Saturday, February 16, 2008

I translate great literature for you

"Your friend and brother in Christ," Bill Keller, wrote an article entitled, "NO WE CAN’T! BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA IS A FALSE CHRIST!" Sounds like he could be the fourth Bronte sister, I know, but we'll just focus on one paragraph:
Interesting that B. Hussein Obama’s first bill as a United States Senator was a world hunger relief bill that they are trying to ramrod through as we speak. This would force the United States to pay apx. $900 billion MORE than we already spend on world hunger. While we have to do our best to feed the hungry, I guess Obama never read where Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always.”
TRANSLATION: "Fuck it, we're never gonna get rid of the poor, so frozen turkeys and some canned yams during the holidays are about all we need to do for them. Praise Jesus!"

Tragedy in Accokeek

STEPHEN MANNING, Associated Press:
ACCOKEEK, Md. - A car plowed into a crowd that had gathered to watch a drag race on a suburban road early Saturday, killing seven people and injuring at least four, police said.

A witness said two cars in the illegal street race sped past just before a car without its lights on came up behind the crowd of about 50.

"There were just bodies everywhere; it was horrible," said Crystal Gaines, 27, whose father was among the dead.

Gaines said she grabbed her child but could not help her father, William Gaines Sr., 61.

"He wasn't breathing, he wasn't moving," she said. "His body was in pieces."
Yes, yes, fine, but what happened to the car? Is it okay?
The sedan came to a rest on an embankment about 150 feet from where the crowd had been. It had a crumpled front and hood, and the roof had partially collapsed.
The humanity. A moment of silence, if you would.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day massacre message

My people have a traditional Valentine's Day wish for those they like. Roughly translated into English, it means "When your time is ready, on peaceful wings may death come for you as you slumber."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Martin Cruz Smith-a-thon

Gorky Park (1981) - I already reviewed this once before on this blog, but I have recently read some of Smith's other works featuring lead character Arkady Renko (I also tried to read Stallion Gate but didn't get into it; will try again at a later date). Anyway, Gorky Park is about a Russian investigator with the Moscow police who uncovers three corpses missing their faces. Smith paints a portrait of Soviet society that is neither scathing nor apologetic, with an intriguing plot and many quality characters. Some books seem to get better with each read, and this is one of them.

Polar Star (1989) - I thought an entire book set on a ship was going to be a very odd sequel, but it turned out to work incredibly well. The story revolves around Renko hiding from the KGB by working on a fishing vessel in the arctic sea, until a corpse is found in the fishing nets and Renko is asked by the captain to find out what happened to her. Ships are not terribly interesting to me, and the world on a ship can only be fleshed out so far, but Arkady Renko is just top notch in this book. His character is strong with appeal, charisma, and a dry sarcasm that makes him endearing but not obnoxious. The mystery itself is serviceable, clever at intervals, but it's the characterization that carries the novel. Even the supporting cast is full of interesting men and women. Some aren't all that fleshed out, but the major ones are, and provide good support for the lead character.

Red Square (1992) - At least half about Russia more than the crime, Red Square's biggest stength is the backgrounds of the story itself. Renko returns to Moscow to find the city vastly different than when he left it, looking more like Beirut in the late 70s than the cultural capital of the USSR. The book takes about 100, 120 pages before the mystery begins to become enticing. Normally you would lose me before then, but the descriptions of Soviet life in the end days are quite compelling. Although not part of a trilogy, Red Square is the third novel in the "Arkady Renko series," and so it suffers from some of the flaws of the last film of a trilogy; for example, it far more uplifting than either of the previous novels. In fact, Polar Star may be the darkest of the three books, so that also kind of fills in with the trilogy theme. There is a bit of deus ex machina here and there, but it's not offensive. There are times when the mystery gets very interesting, and others when the book is only carried by the strength of its world.

My only other comment would be the series suffers from Terminator Chronology Syndrome. Just like the Terminator films, the chronology really doesn't add up. Gorky Park in my mind is set in the late 70s, and the book was published in 1981. Polar Star is more nebulous; it seems like it's set around 1987, but I could see it work around 1984 or 1985. Red Square is quite specifically set in August of 1991, which would mean going backwards would set Gorky Park circa 1986, or if generous, 1985. While possible (the film was released in 1983), the feel and context of the book just don't work that late in the 80s. It's not a major issue, mind you, but if you enjoy context, it could be a small irritant.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

One week later

Friends and the spattering of any other regular readers might remember that I said the NFC and AFC Championship games were the meat of the NFL playoffs, and that the Super Bowl was a circus. I still believe this to be true, to an extent, but what I didn't account for was my own personal involvement with the Super Bowl when I actually had a team I was invested in playing.

Despite suffering from the worst illness I've had in years since Saturday the 2nd, I have been on a high all week (from the victory in the Super Bowl, not from any medication, of which I've had little). It was a great game, and the Giants victory march from the start of the postseason was so unlikely. Plus, it's hard to remember the last time a team I love was considered such an underdog during the whole postseason. It's like trying to remember the last time America was considered the underdog in a war between rival countries. You have to go back to at least the 19th Century (for America, not New York sports teams, although its close). To win on the road against Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Green Bay, and then to beat the undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in such dramatic fashion, is really astounding, impressive, and glorious. People that don't enjoy sports won't get it, which is fine, but if you are a fanatic, these are the types of seasons you live for.

I'm not ashamed to admit I've helped the sagging economy this week. You're not a fan unless you have a Super Bowl XLII toenail clipper, or something of the sort. But rather than go on about me, let's digress slightly. I love to look at outsider's views of phenomena, so I thought it would be fun to read the comments of London's The Guardian newspaper readers. Their comments sum up much of the Super Bowl's actual football (ignoring the commercials, halftime show, and other nonsense).
Most people find defence in any sport boring but there's a skill to it and the true aficionados find that exciting. It's why people moan that Italian football is boring while Italy are winning World Cups and England struggle to qualify for major tournaments. The Giants' defensive play was exquisite, helped in no small part by the vaunted Patriots' offensive line having a miserable game. - Flynnie, London, UK

Perhaps not the greatest superbowl overall (you would ideally want a few more great offensive plays) but it was right up there with the very best in terms of drama, and I can't think of a more exciting final quarter - fallentower, Budapest, Hungary

Not only was this arguably the best superbowl ever, it was one of the greatest sporting finals I've ever witnessed. If this has been a movie, it would have been labeled as cheesy and totally unrealistic. - gabsbrazil, Toronto, Canada

[The] Patriots weren't so much inept as out-defended, which is always impressive to see when so many of the NFL rules have been adapted to enable the kind of free-scoring offence that the Patriots have typified this year. - ruzz, Boston, Lincolnshire, UK

Last night was thoroughly engrossing as a game. The last quarter unfurled like nothing the FA Cup has offered since perhaps Owen's late brace against Arsenal half a decade ago (penalty shoot-outs after a bore-draw excluded) - Kev79, Manchester, UK