Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm Getting Old

How do I know I'm getting old?

My brother, who I think is only doing it because he has no idea what he's getting himself into, is taking my kids to Disneyland tomorrow.

So of course, although they're supposed to be in bed, they're doing that insane-giddy-I'm-going-to-Disneyland-and-won't-go-to-sleep thing we all did when we were going to go to Disneyland.

I've discovered that being the slightly peeved parent who is the killjoy who tells them to go to bed and stop being so excited is just as much a rite of passage as being the excited kid who won't go to sleep.

This must be a significant parent moment, equivalent to unearthing a monolith in an Arthur C Clarke story. I wonder what it signals?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quotes Taken From a Discourse by Jeffrey R Holland

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. . . . Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. [The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 4 (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1889), pp. 51-52]

Such public and personal virtue was understood by the Founding Fathers to be the precondition for republican government, the base upon which the structure of all government would be built. Such personal ideals as John Adams' "virtuous citizen" and Thomas Jefferson's "moral sense" and "aristocracy of talent and virtue" were fundamental. Even the pessimistic James Madison said:

I go on this great republican principle, that the people will have virtue and intelligence to select men of virtue and wisdom. Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea. [20 June 1788, in The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution, arr. Jonathan Elliot, vol. 3 (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1901), pp. 536­37]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Commercials and Music

One of my friends mentioned a commercial he'd seen recently, and it made me realize how absolutely unacquainted I am with a couple of things.

The first, of course, is commercials. I have no idea what commercials are airing on TV right now. I have no idea what commercials are airing on the radio right now. Between DVR and podcasts, I don't have any exposure to commercials beyond the quick flashes that appear as I speed on to the next segment of my shows.

This actually means I watch less TV, not just because I don't sit down and flip through channels any more, but because I don't see the commercials for other shows I might like.

So as far as my own subconscious is concerned, the same commercials that were airing a couple of years ago are frozen in time, perpetually airing as I blip through them without paying attention.

Of course, because of the podcasts, this also means I have no idea what's popular in music right now. Since I don't touch the radio any more, I have no idea what bands are popular. My entire exposure to music comes from Radio Disney when my kids are in the car. It's as if I've been sucked into an alternate reality where rock, pop, and alternative have been sucked into space and been replaced by Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and the cast of High School Musical.

I'm sure there have been a couple of musicians come out who are the new Beatles, and that my life would be dramatically altered if I just heard the uplifting message of their latest hit single, which would speak directly to my soul with both it's musical structure and it's lyrics.

But I don't consider to be that big a loss, really, except it means there will be even less chance I'll know any of the songs being parodied on Weird Al's next album.

Monday, November 26, 2007

We Won't Give Up On You, Dune!

Timothy Sandefur has given up on Dune. As in, the Frank Herbert Sci-fi book that is like in everybody's top ten list of Sci-fi novels.

I had to comment.

Actually, I had to answer a question that I believe he posed rhetorically: "What could have possessed the world to grant superstar status to this dreary eternity of a novel?"

The answer is that he's spot-on in his own analysis. The book is a product of it's own time that, were it published today, wouldn't have made it past the editors at TOR. (This despite the fact that I have it on pretty good authority that the editor at TOR thinks all great sci-fi novels should be the tale of a boy rising up to take his father's place, which essentially means he wants revistiations of Dune.)

Dune genuinely has lost some of it's value as entertainment as the years have gone on, but to recognize the greatness of Dune is to recognize that it sprang forth out of nothing.

It's somewhat akin to looking at old I Love Lucy reruns. It's easy to be jaded towards the show and feel cynical about how it features nothing but the same old tired gags we've seen a million times. The appreciation comes when you realize you're looking at the origin of all the imitators, the place where every sitcom staple became embedded into the consciousness of every hack who ever put words into a sitcom actor's mouth since.

As a certain sci-fi writer of the time put it (I won't mention his name, because it's L. Ron Hubbard, and people automatically look at you out of the corner of their eye if you mention you're willing to read anything he wrote now), at the time this book was written, every sci-fi book and story was, for the most part, taking place in pretty much the same universe. He said that it was sort of like the sci-fi writers were all going to the same places and sending each other postcards from all the places they'd all already been.

What Herbert introduced in Sci-fi was something akin to what Tolkien introduced to Fantasy: A sprawling epic, in a world that was unlike any of the worlds we'd been getting postcards from before.

He created an entirely new place, with entirely new issues. An analog writer at the time probably could have done a whole story around any one of the ideas that Herbert brought together en mass to form this complex and truly alien world. It wasn't just a bunch of people who talked like present-day Americans and with the attitudes of present-day Americans in space with zap-guns.

However, because he was sort of inventing the genre of the sci-fi epic, he suffers from some of the same difficulties as those who invented the historical novel. In Hugo's Les Miserables, Hugo spends chapters detailing accounts of wars, just so you'll understand what's happened when a guy starts going through the pockets of the dead when the battle is over. He'll spend a whole chapter outlining the history of the Parisian sewer system just so you'll understand how gross the muck is the hero is escaping through.

Herbert has some issues with that here. The world he's created was so unlike what anyone had done before, he had to spend a lot of verbiage making sure it was clear. Now, it's entered into the consciousness so much as it's influenced other sci-fi authors, that the same dialogue that seemed innovative and ground-breaking when it was written seems unnecessarily cumbered by repetitive prose.

More modern writers have learned to more seamlessly integrate the details of their vast worlds into their prose, but I daresay the line that got us from "Doc" Smith to John Varley went straight through Frank Herbert.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back to Blogging

Well, I'm coming back.

I'm sure you all have noticed the new layout and the smoother features and some of the other stuff that's found it's way into the blog page.

Yeah, I'm learning.

All the learning actually has to do with some other blogs that I'm working on that I'm not quite ready to unleash on the public yet, although they are out there and running, if the more savvy among you are curious enough to try to find them.

But hopefully soon I'll be able to be proud of them and show them off to you fine folks and let you know they're mine.

In the meantime, this will continue to be my review site, my venting site, my on-my-mind kind of stuff site. In other words, the kind of site that only people who know me probably even remotely care about.

Speaking of which, the new Orson Scott Card book is out, and it's supposed to be fantastic. I still haven't read it, but it's an Ender book about Christmas in battle school. There was a lot of talk in the fan circles about this book before it came out. It was branded as being the literary equivalent of the Star Wars Holiday Special. But I haven't heard a word like that since the thing was published--apparently, it's great.

Also, some of you may have noticed that in setting up the link to that, I am actually able to have the text line up next to the ad instead of having it floating that the top of my post like a bizarre pointy hat sticking out of the top of a block of text.

Wow. First he chose readable colors for his blog, and now he's got HTML figured out. Next thing you know, the guy might end up writing something on the Internet somebody wants to read.

Hope everybody's Thanksgiving was happy, and look forward to both of my readers enjoying more posts in the near future.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Better Bonds Summary

Earlier I posted a review of Bonds That Make Us Free.

I'm still not happy with the ineptness of my review, and I intend to give it another go at some point, but I think a good one line summary would be this:

This book is about the changes that can happen in our life when we start accepting who people really are and why they do what they do instead of insisting they be who we want them to be and assigning them motives that suit our own purposes.