Thursday, November 27, 2003
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Finished another three Nero Wolfe books, Too Many Cooks, Plot It Yourself and Triple Jeopardy. The first was the best, even though it wasn't difficult to solve, it had the most interesting characters and storyline. The second started promisingly, had a bit of a surprise villain, but didn't end well. And the third was three short stories, none of which was exceptional in either a good or bad way. I think that the reason I like these stories so well is because I like the narrator, Archie Goodwin. I have a fondness for first person perspective when I like the narrator's character. Jeeves and Wooster stories would be funny regardless, but the fact that they're told by Wooster gives them that extra something or other that pushes them from funny to hilarious. Similarly, I think that Archie Goodwin pushes the Nero Wolfe mysteries from fair-to-middlin' to rather good.
Also finished the third Discworld book by Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites. Not as good as the first two, but you can't hit a homer every time up. And my brother warned me that the best ones are the ones that feature Death prominently as a character.
Almost finished with The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. I've been taking my time and thinking about it as I go along. It's a very thought-provoking and instructive read. Don't have any particular thoughts to share about it at this point, but perhaps later on. I would recommend it to anyone with any interest at all in spiritual matters.
Last but not least, I've been re-reading bits of The Count of Monte Cristo, which is probably one of my top three all-time favorite books. Certainly top five. That is the most ripping yarn I've ever read. If you've never read it, shame on you. Stop what you're doing, get up from your computer and go to your library or bookstore and get it. Now. Then read it. It's about 1400 pages, but I'll bet you won't be able to put it down and have it finished in under a week.
Saw the final installment of the Matrix movies (at least, I hope it's the final installment; they left the door open for more movies) last Friday with the wife. It was okay. Not any worse than expected, and actually probably a bit better since my expectations had been lowered quite a bit by all the negative reviews I saw.
Pros: it was better than the second movie, the outcome of the battles was more in doubt since this was the final movie which made for better suspense
Cons: the ending was lame, the acting wasn't stellar and the Manicheist Dualism that the movie propounded didn't make any sense
On balance, I'm not going to buy it nor the second movie on DVD, but I might still pick up the first one since I think it stands alone better than in concert with the second two. If you have to know how the story ends, it's worth seeing in the theater at a matinee price, maybe. If you don't care about how it ends, wait until a friend of yours rents it. It wasn't great, but it wasn't mind-bendingly awful either.
Interesting article about how programmers at the Georgia Institute of Technology created a system of virtual monkeys that predicts the best football teams about as well as the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system.
Simply put, they have a group of "monkeys" that vote for a team. They may change their vote depending upon whether it loses. So far it works pretty well.
But I have to say that I think a return to the old system of polls was the best. Sure, people argued about whether or not this team or that team was given enough or too much credit. But that's half the fun! You can do that with the BCS too, but what the BCS has done is trampled all over tradition.
I used to be assured of seeing the Pac-10 champion square off against the Big-10 champion in the Rose Bowl every year. I liked that. It was traditional. It was conservative. It was good. But now I may have to watch Texas play Michigan because USC looks like it's going to the BCS championship. Ugh.
Sadly, if anything, we'll end up moving further away in the future. A playoff system would destroy the bowl games altogether. As much as I hate the BCS, I'd rather keep it than go to an NFL style playoff system.
This is a bit of a long post. This is a speech by Umberto Eco (linked from AL Daily) that deals with the history and future of books. It explores the role and fate of books in an increasingly computer-filled society. It's rather long, but it's intelligent and on a topic I find important and interesting. Three significant excerpts follow. (Don't worry, there's plenty more to read where this came from.)
"Up to now, books still represent the most economical, flexible, wash-and-wear way to transport information at a very low cost. Computer communication travels ahead of you; books travel with you and at your speed. If you are shipwrecked on a desert island, where you don't have the option of plugging in a computer, a book is still a valuable instrument. Even if your computer has solar batteries, you cannot easily read it while lying in a hammock. Books are still the best companions for a shipwreck, or for the day after the night before. Books belong to those kinds of instruments that, once invented, have not been further improved because they are already alright, such as the hammer, the knife, spoon or scissors.
"Indeed, there are a lot of new technological devices that have not made previous ones obsolete. Cars run faster than bicycles, but they have not rendered bicycles obsolete, and no new technological improvements can make a bicycle better than it was before. The idea that a new technology abolishes a previous one is frequently too simplistic. Though after the invention of photography painters did not feel obliged to serve any longer as craftsmen reproducing reality, this did not mean that Daguerre's invention only encouraged abstract painting. There is a whole tradition in modern painting that could not have existed without photographic models: think, for instance, of hyper-realism. Here, reality is seen by the painter's eye through the photographic eye. This means that in the history of culture it has never been the case that something has simply killed something else. Rather, a new invention has always profoundly changed an older one.
"Finnegans Wake is certainly open to many interpretations, but it is certain that it will never provide you with a demonstration of Fermat's last theorem, or with the complete bibliography of Woody Allen. This seems trivial, but the radical mistake of many deconstructionists was to believe that you can do anything you want with a text. This is blatantly false. "
Monday, November 24, 2003
Here's another list of searches that turned up my website and produced visitors.
what does gaffer mean
nero wolfe omnibus
sam tannenhaus tanenhaus
dilbert response to Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch
tolkien political beliefs
what makes a book a classic
"biography of U.S. Grant"
disguise a turkey
chandler the simple art of murder essay full version online
last punch bowl eruption
"Brian anderson" "city journal"
disguise a turkey
homestar runner figurines
best "Apple Cup"
how to disguise a turkey
review of the high window by raymond chandler
Ramesh Ponnuru abortion -site:nationalreview.com
how to disguise a turkey
does tracy mcgrady have any children
"Stephen Hayes"+"Weekly Standard"
ECCLESIATES IN HAMLET
margaret thatcher speeches of the 70's
"Brian anderson" "south park"
My favourite is the fact that four different people looking to disguise a turkey found my post on Turkey and the EU instead and still came and had a look. Weird.
I like Day by Day. I think it's funny, clever and I like the right-ish politics of the creator. But Sunday's comic was off. Suggesting that the FBI is acting like the Gestapo by asking for suspicious activities of anti-war protestors to be reported is ludicrous and silly. Especially without any definition of what is meant by suspicious. Obtaining funds from or channeling funds to suspected terrorist groups? Using protests as a cover to commit terrorist acts or further their planning? Recruiting terrorists or supporters at or during a protest? Is Mr Muir really against stopping all that? We don't know because all he felt compelled to do was compare the FBI to the Gestapo for wanting to investigate suspicious activities of individuals and groups. Without demonstrating that it was planning or stated that it planned investigation without cause Mr Muir engages in the specious comparisons of the disliked to Nazis that is so common to those kooky protestors on the left. Come, come. You can do better, Mr Muir.
At least, the pros that played the President's Cup are. The teams were tied when the final day ended. So they had a sudden death play-off. After three holes of that, it was still tied. It was getting dark. So what next? Postpone the sudden death playoff until the next day? Keep playing in the dark? No. They called it a tie. Lame. Puts me in mind of the camp counselor I had when I was a lad who would always tell us that "We're all winners, deep down." In his defense, he was an Army captain who didn't really mean it and said it in a mocking tone of voice but it seems that golfers have accepted such pap. After this, I don't want to hear about Tiger Woods' "killer instinct", "desire to win", or even that he's competitive. Both teams didn't win, you morons. You all lost. Second place is first loser and none of you came in first. No other sport would accept a tie in any of their championships.
Great article by Natan Sharansky on anti-Semitism and it's relationship to anti-Americanism. It's long, but well worth reading. He makes an interesting case regarding the nature of anti-Semitism and the reasons for its re-occurence throughout history. A couple of excerpts:
"In the summer of 2000, at Camp David, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians nearly everything their leadership was thought to be demanding. The offer was summarily rejected, Arafat started his "uprising," Israel undertook to defend itself--and Europe ceased to applaud. For many Jews at the time, this seemed utterly incomprehensible: had not Israel taken every last step for peace? But it was all too comprehensible. Europe was staying true to form; it was the world's Jew, by refusing to accept its share of blame for the "cycle of violence," that was out of line. And so were the world's Jews, who by definition, and whether they supported Israel or not, came rapidly to be associated with the Jewish state in its effrontery.
"Despite the differences between them, however, anti-Americanism in the Islamic world and anti-Americanism in Europe are in fact linked, and both bear an uncanny resemblance to anti-Semitism. It is, after all, with some reason that the United States is loathed and feared by the despots and fundamentalists of the Islamic world as well as by many Europeans. Like Israel, but in a much more powerful way, America embodies a different--a nonconforming--idea of the good, and refuses to abandon its moral clarity about the objective worth of that idea or of the free habits and institutions to which it has given birth. To the contrary, in undertaking their war against the evil of terrorism, the American people have demonstrated their determination not only to fight to preserve the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity, but to carry them to regions of the world that have proved most resistant to their benign influence."
Derb linked it.
Theodore Dalrymple writes some of the most lucid prose on social issues that I have ever read. Right here is a review he wrote of a book called Therapy Culture. It seems a bit short, like it got cut down for length rather dramatically, but it's still well worth reading.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Heard this story on the BBC a couple days ago. It seems that the EU wanted to classify kilts as women's clothing. And not only that, they threatened Scots with large fines if they refused to comply. Luckily for the EU, the EU backed down. Otherwise, we might have seen a modern day William Wallace rise up to defend the freedom of Scotland's kilts. Or something.
An inspiring article (found in the Corner) about how a planned Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin has ground to a halt because the contractor can't find enough subcontractors to do the work. It seems that a boycott has been organized by churches and small contractors to prevent construction of a facility that will do something that they personally oppose: kill babies.
And the best news? They're going to try and broaden the boycott to other areas of the country. More power to them.
A bishop of the Church of England is under investigation by police for suggesting in a newspaper article that homosexuals should seek psychiatric help. Now, people disagree over whether homosexuality is right or wrong and what the root causes of it are, but this instance just goes to show that homosexuals can't tolerate any dissent from the idea that their behavior should be, not only accepted, but encouraged by the world at large. Homosexuals demand tolerance of themselves but are reluctant to be tolerant of anyone who disagrees with them.
Friday, November 14, 2003
That's the gist of this article. And I couldn't agree more. Whenever people ask me why I don't read any recent best-selling novels, I tell them it's because 99% of what's written is dreck. It's not worth the paper it's printed on. It's boring, dull, poorly written, unimaginative, with characters and plots that aren't compelling and I can't be bothered to wade through all that muck that's out there just to find that occasional diamond-in-the-rough. That's why I'll stick to the old stuff. Classics. Things I know are good, thank you. Tolstoy, Tolkien, Dumas, Plato, Sayers, Lewis, Shakespeare, etc. If it's not 50 years old, then I'm not reading it without a strong recommendation by someone whose judgment I trust. And it's not as if I'll run out of classics to read. There's enough to keep me busy through two lifetimes, especially with all the non-fiction reading that I try to get in.
Anyway, good article, little weak at the end, but you should still read it. (Found via Al Daily) And while I'm at it, I'm gonna say thanks to my little brother (Thanks!) for pointing me towards some excellent recently written fiction. Tad Williams' Otherland series and Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. I'd recommend both. They're both kinda fantasy series, but definitely not your conventional Tolkien rip-off fantasy.
Monday, November 10, 2003
An article from City Journal (found via AL Daily) written by Brian Anderson argues that we're seeing the rise of conservative media that will challenge and eventually supplant (to a degree, not completely) the liberal media. He makes an interesting argument. I'm still not sold on South Park as a conservative show, and I'm dubious about blogging being quite as powerful as many seem to think, but I agree in general.
Note: Several instances of profanity.
Friday, November 07, 2003
Okay, I admit. I'm a LOTR geek. (For those really not in the know, LOTR=Lord Of The Rings) And, as any LOTR geek would be, I was psyched when I found out they were going to make movies. True, there was the worry before the first movie that it would not accurately capture Tolkien's work. Worries that LOTR was not adaptable to film because of it's length, complexity or because the special effects would not look right. Or perhaps it would be ruined by bad directing, acting or a poorly written screenplay.
And then the first movie was released and fears subsided. There were minor quibbles, sure, but it was a magnificent movie taken all in all. The touching moments I cared about were included, the characterizations by the actors were done well, the special effects were solid enough to keep one from being dragged out of the suspension of disbelief, the dialogue didn't ring too false until the final lines, etc. It wasn't perfect, but it was good and far better than I had feared.
But then TTT was released a year ago. And all of that good-will, all of the understanding and approval built up by the first movie was washed away. Where the first film had trimmed and pruned to fit the story into the time and on the screen, this one slashed and burned. Characters were changed until they were practically unrecognizable. Pieces of the story no longer made sense even within the context of the movie and major sections were added to the story, which is totally unnecessary in a tale that's already long enough to for a trilogy of 3 hour movies with major storylines and characters excised.
So now, with a final shot at redemption, a chance to make it two out of three, what are we going to get? A resounding return to the heights climbed by the first film, or will it plumb even deeper depths than those found by the second film? From what I've seen of the previews and such, I dread that it will be the latter.
Interesting article (found via The One Ring.net) that argues that Hugo Weaving, playing Agent Smith, is the real star of the Matrix movies. After reading it and recalling the first two films (haven't seen the third one yet), I'm inclined to agree, at least somewhat. Keanu was the star of the first film, but Hugo was definitely giving him a run for his money. Though in the second film, Neo-as-Superman was boring and tired and it was now Agent Smith that captured attention and made one wonder about what he was going to do next and what would happen to him. I'm betting that trend will continue into the third film.
San Antonio lost to the Lakers tonight 120-117 in double overtime. Despite this, I think the Spurs should be heartened by the game. The Lakers were bringing their full roster to bear, including Shaq, Kobe, Malone and Payton. The Spurs on the other hand limped in without their marquee big man, Duncan and injuries to Tony Parker and Anthony Parker that necessitated having a pair of point guards that a week ago thought they weren't going to be on any NBA roster this year. Despite these disadvantages, the Spurs led for a fair portion of the game and took the Lakers to two overtimes. Once Duncan and Parker get healthy, I think the Spurs are poised to repeat as champions.
Let me say right off: Normally Frum is fairly intelligent. But today he just lost a lot of standing. His "diary" entry for today deals with abortion and the partial-birth abortion ban that was just signed into law. But he feels compelled to announce that not only is he not pro-life, but that he doesn't see any need to further review the matter. He's not open to debate, nor does he feel the need to present arguments to support his stance (since he failed to do so). Disappointing.
It's precisely because Mr Frum refuses to see the matter as dealing with fundamental human rights that he can be accommodating to abortion. I find it inconsistent that someone who speaks on behalf of Jews who are persecuted for being who they are would turn around and deny his voice to defend the most defenseless people of all. Shame on you, Mr Frum. I only hope that one day you at least decide to start listening to other people's opinions again and approaching the issue with an open mind. Perhaps then you'll regret your current intransigence.
UpdateFrum responds to those who e-mailed him after he asked them not to. And Ramesh Ponnuru responds to Frum's response.
Here's some more search engine queries that brought visitors to my site.
"what makes a book a classic"
Peter Kreeft commenting on the New Age movement
instapundit and "the new deal"
lou pinella quotation
Facts about Metrosexualism
"whittaker chambers" "homosexual"
"bloom county" "bill gates" marriage
adventist thought in WWII
communism and Raymond Chandler
dead mall nea falcon
CBS Series on Homeschooling
raymond chandler homosexual
guns in the hands of children can result in tragedy poetry
homestar runner solution
iraq losing artifacts
quotation economy wholly subsidiary thatcher
I think my favourite, for not making any sense, is the "bloom county" search. Not sure what he was looking for.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
So says a Nature article (link via the Corner. Researchers at the U of Chicago found that a five minute conversation with a 20 something woman could spike a man's testosterone level by 30%.
Anyone still want to argue that the presence of women in the military doesn't have an effect on men and their behavior?
Well, now that baseball season is over and done, and football season is well under way, it looks like there will continue to be no joy in Mudville. The Steelers (despite being from the Seattle area and a solid M's and Sonics fan, I gave the Seahawks up years ago and changed my gridiron allegiance) are a pitiful 2-6 having dropped their last 5 in a row including the most recent defeat at the hands of the repudiated Seahawks.
They do have a 2-1 divisional record and with a strong surge in the second half of the season might conceivably make the playoffs, but I'm not holding my breath. They'd have to run the table to finish 10-6, though with Baltimore (at 5-3) being the only team on their schedule with a better-than-.500 record, who knows? The other nine games are against teams with records of 3-5 or worse.
Well, there's always basketball.
One of the most under-reported consequences of our national abortion industry is the number of women that are killed every year by the abortions they have committed against their unborn children. Well, it seems that the wonder-pill RU-486, that was supposed to make abortions even more safe and private, can kill you too. Here's a report (via the Corner) about a girl who was killed by the RU-486 that she took.
How long, O Lord?