The Courts of Chaos

[Amazon Link]

[Note: for some reason I appear to have spaced on posting this book report when I read the book back in February. Doing it belatedly, for completeness.]

Winding up the original Amber pentalogy with The Courts of Chaos. After the shocking and fantastic events of the first four books, the hero/narrator Corwin sets of on a perilous, probably futile, quest to save Amber from destruction by the forces set in motion by a rogue Amberite.

Not that it matters, but: I read these books when they first came out in my college/grad school days. On re-reading, I find it's more difficult to keep track of the characters.

Also: I note that there's an alleged TV series in the works. (That's from the summer of 2016 though, so I'm not holding my breath.)

Ready Player One

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

So we went to the cinema to see Steven Spielberg's latest. I liked it a lot.

Set in a mildly-dystopic 2045, where (seemingly) most of the US population has decided to spend its spare time in the virtual reality world of the "Oasis", a huge cyber-environment set up years ago by the late James Halliday. The hero, Wade Watts, lives in a Columbus trailer park slum, but he's gained a measure of virtual fame, via his Oasis avatar "Parzival". His ambition, like that of millions of other players, is to find an Easter Egg Halliday hid in Oasis before his death, and thereby become heir to the Halliday cyber-empire. He is joined by some other plucky young people, and finds himself in conflict with a greedy corporate behemoth.

It's kind of a wonderful mishmash. Let's see if we can sort it out:

  • 50%: gorgeous, amazing, over-the-top CGI virtual-reality exploits and battles, with piles of inside jokes and pop-cultural references.
  • 30%: a standard story of young misfits against the previously mentioned corporate behemoth.
  • 20%: a surprisingly bittersweet backstory of two friends and business partners in love with the same girl, which eventually breaks up their friendship and their business.

Me, I thought Spielberg could have played up the backstory more, and toned down the CGI stuff. Good as it is, it's not the reason we go to the movies, Steve.

Breaking Point

[Amazon Link]

Hardcover picked up at the Barnes & Noble remainder piles for a cool $5.98. An excellent deal, although I'm not sure how much C. J. made on the deal. Something, I hope; judging by his recent book signing in Portsmouth, he's a heck of a good guy.

On the other hand, I'm RetiredOnAFixedIncome, and do not have any NYT best-sellers in my quiver, so I'm pretty sure he can stand it.

Two EPA enforcers are sent out from the Denver office to serve ruinous papers on one Butch Roberson, who is sinning against the environment by attempting to build a cabin on his own land. Unfortunately, by page 13, the EPA guys are dead or dying of gunshot wounds. A manhunt ensues, into which Joe Pickett is swept; he knows Roberson pretty well, can't believe he's become a murderer. And a lot of the details smell fishy to Joe. Why, it's that red herring over there…

Before it's over, there's a few more deaths (one spectacular), and a nasty forest fire (no spoiler, it's on the cover). As usual, Joe barely makes it out alive. But will he have a job at the end?

This is, I think, C. J. Box's most political book of those I've read. The dangerous arrogance and arbitrariness of Federal bureaucracy is a primary theme; it's based on the true story of Mike and Chantell Sackett in Idaho.

URLs du Jour


[Amazon Link]

  • Proverbs 14:30 is, in all honesty, a timeless bit of wisdom. Definitely an above-average Proverb:

    30 A heart at peace gives life to the body,
        but envy rots the bones.

    Envy is a deadly sin, of course, so you shouldn't do it. But it's not only bad, it's bad for you.

    (And, as Helmut Schoeck noted, when it's uncontrolled, it can work out very badly for your country. See the Amazon link du jour.)

  • Somersworth (NH) High School Principal John Shea penned an op-ed in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat: Urge Kittery Trading Post to stop selling assault-style rifles.

    With a photo ID and cash or a credit card, almost any of us (18 years or older) can walk into the Kittery Trading Post and purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle like the ones used in the massacres at Stoneman Douglas High, the Las Vegas music festival and Sandy Hook Elementary School – and some high-capacity magazines of 40 rounds each.

    It goes on from there, a remarkably detailed fantasy about which nearby schools a dedicated murderous psychotic could then proceed to shoot up. A disturbing, albeit probably unintentional, look into the dark corners of one Progressive's mindset. Shea urges his readers to join in a boycott of Kittery Trading Post until they stop selling the scary guns.

    I almost titled this post: "Urge John Shea to Mind His Own Business". Literally.

    Students at Somersworth High School scored an average 32% of students proficient for math and reading as tested by the NH Dept of Education. Performance is well below the state high school median of 50% proficiency and places the school's test performance in the bottom 12.8% of New Hampshire high schools.

    I haven't been to Kittery Trading Post in a while. I don't currently need a gun, but I could use a new pair of shoes and maybe some work gloves.

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File is (mostly) about Paul Ryan, and his title is a classical reference: Cincinnatus Lays Down the PowerPoint. A long, but worthwhile, excerpt:

    The fact that Paul Ryan was a man out of place in his own party says far more about the state of the GOP than it does about the man. Consider this week alone:

    • A president who cheated on his first wife with his second and “allegedly” cheated on his third with a porn star is tweeting that Jim Comey is a “slimeball.”
    • The president’s personal PR team over at Hannity HQ is calling Robert Mueller the head of a crime family.
    • The CBO just announced that we’re in store for trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.
    • The president is tweeting taunts about how his missiles are shinier toys than Putin’s.
    • The president’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, a once passionate and thoughtful defender of Congress’s sole right to authorize war, is now invoking law-review articles as justification for a president’s right to wage war on a whim.
    • The president’s lawyer’s office was raided by the FBI (not Bob Mueller’s team, by the way) after getting a warrant from a judge and following all of the onerous protocols of the Justice Department, and the former speaker of the House — and avowed historian — is insisting that the Cohen and Manafort raids are morally equivalent to the tactics of Stalin and Hitler. I’m pretty sure the Gestapo didn’t have “clean teams” to protect attorney-client privilege (particularly of dudes named “Cohen”), and last I checked the KGB wasn’t big on warrants.
    • On Monday evening, the president convened a televised war council and spent the first ten minutes sputtering about how outraged he was by an inquiry into a pay-off of his porn-star paramour.

    And people are shocked that Paul Ryan isn’t comfortable in Washington?

    Endangered species: GOP politicians with integrity. I know they're out there, but …

  • Janice Brown looks at a local curiousity: Samuel Joy and His Spite Tombstone in Durham New Hampshire. No excerpts, Janice discourages those, but it's an interesting bit of diligent research about poisonous posturing preserved for posterity.

  • recommends: This NASA Video Tour of the Moon in 4K Is Simply Breathtaking. It's a "greatest hits" compilation from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). I'm glad they didn't say "literally breathtaking", because my breath was not taken (but I didn't watch it in 4K either). It is very cool though.

    LRO data not only supports future human missions, but also provides more information about past landings from the Apollo program, all of which took place between 1969 and 1972. The spacecraft has imaged multiple landing sites, as well as the crash sites from the third stage of the mighty Saturn V rocket that lifted humans to the moon. The video zooms in on the Apollo 17 landing site in the Taurus-Littrow valley, revealing astronaut tracks, the rover and even the bottom half of the astronauts' lunar module, Challenger.

    Sobering thought: It's looking dicey as to whether I'll be around to see more humans on the moon. It was neat to be around to witness the first ones, though.

  • And Mr. Michael Ramirez comments on the "investigation":

Last Modified 2018-12-22 7:14 AM EDT