August 23rd, 2004

At last, the words of the world's worst song are on teh Interweb

"Superman was killed in Dallas
There's no love left in the palace
Someone took the Beatle's lead guitar "

and ends
"But I believe that love can save tomorrow
Believe the truth can set us free
Someone tried to tell us
But we nailed him to a cross
I guess it's still the way it used to be... "

with plenty more glurge in the middle. Called 'used to be' by Stevie Wonder and Charlene, as in the Charlene who sung the great 'anti-screwing around' song 'I've been to paradise but I've never been to me' (rendered by t__m__i as 'I've been to Birmingham but I've never got a seat'.

I heard it once on the radio many years ago played by Paul Gambaccini. From time to time I have looked for the lyrics but at last the web is up to the task. (I won't post a link as it is not quite clear whether the URL is persistent or a transient session ID, and I understand that as well as a global information resource there is a mechanism for searching it).

Forty Buckets Of Custard

Well, I have finished 'Forty Signs Of Rain' By Kim Stanley Robinson. I think I must sadly say that I now regard Robinson as someone who started off without 'it', got 'it' briefly for The Gold Coast and Pacific Edge and then lost it again. The phrase that springs most to mind with Forty Signs Of Rain is the time honoured 'if you want to send a message use Western Union'.
Having read most of the book I felt that I had read not 180 pages but 60. I don't just mean that I thought it could have been written in 60 pages, or should have been written in 60 pages, but that I genuinely thought, on picking it up again, that I had read 60 pages and was amazed at where the bookmark was.
The main characters are very superficially drawn - Anna and Charlie are 'young working couple with children by numbers' and Frank reminded me of no-one so much as a Robert Anton Wilson parody of a rationalist scientist. Then again I have always had difficulty in taking sociobiologists seriously and maybe elements of the character are deliberately silly.

Nor did I feel that there were any great insights into how Washington works. Possibly this is just because there are so many things treading this territory, and because I have, to my shame, watched a few episodes of that great liberal's wet dream The West Wing.
Without giving anything away it is fair to say that nothing much happens in the book.
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It also contains some of the most clunky info-dumps seen in the wild for a while - a character suggests to another characters that they google for the history of the N.S.A. They do, and Robinson tells us what they find!

Part of the problem is that the bar for 'this kind of book' (whatever that is) has been set pretty high, with Pattern Recognition and Cryptonomicon to name but two. As you probably know, I think P.R. is a genuine classic, and although I have certain reservations about Cryptonomicon and Stephenson, I still view it as a masterpiece, albeit flawed.

Anyway, save your money and read P.R. if you haven't, or if you want to read Robinson try The Gold Coast and Pacific Edge and see if, like me, you find the alleged dystopia more appealing than the alleged utopia.