Monday, August 27, 2007


I just completed Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. I have to say that I was not dissappointed. I can see why it usually is categorized as romance, but I think Historical Fiction with a touch of Sci Fi would be a more appropriate category.

She writes very well. Prior to reading this book, I had had the opportunity to listen to a few mystery audio books by some popular authots, notably Evanovich and Picoult. Evanovich was funny but I could only take so much. Picoult, I have to say, can tell a story, but you either like her literary voice or you don't. Sometimes with the Jodi Picoults, and others, of the world, you get the sense that they are writing a sophisticated tale but dumbed down to an 4th grade adult ed level. Now, for Picoult, again, she is a great story teller with a very good descriptive sense, but I felt that she was writing in order to be accessible to as many people as possible.

Gabaldon, I find, (I am now reading Dragonfly in Amber-the sequel to Outlander), writes on a literary level. Her writing is what you'd expect from the 12 year Professor of Marine Biology that she was. She doesn't try to make the novel accessible, rather, she writes and invites you to step up to the prose. There's nothing wrong with the writing for the masses, but there is something rewarding about writing on your own terms.

I found myself comparing Outlander to Daimant's Red Tent, in the sense that both tell a historical story from the woman's point of view. Red Tent is definitely Her-story in the fullest sense of the word. Outlander is less that. With Gabaldon, you are made increasingly aware of a unique POV missed by a male-tinged history, but there is no inherent animosity towards maleness. I felt thoroughly told-off after reading Red Tent, which I enjoyed by the way. With Outlander, I felt like I had been reminded that there were other aspects of a story that need to be told.

The pace of Outlander is puzzling. There are places in the book where the story moves and is totally engrossing and then you fall into long stretches that make you ask "what's the point?" But again, this is the point about writing on her own terms. Everything she writes adds to the story and understanding about the characters, so that you can learn about them and their lives and get involved in them. She clearly blocked out the contemporary movie compulsion to create a fast-paced action packed story, fit for the big screen. What she has written is a book and meant to remain as such.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Eragon continued

So I completed Eragon by Paolini. I enjoyed it. As the book wore on the teenage-mind dialog really grated on me. Still I am overall, impressed. However, I strolled on to Amazon to peek at reviews for Eldest, the next book in the serious, and it was wholeheartedly trashed. The reviews are so overwhelmingly negative that it blows the mind.

I suppose the main issue is that Paolini's work is a thinly-veiled retread of Tolkien and Star Wars. What to say? I still plan to read Eldest. The bloom is of the rose for me just knowing that the work wasn't wholly original. Still, as writer, I can only admire the effort. Many on the Amazon review site complained that the story and names and life world of the novel are extremely similar to Tolkien's stuff. Here, I bow my head in shame and confess my ignorance of Tolkien. I read the Hobbit once, and it was absolutely delightful. I tried to get into the Lord of the Rings and boy, what a yawner! I have to say I found the first 100 pages of Dostoevsky's Crimes and Punishment more eventful even though 100 pages into C & P we are only two hours into the night and still in the main guy's head.

Anyway, all that to say that I do not and did not have a personal basis to judge just how similar Eragon is to Tolkien. One thing that is clear is that the criticism has come from the hard core sci fi folks who've read everything out there. So what may not be apparent to the regular uninitiated reader, is clear to them, regarding derivative works.

I plan to read Eldest, but I think I'll break from Dwarfs and Elves for a while. Diana Gabaldon has a series of works out which are considered romances. I'm not into romance, but everyone agrees that her books are unbelievable. So I am sold.

I have resumed writing my novel. We are at over 300 pages. The problem is that there are quite a few characters who all have fairly well developed histories in my head but not on paper yet. I am now convinced that it is worth it to put pen to paper and develop these characters more so that people can care about them. It would probably add a couple hundred more pages, but I've seen that excess novel length is exciting when you have a very good book. There's nothing like looking up during a wonderful read and realizing you still have 300 pages to go. It's like an endless plate of chicken wings.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reading Eragon

So I have taken the plunge and am reading Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I am not blown away by the story, I am enjoying it though. But I am in awe of the writer. This kid was 15 when he wrote the book. Now, some of the dialog is recognizable as that of a maturing adult, but his prose and narrative style and ability is incredible.

I should say that I am not reading it but listening to the audio book. The main problem, as with many audio books, is the different voices the narrator uses. I just can't take it anymore. And what is with the gruffy dragon voice . . . for a female dragon? It just makes the dragon so unsympathetic. Sometimes I feel that someone needs to put a sword through the dragon's throat to put it out of its misery. Anything that sounds like that needs help.

I'm dreading getting into another author, but if I am taken by this book I may move on to Eldest, the sequel, or I may make a clean break. The next few chapters shall reveal all.

The Rover Leaves

I see on CNN that Rove has resigned. For staunch Democrats and liberals, this would normally be an issue of some mirth. But the truth is I'm not sure that anyone cares that much now. Rove's legacy after 2000 was as a brilliant political strategist. But now, he is forever linked with what may be considered the worst presidency ever. History is not going to kind to him. His style embodied the worst of negative politics and capture the Orwellian new speak ideal to the full.

Rove's ascent precipitated a decline in the notion of truth and substance in political discourse and perception. When one thinks of the lies of the present administration, Rove is inextricably linked and present in that picture.

LBJ was a master of politics to an inhuman degree, but the fact is that he had positives to show for it such as the Civil Rights legislation. Rove and Bush really do not have anything but path strewn with blown opportunities and deception. Of course, the Iraq War is the primary thing. Regardless of what happens in that war, it has been a momentous failure. The costs alone, $451 billion (via Faithful Progressive) is staggering. For that kind of money, nothing's been accomplished a few more billions will be spent before this thing is over. Money wasted to this degree is Rove's legacy.

What could we have done with $451 billion? Education, Infrastructure, Health care, Tax relief for middle class and poor, social programs, strengthen first responders and emergence response, economy issues, help small businesses, etc.

Let's just say, Rove will not be missed.

Buffalo Bills' Debrief

So it was Bills v Saints. It was the Saints second preseason game and it showed. They were sharper and over all better. As for the Bills . . . what to say.

I think everyone was disappointed with both first team offense and defense. At the same time, you can't get too down. I am a believer in preseason performance so I never get the dismissive attitude shown towards preseasons. The big thing in Bills' lore is how Marv Levy's Superbowl teams never won preseason games. However, if you watched those games, the first stringers absolutely torched everyone and were ushered off the field quicker than you could bat an eye lash.

This game was overall more positive than negative. Depth this year is going to be more important than ever and our second stringers were extremely impressive and third and fourth stringers did very well.

Offense: Obviously more work is needed. It is hard to see how JP, Evans and Lynch can be constrained--no worries there. The question is consistency of the OLine and TE play. I'm one of those who is a believer in our receiving corps. I think Reed is solid, I think Price is still quite good and Parrish is going to be the next best thing since muffin wraps.

Defense: Bend-don't break. With the Hargrove substance abuse suspension and foolishness and the night club fight, etc, we are thin. I see this defense giving up chunks of yardage. I do believe, though, that they can come up with big plays when they need to and I see them winning turnover battles, which is actually the key. If you can surrender 3s instead of 7s and kill long drives with turnovers, you'll win games.

Special teams will be solid.

I was impressed with Jabari Greer who is fighting for an established spot with the DBs. Youboty, our 3rd pick from last year, I think will end the year as the second corner next to McGee. That's my hunch. He's a gifted kid and has big play potential written over him.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Buffalo Bill's Talk

Football is around the corner and hope springs eternal, except here. I am as realistic as they come about the Buffalo Bills. This season, I see a valiant run at the playoffs, a few playoff wins and a superbowl appearance. (Note my modesty and realism here-I did not say they would win.)

Offense-wise: It is clear that this is a much improved unit. J P Losman has emerged as a very good quarterback. This year will show if he'll attain elite status. Many think he can. He was touted by some as the best quarterback of the 4 drafted in the first round 3/4 yrs ago which included Roethlisberger. I don't know about that , but this is a very bright spot for the Bills.

Lee Evans is the new star wideout and is unstoppable. The question is the number 2 and 3. This is where it gets interesting. Peerless Price may still have a 700 yard season in him, it remains to be seen. J P has gotten more comfortable with him, so we can look for good things. Josh Reed the 7 yearish veteran is more of a blocker/ first down machine. He is a great utility player to have. But the real revelation has been Roscoe Parish, the little guy drafted out of Miami last year. He was primarily a return specialist last year and was thought unlikely to make the receiving corps this year due to his small frame. However, he has shown himself unstoppable and is capapble of 1000 yrd season. I don' think he is the 100 catch type player, because he will wear down. The thing with him is if he is kept in motion he cannot be jammed at the line of scrimmage and will get huge chunks of yardage.

The TEs are also looking decent. We drafted a Kevin Everet from Miami about three years ago who is only now showing flashes of his vertical threat ability. The Bills will be keeping 4 TEs and no H-back. Two of the TEs will double as H Backs and the hope is that the versatility of the TE will cause formation problems. The bottom line is that they still have to catch and block. It's as simple as that.

O Line--it is actually going to be very, very good. Why? significant upgrade thru free agency and more maturity.

Defense--Now this is the yellow flag on this team. No one knows what we'll get. The D-Line will get sacks, we have two sack specialists. However, Schoebel and Kelsay are not known to get sacks at critical junctures in games. Besides they are not constant pressure guys who force QBs to thrown interceptions. The D Line is smallish, so it is very hard to say what we'll get. The Bills rotate their DLine to keep them fresh. Everything hinges on John McCargo, who was the Bills 2nd first round pick. If the McCargo and Kyle Williams, our 5th rounder last year, can show some run stopping acumen, things could look up.

Linebackers--This unit will be very good.

Defensive Backs--The real problem. Besides our two young star safeties, we really don't know what we'll get. We lost Nate Clements to San Fransisco. Replacing him will be impossible. However, you can game plan to cover DB weaknesses.

Overall, I think the Defense will rank between 15-20. So if the offense can be a top 10 offense, we'll be in good shape. If the offense can average 25 points again and defense average giving up 20, we're good.

The AFC East is tough this year and the Bills have gotten no national respect. We could be a sleeper team that sneaks up on everyone. We'll see.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Obama on War on Terrorism

Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton got into a little spat during the CNN YouTube debate that continues to escalate. The latest salvo was a speech Obama delivered which was broadside to the face of congressional Democrats. He basically demeaned congressional Democrats, especially on the Senate side, as rubber stamping the President's war.

I don't think Obama helped himself with this speech. As new and fresh a face as he is and as excited as he has gotten the Democratic electorate, organization still wins the day and ultimately, he'll need to depend on the very people he has demeaned. It is easy for Obama to criticize Senate Democrats now, especially since he did not have the responsibility of voting and nothing at stake. The fact is that the Bush administration is probably the most Orwellian 1984-ish administration the US has ever had and you have to battle them on both substance and perception, mostly perception. If Democrats were going to make any inroads they had to play the cards dealt them, they had to play on a field set by the current administration. Would many of the Democrats vote differently now? Yes, many admit they would in hindsight. But the situation then was what it was. It is impossible to go up against a White House that actively disseminates fear and non-truthful statements or propaganda.

Via TPM, here is expert analysis of Obama's speech.

The one point that I found extremely enlightening was Peter Bergen's comment:

While he said it was overall a strong speech, "the 9/11 plot was actually planned in Hamburg. The idea that weak and failing states are causes of terrorism is wrong. There is in fact overwhelming academic literature that demonstrates the reverse is true."

That is quite fascinating about weak and failing states. I don't think he is disputing the necessity of weak and failing states in the terrorism issue, because they do provide a base of operations. Nonetheless, the issue of causes is the more important question here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Pat Tillman Case

No need to link here being that the story is all over the internet. I am freaked to no end about the Pat Tillman case. It confirms one's worst x-files type paranoia about the government.

The story has clearly not run out of juice. The general who is being blamed is "away" on business and not available to be subpoenaed, there are discrepancies about if snipers were present and fire shots and also Tillman's comrade reports that he does not recall giving testimony to the chaplain whose transcripts have made the rounds.

The facts are Tillman was killed by friendly fire. This was known at the time and was covered up and presented as enemy fire. Army doctors initially suspected fratricide because of three M-16 bullets to the fore head in very close proximity. Nothing or no one else was hit, including equipment etc. It is extremely unlikely that in a case of randomn firing that a soldier would receive a cluster of bullets to the head and yet no equipment or anything else is hit.

We also have to recall that this was in 2004. Tillman was a premium propaganda tool for the Bush propaganda machine. Word was Tillman supported Kerry, liked Chomsky and openly expressed his belief in the ilegitimacy of the Iraq invasion.

Thankfully, Democrats have sway in congress and with time we can get to the bottom of this issue. I'm amazed at the instincts and perserverance of the family for pursuing this and i hope they find peace with a satisfactory conclusion.