So, for the record, this is what my star ratings mean:
5 stars = FREAKING EPIC, gigantic story, everything works well, my mind is blown that a human being thought this up.
4 stars = love this book, it's just not as humongous in scope as a 5. But it's totally awesome and everyone should read it, it's a keeper.
3 stars = mixed feelings (this is where the "I think others might like it, it's just not for me" reviews are likely to go). Not that bad, but has some issues, or it's an okay story but nothing really stands out to me as being memorable. It was a pleasant enough read for a few days, but I'll probably just end up giving the book away rather than rereading it again.
2 stars = generally pretty terrible, but not 100% so. There was at least one thing in this book that made it not totally horrible. This book isn't really recommended to all and sundry, but you might get some value out of the one thing if you try.
1 star (rarely seen here): It's a wallbanger. Nothing is redeemable about this book, it's utter crap, and I probably only finished reading it so I could do an awesome bitchrant about it and I can't justify doing that to books I didn't finish.
This book takes place in the same world as The Iron Duke and Heart of Steel, though as far as I recall there’s no overlapping characters.
Annika Fridasdottir is hiding her identity—she’s from a secret village of all women called Hannasvik on Iceland. Once upon a time they were hiding from the rebellion they had to do to get free, killed a prince’s son, now they’re just hiding because most of the village is lesbian. She’s been traveling around the New World for four years trying to find her missing sister Kalla, who got exiled from the village by taking the blame for Annika nearly getting them spotted by men. She has the joys of people wondering where she’s from (she’s of African descent as far as I can tell from the description, which they call “Libere” in this world), and having a distinctively weird accent. That accent stands out to one David Kentewess, who recognizes it as being the same as his dead mother Inga’s. She never said where she was from either, but her dying wish was that David bury her rune necklace on a mountain at her home. But where the heck is her home when she wouldn’t say? Anyway, David really perks up upon meeting Annika and is thrilled that they’ll be traveling on the airship she works on, Phateon.
David was in an exploding mountain accident as a kid and now has a fake eye, arm, and legs. This is considered a complete turnoff to most people and he seems to have had a lot of body shame happen to him, especially with ladies. Annika is unbothered—she grew up with people with prosthetics. Amusingly enough, he grew up to be a volcanologist and is going to study the volcanoes in Iceland, which is an “uh-oh” to her. A lot of the book is David trying to get closer to Annika and Annika liking him but at the same time really needing him to stop being so freaking snoopy about her home life. When he reveals why he needs to know, Annika gets it, but at the same time can't exactly encourage him either, both for the no-men thing, their safety, and she has no idea how he's going to deal with the concept of lesbianism. (Fine, btw.)
David ends up meeting Lorenzo di Fiore, the son of Pablo, the fellow who caused the mountain accident in the first place. While David doesn't have hard feelings towards Pablo--accidents happen--Pablo did some time in an insanitarium and Lorenzo is determined to start implementing other things Pablo has invented. He wants David's assistance, but David declines since he has other interests. But Lorenzo won't take no for an answer, and ends up attacking the airship everyone's on. And he gassed to death the entire population of an island to boot just to test something. David and Annika end up being captured by Lorenzo, and find out some very surprising news about the di Fiore family situation. Will they be able to keep themselves and the women of Hannasvik safe--and if so, for how much longer?
This is an interesting tale. Both Annika and David are totally sweet personalities and odd ducks in their own way--Annika's personality is pretty odd duck even where she's from and David's been getting the "OMG FREAK" treatment for a long time--but they accept each other and become good friends as well as being romantically involved. I did enjoy the aforementioned surprise revelations, which I wasn't expecting in many ways. The handling of lesbianism is done well, especially given Annika's ambiguous sexuality--she doesn't quite know what she goes for, seems to be flexible--but really, she just wants to be riveted to a person. Overall, I though it was a very sweet story and I'd give it four stars.
The women of Hannasvik have a saying about god answering prayers: “And sometimes, I think it’s not about luck at all; you lift your face to say a prayer to the gods, and the answer they give is a bird shitting in your eyes.” –Annika. (David translates this as “that the gods had answered a prayer, but that the answer wasn’t one anyone would like.")
Amusingly, Annika describes David to a village person without mentioning his fake eye—but goes into great detail about his outfit though. (She’s a clothes person.) Such as, “the fit over his ass isn’t as snug as I would like….” She eventually mentions he has scars on his face and “has the most marvelous hand.”
So the story continues on, with our intrepid heroes (minus the ones that ran off to be highwaymen) raring up to fight against Kana’s invading army. However, they run into some trouble because Kana managed to get the assistance of a god, whose name is abbreviated as Tri’nagore. That god pretty much manages to thwart any visions, and eventually between blocking people’s magic and FREAKING PARTIALLY OPENING A DOOR FOR THE JENOINE TO GET IN—the latter action pretty much disables the Orb—our heroes are left to have to fight without all of the magical backup that they’ve lined up with the help of the title character, Sethra Lavode. Meanwhile, Khaavren is still feeling angsty as hell for (a) feuding with his son—they never exactly come to an agreement that Piro can marry Ibronka, but they sort of quietly resolve things eventually, and (b) he quits working for Zerika because in the previous book Zerika promised Morrolan some counties and then she ends up passing them off to someone else. He thinks that’s shady, and yeah, it kinda is.
The evil triumvirate from the last book is really on the ball when it comes to evil magic-blocking plans, though their attempts at separating Zerika from all of her Musketeer allies are eventually thwarted. We’re told that this happens essentially because Zerika gets fed up with her work, chucked her pen across the room*, and decides to go to whatever formal event is being thrown that night—which turns out to be Morrolan’s new floating castle housewarming party. At this party, Khaaven overhears Zerika apologize to Morrolan for doing that, and Morrolan had forgotten about the whole thing and didn’t care a bit. This makes Khaavren okay with working for Zerika again, and thus he’s on duty when Pel gets fired for supposedly blabbing about Zerika’s secret boyfriend (note that it was easy enough for some other people to figure out she had one without him saying so), and he talks Zerika into taking him back.
* Paarfi makes darned sure we even find out the history and origins of said pen. “The pen had begun life some forty years ago as one of the interior wing feathers of a stunted lichbird....” Yes, he goes into the history of the creation of the pen for two paragraphs.
As for the rest of the Musketeers, the evil triumvirate lays a trap for them that goes mostly according to plan, forcing all of our main characters and even the roaming highwaymen led by “The Blue Fox” to show up at the final battle at the cave where Zerika emerged with the Orb. This is probably where Sethra (again, title character) is supposed to be the most prominent—and she is when fighting magic evil, but if you’re looking for secret insights into her in this book, prepare to be disappointed. Meanwhile, Morrolan discovers that that god is the one who led to his village being slaughtered, and he goes back home again with his BFS to take that god DOWN. And he does, SPECTACULARLY. It’s just the best—see below. So I give this one four stars for being a blast of an ending. It's a wee disappointing on the title character, but otherwise it's dramatic and fun to read.
“For this reason, then, upon the eventual death of Queen Legranthe, Corthina became one of the three or four leading contenders for the throne in the most natural way; and he took the throne upon the disappearance of the other claimants during the two weeks that followed the Queen’s death. (The exact reason for the disappearance we cannot know for certain, as His Majesty Corthina decided that public funds ought not be squandered in an investigation into the causes.” This doesn’t have too much to do with the rest of the book, but it’s pretty funny anyway.
The highwaymen realize that the advent of teleportation is going to ruin their job in a few years—and they won’t be able to use it to escape. “I believe I should like to discover who perfected this spell, and kick him.” -Piro “If I am not mistaken, that would be Sethra Lavode,” observed Kytraan. “Ah, well, perhaps I shall modify this determination.”
Title of a chapter: “How History Was Changed By the Flight of a Pen Across a Room.”
“The Countess of Whitecrest, who had made, it must be admitted, a spectacular toilet.” DUDE DON’T SAY THINGS LIKE THIS IT SOUNDS TERRIBLE AND YOU KNOW IT. I'm talking to you, Mr. Brust.
About Morrolan: “Teldra pretended that, as the host, he ought not to wear anything that might make any guest feel he had paid insufficient attention to his toilet.” THIS ALSO SOUNDS REALLY BAD.
Sethra Lavode and her assistant Tukko discuss reading material: “And yet, I have heard you say that any novel that relieves your ennui for an hour has proved its usefulness.” “In my opinion, the proper way to judge a novel is this: Does it give one an accurate reflection of the moods and characteristics of a particular group of people in a particular place at a particular time? If so, it has value. Otherwise, it has none.”
At a war council, Sethra Lavode cautions them all to “be prepared for the unexpected.” “Do you know,” observed Khaavren, “I have often heard that one ought to be prepared for the unexpected, but I am not entirely certain of how to do so.” “Well, sir,” said the Warlord at once, “that is because there is no good way to accomplish this. But the caution must nevertheless be given, for the simple reason that if it is not, and something unexpected happens, I should not look nearly so wise had I not made the remark.” I appreciate your honesty, ma'am.
Tazendra takes bad news very well, apparently: “What am I to lose?” asked Tazendra. “Everything,” said Grita. “All at once?” asked Tazendra in a tone of idle curiosity. “No, we are beginning with your left ear.” “Ah. Splendid. I have never liked that one. Indeed, I have often considered removing it myself.” “We are pleased to be able to perform this service for you.”
From the chapter on “How Morrolan Battled a God.” He spit on an icon of Tri’nagore, and then “sheathing his sword and unbuttoning his breeches, he made certain, in a way that was as old as Eastern tradition itself, that no man or god could have the least doubt about his feelings toward Tri’nagore. While we must beg the reader’s pardon for introducing this sort of crudeness, we must insist that, not only is it the case that Morrolan performed the act to which we have alluded, but, as we have indicated, this is the sort of defilement in which the crass Easterner is wont to indulge when determined to insult a god. Having stated that it occurred, however, we shall hasten on to other matters, as we would not wish to injure the reader’s sensibilities by dwelling on such matters for an instant longer than is strictly required by our duty as historian. The response was so quick that Morrolan was very nearly forced to go into battle with his breeches open.”
And the ending of the book is done in a bittersweet way, asking if Khaavren is happy. Paarfi says, well, he’s not the happy go lucky guy of the Phoenix Guards book. He died when his emperor did, when he was estranged from his son, and when his friends died. “Yet there is a man who wears his boots (and his sword), and who speaks with his mouth, and feels with his heart. This man is, as far as we can know, happy in the continued affection of his son, and the love of his wife, and the performance of his duty-that is, the continued feeling of being useful in a cause in which one fervently believes. Is this happiness? Insofar as the duties of an historian require an answer to this question, permit us to suggest that it will do.”
I’m gonna put a bit of a Quote Corner below the spoiler cut, just for fun.
Paarfi is very annoyed that he has to recap the previous book in this one, just so you know! “However, our attempts at explaining this to the Lord of Publications at Glorious Mountain Press at Adrilankha having met with complete failure, we find ourselves with no alternative but to do our humble best.” Yeah, why don’t you and Charlie Stross go into a corner and kvetch for awhile…anyhoo, I do concur with the “author” that in this book, “matters are far easier to understand in their interconnectedness.” Which is to say that things actually get going and characters who just spent the last book traveling actually get down to business. Good.
“What is the Empire? It is the political and economic organization of states united under the Orb-an artifact that is both symbolic and functional.”
Anyway, it’s time for Zerika and her new Orb to start the new Empire up again! Huzzah! She moves into Khaavren’s place while she starts setting things up, working on getting a new palace built, etc. Too bad that Kana…oh, wait, Kana’s STILL trying to take over the Empire anyway even though a rightful Phoenix heir has been found? Uh…yeah, that’s the point where people start losing sympathy for his cause. Kana and his kingmaker cousin Habil start trying to line up new allies, such as Illista, the other remaining (and exiled) Phoenix who’s got a grudge against Khaavren and his pals, and Grita, formerly known as Orlaan, who has the same grudge. It’s an evil triumvirate of evil! And on top of that, Kana summons up a god at the end… However, Pel quits Team Kana and secedes to the right side, and gets a job as Zerika’s Discreet (trained confidante). She also turns out to have a secret Easterner/human lover, which probably isn’t quite kosher, but Pel assures her that for her own happiness and sanity, it’s fine by him.
If the previous book was really Zerika’s (in my opinion if not the author or “author’s”), this book is definitely Morrolan’s, as he comes into his own. He comes across his ancestral territory, starts building a castle/temple, starts studying sorcery as well as witchcraft, and is introduced to the idea of how a lord should go around getting tithes from people living on his property. Amusingly enough, he finds out about Dzur Mountain and that some woman named Sethra lives there, so he strolls on up there to ask for some tribute. (Again, the audience is all “LOL” at this.) Sethra herself is pretty quietly amused, especially since she recognizes him as being the subject of a prophecy she knows of. “I am not entirely certain I enjoy being in a prophecy,” he says. She does give him some kind of tribute after breaking his sword—she replaces it with the Morganti weapon Blackwand. After hearing that some dude named Kana is about to invade his territory, Morrolan starts raising an army—which conveniently aligns with Zerika’s need for one. So of course they make friends, but not before having this amusing conversation:
“My name is Zerika, and, as you may deduce from the Orb circling my head, I am your Empress.… Kneeling may be appropriate.” “But, by what means did I acquire an Empress? I give you my word, three months ago I didn’t have so much as an estate!”
In other news, Piro and Ibronka fall in love, awkwardly. ”Come over here, Viscount, and kiss me, before I die of embarrassment.” However, he’s a Tiassa and she’s a Dzur. While during the Interregnum, it’s become more common for people to date outside of their House, Khaaven pretty much flips out when he finds out about it, causing Piro, Ibronka, Roanna, Kytraan, and other friends to ah…basically decide to run off and become highwaymen. As you do.
Anyway, the overall plot gets itself rolling along and going pretty well about it. I really enjoy Young Innocent Morrolan in particular, he’s quite a hoot. So I’ll give it four stars.
Kytraan and Piro compare weapons. Kytraan's is named Reason “because my father always believed in the power of reasoned argument.” Piro’s is called Wit’s End “for much the same reason that yours is Reason.”
Why Grassfog knows some healing: “My mistress died, and none of the spells I knew from healing were effacious, and I had to eat, because I considered that, as every living thing must eat to live, and as I was a living thing, should I stop eating I would no longer live, and I wished to continue living.” Oh, Dragaerans.
On describing Sethra: "Indeed, this author will confess freely that, of all the tasks he has set for himself in placing these events before the reader, those which touch upon Sethra Lavode are certainly the most difficult.” Foreshadowing!
“To be a God, is to embody principles greater than life--that is, greater than day-to-day existence. So then, insofar as one acts in accordance with the wishes of a God, one acts for a purpose higher than one’s self.” --Sethra the Younger, another apprentice.
“If someone offends me, I pass my sword through his body, and then the issue is settled.” --Morrolan got raised like that.
* Morrolan is learning to teleport and has a few “oops” incidents that he has to get rescued from. Sethra Lavode decides to have a talking to with him about this: “Suppose it were said of you that you had honorably created and led an army, but then, having done so, destroyed yourself through misadventure with a spell. Is that what you wish history to record?” Morrolan explained that, so far as he was concerned, history could record whatever it liked and be damned to it.” “But then, what of your friends? How will they feel if you should come to such an end?” ”Oh, they will, no doubt, find other friends.”
“Morrolan, having not yet the experience at reading to know that the reader of any book of instruction ought to ignore those lessons he finds inconvenient....”
Oh, and at the end of the book, we’re treated to a huge rant by some guy named Ilen who haaaaaaaaaaaates Paarfi and published a 3,700 page tome bitching about him, because how dare you enjoy his books! The title of it is, “A Mighty Thundering of Wisdom, Not One Word Of Which Can Be Gainsaid: An Examination of the Failings, Ethical, Moral, Literary, Historical, Grammatical, Intellectual and Otherwise of the Work and Person of Paarfi of Roundwood, Formerly of ths University--a Perfunctory Summary.” Sadly for Ilen, his book has not sold like hotcakes, except for “Volume 5, On The Lecherous Behavior of Paarfi of Roundwood, Profusely and Extensively Illustrated with Engraved Plates, Many Of Them In Color, Depicting Each of the Actresses, Mannequins, Warriors, Courtesans, Hired Sluts, and Promising Young Female Writers with Whom Paarfi’s Name Has Been Lined, Whether Conclusively Proven or Poor or No Authority At all,” which has sold out at several locations. There’s a chapter called “On The Public Drunkenness of Paarfi” and another chapter claims that what Paarfi described as “a polished exotic hardwood” was really a blacknut tree, which is not exotic, hardwood, or polished! Anyway, since you haven’t read it, here’s a summary: “The thrust of the University’s argument is that Paarfi has taken a discipline and reduced it to the petty crowd-pleasing antics of a fat man and his squirrel in the public square; that Paarfi has failed his training and education and is merely a mountebank, no longer capable of being considered in any way a respected or respectable historian. There.”
Oooookay then, I’m just gonna back away from the crazy now on that one.
Previous book here. This is the long-awaited sequel to Cryoburn, picking up three years after the end of it. Since this review will spoil the end of that book, I suppose that requires me to put all of it below the spoiler cut.
Overall, I'm going to give it four stars for being a sweet read, though perhaps not exactly what people are used to reading in this evolving series.
“I think that part of what defines gumption involves a willingness, even a hunger, for one’s mettle to be challenged.”
In Nick Offerman's second book, he takes the opportunity to praise some of his favorite people in history/real life for their gumption. Plus this book gave him an excuse to meet his heroes. Or apparently proposition Carol Burnett with a three-way with him and Megan (so far she says no) and to go on about his husband, Jeff Tweedy. Whatever floats your wooden boat, sir! (Offerman is definitely obsessed with wooden boats in here.)
For the record, the list of people featured in this are: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, Frederick Law Olmsted, Eleanor Roosevelt, Tom Laughlin, Wendell Berry, Barney Frank, Yoko Ono, Michael Pollan, Thomas Lie-Nielsen, Nat Benjamin, George Nakashima, Carol Burnett, Jeff Tweedy, George Saunders, Laurie Anderson, Willie Nelson, and Conan O’Brien. Yeah, you may not have heard of some of those names unless you do woodworking.
The first three (Washington, Franklin, Madison) makes this book feel like another stop on the Hamiltrain, even though he wrote it before that became a thing, har. Offerman has read the Washington Chernow and was just as amused as I was to find out about Washington’s purchases of certain books and Spanish fly.
And then there's Benjamin Franklin: “For Pete’s sake, he wrote a scientific letter to the Royal Academy of Arts of Brussels suggesting that research be undertaken to explore methods of improving the odor of human flatulence, a letter that later came to be entitled “Fart Proudly.” If there had been any question up to this point that Ben Franklin was my kind of guy, this one piece of writing would extinguish all doubt.” Amusingly enough, I can report that in 2015, someone's actually working on this.
Nobody expects you to praise James Madison these days (except for the Becoming Madison author), but Offerman does. I love his descriptions of the Founding Fathers as characters: “John Jay, of course, the “hot one”; John Adams, roundly admired for his marriage to Laura Linney; Alexander Hamilton, who famously attended every meeting with his fly “accidentally” wide-open, even the influential French aristocrat Gilbert du Motier, commonly known as the Marquis de Lafayette, or “Stinky Pierre,”…. and let’s not exclude Thomas “Juicy Low-Hangers” Jefferson….That said, it may then come as a surprise to the reader that I have chosen one of the least outwardly colorful, or “pimpin’,” Founding Fathers to round out my initial threesome:”
He’s drawn to Madison because he wrote everything down and interwove innovative philosophies into our documents. He likes his even-keeled approach and consummate reportage, work ethic and commitment to neutrality. He wrote down everything.
“In the Federalist papers, he wrote, “So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.” In other words, if things are relatively calm, we the people will come up with any old bullshit to squabble about, because it’s in our nature, because deep down, we’re dumb as shit.”
The author also loves Frederick Douglass's drive to read--he started learning to read by observing that letters were written on ships during construction-SF for starboard, LA for aft. “By means of assiduous studying, Frederick Douglass was able to surreptitiously master his first four letters.” He collected every stray bit of paper he could find and traded bread for lessons in reading, copied the kid in the house’s homework. “Douglass could literally have been killed for merely trying to learn to write his own name. Talk about gumption. This guy makes George Washington look like Little Lord Fauntleroy.”
Of course he loves Teddy Roosevelt: “Roosevelt, now governor of New York, engaged the services of a championship wrestler to swing by the Albany office three or four afternoons a week to wrestle him. This program, agreeable to Roosevelt, did not, however, meet the approval of the comptroller.” The comptroller would not honor the bill for a wrestling mat, so Roosevelt hired a professional oarsman to wrestle with him instead. On their second session, the oarsman got a broken rib and Roosevelt bruised some of his ribs and nearly dislocated his shoulder. “Roosevelt finally but reluctantly relinquished his insistence that wrestling occur at his office.” Of course he survived an assassination attempt, still gave his speech for 90 minutes as he bled, and never had the bullet taken out. “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”
Finishing off the historical figures, Offerman finds himself admiring Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the architects of Central Park. Besides that achievement, he was hired by the New York Times to tour the Southern states and report on the true state of slavery. His report proved that slavery didn’t make sense economically-lots of inefficiencies, nobody’s motivated to use any gumption, which costs you money. Naturally, everyone in the South loved him for his honesty...
And then we get to the author's other favorite Roosevelt, Eleanor: “Hey, it’s a woman!” While this book does have somewhat less women than men in it, the author mentions that well, history is written by the side that didn’t lose. “Reading our histories, one can begin to wonder if there were even any women about, excepting the amount of coverage Ms. Crockett received for her heroic contributions at the Alamo.” He calls her the first lady of gumption. Notable thing about her: “Apparently, when she came upon subject matter that was beyond her knowledge and she asked the adults about it, the book would suddenly disappear. (Note to parents: There is no better way to make your child crave a forbidden item than hiding it away from them.) She would spend days hunting down the concealed books, which I imagine would be considered pretty tame by now. For example, she remembers it occurring with Dickens’ Bleak House. Good God, what I wouldn’t give to get my nieces to take a break from the Bieber chat rooms (or One Direction, or whomever the cute-boy pablum of the moment might be) and read some Dickens!”
After the historical figures, the author moves on to, well, more personal heroes of his. He loved Tom Laughlin, of the movie Billy Jack. Sadly, Tom died right before Nick was about to arrange to meet him--but he did get invited to the funeral. “The priest kicked things off with a reverential welcome, and I was aghast as it slowly dawned on me that there was to be no flaming pyre? No sacrificial bighorn sheep or grizzly bear? “There won’t be any trumpets blowin’ come the judgment day”? What the fuck?! Didn’t these people know whom it was we were burying today?” He was briefly disappointed and then it improved from there. At the end, one of Laughlin's kids pulled her dad’s favorite quotes from books and distributed them along with SASE envelopes, with instructions to use them if and when you accomplish a dream, write it down and send it to her. Nick says he’ll write to her about this chapter. ”That seems an awfully sincere thing to say without a joke at the end, but I am going to let it fly.”
Like in his previous book, Offerman needs to take some time to fanboy about Wendell Berry. “He is eloquent, he is beautiful, and he is funny as shit. I have left out so much. There is a cornucopia of beauty and joy and mirth and tragedy and romance and charm and nature and humanity to be found in his writing. There is a bumper crop of common sense. Perhaps his greatest talent is to be found in his proclivity for telling it like it is.”
Okay, at this point I'm not going to give rundowns of every person on the list because I'm getting tired, but it's an entertaining read, and even if the charms of woodworking are a wee bit lost on me to comprehend, clearly the author had fun and did some deep thinking and pointed out lots of fun facts about people that are entertaining and something to chew on as well. So, four stars.
Random Facts and Quotes Corner:
Quote from Barney Frank: “Look, this job certainly didn’t make any sense in terms of maximizing my income or minimizing my stress or maximizing the comfort of my life. I think it’s a wonderful job to have, because I’m able to work to make fundamental changes in society and improve the quality of people’s lives and eliminate and diminish unfairness at various times. If I wasn’t able to do what I thought was important public policy, it would be a stupid job to have.”
Carol Burnett has the best bathroom sign, which says “Euphemism.”
You know exactly what you're in for with this: fun stories of filming! The authors do an excellent job of making this a fun read. And even though well, it doesn't sound like certain folks (Robin Wright in particular) were the most hilarious, the book does focus very well on the craziness that certain characters in the cast got up to. If you're a fan, you'll love it--even though I still wished there were any details of how Cary Elwes and Andre the Giant filmed their fight scene.
I have collected the most notable ones per person here:
Stories about Cary Elwes:
Cary won over Rob Reiner and his producing partner Andy Scheinman by doing a Fat Albert impression out of nowhere.
It was Cary's idea to dive into quicksand head first.
Cary's set injuries: part 1: Andre had an ATV to drive himself around on while on location, and he encouraged Cary to try it out. Cary stupidly did it, got his foot caught between the pedal and a rock, and broke his left big toe. Recreationally breaking a bone while on set is pretty much the worst thing ever and Cary was reasonably afraid he'd be fired for that, so he tried to pretend he was fine. He was obviously not fine, Rob called him on it, but was nice about it. Poor Cary had to continue working on the swordfighting scene with a broken toe.
Cary's set injuries, part 2: During the scene where Westley is captured by the prince and Count Rugen, Chris Sarandon was afraid to hit him on the head with the sword and thus when he tried, Cary barely noticed it, and was either reacting at the wrong time or they could see on camera what‘s happening. Cary stupidly suggested that when he was getting hit on the head with the sword, “just give me a slight tap on the head” so he could get the feeling of it. Chris totally knocked Cary out and he needed stitches. That take is the one they used in the film, though. The same doctor he saw before was all, “Well, Zorro! You seem to be a little accident prone, don’t you?”
The swordfighting: Cary and Mandy basically had to practice constantly through the entire shoot (the scene was one of the last shot for good reason) during even a little downtime. They got so good at the routine that it ended up taking them almost a minute and a half to do it, which was way too short/not as intended. So they had to make up a lot more for them to do, enlarge the set to give them more things to climb on, etc. They did their own stunts except for the spinning around the bar.
Cary’s déjà vu moment: his grandfather died during the shoot and before he died, Cary was telling him all about the filming of the movie while he’s in the hospital. “I realized I was actually having my “As You Wish” moment with him."
At one point they were going to shoot a scene where the main characters were outside of Fred Savage’s house beckoning him to join them, but that got cut from the movie because it would be too confusing.
Cary’s mom arranged for him and her to meet Pope John Paul II, and the Pope had seen the movie and said it was very good and very funny. “We can literally count a saint among the admirers of our film. Who knew?” President Clinton also enjoyed meeting Cary, and Cary’s fiancée suggests he send Chelsea an autographed script. He still has the thank you note hung in his office.
Danny Blackner: Danny was the head R.O.U.S. player/wrestler/stunt guy. When he didn't show up on a filming day, Cary was forced to wrestle a stuffed rat. Danny finally showed up, a little bedraggled. Turns out he got busted for drunk driving and when he tries to explain he’s an actor-what part are you playing? I’m playing a rat--then he really went to jail, until he could get someone to bail him out.
Andre the Giant stories: THERE ARE A LOT OF THESE.
One night, Andre went to a hotel and drank until closing. On his way out the door, he literally passed out in the lobby. Many men were called in, but nobody was able to wake him or lift him. So the staff reasonably decided to leave him there, and put a small velvet rope barrier around him. Eventually Andre woke up at about 10 a.m. on his own and headed out.
According to Andre, wrestling is NOT fake.
Samuel Beckett, a neighbor of Andre's when he was growing up, used to drive Andre to school in his convertible after he got too big to fit into the bus. They talked about cricket.
Japanese wrestlers were so scared of him than they would suddenly “go on vacation” when they heard he was coming.
He would do about 300 matches a year for 20 years.
Andre used to move his friends’ cars around into tiny spaces or facing the wrong way for fun.
While filming the Miracle Max scene, Andre let out a giant fart that shook the walls and had steam coming off his hairpiece. Everyone died laughing, they seriously were unable to film for awhile from the laughing, and Cary couldn't stop laughing until Rob told him to think about what it’s like for Andre to get laughed at for being different. “Now I feel awful.” Andre was all, “it’s okay, my farts always make people laugh.”
Andre on kids: “Either they come to me or they run from me.”
While filming on location, their Indian caterer only prepared one dish-chapatis. People started to get sick of eating only one dish. Andre, a food connoisseur, took the ferry back home to France and picked up pate, cheese, foie gras and wine. Someone tried to confiscate the wine lest it have “an adverse effect on the shooting schedule,” but Andre said he’d “look after it.” They got a new caterer.
When Robin was cold on set, Andre would just use one of his hands as a hat on her head.
Andre had to be lowered down on pulleys and cables to rest on the top of the horse. Here's a Rob Reiner quote: “And they open the doors, and I see a 500-pound giant being lowered from the ceiling and he’s going, “Hello, boss!” And I’m thinking, What do I do for a living here? What is this job that I have?”
Cary went bar hopping with Andre in NYC and noticed that somebody was following them. Cary mentioned it at one point and Andre was all, oh, don’t worry about him….he’s a cop. Apparently on a previous barhop, he got drunk and fell over on top of someone. After that, the NYPD decided that whenever he went drinking, they’d send someone to follow him and make sure he didn’t fall over on anyone again. “They said it was for my own safety!” Andre started buying him drinks at every bar from then on, and the cop would lift his glass to them.
Mandy Patinkin stories:
Cary and Mandy had to take really intensive fencing lessons. At the start, Cary askd Mandy if he had any fencing experience. “Not really.” Turns out he was training for two months in the US already. The guy he learned from in the US taught him to fence left handed first, so he’s now a better left handed fencer.
Mandy Patinkin quote: “It was 1986. My father died in 1972. I read that script and I wanted to play Inigo because my mind immediately went, If I can get that six-fingered man, then I’ll have my father back, in my imaginary world. He’ll be alive in my imagination. So that was it for me. It was like, I’ll become the greatest sword fighter, and my reward will not be to be in this movie that ended up being what it’s become to all these people; my reward will be that my father will come back.” And that's why he's awesome in this.
William Goldman stories:
The first day of filming Robin’s dress being on fire in a scene, Bill G was hanging around for the first days of filming, really nervously. Apparently he missed the safety meeting, showed up on set right in the middle of the first take, and then thought she was genuinely in an accident/on fire, ruining the take with his screaming. “Bill, it’s supposed to be on fire, remember?” Rob said. Bill was so embarrassed he almost flew home right away. Bill remembers it as,“You’re setting fire to Robin on the first day? What are you nuts? It’s not like we can replace her!” Rob remembers it as, “And Bill was really upset, saying, “I can’t believe that on the first day of shooting we’re setting the leading lady on fire!”
* For the record, there’s not going to be a Buttercup’s Baby sequel-he’s never been able to get it to go.
Rob Reiner stories:
Rob and Andre had hibachi grills installed in their suites. Rob would have everyone over at the end of the day for hamburgers and hot dogs and a sing-along. One night the fire alarm went off. Nobody ever fessed up. Both guys deny it. Rob became ridiculously addicted to watching sheepdog trials. “How dumb do these sheep have to be? I mean, after the twenty-sixth dog, they’re still confused about where they should be herded?”
* After the movie comes out, a goodfella yells out to Rob on the street, “Hey! You killed my father! Prepare to die!” Rob froze, the gangster busts up laughing and said he loves the movie. “I almost fell over right in the street!”
Wallace Shawn stories:
Wally was freaked out from day one and totally convinced he was going to be replaced by an actual Italian, Danny DeVito. Someone at his agency told him he was the third choice after DeVito and Dreyfuss and he never got over it, and kept picturing how Danny would do it through the whole film. “So if any agents are reading this book, my advice to them is, don’t tell your client that he’s the third choice.” He was convinced that Rob wasn’t liking him because Rob didn’t give him compliments and didn’t laugh his head off like he did during the Miracle Max scenes. Rob Reiner said he never even considered firing him, said he was great. Andy Scheinman said Wally said he never really got the comedy of the movie and doesn’t get why it was so good.
Wally also had a fear of heights, so he was pretty flipped out about being on the forklift. Andre took care of him and even offered him booze (Wally said no).
Billy Crystal stories:
“For three hours straight and ten hours a day, Billy improvised thirteenth-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice. Such was the hilarity of his ad-libbing that he actually caused Mandy to injure himself “ (on a movie where Mandy was doing his own stunts, his only injury was bruising a rib while laughing) “while fighting to suppress the need to laugh.”
Billy kept in character all day long. “So I’d order lunch in character as Max, and it was like, “How is the shepherd’s pie? Is it spicy? Will I regret it in the morning?” And the waitress would be like, “No, sir, I think it’s quite lovely.” “Well, yeah, but you don’t know my colon.”
Things he made up: comparing getting fired by the king’s stinking son to a paper cut with lemon in it, true love being the greatest thing except for a nice MLT. “Some of the funniest takes were just too blue, which is why they ended up on the cutting room floor….so as you can imagine we really couldn’t have Max comparing true love to a vigorous bowel movement, funny thought it was. Nor could you have him explain his foul mood by saying, “Don’t rush me, sonny. I had a difficult night last night. I found my nephew with a sheep!” (Check YouTube for the outtakes.) Cary could not stop laughing even though he was supposed to be mostly dead, they eventually had to replace him with a rubber dummy.
And one quote before we go:
“Why has this film endured when so many others couldn’t? What is it about this particular film that struck a nerve with audiences around the world to make it the beloved movie it is today?.... I think that the film has endured because it was made with a lot of heart. And for that we really have to look at the creative and tender hearts of Bill Goldman and Rob Reiner. Both men are very different people who came from very different backgrounds, but they share one thing in common….they have never lost touch with the love in their hearts for storytelling.”
Okay, so I finally sucked it up to read a few of the books that are "narrated" by Paarfi of Roundwood. As per my mention of him in Tiassa, well...his writing style is not my favorite to wade through in knee high boots while reading, but he can have some fanciful ways to snark on occasion, so that helps.
Anyway, this book is the first of "The Viscount of Adrihlanka" trilogy, which according to Paarfi should be one enormous book, except the publisher objected to such a thing. He makes a lot of commentary about how they should all be considered as one giant tome (and even continues the chapter numbering from book to book), but I .... disagreed, I guess. I'm not entirely sure why Piro, that title character, is the fellow Paarfi deems so important as to label him the hero of all three books. He's a side character, but really, the notable character per each book is usually the title one of the individual books.
Anyway, if any of the books suffers for supposedly being three books instead of one giant one, it's probably this one because several characters essentially spend the entire book traveling and not doing much else, and I couldn't help but think things like, "Look, it's great that you two girls made friends on your road trip and flirted with boys" (seriously), "but really, you could have just introduced them in book 2." We're also introduced to Morrolan, an orphaned and presumably adopted fellow who apparently never noticed that he's a foot taller than everyone else he lives around in the East and hasn't aged. It's a surprise to him and him only that he's a Dragaeran (or "elf."). I can only presume he really hasn't met any as far out as where he's been living. You can certainly feel the “LOL’s” going on as everyone wonders why it never occurred to Morrolan that he’s stayed younger than everyone else he grew up with—he just thought it was because he was magic! Anyway, Morrolan studies witchcraft, goes on a quest to find his name and swears his allegiance to the goddess Verra. However, when the village he lives in gets annihilated, he swears vengeance...and then finds out that he’s really an “elf” and has some inherited territory, so he spends the rest of the book schlepping to it..
This book definitely suffers from a lack of easy travel, and the "author" himself isn't too thrilled with having to talk about it: “We are not going to detail yet another in what, we confess, is in danger of becoming an endless sequence of wearying episodes of travel. When we portray these episodes, we do so with regret, and only because the history we have taken it upon ourselves to relate absolutely requires it; thus when we are able to pass them by, as we do now, we readily take the opportunity to do so.” I can’t blame him. I have read several Jacqueline Carey novels and I am totally fine with some one, two, skip a few here.
Right, I haven't gotten to the plot of this yet. Anyway, I have not been able to find the preceding books in this series, but this book takes place a few hundred years or so after Adron's Disaster, in which the Emperor died, the Orb was lost, the capital city was drowned, and the Empire keeled over. We are at the tail end of the Interregnum, the period of time where people had little magic, plenty of plagues, and a looooooong way to travel. The hero of this series, Khaavren, has been sulking for a few hundred years because the Emperor got killed on his watch. At this point a fellow calling himself Kana reasonably assumes that the Cycle has been broken, there's no Phoenixes left to rule the planet, and since he's a Dragon and the Dragons would be next up in the cycle anyway, why shouldn't he become emperor himself? Well, as long as there's no Phoenixes around, that seems reasonable--and some folks go along with him for this reason or just that he's kinda scaring them with all of his conquests. Pel, one of the Musketeers from the previous books, pretty much goes along with this idea and joins his campaign. There’s also some lady calling herself Orlaan who’s offing brigands and otherwise plotting revenge.
Unbeknownst to the Team Kana members, Sethra Lavode knows of a surviving Phoenix heir, who's been raised under another name and in anonymity. She finds Zerika, tells her the whole thing, and trains her to go into the Paths of the Dead, where the Empire's Orb has been stashed since everything went cuckoopots. Piro, Viscount of Adrihlanka, is a friend of Zerika's and is tapped to escort her to Deathgate Falls to start her mission, along with Sethra's magical apprentice (and also previously mentioned Musketeer character) Tazendra Lavode and some other folks. Zerika makes it to the Falls, heroically jumps off to avoid bad guys, and manages to negotiate with the gods in order to get them to give her the Orb and re-activate the Empire. Huzzah! Zerika is cool beans!
I’ll take a bit of time out for a Quote Corner mentioning a few amusing situations.
Morrolan asks some dude named Erik where to find rooms and the conversation goes like this: "Well, I must consider this question.” “Yes, I understand that. You, then, consider the question, and I will wait while you do so.” “And you are right to wait,” said Erik promptly, “for I have even now begun considering.” “And I,” said the young warlock,” have begun waiting.” So basically Eric stands there for fifteen minutes and then wanders off without a word. Morrolan follows him and realizes as he watches Erik pass by that he just saw a place that lets rooms. Uh-HUH.
Sethra meets The Necromancer: “Well, what then is your opinion of death?” “It is the limitation of one’s ability to reach certain phases of reality.” “And then?” “It can sometimes be inconvenient.”
“I am Zerika, and this is Tazendra, and I wish you a good day.” “A good day?” said Orlaan. “Well, you wish me a good day. You hope my day is good. And yet, my dear Zerika, as you style yourself, I have cause to believe that for my day to be good requires yours to be less than good. What then?” “Oh, then?” said Zerika, shrugging. “Then I no longer wish you a good day. You perceive I am a very changeable person.”
As for the end of the book, there’s some super snooty/technical discussion of how to write like Paarfi:
“Always refer to yourself as “we.” It is unclear why Paarfi prefers to use the first person plural. He doesn’t seem to be speaking jointly for himself and his patron of the moment; neither is he speaking jointly on behalf of himself and Steven Brust. His true camaraderie is reserved for himself and his manuscript, but that doesn’t usually prompt a writer to speak in the plural. It may be that he’s using the editorial “we.” Alternately, he may just have a mouse in his pocket.”
Regarding his run-on sentences and a 138-word, three-sentence paragraph in the Phoenix Guards: “You have to be orderly when you pile up that may clauses at once; otherwise they’ll fall over.”
We also find out that in the original translation, people are a LOT wordier. “Those inclined to doubt this are invited to examine references in the text which mention the amount of time consumed by a given conversation. Note that in some instances the allotted time is far longer than can be accounted for by the words on the page…Thus, to Paarfi’s way of thinking, he has left out 90% of the details: a veritable saint of brevity.” So it’s NOT snark that he’s trying to be brief—in Paarfi’s context at least!
I think overall I’m going to give it three and a half stars. The Zerika plot is good, the schlepping of travel (seriously, you could skip ahead, bro) makes the rest of it drag though. I know you wanted it as one giant book, but it's not, and you kinda do have to adapt accordingly.
This one starts out with someone watching a very interesting documentary on the beginnings of parahumans. A golden fellow calling himself Scion (the one time he spoke, ever) showed up in 1982, starting to intervene in times of crisis. The description of his origin is beautiful. Anyway, five years after Scion was first seen, other superpowered people, a.k.a. parahumans, started appearing--and being revealed as less than divine.
Then the documentary shuts off, and we're introduced to Danny Hebert, Taylor's dad, who's pretty freaked out that Taylor's not home at 3:15 a.m. He knows Taylor's being bullied because she recently did some time in the psychiatric ward due to it, but otherwise she refuses to talk about it. Danny threatened to sue the school and the school offered to pay her medical bills and to look out for her in the future, but he knew better than to believe it. He's also tried to get her transferred out, and of course they won't let him do that either. He's afraid the bullies are on her right now. He's tried calling the police and they said they can't do anything.
Then he finally hears the kitchen door. Danny quietly eavesdrops, too afraid to confront her right now if it'll only make her more upset. Once he figures out she just made herself a snack, he sighs in relief and goes to his room to fume about it all. He can't confront anyone, he's a tiny nerd guy, he's got a temper but he's doing his best to hold it in with his kid. The author recaps the few times he knows Taylor has seen him lose it--at work, with his now former wife, and about the bullying situation.
"Danny Hebert was the one person he could control in all of this, and Danny Hebert had failed to do anything that mattered. He hadn’t gotten answers, hadn’t stopped the bullies, hadn’t protected his daughter. Worst of all was the idea that this might have happened before, with him simply sleeping through it rather than laying awake."
Welcome to life, buddy. I've been the kid in that situation, and yeah, there ain't nothing a parent can do.
Danny goes to bed, trying to calm down and saying to himself that he'll say something to her in the morning.
I'll give it three stars: I'm not super captivated with the story of Taylor's dad, but the superhero bit was interesting.
This book blew my tiny little mind in a way that hasn't been blown since I read the Newsflesh trilogy--Feed in particular. I'd give it six stars if that didn't seem totally ridiculous--but I'm telling you right now, this gets five because of whopping epicness and mindblowingness. While the concept of it in a nutshell is probably easy enough to explain as "Battlestar Galactica gets a case of the Reavers from Firefly" (or this GIF review covers it pretty well too)--I'll warn you right now that there's high death count in this book and if that's a problem for you, then don't try reading it--there's so much more to it than that. It tugs on the heartstrings, it shocks you, it makes you obsess over it. It's 599 pages and after I finished it, I had to go reread it all over again to look for clues and insights that I had missed before.
Oh, and I want to say this: I don't know how this comes out in e-book format, but I don't think I'd recommend buying it in e-book. I'd recommend a paper copy, though I hear the audiobook is quite good. There's a lot of visuals to this book that, well, look like this, and I don't know how well you'd get them in audiobook or if you can only look at one page at a time, upright.
“So here’s the file that almost killed me, Director.”
The framing story is that an organization called the Illuminae Group has been hired to track down every scrap of information regarding an incident that kicked off an interstellar war between mining companies. The Illuminae Group has electronically tracked down and compiled all e-mail, chat logs, etc. recorded during the incident, and we're reading their very thick but enlightening report.
It's 2575, and a mining corp has been running an illegal mining operation on Kerenza IV for twenty years. However, a a rival company named BeiTech has decided that the best way to wipe out the competition is not to report them, but to just straight up annihilate them all and attack the planet. A few science vessels are in the area, as well as one battle cruiser, and those ships manage to escape. Out of four attacking ships, only one remains to follow and destroy them. However, the battle cruiser and it's AI, AIDAN, have been drastically damaged in the battle, the jump gate is no longer functional, the techie people who could fix things like that are dead, and basically, they're all gonna have to take the slow path (as in, maybe a 7 month journey) to the nearest jump gate at Heimdall. Which they reasonably assume has been taken over/attacked/compromised as well. WE'RE SO SCREWED has never been more appropriate.
Our main characters, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, are 17-year-old high school sweethearts who literally broke up a few hours before the invasion because Kady wanted to leave the planet for college and Ezra didn't but wouldn't say why. Kady does an excellent job of rescuing an injured Ezra and getting themselves to the spaceport, but they end up on different ships--him on the battle cruiser Alexander and her on the science vessel Hypatia. An order goes out conscripting pretty much everyone who can be conscripted into the military, and Ezra is tapped to be a Cyclone pilot. Kady, on the other hand, gives them so much attitude that the decision makers figure that the amount of work they might get out of her isn't worth the trouble they'd get from her, so they leave her alone. But Kady is a hacker, and she starts snooping around online, which is how she makes friends with information activist/hacker Byron Zhang, who gives her lessons in how to hack better.
And then months later, the third ship, Copernicus, is destroyed by AIDAN the AI while Ezra is out flying--and then it tells his squadron to shoot the survivors escaping from the disaster. Ezra's superiors can't get confirmation from a human about this and let the survivors land--and then the superiors get shot for their trouble. And everyone wonders: has AIDAN gone insane? AIDAN gets temporarily shut down while the remaining programmers try to figure out how best to handle the situation. Ezra and Kady start talking again, and she and Byron start investigating the situation. Turns out that in this case, the survivors that Copernicus picked up were exposed to a genetically engineered plague in the area that they did pickup, didn't have time to do the right protocols, and....well, everyone was turning into Reavers, basically.
And now those survivors are in quarantine...for now. But AIDAN needs to be brought online really soon in order to deal with the attacking ship, and nobody's entirely sure if AIDAN can be handicapped enough to not act independently when it's turned on, and meanwhile Kady and Byron are working on a logic bomb.
And when AIDAN's back on...things get scary, I'll leave it at that and refer you to the top paragraph again.
On the one hand: yeah, it's kind of a space horror novel, with high body count. But it's amazingly, surprisingly poignant. We get to see things from AIDAN's point of view. We see people's moments of bravery and people's moments of stupidity. And before the major disasters start going down, this book is hilariously funny (till about page 128). And for those of you who groan at the idea of a giant tome, it reads pretty quickly considering that the story is being told through online chats, ship-to-ship e-mails, other textural things, and even ASCII art, because ASCII art is still going strong in the 2500's. (As is, I regret to say, the phrase "LOL," I'm amazed that still exists.)
And Kady and Ezra are just...wow. Kady is a completely awesome kickass heroine with whopping bravery and snark and ovaries. Brad Pitt (of course ) is gonna make this into a movie and I can't wait, because Hunger Games is gonna have to move over. And Ezra is such a winning dude--both a teenage dude saying crude shit (his conversations with his pal Jimmy McNulty just about made me die laughing) and being utterly besotted with Kady. After their major disagreement no longer becomes a factor, their online relationship becomes very long distance pen pal steamy in its own way. You know they're getting back together...IF they can literally get back together. And Kady, queen of rescuing, is gonna do her damndest to get to Ezra even if it kills her.
And then there's AIDAN and Kady. Eventually the two of them have to work together--let's just say AIDAN's desperate for help--and things from the AI's point of view are complicated. Is AIDAN insane? Is AIDAN a liar? Could AIDAN have perhaps thought some things through before taking certain actions? These are all questions that you'll be debating as you read. (Plus "uh, can an AI get a crush on a human, because I sure do think AIDAN kinda has one on Kady.") Figuring out the psychology of an AI is certainly a challenge in this one, a mindblowing one.
It's an emotional roller coaster and I loved every minute of it, I was addicted to it, and there were quite a few surprises in it. I'd HIGHLY recommend rereading it again after you finish it to see what other information you pick up on a reread. I'll be waiting with baited breath for the sequel to see where the action picks up again, and I'm dying to find out what else the Illluminae Group has found out that happened to the remaining escapees once their flight was over.
Also, for a laugh, this book has some of the best/funniest/horrifying acknowledgements of all time, such as “May you never be run over by a seventeen-year-old in a stolen truck after you shot her ex-boyfriend.”
Anyway, in case you didn't guess, this gets five stars. If you're not too sensitive, go read it.
“Sure, the story kicks off with the deaths of thousands of people, but god forbid there be cussing in it, right?” --at the request of their employer, the Illuminae Group is forced to black out all swear words in their report.
“How was it?” “All kittens and rainbows. Apart from the screaming and explosions.” “How did you make it out?” ”I’m a lateral thinker.” “Meaning you used your comput--” “Meaning I broke open a window.” --Interview with Kady Grant on the Kerenza IV invasion.
“And over the top of all that, Ezra chooses then to start criticizing my driving.” ”It’s hard to believe you guys broke up.” “You have no idea.” --same
“So I dragged her out of the wreckage and started to give her mouth-to-mouth and that’s when she slugged me, Your Honor.” -Interview with Ezra Mason on the Kerenza IV invasion.
“You picked a hell of a day to dump me, Kades.” -Ezra
“The world is ending all around us and we’re screaming about college applications and commitment and (bleep). I mean, can you believe that?” -Ezra
“I mean, if you hadn’t broken it off, if you hadn’t driven to school that day, we’d both be dead, right? If that’s not the universe’s way of telling me it wasn’t meant to be, I don’t know what is.” -Ezra
“She broke up with me.” ”Why?” “That’s so not your business it almost punches clean past the event horizon of Not Your Business and becomes Your Business again.”- Ezra during his interview.
Ezra’s psych profile/conscript suitability assessment: “Mr. Mason is a team player, capable of stepping up to leadership roles if required. High school sports: making life easier for military recruiters since 1914.”... “However, his aggression is progressing and is almost entirely focused on BeiTech Industries. And BeiTech will be the ones shooting at him.”
“Dreadnought was still tossing around ideas for me, and every time she dropped a firebomb like “Prettyboy,” I’d (bleep) myself just a little. They engrave those callsigns on your coffin when you get X-ed out. Last thing you wanna picture when you imagine your sendoff is a bunch of fellow Cyclone drones standing around toasting the death of “Lieutenant Sugarpants.” -Ezra’s after action report, all of that was originally redacted.
“I take this as a declaration of war. Presuming they don’t line me up against a bulkhead and shoot me after my court martial tomorrow, I will be making sweet, sweet love to your sister by week’s end. This I do solemnly vow.” --Ezra thinks his friend Jimmy faked a message from Kady and makes threats. "LOOK AT THIS WRITING I DO NOT WRITE LIKE THIS SHE GOT ALL PUNCTUATIONS AND THINGS” --Jimmy's response to this. “If you are lying, all jokes aside, I will totally gun for your sister. I swear to god I will make her my bride.” -Ezra
From the Illuminae Group report: “Briefing note: Grant sets up a blackhat mailbox to maintain highly illegal ship-to-ship communications during a period of covert interstellar war. This is how Mason uses it.” He uses it to make a drawing of a rose that’s made up of the words “I’m sorry.”
“you deserve every star in the galaxy laid out at your feet and a thousand diamonds in your hair. You deserve someone who’ll run with you as far and as fast as you want to. Holding your hand, not holding you back. You deserve more than I could ever give you, Kady. But I”ll give you everything I can if you still want me to.” -Ezra
“She is catalyst. She is chaos. I can see why he loves her.” -AIDAN
It's difficult to try to put Dragaera books in order ANYWAY, but this one takes place during .... several....different timelines. It's also a followup to the Khaavren Romances books, the prequel series in this world that I have so far managed to avoid reading. I should probably suck it up and read them sometime, but this book reminded me of why I have not.
It tracks the story of the silver tiassa, an adorably pretty sculpture of a tiassa that was made by a goddess that Devera, Verra's time-traveling granddaughter, made off with. She's apparently passed it off and around to various people throughout centuries, and at one point decided to pass it on to Uncle Vlad. In the prologue-ish sections, we find out that Sethra's talked Vlad into telling his life stories to someone from far, far away, and she asks about the tiassa, and we get a little bit of story from Devera herself explaining things. (Which is adorable. Devera forever. And indeed, she is forever.)
The first section of the book, "Tag," takes place VERY early in Vlad's chronology--he's engaged to Cawti and still working for the Jhereg and running operations in his neck of the woods. He gets offered a job by a highwayman calling himself the Blue Fox--well, let's just say that while that's true, the Blue Fox hasn't been in operation for quite some time--asking Vlad to help him deal with a problem of magically tagged coins. Vlad of course smells a rat, but takes the job anyway, supposedly setting up a scheme that will make the Empire realize that tagging coins isn't the world's best idea. Needing some tempting bling in the course of the operation, he ensures that the tiassa is passed on to his mark. Vlad eventually figures out what's going on and who's doing it--the "Blue Fox" is Khaavren's son Piro, wantng revenge for something one of Vlad's employees did--and handles it politely so that Piro's high-powered parents (Khaavren has two titles in the Phoenix Guard, his mother is the Countess of Whitecrest, Daro) will owe him.
The second section, "Whitecrest," takes place sometime early(?) in Vlad's exile, sounds like a few years into that. The Jhereg come up with a scheme to make it look like the Jenione are invading and the only thing that will save us all is that silver tiassa, known to be in the possession of Vlad at some point. Plus of course the darned thing has disappeared from its last known owner, the mark in the last book. While Khaavren is investigating the situation, his wife Daro takes it upon herself to meet Cawti and enlist her and Princess(!) Norathar's assistance in foiling the plot--even if nobody finds that dang tiassa. SISTERS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES, and it's awesome.
There's "Conception: An Interlude," which delighted me no end. I'll actually restrain myself from spoiling this, but let's just say it finally answers some Devera-related questions we've all had, hooray!
The next section is "Special Tasks," which...is a section narrated by Paarfi, the pretentious and wordy narrator of the Khaavren books. And yes, dear lord, this is why I haven't read any of 'em. I adore Vlad's narration, and most other characters' narration, but Paarfi takes most of a page to say anything at all. I'm sure the author is monumentally amused by writing like this, but I sure can't say that I am amused to read it. It made things...a slog. (This is really notable at the end when Vlad goes back to narrating and it's so damn much easier to read.) Let me give you some samples of this:
"Captain," said Khaavren, both by way of affirmation and correction, thus conveying the maximum amount of information in the fewest possible words, a custom of his, and one that this historian has, in fact, adopted for himself, holding efficiency of language to be a high virtue in all written works without exception."
"I comprehend," said Khaavren, who was especially skilled at comprehension."
UH-HUH, SIR. UH-HUH.
Anyway, this section cuts ahead in Vlad's timeline (presumably the most recent event in Vlad's history) in which he turns up injured after some whopping fight with multiple assailants. Khaavren is on the case trying to figure it out, but doesn't quite get that far before Vlad runs for it again. Khaavren does find out that Vlad has a lady friend, an Issola bard named Lady Saruchka, who he calls Sara (looking online, I believe she appeared in Athyra, but I don't recall her at all at this point), who somehow knew where he was and that he was injured enough to ask to check on him. After Vlad flees, the action picks up a few months later when Khaavren is looking into how the two situations related to each other, and asks his wife about what went on back then. The search for the tiassa is on again when Cawti is presumed to have stolen it back again and returned it to Vlad. Meanwhile, his attackers don't seem to be related to this incident, so what else is up?
Anyway.... the situation resolves itself, more or less, when things are figured out. I'm surprised that Vlad's flat out interested in another woman again--given his on-the-run situation and that he and Cawti still seem to have feelings for each other. Plus I wouldn't have expected him to go for a Dragaeran. Anyway, this is also kind of a wrapup to Athyra, as the tiassa's actual powers/goal/whatever start to come into focus in a way that starts to resolve a plotline from there.
I would probably have given this four stars, except dear god, Paarfi narration made things less easy and fun to read for the back half. I'm sure the author was amused, but .... yeah. Anyway, three and a half stars (probably more like 3 3/4, but that's ridiculous), but overall this was pretty good and delightfully interesting and definitely answers some fun mystery questions!
This is the self-help book that blew my tiny little mind. This is the self-help book that made me go write people various e-mails plugging it and telling them to go read it. I debated straight up buying it for them, then realized I was going to have to do some persuading to get them to read it in the first place. I have been e-mailing people quotes from this book, and as of this posting, actually talked my shrink into buying it immediately. So here's some of my persuasion to you as to why you should be interested in it.
“I am a complete and total fuckup. Which is exactly why I am equipped to write this book and tell you how to live.”
I have not really read anything by this author before--upon skimming the Internet, apparently he had quite a wild and wooly childhood with crappy parents and parenting figures and also took up alcoholism and had a significant other die on him--but frankly, it sounds like he's been in the shit enough to know how life goes and how to advise you about how to generally deal with it. He talks about a lot of different sorts of crappy situations and how to cope with them, essentially.
For example: if you're single and don't want to be, he advises doing whatever you have to meet more people. People generally tend to stay in the same six mile radius of where they live, and if you haven't met anyone there, then you need to widen your search. “But until you stretch your borders just a little, you can’t say you’ve so much as lifted a finger when it comes to finding love. What you’ve done is wait for love to quit its job, apply for work as a FedEx driver, and put in a request to work on your particular route. This isn’t leaving it in God’s hands; this is tying God’s hands behind His back...It’s unrealistic and passive to expect to meet somebody who shares not only your interests and sensibilities, but also your daily routine.... Because I believe destiny and chance are the oldest poker buddies in town. You need to go places you have never been and order food you have never ordered and wait in lines you have never waited in before. If you want to go to the museum on Saturday, go instead to a Little League baseball game.”
After reading this book, I enthusiastically typed up a list of quotes from it and then sent them out to some people as a selling point. One of them pointed out that going to a Little League baseball game to look for potential dates may make you look like a creepy perv, but otherwise she thought that particular advice sounded good.
Another topic the author covers is going after your dreams--or trying to lose weight, or whatever thing you always say that you want and never quite get. When you watch some awards show and hear some girl go on about how she accomplished her goals and you can too, he doesn't think you should take that too seriously, because not everybody can do that. Sometimes you just need to give up your dreams. For example, the author desperately wanted to be an actor until he figured out that he absolutely stunk at it.
“If you spend twenty years trying to get something and you still don’t have it, is it admirable to keep trying? Or did you pass admirable several miles back and it’s getting close to straightjacket time? If you are no closer to having something you’ve been chasing for twenty years, your data is broken. Either you can’t get it, period; you already have it; you don’t really need or want it; or it’s not real.”
If you're going towards a goal you feel strongly about, things will work out far more easily for you. You won't have problems with the things you need to do to accomplish them. But if you need to willpower your way through it...
"Willpower is like holding your breath: you can only do it for so long. Which is exactly why willpowering your way through to thin won’t work. Can you name a single example in your life of when you ever needed willpower to get something you really, really wanted, needed? If you are trapped in a car underwater, you will not need willpower to roll down the window. You will feel only one thing: the need for air. You will start trying to roll down that window and either you will roll it down or you will die trying. Where there is willpower there is a Band-Aid that’s eventually going to fall off. You only need willpower to get what you don’t want or you only want to want. By want to want, I mean, something you wish you wanted. But don’t really. If you find that you require willpower to lose weight, you aren’t willing to lose weight. There you have the truth, as much as you may despise hearing it. You don’t want it deeply and completely enough. Something within you is reserved in the matter. This is what you need to solve. You need to know where that voice of dissent is coming from.”
You need to figure out why part of you doesn't want what you say it is that you want, because if you were all on board with wanting it, you'd be doing it. Once you figure that out, either you will accept things as how they are or actually make a change. Or maybe you can accomplish the same goal in a different way.
“When I asked myself, why did I want to be an actor? The answer is so plain: to be with people, to reach them. In my normal life, this is very, very difficult for me. But writing has allowed me to reach people and feel a connection. I don’t feel I gave up my dream. I gave up my choice of vehicle used to deliver me to this dream. I gave up my choice of vehicle used to deliver me to this dream. I thought it would be a big-ass Ford pickup and instead it was a pale blue hatchback.”
“You need to grab your dream out of the sky like it’s a kite and pinch the string through your fingers until you reach the spool. When you taste or smell or feel this dream of yours, how would you describe that residue? If you immediately imagine yourself on a private jet surrounded by bodyguards and wearing eighteen-carat diamond-drop earrings, you’re in luck. That’s an easy one. You don’t want to be a singer; you want to be hugely wealthy. So you need to invent something the world wants.”
Also, if you don't like your life, if you're feeling suicidal--well, he's been there and suggests that there's another alternative to permanently ending your life--just dropping your current life entirely and getting the hell out. Yes, even if you're 12 years old and being molested at home, hitting the highway would be better than this, so go do it. You can be reborn--and well, clearly he's been there and done that too. Even if you don't have a plan, but you need to GTFO--then GTFO.
“In case of emergency, break glass. When your life reaches the state of emergency and the only thing you can think to do is to end it, maybe the thing to do is break it.”
"Yeah, but what about school? What about your wife? What about your kids? What about money? What about all your furniture? What about picking the car up at the shop tomorrow? What about your sister? What about the cows that need to be milked? Well, yes. It’s destructive. But it is a choice. And it’s a better choice than suicide.”
He does have some more controversial thoughts--for example, he didn't think AA really worked for him--and he has a different take on alcoholism. As far as he was concerned, he stopped drinking when he found something he wanted more than that and went after it. He mentions a time when during a talk he was giving, a mother got up and talked about how her son drank himself to death. The author's take on that was, well, then he died doing what he loved most in the world, and there really wasn't anything you could have done about that.
I especially found the How To Be Sick essay and the entry on having a loved one die to be particularly affecting--having been there and done that myself. He has a really pretty positive take on that sort of thing, which is surprising--and it was also surprising that I actually liked it and wasn't all ticked off about it like I might be if I was dealing with a, say, perpetually positive annoying person like one he mentions in the opening essay. It's actually rather hopeful.
Important points are:
The worst day of it is going to be the day of diagnosis, when everything is new and strange and surprising.
But once you're in the midst of the disease, things will be okay. You will get used to the idea, essentially.
Don't anticipate the disease--deal with things as they happen, when they happen. Pay the price when the time comes and not before. Accept your new defaults.
You think the worst thing about it is when your loved one is hooked up to tubes and can't go outside again--but you will be used to the idea by the time it happens.
You will be forced to make choices without enough time or information to be confident in your decisions--there's nothing you can do about that but accept it.
Your definition of normal has changed and it won't do you any good to try to pretend you're like other people any more. “Normal” in this context is a lie: it means “prediagnosis.” With Disease is your new normal. As part of your compensation package for taking on disease, you are owed easy parking for the rest of your life.”
“Nothing is as bad as you anticipate it will be. Even the worst thing you can imagine is not so terrible when viewed from the inside. Because once you are inside it, it’s okay."
Don't hope to not get latter stage symptoms--they're probably inevitable, just deal with them when they come. It just makes it scarier on you to dread them. If they happen, you will adjust. "It is the unknown that we are compelled to fear and dread. It is the unknown that we see as the enemy."
“Once you're in it, it’s okay. Whatever it is. However bad it gets. It won’t be the way you imagine it will be from where you stand now. It won’t be anything like what you imagine right now. It will be more like today than the way you think it will be.
As a matter of fact, it will be exactly like today. Except, not exactly the same elements will be in place.”
"I had spent all those years dreading what were now the best time we’d ever shared. It was awful. Not being able to even take a walk cannot be spun into something positive. But it didn’t matter. And that’s the truth. It didn’t matter at all that he couldn’t go outside. We had all we needed inside. It was very warm and comfortable there, in the heart of the fatal disease. I hadn’t expected that.”
Wowza. I wish I'd been able to read this many yonks ago when my dad got diagnosed with a fatal disease, but this book didn't exist then.
Then there's the tricky topic of how to deal with a dying child. The author spends a good deal of time pondering how you'd deal with it if the child asked honestly if they are dying. After telling the story of Ernest Shackleton and when his ship (appropriately named Endurance) got trapped in ice and how he and his men managed to survive for most of a year before finally getting rescued (look it up, it's a mind-blower), the author is convinced that sometimes, miracles do happen and you must believe. If your child asks for the truth--tell them that everyone is dying and yes, your doctor says that--but there still may be a little chance. I'm not 100% sure about that advice since I don't have a kid, but it doesn't sound too bad to me?
Anyway, he finishes the book with this statement.
“This is how you survive the unsurvivable, this is how you lose that which you cannot bear to lose, this is how you reinvent yourself, overcome your abusers, fulfill your ambitions and meet the love of your life: by following what is true, no matter where it leads you.’’
I'm giving this five stars, as the most practical, reasonable, "been there, done that, here's how to deal with getting out of the shit" self-help book I've ever read. Wow.
I may be a hippie, but I'm also a cynical hippie, and to be honest I get kind of annoyed at certain things people say about stuff like "The Secret," i.e. "just believe in happy thoughts and only happy thoughts and then awesome things will happen." Once upon a time, this professor/researcher actually did research on this topic and how well it worked for people to accomplish their goals and essentially discovered that when people fantasize happily about what they want...it lowers their blood pressure and energy and motivation and then they don't actually like, DO anything about it. (I gather at this point that The Secret wasn't making things actually happen for them.) She then went on to do more studies and come up with a scientific method that actually works for getting you to get things done.
"I reasoned that the best way to get people up and moving was to ask them to dream and then to confront them right away with the realities that stood in the way of their dreams. I called this confrontation “mental contrasting.” If I could ground fantasies in reality through mental contrasting, I might be able to circumvent the calming effect of dreaming and mobilized dreams as a tool for prompting directed action.”
“I also suspected that the realities in people’s lives would take on meaning as obstacles only if people thought about them after they fantasized about wish fulfillment. Only once they had mentally explored the happy ending, experiencing the relief and joy of attaining it, would they grasp something in their present life as an obstacle in the fullest sense.”
“Mental contrasting provided students with resources on a physiological level if they were up to pursuing an achievable goal, while sparing the resources if their goal was unachievable.”
According to her studies, daydreaming and then thinking out the possible obstacles ahead of time was very effective, and if the obstacles couldn't be surmounted, that would indicate to the person that their goal wasn't likely to happen anyway. This bypasses the need for years of therapy to get you "motivated" or whatever, and energizes you to pursue what you can achieve.
The cute little acronym the author came up with for mental contrasting is
WOOP = Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan, and it works for pretty much any sort of wish you like.
If (obstacle) then I will (action to overcome obstacle).
There are free smartphone apps at woopmylife.org, which I have not downloaded as yet. I'm not sure how well they work, given the reviews I read, but I think the overall idea is something you can easily just oh, type into a memo or something. Anyway, this seemed like a pretty sensible plan sort of thing to me, should you want to try it out. So, four stars.
The book starts out with this: “If you want to search for the grave of James Madison-which not many people do-“ and then goes on about how hard it is to find it. There’s a James Madison museum that doesn’t have a whole lot. His gravestone doesn’t even have his first name on it, much less his accomplishments. “The engraving does not include Madison’s first name, or even any description of him or his life. It’s as if the memorialists either thought he was above modifiers, iconic in his own right, or that there was really nothing else to say other than his last name.” Originally the grave was unmarked for two decades until some people decided to get a big monument made with a large obelisk. Vandals have attacked the gravestones in the yard. “In several visits, I have never seen another visitor present.” The author compares this to Monticello, which has well maintained roads on the way there, a fancy house and gardens, Monticello is on the American nickel, there's hundreds of visitors at Jefferson's gravestone that talks about his writing the declaration and the statute of Virginia for religious freedom and founding the University of Virginia, and he’s got a memorial in DC with two million visitors in 2012. There’s nothing similar for Madison-he’s got a building in DC, but his is the only one with the word memorial in the title because his building is the US’s only formal memorial to him. This is the dude who designed the Constitution, and that's all he got?
Why does the author start out like this? Well, essentially he thinks that Madison's gotten short shrift from our nation, and he thinks that Madison needs to be more prominent. Though to be fair, a good chunk of why we ignore Madison is because the other Founding Fathers were showboats, and Madison didn't show off and become a prominent personality, known for fighting or inventions or a fancy house or duels. He also wasn't terribly interested in fame. However, the author thinks that Madison was a lot more interesting than we give him credit for. He just came off like he did because of his anxiety/panic attack/other random health issues, and he wasn't that concerned about performing for his peers or history. He was a pretty sensitive fellow, so why did he go into politics? Because he wanted to build the government the country needed, even if he had to risk himself.
"Most Americans, if they know anything about him at all, see him as calculating, intellectual, politically astute, dry, and remote. This pattern has lasted for a long time. In 1941, in his one-page preface to his authoritative four-volume history of Madison’s life, the historian Irving Brant wrote, “Among all the men who shaped the present government of the United States of America, the one who did the most is known the least.”
But to his contemporaries, Madison was never dry or remote or calculating.”
Madison may have come off as a cold fish to strangers and history, but his friends thought he was warm and fun and convincing.
Anyway, in our decrepit age in which Congress is incredibly useless and nobody's a real statesman any more, the author thinks that the story of Madison’s leadership is relevant for politics, business, and pretty much every arena where leadership matters. “Any group facing a seeming total failure to rise to a challenge would do well to study Madison’s approach of a sustained campaign to destroy bad ideas and raise up good ones, through conviction, preparation, and self-governance.” The point of this book is to explain how a sickly little dude who couldn't figure out what job to have became James Madison--by studying his antecedents, his education, and his method for winning debates. “And if we get that story right, then Route 15 might become a little less lonely, and Madison’s graveyard a little more crowded.”
Anyway: Madison started out as an Orange County boy, oldest kid in the family, and went to Princeton at a ridiculously young age. The president of Princeton when he was there was John Witherspoon, who sounds like he was pretty legendary around there. He had a famous lecture he'd deliver to students about "the passions," he was all for rebelling against the English, and he handed out honorary degrees to men who defied England. Witherspoon believed that without government, men would rip each other apart with their bare hands. (Note this quote from Madison’s Federalist Papers Number 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”) However, humans are going to have passions, so we need to accept and embrace them because nothing stops them. According to Witherspoon, the three main forms of government (monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy) all had their problems. He though all three aspects should be combined and that every good government must be complex so that one side can check the other. This obviously led to Madison coming up with the House, Senate, and judiciary.
Madison read about Socrates in school and hoo boy, did he not agree with the Socratic Method--he thought that Socrates's showing off and making everyone look bad drove them into wanting him dead! Madison created his own Method--note that the word "Method" is what the author's calling it, Madison didn't really seem to have named what he was doing on his own--that he used not so much to confute someone else's argument, but to show off his own opinion to its best advantage. Don't make someone else look like a fool, just concentrate on your own convictions. I'll get back to that one in a bit.
After graduating, Madison was forced to go home and tutor his little siblings for employment. He didn't like that, he wasn't really into the idea of being a planter, so what else was left? Well, there's the law, but Madison found studying the law to be boring as hell. (The author points out that Madison started out with nice, neat, well kept notes which get messier and messier, and have less per section, and at one point he writes everything upside down...) For those of you out there who still can't figure out a career, Madison was right there with you, except he had about three options to pick from. While he never actually practiced law, he did get two honorary law degrees from William and Mary and Princeton, so I guess that saved him a lot of time!
What he was into was public office. His first run in Orange County for the House of Delegates didn't go well because the custom was for candidates to get the voters super drunk at the polls and whoever kept them drunkest won--and Madison refused to do that, so he lost to a guy who owned a tavern. After that, he realized he should have catered to the public and not come off as a snob. Then he ran for the Council of State and won. Amusingly enough, he was elected in absentia to the House of Delegates a year after he lost!
Madison introduced 118 bills at the autumn session of the Virginia General Assembly and got 36 of them passed in less than three weeks. That's probably some kind of record somewhere.
Like most prominent politician slaveowners at the time, Madison didn't know how to handle the situation, and kept trying to come up with different ways to please everyone, like supporting the 3/5 rule (slaves being worth 3/5 of a freedman when it came to population counts) even though it was kinda ridiculous. Madison argued that slaves weren't like merchandise, they were not consumed, and therefore they could not be treated as property. The author thinks Madison had a different philosophy between matters of state and his own personal life. Personally, he supposedly didn't want to be a farmer because he wanted to have as few slaves as he had to have, and he sold a slave of his who wanted to be free into a seven year apprenticeship contract that would free him after that. (The state Madison was living in at the time made manumission difficult.) Later in life, he was pretty poor and eventually had to start selling slaves when he couldn't afford to keep them.
He had the idea to recruit slaves into the army with the promise of their freedom, but slaveholders didn’t like that idea. It couldn’t immediately abolish slavery anyway, and the British would get more recruits. Later he was president of the American Colonization Society, which was in favor of shipping black people to Liberia. It was the best solution he could think of--give former slaves a homeland. “By the time the American Civil War ended, in 1867, the society had sent about 13,000 free American blacks to Liberia. By that same time, 750,000 Americans died in the failure of North and South to reconcile over slavery.”
A lot of the book is dedicated to what the author calls Madison's "Method," which is the following:
“Find passion in your conscience. Focus on the idea, not the man. Develop multiple and independent lines of attack. Embrace impatience. Establish a competitive advantage through preparation. Conquer bad ideas by dividing them. Master your opponent as you master yourself. Push the state to the highest version of itself. Govern the passions.”
“In the coming years, he would implement this Method every time he launched a war against a bad idea and erected, on the ruins, his own ideas. He devised the Method intuitively as a replacement for the derisive and imbalanced Socratic Method that he had criticized so harshly as a teenage student. He never named it. Indeed, he rarely reflected on his strategies at all. But his approach always had nine key elements.”
“Find passion in your conscience.” He was very good at persuasion by convincing.
“Focus on the idea, not the man." Madison was into ideas as the primary agent of history. “A powerful idea could structure a vision of a future, spark men’s passions, and overpower political alliances. He knew that if he destroyed the idea, the man behind it would not matter. Conversely, the right idea could be as radiant and generative as the sun. And so he concentrated on demolishing destructive ideas and elevating good ones.”
“Develop multiple and independent lines of attack.” “He also believed that killing a noxious idea required diverse and overwhelming force, not conceptual or tactical parsimony.” He deployed a wide range of differentiated attacks-historical, logical, moral, emotional. “Any one of these could be persuasive in its own right, but together they comprised a devastating assault.”
“Embrace impatience.” Inertia is lumbering and inept. You should hammer a flawed system at its weakest points.
“Establish a competitive advantage through preparation.” He developed a battle plan ahead of time, anticipated the enemy, and forced them to play on his ground.
“Conquer bad ideas by dividing them.“ He'd isolate a question into two options, only analyzed both sides, played one against the other, then that way he controlled the path he was leading people down.
“Master your opponent as you master yourself.” He concentrated on achievable objectives, subordinating his health worries to political necessity.
“Push the state to the highest version of itself.” Don’t compromise on overarching goal of democratic government achieving its greatest potential. Common thread that united his projects. “Government itself could and must always improve.”
“Govern the passions.” “His project since youth had been to discipline, tame, and channel the passions. The checks and balances Madison ultimately proposed in his constitution would help contain the passions, preventing them from taking over entirely.”
“To an adversary, Madison’s method was maddening at best and infuriating at worst. As physically slight as he was, Madision seemed indefatigable, almost to burn with an inner intensity. He always knew more than you. He had anticipated most of your moves and seemed to have planned out everything he would say. He dragged his audiences through a series of choices they had no option but to make, toward conclusions they had no choice but to accept. If you responded to one point, there were always countless others to deal with as well. It was a Socratic dialogue without the question marks-a symphony of preparation, discipline, and control. Every attempt you made to bait him-to trick him or play his ego-would be avoided by a return to the plan. And, most importantly, if you ever revealed yourself to be combating for any selfish or special interest, that fact would become garish in contrast to his self-evident conscience, in contrast to the fact that he really did seem to have the common good at heart.”
The author repeats the Method paragraph over and over again in this book, just in case you forgot. While I liked that the author noticed this and focused on it, It's a little much to have to repeat it over and over again like his audience is stupid and forgot from the last chapter when he already said it. Just saying.
This book is primarily about Madison’s rivalry with Patrick Henry during the period of time when each state was ratifying the Constitution. Madison used to be a big fan of Henry's, but their differing views came to a head during the Constitutional Convention. Both of them and their friends argued loud and long for or against, with Madison using his Method against him.
The author does an excellent job of essentially recapping the arguments, not directly quoting all the time, but keeping the action moving, the arguments clear, and actually kept me interested in reading it. Like, on the edge of my seat, baited breath interested to see how this argument hundreds of years ago was going to end. Go figure.
Henry had a reputation of being a big shot, but while arguing, he tried to make himself sound ordinary, wondering why things had to be this complicated and radical, and going on about how he was sad he couldn't support it because he was too old-fashioned and old. I don't know why reading this was making me think of the "I'm just a caveman" speeches from SNL, but.... yeah. To quote from the book about how Henry said it, “I wish I was possessed of talents, or possessed of any thing,” he wheedled, “that might enable me to elucidate this great subject." Uh-HUH. Though at one point, as Henry was screaming out, "We have it in our power to secure the happiness of one half of the human race," a giant thunderstorm broke out and broke up the meeting!
Madison had learned to listen to the people/general public, and the tipping point is when a random poor dude named Zachariah Johnson stood up and said he was all for the new system. This led to Henry apologizing (more or less), and the constitution being ratified in Virginia!
While all this was going on, Jefferson was Paris, writing Madison that he liked the three branches of government and executive veto, but hated the lack of Bill of Rights and term limits. However, Jefferson thought the will of the majority should always prevail, and Madison wanted to protect minorities at all costs. Jefferson wanted Madison to update him on how the Constitution is going, but Madison waited almost a year after he started working on on the Federalist Papers to actually tell Jefferson about it. Their ideas differed so much on the Constitution that Madison decided to keep him out of the loop. Also, Jefferson had a crazy idea to have nine states pass the Constitution and the other four to reject it, which would force the other states to include a bill of rights. Uh-HUH, I'm sure it works like that.
Henry was still pissed at Madison after that and did his best to screw him over. Virginia had two positions opening up in the Senate and some in the House, but Madison hated the idea of campaigning and basically put off doing anything about it for as long as he could. By the time he finally was ready to cave in and go home to run for election, he got hemorrhoids (excuses, excuses? This guy was the kind of psychosomatic illness), never did campaign, and lost the Senate. Then Henry started a campaign to redistrict Madison's district of Orange County so that it was now antifederalist territory--AND forced Madison to run against his friend James Monroe, already running for the House. Madison won anyway, and the two stayed friends. Oddly enough after all of that, Henry asked Madison's brother to help them make up and be friends again, but Madison was so not interested. And pointed out that Henry hadn't written him for years--check my files!
Madison was, well, pretty much a sad old virgin for most of this--he was engaged at one point and then the girl broke it off. He didn't get married until age 43 when Aaron Burr fixed him up with 26-year-old widow Dolley Todd. They didn't have kids and her son from her first marriage was a pain in the ass (you and Washington both, buddy), but they did well together as a couple. She threw tons of parties, “generally spicing up a dry town, just as she did her husband.” Hahahah.
Oddly enough, the author really doesn't cover much of Madison's later life--really, really skims his older years and pretty much bypasses the presidency other than indicating that nobody celebrates Madison because of the whole War of 1812 thing. (I still don't even know what was so bad there...clearly the author assumes I'm also a history nerd and already know, I guess.) Which I thought was kinda odd for a biography and I definitely expected more than that. But I think this is why the author made that decision: at age 80, Madison got asked to write a sketch of his life for a future biography. He wrote 15 pages over 9 months to send to James Kirke Paulding (the biographer), which he wrote in third person and basically made as dull as possible, apparently. “Whenever the narrative got most interesting…Madison just referred the reader to his letters.” The one thing he dwelled on in those pages was fighting with Patrick Henry, and he actually described it well and fervently, talking about his teachers and early fights and his health, how law is boring, etc. He spent ten percent of the document on the Richmond Convention of 1928--meanwhile, he covered the presidency in two sentences and never even used the word "president." Uh-HUH.
At the end, the author states:
“This book has mostly been about James Madison’s younger years, the period of his life that ended soon after the Constitution was ratified in Virginia, and the meaning of those years for a more vital understanding of statesmanship and the role for leaders in a healthy and vibrant democracy.” The defeat of Henry was the result of his political philosophy and personal character.
This is the story of young James Madison, statesman. He not only changed his country, but his example can change us today. The United States and all modern democracies face profound internal tensions not dissimilar to those of Madison’s young country. His enemies were at once ruthless and unashamed about their pursuit of the lowest common denominator. They brazenly pursued self-interest rather than the common good. And they reacted with hostility to the attempts to create a vigorous, effective, and united nation-state.
On all these frontiers, young Madison employed his Method. He hurled himself into the gears of power. He did so not without fear (because he was human) but he overcame that fear. What was weakest in him became the fuel for his fight. He exhausted his whole being for the sake of the republic he loved.
Perhaps most remarkably, he accomplished all of these things without seeking to become the story.”
I'd generally say that the author accomplished his objective in portraying the young Madison and especially how he learned to think in the way that he did. That was pretty excellent and entertaining, actually. On the other hand, I still think it's kind of weird to totally skimp on the latter end of the man's life--that didn't have an effect on him? We wouldn't have considered that interesting? Also, if part of your argument is that Madison should be remembered more, it might be relevant to mention the reasons why he isn't beyond "well, he was more of a background sort of personality most of the time." If the War of 1812 is important to mention with regards to his lack of popularity, shouldn't you talk about it more? So that's a bit of an odd choice to me. There's also a bit of overkill on the rehashing and rehashing and rehashing of the Method, and one moment where I was all, "what the heck research did you do on Hamilton?" (see below). I think overall I'm giving the book three and a half stars. I do recommend it, but I think I may have to do some supplemental reading (darn it) afterwards.
Interesting Facts/Quote Corner:
At one point Madison wrote rhyming verses to insult a student named Moses Allen, who was widely rumored to have visited a prostitute. He wrote in rhyming couplets about him where he could “whore and pimp and drink and swear” no “more the garb of Christians wear.” He also called him “a dunce a fool an ass at best!”
Patrick Henry and cohorts fled from Cornwallis’s assault, and asked some old lady for shelter. He said they were members of the legislature. “Ride on then, ye cowardly knaves,” she said. He asked whether she would shelter even Patrick Henry if he had fled-“Patrick Henry would never do such a cowardly thing,” she indignantly responded. He then explained that he was, in fact, Patrick Henry.” … “Well, then, if that’s Patrick Henry, it must be all right.” Come on in!
At one point, Jefferson wrote this to Madison about Henry, “What we have to do I think is to devoutly to pray for his death.” According to the author, “He was only half-joking.” I’m all, half joking?
Madison was essentially too hypochondriac to go across the ocean when asked by Jefferson. He gave a ton of excuses, also claiming he couldn’t neglect his course of reading--you know, like you can't read in Europe (though maybe not on the boat because this guy probably did get seasick along with every other kind of sick).
At one point Madison is being super clever in his letters as to who he's talking about. The author phrases it as such: “Mr. H-n-y,” he wrote, (as if the clever trick of removing letters from Henry’s name would also elide his opponent)” Hahahahahah.
Yeah, I had a little red flash of anger when I read the opening about Hamilton. This author reports that “His father was a fearsome, violent man; after giving birth to Alexander, his mother made the courageous but scandalous decision to flee the marriage. But she died when her son was just eleven. His vindictive father gave him little property, effectively leaving him an orphan.” WHAT? Dude, that was his mom's husband, not his father. He never even MET the dude.
After the presidency, the Madisons had a portrait of Jefferson and a painting of Mary Magdalene. “The orientation permanently put the famously carnal Jefferson in the inauthentic position of turning away from lust, probably amusing Madison and Dolley daily.” Hee hee hee.
This is the final Wallflower book, I've only read the first of them here. Just wondering: why does the cover of this book feature three girls with their heads cut off so we're just staring at their cleavage?
This features the now-married Wallflowers all together for a giant Christmas party at the Westcliff's, as Lillian and Daisy's brother Rafe Bowman is pondering marriage to the high-born Lady Natalie Blandford. The Bowman kids's parents are awful, but their dad is especially awful and really mistreated his oldest son Rafe even worse than the other kids.* Dad enjoys making everyone dance to his tune ("Why should you be exempt from playing a price? Why shouldn't you try to please me?") and then making sure everyone knows he can never be pleased. Even though Rafe's gotten fed up enough to stomp off and make his own fortune elsewhere, he wants in on a business partnership with his father. And his father says he can't get it (or remain an heir of his) unless he marries Lady Natalie. Period.
* "My father is the kind of man who would lure a dog with a bone, and when the dog is in reach, beat him with it. And then throw a tantrum if the dog doesn't hurry back to him the next time." -Rafe.
At the beginning of this, Rafe is....not super enthused at the idea, to say the least. But to some degree he's all, well, I want that partnership, I'm gonna have to marry somebody and it doesn't matter who, this chick is as good as any other and she's the sort I figured I'd end up with anyway, so okay, fine, whatever. He's not terribly happy about it, but not terribly against the idea either. He thinks he can suck it up and do it. I thought that logic seemed reasonable enough for me to buy into why he'd originally go along with it, even though I found a review that questioned why he would. He knows he can never please his father and he ain't trying to earn that, but at least he can get the share of the business. Right?
However, the Wallflowers invite Lady Natalie's poor cousin/companion Hannah Appleton over to ask her how best to woo the lady, and Rafe has the whopping hots for Hannah at first sight instead, for whatever reason. Hannah, for the record, thinks Rafe is a complete jerk--and boy, does he ever come off as one in the start of the book and I don't blame her a bit**--and she tells him to his face she's not supportive of this potential marriage at all and he's not nearly good enough for her cousin. The fact that he's kissing her behind everyone's back and making comments about making her his mistress doesn't help either.
** There's one particularly obnoxious scene a bit later at the house party in which he breaks a cup. I'm with Hannah: I don't care if the hosts have fifty cups, that's still kinda rude to smash one rather than be too rude and lazy to take it into the house.
As for Lady Natalie herself, wow, that girl. I thought from Hannah's mention of her that she must be the sweet, saintly type, but HELL NO. She is QUITE the saucy, manipulative minx, who's rejected four marriage proposals so far, has made out with pretty much every guy because Hannah hasn't realized what she's doing behind her back, and is basically a female Rafe. Which probably explains why despite Lady Natalie's bragging that a man likes mystery, Rafe doesn't find her mysterious in the slightest. Meanwhile, the blunt and honest Hannah is more of one to him, so there you go.
Natalie isn't particularly in love either, but he's handsome and rich and she's willing to go along with it as long as she gets some kissing samples in first just to check. I thought Natalie was a hoot at first and I thought she'd be more of a featured character in this (see Quote Corner), but she gets a bit more obnoxious as things go on--she's particularly rude and mean to Hannah when Hannah refuses to leave the two of them alone for smooches because Hannah doesn't want her to get compromised and get trapped into marrying him. I kinda lost sympathy for her around that point, but she kinda drops out of having scenes after that so it's just as well. Which is a shame, because I was curious about the dude Hannah wants her cousin to marry, and that guy literally gets one scene and a HEA off the page. The book's barely over 200 pages, they couldn't spare some room for that, or tell me more about why Natalie should marry this dude instead? It could have used some double romance, I think. Natalie sounds like a flamboyant enough girl that except for her jerk moments, could have been fun to go into as well.
Anyway...we eventually find out that Rafe's how he is because he had a tortured childhood***, and he stops being less of an ass, but I still can't say I thought he was a super wonderful dude and perfect for Hannah by the end of it. Sure, they seem to have whopping sexual chemistry up the wazoo, and Rafe isn't a total ass, but I wasn't swept away by him as a human being. Eventually Rafe just decides to fuck pleasing his dad, and everything works out, so there you go.
*** the story about his toy soldier is particularly heart-panging.
As for the Wallflowers, there's tiny to minuscule cameos from their husbands covering how their romantic relationships are going these days (pretty well, thanks!), but mostly the ladies are either decorating the new giant tree or working on matchmaking because they're always happy to enlist a new Wallflower into the family.
I guess I'll give it three stars overall. It was okay, mildly amusing in places, but didn't blow my mind with the awesome match.
"Oh, heavens, the moment a girl approaches courtship as a serious matter is the moment she's lost the game. We must guard our hearts and hide our feelings carefully, Hannah. It's the only way to win." --Lady Natalie
"Most people don't have facades. Oh, everyone thinks they do, but when you dig past the facade, there's only more facade." -Lady Natalie
"When you're genuine, there's no mystery. And above all men like mystery in a woman." -Lady Natalie
"An hour in her company, and one knew virtually everything there was to know about her." --Rafe's thoughts on Lady Natalie.
"Have you been a good girl in my absence?" "Yes, of course." "We'll have to remedy that immediately. I refuse to tolerate proper behavior from my wife." --St. Vincent and Evie
"What part did you miss the most?" "Your mind." "I was hoping for a far more depraved answer than that." "Your mind is depraved." --St. Vincent and Evie again.
Here comes the cape, doo-dah, doo-dah. Taylor elects to stay put because she doesn't want to get closer to Lung or get caught fleeing.
"If you’d asked me just a few hours ago about how I thought I would feel meeting a big name superhero, I would have used words like excited and giddy. The reality was that I was almost too exhausted to care."
The cape that's shown up is called Armsmaster, and he grapples up there. He's in charge of the local team and of course has his own action figures. I wonder if the author ever heard of the Bigtime series, and if not, she should read them. Taylor, who's got an eye for costumes, can sure tell the difference between home made and actual superhero. He has a souped up Halberd. Armsmaster calls out, "You gonna fight me?" and Taylor says she's a good guy. "You don't look like one." Uh, yeah, that's gonna be a problem, bug girl.
“That’s… not intentional,” I responded, not a little defensively, “I was more than halfway done putting the costume together when I realized it was already looking more edgy than I’d intended, and I couldn’t do anything about it by then.”
" I glanced at his chest emblem, a silhouette of his visor in blue against a silver background, and was struck with the ridiculous thought that I had once owned a pair of underpants with his emblem on the front."
The shame! The embarrassment!
“You’re telling the truth,” he said. It was a definitive statement, which startled me. I wanted to ask how he knew, but I wasn’t about to do or say anything that might change his mind."
Anyway, Taylor doesn't need a hospital, and "I'm as surprised as you are" that she doesn't need one. He says she's a new face and she says she hasn't even come up with a name yet.
"You know how hard it is to come up with a bug-themed name that doesn’t make me sound like a supervillain or a complete dork?”
GOD, YES. SO TOTALLY TRUE. Armsmaster is amused by this and says he got in so early he didn't have that problem. She says she almost died (really? I dunno, I think if you didn't take any injury that isn't quite true) and he says that's why they have the Ward program.
"The Wards were the under-eighteen subdivision of the Protectorate, and Brockton Bay did have its own team of Wards, with the same naming convention as the Protectorate; The Wards East-North-East. I had considered applying to join, but the notion of escaping the stresses of high school by flinging myself into a mess of teenage drama, adult oversight and schedules seemed self-defeating."
Uh, isn't anything involving teenagers going to have those things? High school has that stuff too. I don't get her logic on this. (Though if you read the comments on this chapter, her reasons for saying no make a bit more sense.) Anyway, she figures Armsmaster is obligated to recruit her and she doesn't want to join, so she goes for distraction and asks about Lung. He's stuffed with tranqs and in a cage Armsmaster welded to the sidewalk right now, he'll get picked up on the way back. I don't know why I think that's so funny, but it totally is. Taylor says she only started the fight because she overheard him saying he'd kill kids, and she didn't get he meant villains. She describes it all, including that the Junkyard Dogs knew he was coming. Armsmaster says they're slippery and they keep getting away or winning, and they don't know much about them. Maybe Tattletale has some way to track them?
"It kind of surprised me to hear one of the top level heroes admitting to being anything less than perfectly on top of things."
Taylor thinks they didn't seem that hardcore, and Armsmaster is surprised they said so much in front of her. Taylor grumbles that her costume probably led to their assuming she was bad. Could you have fought them on your own? Probably not.
“Then count it as a good thing that they got the wrong impression,” Armsmaster said."
“I’ll try to look at it that way,” I said, struck by how he easily he was able to employ the whole ‘take a negative and turn it into a positive’ mindset I’d been trying to maintain. I envied that."
So now what?
"What you’ve done tonight is spectacular. You played a part in getting a major villain into custody. You just need to consider the consequences.”
“Consequences,” I muttered, even as the word spectacular rang in my ears."
Anyway, Lung has a huge gang and two superpowered flunkies, one of which Taylor hasn't heard of before, Bakuda, who was some terrorist against Cornell University.
“What are her powers?”
“Are you aware of the Tinker classification?”
I started to shrug, but remembered my sore shoulder and nodded instead. It was probably more polite, too. I said, “Covers anyone with powers that give them an advanced grasp of science. Lets them make technology years ahead of its time. Ray guns, ice blasters, mechanized suits of armor, advanced computers.”
“Close enough,” Armsmaster said. It struck me he would be a Tinker, if his Halberd and armor were any indication. That, or he got his stuff from someone else. He elaborated, “Well, most Tinkers have a specialty or a special trick. Something they’re particualrly good at or something that they can do, which other Tinkers can’t. Bakuda’s specialty is bombs.”
Wow. Anyway, Armsmaster points out that whoever takes credit for this is gonna be in huge danger.
“I’m saying you have two options. Option one is to join the Wards, where you’ll have support and protection in the event of an altercation. Option two is to keep your head down. Don’t take the credit. Fly under the radar.”
I wasn’t prepared to make a decision like that. "
So she says to keep it secret. Armsmaster says she can call him at HQ if she needs to, and drops off the roof. He owes her one. Meanwhile, Taylor's got school tomorrow.
Okay, I'm going to give this four stars for interesting revelations, and a good wrapup to act 1. Or whatever.
Jacqueline Carey: Dark Currents Reviewed February 19. (****)
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: Trade Secret Reviewed February 18. (**)
Lois McMaster Bujold: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen Reviewed February 8. (****)
Annette Gordon-Reed: The Hemingses of Monticello Reviewed February 15. (***)
Marie Brennan: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir By Lady Trent Reviewed February 12. (****)
Meljean Brook: Riveted Reviewed February 11. (****)
Steven Brust: Sethra Lavode Reviewed February 10. (****)
Steven Brust: The Lord of Castle Black Reviewed February 9. (****)
Steven Brust: The Paths of the Dead Reviewed February 8. (***)
Augusten Burroughs: This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike. Reviewed January 27. (*****)
Gabrielle Oettingen: Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside The New Science of Motivation Reviewed January 26. (****)
Seanan McGuire: Indexing: Reflections: all chapter reviews Reviewed January 14. (****)
Michael Signer: Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father Reviewed January 26. (***)
Seanan McGuire: Indexing: Reflections: Episode 24: Never After Reviewed January 12. (****)
Wildbow: Worm: Gestation 1.6 Reviewed January 21. (****)
Wildbow: Worm: Gestation 1.5 Reviewed January 20. (***)
Wildbow: Worm: Gestation 1.4 Reviewed January 19. (**)
Wildbow: Worm: Gestation 1.3 Reviewed January 18. (***)
Wildbow: Worm: Gestation 1.2 Reviewed January 15. (***)
David McCullough: John Adams Reviewed January 14. (****)
Elle Kennedy: The Deal Reviewed January 13. (****)
Rachel Schurig: Escape In You Reviewed January 12. (****)
Rachel Schurig: Relent (Ransom Series Book 4) Reviewed January 11. (****)
Rachel Schurig: Redeem (Ransom Series Book 3) Reviewed January 8. (****)
Rachel Schurig: Release (Ransom Series Book 2) Reviewed January 7. (****)