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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Christopher Tolkien died at age of 95

That’s the son of J.R.R. Tolkien. For whatever reason, whether because he worshiped his father as a Great Man, or for the money, he brought a lot of his late father’s unpublished scribblings to the world. And wow, he sure did live for a long time.

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Sorry, I didn’t mean to speak ill of Christopher Tolkien, for without him, Tolkien’s fan’s would never even have read the Silmarillion (1977), not to mention all of the other volumes of “unfinished tales” and “lost tales” etc. that he published.

It should be pointed out that the Tolkien estate is worth about half a billion dollars, mostly on account of the massive amount of money the Tolkien estate made since they started making movies of the books. Whatever descendants are still alive, they are all pretty rich, richer than JRR himself ever was when he was alive.

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Believe it or not I’ve never watched The Hobbit movies. Should I?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 16, 2020 at 2:06 PM

Posted in Books

I can’t believe I memorized the whole thing

The main 46 Hiragana letters, that is.

What made the difference was paper flashcards. The iPhone app wasn’t working for me. On Saturday, I walked over to the local Japanese bookstore and bought a set of flashcards.

To a certain commenter who keeps insisting that Manhattan doesn’t have any interesting bookstores: You’re totally wrong.

Katakana is next.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 16, 2019 at 1:50 PM

Posted in Books, International

The Star Beast (1954) by Robert Heinlein

This is a weird one. It’s one of Heinlein’s so-called “juveniles.” As you know, Robert Heinlein wrote a bunch of books that were marketed to teenage boys, featuring main characters who were teenage boys, and lacking subject matter that were considered inappropriate for teenage boys back in the 1950, therefore no one has sex in Heinlein juveniles, although often the main characters get married at the end.

This is a weird one because its style is a more like Stranger in a Strange Land (without the sex) than the typical Heinlein juveniles. This book is worth reading, but I consider Heinlein’s top-three juveniles to be Citizen of the Galaxy, Tunnel in the Sky and Starman Jones.

**Warning, there are spoilers ahead!**

When I reviewed Time for the Stars, I stated that “in many Heinlein juvenile novels, the protagonist’s mother is emotional and useless, and usually a roadblock early-on, standing in the way of the protagonist going on cool adventures and becoming an independent man.” The mother in The Star Beast is perhaps the most horrible and vile mother in all of Heinlein’s juveniles, perhaps as bad as the mother in Farnham’s Freehold (which was not a juvenile). Heinlein really hates mothers.

The teenage boy main character, John Stuart XI, is a not-too-bright and not-very-ambitious lumphead. The smartest character in the novel is the boy’s girlfriend, Betty. She’s smarter than all of the adults. I can’t help but wonder what exactly she sees in John. I guess that, back in the 1950s, you didn’t have to be a rock star with huge muscles and model-looks and alpha-male “game” to have a pretty girlfriend who was totally into you.

I should really say that the boy is one of the main characters, which is why this novel is different than other juveniles. This novel is told from the point of view of several different people, and there’s a second main character, Henry Kiku, who is the highest-level career employee in the planetary government’s equivalent of the Department of State. He basically runs things because his politically appointed boss is a moron. All the adults in this novel are morons except for Kiku, and Kiku himself makes some decisions that seem pretty dubious. Kiku is from Kenya, so Heinlein is obviously sending a message to 1950s bigots that they shouldn’t be prejudiced against blacks.

Yes, Kiku represents what conservatives these days call the deep state. The message from Heinlein is that we should be thankful for the deep state, because the politicians are morons.

There’s a lot of chit-chat between Kiku and the other people in his department, and with Dr. Ftaeml who is an alien who acts as a translator and go-between with the alien Hroshii who have come to earth looking for their lost princess, who happens to be the “star beast” of the book’s title. Regarding the chit-chat part, Heinlein’s later novels, beginning with Stranger in a Strange Land, are littered with this type of chit-chat, but Heinlein isn’t very good at writing chit-chat.

Heinlein also fashions himself as some sort of authority on law because he was involved in some lawsuits, and like many of his books, there’s a lot of legal stuff in this one. Heinlein’s legal subplots are usually the weakest and least interesting parts.

The big irony of the novel is that the star beast, John’s “pet” whom he calls Lummox, is considered an animal by the moron humans, but in reality the Hroshii are more advanced than humans and we find out that Lummox actually considers John to be his pet! Heinlein is telling us to not to judge people based on superficialities like appearance or lack of English-language ability.

Has the book changed my mind about immigration or HBD? No, it hasn’t.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 7, 2019 at 7:59 PM

Posted in Books

Time for the Stars (1956) by Robert Heinlein

This is one of Robert Heinlein’s so-called “juvenile novels,” novels the were written for teenage boys and generally are coming-of-age stories in which the main character is a teenage boy. But like a lot of Heinlein’s juvenile novels, adults can appreciate them as well. Heinlein did not dumb down his juveniles. A lot of modern media aimed at youth seems to take the attitude that the target audience is too stupid to notice plot holes and stuff that doesn’t make any sense. Never with Heinlein. Other than the age of the protagonist and the lack of anyone explicitly having sexual intercourse, there isn’t much to distinguish the juveniles from Heinlein’s non-juvenile novels from the same time period. And the lack of sexual intercourse is for the best because Heinlein was really bad at writing anything sexy.

Nothing about this book causes me to change my opinion that the three best Heinlein juveniles, in declining order of greatness, are Citizen of the Galaxy, Tunnel in the Sky, and Starman Jones. Time for the Stars is an enjoyable read with a lot of retro Heinlein goodness, but the book seems too short, and with the exception of telepathic communication between twins, the other themes in this book are captured better in other Heinlein novels. Life aboard a spaceship is done better in Citizen of the Galaxy and Starman Jones. Encounters with strange hostile aliens on unexplored planets, once again done better in Starman Jones. I’d even go so far as to say that Heinlein did first-person-narrative better in Podkayne of Mars.

In the 1950s, Heinlein thought he was being very feminist in depicting a future spaceship crew where there seem to be about an equal number of women as men, with some of the women even being scientists. But people read the book today and only see the stuff that’s politically incorrect. Even I see that stuff, but I enjoy it, the best part of Heinlein is seeing how attitudes towards women have changed so much, and maybe Heinlein’s viewpoint is right and the modern viewpoint is wrong.

As in many Heinlein juvenile novels, the protagonist’s mother is emotional and useless, and usually a roadblock early-on, standing in the way of the protagonist going on cool adventures and becoming an independent man.

Some of my favorite politically incorrect quotes from the book:

She was awfully pretty, I decided, even though she was too old for it to matter … at least thirty, maybe older.

Heinlein wasn’t into teenage boys hooking up with MILFs, but he was perfectly fine with relationships veering in the other direction.

Another quote:

I will never understand Janet and perhaps it is just as well that she promised to “be a sister to me.” She said that she did not mind my being younger than she was, but that she did not think she could look up to a man who could not solve a fourth-degree function in his head. “… and a wife should always look up to her husband, don’t you think?”

As much as people today might scream about that being misogynist or something like that, it seems to be the reality that most women aren’t happy in marriage unless they see their husband as being superior in some way that matters to them.

Heinlein has a special thing for red-headed women. At the beginning of the book there are two red-headed twins:

They were red-headed sisters, younger than we were but not too young-sixteen, maybe-and cute as Persian kittens.

Those sisters had the effect on us that a light has on a moth. Pat whispered, “Tom, we owe it to them to grant them a little of our time,” and headed toward them, with me in step. They were dressed in fake Scottish outfits, green plaid which made their hair flame like bonfires and to us they looked as pretty as a new fall of snow.

And then the red-headed twins depart from the novel:

The red-headed twins got up and walked out, noses in the air. They did not have to speak to make it clear that they would have nothing to do with anything so unladylike, so rude and crude, as exploring space. In the silence in which they paraded out Pat said to me, “There go the Pioneer Mothers. That’s the spirit that discovered America.” As they passed us he cut loose with a loud razzberry—and I suddenly realized that he was not telepathing when the redheads stiffened and hurried faster.

But Tom, eventually does get to marry a red-head at the end, his twin brother’s great-granddaughter! A surprise that totally came out of nowhere, nowhere that is if you are unaware of Heinlein’s fascination with incest and other taboo sexual pairings. At the end of Citizen of the Galaxy, Thorby marries his first-cousin once removed. And in Door Into Summer, the protagonist marries his business partner’s little girl, but thanks to time travel and suspended animation, she gets to turn 21 while he remains in his thirties, thus preventing the two from having too much of an age difference. So the weird ending of Time for the Stars is par for the course. One of the lessons from Heinlein is that the best wife is one you start grooming to be your wife when she’s a little girl, but I suspect that it’s a lesson which doesn’t work in real life. Even if you could do time travel (which you can’t), it still probably wouldn’t work. Except for Woody Allen.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 1, 2019 at 12:18 PM

Posted in Books

Nikki Haley, did she write the anonymous book?

After the anonymous op-ed appeared, Nikki Haley wrote her own op-ed condemning the anonymous op-ed.

Now, with the anonymous book coming out, Nikki Haley has written her own book which, in part, insists that other people, like Kelly and Tillerson, were plotting against Trump, but not her.

Coincidence? Or did Nikki Haley actually write two books, one anonymous book, and one on-the-record book to avert suspicion from herself as the anonymous author?

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Haley criticizes T-Rex. I could never figure out what T-Rex was doing.

The media vilified him while he was Secretary of State, but I suppose that now that it’s revealed he had a low opinion of Trump, his reputation will be resuscitated. So Haley’s book is good news for T-Rex.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

November 11, 2019 at 7:33 AM

Posted in Books, Politics

Anonymous anti-Trump book

The person who wrote the anonymous op-ed has written an anonymous book.

Nikki Haley is unemployed except for a director position at Boeing which pays more than $300,000/year but doesn’t require her to do any work. So she had plenty of time to write a book.

I previously opined that the anonymous op-ed contained language that only a Republican politician (or someone who write speeches Republican politicians) would use, I can’t imagine a general or a government bureaucrat writing that stuff.

Plus, the op-ed contained language that was commonly used by our foreign policy people.

Nikki Haley resigned only a month after the anonymous op-ed came out. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

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That Trump hires people who hate him and try to subvert his policies, that just demonstrates how bad Trump is at being President. Obama had no people on his team who would write a book like this.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

October 22, 2019 at 4:02 PM

Posted in Books, Politics

Guido researchers have been reading my blog

Here’s the proof.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 6, 2019 at 9:32 PM

Posted in Books

Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein

Spoiler alert: I do give away the ending as part of this review.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 24, 2019 at 10:35 AM

Posted in Books

Does Ovid need a trigger warning?

I mentioned Ovid in the previous post.

This was written in the Columbia University student newspaper a few years ago:

During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.

Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” is a fixture of Lit Hum, but like so many texts in the Western canon, it contains triggering and offensive material that marginalizes student identities in the classroom. These texts, wrought with histories and narratives of exclusion and oppression, can be difficult to read and discuss as a survivor, a person of color, or a student from a low-income background.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 9, 2019 at 10:15 PM

Posted in Books

The story of the daffodil

I saw a lot of daffodils this morning on the way to work, and it reminded me of the story of their origin, as told by the ancient Roman poet Ovid (who also wrote the worlds’ first book about PUA and game).

Narcissus was this good-looking bodybuilder type. He was also gay.

One day, he was walking through the woods, and this nymph fell in love with is great looks and his buff body with six-pack abs. Narcissus told the nymph to get lost. The nymph, devastated at being rejected, this being the first time that a man had ever rejected her, succumbed to mental illness and spent the left of her life alone in the woods until she faded way into an echo.

Aphrodite was pissed off at Narcissus’ treatment of the nymph, she lured him to a pool deep in the woods where he saw his own reflection in the water. But not being familiar with how light reflects off water, he thought he saw his perfect gay lover, and looked admiringly at his perfect gym body. When the reflection refused to return his love, Narcissus melted away and turned into a daffodil.

The moral of this story is don’t be a gay bodybuilder.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

April 9, 2019 at 9:33 AM

Posted in Books

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