URLs du Jour

2009-07-20

  • Wired has a great collection of Apollo 11 anniversary links.

    I'm repeating myself from a couple years ago, but still like what Ray Bradbury had to say back then:

    "Now look. Everyone shut up. You don't know a damned thing about what's going on here tonight, and that's why people like myself are needed in the world. I want to tell you what in hell it means. This is the greatest night you will ever know!

    "There are two nights the Western world will look back upon a million years from tonight. A million years! I'm not talking about a hundred or a thousand years. I'm talking about a million years from tonight.

    "The birth of Christ probably is a very important date that changed the world in many ways for the better and, in some ways, for not very much good at all.

    "But the second most important date is this night that we're going through right now. Because it's the night when we become immortal-when we begin the steps that will enable us to live forever. Now, if you don't know this, you don't know anything about space."

    Only 999,960 years to go to find out if Ray was right.

  • William Kristol looks at a Newsweek essay by Teddy Kennedy and Robert Shrum on health care "reform" and detects policy prescriptions that could be characterized as "rationing". From their godlike perch, Shrum and Kennedy detect "unnecessary" procedures that could easily be abolished by easy-peasy new regulations and payment schedules.

    Riiiiight. Sure they could.

    But, as Kristol notes, that alleged totally-sensible reform could happen with Medicare right now, without the the whole "universal coverage" thing. If it's such a great idea, why don't they do that first?

  • Drudge is all over the bizarre "stimulus" spending data posted at recovery.gov. My "favorite" so far: $1,444,100 to "REPAIR DOOR BLDG 5112" at Dyess AFB just outside Abilene, TX.

    That's a mighty fine door. (To be fair, it's probably a hangar door. But still… you feeling stimulated yet?

  • Dave Barry remembers his friend Frank McCourt. Funny and touching; read the whole thing.


Last Modified 2012-10-06 6:07 AM EST

Prayers for the Assassin

[Amazon Link]

Robert Ferrigno came to my attention via a 2004 Slate article where various authors were asked for their presidential voting choices. The folks voting for Dubya were vastly outnumbered: Orson Scott Card, Roger L. Simon, Thomas Mallon, and Ferrigno. Here's his explanation:

Mark me on the Bush side of the ledger, a lonely side for this survey, I'm certain. Most novelists live in their imagination, which is a fine place to be until the bad guys come knock knock knocking. I don't agree with Bush on shoveling free meds to granny and grandpa, or his antipathy to fuel conservation along with opening up the arctic reserve, but this is small stuff. I'll be voting for Bush because his approach to stopping the people who want to kill my children is the right one, i.e., kill them first. Kerry will dance the Albright two-step with Kim Jong-il, consult with Sandy Berger's socks, and kowtow to the U.N. apparatchiks who have done such a fine job of protecting the Cambodians, Rwandans, and the Sudanese. No thanks. No contest.

Uh, wow. At the time, I was reading the Usenet group rec.arts.mystery; the above caused at least one sensitive soul to drop Ferrigno from her reading list. But it put him right on mine.

Ferrigno had been writing rather straightforward hard-boiled crime fiction, but this is a thriller set in a nightmarish near future. It's premised on nuclear terrorist attacks in 2015 which leaves New York City and Washington D. C. in rubble; a dirty bomb has rendered Mecca radioactive for the next few dozen millennia. The attacks are convincingly pinned on Mossad agents. This causes massive conversions to Islam in the US, and an eventual civil war between the evangelical-Christian old south and just about everyone else. Israel is destroyed, and everywhere else the market for kosher food goes way, way down.

The main part of the book is set when things have settled, thirty years later. Seattle, the new capital, is a mixture of religious despotism, ecological wasteland, and tolerated libertinism. (Go out of the cities, though, and things have devolved into a nasty-brutish-short Hobbesian fantasy.) The protagonist, Rakkim, is an ex-Fedayeen, ex-cop, now making a living transporting refugees to the relative safety of Canada. His true love, Sarah, has gone into hiding while doing historical research into the terrorist attacks. Her uncle, who happens to be Director of State Security, appeals to Rakkim to track her down. But even more deadly and mysterious figures also want to get their hands on Sarah. Conspiracy, betrayal, and danger abounds.

I don't know that an Islamic takeover of much of the US is very credible, but, on the other hand, I don't know that it isn't either. That aside, Ferrigno's imagined world is meticulously researched, much based on practices in actual "Islamic republics".

The book is the first in a trilogy, so I'm signed up for the others as well.


Last Modified 2012-10-06 6:13 AM EST

Knowing

[1.0
stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Well, here's the story: In 1959, a Lexington, Massachusetts elementary school class draws pictures for inclusion in a time capsule. The only exception is strange little Abby, who insists on covering the page with digits. Nevertheless, it goes in with the other students' work. Jump to the present day, the time capsule is opened, and Abby's number list falls into the hands of young Caleb Koestler. His widowed semi-alcoholic father John, played by Nicolas Cage, is intrigued, and eventually works out that it's a chronicle of disasters, describing the time and place of major losses of human life. And only most of them are in the past.

The rest of the movie chronicles John's frantic efforts to figure out what's going on and see if Abby's final prediction of disaster—and as you can probably dope out from the DVD box over there, it's kind of a biggie—can be prevented.

Spoiler: nope, sorry humanity.

The only out is these weird, slightly menacing, folks hovering around Caleb (and also, as it happens, Abby's granddaughter). What's up with them?

I'm not a fan of movies where nothing the characters do make the slightest bit of difference to the final outcome. (Although they go through a lot of anguish on the way.) The movie also adds in heavy dollops of new-agey sophomoric mysticism, which also irritates.


Last Modified 2012-10-06 6:06 AM EST