Monday, December 29, 2008

Speaking of fire alarms.

When I was in college my dorm was notorious for having the fire alarm set off by people attempting to pop popcorn in a microwave and such-like. During my freshman year I tended to come back to my dorm room rather late. Or early, depending on how one looks at it.

One morning, as I returned to my room and sat down on my bed to remove my shoes, the fire alarm went off. I sighed and stood up to go back outside and wait for the firemen to come and walk through and give the all clear. As I stood, I noticed that, despite the extremely high decibel level, my roommate Jim (not his real name) was still sleeping. So I ambled to the door and opened it allowing the fire alarm that was directly across the hall to enter the room at an even higher volume.

Still, he slept on.

So I kicked the mattress and said, loudly, "Jim! Jim! Wake up!" He sat up, and looked at me blearily.

"You hear that?"

"Yeah." And he put his head down and went back to sleep.

I kicked his mattress again. "Jim!"

He picked his head up. "Yeah?"

"What is that noise?"

"The fire alarm." And he again calmly put his head back down and slept the sleep of the righteous.

Kicking his mattress a third time, I said "Jim!"

"Yeah?"

"That means you have to get up and go outside."

After a long pause he wordlessly sat up and slowly started putting on his shoes. I waited to follow him out since, who knows, he could have fallen asleep halfway to the door. Later, when he was fully awake, I let him know that in the future, if I had not just walked in when the fire alarm sounded, he would be on his own. If I was uncertain about the time available to make my own escape, I wasn't going to endanger myself by waiting around for him to reach minimum levels of functionality.

How was your Christmas?


Here's how mine started.

Thankfully, it got better from this point.

My family was awoken Christmas morning by the sound of the fire alarm going off. I don't mean a smoke detector, it's a full-on, building-wide fire alarm that is fit to wake the dead. (But not my college roommate. Funny story, I'll tell you that one in a minute.) My wife and I jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes and dashed off to grab our children. A minute later, becoated and behatted we ventured out into the cold morning to stand in the snow that was dumping at a high rate.

Of course, we were concerned that someone's Christmas tree was merrily blazing away after an electrical short and failure to water regularly had combined to create our building's own personal Nightmare Before Christmas. The intrepid firemen showed up a few minutes later (and their lack of urgency hinted that our worst fears were probably just that) and entered to investigate.

Some kindly neighbors whose van was parked outside of the garage that's under our building offered to let my wife and kids sit inside to get out of the snow and about 30 minutes after all the excitement began the firemen turned off the alarm and allowed us back inside. Turns out one of the sprinkler pipes had burst and the change in pressure had set off the fire alarm. The burst was in the underground garage, so no one even had any damage to anything other than their nerves at the way we were all woken up.

It's a nice story to be able to tell, but frankly I'd have rather heard about it than experienced it.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Have you ever wanted to orbit the earth?

Ever wondered what it would be like to fly the Space Shuttle? Well, now you can know! NASA is giving away Space Shuttles free*! That's right! Free*! Act now, supplies are severely limited and when they're gone, they're gone! These are one of a kind items that will never be reproduced! Call now, operators are standing by.

(Space Shuttles are free with shipping and handling paid* by recipient.)

(S&H costs are $42 million US.)

(From First Things.)

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Now playing: Chorus, Callas, Gedda - Parle-moi de ma mère
via FoxyTunes

NT Wright's problem with evil.

I'm reading NT Wright's book Evil and the Justice of God (the first, and perhaps last, book of his I've picked up) and having only just started the second chapter I'm already irritated and unimpressed with the book, the author and his reasoning. Perhaps he is a brilliant man with sharp theological insights, but so far in this book he has proved to be pedestrian and his arguments crude.

He unfortunately lets his opposition to the Iraq war get him worked up enough to make large and unjustifiable leaps of logic. He glibly pronounces that dropping bombs indiscriminately on Iraq and Afghanistan in response to the events of September 11th will not solve evil. Yes, I'm serious. He claims that things we haven't done will not accomplish what no one has said we are trying to do. Here, I'll quote him.
"Lashing out at those you perceive to be 'evil' in the hope of dealing with the problem—dropping copious bombs on Iraq or Afghanistan because of September 11—is in fact the practical counterpart of those philosophical theories that purport to 'solve' the problem of evil."
He later goes on to say (in the same paragraph) that "the thousands of innocents who died in Iraq and Afghanistan" are part of the cost of such a "'solution'". The implication being, from the larger quotation above, that the US and its allies were the ones slaughtering the innocent in a quixotic crusade against evil. He also compares the US actions to Auschwitz for good measure. (page 28)

After reading this, I'm surprised that anyone takes him seriously at all. The idea that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were merely knee-jerk reactions to September 11 is patently false. That the US is responsible for thousands of innocent deaths in either country is ridiculous and a libel. Finally, to compare any of the inadvertent deaths of innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan as being on par with the deliberate attempt at genocide by the Nazis is outrageous.

I was going to go on to criticise his "nuanced" view of evil and the rest of the book as I read through it, but my stomach is turning enough already and I don't think there's a need. I might not even finish the book, which is unusual for me, especially since it's only 165 pages or so.

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Now playing: Carmen - Prelude
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Without a master

I bought the soundtrack to Ronin last month, and I am quite pleased with the purchase. If you've ever seen the movie (and if you haven't, go rent it; it's superb) you'll probably remember the understated and melancholy melodies that wend through it. They stand up just as well without the movie playing over them.

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Now playing: Cerebral - Sinclair
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Am I the last person to see this?

Recorded shortly before the epic fail that was The Phantom Menace. Just watch it. If you haven't seen it, you'll be glad you did. If you have seen it, you could stand to see it again.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Blade Dumber

I watched Blade Runner again tonight for the first time in a long time and something occurred to me.

*SPOILERS*

Okay, so it's a cheap, juvenile joke. But bear with me. For all Deckard is supposed to be the best at what he does, he sure has a tough time in the movie. The replicant designed as a sort of robotic prostitute (instead of being a soldier like the rest) nearly does him in and he has a tough time chasing her down to retire her. He gets bailed out by Rachel when Leon jumps him. Pris had the drop on him and should have killed him, but she has to get a gymnastic for some reason and allows him time to get back to his gun. Roy takes pity on him and dies his natural death after saving Deckard from what probably would have been a fatal fall. Deckard does hardly anything on his own, though he does take the breaking of his fingers pretty stoically.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Much ado about sadness

One of my favourite scenes in Much Ado About Nothing is when Don Pedro and Beatrice have a small conversation after Claudio first gains the hand of Hero.

Beatrice: Good Lord for alliance! Thus goes everyone to the world but I, and I am sunburnt; I may sit in a corner and cry 'heigh-ho!' for a husband.
Don Pedro: Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.
Beatrice: I would rather have one of your father's getting. Hath your grace not a brother like you? Your father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them.
Don Pedro: Will you have me, lady?
Beatrice: [pauses] No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days. Your Grace is too costly to wear everyday. But I beseech your Grace to pardon me; for I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.
Don Pedro: Your silence most offends me, and to be merry best becomes you; for, out of question, you were born in a merry hour.

I find this poignant, especially played the way that Denzel Washington and Emma Thompson do. The impression conveyed is that Don Pedro suddenly moves from banter to seriousness and catches her off-guard. She is surprised and tries to let him down easy, and he is hurt, but doesn't press the point. It works well, I think, because Don Pedro spends the play working to bring others together and ends up without a wife himself.

Moving day!

Yet another WoW themed post. I have taken advantage of an offer from Blizzard to move my characters for free from the server on which they reside to another server. The advantage is similar to that of moving from a congested, urban environment to a small, pioneer town on the edge of civilisation. That is to say, when I logged on tonight I was waiting in a queue of over 1,500 people for my turn to play and it took about an hour and a half to get to the game. So I moved somewhere, and this is the nub, where the theory is that I will not have to wait like I'm at Disneyland in July in order to play the game when I choose. Because, 1,500 people? That is for the birds, neighbor.

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Now playing: Project 86 - Twenty-Three
via FoxyTunes

Previous post PS

Previous post put me in mind of this.

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Now playing: Plankeye - He
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What kind of haircut do they have?

Remember when you could tell what kind of music a band played just by looking at their haircuts? If they had coloured mohawks, they were a punk band. If they had a ton of hairspray, make-up and really tight purple pants they were hair-metal. If they all had backwards baseball caps, they were a rap group. If it looked like they hadn't washed their long, stringy hair since Reagan was president, it was, the aptly named, grunge.

Now it doesn't work. Everybody has emo hair whether or not you're an emo band. (And if you like emo bands, Shakespeare disapproves.) You can't tell from looking at a band member whether he raps, is in a Swedish death metal band, part of a generic every-rock band, punk, industrial or whether he's some famous DJ who is known for his trance mixes. When did this happen?

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Now playing: Plankeye - Struck by the Chord
via FoxyTunes

Unpronounceable acronyms

WotLK (Wrath of the Lich King) opened yesterday, and like any good nerd, I had my copy early and was ready to dive in right away. First impressions are favourable. Parts of it are quite beautiful, there is quite a bit of new content, lots of fun things to do. The new class, Death Knights, seems to be a bit overpowered, but I'm sure there will be numerous tweaks to the release in the next month or two as Blizzard gets info from the release they couldn't get from their beta.

My only real complaint? After having the ability to fly wherever I wanted to go, having to go back to ground travel for the next 7 levels (well, 6 now) is grating. It's so slow, you have to find ways around cliffs and large bodies of water (unless you're a shaman, like my character, then you can just cast Water Walking and ride straight across) and there are all these annoying monsters that attack when you're just trying to get from point A to point B. Ah, well. Into each life, some rain must fall, neh?

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Now playing: Plankeye - Whisper to Me
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Thursday, November 06, 2008

It's a little obvous

But subtlety in the pursuit of a point is not always a virtue.

Nolo episcopari

Another good article from First Things about the inevitability of power corrupting those who wield it too long.
Washington: the only President who was ever offered a lifelong throne and turned it down for a temporary desk in a bureaucrat’s office. Almost to a man, his successors have been offered that same desk and have mistaken it for a throne. The current occupant, however sincere, is no exception (nor does it matter what month this is published or what year you read it). Roosevelt II–as H.L. Mencken aptly called FDR–actually tried to get a throne for himself, or the next best thing in a democracy, a permanent presidency. He came frighteningly close to succeeding before death intervened. The Onion’s book Our Dumb Century contains a headline I contributed to sum up this absurdity: “Roosevelt’s Remains To Run For Fifth Term.”

"Why this Election is About the Freedom of Religion"

By RJ Neuhaus of First Things, it was written before the election, but it's still worth reading. He argues that while he doesn't doubt the sincerity of Obama's piety, he does question whether Obama understands how his positions on several issues will contribute to the stifling of religion.
We have in this last half century drifted far from the constituting vision of this novus ordo seclorum. The free exercise of religion is the irreplaceable cornerstone of that order. In his famed Memorial and Remonstrance, James Madison wrote: “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.” The last line bears repeating: This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. That is the truth that the Religion Clause is intended to protect from the overweening ambitions of the modern state.

He neglected to add...

unfortunately.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An historic night

So the country swings to the Democrats in a big way and the first black president of the US is elected. Personally, I was hoping that milestone would have been achieved by someone else; Condolezza Rice perhaps? Thomas Sowell would have been ideal were it not for the fact that he, quite sensibly, would never want such a misfortune as the presidency to befall him.

Anyway, I do agree with John Derbyshire (for a change!) that Obama is a sort of Jimmy Carter-lite. Welcome to the 70's, Part II! Time to dig in and try to hold the line as best we can for the next four years while America gets what it asked for. Here's hoping there wasn't too much voter fraud in Penn. and Ohio. It's bad enough to lose on the merits without having to worry about the Chicago Democrat machine rigging the bloody election.

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Now playing: Project 86 - Your Heroes Are Dead
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Desperate by Lecrae

Woke up this morning too depressed and shamed to leave my bed
Can't stand to see my own reflection so I hang my head
Feel like a disappointment, like the scum of the earth
I'm so hurt I know you see I can't cover my dirt
My soul's dying, heart's weak and I can't even cry
I'm supposed to run to You, but why? I'm such an evil guy
The sun's shining, but for me it's the darkest of days
Try to pretend it never happened, but the guilt remains
I leave the house, it feels like everybody knows I did it
Feel like they're reading my mind and know the sin I committed
Through Your blood I'm acquitted, but my heart doesn't get it
Oh! God, I'm desperate for help 'cause I'm grieving your Spirit
I couldn't sing in the Sunday service, Lord, I felt fake
And when they started communion I just made an escape
I'm in need of Your grace, feels like You hid Your face
Lord, lead me back to cross and show me my sin's erased

...

My sin is ever before me, I turned my back on You
Oh! Father break and restore me to bring me back to You
My sin is ever before me, I turned my back on You
God break and restore me to bring me back to You


...

Have mercy on me God according to Your steady love
Wipe away my transgressions and wash me in Your blood
Create in me a clean heart, renew a right spirit
Don't hide your face from me, God; Your Presence: keep me near it


...

My sin weighed on me heavy, but I am no longer bound
As sure as Christ wears the crown, I know that grace will abound
And even when I feel lost, I know in You I am found

Monday, October 13, 2008

If you don't contribute, you're stealing.

It's time once again for the annual pledge drive at my local public radio station. They take 10 minutes every 5 minutes of actual programming to do their darndest to guilt trip everyone into giving them more money. It never seems to occur to them that there may be people who lament the death of public radio as it used to be. It's not really public radio when they have to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from people like me and "donations" from corporations in order to produce slick news programs that are indistinguishable from commercial news programs.

Every time I hear them begging me for money, I make a conscious decision to not contribute in the hopes that they'll stop carrying the big, expensive news programs and play My Word re-runs, allow more local music, play more classical music... something, in other words, that will make it more "public" radio than corporate radio. Down with NPR!

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Now playing: Lecrae - Beautiful Feet Ft. Dawntoya
via FoxyTunes

New tiny one.

My good friends welcomed their second daughter into the world recently, and now that they have mentioned it on teh Interwebz, I feel it's licit for me to take similar notice of it here.

As I commented there, many combolations!

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Now playing: Lecrae - Live Free Ft. Sho Baraka, Jai
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Story, as promised.

I told someone that I'd put my funny China story on my blog. What makes it better, is the fact that it's true. This happened to a missionary with whom I was acquainted in passing some years ago.

So this guy goes to the store to buy soap. And he speaks some Chinese, but, as everyone knows, Chinese words can be very different things when you use different inflections. Say it with a rising tone instead of a falling one, and you could be saying something completely at odds with what you intend. Right, so when he asks the shopkeeper for soap, the man looks at him funny. So he repeats himself, and the guy still looks at him like he's sure it's not what the missionary really wants, but he's confused about what he really means. So the missionary starts making washing motions, pantomiming taking a shower. And then the shopkeeper looks really weirded out for a second, but then bursts out laughing and corrects the missionary's pronunciation. So he takes him to the soap, and pronounces it correctly. Then he says the other word and takes the missionary over to what he had been asking for. Cow fertilizer.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Right or wrong?

Another post from The New Criterion, this one about the recent debate. I heard this particular section on the radio and my reaction was much the same though not nearly as eloquent. There really aren't a lot of things to which we have a "right". The Bill of Rights isn't very long for a reason; our inalienable rights are not many.

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Now playing: Lecrae - Go Hard Ft. Tedashii
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Politics is as we make it.

An interesting article over at The New Criterion about how the disconnect between reality and what our politicians tell us is our own doing. We refuse to vote for people that tell us how it really is because we prefer comforting lies that we can see through when and how we please and spend the rest of our time in a blissful self-made ignorance.
For there are only two ways in which candidates at all levels are allowed to compete with each other under the ground rules set up for them by the media. One is in mouthing platitudes, truisms and inspirational autobiographical vignettes, and the other is in casting aspersions on the moral or intellectual character or the bona fides of one’s opponent. That’s how the thing has been set up to run because (a) anything substantive would be too boring to command the sort of audience the media have come to depend on and (b) the substantive differences between the candidates are, in any case, relatively small — though that, too, is probably as a result of the media’s demands — and must be made to seem much larger than they are, as well as more exciting and dramatic, by being moralized and personalized. Besides, a debate which took place in the realm of what the media wise men are pleased to call reality would provide no interpretative role for the media themselves in telling their audience what the candidate’s words really mean.

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Now playing: Jonathan Coulton - Re: Your Brains
via FoxyTunes

Busy, busy, frightftully busy...

The past couple weeks have kept me on the hop at work and I've been putting in more time than I wanted or intended. A couple days, after I came home and ate and helped put the kids to bed, I went back to the office and put in another 2 or 3 hours and I had to go in on a Saturday too. Even with all that, this past week was pretty busy too. On the bright side, it's a little less crazy now.

Also, in other news, I got myself an MP3 player with some spare money that I had. I chose the Cowon iAudio 7 and, though I've had it for less than 24 hours, I'm pretty pleased with it. In the box was a notice about getting 35 free songs from emusic.com. Their selection is kinda limited, they have a lot of obscure stuff, but there hardly seems any method to their madness. Nothing by King's X, but they have the first Jelly Jam album (a side project of Ty Tabor, the King's X guitarist). I picked up some Johnny Cash, a Joy Electric cover of The Cure, some Echoing Green, the album Rebel by Lecrae, Weird Al's song from The Simpsons, the hilarious Re: Your Brains, and my favourite half-dozen John Lee Hooker songs.

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Now playing: Lecrae - Rebel Intro
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Monday, September 29, 2008

There and Back Again

But without dragons.

My wife and I escaped for a long weekend to a not-too-distant cottage and lived the life of Riley for about four days. My mother-in-law graciously kept an eye on the little ones while my better half and I were gone. I got to read a couple books, eat in restaurants without worrying about whether the menu was amenable to a 20 month old child and watch college football in amounts unknown practically since college. My wife assures me she also had a good time despite spending so much time knitting instead of doing something fun.

On the other hand, it's good to be back too. I missed the little ankle-biters, it's nice to sleep in my own bed (my back has ceased to complain with such vehemence) and I can play WoW again before Brewfest ends.

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Now playing: Stevie Ray Vaughan - Texas Flood - 03 - Texas Flood
via FoxyTunes

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sauce for the goose...

Bear with me a moment. I need you to read three different posts over at The Corner. Trust me, you don't have to have the larger context to see the point I want to make, but it's easy enough to use the archives and your browser's find function to get it if you want it.

Read this.

Then this.

Finally this.

Okay, my question: Where does Derb get off thinking that he can claim he doesn't need to be bothered reading in-depth to understand the point his opponent is making because of it being ludicrous on the face, then turning around and arguing that his opponent must read in-depth to understand the argument he (Derb) is making despite his opponent thinking it ludicrous on the face as well?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Of course I think I'm better than you.

This started as a response to a comment on another blog, but grew until it wasn't really appropriate as a comment any longer.

I think that saying anyone considers their own lifestyle best is something of a tautology. Of course I think my lifestyle is best, that's why I live it. If I thought another was superior, I would change; in fact, when I find aspects of my lifestyle that are lacking in relation to others I make an effort to change. We realise that we are none of us perfect, but while thinking that perhaps we ought to eat better, exercise more, floss more often, etc., we do all of us think that our lifestyle is best considered in broad strokes. I can (and do) consider many other cultures inferior while at the same time respecting their members as humans worth my kindness. And indeed, given the knowledge of my own culture's superiority, isn't a kindness to urge others to adopt it insofar as they are able?

The key is how one goes about it, obviously. As a conservative (with a lower-case "c"), because I think that generally the traditional is superior to the innovative, I am an advocate of life as it is lived and was lived rather than urging that we change from what we have known to some promised utopia. Someone once described, partially in jest, a liberal as a man too broad-minded to take his own side in an argument. In this instance, because of the dangers of using a position of strength to impose one's ideas on others, Americans are chided by some to not advocate their culture at all.

In much the same way, Christians are asked not to do any proselytising either. But to be a Christian is to proselytise; to do otherwise is to ignore a direct command of Jesus to His disciples. And if we think we have found Truth in being Christians, not to share this with others is to willingly condemn them to blindness in this life and damnation in the next. This is all so obvious that I wonder anyone can fail to understand it. I've noted before that it is obvious and normal to always think you're right, but the height of arrogance to think you're always right.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"They" will keep him down.

Keep who down? Why, Barack Obama if he becomes president, of course. A woman interviewed in a silly focus group that NPR got together explains who "they" are as well. "The white system ... that's who 'they' are, OK?" I have to say, being part of an entrenched power structure sounds like a sweet gig. But, try as I might, I cannot find the online applications to be a flunky in the Pentavaret.

More seriously, for all the talk about "is the US ready for a black president", the handy trick of reversing the adjectives provides an instructive lesson about who might really have problems accepting other races.

From the NPR story:
"Of the seven white voters and six voters of color, the majority of white voters are supporting McCain. All of the people of color are supporting Obama."
Try reading that with the adjectives flipped.
"Of the seven voters of color and six white voters, the majority of voters of color are supporting Obama. All of the whites are supporting McCain."
Sound a little more ominous when the whites are unified behind a leader of the same color? Not too bad? Let's try another one.
"I'm a Democrat, and I'm going to vote for Obama, and one of the reasons is because he is black."
I've read and heard variations on this all over. Let's see how it reads flipped around.
"I'm a Republican, and I'm going to vote for McCain, and one of the reasons is because he is white."
Whoa! That well and truly crosses the line, does it not? Let's try one more from the NPR article.
"I don't know if I can see another old white man as president."
That already sounds a bit off, but flipping it around a bit (and editing out "another" so it will jibe with history) makes it an explicit declaration (in reverse) of what the US will be condemned for should McCain prevail in November.
"I don't know if I can see old black man as president."
I've lived in the South and have met white racists and none that I have met has ever been given such a respectful public hearing as this. The delusional racist nonsense that was Jim Crow, slavery, etc. has been replaced by the new delusional racism that whitey is out to get you.
"I'm a Democrat, and I'm going to vote for Obama, and one of the reasons is because he is black. I think he is qualified and come on, let's face facts. This man is going to be wiretapped up to his eyeballs. Come on people. You really think he is going to be put in office, and they are not going to keep an eye on him? Be for real.

"They are going to watch this man like white on rice. He's not going to be his own person per se. He is going to be screened to the max. … The white system ... that's who 'they' are, OK?"

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Abortion

Why do I think "Pro-Choice" is really a misnomer? Things like this. When one worries about a decline in the number of abortions, then I think it's fair to say that any talk of "choice" is a smokescreen. The doctor in the article is more likely a proponent of eugenic abortion.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Wherein my self-importance reaches new heights.

Blogger has added a new feature where you can show who "follows" your blog. It's a neat thing to know, I suppose. The egoism comes in being able to put a list on your blog of how many and who enjoy your blog enough to never miss a post. Now, not only can I revel in my readership, I can gloat about it.

On the other hand, since this is a new feature, there isn't anyone on my list yet. (No doubt it is all due to the novelty of the feature.) But, now we can track how my head swells with my list of readers. Marvelous.

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Now playing: Benny Goodman - Get Happy
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Unintentional trilogies: why are they so bad?

We all remember what a good movie The Matrix was, neh? It wasn't art, but it hung together fairly well and was entertaining. It wasn't too ambitious. In a similar way, the first of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies wasn't bad. Sure, it didn't make a lot of sense, but it was fun and, crucially I think, the most of the bad guys were still pirates. I finally watched the last of the Pirates series and found it lacking. In the next two movies, the legal authorities became the sole bad guys and the pirates were some sort of strange, hippie-looking freedom fighters.

They went so far over the top with this in the third movie that it was just silly. And the idea that the destruction of piracy is a bad thing? Ignorant in the extreme. Pirates were and, where they still exist, are a scourge of sadistic, murdering thieves that the world is far better off without.

The first movie had its own plot holes. (Why were the pirates afraid that Elizabeth would drop the coin over the side? Aren't they drawn to it when it touches water? Can't they stay under water without drowning?) But they could be overlooked. At least they didn't introduce characters without cause 2/3 of the way through the story. (Calypso? Really?) And there were things left without explanation. What happened to Davy Jones? What happened to Calypso? Who thought it would be a good idea to cast Keith Richards? There were too many impossibilities that didn't even make sense within the context of the movie. The duel in the maelstrom? The way none of the ships seemed to actually need the wind to move? When it's all tallied up, it's too much. The second two movies fail.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Fine Art of Friendship

An interesting article from First Things (15 years ago) about friendships between men and women. I'm not 100% in agreement with everything he writes, but in an article that long that shouldn't surprise. Still well worth reading, and I suggest it to all my friends. Since it was 15 years ago, I wonder how the evolution of the internet and the ability to meet and interact online would have changed his thoughts on the topic.

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Now playing: Ghoti Hook - Jackpot
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Free Tibet!

(With the purchase of any country of equal or greater value.)

How Thomas Becket is like Moses

I watched the movie Becket over the holiday weekend and it wasn't bad. The acting was quite good (no surprise, given the actors) and was probably quite a legitimate nomination for Best Actor for both the leading men and a Best Supporting nod for Gielgud. Though, in passing, let me ask those who have seen more of Peter O'Toole's movies than I, do all of his character seem that...ah, light in the loafers? I think the only other role I've seen him in is that of Lawrence of Arabia, so... Though now I come to look at his list of credits, apparently he was in Troy (I don't remember much of that movie, thankfully) and did a voice in Ratatouille.

The disappointing thing about Becket to me is the way the writer/director/producer/whoever felt the need to switch up the story to make it more interesting. Apparently someone thought Becket would be more interesting if he was a man who lacked morals and then found them in his role as Archbishop instead of being someone who already had a firm grasp and found that his application of them in a new role made it impossible to continue in the good graces of his friend and king. Becket would have been just as interesting as a man walking a careful balance between his conscience and loyalty to his friend who was thrown off by his friend's belief that, when push came to shove, he would choose friendship and patriotism before morality and God.

So how is he like Moses? Well, this change is like that in The Ten Commandments, where Moses starts out of Egypt to escape a murder rap and to discover why it is that slavery exists and to start a sort of ancient Underground Railroad. He ends up freeing his people sure, and it was God what told him to do it, but he's motivated more by a righteous anger against slavery than anything else. In both cases, the moral point is watered down and/or lost in an attempt to make the character more relevant, dare I say?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Terror, indeed.

I'm warning you now, you will not be able to unread this. This is the sort of thing that will stay with you always.

This post explains why I will never support any sort of compromise with Muslim terrorists.

And this post explains why I think the term "moderate Muslim" is a contradiction in terms. All Muslims, for whom their religion is more than a cultural identity, see the rest of the world as an enemy to eventually be conquered. That it is possible to view the monster described in the first post as a hero tells me all I need to know about Islam; depravity most vile.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Mysteries of the internet

The internet is full of the oddest things. Okay, so that's not an original insight. Hear me out though.

Quite a while ago, I had a conversation with my father about someone (I don't think it was my father, necessarily) who was of the opinion that Tennessee Ernie Ford was the greatest male vocalist of living memory. Now, this seemed a bit odd to my ears. I'd heard a recording, when I was very little, of him singing 16 Tons, and I didn't find it enthralling. However, I was thinking about it today and found a copy of the song on YouTube. I don't know that I'm going to fall into the same opinion without any quibbles, but I can certainly see where this unknown reverer of Mr Ford was coming from. He's pretty fantastic.

This got me thinking about the odd juxtapositions of the internet. YouTube has things like this adjacent (in some sense) to the most moronic videos of people driving their trucks into telephone poles, flaunting their, ahem, physical attributes, etc.

And that's not all. We all have some inkling of the depths to which the seamier sides of the internet descend; one can get awfully odd results on what seem to be the most innocuous of internet searches. But it is also possible to read the greatest works of literature civilisation has produced, see reproductions of the greatest art, communicate with people around the globe and (on occasion) have reasoned debates about topics of great moment or very narrow interest on the very same internet.

Again, nothing that any of you haven't thought about before; it was just brought home to me listening to the mellifluous voice of Mr Ford.

New template!

It's only been four years or so since I picked a new template. I liked Scribe, but I don't like playing with code (and I'm not at all good at it!) and I wanted something a bit different in layout. I'd have liked to be able to just tweak Scribe to get what I wanted, but I took the easy way out and just got a new template.

Is Australia really part of the Anglosphere?

A blog post casts doubt on that contention. The evidence is this "sentence":
I think congratulations is due because online many online or electronically delivered ezines the magazine has not run out of steam and each issue is definitely still maintains the high standard it initially commenced with.
Judge for yourself, but I'm pretty sure that's not actually English. Via a friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Even my daughter knew it didn't make sense.

At work the other day, apropos of what I do not recall, someone said "We'll never be able to stop the hamster wheel by throwing band-aids at holes in the dike." I think it's actually four mixed metaphors because of the word "throwing". When I recounted this to my wife, my daughter pointed out that she knew it was silly because one "doesn't throw band-aids".

Friday, August 29, 2008

"Vote Obama: He's better than you'll ever be."

Quite a funny satire of convention speeches generally and Obama's in particular. The wildly mixed-metaphor in the third paragraph reminds me of something I heard the other day. More on that anon.

Edit: Via First Things.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stupid! You're so stupid!

Except, not really. I'm way behind on posting reviews of all the new books I've read this year, and I'm not going to try to review them all. Some just aren't worth it (Robert Jordan's Eye of the World) some I just don't remember that well (The Real Heaven: It's Not What You Think), and I just don't want to spend the time.

But, since I've raved so much about The Brothers Karamazov, I figured I ought to give my thoughts about The Idiot as well.

I liked The Idiot quite a bit, but I was disappointed by the way it ended. I'll spoil a bit of it for you now without specifics: it doesn't end well or happily. It doesn't end like I expected, however. The way the book is set up, it could hardly end happily for everyone involved, but I didn't expect it to be quite the downer that it was. The book was well-written, the characters were very well drawn and distinct, though some of the dialogue was a bit confusing and I blame it on the translation from Russian.

The eponymous character from The Idiot is not actually an idiot, but rather someone who is considered so because of the open, honest and naive way that he meets the world. One hopes for him to triumph, to come out on top, but unfortunately his fate is more realistic than that. He, in some ways, reminded me of Alexei from The Brothers Karamazov.

The Idiot is a good book; it's worth reading even if it isn't as edifying as The Brothers Karamazov, but be warned that it won't end even as well as The Brothers Karamzov does.

A culture of death, indeed.

Wesley Smith on the First Things blog points out a story from an English newspaper that describes the last day of a woman who chose to be killed by her doctor under the Netherlands' euthanasia law. According to the article, the law requires that the doctor's judgment be confirmed by a second doctor, that the person in question be in unbearable pain, consistently wish for death and be unable to be cured.

Sickeningly, the woman in the article who is killed is not in unbearable pain; she does six loads of laundry and vacuums the entire house (two floors!) on the day of her death. She does not wish consistently for death but is egged on by her son. She does have cancer which may well be uncurable, but she is afraid of losing her hair more than anything else.

I have sympathy for people who commit suicide. I don't know that I could ever bring myself to do it; I would feel like I was going to meet God after thumbing my nose at Him. I do understand though that I have not been in the shoes of someone who has been the victim of a horrific crime, suffered the loss of an immediate family member or seen first hand the terrible things that happen in war. In old detective novels, the villain is often allowed to commit suicide to avoid the pain that their trial would give to those dear to them. While I do not approve, I can understand. Suicide was proscribed though tolerated as an exception to the general rule.

But when we allow others to kill and label it "suicide", we open the door to the horror described above and other, worse horrors as well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I understand that language evolves over time.

But that doesn't mean that we have to hasten it. It certainly doesn't mean that I have to do anything to hasten it, and I'd like to think that my (most likely insignificant) efforts to retard the speed of the evolution are important in a minor way to keep the coherence of language intact.

Also via First Things is a note about the possibility of the demise of the semi-colon and the efforts of the French to avoid this. Laudable as this goal is, I think the French go about the preservation of their language in the wrong way. Not surprising for a bunch of effeminate continentals who live in a perpetual fog of nostalgia for the 18th century. Instead of setting up government commissions (as the Frogs do) to dictate which words are acceptable and which are not, arguing in schools for the importance of Standard English and teaching basic grammar will do more than efforts to ban words like "blog" ever will.

Returning to the semi-colon, my opinion on the matter, contra-Vonnegut, is that people who denigrate the semi-colon do so to cover their own inability to use one correctly.

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Now playing: Louis Jordan - 12 - What's The Use Of Getting Sober (When You Gonna Get Drunk Again)
via FoxyTunes

I'd like to take this moment to express my pity.

To all Norwegians, to all members of the Norwegian knighthood and most deeply to all the members of the King's Guard of Norway: my sympathies and consolation on the descent of your nation to depths of ignominy and decadence not seen since Caligula was to make his horse a consul.

Via First Things, which also linked to video.

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Now playing: Louis Jordan - Choo Choo Ch'Boogie
via FoxyTunes

Monday, August 04, 2008

RIP Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

A great man, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, died yesterday. He may not have been right about everything, (which one of us is?) and I certainly didn't agree with everything he wrote or said, but he was still one of the greatest men of the last century. Rest in peace.

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Now playing: Donizetti, Callas, Di Stefano, Gobbi, Arie - Il dolce suono...Ardon gli incensi
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Carrot Juice is Murder

The whole "Meat is Murder" business is too nonsensical on the face of it for me to give it serious thought, but for those of you out there who are wavering, consider this. Even if you accept the vegan premise, that "Meat is Murder", the ethical choice is actually to still eat meat. Political vegans of the world, you can now enjoy a steak without violating your conscience.

Oh, and the the blog title comes from a song.

Monday, July 07, 2008

If it happens in England...

It could happen here. Certainly in Canuckistan. A short article, but the headline really tells the tale.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Brothers K

So I finished my first Dostoyevsky novel and it was everything I hoped and more. True, I didn't have high expectations, but it was still a very good book. I'm debating with myself whether or not it was good enough to knock Making Sense of It All from its perch up on top of my blog as the book I most recommend of all the books I've read this year. On the one hand, Morris is much clearer about the thrust of his book since it is an openly philosophical work, but The Brothers Karamazov has the advantage of being an interesting story as well as dealing with interesting philosophical questions.

Dostoyevsky wrote a fascinating tale of what we would nowadays call a "highly dysfunctional family". I think I can say, without spoiling the plot, that there is a murder involved and the reasons for the murder make for at least as interesting a tale as the quest to determine who the murderer is. Dostoyevsky is good enough not to leave his reader in the dark about the solution... or is he? Are they delusions or visions? What is the point of the inclusion of Ilusha? I liked War and Peace, but I'm not sure if I'll ever get around to reading the whole thing again. But I know I'll definitely read The Brothers Karamazov at least another couple times.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Coming soon to a hospital near you?

In the UK a mother and father are fighting a legal battle with their local hospital to force it to continue to care for their daughter. At issue is whether or not her life is one that is worth living.

For those that see parallels to the Schiavo case here the US not too long ago (as gross a miscarriage of justice as that was), there are some significant differences. Mrs Schiavo's husband, nominally her guardian (or whatever the correct legal term is) was all in favour of pulling the plug on her. Mrs Schiavo was also in a "vegetative state"; that is to say, she didn't respond to stimuli and would not have survived at all when removed from the hospital. There were many doctors who thought she could still be helped and wished to attempt to do so.

For the girl in the UK, Amber Hartland, she doesn't have to stay in the hospital, she is not vegetative, can communicate, and can see and hear. She's also six years old. Her parents (who do still have legal custody) wish her to live. The issue here is that because the doctors at the hospital think her life isn't worth living, they don't want to treat her when she is brought to them for help.

As if this wasn't bad enough, they have the effrontery to claim their whole motivation is "to provide the best possible patient care." That's right, the best care for a six year-old girl who enjoys her life and whose parents love and care for her, is to allow her to die through neglect of her medical condition.

My favourite bit of Newspeak from the hospital is this gem. After claiming that they always have and will have Amber's best interests at heart, he goes on to say that as a result "[W]e are now asking the courts to decide on the best course of action for Amber's future care."

Translated: "Because your parents love you too much to let you die, we're going to get a judge to force them."

Though levity at such a time may seem out of place, I do think that black humour often allows people to see such things clearly. So I will quote Mr Burns from The Simpsons. "This man is costing my health plan $5,000 a day! I demand that he die with dignity!"

It's a Brave New World, neighbors.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

One double-O

Oddly, the one hundredth book on my book list to the left? Patrick O'Brian's The Hundred Days. On pace for 200 books this year. Way ahead of the pace of the previous two years.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Books in May

Rob Neyer, who (I think) got his start writing books with Bill James, takes his cue from Mr James and calls this book Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups. Despite that, he comes across as having less of an ego than Mr James; though that doesn't seem to be difficult. It's a very interesting book for those interested in baseball history. It's not full of statistics, but fun facts instead and enough bold assertions to feed the fires of discussion and debate on a wide range of topics. He looks at the best and second best lineups of all-time for every team by mixing and matching their greatest players from whenever they played. He also puts together the lineups of the biggest busts, best players traded away, all-nickname teams and other fun stuff. Not a book that it's easy to read through from cover to cover, but much fun is to be had from dipping into it and reading one team at a time.

I'm going to sum up my Lois McMaster Bujold experience and review the last few books I read very briefly.

The Warrior's Apprentice
: good, light fun; an interesting story if implausible in the extreme even after allowing for the sci-fi aspect.

The Vor Game: another fun yarn, though equally implausible as the one that preceded it.

Cetaganda: a better story, less implausible because it depends on fewer coincidences and a mystery to boot! Huzzah!

Ethan of Athos: bald-faced homosexual propaganda thinly wrapped in a spy-thriller-esque plot, the villain is, obviously, the person who has the greatest distaste for homosexuality, because that's true depravity (/sarcasm). (I kept going with the series since this story dealt with tangential characters and seemed like it was a one-off rather than introducing recurring themes and characters. I was mostly right.)

The Borders of Infinity: the first story is a mystery with a solid moral premise and decent plotting, the second story is inane and seems little more than an excuse for the author to set up a sex scene (thankfully without being explicit) between the hero and a werewolf, the third story is badly written prison-break tale that doesn't go anywhere or serve any real purpose.

Brothers in Arms: this is where I gave up, ostensibly it's another spy-thriller story but this time, Miles has moved on to his third true love (and there are more to come in later books I understand) without any reason given for disposing of his affections for the first two and we get to introduce his clone! It's too much. Ms Bujold, you had a good thing going, but you beat your favourite character to death by having to involve him in too many wild and crazy adventures. You built an edifice that eventually collapsed under its own weight.

I read Ink, a book that was basically a how-to on getting a tattoo. Interesting stuff, with some historical tidbits thrown in for good measure. For example, I was surprised at how many members of various royal European houses had tattoos. I shouldn't have been, since a lot of them served in the navies of their various countries, but I was. A good book if you're interested in the subject.

I also read the latest two Wodehouses to be published by Overlook. Plum Pie and The Girl on the Boat. The first was a collection of short stories that I had mostly read before in other collections; a solid book if unexceptional. The Girl on the Boat on the other hand gave Ring for Jeeves a run for its money as the worst Wodehouse book ever. The plot was disjointed, resolved in odd ways and the characters made strange decisions for no good reason. And none of that was in the usual Wodehouse manner that makes sense within the world of the book, I mean. It was just... bad.

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Now playing: Project 86 - The Spy Hunter
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Golden

Silence is the perfectest herald of joy: I were but little happy, if I could say how much.

~Much Ado About Nothing
, Act II, scene i

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cannot you tell that? Every fool can tell that.

Only if you have a strong stomach should you click the link included with this post. I'm very, very serious about that.

This post over at the other First Things blog is one I meant to post some time ago, but haven't because I've been at a loss for how to comment on it adequately. I'm still unsure of myself, but I've waited long enough and I'm going to give it a go.

It's a post nominally about abortion, and the superficial aspect of the story is horrific enough, but the underlying question and problem that is dealt with the latter part of the essay is truly the frightening part since it deals with the inability of our society to even comprehend how to combat such horror any longer. When you start to wonder if people are truly as depraved as they are often condemned to be, remember this and be reminded that, indeed, many people are.

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Now playing: Ty Tabor - Moonflower Lane - 03 - Live in Your House
via FoxyTunes

From where to where?

Chesterton was a brilliant man, even if I find some of his positions/thoughts/ideals to be imbecilic. We are none of us perfect. But he was spot on with his ideas about what it means (or ought to mean) to be "progressive". Read the quotation over at First Things.

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Now playing: Bleach - Static - 11 - Country Western Star
via FoxyTunes

You'll go to bed hungry and like it!

Obama tells America that he'll decide when you've had enough to eat. No, seriously.

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Now playing: King's X - Tape Head - 06 - Ocean
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Slacking

I posted about none of the books I read in April excepting Judas Unchained and that because it was the sequel to a book I read in March. It's been nearly three weeks without a post in fact. But, since I have about 10 or 11 books that I would normally have reviewed, I'll just sum up as quick as I can here and resolve (again) to be better and more prompt about this in the future.

The Ellery Queen mysteries are going downhill fast. The last several have already degenerated into plots that most mystery series leave until they are a good 10 books or so into their run. There was The Siamese Twin Mystery in which, yes, Siamese twins are involved and our hero is trapped, along with all the suspects in a house on a mountaintop surrounded by forest fire in which they all expect to die. Now, okay, I'm fine with have the mystery take place in an isolated locale from which no one can enter or leave and the detective has to solve the mystery without the help of any forensic assistance, but a fortuitous forest fire (if you'll forgive the alliteration) seems a bit much to me.

The American Gun Mystery is the sort of exotic locale drama involving characters far removed from the norm of what our hero encounters and odd and unusual codes of conduct and behaviour that have to be deciphered as well as the main facts of the mystery. The solution to this one was especially hard to swallow (hah!). The location was actually still in New York, but the author imports a Wild West travelling show for the purposes of bringing the exotic locale to the hero.

The Greek Coffin Mystery involves a "Greek" coffin only insofar as a Greek was buried in it. The rest is a standard mystery with a "most unlikely suspect" being fitted for the dastardly deed.

The Prisoner is one of my favourite TV shows of all time. It was a superbly interesting show that explored themes of freedom and repression and did so in an intelligent and unique way. If you haven't seen it, I strongly suggest that you do and I'd hate to spoil it for you. But I have to say that the conclusion of the show was one of the worst I have ever seen. Sure, it's from the 60's and it was a bit pretentious in places and the science was on a par with that in Star Trek, but it was easily overlooked because of the underlying material. Until, that is, the final episode. That episode was so over-the-top and allegorical and McGoohan tried to infuse it with so much philosophic nonsense that it nearly wrecked the whole experience for me the first time I saw it. I don't know that I believe him when he claims that was what he had in mind (in a nebulous form) all along. Well, The Prisoner Handbook believes him. And it analyzes the whole show in light of the concluding episode. Avoid it like the plague.

I'd read them before, but I've never spoken of them here. I re-read recently all the short stories by Saki. He's a brilliant writer and an odd sort of combination (in my mind) between Siegfried Sassoon, PG Wodehouse and Lewis Carroll. (If that doesn't pique your curiosity, you have none.) Some of his stories are simply laugh-out-loud funny, some are creepy enough to make you want to leave the lights on when you go to bed and others will provoke you to deep thought.

I've spoken harshly of Bill James here in the past, but The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (apart from the narcissistic title) is a fantastic book. He covers the entire scope of baseball history (up to the year 2000) and presents his thoughts on, well, everything. Who the best 100 players are by each position (yup, he comes up with the best 900 players of all time and doesn't do half bad), the highlights and low-lights of each decade, thoughts on the evolution of the game, comparisons of statistics between eras, changes in uniforms, best nicknames, largest and smallest players... the list goes on. For anyone who loves the history of the game and is interested in it's oddities and arguments, this will be an enjoyable read, if a long one. The book is nearly 1,000 pages and it's practically the dimensions of a coffee-table book.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is an odd departure of a book for Terry Pratchett. He disposes with just about all his usual and familiar characters (though Death, and the Death of Rats, does make a brief appearance), but the effect is not to return him to his former glory and the heights of Pyramids or Guards! Guards!. The book is no better than some of his recent drivel and rather worse than Going Postal. There comes a time to rest on one's laurels, and Pratchett has reached that point. I do regret that he has Alzheimer's and that his writing career will be cut short before he intended, but I think he would be served by putting Discworld to pasture even if he continues able to write for some years yet.

I read another two books by Guy Gavriel Kay since I find Tigana to be such a full and fully realised world. The depth of the world despite the relatively short work was impressive to me and the characters were all very well done. Ysabel, however, disappointed. The characters were good, but the story lacked that certain something and the world was quite firmly our own with some exceptional events integrated into it. On a personal level, I regretted finding out via that book which characters survived from the other book of his I read recently The Summer Tree. It is the first in a series and the survivors from it pop up in Ysabel. The Summer Tree is a more straight-forward fantasy novel in which 5 college students from our world are transported to another fantastic world and end up helping to fight a great evil. The borrowings from Tolkien in this novel are much more blatant and it is more obvious that this was some of his early work. It's well-written (Kay is certainly top-tier of fantasy authors when it comes to wielding a pen), but the plotting and allusions to other fantasy stories are too obviously borrowings. There are two more books to go, and I'll probably read them, but I'm not looking forward to them with great anticipation.

Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism is a book that, as you would expect, has stirred up some intense controversy. His thesis, however, is rather unremarkable. Simply put, he points out that fascism is a phenomenon of the left, not the right. These are people who were socialists, after all. You really ought to read the book for yourself, of course, but briefly he points out that we have over the years come to associate the word "fascism" with "racism" or "anti-Semitism", when these were not integral of fascism generally, but with a specific form of fascism (Nazism) or to think of it as meaning "things that are bad", which fascism is, but that's rather too broad a definition to be useful. He also points out the the integral part that the government plays in fascism and the interference in the private sphere by the government is something that is found both on the "right" and "left" nowadays (he's really quite critical of George W. Bush) and says that the conservative (or "classical liberal") counter to fascism is to argue merely to have the government less involved in the lives and businesses of the citizenry. He points out that clearly, we do not need to fear a resurgence of the violent, vicious fascism of the early part of the 20th century (a la Orwell's 1984), but a softer, gentler mothering, smothering fascism (a la Huxley's Brave New World). The state will constrain you for your own good. First they came for the smokers, but I said nothing because I was not a smoker. Then they came for the trans-fats, etc...

Whew! I think that covers everything I intended to review.

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Now playing: Cake - Comfort Eagle - 01 - Opera Singer
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Not something you see every day.

Unless you're Leon Redbone. And he would be about five kinds of awesome anyway. Check this out. At about 1:57 and 3:19 you can see a man wearing an eye-patch... and playing a tuba. I thought that was hilarious.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Great snakes!

I read the first Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, (I'm planning to read them in chronological order this year) and found it to be about what one would expect. The mystery itself wasn't the best of them all, though the plot was sufficiently unique to provide some enjoyment. The book's denouement clearly showed the influence of British mystery novels of the early 20th century and Archie was not quite who he becomes later in the series. The relationships are all a bit different; in most of the books Archie is the only one permanently employed by Nero Wolfe. In this one Saul Panzer and others are on the payroll too, and Archie is less deferential and complimentary to him. Inspector Cramer doesn't make an appearance; I'll be interested to see which book he turns up in first. All in all, a rougher, more unpolished but still recognisable Nero Wolfe story. Probably most jarring is Archie's use of an ethnic slur. He doesn't strike one as being the type to do that in later books, so encountering it here after becoming familiar with the character is a bit of a shock. Still, despite the flaws, I can see how this book and these characters were promising enough to grow into the institution that it did.

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Listening to: King's X - Dogman - 03 - Pretend
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Asimov he's not.

I read a couple books on the suggestion of Unshelved. They were... okay, I guess. Half the SF I try seems to be hardly more than adolescent male fantasies given a boost into the future and some spaceships and aliens for colour.

Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained are no different. It isn't explicit more than a couple times throughout a couple thousand pages, but the society is described as hardly having marriages worthy of the name, pornography is accepted as suitable for broadcast on television (or super 3-D vision or whatever it's called) and the whole galaxy is perfectly at home with lots of consequence-free coupling. Oh, and everyone gets to live forever and stay 22 years old in appearance indefinitely. I exaggerate; it's really only the 80% of the population that counts as upper class.

Which is a pity, because the story itself is fairly interesting and there are a couple sympathetic characters. I started to feel sorry for them having to put up with being in these books. The plot is about how an alien has infiltrated human society and manipulates the humans into contact with an aggressive alien species in an effort to cripple them both so that the hidden aliens can rule the galaxy. It's really a three-sided battle between the alien, the small group of humans who know what it's up to and the oblivious masses trying to fight the aggressive aliens and stop the humans claiming subversion from within, since they think that's nothing more than a lunatic terrorist group.

The best characters are the criminal mastermind who is recruited to work with the humans who know of the hidden alien and the detective, genetically designed to be as efficient as possible, who is assigned to hunt him down. Still, with the degree of nonsense, I can't recommend it in good conscience.

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Listening to: Marzipan f/Strong Bad - Strong Bad Sings and Other Type Hits- 13 - Sensitive To Bees
via FoxyTunes

Book friends

I found another blog through LibraryThing (at least, I think that's how it was... it's been a while). And, after a decent trying out interval, I'm putting her blog up on the list of links. Not that my doing so is some sort of momentous mark of sanction and approval, but when I do decide to do so I think it's only polite to point it out so everyone who reads my blog can begin enjoying another blog.

And, I haven't asked which it is in this case, but it seems "Anstruther" can be a place or a name.

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Listening to: Concerto Vocale - Come inanti de l'alba ruggiadosa (Il primo libro de madrigali a 6 voci)
via FoxyTunes

New features.

I'm playing with the new feature in Blogger (currently only in draft) that allows one to future date a post and have it not appear on your blog until said date arrives. The last two posts before this one are out of order because I fiddled with their times a bit. I know, I know, not a big deal here, but if I ever get my other blog caught up (don't hold your breath!) it'll be useful there.

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Listening to: Audio Adrenaline - Bloom - 07 - Free Ride
via FoxyTunes

Fraulein Braun

The Complete Peanuts series is one that I would buy if I had a million dollars. That is to say, I really enjoy it, but I'll always be able to think of a book I'd rather have before I'd buy these books. So I was getting them from the library when they started being released, but I'd forgotten about them for a while until I ran across one the other day while at the library. Luckily, it was next in the series after the ones I'd already read.

The other thing about this series is that I find the early strips far more interesting than the later ones. The conventions aren't set in stone and Schulz was still experimenting with characters. Among other things, Charlotte Braun (the female Charlie Brown doppelgänger) is still present, Sally Brown hasn't arrived yet and Linus is still considered to be a baby to some degree.

Peanuts
eventually went downhill and became as repetitive as any of the other 30+ year-old strips in your newspaper (paging Family Circus), but the early stuff is the work of genius. It'll be interesting to see if there's a clear shark-jumping moment or if the change is gradual enough to be without any sort of defining moment. I'm betting on the latter.

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Listening to: Weird Al Yankovic - White & Nerdy
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Ancient History

Literally. I finally finished reading Herodotus' The Histories and it was very, very good. It's a bit of a difficult read since it is written in a style that isn't familiar to modern eyes, but the stories are interesting even if the translator of my edition didn't believe half of them. Herodotus is known for being one of the first writers (along with Thucydides) to distinguish between what he saw himself, what he thought was evidence of reliable witnesses and spurious stories and hearsay. He talks up Athens quite a bit, (he is a native) but he's also quite willing to give a lot of credit and respect to the Spartans and their role in the defeat of Persia. I haven't seen 300, and I don't really plan to. (The comic book it was based on wasn't any great shakes.) But some of those famous lines ("Then we shall fight in the shade.") were fun to read in the original and I have a better understanding of the chronology of the war than I did previously.

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Listening to: Cake - Motorcade of Generosity - 02 - Ruby Sees All
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Sunday, April 06, 2008

"PG Wodehouse and Tolstoy"

Barrayar gets its one implausible thing out of the way early and suffers from adding another at the end unsanctioned. Our heroine has given up her life on her homeworld and travelled to the planet with which she has just fought a war and marries her one-time enemy. This isn't the implausible bit, really, because it actually happens in the book that precedes this one. The man she marries turns out to be a relative of the dying emperor and the one man said emperor trusts to be regent until his grandson comes of age and can ascend to the throne. No, we're still not there yet; that's from the previous book too. She and her new husband then decide that they're going to use this opportunity to overthrow hundreds of years of culture and change the ethical system on the planet to something more enlightened. Okay, it's a bit much, but I'll accept one stretch.

Later on, when she leads a commando raid into the heart of an enemy-occupied city, that's when it all gets to be too much. All things considered, it's not a bad book, though it ought to have been combined with the previous one (Shards of Honor) from the get-go. (It has since they were written, you can find it as Cordelia's Honor now.) The world (galaxy?) is well-crafted, there is a nice balance between the unexplainable and the credibly explained and the dialogue is reasonable. I'll keep going with the series for at least another book or two, especially since the character that's so popular with everyone was only just born at the end of this book. And it was much better than the next two sci-fi novels I read.

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Listening to: Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Live On - 13 - Where Was I?
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Mediocre Wodehouse

Which almost always indicates early Wodehouse. A Man of Means is a short collection of six stories originally published serially in Pictorial Review. They were also, apparently, a collaboration with a man named CH Bovill, something I had not elsewhere run across in Wodehouse's work.

The book itself wasn't too bad, the language had a familiar sparkle that one recognises from having read the Jeeves stories that came later, but it did lack the polish it later attained. The plot, like most Wodehouse plots, was predictable and yet still enjoyable. The story is the trials and tribulations of a man who unexpectedly comes into money. One of my favourite bits comes at the beginning where our hero beards his employer in his den to ask for a reduction in his salary so that he can put off his unwanted marriage a bit longer; a very Wodehousian touch.

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Listening to: Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Live On - 04 - Last Goodbye
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Do you like me?

: :Yes : : No
Check one.

There's an interesting post over at First Things about why it is that Christians express an interest in and affection for Israel and Jews that isn't reciprocated. I've wondered about this before myself and I've never really come to a satisfactory conclusion in my own mind.

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Listening to: Seatbelts - American Money
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