Sunday, September 29, 2013


by H. Beam Piper


Oh The Golden Age of Science Fiction!

Oh - the first humans on Mars will be... archaeologists! working with the military but genuinely respecting each other! and the archaeologists' needs actually come first! oh! such a wonderful Golden Age!

Oh - a novella all about language and discovery! writing that is clean and straightforward! no battles no twist endings no nefarious villains no nonsense! not that I have anything against nonsense!

Oh! Gender Equality in the future! no Golden Age chauvinism! none of that nonsense!

Oh they really smoke a lot in the future!

Oh, in case you are wondering, I Liked It! I may not reread this one but it is lovely and perfect! a classic!

Oh! you can read it for free! thank you, awesome Project Gutenberg!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Thin Red Line

by James Jones

A true masterpiece and one of my favorite novels. Although it has all the realistic, gritty detailing that any novel recounting World War 2 Guadalcanal should have, it is so much more. The reader will indeed learn which gun is which and which rank is which. They will understand what needs to happen to take a hill. They will know what a crowded ship full of men will smell like. They will come to understand the practical intricacies of making war. But, as anyone who viewed the recent version of the film will know, the story is not one based on narrative but one based on a specific philosophy: we are all, as humans, forever destined to never truly understand one another, we are forever destined to never truly achieve the kind of empathetic meeting of heart & mind & soul that we may yearn for - a yearning we may not understand or even recognize. War is, if it is anything, an insane metaphor for that lack of understanding, that true lack of connection, and to be a part of that metaphor is to be, in a way, as insane.

This is a novel of many voices, each individualized and each specifically unique and amusingly detailed. And yet there is a similarity to the themes that emerge from the thoughts of each of the characters, whether they are trying to understand their brothers, their girls back home, their commanders, their enemy, their next target, or the war itself: the feeling of distance. It is a melancholy and confusing feeling. Each one blunders through his life in his own way, barely grasping what is happening around him, barely grasping what is happening inside himself as well. The novel is epic in its depiction of war, but it is intimate in its depiction of the levels of mystery within each of us and between us as well.

It is surprisingly funny at times. James Jones has a mordant voice and he knows the ridiculousness of men, how amusing our little concerns and irritations and idiosyncrasies can be when depicted at times gently but more often pointedly. He also knows that throwing dozens upon dozens of characters in the narrative will confuse and annoy the lazy reader – but how else to illustrate the confusion of wartime? The coming and going of bodies, of places, of times that all blur together. Jones himself was a WW2 veteran, and so the details are impressively laid out – but what is even more impressive is the poetic, sorrowful mourning that is suffused throughout the novel, one that builds and builds and builds. It is hard to imagine the number of his fellows he saw slain, and how it impacted him. But beyond that, to see the melancholy within the man, not just the soldier, not just the circumstance? He is the rare author I would love to have known, and yet the idea of his experience and his sadness is so intimidating, it makes me feel like less of a grown man when thinking of the person who could write all of this down. What have I done in my life in comparison?

It is interesting to compare the film with the novel. The theme of the distance between humans is there, as is the idea of many narrative voices recounting many different things but all ending in despair over our lack of ability to truly understand ourselves, the world, each other. But Malick widens the melancholy even further by including his usual theme of man’s distance from nature as well. It works beautifully. Two character differences stand out: Pvt Witt and Cpl Fife.

1713673In the film, Pvt Witt is played by James Caviezel as a beatific savior of men, spiritually connected to nature and prone to daring displays of bravery. In the novel, Witt is a spiteful hick, also prone to daring displays of bravery, but also an unrepentant racist towards all non-whites, and is filled to the brim with petty contempt towards all forms of authority. I like both portraits, but the novel’s Witt seems so much more human, so much more real. You don’t have to be a saint or even particularly likeable to be brave, to save lives, to accomplish daring deeds, to be loveable.  He is a hero, ignorant redneck and all, precisely because he is not particularly heroic in thought – only in deed. He comes through, again and again.

In the film, Cpl Fife is reduced to a couple cameos by Adrien Brody, standing distraught by a soldier’s corpse or looking terrified during a river crossing. In the novel, he is so much more: a dissection of the falseness of the concept of “cowardice” during war. He is full of fear, he calls himself a coward, each path he chooses is one that has self-protection at its core; and yet his depiction is entirely sympathetic and rational: what sane man isn’t a coward when it comes to the insanity of war? Who wants it, who wants to be in it? It is not something to run to, it is something to run from. Fife is the secret hero of The Thin Red Line, the rational man not understanding the irrational world around him, and rejecting any attempt to bend him to that irrational world’s rules. I can see how that character would not translate successfully to audiences yearning for heroes, and so Fife in his entirety barely makes it to the screen.

The book’s great success may not just be in its depiction of the distance between humans, but in the illustration of war as the ultimate insanity. As we all know, World War 2 was the Good War, the one in which we all should be proud, the one with truly golden heroes and truly evil villains, the one we all are glad was fought and would have fought in if we could. We had the right reasons after all; at least that is my own perspective. But a good war is still war, and war entails the deaths of the young, the destruction of lives and of love, of cities and of countryside, of innocence, of tradition, of everything. So why do we love it so?

Friday, September 20, 2013

One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of

by Richard L. Brandt


It seems like ages ago that Amazon and I met-cute while fox & dolphin hunting on a small private island reserve off of the coast of Southern California. Oh how the years move by so quickly! And yet, after all the early displays of yearning and passion, after all of the screaming bouts of sadomasochistic blood-sport and nonconsensual body modification that constitutes our "love"-making, I am proud to report that our love still stands strong, still runs deep! The sympathy and even the - dare i say such a maudlin word - "empathy" that Amazon has given me in support of my goal of utter global domination has been truly invaluable. And endearing!

Just last night, while enjoying a repaste of a light pear & walnut salad, fine wine, and a simple clarified butter & ginger sauce served over a minced infant crudo, I noticed my darling Amazon gazing fondly into my one good eye. Now Amazon knows that fond gazes always give me heartburn, so I inquired: what was amiss? Amazon smiled and stated lovingly that I looked like the sort of gentleman who would gladly destroy an independent bookseller if it meant 5 more dollars in my wallet. I replied "Surely you are not just now noticing this!" We laughed merrily and toasted each other. 'Tis a wondrous thing when forward-looking minds find themselves in meaningful agreement.

Later, we curled up to watch our favorite movie, the enchanting "You've Got Mail". Tom Hanks is so adorable when he is trying to run an independent bookseller into the ground!

Behold Now Behemoth: Dinosaurs All Over the Bible!

by Glenn L. Wilson




The Gay Husband Checklist for Women Who Wonder

by Bonnie Kaye


For those women who are wondering if there is a little sugar in their husband's pants, and who are unfortunately unable to purchase this remarkable tome...



1. Walks and Talks in a Stereotypically "Masculine" Manner.

2. Disinterest in Apparel, including Disinterest in Washing Jeans, Ability to Wear Same Clothes for Days at a Time, Leaving Boxers Here & There.

3. Strong Interest in Beer, including both Microbrews & Cheap-Ass Beers. Also including Home Brewing Techniques, Kegerators, St. Patrick's Day.
3a. Beer Belly.

4. Disinterest in Cooking, Cleaning, Laundry, Shopping, Feeling.
Conversely: the Ability to Mow Lawn, Throw Out Trash, Walk Dog, Work on Car, "Fix Things", Eat Food, Sleep, and Protect Mate.

5. Inability to Empathize, including Inability to provide Extended Bouts of Active Listening. Tendency towards Yelling when Angry, Retreating into Sullen Silence, Refusing to Admit Conflict Exists.

6. Current or Past Membership within a Fraternity. Including Past Participation in Beer Pong, Beer Bongs, Keg Stands, Body Shots, "Shirts-off Parties", and/or Rounds of High-Fiving (not including "Eiffel Towers", which are Completely Straight) during Fraternity or Fraternity-Type Frolics.

7. Any Amount of Time at Strip Clubs featuring Women. Attendance at Spring Break Parties and/or Bachelor Parties featuring Strippers and/or Girls Gone Wild. Automatic Bustline Head-Drift. An Interest in Lesbianism.

8. Friend Circle is made up of "Straight Men". Activities with "Straight" Male Peer Group can include Hunting Trips, Poker Night, Paintball, Tailgating, Pick Up Basketball, Las Vegas Trips, and Secretive "Guys' Night Out".

9. Refusing to Dress Up "Just for Fun" in Lady Garments. Refusing to Make Out with Other Blokes, except for That One Time. Refusing to Hold Hands with Another Man while Walking in the Park on a Lovely Spring Afternoon.

10. Denies Being Gay..... Methinks the Lady Doth Protest Too Much!

If your husband exhibits any of the above tendencies, I'm afraid I may have some troubling news for you...

Coming Out Straight: Understanding and Healing Homosexuality


by Richard "I Really Don't Hate Myself Anymore I Promise You God, Please Don't Send Me to Hell" Cohen

sorry Richard, but


How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men

by Adam Quan


mark monday, age 10: "Can I spend the night at Marc Morton's house?"

Mom: "Always spending time with Marc Morton! What do you two do? Do you have a girlfriend yet? Your uncles had girlfriends when they were younger than you. The Philippines makes men! Where is your girlfriend?"

mark: "Can I spend the night at Marc Morton's?"

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 15: "I do. Her name is Jamie. You've met her. She lives down the street."

Mom: "Is she white?"

mark: "Yes!"

Mom: "You can have her spend the night here if you want."

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 20: "No! I don't know if I even like girls!"

Mom: "Well, I do. Her name is Deanna and she lives down the street."

mark: "Are you serious?"

Mom: "Yes I am. I don't care what anyone thinks. She's black and she's beautiful and we teach aerobics together and your father doesn't mind."

mark: "Well okay then."

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 25: "No, you know I don't. I have a boyfriend. Tom. You've met him, many times!"

Mom: "He is a very nice man and a good friend to you. But he's not a gay. He was a marine, remember?"

mark: "Mom, come on, I live with him!"

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 30: "Yes, I do. She's Turkish and her name is---"

Mom: "I don't believe you. What is a Turkish? Is she white?"

mark: "No, she's not"

Mom: "Well, it's your life. I met some very nice Filipinas at the gym. I think you would like them. They are very sweet and submissive."

mark: "What?"

Mom: "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"

mark, age 40: "No. Sigh."

Mom: "Do you have a boyfriend yet?

mark: "No. Sigh."

Mom: "What is wrong with you? I want more grandchildren! You need to date someone and give me more grandchildren!"

mark: "Sigh."

Mom: "You should date a white woman, a girl in college. Those women like older men. You should teach at a college. Find a beautiful girl. Or someone. What is wrong with you?"

A Throne of Bones

by Herr Vox Day

A Throne of Bones (Arts of Dark and Light, #1)A Throne of Bones (Arts of Dark and Light, #1)A Throne of Bones (Arts of Dark and Light, #1)A Throne of Bones (Arts of Dark and Light, #1)

read the racist screed that this scumbag spewed out in response to a recent Guest of Honor speech made by non-white author N.K. Jemisin at Continuum in Australia:

"Jemisin has it wrong; it is not that I, and others, do not view her as human, (although genetic science presently suggests that we are not equally homo sapiens sapiens), it is that we do not view her as being fully civilized for the obvious reason that she is not.

She is lying about the laws in Texas and Florida too. The laws are not there to let whites “just shoot people like me, without consequence, as long as they feel threatened by my presence”, those self defence laws have been put in place to let whites defend themselves by shooting people, like her, who are savages in attacking white people.

Jemisin’s disregard for the truth is no different than the average Chicago gangbanger’s disregard for the law…

Unlike the white males she excoriates, there is no evidence that a society of NK Jemisins is capable of building an advanced civilization, or even successfully maintaining one without significant external support. Considering that it took my English and German ancestors more than one thousand years to become fully civilised  after their first contact with an advanced civilisation, it is illogical to imagine, let alone insist, that Africans have somehow managed to do so in less than half the time with even less direct contact. These things take time.

Being an educated, but ignorant savage, with no more understanding of what it took to build a new literature by “a bunch of beardy old middle-class middle-American guys” than an illiterate Igbotu tribesman has of how to build a jet engine, Jemisin clearly does not understand that her dishonest call for “reconciliation” and even more diversity with SF/F is tantamount to a call for its decline into irrelevance…

Reconciliation is not possible between the realistic and the delusional."


Mitt Romney: The Man, His Values, and His Vision

by Lisa Ray Turner


once there was a little boy. he had a big dream: to rule the world! and so he enacted his strategy. first, as a youth: become a bully. mission accomplished! second, as a husband and father: become an animal abuser. mission accomplished! and finally, as a public figure: seek out the true powers of the world, this earth's secret rulers: the Business Community... and for them, become a


mission accomplished!

will the boy ever achieve his vision of world dominance? Magic 8-ball says Not A Chance... but stay tuned! the really bad ones don't stay down for long.



by Ann Coulter


How mark monday Got Himself Placed on the Honors Track in High School and So Became a Smashing Success in Life... through Fighting and Lying!

in 9th grade, on my last day of school before moving from Virginia to Orange County (mid-school year), some joker told me that he was happy i was moving. so I grabbed my lunch tray and proceeded to bash it over his head repeatedly. I hate people who are discourteous!

in the Vice-Principal's office, I was told "This is the Last Time. You are Suspended for a week!"
to which I responded: "ha, ha, this is my last day, I'm moving to California tomorrow, stupid!"
and to which I was told: "We will hold your records until you have served your suspension, no matter where you go." ...Uh Oh

so I moved to Los Alamitos, located in beautiful, peaceful, sunny-beyond-belief Orange County, California. I went in to register for my new life, second semester 9th grade. I got my id, filled out the forms, was told to return in a week, when school started up again after the break.

but that next week, they were perplexed - for some reason, my old school wasn't sending me my records! and yet my old school was also not communicating (God Bless Administrators Everywhere) and so my new school did not know what was going on. the trusting administrators at Los Alamitos High then just went ahead and asked me this key question:

Why Don't You Just Tell Us What Classes You Were In?

it was a make-it-or-break-it moment. in Virginia, I was purely Average. I was average at being average. but I was struck with inspiration and decided to lie and put myself in all of the Honors Classes. Advanced English, Advanced This and That. and they believed me! I couldn't believe my good fortune.

so merrily I went to Mrs. Bennett's Honors English class. upon walking in, I noticed they were doing some foofy role-play about The Illiad - which i had read like 3 years earlier. I thought to myself man they saw right through me! I'm back in Average Classes.

ha, I quickly realized I was wrong! the academic standards in California were so low in comparison to Virginia (and South Bend, Indiana, where I went to school before Virginia), that Honors English was actually not just equivalent to regular ole English in those other states... it was actually far less challenging. goodbye, Average Kid. hello, new Straight-A Student!


Los Alamitos was the site of much controversy in the late 80s, when a School of the Arts (located within Los Al at the time) student was not allowed to exhibit her explicitly lesbian painting - unless it was covered up and the tagline "Let me live for the day when two women can love each other in peace" was changed to "Let me live for the day when two people can love each other in peace". Happily, the ACLU got involved and swinish school principal Carol Hart had to relent. Uncovered lesbianism on display at Los Al!

Los Al and its past teachers have been on my mind a bit.

one day in Mrs. Busenkell's Advanced Placement English Class for sophomores, we were given a typically bizarre assignment: pick a student, follow them around, study their actions, report back in an essay. Being the new Straight-A (well, not really) Go-Getter that I was, I chose to spy on 2 people. the first person, someone i liked. the scond person... an Ex-Friend. my report on him was scathing. lots of "he is a follower" and "he laughs at everyone's jokes like he wants a medal" and "superficial trend-lover" type comments. etc. Mrs Busenkell couldn't believe someone could write such a savage report on - get this - one of her son's best friends. so with typical Los Al professionalism, she shared my report with my Ex-Friend. what kind of teacher does that? apparently a Los Al kind of teacher, circa mid-80s. her decision to share one student's paper with another student exacerbated tensions between me and that Ex-Friend for years. he finally got around to telling me about it at a recent birthday, after I guess finally making peace with it some time ago. I had thought that paper was private and could never figure out why my old Ex-Friend never warmed up to me, even after we had resolved our differences. and so a potentially great friendship between two queer teens was nipped in the bud due to teacher shenanigans. believe me, my friend could have used some support - being a closeted gay teen was no picnic for him, while being queer has always been no problem for me. maybe I could have helped him not go down some rather questionable paths if that wedge hadn't been driven so deep.

hey Mrs. Busenkell, this one's for you!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Worm Ouroboros

by E.R. Eddison

The Worm Ouroboros! It goes around and around and around... and back around again!

2910This is the story of the Lords of Demonland, their arch-foes the Lords of Witchland, various others (Lords of Goblinland and Impland and Pixyland et al), and their endless conflicts and political maneuverings and deeds of derring-do and black-hearted villainy and mystical quests into the heights of dark mountains and women so awesomely beautiful that it means instant infatuation and fearsome magic that swoops down on both victim & conjurer alike and battles at castle gates and battles at sea and battles, battles, battles. Don't think of "Demons" and "Witches" as, well, demons and witches... those are just words used to describe the superhuman residents of the planet Mercury. The entire book is over the top, larger than life: delirious fantasy pitched to operatic heights, filled with ornate description, stylized dialogue, far-flung dream journeys and dreams of ever more glory. The Worm Ouroboros is an intricately designed relic and a work of strange, byzantine splendor.... This Mortal Coil as a grand and never-ending odyssey of Constant Adventure. I have read nothing like it.

3249086If I were to look at the plot alone, this would be an amusing but probably rather forgettable book. The narrative is an enjoyably breathless series of scenes full of cliffhangers and courtly intrigue. Fun. But also deeply problematic in a couple ways. The first problem: this book appears to glorify war in the most naive way imaginable: an endless boys' adventure where fighting is always the goal and peace is never the solution. The title and the "ending" in some ways subvert this analysis. I don't know how ironic or critical Eddison intended to be, but the basic idea of endless adventure being an self-perpetuating cycle... that does provide a certain depth as well as an ambiguous response to all of the naivete on display. More problematic is the near complete focus on the aristocrats of the world, enacting their grand battles using thousands upon thousands of common folk as their disposable chess pieces. One aristocrat dies - oh the tragedy! A thousand soldiers die in one minor sally - eh, that was a bad loss but whatever, the game must go on. There is something obviously very wrong about that kind of glorification of battle for battle's sake, no matter the cost. So for an action-packed narrative that is also naively offensive: 3 stars for the fun and 3 stars for the lack of humanity.

But what makes this novel uniquely enjoyable is the language. It truly lifts The Worm Ouroboros to a higher place. It was both a constant delight and a constant challenge. The language itself is highly artificial - archaic even; the descriptive passages are dense, complex, luscious; the heroes and the villains are characterized in the most Olympian terms possible; the Nietzschean morality on display is illustrated with an almost feverish passion;  there is a swooningly homoerotic vibe in how the men are depicted; the arch displays of humor and mockery are both sneakily subtle and quaintly broad; a quest by one brother searching for another becomes dreamily transcendent through the author's use of hallucinogenic prose. It is all so intense that it becomes hypnotic. Fully engorged testosterone carefully wrapped up in layer upon layer of dainty filigree and velvety shadow. High Fantasy that is as high as a kite. I smoked it all up; the language often put me to sleep but, just as often, it kept me wide awake with a kind of heady glee. It stimulated parts of my brain that hadn't been stimulated before.

Here is a typically odd, amusing, and rather beautiful passage:

1234891So speaking, the King was come with Gro into his great bath chamber, walled and floored with green serpentine, with dolphins carved in the same stone to belch water into the baths that were lined with white marble and sunken in the floor, both wide and deep, the hot bath on the left and cold bath, many times greater, on the right as they entered the chamber. The King dismissed his attendants, and made Gro sit on a bench piled with cushions above the hot bath, and drink more wine. And the King stripped off his jerkin of black cowhide and his hose and his shirt of white Beshtrian wool and went down into the steaming bath. Gro looked with wonder on the mighty limbs of Gorice the King, so lean and yet so strong to behold, as if he were built all of iron; and a great marvel it was how the King, when he had put off his raiment and royal apparel and went down stark naked into the bath, yet seemed to have put off not one whit of his kingliness and the majesty and dread which belonged to him.
So when he had plunged awhile in the swirling waters of the bath, and soaped himself from head to foot and plunged again, the King lay back luxuriously in the water and said to Gro, "Tell me of Corsus and his sons, and of Laxus and Gallandus, and of all my men west over seas, as thou shouldest tell of those whose life or death in our conceit importeth as much as that of a scarab fly. Speak and fear not, keeping nothing back nor glozing over nothing. Only that should make me dreadful to thee if thou shouldn't practise to deceive me."

A shout-out for Lord Gro: a sinister and devious Goblin Judas, a dainty dandy and a star-struck dreamer as prone to flights of romantic fancy as he is to fits of melancholy and despair, inconstant as Hamlet, destined to forever betray his masters, villain and hero, a gloriously unique creation. Go, Gro, Go!

And So: If thou shalt drink deep of the pleasures of language, if thou dost seek fearsome challenge brimming o'er with fantastickal wonder, dread enchantements and treacherous peril... then thou must hasten to consume this rare delight! A lovely treasure, burning boldly, ever-bright!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shades of Grey

by Jasper Fforde

2113260the world of Shades of Grey is a nightmarish dystopia: a ruthless totalitarian regime that destroys all individualistic spirit, all creativity and ambiguity and questioning of authority; a monstrous government that divides its citizens into color-stratified class/caste systems that is based upon the inherent physical deficiencies of its populace; a place with no love and where death is the end result for the underdog and misfit.

7739723sounds pretty bleak, right? well, dear reader, think again! this rather amazing novel is as light and airy as a souffle, a real pleasure to consume from beginning to end. i was smiling constantly and laughing out loud nearly as often. the tone is brisk and drily amusing. the plot and the various details of our young hero's travails are wonderfully absurd: the punishment for his past cheekiness is to conduct a "Chair Census"; he must beware deadly carnivorous swans and "mega-fauna"; his greatest ambition is to be the head of a String Factory! upstairs from him and his dad lives the "Apocryphal Man" - an historian the state has deemed 'does not exist', and so is free to wander around naked, stealing food, muttering terrifying truths yet remaining unmolested. the love of his life is mean Jane - a Grey, the lowest caste - a rebel with a cause who does not hesitate to punish him drastically whenever he gets in her way.

2246937the writing itself is splendid. Fforde is a deadpan and satirical author with a perfect grasp of what to show, what to tell, what to keep hidden, and what to save for an exciting climax. i was reminded of several things when reading this book: the equally absurd and distinctly provincial post-apocalyptic settings of Dick's Dr. Bloodmoney and Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, and especially the delightful skewerings of english village life within the Mapp & Lucia series of E.F. Benson. much like the latter, the humor within Shades of Grey is derived almost entirely from the Comedy of Manners.

8725325a Post-Apocalyptic Comedy of Manners set within a Provincial Dystopic Colortocracy! how's that for original?

best of all, for me at least, this wonderful novel does not have a genuinely cynical bone in its body. yes, it skewers hypocrisy and stupidity in the most cutting way. yes, it is about a vicious, cruel future. but it also believes in investing its hero and heroine with the power to change themselves, to fall in love, to try to bravely risk changing the world around them. and it portrays all of the good and all of the bad with the lightest, most charming of touches.

i am really looking forward to the sequel!