19 November 2008

Risking the wrath of God

I can't discuss the company I work for because they're quite the fascists when it comes to the First Amendment, and in this economic climate I'd prefer not to risk my job. But I will say that we process and distribute press releases, and it is in that context that I wanted to share the following:

Last night, a release came in for a game called Blasphemy. Two to four players play wannabe Messiahs in the Holy Land. The first one to convince enough people that he or she is the Chosen One gets crucified.

Check it out here.

18 November 2008

Collateral Damage Day - November 18


Unfortunately it is all too easy to find images of the people who are paying the price to keep us "free." "Free" being a relative term as Congress and the judiciary has acquiesced over the last 60 years (but particularly in the last 8) in eviscerating the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th Amendments.

Isn't it great to live in the land of the free, home of the brave?
The image above was lifted from the blogsite Nixon Is In Hell, and the boy's name (at least from what I can tell from the file name) is Ali.
I know that the overwhelming majority of our soldiers are "good" people (heck, my brother was a Marine and he's not so bad) but they're also individuals with a moral conscience. When they surrender that conscience to collaborate in the murderous policies of the Bush (or any other) Administration, then they become culpable in those crimes.
I'll quote again from Ursula Le Guin's translation of Chapter 31 of Tao Te Ching:
"It is right that the murder of many people
be mourned and lamented.
It is right that a victor in war
be received with funeral ceremonies."

16 November 2008

A few books to recommend

I just finished reading two marvelous books and thought I would share:

The first is James O'Donnell's The Ruin of the Roman Empire, which I mentioned in a previous post. The review is still on my GoodReads site here. What I like about it is O'Donnell's attempt to strip away the detritus of historiography and his incorporation of the latest archaeological and prosopographic evidence to create a "truer" picture of the period than any I've read before. It's not perfect and suffers from the author's own prejudices but it shakes up a reader's perceptions of a period that many would think has been mined out.

The second book to recommend this Sunday a.m. is James Wood's How Fiction Works. It's a very readable and interesting look at a noted critic's opinion about what makes good writing, and its review is here.

I've also been directed to a potentially hugely interesting site known as the Internet Archive, and I owe it all to my presence on GoodReads. It came about because someone read my review of J.B. Post's The Atlas of Fantasy, where I mentioned an interest in Thomas Malkin. Thomas was a young prodigy who unfortunately died at the age of six. Before he died, however, he created a fantasy world called Allestone - a history and culture, a calendar and maps, as well as a number of stories. His father wrote a biography, A Father's Memoirs of His Child, in 1806 appending all of the Allestone stories and maps. I despaired of finding a copy of this 200-year-old book but the wonders of modern technology and the Internet came to my rescue. The Internet Archive scans well known and obscure texts, videos, audio, etc. to a common database anyone can access. And there, in a variety of formats, lay A Father's Memoirs. I haven't had the opportunity to read the entire tome; I've only skimmed it since printing it out. From what little I have read, though, I think Post's opinion is sound - we lost a remarkable mind when we lost Thomas Malkin.

On that same site, I've found many of James Branch Cabell's work as well. I've already downloaded Domnei: A Comedy of Woman-Worship. The formatting is straight text, nothing fancy but I'm not interested in Cabell for the packaging so that's not a great impediment.

Finally, I'm taking this opportunity to declare (strictly on my own authority) November 18 Collateral Damage Day (see previous post). I'm working on a suitable memorial for this Tuesday.

In a related vein and before I go entirely today - I was reading a reader's review of Peter Mansoor's Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander's War in Iraq (on GoodReads, where else?) where he (the reviewer) made the comment that Mansoor opposed going to war but believed that, now that we were there, we couldn't leave without victory. This opinion (if it accurately reflects Mansoor's) struck me as another example of the insanity of war. It's as if the Germans overthrew Hitler in 1942 but continued to prosecute the war because they hadn't "won."

11 November 2008

Hail, Caesar!

This post is for all those Roman history geeks like me.

While reading James O'Donnell's marvellous book, The Ruin of the Roman Empire (my review of which can be read here), I came across reference to a web site called De Imperatoribus Romanis, where the interested can read various imperial biographies, view genealogies and maps, and read up on the major battles of the Roman era.

Very cool.

In praise of Armistice Day

Yes, Armistice Day.

I prefer the older name because I think the power of what we're supposedly remembering and honoring is diluted (and, in this culture, commodified) by making it a general one for every veteran from every war. November 11 is meant to honor the veterans of World War I (aka, The Great War) and that's what it should remain.

If we want to honor the vets from WW2, let's have a day for them. (V-J Day works for me. If I remember correctly, it happened in May, a nice month to have a holiday.) Korea? The day the cease fire was signed (technically, we and South Korea and North Korea are still at war with each other). Vietnam? Well, we lost that one so we probably don't want to remember it. Grenada? Panama? The two Gulf Wars? Afghanistan? Hmm, the first two were so picayune, I doubt many people even remember them anymore. The latter? Sadly, like 'Nam, we're losing in both so it's not something people will want to be reminded about.

Truly, Veterans Day, Armistice Day, whatever you want to call it should be marked by mourning for all the wasted lives ended by war, and a protest against a world where the use of force is still considered a viable option in international diplomacy.

And while we're at it, I'm calling for a Collateral Damage Day to honor and mourn all of the innocent men, women and children slaughtered by the indiscriminate bombing and the callous disregard for life of our armed forces and others.

We should apply the same standard to Presidents Day. Do we really want to honor all of our presidents? Buchanan? Polk? Fillmore? Harding? Reagan? Both Bushes?

Give Washington and Lincoln back their own days, and we should probably give FDR one while we're at it. Then we could have a Pretty Good Presidents Day, which would honor the "good" but "not great" presidents of the country: Adams, Madison, JFK (for the Cuban Missile Crisis), LBJ (for his domestic policies), Carter (for intentions; the execution sucked), maybe a few others.

Finally, it wouldn't surprise me if a few years down the road MLK Day becomes Civil Rights Day, honoring all of the people who fought in the Civil Rights movement, in the process drowning their individuality in a sea of names.