See this comic strip from the Unshelved series.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Now lists more than 300 companies that score 100% on LGBT rights. See Ed Brayton's humorous take on it.
From George Will, responding to Dick Cheney's argument that Obama is "dithering" on Afghanistan in deciding whether to commit more troops:
"A bit of dithering might have been in order before we went into Iraq in pursuit of non-existent weapons of mass destruction," Will said on ABC's "This Week. "For a representative of the Bush administration to accuse someone of taking too much time is missing the point. We have much more to fear in this town from hasty than from slow government action."
Interesting article by Diana Novak on the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was almost certainly innocent. It talks about the requirement that jurors in capital cases be "death-qualified" - that is, willing to apply the death penalty if the person is found guilty. That tends to pre-select a certain kind of juror. I find this appalling that only jurors that view the death penalty favorably are eligible to serve.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
|Title||Frames: A Valentino Mystery (Thorndike Press Large Print Mystery Series)|
|Author||Loren D. Estleman|
|Tags||mystery, series, valentino, film preservation, movie history, erich von stroheim|
|First in a contemporary mystery series with film archivist Valentino, no relation to the silent star actor or the designer. He is looking for a house, and for grins and giggles looks at one of the movie palaces built in the twenties that is for sale. He finds canisters of film marked "Greed", Erich von Stroheim's lost silent masterpiece. So he makes an offer on the theater and then finds a skeleton in the basement, which makes it a crime scene and endangers the film. So Valentino must solve the mystery to save the film.Estleman is an experienced writer with over 60 published novels. I have not read him before, but will in the future. Frames is a pleasant well-constructed novel. The main characters are nicely drawn, and the plot works, and he brings in fun movie history - even has a bibliography of non-fiction and fictional works at the end of the book. The next in the series, Alone, will be published in early December 2009.|
|Publication||Thorndike Press (2008), Edition: Lrg, Hardcover, 365 pages|
|ISBN||1410408604 / 9781410408600|
|Title||The Unseen Academicals|
|Tags||fantasy, comedy, ankh-morpork, series|
|It's Terry Pratchett. That means it is brilliantly funny, with good characters. The book is about many of the standard characters and places, like Lord Vetinari of Ankh-Morpork, and the wizards at Unseen University. Newer characters include Glenda, who is in charge of the Night Kitchen at UU, her friend and co-worker the beautiful but not-to-bright Juliet, Mister Nutt the candle-dripper, and his friend Trev Lively.The action of the book centers around the game foot-the-ball. It is played in the streets, with many followers who can be violent and follow the game while rarely getting an actual glimpse of it. The wizards at UU, for financial reasons, are forced to take up the game. So they start reinventing it.Pratchett's satire strikes all the typical targets, government, religion, you know the drill. It is the character of Mr. Nutt that really interests me. He is a genius, excessively polite, inventive, rational.... and an orc, which he finds out in the course of the book. So it is expected that any moment he will break into acts of mayhem and murder. This is an exploration of a topic that's gotten to bother me more and more over the years. When I was young I read Tolkien and accepted that of course orcs were bad. There are many books that rely on such depiction of evil, and that the only way to deal with it is to kill it. Pratchett takes this on. I've come to believe, as he obviously does, that once a being is sentient, it has as much or more chance of being good as bad, or a complex mixture of both like most people. Kudos to Mr. Pratchett for making the point brilliantly while never being heavy-handed about it.|
|Publication||Doubleday UK (2009), Hardcover, 400 pages|
|ISBN||0385609345 / 9780385609340|
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
What terrific news! No, the hate crimes law will not make it a crime to speak against homosexuality, but make it easier to prosecute those who commit crimes such as assault because of the race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status. See this analysis by legal scholar Charles Haynes.
A collection of the best in a contest to change one letter in a movie title and come up with something funny. My favorite was Man with the Golden Pun, until I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stoned.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
|Title||The Confederate General Rides North: A Novel|
|Author||Amanda C Gable|
|Tags||1960s, childhood, mother-daughter relationship, mental illness|
|Upfront disclaimer: I know the author of this book, and like her quite a bit though it has been a few years since I've seen her. She is a bright woman and a kind person. So I was quite excited to hear she has published a novel, and was prepared to be kind to it even if it turned out to not be my kind of book.Happily, that isn't necessary. It is indeed a fine novel. The narrator is Katherine, an 11 year old girl who is obsessed with the idea of being a Confederate general. It is the late 1960s. One summer morning her mother announces that the two of them are going to take a long trip from their home in Marietta, Georgia up to Maine, buying antiques for the store they are going to open.Katherine knows her Mother has her rocky days, but the trip sounds exciting. The farther they go, the more disturbing the plans. For one thing, her mother reveals that they are going to live in Maine and open the store there. Katherine hurts at the idea she will not see her father and grandparents for a long time. Along the way, Katherine gets to visit some of the major Civil War battle sites, and learns that war is not the noble thing she had thought.On the surface, there's not a lot of action in the novel. Yet it is a marvelous book, an excellent exploration of character. This will be one of my favorite books of 2009.|
|Publication||Scribner (2009), Hardcover, 288 pages|
|ISBN||1416598391 / 9781416598398|
|Title||A Stillness in Bethlehem (Gregor Demarkian Holiday Mysteries)|
|Tags||mystery, series, gregor demarkian, christmas|
|This is one of my favorite of the Gregor Demarkian series so far. Gregor, Father Tibor, and Bennis go to Bethlehem, Vermont for the 6-day Nativity festival. The festival brings in tourists by the droves, and it pays about a third of the city's budget. Since the nativity play is on public property, one villager plans to sue, but she and another woman are killed in what seem to be hunting accidents. The owner of the local newspaper and the police chief are fans of Gregor's and ask him to look into the deaths.I've read enough of this series to know that they follow a pattern. Gregor gets asked to come somewhere, murders happen. Haddam shows us the inner thoughts of the people involved, and they seem scarily accurate pictures of people. Gregor figures out who committed the murders, but can't prove it until something else happens. It is, though, a formula that works.|
|Publication||Crimeline (1993), Mass Market Paperback, 368 pages|
|ISBN||0553293907 / 9780553293906|
|Title||Execution Dock: A Novel (William Monk Novels)|
|Tags||mystery, series, william monk, victorian england|
|Sixteenth in Anne Perry's series about William Monk. Monk was a policeman in Victorian London who lost his memory and becomes a private inquiry agent while learning how to live again. The more he learns about his past, the more he dislikes the man he was. Now, 8 years after his loss of memory, he is married and working for the River Police. He captures a man who he believes killed a boy, one of the man's string of boy prostitutes. Monk believes the case against Jericho Phillips is tight, but Oliver Rathbone, friend of the Monks, takes Phillips case and finds weaknesses that get Phillips released. Monk and his wife Hester must build a new case against Philips if they want to stop Phillips and his exploitation of young boys.As always, Perry depicts some of the worst parts of Victorian life, and that can be depressing. The plots are good, and the characters must deal with issues of trust. Worth reading.|
|Publication||Ballantine Books (2009), Edition: 1 Printing, Hardcover, 320 pages|
|ISBN||034546933X / 9780345469335|
|Title||Merry, Merry Ghost (Bailey Ruth Mysteries, No. 2)|
|Tags||mystery, series, bailey ruth raeburn, ghosts, heaven, arkansas|
|Second in the Bailey Ruth mystery series by Carolyn Hart, about a ghost who volunteers to help people on Earth when they have serious problems. In the first book in the series Bailey Ruth helped young relatives in Adelaide, Arkansas, the town she lived in and loved while alive. In this 2nd episode in the series, Bailey Ruth is helping an orphaned four year old boy. He is left at the home of his very ill grandmother who had not known he existed. She is the last of the wealthy Pritchard family, and she has a number of heirs who are connections but not blood relatives. She is murdered before she can change her will to include her grandson. Bailey Ruth helps her learn to appear so she can write a new holographic will and get it signed. But the lawyer doesn't get the new will, and Bailey Ruth has to figure out why.The two volumes in the series are quite similar in tone. They are light-hearted cozies. Bailey Ruth is a fun character, in Heaven but enjoying everything about Heaven AND earth. She lived vibrantly, and has the same gregarious and kind nature that she had before death.Hart has two other series. The Death on Demand Series is a cozy mystery series about a bookstore owner and her private eye husband living on an island off the South Carolina coast. The other series is about Henry O., a retired and widowed journalist. Of the three, I like the Henry O. series best. The characterization tends to be deeper and richer. But I do enjoy the other two series as well, and am growing quite fond of Bailey Ruth, even if I find the premise kind of corny.|
|Publication||William Morrow (2009), Hardcover, 288 pages|
|ISBN||0060874376 / 9780060874377|
This is a very funny idea: since an Atheist organization was hit by denial of service attacks, they are going to retaliate by praying so much God is overwhelmed.
The UCS here issues a statement refuting the climate science in the book Superfreakonomics.
Ed Brayton here posts hate mail received by Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). I post it because it is one of the great disconnects in American culture. Jesus was a man of peace, primarily, and who cared about everyone. Yet some who consider themselves his followers are, according to some of the things they do, full of hate. People who file freedom of religion lawsuits, especially concerning schools, or cases against creationism or intelligent design being taught in schools, often receive virulent hate mail, including death threats. There are two preachers I know of who advocate praying for the deaths of their "enemies", such as President Obama or Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. I know in the early days of being Wiccan I never talked to a fundamentalist Christian about my religion without hearing them quote "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live". It did not have the effect they wished... it scared me, all right, but did not scare me into givng up my religion and taking up theirs, it convinced me that their religion was the last possible one I'd ever believe in. It is a real WTF moment, and I wish that more moderate Christians would speak up against such such hatred.
A friend sent this to me in text in an email. I checked online, wanting a souce I could link to. Looked at two or three results and two said source unknown, this one attributes the poem to a Martha Snow:
Spell chequer--Martha SnowEye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a quay and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
It's letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.
Monday, October 26, 2009
This article from Reuter's details the waste in U.S. health care costs. It dances around but does not mention directly that denying claims eats up a lot of administrative costs, which seems to the thing that isn't said in polite society but that in my mind should be shouted from the house tops.
See this post from Catherine Beyer, who writes the Alternative Religions guide for About.com. I've really come to respect what she has to say. In this post, she decries the desire for a self-help guru who can fix all our ills, and those who follow some of them until death. This was prompted by the death of three people in an overcrowded, poorly run sweat lodge run by "wealth expert" James Arthur Ray. This fits well with Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Bright-Sided, which argues that we are being sold that it is our fault if our lives aren't happy in every way. I think some of the wealth prosperity preachers are encouraging people to look for quick fixes rather than the hard work needed to fix one's economic situation.
In this post Reich discusses banks too big to fail, and that the answer is to invoke anti-trust laws to break them up or pass again legislation like Glass-Steagall that was repealed in 1999.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Good article on Mehdi Karroubi, an Iranian cleric and one of the candidates for the Iranian presidency this year who has continuted to protest the results and their aftermath. He has quite an interesting background.
Nukes and Spooks is an excellent blog by several McClatchy reporters who focus on Iraq and Afghanistan. This post on Cheney's recent criticisms on Obama's policy in Afghanistan are an excellent rebuttal by people who have been on the ground in question.
See this article. I find Cheney's gall in criticizing Obama to be revolting. He is probably more responsible than George W. Bush for the Iraq war, a war he lied us into, failed to plan for, and created for, in my mind, illegitimate reasons. The blood of thousands, if not over a million, Iraqis as well as over 4000 U.S. troops are on his hands. Moreover, he had a hand in many other failed policies of the Bush administration, and the idea that anyone would take his ideas for governing seriously at all make my blood boil.
See here or go on through to the Sci Fi Wire page on Cthulu toys. I like the Christmas wreath myself. This is just one of those concepts that is funny and magnificent. Scroll down on the Sci-Fi Wire page to see more fun links for Halloween.
This post details the horrors of the anti-LGBT efforts in Uganda led by people closely associated with the Family, an American evangelical group of politicians, most recently in the news with the publication of Jeff Sharlet's book and because of the scandal surrounding Sen. John Ensign, one of their members.
A friend of mine lives in Falls Church, VA and occasionally sends columns from the Falls Church Free Press, all of which I have liked enormously. In this column, Nicholas Benton defines his philosophy as being "human capitalism", and ends with the following:
"To me, it is about "human capital," as opposed to "finance capital," "social Darwinist" or "free market" capitalism. It promotes policies that focus on the investment of capital in the empowerment of human beings, who are, in fact, by far the most valuable commodity and potential source of new wealth and stability on the planet."
Thursday, October 22, 2009
This post from Ed Brayton illustrates why I like him so much. He is a logical thinker who is able to explain things well. In this post he talks about something I've thought for a long time. EVERYONE is biased, no one is objective. The best way to handle it is to admit one's biases so that others can take them into account.
Um.... who cares? See this article from which I take the following quote:
"Black Americans have shed blood in every American war since the Revolution. This country, even the very Capitol building in which today's legislators now demand to see the birth certificate of the first black president, was built on the sweat and sinew of slaves. Before we were people in the eyes of the law, before we had the right to vote, before we had a black president, we were here, helping make this country as it is today. We are as American as it gets. And frankly, the time of people who think otherwise is passing. If that's the country Buchanan wants to hold onto, well, he's right, he is losing it.
-- A. Serwer"
On Facebook recently there was a poll on the death penalty. This post from the ACLU points up that the correlation between those who get the death penalty and their race are too pointed to ignore.
Greenwald is sort of a terrorism specialist. In this post he talks about the causes of terrorism, and sees it not as a hatred of our values, but a hatred of what the U.S. has done and how the terrorists interpret those actions such as the support for Israel at all costs, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
|Title||A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen|
|Tags||jane austen, essays, essay collection|
|The book is a collection of essays by academics and authors on Jane Austen. Included are such famous names as Virginia Woolf, Harold Bloom, Lionel Trilling, A. S. Byatt, J.B. Priestley, Anna Quindlen, and more.It is always hard to review a collection of essays, as they tend to be uneven, either in quality or in their level of interest for any particular reader. Editor Carson, however, has from over 100 years worth of material - all the essays seem to be 20th century or later. It is a little hard to tell the exact time span, as nowhere is the date of the original publication given for each essay, and that is a feature I would have appreciated. Editor Susannah Carson chose the essays well... one almost has the sense of an ongoing conversation about Austen by a group of lively dinner guests. The essayists are pretty much all Janeites. Some of them mention common criticisms of Austen, but mostly to refute them. Essays that are about a specific one of the six novels tend to be clustered together.Not all of the essays are about her works. Trilling has an essay on teaching a seminar on Austen that he planned to limit to 20 students, but 140 showed up. He managed to whittle the class down to 40, but was interested in the students' reactions to Austen and why they were so anxious to get into the course.The essays don't all agree with each other. In one instance, an essay is followed by another that says the exact opposite about the same two characters, which turns our dinner conversation into a debate. Others are quite unique; for example, the one by Amy Heckerling is about her turning Austen's novel Emma into the movie Clueless.I must confess that of the six novels I've read only Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, and I've seen the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility. Yet I now feel I understand Jane Austen and her appeal to a widely diverse audience. Perhaps most surprising is the number of male Janeites, as in my mind she was something of an ancestress to chick lit. It would be a shame if she does get pigeon holed that way in the future.The essays have given me a desire to read the novels I haven't yet read, but also to read some of her unpublished works, especially her satirical History of England, written when she was fifteen. Here's a sample, from the piece about Henry VIII:"Nothing can be said in his vindication, but that his abolishing Religious Houses & leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape of England in general."You may now call me a Janeite.|
Foreword – Bloom, Harold
|Publication||Random House (2009), Hardcover, 320 pages|
|ISBN||1400068053 / 9781400068050|
They are buying eggs from suppliers who keep the chickens in cages so small they can't sttretch their wings. According to this source, many of their competitors are moving away from using these kinds of suppliers.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Since this book will probably be a best seller, it is important to note that they are just wrong on climate change..
Friday, October 16, 2009
This post from the OMB points out again something that isn't talked too much about in the health care debate - the amount of waste in our current system. OMB puts the figure at $800 BILLION.of which about $200 billion is excess administrative costs - i.e., mostly the administrative costs of denying people care. There are a lot of potential health care savings that can pay for health care for many people.
I'm catching up with a backlog of posts from the White House blog, such as this one. Lots of these don't make the news, but they tell an important story about the things the Obama administration is doing. Given my earlier post on issues that I disagree with Obama, this is an opportunity to point out that his administration is doing so much right, especially in such areas as sustainability, energy, innovation, science and technology, and more.
...and related issues. See this post from Glenn Greenwald.
Am I glad Obama is the President? Yes, I am. But that doesn't mean I have to agree with him on every issue, and I think that this post shows the pattern of the worst part of Obama's administration so far.
Orly Taitz is the funniest thing to happen in America since the caveman. She has now been hit by a $20,000 fine by the judge who has to keep dealing with her ridiculous lawsuits. His ruling is masterly in what he says to her.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I have seen this story mentioned a few times, though not in the mainstream press. Ed Brayton here gives a good summary of a case where KBR employees beat and raped a co-worker, and because of arbitration rules in her contract, she had great difficulty getting any legal redress. Al Franken has proposed an amendment to fix this situation, and thirty Republicans voted against it.
Monday, October 12, 2009
|Title||Quoth the Raven|
|Tags||mystery, series, gregor demarkian, college, halloween|
|Fourth in the Gregor Demarkian series about a retired FBI agent. Gregor's friend Tibor is teaching at Independent College for a semester and asks Gregor to give a talk on his FBI experiences on Halloween, and to bring Bennis with him. As they arrive, a secretary in Tibor's program falls down in the cafeteria. Gregor recognizes that she has ingested lye and starts to treat her. Meanwhile, a new, really obnoxious professor, has disappeared.Good novel, good series.|
|Publication||Crimeline (1991), Mass Market Paperback|
|ISBN||0553292552 / 9780553292558|
|Title||ACT OF DARKNESS |
|Tags||mystery, series, gregor demarkian, politics|
|Third in the Gregor Demarkian series by Jane Haddam. This one has a complex plot. A U.S. Senator who has been made by his campaign manager is son-in-law of a former Hollywood movie star. These characters and others gather for a weekend at the movie star's house. Gregor and Bennis Hannaford are there because of possible threats to the Senator's life.Did not enjoy this one as much as some of the others. Some parts are beginning to be a bit formulaic. Still, Haddam writes good plots and good characters. I'm going to continue to read the series.|
|Publication||Crimeline (1991), Mass Market Paperback|
|ISBN||055329086X / 9780553290868|
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I watched two movies from my Netflix quieue today. One was a W.C. Fields movie from 1933 called International House. The other was the 1980 movie the Blues Brothers. Oddly enough, they both had something in common - Cab Calloway. I was rather surprised by the song he sang in the 1933 movie.. it was called "Reefer Man" and was about just what you would think it would be about. In the Blues Brothers he did a fantastic version of "Minnie the Moocher".
Obama gave a speech to the Human Rights Campaign dinner last night. HRC is a major LGBT activist group, and this weekend there is a march in Washington for gay rights. Obama's speech was well received, and I hope that he and the Congress can pass the needed legislation, including the Matthew Shepard Act that adds sexual orientation to hate crimes law; a bill repealing the Defense of Marriage Act so that the federal government can offer same sex relationship benefits, and ending employment discrimination. Click on the video link to see a couple of excerpts from Obama's speech and to see a CNN panel of LGBT activists and their reaction to the speech.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
One of the most difficult things to deal with is the pain of a friend. For the second time in two years, my friend Mark has been with me while one of my cats was put to sleep. The first time was hard enough, but this time it was my darling Shannon, and I pretty much fell apart. It would have been impossible to get through without Mark, and I am so very grateful for such a kind and generous friend.
I suppose it is the height of narcissism to post something so personal, but Spider Robinson used to say that shared joy increases and shared pain lessens. Shannon, the older of my two cats (but not quite 9) had kidney failure and she was put to sleep today. She was the most loving cat I've ever known. She used to rub her face against mine and purr. She came to me from the Good Mews no kill cat shelter in town, and I've had her for less than two years. Damn it, it wasn't long enough, though I am so very grateful for the time I did have with her. Tonight I feel like I'd rather be dead than live on without her. That will pass, but oh, she was my heart's darling and the best thing, other than family and friends, to ever happen to me.
Blessed be, sweet girl. I will miss you. Be happy and I'll see you anon.
|Tags||mystery, series, gregor demarkian, roman catholicism|
|Second in the Gregor Demarkian series. I read the last in this series and enjoyed it so much I'm working through the whole series. Gregor is a retired FBI profiler of serial killers. He retired during his wife's final illness and now, being retired and a widower, he is at loose ends. A Catholic Cardinal asks him to investigate a case in a parish in Colchester, New York. A woman died there, apparently a suicide, but the Cardinal and one of the homicide detectives think it was murder. Demarkian attends a service the day after he arrives, and the priest, Andy Walsh, a rebellious stirrer of trouble, drinks from the chalice and dies in front of the large congregation.Well-written book, both in plot and characters, but not as much my cup of tea as the other two in the series I've read.|
|Publication||Crimeline (1991), Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages|
|ISBN||0553289136 / 9780553289138|