A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for November 2004

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Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2004 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Assorted

[BRIEF NOTE] Why Ukraine Won’t Split (And Why It Doesn’t Matter That Much If It Does)

Continuing from last week’s post on Ukraine, it’s worth noting that the growing strength of Yushchenko’s movement has created fears that Ukraine could split into a Ukrainian nation-state in the north and west of the current country and an adjunct territory of Russia’s in the east and south. Andy at Siberian Light recommended this split, on the grounds that a peaceful division of Ukraine would avoid conflict. Discoshaman, for his part, observed that only three of Ukraine’s regions (Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk) are seriously considering secession, and that many Russified cities in central and eastern Ukraine support Yukashenko. Myself, I rate the likelihood of secession as low for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the intimate linkage of the secessionist movements to the current campaign and the absence of Ukrainian-Russian tensions in the east of Ukraine equivalent to, say, Serb-Croat tensions in the centre of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Nonetheless. Here’s five points on the topic.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2004 at 8:52 pm

Posted in Assorted

[BRIEF NOTE] Canadian Author Pierre Berton Dead at 84

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2004 at 8:40 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] Elsewhere

  • Abiola Lapite has two posts of particular interest to me. One notes that freedom of speech is still rather further from realization in Turkey than it should be in a country applying for membership in the European Union. The other discusses the furour in the United States provoked by the recent crossover advertisement of the NFL and Desperate Housewives, apparently provoked by the fact that, you know, a black guy sexually interested in a white woman is racist. Or something. It then segues into an interesting discussion on the racial composition of actors in heterosexual porn.
  • Jay Manifold talks about Titan and why it was okay for for Newton to be a crackpot
  • Jonathan Edelstein discusses the resuscitation of East African supranational federalism at length, while mentioning disappointing developments in the Ethiopian-Eritrean peace process and noting the existence of the South Pacific Federation Project blog.
  • Claudia Muir at Halfway Down the Danube writes about the problems associated with Romania’s new adoption laws, which practically prohibit adoptions of Romanian children by non-Romanians. Douglas, for his part, discovers statuary by a famous Yugoslav artist in the middle of Bucharest.
  • On the subject of Yugoslavia, Michael Manske at The Glory of Carniola gives us mp3s of Yugoslavian patriotic anthems.
  • Francis Strand compares the United States and Sweden.
  • Logan Ferree talks about sex, in the American context.
  • A Fistful of Euros has quite a lot of material on the ongoing Ukrainian situation. Pro-orange, in case you’re wondering.
  • Hurry Up Harry describes the activities of contemptible dictatorships past and present.
  • And on livejournal, serod has a glorious rant about the outcome of the Greatest Canadian contest on CBC, while creases wonders what the proper term is for fundamentalists of the Left broadly defined and orlandobr has a post on the Ukrainian situation that’s rather interesting even if I disagree with almost all of it.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2004 at 7:11 pm

Posted in Assorted

[BRIEF NOTE] Dark Mirror

This afternoon, I exchanged some unwanted Star Trek novels (along with Donald James’ deeply disappointing Vadim, which sadly succumbed to the tendency of sequels to be inferior continuations of superior works) for a copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, plus three dollars.

Yes, I admit that I read Star Trek novels (in the past, mostly). In my defense, the habit began at a fairly early age out of a childish desire to enjoy more Star Trek: The Next Generation than the television provided. And yes, I know full well that those novels mainly constitute extruded Paramount product, and that they are exemplars of how not to write (at least not how to write well). Still, there are some good writers. Margaret Wander Bonnano, for instance, has written some novels which would stand up well on their own. Diane Duane is my favourite, though. Duane is too good a writer to be confined in the horribly and multiply contradictory Star Trek universe. Her origin backstory for the Romulans is particularly inventive, and certainly better than what Star Trek: Nemesis described (and in so doing, contradicted basically all of what had been assumed as backstory by fans for the past generation). Yesterday, mikedavsi mentioned my favourite Duane Star Trek novel, Dark Mirror.

Dark Mirror is set largely in the mirror universe of the original series, where the benevolent Federation was a genocidal Earth-dominated empire and the personalities of the crew were twisted to match. Deep Space Nine took the mirror universe in a rather different direction from Dark Mirror, what with Earth by the 24th century being a conquered holding of the joint Cardassian-Klingon hegemony and all. In Dark Mirror, the empire is quite intact, thank you very much, having spared the Klingons to serve as warrior slaves (but as we learn in passing, having obliterated the Romulans and countless other unmentioned species). All of the crew of the Enterprise-D save Data (Soong died in a purge) have their counterparts on the I.S.S. Enterprise, and yes, they are very twisted, as our Picard discovers to his horror when he reads this ship’s record (the destruction of an alien lifeform menacing Farpoint Station, the prejudicial terraformation of the Ferengi homeworld, the sterilization of Ligon II’s secondary continent in response to an attempted hostaged-taking, et cetera). Oh, and the Empire is looking to our universe as ground for conquest, and has abducted the Enterprise-D.

Ultimately, Dark Mirror depends on a single twist for much of its effectiveness: What would the characters we know from ST:TNG be like if they were evil? Duane does evil in the mirror universe well, making their counterparts’ evil dependent on their personal aspirations and fears. Does Deanna Troi wish she had stronger telepathic powers? She does here; what she does with them, now. Do fans wish that Crusher and Picard had a relationship? They do here; what happened to Jack, though. Do Worf and Geordi feel isolated and alone? Well. And so on. The broader plot, depicting the skill and bravery of the Enterprise-D‘s crewmembers as they infiltrate their Imperial counterpart and foil their dastardly plans, is equally entertaining. Somewhat surprisingly, I actually enjoyed the technobabble.

It may be decidedly unfashionable to say that one likes a work of genre fiction produced in conjunction with a television series, perhaps largely with good reason. Nonetheless, Dark Mirror is a fun and well-written novel that (I conclude as I read the TPL‘s copy) has held up surprisingly well in the decade since I acquired my copy in paperback back in ’94.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2004 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Assorted

[BRIEF NOTE] We Are Everywhere, Unbeknownst to You

From Roy MacGregor‘s article “To George W. Bush we obligingly present . . . Chester A. Arthur” in today issue of The Globe and Mail, page A2:

In the never-ending search for a Canadian-American that Bush could embrace and, at the same time, make small talk about, we offer up the ultimate choice.

Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States of America.

According to an intriguing feature done several years ago by Pat MacAdam of the Ottawa Citizen, Arthur was actually born in Dunham, a small village in Quebec.

To get around the pesky American Constitution–Article 11 stipulates that “No person except a natural-born citizen shall be eligible to the office of President”–Arthur apparently took over the identity of a younger brother who had been born after the family moved to a small village in Vermot and died at a very young age.

Arthur apparently made up his story when he was challenged over his eligibility to stand for vice-president during the Republican Convention, was allowed to stand, and in 1881, became President when James Garfield was killed.

No records are to be found to prove Arthur’s claim of being a “natural-born” American.

UPDATE (9:01 PM) : mikedavsi disproves the claim, and he should know.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2004 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Assorted

[NON BLOG] Futon

Well, it’s assembled.

More of substance later.

UPDATE (12:16 PM, 30 November) : Eight-layered futons are nice.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2004 at 9:47 pm

Posted in Assorted