Payback Prank!: Mobistar – Belgium

Have you ever wanted to get even for the hours you’ve spent dealing with Customer “Service”?  Belgium’s Mobistar phone company is universally reviled for its terrible customer service in that country. Here’s what happened…

With our thanks to Boing-Boing, and, too, Daniel Schmidt, for circulating this!

‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’, by Connie Willis – A Review

‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ , as I came to read it in its entirety, is an interesting story, for I had started it once some years ago, and failed to progress in my reading of it.  The failure, time has shown me, was entirely my own.  For whatever reason, the distractions in my life prevented me from realizing what a jewel of a story Ms. Willis had crafted. I simply didn’t know what it was I had in my hands, and so never got beyond the first chapter.  It worked something like this: this is supposed to be a time traveler’s story, and here’s this odd crew of weird academics picking over the wreckage of the cathedral at Coventry after having been firebombed by the Nazi’s in WWII. Their incompetence is exceeded only by their fatigue. Their quest is to find a missing piece of Victorian bric-a-braq called “The Bishop’s Bird Stump”, and this at the behest of a tyrant-boss who needs to copy it to decorate a modern knock-off cathedral being built in the mid-21st century.  Somehow, this wasn’t the time-travel yarn I was looking for at that time.

However, it should have been. What doesn’t immediately make itself known about Willis’ book is that it plays on so many different levels at once. It is as much about a future time when when historians might mine the past in person , as it is a gentle exercise in lampooning the Victorians both in person and through their literature, AND in the context of a cosmos that is as forgiving of our tinkering with time as Willis’ Victorians are of her lampooning of them.

It was my older daughter who eventually turned my attention back to this book, when she, in her quirky manner, quoted a meme from it, unreferenced, as her Facebook status one evening. She posted, “We are all, in a sense, Ensign Klepperman.” This game requires that I figure out what the heck she is referring to, and few google searches later it came to me in a flash that these words derived from the odd time-travel book I’d started and never finished some five years before.  Klepperman’s story and person are but a sidebar to illuminate the tasks of Willis’ protagonists as well as her greater themes in this tour-de-force, but to say how in this review might be telling too much.

This much can be said: it is a truly great piece of fiction that can mull over more than a few profound questions about the relationship between the present and the past with SUCH a gracious and deft touch that the reader hardly senses the depth of the work beneath the constant and ongoing humor, until suddenly GOB-SMACKED by it with near lethal force at the conclusion.

I’m at present reading the second work in this series, ‘Blackout’, and in possession of the third such work, ‘All Clear’, so am well positioned to feast on Ms. Willis’ works for some time to come. I’ll write about those too, in time.

For now, though, take my recommendation for ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’ to heart if you think you’d enjoy a warm summer’s journey by boat in Victoria’s England combined with a romp helter-skelter through other times, as well.


Cha Bella, Broad and Broughton Streets, Savannah, Ga.

Tonight we dined out at a place we’ve come to love up in Savannah, called Cha-Bella.  We drove up with our neighbors, Ron and Jannette, stopping for cocktails first at the cellar tavern at The Olde Pink House, some blocks away.

The tavern was dark and comforting, with a welcoming gas log and deep leather chairs. Ann’s Long Island Iced Tea, and our friend’s martinis were well-constructed, and my Walker Red was a generous pour. Serendipitously, we kept meeting people whose life tapestries  bore similar threads to our own, and the conversations flowed easily until it was time to walk over to Cha-Bella.

Walking across the squares of Savannah on a Saturday night is always pleasant, the city being full of students and their limitless energy. We passed some SCAD photography students lying across the sidewalk on their bellies shooting film for some project as if it was as normal as strolling.

Cha-Bella was warm and softly lit as we arrived.

For dinner we ordered the grouper special served with avocado slices over risotto, a plate of yellow-fin tuna, chicken breast braised in olive oil, and a breaded pork cutlet. I, myself, had a chance to sample both fish platters, and found myself wishing I had ordered the tuna, not that the grouper was lacking in merit. The darker flavors of the tuna were simply a better match for the Merlot accompanying the meal.

The meal was splendid, as was the company. Our conversations ranged from easy journeys and pleasant vacations to dead-stick landings and storms at sea, and from raising babies to the joys of the empty nest.

I hope we dine so well again soon!

— Elliott

‘The Dreaming Void’ , by Peter F. Hamilton – A Review

February 1, 2011

Actually, I’m only WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE of finishing this interesting book, which was a gift from one of my daughters more than a year ago.

While worthy and, as I said, interesting in many ways, it was not for me a compelling read.  Hamilton is gifted but seems to write without any discipline with regard to outlining his story arcs in advance of writing, or if he does so, it is not set out for the reader in any clearly discernible way.

However, his gifts and strengths are evident, and lie in his imagination, and the scope of the palette on which he builds his yarns.  His weakness is in launching so many story lines at once and flitting between them willy-nilly, so that most readers would be at a loss as to what the hell is going on, overall. And this is exacerbated by the action being spread over thousands (or is it hundreds of thousands?) of light-years of real estate, and an indeterminate amount of time, which could be as few as several Earth months, or as many as several Earth years, if we only had a clue as to where Earth stood in this panoply.

Having reported that I’m close to finishing this major work,  I must also sadly add that I have NOT a CLUE as to how anything will ultimately turn out. After reading almost 700 pages, I will only be in a good position to set out in the second tome of this TRILOGY.  And, being a bit cynical, I despair of knowing any much more at the end of the second book, should I venture on.

The damnable part of it is, I might keep reading anyway!  Although there are few characters and story lines I much care about, there are some which do interest me. Those are well drawn, inspired in their characteristics and adventures, and might just keep me going.

The best I can say of this series is that it would make great television, as it is drawn from a superior imagination, but expresses no clear notion of where it is going so far.  New television dramas never seem to suffer as much from a want of long-term story arcs. As sci-fi “popcorn for the mind”, ‘The Dreaming Void’ is very good. Among the great sci-fi novel-series, so far it can only be an also-ran.

In line to vote with Exxon and BP…

It was brought home to me today that it has been more than a year since the dreadful Supreme Court decision, ‘Citizens United v. The Federal Election Commission’.  A one-time friend from my youth whose present wrongheadedness in most things political does not border on, but rather EXCEEDS the utterly maniacal, took advantage, in a recent exchange, of gloating on the fact.

In trying to understand his position it occurred me that he had never in his adult life worked for anything but major corporations. I grimly predict that a day may arrive when his masters put him out to pasture, social security and medicare gutted, and his pension stolen outright, which might alter his views somewhat. Or not. His views are mighty extreme.

If you are groping here a bit as to what that Supreme Court case was about, here are the broad strokes. The five Republican judges appointed by Geo. W Bush carried a majority opinion that corporations should have the same freedom as individuals to practice “free speech”, which includes the freedom to unlimited investment of corporate assets and monies on political campaigns. It does not matter that the ownership of such corporations may be primarily foreign, or antithetical to what is best for our society at large, but only that they be licensed on United States soil.

Nor does it matter that, unlike individuals, they can never be held accountable for crimes against society in any meaningful way. You can’t incarcerate BP, as much as you may want to at times. But BP can certainly spend the dollars it takes to buy the election of your next senator or congressman, without regard to its lack of safety in its business practices.

None of this is particularly cheerful to contemplate.

My reply to my former friend included a caution that a populace disenfranchised from meaningful involvement in the selection of its government has an annoying tendency  of rising up, sooner or later. I further expressed my hope that this would not become necessary. The news from Cairo sounds just awful.

There are people who say it will take an amendment to the constitution to right this situation. Let’s start thinking about that instead!

Welcome to our blog portal….

Portal FlagThis is the blog portal serving our family server Swiftpassage. We reside on the Georgia coast, in view of the South Newport River. This space is intended to remind us of the virtue and satisfaction to be found in journaling, for our friends and children. Ann and I are pleased that you are visiting. Please leave comments, links, etc, and we will pass them on for the enjoyment of our other like-minded acquaintances.   Thank you for visiting!

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