Book Review 33: Omnes Mundum Facimus

"You don't need an engraved invitation to do good works in the world, Jane," he said. "You want to do them you, you just go out and do them. "

Page 53-54

Bad Monkeys
, by Seattle author Matt Ruff, is a great book. If you like mysteries, secret organizations, weird Sci-Fi, or absurd humor, you should find something to love about this book.

I was a little nervous when I started to read it. A few years back (before I was writing these reviews) I read Ruff's "Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy." That was another great book, but it was immensely complex. It was the first book I had to take notes on since college. I ended up with multiple pages in Windows Journal, about 30 post-it notes, and a family tree sketch as I tried to keep track of who was whom, and what was going on. I mean, the book involved the original design of Disney World, a Polka Dot submarine, and a talking, artificial Ayn Rand trapped in a hurricane lamp. The book is worth the effort, but, wow. It was an effort. Maybe it’s a good warm up for the Silmarillion.

Fortunately, Bad Monkeys is an easier read. There are fewer characters and the plot appears more straight forward.

Here is the synopsis from the back cover:

Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder.

She tells police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil; her division is called "The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons" — "Bad Monkeys" for short.

This confession earns Jane a trip to the jail's psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to determine whether she is lying, crazy — or playing a different game altogether.
You can read an introductory excerpt here.

Ruff takes us on a journey involving Panopticon, Scary Clowns, ant farms, cryogenics, urban legends, and Las Vegas. The Scary Clowns group is especially interesting -- their origins and politics flesh out the story nicely.

The book really begins when the jail's Doctor asks Jane about how she got involved with Bad Monkeys. She tells a story about her brother Phil's disappearance and her own encounter with a serial killer. The rest of the book follows her as she grows older and eventually starts working for the organization.

I don't want to go into much greater detail about the book because Jane's journey is highly entertaining, and filled with spoilers. Ruff keeps the suspense up throughout the book and the final chapters are filled with the kind of plot twists that, in a less skilled hand, would be stupid. Ruff deftly handles them, however, and they seem just right. He fills the book with twists that I never saw coming, but, in retrospect are obvious.

This gives the book a quality I rarely find -- rereadability. Now I want to read the book again to see everything I missed on the first read through -- those key elements that were staring me in the face the whole time.

Ruff has great phrasing in the book. These are a few of my favorites:

"The gun shoots heard attacks?"

"Myocardial infarctions," she says tapping a finger on the cause-of-death line in the autopsy report. "MIs. And the CI setting, that's for cerebral infarctions. Heart attack and stroke, the two leading killers of bad monkeys…"

Page 46

"Phil did believe in the bible. Part of believing that the bible is true is believing that any problems in the text have solutions. Actually knowing what those solutions are isn't important. It's like, just because I can't tell you what killed the dinosaurs doesn't mean they aren't extinct.

Page 48-49

You can wait for a bight future pretty much anywhere, right? And while I was waiting, just in case it mattered, I cleaned up my act.

Page 51

Look, there are basically two reasons people go to college. Some people go there to learn something, something specific, I mean, a trade or a vocation. Other people -- like me -- just go for the experience. I was like one of those starving-artist types, people who convince themselves back in grade school that they have a destiny to become actors or musicians or writers. For them, college is a place to mark time until their destiny kicks in.

Page 52

"She wants to be useful. It would be very easy for someone in Annie's position to spend to spend the rest of her life paralyzed by guilt, but she wants her remaining time to count for something. "

Page 90

"It's an imperfect metaphor. Panopticon's run by geeks, not poets."

Page 107
I highly recommend Bad Monkeys. It's funny, faced paced, suspenseful, and philosophical. It raises questions of trust and betrayal. And the way Ruff turns a phrase makes it hard to put down.

You can see Ruff's post publication thoughts on the book and characters here. This link does contain spoilers, so read the book first.

You can find more of my book reviews here.


Dr. Horrible is profitable

The Dr. Horrible DVD is now available for pre-order on Amazon.Com. Previously, I commented on the awesomeness of Dr. Horrible and on Jon's application for the Evil League of Evil.

To recap, Dr. Horrible is Joss Whedon's what-I-did-over-writer-strike-vacation project. It's a web based musical about super villains and super heroes. You can watch it here.

The DVD has extras, inlcuding fans applications for the League.

So how has this experiment in new media done financially? Joss Whedon included this comment on his blog, Whedonesque

Finally, I just want to say "thank you" to everybody who has supported this venture. We've been able to pay our crew and all our bills, which means a lot. What means more is proving that completely independent ventures can muscle their way through the blizzard of big-budget behemoths. (A blizzard of behemoths? Back to writing school, alliteration-junkie!) All that rhetoric about the future of entertainment that flew about during the Strike is still entirely true. We need to find our own way of producing entertainment. A lot of people are watching Dr. Horrible to see if it's any kind of model -- way more people than I expected -- and it means everything to me to help pave the way for artists to start working and making a living from the ground up. There are a couple of real pioneers in this that I know personally: Felicia Day, I'm thrilled to say, and choreographer Chris Elam are both looking far ahead in terms of monetization and interactivity. Me, I'm more like Jimmy Stewart in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", but at least I'm out there. Thanks, he finally summed up, to you.

You can find his comment, and others, here.

The TV, music, and movie industries are facing incredible challenges from web resources (both legal and illegal). As the cost of production and distribution have plummeted, creating new content is within the realm of the average web user. The Lonely Island made its transition to SNL this way, and one day, perhaps Play Cole will experience something similar.

At the same time, cheap tools and easy distribution are no substitute for talent. Joss Whedon's project suceeds because it brings together a number of key elements, including Whedon's talent, Whedon's name, talented actors, great choreography, impressive musicians, low production costs, and a solid fan base.

In 15 years the landscape of personal entertainment will be radically different from what we've gotten used to over the past years. We are starting to see the new directions now. Dr. Horrible is one example of it.

Congratulations to Whedon and crew. You've done great work with this project, and I look forward to whatever comes next -- both from Whedon, and in the rest of the new media frontier.

For additional updates, you can follow Dr. Horrible on Twitter, which is how I first found Whedon's comment.

Macy's Holiday Parade in Seattle

Once again, the GF and I got up at 7:30 AM the day after Thanksgiving. We didn't line up for the sales (I've served my time in retail). We got up for the annual Holiday parade in Seattle.

Sometimes I wonder why. It doesn't change much from one year to the next. And I'm still busy digesting dinner from the day before. More sleep would be nice. But I can't stay away. And so once again we made the treck a few blocks downtown to see high school students in short skirts, or holding their lips to large metal objects, plush sheep dogs, people in silly costumes, and unicyclists as they wandered the streets of Seattle in an organzied fashion.

And we waited to get hit in the face with thrown candy.

Here's what we saw.

It starts off quietly enough with someone catching up with the local cops. Actually, it stayed relatively quiet throughout the parade this year. It was quite as rambunctious as in years past.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (1)

These folks had the right idea for viewing the parade:

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (2)

The crowds at Westlake did gradually build.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (4)

It wouldn't be a Holiday without a decorated tuba.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (8)

Of course, it helps when you have presents.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (9)

For the Gingerbread Village, people dress up as candy.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (12)

Who sponsors this wonderful collection of giant surgary treats? Why the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, course.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (13)

I'm not sure if that is funny, ironic, or just a good idea. How often do Diabetes related organizations celebrate sugary sweets?

The Connect Call Stars was one of several groups highlighting their people hoisting skills.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (19)

In prior years, the area's dignitaries would ride along the parade route in convertibles, and wave to the people. This year, they had to walk. Here is Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske:

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (21)

And here, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels joins Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (69)

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (70)

Not all local dignitaries had to hoof it, however.

Doppler, the mascot for the local WNBA team, the Seattle Storm, got ot rid in a car.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (22)

The Mariner Moose and the Seahawk's Seahawk, were not so lucky.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (23)

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (25)

Here is a very hungry inflatable dog.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (29)

While no one dropped turkeys from a helicopter, candy did start raining down on the crowds. But it didn't come from the sky.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (39)

Instead the candy that came crashing down over the crowds and splattering on the pavement -- like recent home sales figures and prices came from Quadrant Homes.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (32)
I just hope the homes the build for sales are better than the home they build for the parade.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (34)

The Scotty dogs put in an appearance.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (43)

A dachshund wanted to join them. I think they talked him out of it.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (44)

This dog is hard core. He needs two leashes.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (45)

Later on, we got to see the English Sheep Dogs.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (102)

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (97)

The dachshund wanted to join them, too.

The dalmatians were also part of the parade.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (65)

The only cat in the parade was inflatable.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (28)

Representatives from the local ballet showed off some of their moves.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (121)

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (122)

Is this the latest innovation in marching band technology? I don't think I've see an arm mounted music holder before.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (127)

In the distance we saw some umbrellas and assumed this was one of Seattle's ethnic groups marching in the parade. Wew figured it would be the Filipino-American group or a Chinese-American group.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (130)

As they got closer, we realized we were probably mistaken.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (132)

It turns out the group was actually dressed up as Poinsettias.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (133)

Naturally, the parade also featured the Pie Man.

Oops. Sorry. Wrong pie man.

The parade featured, as the GF put it, the Sweeny Todd version -- people were in the pies.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (85)

There is also a Unicycle group in the area. The riders do a variety of tricks. Can you tell this guy is really confident in his friend's abilities?

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (76)

As the candy throwers and blushing marching bands move on, the parade leapt towards it's climactic finish.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (159)

The Macy's group itself approached, and, as the Bon Marche had done for years ine past, they began tossing not candy canes, and not ordinary chocolate, but Frango candies.

People got up and crowed the curb for their chance to catch one of these precious treat. All of a sudden a woman behind us said to her companion, "You know, we can just BUY Frangos."

A few people thought that was pretty funny.

But the crowds pressed forward and the Global Warming Ary marched down the street.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (161)

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (164)

They were, of course, ably commanded by the terrifying Snow Queen (DO NOT LET HER OUT OF HER GLASS PRISON -- SEATTLE WILL BE BURIED).

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (163)

Since it is a Holiday parade, it must of course be wrapped up with Santa Claus.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (175)

And keeping everyone up to date on the parade were Seattle favorites Dennis Bounds and Lori Matsukawa.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (178)

Every year, the parade concludes with a snowstorm in front of Macy's.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (184)

And here is Seattle's Snow Man.

2008-11-28 Seattle Thanksgiving Holiday Parade (183)

You can see more of my parade pictures here.


The results

After fighting with the cold and the bucket, the results were worth it.

2008-11-27 Cooked Turkey

2008-11-27 Cooked Turkey (1)

2008-11-27 Table Setting (1)

I hope everyone had a great day.

Hey! There's a turkey butt sticking out of my bucket

The GF and I have been brine-ing turkeys for several Thanksgivings now, and have the routine pretty well down. A brined turkey is great. It has plenty of flavor and is much less likely to dry out in cooking. You end up with a tasty and moist bird. If you want to try brining your own turkey, try Alton Brown's recipe.

This year, we had planned to have a bunch of people over to my apartment for dinner, but had to change plans at the last minute. Now the two of us have a 19-pound turkey (and twenty pounds of Costco potatoes) all to ourselves. That means Friday through Sunday we eat turkey sandwiches, and Wednesday through Friday we eat a lot of turkey soup. (The missing days are reserved for room service in CA.)

To brine a turkey, you start the night before. You cook up the brine, make a bunch of ice, and find a bucket. You pour the brine and the ice cubes into the bucket and then add the turkey.

We used the same bucket from previous small-turkey years and poured in the brine. Then we added all the ice cubes we have ever made. Now my bucket was half full.

With ice.

And brine.

And now there was no room for turkey. So I spent the next several minute pulling out ice cubes.

I stuck the turkey in and and then began pulling out even more ice cubes. Have I mentioned that the brine was icy?

The turkey was still too big.

So tried to reseat the turkey on in the bucket by shifting the ice around. Have you ever shifted ice around like that? There's a reason those crab fishermen on the Discovery Channel where those big suit while there out on the deck, in the ridiculously tall waves off the coast of Alaska. It's cold and painful.

Let me tell you -- it is very different from the summer BBQ. Then in the comfort of 95 degree heat, you plunge your hand into the ice filled water in the cooler looking for the last real Pepsi. It take a while to find it, because the cooler is filled with nothing for Caffeine-free Diet Coke. Seriously -- why do people by so much of that junk? I can understand a six pack, but filling the cooler with it? What are you thinking? Were they out of Sierra Mist?

Regardless, fishing around for that last real Pepsi is painful, but it's tempered by the hot weather, the fact that the rest of your body is warm, and that there are all those people around enjoying the sun.

Messing around in the icy brine surrounding the sickly pink looking saggy flesh of the dead, naked, 19-pound bird while trying to not catch salmonella is not quite as much fun. But I did what I had to do, and almost got it done.

Eventually, the feeling did return to my fingers. And they all stayed attached, so I'm ready for whatever the next step is.

So here's the turkey. Only 7 more hours until it's time to flip the bird.

2008-11-27 Turkey in the Brine (1)

2008-11-27 Turkey in the Brine

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy the day and stay safe.


Thoughts on Yogurt

The other night, my GF commented on how good her yogurt was with honey. I said that made perfect sense.

"After all," I said, "Honey and yogurt are both made by bees....if cows are bees."

Maybe I shouldn't have suspended Sleep Mode.


Create your own error message

This is a neat site I stumbled across while using Stumble Upon. It lets you create your own Windows error message. You can create your own here. Or, you can see a gallery of others here.

Besides the novelty factor here, I'm pretty sure some one could use this tool for some nasty practical jokes.


The facts were these: ABC sucks

Some thoughts from the Pie Maker:

New beginnings only lead to painful endings.

Starting fresh means something else is dying.

Last December, I first wrote about the awesomeness that is Pushing Diasies. Sadly, it was announced this week that ABC will not renew the series. From the PI:

Sources tell TVGuide.com that the network has taken a pass on greenlighting any additional episodes of Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone and Dirty Sexy Money, and that all three series will come to an end when this season's 13-episode orders expire.

Daisies wrapped production on its 13th episode last week, at which point series creator Bryan Fuller said he was holding out hope that high-ranking advocates for his show would work some magic. Didn't happen. Fuller, though, has said that Ned and Chuck's story, in such a sitch, will continue on in comic-book form. So there's that.


I'm not too surprised. The show was too beautiful, creative, and different to survive the tyranny of the Neilsen Ratings.

I will miss coming home from a trip and finding the latest adventures or Chuck, Ned, Olive, Emmerson, Digby, Vivian, and Lily on my TiVo waiting for me.

If only the Pie Maker could touch the show...