Oct 192015

I am, for Gene Wolfe’s novel available tomorrow.

I’m rereading Castleview, one of Wolfe’s more complexly indirect fictions, in preparation.  Like batting practice, I suppose.  Here’s a small example of his subtlety, in which a bit of dialog tells us all we need to know about the character of one of the cast.  A woman’s husband has died suddenly, on the eve of a promotion that would have required them to sell their home.  It’s listed for sale, and a man has come to make an offer.  There are a number of Wolfe-y clues to him, but this exchange tells us a lot.  In her own home, she offers him coffee or tea.  The weather is foul, and getting colder.

“Tea, please.  My cigarette doesn’t offend you?  If it does I can open a window.”

This is an exquisite example of how every word matters .

From the advance description, this novel shares a bit of the setting of William Gibson’s The Peripheral, from just about a year ago.  This will be fascinating.

 Posted by at 1:20 pm
Oct 152015

Probably the last of the year, Rose “Pristine.” A classic hybrid tea, lightly scented, very delicately colored.  Big glossy leaves, fairly disease resistant.  Farewell until next June.


 Posted by at 9:00 am
Oct 142015

Ben Carson has been getting heat about ill-advised comments about Jews, Nazis, and self-defense. I like Dr. Ben, but I don’t think he’s the right guy to scrub up the mess that the next president will inherit. But I’m a lousy picker anyway, so we’ll leave that alone. For some reasoned and well informed critique of Carson’s comments (wait. Carson’s Comments would be a great magazine title) from the right, you might look here and here. I’m more interested in what we may as well call the presuppositions that I find behind his comments.
(1) One strand of modern American feeling raises the status of victim to a position of privilege, to such an extent that some folks seek out the status, or find it in the most trivial circumstances. Carson upholds another strand – you don’t have to be a victim. Or if you must, you can go down fighting.
(2) His comments should lead us to ask what a citizen’s rights are when their government does not provide effective police and protective services. How far do our rights to self defense go?
(3) Cutting deeper, what are the citizen’s rights if the government becomes an active agent of injustice, as happened in Nazi Germany? I recall – and am happy to be corrected – a suggestion that the Founders considered an armed populace to be the final check against government oppression. We do not, at this time, think much about the moral limits


of government action. Perhaps we should.

Much of the professional commentariat seems incapable of recognizing this sort of background, and in any event the progressive faction doesn’t want the issue of the individual’s response when the polity imposes its will.  There’s a little inclination to strive for “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”


 Posted by at 9:00 am
Oct 142015

So Saturday is NU’s homecoming which will probably feature an infestation of bumblebees, who will repetitiously demonstrate their spelling ability.  Under Armor is providing “throw back” uniforms in honor of the 1995 Rose Bowl team, which is very nice and all.  One thing about being an old codger is that I don’t need to buy no stinkin’ throwback stuff.  I’ve got originals.  Now if I can just find my Johnny Evers uniform blouse.  I know its here somewhere. . .


 Posted by at 6:51 am
Oct 122015

Sometimes, an act of satire is the only recourse.

Special to Chicago Inter Ocean by Special Correspondent Igor Feldman

Dateline, Chicago, Columbus Day 2015

Special Report – Skulduggery in Ann Arbor

In the wake of Saturday’s unexpected drubbing of Northwestern University’s football squad by the University of Michigan, the Inter-Ocean can reveal shenanigans of unprecedented variety. Your correspondent met with Northwestern’s newly hired Head of Security, Plinkem Wooldridge, who explained the circumstances around his hiring, and the strange events that made it necessary.

“It was the strangest dad-gummed thing,” Wooldridge said, wiping the foam from his mustache. “Both of their coordinators, you know, the guys who run the offense and the defense, seemed confused and disoriented after the game. Neither was able to recall the events of the game, or in fact anything at all from late Friday night. That’s when they called me in. I’d seen cases like this before, and immediately got in touch with a forensic hypnotist, Babs Tinfoil.  I’ve worked with her before, and she’s amazing.  She was able to recover some memories, and then we looked at the hotel security footage. I had to get pretty loud about that, but they finally coughed it up. We saw folks in blue sneaking around the floor where the coordinators had their rooms. One of them disabled the security camera, but not before we got a look at his face. This is where my years of experience paid off. Knew him right away. Bunny Cheesepot is a well known criminal hypnotist, wanted in 17 nations and by Interpol. He’s a master of disguise, with the power to cloud men’s minds. Tell your readers not to try to apprehend him; just call 911 and follow him at a safe distance.

“Babs’ forensic reconstruction concludes that Cheesepot successfully hypnotized both coordinators into using the game plan for Eastern Illinois, instead of the carefully conceived and I must say elegant plan they had formulated for Michigan.

“I’ll say this, the NU administration is furious. Coach Fitz blew his stack. Measures will be taken. I’m not at liberty to discuss this, of course.”

There you have it, folks. Skulduggery worthy of a Belichick. How will Conference respond? Not at all, I fear. Conference Grand Moff Jim Delany, wakened from his Sunday afternoon nap, said only, “What? Michigan is good again? That’s great. Plans working. What? Hypnotize? I don’t know anything about that. Probably not against the rules.”

How will Northwestern respond? Following up a hint from Chief Wooldridge, I contacted Gennady Zarkov, head of NU’s new Patrick Ryan Center for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. He said, “Sure, the Ditkabot. Easy. Maybe 8 feet tall. Doesn’t have to be very mobile, but the language is a problem. We are working on directional speakers. It’ll have facial recognition so it can identify this Harbaugh character, and project an audio stream that only Harbaugh can hear. It’ll probably start with ‘Harbaugh, get over here. What are you doing? You throw like a girl,’ and get nastier from there. We figure it’ll trigger post traumatic stress from Harbaugh’s Chicago Bears years. But mostly the Ditkabot will be a test bed for more commercial applications.  I can’t talk about those.”

There you have it, friends. Next years’ game should be a donnybrook.

 Posted by at 4:58 am  Tagged with:
Sep 022015

At this point in the presidential round, one listens to what they say, not that they’ll do stuff, but that you hope to get a hint of the character they might bring to the job. I’ve never understood Hillary’s assumption of entitlement, but that’s ok. Bernie reminds us that the problem with Socialism is Socialism. Isn’t there some obscure ex-gov running around on the Donk side? That’s it? Pending Handsy Joe Biden’s entrance, of course.

It’s hard to keep track of all the Heffalumps. Most of them might be ok in the job, especially for folks like me who would like to see a government of more modest scope. Do we actually need Rabbit Inspectors? I like Ben Carson; he’s a decent man. I think we may need someone with more skill in the foreign and military areas. I enjoy listening to Carly talk; she knows how to turn her interviewer’s attempted trap questions inside out. She’s well prepared, and that’s different. And I enjoy the spectacle of the dominant media trying to turn Scott Walker’s reasonable answers to loaded questions inside out. They’re worried about him. Fun. Rubio is likeable and works hard, Kasich decent and sensible (if dull. But a dull president has a place, too. Maybe dull would be good), and Cruz is smart and interesting, but he might have too much fun in the job.

But Trump worries me. He has no visible character, no policies that are not of the moment, and his public presentation reminds me far too much of bygone, strutting European politicians. I’ll refer you to the first chapter of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism.  His hyper-masculinity, rudeness, and brazen manipulation of media and public worries are too familiar; he turns his ignorance into an asset, too. “See? I’m not like those guys, those politicians.” These are a bundle of traits that are often appealing in overstressed democracies. He’d be a disastrously bad president.

Trump-Wedding-Yay-Clintons-998x646The speculation that he was planted by the Clintons – they were at his most recent wedding, remember – as a sort of disruptive clown has some plausibility. Trump has been an expert manipulator of crony capitalism, a deal maker but not a producer, a skillful user of media. And completely without any trace of character or principle. He’s pretty much the epitome of the RINO. He’s running against the Republicans: compare him with Carly, he’s made herself sort of a Hillary-seeking missle. Jeb Bush, to his credit (and no, we don’t need dynasties), seems to be taking on the task of going toe-to-toe with Trump. Good for him.

 Posted by at 9:50 am
Aug 242015

Were it discovered that cats or dogs, lions or horses, rhinos or tigers, were bred so their offspring could be extracted and their component parts harvested, celebrities would trample one another in their rush to the microphone, and PETA would be in the streets.  How is it that we have come to this point?

Aug 192015

Take a little time to get the granddaughter set up for kindergarten, and all Arkham breaks loose, doesn’t it?

This summer became an inadvertent Gene Wolfe/Tim Powers immersion event, which is another story and another discussion.  I promised myself a C. S. Lewis immersion in turn. I’ll begin that in earnest as soon as I find all my books WHICH SOMEONE HAS MOVED AROUND.  Hmph.  I have begun with The Abolition of Man, which I DID MANAGE TO FIND UNDER A PILE OF OTHER STUFF (ahem) and found this gem of a footnote (from chapter 2)

It will be seen that comfort and security, as known to a suburban street in peace-time, are the ultimate values; those things which can alone produce or spiritualize comfort and security are mocked.  Man lives by bread alone, and the ultimate source of bread is the baker’s van:  peace matters more than honour and can be preserved by jeering at colonels and reading newspapers.

A great load of acute observation lies within this. CSL was a perceptive social observer and critic.


Aug 052015

I went to a mall yesterday.  I get to malls maybe 6 times a year.  Saw a movie, in Grandpa role.  It’s one that has drawn lots of oohs and ahhs but I didn’t like it that much, for myself or for the Grandcutie.  Not bad, just over-advocated.  But that’s not the curiousity.  Maybe I should change the name of this blog to Cabinet of Curiosities.  Is anyone using that?

The curiosity was in the car I was parked next to.  Someone loved the presidential incumbent enough to change the license plate to BHO with a number.  Hope & Change stickers on it.  And now, this.


 Posted by at 5:54 am