Monday, January 02, 2012

Review: SNUFF, Terry Pratchett

Snuff (Discworld, #39)Snuff by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sam Vimes has always been my favorite Discworld main character because he's easily the richest and most complex: a good man and a good copper who's always aware just how thin the barrier is between that and becoming bad. It doesn't help that he's taken on a rider in his head (possibly imaginary, but very possibly all too real) who would cheerfully give him a shove through that barrier.

In this book, Vimes takes a holiday at the insistence of his adoring (and incredibly rich) wife Sybil. Vimes being Vimes of course, it's not long before he's neck deep in murder and corruption in a place where no one knows him or cares that he's the Commander of the City Watch.

There are some of the usual pointed and witty observations here, as well as some good suspense. Pratchett does seem to indulge his penchant for beating you over the head with the book's message a little more than usual, but once you get past that, it's an amusing, fun read. I would have liked to see more of Vetinari (my second favorite Pratchett character), but then I feel that way in every one of the Discworld books. I just love that magnificent bastard.

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Sunday, January 01, 2012

Fearless Predictions For the Year Ahead

Latest Newspaper Column:

Once again, here are our predictions for the year ahead (assuming that the Mayans weren't right):
JANUARY: Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich fails to place higher than third in the South Carolina primary, then throws an on-camera tantrum in which he claims that he has the right to subpoena all of the voters in the state to come to Washington and appear at a hearing to explain themselves.
FEBRUARY: A firestorm erupts on Fox News, talk radio, and the right-wing blogo-sphere when President Obama wishes his wife a "happy Valentine's Day." Bill O'Reilly devotes 30 minutes of his news show to ranting that the exclusion of any mention of Saint Valentine "just proves that President Obama has declared war on religion." Anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller shrieks that the omission of the saint's name is "the most compelling evidence yet that Obama is secretly an Islamofascist trying to impose Sharia law on the United States."
MARCH: Scientists discover a new faster-than-light subatomic particle whose only function seems to be to allow Kim Kardashian to get divorced a split second before actually being married.
APRIL: The first day of spring sees the return of a perennial rite of the election season: flag-pin mania. Michele Bachmann, still gamely hanging on despite low delegate numbers, gets the ball rolling when a picture of President Obama taken on a Hawaiian beach shows him without a flag pin. "A president who was a real American would figure out a way to attach the pin to his chest, even without a shirt," Bachmann proclaims. This sets off a war among the GOP candidates to see who can most ostentatiously display the largest flag pin. Tragedy brings the contest to an end when Rick Perry attempts to nail a seven-by-five-inch pin to the center of his forehead and ends up in a coma.
MAY: Rick Perry miraculously comes out of his coma, but dramatically changed in that he can now remember more than two things at a time. His rebounding poll numbers drop precipitously when Republican primary voters turn against him for "acting like he's smarter than us."
JUNE: TLC announces its new fall schedule and causes controversy with its new program "Celebrity Cannibal," a reality show in which D-list celebrities compete in various contests, with each week's loser cooked by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey and devoured by the rest of the cast. In the show's end-of-first-season cliffhanger, all those in the remaining cast (Hulk Hogan, Courtney Stodden, Stephen Baldwin) face expulsion from the show when they refuse to ingest former rock singer Courtney Love.
JULY: Canceled due to budget cuts.
AUGUST: The Republican Party holds its nominating convention in Tampa, Fla. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finally gets enough delegates to clinch the nomination when the head of the Massachusetts delegation rises and delivers these stirring words: "Romney, I guess. Whatever. Can we go to the beach now?"
SEPTEMBER: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin gives an interview on Fox News in which she announces that "it's not too late" for her to enter the race for the 2012 GOP nomination. "Who knows what might happen in the future?" she chirps to an incredulous Gretchen Carlson. Despite the fact that the nomination has already been awarded to Romney, contributions pour in to Palin's campaign headquarters. Palin uses the contributions to purchase a yacht, which she christens the "One Nation" and uses on an extended "campaign tour" of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
OCTOBER: Apple announces its latest innovation: the iWash, an Internet-enabled washer/dryer combination. Despite the fact that no one at Apple can coherently explain why a washer and dryer need an Internet connection, record-breaking crowds of "early adopters" line up around the block at various Apple stores to purchase the device. Rumors that a security problem in the iWash's operating software could allow hackers to remotely steal your underwear fail to affect sales.
NOVEMBER: America goes to the polls, but the turnout among a dispirited, unenthusiastic, and battle-weary electorate is the lowest in U.S history. Barack Obama wins over Mitt Romney, with a national tally of 400 votes to 275 - in the popular vote, not the Electoral College.
DECEMBER: Dec. 21, the supposed date upon which the Mayan "Long Count" calendar (and therefore the world) ends, comes and goes without the expected cataclysm. The American economy receives a massive boost as merchants are deluged by people realizing they're going to have to do their Christmas shopping after all.
And so, once again, I offer you my traditional New Year's greeting, courtesy of Ogden Nash: Duck! Here comes another year!