Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Review (3/52)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson is ridiculous, insane, and hilariously funny. Although a novel, it is based on the (hopefully exaggerated) events of Thompson and the attorney, Oscar Zeta Acosta. In short, Hunter and Acosta’s pseudonymous characters, Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, go to Vegas with more drugs than a mid-sized pharmacy. Duke is there to report on two events, a motor race and a police conference; Dr. Gonzo is along for the ride. Drugs are consumed, repeatedly; hilarity ensues.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of the best books I’ve read. In between detailing chemically induced hallucinations and the fallout from said hallucinations, Thompson takes cutting shots at everything from Vegas itself (“The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war.”) to his profession (“Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits — a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”) It is these interludes that make the book. While Thompson describing what it is like to stand in a hotel lobby hallucinating that everyone else is a lizard had me in stitches, it was the cutting interjections that made the book.

Thompson shares a lot in common with Martin Amis (Money was one of my favourite books of last year). Both chronicle the chemically induced idiocy of questionable characters. Both use their novels, and wit, to comment on society as they see it. Both include themselves in the novel even! I’m really enjoying these darker books and will have to add more as some of the as-yet-undecided-novels I suspect. I have several more on the list including some Brett Easton Ellis. It will be interesting to see how I feel about them.

If you haven’t read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, do yourself a favour. Go. Read it. Now.

Improve Productivity With Virtual Desktops From TotalSpaces2

I’ve yet another tutorial out with computers.tutsplus.com. This one focuses on improving your productivity using TotalSpaces2. Here’s the blurb:

TotalSpaces2 from BinaryAge is the, self-described, “ultimate grid spaces manager”. It is built on top of OS X’s Mission Control and provides a great deal of control over your Mac’s work environment. In an earlier tutorial, I taught you about Speeding Up Your Life With Launchbar.

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to use a grid of spaces to efficiently swap between applications to improve your productivity.

It’s live now so go have a look!

The Sarantine Mosaic Review (1/52 and 2/52)

Sarantine Mosaic Covers

The Sarantine Mosaic is a duology, consisting of Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors, by Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan was one of the best books I read last year, so, when I embarked on my plan to read at least 52 books this year, I was keen to include some more of his work. It was hardly a surprise to me then, when I loved both books.

The Sarantine Mosaic covers a few months of the life of a mosaicist. These particular months are during a period of tension (religious, cultural, personal, and miscellaneous) in an analogue of Justinian I’s rule of Constantinople. The titles, and settings, are allusions to W. B. Yeat’s poem, Sailing to Byzantium.

It seems to have become normal for authors to drag their characters’ stories out over eight, ten, or more books, milking the literary creativity (and cash) cow for every drop. While there is undeniably pleasure in returning to the same characters you know and love, it is very refreshing that Kay seems to regard them as something to be played with once (or in this case, twice). Authors like George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and J.R.R. Tolkien may argue that the “tale grew in the telling”, but for Kay, the tale is set from the get go. His books cover the critical incidents in his characters lives and no more. In fact, after finishing two of Kay’s works, I am left wanting more from all the characters. Hardly a bad thing.

Kay’s settings are where he leaves lesser authors in the dirt. Rather than retread the same ground that has been stomped on by every other since Tolkien, Kay mines the depths of history. The Lions of Al-Rassan is set in an analogue of medieval Spain, and the Sarantine Mosaic an analogue of Constantinople. His other work features analogues of China and England. But rather than just take a historical location, Kay fully adapts the setting; many of the characters in his books are adaptations of historical figures. This leads Kay to create incredibly human characters. By working with real tensions and conflicts, and recasting them in a fantastical setting, Kay creates engrossing tales that positively ring with authenticity.

Kay also has a gift for words. While many authors get by with workmanlike prose that gets the story told, you get the sense with Kay that every word has been carefully chosen for fit and context. He is a mosaicist, while some authors are “brickys”. Kay alludes to poetry, history, and carefully chooses his words because he has a deep appreciation of language and culture. It is this appreciation that shines through in his books, and it is this appreciation that makes them spectacular.

Go, read some Guy Gavriel Kay. The reason The Sarantine Mosaic is excellent is the same reason The Lions of Al-Rassan is excellent; Kay is an excellent writer. There is no point critiquing his books on character or plot or setting, I don’t think Kay is capable of fucking these things up. Instead, Kay moves far beyond the bare building blocks of a book. The joy of his work is in the details, the tesserae even.

Enable Windows-Like Features on Your Mac

I’ve another tutorial out with computers.tutsplus.com. This one focuses on getting your Mac to behave more like Windows (Gasp!), which in some circumstances makes sense! Here’s the blurb:

For both power users and luddites alike, moving from a Windows PC to a Mac can be a confusing leap. In the previous tutorial, Alex talked about The 5 Things You Must Know When Converting From Windows to Mac.

In this tutorial I will take a slightly different approach and, instead, show you how to make some of OS X’s features behave in a manner more similar to their Windows counterparts. In addition I’ll show you how to bring some of Windows’ more useful features to your Mac.

It’s live now so go check it out!