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December 28, 2014

Sunday Morning Book Thread 12-28-2014: Wring Out The Old [OregonMuse]


Strahav Library Prague 525.jpg
Strahav Library, Prague
Same Library As A Few Weeks Ago, But With Different Lighting

Good morning morons and moronettes and welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Or kilts. Kilts are OK, too. But not tutus.


When Seconds Count, Police Are Minutes Away

Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Brooklyn, NY, has caused the police to come under greater scrutiny. And that's a good thing, all in all. But Law enforcement is a peculiar institution. We use our tax money to hire and train people to protect us from crime, but actually, they are not obligated to do so. Which, obviously, is kind of weird. If I pay someone to paint my house, I expect him to paint my house, and if he doesn't, I can take him to court. But you can't take the police to court if they fail to protect you. There have been been any number of lawsuits initiated by people whom law enforcement failed to protect, and these suits have always been denied. The position of the courts has always been that it is unreasonable to expect the police to be able to prevent each and every instance of each and every crime.

Which, actually, is not an unreasonable argument. The police aren't omniscient supermen (and, in fact, it would be rather scary if they were) so there's always going to be the possibility that they won't get there in time. That's the point of the book Dial 911 and Die: The Shocking Truth About the Police Protection Myth by Richard W. Stevens, published in 1999. This is a compendium of all the ways that law enforcement is not obligated to protect you.

This is from one of the reviews:

Do the police have the obligation to arrest someone who repeatedly violates a domestic violence protective order? No.

Can the police ignore an emergency call for assistance in order to do paperwork? Yes.

Do the police have the obligation to respond to a 911 call for help? No.

What if they promise that "help is on the way"? Do they then have an obligation to respond? Still no.

If the police witness a crime in progress, must they intervene to protect the innocent? No again.

The book documents all of these depressing instances with the relevant court cases. So, given all that, what should we do? What can we do? I would think that this should be enough to show even the most obtuse progressive the absurdity of gun control laws, and also the perniciousness of the "only the police should be allowed to have guns" argument, which you sometimes hear made by law enforcement officials.

So, this being the book thread, my answer takes the form of two other books: Thank God I Had a Gun: True Accounts of Self-Defense and of course Andrew Branca's The Law of Self Defense: The Indispensable Guide to the Armed Citizen. Also, let's not forget the third edition of John Lott's classic More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws.

I mean, do they know the bind that gun control laws puts ordinary citizens in? The police don't have to protect us, and we're denied the means to protect ourselves. What then? A pointy stick? Longbows?


Skullduggery Up Near The Roof of the World

For those of you who like exotic locations, mystery writer Eliot (one 'l') Pattison kas a series featuring Shan Tao Yun, a former senior inspector in Beijing's Public Security Bureau, that take place in Tibet. The series started out in 1999 with The Skull Mantra. The latest, Soul of the Fire, is the eighth novel in the series.

Pattison is also the author of Original Death and Bone Rattler, both of which are set in colonial America. And at the other end of things, there's Ashes of the Earth, a post-apocalyptic America.


E-Readers Considered Harmful

According to the Guardian, Harvard researchers say light-emitting ebooks negatively affect our sleep and lead to next-day grogginess:

Researchers from Harvard Medical School's sleep medicine department put 12 healthy young adults through a two-week experiment, in which the participants would either read a light-emitting ebook for four hours before bedtime or a printed book. Study participants reading a light-emitting ebook took on average almost 10 minutes longer to fall asleep and said they were less sleepy an hour before bedtime than they were reading a paper book.

They also had suppressed evening levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin - readers of print showed no suppression - and significantly less REM (rapid eye movement) sleep than print book participants. The next morning, they took "hours longer to fully 'wake up' and attain the same level of alertness", researchers have reported

Note that if you're using the basic Kindle, or original Nook, or any other e-reader that isn't backlit, the results of this study do not apply to you. On the other hand, only 12 experimental subjects is an awfully small sample size to be making conclusions about.

And then there's the claim that digital reading doesn't allow the reader to develop a sense of 'place' within a text:

Surveying the latest research, Jabr speculates that reading traditional books allows readers to locate a text within a mental geography. "Much as we might recall that we passed the red farmhouse near the start of a hiking trail before we started climbing uphill toward the forest," writes Jabr, "we remember that we read about Mr. Darcy rebuffing Elizabeth Bennett at a dance on the bottom left corner of the left-hand page in one of the earlier chapters of Jane Austen’s 'Pride and Prejudice.'"

These sorts of things are supposedly more difficult to keep track of when scrolling through digital text. And presumably it doesn't matter if the e-reader is backlit or not. Although many e-text readers, such as the Google Play book app and the Nook reader, to named just two, do a pretty good job of simulating page turning rather than simply having you move the text up and down in a scrolling motion. So I'm not seeing much of a problem here.


Movie Books

The nameless moron commenter MMC8r (you know who you are) mentioned this one last week: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary 'Westley' Elwes is a behind-the-scenes memoir of the making of this iconic movie that has more quotable lines than any other movie I can think of (hey, ever notice that the LOTR trilogy, as great as it is, has virtually no memorable lines?).

I tend to not like these kind of "fan" books. I very much enjoy the Princess Bride movie every time I watch it, but I've never felt the need to learn anything more about it. It's kind of like breaking something when you take it apart. But, YMMV.

___________

And speaking of iconic movies, here are a few things you may not know about Star Wars:

* Brian De Palma, the director of “Carrie,” helped to write the opening crawl

* Christopher Walken was originally cast as Han Solo

* Solo was partly based on Francis Ford Coppola. (At the time, he was a young, seductive, swashbuckling smoothie who had impressed George Lucas by talking Warner Brothers into funding "Apocalypse Now.")

* Toshiro Mifune was almost cast as Obi-Wan Kenobi

All this is taken from How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise by Chris Taylor, which is not just a "behind the scenes" book for fans, but whose aim is more ambitious:

How did a few notes scribbled on a legal pad in 1973 by George Lucas, a man who hated writing, turn into a four billion dollar franchise that has quite literally transformed the way we think about entertainment, merchandizing, politics, and even religion? A cultural touchstone and cinematic classic, Star Wars has a cosmic appeal that no other movie franchise has been able to replicate. From Jedi-themed weddings and international storm-trooper legions, to impassioned debates over the digitization of the three Star Wars prequels, to the shockwaves that continue to reverberate from Disney’s purchase of the beloved franchise in 2012, the series hasn’t stopped inspiring and inciting viewers for almost forty years. Yet surprisingly little is known about its history, its impact—or where it’s headed next.

So George Lucas hated writing? Huh. Actually, that would explain a lot.


Books Of Note

Critics are already starting to call Victoria: A Life by A. N. Wilson the definitive biography of Queen Victoria (1819-1901):

When Queen Victoria died in 1901, she had ruled for nearly sixty-four years. She was a mother of nine and grandmother of forty-two and the matriarch of royal Europe through her children’s marriages. To many, Queen Victoria is a ruler shrouded in myth and mystique, an aging, stiff widow paraded as the figurehead to an all-male imperial enterprise. But in truth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch was one of the most passionate, expressive, humorous and unconventional women who ever lived

Wilson has previously written biographies of Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, and even had a shot at St. Paul the Apostle.


Book Threads 2014

What follows is a list of links to every 2014 book thread. There's a metric boatload of book recommendations in these links, so this is your easy reference point. So you won't ever have to say you have nothing to read.

Also, I would like to take the opportunity at year's end to publicly thank ace for letting me do this. I never asked for his permission, by the way, which, if you think about it, is way presumptuous on my part, considering that this isn't my blog and I'm just some guy. I'm glad that ace is the generous and tolerant sort. I remember the days when he was lucky if he could get 20-30 comments on one of his threads. It's been ace's hard work over the years that has built up the audience of the AoSHQ blog and I'm deeply grateful that he lets me borrow it every week for the book thread.

Also, a big thank you to all of you 'rons and 'ettes. It's your comments and your recommendations, your collective Horde knowledge that make the book thread as fun and informative as it is. And speaking of comments and recommendations:

Book Thread 01-05-2014
Book Thread 01-12-2014
Book Thread 01-19-2014
Book Thread 01-26-2014
Book Thread 02-02-2014
Book Thread 02-09-2014
Book Thread 02-16-2014
Book Thread 02-23-2014
Book Thread 03-02-2014
Book Thread 03-09-2014
Book Thread 03-16-2014
Book Thread 03-23-2014
Book Thread 03-30-2014
Book Thread 04-06-2014
Book Thread 04-13-2014
Book Thread 04-20-2014
Book Thread 04-27-2014
Book Thread 05-04-2014
Book Thread 05-11-2014
Book Thread 05-18-2014
Book Thread 05-25-2014
Book Thread 06-01-2014
Book Thread 06-08-2014
Book Thread 06-15-2014
Book Thread 06-22-2014
Book Thread 06-29-2014
Book Thread 07-06-2014
Book Thread 07-13-2014
Book Thread 07-20-2014
Book Thread 07-27-2014
Book Thread 08-03-2014
Book Thread 08-10-2014
Book Thread 08-17-2014
Book Thread 08-24-2014
Book Thread 08-31-2014
Book Thread 09-07-2014
Book Thread 09-14-2014
Book Thread 09-21-2014
Book Thread 09-28-2014
Book Thread 10-05-2014
Book Thread 10-12-2014
Book Thread 10-19-2014
Book Thread 10-26-2014
Book Thread 11-02-2014
Book Thread 11-09-2014
Book Thread 11-16-2014
Book Thread 11-23-2014
Book Thread 11-30-2014
Book Thread 12-07-2014
Book Thread 12-14-2014
Book Thread 12-21-2014


Open Question

This being the book thread and all, what books did you morons get for Christmas this year?

Let's start out with De La Bourdonnais Versus Mcdonnell, 1834: The Eighty-five Games of Their Six Chess Matches, With Excerpts from Additional Games Against Other Opponents by Cary Utterberg, an exhaustive modern treatment of that titanic match series during the pre-Morphy era, given by Mrs. Muse to her nerd husband.

So far I have learned that even by 1834, the 'White moves first' rule had not yet been set in stone. The author has concluded from the evidence that Black moved first in approximately half of the games. So in order to avoid confusion, the game scores were adjusted so that White was assigned to the player that moved first.

___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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