Universal Harvester by John Darnielle (Books 2017, 4)

Yes, the end of August and only my fourth book. What on Earth is happening? In short, Alan Moore’s Jerusalem is happening. All 1000-plus pages of it. I’m just over two-thirds of the way through it, and I’m loving it, but I think my target now must be to finish it by the end of the year!

But I got this one for my birthday, and it’s short, so I read it in two or three days while I was on holiday recently. It’s an odd one. It tells a story of some people and some strange videos in the days when there were still video rental shops stores and VHS tapes within them. Which allows someone to insert extracts from strange home videos into some of them, leading our protagonist to start investigating.

It takes place in the farmland of Iowa, and it’s interesting enough, but it’s one of those stories where you end up wondering, Why? Both why did the characters behave like that, and why did the author choose to write that particular story?

Not a bad story, but not that compelling either.

Stupid Fawning Lapdog Government Apes the US Again

Our glorious leaders have seen fit to copy Trump and his cronies with banning laptops and tablets on planes — from certain countries. The only possible reason for this madness is to punish people for coming from (or visiting) those countries.

Worse, though: such a ban is only going to:

  1. make things even more confusing and complex at airport security, and
  2. get extended until it covers all flights, everywhere. You wait and see.

Trumpeting

Not a lot to say about today. Trump is president. World War III hasn’t started yet, but presumably he’s got the nuclear codes now.

Actually it’s entirely possible that whoever is responsible for briefing the new president on such matters (and come to think of it, who is it who has that responsibility?) didn’t actually give him the real codes, or the real nuclear football. After all, they’ve probably taken an oath to defend the republic (I’m now assuming it’s somebody military) against enemies domestic and foreign, and one could safely argue that Trump is an enemy of the republic.

Indeed, an enemy of all decent people. But we’re just going to have to live with him now.

At least until they impeach him. Or invoke the 25th Amendment1 to declare him unfit. Sooner or later one of those must happen.2

Although that will leave us with President Pence, so I don’t know…


  1. I read up on it after the West Wing episode “25.” []
  2. Please! []

Poetry and Politics

It’s hard to believe that this is for real: a poem about Trump written by an American, riffing on the orange one’s Scottish heritage (which, I’m sure it’s fair to say, embarrasses our entire nation).

Indeed, something in the headline gives me pause: why would The Scotsman describe it as “created” rather then “written”? I wonder whether it has been generated algorithmically by a program.

It must be a fawning, sycophantic, arse-kissing algorithm of the worst sort, if so. And if not — and if it’s not some particularly subtle satire — then the guy behind it is… unbelievable, assuming he’s writing from the heart. And has one.

But if you’ve gone and read that, then you should wash your mind out with Hal Duncan’s response, which is not only better poetry, it’s written in modern Scots, and contains lines like this:

Ah’ll spit a rhyme for ye: Ye cannae write.

Best of McLeod? Don’t make me fuckin laugh.
Yer tangerine nazi rapeclown’s fuckin loathed
by Scots who mind when rebels wurnae naff
gold-shittered gobshite Emperors unclothed.

But don’t wait here. Go and read the whole thing.

Thanks, Obama (for Real)

Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who became one of dthe most prominent whistleblowers in modern times when she exposed the nature of modern warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who then went on to pay the price with a 35-year military prison sentence, is to be freed in May as a gift of outgoing president Barack Obama.

From The Guardian

Nice one. Next, pardon Snowden?

Pamela Constable on her parents’ WASP values

Great piece in the Washington Post by one of their correspondents whose Republican parents would have hated what the party has become:

it occurred to me that our cerebral and courtly African American president, struggling against the tide of an angry, visceral age, had more in common with this elderly WASP gentleman than did many white Republican leaders of the moment.

Source: I rejected my parents’ WASP values. Now I see we need them more than ever. – The Washington Post

“Republicans: good at theatre, dreadful at governing”

I’ve often [said](http://devilgate.org/blog/2010/05/05/disappointment/) that you can’t trust right-wingers with the economy. But now Michael Tomasky, in The Guardian, gives more evidence for my assertion, regarding the US Republicans.

My favourite quote:

> But running the country? They’ve shown almost no aptitude for it for many years. The reason is simple and was imperishably expressed by the scholar Alan Wolfe in an essay he wrote four years ago: “Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: if you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.”

Queues

Long queues at polling places are a sign, surely, of a country recently freed from tyranny, of one that is experiencing the chance to vote for the first time (I’m thinking of South Africa in 1994, for example). They are not something that you generally expect to see in a mature democracy like the USA.

Let’s hope, then, that the people streaming to the polling stations on America are those desperate to breathe free of Bush and the Neocon hegemony, and not tiny-minded racists trying to drag the country back to the dark ages.

And remember, America: the whole world is watching.

Worrier president

There’s a Warren Zevon song called ‘Worrier King’. It contains the line, ‘I’ve been up all night, worrying what November’s gonna bring.’ Given that US elections are always In that month, there’s little doubt what he was worrying about.

If Warren had lived he’d be worrying now, and I have a shrewd idea in which direction his concerns would be facing. I’m not American, and I’m worrying. Though I can’t deny that my worry is diluted with a lot of hope and excitement.

Tuesday night’s going to be a long one, and whenever I collapse, it won’t be over. But at some point on Wednesday, there’s going to be a new dawn for America, and maybe for the world.

*Edited to add:* It’s actually ‘wondering what November’s gonna bring’.