Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day



My father's cousin: Sgt. Tommy Flynn, USMC, Vietnam.
Lived with villagers in the mountains CAP team, Papa Three, near Cam Lo just a few miles south of the DMZ, as described in A Voice of Hope.



My father:
Pfc. Joseph Flynn, 5th Eng. Btn., 5th Marine Division, USMC
Iwo Jima, Japanese Occupation

My grandfather:
Pfc. Harry Singley, 304th Eng., 72nd "Rainbow" Div., AEF
St. Mihel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive
"a little shrapnel in the leg, a whiff of gas"


My wife's great-great grandfather:
Pvt. John H. Hammontree, Co. H, 5th Tenn. Inf., US Vol., (3rd Bgd., 3rd Div., 23rd Army Corps, US Army of the Ohio)
Atlanta Campaign: Dalton, Rocky Faced Ridge, Resaca (bullet wound in left leg)

(Note: The photograph is actually of his cousin, Hiram.  Nine or ten Hammontree cousins served in Company H, 5th Tennessee.) 
Pvt. James Hammontree
Capt. Duncan's Co., Col. Bunch's Regt. (2nd Regt. East Tennessee Militia)
Battle of Horseshoe Bend (Gen. Andrew Jackson)
Creek (Red Stick) War, incl. in War of 1812

(Grandfather of previous)

Pvt. John Hammontree. 
Capt. John Mountjoy's Co. of Foot, 10th Virginia, Continental Line.
Deceased. 24 Feb 1778 at Valley Forge.

Pvt. Harris[on] Hammontree.   
Capt. Wm. Cunningham's Co. of Foot, 1st Virginia, Continental Line.  
Reported sick at Valley Forge.  
Killed by Indians on VA frontier, 25 Jul. 1781 
(Great-uncles of previous)

Trinity Sunday


Okay, I'm a day late, but I thought it would be amusing to consider the justification of the Trinity.  To many folks the whole idea seems wildly contradictory, and makes one wonder why so many very smart people had no problem with it.  There are two possibilities.  Those very smart people weren't so smart or we just don't get it. 

The latter is not beyond possibility.  The folks of those days operated with different categories of thought than we do.  Many of them used the system known as Neoplatonism, but for the most part they used the system known as Aristotelianism.  To moderns, the differences are hard to see, primarily because they are both different from Scientism.  To post moderns, all three are Whatever.

It is interesting that the founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus, deduced a Trinity from Platonic principles, which he called the One, the Intellect, and the Soul.    If you note a similarity between that and the Christian Trinity of Creator, Word, and Spirit, you will not be the first.  Plotinus worked while Christianity was gaining popularity, but before the terrible persecutions.  (Plotinus also gathered twelve disciples around him, one of whom [Porphyry] gathered his teachings into books and wrote a biography of his teacher.)  Neoplatonism was very popular among early Christians.  Thus, when we read that Hypatia of Alexandria "succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus," we should understand 1) she was teaching a philosophy that most Christians found agreeable and 2) she would not likely have been an atheist. 

Plotinus' arguments can be found here, here, and here

The Aristotelian argument, as articulated by Aquinas, runs differently.  (We must assume certain things as already having been demonstrated in prior proofs.) 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

You Don't Have to Be Hollywood

to gives things the Hollywood treatment.  There is a movie out about the burning of the "second library of Alexandria" and the murder of Hypatia that plays all the long-debunked myths of Gibbons.  There is a review of it here at Armarium Magnum

Hey, she looks pretty hot for a philosopher who was in her fifties at the time she was murdered.  (And yes, we know.  She is wearing First Century garb in the Fifth Century.  So do the Roman soldiers, who wear the lorica segmentata.)

The director recognizes that the Great Library that was attached to the Museum no longer existed in the fifth century.  The last clear reference to it is from AD 135.  Strabo does not mention it at all in his Geography, even though he gives an otherwise detailed survey of the Museum and the Palace precincts.  For that matter, there is no evidence that a library was housed in the Serapeum at the time that the emperor ordered the temple demolished.  (The demolition was carried out by Imperial troops as well as by the city mob.)  All of the scenes that push the director's agenda seem to have been invented from whole cloth or to have been altered from the primary sources.  There is no record that Hypatia was killed for her learning or for being an uppity woman.  (In fact, one scholar I know states that a female teacher speaking in public was more likely to be a Christian than a pagan.  Hypatia is not referred to as a pagan in the primary sources, only as a teacher of Neoplatonism.  But Neoplatonism was viewed quite favorably by Christians.  Had not Plotinus himself deduced that God was necessarily Triune?  Was not Augustine of Hippo himself learned in the philosophy?) 

The director has confused modern fundamentalism with the fifth century. 

Oh, and he also tries to convince the audience that Hypatia was on the verge of heliocentrism, just so the audience is subliminally conditioned to imagine how "science" was stopped dead in its tracks by the mob. 

Addendum
A couple of reviewers of the movie have noted a peculiarity.  All of the wicked Christians dress in black and are played by swarthy Middle Eastern types and speak in Middle Eastern accents.  All of the noble pagans and "good" Christians are white, wear white clothes and speak in upper class British accents.  Hmm.  Is there a tinge of racism in there?  


For those that are interested, the full story of the political intrigues that led to her murder is contained in the Ecclesiastical History by Socrates Scholasticus.  (There is further material in a parallel book by Sozomen, but the latter's History ended with his death prior to reaching the time of the murder.) 

Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, Book VII, ch. 13-15.

The Alexandrian public is more delighted with tumult than any other people: and if at any time it should find a pretext, breaks forth into the most intolerable excesses; for it never ceases from its turbulence without bloodshed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sometimes, the Mask Slips, a Little....

The Besserwissers really do think they are born to rule. 

In an interview published by Spanish language newspaper La Vanguardia [Woody] Allen says “I am pleased with Obama. I think he’s brilliant. The Republican Party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him.”
But wait - there's more!
The director said "it would be good…if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly."

Woody, Woody, shouldn't you at least try to hide it a bit more? 

Well, it's Fox News, and the remainder of the post reminds us of Mr. Allen's unseemly relations with his step-daughter.  But I suppose someone who reads Spanish could hunt down the website.  I tried to access it, but it would not load up for some reason.  

entertainment.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/05/17/woody-allen-president-obama-dictator/

www.lavanguardia.es/.../woody-allen-seria-buena-una-dictadura-de-obama-durante-unos-cuantos-anos.html

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Good Advice



I ran across the following letter on another message board.  I copy it here together with a follow-up but without the fellow's name.

Mark, thought you'd want to know: I just finished Mike Flynn's The January Dancer. Oh my freaking good golly, Mark, it is stunning. I am at an utter loss for words. I didn't think anything could top Eifelheim for emotional impact, but TJD does.

On to Up Jim River!

I cannot find it in me to disagree.  He responds to a comment as follows

I have been telling anyone willing to listen -- and a few who aren't willing -- that Eifelheim is probably on a par with The Lord of the Rings in its originality, depth, and emotional impact. It is simply that good.

The January Dancer is that good too. Besides being rollicking good space opera, its surprise-twist ending makes it rollicking good detective fiction as well. I was simply stunned at the conclusion, repeating to myself, "Why didn't I see that coming? All the ingredients were there!" as I read and re-read the last few pages. It is simply masterful.
This is almost too much.  I said "almost."  Is he wrong?  I might not compare it to LOTR; but neither do I think it sucks rocks.  I can only hope that his hyperbole on January Dancer does not set him up for a let-down on Up Jim River.  Besides, sales really ought to be better, I'm thinking. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Quote of the Day


We shouldn’t generalize about generalizations. They’re not all the same.
-- Ed Feser

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ominous Muse at the End of an Age


Mark Shea notes the following footprints in the sands of time:

When I was a kid, the State used language that assumed the citizen was a human being worthy of respect. "Buckle up for safety." "Keep America Beautiful".

Now the State uses a bullying, contemptuous tone appropriate for a bureaucrat who assumes "the Masses" are so much concrete to be shoveled around, so many cattle to be prodded, so many sheep to be startled in this or that direction by technicians whose job is to do crowd control. "Click it or Ticket," "Drive Hammered, Get Nailed," "Slow Down or Pay Up," and "Buckle Up, IT’S THE LAW" It is the grammar of a state that no longer believes in a free people, but in a crowd of human animals, unworthy of respect, who need to kicked because they are too stupid to be appealed to as rational beings.

The Germans has a word for it: a "Besserwisser" (Those Who Know Better).  It's a hard role not to take when you can see how other people can better order their lives, and they persistently do not do so!  You have to ask "What's the matter with Kansas?" 

Oh, well.  The Modern Ages were the Age of the State.  They began with medieval-style kings as primus inter pares counterweighted by a separate institution, the Church, to which people could appeal and which claimed that even princes were rulers "under God," that is, subject to a higher law.  IT'S THE LAW!! could be countered by BUT IT'S AN UNJUST LAW!!!  A.D. Lindsay, in The Modern Democratic State, wrote:

"It was perhaps equally important that the existence and prestige of the Church prevented society from being totalitarian, prevented the omnicompetent state, and preserved liberty in the only way that liberty can be preserved, by maintaining in society an organization which could stand up against the state."

I am minded of de Tocqueville's observation about the liberties of Americans being ensured by the little battalions of everyday life.  Between the Man and the State stood church, trade or guild, family, charities, fraternal organizations, and other free associations.  The Americans cleverly divided even the State into state, and general governments and the general government into three separate arms to prevent the concentration of the imperium in too few hands.

But as the Modern Ages progressed (and that use of "progress" is itself an innovation of the Modern Ages) kings became monarchs (i.e., ruling alone), then absolute monarchs.  But to become absolute they had to break the other pole of society: the Church was divided and nationalized as "established churches" whose bishops were appointed by the throne.  After a time, the Bourgeoisie wearied of the Monarchs and at Naseby and the Bastille (and less obviously at Appomattox) the aristocracy was overthrown.  Some countries, like England, kept their aristocrats as decorative accessories; but others, like France, cut off their heads. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

At Last It Can Be Told



My story "Where the Winds Are All Asleep" won the ANALOG "AnLab" award for novelette.  Woo-hoo.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lunar Temperatures, Back in the Day



Apollo 15 left a temperature probe on the Moon which reported temps from 1971 to 1975.  The Moon was warming.  But we all know local weather is not climate.  And remember- they drove an SUV around there. 




Saturday, May 15, 2010

In the Lion's Mouth


For your amusement, a snippet of dialog from the new book.  Donovan has just been removed from an autoclinic following a long recovery by two "magpies".  (These are Confederal subordinates to the Shadows.)  The younger magpie is a medic, and after a bit of talking......
Donovan looked at the older magpie.  “You don’t talk much.” 
“Don’t need to, usually.” 
“And you are…?” 
“Your sparring partner.  Physical therapy.” 
“I had enough sparring with Ekadrina.  I was hoping to relax.” 
The older magpie nodded toward the autoclinic.  “You have been.” 
“I think I like you…”  Donovan looked at the brassard.  “Should I call you Five, or do you have a nicknumber?” 

Playing the Pied Piper

I have discovered a thingie called "Followers", which lists my slavish and loyal henchmen (SALH).  These are useful folks to have around should I need a hench.  There are, however, only four.  This means that Henches of Considerable Magnitude (HOCM) might go unhenched for lack of SALH willing to throw themselves under Juggernaut's wheels so as to lubricate my progress with their life's blood. 

Zut, alors!  Must we proceed to the highways and byways so as to procure more SALHs (and thus risk the overruning of the aforesaid juggernautian wheels)?  Must we beat the bushes?  (Wait.  He's not president any more.  Never mind.)  Must we blow on our silent dog-whistles?  On our conch?  Beam the bat-signal against the ever-convenient low-hanging clouds? 

Or would additional followers only dilute the glory of being one of the few, the proud?  A difficult question. 

But with henchmanship comes duties, and what duty could be more consoling to the heart than this, your first assignment:

You are to learn and hum the planxty here: Planxty 'Liam O Floinn

This was written by the great blind harper Turlough O Carolan in honor of Uilliam O Floinn, the butler of McDermot Roe,(*) he who brought O Carolan his last drink of whiskey as he lay dying and whose name was the last to pass the great bard's lips, presumably meeting the whiskey passing the other way.  There is a link at the lower left hand corner that will connect to the music MIDI file, should you have trouble sight-reading (or should that be 'site' reading?) the musical notation. 
___________________
(*) In 1224, the Annala Connaughta record that all the chiefs of Connaught rose up against Hugh O Connor in favor of his cousin Turlough O Connor, saving only the Marshal of the Host of Connaught, Cormac McDermot, together with David O Flynn and the rest of his officers.  It's nice to see old connections lasting even to O Carolan's time. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Adam and the Baloney



So Margie picked me up at the client in Jersey City and drove me home.  In the back seat was Adam the Wonder Baby.  He announced he was hungry and, nothing loathe, we stopped along the way at a Panera's.  Adam assumed the Mood Cranque and refused to eat the Grilled Cheese.  Okay.  That's it then.

But as we resumed the Journey Interrupted, Adam announced from the back seat that he wanted a baloney sandwich when he got home. 

No, you had your chance to eat.  Now you'll have to wait for dinner time. 

No, he told us, you have to feed me.  It's your job. 

Our job? 

Yeah.  If you don't feed me, I'll get sick again.  Then I might cough on you and you'll get sick, too.  (He then explained the Adam Theory of Communicable Diseases, of which Being Hungry was evidently one.) 

He repeated the "it's your job" argument several times.  Then, when we got home, he went to the drawer and got out the bread, to the fridge and got the baloney and a squeegee of Miracle Whip as well as the cheese.  All these he arranged on the counter and then summoned me to assemble them. 

I laid it all out for you, he explained. 

You 'laid it out' all by yourself? 

Yes, he said, most seriously.  I watch what people do.  Then I assume their powers. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Odds and Ends

Venus: A Lot of Hot Air

The common supposition that Venus is Really Hot because of the CO2 seems contraindicated.  It is the sheer weight of the atmosphere that heats things up down below.  Seems sunlight doesn't even penetrate the atmosphere deeply enough for the "greenhouse" effect to matter.  (No sunlight filtering in = no IR on the bounceback.)  The attached essay is interesting; and you can ignore the snipes at the AGW folks and mentally return to the days when science meant knowledge rather than political power. 

wattsupwiththat.com/2010/05/06/hyperventilating-on-venus/#more-19270

Gratuitous Exsult

My Faithful Reader

OK, one of them.  Made the following comment elsewhere :
In trying to describe The January Dancer (especially the cultural mixing), I once described it as "a combination of Dune, Firefly and The Maltese Falcon, as told by an Irish bard in an Indian restaurant."
Should he consent, I'll put his name to it; but I am ROFLOL. 

It is apt.  I wrote the early version in HS and College, inspired in part by Dune.  And I did have the Maltese Falcon in mind as a background.  Firefly had not been invented yet. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Scrivener's Oath


Yr. Obt. Svt. once swore a most solemn and fearful oath that he would see published every story he ever wrote, even if he had to rewrite it with different characters and a different plot.  He is now one step closer to that goal, given that one previously unpublished story has now at last seen print.  This story was considered by and passed on by several SF magazines, but in no case on the quality of the writing.  Perceptive readers will see why ANALOG chose not to use it; and why Gardner Dozois declared it a perfect story for Twilight Zone magazine.  This latter would have been more heartening had Twilight Zone been still in publication.  

The story is entitled "The Sisters of the Sacred Heart" and has now appeared in the magazine Dappled Things.  This is a non-SF venue.  It exists in print version (where you get the whole thing) and the web (where you get a taste). 

www.dappledthings.org/easter10/fiction03.php

There is now only one remaining unpublished story.  (I do not count stories written in my youth - although one of these was an early version of The January Dancer - and I do not count chapters of novels that were judged insufficiently stand-alone.)  This remaining story may be harder to place since it sucks.  But at some point I may get a brainstorm on how to repackage it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Adam Discovers the Mulligan


The adventures of Adam, a.k.a., the Energizer Bunny, continue.  A couple weeks ago, he had the Walking Pneumonia (and the Boogie-Woogie Blues).  His mother took him to the clinic and thence to the emergency room.  I asked him later how he enjoyed his adventure. 

I had germs, he told me.  But at the hospital the doctor wiped all the germs off me.  (A pause)  But he didn't get them all, so mama has to wipe the rest of the germs off me. 

+

At another point, the weather had gotten warm enough so that he and his brother could play in the back yard with some Christmas toys they had gotten.  There was a (three wheeled) scooter for which he was garbed in more armor than the guy in the bomb squad who does the detail work.  There was also a tether ball set up.  On this, a ball attached to a lanyard is placed upon a tee.  You hit the ball and it sails off, but then you can haul it back.  Anyhow, he does this thing.  The ball flies off to the maximum extent of the lanyard. 

"I got high score!" he proclaims.  Evidently, all life is a computer game.

Then he plays golf.  He has a Self-Esteem golf set.  By this I mean a golf ball roughly the size of an apple and a plastic gold club whose head is about the size of his own head.  The idea, I think, is that it makes it almost impossible to miss the ball. 

He missed. 

The ball dribbled off to the side. 

"Do it over!" he declared, fetched the ball, and placed it in the same spot from which he had tried to hit it. 

Adam had discovered the mulligan. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

"Take off my flesh and sit in my bones"

We Had So Much Fun

with the two photographs of the sea at La Jolla (where one could mark for comparison the high tide line on both photos) that we thought Our Faithful Reader would enjoy these two photos.  The first one accompanied an "open" letter by 250 scientists, mostly not "climate" scientists, denouncing those with doubts about the Sacred Simulations.  The second comes from the same photographer. 





Here, side-by-side:


There are two theories: 
1. The Last Penguin reached the ice floe first and was basking in the sun.  Later, the Last Polar Bear, swimming to Antarctica from the warming at the North Pole, climbed aboard and ate the penguin.  (That the polar bear came later can be seen from the "high noon" position of her shadow.) 
2. There are two identical ice floes, one in the north and the other in the south polar regions, floating past identical ripples in the otherwise glassy sea, while miraculously similar clouds scud through the sky.  A cloud bank on the horizon in the first shot coincidentally occupies the same location as the land mass in the second shot.  And both floes happened to be boarded by local fauna, whom the same photographer fortuitously captured on film (or digits) standing in the self-same location. 

If anyone has a more likely theory, we are open to suggestions.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Watch How Sea Levels Have Risen


at LaJolla in the past 130 years.


h/t: WUWT