Eats, Shoots and Leaves

   11 August 2004, late afternoon

Eats, Shoots and Leaves was a pleasure to read. Lynne Truss has done an incredible job at making punctuation, a dry subject if there ever was one, interesting. The book is at its core Truss’ lamentation on the sorry state of the English language. The book begins with a lengthy introduction in which Truss makes a reasonable case for trying to save the written English language from its seemingly inevitable decline into instant-messenger-speak. The following chapters outline the proper usage of various punctuation marks, providing history and humour along the way.

The big final rule for the comma is one that you won’t find in any books by gammarians. It is quite easy to remember, however. The rule is: don’t use commas like a stupid person.

I would hope I have learnt something from the book, but frankly I have my doubts. The book is not a style guide, but does do a good job at outlining how to write properly. Eats, Shoots and Leaves was a lot easier to get through then Elements of Style. In fact, I imagine it is a lot easier to get through then most style guides.

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All The Shah's Men

    3 August 2004, late afternoon

All The Shah’s Men is a well written account of the recent history of Iran, though the book provides a good background on Iran for those like me who do not know any of the countries history. The focus of the book is on the events leading up to the US led coup of 1953 that removed the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replaced him with Mohammed Reza Shah. For those who are unaware, Reza Shah ruled Iran like a tyrant for the better part of 20 years before the Islamic Revolution swept the country.

The British, with their very profitable Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, were naturally upset when a fiercely nationalist prime minister came to power and declared that the exploitation of Iran’s oil by a foreign power would no longer be tolerated. The British were interested in taking military action in Iran to get back what they felt was rightly theirs. (Never mind that during this very same period of time Britain was busy nationalizing many of its own industries.) President Truman had the foresight to see that such an action in Iran would have grave consequences. While in power he would not support any such action taken by the British.

The British were lucky that with the arrival of the republican Eisenhower as the president, the United State’s foreign policy would shift so dramatically. The British wanted oil, the United States wanted a world safe from what they saw at the Soviet threat. The British convinced the United States that Mossadegh could not stop the Soviets if they rose up. This was enough for the United States to get the CIA to work on a plan to remove Mossadegh from power. 1953 would mark the first time the United States overthrew a government it was unhappy with.

The following year an international oil consortium would assume control of Iranian oil interests. Ironically, the name the consortium operated under was, National Iranian Oil Company, the name Mossadegh gave to his newly created nationalized oil company. Anglo-Iranian Oil Company would also change its name to British Petroleum. You can see BP pumps all over Britain.

If you are at all interested in politics and history, I really recommend you check this book out. The anti-American sentiment one finds in the Middle-East has its roots in Iran, and the actions the US took there. To understand the Middle-East one needs to understand the West’s involvement in the region. Had the US not intervened in Iran, would the country have experienced the Islamic Revolution of 1979? And if not for the Islamic Revolution, and the fundamentalism that came with it, what would the world look like today?

The year following the coup in Iran, the CIA would orchestrate a a coup in Guatemala to oust President Jacobo Arbenz. The United States would orchestrate such coups all over the world. The US has a long history of supporting tyrants and dictators so long as they were not communist tyrants and dictators. The United States did win the cold war, but at what cost?

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More Opinions on Quicksilver

    7 June 2004, terribly early in the morning

I loiter all day, every day. You may have noticed as much if you follow this blog closely, as all I post now are my not-quite-reviews of movies. Some people get frustrated with the lack of something to do—i.e Steph. I am quite the opposite, I enjoy having absolutely nothing to do, it is very relaxing.

I don’t do absolutely nothing of course. Besides all my movie watching, I have been reading Quicksilver, Neal Stephensons new book. I can’t say I like Quicksilver as much as Cryptonomicon, which I highly recommend, but I can say that Quicksilver is still quite good. The novel itself is split into three books. The second of the books has been quite funny so far, and a lot more enjoyable to read then the first book, though it features a lot less of the geekary Stephenson is famous for.

One thing that pisses me off is the vocabulary of the book. I won’t pretend to have a stellar vocabulary, but I can honestly say Stephenson is pulling words out of his ass. I’ve never had to look up words in a dictionary so often in all my life. I feel like he is just showing off his command of a thesaurus. The other problem I have with the book is that it is quite hard to keep track of the characters in the story, and what they have done so far. The story in Cryptonomicom jumped around a lot as well, but it was quite easy to keep track of who was who. In Quicksilver, characters may go by many different names, and several characters go by the same name. It makes for a lot of Confusion. Quicksilver is definitely a very challenging book to read.

I’m typing this up at 3:30 in the morning, because I feel like I need to insert a post that isn’t a movie review in between what will probably be another string of movie review posts.

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Origins

   12 December 2003, mid-afternoon

I finally finished my Wolverine origin story graphic novel, appropriately enough entitled Origins. An interesting story, no doubt. I enjoyed the comic. I recommend it to x-men fans, as it explains quite clearly how wolverine came to be wolverine. It’s very much out of left field.

I once had a dream, so I packed up and split for the city.

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