small d, Big J

What Steven desJardins is interested in.
Thursday, April 03, 2003
This story, about an Antarctic squid that's bigger than the giant squid, is seriously cool.

Last week I signed up with GreenCine, a Netflix-like company. This would give me five disks out at a time (two from GreenCine, three from Netflix), and cost a little more than getting five disks from Netflix, but GreenCine had some disks that Netflix didn't.

Yesterday I got all five disks in the mail at once. This would at first seem like too many. But then I put Sports Night Disk 5 in, only to find that the opening was strangely familiar. Sure enough, when I ejected the disk I found that they'd sent me a copy of Disk 4 in the sleeve for Disk 5. Since I also had Sports Night Disk 6, that was two DVD's I couldn't watch.

Then I tried watching Vision of Escaflowne Disk 5. (For some reason Netflix only has the first half of the series.) The DVD player displayed READING, then NO DISC. I tried it several times, including in my laptop, with no success. The Ranma 1/2 disk I ordered didn't work any better. I got the READING message, then the disk tray popped open. Again, I tried this several times, with no luck.

So out of five DVD's, there was exactly one that I could watch, a 1961 movie called Town Without Pity, about four American soldiers who rape a girl in Germany. A bit topical, since it reflects the problems involved in occupying a conquered nation. This is one of a long string of incidents, and the general in charge of the base decides to make an example of them. The four are charged with capital rape, and a courtroom is set up in a high school gymnasium so the town can see justice done. The defense lawyer's strategy is to drive the victim from the stand--as a German citizen, she can't be forced to testify in an American court-martial, and under American law the men can't be put to death without her testimony. It's a cynical, ugly movie, but if it were less cynical or ugly it would be less true.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Hugo nominations are due tomorrow, and as always I'm scrambling to catch up on my reading. Most years I've read enough fiction that I'm just filling in the gaps, but this time I've read so little short fiction that I didn't nominate at all in those categories, and so few current novels that I was very selective in choosing what to nominate. For example, Bones of the Earth and The Years of Rice and Salt were very good books, but I can't say they deserve to make the ballot over books I haven't read. Only books which are so exceptional that they would always deserve to be on the ballot made my list. This year, that's The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, and The Scar by China Miéville, which I just finished reading yesterday.

I also voted for Cassandra Claire, the author of the Very Secret Diaries, for Best Fan Writer, along with James Nicoll and Rich Horton, who write on Usenet. Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn't as good as it once was, but I still nominated one episode ("Normal Again") on the grounds that it deserves to have won a Hugo. That was about it.


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