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75 Books 66-70: Colfer, McGinniss, Hancock, and Jillette

Aren't I fabulous?

66. Artemis Fowl 5: The Lost Colony – Eoin Colfer

I loved this one — there’s a new character called N°1 who I like even more than Artemis.  N°1 is a demon.  Imagine a world ruled by Tim Curry in Legend and then imagine a really dorky, kinda sweet misfit teenage demon who just can’t seem to hit puberty.  There are parallel stories of Artemis learning how to time travel and N°1 escaping the demon realm, discovering that he’s a warlock, and trying not to get killed.  But it’s really less about the story and more about how adorable N°1 is. A

67. The Rogue – Joe McGinniss

You really have to admire McGinniss, I have no idea how he survived the research and release of this book.  Palin released her rabid legions on the poor guy because he rented one of the only available houses in Wasilla when researching this book.  And that house happened to be right next door to Palin, and somehow living next door to someone you’re researching makes you a stalker.  Palin is a childish bully, a middle school mean girl, and McGinniss shows that clearly and calmly.  The best part of the book has little to do with Palin herself, however.  McGinniss knows Alaska in an intuitive way, I feel like I’ve lived there now.  You really get a sense of what living in Wasilla is like, and it’s both not as bad as you think it would be and very depressing.  A+

For surviving the onslaught of Palin hate, McGinniss really deserves:

68. Artemis Fowl 6: The Time Paradox – Eoin Colfer

This may be my least favorite of the series so far.  I’m not a big fan of time travel stories, especially when the story becomes about how it all makes sense because things couldn’t have happened the way they did if people hadn’t gone back in time.  I mean, it’s fine, but I just don’t particularly dig on it.  The best part of the book was seeing older Artemis, who is a better person now, interacting with young Artemis, who is a bit of a sociopath. B-

69. The Humanist Approach to Happiness – Jen Hancock

I did a very long review of this earlier, but the summation of it is that I disagree strongly with her perspective on sex and relationships.  To quote myself:

But when she says things like women who hate their dads transfer that hate to all men; and people who dated can’t really be friends and shouldn’t contact one another for at least a year; and, no matter what they say, women who say they’re OK with a solely sexual relationship are really just looking for an emotional relationship, whether they know it or not; and people who watch porn lose sense of reality and it’s a catalyst for bizarre violent activity and it’s addictive… when she says things like that, it is all I can do not to punch the screen.

There’s some good stuff in the book about embracing who you are and being a dork, but I really can’t say I recommend it.  There’s just something so gallingly sexist about her belief that women can’t have sex for its own sake or that a woman’s relationship with a man is based on her relationship with her father that the rest of the book just loses any worth for me.  D

70. God, No! – Penn Jillette

This book is basically a collection of personal stories loosely connected to the idea of a different, more humanist ten commandments.  Most of the stories are funny, but a few are really touching, particularly when he’s talking about his family.  I think the anecdote that most stuck with me was when he was talking with his friend and his sister about the Unabomber being turned in by his brother.  They were discussing what it would take for you to turn in your sibling and his sister said she wouldn’t do it, not ever, no matter what Penn had done, even if he was going to destroy the entire planet, she trusted Penn.  The book, in the end, isn’t really a book about atheism so much as it is a book about Penn’s life and personal beliefs and how they impacted him.  Go into it looking for stories about Penn Jillette, and you’ll enjoy it, but don’t go in expected anything like a Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens book.  A-

75 Books 31-35: Fey, Hecht, Rogers, Bailey and Grayling

31. Bossy Pants – Tina Fey

I like Tina Fey, she’s funny, but her humor often feels very shallow to me. I really loved Mean Girls, but I don’t really like 30 Rock very much. The characters don’t seem to have any real emotional touchstones, which makes it difficult to care about the show. It’s a problem I often have with Community, except Community does a better job at having emotional depth than 30 Rock. Which says a lot about 30 Rock. Well, this book has the same problem. It’s funny, at times incredibly so, but it feels so surface level that it’s hard to feel like you’ve done anything with your time when you’ve finished. I wanted to know more about her, her life, her struggles with making it in an industry that doesn’t like women very much, her experiences on SNL and Mean Girls. There wasn’t much of any of that. I can’t see myself rereading it, so I’m going to have to take advantage of that whole sell it back to the airport thing when I go to TAM next month. Which is fine, I just was disappointed. B

32. Doubt – Jennifer Michael Hecht

This book is like forever long, jeez JMH. I think it has single-handedly put me behind on my book goal. More than anything it introduced me to people I hadn’t known about and want to learn more about. Some day, when I have free time or am back to being ahead of book reading schedule, I will want to sit down with it again and take notes on who I want to read more about on Wikipedia. There’s so much here that I feel like I haven’t retained all that much of what I read. It is not a light read, it’s trying to balance depth with breadth, it’s a survey course that would take two semesters to do justice. There are so many characters and philosophies and stories and time periods that it’s difficult to keep it all straight if the figures are all new to you. It is a scholarly work, in other words, it takes effort to get through. A-

33. The Next Ancient World – Jennifer Michael Hecht

To make up for all the time Doubt had eaten up, I decided to read JMH’s poetry book. Mostly because she’d given it to me, and I’d been at a crazy awesome party in at the SCA Summit where she read quite a few of the poems in there. Poetry is difficult to analyze or to review, if you’re not into poetry it’s hard to share any enthusiasm for the subject. I will say this, it is as though TS Eliot was interested only in mythology and sex and had way more of a sense of humor and less need to pretentiously add footnotes to everything. My favorite poem from the book:

History
Even Eve, the only soul in all of time
to never have to wait for love,
must have leaned some sleepless nights
alone against the garden wall
and wailed, cold, stupefied, and wild
and wished to trade-in all of Eden
to have but been a child.

In fact, I gather that is why she leapt and fell from grace,
that she might have a story of herself to tell
in some other place.

A

34. Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality – Jack Rogers

I like to be able to effectively argue my points with the religious, to quote scripture back at them and so on, so when I saw this book I thought it could be useful for defending LGBT rights within the Christian community. I don’t know how well it can do that. Perhaps among moderates, but anyone who still thinks that women are to be submissive to their men, which is a great deal of conservatives, will probably have a hard time with the idea. The point of the book is essentially that the bible can be used to justify any number of things that most Christians now think of us reprehensible: Slavery, subjugation of women, racism, and polygamy. There are passages in the Bible that support all of that, some of it much more direct (in the original language) than any condemnation of the homosexuality. The modern idea of loving, exclusive homosexual relationships isn’t mentioned at all in the Bible in the same way that Penicillin, Stem Cell Research, and In Vitro Fertilization isn’t mentioned — it didn’t exist.

Rogers argues that the way the church evolved on the other issues was to take everything back to the philosophy of Jesus, and if something written in the Bible somewhere didn’t jive with what Jesus said, then it was not as good as Jesus’ words. If Jesus’ commandment is to love God and your neighbor and gay people can be good, honorable people, then there’s no reason not to give them equal access to the church and to marriage rights. But then, if people just used the bible to justify love, forgiveness, and kindness, there wouldn’t be a Religious Right, so we can see how much I’m holding out hope for that set of circumstances. I just doubt that the arguments in this book could be very effective. B-

35. Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin – Frank Bailey

What a fascinating book this was. I have a macabre obsession with Ms. Palin, like so many of the people in the US. She is a polarizing figure, though less and less so as more and more people realize she’s totally nuts. The book was interesting because I learned that it’s not that she’s incredibly stupid, it’s that she’s lazy and a habitual liar. She cannot tell the truth, she just instinctively lies. For example, the question about what newspapers she read could have easily been answered with “I read a collection of news stories gathered for me every morning, primarily from Alaskan outlets.” Instead, she didn’t want to sound like a rural, ignorant governor so she tried to stall and think of a national publication that she could read that wouldn’t make her sound elitist. The New York Times wouldn’t be an option, and she couldn’t think of The Wall Street Journal off the top of her head. B+

 

I tried to read The Good Book: A Humanist Bible by AC Grayling, and I just couldn’t get through it. The Bibley formatting and the lack of attribution and the flowery language… I was just too bored and it was too difficult to read through the formatting. I wanted to like it, because theoretically it sounded interesting, but I just hated it.

Forum Network: Civil Discourse

Forum Network is a site from PBS and NPR that’s created a new series about promoting civil discourse, particularly in the wake of the shootings in Arizona.  They sent me an e-mail asking me to check out the site and promote it if I thought it was something I liked, and I do like it quite a bit.  Although I think I am genetically pre-programmed to like anything that NPR or PBS does.  According the their site, they provide:

Lectures that examine the challenges that freedom, democracy, and human nature bring to bear on reasoned political discourse and debate in our country.

While there are great issues facing our nation, American Democracy is organized around the central principal that open, fair and truthful debate, characterized by respect for opposing viewpoints is essential to a healthy democracy. We are committed to the values of respectful discourse — embracing civility and rejecting demagoguery — in government, media and our personal lives.

“There can be no high civility without a deep morality.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is as noble a mission as I can think of and the content on the site is high quality as well.  And this ties in quite closely with what I was saying in my previous post about Sarah Palin’s target list.  Again, not that Palin had anything to do with the assassination, but the level of discourse in politics right now needs to be examined.

One of the more interesting things I watched over on this site was a video discussing all the wrong reporting from the MSM during the afternoon of the shooting.  There was a big question of whether it was more important to be the one who got there first or who was right — I think it’s difficult.  With blogging I think it’s easier to present facts as tentative, and they don’t do that as much on Cable News.  Still, when everyone wants instant information is it your duty to get the right information while people wait, or to give the best information you can so that people aren’t guessing the wrong thing?

In any event, go watch some of the videos.  Tell me if any are really good.

Assassination Attempt on Giffords: Religion Enters the Picture

You know, it’s never good when religion gets involved with these things.

The Westboro Baptist Church (aka We’re Bugfuck Crazy) is hailing Jared Lee Loughner as a hero and going to picket at the funerals of the shooting victims.

Your federal judge is dead and your (fag-promoting, baby-killing, proud-sinner) Congresswoman fights for her life. God is avenging Himself on this rebellious house! WBC prays for your destruction–more shooters, more dead carcasses piling up, young, old, leader and commoner–all. Your doom is upon you!

So yeah, just to be clear, murdering innocents is what God does to make you like him. If the WBC turns out to be correct about God, does anyone want anything to do with that guy? I think I’d be even less likely to go to church. Could hell possibly be any worse than a god so capricious and evil?

And, of course, that’s not where religion’s involvement ends in this case. There are now reports that Jared Lee Loughner was linked to an anti-semitic group called American Renaissance — Gabrielle Giffords is Jewish.

The group subscribes to an ideology that is “anti-government, anti-immigration, anti -ZOG (Zionist Occupational Government), anti-Semitic,” according to the DHS memo.

Giffords “is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate,” the note said.

I’m not totally sure it matters who he was associated with unless they sent him to do this, which I have no reason to think they did.  It’s just disturbing all round.  The WBC is just horrible, so they’re easy to ignore, but I hope that this was just the act of one crazy person and that no one knew ahead of time what he was planning.  He seems very much to be someone who had had a psychotic break, but the rumors of connections to groups and another suspect can’t but make you wonder.

Are The New Viewers Gone Yet?

My website exploded yesterday.  I’ve had some big days, thanks to links from PZ, but I actually went viral all on my own yesterday.  I mean, nothing like Afro Ninja, but I was a top ten post on WordPress with 20k hits in 12 hours.  The hits have already become relatively anemic compared to that, but there are still plenty of new eyeballs coming in my direction.  My hopes that one of them is a Hollywood Producer who wants to make my scripts haven’t been fulfilled, but the day is young.

Also, nominations for the bloggies are still going on, if you kind stoppers by would be willing to put me up for best kept secret or best writing.

I matter! Briefly...

Sarah Palin’s Target List and the Assassination of Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords is a Democratic representative from Arizona, who was reportedly shot in the head today at a political event in her hometown of Tucson. There are rumors, but no official word on whether she has survived yet.

What I’d like to point people to is something that is in incredibly bad taste, and was in incredibly bad taste before this shooting. It is a list of targets, all marked with gunsights, that Sarah Palin released recently calling for Americans to “Take a Stand”.

I’m not saying that Sarah Palin called for the murder of this woman and we don’t know if the assassination was politically motivated — I am saying that the militant right wing of this country uses some very violent and dangerous rhetoric. I’m saying that using the word “solution” and showing a picture of rifle crosshairs with a list of “Targets” is a horrible idea.

Will the right wing learn its lesson and stop using such militant language? I hope so. I imagine a shit storm is about to fall on Sarah Palin and I almost feel bad for her. And I really hope that Gabrielle Giffords survives, that this wasn’t politically motivated, and there are no copycats.

EDIT: NPR is now reporting that she has not survived. Not good. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assassinated_American_politicians

EDIT 2: She was the only member of Congress with a spouse in the military, her husband is an astronaut.

EDIT 3: @mattyglesias posts this image, a campaign event:

EDIT 4: NPR now reporting Giffords may be alive.

EDIT 5: Giffords office was broken into and vandalized earlier this year and there was also a man with a gun at one of her earlier campaign rallies.

EDIT 6: Andrew Sullivan posts in response to the event, which I will pretend had anything to do with the email I sent him.

For a public figure who has appeared on a national ticket and who commands a cult-like following, the irresponsibility is even more profound. And so one reads the following sentences from the Arizona Wildcat last September with the blood draining from one’s face.

Palin Reloads; Aims For Giffords

Earlier this year, Palin drew sharp criticism for featuring a map on her web page riddled with crosshairs targeting Democrats in vulnerable congressional districts. Tucson’s Gabrielle Giffords is among the 20 Democratic incumbents whom Palin intends to use for target practice.

And we get a screenshot from Sarah Palin’s Twitter feed:

EDIT 7: Sarah Palin has removed both the target list and the above tweet from her accounts and website.  There you have it — what’s that law of the internet that says when you try to remove something from the internet it only gets bigger? (The Streisand Effect)

EDIT 8: The congresswoman is out of surgery, they are optimistic as they can be under the circumstances, she was shot “through and through” on one side of her head.  I hope she makes it, it is truly horrifying.

EDIT 9: Accused shooter is being named as both Jared Laughner and Jared Lee Loughner.  The second name has youtube and myspace accounts, which reveal him to be a very strange guy who is obsessed with grammar, it has anti-government stuff, ramblings about the gold standard, revolution, atheism or antitheism or just not liking God (not clear) and major paranoia about mind control.

EDIT 10: News confirming it’s Jared Loughner, the owner of previously linked youtube account.

EDIT 11: I just want to be clear here, even if the shooter pointed to that hit list or tweet or whatever and said that he was doing this for Sarah Palin, it would not be Sarah Palin’s fault.  He’s a nutcase, a crazy person, who did a crazy thing, and that is all on him.  I just think that politicians and public figures should be looking at their violent language and question if it’s in good taste or terribly wise to say things like the things she has said.

EDIT 12: ‎(202) 747-1812 is the number for SarahPac. If you believe it was wrong for Sarah Palin to put crosshairs over Giffords’ district given the situation that occurred today, dial the number and let Sarah know your thoughts.

EDIT 13: According to @maddow “Pima County Sheriff says department is “actively in pursuit” of a second suspect — 2nd man not a shooter.”  And “Pima County Sheriff says AZ shooting suspect is “unstable”.” Describes second man being sought as “a person of interest”.

EDIT 14: Bomb squad called in to investigate suspicious package at vigil at Giffords office.  The gunman’s gun was bought legally in AZ a few weeks ago.  Tucson Tea Party Leader has no intention of changing the tone of their rhetoric.  The Sheriff thinks that this is the result of violent rhetoric, and they are looking for a second suspect.  And the MSM in Tucson is covering the SarahPAC target list.

EDIT 15: Witness Joe Zamudio says he helped bystanders subdue the Arizona gunman as he was trying to reload.  Holy crap.  It could have been worse.

EDIT 16: KSAZ-TV is reporting Congresswoman Giffords is awake, recognized her husband and spoke to people in her hospital room.

EDIT 17: Last post of the evening. Sheriff on Giffords.

Movie News; January is Entertainment on Crack

December is a relentlessly slow month in Los Angeles.  It can be refreshing or really painful if you need to be working.  January, however, makes an attempt at making up for all the hours not worked in December.

Today:

Sarah Palin will have her own show on Fox News.  “It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news,” Palin said in a written release.

Spiderman 4 is NOT happening anymore.  Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire are off the project.  They’re going to reboot the franchise, which seems insane considering it’s not even a decade old, but whatevs.  This also means no more Kirsten Dunst!!!

All signs point to the Arrested Development movie happening this year.

SNL film MacGruber is looking good from early reviews, apparently as good as Wayne’s World.  Which is good, since the SNL movies of late have included The Ladies Man, Superstar, and Night at the Roxbury.

I’m sure you’re all aware of George Lucas on The Daily Show and the horrifically funny youtube review of Phantom Menace.

The 2010 WGA nominations are out.  Only 79 scripts were eligible to be nominated, versus last year’s 267.  Shockingly, Avatar is nominated for Best Original Screenplay.  But thank God!  That screenplay has been released online!  And it has a deleted sex scene

NEYTIRI
I am with you now, Jake. We are mated for life.

JAKE
We are?

NEYTIRI
Yes. It is our way.
(innocently)
Oh. I forgot to tell?

He rouses up, making her look at him.

JAKE
Really, we are?

NEYTIRI
We are.

JAKE
It’s cool. I’m there.

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