The Reservist Book Review by J. R. Handley with Jason Anspach and Nick Cole

Sometimes, the greatest burden is on the men who made it home.

With Veterans Day/Armistice Day today, J. R. Handley’s The Reservist [Amazon link] is a fine work to remind us of the horror and stupidity of war, and also why the men who went through it on our behalf have an indissoluble bond with one another, especially with the ones who didn’t come back. Each and every family bears the weight of a death in combat, but those who make it out alive sometimes carry their fallen brothers with them for the rest of their lives.

THE RESERVIST: ORDER OF THE CENTURION #5 BY J. R. HANDLEY WITH JASON ANSPACH AND NICK COLE KINDLE EDITION TO BE RELEASED DECEMBER 25th, 2019 BY GALAXY'S EDGE

THE RESERVIST: ORDER OF THE CENTURION #5
BY J. R. HANDLEY WITH JASON ANSPACH AND NICK COLE
KINDLE EDITION
TO BE RELEASED DECEMBER 25th, 2019 BY GALAXY'S EDGE

The Legion is composed of professional soldiers, lifers who have followed their calling. Except for the New Caledonian Reserve Corps, one of those historical accidents like Texas’ right to divide itself up into five smaller states. A relic of the Savage Wars, the Reserve Corps was a fine way to play soldier one weekend a month, at least until the Battle of Kublar pushed the galaxy into chaos.

Then, every warm body was needed, so the Reserve was mobilized and deployed someplace no one on New Caledonia had ever heard of. Some place cold too, since New Caledonia was mostly desert.

Unlike some of the other volumes in The Order of the Centurion series, The Reservist is less about remarkable men of great skill at arms, than about rather ordinary men who find themselves thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Even the point officer [there is of course a point officer] is less a corrupt, grandstanding fool, and more just an ordinary guy thrown in over his head without the training or the skills to truly lead his men to war.

From the very beginning, everything goes wrong. Everyone makes stupid mistakes that get people killed. Luck has as much to do with who lives to see another day as prudent planning or proper training. War is hell, especially when the men are incompetently led.

And this war, especially, is hell. The 9th Legion finds itself in a brutal campaign for survival on the rebellious planet of Rhyssis Wan. Even Legion Reservists have better gear than the rebels on this backwater, but each Legionnaire who falls cannot be replaced. Superior tactics and weapons can only count for so much when the enemy outnumbers you by such an overwhelming margin. Quantity comes to have a quality of its own.

Since the 9th is composed of so many men from the New Caledonian Reserve, each man who falls isn’t just a brother in arms, but also a long-standing friend and maybe the godfather of your children. Each man being so ordinary brings home the pain and loss in a very real way. That the 9th keeps fighting on is a remarkable testament to their spirit, and the spirit of all the men just like them.

The ones who don’t talk much about the war, because they were scared, and it was horrible, but who went ahead and did it anyways. This story is for them.

The Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme

Wild poppy  © Copyright  Evelyn Simak  and licensed for  reuse  under this  Creative Commons Licence .

Wild poppy

© Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Long View 2007-06-01: The Culture Wars and Immigration

The mid- to late-2000s was the point in time where opposition to immigration to the United States came to be associated with racism. As political science grad student Zach Goldberg notes, much of the change in expressed attitudes come from white liberals, while the rest of the country hasn’t changed nearly as much.

Here, John J. Reilly {RIP] quote Fr. Richard Neuhaus [RIP] to the effect that

On this matter, neither the Republican Party nor the Catholic Church (at least with regard to the United States) are on the side of people who normally identify themselves as cultural conservatives. Now there is tinder for a realignment for you.

The realignment hasn’t settled out yet, but it does look like it is in process.


The Culture Wars and Immigration

The culture wars have been declared over every few years since they started, and the Vicar Richard John Neuhaus is suitably skeptical about the most recent Obituary for the Culture Wars

Waiting for me upon my return from Rome was Jacob Heilbrunn’s review in the New York Times Book Review of Dan Gilgoff’s The Jesus Machine, an informed and not entirely unsympathetic book on James Dobson and his Focus on the Family. Heilbrunn concludes with this:...Jacob Heilbrunn is a keen reader of the signs of the times, and I expect that the herd of independent minds will be following his lead, providing us in the months ahead with a flow of punditry on the death throes of the religious right. It was a narrow escape, but the threat of theocracy is receding, and the natives have been returned to their proper place at the margins of our public life. It is advisable to keep an eye on them, but they are now more nuisance than danger. Once again, just as in Hollywood Exhibits A through Z, democracy has been saved from government by the consent of the governed.

The belief that the natives have been contained rests on two serious misapprehensions:

(1)The assumption that the Right in the culture wars was more than instrumentally identified with the Republican Party;

(2) The failure to recognize that the immigration issue has joined the list of contested items.

On this matter, neither the Republican Party nor the Catholic Church (at least with regard to the United States) are on the side of people who normally identify themselves as cultural conservatives. Now there is tinder for a realignment for you.

* * *

But to what shall we compare the Bush Administration these days? To a Microsoft product perhaps: to me, at least, trying to understand the White House these days is like doing complicated document formatting in Word. There comes a point when you start to pound the desk and shout, "Why is it doing that now? And how do I get it to stop!?!" One notes with sympathy the bewilderment evident in this exchange between Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn:

HH: Now coming up after my conversation with you is Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker, who wrote in this week’s issue Party Unfaithful, and he goes around and he quotes Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay about the “Republican implosion.” I think he mistakes the Bush implosion from the Republican implosion. I think that the immigration bill is a bridge too far for a lot of people, and it’s really broken a lot of backs on this. But I don’t think it’s broken the party back. What do you think?

MS: Well, I’m not so sure about that. I mean, it’s clear that if you align with Bush on this issue, then your numbers go south among Republican primary voters. That’s the problem with John McCain. And I must say, as someone who has stuck with the President a lot more than many of my colleagues have in recent months, I strongly disagree with the President effectively trying to damn his Republican opponents on this immigration bill as somehow scaremongers, or just slapdash types who haven’t read the bill properly.

I am reliably informed that part of the problem with the Bush Administration these days is that it is focusing so single-mindedly on Iraq that it cannot give systematic attention to any domestic issue. If that is so, then it would have been better to let the immigration matter lapse for the present rather than try to address it in an absent-minded fashion.

In general, the Bush Administration seems to have never grasped that its domestic policies must energize the popular sentiment necessary to support its foreign policy. Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson and FDR did that, with notable success. The failure of the Johnson Administration confirms the rule: the Great Society initiative was perceived, whether fairly or not, to be directed exclusively at the betterment of the poor and minorities, while it was the majority whose mobilized support the Administration needed.

* * *

I was given a preliminary glimpse of the collapse of the New Deal Democratic Party, not that I had appreciated it at the time. When I was in high school, I knew a number of aging party hacks suitable for my age and condition, people who had gone to every Democratic presidential convention since the Truman Administration. Attendance was a perk, an acknowledgement of many decades of seedy but reliable work for the local Democratic machine. Then, in 1971, they learned that they would not be attending that year's Democratic Convention. They were, frankly, just not cool enough to attend a convention where Gary Hart and Warren Beatty would be among the activist luminaries. My hack elders were not pleased, which went a long way toward explaining how badly the Democratic candidate, George McGovern, did in the subsequent general election.

I was reminded of this policy of betrayal by the party leadership by Peggy Noonan's blistering column in today's Opinion Journal:

What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future. ...The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."...It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement.

The term "conservative" is becoming unhelpful, I suspect.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2007-05-30: The Nuclear Freeze; Pakistan; the Latin Mass; Spelling Bees

SS-20 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile

SS-20 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile

SS-20s always make me think of the Chevy Chase/Dan Ackroyd movie Spies Like Us.


The Nuclear Freeze; Pakistan; the Latin Mass; Spelling Bees

The proposal to set a date certain for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq has wide support among the political establishment. Maybe it's just me, but all this seems oddly reminiscent of the Nuclear Freeze movement of the 1980s. That was the last, great effort by the Left in the West to defend the Fatherland of Socialism.

The issue was how NATO should respond to the deployment by the Soviet Union of SS-20s in Eastern Europe, an intermediate-range missile. By the 1970s, NATO conventional forces were much smaller and not obviously more capable than their Warsaw Pact counterparts. NATO doctrine contemplated the use of tactical nuclear weapons to stop the advance of Warsaw Pact armored forces. The SS-20s were intended to provide a deterrent to the use of tactical nukes by NATO, a deterrent that, if used, would not involve a direct attack on the United States. If the tactical weapons could not be used, a Soviet conventional campaign against Western Europe would have been possible. The effect would have been to decouple the security interests of Western Europe from those of the United States.

The US response was to deploy intermediate-range missiles of its own. The Nuclear Freeze was nominally about beginning to end the era of Mutual Assured Destruction by freezing existing nuclear stockpiles and delivery systems. The first deployment to be halted, of course, would be the deployment of the new American intermediate-range missiles in Europe. This, as the Marxists used to say, was no accident: the proposal would have frozen in place a permanent Soviet strategic Advantage. Enormous demonstrations were organized all over the world during the Reagan Administration in support of this proposal.

The analogy with the Iraq withdrawal movement today is that the American political system immediately began negotiating with itself, with no reference to what the enemies of the United States were doing or intended to do, and indeed with very little sense that there were any non-domestic parties involved.

In the event, of course, the Freeze proved irrelevant: the West held a stronger economic advantage than it thought at the time, the Soviet Union was flummoxed at the prospect of strategic defense, and the Reagan Administration succeeded in communicating that it had sufficient domestic freedom of action to build any weapons systems it really thought necessary. The SS-20s were withdrawn, in return for the American withdrawal of its still largely hypothetical intermediate-range missiles. The result had benefits for both sides, but it was the Soviet Union that had been attempting to change the power-balance in Europe and the attempt failed.

Nonetheless, there seem to be a selective historical narrative in which the Nuclear Freeze is remembered as a great victory for historical activism.

* * *

But will the use of nukes remain hypothetical? That could be the real issue in whether General Pervez Musharraf retains control of Pakistan, a proposition that has become questionable in light of the public reaction to the general's firing of a high-court justice. An Islamist government in Islamabad could easily get into a war with India, which could easily involve a nuclear exchange. As I have remarked before, the civilian casualties from such a war might be terrible, but India would win it clearly and decisively. That would be a lesson for all small-arsenal nuclear powers: nukes are not merely mechanisms of deterrence. Below a certain threshold of mutual destruction, they can win wars on acceptable terms.

Here are four scenarios for you:

According to a Economist Business Asia intelligence unit report, the four possibilities include an Islamist coup, a full military takeover, a return to full democracy and a power sharing arrangement between the civilian and military authority.

We may note that a return to civilian control in this context seems to mean the return of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. I can't say that she has ever done me an injury, but it seems to me that I have been hearing this woman's name all my life. Furthermore, she became a former prime minister not because the Pakistani military is uppity but because she was doing a less than stellar job.

Don't these people ever just go away?

* * *

Speaking of things that will be with us for a while, regular readers of my website will have noted my recent review of Robert Andrews' A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900. As I remarked in the review, the title was really determined by Churchill's history of similar name, but it was mystifying that Roberts used that clunky phrase, "the English-Speaking peoples," all through the book, even though James C. Bennett's more mellifluous "Anglosphere" was available.

Be that as it may, I went in search of the Anglosphere, and quickly found The Anglosphere Institute, which preaches this doctrine:

The Anglosphere perspective suggests that the English-speaking nations have not only formed a distinct branch of Western civilization for most of history, they are now becoming a distinct civilization in their own right. Western in origin but no longer entirely Western in composition and nature, this civilization is marked by a particularly strong civil society, which is the source of its long record of successful constitutional gAnglophile Conspiracyovernment and economic prosperity. The Anglosphere's continuous leadership of the Scientific-Technological Revolution from the seventeenth century through the twenty-first century stems from these characteristics and is thus likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

I was never keen on the idea, still favored by some historians and political scientists, that America constitutes a civilization separate from that of Europe. The Anglosphere takes this notion and adds really long transoceanic flights.

But what about Cecil Rhodes and the great Anglophile Conspiracy that gave us the Round Table Groups and all those scholarships to Oxford?

Contemporary Anglospherist thought bears roughly the same relation to past Anglo-Saxonism as current evolutionary thought bears to the simplistic Darwinism of Milner's contemporaries.

Long transoceanic flights and sophisticated Darwinism; I am not reassured.

* * *

The Vatican has yet to reauthorize the Latin Mass, but we are repeatedly assured this step is imminent. It may be relevant the New York Times' Vatican Correspondent, John Allen Jr., had a comment on the subject today called The Pope’s Language Lesson. He notes that the media are likely to portray the reauthorization (to be issued as a motu proprio when it appears) as a revolutionary step:

And, of course, we in the press will abet the hype because it’s about conflict, which is the motor fuel of storytelling, and because we need to “sell” the story in order to win air time and column inches.

Benedict, a quintessential realist, will probably be among the few who understand right away that his ruling is not terribly earth-shattering. Sources close to the pope I have spoken to say his modest ambition is that over time, the old Mass will exert a “gravitational pull” on the new one, drawing it toward greater sobriety and reverence.

That has been very much my take on the matter, too. I am beginning to wonder now, however. Certainly the old Mass will not be made mandatory, and only a few more parishes will give it a try after the motu proprio is issued. However, history is full of administrative measures that did not seem like such a big deal at the time but which in retrospect defined a watershed between one era and another. I now suspect that will be the case with the motu proprio.

* * *

How do spelling contests work in other countries? So asks Michelle Tsai in Slate, and gives almost the correct answer:

Close to 300 boys and girls will be stepping up to the mic at this week's Scripps National Spelling Bee. They hail from across the United States, as well as from countries like Germany, Jamaica, the Bahamas, New Zealand, and Canada. Wait, do non-English-speaking countries have spelling bees, too?

Not exactly. Spelling bees are a particularly British and American phenomenon. The orthography of some Romance languages, like Spanish, is so regular that one can easily figure out the spelling of a word just by hearing the way it sounds. English, on the other hand, contains Latin, Greek, Germanic, and other roots, not to mention whole words borrowed from other languages. That's why an American schoolchild might get stuck with tricky words like ursprache and appioggiatura.

Actually, it's not just "some Romance languages" that have orthographies too regular to support a competitive sport. The same is true of Germanic, Slavic, and other languages that use the Latin alphabet. The closest analogues (not counting the dictionary-use and calligraphy contests in East Asia) are the "dictation" competitions for French and Dutch. French notoriously has a "read-only" orthography: you can pronounce any word you can spell, but there are numerous ways that spoken words might be spelled.

And all these languages with good spelling systems have large numbers of loan words, too. Only for English is it supposed to be a problem to regularize them.

So, you ask: What is to Be Done? I give you the Party Line:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, May 30, 11am

Contact: Elizabeth Kuizenga

Tel: (510) 851-4710

Email: ekuiz@earthlink.net

5th Annual Picket of English Spelling at National Spelling Bee in DC

Ben Franklin and Mark Twain to demonstrate outside Grand Hyatt Hotel

Washington, DC ( 5/30/07 ) - Among his visions for life in the United States, Ben Franklin saw a simpler English spelling system as a boon to educating the public. His advocacy for this logic will continue outside the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, on Thurs, May 31 from 2:30 to 5:30pm, when he will be portrayed by Ralph Archbold, (aka Ben Franklin for America's Constitutional Bicentennial), who will express Franklin's ideas.

Also continuing to attack crazy English spelling will be author Mark Twain, in the person of Mike Carter, from Wednesday morning, May 30th, thru Thurs afternoon, May 31st-- as well as a cast of Bee marchers from the US, Canada, England, Scotland and New Zealand.

They will both be part of this year's presence at the Bee by the American Literacy Council and the Simplified Spelling Society. Both groups have attended the Bee in recent years to protest the difficulties that English spelling conventions pose for kids and adults trying to learn English, including writing, reading, spelling, and pronunciation. The protesters are concerned that the issues of English spelling delay the acquisition of reading and writing skills, leaving English-speaking kids years behind in their study compared to speakers of other languages.

Members of ALC and SSS will be outside the Bee on May 30 and 31, to talk with people, distribute pamphlets and buttons, and pose for photos.

Established in 1876 & 1908, respectively, the American Literacy Council and Simplified Spelling Society have been transatlantic partners in literacy activism at the Bee since 2001.

Contacts:

Organizer: Elizabeth Kuizenga, ESL teacher in San Francisco, cell: 510 -851-4710

Email: ekuiz@earthlink.net

Masha Bell, Literacy expert from Dorset, England , UK, cell: 011 4477 922 89427

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View: A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900

Now that #Brexit might finally be upon us, here is a prescient book review from 2007 about the peculiar philosophy that made it possible more than a decade later.

I am afraid this book is an example of a peculiar deleterious effect that the European Union has had on conservatism in Britain, and to a lesser extent in America. Appalled by the totalitarian liberalism of EU bureaucracy and disgusted with the waste and general crookedness that attends its operation, too many conservatives are now willing to abandon the concept of Western Civilization. In order to be free of the implacable inanity of Brussels, they are willing to abandon Continental Europe to its sordid fate. American conservatives increasingly suggest that isolationism is an underrated idea, while their counterparts elsewhere try to patch together a substitute civilization from bits and pieces of the wider world. This strategy is neither conservative nor prudent, and it’s not going to work.

Do not throw away Europe. You are going to need it later.



A History of the
English-Speaking Peoples
since 1900
By Andrew Roberts
HarperCollins, 2006
736 Pages, US$35.00
ISBN: 978-0-06-087598-5

Among the innumerable triumphs of the English-speaking peoples in the field of popular culture in the 20th century were the satirical routines of the Monty Python Flying Circus comedy troupe, and among the most ingenious routines of Monty Python was The News for Voles. The News for Voles was just like the newscast for everybody else, except that the newsreader mentioned that no voles were involved in such-and-such a traffic accident, and that no voles took part in a recent international summit. Perhaps you had to be a regular watcher of British television at the time to understand exactly what Monty Python was making fun of (The News for Wales, perhaps?), but you get the idea. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900 is based on pretty much the same idea: it’s essentially a history of the 20th century, but told from the joint perspective of the major English-speaking countries, or at least the joint perspective they might have if they had one.

The author, Andrew Roberts, writes for The Sunday Telegraph and is also the author of, among other books, Eminent Churchillians. (He lives in London, so no doubt he is from one of the English-speaking countries.) At least nominally, he was attempting to continue Winston Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples, though he acknowledges that a comprehensive history of that subject would be impossible. This work, reasonably enough, is episodic, impressionistic, and emphasizes the author’s likes and dislikes, though it is still more or less a narrative history. If you liked the moralizing survey-histories of Paul Johnson, you are probably going to like A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900. Unlike Johnson’s histories, however, I think that Roberts’ work refutes its own premise.

Non-English-speaking peoples are, of course, of some historical interest to the author, but the important point is always what the English-speaking peoples did with the primitive foreign notions they inherited:

The English-speaking peoples did not invent the ideas that nonetheless made them great: the Romans invented the concept of Law, the Greeks one-freeman-one-vote democracy, the Dutch modern capitalism, the Germans Protestantism, and the French can lay some claim to the Enlightenment (albeit alongside the Scots). Added to those invaluable ideas, however, the English-speaking peoples have produced the final practical theories behind constitutional monarchy, the Church-State divide, free speech and the separation of powers. They have managed to harness foreign modes of thought for the enormous benefit of their societies, whilst keeping their native genius for scientific, technological, labour-saving and especially military inventions.

All of these splendid characteristics enabled the English-speaking peoples to see off the Three Assaults against world order in the 20th century (Prussianism, Nazism, Communism). They give the English-speaking peoples at least a fighting chance to defeat the Fourth Assault (radical Islam) that began in the 1990s and exploded in the early 21st century. The Assaults and the responses to them are the essential structure of this history.

It is quite possible to write a history of the World Wars and Cold War from the perspective of Anglo-American cooperation, which we get in this book. It is not hard to fit the major Dominions into such a tale. The chief interest of the story, though, lies in its attention to lesser-known issues and the author’s personal enthusiasms. Thus, for instance, he has a special antipathy for Australian historian Charles Manning Hope Clark, evidently a Lefty fellow-traveling sort who disparaged the Britannic heritage. (And speaking of Australia, were Japanese commercial vessels really surveying the coast as early as 1925 for possible landing sites?) We get a defense of the Boer War that does mention Cecil Rhodes, though a bit elliptically, and without addressing the possibility that he might have had ambitions beyond extending the franchise in the Boer republics. As a matter of transatlantic reciprocity, the author endorses the Spanish-American war with enthusiasm, though not enough for him to query his editors whether “che sera sera” was quite the phrase that Spanish colonial authorities, however negligent, would use about public health in the Philippines. Moving right along, we learn that the Amritsar Massacre was a necessary and successful measure to protect public order. Curiously, there is no defense of the use of troops in the Tonypandy Riot in Britain in 1910, an event for which then Home Secretary Winston Churchill was widely blamed, though probably unfairly. In any case, Churchill comes off as a titanic but flawed figure. This attitude gives the author the opportunity to highlight the statesmanship of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, particularly as that statesmanship was so superbly chronicled in Conrad Black’s definitive biography of the man.

As for more recent events, the author deplores the scuttling by the Eisenhower Administration of the Anglo-French attempt to retake the Suez Canal, an interference against the true interests of the English-speaking peoples that, we are told, still rankles in the better clubs in London. The Carter Administration in America and the Heath Government in Britain are represented as the nadirs of politics in each country. Regarding the conservative renaissances that followed, the author is condescendingly complimentary of Ronald Reagan, but unrestrainedly effusive in praise of Margaret Thatcher and, significantly, Tony Blair. The author makes a case that both prime ministers demonstrated the Special Relationship between the US and the UK at its best, that is, where most of the ideas and public formulations come from London and Washington provides most of the resources.

It is necessary to maintain and strengthen the ties that bind the English-speaking peoples, and especially the Anglo-American Special Relationship, because that is the alternative to the European Union. The author finds it inexplicable that the United States has since 1945 been promoting closer European integration, with Europe defined to include Britain. Europe, frankly, is just too unstable to guarantee the rule of law:

Although [Continental European countries] are ancient states, many of the constitutions of European countries are very young indeed, far younger than those of Britain’s constitutional monarchy (1688-9), America’s democracy (1776), Canada’s responsible government (1848) or even Australia’s Federation (1900). By stark contrast, the French Constitution establishing the Fifth Republic was only promulgated in 1958, Germany’s Basic Law in 1949 (and amended thirteen times since) and Portugal’s became law in 1976 (to be revised in 1997)...It is small wonder therefore, with these Constitutions being so young, that they do not have the same purchase on the imaginations of their populations as do the English-speaking peoples’ constitutions, which – with the obvious exception of Eire’s Buneacht na hÉireann of 1937 – reach long beyond the memory of anyone alive.

In reality, of course, the current Canadian constitution dates from 1982. Furthermore, although the basic provisions of the United States Constitution remain in force after over 200 years, the document has about doubled in length with amendments over that period. We could dwell at length on “the obvious exception of Eire,” since the Republic of Ireland serves the author as an Awful Example, a predominantly English-speaking country that has historically been pro-German, anti-British, and non-Protestant. There is, frankly, something to be said for the proposition that Irish nationalism has always been slightly unhinged, but a culturally acute historian might note that this unhingement has always been disproportionately of a Protestant variety. From Wolfe Tone to Parnell (don’t get me started on Yeats), Irish nationalism was a project of the Protestant Ascendancy that was disgruntled by London’s refusal to allow it to misgovern Ireland without oversight. Only slowly (and at first against the opposition of the Catholic Church) did the Ascendancy bring Catholic Ireland to its point of view. In all the world, in fact, there are only two political styles that resemble this Celtic anarchy: American Jacksonianism and Ulster Unionism.

As to religion generally, it is perhaps understandable that a history of the 20th century would tend to dismiss it, since that was a uniquely secularist century, at least among elites. Nonetheless, the author’s attempt to characterize the English-speaking peoples as secular is merely peculiar. It is true that English-speaking countries tend to be leery of theocracy in the sense of merging ecclesial with state functions, but that is quite different from saying that those peoples are disinclined to consult religious principles with regard to public policy. Actually, one could write a history about the decline of the British Empire that described the process as evolving in parallel with the decline of Victorian piety. That would not be the whole story either, but it would be less misleading than one that gave the impression the collapsed state of English Protestantism is either historically normal or healthy.

The lack of a whole story is what’s wrong with this book. Among the illustrations, we find these two on a single page: Edmund Hillary, the New Zealander who was one of the first two persons (along with non-kiwi but presumably English-speaking Tenzing Norgay) to reach the summit of Mount Everest, smiling into a camera while wearing his oxygen pack; and Buzz Aldrin, also wearing an oxygen pack, on the surface of the Moon. Oxygen packs or no, these images are not self-evidently part of the same story. If they are, then the story might also reasonably include pictures of Yuri Gargarin and Jacques Cousteau.

There is obviously a sense in which the major (and most minor) English-speaking countries form a class. They have similar and historically related institutions; they trade stuff, people, and ideas; they are usually allies. What they aren’t is a separate civilization, which Toynbee defined at the beginning of A Study of History as the smallest social unit with the context needed to make history intelligible.

Even the term “English-speaking peoples” is clunky. The sleeker term “Anglosphere” occurs only with reference to James C. Bennett’s book, The Anglosphere Challenge. Churchill chose the name “English-speaking peoples,” of course, so Roberts was saddled with it, but you have to wonder how much common identity can be built by using a self-designation that is so painful to say.

On the level of action, the English-speaking peoples are one thing chiefly by virtue of the fact they have all been victims of the same “assaults.” Well, yes, when a group of peoples fight off an attack, they often find that they have become a nation. The problem is that each of the English-speaking peoples experienced the assaults in different ways and helped to fight them off as part of a common effort that extended substantially further than the English-speaking world. And as for the assaults themselves, they were not like random natural disasters. The ones involving the Germans were episodes in ethnic and philosophical systems of which the English-speaking peoples were also a part. The threat of Communism was everywhere a feature of domestic politics. The Islamist Assault is more alien, but it is emphatically the case that the English-speaking peoples are not the only victims, and the English-speaking peoples cannot fight it on their own. The concept of “the English-speaking peoples” that we see in this book is a kind of censoring device that makes the present world and its prologue substantially less comprehensible than they really are.

I am afraid this book is an example of a peculiar deleterious effect that the European Union has had on conservatism in Britain, and to a lesser extent in America. Appalled by the totalitarian liberalism of EU bureaucracy and disgusted with the waste and general crookedness that attends its operation, too many conservatives are now willing to abandon the concept of Western Civilization. In order to be free of the implacable inanity of Brussels, they are willing to abandon Continental Europe to its sordid fate. American conservatives increasingly suggest that isolationism is an underrated idea, while their counterparts elsewhere try to patch together a substitute civilization from bits and pieces of the wider world. This strategy is neither conservative nor prudent, and it’s not going to work.

Do not throw away Europe. You are going to need it later.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

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The Long View 2007-05-24: That Hideous Strength & 1984; The Mortuary State

Providence, from a more masterful artist than Lewis

Providence, from a more masterful artist than Lewis

The Orwell review of C. S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength that John Reilly mentions here fascinates me because I almost agree with it.

Much is made of the fact that the scientists [in the book] are actually in touch with evil spirits, although this fact is known only to the inmost circle. Mr. Lewis appears to believe in the existence of such spirits, and of benevolent ones as well. He is entitled to his beliefs, but they weaken his story, not only because they offend the average reader’s sense of probability but because in effect they decide the issue in advance. When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict one always knows which side is going to win. The whole drama of the struggle against evil lies in the fact that one does not have supernatural aid.

I can imagine the kind of story that Orwell is complaining about, one which relies on the dreaded deus ex machina to save the day. I don’t really enjoy that kind of story either. Yet there is also a large number of very good, reasonably dramatic works of fiction that take as a premise that God wins in the end. I take this as an existence proof that the ultimate triumph of good over evil is not the death of fiction. A major theme of many of my own book reviews is Providence, which I take to be very different than deus ex machina.

One of the primary differences is that that no matter anyone’s stated intentions, you can never be really sure whose actions will ultimately serve the good. Providence uses the acts of the wicked as readily as the acts of the just. A corollary of this is that you are never really sure, until the end, of what side anyone truly serves. We cannot, in general, scry the hearts of men, nor know the mind of God, so the workings of Providence remain fundamentally mysterious.

A key frame-shift that makes this possible is the relocation of drama from the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil, to the far more personal question of whom shall I serve, at the end of all things? Knowing the ending in advance does absolutely nothing to tell you what will happen to you, or your nation, or your cause. The very different philosophies of Eric Blair and Clive Staples Lewis inevitably produced very different ideas of fiction.


That Hideous Strength & 1984; The Mortuary State

Here is a book review I had been looking for: George Orwell's 1946 review of C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, which, as I have noted in this space a tediously large number of times, is my favorite supernatural thriller. Orwell liked the book, too, though he wished it were different in certain ways:

On the whole, novels are better when there are no miracles in them. Still, it is possible to think of a fairly large number of worth-while books in which ghosts, magic, second-sight, angels, mermaids, and what-not play a part.

Mr. C. S. Lewis’s “That Hideous Strength” can be included in their number – though, curiously enough, it would probably have been a better book if the magical element had been left out. For in essence it is a crime story, and the miraculous happenings, though they grow more frequent towards the end, are not integral to it.

In general outline, and to some extent in atmosphere, it rather resembles G. K. Chesterton’s "The Man Who Was Thursday."...

Much is made of the fact that the scientists [in the book] are actually in touch with evil spirits, although this fact is known only to the inmost circle. Mr. Lewis appears to believe in the existence of such spirits, and of benevolent ones as well. He is entitled to his beliefs, but they weaken his story, not only because they offend the average reader’s sense of probability but because in effect they decide the issue in advance. When one is told that God and the Devil are in conflict one always knows which side is going to win. The whole drama of the struggle against evil lies in the fact that one does not have supernatural aid. However, by the standard of the novels appearing nowadays this is a book worth reading.

As a preliminary matter, we should note that few books so little resemble The Man Who Was Thursday in atmosphere. The Lewis book resembles the Chesterton book in outline in that there are revelations throughout the story, but it most emphatically lacks the principal device of The Man Who was Thursday, which is that no one is what he at first seems.

In any case, I mention the Lewis-Orwell connection because it seems to me that Orwell took his own advice and wrote a miracle-free version of That Hideous Strength, which is 1984. Consider:

* They both feature sinister official euphemisms; Lewis's "National Institute of Coordinated Experiments" (N.I.C.E.) is first cousin to Orwell's "Ministry of Truth."

* They both feature a torture-tutorial in which an agent of evil explains the power of nihilism to the protagonist.

* They both emphasize the gullibility of the educated and contrast it with the essential sanity of the common man.

* The protagonists in both books reject the forces of evil because of a visceral intuition of right and wrong; each must fight theory to apprehend reality.

Of course, in 1984, the protagonist was ultimately defeated, but this is consistent with Orwell's thesis that novels are better without divine providence.

Lewis also favorably reviewed 1984 and Animal Farm (I don't have a link or a citation). He preferred Animal Farm to 1984, however. He believed that Orwell injected some Edwardian-Progressive notions about sex into the latter book that he still needed to think through.

* * *

Meanwhile, First Things has taken a Gothic turn, if we may judge from editor Joseph Bottum's feature article in the July/August issue, Death & Politics. In that piece, the author looks for an alternative to the social-contract theories of social formation. He finds it in mortality, in ways that can range from our apprehension of other persons' mortality to the physical presence of cemeteries as ritual centers:

Death is the anchor for every human association, from the family all the way up to the nation-state.

This sounds familiar, and the article duly ticks off the precedents: Fustel de Coulanges' mortuary-society theory of the Roman state; Heidegger's notion of death and liminality (which Bottum turns on its head); and, inevitably these days, Rene Girard and the community-building lynching. The article's analysis produces three propositions for our consideration:

(1) The losses human beings suffer are the deepest reason for culture,

(2) The fundamental pattern for any community is a congregation at a funeral,

(3) A healthy society requires a lively sense of the reality and continuing presence of the dead.

Bottum takes these notions in some directions that are novel (at least to me). For instance:

[F]reedom of the will is closely tied to a world with death in it: If nothing really dies, then we have no freedom of choice; if we lack significant freedom of choice, then death will prove unreal.

He gets to this conclusion by a modal argument which, like most modal arguments, is a lot of fun, but maybe does not prove quite what it claims to prove. But let us turn to the thesis as a whole.

On one level, indeed one might say at the popular level, the article's thrust is unexceptionable. The Gettysburg Address was delivered at the inauguration of a cemetery, to take an obvious example. And then there's My Country Tis of Thee:

Land where my fathers died;
Land of the Pilgrim's pride

One of the reasons the assimilation of immigrants traditionally worked so well in the United States is that immigrants were understood to acquire a new set of ancestors, like getting a set of new in-laws at marriage, but that's another blog entry.

As the author is well aware, the acknowledgement that there is close connection between death and the state has been one of the recurring themes of the Counter Enlightenment, and it has sometimes been taken in creepy-crawly directions. I wish I could find the citation, but someone once acutely characterized Alfred Rosenberg's ideological project as an attempt to turn the Nazi Party into a funerary cult with Hitler as its high priest. Of course, maybe the fundamental objection to that project was that it was a project. It's one thing to maintain social identity through honoring the dead; it's another to engineer the unity by producing corpses.

The fundamental objection to the theory of the mortuary state is not that it's wrong but that it's obviously incomplete. It may or may not anchor every human association from the family to the nation-state. It certainly does not anchor the Empire in Dante's sense of the intuitive necessity for an institutional expression of human unity, the intuition that now undergirds the social doctrine of the Catholic Church as it applies to the international system.

It was Dante's notion that all legitimate sovereignty was a reflection of the sovereignty of the Empire. That formulation would be a little too uppity even for the most enthusiastic supporter of the UN. Still, one might look up as well as down for the predicate of the state.

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Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Through the Nether Book Review

What is it that makes good men willing to see the world burn? To see justice done, tho the heavens may fall? The recent Joker movie directed and written by Todd Philips could described as a character study in what makes a hopeless loser willing to do so. Soren Voss, however, is going somewhere in life. Bright, driven, and self-sacrificing, Voss is willing to do what it takes to serve others, until it all comes crashing down.

THROUGH THE NETHER: ORDER OF THE CENTURION #4 BY RICHARD FOX WITH JASON ANSPACH AND NICK COLE KINDLE EDITION, 198 PAGES TO BE RELEASED NOVEMBER 26, 2019 BY GALAXY'S EDGE

THROUGH THE NETHER: ORDER OF THE CENTURION #4
BY RICHARD FOX WITH JASON ANSPACH AND NICK COLE
KINDLE EDITION, 198 PAGES
TO BE RELEASED NOVEMBER 26, 2019 BY GALAXY'S EDGE

Through the Nether is a little different from some of the other volumes in the Order of the Centurion series, insofar as it looks at the aftermath of the events of Kill Team, the third volume of Galaxy’s Edge season one. I think the book stands well on its own, but it is much more interesting if you see it as the other side of the coin of the events in the main series. Much like Kill Team, this book is about the seedy underbelly of counter-intelligence work.

A perusal of the Church committee report will give you an idea of the kinds of things intelligence agents in our world have felt were justified. Programs described in the report range from the shady, to the bizarre, to the perverse. Which is a pretty good description of Nether Ops, Soren Voss’ employer.

Intelligence work of course suffers from the same kind of arms race as warfare does. You cannot defend yourself unless you employ weapons that can counter those of your enemies. However, since so much of intelligence work is secret, it seems to have a pretty natural affinity for descending into the darkness. Plausible deniability plus an arguable need for constant dealings with all players in the game means that you never really know whose side anyone is really on. Hence James Jesus Angleton’s famous dictum that counter-intelligence is a wilderness of mirrors.

The narcissistic and the self-serving will clearly do well in such an environment. The idealistic are just targets for everyone else. Yet, for PR reasons at least, such men are needed in intelligence work. Thus we come to Soren Voss, Soren left the Navy to join Nether Ops, paralleling “Tom”, the former Navy man who was at the heart of the events in both Legionnaire and Kill Team. Soren just wants to protect the galaxy from monsters. He just hasn’t yet figured out that he works for the monsters.

In a galaxy of business as usual, the enormities that Soren commits in a day’s work would simply be swept under the rug. However, nothing is normal anymore, and in a sense, anything can happen, with will and luck. The fun for us is going along for the ride to see what happens.

I was provided a copy of this ebook by the publisher for free.

My other book reviews | Reading Log

Galaxy’s Edge season 1:
Legionnaire: Galaxy's Edge #1 book review
Galactic Outlaws: Galaxy's Edge #2 book review
Kill Team: Galaxy's Edge #3 book review
Attack of Shadows: Galaxy's Edge #4 book review
Sword of the Legion: Galaxy's Edge #5 Book Review
Tin Man: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Prisoners of Darkness: Galaxy's Edge #6 Book Review
Imperator: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Turning Point: Galaxy's Edge #7 Book Review
Message for the Dead: Galaxy's Edge #8 Book Review
Retribution: Galaxy’s Edge #9 Book Review

Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations:
Requiem for Medusa: Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations Book 1 Review

Takeover
Takeover: Part 1 Book Review
Takeover: Part 2 Book Review

Order of the Centurion
Order of the Centurion #1 book review
Iron Wolves: Order of the Centurion #2 book review
Stryker’s War: Order of the Centurion #3 book review

The Long 2007-05-21: In Praise of Piracy; Immigration as Weakness; Perpetual Copyright; Flicker Today

The anti-natalist project

The anti-natalist project

John Reilly references an “anti-natalist project” here, and in other places. It was largely implicit in many policies of the late twentieth century, but you can find the evidence if you look. If you want to get a feel for why this was seen as a huge problem, the science fiction of the Campbellian “golden age” is a good place to start. Overpopulation was a common theme, and it continued to be for authors like Niven and Pournelle into the seventies and eighties.

As Steyn will no doubt tell us in a later column, immigration policy is a function of demographic policy, which comes down to whether a government encourages or discourages high birth-rates. In a way, the Social Security issue is part of the same question, because the stress on the system is the result of a successful (though implicit) antinatalist policy in the 1970s and '80s. For that matter, so is the same-sex marriage question, since that goes to the relative economic advantage and social prestige of marriage, which has obvious demographic implications.

Also, contra Chesterton’s bon mot, the really interesting thing about this project is how successfully it was practiced by the very people who advocated for it.

“The answer to anyone who talks about the surplus population is to ask him, whether he is part of the surplus population; or if not, how he knows he is not.” – G. K. Chesterton


In Praise of Piracy; Immigration as Weakness; Perpetual Copyright; Flicker Today

Here is some misplaced moral outrage for you:

Explorers for a shipwreck exploration company based in Tampa said Friday that they had located a treasure estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars in what may be the richest undersea treasure recovery to date...The bountiful find is sure to reignite the long-running debate between undersea explorers and archaeologists, who view such treasure hunting as modern-day piracy.

Kevin Crisman, an associate professor in the nautical archaeology program at Texas A&M University, said salvage work on shipwrecks constituted “theft of public history and world history.”

He said the allure of treasure hidden under the sea seemed to blind the public to the ethical implications. “If these guys went and planted a bunch of dynamite around the Sphinx, or tore up the floor of the Acropolis, they’d be in jail in a minute,” Mr. Crisman said.

Yes, someone who blew up the Acropolis would be in jail in a minute, but that's because he blew up a public monument. In contrast, a salvage operation in itself raises no ethical questions. I am as in favor as the next guy of respecting archeological sites, but there is such a thing as gumming up the works. Governments start by trying to protect antiquities but often end by making sure they will never be discovered.

* * *

Speaking of outrage, Mark Steyn is in no mood to contain his about the Senate immigration deal. He puts his finger on the most mysterious aspect of the whole question:

I'm not a fan of "bipartisanship" for its own sake. This is a very divided political culture in which bipartisanship is all but nonexistent on everything else, starting with war and national security. So, when the political class is in lockstep bipartisan mode, that's sufficiently unusual all by itself. When it's in bipartisan mode on an issue on which the public is diametrically opposed, that looks less like bipartisanship and more like the lockstep myopia of an out-of-touch one-party state...

Actually, immigration is starting to look like nothing so much as the "tax revolt" that began in the 1970s. That was a visceral revulsion on the part of taxpayers against tax rates that seemed to be rising arbitrarily high, especially at the state and local level. For tax restraint to become policy, however, a theory was needed, and several were duly adduced. Here I think we see Steyn beginning to formulate a General Theory of Immigration Control:

At some point, it's worth trying to climb over the rubble of the 2007 Z-1s and the 1986 amnesty and the 1965 immigration act, and going back to basics: What is immigration for? In the modern Western world, to question immigration in even the most cautious way is to risk being demonized as a racist. Most of us like to see ourselves as nice people, and so even to raise the subject of immigration -- even illegal immigration -- feels like an assault not on distant foreigners so much as on our self-image. Yet, whatever the virtuousness of immigration for the host society, a dependence on it is a sign of profound structural weakness, and, when all the self-congratulation about celebrating diversity has died down, that weakness ought to be understood as such. The unspoken premise behind this bill is that the socioeconomic order in America is now so dependent on the vast apparatus of a giant shadow state of illegal immigrants that it cannot be dismantled but only legitimized and thereby expanded. If that is true, that is a basic structural defect that should be addressed honestly.

As Steyn will no doubt tell us in a later column, immigration policy is a function of demographic policy, which comes down to whether a government encourages or discourages high birth-rates. In a way, the Social Security issue is part of the same question, because the stress on the system is the result of a successful (though implicit) antinatalist policy in the 1970s and '80s. For that matter, so is the same-sex marriage question, since that goes to the relative economic advantage and social prestige of marriage, which has obvious demographic implications.

For the political system to simply acknowledge that this constellation of questions is a single issue will mark a change of era. And note that it is not obviously a conservative issue, or at least not conservatism in the way we have used the term for the past 30 years.

From the perspective of the open-border advocates, it was a mistake to mobilize the illegal population as a political force. For excellent reasons, they object to the vexatious and unenforcible naturalization process that the Senate has proposed. Protests by immigrants would have the effect of scuttling those aspects of the compromise, but at the cost of energizing the political system as a whole in favor of closing the borders.

At this point, I think that's the best we can do: pure border security, with no changes in current law. Eventually, attrition would diminish the illegal population enough to be manageable. The political system cannot be trusted to do anything else now, or for some years to come.

* * *

Perpetual copyright is as bad an idea as perpetual debt. I am sure the editors of The New York Times think that, too, but they nonetheless favored their readers this morning with an article by Mark Helprin, now a fellow at the Claremont Institute, in favor of just that lunacy:

Absent the government’s decree, copyright holders would have no exclusivity of right at all. Does not then the government’s giveth support its taketh? By that logic, should other classes of property not subject to total confiscation therefore be denied the protection of regulatory agencies, courts, police and the law itself lest they be subject to expropriation as payment for the considerable and necessary protections they too enjoy? Should automobile manufacturers be nationalized after 70 years because they depend on publicly financed roads? Should Goldman Sachs be impounded because of the existence of the Securities and Exchange Commission?

No less a person than Instapundit was displeased:

I don't think his analogy to real estate works, though, unless copyright holders are put at risk of losing their copyrights unless they pay an annual tax on their property, or face easements by prescription, or, well, you get the idea.

When copyrights expire, the works they covered are not expropriated. The government does not get title to them or the power to dispose of them. What happens is the government stops trying to prevent people from using them. After a reasonable period of time (no more than 20 years, if you ask me), that's a good thing. There is a public interest in the expansion of the public domain.

* * *

Perhaps I should explain why I just put up a very old review (1992!) on my website, of Theodore Roszak's Flicker: A Novel. I had forgotten I had written it. I was reminded only because I was looking into the background to Richard Stanley's documentary, The Secret Glory, about the Cathar enthusiast and Grail hunter, the sometime Nazi Otto Rahn. Cathars; horror movie directors; Weimar Germany: that's the backstory for the novel.

As I look at the review after all these years, it seems to me that there is much less of the nihilism in the film industry, and in popular culture in general, that Theodore Roszak so hilariously satirized. What we have now is artistic incompetence and intellectual exhaustion.

There is such a thing as progress.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Who was John J. Reilly?

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Uncrowned by Will Wight Audiobook Review

In the world of Cradle, family is everything. It shapes your destiny by defining your powers and your path. It determines who you can trust, and who you must fight. For Yerin and Lindon, being adopted into the Aurelius family has done all this and more.

UNCROWNED BY WILL WIGHT PUBLISHED HIDDEN GNOME PUBLISHING SEPTEMBER 26, 2019 KINDLE B07X8ZH6BS AUDIBLE B07XTPSFPY

UNCROWNED
BY WILL WIGHT
PUBLISHED HIDDEN GNOME PUBLISHING SEPTEMBER 26, 2019
KINDLE B07X8ZH6BS
AUDIBLE B07XTPSFPY

This is the first time I have listened to, or reviewed, the audiobook version of one of Will Wight’s books. I was emailed asking if I wanted a review copy of the audiobook, and despite generally preferring reading to listening for mental bandwidth reasons, I agreed to give it a try this time. I was planning on reviewing the book anyhow, having purchased the ebook on Kindle on my own, but since audio has been gaining in popularity recently I thought I would see what all the fuss is about.

I still think I prefer reading, but I did really enjoy the narration of Travis Baldree. His voice work is excellent, with each character easily distinguishable in terms of accent and inflection. My favorite by far is Akura Fury, who I imagined as something like an aging surfer dude from reading the book first, which is very much the mode in which Baldree voices him. Well, if an aging surfer dude had phenomenal cosmic powers. Now, when I read the Cradle series, I am going to hear Baldree’s voices.

Now, on to the book! Uncrowned gives a clearer look at the highest levels of advancement on Cradle. When Lindon started out in Sacred Valley, Gold was nothing but a rumor, spoken of only in myth and legend. When Lindon’s fate was altered by the return of one of the lucky few who managed sufficient mastery of the Sacred Arts to ascend beyond his homeworld into the Heavens, we got a glimpse of just how far one could go, especially when Suriel, Judge of the Abidan, intervened and dealt with the ascended one as easily as one of Lindon’s clan Elders might have dealt with him, an Unsouled.

That intervention was the key event in Lindon’s life, setting him on the path that brings him to the Uncrowned King tournament. However, in some as yet unrevealed fashion, this event also altered the fate of everything else in creation. Through the eyes of Suriel, Lindon’s savior, and later Makiel, we have slowly seen an unfolding of what amounts to the politics of Heaven. Although the Abidan, composed of those Sacred Artists of a thousand worlds who have grown powerful enough to leave the world of their birth, would surely insist that they are above the petty concerns of the mere mortals they have left behind, in practice their relations with one another are much the same as we see on Cradle. Endless jockeying for position and status internally, and ruthless war against anyone outside of their circle of trust.

The fate of the Abidan?  Illustration for John Milton's  Paradise Lost  by  Gustave Doré  (1866)  By Gustave Doré - https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/milton/john/paradise/complete.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=678042

The fate of the Abidan?

Illustration for John Milton's Paradise Lost by Gustave Doré (1866)

By Gustave Doré - https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/milton/john/paradise/complete.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=678042

Admittedly, the Abidan do seem to have intellect and foresight that have grown in concert with their power. However, it is not at all clear that they will not face a reckoning for their hubris. The Abidan face a celestial nemesis, the Vroshir, with sufficient power to contest their control of the Iterations. The Abidan expanded their territory far beyond what could be maintained, and the Vroshir are ready to take advantage of that. It also seems clear that Lindon and his friends will have some part to play in the coming Götterdämmerung. This anticipation is one of the most delicious bits of Cradle. We know that eventually Lindon will ascend to the Heavens, and his reflexive crouch towards everyone will be hilarious.

And in some curious way, this may all turn upon that most familiar and prosaic of institutions: the family.

In the clannish shame culture of Cradle, an intense source of social pressure comes from the fear of not living up to the expectations set down by your ancestors. However, since sufficient advancement in the Sacred Arts also results in unusually long life, that social pressure can become quite personal, since the revered ancestor can make their disapproval known in person.

Any individual of sufficient advancement can not only found a dynasty, but personally lead that family in its struggles for supremacy. This neatly solves the typical succession problems arising from regression to the mean by making successors superfluous. What makes me really curious is the question of whether any of the Abidan have children? Particularly the Judges, the council of seven who rule. The only one we know of who did is Ozriel, distant ancestor to Eithan Aurelius, and Ozriel was always at odds with his fellows.

It was the disappearance of Ozriel that brought Suriel to Cradle in the first place, which then brought Lindon to her attention, setting in motion the events that bring us here. Ozriel seems to have been interested in his descendants in a personal way, which is very different than the way Makiel, Suriel’s opponent among the Abidan deals with the rest of humanity. I’m curious to know if Wight intended for Makiel to have been a father before he ascended to the Heavens, because it certainly seems that he is missing that most basic of all connections to humanity.

Eithan: craftier than Loki

Eithan: craftier than Loki

Which brings us to the real monster of Cradle: Eithan. Lindon continually surprises people with his determination and his power, not to mention his appearance. But Eithan is capable of far more, including the ability to deceive others about his true intentions and capabilities. I first truly grew suspicious in book four, when Eithan effortlessly foiled every attempt of the humiliated Jai Underlord to seek revenge upon Eithan. Until he let him bring a forbidden treasure from the Western Labyrinth and thereby awaken the Dreadgods. I’m not sure that is really what he meant to do, but I can’t discount it either.

Everything is subsumed in his goal: his dandyish appearance, his recruitment of Eithan and Yerin, even his failures seem to advance his goals. It is not that Eithan never makes mistakes or is never thwarted, never in danger. It is that absolutely everything slides off of him. Here, in Uncrowned, we get hints that Eithan, while technically an Underlord, already has glimpses of power far above his current level. Faint echoes of the power of Ozriel, his ancestor. It actually seems that Eithan might have some limited ability to see the future. Enough, in fact, that he can deflect attention from himself when someone notices this about him. Lindon is the star of the show, but Eithan is the director.

As always, waiting is such sweet sorrow, but I trust that Wight will keep to his current schedule and treat us to further adventures and further revelations in the future.

My other book reviews | Reading Log

Other books by Will Wight

Cradle Series:

Unsouled: Cradle Book 1 Review
Soulsmith: Cradle Book 2 Review
Blackflame: Cradle Book 3 Review
Skysworn: Cradle Book 4 Review
Ghostwater: Cradle Book 5 Review
Underlord: Cradle Book 6 Review

Traveler’s Gate series:

House of Blades: Traveler's Gate Book 1 Review
The Crimson Vault: Traveler's Gate Book 2 Review
City of Light: Traveler's Gate Book 3 Review
Traveler's Gate Chronicles Book Review

The Long View: Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change

This is a very early book review by John J. Reilly. I’ve done something I don’t usually do, which is add links in to John’s work. In this case, it made sense, because John discussed almost all of the authors listed in this textbook at some point in the next fifteen years. Some of them got a deeper look, and I’ve pointed there where I can.

If nothing else, this book review is useful just for summarizing so many historical models in a phrase.


Macrohistory and Macrohistorians:
Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change
Edited by Johan Galtung and Sohail Inayatullah
Praeger Publishers, 1997
274 Pages, $65.00
ISBN: 0-275-95755-1

Let me say the worst first. This book is profoundly disappointing. It is unevenly written and factually unreliable. Because it seeks to be a serious, wide-ranging treatment of its topic for an academic readership, there is some danger that students and instructors will be put off from macrohistory by first encountering it in this form. This would be very unfortunate, since the subject is both important and interesting.

Macrohistory is history on the large scale, telling the story of whole civilizations or of the entire world. Such histories are often, though not invariably, used to showcase theories of history. Truly universal theories of history try to explain why the human world has developed as it has. They also usually give some hint about how it will develop in the future. Other macrohistorians don't see the whole world as having a single story, but try to set out general rules about how the largest coherent social units, such as empires, dynasties or civilizations, have behaved in the past and can be expected to behave in the future. Reasonable people differ about whether macrohistory can be anything more than a species of literature, but most people who pursue the subject find that macrohistories repay study. Some of them might even be true.

This brings us to "Macrohistory and Macrohistorians." The book offers brief summaries, by a variety of contributors, of the ideas of 20 macrohistorians. The macrohistorians are from many periods and cultures, though most are modern and Western. Here is the full list, with a word or two about the model each proposed:

Ssu-Ma Ch'ien (most famous of Chinese historians, who wrote of dynastic cycles),
St. Augustine of Hippo (sometimes called "the father of progress," his model ensured the Western view of time would be predominately linear rather than cyclical),
Ibn Khaldun (Muslim historian with a generational model of dynastic change),
Giambattista Vico (one of the great cyclical theorists of the West),
Adam Smith (psychology, history and markets),
George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (history as the development of consciousness),
Auguste Comte (a three step model resulting in a secular-scientific final state),
Karl Marx (history as the conflict of classes),
Herbert Spencer (the most famous "Social Darwinist"),
Vilfredo Pareto (mass psychology and the "circulation of elites"),
Max Weber (the evolution of institutions from charismatic leadership to bureaucratic routine),
Rudolf Steiner (a very long-term model of spiritual evolution),
Oswald Spengler (the chief proponent of civilizations as mortal, organic entities),
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (biological and human history progress to the perfect Omega Point),
Pitrim Sorokin (the cyclical modelist who did the most original research),
Arnold Toynbee (his "Study of History" sought to combine the linear and cyclical approaches, becoming the longest book of the 20th century in the process),
Antonio Gramsci (a subtle Marxist),
Prabhat Rainjar Sarkar (a relatively small-scale cyclical modelist, founder of the Ananda Marga movement),
Riane Eisler (ecofeminism),
Christopher B. Jones (a model incorporating the Gaia Hypothesis)

There is no point in quarreling about who gets included in a list like this, though it might seem that some of these writers were really sociologists whose work merely implied a theory of history. As with choices for the "best 100 books of the century," everyone is likely to have personal favorites. In any case, the editors seem to have intended the book for something more than a mere survey. Johan Galtung is Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Hawaii, Universitet i Troms” and Universitat Witten/Herdecke, while Sohail Inayatullah is senior research fellow at the Communication Centre of the Queensland University of Technology of Brisbane, Australia, and a fellow and executive council member of the World Futures Studies Federation. What they were looking for was ways to imagine social transformation, which is something that you might reasonably expect macrohistorians to provide.

After the summaries of the 20 macrohistorical models, the editors compare and contrast them. They look for the level of free will each allows, the roles played by "change agents" (who might be economic classes, "Great Men" or divine avatars), and the way that the models periodize history. They are also interested in whether the models are cyclical (so that the future is going to resemble some period in the past) or linear (so that real novelty is possible as history progresses) or both. Another important point is whether any given model allows for "exits," that is, whether it allows for important events outside itself, either after the end of the historical process the model describes or simultaneously with that process. At the end of the book there is an appendix of "graphs" which seek to illustrate the basic structure of each model.

Now, conceptually, this is all interesting and useful. The problem is that the execution is occasionally maddening. I defy anyone familiar with St. Augustine's model of history, for instance, to recognize it in the description given here. (Also a bit peculiar is the assertion that Augustine wrote his chief work, "The City of God," because he had been challenged on whether Christianity was "an efficient guardian of the best interests of the ruling class"). All the other models that I know something about are also garbled, though not so badly. What is truly shocking about this book, though, is that there is no discussion of millenarian and apocalyptic elements in historical models. These have been among the key cultural determinants of history for at least the last two millennia, both in the West and elsewhere. What is even more bizarre is that several of the models that are discussed do indeed have such elements, but the contributors and the editors have chosen to downplay them. This is very strange.

Then there is the writing. I realize that I have my own hobby-horses when it comes to postmodern academic prose. I will not use gender-neutral language, for instance, and in general I am resistant to picking up new jargons. Sometimes I think I am just being idiosyncratic, but then I see paragraphs like this:"While the contextual nature of knowledge is obvious to us when we (as modernists, the expanded West) examine the past, when we examine our present, following Comte, we tend [sic] locate it as the rational and the scientific. The past is constructed as relative and ideological (that is, not objective), and the future is the fulfillment of truth, the final stage of history once the last vestiges, the remnants, of the religious or philosophical past have been modernized, that is, vanquished. Thus, we submit our own `present' as outside history and outside of metaphysics."

C.S. Lewis said 95% of this with the phrase "the present is also a `period.'" I really don't see why people can't write and think as clearly as that today. They should at least try. They don't in this book. On some pages, the word "discourse" occurred with a frequency like that of certain expletives in the military. Even when, as sometimes happened, the substance of the discussion was well worth reading, the merciless quality of the prose was enough to make me doubt that history would last long enough for me to read to the end of the chapter.

There are good books on the subject of macrohistory. A somewhat dated but still useful study is Frank E. Manuel's "Shapes of Philosophical History" (1965). "The Shapes of Time" (1977) by Peter Munz suffers from early whiffs of the critical blight, but is nonetheless quite readable. A great deal of excellent material has been written in recent years on millennialism and related subjects: among my favorite general treatments are Paul Boyer's "When Time Shall Be No More" and Damian Thompson's "The End of Time." In any case, if you do read "Macrohistory and Macrohistorians," please do not despair of the subject.

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The Long View 2007-05-18: Immigration Compromise; Abora III; Crank Koranic Critics; Red-Green Alliance

I’m not sure this exactly counts as a prediction, but it sure came true:

The entire United States is now a border town. Even enforcing the immigration laws we have now would require a national police tasked chiefly with that function. Asking the current bureaucracy to manage the guest-worker program, much less the Kafkaesque fine-and-repatriation program, would push the system from incompetence to meltdown.


Immigration Compromise; Abora III; Crank Koranic Critics; Red-Green Alliance


The latest immigration compromise is going to be a train wreck. This is a shame, really, since elements of the Senate's plan have merit.

The open-borders features are supposed to be contingent on the enforcement features, which include:

--370 miles of fence, plus other barriers and sensors

--Hiring 18k border-patrol agents

--Requiring employers to electronically veerify new hires within 18 months, all employees within three years.

The open-borders features, of course, include a visa-to-Green Card system for illegals in the United States, involving fines and temporary repatriation. There is also a 500k-visa guest-worker program.

The historically interesting element is the change from an immigrant-evaluation system that favors family reunion to one that favors skills and education. That is actually where we came in: it was the change in immigration law in the late 1960s to favor family reunion (to accommodate Italian families living in congressional districts in the Northeast) that opened the borders.

A skills-based system will be no more popular with Hispanics today than it was with Italian-Americans 40 years ago; to the extent that both parties are pandering to the Hispanic vote, they are likely to find themselves pandering in vain. Similarly, the labor unions, or what is left of them, are experiencing a rare moment of clarity about the huge guest-worker feauture: they really don't want employers to have federally ensured access to a global ocean of non-union labor.

The real flaw in the proposal is that it asks the immigration bureaucracy to do things. The entire United States is now a border town. Even enforcing the immigration laws we have now would require a national police tasked chiefly with that function. Asking the current bureaucracy to manage the guest-worker program, much less the Kafkaesque fine-and-repatriation program, would push the system from incompetence to meltdown.

What would work? These three steps:

(1) Declare that the public policy of the United States now favors low immigration, with total admissions to be limited to 200,000 persons per year;
(2) Control the borders, ports, and airports to a degree that attempted illegal entry is a bad bet. After that has been done:
(3) Give illegals in the US a choice of registering for a one-time four-year work visa or for a citizenship track with extensive background checks and citizenship instruction. Illegals who apply for neither will be subject to summary deportation whenever they encounter the immigration, labor, or transportation bureaucracies.

In other words: border security plus attrition.

* * *

This is by the Morris Canal in Downtown Jersey City. I discovered the ship at lunchtime yesterday afternoon, when I was walking on the path along the light-rail tracks by the canal between Marin Boulevard and Van Vorst Street:

A helpful sign directs viewers to https://www.abora.eu/1/projects/abora-iii-2007/, where we read this about the Abora Project:

There is growing evidence that before Columbus or the Vikings made their maiden voyages to the New World, people were regularly crossing the Atlantic to trade goods...The most remarkable example of this originates from the “Cueva del Castillo” in northern Spain, dating back to 12,000 BCE. It refers to the Canary Islands Gulf Stream System, a downwind course – much easier than sailing in the windy Mediterranean.

This German-organized effort (the motto on the top left of the webpage says "With the Boat of Reeds through the Sea of Stars") has already demonstrated, at least the satisfaction of its members, that it is possible to cross from the Canaries to the Americas with this Stone Age technology. Abora III is scheduled to depart from Jersey City on June 7 to prove that it is possible to make the trip back.

The hypothesis of very ancient transatlantic contact has merit; the idea often comes up in connection with high-latitude megaliths, for instance. Still, this is the first time I have seen the notion advanced in connection with travel so long ago and so far south.

The name "Abora" sounded vaguely familiar. The website offers this explanation:

The Abora III is named after a divine power of the Canary Islands, born at the moment the sky and sea merge at sunset, protector of these ancient people in their lives and travels. Amazingly, in Egypt, the word Abo-Ra means “Father of the Sun God Ra”.

Yes, amazing, but not so amazing as these lines from Kublai Khan:

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.

We may recall that Coleridge's use of language was sometimes pharmaceutically enhanced.

* * *

Speaking of Germans, real and imaginary, that Spengler at Asia Times says things both fair and foul in his column, The Koranic quotations trap:

Islam-bashing, whether justified or not, is a waste of time...Robert Spencer has missed his adversary's mortal weakness: by insisting that the Koran is clear, consistent and unambiguous in preaching violence, Spencer has conceded the most important weapon in the arsenal of Islam's critics, namely the integrity of the Koran...

As I wrote on Spencer's website, there are any number of factual problems in his approach, of which two stand out:
1) Mohammed may never have existed, and
2) If he existed, he may have had nothing to do with the Koran, which well might be an 8th- or 9th-century compilation.

The trading of proof texts is entertaining but rarely fruitful, as Spengler notes. Nonetheless, I am not at all impressed by this outburst of higher criticism in the polemics against Islam. It is true that Islam claims an ontological status for the Koran different from that claimed for the Bible by Christianity (though not self-evidently different from that claimed for the Torah by esoteric Judaism). Textual criticism might be more embarrassing for Islam than it has proven to be for Christianity. We should recall, however, there is a long tradition of cranky criticism of the New Testament that, if anything, tends to strengthen the faith of believers who encounter it: sometimes I think that the people who make those elaborate arguments to prove that Jesus never existed, or was perhaps a magic mushroom, are actually in the pay of Christian evangelists. Moreover, there is a disturbing overlap between the cranky anti-Christians and the cranky anti-Islamists. There are good theological and historical arguments to be made against Islam, but anti-Koranic skepticism is not among them.

Spengler knows this, too. He goes on to observe that:

A religion is not a text but a life.

Just so. Theology is what people think; faith is what they believe; religion is what they do.

* * *

The subversion of Islam is far from the thoughts of the left these days, if we may believe this report about yet another effort to forge a Red-Green Alliance:

If any doubt still existed regarding bonds being formed between the hardcore left and elements within Islam, one needed to look no further than the leftist “Festival of Resistance” conference held at the University of Toronto last weekend for confirmation...

In the audience were members from such stimulating groups as the environment, First Nations, the anti-war movement and the transgendered (Was Marx a cross dresser?)...But, as reported in the Canadian newspaper, The National Post, the conference’s opening night ...was dedicated to forging unity between Marxists and Muslims. To this end, the keynote speaker the first evening was a controversial local Muslim, Zafar Bangash, a Muslim imam and the director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought.

All well and good, but here's the confrontation I have yet to see in person:

It was an irony of the evening, however, that Bangash interrupted his delivery to his audience of atheists in order to go and pray. And while Marxism has always been virulently anti-religious, the heirs of Marx and Lenin present said not a word. On the contrary! According to the newspaper report, they shouted down a Trotskyist who said he opposed all religions, indicating how much times have changed for the radical left.

Of course, there was a time when Marxists held their peace in the company of fellow-traveling Social Gospellers and Christian pacifists, so we must question how novel this latest duplicity really is.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves Book Review

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves is a sweet, nostalgic book about a world that never was. And radios. There is some impressively nerdy stuff about electronics here.

by Fenton Wood Published by Amazon Digital Services, September 3rd, 2018 ASIN B07H2RJK8J

by Fenton Wood
Published by Amazon Digital Services, September 3rd, 2018
ASIN B07H2RJK8J

Much like the non-existent European setting of Kiki’s Delivery Service, the Yankee Republic almost seems more real than the world we live in. Maybe it is something like an archetype, a humbler America in a kinder world that avoided the worst parts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

There is a principle of alternative history that you should change one event, and then try to see what follows from that. Fenton Wood cheerfully didn’t follow that advice, and we have a world that skipped the War Between the States, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Norman Conquest of 1099. I found the last the boldest move, insofar as the Yankee Republic clearly draws on British sources even in its own world, and I think it is an interesting thought exercise to see what a comprehensively Anglo-Saxon England would have turned into less the Frenchified Vikings who inserted themselves at the top of the social order.

Albion’s Seed

Albion’s Seed

The residents of Porterville, home to Philo Hergenschmidt, strike me as Scots-Irish in their folkways. I don’t have a compelling reason to think that the culture of the borderlands would have been greatly altered absent the Normans. Also, I’m not here to police the borders of alt-history, which the Scots-Irish wouldn’t respect anyway.

Philo and his people are mountain folk, self-reliant and thrifty. They do have commerce with the wider world, but they are also content with what they have. In the high-trust environment of Porterville, kids can spend lots of time outdoors, doing what they like. Which means that unusual kids like Philo can develop unusual hobbies, like building everything in 101 Radio Projects for Boys, by Forrest C. Felix.


Forrest M. Mim III’s masterpiece

Forrest M. Mim III’s masterpiece

I don’t know that this is certainly the reference, but I immediately thought of Forrest M. Mim III’s Getting Started in Electronics. I had a copy of this book as a boy, so Philo’s efforts often reminded me of my own childhood. A more modern example would be Make: Electronics by Charles Platt, or the many projects you can find on Hackaday.

The world of Philo, and especially of Russell, his co-conspirator and raconteur extraordinaire, is also subtly magical. Or maybe a better word is numinous, since the hand of providence can be dimly seen. Randall tells tall tales with the best of them, and I am pretty sure I detected a bit of Tim Powers in the story about the White Clown. But the most arresting sequence in the book is the Bright Birds, which was so evocative that I almost could swear I could hear the song that no one could record.

Reading this book just made me happy. It is a paean to innocence and adventure and a love of the place you find yourself in. It is also reasonably priced, albeit of novella length. Highly recommended.

My other book reviews | Reading Log

The Long View 2007-05-16: Real Estate; Falwell; Stellar Expectations; Antarctica; Department of Evil

I had forgotten about this one, but it can’t have been an inconsiderable reason for my bubble skepticism in 2007/8.

John also offers a theory that the resurgence of evangelical Christianity in the mid-2000s was not in fact incipient theocracy, but rather a return to a pattern that held for the first 100 years or so of American history, and probably some of colonial history before that.


Real Estate; Falwell; Stellar Expectations; Antarctica; Department of Evil

We are doomed, dooooomed! I know this because I just got a cold call from a reputable real-estate broker, asking whether I or anyone I knew would be interested in buying a recently listed two-bedroom apartment in a good neighborhood. I got calls like this from stock brokers just before the market crash in 1987. The poor devils knew what was going to happen, but so did most other people by then, so I cannot imagine that their increasingly hysterical marketing did them any good.

I don't see why this should work with real-estate any better than it did with stocks.

* * *

On a sadder topic, it is necessary to note the passing of the Reverend Jerry Falwell. About the recently dead I will say nothing but good, so I leave it to Joseph Bottum at First Things to make these observations:

What shall we do for a bogeyman, now that our grand old monster is dead?......From 1979 to around 1985, he caught the wave or helped make the wave, perhaps; let us not underestimate the man that defeated Jimmy Carter and swept Ronald Reagan to two terms in office...But for the right, Falwell’s star was fading fast in the late 1980s and not just for the right. By the time George Bush took office in 1988, Falwell was not anywhere near the player the kingmaker in presidential politics that he had been. In 1990, he retired from the national stage and went back to running Liberty University...Not that anyone noticed. His symbolic value was too great for anyone to surrender.

As Bottum notes, his boss, the even more Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, made this observation for National Review:

As much as anyone, he precipitated a reconfiguration of our public life whereby democracy has been reinvigorated by the inclusion of millions of citizens determined to have a say in how we order our life together. May he rest in peace where the sounds of battle are no more.

There were two great deformations of American political life for most of the 20th century. One was the substantial disenfranchisement of black Americans in the South. The other was the retreat from public life of what, for want of a better term, we must call "Evangelical America." This segment of America was never a majority, but for the first half of American history it was the respectable mainstream. The ascendency of secularism and liberal Christianity to prominence in that mainstream, beginning in the early 20th century, created an new and unhappy gulf between the worldview of the elites and that of much of the people they ruled. In the 1970s, people like Jimmy Carter and Jerry Falwell began to change that by inviting Evangelical America back into politics. (This is the story that Ralph Reed tells in his memoir, Active Faith.)

We see the irony here: far from being an assault on civil society by would-be theocrats, the renewed prominence of religious and moral issues in politics during the past 30 years is actually the reassertion of the democratic insistence in American culture. The novel development, and the disturbing one, has been the attempt by elite groups to delegitimize this resurgence.

* * *

Artificial objects fall from space all the time, and not least on New Jersey, as alert readers will remember

NEWARK, N.J. - A mysterious metallic object that crashed through the roof of a New Jersey home earlier this year was not a meteorite after all, but probably a piece of space junk, scientists said Friday...The silvery object was made of a stainless-steel alloy that does not occur in nature and is most likely "orbital debris" or part of a satellite, rocket or some other spacecraft, said Rutgers University geologist Jeremy Delaney.

Yes, that's all it was. Just a bit of alloy. Never you mind just where it came from.

* * *

Speaking of the gulf between the elite and the laity, we note that remarkable assumptions are not confined to politics:

Astronomers have used a unique process to determine that a star in our galaxy is nearly as old as the universe itself...The star is 13.2 billion years old, while the universe dates back 13.7 billion years, according to the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO)..."Surprisingly, it is very hard to pin down the age of a star," Anna Frebel, the lead author of a paper on the results, said in a statement.

Surprising? To whom? I am reminded of Comte's famous remark that we would never know the chemical composition of the stars. He said this just a few years before the invention of astronomical spectrascopy.

* * *

Climate change or just the atmosphere's natural cussedness, here's the news from Antarctica:

Warm temperatures melted an area of western Antarctica that adds up to the size of California in January 2005, scientists report...Satellite data collected by the scientists between July 1999 and July 2005 showed clear signs that melting had occurred in multiple distinct regions, including far inland and at high latitudes and elevations, where melt had been considered unlikely.

Interesting as the real Antarctica is, such attention as I pay to it tends to be colored by H.P. Lovecraft's novella, At the Mountains of Madness. Correct me if I am wrong, but there seems to be a great dearth of imaginary lost civilizations on that continent. And I have looked. In fact, I may have found the One Anomalous Thing in the whole continent:

That bit of wind sculpture (and no, it does not really have anything to do with Easter Island) is in one of the famous dry valleys, whose scope perhaps is about to expand. These dry valleys are one of the things I look for on Google Earth but cannot find. You think that's an oversight, do you?

* * *

Citing The Onion just encourages them, but in this case I think they have made a real contribution to political science:

Originally established by an act of Congress in 1953 and granted broader powers and funding in 1986 under the second Reagan administration, the Department of Evil has been an occasional source of controversy. Its 1993 And The Streets Shall Run Red With The Blood Of The Innocent initiative was highly criticized at the time by moderates, who thought the department's agenda overly harsh.

A bad idea, surely, but no worse than the proposal for a Department of Peace.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2007-05-11: Merry Warming; Grasshoppers; Opinion Monkeys; The Defense of Socialism Continues; The Purpose of GWB

Iron Dome  By Israel Defense Forces and Nehemiya Gershoni נחמיה גרשוני (see also https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%91%D7%A5:Flickr-IDF-IronDome-in-action001.jpg ) - https://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/8194572552/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34360609

Iron Dome

By Israel Defense Forces and Nehemiya Gershoni נחמיה גרשוני (see also https://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%A7%D7%95%D7%91%D7%A5:Flickr-IDF-IronDome-in-action001.jpg ) - https://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/8194572552/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34360609

Here is a prediction that definitely did not happen:

The shift from deterrence to defense has gone too far to stop, I think, though the Left seems determined to make the transition as slow as possible. The awkward bit, still a decade in the future, will be the negotiation with the Russian Federation for the mutual disestablishment of the Cold War era deterrent forces. Again, we must remember that the passing of the age of Mutual Assured Destruction does not mean the inauguration of world peace; it means making the world safe for planet-wide conventional war.

Ballistic missile defense remains unproven, but the Israeli Iron Dome system works astonishingly well, which can’t be irrelevant to whether you could get similar results. For the most part, the nuclear weapons of the United States and the former Soviet Union are slowly gathering dust. There are other nuclear nations, but the vast majority of the ballistic missiles still belong to those two. Hardly anyone seems interested in the subject anymore. Maybe it is the last part of the prediction that is why: a lack of nuclear annihilation probably increases the odds of war.


Merry Warming; Grasshoppers; Opinion Monkeys; The Defense of Socialism Continues; The Purpose of GWB

What stands behind this curious mutation? Der Spiegel has come out in favor of global warming:

Despite widespread fears of a greenhouse hell, the latest computer simulations are delivering far less dramatic predictions about tomorrow's climate...

Svante Arrhenius, the father of the greenhouse effect, would be called a heretic today. Far from issuing the sort of dire predictions about climate change which are common nowadays, the Swedish physicist dared to predict a paradise on earth for humans when he announced, in April 1896, that temperatures were rising -- and that it would be a blessing for all...

It was not until the rise of the environmental movement in the 1980s that everything suddenly changed. From then on it was almost a foregone conclusion that global warming could only be perceived as a disaster for the earth's climate. Environmentalists, adopting a strategy typical of the Catholic Church, have been warning us about the horrors of greenhouse gas hell ever since -- painting it as a punishment for the sin of meddling with creation.

Actually, the Catholic Church has traditionally been sparing of apocalyptic warnings of all sorts, but Der Spiegel's religious prejudices are another issue. The question now is what caused this change in tone about global warming. Did someone show the editors on a map how far north Germany is?

* * *

Speaking of the Bible and global warming, Drudge had this link today:

GLOBAL SWARMING: In a warmer world, insect population explosion may be 'Biblical in nature'...

The link was to the Bend Weekly of Oregon, but alas, the link did not work. No doubt the site had been taken down to avoid public panic. So, we must speculate ourselves about what the Bible says about insects that might be relevant to a warmer global climates.

entomology is not a major theme of Scripture, but there is no lack of references to insects. My favorite, which I have noted in another context and is really about summertime, remains this one:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

[W]hen men are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags himself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then man goes to his eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.

If substantial global warming materializes, we must imagine a world of Panama suits and slowly turning overhead fans: Key Largo, but in color.

* * *

Do Monkeys edit Opinion Journal? Look at this excerpt from a piece by Michel Gurfinkel, Can Sarkozy Save France?

Demographic Upheaval. Before the 1789 revolution and the Napoleonic wars, France, a very rich agricultural country, was the most populous state in Europe, with 27 million inhabitants. Right after the defeat at Waterloo, the birthrate started to decline, and by the last third of the 19th century had fallen close to zero. ...

Maybe the rate of population growth had fallen to near zero by the last third of the 19th century, but the growth rate is different from the the birthrate (which is also different from the fertility rate). In any case, I am pretty sure that the demographic transition in France began before Waterloo; indeed, before the Revolution.

The rest of the piece seems to have merit, but bloopers like these deprive the whole of credibility.

* * *

All phases of missile defense technology have now proven sufficiently effective (indeed, in the case of point and area defense, far beyond expectations) that one rarely hears the claim anymore that strategic defense is impossible. Nonetheless, the old defense-of-socialism reflexes that tried to nip these projects in the bud when the Soviet Union still existed are not yet wholly dead, or so we must surmise from this move on Capitol Hill:

Now the Democratic majority in Congress is moving toward budget cuts aimed at slowing the administration’s plans to break ground this year on one of the bases, in Poland. Representative Ellen O. Tauscher, a California Democrat who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the committee would approve “only prudent investments” in what she labeled "high-risk, immature programs" to shoot down long-range missiles, like the system advocated for Europe.

High risk to whom? The Iranians? The only consolation to this budgetary vandalism is that Congress seems to lack the courage of its own confusion:

The bill, still under consideration late Wednesday, would cut $160 million from funds proposed for construction in Poland, as part of $764 million in cuts from the $8.9 billion the administration has sought for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency in 2008.

A cut of $160 million would prevent breaking ground on the interceptor silos in Poland, while leaving funds to move forward with buying the 10 interceptor missiles and installing the radar for the Czech Republic, Congressional officials say.

The shift from deterrence to defense has gone too far to stop, I think, though the Left seems determined to make the transition as slow as possible. The awkward bit, still a decade in the future, will be the negotiation with the Russian Federation for the mutual disestablishment of the Cold War era deterrent forces. Again, we must remember that the passing of the age of Mutual Assured Destruction does not mean the inauguration of world peace; it means making the world safe for planet-wide conventional war.

* * *

Meanwhile, on Iraq, Congress continues to make a nuisance of itself:

The House last night pushed through its second plan to fund the Iraq war and reshape war policy, approving legislation that would provide partial funding for the conflict but hold back most of the money until President Bush reports on the war's progress in July.

George Bush's stock has fallen low enough that it is probably time to buy. We should recall that he was reelected in 2004 because the electorate perceived he was not Lyndon Johnson, whose visible loss of nerve in 1967 and 1968 ensured that the Vietnam War could not be brought to a Korean-style draw.

Since the bombing of the Golden Dome last year, Iraq has rarely rewarded optimism. Nonetheless, there is a good chance that if Congress in July reassesses spending for the war, the Democrats will be confronted with a modestly but visibly improved situation on the ground and a commander who advises them that American troops will be needed for at least another year as an emollient to local politics.

It's possible that Congress will then just drink the Cool Aid and proceed with defunding the war in various petty ways. It seems more likely to me, though, that they will try to ensure that absolutely all the credit goes to General Petraeus, while promising to really, really end the war under a Democratic administration in 2009.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Clockmaker by Kristen Brand book review

Action-packed would be an understatement for Kristen Brand’s Clockmaker. From the beginning, when a desperate and cash-strapped Captain Melek takes a job that she knows is too good to be true, the Sultana and her crew are flying, and fighting, for their lives.

CLOCKMAKER BY KRISTEN BRAND PUBLISHED BY SILVER EMPIRE (2019)  COVER ART BY STEVE BEAULIEU

CLOCKMAKER
BY KRISTEN BRAND
PUBLISHED BY SILVER EMPIRE (2019)

COVER ART BY STEVE BEAULIEU

It has been a looong time since I last reviewed a steampunk work here. In principle, this is a style of work that I rather like, but since I was so disappointed in the anthology I reviewed in 2009 I have largely stayed away. Because Clockmaker is published by Silver Empire, I was willing to give this one a chance, and I am glad that I did.

Clockmaker is an adventure, a romance of the sky and of the wind. Accordingly, Captain Melek is quick with her wits and her fists, although she does have a bit of a preference for the latter. I have to imagine that Captain Melek shoots first on principle. Captain Melek’s preferred method of dealing with crew members questioning her authority is to beat them senseless. Fortunately, since she is the heroine, she is superior in degree to all comers. An interesting problem that can arise with this strategy of crew management is that you have the problem of being the fastest gun in West. Someone is always looking to displace you, and you can, in principle, lose authority over your crew if bested in this fashion. Melek is acutely aware of this, and worries about it.

Since it is also steampunk, that means it overlaps just a little bit with alternative history. One of the hallmarks of alt-history is the airship, a technology that was promptly displaced by airplanes in our world, but that is just too fun to ignore in fiction. With an airship, you can combine the fun of piracy on the high seas with relatively rapid travel and menacing clockwork contraptions. We get all of this in spades. Although, I would like to see Melek’s enemies, supposedly bright men, had heard of gorgets.

Alt-history is often also a good opportunity to engage in the reactionary aesthetics common to Mad Men, Downton Abbey, and the recent Paddington Bear movies. In our democratic age, aristocracy and hierarchy are suspect. However, as the popularity of all of these demonstrates, we kind of like fantasizing about living in worlds that are

part of a stable community, rooted in custom and place and history. There is a rhythm to the year, based not only on the church and on the commemorations of national history, but on the inescapable realities of an agricultural community – planting, harvest, haymaking and so on….

Steampunk worlds are of course part way through the process of losing all of these things, but they have more of them than ours does. And more airships, obviously.

Clockmaker feels like it could be the start of a great series, wherein Captain Melek guns down pirates, flies the blue skies, and perhaps even finds love. Let us see how it turns out.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout.

My other book reviews | Reading Log

Other books from Silver Empire

The Heroes Unleashed series

by Morgon Newquist
Heroes Fall: Serenity City book 1

by Cheah Kit Sun
Hollow City: Song of Karma book 1

by J. D. Cowan
Gemini Warrior: Gemini Man book 1

by Daniel Humphreys
Fade: Paxton Locke book 1

The Long View 2007-05-08: Sarkozy; the Naughty Vicars; Immigration

Nicolas Sarkozy  By European People's Party - EPP Summit October 2010, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12162667

Nicolas Sarkozy

By European People's Party - EPP Summit October 2010, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12162667

This is an interesting look back at the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France at about the same time that Barack Obama had his first time as President of the United States.


Sarkozy; the Naughty Vicars; Immigration

Surely Amir Taheri goes too far in The New York Post, where he says: In France, Dubya Won Again.

ARE we going to vote for a French George Bush? So asked Marianne, a left-wing Parisian daily, in its cover story about the French presidential election. On Sunday, French voters answered: Yes, they wanted Nicolas Sarkozy, the candidate vilified by his enemies as "l'Americain" and "le copain [buddy] de George W. Bush."

Actually, in some ways Angela Merkel's election as German Chancellor was more like Bush's election in 2000: a squeaker that provided legal authority but no special popular mandate in a country that was evenly divided. What the Sarkozy victory on Sunday demonstrated is that there is no necessary electoral advantage to running against the United States:

At times, the left gave the impression that the election was more of a referendum on relations with America than on France's future. Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal attracted a string of anti-American figures from across Europe, starting with Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, who spoke of his dream of a Socialist axis between Paris and Madrid.

Well, at least they got to enjoy France in the spring.

In any case, the interesting question is whether this is going to turn out to be wishful thinking:

Sarkozy buried Chirac's harebrained quest for a multipolar global system and, instead, called for the major democracies to unite against forces that threaten their security and their way of life.

Come January 2009, maybe the most anti-American of the major Western governments will be in Washington.

* * *

"But what about Senator Clinton?" you ask. She seems to be an altogether more serious figure than Ségolène Royal was, so a comparison between the two may not be helpful. Nonetheless, we must note the range of constituencies that found Sarkozy's law-and-order platform attractive:

PARIS (AP) - Nicolas Sarkozy won the women's vote and fared well among blue-collar workers, even though his rival for the French presidency was a woman and a Socialist.

It was one of the surprising subplots in Sarkozy's resounding election victory over [Ségolène] Royal - and shows his vision of pro-market reforms and scaling back immigration appeals to a wide audience....Sarkozy even tallied nearly 44 percent of the vote in the Seine-Saint-Denis region north of Paris, where a wave of rioting erupted in late 2005 while he was interior minister and infuriated many there by calling troublemakers "scum."...Perhaps most striking was the 52 percent of the women's vote he captured against 48 percent for Royal, which indicated the campaign transcended gender issues and became truly a choice between ideas - the tough-love message of Sarkozy against Royal's more nurturing vision.

It has always been as big a mistake to forget that feminism is an ideology about women; it has never had much to do with what women want or believe. (In that, of course, it resembles the relationship of Marxism to industrial workers.) Senator Clinton seems to be aware of this. She may get her funding from feminist groups, but she long ago learned to present another face to the public. This could work in 2008.

Sadly, it does not seem likely that an American conservative could anytime soon run as the candidate of everyday order, which seems to be what Sarkozy did. The Republican Party, which kept the borders open all through the time it controlled Congress, and which has declined even to pretend to rein in the medical racket, has now become fixed in the public mind as the party of chaos.

* * *

Speaking of open borders, James Kerian has a piece on the First Things site on the strange mutation of the Catholic position on civil order in connection with immigration:

The position of our clergy is, as my local pastor has argued, that “the law is simply not practical.” ...[T]o disregard civil law in the name of defending fundamental human rights is an interesting change of position for an episcopate that has shown such respect for the rule of law in the past....Two rather implausible reasons have been offered to explain this position of the [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops]. Illegal immigrants are overwhelmingly Catholic; some people speculate that there will be some financial benefit to the Church from their continued presence. Alternatively, after the recent publicity over the denial of Communion to certain high profile pro-abortion liberals, some see the immigration issue as an opportunity for the Church to demonstrate its political neutrality.... It seems far more likely that after over three decades of succumbing to cultural pressure, our clergy are simply eager to show their courage in the face of the law on the first safe issue that has presented itself.

We could amuse ourselves for some time by considering how many kinds of mistake the Church in the United States is making on the immigration issue. Let's just consider this one point:

NEW YORK -- For a glimpse into the future of the Roman Catholic Church in America, peek inside St. Benedict's in Queens on a Sunday after the Matsons, Mays and Cassidys have all gone home and Joan Overton has shut down the pipe organ following the sparsely attended 8:30 a.m. Mass. That's when the pews fill up with the Durans, Lopezes and Fernandezes and the spiritual thermometer turns up a notch.

"Everyone on their feet!" cried Gladys Cardenas, a stout and fiery Puerto Rican, as a band struck up behind her. "Come on," she shouted in Spanish. "Get ready to celebrate God!"...American Catholic leaders say the church here has not made a conscious effort to promote charismatic practices. Rather, it has embraced them as a pragmatic response to the growing number of Hispanic Catholics. With one in five Hispanics having left the church over the past 25 years -- many of them to Pentecostal churches -- the newly energized movement could be a saving grace....The Catholic Church has traditionally used its clergy as the conduits of divine interpretation, but increasingly, charismatic Catholics are being energized by lay ministers in small prayer groups and are employing methods such as speaking in tongues as independent and direct spiritual channels.

Look, I have nothing against Pentecostals. I even found merit in the argument of The Next Christendom. Nonetheless, a charismatic ecclesiology is precisely what an episcopal ecclesiology is not. You can't have the two models in the same institution for a long time. If the Catholic Church really tries to go this route, it won't just lose the people; it will lose the buildings.

There is also this: if high immigration does stop, and consequently the situation of immigrants and their children improves across the board, the church where they will choose to worship in their newly elevated state will not be the one where people speak in tongues.

* * *

Immigrants don't particularly like the effects of high immigration either, as perhaps Sarkozy's strong showing in immigrant neighborhoods demonstrates. Mass immigration is an emergency. A society that has decided to have continuous mass immigration has decided to live in a state of perpetual emergency, which means that, increasingly, the only public services are going to be emergency services.

As for equality, or even a common citizenship, Michael Barone has this to say at Opinion Journal:

This is something few would have predicted 20 years ago. Americans are now moving out of, not into, coastal California and South Florida, and in very large numbers they're moving out of our largest metro areas. They're fleeing hip Boston and San Francisco, and after eight decades of moving to Washington they're moving out. The domestic outflow from these metro areas is 3.9 million people, 650,000 a year. High housing costs, high taxes, a distaste in some cases for the burgeoning immigrant populations--these are driving many Americans elsewhere.

The result is that these Coastal Megalopolises are increasingly a two-tiered society, with large affluent populations happily contemplating (at least until recently) their rapidly rising housing values, and a large, mostly immigrant working class working at low wages and struggling to move up the economic ladder. The economic divide in New York and Los Angeles is starting to look like the economic divide in Mexico City and São Paulo.

Actually, I live in just such an area. The divide is real, but it's not a matter of mutually hostile ethnic enclaves, as it was in the classical ethnic neighborhoods of the early 20th century. The answer to inequality is not to soak the rich or expel the poor, but to stop the influx long enough for everything to come right. We've done this before; it's not hard, and history suggests it causes the least bad feeling.

* * *

Finally, here's some refreshingly honest population policy from China:

National Population and Family Planning Commission director Zhang Weiqing said the number of rich people having more than one child is rapidly rising, citing a recent survey by his organisation....[G]owing numbers of pregnant women are risking their own lives and those of their children by seeking back-alley deliveries to avoid fines for having more than one child, Xinhua quoted vice health minister Jiang Zuojun as saying.

"Back-alley deliveries": could a science-fiction writer have coined that term?

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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The Long View 2007-05-03: Spam, Spamalot, Spam, Nightfall

615vivfMaTL.jpg

This is a pretty good quote about the attractions of sacred or magical objects:

he is as aware as Tennyson was that "Grail Questing" is a dark and even sinister enterprise, usually undertaken by dark and sometimes sinister people

Much like political office, usually the one who wants it the most deserves it the least.

John also mentions in passing the short story “Nightfall” by Issac Asimov. I haven’t read much of Asimov’s work, so I’m curious whether I would find it as remarkable as John’s description of it. My opinion of other scifi authors of that era has been dwindling as I have discovered that I liked the pulps that preceded them better.


Spam, Spamalot, Spam, Nightfall


Here is what happens when you leave your email address out where evil robots can harvest it.

For several weeks, I had been getting occasional messages with Subjects like "Message Undeliverable." Since files were often attached to these messages, I assumed that these messages were just virus-laden spam that have somehow eluded the vigilance of McAfee and my ISP. Well, I thought, these things happen. Then, two nights ago, the count of these undeliverable emails entering my Inbox rose to a dozen an hour. Finally taking a look at them, I realized that my primary email address was being inserted as the Reply address of those spam messages that include strings of random sentences. I was getting the messages that had been returned by mail systems. The next morning, I found 101 such messages.

I first made sure that my own PC had not been zombified in order to send out these messages itself. When I contacted my ISP, they commiserated (actually, I think a good robot commiserated). Yes, they said, spammers use legitimate email and website URLs to trick spam filters. Very regrettable. Perhaps I would like to tweak my own filters to keep these Undeliverables out? Later, they sent me new security software for a highspeed service other than the one to which I subscribe and which would have disabled my machine if I had succeeded in installing it.

The number of Undeliverables has fallen steadily since the peak of two days ago and now has almost ceased. The earliest messages, by the way, were almost all in English; the last few dozen were often in Spanish or Portuguese. The relatively small number of East Asian messages were scattered throughout the episode.

* * *

At the Schubert Theatre in Manhattan last week I saw the play Spamalot. It does not have much spam in it, really. And the fish used in the Finnish Fisch-Schlapping Song were rubber, not real fish. It's not a secret (indeed, it's a point of pride) that the play is essentially a musical version of the hilarious 1975 film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. There is a bit of an attempt to add a story arc, so that the play ends in the finding of the Grail and in marriages, one of them gay. (The finding of the Grail involves a bit of audience participation; if you sit in the bottom rows, dress nicely and don't drink too much during the Intermission.) The play is, of course, a musical, though not much of the music is memorable. The piece with the most energy is "You Won't Succeed on Broadway." At one point in the play, King Arthur is tasked to stage a musical, and the song explains that you won't succeed on Broadway if you don't have any Jews. The audience ate it up.

If you liked the movie, you will like this play. If you are the sort of person who would like the movie but has not seen it yet, then you will like the play much more. The only original bit of humor in Spamalot that is up to the old Monty Python standard is the Very Expensive Forest. And that's the joke: the name.

Audience members who feel that sections of the play are too familiar to require their complete attention are advised to spend the time studying the complementary copies of Playbill that they will find in the theater. They will find this information about the writer of the play discussed immediately before Spamalot:

Bin Faaarkrekkon (Writer) Faarkrekkeion's career typifies the Finnish economic miracle. Born the son of a humble woodcutter, Bin worked his way up through shrubbery management to become Professor of Treadmill Dynamics at the University of Tooti, believed to be the 28th most northerly university in the world. "I have always been interested in the relatively rapid transition from a predominantly rural agricultural base to one of the most advanced industrial economies in the Western world, and one day in the sauna, it came to me: What a great subject for a musical."

The fraud is merrily cumulative.

* * *

In the same week in which I saw Spamalot, and not altogether coincidentally, I saw Richard Stanley's The Secret Glory, which, as I have noted before in this space, is a documentary that deals with the life of Nazi Grail Quester Otto Rahn. The producer/director is to be congratulated for doing important primary historical research. He interviewed Rahn's niece (who remembers her eccentric uncle fondly) and Rahn's old publisher. Most remarkably, he spoke at length with Paul Ladame, now appearing as a merry old soul, who had accompanied Rahn on some of his spelunking expeditions in Cathar country.

Rahn and Grail mythology are special interests of Richard Stanley; the DVD I saw included a long comment from him that was almost as interesting as the documentary. He takes aspects of it quite seriously, perhaps with good reason. He describes the SS castle at Wewelsburg as, literally, a place of nightmare, the land of the anti-Grail, while Montsegur is a place of peace and comfort. He does not cite The Idylls of the King, but he is as aware as Tennyson was that "Grail Questing" is a dark and even sinister enterprise, usually undertaken by dark and sometimes sinister people. On the other hand, despite the amount of time and effort he has put into the subject, the result still lacks a critical sense.

The Grail mythology is important, but the fact is that the Grail-Cathar aspect of it was cooked up by opium-using anti-Catholic French writers in the latter 19th century. These fabulations are no better in this context than they are in their better known appearance in The Da Vinci Code. The documentary would improve with a little didactic narration to that effect, or at least an interview with a real expert. A little more disclosure would also be welcome with regard to the "footage" of the Albigensian Crusade, which was lifted from Eisensein's Alexander Nevsky.

The oddest thing about The Secret Glory is that, despite the amount of time the director has been working on it, it's still a work in progress. The cinematography is fine, and the music is suitably spacey, but the voices in the soundtrack are muddy.

Still, it's worth the price of admission when Stanley tells in his comment about his attempt to view a vase that Rahn discovered in one of the putative Cathar caves. Rahn did not claim that this is the Grail itself, but the object has been called "the Pyrenean Grail." For some years, it was on display at a museum in Tarascon, but now it is in a private collection. When Stanley asked to see it, the situation closely resembled the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (and now also Spamalot) in which King Arthur asks a castle of French knights whether they would like to join his Grail Quest. The knights say "Non."

"We already have one. It's very nice."

"Well (Arthur asks), may we come up and see it?"

"Of course not: you are English!"

Stanley does not mention any taunting. Perhaps there will be something about the trebouchet in a subsequent DVD.

* * *

Readers who cannot follow these inside jokes really do have to see the film or the play.

* * *

Meanwhile, Jay Manifold at Voyage to Arcturus holds the super-Earth model of Gliese 581c in light esteem:

[T]hat star is only 1.3% as luminous as the Sun, is substantially less enriched in "metals" (in astrophysicists' parlance, any element heavier than helium), is younger than the Sun, and is variable - thus the designation HO Librae.

He is as in favor as the next guy of building the Terrestrial Planet Finder, but suggests that hyping Gliese 581c as Earthlike is chiefly political propaganda toward that end. He further suggests we are missing the point of astronomy if we are interested only in planets that are like Earth.

These points are well taken. Still, sometimes I wonder whether Earth is the best representative of an Earthlike planet.

Readers will recall Isaac Asimov's story, Nightfall, which is sometimes called the best science-fiction short story ever written. Nightfall deals with an inhabited world in a multiple star system, where the one sun or another is always in the sky. The planet's orbit is so complicated that the people there don't develop a theory of gravity until after they have invented radio. The story is about the cyclical chaos that ensues on the one point in many centuries when an eclipse brings real night. While the characters are debating this prospect, one of the scientists mentions that a theoretically stable model for a planetary system had been developed in which a single star is the center around which several planets revolve. These planets may not just revolve, but also rotate, so any point on the surface would be in darkness half the time. He notes that life could not develop very far in such a place, even if it came into existence, because of the importance of light for biology.

Incidentally, it was only when looking for that link to Nightfall posted above that I learned that Robert Silverberg had expanded the story into a novel. That's a good idea for a novel, but not for a title: if I saw it in the bookstores, I mistook it for an anthology.

Finally, Nightfall was also the subject of a film released in 2000 that is apparently one of the worst science-fiction films ever made.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Fade by Daniel Humphreys book review

This book scratched an itch I didn’t know I had. It struck me as similar to a Tim Powers book, if Tim wrote adventures with a hint of satire instead of secret histories. Apparently I had been looking for a tale of good and evil in an occult setting. This book is it.

FADE: PAXTON LOCKE BOOK 1 BY DANIEL HUMPHYRES PUBLISHED BY SILVER EMPIRE (2018)

FADE: PAXTON LOCKE BOOK 1
BY DANIEL HUMPHYRES
PUBLISHED BY SILVER EMPIRE (2018)

Paxton Locke sees dead people. Fortunately for him, he can also make them go away, using the mental compulsion he calls the push. Which is the basis for his business. For a reasonable fee [50% deposit up front please!] he will cleanse your home of lingering presences. Except for the wrinkle that his only paying customers are nutters. On the rare occasion he finds a real ghost, he does the job for free. Paxton is a grifter, albeit one with an uneasy conscience and some real powers.

He’s got a gig that pays the bills, and one that offers him enough freedom to try to escape his past. Unfortunately for him, his past might not be done with him yet. When his latest real job leads Paxton to a trail of breadcrumbs that points to an obviously occult destination, he knows that he needs help from an expert. Which means dealing with Mother.

Fade has a nice balance of the familiar and the eldritch. Paxton grew up in small town America, and now frequents RV parks and Wal-mart parking lots in a nomadic existence. But he also has magical powers that arise in some fashion from his mother’s ritual killing of his father. This world might be grim without relief, except that Paxton gets the opportunity to blaze away at the forces of evil with his boomstick too.

Shop smart!

Shop smart!

I have in general avoided anything described as urban fantasy, which to be honest I think I conflated with paranormal romance. However, when I look at the wikipedia article, and the covers of the top sellers on Amazon, and I think that my confusion is understandable. Fade isn’t a sparkly vampire story. While it does have a hint of a relationship to come, first and foremost it is an adventure set in a world almost like our own, if all the monsters of fable of legend were real.

Who or what exactly keeps the world as normal as it is will be an interesting development as the series goes on. I found this book a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing what kind of trouble Paxton finds himself in next.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout. But I also bought it a few weeks before that. So there.

My other book reviews | Reading Log

Other books from Silver Empire

The Heroes Unleashed series

by Morgon Newquist
Heroes Fall: Serenity City book 1

by Cheah Kit Sun
Hollow City: Song of Karma book 1

by J. D. Cowan
Gemini Warrior: Gemini Man book 1

2017 OES Wages for the United States

Here is another post in my useful data series. This one is about wages in the United States, as collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is the data from 2017, which I am using because I have the percentile ranges translated into dollar amounts.

This is interesting because of discussions around what the minimum wage should be. Many states and cities within the United States have higher minimum wages than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. There is a movement to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, which would mean a pretty large shift in the wage distribution shown here.

So far, the data on minimum wage increases hasn’t shown big disruptions economically. I’m not sure that would hold if we lopped off the whole left side of this wage distribution everywhere at the same time, but I do see the argument that the minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with other economic indicators.

The Long View 2007-04-27: Next; Gliese 581c; National Greatness

Gliese 581 system compared to solar system  Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation [Public domain]

Gliese 581 system compared to solar system

Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation [Public domain]

This is my go-to quote regarding the works of Philip Dick:

He wasn't a nihilist, but he was ontologically subversive. In contrast, I believe that reality is fragile and merits our support.


Next; Gliese 581c; National Greatness

Philip Dick's stories are unavoidable for someone with my interests, but I cannot say that he has ever been one of my favorite science-fiction writers. He wasn't a nihilist, but he was ontologically subversive. In contrast, I believe that reality is fragile and merits our support. Whatever objections one has to Dick's work, however, no author deserves the sort of manhandling that Dick's story, The Golden Man, received in its just-released film adaptation, Next, starring Nicholas Cage. Here is a summary from Wikipedia of the plot and concept of The Golden Man:

The protagonists of the story are a government agent and his fiancee, members of a government agency tasked with tracking down and sterilizing or eliminating mutants, individuals with physical abnormalities and even superhuman powers (such as the ability to steal the appearance and memories of others) that make them a threat to normal humans. The titular "Golden Man" is a feral young man named Cris with gold-colored skin, who does not appear to be sentient, but possesses the ability to see into the future (specifically, the ability to see all possible outcomes from any single action, described in the story as similar to a chess player with the ability to see all possible moves 5 steps ahead).....The story ends with the protagonist reflecting on how animal instincts have triumphed over human intellect, and how that is the new direction evolution will take if Cris succeeds in replacing humanity.

In some ways, that story is as disturbing as Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End. Not only is the human race past its sell-by date, Dick suggests, but there may be a biological property that trumps intelligence. That's a subtle thesis, but not unfilmable: the 1957 film, The Abominable Snowman, made similar points intelligently, and in black-and-white. For that matter, Stephen Spielberg's AI was not so different.

Now see what Hollywood has done with Dick's story in Next:

Cris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) is a Las Vegas magician with the ability to see a few minutes into the future. Seeking to escape government scrutiny, he lives off the grid, performing cheap tricks for meager cash under an assumed name. But when a terrorist group threatens to detonate a nuclear device in Los Angeles, FBI agent Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) becomes determined to track Cris down and convince him to help stop the attack.

The public would be better served if someone would just film Dick's story.

* * *

Every science buff under our G-class star has heard by now of the discovery of Gliese 581c, the super-Earth (1.5 terrestrial diameters) in an orbit so close around a modest red-dwarf star that the year is only 13 terrestrial days long, but the planet is nonetheless within the "habitable zone" of that star system, where water would normally be liquid. Among the many wonders of Gliese 581c (most of them entirely speculative) I was struck by this point:

Astronomer Wesley Traub of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., doubts Gliese 581c is hospitable enough for life. "It is probably tidally locked to the star, like the moon to the Earth," he says. That means the star-facing side of the planet receives boiling heat, while the far side would be frozen.

Oh come now: "rim worlds" are a staple of hard science fiction. The early instances were based on analogy with Mercury, which was long mistakenly believed to be tidal-locked to the sun. On rim worlds, people live in the twilight area between day and night. One imagines an atmosphere that does not so much circulate as boil. The ice on the dark side melts from chaotic eruptions of light-side air; the melt forms rivers that may or may not carry enough runoff to keep lakes and seas in existence in the light.

There is, of course, not a scintilla of evidence yet that Gliese 581c even has an atmosphere, and if it has an atmosphere, that the atmosphere is not a perpetual furnace on the model of Venus. Still, if we are going to speculate about this planet, let me ask these questions:

On a world where the sky never changes (as it would not on the day side, unless Gliese 581c has one or more conspicuous satellites), how, or when, do you develop astronomy?

On a world where the sky never changes, how do you develop the concept of time?

This piece from the Telegraph may throw some light on the subject:

"We reset our body calendar every summer, when increased light inhibits the production of melatonin. This could explain why sunshine makes us feel happier."

Perhaps Gliese 581c is like the gaming rooms of a gambling casino, clockless and windowless, where obsessed people act out their joyless compulsions oblivious to the dwindling of their resources. I doubt it, though. If the sky did not keep time for us, we and the rest of the biosphere would have internalized the function, in rather the way that endothermic creatures have internalized the regulation of their body temperatures. Folks on Gliese 581c might have an exquisite sense of time. Indeed, perhaps a collectively felt "standard time" is the chief social glue.

* * *

Regarding the Iraq withdrawal measures in Congress, there is no way to avoid stating the obvious, but let me allow Mark Steyn's favorite Anglosphere head of government do it for me:

The US Congress' vote to push for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was wrong and will bring comfort to Al-Qaeda insurgents, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Friday. ..."I think it is wrong, and I don't think it is doing anything other than giving great comfort and encouragement to Al-Qaeda and the insurgency in Iraq," Howard said....If there is a perception of an America defeat in Iraq, that will leave the whole of the Middle East in great turmoil and will be an enormous victory for terrorism."

The term "War on Terrorism" may have been coined as a slogan, but it has turned out to be precisely apposite. The war really is a war against a specific terrorist technique, the suicide bombing, which was introduced into the Middle East in the 1980s and has been under successful development ever since. To everyone's surprise, this tactic in Iraq proved capable of producing sustained casualties comparable to anti-population aerial bombardment, but of course the most spectacular attacks of that kind to date occurred in the United States on 911. The withdrawal measures just passed by Congress are, in effect, declarations that 911 succeeded. The mystery is why anyone would expect those declarations to reduce the number of suicide bombings. If they work, there will be more of them. You could write an algorithm.

In reality, the situation in Iraq shows no sign of unraveling: rather the opposite, if you consider developments in Anbar Province. An American withdrawal is more likely to begin than to end next year. The argument in next year's presidential election will probably be about whether the shaky stabilization of Iraq was worth the cost, not whether the war is winnable. Or maybe not: Congress could get what it wished for.

Let me remark that I do not regard as illegitimate the withdrawal measures that were included in the military funding bills for Iraq and Afghanistan. Congress was given the power to appropriate funds for precisely this kind of situation. Yes, Congress does have the ultimate authority to tell the Commander-in-Chief what to do, and even how to do it. The spotless legality of these measures, however, in no way diminishes the fact they are literally suicidal. They are the gateway to a future, and not a distant one, in which cable news is showing the smoldering, slightly radioactive ruins of where the Capitol building used to be, and then cutting away to a room deep under Cheyenne Mountain, where some relatively junior cabinet officer is taking the oath of office as the new president.

After 911, Congress failed to pass legislation that would make assembling a new Congress easier in the event of a successful decapitation attack. That is a great pity.

* * *

And who is to blame for these morose reflections? Well, Mark Steyn is half right:

What these guys, the enemy understand more clearly than the Democrats do, is that America loses wars on the home front. You can’t beat them with the tanks and the planes and the battleships, but you can beat them on the TV networks and in Congress, and in demoralizing the home front.

Actually, the Democratic Party these days is not so much a political force as an opportunistic infection. The people responsible for this sorry state of things are in the Bush Administration. They misplayed a strong hand with a thoroughness that approaches genius. Any government can undersupply a war; the Bush Administration managed not to mention for months at a time the war it was undersupplying. Instead, like the putative inhabitants of Gliese 581c, the Administration compulsively pursued its domestic obsessions without regard to the environment. Even Small Government Conservative Mark Steyn is starting to get a glimmer of the real problem:

But frankly, I think the idea that part of the Republican base essentially wants just to talk about small government and low tax cuts and all the rest of it, yeah, I’m all for those things. But you can’t have those things if you have no credibility around the world as a superpower, and you’re being picked off on all kinds of strategic fronts.

The Weekly Standard promoted the term "National Greatness" to describe the magazine's favored synthesis of a forward US strategic posture abroad, combined with a a Reaganite, "get the government off my back" philosophy at home. National Greatness was supposed to marry Cold War conservatism to small-government, quasi-libertarian conservatism for the post-Cold War era. Candidate George Bush in 2000 was not much taken with National Greatness: his interest in foreign affairs was perfunctory. John McCain, rather, was the candidate of the Weekly Standard. After 911, when foreign engagement was no longer optional, President Bush perforce came around to the National Greatness way of thinking, and tried to govern with the political coalition that National Greatness commended.

In the event, National Greatness turned out not to be a marriage, but a deal with the devil. The defense against the Jihad became dependent on political activists who rejected the possibility of effective government and had even less interest in geopolitics than George Bush had had. Predictably, the domestic side of the deal reneged. The objectionable thing about Mephistopheles is not that he takes you to Hell, but that his checks bounce.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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Stryker's War Book Review

What use is the valor of brave men in the service of evil goals? Stryker’s War is the most gut-wrenching book in the Order of Centurion series so far because it takes a good hard look at the reality that not everything that can get a soldier killed is worth dying for.

STRYKER’S WAR: ORDER OF THE CENTURION #3 BY JOSH HAYES WITH JASON ANSPACH AND NICK COLE KINDLE EDITION, 198 PAGES TO BE RELEASED NOVEMBER 26, 2019 BY GALAXY'S EDGE ASIN B07X1ZL2MG

STRYKER’S WAR: ORDER OF THE CENTURION #3
BY JOSH HAYES WITH JASON ANSPACH AND NICK COLE
KINDLE EDITION, 198 PAGES
TO BE RELEASED NOVEMBER 26, 2019 BY GALAXY'S EDGE
ASIN B07X1ZL2MG

Dear Mom and Dad,

If you are reading this, I’m not coming home.

The opening lines of each chapter of Stryker’s War are the words of a dead man. A man who clearly believed in the view of war in St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, which files war under love of neighbor. The letter writer saw his service in the Legion as a noble pursuit, ordered to the common good, the tranquillitas ordinis, the well-ordered peace. It is not enough that there is an absence of conflict. You must also see that justice be done.

Unfortunately, the Galactic Republic isn’t really in the business of dispensing justice any more.

They are still in the business of delivering a smack down to anyone who dares to defy them, which the Legion is willing and capable of supplying. Curiously, the House of Reason, and its appointed officers, do not take the Roman model of solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. With increasing political control of the Legion, it would be easy to crush their enemies and see them driven before them, but this isn’t what we see.

The Legion is a calling and the day I signed up, I gave my life to that calling.

I would guess the reason is two-fold: a numerous and well-equipped Legion is a more dangerous Legion, including to the House of Reason. Maybe worse, in their eyes, is that a visibly successful Legion would have greater political legitimacy. This is likely a simple matter of not enabling a likely enemy. But also, it seems that the House of Reason feels that war must be a little wicked, because it costs money.

With this two-fold reason to never really give the Legion what it wants, even as the House of Reason needs it to take care of its problems, we come to the world of Gestor. Unwilling to commit more than a platoon to fix a security problem at a valuable mining operation, everything quickly spirals out of control into one of the most epic charlie foxtrots I have ever seen.

Every Legionnaire that died felt like I lost a friend. I wanted to scream at the stupid point who wouldn’t call in close air support even to save himself. Rage boiled up against the fools who sent so many men to die because they didn’t want to show up in force. My heart broke for the insurgents too, who just wanted their fair share of the profits of their own mine, and who were getting cheated not just by the Republic, but by their underworld contacts as well.

Now I can see why so many were willing to join up with Goth Sullus, and how even the loyal remnant was willing to invoke Article 19 and go to war against the Republic. This is intolerable. Yet, this much, and worse, was tolerated nonetheless.

There are some bad people in the galaxy, and sometimes they need to be taught a lesson. The Legion teaches that lesson well.

I might have finally met my match, but don’t want you to be sad. I stood with my brothers against evil and fought for those who couldn’t.

I only hope I made you proud.

Until the day finally came when good men could stand it no longer.

I was provided a copy of this ebook by the publisher for free.

My other book reviews | Reading Log

Galaxy’s Edge season 1:
Legionnaire: Galaxy's Edge #1 book review
Galactic Outlaws: Galaxy's Edge #2 book review
Kill Team: Galaxy's Edge #3 book review
Attack of Shadows: Galaxy's Edge #4 book review
Sword of the Legion: Galaxy's Edge #5 Book Review
Tin Man: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Prisoners of Darkness: Galaxy's Edge #6 Book Review
Imperator: Galaxy's Edge Book Review
Turning Point: Galaxy's Edge #7 Book Review
Message for the Dead: Galaxy's Edge #8 Book Review
Retribution: Galaxy’s Edge #9 Book Review

Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations:
Requiem for Medusa: Tyrus Rechs: Contracts & Terminations Book 1 Review

Takeover
Takeover: Part 1 Book Review
Takeover: Part 2 Book Review

Order of the Centurion
Order of the Centurion #1 book review
Iron Wolves: Order of the Centurion #2 book review