First Lines: Little Brother

Where Pirate Cinema — the first of Cory Doctorow’s books I read — was part novel, part copyright-reform-manifesto, Little Brother, is part novel, part (online) privacy primer.

It’s the story of a teenage boy who takes on the Department of Homeland Security (who have turned his hometown, and perhaps the entire nation into a complete police state), and, ultimately, wins. Meanwhile, it covers surveillance, why there’s a need for privacy even if you have nothing to hide, a lot of internet security and hacking, punk rock rebellion, and a pretty damn good story: make no mistake, Little Brother is delightfully nerdy — my inner geek rejoiced — but it manages to remain solid story.

Book read
Cory Doctorow — Little Brother
First line
I’m a senior at Cesar Chavez high in San Francisco’s sunny Mission district, and that makes me one of the most surveilled people in the world.

Seen Live: a balladeer @ De Helling

Back in 2013 I first saw Mevrouw Tamara sing one song at De supersonische boem!. That one song completely captivated me. So I checked out some of her songs online, and since I liked what I heard, I kept an eye open for a gig I could attend. No such opportunity arose. And then she was announced as the opening act for a balladeer in Utrecht.

Mevrouw Tamara — Zit ik vast I (live in de kringloop)

Unlike the woman sitting next to me, I dug it.

This is the part where I say that full-band a balladeer is still my favorite a balladeer, that (like the previous 23 shows I saw) it was quite awesome and I had a very good time, that the set list had a nice selection of new songs and old classics, and finally throw in a video of them playing “Trust Fall” at another gig to give you an idea:

a balladeer — Trust Fall (live at Hedon)

And then I wrap it up with the meta information, because that’s what I do.

Seen live
a balladeer + Mevrouw Tamara at Tivoli de Helling, September 16, 2016
Setlist a balladeer
A Wolf at the Door / Trust Fall / Mob Wife (with Mevrouw Tamara) / Superman Can’t Move His Legs / Mary Had a Secret / Sirens / Therefore / Incompatible (unplugged) / One Sunday / Never-Never Land / Plan B / Swim with Sam / Wishes, Horses (with Mevrouw Tamara) // Winterschläfer (Marinus solo) / 10 Things To Win You Over (Marinus solo unplugged) // Robin II / Fortune Teller // Oh, California (Marinus solo)
Setlist Mevrouw Tamara
Leiden / Zit ik vast I / New English song / Leave / In My Cocoon / Goed was zo / Song that’s done on the album with Anne Soldaat that repeats “Ik was daar niet van uitgegaan” quite a few times / Zit ik vast II / Sail to the Moon (Radiohead cover) / English piano song

First Lines: Lud-in-the-Mist

If Neil Gaiman didn’t champion Hope Mirrlees’ Lud-in-the-Mist as much as he does, I would not have read it. He calls it one of the finest fantasy novels in the English language, and he is right. It’s utterly enjoyable. It has also proven to be well beyond my ability to say something coherent about it.

This thing is, it is an delightful little tale — but nothing especially special in the grand scheme of things. It is just so unlike everything else I’ve come across in quite a while, that I just can’t quite wriggle my fingers around it, can’t quite get grasp what it is that makes it so appealing.

Some people point out similarities between Lud-in-the-Mist and Susanna Clarke’s equally wonderful Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I see where they’re coming from: both books deal with a world were magic/fairy used to be commonplace, once upon a time. But now the world has moved on, and people look back at those olden times with a feeling of, well, yeah, sure, there used to be fairies and magic and stuff, but that was then and this is now. Now we’re all normal, logical, responsible people-persons, and we don’t go for that. And then, just to spite them, something magical happens and they have to deal with it. It’s fantasy, but not in the Dungeons-and-Dragons, Quest-for-the-Mountain-of-Doom, Orcs-and-other-Tolkien-genre-trappings sense of the genre. It’s more that world is informed by the magical, rather than magic being the thing that makes the world go round. And I like that sort of tale, but I couldn’t for the love of all things bright and shiny tell you why.

Book read
Hope Mirrlees — Lud-in-the-Mist
First line
The Free State of Dorimare was a very small country, but, seeing that it was bounded on the south by the sea and on the north and east by mountains, while its centre consisted of a rich plain, watered by two rivers, a considerable variety of scenery and vegetation was to be found within its borders.

First Lines: Het Sixtijnse geheim

When Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code took The Netherlands by storm, publishers were looking for similar books to exploit. A translation of Philipp Vandenberg’s 1988 thriller Sixtinische Verschwörung — in which a mysterious inscription is discovered in Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, and it’s true meaning might (!) destroy (!!) the Holy Catholic Church as we know it (!!!!) — was of course a shoo-in.

Unfortunately, this book isn’t nearly as much fun as Brown’s work. It is dry as Catholic dogma, the writing (or translation, for that matter) — with its pompous Latin phrases, and its annoying insistence on using and reusing the titles of the characters over and over and over again — isn’t engaging, and the secret at its core is, well, meh. It takes ages to get anywhere, and in the end we apparently should believe that the Catholic Church would collapse over some dead guy’s claim that Jesus was just a man that stayed dead once he died, just because Michelangelo hid his name in the Sistine Chapel. It’s not as if religion in general is much informed by the truth anyway, is it?

Book read
Philipp Vandenberg — Het Sixtijnse geheim (Sixtinische Verschwörung, translated by Peter de Rijk)
First line
Terwijl ik dit schrijf, word ik door hevige twijfels geplaagd of ik dit wel allemaal mag vertellen.