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If not 2025, 2029; whenever Joe Biden leaves office. When he does, there will be a spate of memoirs, histories, and hagiographies. There may be so many, publishers cannot expect to sell them all. Though they will try. It is possible that other subscribers have speculated on this. If so, I am sorry I didn’t […]

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A Science-Fiction Cookout

 

Food: it is a central part of our lives. It is surprising how relatively little fantasy and science fiction centers upon food. F&SF explores the human condition, extrapolating the present into alternate realities. Why not explore food?

“Eat, Drink, and Be Wary: Satisfying Stories with a Delicious Twist,” edited by Lisa Magnum, takes on that challenge. It is a collection of nineteen fantasy and science fiction stories, with food as a theme.

The nineteen contributors go many different directions with their stories. This book contains hard science fiction, classic fantasy, and just about everything in between, including a variety of genres. There is an old-fashioned murder mystery, a noir adventure, classic horror, post-apocalyptic tales, and urban fantasy. Some stories are laugh-out-loud funny. Others are tragic. A few would serve for an episode of Twilight Zone or Game of Thrones.

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In A Deadly Shade of Gold, which is among my favorite Travis McGee stories and that is saying a lot, McGee is on the road with a “vengeance-driven” woman. With her help, he contrives to determine the nationality of certain people living with ferocious privacy in Mexico. He and the woman stroll past the mysterious […]

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The collapse of the Renaissance in Rome and the triumph of the Reformation can be traced through the six Renaissance popes, Borgia and Medici (plus a couple of hapless popes who only lasted a few months), each of whom in their own way contributed to the coming debacle through their poor choices in policy and […]

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The Stakes Are Well Done

 

The Claremont Institute recently granted me a Lincoln Fellowship, which offers a week-plus of seminars on American politics and political thought. But first, I have to read some books. A lot of books.

One of the first I picked up was Michael Anton’s The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return (2020). Anton famously dubbed 2016 “The Flight 93 Election,” and in The Stakes, he warned of what would happen if the Democrats took the White House in 2020.

In the chapter titled “If Present Trends Continue…,” Anton made several predictions of a Biden presidency.

Old Doesn’t Mean Dead – Or Submissive

 

Cal Yarborough was a farmer. A widower and old, he was living alone on his farm. While he was in the hospital, his children used their power-of-attorney to sell the farm and settle him at Sun City, a Central Texas retirement community.

“Sun City: A Hilariously Addictive Story of Rebellion,” by Matthew Minson, opens with Yarborough’s arrival at Sun City. His dismay at losing his farm is compounded when he learns he cannot even put in a vegetable garden. The community board has banned them.

Most of Sun City’s residents resent the board. It is made up of retired flag officers, appointed by the developers. The board enjoys throwing their weight around committing petty tyrannies.  The residents cannot replace the board because the corporate bylaws allow the corporation to appoint the board until 97 percent of the properties are sold. The Corporation plans to expand Sun City before that happens. Nor can residents sell without incurring a big loss. Buyers prefer new properties.

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Just one, you ask? Let’s hope so. Recently I posted about dictatorships in Turkey, Chile, and Brazil, and one thing they had in common: they voluntarily left office. I might have mentioned another thing that not just they but all dictatorships have in common: they dictate. Of course affairs of state proceed at the pace […]

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Cass Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, and the author of The New York Times best-selling book, The World According to Star Wars. He shares what drew him to this topic, and why, after 45 years, these movies have become a $70 billion multimedia franchise and continue to have such wide intergenerational appeal. They review some of the classic myths and legends that influenced George Lucas, the brilliant creator of the films. Prof. Sunstein explains some of the larger civic educational lessons found in the space epic, including the war between the democratic Republic and the autocratic Empire, in which the Jedi Knights rebel against imperial tyranny. They also discuss the story of Anakin Skywalker, and his turn to the Dark Side; and the supernatural “Force,” that imbues a series classified as science fiction with a transcendent quality.

Stories of the Week: In England, university and student groups are opposing government plans to set minimum eligibility requirements for student loans. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams is seeking an extension of mayoral control of the school district, which for the past 20 years has meant important oversight authority over the schools chancellor and most of the governing panel.

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Today’s Gospel reading is very short, the reading on The Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus said:“My sheep hear my voice;I know them, and they follow me.I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.No one can take them out of my hand.My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,and no one […]

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Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum still has relevance for contemporary scientists, who are just as prone to bias as the Natural Philosophers of Bacon’s day. In fact, I am convinced that most scientists do not understand science as a discipline. They understand how to do research in their field of study or, to be more cynical […]

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Valhalla Unmasked

 

Take a typical college-aged man from the Midwest in today’s America. Give him the ambition to slay dragons and become a knight errant. It is unrealistic, but it is his dream. Then let him discover magic really works. He slays a fire-breathing dragon (with his mom’s Volvo), and is invited to join Knight Watch, an organization dedicated to protecting ordinary Americans from intrusions by supernatural enemies

“Valhellions,” a fantasy novel by Tim Akers, uses this setting. It is the sequel to “Knight Watch,” which introduced John Rast and Knight Watch. John’s dream job is not turning out quite as he dreamed. He has to hide magic from the mundane world which dampens the fun. His parents think he is a highly-paid troubleshooter for a tech firm. (He is – sort of.) The girl he adores, Chesa Lozaro joined Knight Watch as an elven ranger princess (that was her dream). Despite working together, she still disdains him.

If anything can go wrong, it does, especially to John. His life has become a collision between Tolkien and the Marx Brothers, with him playing the straight man. Now the world is about to end. Some renegades at Valhalla are trying to trigger Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods. It is up to John and his team to stop it.

Join Jim and Greg as they welcome new polls showing New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan deadlocked with her possible GOP rivals after her sudden interest in border security faces a major backlash. They also shudder at a Pentagon report showing the U.S. military is dangerously dependent upon China for critical components needed to fight effectively. And they shake their heads as Sen. Elizabeth Warren tries to argue that “forgiving” student loan debt by forcing taxpayers to foot the bill will not add to inflation.

 

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Some years ago I read James Gleick’s biography of Richard Feynman, and found it quite satisfying. Learned a lot about Feynman and also about his colleagues and the worlds they lived in. With that, I felt no regret that I’d never finished, indeed barely started, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! I had been urged to […]

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The Oldest Language Art Examined

 

Poetry is the oldest of the language arts. It predated literacy. Its cadence, rhythm, and rhyme allowed complex things to be remembered.  When literacy emerged, the earliest literature recorded was poetry.  Today prose has displaced poetry from primacy, yet poems remain important.

“A Little History of Poetry,” by John Carey is exactly what its title promises – a short history of poetry, written for a general audience.

Carey starts at the beginning. He opens the book with a discussion of the oldest recorded poem, “The Epic of Gilgamesh.” Written over 4,000 years ago it was preserved on clay tablets. He ends it with poets of the 21st century, many as unknown to today’s general public as Gilgamesh. Along the way and in between he makes a brief stop examining virtually every type of poetry and their poets.

This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Robert Alter, Emeritus Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of the landmark three-volume book, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary. As Jews around the world celebrate Passover this week, Dr. Alter shares why the Hebrew Bible is probably the most influential book in human history, and the larger lessons 21st century teachers and students should draw from its timeless wisdom. They also discuss the text as a record of the Jewish people, and vital historical lessons of persecution, resilience, and survival. Professor Alter describes how the Psalms and the Book of Exodus’ stories of liberation and Moses’ leadership inspired several of the major figures of the Civil Rights Movement. The interview concludes with Dr. Alter reading from his trilogy.

Stories of the Week: In California, K-12 public school enrollment has declined below 6 million for the first time in over two decades, with COVID accounting for only some of the loss. New Brookings research explores whether major federal aid packages directed to schools during COVID, and after the 2008 Great Recession, have been used for the intended purpose.

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The first book of Bacon’s ‘Novum Organum’ provides an extensive catalog of the different sources of bias and other impediments to understanding the natural world, of which his ‘idols’ are simply broad categories. He has a lot of ground to cover. Anyone with an interest in the history of science can think of many examples […]

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Join Jim and Greg as they break down the latest polling on the Senate race in Nevada which has Republican Adam Laxalt ahead of incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. They also shake their heads in response to news that Frank James, the suspect in the subway shooting in Brooklyn, was on the FBI’s radar as recently as 2019. This incident is only the latest in a string of cases where the perpetrator was known to the agency before they committed violent actions. And after two weeks, it is obvious that CNN+, CNN’s new premium streaming service, is a pathetic failure with an average viewership of only 10,000 viewers a day.

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Some time ago I heard of Lionel Shriver – I think Mark Steyn interviewed her – and this past week I decided to read one of her novels. I looked her up on my local library’s website. One book was listed…and it was about Portugal! Huh. I’ve never read a story set in Portugal. And […]

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Join Greg and National Review’s David Harsanyi as they criticize The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum for her weak deflection after a young college student challenges her on the media’s role in the cover-up of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. David discusses his book, Eurotrash, and discusses why the U.S. should not look to Europe as model for economic policies here. And after a unanimous vote last week, Palm Springs, California, will pay transgender and non-binary individuals $900 dollars a month with no strings attached.

 

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I have mentioned before that I found it difficult to grasp Francis Bacon’s concept of ‘idols’. I thought it worth noting that Peter Michael Urbach, writing in the Encyclopedia Britannica, provides a clean summary of Bacon’s categories of bias without the jargon and eccentric metaphor. Bacon’s first category describes the bias that comes from human […]

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