Category Archives: Bibliography

Jeeves Takes Charge

By A. Wallis Mills(Life time: 1878–1940) - Original publication: The Strand MagazineImmediate source: https://www.madameulalie.org/strand/Jeeves_Takes_Charge.html, PD-US-expired, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62767318

He makes me laugh. P.G. Wodehouse’s writing tickles me. His command of British upper class slang is wondrous. His characters are caricatures, and yes, the whole thing feels like a sardonic send-up of blue-bloods.

This is a short story and pretty much an introduction of Bertie Wooster, the man of leisure, and his competently in-charge valet Jeeves. It is from Bertie’s POV, making Jeeves mysterious and crafty behind the scenes.

Somehow Wodehouse belies my instinct to over analyze. The parameters are clear, Bertie is a very privileged, entitled, clueless wanker whose life is subtly controlled and protected by an expert manservant. Hilarity ensues. The prejudices and dark side of the supremely entitled are glossed over for the sake of a good yarn.

All in all, don’t expect an Marxist class analysis nor a terse defense of the Manor Life. Relax and let Wodehouse make you giggle at silly men.

The Shadow in America: Reclaiming the Soul of a Nation

A collection of essays based around the Jungian idea of a shadow self, the dark part of all of us.

There is this idea that as we work on ourselves, work to become blessed, enlightened, closer my God(dess) to Thee, we become better people. We correct ourselves to become pure beings of light.

This is obviously a one-sided, zero-sum idea. It is born from the idea that is Us vs. Them, Good vs. Evil, Light vs. Dark. Aristotelian dichotomy fed through Manicheism that somehow went from a proclaimed heresy to current Protestant orthodoxy.

This essays in the book discuss, from various points of view, the dark shadowy parts of our nature, from the deeply personal to our issues as a nation.

I’ve read this once so far, sitting serving on a Grand Jury during the government shutdown. I wasn’t that impressed at the time but the concept has kept with me. Sure, it is in part because we are watching America simultaneously confront and celebrate its Shadow self. Watching grown men punch teenagers in the face for asking that they wear a mask, racist vigilantes condoned on network television, children dying in cages, and large aspects of our democracy dismantled.

It will be a while before I can come back to this book objectively, if ever, through no fault of its own.

Under the Green Star DAW #30

Burroughsian. I tend to use the term for two different currents of thought. Here we mean it for Edgar Rice, and not William S.

Lin Carter was a huge fan of Burroughsian heroic adventure. There are countless imitators of ERB. Lin Carter, at his best, can be judged against the master.

The premise is simple. Our crippled yet wealthy protagonist learns soul-casting or astral travel from Eckanar and an ancient Tibetan tome.

Let’s clear up the term Eckanar. This is a New-Age religion founded in 1965 by Paul Twitchell. The religion does teach that the Soul, or True Self, is able to separate from the body and travel across planes of existence in order to reach and conjoin with G*d. The term itself, according to the church, is to be translated Co-worker with G*d, which is the stated aim of their spiritual practice. It is not necessarily a “science of soul-travel”, as I’ve seen in many reviews and blurbs about this book. Another example of sloppy scholarship gaining a life of its own.

Lin Carter wasn’t the best writer, his quality varies. This sword-and-planet novel has thick, flowery prose, which I enjoy but is certainly not to universal taste. My next read of this I will pick out all the fun vocabulary words to share.

There are heroic ‘elven-esque’ warriors, fierce giant sized monsters, a shifty adversary, and stunningly beautiful women. One of these women is a strong bandit queen, another … well this is where it gets a bit problematic.

The love interest is a 14 year old princess. “She was young, a girl, a mere child: she looked perhaps fourteen when I saw her first in the Great Hall of Phaolon.” Later, Lin skirts around the age issue, pontificating on how the Green Star society doesn’t measure time like we do and not actually coming out and stating the princess’s age. She is very definitely described to look like a young adolescent. The word ‘lithe’ is thrown around a lot.

This pretty much ruined the re-read for me. My exploration into an inner bibliography has let me re-examine so many of the tropes that shaped me and all these ‘lithe’ love interests and ‘swarthy shifty’ bad guys are indicative on why ridding myself of this type of thinking is an on-going struggle.

All said and done, this a great example of the flawed (E.R.) Burroughsian tradition, warts and all.

4 legged spiders

I love an incongruous thought twixt seemingly unrelated media. This time it started with the film Ator: the fighting eagle, a sandals and sorcery yawner that even Rifftraz couldn’t make interesting. But I watched it enough to know that the bad guy was the Spider Lord. You could tell he was a bad guy because, duh, spiders.

The next day I read through P.K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. In order to show use the android’s lack of empathy they take a captured spider away from their dimwitted host. “Cut off it’s legs ad see if it can crawl with only four of them”. While they sit and watch a TV celebrity (an undercover android) declare that empathy is a hoax, the android Pris is at the kitchen table with a pair of scissors, mutilating what could be the last spider in the building.

1st repeat of a theme is happenstance, the 2nd is coincidence….

My next read, Under the Green Star by by Lin Carter, a classic Burroughsian fantasy. I’ll talk about it more in my DAW reads. The pertinent part to our thread here is when the hero fights a a giant spider to save the obligatory princess. The spider is a monster, an “albino vampire”.

—and the 3rd is a communication…

“The Bugs are not like us. The Pseudo-Arachnids aren’t even like spiders. They are arthropods who happen to look like a madman’s conception of a giant, intelligent spider, but their organization, psychological and economic, is more like that of ants or termites; they are communal entities, the ultimate dictatorship of the hive…..Their warriors are smart, skilled, and aggressive—smarter than you are, by the only universal rule, if the Bug shoots first. You can burn off one leg, two legs, three legs, and he just keeps on coming; burn off four on one side and he topples over—but keeps on shooting. You have to spot the nerve case and get it . . . whereupon he will trot right on past you, shooting at nothing, until he crashes into a wall or something.”

We have in a short time random media introducing the spider as a loved pet, then a helpless mutilated plot device, a fierce adversary, and then our ultimate inhuman enemy in an interstellar war.

The last quote is from Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, a novel I am struggling philosophical with as I re-read it three- and a-half decades since my first time through. It is Heinlein at his most right-wing, hiding behind ‘hip libertarian’ language. But notice the image of the 4 legged spider brought back. Here again the android, in this case Heinlein’s military mouthpiece in his power-armor, mutilating the spider. It’s ok for our military hero though, he has an alien opponent whom he has further ‘othered’, calling them “Bugs”.

This is what dehumanizing, ‘othering’, does. It is us giving ourselves permission to ignore our empathy so that we may create 4 legged spiders, ultimately dehumanizing ourselves.

Androids among us

Just finished Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by P.K.Dick for the first time. One of his more solid novels.

The theme of empathy is threaded throughout, being the main difference between humans and the Nexus 6 androids. The androids at one point declare that empathy is a lie, a myth that humans perpetuate to oppress them.

It is not difficult to look at this through eyes accustomed to our modern circumstances. We’ve all seen the arguments about masks. My wife and I watched the PBS interview with Dr, Fauci and one of the questions he was asked was about anti-vaxxers. There is a concerted effort to quash empathetic action so the privileged are not inconvenienced.

This got me thinking about the nature vs. nurture. Some humans, eg. sociopaths, psychopaths, the deeply autistic, are born without empathy, while others are programmed by propaganda. Ultimately this what the Black Lives Matter is in essence, a cry for empathy.

Charlie and the Golden Meme

I have been thinking a lot of the various memes that Roald Dahl created with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. They are referenced often, probably more than the old favorite The Wizard of Oz.

My wife and I have been steadily making our way through the multitude of seasons of the Amazing Race. There is Golden Gnome ticket in one season, another a contestant compares a ballon ride to the Glass Elevator bursting through the top of the factory.

A random episode of Travel Man, with my hero Richard Ayoade. They are about to climb up a medieval tower, and the guest references the same Glass Elevator.

Of course, The Office episode with the Golden Ticket in the paper.

In the first episode of the show Hannibal, the analogy of the golden ticket is used to describe what a serial killer is looking for in his victims, that spark of life that for a moment satisfies his desires. It is properly Qabalalistic interpretation, where we must dive from Malkuth into the Tunnels of Set, seeking out the sparks of light lost at the Tzimtzum, when the retreat of Ain Soph from the world shattered the vessels and scattered the light.

Most of the references of course are made from a merely popular culture level, informed by the Gene Hackman movie and possibly the Depp/Burton version. I’m not sure, I tend to be removed from the popular and cinema-informed.

Moon Called

     Some nights I just can’t sleep.  I pad into the guest room, wrap myself in a blanket, and grab a random paperback.  I’ve been on an Andre Norton kick lately and grabbed Moon Called.  Pecover of Moon Called paperbackrfect choice.

Grandmaster Norton has several different writing styles and this one is in her high fantasy style.  The novel is stand-alone, almost a vignette.  The Heroine is a fantasy version of a Wiccan, the bad guys are alien and sinister, the “Old Times” gave us radiation and left over tanks. Her religious poetry seems like it’s taken from a Book of Shadows, in fact I’m working one of the poems into mine. 

The book is not about the plot or action or even defeating evil.  It’s about it’s Wiccan heroine finding purpose and solace in her love for the Lady.  One reviewer on GoodReads mentioned how much this book meant to her in 6th grade in the early 80s and how it help formulate her adult identity.

Her review was written a decade before I read Moon Called.  It lead me into thinking about how random books can shape a personality seeking adolescent.  How my own life was shaped by Zelanzy’s mythopoeia, Moorcock’s despairing heroes.   

      I’ve been reading Ms. Norton since my early days but I’m only now understanding her constant current of influence on me.  Damned subtlety. 

My only complaint about the particular style of this book by Mother Andre is what I call the “fog”.  Her dark fairy tales make me feel that sometimes we enter a fog-drenched part of the woods and I lose the thread for a paragraph or for a several pages.  Doesn’t matter the time of day I’m reading.  I know, this is more on me, I start daydreaming within the prose.  I’m afraid I’ve been ruined by short attention entertainment.  I should read more. 

Appendix N Book Club

(Since a very young age, I have kept a list of To Read books.  It was started as centered around Gygax’s Appendix N and Uncle Al related works.  The list, hereafter referred to as the Biblio, remains my main focus of study and reading.  Related posts tagged Bibliography, naturally)

The delightful podcast Appendix N Book Club recently (December 2, 2019) interviewed the legendary author Michael Moorcock.   I have a few takeaways.

At one point Mr. Moorcock name-dropped author John Brunner as a fellow anti-racist. This stood out to me because Mr. Brunner’s book Stand on Zanzibar was a heavy piece of programming for me.  I’m probably overdue to read it again.

They also briefly discussed on whether D&D (etc.) has ruined fantasy fiction.  I thought of this when a Forgotten Realms ™ book showed up on my randomized To Read bibliography list.  So I’ve given myself permission to remove all the FR ™ books from my bibliography.  I’ve gotten nothing from any of them and found most of them unreadable.  There was one I shall not name that was a naval fantasy retelling of Atlas Shrugged.  Ugh.

So I am in the midst of retooling the Biblio, as always a work in progress.   I urge the reader to explore the Appendix N Book Club podcast.  Good people and very inspirational.

Reflections on Game Theory

{All posts under the New Media Class category are for a History and Theory of New Media class I am taking during the 2019 Spring Semester at SUNY Empire. Please be aware that all comments must be approved before they are posted}

  Reflections on Game Theory:

            In 1933, Johan Huzinga released a book called Homo Ludens, whose title roughly translated as “Man the Game Player” or “Man who Plays”.  His concept was simple, that the notion and practice of play is important within and to build culture.    

            Hip Hop often refers to “The Game”.  As with most vague analogies, one can take it to mean several things depending on context.  For instance, “the Rap Game”:  Learn how to produce engaging content, usually music.  Retain rights to this content while procuring distribution and promotion.  Promote and establish a brand.  Capitalize with paid appearances, performances and sell associated product.  Diversify and elevate your portfolio. 

            Simple enough in theory.  Some play this as a zero-sum game, which means that in order for me to win, my opponent has to lose.  This never works out that well for that long.  Some, like Jay-Z, play an advanced form of non-zero-sum game wherein a rising tide lifts all ships.  The trick here is to engage other players who understand that the brand is set and can be added to but never diminished.  It is necessary for all players to ‘know their lane’ and work hard in their role for the co-operative pay-off.  The Game is sequential mixed strategy in that one must adjust or change completely their strategy at each stage or series of actions in order to continue to participate in the ever-evolving Game. 

            It is this sense of play and gamesmanship that advances Hip Hop culture, in fact that advances civilization at all.  In this greater Game of Civilization, many agree that non-zero-sum strategies are best. However, it is imperative to remember that many advanced players have switched to versions that are zero-sum. They are willing to declare as sacrificial large groups of people, races, countries, and even planets in order to feel that they are winning. 

 

Time After Time (1979)

[NOTE:  Books and other media are discussed on this blog from my private viewpoint. These are not reviews and will probably contain spoilers.  For pure reviews, please consult my Goodreads profile. The discussions will be updated as I feel apropos.]

My man Herbert George Wells and Jack the Ripper.  The best and the worst of the 19th century.  Throw them in an easy co-option of H.G.’s Time Machine and make them run around the 20th century in some sort of wacky chase. With a love interest so we can hire a pretty chick.

I first watched this on a lazy Saturday afternoon in a bar sometime in the mid-00s.  Watching it again in 2018 while puttering in the book shop was about the same.  Nice time, dumb plot. H.G. deserves better.