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Outside an Apartment Building
You stand on the edge of a hillside park, before a tall white
building. The westering sun gives the rippled walls and ornate
masonry a golden hue, as it descends behind the trees and into the
Raised in the 1920s, the building is tall and slender. It towers
over the neighbouring apartment buildings and homes. A placid
silver face overlooks the curled iron bars of the entrance.
Opposite a black volkswagen is parked perpendicular to the climbing
bank of lavender, and locked to a nearby street sign is a silver
bicycle marked 'Diana', after the goddess of the hunt.
You could drive Ella, ride Diana, enter the building, or walk off.
- drive Ella
Ella has a tiny pink octopus in the window. This scares you off.
- ride Diana
Diana is all locked up with a blue-ringed octopus lock, it's tentacles
embracing both her wheels and frame.
A silver VW Eurovan drives past and parks nearby. This is San Francisco.
As if by magic the heavy iron gate and doorway open, letting you pass
into the ornate and mirrored lobby. Ignoring Spencer, the elevator,
you climb many flights up to the apartment.
A painted wooden door opens onto narrow hallway. To the left runs a
galley kitchen, wherein you notice a teapot with tell-tale stains of
yerba mate. Through a curved archway lined with playmobil figures is a
cup-ringed wooden table and four chairs. A book is help open by a
stand, and a small laptop is closed beside it. There's a gardenia in
the window trying hard to flower. Outside you can see the fire escape,
where two faded and furry octopi are held in a strange embrace,
watching out over the park and street below. The road climbs to reach
eye level beyond. Through another doorway lies the sitting room, with
two mismatched sofas and a giant monitor, though you cannot spot a
You notice another octopus peeping out of a laboratory cupboard, but
you are too afraid to investigate further. Somewhere within are
textures, silhouettes and a mountain of burning man pictures.
The bathroom is small and has a pleasant tiling upon the
floor. Finally there is the bedroom, its two chairs laden with clothes
and its shelves groaning with volumes, read to the left and unread to
- examine bookshelves
One bookshelf is laden with the works of Professor J.R.R.Tolkien. You notice
in particular two nice old hardback copies of the Silmarillion, Unfinished
Tales, and an almost complete set of The History of Middle-earth, in addition
to numerous obscure and rather tatty looking secondary works.
On another, handy imaginary 'recent' bookshelf you notice the
following volumes, each with a few rambling post-it notes attached:
Recently, soon in more detail...
Guns, Germs and Steel: Very good so far, half way.
Imperial San Francico: Fascinating account of the building of a city.
Moby Dick: Fantastic. 'I'll smoke no more.' - Ahab
The New Sins, David Byrne: Worrying, like a good Talking Heads tune.
Over Sea and Under Stone, Dark is Rising: Still marvellous.
Diaspora, Greg Egan: A pretty sensible kind of future. Upload!
Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud.
A heart-shaped post-it reads, "One leaves this really wishing that
micropayments had caught on. Often catch myself thinking about alternative
futures in which the cumbersome web hadn't happened, in which we'd grown into
a BBS-type system rather than a page-based metaphor. Fax machines never
happened in this scenario, either. Anyway, McCloud is very smart and readable.
I love comics. Guilt stalks me when he refers to the comic boom of the late
80's: I remember going into Fantastic Store, seeing Watchmen #1 for 3.50,
and walking down the road to (ugh, comic shop name) and buying 3 at 1.50.
Speculator scum. I have two of them signed. I don't think, however, that I
will ever sell them. A bit like my old vinyl."
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
An arrow-shaped post-in reads, "Fantastic. Victoriana rings a big bell
with me. When Nano comes I will be right there with Lord Alexander
Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw. Captain Nemo is now my favourite super-hero
(Brooke and I were talking about this the other night). His Nautilus is
fantastic: it's like a giant octopus you can live inside.
Slant, Greg Bear
A square post-it reads, "Recently been indulging in guilty pleasure of
reading Sci-fi. This is pretty good. Fairly credible 2060 setting in
terms of nano, etc. Mentions Extropians, whatever happened to
them? Majority of population has been 'therapied' to cure mass
breakdowns due to pace of change. Quite compelling, pulled me
along. But I have been known to be pulled along by all sorts of
rubbish: also read 'Reality Dysfunction: Part 1' and then 'Part 2' by
Peter F. Hamilton recently. Too embarrassed to review."
A Dangerous Friend, Ward Just
A round post-it reads, "Vietnam, does a decent job of evoking the war
from a good-intentioned civilian's perspective. Left me rather sad and
empty. Deliberately a little unresolved, I kept being unable to
remember if I'd finished it."
An Incredible Work of Heart-breaking Genius, Dave Eggers
A round post-in reads, "Hope wanted me to read this because it's set
in the Bay Area - the narrator lives in the hills and then north
Berkeley. He does a good job of capturing the ambiance of Berkeley,
and its oft-misunderstood relation to 'The City'. I didn't actually
finish the book before I left London, and I would quite like to. It's
manic and occasionally funny. I don't often laugh at books. It
reminded me in setting of 'Ecstacy Club' by Rushkoff, which a few of
my friends are just reading, and encouraged my original desire to 'go
west'. Mostly because I was a giant conspiracy fan in the same summer
Gloriana, Michael Moorcock
A square post-it reads, "More Victoriana, more guilty pleasure. Very
much Gormenghast. Not bad, but not Mervyn."
The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R.Tolkien
A heart-shaped post-it reads, "Again! Again! Always for good
reason. This is how Middle-earth looks:
"The others cast themselves down upon the fragrant grass, but Frodo
stood a while still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had
stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light
was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was
shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been
first concieved and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient
as if they had endured forever. He saw no colour but those he knew,
gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant,
as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them
names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for
summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be
seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lorien there
was no stain."
LotR p. 369
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
A round post-it reads, "Harry's excellent stuff, but feeling the pinch
a little at number four. A little long, and a little uneventful. A
little soap operatic. Hogwarts has bothered me from the start for its
shocking similarity to Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy and its school
of Wizardry. I know, there's no crime in inspiration, etc. Having said
that, Muggles and all they entail is a work of pure genius."
"More soon!" reads a final post-it.
- examine pinboard
The pinboard doesn't really exist, but if it did it might have a set
of movie stubs pinned to it, each one scrawled in tiny hand-writing:
Recently in brief:
Gosford Park: a fine film. 'Of course none of us will see your film'
Waking Life: the best film I've seen in a while. Wonderful.
Monsters, Inc.: Rad, as us Californians like to say.
Coming Down from the Mountain: Darn it, I love that country music.
The Fellowship of the Ring: Nicely realised. A few issues with script.
Harry Potter: Again, nicely done. A little flat.
Snatch Pretty good. My boy Rob Overseer has his tune in the
opening sequence. Safe! Goldie has a totally pointless character that
does *nothing* aside from pretend to be a gangster.
Traffic Great. Lays out the futility of the Drug War. Nice use
of filters, unusual, but soon to be more widely used, I think. Even
Mickey Douglas is tolerable, shocking.
Sexy Beast Worth it for the opening sequence alone. Good fun, a
little long-winded in the middle. The geezer really reminds me of a
friend of mine... ahem.
Ring Saw this a while ago in London. Fantastic. Go see it or
get it out on video, but only if you like to get very scared. Japanese
Requiem for a Dream Yes.
13 Days So I was there on opening night for the Fellowship of
the Ring trailer, but much to BP's disgust I didn't walk out. Actually
this wasn't a terrible film, though Costner's accent is exerable.
The giant monitor flickers into life. You are strangely drawn towards it.
- examine monitor
You perceive illuminated on the face of the monitor is an entrancing map.