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September 04, 2016

Sunday Morning Book Thread 09-04-2016: The Five Year Plan [OregonMuse]

Library of Sabrina Chase 525.jpg
Sabrina Chase's Library


Good morning to all of you morons and moronettes and bartenders everywhere and all the ships at sea. Welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread, where men are men, all the 'ettes are gorgeous, safe spaces are underneath your house and are used as protection against actual dangers, like tornadoes, and special snowflakes melt like snowflakes in the sun. And unlike other AoSHQ comment threads, the Sunday Morning Book Thread is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Even if it's these.

And thanks to you morons who are sending me library pics. Sabrina's photo that she sent me is really quite a bit larger, and if you click on the reduced version at the top of the thread, it will (should) open up a Dropbox window or tab on your browser where you can see the larger version. It's almost like you can snoop around in her house.


A Planned Economy Is A Crap Economy

Mrs. Muse and I are watching the second season of the Fox TV series Wayward Pines, a sci-fi drama concerning a visionary billionaire who, forecasting a rapidly approaching time of social, political, and even biological degradation for the human race, started stockpiling supplies and picking out competent people (even kidnapping some of them) to repopulate the earth after the big decline. He invented some kind of suspended animation technology and arranged to have everything buried inside of a mountain in a remote corner of Idaho and simply wait out the collapse. So they wake up in the year 4032 and start building a small town that they name 'Wayward Pines'.

(Ob. book thread: The TV show I'm talking about here is based on the Wayward Pines series of novels by Blake Crouch, who also is a producer for the TV series. This is a trilogy. I have no idea if the author is intending to write any more books in the series.)

But the genius billionaire has miscalculated and the biological aberrations that the human race has de-evolved into are still around (they're called "abbies" in the series, which is shorthand for 'aberrations' or 'abnormals'. This is because they can't reason, think or communicate beyond a rudimentary level, they run around naked all day, crap all over the place (although this is not shown), are murderously predatory towards humans, and, in short, are a constant threat to a fragile civilization. Because of this, I think a better word to describe them would be "Democrats" and oh, by the way, their leader is a female. ). So the Wayward Pines people have to build a big herkin' electrified wall to keep the mindless and destructive Democrat hordes at bay. And in the last episode of the season, the wide-angle shot of the tens of thousands of buck naked, hostile Democrats massing at the wall made me think, holy crap, it's the FSA and they want their EBT cards.

It's not a great show, but it's entertaining enough. Lately, though, my suspension of disbelief is starting to get strained because: they have everything they need to run a small town, despite their lack of industrial or manufacturing capability. They're even having a hard time growing food because of the constant threat of Democrats breaking in and killing people and destroying the crops. But there are cars, trucks, electricity, computers, refrigeration, multi-story buildings with elevators with touch-screen controls, x-ray machines, antibiotics, all sorts of weapons and ammo, etc.


So the billionaire genius must have had to have hollowed out 4 or 5 additional mountains and filled each one with fuel, food, and other supplies, both consumables and also spare part in order for the Wayward Pines community to survive with all of the modern conveniences. For example, what do they do when one of their computers goes down and it turns out the hard drive is pooched? Presumably, they have an inventory of spare hard drives, but when they use one, that's one less that they have. They don't have the industrial capacity to build any more. As I told Mrs. Muse when I was explaining my dissatisfaction about this series to her, it takes a civilization to make a hard drive.

Then I remembered the classic 1958 essay, I, Pencil by economist Leonard Read. In it, he reviews all of the different agricultural, mining, and industrial processes that have to be in place in order to produce something as simple a lead pencil. He then argues that there really isn't one single person who knows how to manufacture a pencil as the amount of required knowledge is just too great.

As I told Mrs. Muse, the basic argument was against the folly of thinking you could plan an entire economy. Nobody can make a pencil. Pencils can't be planned. And if that is true for a pencil, how much more so for an entire civilization? This is exactly what the economist F. A. Hayek was talking about in his famous lecture The Pretense of Knowledge, planned economies are impossible.

(And make no mistake, 'Wayward Pines' is a planned economy -- and is as totalitarian as all the other ones. In fact, WP's idyllic, small-town veneer over a brutal totalitarianism reminds me quite a bit of Apple computers the "Village" that Patrick McGoohan's character spent 17 episodes of the Prisoner series trying to escape from.)

Also, how much does something *really* cost? A nail costs a few pennies, and a hammer costs some dollars, but how is that determined? The only method we know of that can establish a rational basis for prices is a free market -- which is completely antithetical to those who wish to have a planned economy. This is the "calculation argument", as explained in the book Collectivist Economic Planning is a collection of essays by F.A. Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises and others. This argument

...has still never been answered. It shows that without private property in capital goods, there can be no prices and hence no data available for cost accounting. Production becomes completely irrational, random at best.

Which is a pretty good description of the old USSR and Maoist China. Also,

Mises had convinced his generation of the futility of socialism, and this new edition of Collectivist Economic Planning completely devastates the whole socialist apparatus for yet another generation.

Unfortunately, few these days seem to listening.

Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth by Ludwig Mises is along these same lines.

___________

This discussion of planned economies and totalitarianism reminds me if a comment from Weirddave in the sidebar earler this week:

Read The Court of the Red Tsar sometime, it'll turn your hair white. The murder, The constant, unending MURDER that was the central reality of Soviet life...and this is what the Left wants for the US.

He's referring to Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar,a biography of Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore is based on groundbreaking research which

...reveals the fear and betrayal, privilege and debauchery, family life and murderous cruelty of this secret world. Written with bracing narrative verve, this feat of scholarly research has become a classic of modern history writing. Showing how Stalin's triumphs and crimes were the product of his fanatical Marxism and his gifted but flawed character, this is an intimate portrait of a man as complicated and human as he was brutal and chilling.

I was disappointed that most of the one-star reviews were about the writing and editing. Only one unabashed Stalin apologist showed up crying into his beer because Montefiore had dissed his hero and ignored his "great achievements".


Another Library


Library - JTB man cave 525.jpg

This is the outside of moron commenter JTB's library: He tells me

Attached is a photo of the "library cottage" of JTB. It is a 10 foot by 15 foot pre-made shelter with air conditioning and heat. 4/5 of the structure holds in excess of 1500 books. 1/5 is a ham shack. New antennas will be selected and attached to the side of the cottage in the near future. The so-called environmentally-controlled cottage has on occasion served as a respite area when the house a/c or furnace needed repair.

Yeah, JTB calls it a "library cottage", but another word for that is "man-cave". All he needs is a wet bar and he's self-sufficient. I wanted a shot of the interior, but none is available, and he offered the following lame excuse:

Unfortunately, some of the shelves (overladen) collapsed and we need to purchase some new ones and reassemble the whole kit and caboodle.

Yeah, yeah. However, I'll give him this: a pre-fab man-cave with its own heat and a/c sounds pretty good. Only problem I can see is getting to it in the pouring rain.


Opening Lines

A few weeks ago,. moronette RushBabe remarked that she has a standard she employs to judge her escapist reading:

I have a "first sentence" rule when picking up any book. If the first sentence doesn't grab me and make me want to continue, down it goes.

She provides the opener of the novel The Passenger by Lisa Lutz as an example:

When I found my husband at the bottom of the stairs, I tried to resuscitate him before I ever considered disposing of the body.

That's a great opening line. She also mentioned one by Harlen Coben from his book Tell No One, which I wasn't familiar with, so I had to look it up. The opening sentence is:

Another girl was about to break my heart.

Very good. Here's one of my favorites, the opener from Robert Heinlein's 1982 novel Friday:

As I left the Kenya Beanstalk, he was right on my heels. He followed me through the door leading to Customs, Health, and Immigration. As the door contracted behind him, I killed him.

OK, technically that's not an opening sentence, that's an opening paragraph, but I have to say it grabbed me when I first read it way back when and I've never forgotten it.

A very famous opening line is the one from the Franz Kafka short story, The Metamorphosis:

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

Yeah, I see how that could ruin your whole day. I haven't read the story, but it's interesting that tells you right up front what's going on rather than later on, perhaps at the end of the story, with something like, "...and then he looked into the mirror, and he saw he was A BUG! AAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHH!"

Get a load of this one:

'Where's Papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

OK, out of context, that line sounds pretty creepy, like it's something from the Addams Family, but it's not. It's actually the opening line of a much-beloved children's book. Try and guess which one. Swipe the empty space below for the answer:

The title of the book is --> Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

One more, and then I'll be done:

It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport.'

Douglas Adams aficianados will no doubt recognize that opening line from his novel The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul.

So what about you morons? What are your favorite opening lines from the books you've read?


Moron Recommendations

Mrs. Muse enjoyed reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Or, more accurately, she enjoyed listening to the audiobook version, read by the British actor Jeremy Irons. She liked Irons' narration so much that she told me "I'm not sure if I really liked the book itself or the way he read it." So I had her write up a brief review.

Like John the Pupil, which I mentioned last week, this is a "road movie" book, which, in this case, is the story of Santiago,

...a young shepherd who travels from Spain to the Pyramids in Egypt to follow what he believes to be his purpose after a dream he has about finding a treasure.

He is told by some people he meets that when a person tries to follow his purpose or calling everything in creation works together to help him accomplish his goal. Sort of like the Biblical idea that "all things work together for good".

It's kind of an odd take on a biblical ideas, but I thought it was a good story. It kept my interest. Santiago Meets Melchizedec, a biblical priest, who gives him the urim and thummin (cf. Exodus 28:30) to help make decisions. He follows omens and meet up with a Alchemist who finally gets him to Egypt.

I'm actually surprised Mrs. Muse enjoyed it. Coelho uses biblical concepts and themes in unorthodox ways to tell the story, and normally that sort of thing exasperates her, but it didn't seem to bother her this time around.


___________

Moron commenter Hrothgar brought to my attention How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain by Gregory Berns. The author trained his dog to sit still in an MRI scanner and they would

...embark on a remarkable journey and be the first to glimpse the inner workings of the canine brain. Painstakingly, the two worked together to overcome the many technical, legal, and behavioral hurdles. Berns’s research offers surprising results on how dogs empathize with human emotions, how they love us, and why dogs and humans share one of the most remarkable friendships in the animal kingdom.


___________

Another lurker recommended to me the novels of Donald Westlake,

...particularly the series featuring a small-time burglar named Dortmunder, are very funny. Picture Abe Vigoda and his band of merry men planning and attempting a complicated heist.

The first one in the series is The Hot Rock, which I think was made into a movie (Update: I was right).

John Dortmunder leaves jail with ten dollars, a train ticket, and nothing to make money on but his good name. Thankfully, his reputation goes far. No one plans a caper better than Dortmunder. His friend Kelp picks him up in a stolen Cadillac and drives him away from Sing-Sing, telling a story of a $500,000 emerald that they just have to steal. Dortmunder doesn’t hesitate to agree.

There are something like 15 Dortmunder novels in the series.


Books By Morons

Back in July, I let you all know that moron lurker Edwin Markham published his first novel, which he titled Call It Even:

Robbie Bowman is a U.S. Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan troubled by guilt and sorrow. He is looking for his missing sister, the only family he has left, and for redemption and peace. Bowman finds himself in a small town in New Mexico, where he is arrested for a brutal double murder, which triggers chilling memories of other deaths for which he feels responsible. Circumstance and his guilty conscience drive him to take on those responsible for the murders. His survival skills and combat prowess will be tested as he finds himself in a mortal struggle with vicious drug traffickers and their allies. But not all of the good guys are blameless, and not all of the bad guys are evil. He must use his judgment as well as his fighting skills.

The good news is that Ed is running a promotional giveaway over the Labor Day weekend for his book. The promotion has been running since Sept. 1 and ends on Sept. 5. So, until tomorrow night, you can download it for FREE. He says the idea is to generate reviews that will lead, hopefully, to actual sales later on.


___________

James Dudley is another moron lurker who has surfaced on votermom's GoodReads group for morons. He has released his first movel, The Clown Prince of Paris, and no, it's not a biography of Jerry Lewis:

Paris, 1954... Up-and-coming comedian Tommy Malloy is preparing for the biggest break of his career; a series of headline shows in one of Paris’s hottest clubs... But when a mysterious audience member asks Tommy for an unusual favor, he is unwittingly pulled into a series of shocking events that leaves him trapped in a deadly web of international espionage. Pursued by the KGB’s deadliest assassins with only his wits to protect him, Tommy must run for his life, improvise new identities, and put together the pieces of a sinister plot that threatens to shatter a precarious peace. A continent stands on the brink of World War III, and a B-list celebrity from Philadelphia is the only one who can stop it.

The Kindle edition is $2.99.


Sale Coupon

From an earlier thread:

Barnes and Noble Labor Day Sale -
40% OFF One Item
Code : N9U2PAJ3LK2TS
Good through 9/5, I think.

Posted by: garrett at September 02, 2016 06:10 PM (+0EeU)

These type of online coupons are frequently not available to be used on e-book purchases, but they would certainly be good for dead tree editions.

h/t to garrett.


___________

Moronette 'votermom' is putting together a list of moron authors over on the Goodreads site which is intended to be accessible to non-members. Here is the list she has compiled so far. Let her know if there's an author she's missing.

http://www.bookhorde.org/p/aoshq-authors.html

___________

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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