Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for March 2011

Wisconsin Department of Justice Fails; No Charges Against Ken Kratz

with one comment

Folks, this just disgusts me.

I wrote several blogs on this subject last October because what Ken Kratz did as the District Attorney of Calument County was absolutely appalling and beyond disgraceful.  It was shocking, rude, disgusting and absolutely wrong.

At any rate, Kratz must have a guardian angel or two looking out for him because he’s not going to face any charges of prosecutorial malfeasance for calling the much younger Stephanie Van Groll (then a domestic abuse victim) a “hot young nymph” (and other disgraceful things) via text message.  This was not right because of many things — Van Groll’s ex-boyfriend and abuser was being prosecuted then by Ken Kratz, for starters — but the state Department of Justice has determined that while Kratz didn’t do anything good with this, he didn’t “break any laws.”

All I can say are two things; here’s the link to the story, first:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/28/ken-kratz-sexting-prosecu_n_841412.html

And second — BS!   (BS to the highest degree, even.)

Look.  Justice should not be partisan, OK?  And it’s obvious what happened here — Kratz abused his authority, what appears to be over and over again — yet the DoJ refuses to do anything about it?

Astonishing, even considering the nonsense we’re putting up with right now in Wisconsin, which I have blogged about ad nauseum (just look for posts under “Wisconsin Politics,” “Wisconsin Protests” and “Wisconsin Recall Elections” if you want more on this topic).

Here’s the deal, folks: Ken Kratz managed to dodge a huge bullet here.  It’s unjust, not to mention very, very wrong, for him to have done so, and the only reason I can think of as to why Kratz managed to dodge this bullet is because of Wisconsin politics, sordid though it is.

Disgusting!

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 28, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Tired, ill, and reading

with 2 comments

This past week hasn’t been one of my best.

As to what’s wrong?  Well, I hit the six years, six months mark in my grief observance . . . what a passive way to say that I’ve now been without my husband for over six years and six months.  And I hate it, but can’t do anything about it, save remember my beloved husband Michael as he was while he was alive — and know to the bottom of my soul that we will be together again in eternity if at all humanly possible.

Oh, yeah.  And I’ve been sick, too — sinus stuff and flu symptoms, which hasn’t stopped me from looking for work (and wouldn’t have stopped me from accepting a job had one been offered) . . . still no luck on the job front.

Before I go on, I wanted to mention the passing of Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to ever be nominated on a major party ticket for Vice President.  She’s still one of only two women to be nominated (Sarah Palin being the other) . . . Ms. Ferraro was a tough, strong, smart, capable and confident woman who would’ve made an exceptional Vice President and an even better President, had she ever had the opportunity. 

Ms. Ferraro was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton for President, and spoke for me as well as for many others after the 5/31/08 debacle that was the Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee that decided the fate of Mrs. Clinton and the Democratic nomination — not at the hands of the voters, but instead at the hands of the DNC itself.  Ms. Ferraro was astonished and disgusted, and her clear, strong voice helped smooth the waters afterward and made our dissent as HRC Dems more forceful, coherent and logical.  I will miss Ms. Ferraro and her tenacity, and I hope “The Good Place (TM)” will appreciate Ms. Ferraro and bring her joy, peace and whatever else she wants as her productive and happy afterlife.

Now, on to less important stuff.

This past week I’ve read at least six books, most of which I’m going to review at Amazon.com and/or Shiny Book Review down the line.  The best of the lot was Louisa Young’s MY DEAR, I WANTED TO TELL YOU, as it’s a horrifically realistic portrait of World War I, but IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS by Erik Larson was also very good and very horrifying, the latter book being about Ambassador to Germany William Dodd and his family, who served during 1933-1937 being stationed in Berlin and saw first-hand what was going on with Adolf Hitler, Josef Goebbels, and all the others.  The only book I really couldn’t get behind was Gina Showalter’s UNRAVELED, this being the sequel to INTERTWINED (I liked INTERTWINED, mind you) . . . just didn’t buy most of it, and the reason I didn’t buy it was that the characterization wasn’t as solid as in the previous novel.  (When your main character, Aden, is a guy with a bunch of dead people inside his head, you need to believe in him or the concept doesn’t work.  I bought it in INTERTWINED, didn’t buy it in UNRAVELED.  Would still give Ms. Showalter one more chance to sell me on this universe down the line, though, because of the previous, far-stronger novel.)

I’ve also had a problem recently in focusing my attention on one thing, or even on any ten things . . . I believe this is due to exhaustion, and being ill, and trying to pretend I’m neither one.

Well, the time for pretending is over; I hope by saying out loud, in public, even (as blogging is a public endeavor even if no one reads it but me), that I’m going to take some down-time if I can makes sense.

Other than that, I continue to watch Wisconsin politics.  The Governor’s budget repair bill was stalled in the courts, but the Republicans tried an unusual end-around that I’m not even sure I can describe — they believe by doing this rather odd thing (you have to publish a bill specifically by the Secretary of State’s office in Wisconsin or it’s not legal, and after it’s published it takes ten days to take effect; this hasn’t happened as a Dane County court enjoined that with a temporary restraining order, but a different place in the government has published the bill and the Republicans believe that’s enough and the bill — which stops the state from collectively bargaining with employees in public employee unions — is now law.  I have my doubts on that score but have no doubt — zero – that the original judge who gave the temporary restraining order will have more to say tomorrow and that any legal action will be officially blocked by five PM tomorrow.)  Note that the Wisconsin Republicans did this weird “end-around” thing after 5 PM on a Friday because they wanted to make positive news, such as it is, and mute the negative news a little . . . tomorrow I’m sure all the crap will hit the fan, again.

Oh, yeah.  I nearly forgot to add that one of my friends, whom I respect highly, has told me that he thinks I should not write the Elfyverse (my universe, my concept, my voice) or Michael’s universes (granted, all of those were Michael’s concept and me trying to match Michael’s voice, which is very tough) and instead should think of something else to write and do that.

Well, here’s my thought on that — it’s up to me what I do, and these days I’m glad to get any ideas at all.  If I can get one story consistently talking to me so I can do more with it, I’m going to work with it — whether it’s a new story, an existing story in my Elfyverse or an existing story in Michael’s, it doesn’t matter.  Only the strength of the story matters . . . I just hope I’ll start hearing something after I heal up a little, because right now none of my stories are talking to me, at all.

Note that I appreciate my friend for saying what he did even though I feel he’s flat wrong.  Being able to honestly communicate is important, even if you don’t always agree — probably because you can’t always agree, it’s important to have some real communication going on even if it’s, “I really don’t like what you’re doing, Barb, and wish you’d stop.”  (My response wouldn’t be printable, I’m afraid, but that’s the drawback to free, honest and open communication.)

Oh, and last, Writers of the Future bounced both of my stories out in the last two quarters . . . what else is new?

New review at SBR: Seven Deadly Scenarios

leave a comment »

Folks, I talked more about SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS in my previous blog post (about the importance of military planning); now it’s time to talk about the review I’ve just done at SBR for this terrifying book.

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/seven-deadly-scenarios-seven-chilling-reads/

Andrew F. Krepinevich is a military “futurist,” meaning he projects what’s now known about various countries or terrorist groups and then tries to extrapolate from that in order to give our military some sort of strategic advantage.  Because it’s important to plan, yet so many of our military high-rankers continue to do what military high-rankers have always done — prepare for the last war, not the one that’s coming – well, that’s what keeps Krepinevich on track, and that’s exactly what SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS is all about.

Truly, you owe it to yourself to read this frightening book, just to know exactly what the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and all of the folks who work with these august personages) have to deal with on a daily basis.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 24, 2011 at 9:11 pm

The Importance of Military and Strategic Planning

leave a comment »

Folks, I’ve been reading SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS by Andrew F. Krepinevich this week, and it’s a reminder that we need strategic and military planning as a country.  This is an especially timely reminder because we have three wars currently going on — in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now in Libya — and if we don’t use our fighting forces wisely, we may as well kiss them good bye and save steps.

What Krepinevich does by postulating seven scenarios that could incapacitate the US of A (one being a pandemic, another the global collapse of the economy, the third an unexpected attack by China, and four others), military planners need to do in order to try to plan for the inevitable.  Planning exists for a reason; if we refuse to plan, we run the risk of having completely and totally unanticipated things happen.  Military “futurists” (as Krepinevich describes himself) try to anticipate things well in advance as best they can, then hope someone will learn from their scenarios so if these horrible things happen, we as a country won’t be caught flat-footed.

The most chilling things I learned from SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS are historical, however; from the introduction, I found out that military exercises in 1932 — yes, 1932! — showed the vulnerability of the United States at Pearl Harbor, yet the only thing the “games arbiter” did was to say that what the opposing forces in the war games did was “out of bounds” because they came in on Sunday, before dawn, and did something unprecedented. 

Let me say this again.  Everyone said when Pearl Harbor was hit, “How could this happen?  Why would anyone do this?  Especially in this way?  We didn’t see it coming!”  Yet the United States did have warning.  Their own people, at least a few of ‘em, saw vulnerability in advance and yet they weren’t heeded.

Astonishing.

Then, in another historical incident, the German panzer battalions showed how quickly they could advance on a country or nation during war games exercises in 1937 — yet France did not pay enough attention (didn’t realize the blitzkrieg was coming for ‘em) and felt in 1940 that they’d have many months to resist Hitler.  And were wrong, because as we all now know, France fell after only six weeks, then were under Hitler’s domination until the end of the war in 1945.

And finally, Lieutenant General (retired) Paul van Riper, in what was called the “Millenium Challenge,” found ways to exploit the vulnerability of our current high-tech military forces but was ignored — once again, the war games “arbiters” ruled what van Riper was doing was “out of bounds” and the rules were changed so the current high-tech military could win the Millenium Challenge for themselves.  And the lessons van Riper was trying to teach as commander of the “Red” (basically, he was aping the military capacity of Third World, mostly-Muslim countries, proving that low-tech does not equal stupid) were once again blown off.

Look.  I would prefer we didn’t have wars, much less three at once.  But since we do have wars, and it looks like we’ll always have a need for fighting men and women, we’d best start learning how to use our people effectively and learn from things like the Millenium Challenge rather than finding a way to make the current crop of military commanders feel good about their current forces — especially as I thought “self esteem” was not something military commanders were supposed to concern themselves with (most especially not their own self-esteem, such as when they rig war games to provide an outcome favorable for themselves as was most certainly explicated by anecdotal evidence by Krepinevich).

These SEVEN DEADLY SCENARIOS are scary, especially as there’s no conclusion to them — Krepinevich lays the stuff out there, then it just ends, almost as if the reader is placed into the Oval Office and must, for one moment, realize the burdens placed upon the Commander-in-Chief.  And they’re even scarier when you realize these scenarios must already be known or Krepinevich wouldn’t be talking about ‘em; the ones that have been kept private must be even worse, and that is truly appalling indeed.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm

And another update — Scott Walker releases e-mails, shows sharp divide

leave a comment »

We have another update, this time with breaking news.

Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), had to release tens of thousands of e-mails to his office after a Freedom of Information Act request that was recently settled in court.  The suit was brought in Madison by the independent newspaper, The Isthmus along with the Associated Press; Walker agreed to release the e-mails without admitting any fault in the matter, and will pay the court costs, amounting to $7000.

Here’s the link to that story:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/118269429.html

Note that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is one of the most conservative newspapers in the state of Wisconsin; they endorsed Scott Walker for Governor.  Keep that in mind as you read this.

For another look, here’s the same story from the Huffington Post online newspaper; note that the HuffPo often tends to be quite liberal.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/18/scott-walker-releases-ema_n_837693.html

The letters against, as quoted from the HuffPo, are as follows:

“Your handling of the current situation in Madison is an embarrassment to the people of Wisconsin. You appear to be an ignorant puppet and I am ashamed to have you as governor of the state I call home,” wrote a person who said he lived in Wisconsin and is married to a teacher.

(then, a little later down, another e-mailer said:)

“Please, keep your backhanded ‘thank you’s and empty compliments to yourself,” one person who identified himself as a state corrections worker wrote to Walker. “Actions speak louder than words, and every one of your actions speaks quite clearly to your irrational hatred of the very people that have dedicated their lives and careers to keeping the state running safely and efficiently.”

Another woman who identified herself as a state prisons sergeant wrote in capital letters: “WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO TAKE WHAT WE HAVE WORKED SO HARD FOR? WE ALL HAVE FAMILIES AND HAVE CHILDREN OF OUR OWN TO FEED! TIMES ARE HARD ENOUGH WITH THE ECONOMY THE WAY IT IS!”

Other e-mails the AP reviewed came from Wisconsin residents working in the private sector.

“I urge you to protect collective bargaining rights for public employees. Making collective bargaining illegal would be devastating to Wisconsin’s working families and economy,” wrote a resident from Oak Creek, Wis.

While there were some e-mails in favor, most were against.   Note this is not what Scott Walker claimed at the time; he claimed there was a “silent majority” that backed him.  (And the day after he said that, 40,000 protestors flooded the state Capitol.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 18, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Updates — Madison judge blocks budget bill; Tim Dillard pitches well; Vinny Rottino

leave a comment »

OK, it’s update time.

First, we have a judge in Madison, Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi, who has temporarily blocked the recent “budget repair bill” from taking effect.  Here’s a link to that:

http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/state-and-regional/d5edf984-518a-11e0-b180-001cc4c03286.html

Note this is a follow-up article, where it says the Attorney General of Wisconsin will file an appeal on Monday.  (I wanted to give the most up-to-date information.)  But it says what Judge Sumi did, and why the Attorney General will be appealing it . . . this is the best article, right now, about what’s going on in Wisconsin.  (She said that the process of the “budget repair bill” with the Conference Committee appeared to violate Wisconsin’s Open Records Law, just as state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, had said at the time.)

Next, pitcher Tim Dillard cemented his case to make the Milwaukee Brewers active roster (as a big leaguer, naturally), as he pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief today in a Spring Training game after the starter (whose name escapes me, sorry) ended up only going 1/3 of an inning and giving up four or five runs.  (I normally would be more precise than this, but for two things: one, it’s still Spring Training.  And two, I haven’t yet seen a box score of this game though I looked.  If I am able to find one I will update this post to be more precise.)

I really like Dillard; I always have.  Dillard is a right-handed control pitcher, and I’ve thought for years that if the Brewers gave him a chance, they’d be pleasantly surprised.

Right now with the Brewers, two pitchers are unavailable — Zach Greinke is on the disabled list and will miss at least two and a half weeks of the season with a broken rib (and other bruised ribs), and Manny Parra likely will start the season on the DL also because his back is bad and he’s been so far unable to pitch in a game during Spring Training.  So there’s room for Dillard, and he’s pitching well at a time he needs to — with a new manager, Ron Roenicke, to impress — so I’m really and truly hoping this will finally be his time.

** Shaun Marcum also has a sore shoulder, though Marcum doubts he’ll miss any time at all.  (Just thought I should notate this for the record. **

In other baseball news, I haven’t yet seen anything new on catcher-infielder-outfielder Vinny Rottino, who is now in the Florida Marlins system.  He’d have to play outstandingly well to get called up as he is now about thirty-one years old, and he’s eligible for salary arbitration as he’d had cups of coffee in three separate seasons (so far his lifetime batting average in the bigs is something like .208 but that’s misleading).  Rottino has speed and plays good defense in the infield and outfield; he was converted to catcher late and is more of an “emergency catcher” than anything else as he does not have a strong rate of throwing accuracy from that position, nor is his defense anything more than adequate as best as I can discern from statistics.

Still, I’m really hoping Vinny Rottino will somehow make it up to the bigs again, because he’s an excellent right-handed clutch hitter, and he plays good defense in the infield and outfield.  I don’t know how well he pinch hits, but if he develops that skill as well, he may well prove valuable to someone despite his somewhat-advanced age for a rookie.

Considering Casey McGehee of the Brewers, who is a third baseman, didn’t make it up to the big leagues until he was twenty-six or twenty-seven, and will be twenty-nine this year, and he’s done very, very well, I think Vinny Rottino still has a shot.  McGehee, unlike Rottino, has power and a lot of it, but there have been others who have made it due to their defensive skills before (and their hitting skills; Rottino has speed, remember, along with good defense, and he swiped over twenty bases last year in the minors — AA and AAA, respectively) and I am confident that if some team gives Rottino a chance as a utility infielder/outfielder, they will be pleasantly surprised.

If anyone knows how Rottino is doing in Spring Training (I believe he’s with the Marlins’ minor league squad), please let me know as I’ll be more than pleased to update this blog.

Now there’s been some looting in Japan — UPDATE

with 6 comments

Folks, I knew that the lack of looting in Japan couldn’t go on forever . . . with so many people (over 400,000) lacking homes, 1.3 million with no water, hundreds of thousands without power . . . well, it was only a matter of time.

Ed Schultz reported tonight during his TV show at MSNBC that while there hasn’t been a lot of looting, there has actually been some.  He showed some video tape that hasn’t yet been posted as far as I can tell . . . I’m not the world’s most tech-savvy person, so if someone else has found it, please give me a shout-out and I’ll add it to this post . . . that definitely shows some Japanese people looting a store in a coastal area.

Granted, it’s been very, very little looting by the standards of Chile or, more graphically, Hurricane Katrina in the USA.  But there now has been some.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 17, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Recall in WI continues to gain steam

leave a comment »

Folks, this is encouraging news for those of us in Wisconsin who can’t abide what Governor Scott Walker and 18 of the 19 state Senate Republicans have done to our state since the first of this year.

http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/markos-moulitas/149757-wisconsin-recall-is-real

Note that the writer of this article is Markos Moulitas, who owns the Daily Kos; he is obviously a partisan Democrat, yet this is a non-partisan article that explains where the polling lies currently in the eight districts where active recall efforts are occurring at present.  This article also states that the Democrats have already obtained 45% of the signatures in two weeks to recall all eight Republican state Senators eligible to be recalled right now.

The two guys that look like they’ll definitely lose are Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke.  But after that, things get tougher for the Dems . . . or do they?

This particular story says that Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, is currently beating a generic Dem. challenger by 8%.  However, the guy who’d challenge her is already known — it’s Sheldon Wasserman, who is a former Assemblymen (Wisconsin’s lower house), and he only lost to her by about 1000 votes in 2008.

My thought here is that the students at Marquette most likely were not polled as they mostly have cell phones (and anything from a dormitory which might be a landline probably wouldn’t be polled anyway), and I know those students are fired up.   I believe every Democratic activist on campus and off in Milwaukee has told every student who attends any college or university in Wisconsin to make sure to file for an absentee ballot to vote in these recall elections — and they certainly would do so for those students in residence at Marquette who live out of state (or even elsewhere in the state where no recall is occurring).  Getting an absentee ballot is quite legal, and asking for one in advance, while rare, isn’t unheard of — often it’s soldiers who get these — and in any event, getting the information in advance as to how to request an absentee ballot is always a good idea whether you’re in a recall district or not.

Anyway, my hunch is that the polling is really wrong regarding Ms. Darling.  As stated, she only won by about 1000 votes the last time she ran; people are enraged now, and many Republicans are mad at her because she was the person who ran the committee in the state Senate which let that awful “budget repair bill” out of the committee and into the whole Senate.  Note that it’s not just Democrats and Independents who are furious with her; many rank-and-file Republicans are angry, too, because she’s the one who had all the power in the world — she could’ve stopped this very easily early on, saying that this bill was too much, too soon, or at any rate took too much power away from the Senate/legislative branch and gave it to Walker and the executive branch instead.  But she didn’t.

My hunch remains that Alberta Darling will be the first one recalled, and that she will be recalled because she screwed up so badly by refusing to just kill the bill at the committee level.

And all the Dems need is three Rs to lose their seats . . . as Markos Moulitsas says, the Dems are in striking distance of six of these seats right now (including Alberta Darling’s), with only Mary Lazich and Glenn Grothman, for the moment, appearing safe.

But what that doesn’t reflect is this: Grothman, providing they get the signatures to force him to a recall, and Lazich too, may be primaried by other Republicans.  Meaning they may well be gone when it comes time to a general election against a Democrat or Independent; if they aren’t gone by then, my hunch would be an Independent would be likely to knock off Grothman or Lazich because once again, people are furious and people want some legislators who will really represent them at the state level — not just rubber stamp legislation because Scott Walker tells them to do so.

Until these polls start asking in those two districts whether other Republicans or perhaps a conservative-leaning Independent has a shot against Grothman or Lazich, I will continue to believe that even in these “reddest of the red” Republican districts, those Senators are likely to end up going home for good.  Because you cannot underestimate the fury in Wisconsin, and as John Nichols and another commentator (a woman who works for Grit-TV; sorry, I can’t recall her name) recently said on Ed Schultz’s MSNBC show, “The only thing that trumps big money is a fired-up populace, especially at the grass-roots level.”  (Then both of them, Nichols and the other lady, said that they have never seen an electorate more fired-up across the entire state of Wisconsin than what we have right now.  And that in their opinions, it’s likely all eight of these Senators will face recall elections.)

Finally, here is Moulitsas’s opinion regarding Scott Walker’s fate:

As for Walker, state law requires an elected official to have served one year before being recalled, which means the governor has a reprieve until January 2012. But it’s pretty clear he’ll get his turn.

And it will be fitting, because Walker has done more to activate Democrats than anyone since George W. Bush scurried back to Texas.

I agree with him, and wish to once again state for the record that many other Republican state Senators who were elected in 2010 will be recalled and replaced (by Dems or possibly Independents, and maybe even a different Republican or two in the “reddest” districts) along with Walker, including my own state Senator, Van Wanggaard, because they have refused to listen to their own constituents and that, my friends, is a no-no that’s way too big to ignore.

I can’t wait to sign the recall petitions.  (Hurry up, November!)

Japanese People do not loot after earthquake, tsunami

with 2 comments

Folks, this is truly astonishing.  After the 9.0 earthquake in Japan last weekend, and the tsunami/wall of water that devastated many communities, you’d think the Japanese people would be in turmoil.  That they’d be so upset that they wouldn’t care what they did nor how they did it . . . in short, that there would be riots, and perhaps even looting.

But there isn’t.

Why is that?

Well, Ed West is wondering the same thing, here:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100079703/why-is-there-no-looting-in-japan/

As he says:

This is quite unusual among human cultures, and it’s unlikely it would be the case in Britain. During the 2007 floods in the West Country abandoned cars were broken into and free packs of bottled water were stolen. There was looting in Chile after the earthquake last year – so much so that troops were sent in; in New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina saw looting on a shocking scale.

While Mr. West does not have an answer to this unusual, yet welcome phenomenon (there being no known rioting or looting in Japan despite extreme devastation in many areas, including at least one coastal town completely wiped off the map by the tsunami), I’m glad it’s occurred.  It’s amazing that this has happened, and I hope it continues.

Note that right now, as of 9:56 CDT, the workers at the Fukishima Nuclear Plant have been evacuated as the radiation levels have become so high that they’d not have survived if they’d stayed.  Over fifty workers had tried to shut that plant down by cooling it down, but their efforts have failed . . . all we can do now is hope the altruism shown by world governments, as well as the stoicism and self-belief shown by the people of Japan, will continue as things could be even worse unless that plant somehow cools down by itself (as now no workers can help in the effort, it would literally have to be either equipment failure that actually helps the plant cool down or perhaps an act of God that stops the plant from exploding or imploding to the point radiation levels do not rise).

I’ve been following this situation and I will continue to do so; the only reason I hadn’t yet blogged about it is because of the plethora of blogs I’ve seen all over the Web.  I have at least a few friends in Japan and several friends of Japanese extraction who are American . . . I wish I knew what to do besides saying my prayers are with them, because that sounds so clichéd that it’s almost meaningless/worthless.

Yet I do hope for the best and will continue to do so, as I strongly suspect most people around the world are doing the same.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Book Reviews: Taking a Second Look

with 4 comments

Sometimes it warrants taking a second look at a book; here’s a few books I’ve looked at in the past few years more than once after a review, and why.

First, the only book review I’ve ever had with more than one negative comment at Shiny Book Review was David Drake’s WHAT DISTANT DEEPS (which you can easily find here: http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/what-distant-deeps-an-appealing-departure/) I’d said that I didn’t understand why the hero, Captain Daniel Leary, didn’t seem to understand that his best friend and confidante, Adele Mundy, wanted more from him than that and I somewhat took the easy way out in refusing to define what I was talking about.  This called many people to tell me, publicly or privately, that I didn’t know what the (bleep) I was talking about . . . anyway, that review requires more explication, which I’m now going to provide.

Adele Mundy is a very complex woman, and I think David Drake has done a great job in adding to her character through eight RCN (Royal Cinnabar Navy) books thus far.  But she has a lot of built-in tension, and all of the references back to her family (which were murdered, horribly, by political enemies) make it clear she wants more from Daniel Leary than he’s capable of providing.

My problem was that I’d clearly said at first this was a romantic thing that she wanted.  This really wasn’t it, so I went back and softened this slightly — now in the review I say that “Mundy . . . cannot make Move One” due to her own background — but that, too, wasn’t enough.

Several folks who wrote to me pointed to things author Drake pointed out in his personal blog or at the Baen’s Bar Web site (go to www.baen.com and you can find the links from there), but I believe you find what meaning is there from the text alone.  And that meaning in this case shows tension for Adele Mundy every time she thinks about Daniel Leary . . . yet the fact is Adele really doesn’t seem interested in romance with Leary or anyone.  So then the problem becomes, rather than romantic love, what, truly, is it that Adele wants from Daniel Leary?

The Greeks had three different words for what we’d all lump in as one word — “love.”  The closest to what Adele seems to want from Leary is philios, the love of a friend or brother, yet this might not be the true and complete reading (the only thing I am sure of is that Adele does not want eros, or physical love, from Daniel Leary).  Philios is a type of intellectual love where a very smart person can appreciate someone else for his intellect or learning or perhaps even for his high compassion for others, but only on the intellectual or friendship planes.

Then there’s agape, which is a deeper love of friendship than philios, though it can have elements of philios in it (and sometimes even eros as well).  Agape is more of a spiritual love than philios; it also can be thought of as the love of God or Deity, though to my mind that’s not really what the Greeks were about.  (My hunch is that the Greeks didn’t really have a great word for the love of the Deity, so they threw it in with the love one person had for another person that was unconditional — because agape is definitely considered an unconditional love, and aren’t we supposed to love the Deity unconditionally?)

At any rate, Adele clearly wants philios, and probably agape too, from Daniel Mundy.  He’s more than a brother, more than a friend, but can never be a lover due to her own background.  I did not explain this well in my review and I’m sorry.

The next book that I looked at again, this time at the request of the author in question (Troy CLE), was OLIVION’S FAVORITES (available at Amazon.com here:  http://www.amazon.com/Olivions-Favorites-Marvelous-World-Troy/dp/1416942165/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1300240110&sr=8-1 ).  This was a book that I’d received through the Amazon Vine program and, quite frankly, did not understand at all the first time I read it.  Troy CLE’s universe started with THE MARVELOUS EFFECT (available from Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/Marvelous-Effect-World/dp/1416942157/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1 ), a really fun book about a good African-American kid, Louis Proof, but I hadn’t read that book and had no idea that book even existed when I read OLIVION’S FAVORITES.

Now, here was the deal with OLIVION’S FAVORITES.  CLE’s strategy was to write this book — which actually is “part 1 1/2″ of the MARVELOUS WORLD series (being the book that in sequence overlapped somewhat with the first book of the series, THE MARVELOUS EFFECT) — because so very much happened to Louis (and his friends Cyndi and Devon) that he couldn’t depict in THE MARVELOUS EFFECT that he really felt it needed to be told as a story by itself.  Making things a little more difficult, in the ARC version I got, there was absolutely nothing depicting anything that had happened in THE MARVELOUS EFFECT (nothing before this one section, which CLE had to take out of the previous book, at any rate), so I had to view OLIVION’S FAVORITES only on its own merits.  But I still didn’t get it and said so, giving it initially only two stars (though three for kids).

At this point, author CLE asked me to please read THE MARVELOUS EFFECT, because he thought I’d enjoy it and he also thought it would help me understand what was going on with OLIVION’S FAVORITES.   Since he asked nicely — and since I really, really don’t like dinging authors for things that they can’t help anyway (it wasn’t his fault there weren’t any explanatory notes in the ARC) — I went to read THE MARVELOUS EFFECT as I felt I could at least do that much.  

I was floored.  

THE MARVELOUS EFFECT, in short, was a whole lot of fun.  I enjoyed it very much, giving it four stars and a strong recommendation at Amazon for both kids and adults.

So at this point, I decided it wouldn’t hurt anything to re-read OLIVION’S FAVORITES and understood it far, far better; I still didn’t like it to the level of THE MARVELOUS EFFECT, but at least it was comprehensible and had some funny moments — I actually revised my review, said why I was revising it, and gave it three stars (and 3.5 for kids) and a qualified recommendation (my qualifier was this: please read the first book before this one or you’ll be like me the first time around — hopelessly lost).

There’s only been two other books I have re-reviewed like this (rather than writing two reviews at different places at the same time, these are reviews written on different days with more depth the second time around), the first being THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE by Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth (reviewed at SBR, with that review here: http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/the-crucible-of-empire-passes-rigid-test-another-outstanding-novel-from-flint-and-wentworth/ ), but the reason for that review was much different.  There, I was unhappy with my first review at Amazon.com because I felt I hadn’t sufficient length to discuss the book, nor why I enjoyed it so very much; with Shiny Book Review in existence by then, I was able to take my further insights to SBR and review THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE to my heart’s content. 

I also did this with David P. Clark’s GERMS, GENES AND CIVILIZATION, mostly because my first review at Amazon.com was a blurb and I felt I could do far, far better.  Clark’s book required more of me than most books (even those on the economy and politics such as the recently-reviewed THE PREDATOR STATE which can be difficult to understand through the first fifteen readings or so), which is why I jumped at the chance to re-review it once I had the chance.  Clark’s book is a rarity in that it’s not too technical to understand; the reason I’d wanted to do better is to explain it in a historical context, rather than just blurbing it as I did the first time . . . I was far more pleased with my second effort, which is here at SBR:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/clarks-germs-genes-and-civilization-microbes-and-viruses-have-strong-role-in-history/

So while it doesn’t happen often, sometimes I do indeed have second thoughts about a book I’ve reviewed, and in general I will try to do something about it (whether it’s writing a new blog like this, or writing a whole new review if I think that’s warranted, I’ll try to make things right).

Now for the real question — does anyone else ever do this?  (Or is it just another of my random quirks?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,232 other followers