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You loved The Martian, right? Both the movie and the book? Me too. So I asked for, and received, Andy Weir's new book, Artemis, for Christmas, and … well, I guess I'm surprised. Pleasantly surprised, but still.

What I expected, and got: science fiction so hard you can see the rivets. A wise-cracking ingenious protagonist who goes from crisis to crisis, coming up with improvised solutions necessary for survival in dire situations. (And, spoiler alert for those who can't see the cover image: it's set on the Moon.)

What I didn't really expect, from an author whose previous hero was the straight-shooting all-American scientist/astronaut Mark Watney: a female protagonist, born in Saudi Arabia, … who's kind of a minor-league lunar criminal. And while The Martian was a survival tale, Artemis is pretty much a noir crime thriller.

The narrator/protagonist is Jasmine Bashara, and her primary criminal activity is smuggling illicit items and substances to the misbehaving residents of Artemis, the (so far) only lunar community, set 40 kilometers south of the Apollo 11 landing site on the Sea of Tranquility. (The layout, operation, and economics of the town are all precisely described, of course. Down to the last rivet.)

Jasmine's poor, struggling to be upwardly mobile. But it's tough. And she makes it tougher by some of her, um, choices. (In one amusing bit she suggests what might have been an alternate book title: Attack of the Moon Woman Who Made Bad Life Decisions.) Her motivations and self-imposed morality are made clearer as the book trundles on. When a billionaire offers her the opportunity to make a Big Score by sabotaging a major bit of lunar industry, she's in. And then her problems are just beginning.

Bottom line: it's a very good page turner, Andy Weir shows that he's not a one-trick pony.

Yes, a movie is in the works. Where can I buy my ticket?

URLs du Jour


■ More Proverbial oral fixation in Proverbs 15:2

2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
    but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.

Yes, and so what else did you expect? Things to be the other way around?

We mentioned last week that "lips" appears appears 37 times in Proverbs, "mouth" shows up 20 times; according to the Bible Study Tools website, the count for "tongue" is 18.

■ Our local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat, printed a story yesterday with the innocuous headline: Library presents dialogue on Jerusalem.

In a mostly civilized and scholarly conversation two men, representing the viewpoint [sic] of the Israeli and the Palestinian people, talked about the current climate, including the politics of of our own current administration, at Portsmouth Library.

We don't get any further illumination of what "mostly civilized and scholarly" refers to. Perhaps an illiterate savage showed up to briefly disrupt things? We'll never know.

The speakers were Alan Elsner (allegedly representing the "Israeli viewpoint") and Robert Azzi (for the Palestinian side).

We've actually discussed Robert Azzi's views previously in a Foster's LTE that analyzed an op-ed he wrote about the 2015 attempt by two wannabe terrorists to shoot up "The First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" set up by Pamela Geller. His primary, and pretty much only, argument was to blame Geller for being a "provocateur".

Alan Elsner, on the other hand, is "Special Advisor to the President" of "J Street", an organization billing itself as the "Political Home for Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Americans". They are stridently leftist; their political action committee has always been a huge financial backer of my current Congresscritter, Carol Shea-Porter.

But does a J-Streeter really "represent" the "Israeli viewpoint"? That's arguable. In fact, you'll get a contrary argument from Alan Dershowitz (at, of all places, the HuffPo): J Street Can No Longer Claim to Be Pro Israel.

And so what sort of "dialogue" did Elsner and Azzi have? The kind that the folks at Foster's and Portsmouth Library like: where everybody hates Trump.

Both men said that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem was a bad move.

Were any contrary voices heard? Again: we'll never know from reading Foster's.

■ One bit of a good idea from the proposed budget is described by Katherine Mangu-Ward at Reason: Trump Wants to Privatize the International Space Station.

The Trump administration is going to think about thinking about considering ending federal funding for the International Space Station (ISS) in 2025. Cue a bunch of people freaking out about the prospect of space station privatization.

Before we get into the nitty girtty—a note: if I had a nickel for every major goal set by an American president for the space program with a time horizon of 6 to 20 years, I'd have enough money to continue funding the ISS well past 2025. Every administration comes up with its own blueprint/roadmap/guidebook to go to the moon/Mars/Alpha Centauri with all of the major deadlines conveniently kicking in long after the relevant president is somewhere on a yacht moored outside his presidential library. These plans rarely come to fruition, and even incremental steps are frequently reversed.

Ms. Mangu-Ward outlines the history and issues pretty well. And notes the opposition of "transpartisan" alliances between Congresscritters with large NASA/aerospace presences in their constituencies.

■ At NRO, David French offers Understanding the Media’s Ugly Weekend. The ugliness being the fawning over North Korea and the dictatorship represented by the sister of Kim Jong Un. Examples are provided ad nauseam (and that nauseam bit is a little too literal in my case).

Among the issues.

We can’t pretend for a second that we’d see the same wave of triumphant headlines if Tim Kaine and not Mike Pence were standing, grim-faced, in front of Kim Yo-jong. Instead there’d likely be a bout of moral clarity. “In Icy Stand-off, Kaine Rebukes North Korean Regime.” Even the cheerleaders wouldn’t be spared. “Defectors Detail the Grim Reality Behind the Cheerful Façade.” Reporters are human, and their near-uniform hatred of the Trump administration makes them uniquely vulnerable to false anti-Trump narratives in much the same way that the near-uniform admiration of Obama made them less critical of his blunders and more willing to accept his arguments.

Even the Wall Street Journal was represented in the dictatorial love-in. Et tu, WSJ?

■ And finally, here's Michael Ramirez on the National Debt

I hope he'll do something clever about curling. Man, that is a stupid sport.

Last Modified 2018-12-27 4:35 PM EDT