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This is the archive for December 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

I got my first tangible material benefit from blogging the other day (aside from the whopping 5 bucks I've earned from those Google ads). Warren Meyer, over at Coyote Blog, sent me a copy of his first book "BMOC". To be honest, I didn't figure I would write about it unless A) It was really good, or B) It brought up some issue I thought would be fodder for the kinds of things I talk about here. Well, it didn't provide any fodder.

I picked it up Christmas morning, with the intention of reading a chapter or two in that little lull that always comes after the presents are opened. You've heard the cliche "I couldn't put it down"? Well, next thing I knew dinner was ready, and after eating I picked it right back up and finished it.

I had kind of assumed it would be another one of those libertarian fantasy novels. You know the kind, Montana secedes from the US; or a small band of people decide they won't take it any more and go off somewhere to found their own government; or a lone rebel plots to take down the system by finding and eliminating the few key people who keep it going, etc. I've taken to calling it "LibFic". So I thought this would be more of the same: a book from a fellow libertarian blogger whom I've had on my blogroll almost since I started this, and a book that was in a niche - a very narrow niche - that I like.

Turns out that it was a pretty mainstream corporate espionage novel, complete with a murder to be solved, a young, attractive and competent protagonist, and more than one opening for a sequel. It fits the genre that is popular today, (with dramatic but generic names like "Malice of Intent"), and as such is entertainment, not great literature. But it is a good story, and while it is not overtly libertarian (seems that Warren forgot to include the 70-page speech painfully "integrated" into the plot that outlines his entire philosphical edifice), it does have a refreshing libertarian sensibility that is usually absent from books in that genre.

Usually, the bad guys are the evil corporate CEO that can only make a profit by killing people to cover up his destruction of the environment, or the rich guy who kills everybody that stands in the way of his plans to sell arms to terrorists so that he can make a killing when the stock market collapses after the next attack. In BMOC, the bad guys are the media, the lawyer, and the Senator, who conspire to kill an innocent girl in order to gin up a lawsuit against the entrepreneur of whom she is a customer.

In the process, the book paints a picture of the media/legal/government complex that is as damning as the portrayals of the millitary/industrial complex, or the profit/oppression complex that is usual the root of all evil. Warren pulls this off without lengthy digressions to explain to us that this cabal exists, and why it is so bad. Instead, he just shows it in action, and each example serves not to "interrupt our plot for this important message", but to further the plot and to draw the characters.

In books today, we are bombarded with anti-capitalist and anti-individualist messages subtly woven into the plots and characters of our fiction. We are never told that we should see capitalists and individualists as the bad guys, authors just assume it and build the stories from there, and usually build very good stories. And so we never think to question those premises, but we absorb them nonetheless. The pro-capitalist and pro-individualist counter to this is usually to build a story designed explicitly to "prove" the opposite premise, and if it's a good story, well that's just a bonus.

Warren has taken the former approach, and it works. If he had marketed this to the mainstream, instead of to the libertarian niche, readers who don't know or care what a libertarian is would read it and absorb Warren's premises without ever getting the cue that they should be explicitly questioned. In that, it has the potential to be much more effective than most of the previous LibFic put together, with the happy side effect of being profitable, and thus self-sustaining.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford, who was President for something like 5 minutes when I was 10 years old, might just be responsible for my first ever political memory. To put some context on my general state of awareness at the time, I remember watching the moon landing on TV. I think it was the first one, but I can't be sure - I knew it was important for some reason, but really didn't know why. Most of the news for the next several years is a blur to me now, "remembered" only from subsequent reading and TV coverage.

I have only three memories related to the war: Some guy giving me the peace sign from a car in traffic, and my getting very upset because I thought he was calling me a two-year-old; my Mom telling me that the people coming back from the war had never seen the then very new John Hancock building - to me, the idea of a building ever not being there was unthinkable, and so they must have just always been away at the war; and at some point asking my parents why people had to fight wars and being told that it was because some people were trying to tell other people what kind of clothes they could wear and what they could eat.

When Nixon resigned, I was eight, and don't have any recollection of being aware of it as it happened, at least not so far as recognizing it as important. (I've come full circle now, eh?) So the first thing I do remember as a specifically political thing was Ford's "Whip Inflation Now" program, which came complete with buttons emblazoned with only the acronym "W.I.N". The thing I remember is that word got around that you could turn the button upside down and make the acronym "N.I.M.", which stood for "No Immediate Miracles".

I thought that was very clever at the time, though I'm not sure I could have told you what inflation was, why it needed to be whipped, or why doing it immediately wouldn't work.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

No, not those kind of pigs, but these. Javalinas are common around the peripehery of Tucson, and they're mostly harmless. But not always.

As a side note, I've always heard around here that they are not actually related to the better known Suidae - a vital component of breakfast - but Wikipedia says different. Oh well, around here, we call 'em "pigs", and everyone knows what you mean.

Anyway, this particular band of a dozen or so roving wild "pigs" attacked a woman walking her three chihuahas, (which are also as common as rats around here, and often mistaken for such), and managed to injure not only the dogs, but the woman. I used to live about a mile from where this happened, up in the foothills right on the edge of town, and I can tell you, the pigs are thick as theives around there. (As were the coyotes - I fell asleep to their back and forth howling every night - and the woodpeckers, who thoughtfully woke me up at the crack of dawn by frantically hammering the metal chimney pipe, so that the sound echoed through the entire house like it was a full brass band.)

Coming home very late one night, I stepped out of the car to a pitch black apartment parking lot, only to hear the sound of snuffling all around me. When my eyes adjusted, I looked down to find that I was in the middle of a whole pack of 'em, just sniffing around in the dirt looking for food, not minding the slightest bit that I had practically stomped their toes while blindly stumbling across the lawn. Well, I was on the hood of my car in a flash, but they never even noticed, not even when I started throwing empty coke cans at them (and a few full ones) to get them to move away from between me and my front door. They eventually did so, in their own sweet time, and we parted company still friends.

Though I've heard stories about them attacking dogs, and even infants, I've always chalked it up to a once in a blue moon thing that gets passed around as having happened to the "best friend of a guy I used to work with's uncle". I've always been more than happy to share the neighborhood with them. They've never bothered me, but then again, I never went through the neighborood dragging around bait on a chain.