Monday, April 22, 2019


So for a brief moment this morning MAGA Americans were losing their damn minds because a couple of politicians said that those killed in Sri Lanka yesterday were "Easter worshipers."

"How much do they hate Christians?" one demanded. "They can't even say our name!"

"Yeah! We don't worship EASTER. Say it RIGHT: we're Christian worshipers."

I asked if by that he meant that they worshiped Christians, and he blocked me.

Such delicate flowers, these fellas.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Chag Sameach

Last night was our Seder. Theoretically, tonight should be the second Seder, but we've never done that.

Uncle Charger and the Kid's roommate, Clover, came down to celebrate with us. Despite the somewhat grim nature of the Passover holiday, which is about remembering that Jews were slaves in Egypt, and celebrating their escape from that slavery, it's always been one of my favorites of the holiday.

I think Rosh Hashanah is my favorite, and then Passover, and then Hanukkah. We almost never celebrate Purim, or that might be one of my favorites as well.

The Seder, though, with its set form and yearly rituals (one of the questions our Haggadah asks, for instance, is for everyone to tell how their ancestors came to America -- retelling these stories each year, with new stories as new people join our table, this is very comforting), and the fairly terrible food (the food of affliction), it makes me happy every year.

This year the food was

  • a roast chicken and 
  • grilled asparagus
  • Matzo ball soup (all of these were excellent) 
  • potato kugel (okay) 
  • brownies of afflication (brownies made with matzo-based cake flour)
  • gefilte fish (I am not a fan)
  • also KFP wine, which Uncle Charger brought, and which was excellent -- wine from Israel, instead of the grape-jelly-flavored KFP wine which is all that is available here in the fort.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Glenn Beck's Overton Window Chapters 21-26

I'll be honest with y'all, this part of the book is really, really, really boring. If I'd been Beck's Ghost Writer's Editor, most of this would have been cut.

Chapter 20

You'll remember when we last left Noah and Molly, they'd just found out about the Big Conspiracy to Take Over America By...Somebody I Guess It Was Noah's Daddy? I Don't Know.

Why would a PR firm want to take over the country? Surely there's more money in letting -- say -- Donald Trump take over the country, and then snookering him into looting the place for you.

Whatever. Molly takes Noah to see "how the other half lives," except that's more like 90% these days, but okay, and also, that's not where she actually takes him. Instead they go through a Sekrit Doorway into a Sekrit Hiding Place, one of the Freedom Fighter's hideouts. It has all these elaborate rooms, all built "with love and ingenuity."

How can Noah tell that? Well, he just can.

There are bookshelves. These contain all sorts of books, including the worst of Orson Scott Card, a John Birch society handbook, and a pile of men's adventure novels survivalist guides.

Hollis in one of them loading his own ammo, because it is tastier that way (I'm not kidding, that's the explanation we get, just like homemade cookies are tastier than storebought, ammo you load yoursef is better because...homemade, I guess?)

Also there a boardroom sort of place where some of the Freedom Fighters are cosplaying Founding Fathers. It turns out, just like in Fahrenheit 451, each Freedom Fighter memorizes some text written by the Founding Fathers, so that it will Not Be Lost From History.

Why don't they just buy some copies of the books? Yeah, I don't know either.

Molly recites the most common bit from Thomas Paine, the part about the summer soldier. Noah has never heard this before. Because he didn't grow up in the USA and wasn't educated in an American school.

That's the thing about Noah. Sometimes -- as in the opening chapters -- he's an utter dope, both stupid and ignorant. And sometimes, as when he gave that little speech in the bar, he's super competent, highly educated, and brilliant.

And then back to being an dumber than a box of hammers. "Thomas Paine? Who's he?"

Also, he's read Dale Carneige. I mean, oh, my God.

Molly fetches Noah some sweet tea. There's some chat about it being sweet tea. Because she's from the South. In case you forgot.

Then they argue about the 2nd Amendment, basically so Beck's Ghost Writer can make all the bone-headed points every gun nut makes.

Then -- plot twist! -- Noah passes out. THE TEA WAS ROOFIED.

Oh, Molly. Weren't you just trying to bone this guy last night? You heartless slut.

Chapter 22

Back to Kearns and Danny. Apparently Danny's going to do some undercover mission with a fake nuclear bomb. Kearns back there in Chapter 16-17 seemed to be working for the FBI. In fact, as I recall, he had a government jet at his command.

But now he claims to be working all on his own. He's been "out in the cold" so long, only one guy still knows he works for the government.

It must be the guy who has the keys to the jet.

Also they eat breakfast in a farmhouse. Why? I don't know. I'm not even sure why this chapter is in the book. Maybe so Glenn Beck's ghostwriter can say "out in the cold," thus demonstrating to you that he knows all about Real Spy Stuff.

Chapter 23

Kearns and Danny make a phone call to set up the meet. The guys they're going to sell the fake nuclear weapon fanboy all over Danny. Because he's a big YouTube star and terrorists planning to blow up things with nuclear weapons love YouTube stars.

(Is Danny supposed to be Rush Limbaugh? Or Louder with Crowder? Or Alex Jones? IDK, and this is so stupid I don't care.)

Chapter 24

Kearns and Danny drive to the meet. On the way, Kearns stops the car so Danny can see what stars look like outside a city. Apparently Danny, though he is a famous YouTube Star and Freedom Fighter, has never left the city, or at least never looked up when he was outside a city.

Kearns says it's important to know the stars are there. Because stars = heaven.


They get to the meet, which is being held in someone's garage, apparently, and uh-oh, trouble: only four of the five guys they're supposed to meet are there.

I think this is another plot twist?

Chapter 25

But apparently not, because they all sit down to talk. Missing Fifth Guy is away on a business trip. (Didn't they just set up the meet like 90 minutes ago?)

There is some chat about Zionist bankers.

(Side note: This is one problem with this book. Danny starts out being cast as a bad guy. Now, apparently, he's a good guy, sort of? But a dupe of Kearns, who is a good guy, maybe? And they're setting up these guys, who are buying nuclear weapons, so...bad guys? But no one's character is consistent, and every now and then someone who is supposed to be one of the heroes will say something about Zionist bankers or global conspiracy or some other coded (barely coded) speech for Them Evil Jews. It's hard to know how Beck's Ghost Writer means us to read all this. Or if he or Beck even understands what they're saying.)

After the anti-Semitic bonding is done with, Kearns shows them the bomb.

Why did he need Danny here again? You got me.

And then -- plot twist! -- we find out who the terrorists are going to blow up, with a fucking nuclear weapon: the Senate Majority Leader.

Why would you need a nuclear weapon to do this? How would you get a nuclear weapon into the office of such a person?

Who knows, who cares. I'm guessing Beck is planning to use this as his Reichstag Fire, to kick off Martial Law and Concentration Camps and the Death of America, but we're 60% through the book. I mean, come on.

Frankly, it should have started with the nuclear weapon. If we're going to actually explode this weapon, I mean.

Chapter 26

Kearns and Danny drive away, not having sold the nuclear weapon to the terrorist fanboys. Kearns thinks the fanboys are up to no good -- maybe the missing one ISN'T away on business, but is planning to ambush them.

Or something.

Apparently there's going to be another meet tomorrow, to actually sell them the weapon (why? Why not sell it to them tonight? What idiot wrote this book), but first we have to hear Kearns' life story.

Danny literally asks for it. "We've got a long drive," he says.

The next chapter seems to be Kearns's life story. What the actual F.

More in a few days, if I can stand it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


This is nice -- not the theft, I mean, the recovery

This is a trailer, more or less, but so cool

Erik Loomis is an American hero

A quiz! (I honestly don't know what to make of this.)

Researching something else and came across this guy -- the American prison system is legalized slavery, and we shouldn't ever forget that

See also this

I've seen this happen to too many people.

I don't know who's pushing this 4% number, but every white nationalist on FB has been screeching it lately

Who really erases history:

Also, I want this crow to come hang around my office and talk to me:

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What I'm Reading

Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire

I read about this book on several SF blogs I follow, and saw it mentioned by I don't know how many people on Twitter -- everyone raving about it -- so when I spotted it among the new purchases at my library I snatched it up.

The raves weren't wrong. This is a wonderful book.

It is not an easy read. If it hadn't been for all those accolades, in fact, I probably would not have pushed past the first 20 pages, which are dense and require a lot of faith on the part of the reader. This, as the title suggests, is a book about complex politics. It's a science fiction book, obviously, so they're alien politics. And the cultures involved, though human, are weirdly human. (Though this is one of the best parts of the book, once you're past those first few pages.)

There's also a f/f romance, and a delightful friendship, or rather more than one, and and wonderful writing.

And there's an index/glossary/list of characters at the back of the book, thank God.  As with Russian novels, I read this one with two bookmarks, one in the index, and one to mark my place in the text.

Highly recommended.

Mary Norris, Greek to Me

In a world in which I was obscenely wealthy, or at least one in which I didn't have to earn a living and universities were free, here is what I would do with my life: first I would get a PhD in Greek. Then I would get one in Latin. Then I would get one in Linguistics. Then I would get one in Anthropology. (Probably cultural anthropology, though physical anthropology and linguistic anthropology both hold their attractions.) Then...

My point is, when I saw this book, Greek to Me, on the shelf at my library, I snatched it up with small squeaks of delight. Mary Norris worked as a copy editor at the New Yorker for years; during her tenure there, the magazine paid for her to take classes in both modern and classical Greek (can you hear me burning with envy from way over here?). She also traveled extensively in Greece on her extensive vacations. Five and six week vacations. This is apparently what the world used to be like. (Burning with envy.)

This book is a collection of essays about her experiences: with the languages; of her travels in Greece; about her reading classical Greek and modern Greek texts; about her life in general. The essays are hit and miss, but you can skip the ones you don't like so much and go on to the ones more to your taste. (I did.)

Mette Ivie Harrison, Mira, Mirror

Image result for mette ivie harrison Mira, MirrorMy initial impression, as I read through the first pages of this YA novel, was that it was going to be a retelling of Snow White from the point of view of the mirror.

But Harrison subverts our expectations at every turn. It's true we're in the point of view of the mirror, very soon. But Snow White gets barely a mention, and the horrific betrays the mirror commits (and some of them are so horrific I almost stopped reading) turn the plot in new directions, mainly due to the surprising strength of the two young women who are the main characters, and the love and strength of the father of one of the young women.

I don't want to give spoilers, and I can only recommend this one like 98%, because the ending doesn't entirely work, I think; but the rest of it is very, very good. The rest of it is work reading despite the ending. And I'm certainly going to look for more of this writer's work.

Lori Gottlieb, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

This is a memoir, or maybe creative non-fiction. Gottlieb is a therapist who finds herself in need of therapy. This book is a narrative of her therapy, and also a narrative of her work as a therapist with several patients. (She got permission from the patients, and also changed a number of details, but this still seems a little unethical to me. I know I wouldn't want my therapist writing books about what happens in my therapy sessions. But she did get permission from her clients, so.)

It's a good book, and beside being entertaining and skillfully constructed, with plot-lines and character arcs and dramatic reveals (Gottlieb's initial career was as a story editor in Hollywood) it actually has something to say about the human psyche -- what we do with trauma, how it fucks us up, what we can do about that, why therapy works.

You kind of have to be interested in that, in trauma and fucked-up-edness and what to do about it for this book to be really good; but it's also good in the way reading Freud is, for the deep dive into the human mind.

It's also the story of a certain sort of life (a middle and then upper class woman) in a certain time (late 20th to early 21st century) in a certain place (Southern California/Hollywood). That part is also worth reading.

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home

A fer days ago, you might remember, Pete Buttigieg told us his ten favorite books. The internet being what it is, people immediately began to mock him, especially for his first choice, James Joyce's Ulysses, which I also think is one of the most overrated books on the planet, but never mind, that's not the point of this post.

The point of this post is someone on the Twitter then claimed that he would rather read Ulysses over and over than read any graphic novel.

Apparently he was joking, but Twitter being Twitter people lost their damn minds. 

That's not the point of this story either. The point is, his tweet got like 700 responses, most of them recommendations for brilliant graphic novels, and one of which was Bechdel's Fun Home, which I hadn't read in a long while.

So I re-read that yesterday. I'd forgotten what a large part Ulysses plays in it, by the way. Deeply ironic!

This is Bechdel's big breakaway work, the one that made her famous, and for good reason. It's brilliant. Brilliant structure, brilliant art, brilliantly written. It's autobiographical, the story of Alison's father and their family -- mostly the father and Alison, both of whom are gay, and the two houses that stand as metaphors for their lives, the immense Victorian house her father spends most of his life restoring, and the funeral home (the "fun" home) where her father works part time "restoring" bodies, preparing them for their viewing.

The book covers Alison's life from early childhood through early adulthood. There's a companion novel about her mother, Are You My Mother? which is also brilliant, though in a different way. If you haven't read these, you should. And well before you read Ulysses (or Uselesslys, as we call it around our house).

Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver

I've read this one before, but it's been nominated for a Hugo, so I read it again. Even better this time.

This is an excellent and ripping yarn, filled with engaging characters (lots of them women characters), re-imagined and sometimes inverted myths and fairytales, mixed in with Jewish shtetl life and a high stakes plot.

Very readable, as Novik's books always are. If I was voting for the Hugo's this year, this one would be high on my list.


...speaking of uneducated potatoes!

It's our man Glenn!


To show you the depth of lunacy we're reaching on the Right, I posted on FB yesterday about Notre Dame burning, sharing this photograph of the cathedral:

Image may contain: indoor

Almost everyone replied with their grief, or some story about how their students came to them for comfort.

But this uneducated potato --

“My heart has not even skipped a beat knowing that an ancient church I've never seen in my entire life except for in Disney movies has caught on fire….don't let this distract you from the fact that thousands of people perished in 9/11 and we now know who is too blame and still have not rose against the tyranny of the government and the one's who really own this country."
Bless his heart.

Some Good News

The damage to Notre Dame was not complete -- it did not "burn to the ground" -- though it was bad enough.

Those fighting the fire managed to save many of its treasures.

And not only were the Rose Windows saved, so were many of the other windows.

The worst damage was to the part where the fire started -- the part being rebuilt. Which makes sense.

It will take years to rebuild, but the rebuilding can include what earlier generations did not: fire prevention technology:

Any reconstruction of Notre Dame will surely involve fire engineering to protect the iconic building from any future fire, according to Professor Guillermo Rein, Professor of Fire Science, Imperial College London.
He added that fire engineers will then consider a combination of layers of protection (prevention, detection, evacuation, compartmentation, suppression and endurance).“Note that the previous timber roof that burnt last night was relying only on one single layer: prevention,” he said.
“The roof was known to be flammable, but they avoided the arrival of ignition sources. Unfortunately, it seems that the renovation works might have brought the ignition source which might have caused the accidental initial fire. I think the roof space had no detection, difficult evacuation, no compartmentation, no suppression, and no endurance.”

So yes, the source of the fire was an accident caused during the construction work. Not terrorism. Not a 'sign' about Christianity's collapse, or the decadent West, or what Islam is going to do to us all.

That won't stop the MAGA Americans, though, who are taking no pleasure in finding their hateful predictions are wrong:

Monday, April 15, 2019


Here is how to respond to something so terrible:

And here:

Not spreading lies.

Not engaging in hateful nonsense.

Responding to loss with beauty and grief.


While the cathedral was still burning, while most of us were filled with shock and grief, those on the Right began their old attempts to gin up a holy war.

Over at Rod Dreher's hate-blog, he hinted that the fire might have been caused by terrorism. Of course, his readership took that hint and ran.

More than one has suggested that no matter what anyone says -- even if those on the scene report (as they are reporting) that the fire was caused by a construction accident, "we" should not believe "them." They want an excuse to hate immigrants.

No, let's be blunt. They want an excuse to kill immigrants.

And others are nearly as bad. This fire is a "sign," it means something about the "end" of Christianity.

Oh my God.

This is why it's important to understand logic and reason. This is why you have to be so careful with your sources. If you're getting your information from uneducated potatoes or hate-mongers like Dreher and Fox News, I'm sure this accident being a "sign" sounds very reasonable.

Honestly, I wanted one minute to sit and grieve the loss of all that art and beauty. Instead I had to be smacked in the face with hate and bullshit, yet again.

It's not the end of Christianity. It's a deluge of willful ignorance, swamping my beloved country.

Our leader chips in:

A museum.

Earlier, he gave advice to Parisian firemen -- why didn't they fly over the cathedral and "waterbomb" it?

Securite Civile claps back:

Sunday, April 14, 2019

What is the University?

Or, I guess, why is the university? That's what I'm really thinking about here.

Is it to provide a ticket to a job? That's how it's often sold, as if the university is some sort of elaborate vending machine. Get this degree, get a well-paying job.

To be clear, I'm not opposed to people getting good jobs with decent pay. And certainly one reason I've encouraged my kid to get a degree is that he'll be more employable with one than without one.

But is that why we educate people? So that they can have jobs? Is that why universities exist?

Because if that is what a university is for, then the MAGA Americans and Evangelical parents who send their kids to my school are right. They don't need to study silly subjects like literature and humanities and Spanish. We shouldn't even be a university. We should be a trade school. You should send your kid to school to learn nursing, or welding, or automotive repair, or how to repair motherboards, or accounting -- whatever skillset their future job will require -- stamp their certificate, and put them in the workplace.

Let me be clear. There is nothing wrong with schools like that.

My father went to a school like that. He got an excellent job as a chemical engineer, worked for NASA on the moon landings and the shuttle program, and then later became a vice president for an oil company. He did very well financially.

Are schools like that universities?

They really aren't. Do we want all of our schools to be those schools?

That's something we need to decide. And I'm not talking about losing skillsets. If we just need, for instance, to teach people geology, or how to speak Spanish, there are much better ways to teach that than in a university.

I'm talking about the liberal arts education, which is why we built the university, back in 1100 AD (a bit earlier in some places, a bit later in others). Liberal was the key word then, and in order to make someone liberal -- able to be a free man -- we taught him the seven arts: grammar, logic, rhetoric, math, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Over the time, we've changed the arts part of the liberal arts; but we still have this idea. We still have a notion that there is a certain curriculum (a course, a route) people need to take if they are to be able to think and reason like free human beings.

What is that curriculum, that route?

(1) You've got to learn to reason -- that is, you've got to know how to build an argument based on logic, without fallacies; you've got to know the difference between a good source and a bad source, and how to select evidence to support your argument accordingly. You've got to be willing to make decisions based on what this evidence shows you.

(2) You've got to learn how science works -- what constitutes proof, what a theory is, how we "know" something as opposed to how we simply think we know something, what the scientific method is, what data is and isn't, how science reacts when the evidence changes. You've got to be able to read and understand scientific papers. You've got to be able to make decisions based on what scientific evidence says.

(3) You've got to know how to read literature and how to look at art and how to listen to music. You have to know what literature, art, and music are. You have to understand why this matter.

(4) You must know math, enough to be scientifically and economically literate.

(5) You must be able to communicate, both in speech and in writing, lucidly and effectively, about all of these things. You must be able to persuade, with logic and evidence, but also with pathos.

(6) You must know history -- what has happened, why it happened. Also, you must know philosophy, psychology, and economics. Without these, history cannot possibly be understood.

(7) You must know at least two languages other than your own well enough to read and speak fluently.

That's a liberal arts education, and that's the basics. 

And that's what is being steadily stripped away from our universities, in a quest to make them "competitive."

Competitive with what? Well, with the trade-school type universities, for one; but mostly here 'competitive' means 'affordable.'

It's no secret that a university education has become unaffordable for all but the obscenely wealthy. My kid's education is costing, with room and board, just under $20,000 a year. He has a small scholarship, and because he went to an in-state school, we get a tuition rebate. He doesn't have a car, he lives on grits and apples, and he has a roommate. That is simply how much it costs.

In our case, the kid's grandparents started a college fund, which is paying most of the cost. (I buy groceries sometimes, and I bought the kid's laptop.) But many, many students end up working full-time, as well as taking out massive loans.

Image result for universities cartoon

So you can see why there's a big push to pare down the curriculum -- to make it easier for students to complete it more quickly and more easily.

More quickly, so as to need fewer semesters in college and thus fewer loans.

More easily, because someone working full-time has no time to study.

This is all understandable.

What do we lose, though, when we turn the university into a trade school? When we pare away three hours of required history here, six hours of required humanities there, the political science requirement, the upper-level science requirement...

We graduate engineers who can build a bridge -- which is good! We need bridges! -- but who can't tell a good source from a bad source when they click on an internet link.

We graduate dental hygienists who are lovely people and wonderful at cleaning teeth, which again is a skill we need, but who will vote against a bill to put fluoride in our drinking water because they can't reading a scientific paper and evaluate its claims, so they listen to what their friends on FB say about it.

We graduate marketing majors who never took a history or a political science class, much less a philosophy class, so when a politician tells them immigrants are 'animals,' why, they see nothing alarming in such speech.

We create a country filled with people watching Fox News and reading absolutely nonsense (see Rod Dreher) who honestly can't tell that what they're reading is propaganda -- who can't tell facts from bullshit, and don't even want to try.

When my kid was little, his teachers asked him what church we went to. (This is a standard question in the South, as all y'all from the South know.) He came home and asked me. Amusing myself, I told him to tell his teacher we go to the church of books.

"Oh," the teacher said when the kid repeated this. "Are y'all Mormons?"

Oh my God.

But my point was, I do go to the church of books. My faith is this: I believe that education is our only hope. It's the only thing that has ever done any good, the only thing made this world any better. 

Not always. Not every time.

But it's the one thing that does work.

Only if we do it right, though. And here in the USA, especially lately, we're doing every damn thing we can to make sure we do it exactly wrong.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Rich and the Poor Alike Are Allowed to Post $12,000 Bail

I've been thinking about this story.

Image result for comics bail bondsIt's the Guardian, so no paywall, and you can click through, but the basics are this: It's Austin, Texas. A woman is waiting for her food at a food truck, as you do in Austin. Another woman, Gina Guidry, approaches, asking for money.

This is fairly common in my city, so I imagine it's fairly common in Austin as well. People usually have a riff -- their kid has diabetes and they need money for insulin, or their car is out of gas, or they don't have money for groceries. Maybe it's true, maybe they want to buy meth. I don't know, and I don't care. I always give them a couple of bucks.

But if you don't, that's fine. We all do our own moral calculus.

This person at the food truck didn't. And Guidry started yelling in her face, and then grabbed a dollar out of her hand. So the woman called the police.

The police show up. Guidry has gone nowhere. She still hanging out by the food truck, which tells you, I think, a lot about Guidry's mental and emotional capacity. The woman points her out: "That's her. She took my dollar."

The police arrested Guidry, and charged her with a felony. Sure, it was only a dollar, but "theft from the person" is a felony in Texas.

Also the bail for that is $12,000. Which obviously Guidry doesn't have.

So Guidry is being held in jail, awaiting trial -- which as we know means she can be held for years -- at the expense of the state, at the expense of what we can guess is her already fragile mental health, and toward what end?

I'm not saying whoever this woman who called the police on Guidry was wrong. It sounds like Guidry is probably not firing on all cylinders, and I'm sure the experience was terrifying for the woman who was attacked.

But putting people in jail because they are poor and damaged is surely not the best we can do as a society. And keeping them in jail for years because they are poor and damaged, so that we can then give them a trial and sentence them to -- what? What is the appropriate sentence for grabbing a dollar out of another woman's hand?

I'll add, also, that this story only happens because our economy is so broken. If we had resources for the poor, the addicted, and the damaged, Guidry wouldn't be wandering the streets begging for dollars, or screaming in women's faces at taco trucks. And if she was, there would be places we could take her that aren't Texas jails.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Real Life Drama at the delagar Household

The two cats converge on my chair, where I am busily writing my novel, my earphones on, Steve Earle singing about laying his guitar down in my ears. They are staring intently upwards.

This is never a good sign.

I twist around in the chair toward the window to see what has caught their attention.

Holy hell, it's wasp.

I leap from the chair, spilling my laptop and coffee and dignity. Two minutes later, the wasp is smashed, the dog has fled in terror and the cats are watching me from the Way High Up.

"Why did you let a wasp in the house?" I demand of them. "What kind of cats are you?"

They regard me with disdain. Obviously wasps are my department.

Cold Hard Truth

Fact-checking Trump's many, many lies is pointless.

MAGA Americans -- and those who get their "news" from the National Review, or Fox News, or similar sources -- could not possibly care less that Trump is lying. They do not care about evidence, they do not care about reliable sources, they do not care what is objectively true or objective false. They care about hearing things that reinforce their smug and delusional worldview.

And the rest of us already know that if Trump is talking, he is lying.

The best move any serious news outlet could make would be to ignore Trump as much as possible, while covering the serious contenders for the 2020 election.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Watching Legally Blonde

So I was watching Legally Blonde on Netflix last night, partly because I had vicious insomnia and partly because so many people were talking about it Twitter, and there's this one scene where Elle is talking to wossname, the guy she's in love with (or thinks she's in love with) and thinks she wants to marry.

He says law school is a lot of work, and she agrees and wow, it'll be hard to handle the workload and this prestigious internship they're all competing for in the fall. Wossname smile patronizingly and says, "Oh, Elle."

She asks what he means, and he says well, come on. It's not like you really have a chance at getting that internship.

It's an epiphany for her -- that even though she's always made straight A's, even though she scored higher than he did on the LSAT, even though she got into Harvard Law on her own, while he had to use his father's influence to get in -- even so, he still thinks he's smarter than she is.

That made me go hah, because I remember so many of those exact moments, with my older brother; and my younger brother (not with my youngest brother); and guys I dated, and guys in my classes -- all of whom I was regularly outscoring on exams, all of whom I was surpassing academically in every way, all of whom I could outwit in arguments, all of whom I knew more than in many fields. Yet every one of them was sure they were smarter than me. I remember pointing out to one of these guys that cars were so dangerous because of the high speed, how the mass of objects within the car impacted at immense force when the car stopped unexpected in an accident. This is simply physics. "That's what does the damage," I told him. "That impact. That's why you should wear your seatbelt."

"Oh, bullshit," he said to me -- certain I was wrong. Why? Because he was male and I was female and obviously that meant I was wrong.

Then there was the guy in Greek class, a student of around my age who kept arguing with me about translations, this despite the fact that I was always right and that I always got higher grades on the exams than he did. (He finally got so pissed off he dropped the class.)

And my brother, who took took the same math class I did in college (finite math*) the year after I did, who was sure that if I could make an A in the class, obviously he didn't even need to study. (He flunked the class, do I need to add? Finite math ain't calculus, but you do need to pay some attention.)

And so many male students in my classes, who don't bother to read the texts, since if it's something a girl is teaching, pssh, how hard can it be?

And so on.

At this point, it doesn't bother me. Hard heads don't learn. Their loss. But it does make me roll my eyes when people worry about the poor men and how hard life is for them these days. As if.

*I love finite math.

New Post on Cooking with Delagar

Because I knew you wanted the recipe: Rum Raisin Soda Bread

Review of Attack the Block over on my Patreon

New post up on my Patreon! It's a review of Attack the Block, and you can read it for free.

Also, a reminder! For only $3/month, you can read a new chapter of my novel and tons of other content every week, while also supporting a working artist. What a deal!

Saturday, April 06, 2019

A List

These are the Household Chores, in the order of I Hates Them to I Don't Minds Them To I Likes Them Well Enough

1. Cleaning the Bathroom (duh, who likes this one)
2. Cleaning the cat boxes
3. Vacuuming
4. Putting away laundry
5. Mowing the lawn/raking the leaves
6. Taking the car to get its oil changed
7. Scrubbing pots and pans
8. Scrubbing the kitchen floor
9. Scrubbing the stove and counters in the kitchen
10. Unloading the dishwasher
11. Loading the dishwasher
12. Doing the laundry
13. Cooking
14. Buying groceries
15. Taking the dog for his walk

What I really like to do, as all y'all know, is sit in my chair and read SF fiction novels, also write science fiction novels, also drink coffee. Anything that interferes with that is an irritant and an annoyance. But some things are less annoying than others.

For instance, I just made soda bread with rum-soaked raisins in it. Because a writer's gotta eat, after all.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Glenn Beck's Overton Window Chapters 16-20

More of this stupid book. We still don't get to concentration camps. What even the hell is this book about?

Chapter 16

Some guy named Stuart Kearns from the FBI shows up to ask for one of the people who got arrested. Glenn Beck's ghost writer plays it like it's a big mystery who he's here to see, but I guessed right away it was Danny Bailey, so I won't even pretend it was suspenseful. Stuart is a kind of a jerk, and I don't know if we're supposed to know he's a jerk or think he's a world-weary tough guy. He's been married like six times, he doesn't get along with other law enforcement officers, blah blah, all the cliches.

Anyway, he reads Danny's files, and we find out Danny's back story, which is also filled with cliches, except that Danny has been investigated by a Joint Commission on Terrorism for things he'd said on his "ham radio show," which, seriously, oh my God.

Also, Stuart ruminates about how, these days, "even the most liberal of politicians" are fine with "preventive detention" for terrorism suspects, which he then goes on to define as "indefinite incarceration" for "thought crimes." This makes me hopeful that we're about to get to the concentration camp part of the book, but nope.

Chapter 17

Instead, Stuart and Danny take a plane ride together. It's a chartered plane, so Stuart can smoke. Apparently this is important, since the Ghost Writer spends a couple of pages on it. (I think the point is that non-smoking planes are an infringement on AMERICAN LIBERTY, but who knows.)

Then Stuart tells Danny that they want him to do something. I am entirely confused about what. I think infiltrate a Terrorist Group? I don't know, because most of the rest of the chapter is spent watching a video Danny made where he dressed up like Colonel Sanders and talked his way into some Congressman's office. This is supposed to prove something, or maybe it's supposed to be funny? It sets up the really hilarious punchline that ends that chapter.

"That's good," Stuart says.

"Oh, Stuart," Danny says, "that's not just good. That's finger-licking good."

(Me: Oh, my God.)

Chapter 18

Back in Noah's palatial apartment, he wakes up to the scent of bacon cooking. Molly has made him breakfast, as a good women does. (And of course it's bacon. What is it with conservatives and bacon?)

There's a charming little breakfast scene where she's too stupid to do the crossword puzzle, so he has to help her out.

Then they go for a walk in Central Park, and stop for coffee, and she asks him what his PR firm would suggest for her group, Patriots R Us. He gives her the usual dumb talking points Conservatives are always suggesting -- a flat tax, Immigration Reform so that The Good Immigrants Can Come and Not the Bad Ones, Cut Spending.

Then he asks what her Patriots R Us Group meant by "saving the country." Saving it from who? he asks.

And she says, very meaningfully, "You know."

Suspenseful music.

Noah claims he doesn't know. She points out there was a meeting at Noah's daddy's firm yesterday. Noah agrees, but says he wasn't there, which sure isn't how I remember that chapter, but okay. Molly asks him to find out what happened.

No, says Noah.

Fine, then I'm leaving forever, says Molly, and gets up and walks away.

Chapter 19

Noah caves, and takes Molly into the Bat Cave through the Sekrit Back Entrance.

Yeah, I'm not kidding. The Most Powerful Man in the world has a Sekrit Back Entrance to his office, and the motherfucker isn't even guarded. You go into it through a department store elevator.

That makes perfect sense, Glenn Beck's Ghost Writer.

Once they're up in the Bat Cave, that's not guarded either. They just walk right in, and all the notes and PowerPoints from the meeting all still lying around the meeting room, as it would be, for a Top Sekrit Meeting like that.

So they power up the PowerPoint and read through the Top Sekrit Plans.

At one point, the Power Point helpfully Explains what the Overton Window is, which is lucky, since Molly is too ignorant to have ever heard of it. Noah explains, with examples.

“And this Overton Window, it’s used all the time?” 
“All the time, everywhere you look. We never let a good crisis go to waste, and if no crisis exists, it’s easy enough to make one. Saddam’s on the verge of getting nuclear weapons, so we have to invade before he wipes out Cleveland. If we don’t all get vaccinated one hundred thousand people will die in a super swine-flu pandemic. And how about fuel prices? Once you’ve paid five dollars for a gallon of gas, three-fifty suddenly sounds like a real bargain. Now they’re telling us that if we don’t pass this worldwide carbon tax right now the world will soon be underwater."

Then the PowerPoint reaches the real dastardly plan:

  • Consolidation of media outlets to a new internationalism.
  • Gather all power to the Executive Branch!
  • Reinforce collectivism and Social Justice!
  • Expand the malleable voter base by granting voting rights to certain groups like ex-felons, migrants, and Puerto Ricans! Label dissenters as racists!
  • Set beneficial globalization against terrorism, climate change, debt crises, and human rights
  • Abandon the dollar! Adopt an international currency!
Abandon the dollar! It's demonic!

Then they come to the end of the slides, which is one single phrase: Casus belli.

"Oh noes," Molly says, and flees.

Chapter 20

Outside, and I kid you not, they see a storm is coming. Noah once again hails a cab, because he's not the son of the richest and most powerful man in the world, and they drive around talking about this huge secret while the cab driver definitely doesn't eavesdrop.

Noah says the Casus Belli hasn't happened, so she should just calm down.

She says it has -- the financial collapse is the Cause of War. (Remember this book was published in 2010, so written in 2009, just after the financial collapse of 2008. The Big Talking point among Conservatives then was that Obama was destroying the world with the Bail-out.)

“They’ve doubled the national debt since 2000," Molly said, "and now with these bailouts, all those trillions of dollars more—that’s our future they just stole, right in front of our eyes. They didn’t even pretend to use that money to pay for anything real, most of it went offshore. They didn’t help any real people; they just paid themselves and covered their gambling debts on Wall Street.” 
Noah says they'll be okay, meaning he will be okay, since he's his daddy's boy, and that since he loves Molly, she'll be okay. But Molly says no one will be okay.

We are now 50% of the way through the book.

I am starting to think we are not going to get to the concentration camps in this book.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Glenn Beck's Overton Window Chapters 13-

God, this book. I'll just warn you, we don't get to the concentration camps in this section either, so feel free to skip this bit if you like.

Why can't conservatives write? And why do conservatives want to read this crap? This piece of overwritten drivel has almost 600 5 star reviews on Amazon.

Chapter 13

Noah wakes up in the paddy wagon, Molly cradling his head in her lap. Aw, isn't that sweet? She's such a nurturing woman.

Among other things, this tells me Glenn Beck's ghost writer has never taken a knock in the head. If you're knocked unconscious for longer than a few seconds, you've got serious brain damage. But Noah's Just Fine. Maybe he doesn't have a brain. That would explain a great deal.

Anyway, he ends up in a cell with about sixty other guys, some of them guys from the Freedom Fighters Bar, or whatever it was called, I'm far too bored to go back and check. No one has read him his rights yet. Plus also no one has searched him, or taken away any of his stuff, including his class ring. So we also know that Glenn Beck's Ghost Writer has also never been taken into custody.

Blah blah blah, Noah -- for some reason him and no one else -- gets yanked out of the cell and threatened with about six different felony charges, but luckily his lawyer shows up right then, and says he's pulled strings and has arranged to get everything dropped.

But meanwhile. Noah has seen, through the window in the interview room (luckily the interview room has a window) all the infiltrators from the Freedom Fighters Bar, including the one who shot at Danny, standing in a big circle laughing and chatting with several police officers. (One of them is wearing a Confederate Flag patch, because of course the Real Racists are Progressives Pretending to be Conservatives.) OH NOES. It is a False Flag!

He cries about this to his lawyer, who shrugs. So what, his lawyer says. Grow up, you big baby.

"News flash, son: there’s no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, and no Legal Fairy who cares about what you think you saw. Injustice exists in this world, and while you’re lucky enough to be insulated from the worst of it, most people aren’t.” He patted Noah on the arm. “Your righteous indignation is noted and filed. Now let's get out of here." 

But Noah refuses to leave unless the lawyer gets everyone else from the Freedom Fighters' Bar off the hook too. So the lawyer agrees to do that, though it means getting Noah's daddy involved. Fine, Noah says. Go ahead.

Chapter 14

Noah gets out of jail. Out on the street, he meets up first with Hollis, who thanks him humbly. Noah asks him what time it is, and Hollis -- I kid you fucking not -- tells time by the stars for him.

I mean oh my God. Give me a fucking break. I know Hollis is supposed to be this Magical Middle American Wise Man, but (a) who the actual fuck tells time by the stars these days and (b) he's in New York city now, not Arkansas, so the stars will be different and (c) PLEASE.

Anyway. Then Molly's mama and Molly come up to be grateful also and Noah gives them a ride home in his limo. He tells them he doesn't always ride around in a limo. I'm wondering why he doesn't. He's the son of the richest man in the USA, after all. Why would he ever ride in anything else (a) and also (b) where are his bodyguards?

Anyway, he drops Molly's mom at her hotel and he and Molly stop at a restaurant where he orders curbside meals that they eat in the limo, chicken and waffles, which he calls "Al Sharptons," not racist at all. Molly is from the South but she has never heard of chicken and waffles.  Okay.

Noah tells Molly about his Dad's life. His daddy, as it turns out, is a Rhodes Scholar, just like Bill Clinton, and also a disciple of Edward Bernays -- the Jewish Svengali who started the whole eeevil practice of PR. (See, Jews really DO control everything!)

I bet you didn't know that Goebels had Bernays' book on his nightstand! Noah tells Molly, who is appropriately awed.

Bernays…believed it was the responsibility of the elites in society to manipulate the general public into decisions they weren’t smart enough to make on their own, by whatever means necessary. His vision for this country, for the world, really, was a huge, benevolent nanny state, a plutocracy, where the people would be spoon-fed in every aspect of their simple, dreary lives. He’d show them how to vote, what to eat, what to love and hate, what to think, and when to think it. And, God help us all, my father took those lessons to heart 

At this point, Noah abruptly changes the subject and says, oh, and also my mom was at Woodstock. I've seen her in the movie. She's naked and making out with this guy. Even more abruptly, Molly climbs into his lap and asks to come home with him.


Yeah, you got me. But that's what happens.

Chapter 15

In this chapter, we find out Noah lives in a big fancy apartment and that he's very odd.

He takes Molly home with him. It's a very big apartment, across the street from the French Embassy. Molly is such a hick that she thinks the French embassy is his apartment. Also they meet the ex-governor of New York in the lobby. Noah is fancy and rich, get it?

He send her to his spare room to sleep, but she comes to his bedroom, dressed in nothing but his old lacrosse shirt, cuddles up under the covers and throws her bare leg over him.

"Don't tease the panther," he tells her.

She is obviously coming on to him. But he just keeps reading his book. And she just goes to sleep.

I have no idea what the scene is supposed to mean. Noah is a gentleman? Molly is... stupid?

It's a bizarre scene, and this is not how humans behave.

We are 40% of the way through the book, according to my Kindle. Here's hoping something happens soon.

Monday, April 01, 2019

What I'm Reading Now

Ann Leckie, The Raven Tower

Ann Leckie wrote the award-winning and deservedly famous Imperial Radch Trilogy. This is a stand-alone book, told in what appears at first to be the second person (spoilers: it's actually from the point of view of a god).

The god is one of many in this fantasy world, in which the gods are able to act in the world, but only in limited ways -- acting uses their strength, which can be renewed through offerings and sacrifices and apparently other less clear ways. And they cause actions by speaking, and what they say becomes truth, so that they must be careful what they say, since if they say something that's impossible, their strength can be sucked away, in an attempt to make the thing true.

The god of Strength and Patience, who is speaking this story, is relating what they think is the story of Eolo, the aid to the heir to the Lease of the Raven (another god). The heir, Mawat, is a sulky, brilliant, and bad-tempered young man. He has been summoned back from the wars because his father is dying, and arrives to find his uncle on the Bench (the throne, more or less).

Ah, Hamlet, we are thinking. And yes, Leckie has Hamlet as her starting point. But what a brilliant version of Fantasy Hamlet this is.

Eolo, a trans man, is more active than Shakespeare's Horatio, and a great deal more interesting as a character. Tikaz, the Ophelia figure, is so much more interesting and active than Ophelia. And using a god as our narrator is a brilliant move.

The god takes us back and forth through history, weaving the past into the present so that we understand not just this story, but how this story came to be, this world's panoramic history.

I'm not a big fan of fantasy, as all y'all know, but this one's worth the read.

Jenna Glass, The Women's War

This is a science fiction novel which combines the intrigue of British court history with magic with the Handmaid's Tale with a Romance novel. The basic plot is that, in a Handmaid's style world, an oppressed but brilliant woman casts a spell putting women's fertility more or less in their control -- women no longer conceive children unless they sincerely want a child. Some side effects appear, including one giving women who have been raped the ability to do death magic.

For all its derivative nature, this novel is pretty good. That's probably due to the character development -- Glass is quite good at switching point of view while keeping us on board, so that we'll get an understanding of a situation from one character's point of view, and then another understanding of the situation from another character's point of view. This not only helps develop the characters, it gives us a deeper understanding of the political situation in this fantasy universe.

Also Glass avoids demonizing even her villains -- we may not like what they're doing, but we understand entirely why they do it. Their motives as not "BWAHAHA I'M EVIL," but legitimate (if flawed) motives.

The main characters, all women, are also very well done. I particularly enjoyed Ellin, a character based loosely on Queen Elizabeth I. The novel is about 900 pages long, but I was never bored once.

Elizabeth Klehfoth, All These Beautiful Strangers

If you like stories set in prep schools for obscenely rich and somewhat sociopathic adolescents, this book's for you.

The plot here concerns an adolescent, Charlie Calloway, whose mother has disappeared, and the mystery around that death. What happened to the mother? Is she dead? Did Charlie's father kill her? Did she run away?

There's also, as we soon learn, another murder in the back story of all these people. Charlie is the prime detective sorting out both murder mysteries, as well as another mystery involving her school.

Given that Charlie, like her father and most of the people around here, is deeply damaged, to the point of being a sociopath, it's hard to really care much about what happens to her, or her mother, or anyone in the book.

If you like stories about prep schools, this one might be for you. The mystery is pretty good, and the writing is nice enough.

Mary Adkins, When You Read This

I'm a sucker for epistolary novels, or anything like epistolary novels, so this book was an automatic read. It consists of emails and letters and blog posts written by (1) a woman who has died of lung cancer before the book begins (2) the woman's angry, high-achieving older sister and (3) the woman's business partner and her best friend (4) an intern working for the business, which is a PR firm.

This book is a lot of fun, despite the grim subject matter, but it's also somehow very lightweight? You would think a book about someone dying of cancer and everyone else mourning that person would be a serious book. This one never really gets beyond the surface.

An entertaining read, but don't expect it to teach you anything.

Seanan McGuire, In an Absent Dream

McGuire has been doing a series of novellas about portal fantasies, or rather about the children who go through these portals, their particular adventures, and what becomes of them afterwards. All of the children are students at the Wayward Children Boarding school, so what we're getting in these novellas is their individual back stories.

The most famous (infamous) portal fantasy is either C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, or Alice in Wonderland. The kid like Alice in Wonderland a lot. I read it, but didn't like it all that much. Neither of us liked any of C. S. Lewis's books.

My favorite portal book is Sarah Rees Brennan's In Other Lands.

McGuire, in this novella and her others, addresses some of the problems that might occur in the real world if children did vanish through portals into fantasy worlds and then return.

This, like her other books, is short and crisply written, and maybe a bit too brief. We're interested in the characters, but there's really not room for the story to develop fully. That said, I'll read as many of these as she'll publish, apparently.

This one is about Lundy, the character from Wayward Children Boarding School who is aging backwards -- growing one day younger every month (or year? I forget which) and the portal world she visited.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Happy Trans Day of Visibility!

I love my trans son, who is a brilliant artist and an amazing person.


Taxes Paid

No big surprises -- I wasn't expecting to get money back, after hearing from everyone else at around my income level, and indeed I did not. But at least I didn't have to pay anything. (We got a tiny refund, less than $50, from the Feds, and a slightly larger one from the state.)

Was there a tax cut? Yeah, you couldn't tell it by me. I've been getting about $30 extra a month on my paycheck, but then I also got a 1% cost of living raise. $30/month is about right for that, after taxes. (And no, a 1% raise does not begin to cover the rise in the cost of living here.)

So Trump's big tax cuts are going to someone else, not people like me (in the 3rd percentile, or solidly middle-class).

And I bet you can guess whose receiving those giant tax cuts, too.

Vote the GOP out in 2020.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Conversation at the Library

I stopped by the library, to pick up the half dozen books they were holding for me.

The big library in our town is maybe five miles away. It has the most books, so I put books on hold when I want to read them, having them sent to the library which is two blocks from my house.

All the librarians there know me, since I'm in there two or three times a week, either picking up books and looking for books or bringing books back. Also, the Kid used to hang out there a lot when he was in high school, and he always volunteered to work there summers.

Anyway, today the new librarian, who I liked a lot, was there. She got my books and checked them out for me, asked, "You read so much. You must just go home every night and read."

"I do," I agreed cheerfully. "That's pretty much all I do, read books and write them. But what can I do?" I added. "There are so many books!"

"Same!" she said, and we beamed happily at each other.

One reason I'm hesitant to move out of our current house (which I would love to do, to move into something with a lower rent which is closer to the school) is how much I would miss having this library within walking distance, right across the street from the post office, and also the local grocery store, only maybe a tenth of a mile further on. Also! Our dentist is like four blocks in the other direction.

If it only wasn't so far from where I work, this would be the perfect house.

(So far: eight miles. I can get to work in ten minutes, if the traffic is light. So ignore my whining.)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Spring 2019

It's going to be nearly 80 degrees today. We're going straight from winter to summer here in the Fort.

Spring? That's for the nice people.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Mueller Report v. Jussie Smollet

It's funny to watch MAGA Americans scream about the Barr letter and then one second later start screaming about Jussie Smollet.

And by "funny" I mean "entirely predictable."

Jussie Smollet is "getting away with it" because he's rich and privileged and can buy lawyers. Jussie Smollet demonstrates that it's one law for the rich and another for the poor.

The Barr letter, on the other hand, why, that's just justice being done at last. And besides that look at those liberals cry! Hurr-hurr.

I'd ask them if they can see the contradiction in those positions, but there's no point. If they could look at evidence and apply reason and logic to it, they wouldn't be Trump supporters.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Glenn Beck's Overton Window Ch 8-12

In this section, we almost get some plot.

But then Glenn Beck's ghostwriter decides to give us more characters making long speeches filled with conspiracy theories and other nonsense instead.

Chapter Eight

Noah finally goes inside the bar, though it takes him a page and a half. This book is even more overwritten than Trigger Warning

Once inside he finds -- oh, this is a shock -- that the crowd is not the redneck mob of "old white people of limited intelligence" that "the media" had led him to expect.

Instead, what diversity!

[It was] a mix of everyone—three-piece suits rubbing elbows with T-shirts and sweat pants, yuppies chatting with hippies, black and white, young and old, a cowboy hat here, a six-hundred-dollar hair- cut there—all talking together, energetically agreeing and disagreeing...

This is the same drum J.A. was banging in Trigger Warning. Liberals are the real racists, conservatives welcome anyone, conservatives don't care how rich or educated you are, blah blah blah.

And maybe MAGA Americans even think that's true, because (after all!) they have black friends, and they have a gay cousin, and there's even this old Spanish guy they talk to sometimes, sits next to them at the football game, he's as nice as anyone!

But while MAGA Americans will accept people who aren't like them, and even become friends with people who aren't like them, they're still racist and prejudiced against those people in the aggregate.

It's like a friend of mine tells me, about her conservative father. He's hired black people, and worked with them. But those people are different, he tells her. His black people are good black people. Not like those criminals and lazy takers, up there in St. Louis!

I don't hate women, conservative men will tell me. Didn't I marry one? But those Feminazis, they're cancer.

My gay cousin is fine. But LGBT people in general? They're freaks!

Back in the bar, Noah notes that a folksinger is playing, up on the stage. Some "1960's era folk song," which Noah sees as a good PR move, since how could they be racist or violent if they were singing the same songs Martin Luther King Jr sang?

This would work better if we knew what song the folksinger was playing. Possibly Glenn Beck's ghostwriter doesn't know any actual folk songs.

Noah runs into Molly -- literally. We learn for the first time that she has a "slight Southern accent." Also, she notices that Noah is wet from the rain, and immediately devolves to caretaker mode, as your good woman will. She takes his coat, finds him dry clothing (yes, in a bar), and introduces him to a "gentle giant" named Hollis, who I hope will be a main character, given the amount of time we spend with him.

Hollis is also from the South, is wearing working class clothing, and has "perfect etiquette' and stereotypically terrible grammar. (None of them working class southerners know proper English.) In these chapters, by the way, we'll meet five people from this political group. They're all white and all of them except Hollis are middle class, and not noticeably educated. But so diverse.

Chapter Nine

Nothing much happens in this chapter.

More time in the bar, and Noah talks to Molly. We find out Molly doesn't drink (because she's a good woman), and Noah is a 'human lie detector.' Okay, bub. There's a scene where he points out someone who's spying on the group, I guess for the eeevil media, though that's never made clear.

This spy is white too. So diverse.

Also, we meet Danny Bailey, a YouTube star who is here to get a speech. Hollis says he's trouble, Molly says he gets people "fired up" about the wrong things. Certainly the speech he makes in Chapter Eleven is full of silliness.

Danny is also white.

Chapter Ten

But first Molly's mama speaks. We don't find out she's Molly's mother until later -- it's a Big Reveal. We do hear that she's about 55, and that the "honest beauty" of her younger days has "mellowed and matured." That's all we're told about her, because whether a woman is pretty or not is all that really matters.

She gives a long speech explaining how certain people (progressives, as she reveals) have hijacked America and are "perverting" it, replacing "equal justice with social justice," those bastards.

Also lobbyists. They're evil.

Also, America was founded as a "representative Republic," but no one is representing the people in this bar. (Wild applause.)

Also, the Founding Fathers meant us to get along with just the Constitution, and it's only 14 pages long, but look at these law books! Full of so many laws! And so complicated!

Also, too many taxes. The IRS is exactly the same as the Gestapo.

Also, Martin Luther King Jr. wasn't interested in Social Justice. He wanted equal justice.

This seems to be the big point Glenn Beck is trying to get across, that Martin Luther King Jr. would have been with the MAGA Americans, not with the progressives. All that tells us is that neither Glenn Beck nor his ghost writer knows anything about Martin Luther King Jr.

Molly's mama calls for them to "transform" America, but not with violence. Peaceful means only, she declares. Hmm. Does the NRA know about this part of her argument?

This argument, though, is not aimed at MAGA Americans, who believe all of their violence is perfectly legal and perfectly justified. They're protecting their rights; they're standing their ground.

But those Black Lives Matter people, rioting and resisting arrest and shouting bad words, that's just behaving like a mob.

Molly's mama finally shuts up (this is the second lengthy speech in the novel, and not the last) and Molly asks Noah what he thinks. He tries to be polite, saying that Molly's mama seems like she means what she says, but Molly insists on his real opinion. He says it just seems pointless, that politics never accomplished anything.

Molly demands he tell her why he's here, then. He admits he came because he wanted to get to know her. Then she tells him these politics here? Those are her. And flounces off.

Way to win hearts, Molly.

Chapter Eleven

Jake drinks a lot of beer. Hollis comes to sit next to him and cheer him up. Hollis also doesn't drink. I think that's code for Good Guys in this book. Bad guys drink alcohol. Good guys drink Coca-cola.

Danny Bailey gives a long and stupid speech. His basic points, the government is lying; unemployment is high; we're putting too many people in prison (hey, even a stopped clock); and there's an eeeevil plan to put certain people in 'military labor camps.'

What people? Danny Bailey explains that the eeevil government is keeping track of everyone who owns a gun, everyone who home-schools, all returning veterans, everyone who opposes abortion, everyone who opposes immigration, everyone who owns a copy of the Constitution -- all the right-thinking citizens, in other words. All of these people will be rounded up and put in work camps.

The government already has a plan in place, Danny Bailey insists. Executive Decision Number 51! All they need is an emergency, a manufactured emergency, and the arrests begin!

But we can fight then! Danny says. We can win because our hearts are pure!

Noah scoffs. A silence falls, and everyone turns on him.

Dramatic chapter break.

Chapter Twelve

Danny mocks our hero, calling him "Ivy League," and inviting him to get up on the stage if he has so much to say. Noah demurs, but you know he's going to do it. Deprive Glenn Beck's Ghost Writer of the chance to write another long speech? He wouldn't dare.

Noah gets up on the stage and says everything Danny and Molly's mama has said is true. Powerful Secret Cabals control the USA, Rich Men own the country and the government, the Bill of Rights is meaningless, and a New World Order is indeed about to be implemented.

But the people in this bar can't stop it, Noah says, because they're dupes, distracted by in-fighting and conspiracy theories. (The New World Order isn't a conspiracy theory?) Also, they've been infiltrated by agent provocateurs. He points out some in the crowd -- a guy wearing a "Born in the JewSA teeshirt," a white supremacist, a "Birther," a "Freeper," and a Holocaust Denier.

Those aren't real members of this political group, see. Heavens, no. Conservatives aren't racists! These are false flags, they're infiltrators sent by those powerful cabals (run by Goldman Sachs and other Globalists, gee, I wonder why this guy was wearing an anti-Semitic teeshirt, no idea).

But because of these infiltrators, Noah says, no sensible American will join this crusade. Why would they, he demands.

According to the network news, you’re all borderline-insane, ignorant, paranoid, uneducated, hate-mongering, tin-foil-hat-wearing, racist conspiracy theorists. 
Which obviously we're supposed to believe is not true. I can't think why, since everyone we've met so far from this group has been paranoid, uneducated, racist conspiracy theorists. (To be fair, I doubt that Glenn Beck realizes all his talk of Globalists and Seckrit Cabals controlling the world is a racist trope.)

Noah concludes by inviting anyone who wants to punch him outside for a fistfight. Okaaay, that's normal.

Before he can leave, though, Molly's mama stops him to tell him how wonderful his speech was. They have a lot in common, she says, they should talk.

But eagle-eye Noah (who I'll just mention does not even remotely resemble the guy we met in the breakroom, hitting on Molly) notices that Bad Police Men are showing up at the doors. They need to get out of here, he tells Molly's mom. Bad things are about to happen.

Then one of the crowd (obviously an infiltrator) pulls a gun and shoots at Danny. Storm-troopers, I mean American Police Officers, rush in and begin hitting everyone with billy clubs. One pulls Molly's hair.

(Historical note: Back before Black Lives Matter started saying some police officers were dangerous and racist, and that their powers ought to be checked, Conservative Americans had no trouble criticizing the police. It's only since Ferguson that the police, as far as MAGA Americans are concerned, have become too Holy to criticize.)

One starts to bash in a Good American's head. But Noah reaches out and stops him. Because Noah is Ninja like that.

Seriously, has the ghost writer even met Noah? When did he become a Superhero?

Same time he became a powerful political speaker, I guess. When the plot needed him to be.

Noah gets bashed in the head.

Dramatic chapter break.

I hope we get to the damn concentration camps pretty soon.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

What I'm Reading

Spring break is almost over. We drove the kid back to school this morning, and this evening I've been working on edits of a short story. I really like Spring Break. And winter break. And summers. I'm a very slow writer, and I need long stretches of time in which to write. That hardly ever happens during the school year, so I end up writing scrappy bits and pieces. Not the long slow days of writing I need to work well.

Here's what I read over Spring Break:

Kate Hope Day, If, Then

This is a weird and well-done take on the multiverse novel -- only marginally science fiction, a story about people slipping between different versions of their own lives.

The novel takes place in a small suburban town in northern Oregon which is built near a volcano which is supposed to be inactive. (Spoilers: it's not.) The volcano's rumblings and eventual eruption are connected with the ability of the people living in its shadow to slip between worlds.

As befits a multiverse novel, there are multiple points of view -- the four main characters are four people living in the same cul-de-sac. There are a massive number of minor characters, but Day writes so well we never lose track of who is who.

The main point of view characters are a surgeon, a new mother/philosophy graduate student, the surgeon's husband, and a realtor who moved home to be with her sick mother, who has since died. All of them are having doubts about their lives, and the decisions they have made that have created these lives. Tumbling through the different worlds helps them sort out these doubts -- and there's a really cool plot twist about halfway through the book which I won't spoil here.

I love the descriptions of Oregon, and the writing, and the musings of the philosophy grad student on how multiverses might work and why.

Definitely recommended.

Francis Liardet, We Must Be Brave

Set in England, this book is told from the point of view of Ellen Parr, its main character. It skips around in time, from the 1930s, when Ellen is an impoverished child, to the early 1940s, when Ellen and her husband take in a child, Pamela, whose mother has been killed in the Blitz. The latter half of the novel deals with Ellen in her old age, in the late 1970s.

The early part of this book is the best -- the 1930s and 1940s. Ellen's story, especially as it becomes entwined with Pamela, is engaging, and the historical details as wonderfully done.

Also, the relationship between Ellen and this six-year-old she has taken in and comes to love is very well written.

The latter half of the book is not as interesting, sadly. I think Liardet takes a wrong turn when she sends Pamela off to Ireland. The forward momentum of the story dies at that point, although the ending redeems it a bit.

Worth reading for the first half, though, I think.

Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing

This book was given to me by one of my students some time ago now. "You'll like this," they said, and I do, even though many things about it are antithetical to my worldview.

Specifically, it's about a city run by witches -- not fantasy witches, Starhawk obviously believes witchcraft is real and effective. She also clearly believes in the power of crystals, and how people can manipulate crystals with their mind. I'm willing to believe in witchcraft as a form of medicine, as in these plants to this to fix that. But witchcraft as someone's power to heal people with spells and their mind-force, yeah, no.

That said, if you can accept this, The Fifth Sacred Thing is a pretty good book. Set in the near future, it's the story of a multicultural pacifist city-state invaded by White National Christian Dominionists who are definitely not pacifists.

How to fight an evil empire without resorting to violence? This book gives an answer.

Kate Mascarenhas, The Psychology of Time Travel

As all y'all know, I love time-travel stories, so I had great hope for this one. And it's not terrible. But it's also nothing special -- there's a locked-room murder mystery at the core of it, but given that we have time travel, I'm not sure why that's supposed to be a mystery. Why does it not occur to the police, who live in a world with time travel, that someone might have jumped into the locked room and then jumped out again?

To be fair, maybe this was explained at some point. The multiple points of view sometimes left me muddled in this one.

And it does appear that the people travel about in time-travel pods or something like that. But that brings up another point -- there's a bit about psychology here, in that time travel messes with your circadian rhythms and thus can set off manic or depressive episodes, and also have other deleterious effects. But there's not much about actual time travel.

I mean, we get some world-building, and that part's pretty good. Time travelers, for instance, often meet up with their younger and older selves and... do things. Go to their own wedding, for instance. Have sex with themselves. (Audrey Niffenegger already had that, in The Time-Traveler's Wife, though.)

But what are the time-travelers doing? In Connie Willis's time travel books they're historians, and they're visiting historical events as research. In Kage Baker's books, they're slaves to the Corporation, and they're recovering and hiding valuables lost in the past, in order to make the Corporation richer. In this book, we get some vague hand-waving. Apparently there is some historical research being done by someone. And some people are making money somehow?

But none of this is ever detailed or explored. Instead we get the murder mystery, and also a detailed examination of the character of the murder victim, who runs the Time-Travel company. Also a lot about who is dating who.

One interesting touch is that almost all the characters are women. We have a few male characters, but they just show up as husbands or boyfriends or students of the women. I liked that part.

Also one of the main love stories was F/F, so that was nice. Still, this is not what I'm looking for in a time travel novel. Other people seem to have liked it better.

Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

I read this as an adolescent, once, and never read it again. But it was on the shelf at my library, which is my new standard for reading books, apparently.

Having re-read it, I see why I never read it again.

Not that it is all bad. The writing, especially the descriptions of mountains and storms and pine forests, is really nice. And the basic plot -- a demolitions expert is sent up to join a band of guerrilla fighters in some mountains in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, where he will enlist their aid in blowing a bridge at a precise moment -- isn't terrible.

I even support his decision to have Robert Jordan muse about Republican politics for pages on end, and the endless scene when Pilar is talking about what happened when her comrades took their village from the Nationalists. Among other things, Hemingway was trying to write a true story of the Spanish Civil War, and to do that, he needs to get into ideology and the reality of what happens in and after a coup.

On the other hand, Hemingway lets the ruminations over ideology and politics get out of hand. If he were writing a political tract, maybe this would work. And it almost works now, because he was careful to make his main character, Robert Jordan, an ideologue.

Robert Jordan is a professor of Spanish from Missoula who took a sabbatical to come fight in this war. His grandfather fought in the American Civil War, and in the wars against the American Indians after the Civil War, and he passed down to young Robert a belief in the holiness of war. This was complicated by Robert's father, who -- according to Robert -- was a coward. The evidence given for Robert's father (who he calls 'that other one') being a coward is that (a) he let his wife bully him and (b) he committed suicide.

On the other hand, what is Robert doing, but committing suicide in a much more elaborate and destructive manner?

At the core, as I've said, this book has what could have been a good plot. But it's buried under first the ideology and second a very silly love story. I don't believe for a minute that Robert would take up with Maria, not on a job like this; or that the partisans would let him take up with her; or that she would want to take up with  him.

There's a taint of White Savior running through the book. This is why we're supposed to believe the partisans who have been protecting and caring for Maria for all this time stand back and let her take up with Robert.

Pilar is a pretty good character, except for all the whining about not being pretty. I don't believe for a minute that Pilar, as she's written, would give a shit about her looks. That's Hemingway, who thinks that at their root women are just decorative, so of course an ugly one is useless.

On the other hand, this book taught me a new word, which is rare at this point in my life: aneroid. (It's not a very useful word, sadly.)

Ira Levin, A Kiss Before Dying

This was Levin's first book. It's a mystery novel, rather than fantasy or SF, which are the books he became famous for. And it's a pretty good one.

First published in 1953, A Kiss Before Dying is set in the pre-Roe v. Wade world, the one the "Pro-Life" crowd wants us to return to. Its main characters are a young man who is total sociopath and a wealthy family, one who made its fortune in copper mining and manufacturing.

The young man comes from the working class, but aspires to wealth and power. He begins dating the youngest daughter of the family, and realizes, when he gets her pregnant, that marrying her for this reason would destroy any hope he has of winning the wealthy father's approval.

He does attempt a medical abortion of the fetus (and twists the young girl's arm until she agrees) but when that fails, what can he do but murder her?

The best part of this book is the look at the world of the early 1950s, plus the very cool plot twists. Also, like all of Levin's books, it's very readable, and very short. Definitely light fiction, despite the grim-dark elements.