29 January 2008

Follet is Back for Foreal

I'm usually wary of the sequel. It is so often a let down. The essence of the original is... well, original and it is that originality which makes it such a joy.

It is a rarity that I find a book that I enjoyed as much as The Pillars of the Earth. I suffered mixed emotions as I came to the end of the 1000 page masterpiece. On the one hand I wanted the thrills to go on. On the other hand I realized that reading an average of 150 pages/night left me feeling a little consumed (read: addicted).

I read Code to Zero, another Ken Follet novel, right after Pillars and I was left underwhelmed.

So I was inclined to chalk up Pillars to a fluke. Never-the-less, I approached the sequel, World without End, with an open mind. Another 1000 pager, it certainly had a little bit of a formulaic feel after Pillars, but it is much more than an attempt to ride the coattails of the first. It hit the spot like a fix just after rehab. Thanks, Ken... let's just not wait another 18 years for the next one, okay?

State of the Anachronism

The State of the Union address is a peculiar American tradition. Or, more aptly, a peculiar American law? After all it is required by Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution.

It is not quite a ceremony and not quite a speech. It is... an address. It is also really awkward, if you haven't noticed:

1. There are no, or very few surprises. The gist of the address is passed to the press beforehand. But unlike traditional ceremonies the verbatim script isn't available beforehand. As such...
2. The opposing party never quite knows when to applaud and when to moan. This is one of those events where you get judged not just on whether you clap or not but whether you stood to clap or yawned while clapping. You have to be on your toes, because...
3. The President uses turns of phrase to try to trick you into clapping, or by your not clapping, make you look insensitive. Since there is no rebuttal until after the entire speech is over and the President has signed 100 or more of those little pamphlets that don't close all the way, the attention depraved public sees only your immediate response to the Presidents remarks. You're either with him or against him.

So I've come up with a couple suggestions, especially if you are one of those important people that the camera pans to while the President talks about your issue:

1. Don't read the pamphlet. You look like you are either bored or sleeping.
2. Be prepared to clap. If you wait until everyone else on your side of the aisle starts, you look like a reactionary.
3. After the address, have your pamphlet ready and push your way to the ailse as the President leaves. Then go straight home to Ebay... wait there are already 100 of those things for sale. Darn it!

15 January 2008

Be specific, General general

I don't learn something new everyday. Today I did.

If you have 50 states, each with an Attorney General, you have 50 Attorneys General, not 50 Attorney Generals. I didn't realize until I heard "Attorneys General" on the radio today, that 'general' in this instance means the opposite of 'specific', not a military commander. I did know it was not a military post, but I always thought that it just had an antiquated name, perhaps because it was established back when the attorney was a general in the military or something. And that fact that we often talk about the Attorney General or the Surgeon General of the United States, there is no need to use the plural.

By the way, I saw someone smoking today... I wonder what past Surgeons General would have to say about that!