Mark Bernstein recently wrote that even a posting about a cheese sandwich might well be worth reading, as well as writing. But I hardly ever eat cheese sandwiches, so I haven’t even had that as an impetus to write lately.
I guess the last cheese sandwich which made an impression on me was a long time ago, on a trip to Washington, DC, with my cousins. We made the mistake of stopping at a place called the “Virginia Inn” somewhere around Ashland. I was probably 12 at the time, but I still vividly remember the so-called grilled cheese sandwich that they inflicted on me — it was cold and greasy, completely inedible, and I’m pretty sure it cost upwards of a dollar (and that was back when a dollar bought something). And it took forever for them to deliver it, too. The place has since gone out of business, and rightly so.
This blog hasn’t gone out of business, though I have been awfully quiet lately; I’ve thought about posting, but never when I’ve been near my computer with time enough to write something. I’ve been trying to do Technical Stuff at work (of late, my most effective programming tool has been PowerPoint, and that’s a sad state of affairs for someone whose title is “Distinguished Engineer”), and, as is always the case, programming tasks expand to fill all available time and mental capacity.
And I’ve been reading books at home rather than sitting on the computer till all hours; I decided it was time to work on some of the backlog which I’d picked up at Worldcon last August — perhaps after I finish those books, I’ll find the piles buried elsewhere in the house from previous years. So four of the last five books I’ve read were old SF:
- Age of Miracles by John Brunner — not one of his best by any means; the characters were almost as cardboardy as typical Asimov, and the ideas weren’t nearly as enticing
- The Jagged Orbit, again by Brunner — this was far better, although not as good as Stand on Zanzibar or The Shockwave Rider. The dystopian future Brunner conjectures here, with the US becoming a very segregated and heavily armed society, did not come to pass — but it sure resembles the descriptions of Iraq in the news this week.
- Rogue Star by Frederick Pohl and Jack Williamson — perhaps this book would have made more sense if I’d read the first two books of the Starchild Trilogy before reading this one. But I doubt it.
- Jack of Eagles by James Blish — this was my favorite of this batch, a fast-moving tale of one man’s discovery of his psi powers, a conspiracy aimed at world domination, and how he triumphed. The copy I bought was a UK edition, printed in 1975 (and, interestingly, sans copyright notice), but the book was clearly set in an earlier era — the protagonist was going to be evicted because a girl let herself into his apartment (stealing a passkey to do so), and by 1975, that would not have been very believable. A quick check on Amazon reveals that the book was actually written in 1952, which makes the setting much more understandable!
The other book I read recently was nonfiction; The Holy Thief by Rabbi Mark Borowitz. Borowitz started life as a nice Jewish boy in Cleveland, but after his father died at age 14, he went to hell (more-or-less literally), beginning a career as a criminal which sent him to prison twice. The second time, he realized that he was on a death trip, and turned back to Judaism , eventually becoming the rabbi at Beit T’Shuvah in Los Angeles. I almost literally could not put the book down and finished it in two sittings; Diane had a similar reaction. By coincidence, while we were reading the book, Jeff was in LA on a class trip from school, where they visited Beit T’Shuvah, although he didn’t get to meet Rabbi Borowitz. This book will be the Shir Hadash book group book for June — highly recommended.