Here is the Wheel of Time travel for Books 9-11. This completes the maps that I put together as a distraction from working on my dissertation research. A very present distraction then and now. I’ll be back to biographies soon. So much to read and so little free time!
Has anyone made a connection between the worlds of The Wheel of Time and Harry Potter? I think the pensive in Harry Potter is a Ter’angreal. The brooms are also Ter’angreal. The same for The Room of Requirements, although that may be more like an angreal. The Wands are Sa’angreal. Just a few connections that can be made. We live in amazing times.
Continuing my re-listening to the Wheel of Time series. The epic tale is starting to heat up with The Shadow Rising where prophecy is realized and embraced by the protagonists of the story. A lot of back story is cleaverly explained in this book (The Shadow Rising) while many machinations and plots are set up for future conflicts.
I just re-watched the 1984 movie Dune with Kyle MacLachlan and Sting and I see some interesting parallels in the framework of the WOT universe. In the epic science fiction story Dune, prophecy also drives the story and there are many factions moving players like chess pieces on a board in the hope of having control over the one philosophized to come. Even the way the movie opens is similar to the opening of each book of the WOT series as each are grounded in prophecy. There are similarities between the Bene Gesserit order in Dune and the Aes Sedai in the WOT, but that does not take away from either story. It just makes for an interesting juxtaposition in how these groups of manipulators work in the framework of the Galactic empire of Dune and the medieval magical world of the Wheel of Time.
I have to admit that Matt and Egwene are my favorite characters in the Wheel of Time while Faile is my least favorite. The fact that these characters can elicit such strong emotions in the reader (listener) is a testament to the writer’s ability to so fully flesh out these characters with no small credit being given to Michael Kramer and Kate Reading for the nuanced portrayal in the audio books.
One question never seems to get answered from The Shadow Rising. -SPOILER-
What is the connection between the Tower of Ghenjei and The Slayer? Does this have something to do with how Esom and Luc can be one person? How would the Tower of Ghenjei be dangerous in the Dream world and how does Esom/Luc survive the Tower?
I’m listening to the audio books of The Wheel of Time again starting with Book 1. Kate Reading does not have much to do in the first Audio book The Eye of the World. Her first part is Chapter 21 (Disc 11) and then it’s back to Michael Kramer. Just something I noticed on this latest listening adventure.
The pictures are where and how the main characters traveled in the first three books of the saga. Dotted lines are travel by waygates and portals while solid lines are conventional travel.
I love how this saga split the groups and then recombined them later in the series. It made for an interesting journey in the reading (listening) of the books.
There are a few plot points I would like an answer to - not many, but a few.
Who killed Asmodean and how was he killed? Shouldn’t he have been reborn by the Dark One if he was killed by anything other than balefire?
What happened to the townspeople of Hinderstap after the defeat of the Dark One?
Wasn’t there prophecy that Egwene would be the longest serving Amyrlin in the history of Tar Valon?
What happened to the Black Sisters who survived the Last Battle? Since their names are known, do they become hunted?
What about Caemlyn, the waygate, and any Trollics still in the ways?
Before I was pleasantly distracted by the final installment of The Wheel of Time I had completed the second book of diaries by Michael Palin.
Once again I was taken down memory lane by a man who is very pleasant company with many interesting tales of life as a Python and the many encounters he had with other interesting personalities. Michael Palin gave the inside stories for the making of The Time Bandits, Brazil, The Meaning of Life, A Fish Called Wanda, plus a few movies with the incomparable Maggie Smith.
This time for Michael Palin was filled with post Python work including writing his first novel and screenplays. It had him traveling to the US more and living through the political turmoil of the Reagan/Thatcher era which was not the shiny beacon of hope that many today try to portray it as.
As I thought, the Denis O’Brien partnership did not last (I could have cheated and read Wiki about this, but it was fun to hear Michael Palin’s diary perspective to this failing relationship as it occurred). Michael Palin’s entries about the Hollywood types he ran across while trying to get his screenplays financed for film showed the emotional toll that many must navigate in that profession. He is upbeat about it but the frustration does come through. Through this period he is working with the other Pythons either as a cast member in their movies or as a writing partner on the screenplays and frontman to get financing. The best part of this story is how George Harrison gave his help by financing many of the films that are iconic classics today. Harrison did it because he wanted to see the movie - wonderful.
Michael Palin’s disillusionment with certain aspects of America climaxes when John Lennon is shot and killed in New York. America’s fascination with firearms and their accessibility to the mentally ill is still a major topic today. Soapbox warning - I have to agree that Americans (our politicians) are crazy and failing in their responsibility to govern for the good of the people and future generations. Just saw the 10th episode of Newsroom on HBO where the cast compared the Tea Party to the Taliban. It was well supported using the words of the Tea Party members themselves. This craziness has infected our political system and stops many others from being able to protect our rights to not get shot by gun crazy maniacs. Passing the comprehensive background check legislation would not have stopped legal, sane American from purchasing a gun, but the crazies in congress stopped that bill and showed us just how imbedded this madness is in our system. - end soapbox.
Michael Palin lost his sister to suicide during this time. From the diary entries in his first book and this book, we see his sister’s battle with depression and his regret at not being able to give her what she needed. This second book had more emotional connection with Michael Palin’s life and perceptions than the first book which gives the reader a chance to connect with Palin on that emotional level. This book does end before the death of his fellow Python member Graham Chapman but Palin is aware that Chapman is sick. I watched the IFC 6-part biography Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut) at the same time as I was reading this book and in the third episode the funeral service for Chapman was shown. It was a brilliant celebration for their friend and showed just how much he will be missed. That biography was a perfect companion to this book diary and a great way to end my research of the Python years.
Well, I’m again caught up in The Wheel of Time saga. Currently listening to book one again so expect my next entry to be commentary about this series. I am still trying to complete Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography, so maybe there will be closure on this in the future.
I just finished the 14th and last book of the epic fantasy saga The Wheel of Time. I started this series about 8 years ago by listening to the audio books which helped get me through 9 hour drives to and from my university and the city where I was employed. The audio books are amazing as they are read by Kate Reading (talk about an appropriate sir name) and Michael Kramer who masterfully take advantage of the first person plot style by dividing the reading between themselves to match the gender of the first person speaker in the books. Their style and voice impersonations make this audio book series as entertaining as the audio books of the Harry Potter series read by Jim Dale.
When the author Robert Jordan died before he could complete the final book about the struggle between forces of the Light and the Dark One and his followers, many despaired (the blogasphere was grieving for the loss of this writer and the prospect of an unfinished epic saga) until Jordan’s widow announced that she had hired a fan of the series, Brandon Sanderson, to use Jordan’s extensive notes to complete the saga. Sanderson is a published writer in his own right and he split the conclusion to The Wheel of Time fantasy saga into three final books. After an interminable wait for the final (14th) book, the audio book was released in April. I purchased the audio book in May and over the last month have listen to Books 11-14 in sequence experiencing the build up and climax of the Final Battle between the armies of the Light and the minions of the Dark One. And I was happily amazed.
The pictures are where and how the main characters traveled to their places of adventure in the world of The Wheel of Time. The final battle took place in the Fields of Merrilor and at Shayol Ghul (the site where the bore was made releasing the Dark One). Almost all characters at this stage of the saga travel magically through gateways (broken lines) instead of by foot (solid lines), but that only serves to speed up the action instead of appearing as cheating. Magic is part of this world through the use, by talented people, of the One Source which has two aspects that are accessible by the two genders. This saga is always emphasizing the dual nature of yin and yang, embodied in the symbol of the talented who can access the One Power. This dual theme moves into the balance between Light and Dark which is the bread and butter of all good fantasy sagas.
Very satisfy story. Especially loved the political manipulations portrayed throughout this saga. This would be hard to film, but the political intrigues are as good, and in some cases better, than that portrayed in the Game of Thrones. It just would be CGI extensive to produce because of the need to show the use of the One Power (invisible to those without the talent and invisible to the opposite gender) and the forces of the Dark One. I would love to see it done if it could be done well.
Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady, passed away last night at the age of 87. I am reading her second autobiography about her early years and to be honest, I am having a really hard time liking this woman. Listening to the memorial statements on BBC radio by both proponents and opponents provided some really good words that mirrored my opinion after reading only 70 pages of her 600+ page book. I’m at the point in the book where she has been elected a Tory MP and is getting married to her husband and I already have so many opposing issues with her world view that I was considering putting this book aside and looking for a Thatcher biography written by a disinterested historian. I was told that I was unlikely to find an author that met my criteria as she was such a polarizing personality that unbiased historians would be hard to find. Her uncompromising and unsympathetic viewpoint that England after World War II and the people who voted for a more socialist state were wrong headed and have led the country to destruction is hard to read as she gives no indication that she sees or cares about the individual consequences for this uncompromising and unsympathetic viewpoint.
This uncompromising and, frankly, arrogant world view seems to have started early as the young Margaret Thatcher had opinions about the wrong headedness of appeasement before Great Britain entered the War. She writes that her family was in the minority over their opposition to the Peace Ballot and that those that were enthusiast for the Peace Ballot, like Rev. Skinner who married her and Denis, were hard-headed. She was frankly blunt in her writing that Rev Skinner’s “…personal virtue is no substitute for political hard-headedness.”(page 11) It is this arrogance in her and her families superior intellect and political virtue along with her own hard-headedness and lack of sympathy for those with less like-minded virtue and intellect that makes her unlikable, if not right in hindsight about her family’s political stance.
For someone who considered herself intellectually smart (the early years drips with this conviction), it is appalling to read examples of her strange simplistic connective logic about social issues. One example of this is her comment that England has “since removed the stigma of illegitimacy not only from the child but also from the parent - and perhaps increased the number of disadvantaged children thereby.”(page 11) This implies that if we make a behavior more socially ‘acceptable’, more people will choose it which makes sense in a very simplistic world view, but ignores the real social root causes behind that behavior such as a lack of education, contraception, and the lack of opportunities for upward mobility (plus many other factors not limited to the economy). It also ignores why (if this is really true) the numbers of reported illegitimate children was low when it was stigmatized (murder, forced adoption, lying, etc…). I would have expected a scientist to use better logic, but her upbringing seems to have trumped her training.
Margaret Thatchers world view was colored by the fact she was a teenager during the War. She has an arrogance that came from her conviction that she was one of the Greatest Generation due to having survived that great conflict. I think this harden her heart towards the following generations as they did not show the same moral fortitude or virtues of those that “fought” the War. This attitude extended to her conviction that one of the lessons she learned from that time “…was that the kind of life that the people of Grantham had lived before the war was a decent and wholesome one, and its values were shaped by the community rather than by the government.”(page 31) This Norman Rockwell sentiment is ridiculous after reading how restrictive her childhood was in a devoutly religious family in a small religious community where her family had great influence and wealth from the family business as the local market merchant for the area which I’m sure provided some insulation from the worst deprivation of the war time rationing. It is also an exclusive world view as it does not allow that another upbringing could be as virtuous and wholesome. This only leads to a polarizing world view that along with a lack of compassion (the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes) likely contributed to why she was the most hated Prime Minister in history.
Her absolute conviction in the rightness of her political course extended to her party which lost power after the war. She states several times in various ways that “…the Left were extremely effective after Dunkirk in portraying the Conservatives as exclusively responsible for appeasement, and managed, by skilful sleight of hand, to distance Churchill from the party he led.”(page 43/44) She has consistently blamed everyone but her party for the perceived degeneration of England and the British Empire. I’m not sure if the term ‘Conviction Politics’ was coined during her time in power, but that term definitely defines Margaret Thatchers political stance. I would add Blind in front of that term, but as I have only read 10% of this autobiography so far, I may have to take that back.
It is interesting to hear what other powerful people thought of Margaret Thatcher and whether her legacy was good or bad for England. She was so polarizing that the thoughts of others only vary from Saving England (from a failing economy, lost of world influence, and labor unions) to Destroying England (which the additional statement that England is still dealing with the damage she and her party caused). What they do agree on is that she was a highly influential woman who’s conviction and integrity never wavered. It has been said that it was the uncompromising conviction of her political stance that led to her eventual downfall.
Whether you hated her or loved her, there is no doubt that she was a massive influence on English politics and socialism. I look forward to getting to the time frame that has relevance to me (the 1970s) and hearing how this fundamental conviction conservative handled this time of social enlightenment in England. It would be fun to read Michael Palin’s next 10 years of diary entries covering that same period to get his liberal viewpoint of the Thatcher government. I may switch off between the two just to keep it fun.
ADDENDUM: Could the reason Margaret Thatcher was so polarizing be as simple as the following analogy? She expected the people to adapt to her parties changes in the national infrastructure, while many people expect the national infrastructure to be adapted to the peoples wants and needs.
This thought occurred to me while I was listening to the BBC radio report about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy with the hand over of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1984 (40secs to 10mins - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016tng7). A woman was arguing (Emily Lau) that Thatcher should have done more to protect the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong citizens. Emily talked about a question she posed to Thatcher about why Thatcher negotiated the treaty as she did and Thatcher responded that she was concerned with National policies, not International policies. This made me realize that Thatcher was not concerned with people as individuals but in laying down her foundation for the infrastructure of her national policy and she expected the people to adapt to that new infrastructure without regard to how individuals would fair in that new environment. Adapt and survive or perish. Pretty harsh and it explains why many disliked her and her policies.
The question remains - Could she have ‘saved’ England while still maintaining individuals safety nets and entitlements or at least cushioning the blows brought about by her changes to the infrastructure? Could she have just been more sympathetic in her responses or was a brutal program management style truly the only way to run 1980s Great Britain? Her legacy is still hotly debated, but Margaret Thatcher will not be forgotten for all she did for Great Britain and the end of the Cold War. She may not have been likable, but no one can deny her influence and important on the world stage.
A walk down memory lane. That’s what reading this autobiography/diary was for me. Amazingly, the diary starts at almost the exact moment that my family moved to England for a four year stay. This just happened to be at the beginning of the Monty Python phenomenon. Although, the diary does contain a lot of references to what Michael had to eat (he does love to eat well) and drink (no tea totterer is he) it’s the points in history and the people he meets and hangs out with that make this read a great trip down memory lane.
He writes about the US space program’s first steps on the moon as he experienced it - as an English man in England. The Watergate scandal and the Nixon impeachment and resignation all seen through his eyes and bringing back those memories as I myself saw them on the British television screen. I always look back to my growing up in England during those early years from 1970-1974 and I have considered myself lucky to be in England during that time experiencing the beginnings of classic British entertainment that included Dr. Who, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, The Wombles of Wembleton Commons, and the BBC radio broadcasts of the Day of the Triffids and so much more (includes The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy while in high school in the states). My love for, and appreciation of, a good hot cup of tea with cream and sugar began during this time as well.
He writes of the battles between the Labour party and the Tories and how their policies affected people and his work. Then there are the strikes which were ever present in the 1970s in England. I remember well the lorry strikes and the gas rationing that occurred under Tory leadership. The IRA was also beginning their bombing campaigns in London during that time.
But the best part of the diary is when he writes about his fellow Pythons and their work together right from the start of the Flying circus to the release of the Life of Brian. He gives a lot of details that are humorous more for having seen the MPFC skits than for just reading about his day. His travel to filming location in England and Tunisia and his many trips to the US are interesting and insightful and his friendships with one of the Beatles and other rock band members and actors is amazingly interesting and entertaining. Towards the end of the 10 years of diary entries, Palin tells of his financial partnership with someone that I suspect will not end well. It is this desire to see how it all turned out that will have me reading the next installments in Palin’s life and work. But first, I will read the Margaret Thatcher biography I’ve had on my shelf for half a decade or more. Since her time in power begins just about where these first diaries ends (Dec 1979), it seems right to finally get to this book.
Note: Michael Palin’s Diaries 1969-1979 was the first book I read on my Samsung Tablet. Very few complaints with this new form of reading technology except with the footnote links were not synced in the second half of the e-book. I would have to page through to find my spot after returning from a footnote. Manageable but annoying.
Tina Fey has always impressed me with her comedic honesty. I really didn’t become aware of her until she preformed Sarah Palin on SNL and produced the most honest portrayal of a real-life cartoon character that was distractingly tasked to be a heartbeat away from the possible ruler of the free world. What a hoot. What Tina Fey’s portrayal and SNL highlighted was the hypocrisy of the political machine that picked this beauty queen who could not even complete her term as governor of one of the least populated states in the US to run for the co-pilot seat of this great country. It was hilarious and spot on. (Come on, Republicans. Do me the favor of picking an honest bright woman to represent the party in an election. Someone who helps female causes instead of being the Barbie VP. Someone like a Republican Hillary Clinton. They are out there. Just see them.)
Reading Bossypants was less of the fluff piece I expected from the reviews. Tina Fey bared some pretty honest moments from her life and career, with all the anxiety that comes with being a bright working mom with a husband who is afraid of flying (good story). I loved the commentary on her gender encounters with the male saturated world of SNL and Hollywood. I was very impressed with her love letter to Amy Poehler as that highlighted many issues that any talented dedicated woman in a job environment where there are strong male tendencies for control can lead to the reining back of a talented woman only if that woman allows that to happen. It made watching Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the Golden Globes even more entertaining for the realization that this was the first time two very funny women hosted the GG. And they did an amazingly entertaining hosting job. I loved the faux actor bits.
I’m sure there is more to discovery about this woman/comedian/actor, but what we got in this book was entertaining, insightful, and honest.
Next Michael Palin 1969-1979. I was in England when Monty Python was beginning (yes, my parents let me watch this when I was a kid) and it made a huge impression on me. I was also in the US when SNL was just starting in the mid 70s and yes my parents again let me watch this show. Kind of explains a lot really….
I finally finished this read. It was not as engaging as the epic Guns, Germs, and Steel by the same author, but I did learn some fascinating and depressing realities on the state of our world and past & contemporary societies.
The Easter Island collapse was a really insightful and a somewhat depressing account. As I know that this book was written before the NOVA episode (http://video.pbs.org/video/2299677471/) where the walking Moai was demonstrated as a possible means for moving the statues across the island, reading about how the population likely started and how the resources where used up over generations until the moment when the last palm tree was cut down was riveting. The comparison with both failed and successful pacific island societies was equally satisfying. I was fascinated with the successful pacific island societies that instituted a form of population control where young adults abstained or terminated having offspring, but the voluntary suicide by sailing away into the blue during famine was devastating for this first world citizen. Then when you compare this societal outlet with the proclaimed outlet of ‘necessary’ genocide as practiced in overpopulated Rwanda, the sick feeling just increases. What was astonishing and something that I would have likely never discovered on my own if not for reading this book (as why would I want to read about the horrors that occurred in Rwanda), was that there where many Rwandans that thought that horrific slaughter was a necessary process for an overcrowded and hungry country.
The Greenland colony section of the book was the most depressing and slowest part of the book. It was during this section that I decided to buy my next biography, Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Just buying a book that promised some light humor allowed me to continue Collapse to it’s satisfying end, where the discussion of practical solutions that can lead to a successful conclusion to our current stresses were laid out. The fact that forest are being regrown was heartening as Diamond points out that EVERY failed society had massive deforestation. Haiti and the Dominican Republic section of the book was very educational for anyone who has ever seen a picture of the border (http://highwaytohaiti.com/2008/02/11/deforestation-in-no-uncertain-terms/) where trees only exist on the Dom Rep side and wondered what happened. The answer is provided in the history of that Island and provides a possible insight into Haiti’s future.
Diamond clearly lays out the paths to collapse beginning with ignorance and false reasoning, to creeping normalcy (landscape amnesia), and finally to selfish self interest (or tragedy of the commons) which can lead a group of people or a leader to make mistakes that can have tragic consequences for a society. He then applies these attitudes to countries from China to Australia and finally the US using the state of Montana as it’s example. But before he shuts the door on hope for the future, Diamond shows examples of good companies making a difference to their bottom line and to the environment. He then talks about how people can influence these changes in people and business attitudes that will provide a sustainable future for the next generations. What I found heartening about the last section of the book was that there are grass roots organizations that are having an impact and that we can still have much of our current standard of living while maintaining a sustainable society. What was disheartening was the realization that as China goes, so goes the world. That one fact was a total buzz kill, but even in that realization there is hope.
This book was worth the time I put into this read. Although, I can’t help wonder how Diamond would explain the impact of the 2008 financial crisis and the response to that crisis from our leaders. We can’t exactly cry ignorance as we have seen and documented many financial crisis were bubbles and poor regulations resulted in similar failures. Creeping normalcy may be valid as there are few alive today who experienced the excess of the 1920s and most financial institutions have short term ‘memories’ and goals. But I believe the tragedy of the commons and outright illegal behavior led to that collapse as everyone wanted to ‘get theirs’ at the expense of the future. Will we learn from our mistakes? I hope so. Otherwise as Diamond writes, all the wealthy earn for their selfishness is the right to be the last to starve. Cheery.