June 30, 2004
June 29, 2004
June 28, 2004
From James Hershberg in yesterday's Washington Post, an interesting if hurried analysis of how Ronald Reagan didn't singlehandedly bring down the Soviet Union:
Just Who Did Smash Communism? Ronald Reagan's policies surely contributed to the dissolution of the Kremlin's empire, culminating in the 1989 anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe and the breakup of the Soviet Union two years later. But for the media and Reagan's hagiographers to give the 40th president all the credit is like saying a late-inning relief pitcher had "won" a baseball game without mentioning the starting pitcher, the closer or the teammates who scored the runs that gave the team its lead. [full story]In fact, as I was just opining yesterday to my friend Ron, the article identifies Gorbachev as the most critical figure, though hardly the only factor.
Related question: How long are the damn flags going to stay at half-mast? Is this usual when former presidents die?
June 25, 2004
June 24, 2004
If you haven't yet, read British writer Elena Lappin's distressing Guardian account of being detained at LAX as a foreign reporter without a proper journalist visa:
Welcome to America Before I could approach to observe them [examining the luggage], the officer who had originally referred me to his supervisor was unzipping my suitcase and rummaging inside. For the first time, I raised my voice: "How dare you touch my private things?"Why is it that I find this as easy to believe as I do appalling?
"How dare you treat an American officer with disrespect?" he shouted back, indignantly. "Believe me, we have treated you with much more respect than other people. You should go to places like Iran, you'd see a big difference." The irony is that it is only "countries like Iran" (for example, Cuba, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe) that have a visa requirement for journalists. It is unheard of in open societies, and, in spite of now being enforced in the US, is still so obscure that most journalists are not familiar with it. Thirteen foreign journalists were detained and deported from the US last year, 12 of them from LAX....
During my surreal interlude at LAX, I told the officer taking my fingerprints that I would be writing about it all. "No doubt," he snorted. "And anything you'll write won't be the truth." [full story]
(Thanks to Geoff Landis for the link.)
So way back in the mists of time I was engaged to a girl I'll call Katrina, because that's how I refer to her in my memoir. Katrina and I have stayed in touch all these years, and she now lives in Connecticut with her second husband, a Dutch chemist nine years her junior (go, Katrina!) whom I'll call Gerrit.
Laura and I had a holiday party back in December, and Katrina and Gerrit drove down from Connecticut for it. It was the first time I'd met Gerrit.
About an hour into the party, Gerrit came sauntering into the group I was chatting with, drunk off his ass, and said, "You know what I just found out that I didn't know before? I found out in the car on the way down here. This guy here"he indicated me"he used to be engaged to my wife."
I looked around at the group and said, "Well, this is awkward."
"Yeah, he like got engaged to her at some airport," said Gerrit.
I had been about to leave on a two-year Mormon mission. I was hoping Katrina would wait for me.
"That was a very long time ago," I said. "We were kids. I was nineteen."
"Yeah, and she was twenty."
"Time to change the subject, Bill," said bobhowe. "You're only digging yourself deeper."
"Can you believe this?" Gerrit said. "I only just found out. That's a pretty big thing."
"Not really," I said. "To Mormons, getting engaged is like a pastime. It's a sport. It's not the same as for other people."
"You know what else I found out? There was something about a ring, this ring, made out of wrapping paper?"
I look around the group again. "Foil. It was the foil from a stick of chewing gum."
"Yeah, yeah, that was it. And you know what? She still has it. She still has that ring."
I tried not to look as floored I felt. "That's nothing, Gerrit," I said. "I still have the gum."
For a second there, Gerrit looked like he believed me. Then everyone laughed good-naturedly, and he did too, and that seemed to defuse things. But later that evening he was wandering around the party pulling up his shirt to show people his tattoo. Poor guy.
June 23, 2004
A courier just brought me a box from Barnes & Noble containing two copies of The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-first Annual Collection. It's not in stores yetat least, not at the B&N I checked before work this morningbut the warehouse apparently has them already.
I'm rather beside myself to report that, besides reprinting my story "Strong Medicine," Gardner also listed a full five of my other stories in the Honorable Mentions list. I didn't even realize I'd published that many stories last year!
(Actually, I didn't, but he's including my contribution to Beyond the Last Star, which came out late in 2002.)
So here's to 2003, a very good year!