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July 25th, 2008, 20:22
I've just caught up on the last two years of Doonsbury. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that both Dte and PJ are fans of the comic!!

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July 25th, 2008, 21:52
I've only read it in very small patches, but certainly liked what I saw.
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July 25th, 2008, 22:14
It encapsulates many of the discussions held here.

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July 29th, 2008, 13:42
I just finished three books in four days (we're on a vacation): an anthology of fantastic stories by Kelly link (some of them weird, some not so weird, all of them expressionist and quite entertaining), 'Two Little Girls in Blue' by Mary Higgins Clark and 'Death of the Necromancer' by Martha Wells. Out of these three, I enjoyed 'Necromancer' the most… it was a fun ride . I found the Clark book utterly disappointing, however. I like mysteries and crime stories, but this book was so not my cup of tea that I really felt reading it had been a waste of my time.

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July 29th, 2008, 23:20
Just started a new one — "The Second World" by a guy called Parag Khanna. It's an overview of the world today, and where it's going. Thus far it seems he's totally besotted with the European Union. It's interesting reading, although I get a sneaky feeling there may be as much wishful thinking as sober analysis in there.
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July 29th, 2008, 23:45
I am re-reading Player Piano by Vonnegut after just finishing Slapstick.

Finished No Country for Old Men … that was very well written, but certainly not happy-happy on any plane …

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July 30th, 2008, 01:03
Originally Posted by Jaz View Post
I just finished three books in four days (we're on a vacation): an anthology of fantastic stories by Kelly link (some of them weird, some not so weird, all of them expressionist and quite entertaining), 'Two Little Girls in Blue' by Mary Higgins Clark and 'Death of the Necromancer' by Martha Wells. Out of these three, I enjoyed 'Necromancer' the most… it was a fun ride . I found the Clark book utterly disappointing, however. I like mysteries and crime stories, but this book was so not my cup of tea that I really felt reading it had been a waste of my time.
Yay! Someone else who's read Death of the Necromancer. I really liked it and plan to re-read it one of these days. I've read two Mary Higgins Clark books and that was more than enough. If I want a mystery I'll read a Marcia Muller, Nevada Barr, or even P.D. James, where the female protagonist has some depth. In Clark's books, everything is rather two-dimensional, and her women are…I guess plastic is the word I'm looking for.(As in shallow, artificial and utterly predictable.)

My husband has talked me into reading Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown, but I'm having trouble with it—I'm not much on the conspiracy theory stuff, and I hate authors who italicize every third word…but it may get better.

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July 30th, 2008, 01:18
I'm reading the latest Recluse novel from Modesitt.

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July 30th, 2008, 02:00
How do you people read so much ?
I can barely read a chapter before getting tired …
That's books …
I could read hundred pages of a forum without too much trouble, but books just 'blah' me. That's probably why my vocabulary is bad enough to use 'blah' in a forum, but it makes my point clear …
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July 30th, 2008, 10:23
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
My husband has talked me into reading Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown, but I'm having trouble with it—I'm not much on the conspiracy theory stuff, and I hate authors who italicize every third word…but it may get better.
It won't. Trust me.
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July 30th, 2008, 14:46
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
and I hate authors who italicize every third word…but it may get better.
I guess you might hate me then, too.

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July 30th, 2008, 23:25
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
I guess you might hate me then, too.
Never. On a forum, you need things like italics, and of course smilies!!!, exclamation points and ROFL-thingies because you don't have body language or facial expression to make your points clear. In a novel, you should be able to use the language to express your ideas and characters' viewpoints without having to resort to this kind of verbal semaphoring.

@Prime Junta—yes, I'm about six chapters in and wondering if I can get one of the dogs to chew it up so I have a good excuse for not finishing it.

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July 30th, 2008, 23:59
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
I'm reading the latest Recluse novel from Modesitt.
Which one? Newest paperback, or newest hardcover, aka Rahl #1 or Rahl #2? I finished Rahl #1 last week. Nothing earth shaking, but yet another wonderful book in a stellar series that hasn't suffered from author burnout (Eddings) nor loss of focus (Goodkind).

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July 31st, 2008, 01:00
Rahl 1. I have yet to see Rahl 2 on sale. I love all his stuff. Bought the 2 Ecolitan omnibus volumes yesterday. If anyone here hasn't tried the Recluse novels, do yourself a favour and read them!!

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July 31st, 2008, 22:04
Walp, I finished Parag Khanna's _The Second World._ It was quite interesting reading, although it was as much a polemical pamphlet as serious analysis.

These are the main theses he argues:

(1) Empire is the natural order of the world.
(2) Currently there are three empires in the world: China, the EU, and the USA:
(3) China and the EU are on the way up, and the USA is on the way down.
(3b) This is because China builds infrastructure, the EU builds institutions, and the USA builds military bases, at a time when military dominance matters much less than economic or institutional influence. There are also important differences in diplomatic style and substance: Europe strives for consensus, China goes for consultancy, and the USA builds coalitions; the European and Chinese foreign services are also more professional, more culturally sensitive, and think longer-term than the American one.
(4) Between the empires lie a belt of second-world countries, whose success depends on how well they manage to either play the empires against each other, or exploit their client status with one of the empires. They are characterized by poor governance, unstable governments, big income disparities, overspending on the military but underspending on infrastructure, significant natural resources, and an economy split between a dynamic, globalized minority and a stagnant, poor majority. These second-world countries include the former Soviet Union, India, South America, the Greater Middle East, and Indo-China. They constitute the playing field that determines which of the three empires are the winners and which the losers. (Sub-Saharan Africa is Third World — too weak to fend for itself, and locked into perpetual exploitation by the empires and their proxies.)
(5) China, currently a second-world empire, is on its way up to first-world status, while the USA is on its way down to second-world status.
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August 1st, 2008, 00:57
I have to agree with points #4 & #5., especially:
They are characterized by poor governance, unstable governments, big income disparities, overspending on the military but underspending on infrastructure, significant natural resources, and an economy split between a dynamic, globalized minority and a stagnant, poor majority.
While our government isn't unstable yet, everything else is ticked off nicely. If all this doesn't change, and change significantly and quickly, nobody is going to be wanting to burn our flag anymore—it will be someone else's turn in the barrel. Can't say that would break my heart. I'm more than happy to see how the EU Empire carries the torch.

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August 1st, 2008, 07:08
I believe the EU will have to make some difficult choices soon or the EU might be a very shortlived empire … (IMHO)
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August 1st, 2008, 07:52
I don't think the EU is in any danger of terminal decay yet. I think the main problem is that there's a significant disconnect between what people think it is or should be, and what it actually is. In fact, IMO that's a mistake Khanna makes as well — for example, he suggests that the best way to organize global governance would be with a "G3" of his three empires. That ignores the fact that the EU doesn't have a common voice on foreign policy or diplomacy, and as far as I can tell, isn't about to come up with one.

But the EU's "alphabet soup" modus operandi does seem to be working well enough: setting standards, building institutions, creating horizontal connections across a wide variety of domains and levels, both inside and outside the actual union. The EU is less like the classic imperial spiderweb with a clear center and a single spider in it, and more like a big colony of spiders weaving a big, ugly, and sticky web. The EU is a bit like the old joke about a marriage being like siege warfare — those that are out, want in, and those that are in, want out.

But yeah, I think he's seeing the EU through somewhat rose-colored glasses. He's seeing things there that he wants to see, rather than how they actually are. OTOH the general tone of his book is an exploration of possibilities with less attention paid to risks — what countries or empires should do to succeed, rather than what they shouldn't do to avoid failing. (Rather alarmingly, he didn't have any good suggestions for America, other than "re-invent yourself completely, from cultural values to instititutions.")
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August 1st, 2008, 16:23
By the way, when puttering around the Net on this topic, I came across a rather an interesting document: a paper by the National Intelligence Council of the CIA, from 2005, charting out scenarios of how the world looks in 2020. It's in the public domain; you can download it here: [ http://www.foia.cia.gov/2020/2020.pdf ]

Among other things, it sketches out four alternative scenarios: "Davos World," "Pax Americana," "A New Caliphate," and "A Cycle Of Fear." What struck me was that "Davos World" was pretty much an extension of current trends — and very similar to the scenario sketched out in Khanna's book.

The other three all involved some major and IMO somewhat unlikely trend shifts: in Pax Americana, a string of megaterrorist attacks inside the EU that drive the EU into America's arms, in A New Caliphate the emergence of a hugely charismatic Muslim religious leader with enormously broad and deep appeal across the entire Islamic world (something that hasn't happened since… well, the Prophet, basically), and in A Cycle Of Fear, another string of mega-terrorist attacks and NBC weapon proliferation that causes a global security clampdown that rolls back globalization by decades.

They cynical reading is that the only thing that could save American hegemony from the rise of Asia (and the EU) are massive terrorist attacks, pandemics, and other plagues hitting American and the countries most like it.

And, of course, it's rather interesting that this is a CIA document, not something funded by George Soros (like Khanna).
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August 1st, 2008, 17:26
It's an historically sound point though—America never functions as efficiently as when it is dealing with some targeted threat. It's apparently what it takes to create unity in a country with so much cultural fragmentation.

And it isn't too far-fetched to imagine the Western countries aligning together if faced with a mutual enemy/disaster either—I was reading a book the other day talking about Native American culture, and instead of saying "white Americans", the author used the term Euro-Americans to describe the wave of expansion and conquest which characterized the "settlement" of the American frontier—I thought it was a valid label. America is often thought of as culturally totally separated from Europe, but I think the lines of connection are pretty strong, albeit perhaps more unconscious than not.

Of course, you also have to consider the source—the C.I.A has a rather melodramatic 'super secret spy shit' approach to everything, so they're going to want to have nefarious terrorists to combat—not that there aren't plenty out there, but I 'd like to think that as globalization and inter-related economic interests proliferate, greed will triumph over ideology and the attraction (and effectiveness) of influencing governments and events through fear and destruction will abate instead of increase. The pandemic idea, on the other hand, only grows more plausible as the world gets smaller.

I'd prefer to think that the Davos trend (referring to the WEF, I guess?) were the winner, but who knows. I imagine there are scenarios not on these lists of alternatives from the C.I.A. or Mr. Khanna that could easily turn out to be the reality of the future—f'rinstance, smoking Armageddon.

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