Francis Scott Key and the War of 1812: Diane Carey’s novel Banners

Over the past few days, I read Diane Carey’s Banners, a novel about the War of 1812, published last year by Koehlerbooks, presumably to commemorate the 200th-anniversary of the attack on Fort McHenry and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  Last night I finished the book.

Carey was a prolific Star Trek novelist, publishing two or three novels a year through the 90s.  Her Star Trek fiction had a distinctly nautical flavor to it.  “Horatio Hornblower in Space,” basically.  In the late 90s, one of her Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, Ancient Blood, featured a Revolutionary War-era Royal Navy holodeck program as part of the plot, and it was so well executed that I wanted to read a full Hornblower-esque novel from her.

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The Republican Veneration of the Undead Reagan

Over the weekend, a reporter for CNN asked several actual and potential GOP presidential candidates a simple question — Who is the greatest living president?

Let’s look at our choices.  Which former presidents are still living?  Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush.

Who did Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump pick as their choice for the greatest living president?

Ronald Reagan.

The last time I looked, Reagan died in 2004.  He’s an ex-president, true, in both the sense that he was once a president and the dead parrot is an ex-parrot.  But Reagan is not a valid answer to the question, “Who is the greatest living president?”

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Meet the Peanuts Gang

This October marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, and the following month we’ve see the release of the first Peanuts movie in thirty years.  I’ve noticed this year that there’s a concerted effort at releasing Peanuts books and collections, probably to both tie in with the anniversary and the upcoming film.

One such book is Simon Spotlight’s Meet the Peanuts Gang!, released last week.  If you’re a little kid just discovering who the Peanuts characters are or a parent who wants to introduce your children to Schulz’s Peanuts, this book is a good place to start.  It’s a ninety-six page book, in full color, with a dozen chapters, each one profiling one of the major Peanuts characters with a short bio, some details about the character, a couple of strips that illustrate the character’s personality, and a quote from Charles Schulz about the character.

It’s a cute book with a lovely presentation, though it’s not for me, the fortysomething Peanuts fan who has all the volumes of Fantagraphics’ The Complete Peanuts published thus far.  But it does fill a role, for the child who’s just meeting the Peanuts gang for the first time.  That’s who Meet the Peanuts Gang! is for.


More on Frum and the GOP in 2016

On Saturday, I wrote about a piece David Frum wrote for The Atlantic in whihc he discussed the lessons the can learn from David Cameron and the Tories.

I called Frum’s piece “misguided,” as it seems to have been written in complete disregard for who today’s Republican Party is.  “It’s as though Frum has never met a Republican” is how I put it on Facebook.  Or, if I didn’t, then I certainly meant to.  I came at Frum’s piece from an ideological point-of-view; today’s Republican Party is well to the right of its conservative counterparts in the rest of the English speaking world and has more in common with UKIP and the BNP than it does with Cameron’s Tory Party.  The GOP can’t simply be more like the Tories or Canada’s Conservative Party because they don’t line up ideologically.

This morning I read two responses to Frum’s piece which made different points.

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David Frum on David Cameron and the GOP

David Frum, the former George W. Bush speechwriter, wrote a piece for The Atlantic about David Cameron’s general election victory and the lessons today’s GOP can take from it.

I found the article misguided and unintentionally funny.  Frum’s argument is that the GOP needs to make peace with Obamacare, reject politics of racial resentment, pursue immigration reform, and not become an explicitly religious party. Conservative parties around the world have made peace with these things in their countries, Frum argues, so the GOP here needs to as well.

What Frum overlooks is the reality that the GOP isn’t conservative in the way that the Tories are conservative or that Stephen Harper’s party in Canada is conservative.

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Paul Krugman, Baltimore, and Portents of the Future

In the last week, when considering the riots and protests in Baltimore, a recurring thought came to me.

“This is what we all have to look forward to. This is a sign of the future.”

What prompted this thinking was an interview with libertartian economist Tyler Cowen on an NPR program a few years ago. He was promoting his new book, Average Is Over, and his thesis in the book was that American society was heading toward a divergence. There would be a small, wealthy class which held both economic and political power. For the vast, overwhelming majority, though, their economic opportunities would be extremely limited and they would be unable to achieve any sort of middle-class lifestyle because they wouldn’t have access to the money or resources to allow that. And those who have the power, thanks to their money and influence,would be able to shield themselves from the masses.

That’s what Krugman speaks to in his latest column, the fact that, for many Americans, there simply isn’t access to a middle-class lifestyle. The opportunities aren’t there for structural reasons. And the lack of access has profound influences on behavior, health, and mortality.

I’d take Krugman’s analysis somewhat further. More and more Americans are finding it difficult to maintain their access to a middle-class life. In the first decade of this century, many Americans used credit to achieve it, resulting in the Great Recession seven years ago. More people are working multiple jobs just to keep their heads above water. Something like two-thirds of Americans live on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis and are one financial incident away from ruin. The point is, economic insecurity is a reality for millions upon millions of Americans. The harder they work, the further behind they fall.

Baltimore shows what happens when people who had no opportunities aren’t willing to take it anymore. What happens when millions of Americans who had opportunities discover that those opportunities no longer mean anything for them? That they can’t get ahead in life anymore? That they can’t even tread water?

The Arab Spring, where millions rose up in protest at their lack of economic opportunities, can happen here. That’s what last week in Baltimore makes me think of.


The Ben Carson Campaign

Thursday morning, on York Road, I saw a Cadillac slightly ahead of me bearing a “Ben Carson 2016″ bumper sticker.  If I could have jumped out of the Beetle, knocked on the window, and engaged the driver, a man of retirement age, in conversation, I would have asked him, “Why Ben Carson?  What is it about Ben Carson that appeals to you?  What does he say that gets you excited?  What would he do as president that makes him your guy?”

Saturday afternoon at Holy Cross in Lynchburg, I saw another car with a “Ben Carson 2016″ bumper sticker.  There was a part of me that wanted to go around the school gymnasium in search of the driver so I could have that very conversation I wanted in Hunt Valley on Thursday.  “Why Ben Carson?”

Tomorrow, Ben Carson will be announcing his intention to run for the presidency.

For the past few months, I thought that Carson would be 2016’s Herman Cain, a fringe candidate with an interesting biography and no political experience running an unserious campaign to raise his public profile.

Jelani Cobb in The New Yorker makes a different comparison — Carson is 2016’s Michelle Bachmann, running a campaign based not on conservativism but on paranoia.  Rand Paul wants to roll back the size of government because he thinks it’s too big.  Carson and Bachmann want to roll back the size of government because they think government is doing secretly evil things.

This could be fun — a delusional paranoiac running for president.  Pass me the popcorn. :)


How to Make a Foundation Television Series

Some discussion of the post-Asimov Foundation novels elsewhere prompted me to see what was happening with the Foundation movie that was in development.  I wrote about this first in 2004, and then in 2001.  It turns out there was a new development last year — Jonathan Nolan, writer of Interstellar, is developing a television series for HBO.

I stand by what I wrote back in 2011: “Foundation isn’t cinematic, it’s not written to be cinematic, and it’s definitely not structured to be cinematic.”  I go into some detail with my thinking; I’d recommend checking that out if you’re curious.

Yet, perhaps a television series can work.  Something serialized, something with room to breathe.  Here’s what I’m thinking for adapting Isaac Asimov’s Foundation for television.

The first season riffs on “The Encyclopedists” and “The Mayors.”  Basically, it covers the early years of Terminus, the rise of Salvor Hardin, and the first two Selden crises.

Skip “The Traders” entirely; it’s the worst Foundation story by some distance.

The second season tackles “The Merchant Princes” and “The General.”  This is the Hober Mallow era, when the political power of the Foundation is centered in the traders who are spreading the Foundation’s culture among the edges of the fallen Galactic Empire rather than the scientists and politicians back on Terminus.

The third season tackles “The Mule” and “Search by the Mule.”  This is the fall of the Foundation.

The fourth season tackles “Search by the Foundation.” And at this point, I’d go off the rails a bit; invent a fourth century FE post-Mule Selden crisis and actually show that psychohistory is back on track.  Foundation’s Edge shows us the aftermath of one, but let’s actually see one.

The fifth season tackles Foundation’s Edge.  And I think you can stop there. :)

What about the prequel novels, Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation?  I might approach Selden’s backstory in this way — do a Foundation-lite episode a season with Selden on Trantor, working its way in the first season with an abbreviated Prelude through Forward in later seasons, and finally with “The Psychohistorians” and Gaal Dornick in the final season.

I don’t think the television series should limit itself to what Asimov put on the page.  A lot of Foundation is talky stuff about big things happening elsewhere.  A television series is going to have to dramatize a lot of that. “Show, don’t tell” and all that rot.  Hence, my use of the word “riff.”  Use Asimov as the starting point, and adapt it to fit the medium.

There you have it, how I would make a Foundation television series.  I still think it probably won’t work, but if anyone can figure out how to do it, Jonathan Nolan probably will.


The Bats Fall Silent: Baseball In Harrisburg, April 26

I was in Harrisburg today for the Senators game against the Reading Fightin’ Phils, the AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies.

I knew I would be missing Anthony Rendon as today was a day off from his rehab assignment, but I knew that I would likely see Brian Goodwin, a center field prospect working his way back to AAA after a shoulder injury last year.  However, there was something puzzling — and strangely familiar — about the line-up that manager Brian Daubach ran out today.

A third of the line-up had a place on the 2013 Senators — Goodwin was the starting centerfielder, Rick Hague was the starting second baseman, and Brian Jeroloman was the back-up catcher (behind Sandy Leon) who suffered an horrific plate collision in the Eastern League Division Series that year.

Taking the mound for the Senators today was Paolo Espino.  Against him for the Fightings was Tom Windle.

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When Mars Attacks Equestria

I have crazy ideas sometimes.  Often, I can do absosmurfly nothing with those crazy ideas, like several years ago when I wrote about the Doctor Who/Uncle Scrooge crossover I would love to write.

The latest The Daily Post blogging prompt brought another one of those unusable ideas to mind.  It’s not exactly an original idea; on Friday I saw another writer talk about it online.  There’s clearly a market for the idea, but for reasons that will quickly become apparent executing it is simply impossible, and so I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away by talking about it.

Mars Attacks My Little Pony!

Here’s my pitch.

Equestria, a land of friendship and peace.

Mars, a world of insane science and war.

When a Martian battlefleet invades Equestria and takes Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, and Twilight Sparkle prisoner for horrific experimentation, it falls to Doctor Whooves, Derpy, and DJ-Pon3 to enter the Martian battlecruiser, rescue their friends, and end the devastation of Equestria when Mars Attacks My Little Pony!

The My Little Pony gang, striking a Kevin Maguire posesI should tell you right know that I don’t know jack about My Little Pony.  Though I have never watched it, I write about it not-infrequently at work, so I’ve picked up a little over the years.  I have a friend who used to attend My Little Pony conventions, years ago, before the Bronies.  Some of my coworkers are deep into it.  In short, I’d have resources if I were ever tapped to write such a story.


Just because IDW Publishing holds the comic book rights to both properties, there’s no way that Hasbro would ever let Equestria be invaded by comically homicidal Martians who go around vaporizing dogs just so they can laugh about it.  Finding the right balance of the mismatched tone between the two properties would be a real challenge.

If I think about this more, I’ll actually work out the problems.  I’m starting to see, for instance, that one of the Mane Six needs to escape capture by the Martians so she can join the Resistance.  And there needs to be a role for the Princesses Celestia and Luna.  Oh, and John De Lancie’s My Little Pony character is somehow tied into all of this.

But I don’t want to work out the problems in the idea and how to make it work.  It’s an idea that’s best left as an idea.  No one will ever have the opportunity to write this.  And that’s probably for the best. :)

Topic taken from The Daily Post‘s “BYOB(ookworm)” prompt.

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