Thursday, January 31, 2013

Blasted Rat

The Blasted Rat Store can be found here at:

An acquaintance of mine tonight was wearing a tee shirt that said in large blocky letters, "Swag is all you need."  I didn't want to get into a pissing contest with him.  So I kept my thought to myself.

          My swag is better than your swag.

I didn't want to help it.  And it is true.  I got hooked up at the Blasted Rat and my swag is shiny.  I got the Hear Us Now two c.d. set and a third c.d. of art.  Most excellent stuff!  They really deserve their own review.  And some tee shirts and an Anonymous We are Legion hoodie and a mask.  The mask because I have unspecific plans to travel around as the weather gets warmer in the spring.  

I've done direct actions before-- I grew up calling them "protests" but I guess that word is sadly out of fashion-- with Queer Nation and with Act Up.  And once a very long time before Occupy, there was a camp out in a park for the homeless and I went to that.  It was across from the City Hall.  We stayed up most of the night sitting on the City Hall steps and talking.

The c.d.s came with a nifty poster which I immediately put into a cool frame I'd gotten from a thrift shop.  It's a pencil drawn print and very well done.  On the top there are four bruts-- a pig in a helmet, a guy sporting a nerve mask similar to the ones that were used in Vietnam, a fried from nukes guy with a megaphone, and a skeleton dude.  In the middle are my Anon Family holding up signs.  They are standing behind a banner which proclaims in bright red letters the legend, WE DO NOT FORGET.  The poster is now hanging up in the study to remind me of the Anons who are in prison.  

The Blasted Rat folks threw in some decals and a couple of flags.  All of it made me very happy.  

sapphoq reviews says: The service was very fast, the stuff came as it was available, and I will definitely buy from Blasted Rat again.  I've got my eye on a German Anon tee-shirt, and maybe another hoodie.  Blasted Rat is the place to go for revolution swag and tuneage.  For sure.  Absolutely highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

Pirate Cinema, Cory Doctorow.  New York: Tor Teen Books/Tom Doherty Associates, L.L.C., 2012.  e-book, 876 pps.

After finishing Pirate Cinema, I  wandered around the homestead for several days belting out:

          Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late.
          The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder.
          I'm an over-forty victim of fate
          Arriving too late, arriving too late.

                               [Jimmy Buffett, A Pirate Looks at Forty]

          I'm a filthy lil hacker but I still shine.
                               [YTCracker, Computer Crimes]

much to the horror of my housemate.  Yes, Pirate Cinema is that kind of a book.  London isn't like any place that I've been except through reading.  Cory Doctorow does an excellent job of transporting me right there to a squatter's building that used to be an old pub, a bunch of friends who are righteous about pirating films in order to splice them up into new and unique art, and a Parliamentary fight which also included a sneering nod to the Intellectual Property Monopoly.  Trent's flatmates became my flatmates [although he did get to keep his girlfriend].  His pirate buddies became my pirate buddies.  The film parties became ones that I also attended, dancing away to pounding tunes in a corner until the lights get put out and the movie reels begin.  Trent's bio-fam didn't become my bio-fam.  The differences were too glaring for that.  But in all of the rest, his people became my people.  Because the struggles in Pirate Cinema are my struggles and the struggles of some of my closest Internet buddies.

I'd never heard of pirating until a few years back.  A bunch of us used to snicker whenever one P2P file sharing networks in particular was mentioned.  We used to call it "Virus Wire."  I never used it.  Re-formatting is a pain.  I've had to do it once or twice.  No use in signing up to do it on purpose unless it's a job thing with some salary attached.  I certainly knew about censorship.  As a writer, one cannot help but know something about censorship.  I found the Electronic Frontier Foundation on the web.  Watched as a good blogger buddy of mine got kicked from Yahell 359.  Well, okay.  I was a bit jealous.  I'd wanted to be provocative enough to be kicked from there too.  [I wasn't].  In typical maddening fashion, that blogging site let the guys perverted sickos who had pictures of penises and little boys on their profiles stay on.  But my buddy, who wrote stuff that made people think, got kicked.  Go figure.  Hackers, white hats, gray hats, black hats, purple hats, crackers, slackers, V.P.N.s, piggybacking, squatting, thumb drives, all of that I had run into.  I knew bits and pieces of things.

2012 was the year when I was able to put the pieces together.  I became unstuck.  Started activating again.  Last year was when I became un-brain dead to some of the more heated struggles around me which were resulting in young people having extraordinary legal hassles because they were downloading songs and movies.  I participated in Black March 2012 boycott and started really studying the legal mumble jumble coming out of Big Hollywood. 

 I'd been to Montreal several times.  A few years before 2012, I had picked up some French cowboy music and had a conversation with the young man behind the counter of the music shop.  He told me that Canada put a surcharge on the music to cover folks wanting to make an extra copy or whatever.  Something like that.  Cory Doctorow suggested something similar in Pirate Cinema.  It makes much more sense to me than the United States using some kind of weird Immigration Law thingy to try to import one English lad to court and maybe prison for putting links on his website to a site that had some television shows available.  The young man actually had done nothing wrong according to English law as I understood it.  He merely provided some links.  [Actually, the way I remember it is that in England, those downloads being offered by the other site were also legal].  At any rate, the proffered solution in Pirate Cinema was for the I.S.P. companies to set a reasonable licensing fee so we users could legally download songs and films and stuff like that.  This extra fee-- a few dollars a month for anyone who opted in-- would be distributed to the creators and the artists [and maybe to the big companies] whose stuff we the people wanted to download.

Trent and his buddies were into revising films by taking frames from various ones, add a bit of computer animation, and voila-- a new short made from used bits.  This sounds like fun.  Reminded me a bit of some of the things we used to splice together at a college radio station.  I was actually fairly good at fixing those old tape reels when they broke.  Reminded also of collages.  I've made a few of those.  Even took a class in that once for fun.  No one seems to be going after the collage makers.  After all, a collage is bits of [our own and/or other peoples'] pictures and shapes and words glued on paper to create a derivative work.  Fair use is killed now.  Which sucks.  So yeah, I think giving up a few extra bucks a month is way cheaper than bunches of people winding up in prisons and stuff like that.

The other thing I absolutely loved about Pirate Cinema is the techie parts.  I've known about dumpster diving for discarded electronic components and other bits and even for food.  I understood the techie talk.  And I was thinking to myself, at last I found an author who thinks and talks about the computer stuff that I really really love.  It's all been put into Cory Doctorow's books.  So yeah, I'm reading the rest of them.

sapphoq reviews says:  Pirate Cinema is first-rate.  Although it says "Tor Teen Books" on the back, people other than teens will like it too.  People who know more about computers besides the "On" button.  People who are actively engaged in keeping the politicians from botching up the Internet.  People who are raving mad about the interference of giant corporations who want to impose draconian and punitive laws on what we do on the internet.  People who grew up in an era when we all made back up tapes of our music and homemade mix tapes of songs from various bands that we liked.  People who embrace free software.  People who shout things like "Information demands to be free" at the bureaucrats.  People who understand something about the hacker culture.  People who have been pirates or who dream about being pirates.  If you don't fall into any of those sorts of things, maybe you won't care for Pirate Cinema.  Maybe you will be the kind of person who writes whiny reviews on the book selling sites noting that the hackerish geeky stuff was oh so boring and unintelligible.  Or maybe a few of you will stick around and become un-brain dead like I did and get to know some of us and one day you will find yourself walking around singing about pirates and stuff.  Or heading off to a protest [I never did get used to calling a protest by the modern counterpart "action"] for some cause that you believe in.  You just never know.

Cory Doctorow, rock on.  Forget the haters who don't care about kids winding up in prison for downloading a few tunes.  The rest of us are here.  And delighted to have some books around that speak to our culture, our time, who we are.  Thanks for that.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright.  New York: Alfred A. Knoph/Random House, Inc., 2013.  e-book, 526 pps., incl footnotes, bibliography, index.

Twitter  @lawrencewright

I've been reading many books on cults, brain-washing, thought-stopping, betrayal of the self, Scientology, Mormonism, culture of abuse, and W.W.A.S.P.S.  I eagerly awaited the release of Going Clear in a format that I could read.  [Due to perception problems, an e-reader is a necessity for me in spite of my objections related to Intellectual Property Monopolies].  Going Clear is a fine, delightfully subversive, and powerful book.  It offers a fresh and compelling viewpoint into the mire that is Scientology.  Lawrence Wright has the luxury of being a third party.  He fills in more of the history and background to the events that ex-Scientologists referred to in their memoirs.  Wright manages to convey the human stories entwined in his tome.  He also includes the extensive objections by Scientology to each of his findings.

Going Clear does feature Tom Cruise, the actor.  But Going Clear is about far more than Tom Cruise, the recruiting of Hollywood stars and wannabe stars, and history.  This book gets into the nitty-gritty of how Scientology attracts/recruits followers.  Similar to many sales pitches, first there is the approach and then the addressing of any ambivalence or animosity on the part of the potential believer.  After that, the recruiter looks for what Scientology calls "the ruin."  The ruin is a regret or a weakness or a problem that the potential believer has not been able to fix.  Finally there is assurance that Scientology can handle it via a recommended course.  As with anything else that one wishes someone else to do, a reason why another should do one's bidding must be provided.  It must be powerful and attractive enough to overcome any resistance.

L. Ron Hubbard was no doubt a consummate salesman as well as a highly intelligent man with vision.  But the nasty stinking elephant under the rug will not disintegrate.  The courses leading up to the state of "Clear" are very expensive.  Hollywood stars can afford them.  Regular people can't.  Some of those people re-mortgage their houses or take out loans and more loans to pay for them.  Others opt to join Sea Org.  Those who join the Sea Org-- Scientology's vast clergy class who agree to work for far less than minimum wage for life but get courses and auditing included with the deal-- quickly become isolated from the rest of society.  Once in, it is difficult to leave.  Sea Org staffers are impoverished and lack privacy to make an unmonitored phone call to anyone on the outside.  With limited viable options, they stay on in spite of being sentenced to the R.P.F. and all of the other abuses.  Those who blow [leave by escaping] are tracked and brought back if possible.  Those who sign out are presented with Freeloader Bills for the courses and auditing that they have received.  The motive for paying the bills is being allowed to remain in good standing with the Church of Scientology i.e. being allowed to remain in contact with any family members within Scientology.  Those who don't pay are shunned.  If a staffer blows out or is thrown out with the label of "Subversive Person" attached, their family members are instructed not to have contact with them.  Thus, leaving for any reason becomes fraught with difficulties ranging from "How do I get out of here? and "But I love my family..." to "Where can I go?" and "What can I do for a living now?"

sapphoq reviews says:  Lawrence Wright deserves recognition and another Pulitzer Prize for writing Going ClearGoing Clear portrays the human rights abuses that happen within Scientology.  That a religious institution does not get prosecuted for wrongful imprisonment or human rights abuses happening behind its' walls is to the shame of the laws of the United States that falsely assume that religious bodies are worthy of our trust.  They aren't.  

The similarities between Sea Org operations and W.W.A.S.P.S. facilities are ones that I could not ignore.  I understand something about the culture of abuse that [in my opinion] underpins the fabrics of both Scientology and W.W.A.S.P.S.  Both organizations teach the older ones to abuse the ones coming up behind them.  Both also use the denial of sleep, food, and basic medical care.  Neither place offers its adherents the right to investigate criticisms of their system or the right to complain to an outside authority.  W.W.A.S.P.S. schools use face down restraints and isolation rooms.  Scientology's Sea Org staffers have been known to use physical abuse as well as unlawful imprisonment in basements and boiler rooms and crowded trailers as a means of punishment.  Even though these abuses have been written about on the Internet and in books and magazine articles, Scientology continues to garner converts and W.W.A.S.P.S. enterprises [a.k.a. Teen Help and a myriad of other names] continue to have parents, judges, and a few talk show hosts send in their kids for behavioral modification via abuse.  The folks who run W.W.A.S.P.S. are Mormons in good standing with the L.D.S.  At times, I have wondered if there is a connection between W.W.A.S.P.S. and Scientology because of the rampant abuse.  W.W.A.S.P.S. tells parents that the kids will lie about stuff.  W.W.A.S.P.S. claims its detractors are troubled liars and sometimes accuses them of looking for financial gain.  Scientology claims its defectors are not the folks they used to be [before they left the religion] and therefore not to be trusted.  But the cries of "Foul!" by those who stand accused of human rights violations fall hollow.  There are too many survivors of both places to easily discount what they say.  Going Clear underlines the reasons why Anonymous organizes worldwide protests against Scientology.  But to write about Scientology thus is dangerous.  Writing about W.W.A.S.P.S. is also dangerous.  Both places know how to use take-down orders and lawsuits to their advantage.  The justice system apparently does not cultivate the understanding that any business lost to the Church of Scientology or W.W.A.S.P.S. is a direct result of exposing their [alleged] abuse of human beings.  The message in Going Clear needs to be heeded.

The epilogue points out some of the parallels between Scientology and other religions.  The fictions inherent in Scientology and in all other religions are exactly the reason why I am an atheist.  Hubbard's beliefs are no more [ir]rational than Joseph Smith's or the [un]Holy Roman Catholic Church and her Pontifex or any other religion.  We become habilitated to those things that we are surrounded by, whether it is widespread systemic abuse or legends common to the religious institutions around us.

 Going Clear is bound to appeal to readers who are admirers of the work of Robert Jay Lifton and to those who have read material written by ex-Scientologists such as Marc Headley and Jenna Miscavige Hill.  Activists involved in the fight to stop abuse-- whether it is the abuses found in the troubled teen troubled industry [of which W.W.A.S.P.S. is but one player] or any other systemic or familial abuse pattern-- ought to give Going Clear a good read.  Folks who are into the lives of celebrities ought to get their heads out of the fluffy magazines and get into some of the real issues surrounding Hollywood.  Highly recommended for thinkers and movers.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Born at Midnight by c.c. hunter

Born at Midnight, C.C. Hunter.  New York: St. Martin's Press, 2011.  e-book, 288 pps.

@CCHunterBooks on Twitter;

Born at Midnight is first in a series written by c.c. hunter.  In the tradition of Rick Riordan, c.c. hunter's novel focuses on the journey of one teen, Kylie Galen, to find her true self in the midst of so many lies.  Kylie, much to her horror, finds herself on a bus being sent to a camp for troubled teens.  Only the camp and the campers are not what they appear to be.

The "trouble" is not of the typical adolescent variety.  The campers are different.  They are vampires, witches, werewolves, fae.  And unknown.  Kylie is the Unknown one.  As such, she initially feels left out by even the teens at the camp.  There is a director who counsels Kylie through her difficulties, some fine cute teen boys, a bit of danger, ghosts, distant relations, a really pissed off lion, and a cute kitten.  The end leaves the reader hankering for more.

I could not help myself.  When at the bookstore this past Saturday, I read all of the other books in this series too. 

sapphoq reviews says:  Good:  Born at Midnight was the correct length to tell the story it told.  [So were the other books].  Bad: Holiday's counseling sessions with Kylie had too much of a feel of therapy for my liking.  Good: Kylie's two friends and all of the campers in the books each had a distinct personality.  Bad:  I thought Holiday's co-leader should have been a lesbian and Holiday her bisexual lover.  An opportunity not to cater to assumed heterosexuality was lost.  The teens at the camp by definition a non-mainstream bunch surely must have had a few non-straight kids within.  There seemed to be a bit of time devoted to the idea that teens should wait until marriage before going all the way.  It came off as propaganda rather than a value sincerely held by Kylie.  Good:  The story in Born at Midnight [and in the sequels] kept moving.  The plot and sub-plots were interesting.  The crises were well-thought out and plausible.  The ghosts were believe-able.  The resolution made sense.  Teens and young adults who were bored with all of the Greek gods and goddesses in the Riordan series will like this series better.  Recommended for the teen and young adult reader.

A Little Book of Mormon Stories by Ingrid Ricks

A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) Stories, Ingrid Ricks.  self-published, Ricks Communications L.L.C., 2012.  e-book, 110 pps.

@bookhustler on Twitter;

Ingrid Ricks talks about her strict Mormon upbringing in A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) Stories.  Her parents were diametrical opposites.  Mother loved rules and regulations and all things L.D.S.  Dad was ex-communicated from the L.D.S., had a temper and also hated to be tied down to one spot.  Ingrid wanted less dysfunction in her home and to rescued by the Osmond family.  [Note:  I've known two other folks who also wanted rescue by the Osmonds].  Ingrid made it through a couple of foster kids living with the family.  The foster kids were a direct result of the L.D.S. push to convert and save the Lamanites.  Lamanites are what many Mormons call the Native Americans.  Through the years, Ingrid identified more strongly with her dad.  As an adult, she comes to appreciate her mother's uniqueness and also got to know her grandmother a bit.

sapphoq reviews says: A Little Book of Mormon Stories illustrates the dysfunction that can happen in any family due to problems between the parents.  Ingrid's parents had widely divergent dreams, viewpoints, and goals.  Her mother was what her dad referred to as a "religious fanatic."  Ingrid found the L.D.S. to be rather stifling and freed herself from that particular belief system.  The stories flowed together well and I really enjoyed this book.  One does not have to be a Mormon to relate.  A quick casual read which left me wishing it was longer.  Recommended.

Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker,  Kevin Mitnick and William L. Simon.  New York:Little, Brown & Co., 2011  e-book 436 pps.

@kevinmitnick on Twitter;

I am old enough to remember the early days of ARPANET and b.b.s.  A phreaker acquaintance of mine demo'd some cool toys to me along with a detailed explanation of how our local phone company worked and the world of Centrex and Captain Crunch whistles.  Buddy also filled me in on blue boxes, simple wiring, and slugs.  It was fascinating stuff.  What I really thought was cool was being able to take apart an alarm clock and re-programming it to count.  Buddy could do that also.  That is what I wanted to do.

From Buddy, I had learned that computers were monstrous and required air conditioners and could be tricked by a phreaker into delivering free phone calls and other related things.  I learned that somehow phreakers inserted something deep inside a computer, so deep that a computer administrator would have a difficult time finding "it" and removing "it."  I knew that the more automated a system was, the easier it was to make it do what you wanted it to. My life took me in different directions so I never did learn to code or do the nifty stuff that Buddy and the other phreakers and hackers were doing to make things work better.  That was probably just as well.  [I was and remain highly anxious.  I believe that my anxiety continues to prevent me from testing the limits of any and all laws.  In high school, the kids who shop-lifted learned very quickly never to invite me along with them to the local mall.  I didn't have to say a word in order to scream, "Something is going down over this way!"  That is how much my anxiety showed and still shows today.]

Years passed.  In a bookstore, I found 2600.  I devoured it and still do, although even now I do not understand a lot of it as well as I want to.  I have a vague memory of the phrase, "Free Kevin," which I am pretty sure came from 2600.  I added the word hacker next to the word phreaker in my brain and continued to absorb 2600.  Then I found Make and began collecting random electronica to take apart and rebuild. 

A few years ago via 2600, I learned the word social engineering.  
And a memory came back to me:  In the very early days of my young adulthood, I was planning my first cross-country trip by auto.  My dad told me that the triple A people offered maps and route-planning.  So I walked into the local office, told the nice lady that I was driving cross-country, and that I had no clue how to plan my trip out.  The nice lady plotted out my whole trip for me, gave me maps and books of hotels and motels, showed me where I should stop every night, and added a fifty dollar bail bond to the bag of loot that she was filling up for me.  Then she asked for my membership card.  I looked at her.  "I don't have one," I said.  "You're not a member?" she asked.  "No," I said.  She was laughing so I laughed too.  "Take this stuff and get out of here," she told me.  I did. 

When I recounted my adventure to Dad later, he informed me that a triple-A card was a good thing to have.  He might have told me that I was supposed to join up first.  I figured that the triple A folks offered maps and info to anyone.  I really hadn't known.  I am a member of triple A these many years later.  I note that the service agents now routinely ask for your card before asking how they can help.

Ghost in the Wires takes the reader back to a young Kevin Mitnick and proceeds from there up to the present day.  Mitnick was the kind of hacker that I'd met in my youth-- a phreaker who knew the ins and outs of many phone companies in the United States, a hacker who liked to break into places electronically to get cool stuff but not use the cool stuff for illicit means, a dumpster diver, and a social engineer.  He had a driving curiosity and wanted to know how stuff works.  He graduated into breaking into computer systems for the sheer joy of it.  He got arrested and went on the lam for three years.  Similar to Jeremy Hammond who has been held without trial for quite awhile, Kevin Mitnick was held for almost five years before his trial.  Almost a year of that was in the Hole.

sapphoq reviews says:  Ghost in the Wires is an enjoyable book.  There are no moments of "boring" or "stuffy."  I got a real feel for Kevin Mitnick the youngster, the phreaker, the hacker, the prisoner.  Kevin Mitnick is on Twitter and he retains a lively sense of humor there.  He is today a successful security consultant and speaker, doing what he does best-- demonstrating to companies where the weak holes are in their computer security systems.  I like Ghost in the Wires.  And I like the little bit I know of Kevin Mitnick.  An excellent read for anyone who is at least remotely familiar with computers and with people sense.  Highly recommended.

Clockwork Fagin by Cory Doctorow

Clockwork Fagin, Cory Doctorow.  [free sample from] Steampunk ! ed. by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant.  Somerville Mass: Candlewick Press, 2011.  e-book, 35 pps. 

Clockwork Fagin is a dark steampunk story about kids disabled by machinery, a twisted Master Grinder, Saint Agatha's Home for the Rehabilitation of Crippled Children, and a folk hero by the name of Monty.  There are a few ineffective nuns and a couple of night watchmen and a bobby or two that make appearances.  The real glory belong to the children.

The first two nights at St. Aggie's involve being beaten to a pulp by Grinder and then sent to a solitary cell with the rats.  The stripping of any rights such as the right to free association, the right to safe housing and schooling, the right to have competent medical treatment are reminiscent of what happens at some present-day teen torture facilities immediately upon admission.  The other kids are compliant because they have to be in order to survive.  Monty is not.

Monty blows up the order of things and seizes the power that the Grinder had over the crippled kids for far too long.  He starts a revolution and momentum is built as the other kids join in.  People in positions of some authority outside of St. Aggie's are dupped.

sapphoq reviews says: This is a dark steampunk short story that works.  The steampunk setting is integral and crucial to the telling of the tale and not some post script.  Anyone who speaks out publicly against D.R.M. has my vote as a decent human being.  Doctorow has been a steady vocal activist against the craziness threatening to overtake us all by the Intellectual Property Monopoly.  His writing is most excellent.  Some freebies can be had by perusing his website:   If you are not familiar with Cory Doctorov, you owe it to yourself to check him out.  @doctorow on Twitter. Clockwork Fagin is most highly recommended.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk.  New York: W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 1996.  e-book, 167 pps.

I dedicate this review to Walt McCabe.  I should have read this years ago when you first told me about Fight Club.  Many thanks for the difference that you've made in my life.  I will miss you forever.

Fight Club is sinister and so is one of its' lead actors-- Tyler Durden.  Tyler is a spooky dude and the epitome of why you don't want to piss off the wait staff at any restaurant.  Of course there is a woman.  Her name is Marla Singer.  She and the narrator  share an interesting hobby.  The narrator loses everything except for the woman but rises again with Fight Club and Tyler.  Everything is dark, so very dark.  Everything is true.  The truth and the lie are both equally hard to bear.

sapphoq reviews says: Fight Club makes goth kids look like sunshine and lollipops.  Fight Club sucks the meaning out and injects nihilism in the vein.  Nihilism gives a kick stronger than heroin.  The first rule of Fight Club is that you don't--  Read it.  Excellent book.  Should be required reading in all catechism classes.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Dodger by Sir Terry Pratchett

Dodger, Sir Terry Pratchett.  New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2012.  e-book, 263 pps.

The author may be found at Twitter: @terryandrob

The beloved creator of Discworld has turned his hand to historical fantasy, a genre at which he also excels.  Dodger is an alternate fantasy about Charles Dickens' character the artful dodger.  Also set in London, several real people who are dead can also be found in the pages of Dodger.  Charles Dickens himself, as Charlie Dickens the journalist, is there.  The Mayhews put in an appearance.  So does Sir Robert Peeler.  And very briefly, the Queen.  Because historical dates are adjusted a bit and Dodger himself is a fantasy, this book falls under the category of historical fantasy rather than historical fiction.

Dodger is a tosher.  He makes his living in the sewers of London, hunting up treasures that people have dropped through the gratings. There are rats down in the tunnels, sinister creatures, and a Lady.  Above ground, the River Thames sticks.  Her cargo includes more than a few dead bodies.  London itself is a mixture of the haves and the have-nots.  Dodger makes his way through all of it with a confident yet watchful swagger that comes from living on the streets.

sapphoq reviews says: Fans of Discworld, Terry Pratchett, and Dickens Oliver Twist are bound to enjoy Dodger.  Heartily recommended.

Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist by Hank Fox

Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist: Simple Thoughts About Reason, Gods and Faith, Hank Fox.  [self-published]: Hank Fox Books, 2011.  e-book, 498 pps.

Hank Fox has written a most practical and excellent book.  Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist offers up a simple autobiography and then immediately plunges into explanations sprinkled liberally with gems of wisdom.  Twenty five chapters delve into such topics as morality [the thing that atheists are routinely charged with not having], what the costs are of believing, and why having "respect" for the beliefs of others isn't such a great idea after all.  Along the way are easy-to-understand analogies and explanations of a few common cognitive fallacies.

sapphoq reviews says:  Hank Fox is the common man's Richard Dawkins.  Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist deserves a place along side the more scholarly atheist volumes in any freethinker's library. Highly recommended without hesitation.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Oh Canada

John Green, author, has something to say about not being allowed into Canada once a very long time ago and being on a list of undesirables today.


sapphoq reviews says:  Just one more example of insanity.