The Guns of Avalon

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Consumer note: this post discusses the second book in Roger Zelazny's Amber series. Skip if you want to avoid spoilers for the first book, Nine Princes in Amber.

Which reminds me: I noticed that the back cover of this omnibus volume lists the first novel as Nine Princes of Amber. That's kind of a sloppy mistake for a publisher to make.

Anyway: when we left our hero, Corwin, he had just escaped from Amber's dungeon, vowing revenge upon his imprisoner/usurper/brother, Eric. That's the story here: Corwin's scheme is carried out with the help of his old ally from past conflicts, Ganelon. He encounters another brother, Benedict, who's distrustful, but agrees to keep Corwin safe from Eric's clutches, at least for a while. And there's the mysterious young Dara, who spins a story believable enough to convince Corwin she's just an impetuous youngster. Again: at least for awhile.

All this is set in the Amberian cosmology, which is: Amber is the only "real" world, all others, including our own Earth are merely shadows. Corwin and his kin have the knack of journeying between Amber and shadow worlds.

There's lots of room to quibble with this arrangement. We discover that the laws of physics differ enough between shadows to make (for example) gunpowder unworkable as a firearm explosive/propellant in Amber. (The source of the book's title.)

But you can only play that game so far before you make life itself impossible. How do you avoid accidentally bouncing into one of those life-hostile shadows?

Worse, it seems that there are an infinitude of shadows. How do you get to the precise one you're aiming for?

Maybe I missed something. Or maybe an explanation is forthcoming. I'll let you know if I find out.

URLs du Jour

2017-02-20

Happy Presidents' Day everybody! (The presence and placing of the apostrophe is open to discussion.)

Does today's Proverb (29:17) have anything wise to say about it?

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

I guess that's a "no". But it's pretty on-target; I consider myself delighted, anyway.

  • Also on-target is Kevin D. Williamson: "Abolish Presidents’ Day".

    Monday is Presidents’ Day, a.k.a. Washington’s Birthday (federally), a.k.a. Washington and Lincoln Day (Colorado, Ohio, Utah), a.k.a. Washington and Jefferson’s Birthday (Alabama), a.k.a. Washington and Daisy Gatson Bates Day (seriously, Arkansas?), a.k.a. another excuse for the sort of underemployed worthless miscreants who get federal holidays off to enjoy another three-day weekend while contemplating the absolute historical and epoch-defining splendor of an august office held by the likes of Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Woodrow Wilson’s wife, William Jefferson Clinton’s humidor, and Donald J. Trump.

    Worst. Holiday. Ever.

    At least he left Franklin Pierce off the list, the Granite State's (so far) only contribution to the roll call. FP usually makes the worst list.

  • And Jonah Goldberg also has some President-debunking in his latest G-File: "The President Isn’t the Hero of the American Story".

    I’ve written a bunch about the MacGuffinization of American politics in recent years. Ace of Spades coined the term to describe how the media covered Barack Obama. They cast him as the hero of a drama and the only goal was to see how he overcame problems. It didn’t matter if he was wrong on policy — including the Constitution — what mattered was whether he emerged victorious. “In a movie or book, ‘The MacGuffin’ is the thing the hero wants,” Ace explained. “Usually the villain wants it too, and their conflict over who will end up with The MacGuffin forms the basic spine of the story.”

    Jonah notes that this has continued in the Trump era, with roles reversed. Now, some (but not all) on the conservative side write their narratives with Trump as the belabored hero. Could we get beyond that? Not as long as we persist on being cheerleaders for what we perceive as "our" tribe.

  • Nick Eberstadt first came to attention in the 1980s, debunking Commie myths of prosperity. In a Commentary article much worth reading, he turns his attention to the USA and "Our Miserable 21st Century". Sample:

    Whatever else it may or may not have accomplished, the 2016 election was a sort of shock therapy for Americans living within what Charles Murray famously termed “the bubble” (the protective barrier of prosperity and self-selected associations that increasingly shield our best and brightest from contact with the rest of their society). The very fact of Trump’s election served as a truth broadcast about a reality that could no longer be denied: Things out there in America are a whole lot different from what you thought. 

    It's very wide-ranging. For example, Jim Geraghty picks out this insight: "How You Helped Pay for America’s Opioid Addiction Crisis"

    How did so many millions of un-working men, whose incomes are limited, manage en masse to afford a constant supply of pain medication? Oxycontin is not cheap. As Dreamland carefully explains, one main mechanism today has been the welfare state: more specifically, Medicaid, Uncle Sam’s means-tested health-benefits program.

    Pols diligently look the other way. Or, more accurately, try to make you look another way. "Hey, it's the drug companies' fault."

  • And (sorry) I find it difficult to resist linking to just about anything Kevin D. Williamson writes. The title on yesterday's article is kind of bland: "The Press vs. the President". I prefer the subtitle: "Choosing sides is no substitute for thinking".

    The problem with the man currently leading the Republican party is that he is, as the Washington Post puts it, a hostage to the “fanatical policies of the extreme right.” His administration “insults women” and his unwelcome presence in public life “insults us all.” And, because the Republican party is all about the winning these days, the GOP establishment is “ready to forgive” . . . what? . . . “just about anything — as long as he wins.”

    So says the Post, which is not alone in this estimate: Extreme on economic issues, extreme on the so-called social issues, he even has had an “extreme foreign-policy makeover,” according to The Atlantic. His views on immigration, MSNBC says, represent the Republican party “shrinking down to its most extreme elements.” One cable-news panelist insists he was the most extreme Republican presidential candidate ever. Paul Krugman laments that he has forsaken all serious policy thinking for “dangerous fantasy.” Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times is also alert to the “dangers” he presents, the “most dangerous of all” being his views on Iran, though Kristof also worries that he is too buddy-buddy with that awful, scheming Benjamin Netanyahu. Predictably, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow dogpiled him for his perplexing relationship with Moscow. Vice calls him a “sociopath” and Maureen Dowd dismissed him as “an out-of-touch plutocrat” who keeps “his true nature . . . buried where we can’t see it,” a devious figure who is so awful deep down inside that he “must hide an essential part of who he is” from the public.

    I'll spoil KDW's punchline: that was what the press said about Mitt Romney.

  • Have you been dismissing President Trump's attacks on the media as mere stupidity? Bret Stephens of the WSJ has some advice for you: "Don't Dismiss President Trump's Attacks on the Media as Mere Stupidity"

    Consider this recent exchange [Trump] had with Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly asks:

    Is there any validity to the criticism of you that you say things that you can’t back up factually, and as the President you say there are three million illegal aliens who voted and you don’t have the data to back that up, some people are going to say that it’s irresponsible for the President to say that.

    To which the president replies:

    Many people have come out and said I’m right.

    Now many people also say Jim Morrison faked his own death. Many people say Barack Obama was born in Kenya. “Many people say” is what’s known as an argumentum ad populum. If we were a nation of logicians, we would dismiss the argument as dumb.

    We are not a nation of logicians.

    Indeed.

  • When it comes to the Prez vs. Press battle, the striking thing is how much easier either side would have it, if they didn't self-inflict wounds to their own credibility. Power Line looks at the hopeless "fact checking" site that is Politifact, and scores it "Trump 4, Politifact 1" RTWT, and decide for yourself whether Politifact has decided to reform its biased ways. (Spoiler: nope.)

  • Back in the day, I was a semi-avid Usenet poster. I've often thought of blog-comment areas as "Usenet, reinvented poorly". I recently made the mistake of commenting on this Andrew Klavan article. Whoo, boy. I like Mr. Klavan quite a bit, but thought he was wrong headed in this instance. But I was surprised by the blowback. You can click over and read for yourself. Or you can enjoy this dramatization: