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February 07, 2016

Sunday Morning Book Thread 02-07-2016: Gone But Not Forgotten [OregonMuse]

reagan - eff yeah.jpg
Remember The Days When We Had A REAL President?

(Reagan pic stolen from here:

Open Question: OK, as you can see in the picture, Mr. Reagan has one arm thrust through the windshield, shooting commies and hippies, and his other arm is resting on the driver's side door, the window having been previously kicked out. So with both arms accounted for, how is he steering the car?

“If you have read 6,000 books in your lifetime, or even 600, it's probably because at some level you find 'reality' a bit of a disappointment.”
― Joe Queenan

Ronaldus Magnus

Yesterday (Saturday) would have been the 105th birthday of The Great One. There have been a number of biographies written about him, but I don't know which one of them is best. I don't know if any of them are any good (maybe is worth a look). But I do remember Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan came out, and everybody was all, like, WTF? Now let me set the stage: This is a biography authorized by RR, and the author, Edmund Morris, had won a Pulitzer back in 1980 for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, the first of his three-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. So everybody thought that he'd do a good job with it, particularly since he was granted unprecedented access to both Reagan and behind-the-scenes at the White House during his term in office. But despite all of this, and despite 13 years(!) of archival research, he published a steaming turd that the most charitable reviews referred to as "controversial."

Morris eventually decided to scrap writing a straight biography and turn his piece into a faux historical memoir about the President told from the viewpoint of a semi-fictional peer from the same town as Ronald Reagan: Edmund Morris himself. The person comes from the same town as, continually encounters, and later keeps track of Reagan...

The biography has caused confusion in that it contains a few characters who never existed and scenes in which they interact with real people. Morris goes so far as to include misleading endnotes about such imaginary characters to thoroughly confuse his reading audience. Elsewhere, scenes are dramatized or completely made up.

This is not serious scholarship. It's performance art offered in lieu of serious scholarship. And pretty much everybody hated it. They hated it when it was first published, and they hate it now: 52% of the Amazon reviews are either 2-star or 1-star.

On the other hand, I'd guess that conservative author Peter Schweizer's book on Reagan, Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty-Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism, perhaps contains more clarity and certainty of purpose:

Challenging popular misconceptions of Reagan as an empty suit who played only a passive role in the demise of the Soviet Union, Peter Schweizer details Reagan’s decades-long battle against communism.

Bringing to light previously secret information obtained from archives in the United States, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Russia -- including Reagan’s KGB file -- Schweizer offers a compelling case that Reagan personally mapped out and directed his war against communism, often disagreeing with experts and advisers. An essential book for understanding the Cold War, Reagan’s War should be read by open-minded readers across the political spectrum.

Schweizer is also the author of a number of other books, such as Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich and Architects of Ruin: How Big Government Liberals Wrecked the Global Economy -- and How They Will Do It Again If No One Stops Them.

And I'll mention this one just because I like the title: Makers and Takers: How Conservatives Do All the Work While Liberals Whine and Complain. Obviously a dispassionate analysis.

But back to Reagan. I think the best writings about Reagan are his own. Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan that Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America. He actually wrote a ton of material over the years:

Most of Reagan's original writings are pre-presidential. From 1975 to 1979 he gave more than 1,000 daily radio broadcasts, two-thirds of which he wrote himself. They cover every topic imaginable: from labor policy to the nature of communism, from World War II to the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, from the future of Africa and East Asia to that of the United States and the world. They range from highly specific arguments to grand philosophy to personal stories.

And remember this is the man that liberals want you believe was an airhead.

There's also an audio CD Reagan In His Own Voice which is a collection of recordings of his original radio broadcasts.

Of course, Reagan was known to tell a joke or two, many of them at the expense of liberals. So with that mind, I give you The Humor of Ronald Reagan: Quips, Jokes and Anecdotes From the Great Communicator, which is available on Kindle for 99 cents. Also on the cheap is 50 of President Ronald Reagan's Most Important Speeches from 1957 to 1994: Formatted for the Kindle for $1.99. I notice that the download-for-free sample for this last book contains Reagan's entire "A Time For Choosing" speech from 1964 and also a pretty good sized chunk of his debate with Robert Kennedy in 1967. For free. I'm just saying.

I'd Be In Favor of This

Super Bowl Books

This being Super Bowl Sunday, what better time to discuss 3 Super Bowl books to celebrate the 50th anniversary?

Actually, I'm only going to mention one of them, the coffee-table book Sports Illustrated Super Bowl Gold: 50 Years of the Big Game by the editors of, get this, Sports Illustrated.

What makes this book interesting? In addition to the usual Super Bowl stats you might find in a book like this, and

While the game-by-game replays form the guts of the book, two highlights come at the edges: 1) the impressionistic memories Peter King, SI’s leading pro football expert, shares from the 31 Super Bowl’s he’s witnessed; and 2) a formulated ranking of the first 49 Super Bowls from best to worst based on how thrilling they were. Topping the list is Super Bowl XLII played in 2008 when the New York Giants ruined New England’s bid for a perfect season. At the bottom of the ratings is Super Bowl XXXV, in 2001, when the Giants dominated the Baltimore Ravens, 34-7.

I can't find a damn in my damn pantry to give about item 1, but item 2 might be interesting. With almost 50 Super Bowls to work with, there's probably enough material to start more than a few bar fights.

And the hype and pageantry:

“The salute to patriotism and the military blends seamlessly with the homage paid to capitalism, embodied by the compound of corporate tents that spring up around every Super Bowl. The parties therein are sprinkled with celebrities, many delivered by private jet, in the days before the game. To behold the halftime show, and the keenly anticipated, in-game TV commercials – a de factor film festival unto itself – is to understand how fully this hypertrophied unofficial holiday has pulled the planets of the media and entertainment into its gravitational field.”

King calls the Super Bowl an "hypertrophied unofficial holiday". I call it an "hypertrophied unofficial religion", and in fact, I think the Super Bowl is basically a national, public religious ceremony. In fact, I'd say it's the only national, public religious ceremony we're allowed to have without incontinent ACLU types squealing and peeing their pants. We already have the adoring crowds, esoteric ceremonies (the half-time show), acolytes (players) and high priests (booth announcers). We even have scantily clad sacrificial virgins (cheerleaders). All that's missing is incense and burnt offerings. Although I suppose a couple of cheap cigars and some good BBQ might be sufficient.

Americans are very religious. One way or another.

Lastly, I thought this Canadian guy was pretty funny: A non-fan's guide to Super Bowl 50:

I’m not saying a roll of Mentos could provide better analysis than Phil Simms of CBS. I’m not saying it—however, I am typing it in a magazine and placing it on a long banner pulled by a biplane. Listen for yourself: When someone makes a great play, Simms will say: “Whoa, that’s a great play!” He is the perfect analyst for football viewers who can’t figure out how to face their television screen. (To be fair, that does account for roughly 40 per cent of Cleveland Browns fans.)

Heh. Cleveland fans can't catch a break.

Sexbots: 2016

This should surprise precisely no one:

The manufacturers of a pioneering video game controller that doubles as a virtual reality male sex toy have pulled it off the market after being swamped by demand.

Pris Stratton just e-mailed and said "This is just messed up."

Every time I see one of these news stories about the further perfecting of sexbot technology, I'm reminded of this bit from That Hideous Strength:

The Stranger mused for a few seconds; then, speaking in a slightly sing-song voice, he asked the following question:

"Who is called Sulva? What road does she walk ? Why is the womb barren on one side? Where are the cold marriages?"

Ransom replied,"Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. Half of her orb is turned towards us and shares our curse. On this side the womb is barren and the marriages cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a man takes a maiden in marriage they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place."

C.S Lewis was quite a prophet.

I would NOT WANT to take tech support calls for the company that makes these things.

Which reminds me of a short story by, I think, Harlan Ellison, where this loser goes to a brothel to try out one of their new sexbots. Only they'll all currently occupied or down for maintenance, or something, so they try to slip him a real woman, hoping he won't notice. Of course he does, so the climax of the story is him bitterly complaining to the management about having to have sex with an actual woman.

Things I Learn From The Book Thread

In last week's book thread, I opined that writers have to "run the gauntlet" of female editors in order to get published. Which elicited this response:

422 You run a gantlet and you throw down a gauntlet. Just sayin....

Posted by: Fluor at February 01, 2016 09:18 AM (98vXF)

Pedant. I thought, oh no, have I really been using a malaproprism for all these years? Was there a whole different word 'gantlet' that I had never seen before? Also, I have to admit that even though I have been using the expression for years, it never occurred to me to ask the obvious question how an armored glove worn by medieval knights could be some sort of obstacle you had to overcome to get to where you wanted to go.

So I consulted my trusty man-servant, Mr. Google. And here is what I found:

Gantlet was the original spelling of the word referring to a form of punishment in which people armed with sticks or other weapons arrange themselves in two lines and beat a person forced to run between them. It came from the earlier English word gantlope, which in turn comes from the Swedish gatlopp. Gauntlet is an alternative spelling of gantlet, but it also has several definitions of its own, mostly related to gloves.

Gantlet was the preferred spelling in early use of the phrase run the gauntlet -- meaning to suffer punishment by gantlet or to endure an onslaught or ordeal -- but gauntlet prevailed by the 18th century. Today, most writers use gauntlet, though gantlet, which is especially common in American English, is not incorrect.

So, it looks like both usages are permissible. This makes me happy, as now I don't have to feel like a complete dope.

Books By Morons

A little less than a year ago, I mentioned that longtime moron commenter AllenG was writing a fantasy novel, which he titled Fire and Frost

As I mentioned previously, he created a fantasy world that I think is fairly unique:

Fire & Frost is set in a fantasy world of my own invention. You will find nary an elf, dwarf, orc, or ogre in it. Instead, you will find a world quite unlike our real one. Mediatus is a planar world with definite edges- not a globe like our own. Those edges each lead to lands called Borders, and beyond the Borders to one of four elemental realms. Within those realms live creatures each attuned to their element.

So that is what the world looks like. With that in mind, here is the plot:

Alaric Dell never expected to set aside generations of enmity for the war-like Igni, least of all while investigating a series of raids on his father's lands. An ambush by an unknown enemy on the border of the Middle Realm and Infierno, however, did just that. Now Alaric must deal with an ancient enemy without and intrigue within as he attempts to save the barony, and perhaps the world.

The Kindle edition of Fire and Frost (Seven Realms Book 1) will be released on Feb. 11th.

The paperback edition is available now from Createspace. Also now on Amazon.

What I'm Reading

I'm a little over 100 pages into Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, and I wish I hadn't seen the movie. I can't read without the images of Omar Sharif and Julie Christie crowding in and of course I can't help but hear that classic soundtrack. It's just starting to pick up a bit with Lara just having moved with her new husband Pasha to Yuriatin, a remote rural community, while Yurii is toiling away in a hospital in Moscow. I keep having to refer back to the characters page at the beginning of the book because like most Russian novels, everybody has 3 or 4 names, and some of them don't at all resemble the actual name of the character. The Revolution hasn't happened yet, although some commie protestors did get chopped up pretty good by a cavalry charge. I find myself rooting for the Czar.

Of course, the Soviet government hated this book, and in fact it had to be smuggled out of the country to Italy, where it was first published. But according to author Peter Finn:

The CIA, which recognized that the Cold War was above all an ideological battle, published a Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago and smuggled it into the Soviet Union. Copies were devoured in Moscow and Leningrad, sold on the black market, and passed surreptitiously from friend to friend. Pasternak’s funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands of admirers who defied their government to bid him farewell. The example he set launched the great tradition of the writer-dissident in the Soviet Union.

This is all detailed in Finn's book, The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book.

Forbidden fruit can be mighty tasty.


Don't forget the AoSHQ reading group on Goodreads. It's meant to support horde writers and to talk about the great books that come up on the book thread. It's called AoSHQ Moron Horde and the link to it is here: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/175335-aoshq-moron-horde.


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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