Monthly Archives: February 2012

People with Too Much Time on Their Hands

Some Anonymous folks tried to attack the World Youth Day website last summer, and it didn’t work or even get noticed by the outside world. But it did provide some info on how this kind of attack is put together.

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George Macdonald Fraser’s Nonfiction Scottish Border Book on Sale

The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers is a great book for anyone wanting to understand UK history, or the sorts of things that certain Scots-Irish and English Border families have tended to do in America.

It’s a brief history of the Border Marches between Scotland and England, and of all the raiding, marrying, and general ruckus that went on up there. Fraser (best known for his humorous historical fiction and a few good movie scripts, but also a WWII Burma veteran) is exactly the person to make it understandable and fun, without softening it up too much for truth. (There’s some useful correctives about Rob Roy, for instance.)

And since a good chuck of us Americans, and our presidents, have Border ancestry, it’s probably got more personal relevance to you than you think. (Is your name Taylor, Graham, Armstrong, Scott, or Elliott, for instance?) Fraser has some extremely cogent remarks on Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian tendencies of US society in relation to Border ethics. Also, the original meaning of “blackmail”!

Don’t forget that, nowadays, you can instantly look up and hear the Border ballads referenced in the text. They made good music up on the Border, too.

Anyway, it’s $2.99 right now, so check it out!

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The Instapundit on SCA True Love

There are a fair number of SCA fighter men who date or marry SCA fighter women, and even more if you allow for “mixed marriages” involving fighters or fencers or archers of various types. It’s an athlete thing.

The Instapundit knows at least one of these couples.

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Why Julie Would Do Better Photoshopping Than This

Photoshop turns out to be obvious fake. The Internet that’s paying attention to nitpicky stuff can see that the 1 isn’t properly kerned to the 3.

So it’s lucky that Julie uses her powers for good and not for evil.

The comments on the Smoking Gun site are pretty funny… Apparently some people are totally unaware that a restaurant keeps the merchant copy more than five minutes, or that receipts are often numbered and dated, just so they can check them if something comes up.

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For Female Watsons, Will the Third CBS Pilot Be the Charm?

With the success of the BBC’s modern-day Sherlock, and before that, the success of the American modern-day Holmes versions in House, M.D. and The Zero Effect, it’s inevitable that we go back to another US version of Holmes.

On the upcoming CBS series Elementary, Holmes is a respected criminologist, formerly a consultant for the Yard but now a recovering addict fresh out of rehab. The NYPD hires him as a consultant, but makes him take on a “sober companion” to keep him on the straight and narrow. The one he gets is Dr. Joan Watson, a gifted surgeon who lost an influential patient on the table and her license, in quick succession. So she has to ride herd on him during cases, whether either of them like it or not.

Holmes is played by English actor Jonny Lee Miller, the grandson of actor Bernard Lee (the original M).

Dr. Joan Watson is Lucy Liu.

This is going to be awesome.

Anyway, the folks behind the upcoming CBS show, Elementary, have announced that there’ll be a return to the female Watsons of two failed television pilots for CBS: The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1987 – Michael Pennington, Margaret Colin), set in Boston with a revived olden days Sherlock Holmes and Watson’s private eye descendant, Jane Watson; and Sherlock Holmes Returns (1993 – Anthony Higgins, Debrah Farentino), with a revived Sherlock Holmes in San Francisco, helped by Dr. Amy Winslow.

(For other female Watsons, there’s also the Mary Russell series of books by Laurie R. King; and there’s Robert Forward’s Marshal Bravestarr spinoff cartoon with a female Mycroft descendant, “Sherlock Holmes in the 24th Century” (not to be confused with the female Lestrade of Sherlock Holmes in the 23rd Century) and the female Mycroft version, Michelle, in Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, for that matter. You get the idea.)

But this time, it’s not about suspended animation or cryogenics. Everybody’s contemporary, just like on House. (And that obscure BBC miniseries thing.) ;)

The female Watson concept has always been cool, even if Rex Stout came up with it as a rather misogynistic joke. (In his paper for the Baker Street Irregulars, “Watson Was a Woman”, which “revealed” a sort of Shakespeare Code in the stories.) It’s like fate, to see it turn up again on CBS.

Three times makes the charm… I hope, I hope, I hope….

Apparently nobody gave the BBC the memo about all the previous US versions of Holmes, so one of the Sherlock producers attempted to get nasty this winter. So sad. :)

The guy who wrote The Return of Sherlock Holmes is now a California prof, so media take note!

Pictures of Sherlock Holmes Returns at an Anthony Higgins fan site.

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The Spinrad Star Trek Episode That Never Was

Norman Spinrad is selling his old unfilmed Star Trek script, “He Walked Among Us”, on the Kindle. Bit pricey, but he knows what the Trekkie traffic will bear.

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Beyond Gut Instinct

Dangerous Instincts is a new book by an FBI profiler. It’s all about how to suss out creepy people who have learned not to seem creepy.

Now, after meeting these kinds of people and finding out they’re creeps, you might be able to suss out other creepy people of the same type. But honestly, that’s the kind of experiential knowledge you can do without. (At best, you waste your time and energy on jerks, and at worst, you don’t get to have more experiences in this life.) Also, your psychological makeup may give you issues that cause you to ignore stuff that would be a red flag for other people.

But mostly, for everyday safety, you really ought to use your noggin and your eyes and ears, instead of waiting on your gut to give you emergency warnings. Especially if you have kids, or other people you need to watch over.

So if you don’t want to be working next to Ted Bundy all day while thinking he’s a nice guy, just because he’s never been mean to you (like the crime writer Ann Rule once did), this sounds like a good book to find at the library and stomp into your head, or to buy and keep handy. (I’m being cheap until I find a job, so probably the library for me.)

Review at Blackfive.

Here’s another book that sounds similarly useful — In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People. Just because they’re not psychos, that doesn’t mean you need to put up with it.

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William Luse’s Novel Is Out!

I didn’t realize that William Luse (who blogs at Apologia) now has his novel out.

The Last Good Woman is about a guy, a girl, and the girl’s father, who doesn’t think the guy is good enough for his girl. Is he right?

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Act of Valor: Review

A really good movie, full of interesting things to look at and valiant men and women. It’s not deep, but it’s not shallow, either. It’s about men and women doing their jobs, some of whom want to make the world better, and some who just want what they want. The bad guys are not going to do stupid things just to let the good guys win; ergo, bad stuff happens to the good guys and they have to think ahead.

If you like to see competent people at work, as opposed to idiots throwing poses, this is your movie. But more than that, this movie will make you feel proud of America’s military. You will also see how it takes more than just SEALs to make a successful mission.

It’s full of action and violence, but it’s not some weird and creepy thing that treats violence like sex. (That being said, the realism is hard for some to watch.) You won’t cringe over any kind of sexist moviemaker prejudice against women or men. The heroes and the villains are both extremely diverse in their backgrounds, as people tend to be in today’s globalized world. I liked this a lot, because real life terrorists and baddies often have some crazy weird backgrounds, and because the use of Ukraine/Russian/Chechen stuff was so true to life.

Foreign languages are much in evidence and reasonably subtitled. (Although you get bonus info if you know the languages.)

There are a few moments early on, when a Bellisario Filmmaking rule trumps reality. (Bellisario says that people sympathize with faces better than oxygen masks, which is why his fighter pilots usually have Magical Breathing Powers. Just pretend that they’ve really got the masks on, and they’re talking over the radio.)

The cinematography is gorgeous. There are a lot of night scenes, so you’d better hope your theater has the digital projection light levels turned up. (My theater did; but it’s a pretty common cost-cutting measure, and I’ve heard horror stories.) There’s nice use of realistic stereo sound, also.

It is rated R mostly for violence, and partly for a few cusswords. (Not Navy strength ones.)

A nice picture of the Sr. Chief guy from the movie.

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Dangerously Incompetent and Good at It

Somebody was recently telling me about his former boss, who was not only bad at his job but good at stopping good work from being done. He ended up concluding that the guy must have been crazy or mentally deficient. Unfortunately, while some of these people might be a card short of a deck, they usually aren’t mentally ill in any way recognized by psychology. Most of them don’t think of themselves as bad bosses. They show up in a lot of good organizations, particularly in the military, despite the way all organizations don’t want them around.

I think the truth is this: Some people have good skills at advancing and getting promoted, at playing politics, and at being impressive to their superiors. (Sometimes even to people at the same level who don’t work with them.) But with people under them, they’re only interested in using them to stay afloat until they can get promoted again. They don’t actually care about their jobs as jobs, or they only care about their own ideas. Either way, they’re unlikely to listen to reason that doesn’t come from their own heads.

I’ve been lucky never to have worked under such people. But I know plenty of people who have.

Anyway, this comes up because an alternate WWII discussion actually suggested that time travelers should make sure to kill or imprison one General Lesley McNair, because he got a lot of people killed with his teachings. And yet, he was the guy in charge of the Army staff college, right before the war. He also had a protegee named Fredendall who was later considered to have been dangerously incompetent; McNair recommended him for all kinds of important jobs.

And no, I don’t think you can blame this all on the way some military people do better in peacetime than wartime, and vice versa. I think it’s a matter of some people valuing social skills too much (and a very narrow sort of social skills at that), to the point that they don’t notice they’re not backed up with results.

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The World Is Not Pro-Woman

Witness the comments to a New York Times story about Mother Dolores Hart. (I can’t link to it, because apparently I’m over my monthly quota of clicks. Here’s a better story in the Telegraph.)

She’s a Benedictine nun at the monastery of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. She knows chant, she works to support the monastery, she has the company of likeminded Sisters, and basically uses all her faculties as she lives dependent on God. She is a full, complete person, and it shows.

But a lot of the commenters can’t stand this. It drives them crazy with rage or condescension. (And sounds a lot like suppressed envy.)

How dare she not marry a man? How dare she decide she loved Someone else better? How dare she turn her back on stardom? How dare she sacrifice? How dare she work in secret? How dare she pursue a dream that’s truly countercultural? How dare she be happy doing it?

Heck, how dare she talk honestly about her choices?

There is no better way to well and truly torque people off, than to decide to love and serve the Lord and all the world’s people. :)

Anyway, she’s in the news today because she was at the Oscars for a documentary on her life. It’s sad that she had to sit through all that crup at the Oscars that I haven’t bothered to watch for years; but I’m sure she wasn’t too bothered by the pettiness of it all.

Meanwhile, the story is written by Maureen Dowd, who basically is a living illustration of a woman who’s allegedly successful, but is obviously not secure in herself in any way, shape, or form. The world thinks women should keep desperately chasing their own tails (and men’s tails) like she does, and that as long as you make a lot of money (which of course New York makes you spend again) it will be all right.

Meanwhile, Mother Dolores Hart and Patton’s niece the nun and all the rest of the really strong sisters don’t need any of those things. They are the “wise women” that so many foolish souls claim to be. Their work is hard, honest, and satisfying, and it is done as a prayer. They are still, and they know God.

Look at the picture in the Telegraph. Look at those honest wrinkles, that clear gaze. We don’t all have to be nuns, but we should all grow up to be someone like that.

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Good Article about the Romance Genre

Written by a collector of Golden Age novels by Harlequin and Mills & Boon. Full of interesting asides, including the strange way women can read books for guys without much comment, but men can’t read books for women without getting a bit of hairy eyeball.

Via Chizumatic, of all places. (Which kinda proves the author’s point.)

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King Peggy: Review

King Peggy is an astonishing new nonfiction book that I got out of the library today. It’s the true story of a woman from Ghana who came to the US as a secretary at their embassy, worked hard, became an American citizen — and then was chosen to be king of a village run by her family, which she had visited but which wasn’t really her hometown. But it’s no fairy tale. The lady finds herself in a town with pitiful infrastructure, astonishing corruption, family who need help, and a few people who are so full of malice and envy that they are choking on it. But even though it’s a tough job, somebody needs to do it….

It’s a really astonishing book, and not just because the story and the people are so compelling. The journalist who co-authored the book goes to a lot of effort to help the reader understand a totally alien culture, particularly how someone in such a culture can sincerely be a devout Christian while also much concerned with various spirits and small gods. The good and bad of Ghana comes out, and it will fascinate you. You will also feel very grateful for the normal things of life.

I’m really glad I checked this book out from the library. It’s a quick read, but enough happens in two years of reign-time that you’ll think it was a saga. I really hope it works out for these folks.

The book’s website includes a link to donate to the town’s cause, if you would like to join the story a bit yourself. :) There are also book signings coming up in the DC area and elsewhere.

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Fanfic Author Who Obviously Heard Same Archeology Lectures I Did

From a fanfic about Daring Do, a female Indiana Jones parody character on MLP:FIM:

The stallion plucked his monocle from his eye and cleaned it on his ascot as he gave her a grin. “Jolly good show, Miss Do… The Society will once more be in your debt if we can manage to locate the Professor. As will I. He’s an old schoolchum of mine, don’t you know.”

A confident grin crossed the flying mare’s features. “Ah well, it’s all in a day’s work for an international archeologist like me.”

McMonocle raised a tufted grey eyebrow and settled his lens back in place. “Really? I thought a day’s work for an archeologist was making a sort of grid with string and wooden stakes over a patch of dirt and digging about for shards of pottery and the like.”

Daring blinked at him, then cleared her throat with an uncomfortable expression on her face. “Uh… Yeah, that happens sometimes, when… when we want to take a break from poison darts and pit traps and ceiling crocodiles and stuff. Yeah…”

The older stallion nodded sagely. “So it’s rather like gardening then?”

There’s also excellent, hilarious use of the “Lost Race” motif, and some truly horrendous puns.

Every so often, you do get someone writing about the nitty gritty of science in an interesting way. But even Agatha Christie, who married an archeologist and spent tons of time on his digs, didn’t quite manage it for archeology.

Right now I’m reading an old mystery (Hamlet, Revenge! by Michael Innes) which has a great phonologist character, but only manages it by making him an annoying, overenthused, professorial bore with a super-duper gramophonic sound-meter machine. (And American in the typical Golden Age UK mystery style.) I hope he turns out to be the murderer, because it would be awesome to find out that it was all just a mask for his true evil genius. But then, Michael Innes always put a lot of dangerous academics in his books.

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