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Richard Collins III

Photo source Neal Augenstein@augensteinWTOP The above Photo is the gown that Richard Collins III would have worn at his graduation fro...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Richard Collins III

Photo source Neal Augenstein@augensteinWTOP

The above Photo is the gown that Richard Collins III would have worn at his graduation from Bowie State University.  He was stabbed a day before graduation.  His attacker was a "Alt-Reich" member.

Terrorism takes all forms.  In this case, an apparent hate crime.

Richard Collins III.  Photo Source The Nation.

While we are rightly remembering Manchester, we should remember Richard Collins III.  We should remember Yemen.  We should remember the long list.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Gaming book out in June

Photo Source Goodreads
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

My love of elves dates back to the first time I read Lord of the Rings. It was because they were ageless, spoke funny, or seemed so wise. It was because they used bows and arrows. This is because one of the first movies I ever saw was Robin Hood. Honesty, if the orcs had been as skilled with bows as Robin was, I would be constantly wondering why everyone painted those poor, misunderstand orcs as evil.

It’s true.

Osprey’s book about Elf Warfare written by Chris Pramas taps into the fascination that many people have with elves, whether or not said people only like them because of the Robin Hood collection. The book is ideal for any gamer or writer. Osprey presents the various fighter types as well as various battle formats. It is in one part source book and one part history, with a sprinkling of storytelling thrown in.

Highlights include a nice bit about how elves work with allies- be they human or animal and a detailed discussion about how elven armies and how they are designed. There is at least one illustration that looks like it was Bloom’s Legolas inspired, and one does wonder a bit about some of the Elven women’s battle dress. But those are quibbles.

It is a quick fun read that can spark creativity.

Out Now

Photo Source Goodreads

This is an Endeavour Press reissue of a previously published book, originally published on the hundredth anniversaries of the Stratford East Theatre Royal in 1985.

The writing is a bit dry for this brief history of Stratford East’s Theatre Royal, yet the book is well worth a read. Coren gives a belief overview of the Theatre’s early history and then gives much detail about what was then the theatre’s later history. Understandably, much of the book is given to a detailed discussion of the Joan Littlewood years. Coren is direct in reporting that he was unable to interview Littlewood, yet more than makes up with the use of other interviews, He not only gives some details about the productions but also gives much attention to the workshops. What comes across quite clearly in the book is Coren’s enjoyment of and fascination with the theatre. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Out in Sept

Photo source Goodreads

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

                When the trial of Oskar Groening of aiding and abetting the killing of Jews in Auschwitz. started, I actually discussed it with a student.  We had both seen the series on Auschwitz done by BBC and Lawrence Rees.  In it, Groening is interviewed.  My student wonder two things – why it took so long for Groening to be arrested, especially after the interview and whether her interest in the Holocaust was wrong.

                She would like this book.

                In many ways, Jordana Lebowitz reminds me of that student with an interest in something that happened long before her birth.  True, Lebowitz is Jewish and my student was not.  But the burning need to know is something that they have in common.  Though guts and determination, Lebowitz is able to make it to the trial and witness it.  This book is the story of that determination and the trial itself.

                Sadly, the book is far from perfect.

                Now, don’t get me wrong.  There is much that is good in this book.  In many ways, this is a book that most teens and young adults should read because it makes connections between then and now.  Lebowitz’s story not only shows the importance of history and remembrance, but how the younger generation can get involved. 

                Yet, there is also a sense of wanting something more from the book.  In part, this is due to the chosen style.  Referring to Lebowitz in third person, doesn’t work.  It actually distances the reader in a way that is a bit disconcerting, and the use of passive voice doesn’t help in terms of this.  There are also some weird juxtapositions – like the overlooking of Lebowitz’s grandmother’s reaction to her granddaughter’s proposed trip.  Perhaps this reaction does have something to do with the Holocaust as well?  The inclusion of Groening’s testimony , while understandable, is also somewhat strange as it is taken from sources, something that is only made clear at the end of each entry.

                The thing is Lebowitz’s blog on trial, done for the Simon Wiesenthal center, doesn’t suffer from this.  Undoubtedly, there are copyright resections and such, but if Lebowitz had had more of a voice, I wonder if this book would have been a smoother read.

                That said, it isn’t a bad read.  It is one worth reading, especially for teens and young adults. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Frog Prince

Frog guts are surprisingly big.  You wouldn’t think it, looking at a frog.  Sure, toad guts, you could see being big, but frog guts, not so much.  Yet, there they were.  On the floor, huge bloody mounds of them.

                And they reeked.  I’ve smelled better piss pots. 

                I’ve cleaned better smelling piss pots.

                But really could you blame the princess?  I can’t, and I’ve always said she was a spoiled brat.  In this, however, I can’t say that she is really at fault.

                Honesty, would you tell your daughter to take a frog to bed?

                I didn’t think so.

                Of course, what would you expect from a man who gets his daughter a solid gold ball?  What kind of a toy is that?  Why don’t you just put her in the middle of the square with a “rob me” sign around her neck?  Being a princess isn’t going to stop anyone.  Everyone knows that princesses are worth less than princes.  I think the king just wanted her to break her foot so she could fit into that ridiculously small shoe.  You know the one that he keeps in the back of his closet and doesn’t know that we know about.  That one.

                Yes, the glass one.

                Honestly, who wears a glass shoe?

                Lord!  That’s right the same people who would give their children a gold ball.  It’s hardly the poor brat’s fault that it fell into the pool.  It’s not even the poor brat’s fault that she’s a brat.  We servants try, we do, but gold balls are hard to compete with.

                Though I can think of a few places you wouldn’t want to find them.

                So it wasn’t really her fault that it fell down into the well, and if her father hadn’t been such a bully and scared the poor brat, a gardener would have gladly fished it out.  Whether or not, he would have replaced it with something more practical is a different issue.

                A good ball means quite a bit of food.

                So what does the girl do, but makes a promise to a frog.  I suppose if you think about it, it does seem like a good idea.  What could a frog want besides flies and a female frog?  She may be a brat, but the princess isn’t a blonde idiot.

                That was her grandmother.  Can you believe that woman?  Straw into gold via natural spinning talent?  She was lucky the old king was a greedy Gus and didn’t look too close.  But the things my father saw,   hmmm hmmm.

                Anyway, so what does the frog want?  Flies?  Nope, to eat off her plate, to sit at her seat, to share her bed.

                I tell you, I should have just grabbed Cook’s puss and let her deal with the beast.

                What type of frog wants to eat stuffed goose?

                Of course, the princess didn’t want anything to do it with it.  It’s a frog after all, and have you seen how many ducks swim in that pond?  But her father, Mister A Promise is a Promise.  Yeah, we all know how he really feels about that.  A promise is a promise but only if it involves a woman making it.  He didn’t keep his promise to his wife, and he swore that in front of a priest.  Took him less than a day to break it.

                And a talking frog.  What would you do if you met a talking frog?  Quite right, you would check to see what you ate and drank that day while crossing yourself and begging for God’s mercy.  I suppose kings just take that mercy for granted.  They shouldn’t.  After all, look at what happened two kingdoms over.

                I felt sorry for the poor brat.  I mean she’s a spoiled brat and all, but she isn’t really mean unless she gets pushed.  And her father was great about that.  Going on about how she wasn’t a son and how it was her mother’s fault because she lacked breeding.   Poor chit.   Then he gives her gold balls.   The poor girl didn’t know if he was coming or going.  But what else could you expect, considering he had to snag a wife from dwarves.  The princess isn’t really cruel, mind you.  Unlike some people I can mention, like him over there, she remembers the names of her servants.  She’s even given me some of her old toys for my children. Not something likes a gold ball, but I was able to sell some of them. 

                So her father made he feed it, let it drink from her goblet.  Not his of course, I wonder what he would have said then.  No, I know what he would have said then.  She had to take up stairs.  She even tucked it into a play crib.  Then it hopped out onto her bed, and demanded a kiss. 

                So she let it kiss the side of the wall.

                Hence the frog guts.      

                Silly frog must have thought it was a prince.  The princess knows that those stories are just fairy tales.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Out Oct 3, 2017

Haunted Nights edited by Lisa Morton and Ellen Datlow

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

                Who doesn’t love Halloween?  Okay, it’s true that in some areas of the country, you will have near adults dressed in nothing more than a cheap mask ringing the doorbell and then being upset that they haven’t received a whole Snickers bar, but, hey, it’s Halloween, and look at those Princess Leias.  Brings a bit of hope about the future generation.

                But as most people can tell you, as the Princess Leias illustrate, there is also an attempt to make Halloween less scary.  Some schools have forbidden scary outfits, and most customers in my neighborhood recently have been superheroes and princesses.  (And that is another issue).  While it is understandable not to want to frighten young children, the sexualization of costumes and the move to cute, does tend to be a bit disturbing.  Look at the difference between male and female Iron Man costumes, for instance.

                Thankfully Morton and Datlow hew to the original concept of Halloween in this well edited collection.

                All the stories are set on Halloween (or on a related festival).  All the tales are spooky and focus on the darker aspect of the holiday.  Thought, it should be noted, that cute can still make an appearance in one or two tales.  But it is cute with a big bite, lots of sharp teeth, and you know, it is going to leave a scar.

                Seanan McGuire’s “With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfbane Seeds” starts the collection.  It is, on the surface, a haunted house tale (what better way to celebrate Halloween), as well as makes us of the idea of Mischief Night.  It is a good teen story too, at least in terms of the idea of needing and wanting to belong to a group.  It’s a rather quiet study of it, and while the subject matter and execution are completely different, in many ways it reminds me of Kij Johnson’s “Ponies” – the most chilling story about peer pressure ever.

                Which isn’t in this collection, but McGuire’s short story is just as good, so if you liked “Ponies”, read it.

                McGuire is followed by “Dirtmouth” by Stephen Graham Jones, a tale about fame, death, and afterlife.  To say much more would be giving a bit too much away, so I won’t.  Let’s just say, it makes a good companion piece to “The Monkey’s Paw”.

                Look, if you are over 12, and don’t know “The Monkey’s Paw,” I can’t know you.  Sorry.

                Perhaps Jonathan Maberry’s “A Small Taste of the Old Country”.  Considering the Trump’s administrations misstatements, false statements, or missteps (you can pick the word, I prefer lies) in terms of the Holocaust, Maberry’s somber story is a good rebuke to all those statements.  It also, like most good fiction, raises questions about justice, remembrance, and freedom.

                Joanna Parupinski’s tale “Wick’s End” makes good use of several folklore and tale motifs as does Kelley Armstrong’s “Nos Galen Gaeaf” (which is set in Cainsville).  Additionally, both stories make excellent use of the idea of storytelling.  Phillip Pullman’s “Seventeen Year Itch” also makes use of this idea and combines with the overuse trope of a madhouse.  Yet, he writes quite a spooky story.

                Jeffrey Ford gets bonus points for placing a tale in the New Jersey Pine Barrens but not including the Jersey Devil.  Paul Kane too plays with the sounds of footsteps, and John R. Little sets a Halloween on the moon.  Work by Pat Cadigan, Kate Jonez, S.P. Miskowski, and John Langan round out the collection.

                In all, the short stories are strong and contain a good deal of spook and spine tingles.  The emphasis is on fear rather than shock.  This isn’t to say that there is not blood, but the horror is more psychological than shock with blood spurting.  Not there isn’t the odd spurt or so.

Friday, May 5, 2017

On the AHCA

The saddest thing about this current presidency is the number of friends I feel that I am losing. It’s only gotten worse with the AHCA. How can anyone with a shred of decency be happy about a bill that allows rape to be classified as a pre-existing condition?

Think abou it.

 Rape. Pre-existing. Condition.

A rape victim could be paying a higher premium (or be priced out altogether) while his/her attacker can still have no problem gaining and keeping insurance. Let’s not forget – rape victims are not just women. Rape is underreported, but men vastly underreport it.

I know a few people who call themselves Christian and yet support the AHCA. They aren’t even in Congress. For them, it comes down to the whole abortion is bad belief. Yet, what they are also saying is that a woman’s life is worth far less than anything else, even that bundle of cells in her body. Even worth less than a possibility of that bundle of cells in her body.

Combining this bill with the defunding of Planned Parenthood means women will lack basic and needed medical care. Pap smears and mammograms are not covered. Because why? Because the people who wanted this don’t have vaginas. Or, as one twitter post commented, haven’t touched one in years.

With Planned Parenthood underfunded and in some cases having to close centers, women will lack access to pap smears, mammograms, and pre-natal screening.

Rape. A pre-existing condition.

I’m going to keep repeating that because it is important.

According to RAINN, every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. 60,000 children are victims each year.

Rape. A pre-existing condition.

60,000 children becoming/joining higher cost/risk pools under AHCA each year.

Being in those pools for the rest of their lives.

While women (and girls) make up 90% of victims and men 10% (according to RAINN), it should be noted that men unreported far more than a woman. If women face questions about being able to fend off an attacker, think of the questions a man faces.

According to the work of Debra Rowland, insurance companies have long denied covering contraceptives because women chose to have sex (see Boundaries of Her Body 271). Viagra and other male aids are covered because they have other uses.

The thing is that for women contraceptive devices have other uses as well and the obstacles that women have to overcome to get it covered are ridiculous. I had to have a IUD installed because of continuous heavy bleeding.   Incidentally the packages of Always I went through on a weekly basis weren’t covered either.

Imagine always bleeding, therefore always exhausted, and always worried about an accident because of heavy clots. And your job is standing in front of people and talking.

Then add the hoops.

My insurance doesn’t cover contraceptives and that is what an IUD is. First, I had to call my insurance. Then my doctor had to send them the medical history. Then the insurance says yes, only to say no on the day the device is installed. Then yes, again. Then no, again. I get sent a bill. A month of phone calls later, it finally gets straightened out. If it wasn’t for the last woman I talked to, I would have had to pay $1500 dollars.

Do men have to go thought that shit to get a blue pill?

Rape. A pre-existing condition.

It took years for marital rape to be a crime. Today, studies have discovered that partner violence includes a forced pregnancy (such as a husband raping a wife). Kate Harding cites that 64% of rapes are not reported, 12% of rape cases feature an arrest, and 2/3 of cases are dismissed (Asking for It 106).

If a woman who is already struggling to pay for standard and needed exams or birth control is raped, under AHCA why the hell would she report it? Those numbers are only going to get higher.

Now tell me we don’t live in a rape culture.

I dare you.

I cannot help but reach the conclusion that if you support AHCA, you support the punishment of women for being raped. It is honor killing but in another form, isn’t it?

AHCA endorses the rape myths, even if only passively – she asked for it, it wasn’t rape, she wanted it – and so on. After all, she must be punished somehow for wanting the morning after pill – a form of an abortion for some people. That is, if she can get access to the pill at all. We have cases of women who have reported being raped being prosecuted under their school’s honor codes for getting drunk (see: “At Bingham Young, a Cost in Reporting Rape” by Jack Healy writing for the NY Times).

And if you support the punishment of women for being raped, I do not want to know you.

Rape. A pre-existing condition.