April 8th, 2004

count, ten, 10-A

Ten random things: April 8

Ten recent articles from The New Republic Online:

  1. "Distant Relations" by Tim Luckhurst
  2. "Nota Bene" by Spencer Ackerman
  3. "Brooks Shield" by Noam Scheiber
  4. "The Surrogates" by Reihan Salam
  5. "Same Motown Song" by David Kusnet
  6. "All Bark, No Bite"
  7. "Departmentalism" by Spencer Ackerman
  8. "All Talk" by Jason Zengerle
  9. "Unionize" by Robert Lane Greene
  10. "Red All Over" by Jonathan Cohn
  • Current Music
    Leonard Cohen - "Closing Time"

(no subject)

I'm a big fan of Tony Hillerman's Navajo mysteries, but I was a little disappointed with his most recent, The Sinister Pig, which I finished last night. I read these books mostly because I like the main characters, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee (and, in more recent books, Bernadette Manuelito, who is my mystery novel girlfriend), and one big problem with The Sinister Pig is that these three characters are absent from at least a quarter of the book. There are two long chapters toward the end that focus entirely on the bad guy and his henchman, and while the latter is an intriguing character (who I would not be at all surprised to see again if Hillerman writes more novels in this series), I didn't buy the book to read about him. I want to read about Leaphorn and Chee and Manuelito and Cowboy Dashee and Professor Louise Bourbonette and the other recurring characters Hillerman has developed over the course of seventeen novels.

Also, the mystery in The Sinister Pig was not particularly suspenseful and was therefore fairly unsatisfying. We learn early on who's behind the murder that occurs at the end of the first chapter, and it's understood in a broad sense what his motivation was, so the only thing left to be uncovered was the specific details of the criminal enterprise that he was organizing. And everything seemed a bit too contrived, even by mystery novel standards. I think writers ought to be allowed one major coincidence per book. So having established at the end of the last book that Bernie Manuelito was leaving the Navajo Tribal Police, it was acceptable for Hillerman to give her a new job that just happened to place her in a geographically convenient locale. That's your one coincidence, and that means you can't use another one without straining credulity. Unfortunately, Hillerman uses several more, leading to a dénouement that is rather implausible.

Lastly, The Sinister Pig contains very little of the local color and insights into Navajo culture I've come to expect from Hillerman. Of course, much of this novel takes place off the reservation, so perhaps that's to be expected. But couldn't we have read more about the all-Indian Border Patrol unit to which Manuelito was assigned, or about how she felt about living and working so far from her own tribe? I think so.

Nevertheless, as a fan of this series, I still liked it. That's because, as I said before, I care more about the personal lives of the characters than anything else. So how can I not like a novel that's as much about the relationship between Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito as about anything else? How can I not chuckle at Chee expressing mock surprise at Leaphorn pulling out a map to put all the pieces together, or at Cowboy Dashee's good-natured insults about the Navajo? As indicated above, I would have liked to see more of all the regular characters, but what there is is cherce.

Bottom line, if you're a fan of Hillerman, you'll probably like The Sinister Pig even while finding it somewhat unsatisfying on certain levels. But I wouldn't recommend it to someone who isn't already very familiar with the characters
  • Current Music
    Plain White Ts - "All Your Fault"

A modest proposal concerning elevators

I work on the sixth floor of my office building, so as you might imagine I use the elevator pretty frequently. One of my pet peeves is how other people who use the elevator will sometimes want to go to a different floor than I. This is particularly irksome when someone gets on the elevator after I've already pressed the button for the sixth floor. I was the first one on the elevator, and yet I'm going to be the last one to reach the floor of my choice. How is that fair?

Actually, it's not just a question of fairness; it's a question of energy efficiency. Obviously it takes more energy to lift an elevator car than it does to control its descent, so it seems to me that the logical, conservation-minded thing to do would be to go to the highest floors first, then work back down to the ground floor. Think about it. If an elevator has to stop at the third and the sixth floors, the lift mechanism has to do twice as much work as if it went straight to the sixth, because it has to overcome the inertia of the stopped car twice. Isn't it more reasonable to exert that force just once, and then let gravity share the effort of getting the car back to the third floor?
  • Current Music
    U.S. Navy Band - "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" (arr. Claude T. Smith)

A flaw in the plan

As I left my office this evening, I realized that my elevator proposal failed to address the vexing problem of getting on the elevator on the top floor and having to stop on the way down to pick up another passenger. And unfortunately, I see no easy way around the problem. This business of passing off one's self-interest as a public good is trickier than I thought.
  • Current Mood
    irritated irritated
community, tv

(no subject)

According to my TiVo, I am at this very moment watching a new episode of Wonderfalls. My TiVo is a dirty rotten liar.
  • Current Music
    The Swan

(no subject)

Having twice today complained about having to share elevators with people, I suppose I should point out that today is Maundy Thursday, on which day Christians such as myself are charged to remember Christ's last, greatest commandment to his disciples. From the Gospel According to John, chapter 13, verses 1-17 and 31-35:

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."

Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head

Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, "Where I am going, you cannot come.'

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Even if you don't believe that Jesus was the son of God, why not take a moment to visit The Hunger Site? Just one click supports the hunger relief efforts of Mercy Corps and America's Second Harvest. Thanks!

  • Current Music
    The Simpsons - "Children of a Lesser Clod"