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Monthly Archives: April 2013


Book Series Review: The Belgariad and The Malloreon

Why, indeed.

Why, indeed.

I started reading the series in the late eighties, right in the midst of that pre-pubescent sweet spot where one instantly relates to fictional character one’s own age. Garion, the main protagonist of both of Eddings’ series, was about my age around when I was reading the first few books, so my identification with his rite of passage from scullery boy to adolescent had all the gravitational pull of an imploding star.

So, naturally, when I read through the series the second time around, it didn’t have quite the same impact, but it did trigger some memory of sentiment.

Besides that, there’s not much I want to go into too deeply here; there’s too much I could write about in one of the longest and best-selling fantasy series. The negative: Eddings tended to repeat himself, especially with individual dialogue. After a few books, when characters launch into dialogue you can easily predict where things are going. Not a fatal flaw by any means but it gets tiresome.

The positive: Eddings created one of the most realistic human-based world in existence. There are no elves, dwarves, or other variations of humanoid beings. There’s just humans of different races, each with their racial and cultural traits. Sure, there are monsters and there’s the fairy-like Dryads, but their presence is not central. Human societies, with all their quirks, cultural movements and interactions, and socio-political interplay, are explored in depth.

Interesting note: Eddings reportedly wrote all of his books by longhand. No typewriter or computer. It hurts my hand just to think about it.

The Belgariad, Vol. 1 – Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, Magician’s Gambit
The Belgariad, Vol. 2 – Castle of Wizardry, Enchanters’ End Game
The Malloreon, Vol. 1 – Guardians of the West, King of the Murgos, Demon Lord of Karanda
The Malloreon, Vol. 2 – The Sorceress of Darshiva, The Seeress of Kell
Belgarath the Sorcerer
Polgara the Sorceress
The Rivan Codex

Art by frozenneko.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein on Gay Marriage

Always with the tobacco.

Always with the tobacco.

Came across this one-two gem between Lewis and Tolkein, on Christianity Today: “Why C.S. Lewis Was Wrong on Marriage (and J.R.R. Tolkien Was Right).” And while it’s technically about divorce (their generation’s “gay marriage,” if you will), it still has similar applications.

That CT sided with Tolkein is no shocker—just look at the post title. CT’s reader base is evangelical-heavy, so any hint of straying from the default position on political issues is going to spark an unrelenting shipstorm of strongly worded emails.

Says Lewis:

Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is quite the different question-how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine.

My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognize that the majority of the British people are not Christian and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.

Part of Tolkein’s response. CT emphasized some of it but I’m too lazy to do the markup:

The horror of the Christians with whom you disagree (the great majority of all practicing Christians) at legal divorce is in the ultimate analysis precisely that: horror at seeing good machines ruined by misuse. I could that, if you ever get a chance of alterations, you would make the point clear. Toleration of divorce—if a Christian does tolerate it—is toleration of a human abuse, which it requires special local and temporary circumstances to justify (as does the toleration of usury)—if indeed either divorce or genuine usury should be tolerated at all, as a matter of expedient policy.

Under your limitations of space you have not, of course, had opportunity to elaborate your “policy”—toleration of abuse. … A Christian of your view is, as we have seen, committed to the belief that all people who practice “divorce”—certainly divorce as it is now legalized—are misusing the human machine (whatever philosophical defense they may put up), as certainly as men who get drunk (doubtless with a philosophic defense also). They are injuring themselves, other people, and society, by their behavior. And wrong behavior (if it is really wrong on universal principles) is progressive, always: it never stops at being “not very good,” “second best”—it either reforms, or goes on to third-rate, bad, abominable

I side with Lewis much more here, obviously, but what bothers me is that Tolkein (who described himself, philosophically at least, as a kind of anarchist) doesn’t connect “group of people x should” with “the government should”.

Maybe he had thought, as many other Christians do, that the use of the state is presumed. It’s my belief that the burden of proof lies on them: prove to me why the church at large needs to petition secularized, man-created entities that wield weapons as its distinctive feature to accomplish its goals, to accomplish her goals*.

* Offering “there have always been governments,” or “religious people have always been involved with governments” as arguments is not a good idea.

I’m Not a Foodie Food Review: AMRAP Bar

amrap_bar1

I wanted to try one of these because I’m usually not super hungry in the morning and it was more convenient than making something the night before (or the morning of). AMRAP bars are fairly new to the market and the ingredient list was attractive.

It’s very dense but chewy, not crumbly or crunchy. At 300 calories for a normal size bar it probably should be. There’s cinnamon in it, which is a spice that seems to dominate whatever it’s in, but then there’s some saltiness and sweetness. After my last bar I noticed the recipe is rather close to the energy bites that I make.

amrap_bar2

I’d consider making it a regular thing if the price went down some, although if you’re treating it as a meal, $3 a bar is comparable or cheaper than a fast food breakfast. A lot of people seem to agree as the Amazon reviews have it rated at 5 stars. I’d also like to know what in the world “AMRAP” means but I’ll let it slide for now.

Ingredient list: raw almond butter, unsweetened coconut, egg white protein powder, raw sesame seeds, raw almond chunks, raw honey, ground cinnamon, sea salt
Plus side: no jerky for all your vegetarian goofs (it has egg whites, sorry vegan goofs), raw food, nutrient dense
Minus side: no jerky, kinda pricey
Buy from: AMRAP, Amazon

Amazon’s New Book Cover Maker Might Invoke My Gag Reflex

Via mine own two eye-orbs and then Tobias Buckell here, Amazon hopes to make all those unedited conspiracy theory e-books look a little more credible.

More info here, but here’s a screenshot from that post:
amazon_book_cover_designer_i_stole_this

Eh. It’s a step forward from what amateur writer-cum-designer people can come up with, but nothing beats what professional designers can do, especially those that focus on book art and layout.

In my mind, I’m comparing this to a theoretical CD cover designer, which I have not come across but I’m sure exists somewhere, languishing from disuse now that digital media and Google images are normalized. Any band who is worth their weight in weird haircuts would not use a template for a CD cover.

A Bunch of Story Tweets from the Last Few Months

twitterMore here.

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