Re: Brio. Panache. I believe in them.

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I don't think B's going to comment anymore, neb, but it's an endearing attempt.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:15 PM
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The Dud Avocado has been hanging around my apartment half-read for some time now. Should I read it? The wife picked it out at the book store. "The main character kind of reminded me of the main character in Bye, Bye Birdie."


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:19 PM
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Should I read it?

Couldn't hurt. The mood shifts remarkably at times, but it's got some nice moments (the beginning especially).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:22 PM
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Couldn't hurt.

I never make this guarantee.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:24 PM
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You're into some freaky books, though.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:28 PM
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I was inclined not to read it simply because the NYRB edition has an introduction by the reactionary Terry Teachout, but perhaps I should give it a try.

Where the hell is B, anyway?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:41 PM
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I can't usually read books about someone who is constantly being helped out by everyone because she is so beautiful and lovable. Although I guess the writing style would determine its quality.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:48 PM
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The introduction is fine.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:48 PM
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I enjoy a small dose of the reactionary Terry Teachout. Maybe I'm dense, but he generally comes off as an enthusiastic patron of the lively arts in a manner that's somewhat fusty, but not overtly political.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 03-28-10 11:57 PM
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This, for example, is a very good use of a blog.

Relevant: I first learned that song, as well as many other excellent selections, from this blog entry, written by another person of artistic tendencies who was shallwesay less deft about introducing his political views into his blogging.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:02 AM
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I haven't read anything by him about politics (I gather he's conservative); my opinion of his criticism rests mostly on a few pieces about music from a few years back. Unfair, maybe, but boy were they off-putting. Don't be such a damn fuddy-duddy, critic!


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:13 AM
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Of course you do, you little slime

Also in my cheery spring reading list:

"From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law," draws a distinction between primary disgust and projective disgust. What becomes really bad is the projective kind, meaning projecting smelliness, sliminess and stickiness onto a group of people who are then stigmatized and regarded as inferior.

Posted by: Questions for Econolicious | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:46 AM
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When TT is enthusiastic about something, he can be very good. His conservatism, aesthetic more than political, can set certain limits to what he'll respond to, but he'll also break out of those limits in surprising ways at times. I've read his blog much more than his magazine writing in recent years; it may be that in the latter, he gives freer rein to his political opinions (on the blog, they mostly take the form of occasional irritable mental gestures which are easily ignored.) It's certainly the case that when I first remember reading him, in the mid-1990's, he struck me as more polemical then than he does now.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 6:23 AM
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You indexing of fingers is incorrect, or you are insane.

Thumb -> 0
index finger -> 1
Flipping off finger -> 2
useless finger -> 3
pinkie ->4

Cigarettes may be held in the 1/2 position or the 2/3 position. 3/4 is obviously bizarre.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 7:55 AM
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13: he struck me as more polemical then than he does now.

His mind control techniques are subtle but effective.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 7:57 AM
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useless ring finger

Fixed that.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:06 AM
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14: you count your thumb as zero? Weirdo. Zero-based indexing when counting on your fingers is fine, but you represent zero by holding up zero fingers. Duh!

That said, neb could have specified the middle and ring fingers, if he desired accuracy. I was confused, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:11 AM
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Or rather, the darn fool author that neb quotes. I had to figure it out from the context of the "normal" way being the second and third (which I take to be index and middle) fingers.

The post fails to address that the cigarette looked like a rolled-up pig intestine.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:12 AM
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It occurs to me that Eli Lake may have held the cigarette between his ring and little fingers, in which case the indexing differential is between b and the (other) quoted author, and in which case that remains totally weird.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:14 AM
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This post is less than entirely informative.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:16 AM
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Wrenching the topic in an entirely unrelated direction, How to Train Your Dragon was surprisingly good -- if you have to take an appropriately aged kid to the movies, it was really very painless (and my kids loved it.) Also, the protagonist's speech patterns sounded weirdly like Bave D.

Obligatory feminist gripe: making the female lead 'kickass' doesn't actually improve the movie if she's still a plot-token intended to signify that the hero has now won because she likes him now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:49 AM
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I'm glad my son didn't come with us to see Chloe.

What a talent that Julianne Moore is. Liam Neeson should have fired his make-up person.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:51 AM
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What about when one sort of pinches a cigarette between the index finger and the thumb, pulling a slow drag while presenting a squinty, 1000-yard stare? That's certainly acceptable.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:54 AM
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Since we're on the topic of fingers: There's a gesture I occasionally use to indicate that someone is a loser or otherwise beneath contempt, and I have no idea where I picked it up. The gesture involves making a loose fist , sticking the pinkie up in the air, and placing the tip of the thumb on the last join of the pinkie - the hand is then waved back and forth dismissively (roughly the jerk-off motion), as if indicating that the object of dismissal has a penis the size of the tip of one's pinkie. Is anyone here familiar with this gesture and/or have an idea where it originates?


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:58 AM
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Wait, so the weird thing wasn't that he was using his ring and pinkie fingers? Then B was overselling the weirdness.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:00 AM
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Obligatory feminist gripe: making the female lead 'kickass' doesn't actually improve the movie if she's still a plot-token intended to signify that the hero has now won because she likes him now.

cf. Ratatouille

Liam Neeson should have fired his make-up person.

RELEASE THE KRAKEN


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:06 AM
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plot-token intended to signify that the hero has now won because she likes him now

What? When I like somebody, I definitely feel that I've won when it turns out that somebody likes me. And America Ferrara seems likeable.

cigs: 0-2, cherry under the palm. Stays dry in rain, keeps smoke away from others.

Gesture of extreme contempt: snap the fingers, leaving index finger sticking out sideways; then twist wrist to point down. Means "suck my dick."


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:09 AM
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23: Is that what you do when you're interrogating members of the Force Française de l'Interieur?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:11 AM
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What? When I like somebody, I definitely feel that I've won when it turns out that somebody likes me. And America Ferrara seems likeable.

Is this really supposed to be a rebuttal that it's not an old sexist trope for the female character to be relegated as a prize for the main character?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:12 AM
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24: I have just extended my pinky finger contemptuously at guys acting like overcompensating pricks, but there was no thumb involvement or waving.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:13 AM
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Now that I get what it looks like, I've seen 24. Dunno where, dunno when.

But Iiiiiii'llllll see 24 agaaaaiiin soooooooomedaaaaay


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:16 AM
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I haven't seen the movie, so my reaction is to a generic statement. Is "prize for the main character" fair? I do not think about other people that way, and a movie that left that impression would suck. Does the movie pass the "female dialogue not about a guy" test? I think that Mulan for example fails this test.

Look, sometimes doing well or standing up for something makes people see you differently. Failure is real and is common; when one succeeds at something and that leads to a reevaluation, that's a really good feeling. Sometimes in film or in life the person who sees you differently had formerly been critical or indifferent.
Would it change if the reevaluator had been a masculine enemy and this was now a buddy picture?


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:27 AM
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Yeah, all of this is a judgment call thing. It's mostly a one-character movie -- nerdy character blossoms, and his very nerdiness is what saves the day! The other characters are there to first hold him in contempt for his nerditude/offbeatness, and then recognize how awesome he is -- they don't have much of a function other than as his audience.

And this can be okay -- if you're focused on one character, it can either be a boy or a girl, and there's nothing wrong with a one-character movie focused on a boy. But hanging signifiers of grrrl-power/awesomeness (she's the best of the teenage dragon-fighter trainees! She punches the hero a bunch! She's wearing a leather skirt with spikes and skulls (Sally wants one now)! She's bizarrely emaciated!) on a character whose plot function is to be the 'girl' who the hero 'gets' doesn't change the structure of the movie.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:36 AM
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And I really did like the movie.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:40 AM
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Most of the smokers I know are 1/2 smokers, sensu togolosh. The 0/1 thing is very East End wideboy (cf. Private Walker on manoeuvres.)

I've come across a description of someone smoking 3/4, so that their hand almost covered their face when they took a drag - but can't remember where. (William Gibson?)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:50 AM
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I've seen people smoke 3/4, and also 2/3, but I can't really think where. I remember thinking it was wanky at the time. I'm a 1/2 smoker [when I smoke].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:52 AM
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Is anyone here familiar with this gesture and/or have an idea where it originates?

Yes, and I picked it up at our alma mater. I can't recall coming across it elsewhere.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:58 AM
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I'm disappointed that Chloe did not retain the completely unnecessary ellipsis in the title of the French film on which it's based.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 10:02 AM
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One of the nice bits about the Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs movie was that the female lead did a reverse Aly Sheedy Breakfast Club transformation: she blossomed when she realized that she didn't have to be a perky blond and could be her real mousy nerd self.

She still played the same sexist plot function as reward for hero. To avoid that you really have to make the female the center of the story or at least give both characters the same prominence in the story, for instance by having *both* of their backstories in the prologue.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 10:11 AM
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I've come across a description of someone smoking 3/4, so that their hand almost covered their face when they took a drag - but can't remember where. (William Gibson?)

Spider Robinson, Mindkiller. (Dear lord, it pains me that I've wasted brainspace remembering shit like this.) It jarred when I first read it, because I've never in my life seen anyone hold a cigarette like that.

Whatever you do, don't *ever* read the sequel to that book.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 11:50 AM
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Too late.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 11:51 AM
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I'm sorry, LB. OTOH, you seem to have a remarkable immunity to utter rubbish.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 11:56 AM
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Are you kidding? I feed on the stuff. Without a sufficient supply of rubbish, I grow pale and wan.

Certainly, a distinctly lousy book.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:05 PM
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||

And So It Begins

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:10 PM
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LB's like Typhoid Mary, a healthy carrier infecting more vulnerable people. Over the course of her career as a cook blogger, she is known to have infected 53 people, three of whom died from the disease their reading.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:14 PM
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44: Who could have imagined that allowing the insurance industry to author an insurance reform bill would produce results like that? I expect an endless string of similarly unpleasant revelations over the next several years.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:18 PM
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35: I've come across a description of someone smoking 3/4, so that their hand almost covered their face when they took a drag - but can't remember where. (William Gibson?)

Some major comic had that as part of their routine in the 80s, I think, as a description of the cliched film Nazi who always had some bizarre mannerism.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:46 PM
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It's good that we uncritically accept the public spin of lawyers for insurance companies.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:49 PM
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44 is not the beginning of the end. It's been said a hundred times that yes, it's nice that preexisting conditions are covered, but since premiums can still be jacked up, it's not that meaningful yet.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:59 PM
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* for children.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 12:59 PM
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48: Yeah, I wouldn't take this one too seriously until someone from the Administration looks at the law and says "Whoops, they're right, we screwed up on the drafting." It's possible, but seems unlikely.

And of course, only applies to the period between now and 2014 in any case.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 1:24 PM
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||
What to call your period in various countries.
I'm totes going to use "There are Communists in the funhouse" from now on.
|>


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 1:31 PM
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52: One wonders why they used the flag of the Imperial Japanese Navy as a visual for that piece, though it does suggest "Pearl Harbor Day" as another good euphemism.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 1:42 PM
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A friend used to refer to "Riding the Italian motorbike" (apparently because that's what she thought 'menstrual cycle' sounded like).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 1:45 PM
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Don't want to piss in anybody's beer, but I'd bet a fair amount of money that that "Japanese flag" thing is either completely made up or an in joke in a crowd of about 15 people known to the writer.

Except you'll never prove it either way because it'll be everywhere now.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 1:48 PM
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Mistral cycle?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 1:48 PM
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Don't want to piss in anybody's beer

That time of the month, then?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:01 PM
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55 is probably correct, but doesn't bother me as long as the Danish thing about communists is either true, or if not, I never find out that it is false.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:03 PM
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But Urban Dictionary is still reliable, right?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:04 PM
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The French "les Anglais" one has always cracked me up.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:07 PM
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BRIOCHE PANS

I BELIEVE IN THEM


Posted by: GRANDMÈRE OPINIONÉE | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:37 PM
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MINE HURT


Posted by: CONFUSED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:45 PM
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I think of brioche and pancakes everytime I open this page. Which isn't altogether bad.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:47 PM
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*Never* heard anyone ever mention the Japanese flag.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:49 PM
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The email address from #62 reminds me that this I read a very strange news blurb the other night.

Flood "pulled down his blue boxer shorts, exposed his penis to them and told them they better be glad they don't have 'these' (testicles) because they itch all the time. [...] It also stated that Flood had placed a squirrel's skull "on the head of his penis and tells them to look at it and then eats the squirrel's eyeballs." Flood allegedly told the victims that he was going to "bounce this on top of their heads" and tried to hit one of them in the head with his penis three times.

Um.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:55 PM
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I hope I didn't just ruin brioche and pancakes for you, Megan.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:56 PM
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Skulls don't have eyeballs. What is this, a throwback to the era of the recovered-memory-palooza?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 2:56 PM
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No no, I'm fine. Wondering how you happened to come across that story, but that wonder is always with me.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 3:09 PM
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The answer is disappointingly pedestrian, I'm afraid. I've had a Google News alert set for "penis" for several years now.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 3:17 PM
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I used to have one for "cock" as well, but the stories were almost uniformly about this guy, so I turned that one off.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 3:19 PM
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I'm guessing your penis news alert has to be one of the higher rewards-to-effort items in your life. So easy to set up for such ongoing joy!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 3:35 PM
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I'm guessing your penis news alert has to be one of the higher rewards-to-effort items in your life. So easy to set up for such ongoing joy!


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 3:35 PM
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Yeah, I wouldn't take this one too seriously until someone from the Administration looks at the law and says "Whoops, they're right, we screwed up on the drafting."

Official response seems good.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100329/ap_on_bi_ge/us_health_overhaul_children_s_coverage_1


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 5:13 PM
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Way back in 21, LB said:

Obligatory feminist gripe: making the female lead 'kickass' doesn't actually improve the movie if she's still a plot-token intended to signify that the hero has now won because she likes him now.

"Why Strong Female Characters are Bad for Women"


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 5:34 PM
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That's a very interesting piece.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 6:53 PM
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OT But given that Greenwald's views on HCR has been discussed here, and he's also been engaged in flame wars on twitter over HCR and the Hamsher vs. the liberal blogosphere stuff, anyone see the diary on Kos that indicates that he's a paid 'strategic consultant' for Hamsher?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 6:53 PM
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Never seen 3/4 smoking, but I have noticed the occasional person doing 2/3. I just tried doing 3/4 and it seems horribly awkward. 0/1 seems to be a weed carry over thing. I did it when I first started smoking (yes, marijuana is a gateway drug to the hard stuff)


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 6:58 PM
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65: The bad writing in that article makes the whole thing even more surreal.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 7:29 PM
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anyone see the diary on Kos that indicates that he's a paid 'strategic consultant' for Hamsher?

Ha.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 7:33 PM
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78: Yeah, it's like Okie James Ellroy or something.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 7:40 PM
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76: That's kinda sorta accurate. They co-founded the Accountability Now PAC last February. As was widely reported at the time:

Accountability Now will be aided, in varying forms, by groups such as MoveOn, SEIU, Color of Change, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC. FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher and Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald will serve in advisory roles, while Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos will conduct polling, with analytical help from 538.com's Nate Silver. [...]

The goal, [Hamsher and Greenwald] noted, was simply to follow the numbers: figure out which Members were casting votes that were out of tune, philosophically speaking, with their constituent's public opinion readings. And then bear the most basic form of political pressure: encourage a primary challenger to run and help him or her campaign. Fundraising will be done by galvanizing online support for specific races -- a practice now natural to Accountability Now's principals.

The overarching premise would be to break down the power of incumbency. But the side effects would be equally lucrative: putting members on notice that their votes have consequences and offering a support structure to aspiring progressives.

"We want to normalize the idea that Democratic incumbents can be challenged...and to the extent that we can legitimize that you can then open up the conversation, causing even the good incumbents in Washington to endorse primary challengers as a means to make the political class more responsive," said Greenwald. "We want to destroy the taboo against challenging politicians from within their own party."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:00 PM
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They are both listed as strategic consultants for the PAC.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:03 PM
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76, 81: This is good to know. Having barely skimmed the dKos diary as yet, I don't know if it's particularly dreadful for Greenwald, but it's good to know.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:22 PM
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81 From what I can tell in 2009 the money going directly to individuals is given to the two exec directors, one of whom is NotLarrySabato, the other I don't know, various Firedoglake people, and Glenn Greenwald. The rest is going directly to Firedoglake. None seems to be going to Nate or Markos, or to their enterprises. In other words, this looks like a straight up Firedoglake thing, which means a Jane Hamsher one. There is nothing wrong with Greenwald getting paid by a PAC, but if he's going to be intervening forcefully in the debate, he should disclose that he's been hired by her as a consultant.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:26 PM
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I bet we have commenters now who don't know who B is.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:28 PM
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84.last: Indeed.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:33 PM
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I wish Greenwald could intervene forcefully in debates.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:34 PM
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Flood had placed a squirrel's skull "on the head of his penis

I'm not clear on whether Flood's penis was wearing the squirrel skull like a wrestling mask or like a king's crown.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 8:50 PM
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hired by her as a consultant

One of two co-founders is not really the same thing as "hired consultant".


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-29-10 9:34 PM
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I think there's a Jim Jarmusch interview where he very effectively mimes (a) the middle-finger/ring-finger cigarette hold, in conjunction with (b) the click-click-throw-away-the-gun-in-disgust motion, as shorthand for cliched-film-Nazi.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:54 AM
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A guy I knew at school smoked 3/4 in a very affected way. Interestingly enough, vis a vis Eli Lake and politics , he was a Maoist. Another guy I knew used a cigarette holder. There were a lot of pretentious people at my school.

It is possible to smoke 2/3 or 3/4 in an unaffected way - that thing where you basically cup your hands over your mouth, with the cigarette poking out somewhere. It's something you see more often in movies (set in cold places, maybe?) than in real life.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:35 AM
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It is possible to smoke 2/3 or 3/4 in an unaffected way - that thing where you basically cup your hands over your mouth, with the cigarette poking out somewhere.

Sepoy-style, apparently (according to George MacDonald Fraser). He said it seemed to increase the strength of the cigarette.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:57 AM
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74: Yep, that's pretty much what I was griping about.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 6:07 AM
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And So It Begins

This phrase chafes my ass. And this week, especially, since every wing-nut blogger and commenter on the internet has already used it in the wake of the Hutaree raids.

I spent a very pleasant weekend reading The Dud Avocado last fall. Sort of falls apart at the end, but I liked it a lot. Definitely a "beach novel" in the best sense of the word.

Spider Robinson, Mindkiller.

OH GOD. It's been twenty-five years since I read this book and I can remember the awfulness as if it were yesterday.

(One of Ogged's best, that Eli Lake thread.)


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 8:01 AM
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I don't think it's "Mindkiller" because I've never read it.

Do you think they're getting "And So It Begins" from B5, or from that South Park episode with the intelligent sea otters?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:00 AM
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44, 46, 48, 51, 73: No worries, the insurance companies are going to cover kids with pre-existing conditions.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:10 AM
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96: I'm not sure that's a very good response to 46. It certainly suggests careless drafting.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:14 AM
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97: You think? I haven't been through the language myself, but there's always something that can be construed as an ambiguity if you're willing to stretch it. The fact that the insurance companies are folding this fast suggests to me that this wasn't a real drafting error, just a bullshit claim of ambiguity.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:17 AM
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Ezra agrees with Brock, FWIW.

"As far as I can tell, their [the insurers] reading of the law is legitimate."


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:28 AM
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Do you think they're getting "And So It Begins" from B5, or from that South Park episode with the intelligent sea otters?

B5, probably. That lot is big on thud-and-blunder grandiloquence.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:28 AM
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99: He's not a lawyer, and he's not linking to the language he's talking about. It's possible it was sloppy drafting, but statutory interpretation is hard -- everything refers back to definitions in other parts of the bill, and so on.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:32 AM
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98: I mean, I haven't read the bill, but the tone of both the insurers' claims and the administration's response certainly suggests it was less than a "bullshit claim of ambiguity". NYT:

"The new law says that health plans and insurers offering individual or group coverage "may not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion with respect to such plan or coverage" for children under 19, starting in "plan years" that begin on or after Sept. 23, 2010.

"But, insurers say, until 2014, the law does not require them to write insurance at all for the child or the family. In the language of insurance, the law does not include a "guaranteed issue" requirement before then.

"If you have a sick kid, the individual insurance market will continue to be a scary place," said Karen L. Pollitz, a research professor at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University.

"Experts at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners share that concern.

"I would like to see the kids covered," said Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas. "But without guaranteed issue of insurance, I am not sure companies will be required to take children under 19."

"A White House spokesman said the administration planned to issue regulations setting forth its view that "the term 'pre-existing' applies to both a child's access to a plan and his or her benefits once he or she is in a plan." [Ed: that's a bit of a stretch, no?] But lawyers said the rules could be challenged in court if they went beyond the law or were inconsistent with it."

I don't have a link handy, but I believe I read yesterday that Pelosi's response was along the lines of "well everyone knows we intended to make guaranteed issue for kids effective right away..."

I think the industry is caving because, as Klein says, it's a small money issue for them (the law is unambiguous following 2014, apparently), and would be a pubilc relations nightmare.

And, sloppy drafting or not, it's certainly a nice talking poitn for Republicans. McConnell: "In other words, Democrats in Congress just voted to take over one-sixth of our economy, and two of the biggest selling points they used to push it over the finish line already need fixing," the GOP leader said. "Here's a question: If they can't get these two things right, how can we expect them to properly manage the rest of it?"

It's definitely nice evidence in support of their (false) claims that this was a 1,000+ page bill that was rushed through Congress without proper time for debate, or even careful reading.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:48 AM
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101: have you seen any official (or unofficial) response anywhere that suggested even the possibility that the industry's interpretation of the language was wrong?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:56 AM
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[Ed: that's a bit of a stretch, no?]

Seriously, you can't tell unless you're looking at all the applicable definitions and all the interrelated sections (and I'm really surprised at you for seeming to believe that you can tell what's a stretch and what isn't without going through the law with a fine tooth comb).

There may have been sloppy drafting here -- I can't be sure there wasn't. But without something poking through the statute pointing to all of the clauses they're relying on, and all of the cross-references and so on, I don't think there's any reason to think there is.

If the insurance companies were sticking to their guns, I might get up the energy to try and figure out the argument myself, but given that it's moot, there isn't much of a reason to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:56 AM
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103: You mean like the statement from Reps Waxman, Levin, and Miller: "Under the legislation that Congress passed and the President signed yesterday, plans that include coverage of children cannot deny coverage to a child based on a pre-existing condition."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:59 AM
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There may have been sloppy drafting here

Sloppy drafting is practically inevitable, given the ever-more-bizarre contorting that went on to make certain that every stakeholder in the current system had their revenue stream guaranteed.

[broken record rant about the absolute necessity of busting up the insurance cartel's monopoly omitted]


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:04 AM
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you can't tell unless you're looking at all the applicable definitions and all the interrelated sections (and I'm really surprised at you for seeming to believe that you can tell what's a stretch and what isn't without going through the law with a fine tooth comb)

Oh, come on. I'm not going to go combing through the statute myself, so sure, I can't know. But when there are two sides that have combed through it, and one side says "you said in public that the law requires [x], but the text doesn't actually say that", and the only response of the other side is "look, you know we meant to require [x], and it's going to look really bad for your PR if you argue otherwise", then I can make a pretty educated guess about what the law does and doesn't say.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:05 AM
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107 was me, and I hadn't seen whatever you're quoting in 105.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:08 AM
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But when there are two sides that have combed through it, and one side says "you said in public that the law requires [x], but the text doesn't actually say that", and the only response of the other side is "look, you know we meant to require [x], and it's going to look really bad for your PR if you argue otherwise",

But that's not 'the only response of the other side". I just quoted a statement saying the law requires insurance companies to cover kids regardless of pre-existing conditions. I don't have a strong opinion about who's right about the literal effect of the language as drafted, because I haven't done the work myself, but there really are competing claims here.

You're confusing: "You're wrong, and even if you were right we're going to compel you to read it our way by drafting regulations", which is what Congress and the Administration's actual response seems to be, with "We admit you're right, but it doesn't matter because we're going to compel you to read it our way by drafting regulations."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:10 AM
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108: Sorry, here's the link.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:11 AM
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Spider Robinson is an interesting type for Cory Doctorow; both are simply awful writers-qua-writers who seem to have flourish based on being really winning and in-person connected with other science fiction writers and vocally expressing popular attitudes about science fiction.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:17 AM
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Given 111, this is now on topic: hey, thanks for the Cloud Atlas recommendation, guys. It was swell! Now, gimme some more like that!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:20 AM
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You're confusing: "You're wrong, and even if you were right we're going to compel you to read it our way by drafting regulations", which is what Congress and the Administration's actual response seems to be, with "We admit you're right, but it doesn't matter because we're going to compel you to read it our way by drafting regulations."

I think you're confusing: "We admit you're technically right, but this isn't a fight you want to pick" with "You're wrong, and even if you were right we're going to compel you to read it our way by drafting regulations". I mean, why would the insurance companies even have raised this as an issue if it was a stretched interpretation? Given their response, it's obviously not a fight they were looking to pick.

But I don't think we're going anywhere with this. Based solely on public statements, I'm leaning one way and you're leaning the other, but neither one of us has read the bill, so there may not be much more to say.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:24 AM
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Surely this is the first time in history that an industry with a compelling interest in a new piece of legislation has tested the limits of the words by proposing the interpretation that is most favorable to them. So it begins.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:27 AM
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111: absolutely. It feels terrible to say it because Doctorow really is a smart guy, and runs a great blog, but he's a bad writer. I tried "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" and it was almost unreadable. "Little Brother" not much better.

I think this makes him the Anna Kournikova of science fiction writing.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:29 AM
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re: 115

Yes, except for a period Anna Kournikova was a pretty good tennis player. It was just that during that period, at any given time, there were usually a dozen women in the world who were better. Doctorow isn't even the Elena Baltacha of science fiction writing.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:36 AM
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113: Is there a statement from anyone official saying "We admit you're technically right"? If there is, you're right and I'm wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:42 AM
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Based on the same public statements linked above, I offer the following shot from the hip: It looks like there's a term of art in insurance regulation ("guaranteed issue") that an expert in the field would expect to see in a bill that required insurance companies to give sick kids insurance. But Congress didn't use that term of art: instead, it just said, "[no] preexisting condition exclusion[s]" for kids. Most likely, they didn't use the term of art because Congress isn't actually made up of experts in insurance regulation (it's historically been a state field).

So, Congress and HHS now say: look, in plain language if you don't give a kid insurance because of a preexisting condition, you're excluding her from coverage. And the insurance companies said (initially, before they started backing off), -- no, the words ought to be interpreted in light of the technical vocabulary that's used in regulating insurance.

I don't know if a private litigant wins that one against the insurance company without HHS, but it sure sounds to me like HHS wins it given the deference that agencies get in interpreting statutes when they right regulations. (Of course, I probably ought to read the statute and do some research before saying that, but what fun would that be?)


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:43 AM
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Doctorow is really quite bad. Robinson... eh, my tastes for trash fiction embarrass me, but while Robinson has certainly got some unreadably bad books out there, I remember reading some of his stuff with pleasure. Mindkiller I actually enjoyed -- wouldn't defend it with any sort of enthusiasm, but I enjoyed it way back when I read it. And the early Callahan's stuff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:46 AM
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118: I keep on saying this, but this is a useless conversation to have without someone poking through the statute. Shooting from the hip isn't going to get anything likely.

This, particularly: Most likely, they didn't use the term of art because Congress isn't actually made up of experts in insurance regulation (it's historically been a state field).

can't be right. It's perfectly possible that Congress screwed up and the insurance companies are right on this particular issue. But it's really not possible that Congress offhandedly used a natural language term without defining it in a piece of legislation like this.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:49 AM
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If there is, you're technically right and I'm wrong.

[grin]


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:51 AM
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Also, the position "whether or not you're right, you don't want to fight us on this issue right now, because we have a lot of other regulations to draft that are going to rewrite your industry from top to bottom, and you want us to be as happy as possible with you while we do that" is, while not precisely what one would hope to see from the perspective of democratic accountability, transparency, and the rule of law, nevertheless the bread and butter of federal administrative practice.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:51 AM
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Given 111, this is now on topic: hey, thanks for the Cloud Atlas recommendation, guys. It was swell! Now, gimme some more like that!

Well, if you haven't read Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveller, which isn't quite sci-fi but was a very strong influence on Cloud Atlas, you should.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:53 AM
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122: This, absolutely -- while it sounds messy, "We don't care if the statute's a little ambiguous, we'll tell you exactly what it means when we issue the regs" is perfectly normal administrative practice.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:55 AM
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Fair enough. Let me see if I can find the language we're taking about.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:56 AM
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123: I have. I meant more contemporary, plausibly sci-fi-ish things that are written to that level of craft.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:57 AM
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he's a bad writer.

I sure agree with that. I don't agree that he runs a great blog or is specially smart, but he does seem to be a very nice guy.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:59 AM
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On the health care bill, this is so marvelously stupid I can't help but smile. "Now I feel the pain of racism" indeed!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:00 AM
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Sifu, you should read the bill and tell us what's what.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:00 AM
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117: Of course there isn't any public statement in those words (of course), but the public statements all seem to be much closer to those words than you'd expect if the issue was even genuinely ambiguous (rather than just clearly in line with the industry's interpretation). Look again at the quotes from Karen L. Pollitz and Sandy Praeger in 102. And here is Pelosi:

The intent of Congress to end discrimination against children was crystal clear, and as the House chairs said last week, the fact that insurance companies would even try to deny children coverage exemplifies why the health reform legislation was so vital. Secretary Sebelius isn't going to let insurance companies discriminate against children, and no one in the industry should think otherwise.

The intent of Congress?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:06 AM
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128 absolutely made my day. Yet another instance of something that would fail if written as a parody, because it would be too over-the-top. And yet it's real!


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:10 AM
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128: FTA: "The health care bill the president just singed into law..."

It would be great if all legislation had to be performed as song before becoming law.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:13 AM
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look again at the quotes from Karen L. Pollitz and Sandy Praeger in 102.

Neither of them work for either Congress or the administration. The statement from Sibelius and the Congressmen I linked affirmatively states that the insurance companies' interpretation is wrong.

Pelosi mentioning 'the intent of Congress' doesn't imply that the wording for the law is contrary to the intent of Congress.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:13 AM
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131: You know white people be tannin'.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:14 AM
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Robinson... eh, my tastes for trash fiction embarrass me, but while Robinson has certainly got some unreadably bad books out there, I remember reading some of his stuff with pleasure.

I'm actually a big fan of a small handful of Robinson's work.

*thinks about it*

Okay, I am only a big fan of Time Travelers Strictly Cash, quite fond of Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, and perfectly happy with Callahan's Secret and the first two Lady Sally's books.

But Time Travelers Strictly Cash is great, and contains some very very good short stories.

Also, for anybody who likes science fiction that includes good writing about music I recommend Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill. The ending has some problems, but it's very nice in many ways.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:15 AM
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OK. This is a huge statute, and not my area of specialty (well, health insurance isn't, I do a fair amount of administrative law), but it looks like the language at issue is Section 2704 of the Affordable Care Act, which is at page 81 of this PDF of the Senate bill.

A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage may not impose any preexisting condition exclusion with respect to such plan or coverage.

That language is being added to existing 42 U.S.C. s 300gg, which, in section (b)(1)(A), contains the following definiition of a "preexisting condition exclusion":

The term "preexisting condition exclusion" means, with respect to coverage, a limitation or exclusion of benefits relating to a condition based on the fact that the condition was present before the date of enrollment for such coverage, whether or not any medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received before such date.

So, LB is right that there exists a definition -- but it's not very helpful, because it comes down to whether denying coverage entirely constitutes a "limitation or exclusion of benefits." I still think that the plain meaning of those words would encompass a denial of the kind we're talking about -- sufficiently for HHS to get away with a regulation to that effect, certainly. But it's also quite possible that there's a decent argument to be made on the insurance company side that ordinarily when an insurance regulator talks about a "limitation or exclusion" they are referring to a limitation or exclusion clause in a policy, not a refusal to insure. (Figuring that out would take actual case research, which is not in my budget for today.)


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:17 AM
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Neither of them work for either Congress or the administration.

Right, so they would be far more likely to make honest, non-politically-motived public statements.

The statement from Sibelius and the Congressmen I linked affirmatively states that the insurance companies' interpretation is wrong.

No, everyone on both sides 100% agrees that
"plans that include coverage of children cannot deny coverage to a child based on a pre-existing condition." The dispute is about whether or not the insurance companies have to include coverage of those children in the first place.

Pelosi mentioning 'the intent of Congress' doesn't imply that the wording for the law is contrary to the intent of Congress.

When that's the only response that's offered? Again, we're just disagreeing here, but I'd say it does imply that, fairly strongly. Otherwise she'd have said something stronger, like "the insurers are misinterpreting the law."


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:21 AM
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I meant more contemporary, plausibly sci-fi-ish things that are written to that level of craft.

Ah. I'm probably not the right person to ask. I'm not so strong on contemporary sci-fi, outside of films, comics and Iain M Banks, who isn't so much about the craft. My tastes are more for PK Dick, Stanislaw Lem, that sort of thing. There's Atwood, I suppose, or if you go further back, Hesse.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:24 AM
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Oh, thanks for finding that. I really am cripplingly lazy.

I'd say that the HHS position is strengthened by the fact that we're, if I understand correctly, talking about a situation where the parent is the primary insured, and insurance of the child is part of the parent's benefit. So by refusing to insure a child due to a pre-existing condition, that would be a 'limitation' of the parent's insurance, rather than a complete denial.

Anyway, assuming you've got all the relevant language there, the insurance companies' argument comes down to 'in natural language, "limitation" of benefits can't be read to include "total denial of benefits"'. Which seems to me to be bullshit ambiguity-finding, rather than even sloppy drafting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:29 AM
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I'm about two thirds of the way through How to Make Friends with Demons by Graham Joyce (published as Memoirs of a Master Forger by 'William Heaney' in the UK) and I'm loving it. It's slipstream with a horror element, easily readable by the non genre types, though they'll probably read it differently than SFF fans.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:29 AM
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"plans that include coverage of children cannot deny coverage to a child based on a pre-existing condition." The dispute is about whether or not the insurance companies have to include coverage of those children in the first place.

You're straining to interpret this as saying what the insurance companies want it to. A more natural reading is "plans that include coverage of [any] children cannot deny coverage [that is, refuse to issue a policy to] a child based on a pre-existing condition." If they were only talking about walling off coverage relating to the pre-existing condition, the natural way to say that would have been to talk about "coverage of those pre-existing conditions" rather than "coverage of those children."

This is a mode of interpretation that drives me mad -- picking through public statements for any plausible ambiguity, and then treating the existence of the ambiguity as an admission that the speaker really doesn't mean what they seem to be saying. Eliminating all ambiguity is somewhere between hard and impossible, and the fact that you can detect or create some really doesn't mean anything at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:35 AM
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Eliminating all ambiguity is somewhere between hard and impossible


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:36 AM
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Except in math.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:38 AM
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picking through public statements for any plausible ambiguity, and then treating the existence of the ambiguity as an admission that the speaker really doesn't mean what they seem to be saying

This seems to be about 180 degrees away from what I was doing, but whatever. I'm really not sure this is a fruitful conversation.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:44 AM
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I don't think you were being accused there, Mister Defensive.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:50 AM
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144: Would you agree that a naive reader of the Sibelius letter and attached Congressional statement would come to the conclusion that they both express disagreement with the insurance companies' position that the law doesn't require insurance companies to cover kids with pre-existing conditions? That's all I'm saying -- that you're ignoring the simple, naive reading.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:50 AM
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I'm really not sure this is a fruitful conversation.

But this is certainly true. At this point, it's clear what's going to happen -- the kids with pre-existing conditions are going to get covered. What we're arguing about is trivial.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:51 AM
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I think I was, but it's okay. As long as 128 is never redacted, this whole thread will have been worth it.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:52 AM
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Oh. Well, I wasn't accusing you.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:53 AM
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148 to 145. And to:

"Would you agree that a naive reader of the Sibelius letter and attached Congressional statement would come to the conclusion that they both express disagreement with the insurance companies' position that the law doesn't require insurance companies to cover kids with pre-existing conditions?"

Um, no, I wouldn't agree--that's what I've been saying all this time. I am a naive reader of the letter and the statement--I have no idea what the text of the bill actually says--and to me, they sound very much like they're very carefully not dis-agreeing that there's a problem with the text, without coming out and explicitly saying "oops, we sort of fucked up".


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:57 AM
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Ambiguity in math is created by identifying exceptions to apparently general statements, so restricting their scope-- Banach-Tarski, the Weierstrass function, the Lévy distribution.

Reduction rather than refutation.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:00 PM
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I am a naive reader of the letter and the statement--I have no idea what the text of the bill actually says--and to me, they sound very much like they're very carefully not dis-agreeing that there's a problem with the text, without coming out and explicitly saying "oops, we sort of fucked up".

That's not being a naive reader. You're claiming to have discovered a hidden meaning (that the insurance companies were right about the text of the bill) that the speakers wanted to convey "without coming out and explicitly saying" it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:02 PM
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152: But, LB, under almost no circumstances would the public officials come out and explcitly say "oops, we sort of fucked up". (And notice again, that's basically exactly what everyone in the NYT article who was not a public official did come out and say explicitly.) I'm not claiming to have discovered a hidden meaning, I'm claiming that their statements sounded less like genuine statements of general disagreement and more like minimizing any problems in the text as inconsequential, because regulations would fix the issue and the insurers wouldn't want to turn this into a genuine fight. I mean, that's exactly what they said. It's nothing "hidden".


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:09 PM
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What we're arguing about is trivial.

On Unfogged? Inconceivable!


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:11 PM
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How's this from the linked Sibelius letter:

Unfortunately, recent media accounts indicate that some insurance companies may be seeking to avoid or ignore a provision in the new law that prohibits insurance companies from excluding children with pre-existing conditions from coverage.

Health insurance reform is designed to prevent any child from being denied coverage because he or she has a pre-existing condition.

She says that there is "a provision in the new law that prohibits insurance companies from excluding children with pre-existing conditions from coverage." The insurance companies are denying that there is a provision that does actually prohibit them from excluding children with pre-existing conditions from coverage. It's a flat, square, disagreement, not weaseling.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:16 PM
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What we're arguing about is trivial.

I also disagree with this. It's inconsequential, but not at all trivial.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:16 PM
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155: the tell for me is "Health insurance reform is designed to prevent..." (Emphasis added.)

I'm sure as a general matter it's not difficult for you to believe that public officials might at times be less than forthright about their own potentially embarrassing errors in public statements. I'm not sure why you would seem so sure that's probably not the case here.

Is the fact that the non-public-officials in the NYT article agreed with the insurers unimportant to your thinking on this?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:27 PM
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Are you familiar with the work of John Crowley, Sifu? Little, Big, AEgypt, etc.?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:30 PM
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Also Russell "Frances the Badger" Hoban's Riddley Walker, which the final section of Cloud Atlas is pretty explicitly based on.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:31 PM
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157: But you're looking at a 'tell', and ignoring the bit where she says that there is a provision that does prohibit the exclusion of these children from coverage. Your 'tell', in isolation, might indicate what you think it does. But to get there you have to ignore an explicit statement to the contrary.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:35 PM
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Is the fact that the non-public-officials in the NYT article agreed with the insurers unimportant to your thinking on this?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:45 PM
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the final section

The apex section, you mean!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:47 PM
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161 -- I find the interpretation of people who are neither authors of the language nor proponents of the bill to be a lot less persuasive than statements of interpretation by authors/proponents. This is why we have Chevron -- so you don't have random fools people pointing at "tells" and the like.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:55 PM
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161: I'm not sure that they did agree with the insurers; I'd like to see the full context of "If you have a sick kid, the individual insurance market will continue to be a scary place," to know what she meant by it. "But without guaranteed issue of insurance, I am not sure companies will be required to take children under 19," sounds to me as if it means not that insurance companies would be able to selectively exclude children with pre-existing conditions, but that they'd be able to choose to not insure any children at all.

To count someone as 'agreeing' with the insurance companies, I'd like to see a quote at least explicitly addressing the insurance companies' claims (which neither of the ones in the NYT article does), or even better saying that "IMO, the law as written allows insurance companies to refuse coverage to children because they have pre-existing conditions."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:59 PM
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I liked Sotomator's dissent better that Steven's majority opinion in today's Graham County decision. I just hope I outlive Scalia.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 12:59 PM
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161, 163: Right -- and of course I'd like to know who the people agreeing with the insurance companies are, in terms of their political allegiance.

Your claim that the administration was admitting that the text of the bill was screwed up was powerful because of the source: if anyone was going to defend the bill, it would be the administration. Finding someone outside the administration who says the bill is screwed up doesn't mean much unless they're either, as Charley says, a proponent of the bill, or at least have a strong reputation for impartial expertise.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:02 PM
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Ambiguity in math is created by identifying exceptions to apparently general statements, so restricting their scope-- Banach-Tarski, the Weierstrass function, the Lévy distribution. Reduction rather than refutation.

How is this ambiguous?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:05 PM
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Further to 165 -- that Scalia concurrence is short and would probably be of interest to you lit and/or philosophic types.

It's just annoying to anyone who thinks that the law has an external purpose.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:09 PM
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164: How's this?

The problem is in the law, according to many health care reform experts.
Here's the deal: As of right now, if you apply for a policy, there are three things that can happen: The insurance company can offer you a policy, it can deny you a policy, it can offer you a policy but refuse to allow coverage for a pre-existing condition in that policy. (For instance, if you have asthma, the policy can exclude coverage for asthma in the policy offered you.)
As of 2014, the health care reform law will do two things: 1) require health insurance companies to guarantee coverage for anyone who applies for health insurance; 2) prohibit these companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition, and from denying coverage for that condition.
What the law did for kids was to apply the second point of the law, effective in six months. Section 2704 of the law prohibits pre-existing condition exclusions for children beginning in six months.
But the law did not include the first part, the guarantee of coverage. It's not in the bill. Section 2702 has a guarantee issue provision -- "Guaranteed Availability of Coverage" -- and Section 1253 states that this provision does not go into effect until 2014.
Eliza Bangit, senior research associate at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, says that protections for consumers in health care legislation are typically divided into three categories: Access, affordability, and adequacy. The provisions in the bill that explicitly address access -- requiring an insurance company to offer insurance -- begin in 2014.
The protections for children that kick in this year do "not talk about access," Bangit says. The provisions, she says, really only address adequacy -- requiring that pre-existing conditions are covered by insurance. "The law does not talk about access for children. It could have been oversight, I don't know. But access is just different from adequacy, it always has been. We always make the differentiation."
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, past president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, agrees with this interpretation.
"In looking at the bill, our experts were concerned there's no 'guaranteed issue' until 2014," Praeger told ABC News. "'Guaranteed issue' means when you're out buying insurance, they have to offer coverage to anybody who wants to buy in - there's nothing about how much they can charge, but they have to offer it."
Praeger says Congress "intended there to be guaranteed issue, but the bill's not written that way...It's not in the law."
Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, last week told the Associated Press that "under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem. However, if a child is accepted for coverage, or is already covered, the insurer cannot exclude payment for treating a particular illness, as sometimes happens now."....
Praeger adds, as does Henry Aaron, a health care expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, that it's wise for insurance companies to comply with what Congress intended, rather than what's in the law.
"It doesn't surprise me that in a bill of this size there are some mistakes," Aaron says, adding that the public relations hit for any company trying to deny coverage based on that mistake -- rather than what Congress clearly intended, based on public debate -- would likely prove to be a bad move.

Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:22 PM
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That's certainly two people who agree with the insurance company interpretation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:28 PM
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Sorry, three.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:28 PM
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Are you familiar with the work of John Crowley, Sifu? Little, Big, AEgypt, etc.?

Also Russell "Frances the Badger" Hoban's Riddley Walker, which the final section of Cloud Atlas is pretty explicitly based on.

On the first point, no. On the second point, no. Will check 'em out. On the third point yes, but never read it because it seemed like a full book of that would be a little painful (I've read short stories, like "The Ballad of Lost C'Nell", that were I think a bit similar, and thought that was about enough), but maybe I should shut up and try it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:36 PM
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C'Mell.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:37 PM
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C'Mell is a Cordwainer Smith story, not one of those other authors. Or were you saying the plot is similar?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:43 PM
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It's ambiguous because without knowing your pre-existing scope you can't get insurance.

No, the ambiguity is not a property of the formal system but in the way it's used-- Godel and Russell are the names usually dropped in this context. "All that you say is true, but did you notice that it doesn't apply under these conditions?"

I just wanted to say that this reduction of the scope of the true isn't something exclusive to poking at foundations, but happens repeatedly in math. It's not that different from other fields of inquiry.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:44 PM
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Dammit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:46 PM
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RIDDLEY WALKER IS NOT PAINFUL IT IS FANTASTIC


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:46 PM
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174: not the plot. The style, very approximately.

If, uh, I'm remembering it right.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:49 PM
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177: so maybe I should shut up and try it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:49 PM
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177: Source considered.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:49 PM
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C'Mell is a Cordwainer Smith story, not one of those other authors. Or were you saying the plot is similar?

Love Cordwainer Smith LOVE LOVE. (This is not actually a recommendation to Sifu, however.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:57 PM
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I'm in the middle of Little, Big. It's lovely, but it's the kind of rewards-effort book that is easy to put down for large stretches. During which one of I am. During. This is more of a confession than a criticism.

I took a class from the author in college. It was a good class. I didn't have any idea who he was until years later.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:57 PM
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Like I said, I liked "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell". I was just satisfied that it was as long as it needed to be. Same thing for the middle (end) section of Cloud Atlas.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 1:59 PM
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I loved Little, Big on a page by page and even a chapter by chapter level, but kind of lost track of what was going on globally, and didn't really summon up enough interest to figure it out.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:00 PM
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Because I have been sent back in time, I am currently reading Cyteen, which I rejected back in the day because I assumed on the basis of the title, cover, and author's name that it must be some trashy crap about a cyborg teenager. Instead, it is an enjoyable, only somewhat trashy, workmanlike epic containing no cyborgs at all!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:00 PM
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168: Further to 165 -- that Scalia concurrence is short and would probably be of interest to you lit and/or philosophic types.

Not a lit and/or philosophic type but a shorter, Anyway, it is utterly impossible to discern what the Members of Congress intended except to the extent that intent is manifested in the only remnant of "history" that bears the unanimous endorsement of the majority in each House: the text of the enrolled bill that became law. could be "There is no author."

Of course, in the context of his own behavior on the Court, Scalia is being completely intellectually dishonest.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:00 PM
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I found Little, Big lovely for one page and twee after 10.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:00 PM
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Maybe I should be more specific: I've been reading a lot of novels that are big and dense and require significant investment, and I like them, but realize that I'm denying myself the pleasure of plowing through something with, like, chase scenes in it. Cloud Atlas delivered the chase scenes and the plowability without entirely letting go of the prose and the ideas kind of realm of things. So this is what I want more of.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:02 PM
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I loved Little, Big on a page by page and even a chapter by chapter level, but kind of lost track of what was going on globally, and didn't really summon up enough interest to figure it out.

I firmly believe this is the fault of the distracting and not very interesting plotline about Ariel Hawksquill, which should have been LEFT OUT.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:02 PM
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188 continued: and I think I'm not willing to burrow through a bunch of bad SF to find that, like I once was.

Even somebody like John Brunner, who I know can write really cool books: I read, um, some minor book he wrote about a Randian superman who has to single-handedly save a space colony and then bed all the women (or something like that) and it demotivates me, fiction-seeking-wise.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:05 PM
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I blame myself. But mostly I remember the book as a lot of very compelling scene setting in various periods and locations, but if there was a narrative I missed it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:05 PM
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So, I'm trying to think what is really high quality in some of the same ways as Cloud Atlas.

A Maggot, by John Fowles? It would be spoilertastic to get too far into why this reminds me of Cloud Atlas. I think it's great, though.

Air, by Geoff Ryman, isn't nearly as good as Cloud Atlas, but it's good, and somewhat reminiscent of the SFier bits.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:08 PM
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18 - Have we abandoned the pretense that Scalia is some sort of principled legal scholar, dragged helplessly where his impartial philosophy demands he go? He's a hack, and I'm really sick of hacks getting depicted as Last Honest Men. As far as I can tell, the only person on the court that applies to is Clarence Thomas, who is a nutter. Scalia and Alito are New Republic Online columnists with a hundred extra IQ points; Roberts is the same with some political chops.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:09 PM
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Cloud Atlas delivered the chase scenes and the plowability without entirely letting go of the prose and the ideas kind of realm of things. So this is what I want more of.

Surely you've read all the Murakami you could want, right?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:10 PM
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Cloud Atlas delivered the chase scenes and the plowability without entirely letting go of the prose and the ideas kind of realm of things. So this is what I want more of.

Not science fiction, but Iain Pears' An Instance of the Fingerpost and Charles Palliser's The Quincunx getchya this. (The first is a historical murder mystery/spy thriller; the second is a fantastic pastiche of the lurid Victorian potboiler.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:12 PM
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Murakami rules. I suppose I haven't read all I could want. Good thinking!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:15 PM
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I really liked An Instance of the Fingerpost.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:18 PM
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What is Cloud Atlas? I'm intrigued by the comparison with If on a Winter's Night a Traveller (which I didn't like, but not for style reasons.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:22 PM
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Aubrey/Maturin series? Graham Greene's entertainments? This one's obscure in English, but Lion Feuchtwanger's Josephus trilogy is fantastic. Leo Perutz.

Dunno-- I read mysteries instead of science fiction for this now. Pelecanos is good. Donna Leon's Brunetti books maybe. I liked Pears also.

Ever read Victor Pelevin? Generation P was IMO a great piece of literature, though the English translation supposedly stank.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:23 PM
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Well, that was much ado about nothing


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:24 PM
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Has anyone here read the other Cloud Atlas, also from 2004? I'd just reserved the one the library had after it was mentioned here and didn't realize until later that I'd read the wrong book. The other wasn't bad at all, but I'd sort of like to read both of them together. I'm glad these comments reminded me to pick up Black Swan Green from the library, since that's the Mitchell they've got.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:24 PM
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199 - I've read only Omon Ra, which I remember being somewhat puzzled by (I was in high school). Any recommendations?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:24 PM
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188: T.C.Boyle is my go-to for fiendish, smart, pure pleasure of plowability. The man is a master of staggered cliffhangers.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:28 PM
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Toss in another enthusiastic rec for Fingerpost, Quincunx, and Riddley Walker.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:33 PM
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Generation P is titled Homo Zapiens in English.

I read the Werewolf Problem book in English, liked that. The Little Finger book is in my considerable to-re4ad list. He's loose, arrogant, clever, funny when he's good.

TC Boyle is all over the place for me-- he's not humble, and I like him much better when his topics are light than when they're serious. Road to Wellville was great I thought. Foreigners love Tortilla Curtain IME (so authentic! and thoughtful!). His stories are pretty good, especially those he wrote young.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:41 PM
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Fingerpost, Quincunx, and Riddley Walker

This sounds like my provisional list. Plus maybe some Murakami to be determined.

Okay! Thanks! Will report!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:47 PM
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188: I haven't read Cloud Atlas* so can't really compare, but I plowed right through Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World last summer at the beach and enjoyed it very much.

*Also I almost never read science fiction so, you know, take my recommendation for what it's worth.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:50 PM
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Weird. I had not seen 206 when I wrote 207.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:51 PM
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I keep buying shitty gothic novels to read when too braindead to do academic work. I never think I'm going to get sucked into them because they're so so shitty, but then it's 4am and my lights are still on.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 2:59 PM
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Iain Pears' An Instance of the Fingerpost

I love this one. I also really like his art history mystery series, but can never remember which ones I've already read.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:10 PM
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185: No matter how hard I try, I cannot read Cherryh. There's something so compressed about her prose that I just can't follow what's going on. (Or at least I couldn't, the last time I tried reading her, 15 or so years ago.) Every book of hers I've read, as soon as I put it down I say to myself "what the hell was that about?"


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:11 PM
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And yes, An Instance of the Fingerpost is awesome.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:12 PM
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211: I'm glad to hear somebody else say that. I have exactly the same reaction. I get two pages in and I just feel grind to a stop.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:14 PM
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Thorn, you really should pick up Black Swan Green! It's a great read.

And yay, Fingerpost. I hadn't thought about it in years, but that might be exactly what I've been feeling like reading.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:20 PM
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209, what do you think of Martha Peake?


Posted by: Cryptic need | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:26 PM
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215: Have not read or heard of it! Is it good? (My addiction seems to be limited to stuff published before 1900, but when I finish this damn dissertation, I've promised myself to read 20/21st-c fiction again.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 3:33 PM
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What is Cloud Atlas? I'm intrigued by the comparison with If on a Winter's Night a Traveller (which I didn't like, but not for style reasons.)

It's a novel with sci-fi overtones (and some explicitly sci-fi sections), split into


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 4:01 PM
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It's surprisingly easy to read all the Murakami one could want.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 4:01 PM
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Gah.

...split into six apparently distinct but subtly linked stories which trace a theme through several centuries of past present and future in different literary styles. The stories themselves are split in two, with the first half of a story being succeeded by the next in temporal sequence, until the last, when it reverses.The debt to If On A Winter's Night... is mainly structural - it's nowhere near as meta or self-conscious as Calvino's book, and the threads between the stories aren't as explict (or, arguably, important).

It's really, really good, and I can easily imagine loving it while hating Calvino. Me, I love Calvino.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 4:06 PM
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219: if not for the "Gah." I would have been convinced you did that on purpose.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 4:22 PM
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I love the phrase "the odor of the elephants after the rain" from the first page of Invisible Cities. The rest of the Calvino I've read is very good too.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 4:26 PM
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Don't read too much Murakami, Sifu! It's possible to enjoy him a lot for a while, but then you suddenly go too far and it's awful.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 4:48 PM
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188 etc: M. John Harrison is probably the most technically skilled SF writer working today, and Crowley overall (Engine Summer is underrated). I'd say Gene Wolfe is the most plowable, although in recent years he has degenerated into a something of a parody of himself.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 5:13 PM
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219 - I'd say a possibly better comparison is to A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes (which I've always kind of thought of as a sestina in novel form) rather than If on a winter's night a traveller or something doing an explicit Arabian Nights-y nested stories thing. (Has anyone read The Saragossa Manuscript? I loved the movie, and once had an interesting discussion with a Slavic studies professor about how it gets classified as national literature.)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 5:29 PM
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I read part of it years ago, then put it down and I'd like to get back to it again but it's in some box. For those unfamiliar with the book it's a fantastical novel set in Spain with a French traveler in eighteenth century Spain recounting tales he hears from earlier periods. the Manuscript was written in French by a Polish aristocrat. It's got a very messy publishing history - three versions written by the author, the last one fragmentary, the original published first version (100 copies) is now lost, as is the second version but we have much of the author's manuscripts plus a mid nineteenth century translation of the full text of the second version into Polish, which became quite popular in Poland. The Polish translation was later used in combination with the mansucript to create a 'complete' version. Unfortunately that translator chose to censor, modify, and add to the original. Furthermore, there are numerous partial versions of the manuscripts which are not identical. What was your prof's take?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 6:49 PM
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Yes! Manuscript at Saragossa was fun to read, but I like early novels-- basically, if you like Tristram Shandy and also Borges, go for it. If either of these leaves you seriously cold, maybe not.

There was a new ENglish translation right around 2000, the foreword claimed careful combining of existing material, but it would, wouldn't it.

If linked stories with threads are interesting, then consider 2666, which I thought was very good. There's a middle section concerning numerous callous murders which is pretty disturbing, though.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:05 PM
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Oh, another linked stories book that I liked a lot is George Perec's Life: A User's Manual." Great linked lives, with chapters determined by the geometry of an apartment building.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:08 PM
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Cloud Atlas is one of my favorite books. So is Little, Big even though it took me three times to finish it.

I could not at all get into An Instance of the Fingerpost. Or If on a winter's night... I'm sure it's a character defect.


Posted by: emdash | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 9:12 PM
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Neither of these are really science fiction-y but their "worlds" are rather skewed, and based on my in-depth analysis of your online posting personality I deem that you would enjoy them: The Hundred Brothers by Don Antrim (Bathelmesque and quite fun) and The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills (quirky and maybe less fun). Both are relatively quick reads. And speaking of quick reads, to second lw in 226, I am finding that reading a randomly-selected story each night from Borges' Labyrinths is a very satisfying regimen.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:05 PM
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There's a new translation of Life: A User's Manual out, too.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:25 PM
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I liked The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. It's one of those things that makes you ("you" being, um, someone relatively ignorant of literature pre-1900) realize that things one might think of as "modern" aren't so much.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:37 PM
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("you" being, um, someone relatively ignorant of literature pre-1900)

The implication, of course, is that I am thus ignorant, not that anyone else here is.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:37 PM
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And while I'm here, I'll point you all at this addictive game that I really shouldn't have clicked the link to.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 10:38 PM
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Okay, I'll just put it out there: Umberto Eco.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:04 PM
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I've read The Manuscript Found in Saragossa a couple of times, and probably will read it again. I think it's great (if you couldn't guess from the re-readings) despite a couple of problems:

1. There are many storytellers, but only a few storytelling styles, so the stories within stories are more plot-driven than character's perspective-driven. But there is a crazy math guy who talks in math terms most of the time.

2. The "ending" is fairly disappointing. I don't think it detracts much - this isn't a book where the last story's ending means all that much.

On the great aspect: I don't know, isn't it enough to say it's great? The range of subjects and places covered is breathtaking, even if it's set mostly in southern Europe/Mediterranean with some Belgian backdrop and an excursion to New Spain.

On the versions: I don't know how many English translations there are, but I read the Penguin edition. I don't remember the intro claiming to have done anything special with the text: there was a long discussion of the various versions, followed by some mention of someone, I think in France, who just went ahead and published something they called "complete", followed by the Penguin person saying they more or less followed that example, but in English. I think the complete text is a mix of French and Polish versions, with one language version filling gaps in the other. I got the impression it was a case of "it might take forever to get a consensus, so let's just publish the damn thing in some version " rather than "we have the most authoritative version." But I could be remembering wrong.

Oh, and it's come up in the archives here a few times.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:04 PM
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But the film version kind of stinks. I don't know why they thought they could get even a decent fraction, rather than just a fraction, of it onto film.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:06 PM
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Anyone have opinions about de Maistre's A Journey around My Room? Is it fantastic?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 03-30-10 11:07 PM
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re: 234

Yes, but only the first couple of actually good novels. I love FP, though. It works both as a proper occult thriller and as a meta-commentary on such.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 03-31-10 12:12 AM
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This thread makes me inclined to pick up the new 1804 version next time I visit home. And re 224, I'm amused to see that the cover blurb says 'Un véritable chef-d'œuvre de la littérature française'.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-31-10 12:24 AM
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I've read almost no Polish literature, but I would not have guessed anyone having much to do with Poland had written that novel, had I not known who the author was. Not that that really means anything. Not a whole lot of France either; it's sort of Habsburgish by setting, if I remember my artistocracies right.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-31-10 12:57 AM
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Also, van Worden is Walloon, not French. I think a French soldier discovers his manuscript.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-31-10 12:59 AM
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And of course, independent Poland had ceased to exist by the time the novel was done. Is there an English-language biography of Potocki? I've read he was involved in early (Russian) ethnography.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 03-31-10 1:04 AM
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I know pretty much nothing about Potocki, except what his surname tells me. He was a senior main branch member of one of the handful of interrelated and squabbling 'magnate' families that basically ran Poland as their private preserve in the 18th century. Looking at his Polish wiki article he was apparently closely involved in the reform efforts of the 1788-92 'long Sejm (parliament)', which were the initial step in tranforming the estate identity of the nobility into a national identity. But after the King succumbed to Russian pressure and renounced the new constitution he withdrew into one of his main estates rather than take part in the resulting Jacobin ferment that led to Kosciuszko insurrection and the end of the Polish state. He then went to the Russian court and served Alexander I. Both his father and brother were part of the ultra-reactionary faction of the nobility that served/allied itself with the Russians.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-31-10 1:24 AM
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But, talking about Polish lit and lit with fantastical elements, let me once again strongly recommend Witold Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke. The 2000 translation is superb, the 1961 version (from the French which in turn translated from a German translation) is absolute crap.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 03-31-10 1:32 AM
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225 - (Not my prof, someone I was talking to at a party soon after I saw the movie.) He said that it was complicated by the re-translation you mentioned; he considered it French, actually, but said most people he interacted with considered it Polish literature due to Potocki's nationality and the Polish translation's importance in the "full" text. And he said, unsurprisingly, that the breakdown was mostly along the lines of "do I get to write about Polish literature or French?".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 03-31-10 7:58 AM
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You might like John M. Ford's The Dragon Waiting. Detailed review by Jo Walton here. She blogs about what she's re-reading and her posts are a great way to identify good SF stuff - I find that where my tastes are not completely congruous with hers I'll know from her description whether I'd like it or not.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 04- 1-10 9:39 AM
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Maybe not up to the writing standards you are looking for, but Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan does a pretty good job of combining the "chase" and sci-fi.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04- 1-10 9:48 AM
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