Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Do Not Consider Phlebas

First, thanks to Dave for his first guest post.  Great Stuff.

Second, this is a bit off topic but I just read (part of) a really terrible, but massively popular and acclaimed, book.  Consider Phlebas by Iain Banks.  This is the first book in his Culture series, which is also massively popular an acclaimed.  Now, maybe I'm missing the point, and the whole thing is a literary metaphor that just goes over my head.  But I don't think so.  That said...

This book is not good. I was fooled by the reviews because I really like grand intergalactic sci-fi with a broad, complex backdrop. Consider Phlebas tries to be that, but without any new or interesting ideas. Its like someone shook up box full of bad 50's pulp sci-fi and whatever came out was the book. There are the space mercenaries, the super secret genetically modified spy with special powers and secret poison glands, the ultra tech society (which really seems very unimaginatively bland) and of course the interstellar war between implacable enemies. And instead of creating a feeling of grand awe, the vast galaxy of new creatures and cultures is just like a kinda weird big earth. Everyone know everyone, there's a huge crazy card game called "Damage" which is watched across the galaxy by trillions (and yet the main character,Horza, happens to recognize half the people playing in the game he happens upon (which is of course the 'biggest in the galaxy'). Its kinda like how Zaphod Beeblebrox and Ford Prefect knew everyone in the Universe, except this isn't supposed to be funny (or maybe it is and failed?). Another indication of how small Banks makes this galaxy seem, Horza gets thrown out of a space ship in the middle of a battle, uses his handy in suit warp drive, and yet is conveniently found moments later by a pirate space ship wandering by. Ugh. Aweful.  This is such an "It was raining on Mongo that morning" moment in the book, to quote Jerry Pournelle (who co-wrote, among many great books, The Mote In God's Eye). Please go read some vernor vinge instead if you'd like a galactic space adventure that is truly awe inspiring. Maybe the rest get better, but i doubt it.

Oh, and for now reason apparent to the plot so far (i just quit the book about half way through) Horza is captured by some fat religious cult leader who eats people while forcing his followers to starve eating garbage. Then we get a stupid description of the fat guy eating a prisoner, then eating horza's finger, then falling on his lead disciple and crushing him to death. The Horza escapes and that whole chapter basically meant nothing. And the book opened with Horzon being ritually executed by drowning in the feces and urine of his captors who are attending a party, and its, i guess, some race of all old people called "The Gerontologists" or something retarded like that. UGH!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Guest Blogger: Denali: Your Regular Reminder that by "State's Rights," Conservatives Always Just Meant Slavery

So, this is a little late to the party on the clown-show that is the Republicans, mainly the Ohio delegation, flipping out over alleged dictator Barak Obama renaming Mt. McKinley so that it is officially called Denali in the federal register.  However, I still wanted to chime in once I saw actual calls for congress to act to block the 'name change.'*  Particularly galling is chubby, bible-thumping, former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee saying that Congress should act.

Along with multiple other religious zealots in the field of Republican presidential candidates, he has long held the position that the several states should hold sway on most matters that occur within their borders, particularly when it comes to matters that allegedly involve religious liberty.  Generally, this is coupled with a misunderstanding of the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. (Often that misunderstanding comes with a willful disregard of historical facts regarding the Founding Fathers' position on faith and government.) 

Eventually, I will make a detailed post regarding this ridiculous revisionist history.  However, to stay somewhat on topic with Denali/McKinley, I am somewhat shocked that not a single journalist reporting the "have congress intervene in Obama's overreach story has noted that these idiots are asking the federal government to intervene on a matter where the State of Alaska, where the mountain in question resides, spoke long ago: the F'ing mountain is named Denali, said the State of Alaska in 1975!!!! (Update to include this article, making it clear that even the conservative residents of Alaska refer to it as Denali.)

Now, many media outlets have noted the ongoing Alaskan preference for the name Denali, as well as their numerous attempts to change it.  What galls me is the lack of acknowledgment that the very people pushing back on "imperial Obama" are complete hypocrites...  the land is in Alaska! Even beyond the obvious fact that it should be named to reflect what the actual natives called it, how about sliding up to Huckabee or one of these other idiots and noting that they generally would like powers to rest in the hands of the states and not the federal government? ...and by that logic, the people of Alaska really would have the say here, and not Congress, as hamstrung by the Ohio delegation?

All of this was a long walk down a path to make the point that "State's Rights" activists are full of $hit.  The very concept was merely invented to protect the rights of certain states to continue to engage in slavery. Thus the Civil War. So every time a politician trots out the State's Rights doctrine, remember that they are probably using it in some self-serving way to deny another person rights.  Because if they really believed in State's Rights, then the little shit like the naming of a mountain in Alaska would be pretty F'ing easy...  they'd say "Oh, that's an issue for Alaska to decide."

*technically, as this is my first blog-post for the Rambling Drunk I should have had a few more glasses of...  something...  before I wrote this.