Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
March 11, 2018
Xi Jinping: China’s President for Life
Category: Current Events … Linkage

From BBC News: China's Xi allowed to remain 'president for life' as term limits removed

So I am obviously (thankfully?) not a Chinese citizen and don't entirely understand Chinese culture, but this seems insane to me. The video in the article struck me as particularly unsettling -- whereas the folks questioned kept saying that the change exemplifies China's democratic nature, it seems like a move away from democratic norms to me. (Not that China is at all "democratic" according to our definition of the term, but whatever.) The voting results: "two delegates voted against the change and three abstained, out of 2,964 votes." Can you imagine that kind of consensus with respect to any issue in the US?

I also want to blame Trump for this -- note that other countries have used his election and subsequent performance to condemn the idea of Western-style democracy, because in such a democracy it's possible for the people to elect a buffoon. I wonder about the extent to which China's move to allow Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely stemmed from observations of the chaos of our current executive branch. And, of course, Trump praised the change and jokingly (I hope) suggested that we should give that a try. He would.

But maybe Xi Jinping is such a capable and selfless ruler that it will be better for China and the world at large for him to remain president for life. I don't know. Time will tell.

-posted by Wes | 5:00 pm | Comments (0)
March 7, 2018
Adaptation dilemma and detective stories?
Category: Books … TV, Film, & DVDs

So I finished rereading Anonymous Rex yesterday and just received Anonymous Rex on dvd in the mail today... but -- despite the film's sharing its title with the first book in the series -- apparently the film is based on the prequel, Casual Rex! And while I've already ordered that book, it's slated to arrive Friday at the earliest and I'd wanted to watch the movie tonight... but I want to read the book before seeing the film. ARGH.

Also, random thing I realized: when it comes to fluff reading (ie, books that aren't established classics or at least lean towards a literary/pretentious style), I think detective stories are my favorites. I'd never recommend Anonymous Rex over Brave New World or 1984 or Frankenstein or Great Mischief (by Josephine Pinckney; it's probably my favorite book you've never heard of), but it's a really fun read despite (or because of) its ridiculous premise. I kinda want to review Anonymous Rex at greater length; it's got some choice quotes I'd love to share -- and I realize that I almost always feel that way about detective narratives. They're delightful.

-posted by Wes | 6:04 pm | Comments (0)
February 27, 2018
You shall look fairer…
Category: Miscellany

So I was at a bar the other night, and I considered sending a relatively attractive woman across the room a drink and/or risking what little social self-confidence I possess by approaching her and saying hello. But then I looked at her again and thought, "You shall look fairer ere I give or hazard." And I smiled smugly to myself and kept sipping my 50-cent beer.

(The significance of the quote? It's spoken by the Prince of Arragon in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice... and I'll be playing that haughty prince in an upcoming production of the play. More on that another time!)

-posted by Wes | 4:15 pm | Comments (0)
February 26, 2018
William Sleator and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad character
Category: Books

So in the last two weeks I've read three books by William Sleator: The Beasties (1997), The Boxes (1998), and Marco's Millions (2001). (That I read three books in that time isn't impressive -- Sleator wrote young adult science fiction, so the books go by fairly quickly.) I bought The Boxes and Marco's Millions years ago when I worked at a book store; Sleator's books had neat cover art (The Boxes features an alien crab thing on its cover; I'm a sucker for alien crab things) and, as frequent residents of our clearance shelves, the titles were cheap to boot. Apparently I was more interested in the covers and the price, since I'm just now getting around to reading the books themselves.

Of those three books, I imagine The Beasties will prove to be the most memorable to me -- I'm sure I'll write more about it some other time, and I'm sure I'll puzzle over the events of the climax for years to come. For this entry, however, I'm going to talk about two-book series that comprises The Boxes and Marco's Millions. Specifically, while there are a lot of neat things worth discussing in the books (frex, Marco's Millions features a naked singularity, which affects gravity and the passage of time for characters as they approach it), I'm going to talk about one particular character. The character isn't fascinating in the least, but I did find it fascinating how inexplicably unsympathetically this character is portrayed. Spoilers follow. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 4:22 pm | Comments (0)
February 23, 2018
NYT: Frederick Douglass vs Scientific Racism

This opinion piece in the New York Times -- "Frederick Douglass's Fight Against Scientific Racism" -- is decidedly worth reading.

Of course, "scientific" racism persists in 2018, as one repeatedly learns after delving into the comments of any of the laudatory articles Trump links on his Twitter feed. The final paragraph, which quotes from one of Douglass's final speeches, also rings true today: on more than one occasion I've heard (well-meaning, I hope/assume) white people of my acquaintance who, in noting the depressed state of many minority communities, have wondered why "they" continue to struggle and asked what should be done about "them."

And for readers who haven't seen the movie yet (note that I'm not attempting to shame you for not having seen it yet; apparently that's a thing happening elsewhere on the interwebs), forgive me for the spoiler -- but Black Panther concludes with an especially relevant quote on that point. In a speech to the United Nations, the titular character remarks, "More connects us than separates us -- but in times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one tribe."

It's a sentiment that runs counter to much of our current political discourse, what with "BUILD. THE. WALL!" serving as a rallying cry for our current commander in chief, but it is a sentiment that we would all do well to adopt.

-posted by Wes | 12:44 am | Comments (0)
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