Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rumpole and the angel of death by John Mortimer

Rumpole and the angel of death by John Mortimer contains several humorous short stories about the British barrister Horace Rumpole. The mysteries here are not particularly complex which is actually nice. It seems like a lot of authors these days think they have to do extremely complicated things. Most of the stories turn on the frailty of people. There's some social commentary mixed in as well modern society political correctness, modern business practices, terrorism and euthanasia. The characters are basically parities but they are quite funny.


Is available through Abebooks.

British battlefields: The Midlands. Where Battles Were Fought, Why They Were Fought, How They Were Won and Lost by Philip Warner

British battlefields: The Midlands. Where Battles Were Fought, Why They Were Fought, How They Were Won and Lost by Philip Warner describes the battles that took place in the British Midlands. The battles are from Roman times, the Viking invasion, Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War. The descriptions are vivid with references that would make using the book as a travel guide possible at least when it was originally published in the 1970s. I believe this was the intention. It's still usable has a history. There are other books in the series that cover the other geographical areas of Britain.

The book does not reference sources for most of its material. There is an appendix that contains some of the primary sources which is nice. This was published by Osprey prior to their fascination with illustrations and the like.


Is available through Abebooks.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The African Safari Papers by Robert Sedlack

The African Safari Papers by Robert Sedlack is a novel that describes a dysfunctional families trip to Africa. The more I write the more angry I get so I'll just say that this has pretensions of literature and uses every single shortcut to try to get their including addiction/abuse/mental illness instead of actual characterization. There is a preoccupation with sex including actual incest. Apparently this was shortlisted for the Commonwealth writing prize. If this is the best of the field I'm terrified.

Very unrecommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager

The Last Duel: A True Story of Crime, Scandal, and Trial by Combat in Medieval France by Eric Jager describes the final judicial duel in Paris which took place in 1386. The case was a claim of rape. The husband of the victim challenging her attacker. They were both members of the retinue of a French noble. The book is pretty short. It is an interesting topic the execution is a little wanting though.

The author who is an academic an English professor by training tends to take some liberties when discussing the motivations and feelings of the individuals. Some of these views don't seem to me supported by sources. We occasionally get "he thought" and the like even though there are no primary sources written by the claimants. There are endnotes. The author has obviously spent a lot of time in the archives. I would have appreciate it a longer treatment with perhaps more prospective on the legal concept underpinning the combat.


Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One-year anniversary

Today is my blogs one-year anniversary. In that time it has gone through a name change as well as a change in scope. This is the 256th post. I've written book reviews on 125 books in that time. I also manage to make an earth shattering $23 off referral links. I've received 3,800 unique visitors and 5,200 page views. Hopefully the next year I'll be able to beat these statistics. Thanks to everybody who's visited, commented and linked here over the past year I appreciate it.


Congratulations to Kelly and Darren on their marriage. An excellent ceremony with wonderful food. I was able to talk to a lot of people I haven't in a while. I know you will be very happy together. And I even was able to tell some stories and managed not to offend anybody. Which is good.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Harry is not going

So Harry is not going. Can't say I'm shocked with the decision or the rhetoric. "It was the media's fault". So why exactly did they waste all that time and money if he was just going to patrol a desk somewhere.?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lest we forget what this bigot said

"I do question the sincerity and non-violent intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations." Jerry Falwell on the civil rights movement.

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen." Jerry Falwell on 9/11.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Gilles Duceppe's humiliation

Gilles Duceppe must be feeling pretty bad tonight. One-day after announcing his run for the leadership of the Parti Quebecois he's been forced to withdraw because he simply did not have the support to win. This will be very interesting to see how the Bloc Quebecois reacts. They can't be too happy tonight.

So much for Stephen Harper having a quiet summer. After all no election with a BQ that was leaderless. That calculation just went out the window.

CTV NewsNet has coverage going at the moment both CBC and Global don't. You figure somebody would be around at CBC Newsworld to put up something.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tolkien and unexpected consequences of wars

Over on David Louis Edelman's blog he's reading through the complete works of J. R. R. Tolkien. He has some interesting comments on comparing the Silmarillion to The Hobbit. Basically the Hobbit is pretty uneven. There is a nasty transition from children's tale to borderline postmodern novel particularly how the post conflict world is treated he concludes with this comment.
Actually, if you want to think about it another way, The Hobbit provides a nice little allegory to the U.S. situation in Iraq.
He then lists various comparisons. This is not only allegory for the Iraqi adventure but for just about any war.. Let's take three examples.
  • American Civil War. Crushing northern victory followed by abject failure during Reconstruction leading to one century of Jim Crow laws.
  • World War I leads to the rise of Communism and Fascism.
  • World War II is followed by increasing communism which led to a multigenerational conflict the Cold War and the final dissolution of European empires French, British and Dutch.
You can probably come up with other examples feel free to list in the comments if you want. Wars are invariably turning points of history even if our social historian friends don't want to admit it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Anyone surprised by this?

Second Life 'child abuse' claim just a matter of time.

update: Naturally the suggestion that there might actually be some legal requirements in the real world that could impact the game has some users write choked. I won't even get into the stupidity of suggesting it is somehow independent of the real world.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Rich and desperate

Paris Hilton really does not want to go to jail. Apparently if you're PR person Elliot Mintz tells you something you have to do what they say without you know like checking on it with your lawyer. Then to show your really angry at him fire him then when you can't find a replacement rehire him.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"effort by government to discredit Mr. Bartleman."

The Air India bombing inquiry is back under way and not surprisingly more bureaucratic infighting was inevitable. I'm rather surprised the judge felt the need to make this rather blunt statement at this time. This report should be very interesting, how much of it the new government of Canada decides to make public will be a separate issue.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Pentagon and the Art of War: The Question of Military Reform by Edward N. Luttwak

The Pentagon and the Art of War: The Question of Military Reform by Edward N. Luttwak describes the bureaucratic disaster that was the United States military in the 1980s. Many of the criticisms Luttwak levels at the military such as short-term deployments and a lack of interest in military science is still valid today.

There are a few strange comments along the way for instance that multiple similar weapons platforms should be maintained for a strategic advantage. This would cause logistical issues.

The solution he suggests is a form of unification at least at the higher levels. Considering the ongoing whining about this in the Canadian Forces I don't think it was practical than or now for the American military.


Is available through Abebooks.

Who has seen the wind by W.O. Mitchell

Who has seen the wind by W.O. Mitchell is the quintessential western Canadian prairie novel. In it a young boy learns about life and death, mostly death. The prairie setting is everything in this work. A very interesting example of how setting can shape a story. The characters are flushed out particularly the main character Brian O'Connal. Who is perhaps a little too much the brat.. He goes through various stages of learning about how life begins and ends. This is done through a series of lessons. The death of his pets, father and finally grandmother. The ending does seem rather contrived unfortunately.

That being said highly recommended even if you've never experienced the prairie wind.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

New blog in the sidebar

Usually when I come across a new blog I read a few weeks of postings then decide whether or not to read it from now on. So it's very unusual for me to actually go through posts back to 2005 and there are over 1000 of them. The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent is that good The author is a senior editor at the American Science Fiction Book Club and puts out excellent reviews of science fiction, fantasy and mystery material. I've wanted to reconnect with science fiction something I haven't purchased a lot of lately. When navigating the field this is an excellent resource. He has a larger TBR pile then I do which somehow makes me feel better about myself. It doesn't hurt that I tend to agree with his perspectives on publishing and the state of the genre [for instance the recent controversy over female representation in magazines and awards lists]. Anyway good reading.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Saddam's Iraq like today's Iraq for doctors anyway

According to this Washington Post story the current Iraqi administration in their infinite wisdom has started refusing to give out diplomas and transcripts to prevent doctors from leaving the country. This is something Saddam did.

Nouri al-Maliki is really getting desperate. I rather doubt this will have much effect. Apparently most refugees from Iraq aren't exactly doing white-collar jobs in their new country's anyway. But here are the statistics from the Iraqi Medical Association that were in the article.
The Iraqi Medical Association, with which all physicians must register to practice, estimates that at least one-third of the country's 40,000 or so doctors have fled to Jordan, Syria and other countries. Waleed Khalid, the association's vice president, said the organization issues 30 to 50 "certificates of good standing" to Iraqi physicians every day -- forms that any doctor must have to work abroad, he said.
Interesting historical note. One of the final attempts of the Roman Empire in the West to hang on was to attempt to stop people from changing jobs. Suffice it to say it didn't work.

New design

I finally redesigned the blog with one of bloger's templates. Mostly because I wanted to be able to add the list of labels in the sidebar. I'll be adding labels to older posts as time goes on. All of the content is still there. Let me know what you think. I tried to keep it as close to the old look as possible.

I hope to post something new every day. I guess we'll see how long that lasts.

Quotation [occasional]

"I think she has wanted to disregard everything that was said and continued to drive no matter what." Superior Court judge Michael Sauer on sentencing Paris Hilton to 45 days in jail.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Gurkhas by Byron Farwell

The Gurkhas by Byron Farwell describes the history of these mercenaries from Nepal. The book was published in 1987.

the history of the units is laid out with particular reference to their operations in the first and second world wars. For instance in the Middle East and France in the first world war, North Africa Burma and Italy in the second. There's also coverage of their participation in the various colonial wars during the 19th century and post-1945 operations such as in the Malayan emergency and Falklands.

The confusing and tragic independence of India and Pakistan is mentioned as well as the problems in transferring some of the Gurkhas to Indian and Pakistani control.

Unfortunately there are no endnotes but there is a bibliography of sources as well as a discussion of the different tribes and unit designations.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

70 million book, 1 click away

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Brief History of Mutiny by Richard Woodman

A Brief History of Mutiny by Richard Woodman describes the major examples of naval mutiny from the 15th through 20th century. In this book there are descriptions of the classic mutinies such as those against Magellan, Drake, the Bounty and Potemkin. There isn't much as far as new scholarship goes but the book provides a nice summary. There is also coverage of more obscure examples that took place within the Turkish and American fleets. The book contains a bibliography but no endnotes. There is a glossary with descriptions of naval terms.

A decent summary on an interesting topic.