Tuesday, May 12, 2015

An eclectic mix of books

Just some random thoughts... I brought in three books I'm reading today to the office, because I'm not sure which of the three I'm going to feel like cracking open during lunch.  Actually, considering that I'm also reading two on my Kindle app on my phone, I'm actually reading five... and I might pick up any of the five.  I also have jury duty tomorrow, so I'll most likely read plenty of... something... tomorrow too.

Sabertooth: My love of paleontology can't be a mystery to any readers of my blog.  I even have another blog dedicated specifically to paleontology--although I admit that I don't update it very often.  Sabertooths--specifically Smilodon fatalis, the North American sabertooth cat famous from Rancho La Brea tar pits, is probably my favorite animal over the entire range of life on earth (although big carnosaurs and tyrannosaurids have to give it a run for its money in that regard.)  It ranged all over the North American continent south of the glacial advance, throughout Central America and in the northwesternmost corner of South America north and west of the Andes.  On the other side of the Andes was its larger cousin, Smilodon populator, which is honestly a more impressive animal, but because it's part of a weirder and (in my opinion) less impressive faunal assemblage overall, I prefer the North American species.  Plus--cooler name.  And it's a local, homegrown animal.  Mauricio Antón, the author of this book, is actually an artist, who is self-taught about the systematics and biology of sabertooths, and is now probably the world's leading expert, for whatever that's worth.

The book doesn't just talk about felid sabertooths, though--it talks about the entire gamut of mammalian or even proto-mammalian terrestrial sabertoothed carnivores.  This includes felid sabertooths, dirk-tooths, scimitar-tooths, etc. of course, but it also delves into the barbourofelids and nimravids, completely different (and extinct) carnivoran families, as well as creodonts and even gorgonopsids--that last of which may seem like an odd addition, but hey, why not?

The South Was Right:  I've also come to really question the received wisdom of my formal education, having found that much of it is actually quite literally cultural Marxist indoctrination.  Because I am open-minded, however, instead of locked into accepting what I've been taught without thought, I've long struggled with some narratives that didn't quite make sense.  And, of course, growing up in the South, I struggled with the concept of how the ancestors of these people, who's cultural heritage still lingers strongly in the area, could be the terrible people that Northern propaganda has taught us that they are.

This book isn't terribly academically written, and it occasionally struggles from very open bias and a kind of wide-eyed outrage that most readers will struggle to identify with, even me as a sympathetic one.  However, it is a fairly nice and thorough treatise on, among other things, 1) the true economic causes of the war (hint; the North actually had no intention of freeing the slaves, it was a by-product of the war, and the North didn't even free the slaves that lived in it's own territory with the Emancipation Proclamation; that came afterwards with the Amendment to the Constitution several years after the war was over), 2) racial attitudes in the South and the North (hint; in the South, racial harmony and integration was commonplace in spite of the limited practice of race-based slavery, while in the north hostile racism was commonplace), 3) northern war crimes against the Southerners, and much more.

It's important to continue the process of deprogramming the indoctrination that we've been given.  I've got a small list that is a good place to start on my What I'm Reading tab.  This book may or may not make the cut, but even if it doesn't, it's an interesting read.

The Eye of the Chained God: I still read a fair bit of tie-in fiction, even though my experience with it is sometimes painful.  In the world of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® tie-in fiction (like that?  WotC likes to print it that way) Don Bassingthwaite is one of the better authors that they've got who regularly writes for them.  Plus, this is a trilogy; this is actually the third and final act, and the series as a whole is named The Abyssal Plague.  It's a little old now, although I bought it while new, but since I've read the first two in the series and they weren't actively bad, and I actually bought them, I figured it was worth it to finish it off.  This will probably be what I spend most of my time doing tomorrow when not having to actively listen to a bunch of boring attorneys going through jury selection procedures.  I've really only barely cracked it open so far.

I doubt that I'll keep this series once I finish it (or the earlier Bassingthwaite series on the hobgoblin empire that I bought and read.)  I think I'll make some room on my bookshelf by donating all six of those books from two trilogies to the public library.  Still, I don't regret the money or time spent.  They weren't bad at all.

After I finish this one, I'll probably continue tie-in fiction reading.  I've only read, so far, the first of three in a series about the rise of Nagash, the Supreme Lord of the Undead in the Warhammer world.  I want to read this "historical" series and the two later yet still "ancient history" novels about the Undead before reading The Return of Nagash, which I also have, which is the first book in the End Times series where Games Workshop decided--somewhat inexplicably, in my opinion--to blow up their established setting.

Reassessing the Presidency: a much more scholarly book that will probably make my permanent "deprogramming" reading list.  Published as a series of essays by several authors by the Von Mises Institute as a Kindle book, the subtitle is The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom, and that's an accurate assessment of the conclusions reached and the evidence to suggest why it happened.  After reading books like that, it really changes your perspective on voting in America, especially when Presidential candidates start to talk.  It's amazing to me what Presidential candidates say now that causes me to cringe, when only a few years ago I would have not batted an eye.

Understanding what has happened to spoil the party that the Founding Fathers started, and if possible even reverse the decline and degeneration, is crucial to the very survival of our country.  I've become rather pessimistic in the last few years about our chances, since the will of the electorate is gone; we resemble far to much late stage Roman Empire, or even the sad world of Brave New World where voters are bribed and drugged with ease--bread and circuses style.  But not entirely pessimistic.  We may yet have a chance to halt the rot, excise the cancer, and stand tall--ready to welcome the Savior as free men when he returns with open arms.  Likely?  No.  Impossible?  Also no.  We do what we can.  And the first step is to properly educate ourselves, which means undoing much of the damage that the education industry in America has inflicted on us and on the truth.

This book is one of several helpful tools in that regard.

The Complete Works of H. P. Lovecraft:  Despite the title, this isn't actually quite complete.  The compiler was just a little hesitant about the legal status of his ghost-written and "co-authored" works, so they are not included.  However, literally everything written under his own name is public domain, and collated into this handy little Kindle file (which isn't little at all) sorted chronologically.  This is a bit challenging in its own right, actually--sorting it that way means that you have to read his earlier stuff first, and he had a lot of duds early in his career.  I've been plodding my way methodically through this for months now, though, and I'm somewhat near the end (granted; most of what remains are longish novellas, however.)  Currently I'm about ¾ of the way through "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"--truly one of the classics in his oeuvre, although oddly hearkening back in many ways to some of his earlier work, since it reads more like a Cthulhu-esque horror story than like a science fiction story, where much of his later work treads.  Of course, the overlap in genre in his work is notable, which is why "Weird Tale" is often used specifically to describe Lovecraftian horror/scifi hybrids, and they really don't quite resemble anything other than themselves.

Many of these stories, especially all of the "important" ones I've read before, often multiple time, of course.  But many of the poorer and smaller works actually were new to me as I went through them.  Of what remains in the ebook are mostly his more classic stories, but there are two works that I haven't ever read before, "The Evil Clergyman" and "The Book", both from 1933.  After I finish this, I'll still need to open up my hard-copy of his ghost-written and co-authored stories collected in The Horror in the Museum omnibus, republished by Del Rey, before I can truly say that I've read all of Lovecraft's work.  Once I've done so... I dunno.  I may find that being able to make that claim is of dubious value, since I'd already read most of what was actually worth reading long ago.

What I'd like to continue doing, however, is finding good collections of authors who have written Lovecraftian stories and expanded the Yog-Sothothery concept in new and interesting ways.  Always more to do, right?


Joshua Dyal said...

Sigh. Got busy, worked through most of my lunch hour. I got to read about 10-15 minutes of Lovecraft is all. Oh, well.

Joshua Dyal said...

Well, it turns out my jury duty is a bust. You know how you call the night before? They told me not to report. I don't know if I'll just go back into the pool or potential jurors again, or if they're literally reschedule me, but I guess we'll see in a few months tops.