Friday, October 18, 2019

Fiction Friday, Oct. 18, 2019: Ann Patchett

The Dutch House: A Novel by [Patchett, Ann]

I haven't read her latest book yet, but I will, as soon as I have some more time and some more money (and the price for the hardback gets lower or the paperback gets released)....

But here's something that really tickled me, from one of the reviews of the book, which is titled "The Dutch House":

"Ann Patchett Explains Why She Had to Totally Rewrite Her New Novel The Dutch House and Her Problem With Villains":

The Time Magazine interviewer asked if Ms. Patchett had any problems writing from the point of view of a young man, to which Patchett replied:
Danny was a very easy character for me to write because, oddly enough, I have known many men who are smart and charming and funny and interesting, who have no understanding of the fact that their whole life is built on the shoulders of the women who carry them around.
There! Doesn't that just make you want to read this book? And possibly every other book this woman has written?  Because haven't you known this man Danny yourself, and many others like him?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Some Weird Words for This Week: Convict Slang

According to Atlas Obscura, Australia's first published dictionary was dedicated to "convict slang." Directly from the article: 

A group of convicts "bush'd" in Tasmania.
A group of convicts "bush'd" in Tasmania. ENGRAVING BY DANVIN AND MONNIN, 1837 / GETTY IMAGES
Nineteenth-century Australia was a flash paradise teeming with accused outlaws, former outlaws, and people who knew outlaws—so it follows that officials, policemen, and others would want to be familiar with the argot all around them. According to a paper by A.L. Beier, a scholar of cant and retired historian from Illinois State University, 75 percent of New South Wales’s population in 1819 (when the dictionary was published) was “either current or former convicts or their descendants. By 1828, the proportion had risen to 87 percent, and while it declined thereafter because of free immigration, it still stood at 59 percent in 1851.” And that was just New South Wales, the region of the Australian mainland that includes Sydney and Newcastle. 
Population data for the island of Tasmania, meanwhile, distinguished between recent arrivals and the Aboriginal people who had lived there for millennia (and tended to stay away from colonial settlements). In 1822, Beier writes, 58 percent of Tasmania’s non-Aboriginal population had criminal convictions. Vaux himself had been transported to Australia on three different occasions, and served some of his time in the Hyde Park Barracks.
James Hardy Vaux’s Vocabulary of the Flash Language, typically regarded as the very first dictionary produced in Australia, translated into plain English some 700 slang terms regularly used by people engaged in illegal activity. Vaux translated this “flash” language while himself imprisoned at Newcastle, in southeastern Australia. He even dedicated the book to his supervising commandant
According to Meyer, cant is a “sociolect”—a variety of a language spoken by a particular social class—rather than a dialect tied to a specific region or location. One of Vaux’s terms, in fact, is “family,” a title he gave to all “who get their living upon the cross,” or through illegal activity. These examples illustrate the fear that authorities and the non-flash speaking public had of flash or cant—that it not only facilitated crime, but also inspired it. The policies of some Australian prisons, says Barnard, addressed this fear by condemning the incarcerated to total silence. (That carceral method wasn’t pioneered in Australia, he adds; it had previously been practiced in Philadelphia.) 
At the same time, that perception may be part of what gave cant or flash such currency among those who spoke it. Beier cites people who complained at the time that cant “played a role in fostering solidarity among convicts,” and who noted that incarcerated laborers “‘have a strong esprit de corps, which is kept up by their speaking a language so full of cant expressions as to become a separate dialect.’” It was, in its way, an instrument of resistance—an expression of identity and self-determination among those who had lost their freedom, often for little or no offense, and been forced across the world.

Monday, October 14, 2019

More Castle Photos

From Craigmillar Castle

(Trying to imagine what it would have been like, living here!)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Mark Zuckerberg: Yep, Trump's My Man!

View image on Twitter

In case this is hard to read, here's the text of Elizabeth Warren's message about Trump's new fanboy,Mark Zuckerberg:

You’re probably shocked, and you might be thinking, ‘how could this possibly be true?’ Well, it’s not. (Sorry.) But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform ― and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters. 
If Trump tries to lie in a TV ad, most networks will refuse to air it. But Facebook just cashes Trump’s checks. Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. Now, they’re deliberately allowing a candidate to intentionally lie to the American people. It’s time to hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable.
Here's the thing: Zuckerberg really did have a special private meeting with the non-elected so-called tantrum-throwing baby-president a couple of weeks ago, and he emerged from that meeting saying Facebook doesn't have to check for lies in political ads. If you or I were to post an untrue statement on Facebook, it would be removed immediately. But Trump can lie all he wants---and that will be just fine with Zuckerberg, who's afraid of what will happen to his billions of dollars when Elizabeth Warren becomes the legitimately elected president.

The Mandate of Heaven?

Are you kidding me? Pat Robertson thinks Donald Trump has the "mandate of heaven"? And thinks that he might "lose" it because of letting our Kurdish allies be killed? Oh, I'm sure he's going to fry in hell for a long time because of that.

But the idea that he EVER had any "mandate of heaven" is so preposterous that I want to cry. And if he did, didn't he lose it when he bragged about sexually assaulting women? And when he paid off a porn star and a stripper? When he betrayed our country to the Russians in order to get elected in 2016? When he openly courted more corrupt actions from foreign governments to help him in the 2020 election? When he cheated contractors and tenants out of their hard-earned money to line his own pockets? When he declined to blame the Saudis for murdering and mutilating a U.S. resident? I could go on, but life is too short....

I just have to ask what makes Pat Robertson think such an evil man EVER had any "mandate of heaven." Oh, and by the way, who gave Pat Robertson the right to say who might have such a mandate.

Tell you what, no one in heaven would EVER have granted any such mandate to such a corrupt individual. And the fact that Mr. Robertson thinks they would have, that he has ever thought any good of Trump, shows just how spiritually corrupt Robertson is, too.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Fiction Friday, Oct. 11, 2019: One Word Kill

Here's another disappointing novel: "One Word Kill," by Mark Lawrence.

Like the book I reviewed last week,  "The Space Between Time," it starts with a promising idea and interesting characters, and ends up being a screed about atheism as the only explanation for the existence of our universe and all our lives on Earth.

So, why am I even reviewing it here? Here's why, Dear Readers: I wish I had never bought this book, and the other one; and I want to protect other people from getting either one of them. They are a waste of your time to read and a waste of your money to buy. I got both of them because of positive reviews, and now I wonder why anyone could have written positively about them.

Except this, which I grant: The three lead characters are appealing and there's lots of action. That's it. The action is, like most stories involving time travel, not quite believable---because, hello, it's not at all believable, even for the "YA" sci-fi audience.  The hero's future self comes back to get the hero to kill someone else, knowing that he (the future self) will also be killed, and therein lies the plot mistakes. Not just plot twists, but unbelievable plot mistakes.

And, as in that story, the plot "twist" that's supposed to make it all work out---that there's no god, there's just a multitude of universes---doesn't work.

So, a time-travel story does not prove that there's no god, and nor does the idea of string theory, multiple universes, and so on. We can't just make ourselves into gods, determining our own future by murdering some bad guys, getting the girl (did I mention the hero gets the girl?---because his future self comes back and helps him?) or whatever, just because we are in a certain string of time.
One Word Kill (Impossible Times Book 1) by [Lawrence, Mark]
Again, though, as with that other book, until I got to the last quarter of the book, I was buying into the story. There's a sequel and maybe another sequel, I don't know. But don't buy the book. Here's a picture of the cover of the book, so you'll know what it looks like.

I promise to review something next time that I can write something positive about!

Great Expression for This Week: Transactional Courage

I heard this phrase this morning on MSNBC, used to describe the behavior of a member of the U.S. Congress who, having announced that he won't run for re-election in 2020, has erased part of the yellow stripe from his spine by saying he is disgusted by Trump's behavior toward our Kurdish allies in northern Syria.

Yes, transactional courage: Also demonstrated by former senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, who didn't speak up hard enough against Trump until he decided to quit the Senate.

I'm just hoping that there is ONE---well, more than one would be great---but all I'm really hoping for is ONE---Republican senator who will stand up to Trump without having to resign from politics first. Senator Romney, will it be you? Please, let it be you!

And I heard on the news this morning that Trump's group of idiots have announced "sanctions" on Turkey. As if that will change any of the bombing and artillery fire that the Turks have already started. In fact, I heard, on that same program, that the Turks are laughing, while the Kurds are fleeing.

Meanwhile, here's some real courage, ongoing, from a former Fox News on-air talent, Shepard Smith: resigning, finally, after being one of only a very few voices that spoke against that non-news-network's nonsense.

Meanwhile, it looks like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is going to give a sworn deposition before Congress today---unlike the rats on Trump's sinking ship who have decided to go down with him.

Marie Yovanovitch (Wash. Post)