Friday, February 29, 2008

The Outback Stars - a second look

The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald

ISBN: 0-765-31643-9
Tor; April 2007

Imagine the far reaches of outer space, where settlers fleeing the debasement of earth have established new-born civilizations on pristine earth-like planets. Imagine the giant fleet ships, carrying supplies and more settlers, sailing the mysterious Alcheringa between planets. Imagine a space navy, where long stretches of routine tasks alternate with sudden, violent attacks by separatist factions.

Step into the cosmos as visioned by Sandra McDonald, a bright new star in the constellation of Science Fiction writers. Australians discovered the shortcut between planets, and named their subsequent discoveries after places from their native country. Did the same aliens who made the Alcheringa visit earth in its distant past? What connection does the Dreamtime and a mysterious aboriginal vision have with alien artifacts - or with our heroine?

I read The Outback Stars for a second time this week, and enjoyed it again. This is military science fiction as I've never quite experienced it before - a combination of the most gritty and realistic life-aboard-a-ship, with the kind of happenings that make one pinch oneself to see if one is dreaming. The fantastic married to the ordinary, the normal juxtaposed with unexpected violence and destruction, all melded smoothly together with a creamy prose that carries one through without a ripple.

The best part of The Outback Stars is its utter believability. Perhaps McDonald traveled through a time-warp and brought back a detailed description of what she saw. More likely, she draws on her own experience in the military. However she created it, The Outback Stars is a keeper, about to be joined by book two in the series: The Stars Down Under, coming March 18, 2008 from Tor.

If you like the works of David Weber or Elizabeth Moon, Viehl's Stardoc series or John Scalzi's Ghost Brigades trilogy, I think you will want to experience the universe according to Sandra McDonald.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"I" or "We"

I marked down how many times Hillary or Obama said "I" or "We" in their debate Tuesday night, and "I" was mentioned about four times more than "we" by Hillary, while Obama said "we" about four times more than "I".

At the close of the debate, Obama seemed to make an appeal for Democrats to stand united and support the party, regardless of who is the chosen candidate. His disputes with Hillary have all focused on differences in their legislative agendas, while hers have focused on personal attacks against him, questioning his honesty and mocking his rhetoric.

It is an encouraging sign of good things ahead that voters are overwhelmingly choosing the candidate who invites them to participate in the political process and who refuses to answer personal attacks with a personal attack.

I have hope that we could return to civil discourse and an electorate engaged in our government - but then, what could you expect: I'm one those "hopemongers" - and glad of it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Coming March 18 - The Translator a Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur

The Translator, A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
by Daoud Hari

ISBN 978-1-4000-6744-2
Random House; March 18, 2008

Daoud, a man who was born into the Zhagawa tribe in Darfur, has a story to tell. It is such an important story that he has walked with death as his companion, over and over again, to be able to tell it.

"I am dead, I am dead, this is how I died, it is not so bad, I was thinking, afraid to look down at my body because too many bullets were flying around for me still to be okay." (Page 56)

I have no story to tell here, only to convey to you if I can, why reading Daoud's story may be the most important thing you can do today, or this year. You may ask yourself, as I did, how could anyone possibly live with imminent death, and scenes of death around them. Hari gives a hint of it:

"The gun muzzle was hot against my temple. Had he fired it recently, or was it just hot from the sun? I decided that if these were about to be my last thoughts, I should try some better ones instead. So I thought about my family and how I loved them..." (Page 8)

Daoud has an exceptional gift for showing the reader his world as though they were walking in his shoes. His simple words struck so deeply into my heart, that I could only travel with him a few pages at a time. He committed himself to fight for the lives of his people with words at a time when his peers were trading their possessions for guns and joining a militia.

Daoud explains his motivation to keep on working to show the world what is happening in Darfur in the introduction to his book:

"If the world allows the people of Darfur to be removed forever from their land and their way of life, then genocide will happen elsewhere because it will be seen as something that works. It must not be allowed to work." (Page x)

Let Daoud explain in his own words why the atrocities in Darfur matter to you. He cannot fulfill his mission without you, his reader. Once I read The Translator, A Tribesman's Memoir, I saw that it is not happening "to them" "over there". It is happening here, to us.

We are all Zaghawa now.

For My Friend Jaye Patrick - I'm happy you asked

Jaye: And if he doesn't or can't do all this?

PandaBaby: Please watch this video. Barack doesn't claim he can - he believes we can. He has already mobilized the greatest force for change in American politics in my lifetime.

Jaye: Barack has been accused of talking a good game, but lacks the fundamental 'nitty-gritty' of how he's going to accomplish all he's proposed.

PandaBaby: Please read his books: The Audacity of Hope, or Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Read his policy papers. Consider that he will have a significant majority of Democrats in the House and Senate after the election, which will work with him to implement change.

Barack says we can do it by working together. I believe him because of the evidence of his life and because he is able to inspire, motivate and bring together people of all races and ages to work in his campaign.

I believe the evidence of his campaign, which has broken all records of Democratic voter turnout, raised more money than his opponents by individual donors giving small amounts - $10, $15, $25 - it's unprecedented. He walks his talk. He doesn't take money from Federally registered lobbyists. He's using the Internet to organize and unite people, multiplying the power of the individual in a thorough and accessible way never before seen in politics.

Jaye: I think he's going to need two terms to start change - given the American political system is a vast conglomeration of opposing interests.

PandaBaby: The opposing interests you mention are often the good of the people versus the interests of certain corporations which degrade our environment, treat the health of the community as a commodity for profit; which take American jobs overseas and which replace American workers with migrant workers. It's no coincidence that the powerful Teamsters Union endorsed Barack Obama today.

Jaye: He is taking on a job that's not for the faint of heart, or for those easy to manipulate (like the incumbent).

PandaBaby: I salute the courage of Barack and Michelle Obama.

Jaye: Worse, it's not just Americans who are watching and waiting...

PandaBaby: To want peace is not the same as being weak. It takes more strength to make peace than to make war. Let no one underestimate the ability and resolve of the American people as we work through this remarkable time of change - virtually a political metamorphosis, in our country.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An Answer for Silvergull

My friend Silvergull sent me an e-mail recently saying:

I read your blog about your change of politics. What
brought that on for you?

Here is my answer, copied from my post on my little corner of Obama's campaign website, just as these thoughts poured out...

Why I support Barack Obama:

Obama will effect needed change in Darfur and Iraq and other places of conflict. He will not pander to corporations over the interests of the environment or the people. He will pass a universal health plan that will have the support of the people, instead of one that is rammed down our throats.

Most of all because he will be the catalyst to bring all ages and races in this country together, instead of dividing us. He will work for fairness for the wage-earners, and stop corporations from stealing the retirement plans of their workers. Because he is the first Senator I have ever heard say that the American people should have the same health coverage that he has as a Senator, and that is something I have been saying for decades.

Because his personal experiences growing up and the experiences of his family make him uniquely qualified to understand many different kinds of people, and his work as a civil rights lawyer proves that he is devoted to the cause of fairness and justice for all. Because he is the first candidate I've ever heard speak who I can believe really means it when he says disabled people should have fair treatment - and I am disabled.

Especially because I believe he is the best hope for future generations in America to have a chance at the American Dream, to have a decent public education all the way through college, to have job opportunities with a livable wage for families. Because when he speaks, I know he is speaking his deepest dreams and feelings, and not just mouthing platitudes put together by pollsters and political speech writers.

Because his wife Michelle says he can admit when he is wrong and fix it, that he is a good husband and caring father, because I don't expect or want a Messiah, I just want a man that has a wife that says that like she says it.

Because I think he is the best choice to promote good legislation, put the bully pulpit of the presidency to the best and highest use, to achieve a well-organized and effective government, and to make treaties and if absolutely necessary, make war. Because I believe he will fulfill the many and demanding duties and roles of the president with a sincere and unfailing intention to work for the people, to the very best of his ability, and demand the same from all those he appoints to political office.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Reality check please!

I can appreciate that people can get carried away in their enthusiasm - it happens to me, too. And if you haven't seen an enthusiastic panda bear lately, you've missed a very funny spectacle.

So if people, including Hillary, refer to her run for the White House as if Bill is on the ticket too, I can understand why. Leaving Bill and his thirty-five years of experience out of the picture, Hillary may not look like such a strong candidate.

I just want people to notice they can check only one name on the ballot. No one can vote for "them" or for "Hillary and Bill" or even for "Billary". If she is elected and he gets tired of the game and divorces her, can the voters take back their vote? Can her supporters sue him and make him go back to live with her in the White House? What if fate steps in and Bill has a sudden illness or a heart attack? If he is incapacitated, does the Vice-President become President?

Fellow Democrats, please lets have a reality check, and vote for the one candidate who can inspire and unite our country, and we all know by now who that is.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Back to the Old Muckring Era of Journalism

Watching Lou Dobbs and Bill Schneider on CNN today made me understand we are back to the old Muckraking era of journalism. Or maybe I've been oblivious and we never really left it?

I was so appalled to hear and see two old white men - both award-winning journalists - try to rake up dirt on Barack Obama and his wife Michelle. What they were talking about had no "legs" as they say in the media: not any real substance beyond what they tried to manufacture.

I'm not even going to dignify their dirt with characterizing it beyond saying - it was muck. It wasn't even real muck - they made up the muck! And people that rake up muck are Muckrakers.

Lou and Bill. Muckrakers. Go figure.

If you liked TALYN, You'll love HAWKSPAR

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We Are All Zaghawa Now

The Translator, A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
by Daoud Hari

ISBN 978-1-4000-6744-2
Random House; March 18, 2008

I'm on page 103 of The Translator A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur, and something that has been nagging at the back of my mind finally came into focus.

The day after the attacks of 9-11, Jean-Marie Colombani, writing in the French newspaper, Le Monde, said "We Are All Americans Now". What a beautiful way for him to say that the world stood with us in our loss, our hurt.

I think we must all be Zaghawa now. Zaghawa, one of the many indigenous tribes of Darfur, is the tribe of Daoud Hari, author of The Translator. Hari, who used his literacy as a means to tell the story of his people, all the people of Darfur. Hari, who witnessed, and brought witnesses to testify to the horror, the genocide.

Hari is Zaghawa. We must all be Zaghawa now. We must use our literacy to witness, and bring other witnesses to the crimes in Darfur against women, against children, against humanity. We must bring witnesses until the whole world cries out: "No More!"

We Are All Zaghawa Now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Satire worth Watching

So first you have to see the Yes We Can song, to appreciate the satire, but here is a song for John McCain.

Do you think it will help him get elected?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Imitation - the sincerest form of flattery

Today, while watching for the returns from the Maine Democratic caucus, I sat through Hillary's latest stump speech, followed directly by McCain's latest stump speech. If they hadn't been right in a row, I might not have seen it as clearly, but it was startlingly obvious - the Republican front runner and the Democratic contender were both trying their best to sound like Barack Obama.

Barack's convincing and passionate speeches come from his own life, his experiences and his work as a Civil Rights attorney. His appeal comes from his sincerity: he is convinced of what he is saying, convinced from the deepest parts of his soul.

We can elect the real, genuine Obama. Yes We Can! We don't have to settle for a Hillary imitation of Obama or a McCain imitation of Obama.

Don't be fooled - go for the original, the unique and authentic candidate who offers us real change in Washington - "change we can believe in".

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Memoir of Darfur

The Translator, A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
by Daoud Hari

ISBN 978-1-4000-6744-2
Random House; March 18, 2008

Just arrived here yesterday, The Translator - A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur, to be released by Random House Publishing Group on March 18, 2008.

This will not be easy or pleasant to read, although some of the Early Reviewers who received their copy first have said that parts made them laugh, as well as parts that made them cry. I hope to read my copy tomorrow, and will post my review.

I requested Hari's memoir because I need to know what is happening in Darfur. Why isn't Darfur still in the headlines? The government of Sudan continues their long campaign against the indigenous people who have the misfortune to be living on oil-rich land. Barack Obama is our best hope for causing things to change for the better in Darfur. He has made the genocide that is occurring in Darfur an issue in his speeches. How can we possibly vote for anyone who can ignore it?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hope + Change = Barack Obama

A political pundit last night on CNN commented that Hillary must not only beat a strong candidate, but at the same time she must win against a movement, and that would be a more difficult campaign. I think he is right - Barack Obama is not just a candidate; he has started something that is moving on its own energy.

Here is the most beautiful music video I've ever seen, based on the movement of Hope and Change. Every time I watch Yes We Can I get goosebumps.

After a lifetime of voting Republican, I have been making phone calls for Barack Obama, donated money to his campaign, and I'm changing my party registration to Democrat. If you want to know why, do what I did - read his political and personal history and watch his speeches, and watch the video.

I want change, and now I have hope.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Twenty more

I made twenty more phone calls for Obama this evening. Most of the people I talk to are really nice. I think I can keep this up until the end of the campaign. Grass Roots politics indeed - I'm slowly turning green.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I Did It!

I made my first twenty phone calls for Barack Obama's campaign. Whew! Some supporters, some nice people, (a few not-so-nice) but I'm glad I made the effort. Want to make a difference? Go to Obama's website to see what you can do to elect change.

Barack Obama for President

Friday, February 1, 2008

Time for A Change

Who else watched the debate between Clinton and Obama last night on CNN? If you missed it, you can find the links to download a computer or an ipod version here, or watch a special replay, Saturday, beginning 7 p.m. ET, on CNN.

I voted Republican all my adult life, because the first time I could vote in a presidential election, the Democrats offered us George McGovern and radical changes in the party planks. I reluctantly voted for Nixon, and was justly rewarded with shame when his true colors were revealed in the Watergate scandal.

Although I was born a Democrat, the offspring of workingmen and farmers up the ages, I have a strong stubborn streak, and maybe I'm just a slow learner - for certain I am gullible! Although I distrusted Reagan's social policies on the poor and helpless (regard the mentally ill being turned out of mental hospitals under his watch as California Governor), I also was afraid of the Red Menace, and like most of my generation, was sure Reagan would keep us safe from communism. I was proud of Reagan's support of Lech Wałęsa and Poland's Solidarity movement early in his first term of office, but Reagan's busting of the air controller's union strike made me nervous, although I told myself it was for the good of the nation. Later the historic fall of the Berlin Wall crowned Reagan's second term and seemed to justify my choice, and I stayed loyal to the Reagan ticket, with Bush (Senior).

After eight years of Clinton, I was economically comfortable and philosophically miserable. I believed the Republicans promises of compassionate conservatism, and voted for Bush. I knew I made a very bad mistake when he started out by trashing the protections for the National Forests, and appointing the anti-environmentalist, Gale Norton, to guard them. Still, I had hope for Congress.

Hope withered, soured, and eventually turned into a belated but furious outrage. Cronyism put the country at risk with a dingbat lawyer in charge of the vital Federal Emergency Management Agency, and exacerbated the disaster after Hurricane Rita. Hypocrisy, which had railed for years at Democrat Barney Franks, turned a blind eye to Republican Congressman Mark Foley's pursuit of teenage boys serving as pages in the House and Senate. The 'compassionate' part of 'conservatism' got left behind in vote after vote, as did the children and old people, the poor people and the laborers. Even the middle class lost ground under Bush and the Republicans. Tax breaks favored the wealthiest people in the country, while the poor grew poorer. One began to think of the French nobility enjoying their delicacies and luxuries while the workers went hungry. Food banks reported record numbers of users.

The fight against terrorists threatened to become a suspension of basic human rights with torture at Guantanamo and at Abu Ghraib, and violations of our freedom in the U.S. with domestic spying. The list of women and children injured or killed in the our attacks against terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq grew every month, giving me nightmares. Could our military forces be incapable of differentiating between armed combatants and children? The incredibly high rate of suicide among our military at this time says they also think it is very wrong - so wrong they have to choose whether to live with themselves or their orders.

We voted Democratic at the last election and helped put the Democrats in control of the Senate and the House. The Republicans might as well save their breath and their money in this presidential race: it is only a question of whether Hillary or Barack will be the next President. The only people left to vote Republican are such a minority in our country, that I think the Democrats will win with a landslide as great or greater than that of Reagan in his first term, and it is going to be a very cold day in Hell before another Republican sits in the White House.

The Republican's conservative movement is intellectually and morally bankrupt. They have have betrayed the trust of people who will not forget.