wombat_socho: Wombat (the mark)
I'm giving up on The Gormenghast Trilogy and taking it back to the library tomorrow. There's a whole lot of nothing happening, and although it's exquisitely described, it's about as interesting as my Basic Tax Preparation text, which at least rewards me with useful knowledge. Not recommended unless you don't think Lovecraft was prolix and turgid enough for you.

A Storm of Swords fills the gap between A Clash of Kings and A Feast for Crows. Jesus X. Christ, what a crapsack world. By the time you get to the end of the fourth novel, pretty much everyone likable or honorable is either dead, fleeing for their lives, and/or has broken one or another of their vows. Which isn't to say the bad guys don't get hosed, but there's a strong implication that the merely corrupt and stupid Lannisters are going to be replaced by something much worse.

Moving right along to the real world, P recommended The Dead Hand to me, and I have to say that having lived through the Cold War, it brings back a lot of unpleasant memories, because we didn't KNOW what a primitive bunch of screwheads the Soviets really were. The book is about half diplomatic history of the arms control efforts between the US and the Soviet Union and half --formerly-- secret history of the USSR's strategic weapons programs, many of which were notable mainly for paranoid secrecy and a comically sinister ineptitude grounded in the inefficient nature of the Soviet economy. There's plenty of nightmare fuel in the chapters pertaining to the bioweapons program, but since I'm only two-thirds of the way through the book and the Soviet Union has just collapsed, I'm sure there's worse stuff waiting. Anyway, it's definitely worth reading if you were around at the time and even more so if you weren't. Either way, you're going to learn something.

I stopped reading Harold Coyle's books quite a while ago, probably for the same reason I quit reading Dale Brown; after the USSR stopped being the USSR, there just wasn't another credible high-tech global menace around for the US to whang on. I probably should have stayed away from Dead Hand as well, because it's not at all up to the standard of his debut, Team Yankee, or even the last novel of his that I recall reading, The Ten Thousand. I am especially annoyed at the huge chunk of expository asteroid science stuff that ate five minutes of my life this afternoon without advancing the plot to any measurable degree (and was done much better in Lucifer's Hammer anyway) and given the various reviews on amazon.com, I doubt it's going to get much better.

Well, that was depressing and annoying. I think I'm going to find something cheerful to read as a bedtime book. Some David Drake or something.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Politics)
Kevin D. Williamson provides a useful look back at the largely-forgotten John Kenneth Galbraith and the not nearly obscure enough Lord Keynes in Judge, Jury, and Economist. If nothing else, it's a good reminder that a lot of what socialists proclaim to be "science" is in fact based on nothing of the kind.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Boss Coffee)
Could there possibly be a more lethal combination in economics than Koreans and Judaism? It's the second coming of the Fugu Plan, and this time they're not going to screw it up.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Catholic)
Pope Benedict XVI beatified Pope John Paul II today before more than a million Catholics in St. Peter's Square today.
I can't remember the name of the book off the top of my head, but there was a joint biography of John Paul the Great, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher and the important roles they played in finally choking the life out of the Evil Empire that was he Soviet Union. While there were many factors in the fall of the USSR, not least of which were the internal contradictions of Marxist-Leninist economic theory, no serious historian of the Cold War can ignore the renascence of the Catholic Church under John Paul II and its renewed, public resistance to the vile, poisonous lies of Communism. It was John Paul II who helped stiffen the steely resolve of the Solidarity union in Poland, which in turn sent shockwaves through the other captive nations of the Eastern Bloc. It was John Paul II who survived the assassination planned by the KGB's puppets in Bulgaria and their tool the Turk; it was John Paul II who forgave his would-be assassin; it was John Paul II who did not falter in his opposition to evil.

And no matter what the talking heads and the pundits and the revisionist historians say, we will not forget.
The beatification of John Paul II is only the first step.

(h/t Cubachi)
wombat_socho: Wombat (HALO)
For which we should all be duly thankful. I was fortunate enough to inherit some of my father's books, and spent quite a bit of time with the High School Boys, Mark Tidd, and even some of the original Tom Swift and Horatio Alger books when I was growing up. So I thought Garrett P. Serviss' Edison's Conquest of Mars wouldn't be any worse than those pre-Great War juveniles.
Would you like to know more? )
wombat_socho: Wombat (Politics)
Naomi Klein can't tell the difference between unconstitutional government action and entirely legal action by a corporation. What a complete retard. And she presumes to lecture conservatives on...well, pretty much anything?

(Via Computerworld, an excellent article about how the Egyptian protesters are managing to find ways around the government shutdown of the Internet and mobile phone networks.)

Being the pessimist I am, I can't help seeing a rerun of 1979's revolution in Iran here, with Mubarak playing the role of Shah - except the Shah was more realistic about his chances once the Army turned on him. It's not entirely clear whether the Egyptian Army has done that yet, and I hope it's not the case, because then this really will be a repeat of the Iranian Revolution. Those of us who are old enough remember how well that went under Carter 1.0. I don't expect the sequel under Carter 2.0 to be handled any better; the military isn't the hollowed-out shell it was in the 1970s, but most of it is tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan at the moment.
wombat_socho: Wombat (ASA)
Jean Larteguy's The Centurions: It's coming back into print. - By Sophia Raday - Slate Magazine:
A copy of Jean Larteguy's The Centurions, an out-of-print French novel about paratroopers in Indochina and Algeria, can go for more than $1,700 on Amazon. That's reason enough for its republication this January by Amereon LTD for a list price of $59.95. But when I called the publisher, Jed Clauss, it turned out money wasn't his primary motivation: "Look, I'm an old guy," he said, "I'm at the end of my publishing career. I now only do fun projects. But David Petraeus wanted this republished. So I'm doing it."

I was tremendously surprised by the author's refusal to go down the rather obvious road of bashing Petraeus and McChrystal for emulating the disaffected French paras in Algeria, or more accurately their reaction to being sold out by deGaulle. Maybe she hasn't read The Praetorians, or maybe she doesn't know the history of the war in Algeria. I continue to hope that both books will eventually be reissued in Kindle editions.
wombat_socho: Wombat (WTF)
Exhibit details harrowing story of how Curious George escaped the Nazis | cleveland.com:
Long before he pedaled himself into all sorts of mischief in "Curious George Rides a Bike," the famous monkey took a much more harrowing ride when his creators escaped the Nazi invasion of France.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Politics)
Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera is murdered by the Spanish Republic.
The Generalissimo dies after thirty-nine years as Head of State.

In connection with the latter, this is amusing:
Francisco Franco, famed dictator of Spain, lay on his deathbed after 36 years of rule. One of his daughters, awaiting the inevitable, paced back and forth across the marble floor of his bedroom.

Upon hearing the footsteps, Franco regained consciousness, and weakly called out, "Who's there?"

"It is the people of Spain, Father," she told him. "They have come to say goodbye."

"Why?" Franco asked. "Where are they going?"

Now, off to shave, dress, and learn emacs.
wombat_socho: Wombat (HALO)
Well, not really. But she does, in her own gentle and indirect way, explain why "realistic" steampunk, which shows the horrors of Victorian life for the proletariat, isn't that common and is rarely popular when it does show its head. Basically, nobody wants to read it.

And I'm totally on board with that argument. People read fantasy (and let's face it, steampunk is fantasy) to explore and enjoy another world. People play fantasy RPGs to be heroes in their own fairy tales. Being a TB-stricken denizen of a city's slums is seldom heroic, being a farmer is not all that exciting, and usually if we see one of those people in a fantasy novel they're either supporting characters or they get ripped out of their unpleasant/boring lives and thrust into the plot, in which case they're no longer the people they were. So of course most of the protagonists in steampunk stories are aristocrats, Wrench Wenches, stodgy yet solid bourgeoisie, or plucky proletarians who are on the make/on the rise. You want to have heroes the reader can identify with, after all, and most readers aren't into reading about losers.

Which is why Chivalry and Sorcery never caught on. People didn't want to deal with the filthy, disease-ridden mess of the actual medieval period any more than they want to eat actual rats on a stick when they go to the RenFest. And the same is true of the Victorian Era.
wombat_socho: Wombat (DC)
At the rate I'm getting caught up on my list of "I really ought to see this" movies, I'll probably not make any great progress on the list until I'm retired...and since retirement really isn't in my plans any more, well, you can see where this is going.

In place of Othello with Fishburne and Branagh, which I couldn't find in a quick perusal of the Chantilly Blockbuster, I wound up coming home with Remember The Titans. Now, I'm not a big fan of football movies in general, any more than I am of football itself, but this isn't primarily a football movie. That's because it's set right here in Alexandria, Virginia, in the year 1971. As some of you may have heard, there was some race relations difficulty at the time. The Alexandria City School Board tackled this head-on by closing the black high school, George Washington, along with one of the two white high schools (F.C. Hammond) and consolidating both colors of students at T.C. Williams, ironically named after the superintendent of city schools who had spearheaded the policy of Massive Resistance to racial integration in the 1950s. Adding more gasoline to the fire, the ACSB hired a black coach, Herman Boone, to replace the highly-regarded white coach, Bill Yoast, who had been nominated for the state Football Hall of Fame. Boone's hardcore, Spartan approach to breaking down the race prejudice on his team and preparing the team for battle on the gridiron doesn't sit well with Yoast, his football-obsessed daughter, or many of the players either, for that matter. There's quite a bit of drama throughout the movie as personalities, races, and situations clash, often violently, and unfortunately the football field is no haven of fair play either. Great movie, great acting, A+++++, would definitely watch again.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Politics)
Zombie » Barry O, He Go: the Cargo Cult Presidency of Barack Obama:
The presidency of Barack Obama is a cargo cult. And Obama himself is the new John Frum.

But unlike traditional cargo cults, which persist despite decades of fruitless prophecies, the Barry O cult is disintegrating before our very eyes, as Hope and Change Airport — built entirely out of hollow bamboo and even hollower promises — has failed to attract the predicted heaven-sent magical prosperity.

Even if you disagree with Zombie's analysis, the article is a good introduction to the strange phenomenon of cargo cults.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Politics)
The Great U-Turn - James C. Bennett - National Review Online:
Admirers and detractors of the United States agree on one point: This country is unusually resistant to the social consensus and set of structures broadly known as “social democracy” or “progressivism.” (Social democracy leans more toward state ownership, progressivism toward state regulation.) Various versions of such schemes have prevailed in Western Europe and Japan, and to a lesser degree in Britain, Canada, and Australia. The characteristics include a wider scope and role for the state, centralization of decision-making in a national bureaucracy, monopolization of power by a set of large institutions, including state-champion corporations and labor unions, and a wide variety of social entitlements for all citizens. This was the classic progressive economic program; since the 1960s, it has also included certain social characteristics, such as official multiculturalism.

Good essay by the author of The Anglosphere Challenge, RTWT.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Politics)
Armed and Dangerous » Blog Archive » Gramscian damage:
I’ve called it suicidalism. It was designed to paralyze the West against one enemy, but it’s now being used against us by another. It is no accident that Osama bin Laden so often sounds like he’s reading from back issues of Z magazine, and no accident that both constantly echo the hoariest old cliches of Soviet propaganda in the 1930s and ’40s.

Another consequence of Stalin’s meme war is that today’s left-wing antiwar demonstrators wear kaffiyehs without any sense of how grotesque it is for ostensible Marxists to cuddle up to religious absolutists who want to restore the power relations of the 7th century CE. In Stalin’s hands, even Marxism itself was hollowed out to serve as a memetic weapon — it became increasingly nihilist, hatred-focused and destructive. The postmodern left is now defined not by what it’s for but by what it’s against: classical-liberal individualism, free markets, dead white males, America, and the idea of objective reality itself.

The first step to recovery is understanding the problem. Knowing that suicidalist memes were launched at us as war weapons by the espionage apparatus of the most evil despotism in human history is in itself liberating. Liberating, too, it is to realize that the Noam Chomskys and Michael Moores and Robert Fisks of the world (and their thousands of lesser imitators in faculty lounges everywhere) are not brave transgressive forward-thinkers but pathetic memebots running the program of a dead tyrant.

I've linked to this Eric Raymond essay a number of times in the past several years but it really deserves a post of its own.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Politics)
Back in 1957, Yugoslav Communist Milovan Djilas wrote a scorching indictment of the Communist system, The New Class, which asserted that the "revolution of the proletariat" had only served to replace monarchies and autocracies with bureaucracies, and to the detriment of the workers and peasants, at that. For this insight, Djilas (who was already languishing in prison for previous criticisms of Communism) had his sentence extended for another seven years.

Angelo Codevilla does not live in the Yugoslavia of Tito's time, and until Steven Breyer and his cronies get around to further mangling the First Amendment, he's unlikely to be spending any time in jail for his analysis of America's current political situation. Codevilla's article argues that the divide in America today is not so much between Republicans and Democrats, but between the Ruling Party and the Country Party. This may seem similar to Milton Rakove's cynical observation that there are really only two parties in America, the Ins and the Outs, but Codevilla's analysis reminds me much more of Djilas' book, perhaps because after seven decades of memetic warfare, the Federal government has become a gigantic bureaucracy, currently being manipulated by the President and his cronies in exactly the same manner Daley the Younger manipulated Cook County and the City of Chicago - and in exactly the same way the leaders of the CPSU manipulated the state apparat for the benefit of the New Class in the USSR. Except, of course, for the lack of a KGB in America, but what need for the secret police, the GULAG, and the psikuska when one has eminent domain, corrupt militarized police forces and no-knock warrantless drug raids? November 2012 can't come soon enough for me.

In the meantime, I recommend the book version of Professor Codevilla's essay, The Ruling Class: How They Corrupted America and What We Can Do About It, now only $9 and change at Amazon; if you have the Kindle, The Ruling Class can be had for a mere $5.59 with immediate delivery. Don't have a Kindle? Get one now.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Politics)
Castro's Confession - IBD - Investors.com:
The Left: Fidel Castro stunned the world this week by admitting socialism had failed in Cuba. The implication of the dictator's statement is unclear, but one thing isn't: Castro's sycophants have some explaining to do.

Castro, now 84 and semi-retired, made a surprisingly lucid admission about how 52 years of communist dictatorship have ruined his country. "The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore," he casually told the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, a reporter he summoned to Havana to tell him his thoughts.

Congratulations, you leftist pendejos. You've been sucking up to this murderous jerk for half a century now, and even he admits the "revolution" was a miserable failure. Who will your cult of personality fasten on now? The inept, bombastic Chavez, in Venezuela? The dictatorial Kims of North Korea, who seem hell-bent on starving their over-militarized country to death? Schadenfreude, bitches. I HAS IT. And it tastes almost as good as Mom's chili.
wombat_socho: Wombat (Happy)

With music from Tetris.
(h/t [livejournal.com profile] cutelildrow)
wombat_socho: Wombat (Default)
Good news: The Centurions is finally back in print.

Bad news: It's a $59.95 hardback. I loved the book, but not $60 worth. Here's hoping they release a Kindle version as well, to say nothing of one for The Praetorians, the sequel. You can't even get the books in their original French editions on amazon.fr, which actually doesn't surprise me too much. I can't imagine too many French care to be reminded of the long, bloody wars in Indochina and Algeria or the mutiny among their elite troops that followed when DeGaulle pulled out of Algeria.

Bizarrely, the Anthony Quinn movie Lost Command, made by eliding both books together into one screenplay, is still available, and on DVD to boot.
wombat_socho: Wombat (DC)
As part of the ongoing effort to get out of the basement, get more exercise, and continue with the weight loss/general health thing, I drove out to Manassas National Battlefield Park where the First and Second Battles of Bull Run were fought. I looked around the exhibits in the park headquarters, which aren't very numerous but are very well done, sat through a short movie that related the events of the two battles in the currently fashionable "through the eyes of common soldiers" style, and then went out to walk the grounds. I was good for about half a mile before becoming tired; took pictures of various monuments, cannon, and the truly impressive statue of Stonewall Jackson while hiking around, although they don't seem to have turned out all that well.
Pics )
The park headquarters has quite a little store inside, too. I daresay they have more books about the Civil War than most bookstores I've been in of late, including the classic Civil War history by Bruce Catton, various well-known tomes on the battles of Antietam Gettysburg, and a mountain of not-so-well-known books on lesser-known battles like Corinth, Iuka, and the unpleasantness in Kansas. They even had a copy of The Last Full Measure, the epic history of the 1st Minnesota Volunteers. They had a lot of other stuff too; the usual souvenir gewgaws, T-shirts and such, but by and large the inventory was heavily slanted towards books and maps. It took real effort to remind myself that I shouldn't be spending money on that sort of thing right now, no matter how tempting it might be.

Stopped in Chantilly to consume mass quantities of chicken wings, then came home to maek post and get my stuff together before heading off to class for Cost Accounting by way of the bookstore. May go back to Manassas tomorrow for more hiking and marinating in history, since I have a three-day pass. We'll see.
wombat_socho: Wombat (die now)
I probably should have posted this yesterday, the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Nagasaki, but better late than never.
The annual whining in the press about the use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki leaves me cold, but then, unlike most of the journalists and commentators, I actually know something about the war against Japan. I know that it didn't start with the attack on Pearl Harbor - by the time the Arizona went down on December 7, the The Rape Of Nanking was almost four years in the past. The truth of the matter is that for eight years before Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the soldiers and sailors of the Japanese Empire had cut a barbaric swath of rape and pillage across Asia from Manchuria to Imphal in India, butchering prisoners of war and civilians alike. They had fought suicidally from New Guinea to Okinawa, burned Manila to the ground with 100,000 civilians trapped in it, and given no indication that they would ever surrender.

Which meant that after the fall of Okinawa, the United States was looking at the very real possibility of having to invade Japan in the same way they had invaded Guadalcanal, Leyte, Okinawa, and a dozen other islands all across the Pacific. From the most recent invasions, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, we knew that the Japanese would be dug in deep, determined to resist to the last man, and anxious to kill or wound every American that they possibly could. American casualties would be horrific, estimated to be in the millions for the first phase, Operation Olympic, alone. From the experience of Okinawa, we could anticipate that the Japanese - military and civilians, although the Japanese plans drew no distinction between the two- would suffer over 90% casualties.

And people wonder why Truman dropped the bomb? What would history say of him had he not done so? As for me, I have no sympathy for the Japanese on this account. They had it coming. There has not, to this date, been a official, written apologies to the Chinese or Philippine nations for what happened at Nanking or Manila; even after those apologies are delivered (if they ever are), I hold that apologizing for the atomic bombing of Japan is unnecessary and stupid.

Unless, of course, you actually think we should have had millions of Americans killed or wounded in the process of exterminating 90% of the Japanese nation. I refuse to speculate whether this is the case with the current Administration.


wombat_socho: Wombat (Default)

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