Saturday, August 21, 2004


Semi-Fortnightly Short Shrift

Busy weekend with company visiting, lunch and dinner with friends, some jams and jellying, enough to keep posting pretty light this weekend. The transportation thread will probably return on Monday. Which brings up a minor reminiscence (geez, what a surprise). I remember walking around during a lunch hour one day during college and stumbling across a massive labor rally, and Harry Van Arsdale was got up and spoke (read as exhorted) the crowd and got a reception worthy of a Nuremberg rally. For those of you who might think only of Van Arsdale as an exit on the Grand Central Parkway, he was one of those old-time union bosses who made New York City tick. I actually kind of miss those guys, as they knew how to deal with the power brokers (Van Arsdale and Robert Moses were great buddies, since for every expressway and bridge there were lots of union jobs) and they really made monkeys out of the idiots who occupied Gracie Mansion. A good example was Mike Quill, who instigated the big transit strike in 1966, and insisted on mispronouncing John Lindsay's name as "Lindsley" just to show his disregard for him. Old John Vliet really took it on the chin from some of those guys, not that he didn't richly deserve it. You had to love the way Albert Shanker really made Lindsay's blood boil, even if you know the unions were padding the payroll and clobbering productivity. However, I guess my personal favorite story regarding John Lindsay really doesn't involve him at all, except peripherally. When John and Mary Lindsay were introduced to Yogi Berra at a reception, Mrs. Lindsay remarked to Yogi on how cool he looked (remember, this was the 60s). Whereupon Yogi responded, "Thanks, you don't look so hot yourself".

The book du jour is The Battles Of Corrin by Brian Herbert. A lot of people have expressed dissatisfaction with the Dune prequels put out by Herbert, but they actually go a very long way in explaining and clarifying a lot of the storyline and concepts that occur in the classic Dune trilogy. There's a great explanation on the origin of the Navigators in this volume. The previous book (Machine Crusade) was a bit disappointing, however, the read so far (I'm about 1/3 of the way through it) is fast-paced and entertaining enough. There could be a legitimate criticism about predictability here, however, since it's a prequel, you know that it has to agree with the history of the main trilogy.

Keeping on the sci-fi novel theme, I've also taken a look at Harry Turtledove's Return Engagement, the latest in his alternate history of an ongoing war between the USA and the Confederacy. He's gotten up to the World War II analogue now, and the bad guys in the CSA bear an awfully strong resemblance to certain nasty Central European characters in real history. I've always been a sucker for alternate histories, and Turteldove's first take on a USA - CSA alternate history ("The Guns Of The South") was an absolute masterpiece, but this series suffers from one of Turtledove's main flaws, too many characters and plot threads to keep track of. It's interesting to see how Turtledove works in real people, such as Al Smith, FDR, and George Patton, but the most interesting storylines rarely intersect in these books (they do occasionally, and the results can be satisfying), but this one is probably best borrowed from the library.

Finally, the howler of the day. Mrs. Ritchie gave the soon-to-be Mrs. Federline a rare 12th century Jewish text. The money quote from the article:
"Britney was delighted with the book. She has read it thoroughly and seems completely taken with it."

I don't think the Zohar was translated into English in the 12th century, and if you ever read Canterbury Tales in the original Medieval English, you know how different it is from modern English. Therefore, the soon-to-be Mrs. Federline read it in the original Hebrew or Aramaic. I have one Yiddish lesson for the soon-to-be Mrs. Federline, "Zeit nisht mishegoss!".


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