what i’ve been reading lately

Greene is one of those writers I’ve had on my list for a while, and I thought I’d start with this book because I loved the movie (the 2003 version with an Oscar-nominated performance by Michael Caine; not the one from the ’50s with Audey Murphy, which I hear butchered the end). It was great, one of those books you find yourself thinking about for days after you finish it. it’s about 2 men, an older British journalist and a young American idealist, vying for a beautiful Vietnamese woman; it’s also about America’s first foray into the morass of what would become the Vietnam War. The two stories are, of course, really one story.

This is the 5th book so far in Cahill’s “Hinges of History” (there are 7 total planned), and I’ve read them all. Cahill is fun and accessible, like a chatty, well-liked college professor. He lays the Catholic apology on a little thick in this one, but I forgive him, because it’s pretty impossible to discuss how the High Middle Ages shaped modern Western civilization without talking about the Catholic Church. The opening seems like a bit of a reach, and there’s a section in the middle about Islam that, frankly, comes off as forced and petty. But he makes most of his arguments well, and it’s always interesting to read.

A++! Brooks has done something totally unique with the zombie genre (although it’s mostly movies, innit). The standard has always been “small group of survivors against hordes of zombies”; but Brooks shows us the bigger picture: What happens when governments and militaries organize and fight together, “as told to” the author. Sometimes the chapters take the form of Q&A, sometimes it’s a full narrative by whichever character he’s interviewing. He shows us fights against the undead in places we’ve never seen or read before, like the ocean floor and the catacombs underneath Paris. He discusses aspects of a world ravaged by the undead that no one’s ever thought of, because no one’s ever shown us the whole world fighting zombies. The most memorable of these are the “quislings”, survivors who’ve completely flipped out and think they’re zombies.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. It was awesome.

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stitching, zombies, and fountain pens

My little exercise in bargello went well! I might even frame this. I think I can now say I have mastered the stitch.

This is a fairly large project I’ve been meaning to make for a while. It’s a true sampler in that it “samples” different techniques. Already in this little start, in addition to regular cross stitch I’ve also used: Padded satin stitch; rhodes; Smyrna crosses; mosaic stitch; rice stitch; and one of my personal favorites, blackwork. It also uses variegated and metallics in addition to regular floss. The darker metallic was supposed to be a copper, but I couldn’t find it at Michael’s (and since I stopped driving, going to a bunch of different places looking for one 99-cent item is too much of a pain in the rump), so I improvised by blending a strand of reddish-brown regular floss with a thin gold embroidery thread. I think it worked out quite well.

Saturday I needed to go to the Hub to mail Granny’s pillowcase from the UPS store, and thought I’d pop into Borders and get a new book. During my morning channel-surfing I caught parts of both Shaun of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead. So with that in mind I decided on World War Z, which so far is a decision I do not regret at all because it’s fucking awesome. I think I’ll read his other book too, The Zombie Survival Guide.

Was George Romero the first guy to come up with the whole zombies-attacking-and-eating-people thing, or did he just popularize it? Because in Vodoun, zombies aren’t really scary. The fear is of becoming a zombie, not of zombies themselves. Zombies are seen as more pitiful than anything to fear. And they certainly don’t eat people. That must have been just a weird mistranslation between cultures or something.

Lastly, I finally found a place to buy my favorite pens, the Pilot Petit 1. Before I had to trek all the way to Japantown, but thanks to the Pen Addict blog, I discovered JetPens. I ordered a couple of pens and a bunch of colored ink refills (it’s a fountain pen) on Friday, and I got them the next day! It helps that they ship from Mountain View, which is in the next county south from mine. Anyway, if you’re into pens, I recommend them.