Excession, by Iain Banks

5b1d75b5046bf80027061190First of my Christmas sci-fi books to be finished was Excession, by Iain Banks. Enjoyable but unlike others I found the exchanges between ship-minds to not be very interesting. They seem modeled entirely on message board banter of computer programmers. What is so interesting about that? Several plot lines seemed to never be tied up, several characters really had little to contribute. The Affront paradox never really gets resolved: can an author pose a major philosophical problem like that and then just pretend that it goes away? So the novel raises lots of interesting questions and has many great scenes and some good characters and complications. But for sci-fi fans only, I suppose.

Posted in Book and film reviews

I listened. The Republicans are not saying much. Rep. Sensenbrenner (R,WI) offers an oped in the New York Times

I posted this on Twitter and though I would have as coherent paragraph. A quick response to  Rep. Sensenbrenner (R,WI) oped.

Sensenbrenner purports to explain why he voted against the articles of impeachment. I wanted to carefully review his argument. He starts by saying that Kenneth Starr, independent counsel in Clinton case, conducted a very lengthy and nonpartisan investigation. Sensebrenner does not mention the Mueller report, nor applaud Mueller’s circumspection in leaving to Congress to determine whether there were impeachable offenses. He says “grand jury perjury was an impeachable offense” in Clinton case, but does not say whether he thinks secretly soliciting aid from a foreign government in investigating a rival is also, in his view, an impeachable offense. He then goes into several irrelevant paragraphs. (1) Many Democrats said they wanted to impeach Trump. OK… maybe they said that because President Trump pre-election repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of President Obama saying he was not born in the U.S.? So that is just rhetoric. Irrelevant para (2) – he says Trump “robbed of due process”…. pretty clear to any citizen that Pres. Trump remains perfectly free to go to court if his “rights” were violated. This is a “broad and flimsy” charge (see next…) Irrelevant para (3) – in his view articles are broad and flimsy, esp. article II because Democrats failed to let a court decide executive privilege… just like Sensebrenner rushed to declare “due process” violations before a court decided? Irrelevant para (4) “none of the articles allege that the president committed a crime.” Sensenbrenner could but does not tell us whether he thinks the primary charge of secretly soliciting aid from a foreign government in investigating a rival and using his office to further that aim is an impeachable offense against the oath of office Irrelevant para (5) Back at the ‘Democrats are bad.” And everyone should just wait until next Nov election.

So basically, he says nothing about the actual charges. Sorry, Republicans, you will have to do better than that. Please address the evidence directly.

Posted in Burkina Faso, United States

Greatest song ever recorded, for its voice, and lilting but complex melody: Myan Myan by Coupé Cloué

One of the comments: “J’en ai les larmes qui coulent, je pense à mes parents, notamment à mon tendre et cher papa, toute mon enfance se résume dans ses chansons.”

“Jean Gesner Henry (May 10, 1925 – January 29, 1998), popularly known as Coupé Cloué, was a Haïtian singer, guitarist, and bandleader. He was known for defining a style of Haïtian compas music he called kompa mamba, and for the sometimes bawdy innuendo used in his songs. During his career, he was one of Haïti’s most prominent musicians, and found much success in West Africa as well.”

Posted in Burkina Faso, Music

“Sevastopol” by Emilio Fraia in The New Yorker

A very intellectual meta short story about the nature of stories. Some Borges, some Tolstoy, some Rayuela. I read it with intellectual interest, but at the end there was (for me) no emotional resonance. So what does one do with that? The very lyrical ending was wonderful. Fraia is a writer of talent and the translation by Zoe Perry seems excellent, Worth re-reading, esp. in light of LeClezio’s Nobel address The Forest of Paradoxes.  See more at Mookse blog.

Posted in Book and film reviews

Recent reading

Elnathan John, Born on a Tuesday. I wrote this on Twitter, which seems enough: Finished Elnathan John’s novel Born on a Tuesday yesterday. Very powerful, great straightforward prose, keen insights. A tiny bit derivative of Allah n’est pas obligé but let’s call it sampling… Really worth reading. Guardian review here.

John LeCarre, A Legacy of Spies. Opened well, gripped me, until started to get maudlin and unintelligible towards the end. When the great “love of your life” is someone you only meet once, and pass an “enchanted” night with her, you know you are in the hands of some British dude-guy whose idea of men and women and their relationships was shaped by some Anglican cleric who was never in a relationship.

F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, Babylon Revisited. A couple of drunks from Charlie’s past ruin his plan to take back his daughter. I’m happy for the daughter, who will grow up idolizing “Dads” and hating “Aunt,” and thus be able to write interesting short stories when she majors in English at Barnard. That isn’t fair to “Scottie” but there it is.

A&P by John Updike. I had read this before, several times. But it captures something essential about white middle American life in the mid 1960s….

Posted in Book and film reviews

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Very long. For the first 300 pages I was really enjoying it. My kind of novel: some science fiction (AI surveilled society), some time travel (to ancient times), some style (I had just finished Chandler, and as first Harkaway channeled some of that), lots of wordplay, and very intellectual. But… it went on and on, and after awhile I was jumping chunks of 3-4 pages, nope, nope, nope…. So where Jorge Luis Borges could have crafted the same story into 40 pages, Gnomon is about 670. I don’t regret spending a couple weeks on it. But you might.

Posted in Book and film reviews

Remembering the hope of 2011 in Sudan and South Sudan

Posted in Sudan