Category Archives: Books

Jasper Fforde – The Fourth Bear

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read, despite the fact none of you ever take my advice about authors and books.  I’d be disappointed in you if I didn’t know you probably wouldn’t have liked them anyway.

For instance, Balzac’s Droll Stories, you’ll probably recall, I told you was the funniest book I’ve ever read.  Told you where you can download it free on wossname, gutenberg.org website.  And I’ll go to my grave confident not a damned one of you bothered to have a look.

So when I tell you about Jasper Fforde I can do it with a high level of confidence I could say anything and not get caught in a lie.

I first told you about The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, along with The Well of Lost Plots, and maybe some others in that series.  I’ve managed to actually get a few people to try some of those and nobody liked them.  Gave some the books free.  Poof!  Not a, “Hey!  Funny, intriguing book.”  Nothing.

Jeanne likes Jasper Fforde.  Might well be she introduced me to his works.  Shows how the coincidence coordinators are always at work.  Two people, the only two in Christiandom who’d enjoy Jasper Fforde, happen to be close friends.  I love those guys, the CCs.

Anyway, The Fourth Bear is a good book I think you’d enjoy if you were ever stuck in a prison cell the way Steve McQueen was in Pappilon and not allowed to talk to anyone for several years, do anything but read the book.  Fforde explains the deep mystery, for instance, of why three bowls of porridge all poured at the same time, are vastly different temperatures.

 Fforde, for the purposes of this book, lands the reader in a world where talking bears are fighting for their rights, trying to become civilized the way Native American tribes tried to become civilized to keep from being slaughtered by whites.  But the bears come at a later time in history, when a larger or more vocal part of sympatric humanity carries some weight. 

Not to say they’re able to pass legislation, THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND ARM BEARS, to allow bears to defend themselves from hunters.  But the do put them on reservations where it’s more difficult to shoot them.

 Fforde’s main character, Detective Jack Spratt, heads the Nursery Crimes Division of a city police department.  Constantly he’s chasing down criminals out of nursery rhymes.  Persons Of Questionable Reality.

But he’s one himself, and from the time his wife died from overeating fat, he’s able to overcome certain behaviors considered compulsive.

This  plot contains a fast moving set of  plot devices involving the Gingerbread Man, various bears, Goldilox, and giant cucumbers responsible for cuclear detonations threatening the bears, the humans, and possibly world peace.

Read it if you’re ever in prison.

Old Jules

Pondering the dearth of cumulative human wisdom

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read. 

I’m still muddling along with God Knows, by Joseph Heller, but he’s got me thinking about a lot of things somewhat unrelated to his own theme.  So what’s below inevitably has roots, both in the OT, and in Heller’s recreation of Hebrew history and the Bible through the eyes of King David.

So this is going to be me, Old Jules aka wossname, Jack, mulling this over.  Not King David, not Heller, not even God in the sense you’re most likely to define the concept.

I’ll get into this thing about cumulative human wisdom, but first I’d just like to confide to you how much better I’d feel if God weren’t so sneaky and cagey about his real name in his dealings with those old time Hebrews.  What the hell is that all about?  Who is He afraid they’ll find out he really is?

I'm not pushing the idea He was Roy Rogers, mainly because Roy was a fairly consistent, courteous human being, though daft.

I’m not pushing the idea He was Roy Rogers, mainly because Roy was a fairly consistent, courteous human being, though daft.

And if they did know who God really is, how’s He scared they’d think less of Him in the knowing of it?  After all, it ain’t as though God was putting on any airs in his dealings with them.  Never makes any attempt to explain himself, elevate himself in the eyes of his Chosen People. 

Just go back and read the OT.  How he treats Moses, sheeze, Job,  King David, Adam and Eve, even Cain and Abel.  And inconsistent, uneven-handed so consistently as to assure nobody’s going to acquire any wisdom from any of it.

Call me paranoid, but I think there’s more to this side stepping and dodging the true identity with a name stamped into the dogtags than those ancient Hebrews imagined, that anyone since has explained sufficiently to argue He might have been Anyone, but particularly some located in the vicinity of Greece and Rome before too much more time passed.

So you end up with an ancient religion and storybook to accompany it preserved from a language with a vocabulary of 88 words, 17 of which are pseudonyms for the name of God, and not one of those 17 believed by those using them in spoken words to be the actual name of the party of the first part.

But I’ve digressed. 

I was going to muse on why human beings are unable to acquire cumulative wisdom similarly to the way technical knowledge assimilates.  About how it happens all these centuries have sneaked by and the King Davids are still capable of becoming so captured by passion as to compromise, destroy themselves.  About how Adonijahs then until now, rhetorically next in line for their thrones, their power, their wealth, still rape their sister Tamars and [at least] risk destroying themselves in the doing of it.  About how the Joabs all these centuries have coldly murdered in the name of governmental authority anyone standing in the way of their ambitions, always maintaining the moral high ground.

But I’ll have to save all that for another time, I reckons.

Old Jules aka Frank C. Riley

Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear? The Catch 22 Timewarp Conspiracy

This might be the most important text you’ve ever read.

It’s certainly more important than Dick and Jane and their dog named Spot whatever they might be up to these days in Centerville, Ohio.  And anything else you might have read since then probably wasn’t all that important.  Instruction manuals written by English-as-a-second-language tech writers in Malaisia, labels on boxes of muffin-mix, even novels by Stephen King aren’t as important as this.

If you are like me you have to think hard to remember characters and dialogues in books you haven’t read in half-century.  But I’ve been waiting that long for Joseph Hellers prophetic novel, Catch 22, to get caught up with by events.

Yossarian to the mental ward physician:  “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

Pages later, to Orr:  “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?”

Yossarian to Major Major Major Major, pages later:   “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?”

To Milo Minderbinder, a chapter or so later:  “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?”

Today all the spy-vs-spies in the world are asking themselves the same question.  Armed cruise missile operators are whispering those words into their microphones, “Give me the coordinates!”

low volume static, hissing, grumbling.

Moscow airport?  Am I allowed to target the Moscow International Airport?”

low volume static, hissing, grumbling.

“Well of course you need deniability.  It has to look like an accident.  Rogue drone kind of thing.”

low volume static, hissing, grumbling.

“World War III?  Hell, we haven’t even finished WWII yet.  Snowden was WWII.  We’re all caught in a time warp.

low volume static, hissing, grumbling.

“Yeah, we need to watch for anyone named Yossarian.  And Joseph Heller, if he’s still alive, needs to answer a few questions.  If we see someone trying to corner the Egyptian cotton market we’ll know where to look.”

Old Jules

Shooting 50,000 unsolicited words at the Universe

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Jeanne tells me November’s going to have several thousand people grinding out first drafts of immortal prose again.  Poor old Universe will be ducking and dodging new characters, events, plots, subplots, trying to keep track of what’s really happening, and what someone dredged up from the imagination and stuffed into 50,000 words packed into the month of November.

I’ve wondered about this phenomenon for a longish time, several years, and honestly can’t quite figure it.  Probably tens of thousands of November novels written in past years nobody but the authors ever laid an eye to all the way through.  Pages, electrons on the screen, characters floating around in the ether wondering what the hell happened, why their pent-up events just ground to a halt.

All I can figure is those people doing that are trying to shoot down the Universe and know it’s going to take a lot of ammunition.

If a person were looking for a worthy project that would be less likely to damage the Universe he might consider taking the JRR Tolkein Lord of Rings trilogy and working it up into a second draft, which wossname, Tolkein failed to do.  At least not the part about say, cutting about 2/3 of the extraneous immortal prose, working it around so it’s tight, a pleasure on the tongue of the Universe, rather than just something out of some fast food joint.

Maybe someone everyone does what he says will think of this sometime and tell them they ought to do that instead of picking out targets of opportunity trying to shoot down the Universe.

Old Jules

J. D. Salinger needs a good horse-whipping

Five new JD Salinger books on the way

Titles expected between 2015 and 2020

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/03/new-jd-salinger-fiction-documentary

Hi readers.

When J.D. Salinger went stealth in the 1960s I didn’t think he could hold out.  I snickered to myself and said he was in there writing books and one day he’d lose his determination and drop them on me like depth charges.  I figured I could hold out longer than he could.

Eventually I began to think I had him figured wrong maybe.  That he’d either burned all his stuff and wasn’t writing more, or that he was a Class A horses ass and just wasn’t going to let any of it go public until after he died.  Then he died and for a while I was sure that now, now, now, here they’d come!

They didn’t, and when I turned 70 one of the things I had to reconcile myself to was that J.D. Salinger wasn’t gonna have anymore books during my lifetime.  Decided he was indeed a Class A horses ass.

But yesterday Jeanne sent me the link above.  Oh, yeah.  Thanks a lot, J.D. Salinger.  2015.  Hell, I went out to the RV, took some mega vitamins checked my blood pressure, then checked over the cats trying to figure out what we all need to do in order to survive until 2015.

I’m thinking it’s going to be a cliff-hanger, but we’ve got a middling good shot at lasting until the first one.  I’m okay, the cats seem okay.  I’ll gear up the cat-vitamins just to help us along, make sure they eat less hard food and more canned food, and we’ll take a run at it.  Might even squeeze it all the way to the last one in 2020.

But if J.D. Salinger happens to only be pretending to be dead I’d love to say a few choice words to him.

Old Jules

The only honest-to-goodness prophet in human history

Hi Readers. Thanks for coming by for a read.
Amazing isn’t it? In all human history only one person has ever undeniably  and inescapably predicted the future. 

Predicted the tanks, machine guns, the mustard gas shells of WWI. Predicted the Manhattan Project, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl, the Cold War of Mutually Assured Destruction. Predicted Agent Orange, DDT, sheep cloning, genetic engineering of agricultural products.   Biological warfare.  Thalidomide babies.

And who was it?  Nostradamus?  Nah.  He never predicted anything anyone could understand.

The prophetess was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Married poet Percy Shelley even though he was married to another woman.  Stayed married to him long enough so’s the wife #1 suicided, so she had him all to herself.

And in 1817 wrote the novel, Frankenstein.  The book that understood what would happen when you turned human beings loose on something as dangerous as science.

Amazing.  Predicted the Doctor Frankenstein hidden  inside the human psyche would emerge when egomaniac academians piddle around in scientific laboratories.

Sarcastic Science

Sarcastic Science, she would like to know,
In her complacent ministry of fear,
How we propose to get away from here
When she has made things so we have to go
Or be wiped out. Will she be asked to show
Us how by rocket we may hope to steer
To some star off there, say, a half light-year
Through temperature of absolute zero?
Why wait for Science to supply the how
When any amateur can tell it now?
The way to go away should be the same
As fifty million years ago we came—
If anyone remembers how that was
I have a theory, but it hardly does.

Robert Frost

Amazing.

Old Jules

Outlawry and the metaphysics of Quality – Zen, Persig et al

tabby thinking it over 2

Tabby:  So what does all this airplane talk have to do with the metaphysics of  quality?

Me:  Giving ourselves quality in life comes in a lot of forms, but each trail we take leading there relies on our personal determination to define what we believe is quality.  Although it’s remotely possible some larger social or governmental entity will offer the opportunities, it’s no priority with them.  They’re concerned with something they define as ‘the greater good’.  Keeping people on the sidewalks, off the grass.  If a person sees the need to walk on the grass, to lie on it, to find the quality in it, he’s going to have to find a way to get there without going to jail.  You have to find awareness of the grass, and you can’t be aware of it until you’ve experienced it.

Tabby:  But at least they’re keeping the dogs from crapping on the grass..

Me:  That’s right.  And if you’re planning to crap on it you’d destroy the quality you hoped to find there.  But if you allow the fact someone in control is afraid you’ll crap on the grass to keep you off it so’s to make sure you don’t you’ve lost a chunk of life you’ll never recover.  A piece of the quality of living gone because someone else might have violated it if they’d gone there.

Tabby:  People can’t see the damned grass anyway, right?  They walk right past it without seeing anything.

Me:  Mostly they don’t see it because they‘re somewhere else.  They‘re thinking about something they think is in the future, where they‘re having lunch, or something someone said an hour ago.  They’re walking past that grass and have a vague intellectual awareness the grass is there, but that’s only half of where quality lives.  The flash of instant ‘seeing’ it before the mind has time to intellectually define what it’s seeing is where quality hides.  And because they don’t experience the quality of the grass they have no respect for it.  They’re minds assign it no value.  They take a rhetorical crap on the grass without ever knowing they’ve done it.

Tabby:  So that’s why the people posting the signs want to keep them off the grass?  So they won’t take a rhetorical crap on it as they go by?

Me:  No.  The people posting the signs think they’re doing it to protect the grass for the ‘greater good’ of all those people and dogs going by who won’t see it.  Sign posters couldn’t care less about what people experience as they go by.  They think it’s the separation between the people and dogs, and the grass that’s important.

Tabby:  I’m glad they do it, anyway.  I hate eating grass after a dog’s peed or crapped on it. 

Me:  But you can’t taste it until you get past the signs.

Old Jules

Zen etc, Persig – The Phaedrus Chatauqua – Classical and Romantic Reality

Persig’s decided to do his Chatauqua on Phaedrus.  Begins by explaining how Phaedrus saw the world in a classical reality form, explains the difference between those two ways of approaching reality.

Hydrox:  So what’s the Classical reality way of viewing cat food?  Are we cats viewing the Romantic way, or the Classical way?

Me:  Romantic.  No question about it, no compromise, even.  The Classical’s the underlying form.  The components that make up the food, the nutritional value.  The process that went into canning it.  You cats couldn’t care less about that.  Taste and odor are the immediately apparent form, the Romantic.  They’re all you care about.

Hydrox:   I like to eat the insides out of things I catch.  Leave the head and sometimes tail and legs.  I like the underlying form best.

Me:  Actually not.  If you were opening that mouse and looking at the way the digestive tract works, the circulatory system, the nerves, lungs, then you’d be getting into Classical form.  You aren’t looking at underlying function even though it’s inside.  You’re after taste, odor and texture.  There are no goods, no bads in the Classical form. No feelings.  Those are all Romantic form.

Hydrox Okay.  But you’re saying this Phaedrus guy was only interested in underlying form?  Classical form?  Is that why he was crazy?

Me:  Not really, but we’ll get into that.  Crazy doesn’t seem to confine itself to one form or another.    And the reasons Phaedrus had his insanity are a lot deeper than that.   More in the manner of the way he broke the world down to analyse it than in the form itself.

Niaid:  Off the subject, but wasn’t the kid here in the story killed in a driveby shooting a few years ago?  A long time after this story.

Me:  Yeah, he was.  Before you cats were even born.  Before Persig wrote Lila, too.

Tabby:  So are we supposed to keep that in mind while we’re doing this?  That this kid’s going to end up dead in a driveby shooting?

Me:  Not if you can keep from it, though it’s not easy to keep it separate.  What happened to that kid later on didn’t have anything to do with Phaedrus, and the way you’ll be thinking about him is Romantic.  Feelings.

Old Jules

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Hi Readers. Thanks for coming by.

Perzig’s first book jumped out at me a week-or-so ago out of a box I was packing.  Demanded I go through it yet another time this lifetime.  Which is never a job of work I take lightly.

Decided as I study on it I’d discuss it with the cats when I come to particularly studious parts.  If it seems appropriate I might share some of those discussions with you along the way.  For instance, last night he and his son, along with another couple have progressed to a camp site.  The son’s troubling him a fair amount, but Phaedrus, shadow figure of his past insanity is also peeking into the corners of his mind.

Hydrox:  What does he mean when he says, “Ghosts come back when a person hasn’t been properly buried?  Is he talking about, say, the ghost of all those chickens I keep seeing around here sometimes?”

Me:  Maybe he’s talking about that, partly.  Those chickens aren’t necessarily dead, so far as we know.  And I definitely think that’s a piece of what he’s talking about.  People lost to our lives, but without closure.  But there’s also Mehitabel.  She stayed on permanent mouse patrol all these years.  Never was properly buried.

Hydrox:  Mehitabel?  I’ve just about gotten so I don’t see her anymore.  Thanks goodness.

Niaid:  Wish you hadn’t brought her up.  Gives me the willies.

Me:  The longer we live the more ghosts we tend to accumulate, all those not-properly buried ones who passed through our lives.

Tabby:  Any chance we could bury Shiva?

Me:  You figure she’s gotten around to burying you?

Old Jules

Farnham’s Freehold, by Robert A. Heinlein 1964

Hi readers.  Here’s another one of those old early-days RAH tomes to give you some smiles, some anachronisms to feel smug about, and a couple of truly interesting things to think about.

The first part of the book is all the usual suspects, family with a bomb shelter before the bombs fall, etc.  If you haven’t read a thousand others, might as well get it done  with this one, I reckons.

But then the bombs hit, one of them dead-center.  Spang blows Farnham and his family into sometime a longish while in the future, same spot.  Then the fun starts.

The big powers destroyed themselves and most of the other non-ethnic places full of advanced white people.  So when Farnham and his white family come up for air it isn’t long before they’re discovered by the meek who inherited the earth.  Africans, mainly, in this area.  A sort of do-it-yourself African empire sitting atop the ruins of the US.

Sure, some white people survived.  Most have been adopted as slaves in a manner similar to the way the Ottomans treated captured Europeans during an earlier time.  Bred the good ones for physical and mental traits, castrated the others and put them to work.  Kept a lot of females for breeding stock, too.

So once they’re captured, Farnham and his family are forced to adapt themselves to a lifestyle most white people have spent a lot more generations becoming unaccustomed to than was good for them.  Farnham’s wife lucks into being the paramour of one of the black rulers, and being a 20th Century mom, wants her son with her.  But him being a male, her being part of the harem, he’s got to be castrated first.  Which gives her pause, but only momentarily.

And so on.

Lots of laughs in this book.  A truly fun read.

Old Jules