Monday, November 30, 2009

True crime

The latest Book Menage has started at Citizen Reader. The topic is true crime with a focus on Rick Geary's true crime graphic novels and Stacy Horn's The Restless Sleep. Check it out.

Finally back to scifi

Seems like forever since I have picked up a good mass market paperback scifi novel. I had been looking at Kay Kenyon's The Braided World for years and have owned for nearly that long. It was a great read and a nice return to science fiction. It is an anthropological/first contact scifi novel in the vein of Mary Doria Russell or Orson Scott Card in which a mission sent from a dying Earth hopes to find a means to restart the human race on a distant planet.

A rich former opera singer funds a mission to the planet based on a message which says that the planet has what they have what Earth has lost. The captain dies just as the expedition arrives (wouldn't you know it?), putting the whole thing in the hands of two junior officers. The planet is inhabitated by what looks like humans who call themselves the Dassa. Unfortunately, they have some peculiar habits including slavery for women capable of breeding in the human way. The political system is confusing enough to lead to miscalculation by the novice diplomats.

Kenyon is great at creating peculiar societies and here she has made a world in which the strange biology of the Dassa leads to a odd political system. The plot revolves around the attempts by humans and Dassa to use each other to get what they want. There are a few cliches here and there, but I really liked it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Inflight reading - Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Traveling solo with three kids normally means no reading. So of course, I ply mine with chapter books, crayons, sticker books, comic books, comic book compilations, Indiana Jones DVDs and whatever nature documentaries and Disney Treasures I feel like bringing. This means I get to do more than scan the Sky Mall catalog.

In this case, I got through a good piece of the awesome Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind. Biskind gives you everything. Your high minded brain gets the history of the revival of American cinema in the early 70s, capsule histories of key films, a sense of how movies get made, and a sense for the titanic amounts of money that slosh around. Your low minded brain gets the salacious details of life in Hollywood. You learn about Dennis Hopper's insane relationships with his wives (handcuffing them to keep them from leaving is a short term play at best) and others. The wild sex lives and the casualness with which they treat other people will shock.

One revelation, among many, is that the great directors of the 70s (Coppola, Scorsese, Friedken, Polanski, etc) were nearly all complete and total bastards. If they weren't stealing your wife, they were stealing your money and burning your career down to the ground. They rode over anyone in their path and they expected a thank you or a blow job as payment. I'm having to do some serious separating the art from the artist stuff in my mind. Otherwise I may have to go break some DVDs. That just wouldn't do.

Great book. Read it immediately if you like movies.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Listening too long to their songs

The Foo Fighters used to be my standard for awesome videos. You had the Evil Dead/Sid and Nancy referencing Everlong (still the most awesomely badasss video of all time) and the Mentos ad mocking Big Me. But I have come to realize the champs are the New Pornographers. These fine Canadians (plus a Yank) have a potentially off putting name, but their songs are poppy, indie rock gems. Unlike so many of their American counterparts, they are unafraid to ROCK while they bring their harmonies, clever lyrics and hooks to the listener. This is the band that Rivers Cuomo wants to front. Amazingly the videos are equally great. Behold the wonders:

Your Daddy Don't Know. This is a cover of an 80s hard band rocker. The band dresses accordingly. Neko's hair is great, as is her head shaking. She looks like the lost sister from Heart. The band plays it straight, but there is another piece about a chair jumping contest that is awesome. I just listened to this one four (now five) times in a row.

Mutiny I Promise You
. An impossibly addictive bit of pop rock. The video is actually part of a comedy series by . The video features the two ladies of the New Pornographers, one of whom is naturally gorgeous and the other is hot in an awkward indie way. You can't go wrong.

Sing Me Spanish Techno. Is this the best song of the decade? Rhethorical question, the answer is clearly yes. The video is good enough to match the song. The story of transvestite karaoke is awesome, I particularly like the first stage show.

The Laws Have Changed. Great song, but the least of the videos probably. It references an art film and has Callie from BSG standing in for Neko Case.

Pity there is no video for the End of Medicine as that songs rocks. Seeing this guys live is my great desire (maybe I will get an ELO cover?).

Nukes not a big deal?

I've been in a reading rut of late, nothing has been clicking. I put down Neuropath, I put down a horror novel I was excited about, I thought the Amazon praised Crazy For the Storm was pretty good, but not great.

John Mueller's Atomic Obsession broke the bad spell. The concise, well argued book is a direct assault on all the received wisdom about nuclear weapons. Mueller argues that nuclear weapons are not as dangerous as people think, that proliferation is less likely than people think, that nuclear terrorism is far more difficult than people think and that much less attention needs to be paid to nuclear weapons in general.

He blows up the right and left in this book, but mostly he is taking aim at the foreign policy establishment for whom nuclear weapons remain a core concern driving a sizable chunk of US policy. This one is well worth reading just to reconsider your assumptions. His argumentation is strong, although you are unlikely to buy everything (or even most) of what he has to say. I imagine those nodding their heads at the sections that talk about how the fixation on Iranian nukes is bad for America will blanch when they see him note that using atomic weapons to access resources and to call for the ramping up of nuclear energy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


A Navy destroyer, the USS Lassen recently visited the Vietnamese port of Da Nang. Not a huge deal anymore, but interesting. Much more interesting is that the commander of the ship left the very same city in 1975 as a child refugee.

Nice Bacevich and Frum on Bloggingheads. One conservative apostate and one conservative trying to save his side from creeping madness.

I watched the cartoon New Frontier with the kids. Based on the excellent Darwyn Cooke comic, it tells the story of the formation of the justice league with a close look at racism, McCarthyism and domestic policing as well. Its a bit dark in places, starts with a suicide, Wonder Woman helps a group of Vietnamese women get bloody vengeance, but you can skip parts if needed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Some scifi for your 2010

io9 has a list of upcoming scifi titles for 2010. I am most excited for the Connie Willis time traveling book, although I wonder which road she will take. Her Doomsday Book, involving time travellers going back to the middle ages, is one of the biggest bummers of all time. Then there's To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is light hearted romp by comparison. The new one is called Blackout and it involves trips to London during WW2. Should be good. Can't say I am all that amped for any of the others, but you may get a charge.

Off the list, there is a new Alastair Reynold on the horizon, another far future one.

Dare we hope for Dance with Dragons? Related note: Will the Game of Thrones HBO series top the Wire?

Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show?

I recall watching the Gong Show back in the 70s. Mostly people getting gonged. Here though we have art rockers Oingo Boingo (known then as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo) performing. The celebrity guests are just as interesting, including a bowl cut wearing Buddy Hackett, a young looking Shari Lewis and Bill Bixby.

I like them better doing Private life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Scott Bakker is best known for his constructivist fantasy series called The Prince of Nothing. I liked the books at first, but thought they were too slow moving and was more interested in cramming critical theory into fantasy novels than in writing a story. Also, I couldn't stand weepy one of the main characters became.

Still, I think he is quite talented, so I picked up his first thriller, called Neuropath. I didn't make it too far, as the main character drove me nuts and it looked like more of the things are not what they seem. In the fantasy novels it was all about how love, society, religion and so on are social constructs to be exploited by those who see clearly. In this book, love, society, religion and so on are creations of the chemical reactions in our heads, and they can be exploited or something.

Anyway, a bad guy starts making people do evil, hideous things and it turns out the cocky protagonist used to know him, so the Feds bring him in to fight him.

Anyway, wasn't for me.

More random

I loved Green Apple Books yesterday, but I love them a little more today after I read their plans for the profits from sales of the Palin book.

Not sure that I would follow the advice necessarily, but I love this article on making pie crust and how you are whiny if you won't make one.

Check out this fast food restaurant decision tree. Note the mocking of Arbys.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fourth star

The Iraq books keep coming, despite the public's waning interest. The Fourth Star, subtitled Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the Army is a book with the Iraq war at its center, but it is quite a bit more. It follows the military careers of Generals Abizaid, Casey, Chiarelli and Petraeus, all of whom recently became four star generals, the highest rank in the Army (five star generals exist, but the rank is an honorific)

The parts I liked best were those that preceded the Iraq war. It shows the often peculiar and roundabout paths that military careers take. There is the constant desire, for those who want promotion, to take positions in charge of military units. In many cases, the Generals in the book despaired of every getting promoted. General Chiarelli found himself teaching at West Point and became known as an egg head. General Abizaid nearly took the career limiting move of becoming a Foreign Area Officer, or one who spends his career in liaison with other militaries. With the exception of the ultra-driven Petraeus, few seemed to be working their way to the top of the Army.

Most of the stories about their careers are fresh and they tell the story of the Army's near destruction in Vietnam, the slow rebuilding in the 70s and 80s, the victory of sorts in 91 and then the challenges of an Army using the wrong tactics in Iraq. The civil-military leadership in the Iraq war is the flip of the Union's situation in the Civil War. In Iraq, incompetent civilian leaders hobbled the general's war effort, just as incompetent generals hobbled the civilian leaderships efforts in the Civil War. Authors Jaffe and Cloud are withering in their treatment of the civilians in the books (as well as towards the self congratulatory Tommy Franks.)

The focus though is on the generals. Casey and Chiarelli eventually took the top two spots, respectively in the Army, but felt that they had been demoted in a sense for their handling of Iraq. Abizaid retired to the Sierra Nevadas and Petraeus continues his quest for glory.

The book is a good quick read, loaded with fascinating stories and analysis. It doesn't quite reach the level of the Thomas Ricks or Dexter Filkins books, but it does give more insight than those books into the Army as an institution.


Here is one for Steve. Five pages of why it it hard to translate Beowulf. Includes exercises! Via McCardle.

Ken Ober of MTV's Remote Control has died. So young, so sad. How I loved Remote Control back in the day, with the Stud Boy and Dead or Canadian?

I have been away from the food blog world for awhile, but I saw a link on Marginal Revolution to a guide to buffet eating. I expected a few bullet points, but found a treatise. It's a bit insane. Nice blog though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is your day going a little too well?

No need to read a weepy Russian novel, that takes too long. Just listen to Mariah Carey's cover of I Want To Know What Love is. There are few bands worse than Foreigner and few Foreigner songs worse than I Want To Know What Love Is, but Mariah brings her special brand of suck to the party. Enjoy, or, don't.

What happens to scrapped ships

I grew up in Tidewater Virginia, which meant I was surrounded by ships from birth. I was, and still am, attracted to naval vessels. The increasing standardization of the US Navy and the disappearance of the old ships means there are fewer odd ones to spot, but as a boy there were plenty. I even managed to visit two Soviets ships that came to town at the end of the Cold War.

My fascination with warships extends to their scrapping. It's a sad affair. Scroll down to the see the Spanish Dedalo, the former USS Cabot, sitting in a ditch in Brownsville, Texas. Many would prefer that ships have the fate of the USS Oriskany which was sunk to make a barrier reef. Here is a video of that ship sinking.

Anyway, sometimes they just get scrapped and I wonder what happened to them. The old answer was always, they get made into razor blades. Apparently though you can still touch parts of the German battleship Tirpitz, which was sunk in 1944. Parts of the ships armor are still used in Norway as temporary road patches. Images here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

If you have seen a Kevin Smith movie, you know what to expect from this Zack and Miri Make A Porno. It will have tons of sex jokes and unbelievably bad language. Jason Mewes will be crazy (in this case, crazy and naked.) The plot will revolve around a working class guy (and possibly gal) who takes for granted the great relationship staring them in the face. The only question is whether they will screw it up or not.

This one is a comedy so you can guess how it will turn out. Seth Rogen is sad sack Zack and Elizabeth Banks is Miri Linky (formerly called Stinky Linky). Best friends and roomates, they are always a step away from eviction. When things get really bad, they decide to film a porno. With a group of similar outcasts, including a character played by Traci Lords, they decide to film a porn film. Will Zack and Miri realize what they have in each other? Again, fairly obvious, but still cute.

Best parts of course are the over the top jokes, like Justin Long as a gay porn star who likes to talk about his work. If sex jokes make you uncomfortable, stay far away from this one. If you do watch, enjoy the Pixies on the soundtrack and wait for the bonus scene after the credits.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Went to Beaumont Market and picked up a Buckbean Original Orange Blossom Ale. Quite orangey, not in a nasty puckerish way, but in a yummy way like Terry's Chocolate Orange. I wouldn't spend an evening drinking them (but then again I am a switch it up kind of guy) but I will drink it again.

Did you know Johnny Marr has joined the Cribs? Here is Cheat on Me from the new record. It has quite a different feel from the almost snotty Our Bovine Public (a song I adore). Anyway a nice move forward.

I saw this post on i09 about haunted house books and I was amazed to see that Sarah Langan has a new one out! Since she is a horror writer she is still published in mass market, so I saved a little cash when I bought her new one today.

I've been coming back to Andy Samberg's I Threw It on the Ground. Watched it three times today. It's a concept that really shouldn't work, but he builds it just right.

In the department of wierd but effective covers, here is Of Montreal covering the Misfits Where Eagles Dare. There is a clear dissonance in the Danzig nonsense lyrics "the omelette of disease awaits your noontime meal, her mouth of genocide seducing all your glands" being rocked out in house music style.

Feeling tragic, like I'm Marlon Brando

The Iggy Pop version of China Girl came up on my Ipod today. If you don't know it, give it a listen. It has a far dirtier 70s sound (surprise!) than the early 80s Bowie version. I like them both quite a bit, although I find the Bowie video dubious. The story behind the Bowie version is interesting. They wrote the song together in the 70s and then Pop recorded. When Pop was in a bad place in the 80s, Bowie recorded it, knowing Pop would get some cash from the song rights. Nice guy! Without the song, Pop might never gone on to make Candy or go on his duet/guest singer binge with the likes of the Teddybears, Ida Marie (awesome song, check it out), and Jemina Pearl. The latter one is great fun. Called I Hate People, the video hates on hipsters and features Thurston Moore as a diner owner.

Anyway if the music thing didn't work out, he could have been a pornstar. Can't find it online, but the guy could give John Holmes a complex. For real.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nitze and Kennan

The Hawk and the Dove is one of the most accessible and enjoyable books about the Cold War to come out in quite awhile. The book's biographical studies of Paul Nitze and George Kennan makes the story engaging and easy to follow. The idea that Nitze was the hawk and Kennan the dove makes stark a more muddled picture, but their relationship nicely highlights philosophical differences in the Cold War. Nitze often pushed the hard line and the militarization of containment, while its author Kennan thought that most military activity was wasteful and unnecessary, although he had a virulent hatred for the Communists.

The book is also concise. The Cold War is a big story, but author Nicholas Thompson (who is related to Nitze) doesn't feel compelled to pad the book with excess background information about the Cold War. He tells what needs to be told and then moves on. Having a background in the subject will help, but it is not necessary. The focus on philosophy also helps.

I really liked the book. There are wonderful anecdotes and it the focus on the perspectives of the two men is illuminating. Although both men are legend in international relations, neither was ever really satisfied in their career, feeling they had been shut out of where they should be. There is sad moment where Nitze thinks he will get a plum spot in the Carter administration only to find himself without any job at all. All in all, a great read. Watch out, though, for the occasional lapse into conspiracy theory. Thompson mentions a number of mysterious deaths that surround the making of foreign policy. It is by no means the focus of the book, or even of a given chapter, but it pops up in odd places.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Finishing the Prisoner

Oh man, the Prisoner has to be the most singular, peculiar TV show ever made. It is part spy drama, part science fiction, part late 60s head trip, part political statement and all around entertainment. How odd is the show? Well for one, there is great disagreement about the order in which to watch them. The main character is never named, but keeps only his number 6. 6 is played by Patrick McGoohan who had a great amount of creative input into the show. He was at least partially responsible for the heavy use of symbolism. For example, the use of the antique penny farthing bike supposedly is there to represent McGoohan's concern that technology is outpacing man's ability to use it. The tension between the individual and society is played out in many different ways, including the whacked out finale.

Speaking of the finale, fans apparently came to McGoohan's house to yell at him after it was made. It is really quite something and is not easily digested. Lock your doors if the Lost people try something this off the wall. There may be riots.

The show itself starts out in a conventional serial method but becomes increasingly odd. 6 resigned from the British secret service and a series of wardens, known as 2 try to figure out why he did it. Their methods grow increasingly bizarre and serve to comment on the oppressive sense of entitlement of the state. The last few shows are just crazy. One starts off in the old West and it is not clear where the hell it is going until the end. The Girl Called Death is a send up of spy shows and is quite funny.

AMC will shortly be presenting an updated Prisoner miniseries. Jim Caviezel is 6 and Ian McKellan, surely the god of all scifi movies now, is 2. There are only six episodes, but before you shout LAME!!, recall that McGoohan originally only wanted the Prisoner to be seven episodes, so it could very well be in keeping with the original.

AMC has all the original shows available to watch online. So what are you waiting for?

Monday, November 09, 2009


What is with the new box set releases? I suppose some fans have plenty of cash to burn, despite the downturn. AC/DC has a reasonably priced (<$50) box set out there, but who wants a boring old box set, when you can get one HOUSED IN A WORKING AMP. This version of the set will set you back two hundred bones, but you do get an amp with it. I can't wait to see what you can get when cloning technology is perfected.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Well, I saw it last night. Great movie, you can kinda sorta believe the hype. If you go in with the belief that it will Change Everything and be The Scariest Movie of All Time, you will be disappointed. If you want to experience slow burn dread and good scares, you will be happy.

If somehow you don't know about the movie, it get its buzz from the fact that it was made for less money than most new cars (and has already grossed $16M ) and that it was a huge hit at Sundance. Like Blair Witch, it has few actors and they are all unknowns. Most of the acting is acceptable but Katie Featherston does a great job of portraying an escalation of fear.

Katie, her character is also named Katie, was haunted as a child by a spirit. Her techie boyfriend decides to film the house so they can catch sight of the spirit. The exposition just starts to wear thin when the haunting picks up. The initial actions of the ghost are creepy, but in a way that gets the boyfriend cackling, rather than concerned. As you might guess the haunting get worse, much worse.

The last five or ten minutes are great, in particular a disturbing little bit that went by too fast. I will have to watch it again.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Random links of the day

Here is Carrie Fisher sunning on the barge with her stunt double, both in slave gear.

If you haven't seen it, John Stewart's impression of Glenn Beck is very good.

Speaking of Beck, you may have seen the NYT story about his becoming the new go to person for thrillers. Sarah Weinman expands on it.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Portland is getting a train museum, or park or something. They city owns three steam locomotives and has entered a partnership with the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation to set up some sort of facility near OMSI. My kids will be tired of trains by then, but I will probably stop visit. For now be sure to visit the giant railroad set at the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club. They are only open on November weekends, so do it soon!

Have a look at this local TV station animal visit gone wrong.

Fun at vegans expense.

Q: Are we not men? A: We are Pearl Jam

Covers make me smile. They let you ponder just why it is you like songs. Is the band, is it how the song is played, is it the singer? While I adore a recorded cover, I get even more excited for a live one. Even at the best of shows I leave with a twinge of regret if there was no cover on the set list. The ultimate is when bands dress up for their covers. Sadly I have never seen such a thing myself, but the Internet is there for us. It's not a cover, but here is Stone Temple Pilots playing in Kiss makeup. The greatest example I have heard of is Shellac, joined by David Yow, coming onstage as the Sex Pistols and playing a set of Pistols songs. That transcends epic.

Although not quite as good as an entire show, I quite like how far Pearl Jam went on Halloween night in Philadelphia this year. They came on stage in full Devo gear and played Whip It (note that Eddie has an actual whip, as well as the robotic entry). That would have been something to see in person. Video below.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

It's a long way back from hell

I guess I went into Drag Me to Hell with expectations set too high. It's the sort of movie you expected Sam Raimi to make 20 (or even 30 years) ago. You get the gonzo funny gore, like a demon puking up a kitten, and the unstoppable evil, as in Evil Dead. It just doesn't add up to much. Justin Long is in it and I have a hard time watching him without expecting John Hodgman to show up. And he doesn't.

For some real horror, here is Shakira and pretend Danzig singing Hips Don't Lie:

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A song for the afternoon

It is rare when scifi geekiness and indie rock come together. Usually one must turn to the Pixies or early Frank Black for such things. Fortunately there are a few others. Butterglory, an underrated 90s band, has the Skills of the Star Pilot. It really just uses some scifi imagery, but I will take what I can get. A nice low key tune.

Gillian Flynn puts on her pants just like the rest of you, except once her pants are on, she writes great crime novels

I used to have no taste in books. It's true! I liked the worst of the worst British (and there are no worse) 80s horror novels. I once gave a friend Michael Slade's atrocious Ghoul, which he rightly hated. The book is notable for a profusion of gore and also a blurb from Bruce Dickinson (yes, THE Bruce Dickinson) He said "Slade is warped and I love it!" The twisted characters in Gillian Flynn's two excellent novels make me wonder about her daydreams, but I will say I love her books but not for the reason Dickinson praised Slade.

Slade like the torture pornographers that dominate horror movies believes that gore and physical torment is scary, or, worse, entertaining. Flynn is more interested in social cruelty and psychological torment. Her first book, Sharp Objects, featured an emotionally shattered outsider who returned to her hometown to cover a brutal murder and to confront her unspeakable family.

Her newer book is Dark Places. This one dials back the social critique a tad, but features a dual timeline story in which the only survivor of a 1980s home massacre finally comes to terms with it. Libby was seven when her family was killed and she helped put her brother in jail for her life as the killer. She becomes a violent withdrawn person herself and makes it to her thirties living off donations. When she runs out of money and choices, she helps out some bizarro murder fetishists who believe her brother did not commit the crime. Not believing them, but needing money she becomes involved in their investigation.

The flashbacks to the 80s depict a small town awash in fears of Satanists (remember that? I recall reading a book cashing in on the hysteria called Say You Love Satan!). The town looks down on Libby's family, as they are barely holding their heads above water. Libby's brother is poor and awkward, which makes him doubly suspicious in the eyes of the community. They are all too happy to demonize him as the story progresses.

The story itself is much better in this book than in the first book. As much as I loved that book for the characterization and writing, the ending was fairly clear at about the midpoint. In this case, you get the gimlet eyed writing, the weak, bitter, but still sympathetic characters, but you also get a story that keeps you uncertain until the end.

I can't wait to see what human ruin Flynn creates next!

Monday, November 02, 2009

King in the New Yorker

I am pretty excited for the giant new Stephen King novel. He is not universally loved, but I love how he made horror novels work. There is a new short story, not explicitly horror, although it is horrific, in the New Yorker. Read it here. I've not read them, but here is a new Lethem and a new Saunders.

Dead Hand

Depending on when you call it, the Cold War may have ended 20 years ago (could have been in 86 at Reykjavik or in 91 when the Soviet Union collapsed). Maybe it is for that reason we are seeing a surge in Cold War books. Last year we saw the angry Arsenals of Folly by Richard Rhodes, this year we have a new one from Neil Sheehan called a Firey Peace in a Cold War (just started it, great so far). Take a look at this review essay from Philip Zelikow for a number of books on the era.

In the Dead Hand, David Hoffman of the Washington Post covers both the East and West, but sheds a lot of new light on the Soviet side. He shows both the good, the realization that the nuclear arms race could end the world, and would certainly crush the Soviet economy, as well as the bad.

The bad is pretty grim. He spends quite a bit of time showing the rise of the Soviet biological weapons industry. The US, viewing bio-weapons as a strategic liability, signed and adhered to the Biological Weapons Convention and killed the offensive bio-weapons program. The Soviets feared the US was cheating, so they built a secret program with all sorts of horrors like smallpox bombs and new two punch viruses with an initial bug to weaken the immune system followed by a knockout punch bug.

Hoffman also shows the effects on international relations of the terrible management and maintenance practices, secrecy and the use of poor technology. The decrepit system allowed for the penetration of Soviet airspace by a young German in an airplane, Chernobyl, the anthrax outbreak of 79 and the shoot down of KAL 007. Recent history has tried to pin the blame on the US for this. Hoffman shows that the weight lies heavily, if not completely, on the Soviets.

Hoffman also discusses the post-war period where unemployed Soviet scientists sat in rotting buildings with weapons materials stored in filing cabinets. He reveals more about the US efforts to get weapons materials out of the newly independent republics.

I have a few minor complaints. The title is a bit of a dodge. The Dead Hand of the title refers to a Soviet Doomsday machine that would ensure that the missiles would fly even if the Russian leadership perished. Hoffman uses it as a metaphor to describe how the WMD is still out there even if we have forgotten about it. If you are expecting a book that focuses on doomsday machines, look elsewhere.

There are also times where Hoffman has done so much research that it starts to take over the narrative. The level of detail becomes a bit much and bogs down in a, fortunately very few, places. Overall I found it an engaging, well-written and informative read.

Take a look at this WaPo Q&A with Hoffman where he addresses these issues and more.

Terror strikes the land

A fell wind blows from Detroit. It has been twelve years since the dark tide of Tuesdays with Morrie nearly crushed the spirit of America. We rested too easy while Albom was quiescent, but now the stars have re-aligned and he has returned with Have A Little Faith. This time the topic is interracial, interfaith relations. I suspect the glurge dial will be set to 11. Hug your children while there is still time.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Ia ia Cthulhu fhtagn!

One of my eldest son's favorite board games is Arkham Horror. In what other game do you get to fight eldritch terrors at the risk of going insane, or worse, being devoured? Not every child is ready for the terrible weight of knowledge of the Great Old Ones, so make it easy for them with this handy video.

(via io9)