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Entertainment in the Time of Pestilence

About two weeks ago (as you read this column), just as the coronavirus lockdown was beginning, I decided I needed a break from anything too contemporary, and to watch something “historical” for entertainment. I picked re-watching World Without End, the mini-series based on the novel by Kenneth Follett.

I wound up laughing at myself. It had been almost ten years since I had read the novel, and seven or eight since I watched the series. I had forgotten that a large part of the story deals with how the principal characters dealt with the Bubonic Plague of the mid 1300s.

Book Review: The Zero Blessing by Chris Nuttall

I read more science fiction than fantasy, but my family has seen all of the Harry Potter books more than once. The Zero Blessing has echoes of Harry Potter, but it is very different from the main characters to the world-building to the central plot.

The Paranoid Squint of Tim Powers

Tim Powers is my literary hero. He creates secret histories in which historical events are “explained” through fictional embellishments which completely alter history’s meaning. Secret histories have been written by Alexandre Dumas, Gore Vidal, Umberto Eco, and they are especially associated with genre writers like Elizabeth Bear, Steve Berry, and above all, Tim Powers.

Powers’ approach is rigorous. He never allows his fiction to contradict any known historical fact (and he knows a lot). He does, however, allow his fictional additions to make full use of magical and science fictional elements.

A Podcast Review: Raven 23: Preparing for a Pardon

There has been an attempt, of sorts, in recent years to rehabilitate the reputation of four men: Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard, Nicolas Slatten, and Paul Slough. Even if you don’t know their names, you may recall the company they worked for – Blackwater Worldwide – and their connection to the 2007 deaths of fourteen Iraqis at Nisour Square in Baghdad. In 2014, after a drawn-out legal proceeding, the four were convicted and sentenced to prison.

Defenders of the foursome have, since their conviction, appeared in media outlets like Fox News or The Daily Mail, along with other, more conservative leaning media outlets like The Blaze Radio Network, The Cato Institute, and the website of former Representative Allen West. They’ve even received support from David French in the pages of National Review. This rehabilitation effort has branched out in recent months in the form of a podcast called Raven 23: A Presumption of Guilt.

Book Review: Neil Gorsuch’s A Republic, If You Can Keep It

Wanted: Civics and Civility

If we are fortunate, the Civil War will be the last time we face destruction by a fire set with our own hands. The threat is now dry-rot, that spreads like a fungus from our lack of understanding of our nation’s fundamental principles, and the lack of communication skills needed to convey them to our fellow citizens. A Republic, If You Can Keep It by Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch is a plea on both counts.

Book Review: Mistress of the Waves

Amanda Kirasdotr, the main character, grew up on the colony world of Goddard. Enough time has passed that her people are natives of the world and generations behind Earth in technology. It makes the interstellar visitors an incredible novelty, though they have little interest in the colonists. That is, until Amanda saves on who had the misfortune of going sailing without knowing how to swim on a world that lacks the many safety systems they’re accustomed to. This one act turns her life upside down, and it may change her world. And that is the beginning of the book Mistress of the Waves by George Phillies.

Taking Ramy Youssef to Task for His Depressing Hulu Sitcom

Most of my writing these days focuses on Islamist groups in Southern California and the country at large, however sometimes it intersects with popular culture, as it does with my newest piece, published yesterday at PJ Media, Golden Globe-Winner Ramy Youssef’s Muslim Family Sitcom More Tragedy than Comedy

Opportunities Taken and Opportunities Missed in The Morning Show

A lawyer’s perspective

I watched the episodes of The Morning Show with interest and a great deal of admiration for the performances of Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Anniston. I read Tom Weiss’ review of the show  here with interest and pleasure.

Because I don’t disagree with the Weiss review in broad outline, I’m not lodging a dissenting opinion. But I do want to talk about opportunities missed as well as opportunities taken in the production, because there were some.

I can’t help but bring to the show my experience over thirty-plus years with sexual harassment claims. I have defended them, “prosecuted” them, mediated them, investigated them, and served as arbitrator in cases where sexual harassment was part of the mix of claims. I’ve conducted training in how to prevent such claims.

Rereading My Favorite Novel: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History

In 2019 I read again my favorite novel The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The experience only hardened my adoration of this book. It’s so full of wonderful descriptions and crazy characters.

Review: Apple+’s The Morning Show

In the first episode of The Morning Show, Apple’s stunning initial foray into scripted television, a conservative small-town Virginia reporter named Bradley Jackson – played to near perfection by Reese Witherspoon – tells her producer, “The truth is the truth whether you’re writing for The Bumf%*$ Gazette or the New York Times.

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