Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the bookshelf

I just finished reading S. M. Stirling's The Scourge of God, the latest in the series that started with Dies the Fire. I liked this better than The Sunrise Lands, it's predecessor in this second trilogy. The characters were being fleshed out, the children of the Change, the first generation to grow up after the Event that wiped out modern technology, sending mankind into a new Dark Age. Even tho many of these characters were the same as were in the first trilogy, we last saw them as children, now they're all grown up. The Scourge of God picks up where The Sunrise Lands left off, with our band on a cross-country quest to seek out what happened to Nantucket. (Apparently they didn't read Island in the Sea of Time; that's ok, neither did I!) Along the way, there's trials aplenty, new allies and enemies, but my favorite is the laugh out loud scenes.

First is in chapter nine, when the Dunedain Rangers have infiltrated the Boise Bossman's palace, bursting onto the scene to take as many hostages as possible, the bossman blurts out "God, what are you bastards doing here?" to which John Hordle replies "Nobody expects the Elvish Inquisition!" (A little backstory here: the Dunedain Rangers are an offshoot of the Bearkillers and the MacKenzies, two groups that survived the Change and allied to each other in the Oregon/Washington area. One of the founders of the Dunedain Rangers was heavily influenced by Tolkien's Lord of the Rings stories, to the point that it became part of their mythologies of the old world, especially the parts about the Elves and the humans fighting against evil armies. It was enough of an influence that the Rangers adopted Elvish as their secret language; hence, everyone associates Elves with the Dunedain Rangers.) (Oh yeah, it's also a reference to Monty Python's "Spanish Inquisition" skit.)

The second scene was later in the same chapter, when a young female Ranger, Ritva, was hunting to feed her group (the ones on the Quest, not the ones I just mentioned attacking the Boise Bossman's house), when she was ambushed by a Scout in the hire of the Church Universal and Triumphant (also known as CUT; a large group of religious fanatics who reside in Montana, and shun most of what's left of technology, blaming mankind's dependence on it as why God visited the Change on the world, but I digress), who had tracked her group for many miles. They're in a one-on-one battle, her broadsword and buckler against his tomahawk and long-knife, and it ends with her winning, but letting him live. What I loved about the fight was the description of the Scout-- he was a Boy Scout, in this future world without technology. I love how Stirling imagined the Scouts (at least, the ones who survived the Change in this area, the northern Rockies), reverting some to the American Indian military-style scouts, with their own Cub Scout mythology woven in (during the fight, he shouts out his battle cry "Akela!, which is a character from the Jungle Book by Kipling, who in turn influenced Scouting's founder Sir Baden-Powell with the story and others from British Colonial India). Keeping much of the Indian scout uniform, "long woolen shirt" decorated with "badges of merit," fringed buckskin leggings and moccasins, it's like seeing where Scouting would have gone if introduced during the Renaissance, in the new English colonies in North America.

I wish I could've been there when Stirling thought up the idea of having the Scouts added to the story in this way, and how he got them to the point where they are now (23 years after the Change, or 2021 AD!) I'm trying to figure, if D-Day for Dies the Fire was March 17, 1998, there could have been some Scouts on a Spring Break trip to Philmont, NM or anywhere else in the Rocky Mountains, perhaps near an Indian Reservation, where they were taken in, honing their much needed survival skills. Apparently, the Indians were able to survive the sudden death of everything technological much better than the rest of the US; as one of the Lakotas remarked in Scourge of God, it wasn't as far for the Indians to fall when the bottom dropped out, so many "on the Rez" were nearly there anyway!

Anyway, reading that battle scene finally compelled me to order a manual on Tomahawk and Long Knife fighting, since it's been on one of my wish lists for a while, related as it is to Mountain Man and Texas Revolutionary period and non-firearm fighting skills. That's pertinent to the whole Change series, since firearms no longer work, that no-more-tech thing that changed the laws of physics (Take that, Scotty!) such that high pressure and internal combustion and advanced chemistry don't work anymore. (No cars, no guns, no batteries in your flashlight, no electricity anywhere, nothing!) The first trilogy spoke more of the characters trying to figure out "why" and "who did this" (its a toss-up between God and "Alien Space Bats" for the latter), it hasn't been touched on much in this second trilogy. And it's a little better, without that distraction from the storyline.

Now I just have to wait another year for the third book in this trilogy, hopefully Rudi and his band of friends will make it to Nantucket and return home, because these cliff-hangers are the worst when it comes to the waiting! I know, I can go to his site and read the sample chapters of the next book, but I did that with The Protector's War, and it was like having an appetizer without the main course for another several months! (Oh, bother! I just looked at his site, and discovered that he plans four books for this current series, which he calls the Emberverse II, with the first series being the Emberverse I. That means two more books!!) Stirling seems to like setting things in worlds without modern conveniences, as he did with The Peshawar Lancers and "Shikari in Galveston". (not Shakira!) Unfortunately, my understanding of Hindi and Sanskrit is nil, nada, zip, nothing! About as good as my understanding of Elvish!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Early voting

Tommie and I went to the courthouse today, to vote early. It went smoothly enough, they had their new computerized system to sign folks in, and those touch-screen electric voting machines. The thing I thought most interesting that I commented on it to the voting clerk who took me to the booth (she had to log-in with the supervisor's card), was the curtains they had set up to surround and separate the voting machines. This is the first time I've even seen those in a polling place here, not just on the TV portrayals of elections. Granted, the curtains weren't the full-length shower curtain-type, these were hung from head high and draped down to about waist high, but like I said, this is the first election I've ever seen them used. The clerk said they (the county) was going "all-out" to dress up this election. It beats the old-fashioned pop-up "student blinders" voting booth that I grew up with.

Apparently early voting is doing fairly well in areas that have it. Now I wish there was a way to block out the rest of the election season until it's over! (Beyond plugging my ears and crying "LALALA-I'MNOTLISTENING-LALALA!")

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More random thoughts

First off, I'm sorry to announce that Military Motivator has disappeared from the Æthersphere. The last posting was in the middle of August, titled "Imperial Fleet Week," was kinda funny, a home video depicting TIE Fighters flying under the Golden Gate Bridge, AT-AT walkers along the beach, and a "moonrise" of the Death Star, all over San Francisco! The irreverent military themed humor will be greatly missed.

KOLE 1340 AM is kinda back on the air here in SE Texas. So far they're running "The Afternoon Drive with Ronnie Linden" over and over, interspersed with the announcement of "we're working to bring KOLE back on the air soon." It wouldn't be so bad, except these shows are from winter-ish of 2006-07, based on the subject matter of so-and-so getting elected.

My ex, Kelly AKA Phoenyx has "retired" from blogging, due to her ongoing fight with her health, making it difficult for her to think and concentrate enough to update it regularly. It'll be sad to not have her blog to read anymore, since it was a way to keep up with each other without being intrusive (visiting, calling, stuff like that), but I can understand her reasons. I'll still blog here, on my quasi-regular schedule. I stopped by her house the other day to pick up a rather cumbersome tool that I'd left there in the garage, and we stood around visiting for a while, which reminded me of the old friend I had before we messed it up with getting married.

I will be so glad when this election is over with. The polarized hostility is worse than any sports rivalry, and I'm afraid that when the results are announced, there will be riots of celebration or indignant "protests." Even former Bill Clinton adviser James Carville has made similar remarks, that "if Obama goes in and he has a consistent five point lead and loses the election, it would be very, very, very dramatic out there." Nevermind that historically, if a Democrat didn't have an overwhelming lead (much greater than 5%), the Republican candidate would win the election. Recall: Dewey Defeats Truman! Still, this talk doesn't bode well for civil order in the next month, and political relations for the next several years. Note, the eight years of accusations from the Left about Bush stealing the election of 2000 and "Bush=Hitler." (If that's true, why aren't you idiots in ovens?!?) The cynic in me is about to explode, and I'm gonna taze anybody that gets near me with this shit!