A Farce to Be Reckoned With

[Amazon Link]

Another "catch up" book: I should have read it sooner after I bought it. (I had the receipt stuck in between the back cover: purchased at the long-defunct Stroudwater Books in Dover, NH on April 5, 1996. Hey, a mere 22 and a half years, give or take!)

It is the concluding entry in the so-called "Millennial Contest" series writtn by Robert Zelazny and Robert Sheckley, now both passed on. I read the previous books (Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming and If at Faust You Don't Succeed) at some point before I kept track of such things. Fortunately, the book is enjoyable as a standalone.

The book is copyright 1995; Zelazny died in June of that year. So who knows what the Sheckley/Zelazny ratio of book content is?

The demonic protagonist of the previous book, Azzie Elbub, is still looking for ways for Evil to triumph over Good. He's in the Renaissance era, and morality plays are all the rage. Hey, Azzie thinks, how about an immorality play? He hires/tempts a cynical playwright with his idea: take some ordinary folk, offer them their dearest wish, which will be granted them despite their lack of heroic effort and manifest character flaws. The real-time, real-life results will be immortalized in the play.

A simple scheme, and it would have worked too, except for those darned kids the intervention of the forces of Good, and a whole lot of unintented consequences that threaten to rip apart the nature of reality.

To be honest, these books are frothy and forgettable (I've already forgotten about the first two), but a lot of fun to read.

URLs du Jour

2018-09-30

[Amazon Link]

  • Reason's Matt Welch writes on Jeff Flake and the Hated—Yet Vital—Libertarian Center.

    It wasn't just elevator-activists Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher who were furious at Jeff Flake Friday morning, after the soon-to-retire Republican senator from Arizona began arguably the craziest day of his tumultuous past two years by announcing that he intended to vote "yes" to confirm embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

    "I wish I could say I am surprised by Jeff Flake," Washington lifer Norman Ornstein tweeted. "Sadly, I am not. Party wins again….He failed the moral test." In blue-checkmark land Flake was a "coward," a "poisonous jellyfish that looks harmless because it has no spine yet still manages to sting you." The clickservative right, meanwhile, rallied temporarily to one of its least favorite senators. "I have plenty of disagreements with @JeffFlake but I am so proud that he is taking a stand and voting yes on Brett Kavanaugh," wrote Candace Owens. "Stay strong!"

    We can (apparently) blame Jeff Flake for another week of This Thing Not Being Over Yet, which is damning enough.

    Advice: do not read the comments to Matt's article; the signal/noise ratio is appallingly low. Unless you'd like to confirm your worst prejudices about the state of American political discourse.


  • But while we're on the Flaky topic: Rich Lowry at National Review moans (accurately) that We All Live in a Yale Residential College Now

    The activists who harangued Jeff Flake in the elevator reminded me of the Yale students who harangued Professor Nicholas Christakis in the notorious Halloween controversy. There was the same faith in angry confrontation as the means to get your way and the same expression of raw, unthinking emotion. As one of the activists said of Flake, “I wanted him to feel my rage.” Clearly, this mode of bullying has escaped the confines of the campus and is now a feature of our national life. Unfortunately, it proved effective — it sounds like the elevator confrontation helped persuade Flake to buckle and demand a delay and further FBI investigation (here’s our editorial on why that’s a mistake, by the way). We will now see many more such incidents, with the real potential of crossing the line into physical violence.

    Good luck on stuffing those evils back into the box, Pandora.


  • There's a new "Five-Dimensional Political Compass" in town, where I learned I am a Objectivist Anarchist Non-Interventionist Traditionalist.

    At least I was when I answered the questions. Some of them are "hard" questions, in the sense that they make you want to say "wait a minute…". Example:

    Terrorist propaganda, incitements to violence or other violent hate speech should NOT be protected free speech

    You are invited to respond with Yes, No, or Maybe. You have no room for legalistic/logical quibbles. For example, IANAL, but I think current law says that "incitements to violence" are only unprotected if that violence is imminent and likely.

    And don't get me started on the confusion exhibited by the term "other violent hate speech". Unless it refers to a guy yelling into a bullhorn with one hand, and firing an AR-15 with the other, I'm not interested.


  • Mrs. Salad and I are consuming Season Five of Silicon Valley. Good news: the driving plot device (apparently) has a real-world counterpart, and Certified Smart Guy Tim Berners-Lee is behind it. Behold the radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web.

    Last week, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, asked me to come and see a project he has been working on almost as long as the web itself. It’s a crisp autumn day in Boston, where Berners-Lee works out of an office above a boxing gym. After politely offering me a cup of coffee, he leads us into a sparse conference room. At one end of a long table is a battered laptop covered with stickers. Here, on this computer, he is working on a plan to radically alter how all of us live and work on the web.

     “The intent is world domination,” Berners-Lee says with a wry smile. The British-born scientist is known for his dry sense of humor. But in this case, he is not joking.

    I want this, like, yesterday.

    Back in the good old days, I went to see Linus Torvalds speak at the University Near Here. (Our UNH servers were all running DEC ULTRIX at the time.) When asked about his goals for Linux, he said "My goal is simple: world domination."

    And he wasn't wrong. So don't dismiss Berners-Lee as a raving megalomaniac. This could be the real deal.

    Today's Amazon Product du Jour is for those who want to get in on the fun. You're welcome.


  • A Google LFOD alert rang for a Union Leader article: Feds hold another I-93 roadblock as ACLU celebrates 16 petty drug cases being tossed.

    Federal agents Thursday held another roadblock on Interstate 93 in Woodstock as 16 drug cases from a similar operation little more than a year ago were tossed.

    A circuit court judge recently ruled that evidence collected last summer by Woodstock police, who were then cooperating with federal agents, was unconstitutionally obtained and cannot be used at trial.

    But as the American Civil Liberties Union-NH announced Thursday that state prosecutors had dropped the 16 cases, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents were at it again.

    “These checkpoints continue to run contrary to New Hampshire’s ‘live free or die’ spirit,” said Gilles Bissonnette, ACLU-NH’s legal director, in an email Thursday.

    Perhaps we could change the license plates to read "Your Papers, Please".


  • The report from "Ian" at Free Keene describes a setback: After Public Hearing, Keene Councilors Vote 3-1 For Nicotine Prohibition for Under 21s

    Last night a committee of four Keene city councilors met to hear from the people on an awful proposal by a group of busybodies to prohibit the sale and possession of nicotine-related products by people under the age of 21 in Keene.

    Ian's conclusion: "Live free or die, unless you’re in Keene."

    Over here on this side of the state, Dover is already going down that prohibitionist rabbit hole with more on the way.