I've always been a fan of stories that mess with time, reality and similar devices. Accordingly, I count The Matrix, Inception and Memento amongst my favourite movies. Other movies I've really enjoyed include Baraka, The Bourne Identity, Contact, Empire of the Sun, The Beach and The Dark Knight. So I also like long, emotive movies, but Bond is a guilty pleasure of mine; my favourite is The World is Not Enough.
Lately I haven't had much time for reading, and in truth I've not read very widely, but my favourite novel is The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. I liked a lot about that novel, but I guess what stood out for me was the interconnectedness of all things, the transience of the world we know, and the ever-present possibility of other worlds, both in space and, how can I put this, *time*: how things could have been, and the many ways they could go. The gorgeous imagery helped, too, and it kept reminding me of Memento; really the two are the same, just on different scales. From alternative histories to actual history.
It's always fascinated me, those other places in the past and how different they were, how unforgettable figures were forged by the choices they had to make, forced upon them by their desperate times. It's like this: often I have to value statistics of large samples, etc, but at the same time, case studies - the individuals - never lose their importance. Two narrative accounts I've read are Jung Chang's Wild Swans and Antony Beevor's Stalingrad. When speculating about history like this my mind wanders over to Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels. I know he didn't plan it, but the way they were tied up with his Robot works, particularly by Robots and Empire, was pretty inspiring. Daneel Olivaw is perhaps my favourite literary hero. The End of Eternity was a fun time-mashing story.
Apart from wondering about time, reality and suchlike, I often find myself playing with numbers in my head, studying the geometries presented to me by everyday objects and so on. Ideas about information itself, and how it means, have arguably dominated my thoughts for many years. A novel that dealt with some of that was The Memory of Whiteness, probably the most elegant novel I've ever read. If we are all floating worlds, what binds us? Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground I suppose is one of the few true classics I've read, it's a tortuous read, but well worth it. Polemic or didactic? I can't decide. From my younger days, I've always had a soft spot for Theodore Taylor's The Cay.
My favourite short story is Jonathan Nolan's Memento Mori, which happens to be the basis for the movie Memento. There are some great lines from it, like about the effects of time on memory, and every person being a chain of idiots. Once, I liked to imagine I was changeless, like Earl, but I've certainly grown up over the years, and the me of the future will probably decry my current self to no end. I'd dearly like to list some nice poems, but have read hardly any. But from what I know, the words of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T. S. Eliot) and Kubla Khan carry a certain elegance for me.
My favourite piece is Allegro non Troppo from Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. Tchaikovsky has always carried more weight than any other artist in my mind, and I also love his Nutcracker suite and Slavonic March. Other orchestral works I like are Bach's Toccata and Fugue, Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Delibes' Copella. There's a certain passage from Polovetsian Dances that I find priceless. I also listen to tracks from computer games. Games may not strike one as the best place to look for quality music, but along with some of them being great standalone pieces, they remind me of the experience of playing the games; which is great. My favourite game soundtrack is for my favourite game, Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters, although I mostly mean the fan-made remixes (all available free). I guess because those pieces are so varied, to match the variety of characters and moods from the game. Everything from the eerie majesty of Under a Red Sky to the wild twists of Frungy Party.
Other game music I like comes from other games I've played (duh). Dune carries a certain mystique I've read the novel and can see why; it is also reflected in the computer game based loosely upon it. The midi synths composed by Stephane Picq are pretty awesome, they really take me back to places within what was a very absorbing game; Spice Opera was faithful and totally worth a listen, especially Sign of the Worm. But enough of the deep and meaningful games! I'm not above some of the ol' shoot 'em up flicks, so I must also list Bobby Prince's tracks from Doom! Running From Evil, The Dave D. Taylor Blues, Into Sandy's City, classics, all of them. The mock-religious themes, combined with the action, inspired some great stuff.
The only vocal artist I listen to is David Bowie. I was hooked initially by Something In The Air. I know it has lots of haters but 'hours . . .' stubbornly remains my favourite album. Am I really so wrong for liking "Thursday's Child"? Probably. It's from his neoclassicist years, which I'm fond of, along with his twilight albums The Next Day and Blackstar. "Station To Station" is sung by a man in a space I know so well, "The Dreamers" might as well have been written about me and "How Does The Grass Grow?" is just . . . right.
The only online community I frequent is that for Star Control. Star Control II still awaits a sequel (a REAL sequel), but until then, the best place to hope is there. Don't know what I'm talking about? Better get the game, then!
Other than that I like watching Cricket, thinking man's game. I make cricketing analogies all the time. It's like life, most ideally, the test match, in which one can have a game within a game, days where the tide turns. Sometimes it's as if you're bowling, and you're trying to take wickets - toiling away, looking for the weaknesses in the opposition which might allow you to sneak through. Other times it's as if you're batting, steady progress, keeping the scorecard moving smoothly. In either case, there is value in discipline, in unpredictability, in skill, like in life. Sometimes one is trying to keep up a run rate required, or get to a certain score, just like in life.
I'm in astro because I thought it would be cool to do since I was five, then there was a phase where I thought I liked hard core theoretical stuff and maths, but at this point I'think I can be happy with where I got to. Somewhere back there I wrote a history of the world, because I always got the impression my history lessons were cherry-picking too much. I also wrote about economics because my economics lessons were somewhat uhh, utilitarian. But sometimes a bit of pragmatism is a Good Thing. This is a concept that has proved especially difficult for me to grasp, but I think I'm beginning to understand.