Open Commentary

December 16th, 2008

Okay, I've turned on free no-approval comments for this blog. I'll change that if blogspam starts to show up.

Fried Chicken and Cucumbers

December 15th, 2008

So, I was reading Brad DeLong's blog, and he links to Matthew Yglesias, who links to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who says that white people eat cucumber sandwiches.

Which is fine. I keep hoping for a world where we can bring up racial stereotypes and all have a good laugh at how they are both true and false at the same time. I myself detest cucumber; it ruins otherwise excellent sushi, for instance. There are those who find themselves puzzled at my detestation for cucumber, and claim that, like vodka, it has no real taste, so how can I despise it? And those people are dead wrong, for cucumber and vodka both have a strong taste, namely, "yucky".

Though I do love pickles.

Anyhow, one of Ta-Nehisi's commentators observes something very true: what's the deal with the stereotype of black people loving fried chicken? Everyone loves fried chicken! If one were to single out black food, one could choose collard greens and grits, perhaps, though those are more American Southern than American Black... but who in the entire world does not love fried chicken?

I pose the question to you, dear readers. Both of you. Do you know anyone, of any race, who doesn't like fried chicken? Not counting vegetarians, who I think we can safely assume also love fried chicken but don't eat it. Or people on their third heart attack who are forgoing fatty foods. We're talking purely about taste here, people. I don't know anyone, anyone at all, who would turn down good fried chicken because they don't like the taste. Do you?

Hyperinflation

December 10th, 2008

It's on a website called "humorland", but there's something deeply sad about seeing the hyperinflation in Zimbabwe laid out in real pictures.

Attack of the Invisible Hand of the Free Market

December 10th, 2008

I do love me some Tom Tomorrow. If I am fortunate, I will be able to get that comic on a shirt!

Reviews: The Lies of Locke Lamora and A Canticle for Leibowitz

December 9th, 2008

The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. 7/10

Someone described this book as a fantasy novel setting for Ocean's Eleven, which is a decent starting point. It's a good read; enjoyable characters, an interesting setting, quality writing. In fact, it is one of those books that could have been awesome except for a couple of major flaws.

First, the setting is a little too over the top. Everything is superlative - the poor are too poor, the rich are too rich, the don is too powerful and the protagonists, too good. None of these qualities are a problem in and of themselves, but they aren't conclusions the reader is led to make on their own - they're forced on you and they make the book sort of hollow, a gaudy egg lacking in meat. There's no middle class nor middle ground.

Secondly, and more catastrophically, the villain is omniscient. There's something valid in saying that, when suddenly caught up in the machinations of someone else's plan, one might be blindsided and unprepared. But in this case, the bad guy comes out of left field and seemingly knows everything. It was too much to swallow. I like a powerful bad guy as much as the next reader, but this really broke the book.

So I haven't picked up the sequel, despite flipping through it at the bookstore.

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller. 7.5/10

One is always on treacherous ground when reviewing a classic. Canticle came out in 1959, and a lot of what made it ground-breaking and visionary has been absorbed into popular culture. As has been said about Stagecoach, sure it's cliched - it was so compelling that people kept borrowing from it. When it came out, it was visionary.

Canticle is compelling, and interesting, and very well-written. The characters are very real and the story (correctly) doesn't lecture or provide backstory beyond that which is immediately relevant; it shows, it doesn't tell. On the other hand, it is aggressively depressing, and my personal tastes don't run that way. If you like depressing books, tack on another point.

The story is actually tripartite, told in three pieces each separated by several hundred years. It works, but ultimately stands more as an observation on humanity rather than a story per se. That's not a condemnation, but a truly awesome book would have been both.