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Archive for July, 2013

Map Love

World_Of_Ice_And_Fire-1024x682At last!  George R. R. Martin has published a collection of the maps from his Song of Ice and Fire.

I just finished rereading A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series, because I am about to watch the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which covers material from that novel and which I faithfully recorded over a ten-week period without peeking at any of the episodes (one of the benefits of old age is that curiosity gives way to patience).  This time through I read ASOS with the help of the many SOIAF websites that are now available to assist bewildered readers with concordances, histories, forums, character genealogies, and essays.  (The first time I ever heard of a “concordance” was in a Chaucer seminar years ago.  Appropriately enough).

All of this reading has given me a deeper understanding of the multifaceted plot of the series, as well as renewed admiration for Martin’s writerly talent.  I am truly hooked, a fangirl.  One sign of this is that I’ve checked out the local library’s paperback copies of the novels to read while I ride the stationary bike at my gym (the hardcovers are way too heavy to hold for thirty minutes).

Another sign is that I bought the collection of maps that Martin designed with the help of cartographer Jonathan Roberts.  While they were on their way to my house from Amazon, I rebuked myself for spending money on such frivolous things.  But when they arrived yesterday I forgot all about finance.  The maps are simply gorgeous.   As I carefully opened them and spread them out on a very big surface (they measure 2 ft by 3 ft) I thought of you, Trep.  I know you love maps, and I wish you could see these.  I found lots of websites dedicated to them on the net this morning, so you can surf awhile and see more detail for yourself.  Just search for “Westeros maps.”

There are twelve maps in all.  They include a map of the world (shown here) along with more detailed maps of the continent of Westeros, where most of the action of the novels takes place.  But there are also gorgeously detailed maps of Essos, the other large continent, with actual drawings of cities and important castles that are faithful to the descriptions in the books.  They are so beautiful I’d like to hang them on my walls, but I’d need 60 square feet of wall!

After my first couple of read-throughs of all five novels, I decided that the first three were superior to books four and five.  According to Martin’s own account, he got caught in a bind while writing the two most recent books, realizing that he had too damned many characters to follow.  He had already produced hundreds of pages, so there was no going back without throwing all that work away (I know that feeling.)  So he divided his narrative between two books, A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons, and the result was not altogether satisfactory.  I am now reading these volumes in tandem, using a chapter order listed on the internet, and this way of reading has helped me to grasp chronology much better.

Or maybe it’s all clearer now because I can refer to those beautiful maps of Oldtown, Dorne, the Dothraki Sea, Quarth . . . .

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What They Said

Richard Cohen of the WaPo published a more-stupid-than-usual column yesterday.  If Cohen is a liberal, I’m a fucking communist or whatever is left of liberal (there’s so little viable leftist thought available these days outside of a few places in Europe and some small enclaves in Africa that it’s hard to know what is current).  I won’t sully our little blog by quoting Cohen, but you can read bits of his nattering at Wonkette, who added yesterday’s column to their collection of WHAT THE FUCK RICHARD COHEN commentaries.  And they were not alone in their outrage.

Here’s why:  Cohen’s column made excuses for George Zimmerman, for the court and the law that exonerated him, for racial profiling in general and for New York’s stop-and-frisk policy specifically.  The problem just is, you see, that black people persist in doing illegal things, and to top it off they wear hoodies while doing those things.

Tell me again how we live in a post-racial culture?

Digressio:  Wonkette (or somebody else I read this morning) remarked that the only people who have never worn a hoodie are over 65.  Beg to differ–I am over 65 and I had a green hoodie that I wore for years to ski and to cut wood, and I have pictures to prove it.  Probably there are friends who remember it too, some of whom finally said “aren’t you ever going to throw that ratty old thing away?”  The reason I don’t still wear hoodies (and I have a couple) is that it never rains in the damned desert.  This week I have an even better reason:  there are plenty of wannabe George Zimmermans hopped up on meth in Bugfuck, Arizona, where I live .

But to return to the point:   Ta-nehisi Coates’ take on Cohen’s column is as eloquent as usual:  “A capricious anti-intellectualism, a fanatical imbecility, a willful amnesia, an eternal sunshine upon our spotless minds, is white supremacy’s gravest legacy.”  Ta-nehisi easily explodes the assumption that all members of an ethic group share certain traits by pointing out that even though the NBA features mostly black players, he is a lousy at the game.  And in a nice turnback on Cohen, he points out that while most chess masters are Jewish, this is no guarantee that that next Jew you meet will play chess.  And so on.

To belabor the banal:  to assume that Jews are good at chess is much less serious, morally, than to assume that all black men are criminals or wanna-be criminals.  If there are more black men in prison than white, that has to do with a flawed justice system, which is itself a product of a long history of institutionalized racism.  Ta-nehisi hits this ideological nail right on its head:  “Black criminality is more than myth; it is socially engineered prophecy. If you believe a people to be inhuman, you confine them to inhuman quarters and inhuman labor, and subject them to inhuman policy. When they then behave inhumanely to each other, you take it is as proof of your original thesis. The game is rigged. Because it must be.”

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As of last night George Zimmerman, wannabe cop, is free to stalk through any neighborhood he likes while armed with a concealed weapon.  He can now shoot anyone he pleases, as long as the person is black, because Florida’s so-called “justice” system has now taught him that he can do so without penalty.  Florida’s rednecks have also taught him that they will put up money to hire lawyers and offer moral support, should he happen upon another black kid in a hoodie.

The other, equally likely, possibility is that Zimmerman wannabes throughout the south will feel even more entitled to shoot (or rape, or rob) someone of color because they learned last night that there is no penalty for doing so.

A somewhat less likely possibility is that Zimmerman will shoot himself in the foot.  After all, Florida’s justice system just showed him how that’s done.

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Come In. . . .

Or, rather, don’t come in unless you’ve been invited.  This includes you, scorps.

Introducing:   Doc’s new security doors:

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The front door has the same motif, only on a single panel.  More pix when it’s not so hot outside.

UPDATE:

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