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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Essential Thrillers
Topic: Must Read

So I was browsing through Amazon's online Kindle store and there was a link to "100 Books for $3.99 or Less." Who could resist?

Heinlein's The Door into Summer was one of them and I snapped it up for a pittance. Then I came upon Thrillers:100 Must-Reads (edited by David Morell and Hank Wagner). My curiosity pricked, I downloaded it to my Kindle. For a mere $2.99, why not?

Thrillers takes the form of a chronological list, beginning in 1500 B.C. with Theseus and the Minotaur (author unknown) and ending in 2003 A.D. with The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown). For each entry, a contemporary thriller writer has supplied a review essay.


The editors defined “thriller” very broadly indeed. The fourth entry is Macbeth, a choice that I regarded skeptically for a moment before conceding that Shakespeare’s Scottish horror story does indeed embody the elements of a thriller. I was unsurprised to see such titles as Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Day of the Jackal—obvious choices all. But Conrad’s Heart of Darkness? Hmmm. And P.G. Wodehouse’s Summer Lightning? Really? Each in its own way, these are fine books—but including them on the list meant that other, more worthy candidates had to be included out, e.g. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (whose The War of the Worlds is number sixteen on the list). As for the review essays, the ones I've read so far—about a quarter of the total—range from insightful to pedestrian.


 Such quibbles aside, I was curious not only to see what tales made the list, but how many I’ve actually read. The somewhat surprisingly low tally: thirty-two. The thing is, I don’t read much crime fiction, the inevitably dominant genre in the thriller category. Still I enjoyed perusing Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, even if it did add several titles to my ever-lengthening list of books that I simply must get around to reading…

Posted by tmg110 at 11:19 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 2 March 2012 8:23 AM EST
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Moving On
Topic: Scratchpad


Why no posts lately? Real life intruded in the form of the old homestead in Mishawaka—which had to be cleaned up and prepared for the folks who’ll be renting it. And how strange it was to walk through the empty rooms of that house yesterday! We lived there for 25 years and the past was much on my mind—such as the day in 1989 we brought our newborn daughter, now a soldier, home from the hospital. Time is a river…

Posted by tmg110 at 11:07 AM EST
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Friday, 24 February 2012
Maybe Pond Scum Could Fuel the Lunar Shuttle. . .
Topic: Decline of the West


Newt Gingrich attracted a fair amount of ridicule when he proposed that the United States embark upon a program to establish a permanent base on the Moon. How they laughed at the candidate’s cluelessness! Though to tell you the truth I thought that Gingrich had an excellent idea there (I’ve read my Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, etc.) I, too, cracked a rueful smile. A presidential campaign in a time of economic hardship is no place for soaring visions. Gingrich ought to have known a bunch of media “fact checkers” would rush to add up the costs of a lunar colony and debunk its claimed benefits.


Ah, but there’s one law for Newt but quite a different one for Barry! When the Prez promoted pond scum as the cure for America’s energy woes, the fact checkers must have been out to lunch…

Posted by tmg110 at 4:33 PM EST
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Hope, Change and Pond Scum
Topic: Decline of the West


Interesting article this. It reflects my long-held opinion that Barack Obama’s political skills have been wildly exaggerated by the media, by his supporter and most of all by the man himself. Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, writes: “The sound and fury of the Republican primary has distracted political observers from one of the most interesting political developments of the cycle thus far: President Obama’s reelection campaign is a pallid imitation of his 2008 juggernaut.”


How true! Those who’ve been paying close attention to Team Obama’s early moves in the 2012 campaign have been struck above all by the campaign’s negativity, empty rhetoric and general lack of focus. Two things are becoming clear: (1) In the first three years of his presidency, Obama recklessly squandered an enormous fund of good will, and (2) neither Obama nor his senior advisers has the slightest idea what to do now.


The signs of cluelessness are abundant. The President’s suggestion yesterday, in the context of a discussion about gas prices, that fuel derived from algae could supply 17% of America’s fuel needs, was just pathetic. “You’ve got a bunch of algae out here, right?” Obama declaimed during a campaign event in Florida. “If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right.” Good grief! Could he possibly be more disconnected from the daily concerns of average Americans, for whom the rising price of gas is an immediate and serious issue?


A guy who would actually say something like that at a time like this may not be all that hard to beat.

Posted by tmg110 at 1:19 PM EST
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No Common Vocabulary
Topic: Must Read


Writing in the Weekly Standard, Robert Kimball wonders if there will ever be another Great American Novel. His answer, more or less, is no.


Most of the supposedly serious literary novels being published today, Kimball opines, simply aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. Of course, as he goes on to note, this situation is nothing new. Of the countless thousands of American novels published in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries how many are remembered, much less read, today? Competent journeymen and plain old hacks always outnumber writers of genius. And certainly today there are some fine American writers at work.


But not even the finest contemporary writer is likely to produce a Great American Novel. Kimball suggests, and I agree with him, that thanks to the atomization of American culture, that’s now a practical impossibility. Without a common culture, without a common vocabulary if you will, how can there be such a thing as a characteristically American novel?  For progressives who revile American exceptionalism, the very idea of a Great American Novel must seem quaint if not subversives. And progressives dominate what passes nowadays for literary culture.


In place of American exceptionalism we have multiculturalism, a doctrine whose practical effect has been to promote group identification: female, gay, black, Hispanic, even white. The designation “American” is tacked on almost as an afterthought. No wonder that genre fiction—romance, SF, mysteries, vampires, etc.—with its mutually exclusive fan bases is flourishing, while literary fiction languishes on life support.

Posted by tmg110 at 12:53 PM EST
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Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Legit? Whatever...
Topic: Decline of the West


The push to legalize same-sex marriage is presented by its proponents as a major civil rights issue. But in fact, it’s no more than a sad symptom of the demise of marriage itself. Gay marriage is thinkable today precisely because so many people no longer think much of marriage.


The New York Times published a story over the weekend that described out-of-wedlock births as “the new normal.” The Times noted that more than half of all births to American women under the age of 30 occur outside of marriage. Among all American women of childbearing age, only 59% of births occur within marriage. Despite ample evidence of the harm done to children by illegitimacy—higher rates of  poverty, criminality and emotional problems—few people are willing to stand up and say that bringing a child into this world outside of marriage is wrong. We mustn’t be judgmental, you know!


Those who defend the plague of illegitimacy typically rely on the language of “rights”: reproductive rights, marriage rights, civil rights, etc. But inevitably, all such defenses lead back to the denigration of marriage. For if there’s nothing wrong with unwed motherhood, then there’s no reason to give special consideration to the sacrament of matrimony. Indeed, to do so would constitute a tacit criticism of all those single moms. And we can’t have that!


So if gays think that the legalization of same-sex marriage will do anything to legitimize their relationships, they’re simply deceiving themselves. Legitimacy? That concept went out the window a long time ago.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:28 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 21 February 2012 11:31 AM EST
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Monday, 20 February 2012
Eugene Hearts Despotism
Topic: Liberal Fascism


Here we go again! Another progressive pundit sings the praises of that paragon of rational government, the Chinese Communist regime. This time it’s Eugene Robinson, who can’t contain his admiration for China’s despotic master class. Vice President Xi Jinping, widely expected to become China’s next leader, was in Washington the other day, and Robinson attended a luncheon in his honor. The columnist could hardly contain his hero worship. After reciting some details of Xi’s bio, he went on to say:


I recount this history because it helps me understand why the men—and a few women—now running China are the way they are: impatient to make up for lost time, pathologically wary of the slightest instability, tough, resourceful, adaptable, coldly unsentimental and, as [former Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger generalized in his introduction, convinced “that every solution is the beginning of a new set of problems.”


Uh-huh. And of course, this unsentimental pragmatism is in sharp contrast to the fecklessness of America’s political leaders: “What we’re not hearing [in this election year] is a serious debate about farsighted reforms that are needed to keep the United States from falling behind.”


Robinson’s subtext isn’t hard to discern: one-party authoritarian China good; messy democratic America bad. And the assumption underlying his lament: the more-than-dubious proposition that a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats—Chinese or American—possess the requisite knowledge and wisdom to summon the future.


I have no doubt that if Barack Obama were to propose a Five-Year Plan, Eugene Robinson would simply swoon.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:59 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 20 February 2012 11:34 AM EST
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Sunday, 19 February 2012
The Lunch Nazis
Topic: Liberal Fascism


Ha! This story from North Carolina is so typical of the state of affairs in Obama’s America:


North Carolina officials have said there was a misunderstanding when a preschooler’s homemade lunch was sent home for not meeting certain nutritional requirements, but now a second mother from the same school has come forward exclusively to The Blaze to say the same thing happened to her daughter.


Oh, there was a misunderstanding, all right: Some officious nosebleed from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Child Development and Early Education felt entitled to usurp the authority of parents who’d taken the time and trouble to provide their kids with lunch. And since when have the contents of little David or Suzie’s brown lunch bag been any business of the government’s? Since January 20, 2009, that’s when…

Posted by tmg110 at 2:39 PM EST
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Let's Not Annoy the Ayatollahs!
Topic: Decline of the West


After piously citing concern for innocent civilian lives as a justification for intervention in the Libyan civil war, Barack Obama finds himself confronted with a very similar—arguably worse—situation in Syria. And what’s he doing about it? Nothing.


The popular uprising against Syria’s despotic government seems on its face to present the United States with a veritable smorgasbord of golden opportunities. Supporting the armed Syrian opposition would not only remove one of the region’s most murderous governments but also strike a blow at the Syrian dictatorship’s chief ally, Iran. Together with Bashar al-Assad’s unsavory regime, Iran sponsors Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist group through which the Islamic Republic projects power and influence. The demise of Assad means, therefore the weakening of Hezbollah and hence of Iran.


But where Iran is concerned, Obama can always be relied upon to display the backbone of a chocolate éclair. He knows that effective action on Syria would annoy the ayatollahs. So instead of strident calls for intervention to prevent the all-too-real slaughter of innocents, the President opines that the conflict in Syria can be resolved without military intervention. He says this despite the fact that Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that backed an Arab League plan to pressure Assad to accept a peaceful transition of power. (So much, incidentally, for Secretary of State Clinton’s much-ballyhooed “reset” of relations with Putin’s Russia!)


The UN fiasco left Obama with no viable policy on Syria—so I guess all those endangered innocents are just out of luck. And when we do go to war against Iran—an ever-more-likely possibility in my opinion—it will be without the many advantages of the indirect approach. What a doofus.

Posted by tmg110 at 2:21 PM EST
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Saturday, 18 February 2012
High Gas Prices? Don't Blame Barry!
Topic: Decline of the West


Remember how Democrats and the media used to blame George W. Bush and his sinister cabal of neocon puppet masters for high gas prices? Well, now that Barack Obama is president, Dems and reporters have suddenly discovered that the causes of high gas prices are mysterious and quite complex! Take this story from the February 28, 2011Washington Post and this one from the February 17, 2012 Los Angeles Times, neither of which mention the Obama Administration at all.


It’s true, of course, that a complex of factors—Middle East unrest, rising demand, even the weather—is driving prices higher. This is as true today as it was when Dems and the media were squawking at the Bush Administration. But it’s also true that the anti-petroleum decisions of the Obama Administration are helping to keep prices high. North America is sitting on vast untapped oil and natural gas reserves that could have a significant effect on prices—if they were being exploited. (And, incidentally, exploiting those resources would create jobs.) But instead Barry and his minions hand out subsidies and loan guarantees to insolvent solar panel manufacturers, electric cars that no one wants to buy and useless high-speed rail projects.


When gas reaches a price of $5 per gallon for regular unleaded, remember that.

Posted by tmg110 at 9:10 AM EST
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