarried woman, it is the reality that she must marry later in life than ever before, if she is able to marry at all. For the married woman, it is that unlike generations of women before her, she cannot afford to stay home with her children unless she is fortunate enough to have married to a man of the financial elite.

Well then. So that's what's going on in the world of science fiction.

April 5, 2015

Journey to the West

In 629 Xuanzang, a Buddhist monk from China, decided to go to India to compare Buddhist texts there with the texts they had in China. He stayed in India until 649. He came home with lots of manuscripts and was offered a cushy job by Emperor Taizong of Tang. Instead Xuanzang retired to a monastery.

His trip became a really big deal and in 1592 a novel written by Wu Cheng'en called Journey to the West was published. Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of China. Just in case you're curious, the other three are Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Dream of the Red Chamber.

Journey to the West is pretty popular working both as a an allegory of the journey to enlightenment and a straight out adventure story. English speaking folks got their first taste of it from Arthur Waley's translation, Monkey: A Folk-Tale of China. I have a copy of that translation that James gave me back in the day. But the thing is, Waley only translated 30 out of the original text's 100 chapters. I've always been uncomfortable with abridgements myself, at least for adults, so I only glanced at Waley.

Anthony Yu translated the complete book back in 1983 and in 2012 University of Chicago Press published a revised edition. I'm going to try to tackle it next. I may not finish it but I'll give it a shot.

As far as the story goes, Xuanzang decides to go Leiyin Temple on Vulture Peak in India to retrieve some Buddhist scriptures for their transgressions Sun Wukong the Monkey King, Pigsy and Sha Wujing are sent to help him in his journey. Except it's not really a punishment detail. The trip will help the three gain enlightenment.

At any rate I have volume one on my Kindle and it's next up after I finish The Colour of Magic.

Statue of Xuanzang near the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, China.

April 4, 2015


Next week Newton will have been here for one year. To help celebrate it I gave him a plastic bag from the grocery store. He was batting it around for about ten minutes. I can't speak for dogs, but the nice thing about cats is that simple stuff makes them happy.

April 4, 2015

The Colour of Magic

As it turned out Remy Chandler saved the day and the Apocalypse did not occur. God was pretty grateful and invited Remy back to heaven, but Remy graciously declined. So it looks like God, at least in that universe, has some limitations. On the other hand the damned actually can get out of hell, once they've paid their cosmic debt or whatever, so I think rather kindly of that version of the Supreme Being.

I never read Terry Pratchett. Well, that's not true, I did read the novel he wrote with Neil Gaiman. But after his death Amazon had the first Discworld novel, The Colour of Magic on sale for $2. At that price I had to see what all the fuss was about. After Sir Terry perhaps I'll try something a bit deeper.

April 4, 2015