Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Anarcho-Halloween!

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Movie review: GONE BABY GONE

Gone Baby Gone is tanking at the box office. In two weeks, it’s barely made $11 million nationwide. And that’s horribly sad, because it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in the past year, and maybe the best new film of the private eye genre I’ve seen since, well, maybe Chinatown, more than thirty years ago.

Gone Baby Gone is based on the fourth of five novels by Dennis Lehane about Boston private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro. Every one of those books, published in the 1990s, is spectacular. So much so that ten years after reading them, I still vividly recall each one. Now here’s what director-screenwriter Ben Affleck has done magnificently: he’s crafted a movie that captures Lehane’s book detail by detail. The script is lifted from the novel’s pages with little alteration. I recognized snatches of dialogue. There are set pieces from the novel that have been translated precisely to the screen. And the casting is spot-on.

Be warned: Gone Baby Gone is a dark mystery about child abuse and kidnapping, lightened only by brief snatches of verbal humor from Casey Affleck’s extraordinary portrayal of Kenzie. But if you like detective stories stuffed with twists and turns and moral dilemmas, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this film. And if you’re a Lehane fan, this movie adaptation of Gone Baby Gone will astonish you.

If this movie were building a decent audience right now, I’d anticipate a second film from the Kenzie-Gennaro series. I don’t think I’m gonna get that. A shame, since I’m so in love with the performances of Affleck and Michelle Monaghan, who plays Angie. But at least I’ll soon have the DVD to add to my library of noir films. And I guess I can always hope that, even after eight years, Dennis Lehane will eventually write a sixth Kenzie-Gennaro novel.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rules for Radicals

“Libertarianism is clearly the most, perhaps the only truly radical movement in America,” wrote the great Karl Hess almost 40 years ago [The Libertarian Forum, June 16, 1969]. “It grasps the problems of society by the roots. It is not reformist in any sense. It is revolutionary in every sense.”

Unfortunately, outside of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s New Libertarian Manifesto (1980), very little appropriate literature on revolutionary strategy is available to radical Left Libertarians who’ve grown beyond the basic “why to” to the inevitable “how to” stage. Most guides to revolution focus on seizing power, not diminishing it. And most are written from an explicitly communist point of view. Even left-collectivist organizer Saul Alinsky recognized this in 1971:

“The Have-Nots of the world, swept up in their present upheavals and desperately seeking revolutionary writings, can find such literature only from the communists, both red and yellow. Here they can read about tactics, maneuvers, strategy and principles of action in the making of revolutions. Since in this literature all ideas are imbedded in the language of communism, revolution appears synonymous with communism. … We have permitted a suicidal situation to unfold wherein revolution and communism have become one.”

To set right the situation, Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals, “a revolutionary handbook not cast in a communist or capitalist mold, but as a manual for the Have-Nots of the world regardless of the color of their skins or their politics.” There is no doubt when reading Alinsky that he was willing to lean on government when he believed it necessary. He was by no means an anarchist. But Rules for Radicals remains, after 36 years, the closest thing we have to what might be called a “generic” tract on revolutionary “how to.” And for that reason, I intend to reflect here on some of its contents over the next few days.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

On making big or small decisions

From The Case Against a Libertarian Political Party, by Erwin S. Strauss (1980):

“To understand the extent to which people are beginning to appreciate that participation in politics confers no significant control over events, consider the following joke. A man is asked by his neighbor who makes the decisions in his household. He replies, ‘I make the big decisions; my wife makes the small decisions.’ When asked for examples of small decisions, the man says, ‘Where to live, whether to get a new car, where to send the kids to college — things like that.’ If those are the ‘small’ decisions, then what are the big decisions? ‘Who should be President, whether to increase the defense budget, whether to reduce welfare payments — things like that.’ The fact that most people get the point of this joke (regardless of how funny they think it is) indicates that they are aware that their decisions on the ‘big’ things don’t really count for very much, while their decisions on the ‘small’ things are conclusive.”

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Monday, October 22, 2007

HEROES: losing its coolness?

You might have noticed that I haven’t written anything so far about season two of Heroes. Here’s why: I’ve been sooooo disappointed. This series, which captivated me last year, seems to have already lost its oomph. Nothing is happening! Cheerleader Claire is in California, still amazed at her regenerative powers and mooning for a new boyfriend. Hiro is stuck in the Wayback Machine, and I keep wishing Ando was there with him; at least we’d have some fun dialogue. Peter’s lost his memory and is hanging out with thugs who have really sad Irish accents. Last week, Nathan shaved off his beard, which provided that episode’s only real excitement. I understand that this particular story arc — Volume 2 — probably has only two or three episodes left before we move elsewhere. So c’mon, gang, let’s get rolling!

Kristen Bell, who so enchanted me as Veronica Mars for three years, makes her first-ever appearance this evening as Elle, a new "hero" who might be not-so-nice. I’m hoping she kicks this series back into high gear.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday morning funnies

Thanks, dirty harry. We're light years apart philosophically, but sometimes, you sure can be funny!

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sherlock Holmes - The Awakened

Sherlock Holmes fights a Cthulhu cult in a new videogame. How freakin' cool is that?!

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Hillary makes peace with warmongers

From today’s edition of The Independent:

Clinton bucks the trend and rakes in cash from the US weapons industry

By Leonard Doyle in Washington

The US arms industry is backing Hillary Clinton for President and has all but abandoned its traditional allies in the Republican party. Mrs. Clinton has also emerged as Wall Street’s favourite. Investment bankers have opened their wallets in unprecedented numbers for the New York senator over the past three months and, in the process, dumped their earlier favourite, Barack Obama.

And yet, I have “liberal” friends and acquaintances who will refuse to believe such a report.

Read on.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Hey, Stepford Libertarians!

Wendy McElroy has done a great service, I think, in reprinting on her blog an article of hers from the February 1983 issue of The Voluntaryist. “Although it is aimed at anarchists who worked within the Libertarian Party,” Wendy writes, “it contains insights that are applicable to the current Stepford Libertarians — that is, those libertarians who are supporting Republican Ron Paul almost to the point of worship.” You can find the entire piece here, but here’s a taste:

“Anarchists often claim to be in the L.P. simply because there is no other vehicle for libertarianism. I am suspicious of this argument for two reasons. First, the history of libertarianism and other radical movements is replete with examples of effective non-political, non-violent strategy. Anyone acquainted with the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, Gandhianism, or the history of Nineteenth Century libertarianism cannot honestly claim there is no other way. If they are not familiar with these movements, they are speaking from ignorance and should educate themselves.”

For Wendy’s second reason, go here.

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Best Butt-Kicking Babes (Entertainment Weekly’s online outlet) has offered up its list of the 24 Greatest Butt-Kicking Babes from movies and TV. It’s hard to argue with a list that digs deep enough to include Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore from Goldfinger (#9), or Miranda Otto as Eowyn from Lord of the Rings (#18), or Anne Paillaud as Nikita in the original La Femme Nikita (#13). And I gotta love a list that recognizes personal faves like Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor from the Terminator movies (#8), and Uma Thurman as Black Mamba from Kill Bill (#3), and Pam Grier as Coffy from, well, Coffy (#6), and Summer Glau as River Tam in Serenity (#12). And you have to admire a list that has a long enough memory to note the great Joan Crawford as Vienna in Johnny Guitar (#19).

But where’s Diana Rigg’s landmark leather-clad Emma Peel from The Avengers TV series, who broke new ground for female action characters in the 1960s? And where oh where, sweet jeezus, is Milla Jovovich, this generation’s biggest female action star? Neither is on the list, which inexplicably includes Yvonne Strahovski from NBC’s new series Chuck. Ms. Strahovski certainly has her charms, but for crying out loud, she’s only been on the tube for four short weeks!

By the way, Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the Alien films came in at #2. Who was #1? Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. OK, I’ll buy that.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Atlas" film can't be shrugged off

On again, off again, on again, off again. That's been the history of a possible Atlas Shrugged movie for the past three or four decades. Just a year or so ago, we heard about an Atlas project that might star Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, but that apparently wasn't to be. However, Robert Bidinotto reports that a movie from Lionsgate is indeed in the works, to be directed by Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog). Perelman and Lionsgate vice president Michael Burns appeared earlier this month on a panel at the Atlas Shrugged 50th Anniversary Celebration, held by the Atlas Society at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. Bidinotto's report is very interesting, and you can find it here.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"So you enjoy reading, do you?"

Five months ago, I had so many books stuffed into our living room alone — in bookcases, in drawers, and stacked on the floor — that I was able to donate 18 boxes worth to the local library and still store another 26 boxes in the portable storage unit now sitting in front of the house. Well, our new living room is pretty much “done.” So I spent last night shelving the books from those 26 boxes into our new built-in floor-to-ceiling bookcases. Holy crap! I’ve still got more than 40 empty shelves of varying sizes I can fill! An enormous amount of space! Now, there are still some books to be weeded out in the bedroom and guest rooms, but those rooms, once “redone” in the next few weeks, will all feature a few new built-in bookcases as well. This is liberating! I may no longer need to stack books along the walls and in the garage!

When the proper time comes, I’ll post a few pictures here of my new, more organized, multi-room book collection. I'm so happy.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Al takes a body blow from the Left

Alexander Cockburn delightfully rips into both Al Gore and the Nobel folks in his article “It’s as Ridiculous as if They’d Given Goebbels One in 1938,” from this past weekend’s CounterPunch:

“Put this one up on the shelf of shame, right next to Henry Kissinger’s, or the peace prize they gave to Kofi Annan and the entire UN in 2001, sandwiched between the UN’s okay for the bombing of Serbia, the killing of untold numbers of Iraqis, many of them babies and children in the years of sanctions, and its greenlight for the bombing of Baghdad in 2003. In 1998 the Nobel crowd gave the prize to Medecins Sans Frontieres, whose co-founder Bernard Kouchner is now France’s foreign secretary urging the bombing of Iran. Like Gore, Kouchner was a rabid advocate of the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia and the onslaughts on Serbia.

“The UN often has an inside track on the ‘Peace’ prize. The UN Peace-Keeping Forces got it in 1988. In 1986 another enthusiast for attacking Iraq and Iran, Elie Wiesel, carried off the trophy. Aside from Kissinger, probably the biggest killer of all to have got the peace prize was Norman Borlaug, whose ‘green revolution’ wheat strains led to the death of peasants by the million.

“When Gore goes to get the prize he shares with the pr hucksters and falsifiers at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Gore should be forced to march through a gauntlet of widows and orphans, Serbs, Iraqis, Palestinians, Colombians, and other victims of the Clinton era.”

Read Cockburn’s entire piece right here. And while you’re at it, take a look at my pal Brian’s disembowelment of Gore the warmonger.

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Facing the last mile

There’s light at the end of our home-remodeling tunnel, now almost four months long. I’m not sure exactly how far away that light is, but I can see it. Though my cynical friend Steve asks, “Are you sure that light isn’t just an oncoming train?” Well…

Here’s the deal: the whole freakin’ house is involved. Built-in cabinets and bookcases. All new floors. All new paint. At this very moment, the first, biggest phase nears completion. That means that we now have our kitchen back, and our living room (to a degree), and our dining area, and our front entry. Baseboards still need to be attached, glass must be installed in china cabinet doors (when it arrives), paint touch-ups will be pursued shortly.

Watching all this come together is pretty exciting. This house, which we've owned for nine years, will finally be fully crafted to fit our lifestyle, not that of past owners. But for the time being, Deb and I (plus 82-pound hound Cheyenne) are moving our living and sleeping quarters from the bedrooms and into the “new” end of the house so that work on those rooms can begin. The bedrooms are a smaller job than Phase One, thank gawd, mainly floors and paint. But it still means continued disruption, unplugging and plugging, rotating furniture, emptying and refilling boxes, pushing and shoving.

Our general contractor told us originally that the whole remodel would take, oh, maybe three months. Which I knew was bullshit. Current estimates say we should be pretty well finished by Christmas. Fingers are crossed.

So if you don’t hear from me occasionally, you know where I am.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bob Dylan: "Masters Of War"

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Saturday, October 13, 2007


Anyone who’s followed this blog for the past year or two knows that I’ve been on a re-reading frenzy for awhile, revisiting books from my past. The latest is Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 sci-fi novel The Lathe of Heaven, and what a revelation it is! When I first read the book in high school, I enjoyed it. For a teenager, it offered a compelling, apocalyptic story. But what a difference 35 years of experience can make in your understanding! Now I fully appreciate the philosophical underpinnings of Le Guin’s tale. Lathe is a chilling examination of do-gooderism run wild, of the “social planner” mentality, what the great Isabel Patterson called “the humanitarian with a guillotine.”

Briefly, The Lathe of Heaven is the story of George Orr, a man whose dreams alter reality. Forced by the government to undergo “voluntary” psychiatric treatment for abusing sleep-deprivation drugs, Orr becomes the tool of Dr. William Haber, a sleep researcher who uses George’s dreams to create alternate “utopian” realities in his often selfish desire for a better world. Most of these efforts, of course, go wrong. Haber hypnotically suggests Orr dream about “peace on Earth,” and the result is a wartime alliance of all Earth’s nations against an alien invasion of the Moon. Orr is directed to dream about an end to racism; the skin color of everyone on the planet turns uniformly gray.

Haber is the messiah-complex run amok. He is kin to neocon Republicans who conspire to “make the world safe for democracy” (i.e., U.S. hegemony) and “liberal” Democrats who shackle us to unworkable domestic welfare-workfare programs. When Orr objects to citizens being euthanized involuntarily, the result of just one Haber-directed dream, the doctor replies, “You haven’t yet fully accepted the use of controlled violence for the good of the community; you may never be able to. … We need health. We simply have no room for the incurables, the gene-damaged who degrade the species; we have no time for wasted, useless suffering.”

While The Lathe of Heaven is essentially an end of the world story, it’s a remarkably “quiet” book. It doesn’t shout. There are only three characters that drive the novel forward. And for that reason, oddly enough, it’s tremendously powerful.

This is a sci-fi gem that I never hear mentioned in libertarian circles. Lathe should be on every freedom-lover’s reading list.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Prize winner Al Gore

“I frequently daydream heroics. I am the hero. I’m saving a girl, or a fellow astronaut, or a besieged city, or a whole damn planet. Messiah dreams, do-gooder dreams. … They’re a hell of a lot of fun — so long as I keep ’em where they belong.” — Dr. Haber in The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K. Le Guin

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

The boogeyman is Mike Gravel

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Quote of the Day

Here’s my favorite quote so far in this Election 2008 quagmire, from Hillary Clinton:

“I have a million ideas. The country can’t afford them all.”


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Government is good for you!

If it weren’t so detailed and earnest, I’d think Professor Douglas J. Amy’s Government is Good website was a joke. But I’m afraid it’s not. Amy teaches politics at Mount Holyoke College, and his site is subtitled “An Unapologetic Defense of a Vital Institution.” You’ve got to see this to believe it.

Here’s a snippet from Amy’s article “A Day in Your Life”:

Though we usually fail to notice it, government programs and policies improve our daily lives in innumerable ways. …

7:50 a.m. You and your child walk across the lawn to your car and arrive without getting dog poop on your shoes. A small but welcome achievement that is made possible now by a local law that requires people to clean up after their pets. Also, the reason your neighborhood is not plagued by stray cats and dogs is that your local Animal Control officer is on the job dealing with this constant problem.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Does Warner Bros. hate women?

Gloria Allred is already calling for a boycott of Warner Bros. films if Warner president of production Jeff Robinov makes good on his idiotic decree that “we are no longer doing movies with women in the lead.” Robinov made this statement after Jodie Foster’s The Brave One and Nicole Kidman’s The Invasion tanked at the box office. (See full story here.)

I’m not a particular fan of Allred, but I gotta agree with her assessment of Robinov’s nonsense. “Instead of taking responsibility for their own lack of judgment about which scripts to make, directors to hire and budgets to OK,” Allred says, “some men in the movie industry find it easier to place blame for their lack of success on women leads and to exclude talented female actors from the top employment opportunities in Hollywood in favor of macho males.”

Incidentally, Resident Evil 3: Extinction, starring Milla Jovovich, my favorite “macho” female actor, stayed in the Top 5 this weekend after three weeks of release, grossing $43.5 million so far. You rock, Milla!

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Columbus Day -- phooey!

And besides, it's just another goddamn State-sanctioned day off for government bureaucrats and bankers...

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

America's oligarchy

Writes Wendy McElroy on her blog this morning:

A disturbing thought. George Herbert Walker Bush was President from 1989-1993, William Jefferson Clinton from 1993-2001. George Walker Bush will have been President from 2001-2009. If Hillary Clinton wins in 2008 and even if she serves only one term, then two families will have occupied the White House for almost 25 years — more than one generation. The definition of oligarchy is “a form of government where political power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society.” How much more elite can America become than to have two families out of a population of 300,000,000 people hold power for a quarter of a century?

A personal note: several months ago, I asked an old friend I’d describe as a lifelong liberal Democrat whether he was supporting Hillary Clinton in the upcoming presidential race. “Nope,” he answered. “We’re suffering with a Bush dynasty right now. I won’t champion a Clintonian one.”

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Victor Milan adds his two cents

Victor Milán, a libertarian comrade and science fiction novelist of considerable talent (his The Cybernetic Samurai remains one of my favorites) has posted a comment to my recent review of John Scalzi’s The Last Colony. And y’know what? I like Victor’s analysis of the book a lot better than my own! Just in case you never check back for comments to past posts, I’ll re-post his comment right here:

I agree Last Colony’s an excellent book, and stands on its own.

I also think that it’s even more worthwhile to read as the third volume of a trilogy, since it changes the apparent thrust of the first two books.

Old Man’s War and Ghost Brigades were fine SF novels in their own right. But, to me at least, they carried an implicit message: shut up and soldier. That conscience and judgment are fine things for individuals, but of no consequence compared to the will of the State. Don’t you know there’s a war on? Follow your orders.

Pretty much the same as Heinlein’s paean to Bolshevism, Starship Troopers, in other words.

Last Colony reverses the spin. The war is no longer all-encompassing justification but at best a mistake, at worst a scam, and in either case likely to result in the suicide of the human species. Our hero and heroine follow their consciences, do not shut up and soldier, they disobey orders; and they save humanity.

While I wouldn’t call them perfect from a freedom perspective (Scalzi still indulges a bit much in leader-worship) the concluding volume turns the whole trilogy into a sort of extended debate upon the conflict between individual and state — and comes down squarely for the individual.

Thanks for this insight, Victor.

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

What's so funny, warmongers?

Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe ask the right question.

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Top 10 Superhero Movies

Zack Lawrence over at /film offers his Top 10 Superhero Movies, and I love his list, because it’s a real oddball. Sure, there are a few obvious ones on there, but holy crap, Clash of the Titans and the freakin’ Dolph Lundgren Punisher? Whew. And hey, I just gotta respect any list that’s got Daredevil on it; I'm probably one of a dozen people who adore both the theatrical and director’s cut versions of that movie. And Unbreakable? Yeah, baby! Here’s Zack’s list, from bottom to top:

10. Superman: The Movie and Superman Returns (a twofer)
9. Unbreakable
8. Hellboy
7. Punisher (the one with Lundgren, not Thomas Jane)
6. Clash of the Titans
5. Batman Begins
4. Daredevil
3. The Matrix
2. Spider-Man 2
1. X-Men 2

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The stuff libertarian dreams are made of

Atlantic City Mayor Goes Missing

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Under federal investigation for embellishing his Army service in Vietnam, a groggy-sounding Mayor Robert Levy called in sick at City Hall, climbed into his city-issued Dodge Durango and seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth.

A spokesman issued a 36-word statement saying the mayor was going on indefinite medical leave. That was a week and a half ago. Aides say he is in a hospital, but they won’t say where, why or for how long.

The mystery and the gathering scandal over Levy’s military record have worried civic leaders in this seaside resort, which has a long history of corruption, with four of the last eight mayors busted on graft charges and one-third of last year’s nine-member City Council in prison or under house arrest.

As author and radio talk host Tammy Bruce remarked, “Now if every politician in Washington, DC would take [Levy’s] lead, we’d have something to smile about.”

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Thanks for the tip, Karen.

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Onward to Barsoom!

[Cross-posted to Rebels of Mars]

This report, from ERBzine News:

Pixar’s “John Carter” Team Visits Tarzana
Tarzana, CA: October 2, 2007

Pre-production for the Disney/Pixar “John Carter of Mars” film is gathering steam.

The Pixar creative team spent Tuesday morning exploring the massive Edgar Rice Burroughs archives in the ERB, Inc. offices on Ventura Blvd. Pixar’s Jim Morris (vp), Andrew Stanton (director), Mark Andrews (script) discussed the “John Carter of Mars” film project with Burroughs representatives, Danton Burroughs, Sandra Galfas and Jim Sullos.

All six members at the meeting expressed a deep commitment to the project, acknowledging that they had been inspired by Burroughs’ creations from a very early age. This is evidenced in the excitement for the John Carter property and the plans for a film trilogy faithful to the Burroughs books. Projected release date is sometime before 2012.

Danton Burroughs presented the creative team with a wealth of resources, including art samples and books by ERB scholars such as Irwin Porges and John F. Roy. They noted that their major resource to date had been the thousands of official ERB, Inc. Webpages and Webzines.

Pixar? Deep commitment? TRILOGY?!? Oh my!

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Book review: THE LAST COLONY

Speaking of dystopias, which I was late last week, it’s time I acknowledged John Scalzi’s superb science fiction novel, The Last Colony. It’s the third book set in a universe first introduced two years ago in Old Man’s War, then revisited last year in The Ghost Brigades. Scalzi claims in an afterward that Colony closes out the series, which is bullshit since Zoe’s Tale, a fourth novel set in the same “world,” is scheduled for release next August. But I’m here to talk about The Last Colony

As I mentioned, it’s superb, particularly if you enjoy Scalzi’s brand of political and military sci-fi. Unlike the two earlier books, Colony is pretty much planetbound. And it doesn’t offer the high-velocity action of the other novels. But that’s not a bad thing. This time around, John Perry from OMW and Jane Sagan from GB are married and in semi-retirement with their adopted daughter when they’re conscripted by the human Colonial Union to settle and run a new colony unpromisingly named Roanoke. What the colonists discover shortly is that they’re no more than dispensable pawns in a CU plot to annihilate the Conclave, an alien confederation. So The Last Colony is an interstellar cat-and-mouse survival story, with Perry and Sagan trying to keep Roanoke’s head down while working both ends of the galactic conflict.

As usual with John Scalzi, what really makes this novel sing is its sense of humor and its engaging characters. I don’t want to lose touch with John Perry or Jane Sagan. And I appreciate the fact that, even as part of a series, The Last Colony stands on its own; reading the first two books isn’t necessary, although it will add to your enjoyment.

I can’t wait for Zoe’s Tale.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Phil Ochs: "One More Parade"

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