David Thompson
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January 08, 2019

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Liz

a “social justice” educator who seems somewhat unhinged;

She needs medication. And keeping away from any white male students.

David

She needs medication. And keeping away from any white male students.

It would not, I think, be wise to be in any way subordinate to these creatures, or dependent on their judgement. And Drs Kaufmann and Wamsted, our unhinged, race-fixated educators, were astonished to discover that people who encounter them might, as Wamsted puts it, “seek physical distancing from me and my attitude.”

Joan

a “social justice” educator who seems somewhat unhinged;

*raises hand*

Isn't reducing people to 'white bodies' and 'black bodies' dehumanizing?

Andy

I see that prof Kaufman`s e-mail name is "one trick pony" ,says it all really.

David

Isn’t reducing people to ‘white bodies’ and ‘black bodies’ dehumanizing?

Well, you’d think it might register as a tad dissonant. It does rather suggest that the authors are struggling with their own racial, and racist, preoccupations and anxieties. But it’s hard to be woke, and therefore statusful, if you don’t relentlessly categorise people.

Trimegistus

I think the email is a replacement for her real one, so she can't accuse anybody of trying to harass her.

Jonathan

..a would-be robber has a bad day.

Wow. Bolsonaro has only been President a week and he's already Making Brazil Great Again.

Jonathan

Seems like a nice girl....

Farnsworth M Muldoon

Nothing

                                  (says serious research)

    QUITE like inane

          ( wOrD spacing and formatting)

David

Seems like a nice girl....

On the upside, you can’t fault her perseverance.

David

Nothing

                                  (says serious research)

    QUITE like inane

          ( wOrD spacing and formatting)


Don’t make wheel out a certain sorrowful poet.

Farnsworth M Muldoon

Don’t make wheel out a certain sorrowful poet.

Careful, you don't want to start another of David's Genuine Yorkshire Poetry Slams™ as you did last time.

Meanwhile, speaking of poets and as it is his birthday (PBUH), a white body appropriates the musical style of black bodies.

Daniel Ream

Nothing

(says serious research)

QUITE like inane

( wOrD spacing and formatting)

"As a math major..."

As the Wikipedia kids say, "citation needed".

David

As the Wikipedia kids say, “citation needed”.

I think that the Dr John (‘Jay’) Wamsted, the co-author of the garbage pile above, is a maths teacher in Atlanta schools, albeit one who frets about all that beastly “whiteness,” and about how white teachers, such as himself, teaching largely black pupils, is, and I quote, “a modern-day sort of colonialism.” He gives talks like this one, in which he insists, almost tearfully, that racism is everywhere and is practically strangling the life out of every single brown child.

If you watch it and throw up in your mouth a little, I’ll quite understand.

[ Added: ]

It’s all rather cloying, and there is a whiff of psychodrama, as if Dr Wamsted were, shall we say, working out his own issues. Note the bit about 11 minutes in, when Wamsted mentions a black pupil telling him that he’s “the first white person” she’s “ever trusted.” He then asks, rather theatrically, “Wow. What kind of world is this… where a 17-year-old black girl can go her whole life and never trust a white person?” As if such attitudes had nothing whatsoever to do with the pernicious effect of woke educators, such as himself, who peddle victimhood and excuses, who tell students - endlessly - just how racist white people are, and who demonise “whiteness” as some oppressive and inherently pathological condition.

Steve E

So I'm guessing the "Apartheid School" Wamsted teaches at isn't really that. When I first read it I actually thought he may have taught in South Africa at some point.

After watching that video it exposes Kaufman as an even more delicate flower than I'd first assumed. It's hard to believe Walmsted is the guy she's describing. You've got to wonder how she'd respond to someone with real self-confidence and attitude.

David

You’ve got to wonder how she’d respond to someone with real self-confidence and attitude.

There is, I think, an air of masochism in Wamsted’s talk. At several points, he seems to be describing being racially bullied by students, or at least being treated with serious and habitual discourtesy, and yet he performs various contortions to excuse such behaviour, even celebrating it. While blaming Old Whitey, of course.

It’s quite revolting, psychologically.

Farnsworth M Muldoon

He gives talks like this one...

Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.

Wow, that is some Deep Thought™. I couldn't help but notice, though, the huge crowd in the auditorium subjected to his equal profundity. Regradless, this sort of crap is why we in South Flyoverlandia laugh at Atlanta, and avoid it more than ebola.

Monty James

I don't know where they went wrong, that place had the best Saucisse Crue in town.

David

Things you now have to defend.

Monty James

Help, I'm being repressed by the John Deere lawn tractor of shame.

David

Help, I’m being repressed by the John Deere lawn tractor of shame.

It’s strange how so many woke educators and activists seem to operate on the assumption that being civil, punctual, organised, competent, etc., are alien concepts to people with brown skin. As if they were inherently incapable of such things, even as aspirations.

I’m sure there used to be a word for that.

Farnsworth M Muldoon

Help, I’m being repressed by the John Deere lawn tractor of shame.

I see, spouting the party line in Madison, Wisconson, AKA the Pyongyang of the upper midwest; so brave, so edgy.

So predictable.

SharonGJ

Jodi is pretty grody:
http://www2.gsu.edu/~epsjkk/nvu/jodi2.html

MC

Note the bit about 11 minutes in, when Wamsted mentions a black pupil telling him that he’s “the first white person” she’s “ever trusted.” He then asks, rather theatrically, “Wow. What kind of world is this… where a 17-year-old black girl can go her whole life and never trust a white person?”

And she can't really trust him, can she?

Kaufman is literally a raving imbecile.

MC

Things you now have to defend

That's nothing; Neil Patrick Harris's whole career is based on fraudulently portraying straight guys and he even spent several years playing a doctor without even a shred of professional qualification.

And don't get me started on Ian McKellen...

Farnsworth M Muldoon

Jodi is pretty grody:

That leads down a rabbit hole of real frontier Clown Quarter gibberish.

My data set consisted of two case studies, Michelle and Jessie. The case of Michelle consisted of three data sets: an in-depth biographical interview, a photo elicitation interview, and a Yahoo profile...The data set for Jessie consisted of two types of data – a biographical interview and a photo elicitation interview...After the biographical interview, I gave Jessie a disposable camera and a postage paid envelope, asking her to take photographs of “What does transsexuality mean to me?”

With vital, rigorous, and demanding research like that, it is unconscionable that the Useless Studies people don't get the respect the hard sciences do.

Hopp Singg

"With vital, rigorous, and demanding research like that, it is unconscionable that the Useless Studies people don't get the respect the hard sciences do."

Useless Studies are easy, but the Hard Sciences are hard. It all makes sense, really.

Farnsworth M Muldoon

Useless Studies are easy, but the Hard Sciences are hard.

That is exactly the sort of response I would expect from someone who is incapable of comprehending the heteronormative rhizonarrative of "hard" vs. soft "sciences".

Damian

"When @jordanbpeterson's wife told me 18-months ago that elementary school students in Canada were assigned to identify the oppressor and the oppressed in various situations, it seemed outlandish to me..."

Shaw Taylor’s Glasses

https://www.npr.org/2019/01/02/677722959/why-millions-of-kids-cant-read-and-what-better-teaching-can-do-about-it

People become skilled readers by learning that written text is a code for speech sounds. The primary task for a beginning reader is to crack the code.

Why, it’s practically witchcraft!

Once again, current teaching methods look a lot like sabotage.

Spiny Norman

MC,

And don't get me started on Ian McKellen...

Playing heroes (and villains) in fantasy/adventure films aimed at young men as the primary audience? Weird, huh?

Where did he get his Wizardry Certification? ;^)

(On that note, McKellen is part owner of The Grapes pub in Limehouse, London and Gandalf's staff is behind the bar. It's on my "bucket list".)

Daniel Ream

Where did he get his Wizardry Certification? ;^)

I'll bet he's not really a mutant, either.

My data set consisted of [...]

The words "data set" are doing a lot of heavy lifting in that paragraph.

Hopp Singg

That is exactly the sort of response I would expect from someone who is incapable of comprehending the heteronormative rhizonarrative of "hard" vs. soft "sciences".

I tried rhizonarrative on my rhodos last year and they didn't bloom at all. Never again.

David
Since the European migrant crisis was at its height in 2015, countries across central and eastern Europe have begun erecting walls. I have gone to see a number of them, and very smart, modern fence-like things they are, with movement-detectors, drones to fly overhead, and more. When the Hungarian government erected their first wall (having had hundreds of thousands of people pour across their previously un-walled borders in a few months), they received some criticism from their neighbours.

Only weeks later, these critics — including the government of Austria — started to hurriedly build walls of their own. One of my favorite memories of the period is a representative of the Austrian government being asked what made the wall that the Austrians were building so different from the one that they had criticised the Hungarians for building. The answer came after a pause: The Austrian wall was different because it was not a wall but rather “a door with sides.”

Douglas Murray, on borders and their opponents.

TomJ
And don't get me started on Ian McKellen...

Playing heroes (and villains) in fantasy/adventure films aimed at young men as the primary audience? Weird, huh?

Where did he get his Wizardry Certification? ;^)

Look, Sir Ian is pretty open about that.

Jonathan

Douglas Murray, on borders and their opponents.

The real reason that the left object to spending taxpayers money on walls and increased border security is not that they don't work, but that they do work.

David

not that they don’t work, but that they do work.

Well, if the goal is a kind of demographic transfusion – in effect, a new, more compliant electorate - then border enforcement would be a spanner in the works.

Jonathan

Well, if the goal is a kind of demographic transfusion .

Their wish seems to be to, as Brecht put it: " Elect a new people."

Lancastrian Oik

Useless Studies are easy, but the Hard Sciences are hard. It all makes sense, really.

The Useless can be Hard, but only when it comes to revenge:

Peter Boghossian: Professor faces sack over hoax that fooled academic journals

"The leading academics Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker have defended a hoaxer who sought to expose politically correct “nonsense” in social sciences.

Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy, faces losing his job at Portland State University in Oregon after he helped create spoof academic papers. These lampooned scholarship in various fields, including the studies of gender, homosexuality and obesity.

He and two collaborators dashed off 20 papers, each deliberately ridiculous and spiked with what the authors later described as “a little bit of lunacy”. Seven were accepted by peer-reviewed journals. One, titled “Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity feminism as an intersectional reply to neoliberal and choice feminism”, was a rewrite of chapter 12 of Hitler’s Mein Kampf with feminist “buzzwords switched in”.

“Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon”, was published under the fake name Helen Wilson in the journal Gender, Place & Culture, which is owned by Taylor & Francis, the British publisher.

Its author described an investigation of the “rape-condoning spaces of hegemonic masculinity” that are public dog-walking parks, which had involved examining “10,000 dogs’ genitals”.

The paper suggested that men should be trained, like canines, to prevent “rape culture”.

“Fat Bodybuilding” showed morbid obesity as a healthy life choice. Another advanced the theory that “it is suspicious that men rarely anally self-penetrate using sex toys, and that this is probably due to fear of being thought homosexual (“homohysteria”) and bigotry against trans people (transphobia)”.

Dr Boghossian and his colleagues said that they were shocked by the ease with which the papers were accepted. “We wanted to see if these disciplines that we called ‘grievance studies’ are compromised by political activism that allows for the laundering of prejudices and opinions into something that gets treated as knowledge,” he added.

An official for Portland State University said that Dr Boghossian had studied “human research subjects” — a reference to the staff and peer-reviewers of the journals— without proper ethical approvals. A further charge relating to the falsification of data is under review and he could lose his job.

Dawkins, well known for his atheist views, wrote to the university: “Do your humourless colleagues who brought this action want Portland State to become the laughing stock of the academic world? Or at least the world of serious scientific scholarship uncontaminated by pretentious charlatans of exactly the kind Dr Boghossian and his colleagues were satirising?”

Dawkins, who is Emeritus Charles Simonyi Professor at the University of Oxford, added: “How would you react if you saw the following letter: Dear Mr Orwell, It has come to our notice that your novel, Animal Farm, attributes to pigs the ability to talk, and to walk on their hind legs, chanting ‘Four legs good, two legs better’. This is directly counter to known zoological facts about the Family Suidae, and you are therefore arraigned on a charge of falsifying data…”

Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist, wrote of the false data charge: “This strikes me (and every colleague I’ve spoken with) as an attempt to weaponise an important principle of academic ethics to punish a scholar for expressing an unpopular opinion.”

Dr Boghossian said: “Portland State University, like many college campuses, is becoming an ideological community and I’ve demonstrated that I don’t fit the mould. I truly hope the administration puts its institutional weight behind the pursuit of truth but I’ve been given no indication that’s what they intend to do.”

Tracy Roberts, publishing director of Taylor & Francis, said: “This was an elaborate, complex hoax which broke all accepted norms of scholarly communication.” The publisher was taking steps to avoid a repeat, she added".

The Times, 09/01/2019

David

The Useless can be Hard, but only when it comes to revenge

They don’t like it up ‘em. And not wishing to appear vindictive has never been an inhibition.

sH2

Douglas Murray, on borders and their opponents.

"Related"...

https://www.campusreform.org/?ID=11717

Governor Squid

Why can't children read?

Jack Silva didn't know anything about how children learn to read... Silva is the chief academic officer for Bethlehem public schools.

It's a mystery!

Steve E

Why can't children read?

Why don't educators know that children can't read? You should be able to make that determination in less than 10 minutes. What about the parents? Are they unaware that their children can't read?

As bad as reading intruction may be, it appears that everyone involved in a child's education has become willfully blind to the truth. Nothing can change until people actually care about individual children and not this lazy, lefty, pious "caring" for what happens to hypothetical groups of people.

Governor Squid

Look, I'm not saying that the Left is using its control over the education industry to dumb down the children of the masses in order to make them helpless and compliant. I'm not saying they're putting their own children through rigorous programs to give them a competitive advantage, positioning them to hold the reins in the years to come. That kind of talk is the sort of paranoid lunacy likely to get one mocked on social media.

See, I'm simply asking what they'd be doing differently if such *were* the case.

Pogonip

“Why Johnny Can’t Read” by Rudolf Flesch. Perennially in print even though politically incorrect. He wrote a follow-up, “ Why Johnny Still Can’t Read,” that made the same points in a more tactful manner.

MY kid learned to read starting with a great free phonics drill, “ Wheel of Fortune.” Contestant says “I’d like a G” or whatever, Vanna turns the letter and points to it. When he was about a year and a half old I found him going through his blocks and announcing each letter. Remembered he’d been intently watching “Wheel” for the last six months or so and light dawned. Thanks, Vanna!

Pogonip

The reason parents don’t complain that their children can’t read may be that the parents can’t read either. In the late ‘70’s Flesch demonstrated that about a fourth of the U.S. native-born population was illiterate and another fourth could read only very simple material, with difficulty—the example he used was reading and following the directions on a can of pet food. I imagine things have only got worse since then.

The average American today reads about 5 books a year.

pst314

My schoolteachers like "whole English" but fortunately my grandparents stuck to phonics when teaching us kids.

WTP

The average American today reads about 5 books a year.

And? The average parent is likely way too busy to spend much time reading books, let alone in a two job working family. Reading to children would be relevant to the specific issue but do many primary school books really count as books in a grown-up sense? But most importantly, what are the books being read? I submit the my television watching and blog reading/commenting and thus not reading more that one or two books a year is far more enlightening than someone reading "50 Shades of Gray" and/or a couple dozen Joan Collins (or WTF the equivalent today is) novels. When I read I mostly read classics or history or such, but rarely do I read a history book all the way through such that I've read "the book". It's usually limited to the historical part I'm interested in. The last modern novel I bothered with, aside from a recent re-read of Jack London's "Call of the Wild", was...I think..."Pelican Brief" by that Grishim guy. Got about 1/3 through it and wanted to burn the damn thing. What tiresome crap. Again, my time would have been much better spent fixing broken stuff around the house or even watching porn for that matter. That thing was absolute crap. How many people waste their time with such idiocy and think that they're "intellectuals". Bah. Maybe the Philistines were on to something.

Pogonip

Reading books published before 1960 or so definitely shows what has been lost.

WTP

Reading books published before 1960 or so definitely shows what has been lost.

True...ish...I'd roll that date back to about 1915 myself. Not so much as to what has been lost per se but what also has been added due to the influence of the excessive revenue generated in the publishing business with the advent of standardized public education, the influence of motion picture studios buying up rights to novels, the greater spread of newspapers and thus readers (and writers aspiring to create The Next Great American...or whatever...Novel), the large jump in literacy thanks to the standardization of public education, and most importantly (and most likely a function of the previous items) the formation of The Narrative. I'm not saying all of that change was bad. Much of it was for the good. But as The Narrative formed out of that timeline the desire to maximize profit slowly strangled other ideas. Admittedly, some ideas gotta die but there's a lot of crap out there by writers who were stifled by the worship of Hemingway or Fitzgerald or etc. as such Narrative-conforming ideas were deified by our manufacturing-modeled education system.

David

It’s occurred to me that I can’t recall the last time I read a novel. It was over a decade ago, certainly.

Steve E

I've been working my way through Dickens in chronological order for the last several years. I try to read 2 or 3 a year.

I just finished re-reading the unabridged Gulag Archipelago. I completed Volume III two days ago. It's a difficult read because of the emotion it stirs up: anger, sorrow, despair and concern for the future.

I fill in my reading with mindless short fiction. There's a certain elegance to the Short Story. A successful one can leave a significant impact for something that takes 20 minutes to an hour to read. I don't read a lot of new fiction. I'd stretch 1960 to 1970 as a cut off.

pst314

Correction: My schoolteachers liked "whole English"...

pst314

The average parent is likely way too busy to spend much time reading books...

True.
But I used to read a lot more books on the commute to and from work than I do today, before the internet and smart phones started to distract me. On the other hand, certain blogs increased by reading by informing me of books and authors ignored by the left-dominated news sources.

Pogonip

The last novel I read for the first time (I have some annual rereads) was The Searchers by Alan LeMay.

I’m retiring soon and probably won’t read nearly as much because I won’t have a long commute. And I have a Kindle-full. I hope that God allows me enough time to get to them all!

Darleen

There's a certain elegance to the Short Story.

No room for wasted words. I slogged my way through the five "Game of Thrones" books, many times moved to yell out loud "MY KINGDOM FOR AN EDITOR". Page upon page of describing every dish at a banquet ... I got so I'd just skip over those ten pages to get back to an actual story.

I find Stephen King a much better writer of short stories than his novels.

I finally found a hardcover book containing all of Zenna Henderson's The People's stories ...and will revisit it about once a year. Excellent short stories.

David
Generally, the better educated are more prone to irrational political opinions and political hysteria than the worse educated far from power. Why? In the field of political opinion, they are more driven by fashion, a gang mentality, and the desire to pose about moral and political questions all of which exacerbate cognitive biases, encourage groupthink, and reduce accuracy. Those on average incomes are less likely to express political views to send signals; political views are much less important for signalling to one’s immediate in-group when you are on 20k a year. The former tend to see such questions in more general and abstract terms, and are more insulated from immediate worries about money. The latter tend to see such questions in more concrete and specific terms and ask ‘how does this affect me?’

Something to consider.

David

Page upon page of describing every dish at a banquet... I got so I’d just skip over those ten pages to get back to an actual story.

I don’t, or didn’t, read literature as an exercise in time-filling. Broadly speaking, I want the point, not the padding, which, by weight, seems to constitute the bulk of a typical novel. Granted, it’s possible I was reading the wrong novels, or maybe I’m just impatient. But when I was reading fiction, I usually found the pacing and scene setting too slow, often glacially slow, compared with, say, film, which, in terms of scene-setting, etc., can have a certain economy.

Fen Tiger

Something to consider

Thanks for the link, David. I find Samizdata rather variable, but that piece and its contents are terrific (as is Dominic Cummings' original post).

I particularly like Niall Kilmartin's longer version of the Orwell quote (from memory, as he says):

I have heard it confidently asserted that American troops are being brought to England to crush an English revolution, not to invade the continent. You have to be an intellectual to believe a thing like that. No common man could be such a fool.

Fen Tiger

For "contents" read "comments" (obv.).

David

Tim Newman on identifying with the neighbours.

Le Sieur de Machy

that piece and its contents are terrific (as is Dominic Cummings' original post).

...They constantly discuss complex systems as though errors can be eradicated instead of asking how quickly errors are adapted to and learned from. This perspective biases them in favour of existing centralised systems that fail continually and against innovations with decentralised systems. They understand little about the challenges faced by small businesses and the lower middle classes.

... As the BBC Europe editor said to me back then, in similar terms to Matthew Parris about the 2016 referendum, ‘the thing is Dominic, we like foreigners and cappuccinos and we hate racists’ ... The idea that millions of graduates voted because they ‘studied the issues’ is laughable to anybody who spent time measuring opinion honestly. Almost none of these people know more about what a Customs Union is than a bricky in Darlington. They did not vote on the basis of thinking hard about the dynamics of EMU or about how Brussels will cope with issues like gene drives. Millions thought – there’s two gangs and I know which one I’m in.

... Given this, the way the media works, how outnumbered we were among the influential broadcast media, and the way in which the media (inevitably to some extent) takes its lead from No10, why would I have tried to run a campaign based on educating normal people to a far higher level than the professionals and ‘experts’ who were fighting and covering the campaign? It would have been impossible to get even two sensible MPs to explain the same complex argument about such things on TV without cocking it up...

... It doesn’t occur to SW1 and the media that outside London their general outlook is seen as extreme. Have an immigration policy that guarantees free movement rights even for murderers, so we cannot deport them or keep them locked up after they are released? Extreme. Have open doors to the EU and don’t build the infrastructure needed? Extreme. Take violent thugs who kick women down stairs on CCTV, there is no doubt about their identity, and either don’t send them to jail or they’re out in a few months? Extreme. Have a set of policies that stops you dealing with the likes of ‘the guy with the hook’ for over a decade while still giving benefits to his family? Extreme. Ignore warnings about the dangers of financial derivatives, including from the most successful investor in the history of the world, and just keep pocketing the taxes from the banks and spending your time on trivia rather than possible disasters? Extreme. Make us – living on average wages without all your lucky advantages – pay for your bailouts while you keep getting raises and bonuses? Extreme and stupid – and contemptible.

These views are held across educational lines, across party lines, and across class lines. Cameron, Blair, and Evan Davis agree about lots of these things and tell people constantly why they are wrong to think differently but to millions they are the extremists.

Lancastrian Oik

It’s occurred to me that I can’t recall the last time I read a novel. It was over a decade ago, certainly.

...that Grishim guy

I slogged my way through the five "Game of Thrones" books

The overwhelming success of some popular authors is baffling because, when you get down to where the cheese binds (as I believe they say in Minnesota, or maybe it was Wisconsin), the bastards cannot write. Grisham? Yeugh. The "Harry Potter" series? Jesus, I made it through the first one and what turgid, derivative tripe it was. Dan Brown? James Patterson? aaarrggghhh- how do people finish those things without feeling like they've just let themselves down in some unspecified but essentially sordid way? Stephen King- yes, but he hasn't written anything beyond halfway decent in twenty five years.

Can I recommend, in no particular order: novels by George Pelecanos, James Sallis, James Carlos Blake, George V. Higgins and James Lee Burke as exemplars of literary crime fiction?

Michael Connelly's "Bosch" books are outstanding entertainment as are the dark, sometimes Grand Guignol offerings of John Sandford's "Prey" series, as well as his somewhat lighter "shared-universe" works featuring Virgil Flowers.

Joe Abercrombie's "The Blade Itself" trilogy is a much better alternative to "GoT" as I too find Martin unreadable. Eschewing the overrated J.K. Rowling I thoroughly enjoyed Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" and even shed a manly tear on finishing the final instalment.

Away from crime and fantasy, I'd also recommend Donna Tartt- her indoors and I re-read "The Secret History" quite frequently and we were both absorbed by "The Goldfinch", at which the critics sneered but what do they know?

On the subject of re-reading, about every ten years I take down Evelyn Waugh's "Sword Of Honour" trilogy and go though it from start to finish. I believe that if our American friends would really like to know what impact the Second World War had upon Britain, this is where to begin.

Darleen

Michael Connelly's "Bosch" books are outstanding

Oh my YES!

David

Michael Connelly’s “Bosch” books are outstanding entertainment

As discussed a while ago, the Bosch Amazon TV series is rather good too.

Lancastrian Oik

Bosch follows the same narrative arc as the novels, save that the TV Bosch is a Gulf war veteran. In the books he's an ex-Vietnam War "tunnel-rat" and is ageing in real time and thus nearing 70. And yes, the TV version is excellent. For a rather more dystopic LA policier, check out The Shield if you haven't already done so. It was pretty hard-hitting stuff for terrestrial TV in the noughties.

Daniel Ream

People read for different reasons. Part of the reason paper bricks are so popular is that many people do read them as a time-filling exercise (they used to be called "beach reads", as I recall).

Personally, I've abandoned most fantasy fiction for historical fiction as I've found most fantasy authors really have no idea what they're on about, and their works are either a highly romanticized version of the real world with a light fairy tale gloss on it, or else soaked in blood, death and perfidy far more than actual human societies have ever been. Basically, choose whether you want your fantasy world to look like the school notebook cover of a fourteen-year-old girl, or a the school notebook cover of a fourteen-year-old boy.

The "Harry Potter" series? Jesus, I made it through the first one and what turgid, derivative tripe it was.

And the first three are the good ones.

The Harry Potter books are frankly awful, but grant them this: they got an entire generation of kids who would not normally have read so much as the logo on a packet of crisps reading books - seven of them - some of which rival Gibbons' Decline and Fall for length. They don't stop reading just because the series is done; they move on to other things and they've become lifelong readers.

Unfortunately this doesn't seem to have trickled down to the next generation. I know a number of 12-to-20-somethings who count themselves huge Potter fans, but have only ever seen the movies and have no interest in reading the books.

The latter tend to see such questions in more concrete and specific terms and ask ‘how does this affect me?’

The problem with the burgeoning vox populi, vox dei movement is that it ignores Tytler's Maxim. The poor are not inherently noble, and are no more likely to eschew using the government to take money away from people who have it and give it to themselves than the elites are.

Lancastrian Oik

They don't stop reading just because the series is done; they move on to other things and they've become lifelong readers.

True, and for that we must be thankful.

WTP

There was a time in my life, about 15-20 years ago, where these numerous recommendations for books y'all are providing here would have me salivating and also frustrated to know I'd never get the time to read so much. I used to walk into a book store or library and marvel at how many stories there were that even with a dozen lifetimes I'd never get to know. But as The Narrative (and thank God someone has come up with a term for this...I always got queezy using the term The Matrix, as I hated that movie) became more and more apparent to me, I grew more and more skeptical of every written word. I'm pretty sure it was the coming of the internet and the ability to respond/comment/expand upon what one had just read that turned my focus off of paper text sources to the more interactive. What especially drove me in this direction was discovering that many articles and such that in the past I would have read and absorbed in my context of understanding, that when pressing the author on some fine point or perhaps some other commenters on some fine point, was finding out that I really wasn't as closely in agreement as I thought. Sometimes I felt enlightened and appreciative of this greater understanding, but on subjects that fit The Narrative I became more skeptical and irritated (1) that I myself had misunderstood but also (2) discovering many times that this was due to the writer's intentional sophistry and disingeniousness (not passing spell check but dammit that needs to be a word).

As to what others have said regarding short stories and to David's point about Broadly speaking, I want the point, not the padding, I can't agree more. That I can get through several short stories and thus several points of view in the time it takes to absorb one novel with one person's point is something that a great many so-called intellectuals dismiss. I tend to believe this is very much driven by the egos and "big-idea" nature of such people. Very seldom do you find people who have taken the time to read a great many long novels who have also gone out into the world and accomplished much. Though as the wife and I were discussing earlier, there's no way of knowing this but I'd be willing to bet that only about 1 in 20 people who claim to have read say "Look Homeward Angel" or such actually read the whole thing. They got the Cliff's Notes or whatever, paid attention in class, or basically went into it with the understanding of what the teacher told them to get out of the book without bothering to actually digest what they were reading.

Steve E

For short stories, I like to pick up Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery magazines for short "Mystery" fiction. They have attracted quality authors for many years. I also look for collections put together by Harlan Coben or Otto Penzler. They've done much of the heavy lifting by going through hundreds of short stories before putting their collections together. Some of the better short "mystery" fiction I've read has been by Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Deaver, Elmore Leonard, Doug Allyn, Jim Allyn, Loren Estleman, Brendan Dubois, Margaret Maron, Kristine Kathryn Rusch etc.

Similarly, Analog and Issac Asimov's Science Fiction magazines are great short reads for SciFi and Fantasy.

The Best American Short Stories annual anthology is also a good read for short fiction as is Best American Mystery Stories. The editors draw from journals, magazines and collections and again sift through hundreds of stories for each edition.

A well written short story can have the same impact in 16 to 30 pages as a full length novel of over 300 pages.

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