07JUN2018 – OCF Update

The summer is now an actual thing and get-togethers and parties are happening.   But things will continue unabated here on OCF, the pulse of the spite filled, unforgiving, vindictive vengeful right.  I’m starting to read David Reich’s book “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past.”  It goes over a lot of the same ground as Gregory Cochran’s book “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution,” but from a very apologetic, politically correct, “diversity is our strength” point of view.  But from of the small parts I’ve read it’s still very interesting to see the pushback he experienced.  Should be instructive.  I’ve got the last Majipoor book to read and the next Galaxy’s edge installment and some other sf and I’ve got some photo projects lined up.  But the elephant in the room should be the DOJ IG’s report coming out this week.  I’m hoping that will trigger a lot of stuff.  Maybe even the end of the Mueller investigation or at least a counter-attack to take him out.  So good stuff coming up.

On a more local note I’ve been intrigued by the general dearth of comments.  Now this is my first blog so maybe it’s how it works but I’m curious, so I have a survey poll on it.  I’ll leave it on the next few posts and I look forward to the info I get.

Kill Team – Galaxy’s Edge (Volume 3) by Jason Anspach & Nick Cole – A Science Fiction Book Review

Kill Team is the third installment of the Galaxy’s Edge science fiction series.  But chronologically it occurs immediately after the end of Legionnaire, the first volume in the series.  Kill Team is a two track story.  One track tells the story of the surviving members of Legion Company Victory after the Battle of Kublar and how they become re-integrated into the task force attempting to prevent a decapitation attack meant to topple the Republic.  The other track is a spy story following an undercover agent working to prevent the same attack.

The story is well told.  But for my tastes the adventures of the Legionnaires is more engaging.  The morally ambiguous role of the spy and the way that the writer portrays his internal conflict isn’t as much fun as the mil-sf adventures of Victory Company.

The story line serves to provide back story to some characters that first appeared in Galactic Outlaws, volume two of the series.  And this was, in my opinion necessary.  Quite a big gap existed between the story lines in Legionnaire and Galactic Outlaws.  Kill Team makes sense of some of the dramatic changes in the intervening period.

My verdict for Kill Team is positive.  Although, as I said I enjoyed the Victory Company track more than the spy track the story holds up well and builds on the strong characters that made Legionnaire so enjoyable.  Kudos to Anspach and Cole.  They’ve extended their winning streak and I’ll go for the fourth volume.  I want to see just how bleak their empire crashing vision will be.

26MAY2018 – OCF Update

The thirty degree mornings have relented.  There is a break in the seemingly endless succession of torrential rain and wind storms.  I have a non-work day where I can cut the grass and put the yard in post-winter order.So today may be a bit slow.  What’s on tap and coming up soon:

  1. Photos from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
  2. Photo essay on the Sigma 150-600 Sports lens on the A7 III.
  3. Book Review on Robert Silverberg’s “Valentine Pontifex.”
  4. Book Review on “Kill Team (Galaxy’s Edge Book 3).”
  5. Book Review on “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past.”
  6. Review of the Vanguard Alta GH-300T Grip Head for heavy lens shooting.
  7. Review of Deadpool 2.
  8. Review of Capture One 11 Photo Editing Software.
  9. President Trump’s summary firing of the intelligence agency conspirators.  Wait I’m not supposed to write that.  Let’s call that Trump Humor.

And some of these may not be in this order.  I am human after all and sometimes the mood strikes me to switch stuff up.  So stay tuned.

17MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Heinlein was probably exclusively thinking of religion but the relevancy to the Left’s brand of politically correct propaganda is extremely obvious to me.

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creeds into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.

Robert A. Heinlein

Monster Hunter Siege by Larry Correia – A Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review

Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series has been a fun experience for me.  His stories feature heroic monster hunters battling the unalloyed evil of the world’s varied monster population.  The Shacklefords and their associates have turned wholesale slaughter of the undead into a lucrative enterprise but one that has taken its toll on the family.  Included in this attrition are three recent victims who have been turned respectively, into a werewolf and two master vampires.  But what makes it a pleasure is that none of the monsters and none of the hunters ever seem tempted to wax poetic on the need to increase the world quotient of social justice.  The diversity of the characters is measured in species of monsters dispatched or the variety of allied supernatural creatures such as trailer-park dwelling elves, death-metal loving orcs and gangsta gnomes who get featured in a story.  Correia never once discusses the need to ascertain the correct gender fluid pronouns of any zombies before blowing their heads off with a rocket propelled grenade.  So, the books are very much action oriented.  Shooting monsters is their forte.

But I am happy to relate that Larry’s storytelling abilities are definitely becoming more nuanced.  In Siege one of the highlights of the book is a sustained dialog between the protagonist (Owen Pitt) and his nemesis.  In this scene Correia gives the devil his due.  In fact, I think his evil character may actually seal the show.  Of course, there is still plenty of combat and monsters being blown up.  And Larry further clarifies the mythology of his universe.  So never fear, there’s plenty of explosions to warm the heart of all Monster Hunter fans.  But Larry is definitely steering the series into a more complicated plot.  Larry has shown that he is not averse to killing off some of his characters.  And some of that goes on in Siege.  But what is also clarified is that he is braiding at least five separate strands of supernatural intervention and even some of the “good guys” may not get along together.  So, we shouldn’t expect any imminent resolution of the larger threat that has been growing in the background.  If anything, the details at the end of Siege further complicate the future for Owen and his family.  But that’s alright.  Larry seems in control of his material and expanding the scope of the story to epic proportions.

So, if you are already a Monster Hunter fan then the good news is that Siege is a very worthy successor to the series.  And if you are new to the series then rest assured that your investment will pay off with an already good number of sequels to satisfy your monster killing quota and with every indication that Larry will continue to expand the Monster Hunter saga into an urban fantasy franchise comparable in size and quality to Jim Butcher’s Dresden files.  The only shortcoming to the story is that the only mention of Agent Franks is retrospective to the previous book.  We’ll have to wait for the next book to see his smiling face.

10MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

Ray Bradbury turned Americana into fantasy (and sometimes horror).  But Dandelion Wine is his love song to small town America circa 1928.  And one of the lessons he tries to teach is that progress doesn’t always mean improvement.  Too bad the family is one of the things that doesn’t look like it will survive 21st Century America.

You want to see the real happiness machine? The one they patented a couple thousand years ago. It still runs; not good all the time, no! but it runs. It’s been here all along.

Hesitantly, Grandfather, Douglas and Tom peered through the large windowpane.

And there in the small warm pools of lamplight, you could see what Leo Auffman wanted you to see.  There sat Saul and Marshall, playing chess at the coffee table.  In the dining room Rebecca was laying out the silver.  Naomi was cutting out paper-doll dresses.  Ruth was painting water colors.  Joseph was running his electric train.  Through the kitchen door, Lena Auffman was sliding a pot roast from the steaming oven.  Every hand, every head, every mouth made a big or little motion.  You could hear their far away voices under glass.  You could hear someone singing in a high sweet voice.  You could smell bread baking, too, and you knew it was real bread that would soon be covered with real butter.  Everything was there and it was working.

Ray Bradbury

Dandelion Wine (1957)

08MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

I grew up on this guy’s stuff.  We don’t see eye to eye on everything but he did get a lot of stuff right.  Plus he definitely was an American original.  In his novel “Friday” he represented the balkanization of North America.  I wonder whether he would be surprised by where we are today.  My guess, probably not.

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.

Robert A. Heinlein

06MAY2018 – OCF Update

This week I’ll finish up reading Larry Correia’s “Monster Hunter Seige” and post a review.  The hard cover version came out back in July but I buy the paperback for convenience and that version just got issued.  The site has been a little slow because I’m putting together a sort of “best of” post on my southwest landscape trip for a link that Captain Capitalism is providing me and it’s a time-consuming endeavor.  It’s like eleven hundred files and I’m still learning how to use Capture One.  So bear with me.  That post should be pretty interesting for the photo enthusiasts.  As I mentioned earlier I’ll get those rental lenses on Friday the 11th and that will spawn some interesting posts on the viability of using Sigma lenses with Canon mount on the Sony A7 cameras.  That may be interesting to Canon shooters with Sigma glass who have been interested in switching to Sony and anyone who is still constrained by Sony’s telephoto and macro lens choices.

The other thing I am interested in writing about is the direction of right wing movement.  I am trying to formulate my own particular spin on what makes sense going forward.  There is a lot of confusion and undirected anger that doesn’t seem to be producing much in the way of results.  And there seems to be a certain amount of opportunism and charlatanism that makes it difficult to know what is solid and worthwhile.  Sometimes it seems that several people have each latched onto a different piece of the puzzle needed to reform the current situation but like the blind men and the elephant they only “see” a small part of the reality and are missing the big picture.  And because of that, they diagnose that small part of the problem and their solution doesn’t address the broader situation.  And some of the “wise men” are too extreme.  They would throw out the baby with the bath water.  The more I think about solutions for the social disintegration the more I think that restoring the common-sense institutions we used to have is the solution.  Stopping unlimited immigration is neither impossible nor radical.  Restoring respect for the traditions and institutions of our forefathers is important and relatively straight forward.  And replacing social justice and reverse discrimination with actual justice is so rational that it shouldn’t even require explanation.  I think some of the emphasis on race reality is a response to the absurdity that occurs when racial and sexual protectionism and intersectionality tactics are used to attack the American white middle and working classes.  If you eliminate these irritants then the rules of American society should be competent to allow different types of people to function relatively harmoniously.  Anyway, that is what I’m starting to think.  I’m definitely interested in other opinions.  And I read around to hear what other people are coming up with.  For instance I’m going to read Gregory Cochran’s “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution” and David Reich’s “Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past” to see if there’s anything in biology that rules out my optimism for a functional multi-ethnic America.

And finally, I’d love to get more feedback from the readers.  Even if it’s negative.  It’s useful to know what you like and what you don’t.  Or even to just say hi.  It’s definitely appreciated and part of why I made this site.  I am interested in hearing other points of view.  And if you find something interesting on-line pass along the link.

03MAY2018 – Quote of the Day

It’s so short (and in the public domain!) how could I abridge this magnificent malignancy?

THE TELL-TALE HEART by Edgar Allan Poe
TRUE!--nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but
why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses--not
destroyed--not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I
heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things
in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily--how
calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once
conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion
there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had
never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his
eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture--a pale blue eye,
with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and
so by degrees--very gradually--I made up my mind to take the life of the
old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you
should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded--with
what caution--with what foresight--with what dissimulation I went to
work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week
before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch
of his door and opened it--oh so gently! And then, when I had made an
opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed,
closed, that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh,
you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it
slowly--very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s
sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so
far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! would a madman have
been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I
undid the lantern cautiously--oh, so cautiously--cautiously (for the
hinges creaked)--I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell
upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights--every night
just at midnight--but I found the eye always closed; and so it was
impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but
his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into
the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a
hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he
would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every
night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the
door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never
before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers--of my
sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think
that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to
dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and
perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled.
Now you may think that I drew back--but no. His room was as black as
pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened,
through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the
opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb
slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in bed, crying
out--“Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a
muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still
sitting up in the bed listening;--just as I have done, night after
night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal
terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief--oh, no!--it was the low
stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged
with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when
all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with
its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well.
I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at
heart. I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight
noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since
growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could
not. He had been saying to himself--“It is nothing but the wind in the
chimney--it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “It is merely a
cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he had been trying to
comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain.
All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his
black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the
mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to
feel--although he neither saw nor heard--to feel the presence of my head
within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie
down, I resolved to open a little--a very, very little crevice in
the lantern. So I opened it--you cannot imagine how stealthily,
stealthily--until, at length a simple dim ray, like the thread of the
spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye.

It was open--wide, wide open--and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I
saw it with perfect distinctness--all a dull blue, with a hideous
veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see
nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray
as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but
over-acuteness of the sense?--now, I say, there came to my ears a low,
dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I
knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It
increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into
courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the
lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon
the eve. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew
quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s
terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every
moment!--do you mark me well I have told you that I am nervous: so I am.
And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of
that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable
terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But
the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. And now
a new anxiety seized me--the sound would be heard by a neighbour! The
old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern
and leaped into the room. He shrieked once--once only. In an instant
I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then
smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the
heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it
would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man
was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone,
stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many
minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would
trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe
the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night
waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered
the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and
deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so
cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye--not even his--could have
detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out--no stain of any
kind--no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had
caught all--ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o’clock--still dark
as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the
street door. I went down to open it with a light heart,--for what had
I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with
perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by
a neighbour during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused;
information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the
officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled,--for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The
shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was
absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade
them search--search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I
showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of
my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here
to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of
my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which
reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was
singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they
chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale
and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my
ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more
distinct:--It continued and became more distinct: I talked more
freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained
definiteness--until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my
ears.

No doubt I now grew _very_ pale;--but I talked more fluently, and with a
heightened voice. Yet the sound increased--and what could I do? It was
a low, dull, quick sound--much such a sound as a watch makes when
enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath--and yet the officers heard
it not. I talked more quickly--more vehemently; but the noise steadily
increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with
violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would
they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if
excited to fury by the observations of the men--but the noise steadily
increased. Oh God! what could I do? I foamed--I raved--I swore! I swung
the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the
boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It
grew louder--louder--louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and
smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!--no, no! They
heard!--they suspected!--they knew!--they were making a mockery of my
horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than
this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear
those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die!
and now--again!--hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!--tear up
the planks! here, here!--It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

 


   

Majipoor Chronicles by Robert Silverberg – A Science Fiction Review

Previously I reviewed the first book of this series Lord Valentine’s Castle.  And since I liked that volume I went ahead and bought the other two volumes.  Majipoor Chronicles is constructed as a bridge between the first and third volumes and also serves to fill in as much of the backstory of Majipoor as it can.  One of the minor characters from the first book uses a machine that can record and replay the experiences of a person’s life so that another can virtually relive them as if it were his own life unfolding.  Using this plot device, we are served up a series of short stories varying between twenty and fifty pages in length.  Themes and characters vary.  Some are personal accounts of ordinary people living through the history of this planet.  All the primary characters are humans but the stories sometimes are primarily concerning human/non-human interaction.  Some of the stories involve characters who are major historical figures in the Majipoor world.  And some of the stories shed a light on the unusual place that dreams play in Majipoor life.  And finally, the last story is directly about the hero of the first book, Lord Valentine.

My first comment on the book is that it absolutely cannot be read with first reading Lord Valentine’s Castle.  Without first walking through Majipoor with Valentine on his journey of discovery I think the details and logic of Majipoor life would seem random and confusing.  Without some grounding in the structure of their ruling system and the relations between the sentient species some of the stories would be especially confusing.

The second thing that I want to discuss is the vintage of these books.  They were written at the end of the nineteen seventies and into the nineteen eighties.  During that period science fiction authors were heavily invested in introducing sex as a major component of their stories.  Silverberg was no exception.  So, in addition to normal sexual matters he highlights the oddity of the male protagonist who experiences these mind recordings experiencing sex from the point of view of one of his female subjects.  And in one story at an all woman’s school the fact that two of the women were in an intimate setting has one character wondering if it was an attempted sexual advance.  I think the character more or less says the “Seinfeldian” line, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  And later on, there is a sex scene involving a woman and two brothers.  Of course, by today’s standards these are extremely tame but at the time these were boundary testing.  The more bizarre sexual situation involves two human characters in separate stories that engage in sex with non-humans.  In fact, the really odd one has a young woman actually initiating sex with an unemotional, fairly uninterested but polite lizard man who the female character is nursing back to health from a leg injury.  This one was a bit much for me.  I have to admit that my tolerance human woman / lizard man sex is extremely limited.  So that facet of the stories is not entirely to my satisfaction.  As far as his description of normal male female sexuality I thought that was fairly done.  And of course, the adult nature of the books would exclude recommending them to very young people.

Putting aside this second point, which is restricted to a small part of the overall book, I enjoyed the writing and I found several of the stories very original.  Silverberg has a fertile imagination and writes his characters in an interesting and sympathetic manner.  I especially liked the stories that advanced the historical knowledge of Majipoor.  My favorite was the war story, “The Time of the Burning.”  It directly addresses the human colonization of Majipoor and the impact this had on the aboriginal population.  But overall I see Majipoor Chronicles as an interlude between Lord Valentine’s Castle and Valentine Pontifex, the third book of the series.  It’s merely a snack between the main courses.  If you’re reading the series then you must read it because there are a few plot points that would be missed with out it but overall it is more of a background enhancer for the Majipoor world building effort.  Now on to Valentine Pontifex!