Thursday, December 10, 2009

Very Bad Monkeys

I guess a virtue of Bad Monkeys is that it is very short - at 224 pages, I managed to read it in about three hours. It also has a nice cover.

I picked it up because it was emblazoned with a recommendation from Neal Stephenson, and a favourable comparison to The Matrix. Well, maybe Stephenson thinks it's good because it's short, and that's one Incredible Difference!!! between it and any of his work. And maybe it's meant to be like The Matrix because ... well, because there's some zany (in the worst possible sense of that word) attempt to show you that all reality is false, Everything is Different, and you can create Significance just by giving Quotidien Objects capitalised Names. OK. So it's like The Matrix, if your experience of it has been mediated via a thirteen year old watching the film and then regurgitating the plot to you in breathless instalments.

The whole thing is incredibly episodic, as if the author was making it up as he went along, and reads like an exercise in preventing the reader from suspending disbelief. Every twenty pages or so, there's a short recap of what's happened, and a character will point out the massive plot hole or implausibility that's just occurred. Then they'll have to make up a way round it. It's a shaggy dog story, but not the sort of dog you'd find cute. The annoying sort, that you'd take to the vet to be put down as soon as possible.

Actually, no, I don't think it's as if he was making it up as he went along. As if doesn't really seem necessary here. Perhaps it's the terribly hard-to-read unchoreographed fight scenes at the end, or time and again relying on blackouts to avoid explanation, or the drugs - oh, the drugs. The drug use reads like somebody's paid a bit too much attention to public information films like Reefer Madness, believed everything they heard, and then played Dungeons and Dragons for way too long. If that wasn't bad enough, there's a psychiatrist whose main function for most of the book is to recite whatever psychology textbook Ruff was cribbing from.

In summary, although the book has a recommendation that if you leave it on a train whilst in the middle of reading it, you won't be able to resist purchasing another copy, that's because the book itself is such a trainwreck that you're transfixed by it, hoping against hope that it can redeem itself. Which it doesn't. Good grief.

On the positive side, the 50mm lens for my Canon has been fixed.
Back in June, I came back home a bit drunk, and knocked over the tripod my camera was on. The body itself was unscathed, apart from a hardly noticeable scratch above the shutter release, but the poor old lens took the hit and sacrificed itself for the greater good. Not only is it one of the greatest lenses ever (at least in terms of price:image quality) but it will protect your camera from drunken mishap. Sometimes.

Dead lens
I prodded at it, but it didn't want to fit itself back together again, so I stuck it into a drawer, assuming at some point I'd get round to giving it away on Craigslist. If there's a market for people who want lenses that don't work any more.
However, this week I pulled it out of the cupboard again, and I was idly turning it around in my hands, when it snapped back together. Reuniting it with the 450, it seems to be quite happy focussing once again, so I've got my 50mm lens back.

Mind you, I still want to upgrade to a shinier and more expensive piece of kit; one of these bad boys, as it's that much better for taking photographs of aged camera shop proprietors. Look at the gorgeous bokeh on that:
Hang Sing Camera Shop
So at some point I still will be getting a larger, heavier attachment for my camera. Not sure when though, as the last six months haven't seen me get close to putting aside enough money to even pay for a new lens like the one I broke. Anybody want to buy a slightly mistreated 50mm lens?


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