Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Historic Hugos

August 24, 2018

So, recently, the 76th Hugos happened, and contained a historic event: N.K. Jemisin won her third straight “Best Novel” Hugo, having won a Hugo for each of the books in her “Broken Earth” trilogy. Both “sides” in the recent Hugo/Sci-Fi conflict immediately declared victory, with The Guardian declaring that her win “signals and end to the influence of the rightwing “Puppies” groups” — despite the fact that her first win came when they were definitely active and influencing things (triggering a rules change) and her second win probably did as well — while Vox Day declared that that is what victory looks like, because her triple win shows that the Hugos have no credibility. So, with both sides declaring victory and both sides being willing to accuse the other of claiming victory only to avoid admitting defeat — or, as is more likely to be the case coming from Day, that they are too stupid to realize that they actually lost — which side is right? In my view, I think that Vox Day’s side is more right. Why do I say that? Well, as Tony Dunst might say, let’s break it down:

What is responsible for Jemisin’s historic run of Hugo Award dominance? Well, what the anti-Puppy side would like you to believe is that she won that strictly on her own merits: she really is that good. Of course, I read the first book in her trilogy and wasn’t that impressed, but let’s put that aside for the moment and think about just how good she had to be to have this historic run simply on the basis of merit. She has won three straight Hugo Awards in three years, for each of the books in her trilogy. Winning three Hugos in a writing career is pretty impressive: looking it up on Google, Roger Zelazny only won two for Best Novel in his career (although he won a number of Hugos for novellas and novelettes), and none of those were for any of the books in his most famous work, the Amber series. He also was, in his career, 6 out of 17 in terms of winning when he was nominated, while Jemisin is 3 out of 6, which is an impressive win to nomination ratio. So even over an entire career Jemisin would have had an astounding achievement. To win a Hugo for each novel in a trilogy is also incredibly impressive; I don’t think it happens very often, if at all (I’m not inclined to Google to see if it has ever happened before, but again it’s almost certainly very rare). And she managed to churn out each novel in the trilogy in the span of three years, which is what allowed her to win three years in a row. Now, the thing is, writing good novels takes work. Jemisin herself says in her acceptance speech that she “works [her] ass off”. But work does not happen in a timeless vacuum. Work takes time. There’s editing, rewriting, reworking, proofing and a ton of other things that go into creating a novel. More skill, however, reduces this time. So Jemisin was able to shorten down the writing time sufficiently to get them out at a level of quality that trumped all other novels out there, including ones that had taken more time to edit and polish their works to get them into their presumably ideal states. Thus, Jemisin was able to produce works of such high quality while arguably not taking as much time to refine them as others did … three years in a row.

To judge this entirely on merit suggests, given all of that, that Jemisin would have to be the greatest science fiction and fantasy author who ever existed by a huge amount. Sure, to return to the comparison to Zelazny, he had nominations for multiple works in the same years and had nominations for consecutive years, some of which he won in both while Jemisin didn’t seem to do anything else in those years (or, at least, nothing that was nominated this year) but to not have anything else break her streak or to have a downturn in the quality of one of the works, again, would reflect incredible talent. And that isn’t all that plausible, even if you haven’t read her works.

So, another possibility is that while she had merit, the more plausible reason for her success is that there wasn’t really all that much competition. She was good and the alternatives were mediocre, and so she managed to get there because, really, every time the voting came around there just wasn’t anything better, but she shouldn’t really be considered that much of a historic great. This, to my recollection, is what happened with Steve Nash in the NBA. He’s a great player, and deserved to win the NBA MVP awards that he won, and almost did the same as Jemisin and won three straight which would have been historic, but few consider him to be the same caliber of superstar as Michael Jordan or Lebron James or Wilt Chamberlain or any of the other greats, and of the other greats that his winning the MVP award back-to-back places him in the same sentence as. In fact, I recall that when he looked like he might win the award back-to-back-to-back there was consternation for precisely that reason: he was getting it because he was the best available in all of those years, but his winning it would place him in a rarefied position that would imply that he was more of a superstar than he really was in historical context. (Meanwhile, the Hugos seem to be embracing that, definitely trying to imply the first case for Jemisin). But his back-to-back wins were seen as more a reflection of a lack of dominate competition than a straight reflection on his overall skills and dominance itself.

Now, given what I thought of the “Best Novel” nominees for the year she first won, this could be a plausible explanation. Jemisin’s work was good — or, at least, really, really liked by a large number of people — and there was no competition strong enough to overcome that and make it a challenge. This, of course, would not reflect well on modern science fiction and fantasy, and on top of that would mean throwing other authors like Naomi Novik, Anne Leckie, Jim Butcher and John Scalzi under the bus. And I do believe that Novik, Leckie and Butcher are all better at the writer’s craft than Jemisin, at least, even if their works aren’t necessarily more interesting or better overall. So claiming that they just weren’t very good writers or their work just wasn’t up to snuff seems odd; surely someone out there somewhere in science fiction land could write a work that deserved to win and was as good if not better than hers, especially since, well, her work doesn’t seem like that much of an overwhelming classic to me.

So, then, we can go back to the overarching debate and the fight against the Puppies, and come to what I think is the most plausible reason: she won to tweak the nose of the Puppies, and especially the nose of Vox Day. It seems like far too much of a coincidence that the person who came out on top here is the same person that, out of all the candidates, Vox Day most hates. He advocated for no awarding “The Fifth Element” and almost certainly all of the books in her trilogy and nastily insulted her at one point with an insult that he keeps repeating pretty much any time he talks about her. His feud with John Scalzi — who came in second this year — is civilized compared to how he treats her. So it is reasonable to think that a large factor in her wins are people, consciously or unconsciously, thinking about how much it would tick Day off to have her, the one he most dislikes, be the one to win and, presumably, to frustrate all of his designs … at which point he replies that having someone like that win three times in a row pretty much satisfies them, showing that it isn’t talent but politics that determines who wins the awards.

And that’s the real issue here, and why I think that Day’s side is more reasonable in declaring victory. For Jemisin to win three times in a row for all three books in her trilogy simply on merit is something that strains credulity. As her works, to most people, won’t rise above “Okay” — they may rise above that for people who have a personal interest in her themes — people will see this historic win — and everyone is going to want to advertise that historic win — and if they have managed to ignore all of the things that have been going on to this point will decide to try it out, and read these historically good works. This is the result of hype, which anyone trying to sell a product loves. But the problem with hype is that it sets out expectations, expectations that a merely “Okay” work won’t be able to fulfill. And so new people will read it, see that it’s not that historically brilliant … and wonder what was wrong with the Hugos to claim that the trilogy was simply that good to deserve its historic ranking. And thus will wonder what I already wondered: can I trust that Hugo Award really indicates the level of quality that it implies or has implied in the past?

Defenders of Jemisin and of the Hugos want to appeal to the Hugo Awards she’s won as a sign that her works are good, and by extension that, as she herself said in her speech, that minority authors can produce work that can be enjoyed by people who are not minorities themselves and so can be, presumably, marketable. Putting aside that it’s sales that matter there and not awards (I tried be failed to find sales figures for those books), that only works if people think that getting a Hugo Award is really an indication of quality. To elevate Jemisin’s works to such an astoundingly high level of quality that she achieves something that even the greats couldn’t do will hurt that because I think it safe to say that while some people may indeed enjoy them to that level they aren’t objectively at that level. I mean, “The Lord of the Rings” is almost certainly not that good. “Dune” is almost certainly not that good. Zelazny’s “Amber” series is not that good. None of the classic series or authors have ever managed to hit that level, and I don’t think Jemisin’s work is objectively that good. For some, it may be their favourite series ever, but it’s not the sort of series that everyone will agree is a classic above and beyond all other works ever even if they themselves don’t like it. And that’s what the wins imply.

Thus, this will weaken the credibility of the Hugos. Most people will have no rational choice but to conclude that it was some other factor than pure merit that is responsible for her win, because even if they haven’t read the trilogy it being simply that good is too incredible to believe. And then if they know or hear about the political battles — that the Guardian and Jemisin herself are quick to remind everyone of — they will naturally conclude that that was the main factor. And then the Hugos will be seen as politicized as opposed to merit-based. And that’s what both Puppies groups at least claimed was true of the Hugos and what their main gripe was. And if that’s what they wanted, this then would have proved their case.

That sounds like a victory, if not entirely the one they wanted. And I don’t see what other victory the anti-Puppies have that could balance that.

As for me … I have hundreds of books sitting in my spare room to read, along with hundreds more less interesting ones sitting in my basement. I think I’ll stick with them.

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Thoughts on “The Storm of War”

August 17, 2018

So, I finished reading “The Storm of War” by Andrew Roberts. In a way, his book is directly comparable to Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, since it seems to recount WWII in a similar way, and with at least a potentially similar dual role: give an explanation for why the various “empires” fell while describing in some detail the events that occurred during it. But, at the end of it all, “The Storm of War” is a much more accessible work.

The biggest disappointment with the work is that while it starts out by claiming that what it is going to do is argue for a reason why Hitler failed, and at times reminds us that it is trying to do that at various points throughout the work, including in the conclusion, Roberts doesn’t, in fact, spend all that much time doing that. Most of the book is a fairly straight examination of the events that occurred in WWII, with little link to his actual thesis, and so most of the time you can forget what his actual thesis is. On top of that, his actual thesis is a relatively uncontroversial one: that the main impediment to Hitler and the Nazis actually achieving their goals was their own ideology, which caused them to not properly exploit the tensions in the Soviet Union by treating its subjugated peoples better and caused a number of other errors. This isn’t all that controversial in and of itself, so to make that interesting Roberts would have had to have given new evidence or new arguments or show how it caused their failures in a new and unique way. But since he gives it so little attention, he never does. This really makes his thesis seem like a “Well, we knew that already!” sort of conclusion. Thus, it’s probably better, if that was all he had, that he didn’t focus on it all that much.

And that, I think, is partly why it works better than Gibbon’s work. Roberts focuses on telling the story of WWII and telling it in an interesting and accessible way. He doesn’t bog things down with too many details — and, in fact, at times he seems to only lightly skim over some events — but that works for the book. If you want to find out the details of various events there are lots of other books that can provide that, but here you get a deeper look than most simple textbooks will give but not so deep a look that it gets bogged down. Without having a specific focus — like, say, “War at Sea” or “The Decisive Duel” have — it can’t really be expected to do much more. Thus, it’s a pretty entertaining and easy read.

Next up is “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” for something like the fourth time. This time, though, what will be interesting is that I’ll be re-reading it right after reading another book on WWII. Will that much WWII end up boring me? Will I notice discrepancies between the two, or will they all generally agree? I’ll have to see when I get through that book.

My Lists Are Long …

August 3, 2018

So, I’ve talked about the lists I’ve updated and created to try and get things done. The three lists that are on the blog are, well, all rather long, and also aren’t entirely complete. For example, I only have three hourly shows listed on my list of shows to watch on DVD despite the fact that I do indeed have a rather large library of DVDs to watch, that contain both shows that I’ve never watched and shows that I have watched but really want to watch again. In fact, I’m not sure that I’ll return to Knight Rider after finishing Dynasty, and so it might not even be accurate (the half-hour list is pretty much right). And when it comes to my reading list, I have a large number of philosophical works listed and, on top of that, have a number of works that count as “literature” that I want to slide in there at some point. Oh, and I’ve already mentioned the six+ boxes of fiction that I want to read. Essentially, I’m setting up lists that, if I try to complete everything on them, will likely take me years to complete.

I might be overthinking this a little …

That being said, I am making progress. I’ve made good progress on the history books that I wanted to complete, and so can expect to finish the list in a couple of months or so. He-Man has stalled a little since I started slipping Dynasty in as well, but that’s only because I’ve taken time away from it to watch Dynasty, which means that I’m about half-way through it. All I really need to do is live up to my bargain and actually watch the half-hour show in the evenings, after watching one or more episodes of the hourly show and hitting a convenient time point. And I’ve still made some progress on He-Man anyway, especially in the last few days. Finishing Persona was a coup, and I’ve started Persona 2 and am making progress with it … although it turns out that games are working out the worst, because every time I play Persona 2 it reminds me of how much better Persona 3 and Persona 4 are, and a number of things keep reminding me of other games that I’d like to play. Thus, I feel the most dissatisfied with the games I’m playing, and there actually isn’t an alternative like I had with “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, which was to read it for an hour or so and then read Deadpool graphic novels in my general reading time. I don’t have free general game playing time nor do I have a lot of games that I could play in general spare time to at least let me play a game that I want to play or enjoy. The counter to that is that for video games there are far fewer games that would make me feel that way; Persona 2 is just a special case, and only because I like the modern Persona games that much more than them that it drags down my enjoyment of those games.

However, an issue with this is that I have little programming projects in the queue as well, but the pressure to finish these things tends to distract me from doing them. It’s not so much that I consider those things more important than the programming projects, but that I consider them at about the same level, and due to time constraints it doesn’t really work to do them in the early weekend afternoons like I had planned. What I’m finding is that my morning stuff plus cooking lunch plus cleaning up takes me just past the starting point for those projects, but then that wouldn’t leave me a lot of time before I’m supposed to play games (and I only have a few days to do that as well). I don’t want to delay playing games because a) I need the hours to get through them in any reasonable amount of time and b) I don’t want to play them too late because then I might not fall asleep that well. Plus, playing them too late would also cut into the time I can explicitly watch those DVDs. So it’s just easier for me to start playing earlier and then finish earlier, and I still get my watching and reading done as well. It just ends up cutting off all of those little projects, which then makes me feel bad that I’m doing nothing on them.

I think a reshuffling of my schedule is in the offing …

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how I progress with this and how satisfied I’ll be with the whole thing as time goes by. So far it hasn’t been terrible and it has been nice to finish some things that I’ve always wanted to finish, but there have been moments when the things that are supposed to be mostly fun haven’t actually been fun. We’ll have to see if they’re fun enough for me to still have some fun with things while still feeling that I’m progressing.

Thoughts on “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”

July 25, 2018

So, I managed to finish a version of “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Edward Gibbon that was abridged by Hugh Trevor-Roper. I found that I really struggled to read the book, so much so that I ended up treating reading it like I was reading something for a course: I read about a chapter a day, and read other things in my more general reading time. This is not how I generally read history books. And all of this is despite the fact that I am in general interested in the Roman Empire. So what was it that so bored me about that book?

I think the main issue is that the books doesn’t really seem to have a focus. Gibbon uses lots of florid and evocative language and a lot of descriptive asides, which is not a bad thing, as long as we have a context for it. But Gibbon doesn’t seem to be just writing a descriptive narrative, telling us what happened in roughly chronological order, where we can see the asides as things that happen to come up in that discussion. He doesn’t even always follow a chronological order. However, he also doesn’t seem to have an overall thesis that he’s trying to convince us of, such as giving an explanation for why the Roman Empire fell that he is trying to prove, where we can see the asides as the details of things that we need to know to understand in order to see how the events fit into his thesis. So the descriptive asides are too long and detailed to be simply ignored as asides, but don’t seem to serve either the narrative of the events themselves or the overall thesis of the work. Because of that, I think I kept wondering why they were there and so felt that they were out of place and distracting from the book itself. If I was interested in what the asides were describing, it went better, but still the book really did seem to drag at times, which is why I enjoyed it more when I limited how much I was reading it.

My opinion is that the book would work well as a textbook, but not as a book that is just read. The descriptions and language mostly work, but what it lacks is the context to keep the descriptions interesting. As a textbook, the teacher/professor and the structure of the course would provide the context and allow the reader to skip over things that don’t add to the context they’re exploring. Trying to do this yourself for the entire work is far too difficult, especially since the events described might not fit what you’re interested in and so you’d be constantly struggling to find some meaning in what you’re reading, which is, well, pretty much what happened to me, actually.

I don’t regret reading the book, but I am very happy that I’ve finished it and am almost certainly never going to read it again.

Accomplished …

July 4, 2018

So, I think the best way to describe the mode I’m in right now is that my main push is to “accomplish” things. In short, to get the things done or do the things that I’ve wanted to do for ages and so now I’m deliberately planning for that, with my revamped reading list, my list of video games, and even my list of dvds to watch. I’m not merely trying to finish things that I’ve been wanting to finish — which is what I did before — but instead have been listing all of the things that I want to do, even if that’s to re-read, re-watch, or replay something that I’ve been looking to experience again for a long time. That’s even what drove my trying to slot hour long shows into my gaming time, and now to carve out an hour or so out of my evenings to watch Dynasty there, just so that I have a chance to watch it and get it done.

The problem is that, well, these sorts of things are really supposed to be in my leisure time, and sometimes doing that isn’t all that much fun. Or, rather, it’s not as much fun as the many, many other things that I could do in that time.

For example, right now I’m reading the abridged version of “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. The book is, well, not terrible, but not terribly fun. But I’m soldering through it because I’ve owned it for years and never really go all that far in it, and I want to finally finish it and put it behind me. But I can look at the stack of books to follow it, and know that at least the next two are going to be far more interesting than it is right now, and so can’t help but think that there are much better books that I could be reading right now. This is not helped by the fact that the previous two books that were on the list were not as good as I remembered. Oh, and I also went through my collection of books and gathered six boxes of fiction books that I want to read at some point once I get off this non-fiction run, which doesn’t even include the old favourites like the X-Wing books and the Wing Commander books that I will indeed read likely at some point this year. So every time I pick up that book, I can’t help but be reminded of all of the other books I have available that I could be reading instead. This does not make me more favourably inclined towards that book [grin].

The same thing can be said for video games right now. I’m playing Persona right now, which is a game that I really wanted to finish at some point, and is one of the games that I was annoyed over losing access to when the battery on my PSP died and I was having a hard time finding a replacement. But I don’t like Persona, as a game, anywhere near as much as the other Persona games, which are right now sitting at the end of my current queue. I also recently went through my other games and, again, found a long list of games that I want to play at some point. So, again, every time I sit down to play it I can’t help but be reminded of all of the other games I could be playing instead.

For both of them, the only thing that’s keeping me going with them is the fact that they’re on the top of the list and so are in a great position for me to actually finish them, and I really want to finish them. I’m also not likely to get anything new any time soon to distract me from them. So I’m not going to get any better chance to finish them than I have right now. So, I’m hoping that that sense of accomplishment at the end will outweigh the mild annoyance I’m experiencing right now.

Amazingly, DVDs don’t have this issue. I’m enjoying He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, even if it’s been a bit displaced by Dynasty, which I’m also enjoying. Knight Rider has been pushed aside for now, but that’s mostly because I don’t play Persona as long as I had thought I would and since my play was to watch an entire disk while playing and since one disk is closer to 4 hours than to 3 it doesn’t fit in that time slot anymore. Moreover, there’s always baseball and now soccer to watch while playing games so it doesn’t even support that as well as it did originally. But there is no doubt in my mind that I’ll find the time to watch it at some point when I finish Dynasty, even if I watch something else first.

Hopefully, I can slog through these to get to something more fun. The last thing I want is to put this much effort in and end up bailing on them at the end anyway.

Thoughts on “The Decisive Duel: Spitfire vs 109”

June 25, 2018

So, a while back — while I was watching “Frasier”, actually — I was read a book called “The Decisive Duel: Spitfire vs 109” by David Isby, talking about the development of the two main fighters of WWII and their “duel” throughout WWII. I picked it up originally because I generally like discussions about the air war and air power and general, and it was recommended by Andrew Roberts, who had written “The Storm of War” which I also remembered liking (although I mixed that book up with “War at Sea” by Nathan Miller, which made me think that it was the same kind of book but only from the perspective of the air war, which made me more inclined to read it).

After reading it, I have to say that I liked the book. The best part of it is the descriptions of the moves and counter-moves and thus the many, many different variations of each plane as they tried to find the best planes for the specific problems they had to address and to counter improvements made by the other side whenever they managed to get any kind of actual advantage. And the specifics of each fighter’s design played a huge role in not only what they did there, but also if they even could counter that advantage, and the overall design of each fighter was actually very dependent on the overall experience and personality of their main designers. The 109 was the way it was because of Messerschmitt’s experience and interests, and that at times gave it an advantage but also caused serious issues with future designs, for example. It also talks about other issues around the duel, like cost, production ability, and even tactics, all of which come together to give a larger overall idea of what the air war in WWII really entailed.

While the “Battle of Britain” is, of course, important and covered in detail in the book, it goes on past that until the end of the war, and it’s interesting to see just how much of the duel carries on past that crucial engagement. The Spitfire and 109 continued to duel past that point, and both continued to be modified in reaction to each other until the very end of the war.

I, personally, found that the book often devolved into long technical discussions that didn’t really interest me, but this isn’t a criticism of the book. Given the subject matter, you pretty much had to expect that they were going to need to do that, and in general the technical discussions are relevant to the overall story of the duel. So it’s just a warning that if you do read that book to be prepared for technical discussions if that isn’t your cup of tea.

Overall, I liked the book and will almost certainly read it again at some point … but probably not while watching Frasier [grin].

Thoughts on some old “favourties”

June 18, 2018

So, recently, I re-read a couple of books that I had read a few years ago and found interesting: “The Holy Kingdom” by Adrian Gilbert and “The Last Knight” by Norman F. Cantor. In fact, I remembered both of them so fondly that I was excited to get a chance — or, rather, to deliberately plan — to read them again. And yet, both of them disappointed me. They certainly weren’t as good as I remembered them to be.

One of the main reasons for this, I think, is that both of them are decidedly one-sided. “The Holy Kingdom” focuses on the theory that King Arthur was really two different historical figures and was of Welsh origin. The former is a very interesting idea, and Gilbert at least tries to provide good sources that theory, but it is interspersed with numerous shots at the traditional English historians for being biased against Welsh history. This might be true, but reading that makes me skeptical that the assessment is totally fair, and thus only makes me feel that in order to accept their overall views I’d need to go and do more research myself. And I don’t have the time to do that, so my reading feels incomplete, while at the same time the asides don’t add anything to the book for me. Sure, they are used as answers to the question of why no one noticed these things before, but “They just don’t want to see it!” no longer counts as sufficient reason for me. They may well be doing that, but they might also have reasons for rejecting it. I would have preferred more direct replies rather than asides saying that their opponents were just being obstinate.

“The Last Knight” focuses on the life of John of Gaunt. Or, rather, it focuses on what we can say about England in the Middle Ages based on how he lived his life. In reality, though, it far more often wants to talk about sexual mores and link John of Gaunt to modern billionaires than to really focus on either John of Gaunt’s life or on the details of medieval society. This results in the most interesting part of the book — the titular “Last Knight” — getting short shrift in what it purportedly his own book. The book is also very repetitive, saying the exact same things in the exact same way even in the span of a few pages. There is no examination in depth of pretty much anything, either the times or the people or John of Gaunt himself. There are a number of interesting links that are drawn, but they are so shallowly examined that, again, all they do is make me want to delve into the topic in much more detail, which I again don’t have the time to do, and his constant comments about elites grate after a while.

The books aren’t terrible books. “The Holy Kingdom” does make its case and the two Arthur theory is interesting, and “The Last Knight” does reveal some interesting things about the Middle Ages. But I guess I have to say that both of them aren’t the sort of work that I’m really looking for right now, or else the other books I’ve read have eclipsed them. It also might be that I’m more skeptical than I used to be and so am looking for works that really take on their opponents in the fairest and strongest ways possible. Either way, they aren’t as much fun to read as I remembered and so I don’t think I’ll feel the same zeal to re-read them as I did this time.

Next up is me reading a book that I’m pretty sure I never finished reading: an abridged version of Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. I wonder if the abridging is what is causing my struggle to read that book …

Thoughts on Darth Plagueis

June 6, 2018

So, recently, I read the Star Wars Legends book “Darth Plagueis” by James Luceno. I’ve liked a lot of his stuff before, so it was worth giving this a try. Anyway, the book follows Darth Sideous’ mentor Darth Plagueis, his researches into life and death, and the relationship between the two, including the reasons for the main plot that Sideous follows on with in the PT — that leads to establishing the Empire — and how that all gets started.

What’s good about the book is that it does, indeed, fill in a number of details about how that all works and worked out, including why Naboo had a 14 year old elected Queen at the time, as well as what this was all supposed to achieve, and why there was taxation of trade routes and why that all mattered … and, in fact, why that dispute would lead to civil war. In short, the taxation of trade routes was a minor issue, but Plagueis and Sideous had already manipulated things so that the galaxy was being divided up into factions based on self-interest, and the Naboo situation struck directly at those divisions of self-interest. The taxation wasn’t that important, but which of the two sides managed to “win” was, as the other side would feel hard done by which would cause issues.

It also goes into the backstory of Sideous a bit more, showing how he progressed from a minor political figure on Naboo into becoming a Sith Lord. I think this has all or mostly been eliminated by the new works, but it was interesting, even if Sideous’ specific background isn’t all that interesting for a Sith Lord, paling in comparison to characters like Bane or Vader or Revan. It also goes into the backstory of how Sideous found Maul, which again I think has been eliminated by new media, but is interesting enough.

The main problem with the work, though, is that while it helps establish Sideous as a villain by making the overarching villainous plot make sense and by filling in the details — and also by showing the political machinations required to pull it off — it also hurts his character because most of the plot was devised by Plagueis, not him. Sideous shows some but limited political skill throughout the entire book; the big moves are all orchestrated by Plaugeis. This, of course, can explain Sideous’ at least potential mistakes and why he didn’t foresee the end that befell him, but in terms of the overarching plot it seems that for the most part his role is like what would happen if Darth Maul had killed Sideous and taken over his plan: Sideous runs the plan that was already set into motion by Plagueis, but for the most part is only slightly more competent at those sorts of manipulations as Maul would be. I really would have liked that to be more of a partnership than it was, with Plagueis having more Force knowledge while Sideous had the political knowledge, and Sideous deciding to take out Plagueis when he thought that Plagueis had no more to teach him.

That being said, the book at least spells out a clear goal for the Sith, something that they wanted to achieve, which is more than we can say for the PT (beyond “rule the galaxy”).

Darth Plagueis was a decent book, and I’d likely read it again.

Lists …

June 1, 2018

So, I’ve been recently redoing my schedule to try to fit more things into it. I’ve also been trying to plan out things so that, eventually, I can talk about them on the blog. And I’ve started to get onto a kick of either finishing things or, at least, trying to make sure that I get things finished that I’ve wanted to get finished for quite some time. Long-time readers of the blog will remember the various pages that I made to list these things out, and so I’ve decided to update those lists with an organized set of things that I want to do. This will help me keep track of what I want to do next — so no hemming and hawing over what I’m going to do next when I finish something –, give the people reading the blog an idea of what I’m going to talk about at some point, and in some sense have this out in public which then gives me some incentive to actually finish it.

So, first, let’s talk about books. I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately, reading through a ton of non-fiction books and, in particular, a number of Pierre Berton books. I plan on commenting on them at some point when I get a chance — although the stack is getting larger and larger — but for now I’ve added a bunch of historical books to the list, which tracks non-fiction books. I think there are three books there that I haven’t read — “History’s Greatest Battles”, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” and “Guns, Germs and Steel” — but I’ve been wanting to re-read “The Holy Kingdom” and “The Last Knight” for a while and I re-read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” pretty regularly, and “The Storm of War” fits nicely into the WWII mindset. After that, I have to catch up on my philosophical reading, but I haven’t made that list yet because these books will take me a few months to read — non-fiction takes longer to read than fiction — and after that I’ll have to see if I’m ready to pick up more non-fiction or if I want to read some fiction at that point.

Next are TV shows. I only have time to watch half hour long shows in the evenings, which is why I’ve been commenting on cartoons a lot right now (also why I did comedies like Wings, Cheers and Frasier). So I’ve listed the last set of cartoons for now: “The Real Ghostbusters”, “He-Man” (all of the series), and “She-Ra”. After that, it’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, which I’ve watched but never talked about. After that … I don’t know.

I’ve also wanted to watch or re-watch some hour long shows, and I’ve carved out some time to watch them … while playing games on the weekend, which gives me about two disks a week. Right now, “Knight Rider” and “Airwolf” are going in that slot, and when they’re finished I don’t know what I’ll do yet. But at that pace it will take me months to get there, so I have time.

For both of these, once I finish off the current lists I might well go back and re-watch things that I just want to watch but either have already commented on or don’t want to comment on, so I may not use the next things to generate content for the blog. But, for now, I will comment in some way on all of these shows.

And speaking of video games, I’ve created a new list for my planned video games. Right now, it’s all of the Persona games except for Persona 5. I have a lot of candidates to play after that — including Persona 5 — but at six hours a week I estimate that just playing those four will take me until about Christmas. Let’s see how I feel at that point.

So, that’s it so far. There may be other lists coming if I think them useful, but these are the ones that I already had and did find useful at some point, so I figured it made sense to use them. You can watch the lists to see what gets added, what gets removed, and what gets completed.

Thoughts on “Ready Player One”

April 23, 2018

So, I finished reading “Ready Player One”, and overall found it … okay. I’m going to talk about it in detail, and even though the book isn’t that recent the movie is so I’ll continue below the fold:

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