Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
47th Samurai is the latest addition to the Bob Lee Swagger/Earl Swagger saga (Bob Lee appearing as the main character in one set: Point of Impact, Black Light and Time to Hunt; and his father Earl in Hot Springs, Pale Horse Coming, and Havana). Point of Impact, an excellent book, was bowdlerized into the thoroughly boring film Shooter (2007) with Mark Wahlberg completely miscast as Bob Lee Swagger. (Of the bunch, I'd recommend Point of Impact, Hot Springs and Black Light most strongly). There are several other Hunter books, in which various Swaggers, Swagger relatives and assorted hangers-on common to the books sometimes make appearances
Bob Lee’s appearance in 47th Samurai is possibly the book’s great defect. You see, Bob Lee (a somewhat worse-for-wear super-sniper Vietnam Marine) -- has already wrecked a Russian spy ring in Time to Hunt; solved the mystery of his Dad’s murder while going up against the Southern mob and rogue CIA/DOD contractors in Black Light; and foiled a tricky assassination plot in Point of Impact while beating a bunch of other super-snipers. Bob Lee’s also an alcoholic who periodically falls off the wagon, gets more time away from his beautiful and very tolerant wife than anybody I’ve ever met, and during all this carrying-on somehow gets very rich, and owns a ginormous ranch in Idaho.
Bob Lee’s has clearly had a busy life, and you’d think that he’d want to stack arms and get on down the road. But no! Clearly, Stephen Hunter got a call from his literary agent with an Idea that He Couldn't Refuse – I’m visualizing this scene with a cigar-chomping agent screaming at Hunter through his cell phone: “Stephen! Let's send Bob Lee to Japan!”
Stephen does, and Bob Lee goes to Nippon to return a long lost samurai sword, captured by his Dad (Marine war hero Earl Swagger) during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The sword is returned, but a Yakuza crime lord has plans of his own, and makes the serious, serious mistake of chopping up some of Bob Lee’s Japanese friends, and the story’s off to the kendo ring.
As usual, Bob Lee takes things personally, and even though he speaks no Japanese, he manages to find a Sancho Panza or two (well, 46 rōnin maybe) to enlist in his crusade for justice. Almost overnight Bob Lee becomes the first redneck samurai super swordsman (you saw this episode of Pokémon right?) which is more than a little unbelievable. Say, doesn’t Bob Lee have any cousins?
We find out about the bad guys and their evil plans (truly bad, truly evil, but with a somewhat underwhelming strategic objective). We learn a little about the samurai culture, about Yakuza, and probably more than we wanted to know about sword play and cutting with a katana. Spies and gangsters with their own agendas and various interesting sinister and shadowy types make their appearances.
The story is well paced, lots of dramatic confrontation and swordplay, building towards the inevitable bloody showdown with the bad guys. As usual with a Hunter novel, much of the enjoyment is the reader’s understanding that, no matter how strong or many the bad guys might be -- against Bob Lee, (redneck polymath that he his) who figures out all the bad guy moves before they do -- the no-goodniks just don’t have a chance.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun, fun book, and if you like violent thrillers with bad guys you can really hate, or have liked previous Hunter books, buy it! I burned through it in two days. Enjoy it in the manner of one of those afternoon Samurai movies, where the hero faces impossible numbers and does amazing sword tricks, comes away victorious, gets the girl and there’s a big fiesta at the end. Fun, as long as you make the popcorn, have a spare afternoon, and suspend disbelief a little.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The inauguration of the youthful and popular new president -- and the departure of the incumbent, George W. Bush -- will set off a potentially dramatic shift in direction on policies, from the wars abroad to the role of the federal government at home, and a change in tone, with the rise of a new generation more prone to problem solving than to ideological conflict.
Monday, January 19, 2009
. . .Bush could quickly leap back into the spotlight in the next two days if he issues a blanket pardon immunizing CIA and military interrogators, as well as their bosses, from criminal prosecution over harsh treatment of prisoners from the war on terror . . .
Mr. Gerstein is referring to possible prosecutions of military personnel and intelligence officers for interrogations of terror suspects (mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan) following 9/11. Mr. Gerstein notes that Eric Holder, the Attorney-General designate, seems "open to the idea" of prosecutions.
In a sane world, such prosecutions would not even be a remote possibility, avoiding the need for the dreadful precedent of a pardon. As blogger Tigerhawk notes, "the best result" would be "no pardon, and no prosecution."
Considering the stripe of those coming into power, and their hunger for investigations and "war crimes" prosecutions, action by Bush is called for. Doing nothing is not only unwise, but a real disservice to officers, soldiers and other public servants doing their duty, as they saw it, under extraordinary circumstances. So, I hope that President Bush finds a way, and unfolds the blanket pardon.
Besides, it would drive the Left absolutely bonkers. . .
Friday, January 16, 2009
. . .But we must reject isolationism and its companion, protectionism. Retreating behind our borders would only invite danger. In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led. . .
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
2. Cheesecake. One of my favorite desserts (well, one of them anyway) particularly when you put cherries all over it.
3. Coffee. Lately I can’t start the morning without coffee -- LOTS of coffee. Preferred very black and very hot.
4. Camping. I really like to camp, for a couple of days anyway. . .as long as I can make camp when I can still see. But getting back to civilization is always welcome.
5. Crunching. Yes, I like it when food goes crunch, crunch, crunch! Crackers, Croutons, Chips (lots of “C” things too, I’m hoping I don’t have to promote them to separate list items.
6. Craziness. I do like to do wacko things from time to time, such as drive through my very conservative, very quiet neighborhood with the windows rolled down, the Mexican music radio station on (Hey, XM Radio: bring back 92 aguila!) and the volume cranked up. Hip Hop or German march music works too. Okay, there are other crazy things, but I'm busy today, and don't have time to research Statutes of Limitations.
7. Chaos. I must really love Chaos, since I named this blog for it, and since my desk and closets always look rather chaotic at the best of times. Go figure.
8. Cannons. Generally I like things that go boom: I have several firearms and love to shoot the things, to fool with and clean them and I enjoy learning about them. (In one of the Buzz Lightyear cartoons, Emperor Zurg, when his minions are scurrying around, gets exasperated and says: “can we just shoot the big gun?” That’s me). I’d have artillery if they’d let me, but possibly the neighbors would get alarmed.
9. Cars. I love mine, a black Lexus ES-350, very much. Generally I prefer overpowered and somewhat sporty, but with enough room to haul all my hangers-on and such around. If it irritates the Greenie Weenies, so much the better.
10. Cash. In God El Jefe trusts, all others pay cash. Cash is always a good thing, and you can never have enough of it. . .sometimes El Jefe forgets to carry any at all, which frustrates SWMBO no end. But wads of it falling out of the sky are always appreciated. (Well, duh).
Monday, January 12, 2009
No cease-fires please, Israelis: just tell the UN to stuff it and that they can have their precious cease-fire when the last of the Hamas criminals are stone-cold dead.It's time to smash the lies. The lies of Hamas. The UN lies. And the save-the-terrorists lies of the global media.
There is no moral equivalence between Hamas terrorists and Israeli soldiers. There is no gray area. There is no point in negotiations.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Ms. Rivers has a deeper understanding of the real world than armies of social scientists, teachers and historians. How much of the history of just about everything is summed-up in her rather vulgar title?