What are you reading?

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Warren
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Warren »

Jason wrote:
Andrew wrote:The two Dirk Gently books are on sale together for $2 for the Kindle version.
A link would be nice.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Hugh Akston »

Warren wrote:
Jason wrote:
Andrew wrote:The two Dirk Gently books are on sale together for $2 for the Kindle version.
A link would be nice.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by dbcooper »

Hugh Akston wrote:
Warren wrote:
Jason wrote:
Andrew wrote:The two Dirk Gently books are on sale together for $2 for the Kindle version.
A link would be nice.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

Last night I watched Dr. Strangelove for the nth time, then re-read the novelization for the first time since IIRC I was an undergrad. (The movie was originally based on a serious, dramatic novel written by Peter George; then, during the filming, Kubrick decided the subject matter worked better as a black satire than a straightforward drama. George was not initially happy with Kubrick's decision, but nonetheless agreed to write the movie novelization.)

The book has several noticeable differences from the movie, and I wonder how much of that was George's decision, versus how much indicates changes Kubrick made throughout the course of the filming. For example, I recall reading that Kubrick initially filmed the movie with the president suffering from a bad cold, but changed his mind (though if you pay very careful attention, you can find one or two scenes where the president does indeed suffer cold symptoms, since Kubrick didn't completely follow through on that edit); however, in the book the president is sick as a dog throughout. Also, the book is bookended by mentions of outer-space aliens, who found this odd story on a formerly inhabited planet called Earth; I don't know if that was a movie leftover, or George's own invention.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

Re-reading for the first time in over a decade This Perfect Day by Ira Levin (of Rosemary's Baby fame). It's his attempt to write a sci-fi futuristic dystopia, and is more like Brave New World than 1984 -- control is maintained not through pain, fear and brutality, but with drugs and a cloying, control-freak kind of "love." I'm currently about halfway through it, and there are many scenes I'd completely forgotten about (though I do recall it has a "happy" ending in that the plucky protagonist eventually succeeds in joining a successful resistance movement which destroys the single gigantic computer that controls everyone and everything in the world).

No surprise why this book is little-remembered today, though, and will not make it into the pantheon of classic dystopian novels--it feels very dated now. If you read it for the first time, without having any idea who wrote it or when, it would still be very obvious that this was written during the "peace and love" hippie era.
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Re: What are you reading?

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Jennifer wrote:(though I do recall it has a "happy" ending in that the plucky protagonist eventually succeeds in joining a successful resistance movement which destroys the single gigantic computer that controls everyone and everything in the world)
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jason »

Jennifer wrote: If you read it for the first time, without having any idea who wrote it or when, it would still be very obvious that this was written during the "peace and love" hippie era.
Have you ever read 2150 AD by Thea Alexander? :lol:
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

Jason wrote:
Jennifer wrote: If you read it for the first time, without having any idea who wrote it or when, it would still be very obvious that this was written during the "peace and love" hippie era.
Have you ever read 2150 AD by Thea Alexander? :lol:
Haven't heard of it. Some of the Amazon reviews make me suspect I wouldn't want to, either ....
Not so coincidentally I found this book in the discard bin at a local library... As an avid book collector in the "esoteric" or more spiritual types of literature I could not pass up the opportunity to take the "freebee" home despite that it wasn't normally what I would have picked up. I was quite surprised to find an absolutely readable and enlightening book which I could not put down....In all the materials I have studied I believe this book is one of the top 10 for understandable and practical spirituality that could apply to anyone of any faith. In fact, the best part is that it had nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with the soul of every person. Well worth more than one read....Hope to see some reprints and other books by this author.
Bleah. That said, if I see a copy selling for cheap on one of my secondhand-book-shopping forays, I might pick it up. [That's what happened with This Perfect Day; I had a paperback copy as an undergrad, got rid of it at some point, but then, when Jeff and I went to some local charity's annual book sale a few months ago, I found a hardcover copy with dust jacket for only a dollar.]

Finished reading it last night; I get the impression Levin lifted many of his ideas from Huxley -- the islands where people who don't fit in with the main society can live, the idea that people who achieve a certain level of success in rebelling against the system are invited to become one of the World Controllers (or "programmers," in Levin's book), the combination of drugs and genetic engineering to keep everyone complacent and contented with their lot, even the idea that everybody is pretty much free of disease--until around age 60, when you just up and die.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by incidental otter »

thoreau wrote:I'm reading The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu, the sequel to The Three-Body Problem. The dialogue is worse than the previous book...if I make it through this book, it may be the last Liu work that I read.

Unforgivable science error: Lenses on a space telescope? Seriously? Mirrors, biatch!

Finally, they're selecting 4 leaders to coordinate a strategy of massive deception and evasion to defend earth against a technologically superior foe. I get why they chose the Venezuelan leader who won a guerrilla war, and I accept that Luo Ji was chosen because something something plot. But the Defense Secretary, for all of his insight into asymmetric tactics, is still used to leading a superior force, and the EU President is a politician. I would have replaced them with an Afghan or Chechen warlord and a drug cartel boss. The Afghan or Chechen warlord is an expert on defeating technologically superior foes, and the drug cartel boss would understand the deception and low-tech information security protocols needed to evade the Trisolarans.
Just finished this last night.

My take on the dialogue stems from the fact that - as a kid in the 80s - I used to religiously watch "Kung Fu Theater" on USA network. The translated dialog of those old chopy-socky flicks sounds EXACTLY like Liu's conversations. As I read, my mind's eye helpfully provided me with images of the characters dressed in silk robes, and medieval rural Chinese settings. Given that the first half of the book was a bit slow, this became a feature, not bug.

Agreed that the book picks up at the end, to the point of being almost poetic in the final paragraphs. Definitely made the slog of the first half worth-while.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Eric the .5b »

The dialogue was a pain for me in The Three Body Problem. Less so during the flashbacks to the Cultural Revolution.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by thoreau »

Death's End is pretty sound. The author has a long track record prior to this trilogy, so I wonder if it is really a problem with his writing or a problem with the translators. The second book only gets good in the second half. And the first and third books are translated by the same guy, so I wonder if each translator just needed time to get the hang of this writer.

Sent from a phone so their may be speling errors and autocorrect snafu's.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by dbcooper »

thoreau wrote:Death's End is pretty sound. The author has a long track record prior to this trilogy, so I wonder if it is really a problem with his writing or a problem with the translators. The second book only gets good in the second half. And the first and third books are translated by the same guy, so I wonder if each translator just needed time to get the hang of this writer.

Sent from a phone so their may be speling errors and autocorrect snafu's.
I've seen a few critical opinions that the translation was poor.
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Andrew
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Andrew »

This article reminded me of something I wanted to write up.

My brother sent me a copy of Against Civilization, which is an anthology of essays and excerpts edited by John Zerzan. I think Zerzan has come up around here before since he's a prominent (the most prominent?) anarco-primitivist and pretty much insane.

I'm not entirely sure why my brother sent it to me. He delights in the grotesque more than I do, so it's possible that he sent it to me because he thinks the contents are nonsense and he wants me to laugh at them. Or maybe because he thinks my anti-state views are funny and is mocking me by comparing them to those in this book. Or for some other inscrutable reason.

Anyway, the whole thing is infested with Marxism and Malthusian thinking. A few of the essays are so jargon-heavy that they're incomprehensible.

A few things worth noting:

1. Many essays reference the number of "Golden Age" myths that exist in many societies, and use that to draw the conclusion that the Golden Age must have truly existed. I guess this is also proof that some sort of afterlife exists.

2. There are multiple claims that primitive societies had much better health than civilized ones, and that bad teeth, bad eyesight, painful childbirth, etc. are all unknown among truly uncivilized peoples. The citations for this notion are... scant (like most claims in the essays).

2a. On the topic of "truly uncivilized peoples," the essays are all loaded with No True Scotsman fallacies. Basically, take the usual argument about how "pure communism has never really existed" and replace communism with "primitive people unpolluted by some type of civilization."

3. The various authors tend to group all Native American tribes together, which results in lots of questionable conclusions. I imagine the ratio of leisure time to food gathering was much more favorable to the Pacific Northwest tribes than it was for the desert Southwest tribes. Also, since the tribes didn't have written language, drawing detailed conclusions about power structures and equality is fantasy at best.

4. There is a common thread that warfare and violence is only a civilized thing, and that truly primitive people don't have it. Even without going all Steven Pinker, this is hilarious nonsense.

5. One of the better points (if not only good point) made by an essay is that the popular conception of Paleolithic times is grossly distorted, and comparing that distortion to 21st century medicine and American quality of life isn't apples to apples given the long history of ugly "civilization" that happened on the way.

At the end of it all, my takeaway from the linked article and the collection of essays is that the ultimate conclusion (usually unspoken) of this type of thinking is always "and that's why 5.5 billion people need to die." Sorry, no sale.
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Re: What are you reading?

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Ahahahah zerzan.

Reading 33 1/3 book on selected ambient works 2. Good stuff.
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Re: What are you reading?

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Andrew wrote:2. There are multiple claims that primitive societies had much better health than civilized ones, and that bad teeth, bad eyesight, painful childbirth, etc. are all unknown among truly uncivilized peoples. The citations for this notion are... scant (like most claims in the essays).
Jeeeeezus. There is, perhaps, a tiny undigested corn-kernel of truth to be found among the bullshit of those first two claims -- studies of old skeletons' jaws show that tooth decay wasn't much of a problem for ancient peoples (apparently the bacteria which cause tooth decay particularly thrive on sugar, which was largely absent from everybody's diet until a few centuries ago), and also nearsightedness wasn't nearly as common as it is today (theory being that much modern nearsightedness is caused by people spending large chunks of their lives either reading books or watching TV/computer screens -- in other words, spending large amounts of time with their vision focused on a relatively small fraction of a full 360-degree vision field), but the idea that painful childbirth is a recent innovation doesn't even pass the smell test. What -- pre-civilized women had noticeably wider pelvises combined with pre-civilized newborns having noticeably smaller heads? Modern life makes women have smaller hipbones?

Does that book make an excuse for why the writers of Genesis (where painful childbirth is mentioned as God's punishment for Eve eating the apple) weren't really "civilized," or does he not mention that at all?
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Re: What are you reading?

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I've got two new (well, secondhand) books which I've been thumbing through rather than reading cover-to-cover: Eating for Victory and Make Do And Mend, both with forwards by British historian Jill Norman. They're reproduction-collections of booklets the British government published during World War Two, offering tips on how to get the most out of the extremely limited rations available at the time -- as the names suggest, Eating For Victory is all about how to get the most out of the food rations, and Make Do And Mend focuses mainly on the even more limited clothing ration, though with some information about how to get the most out of other super-limited items (especially heating/cooking fuel, but also providing simple fixes such as how to mend a broken saucepan, fix a table or chair leg, and things like that).

Of course everyone knows wartime Britons were very deprived by modern standards, but these books drive home just how deprived they were. MDAM has one heartbreaking pamphlet called "After The Raid," providing information on how to get extra ration coupons to replace clothing, basic furniture and other household essentials after your possessions have been destroyed in a bombing raid.

My chief complaints about EFV are: it's not a complete collection of wartime pamphlets -- the pamphlets are in numerical order starting with number 11 (I'd love to see the first ten as well), and there's no recipe index in the back. Also, both books have a table of contents but they're not super-useful since the pages themselves are not numbered.

By modern American standards I'm super-frugal, but by British wartime standards I'm not just wasteful, but criminally so -- for instance, when I make toast for sandwiches, the particular brand of bread I use happens to produce a lot of crumbs when eaten toasted, and I scrape those crumbs down the garbage disposal, in addition to the bread crusts which I cut off because I plain don't like them. But I recall reading (not in these books) about a certain aristocrat, Lady So-and-So, who was given a hefty fine after ordering her maid to toss breadcrumbs to birds in her yard. (Not bread crusts; bread crumbs.) In wartime Britain, I suppose I'd eat the crusts and save those crumbs to top a casserole or thicken a soup or something. The other day, Jeff pan-fried some frozen pierogies for dinner and then we discarded the used frying oil, which would've been impossible back then -- the amount of oil we tossed was probably equal to or greater than an entire week's cooking-fat ration for one adult.

EDIT: Corrected first link, which originally led to the "wrong" edition of the book.
Last edited by Jennifer on 18 Feb 2017, 20:04, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What are you reading?

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Jennifer wrote:My chief complaints about EFV are: it's not a complete collection of wartime pamphlets -- the pamphlets are in numerical order starting with number 11 (I'd love to see the first ten as well),
Correction: there are certain pamphlets whose first page has a thick black bar all along the left side, labeled "Ministry of Food Pamphlet number [whatever]" -- those are the pamphlets in numerical order starting with 11. But as I go through this book, I see other places where, at the bottom of a page, it'll say something like "Wartime leaflet #35." So I have no idea how many such booklets were actually produced during the war, nor how many are in this book compared to the total number produced.

Rationing in Britain started in 1940 and wasn't fully lifted until 1954 (and in many ways, postwar rationing was even worse, because Britain was also feeding Germany and other former-Axis nations as well). Ugh. I can barely imagine how awful it must've been to live such a dull and constricted material existence for fourteen years.
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Re: What are you reading?

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Jennifer wrote:
Jennifer wrote:My chief complaints about EFV are: it's not a complete collection of wartime pamphlets -- the pamphlets are in numerical order starting with number 11 (I'd love to see the first ten as well),
Correction: there are certain pamphlets whose first page has a thick black bar all along the left side, labeled "Ministry of Food Pamphlet number [whatever]" -- those are the pamphlets in numerical order starting with 11. But as I go through this book, I see other places where, at the bottom of a page, it'll say something like "Wartime leaflet #35." So I have no idea how many such booklets were actually produced during the war, nor how many are in this book compared to the total number produced.

Rationing in Britain started in 1940 and wasn't fully lifted until 1954 (and in many ways, postwar rationing was even worse, because Britain was also feeding Germany and other former-Axis nations as well). Ugh. I can barely imagine how awful it must've been to live such a dull and constricted material existence for fourteen years.
It's crazy how long Britain kept rationing going. It's not surprising that Orwell was influenced by that when writing 1984. When he wrote it Britain was still on rationing several years after war was over with no end in sight. Orwell ultimately dying before it was abolished.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

Painboy wrote:
Jennifer wrote:
Jennifer wrote:My chief complaints about EFV are: it's not a complete collection of wartime pamphlets -- the pamphlets are in numerical order starting with number 11 (I'd love to see the first ten as well),
Correction: there are certain pamphlets whose first page has a thick black bar all along the left side, labeled "Ministry of Food Pamphlet number [whatever]" -- those are the pamphlets in numerical order starting with 11. But as I go through this book, I see other places where, at the bottom of a page, it'll say something like "Wartime leaflet #35." So I have no idea how many such booklets were actually produced during the war, nor how many are in this book compared to the total number produced.

Rationing in Britain started in 1940 and wasn't fully lifted until 1954 (and in many ways, postwar rationing was even worse, because Britain was also feeding Germany and other former-Axis nations as well). Ugh. I can barely imagine how awful it must've been to live such a dull and constricted material existence for fourteen years.
It's crazy how long Britain kept rationing going. It's not surprising that Orwell was influenced by that when writing 1984. When he wrote it Britain was still on rationing several years after war was over with no end in sight. Orwell ultimately dying before it was abolished.
Had I lived in Britain back then, I suspect that I would've handled the wartime rationing with fairly good grace -- not that I wouldn't still miss prewar ration-free abundance, but I likely would've agreed with a then-popular propaganda poster which said "Better one-pot [meal] under Churchill than humble pie under Hitler" -- but the even harsher restrictions of the postwar rationing would've really pissed me off.

There was a discussion about it here once -- possibly before you joined the forum -- where I commented on how the material standard of living in 1984 was so very like actual postwar Britain, and wondered how Orwell's book might be different had Britain managed to resume a rationless free economy right after the war ended (or at least by 1946, when IIRC the last homefront rationing in America ended):
If you read about the material drabness of 1984 -- not even the government oppression, just the crapitude of the food and clothes and housing and everything -- you'll recognize almost all of it from the postwar living conditions Orwell and England endured. This describes 1947, when future queen Elizabeth got married:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... ience.html
The fighting spirit that had kept the country battling on from 1939 to 1945 was all but gone two years later, drained away for most people via a lack of everything: food, adequate housing, money and prospects.

The only things in abundance were rationing coupons - for meat, butter, lard, margarine, sugar, tea, cheese, soap, clothing, petrol, sweets... the list was endless.... It went against the grain to have to swallow this state of affairs. "I didn't mind doing it in the war," one housewife recalled. "I used to look upon 'making do' as a national duty and make a game of it."

Now it was "tiresome"....

After years of war, continued rationing was a terrible blow. Even when you did get your hands on a prized morsel, it was rarely a delicacy worth eating. In her diary, another housewife summed up her miserable dinner: two sausages which tasted like wet bread with sage added, mashed potato made from powder, half a tomato, one cube of cheese, and one slice of bread and butter. The bag of coal she bought for 4s 10d was full of slate and stone.... All this misery came after the hardest winter in living memory, with 20ft-high snowdrifts in the countryside, and villages and towns cut off.

Then there had been power cuts and short-time working for millions as electricity stations closed for lack of coal. The government adopted emergency powers over a country that felt itself not at peace but under siege.... You had only to look around to see the drabness. A newcomer to London was appalled at, "public buildings filthy and pitted with shrapnel scars running with pigeon dung.

"Bus tickets and torn newspapers blew down the streets: whole suburbs of private houses were peeling, cracking, their windows unwashed, their steps unswept, their gardens untended." He thought London "a decaying, decrepit, sagging, rotten city".
So, yeah, I wonder how much of Orwell's disillusionment when writing 1984 (in 1948) would've been avoided, if Britain could've somehow immediately sprung back to a normal civilian economy shortly after the war ended.
It also puts certain aspects of the Narnia books in a new light -- they were all written during the rationing years. No wonder Edmund wanted Turkish Delight from the witch--back then, I doubt even a full year's saved-up sugar ration would've been enough to get some. And that teatime meal Lucy has in Tumnus' cave when she first meets him -- a homely meal by contemporary standards -- also would've been impossible. No toast -- one of the pamphlets in the book describes toasting bread as a wasteful energy expenditure. You could have had a hard-boiled egg, but that would be a wasteful extravagance since the ration only allowed for one egg-in-shell per week (occasionally dropped to one every two weeks, depending on how supplies were at the time). Also, most English people then preferred white bread to wheat (as I still do), but during the rationing period, it was illegal for bakers to make white bread, since that "wasted" calories and nutrients compared to making whole wheat. During the war, at least, the so-called "National Loaf" was off-ration, but after the war bread was rationed too.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

Wow. For an average American -- as opposed to a really desperately poor American -- a lot of these "Eating for Victory" tips might well be considered signs of some sort of OCD today. There's one pamphlet about "Stocks and Soups" reminding people that when you boil vegetables, the water in which it was boiled shouldn't be discarded because it contains some nutrients and can be the basis for a soup -- but make sure you use it quickly, before it goes bad.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by D.A. Ridgely »

I'm very fond of the Brit TV show Foyle's War, but in one episode black marketing is the motive behind the requisite murder and it's hard not to cheer at least a bit for the black marketeer.

Also, much of Britain is still dreary, if you ask me.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Jennifer »

D.A. Ridgely wrote:I'm very fond of the Brit TV show Foyle's War, but in one episode black marketing is the motive behind the requisite murder and it's hard not to cheer at least a bit for the black marketeer.
Depends on where the black marketeer got his goods -- if it was something like "Guy in the country raises his own chickens and sells black-market eggs" I'd be on his side, but if he were one of those black marketeers who went down to the docks and stole from American food shipments, fuck 'im.

That said, I likely would've been pro-black market after the war. Especially since some (inherently unavoidable, due to really shitty crop-growing weather in '45 and '46) food shortages were made worse by brand-new socialist policies. I remember reading (not in these books, but some other article) that even after the war, when food could be more easily shipped in because at least there was no longer any fear of Germans torpedoing the transports, rationing even applied to gifts from overseas -- say, if you were lucky enough to have a friend or relative in America who'd send you nonperishable food items, there was IIRC a five-pound limit (in weight, not money) on rationed food items before your own ration coupons were decreased accordingly. Which in turn implies there were government officials opening and inspecting all parcels from overseas.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by Aresen »

Jennifer wrote: But I recall reading (not in these books) about a certain aristocrat, Lady So-and-So, who was given a hefty fine after ordering her maid to toss breadcrumbs to birds in her yard. (Not bread crusts; bread crumbs.) .
I suppose she could have eaten the birds.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by nicole »

D.A. Ridgely wrote:I'm very fond of the Brit TV show Foyle's War, but in one episode black marketing is the motive behind the requisite murder and it's hard not to cheer at least a bit for the black marketeer.

Also, much of Britain is still dreary, if you ask me.
That's the motive for murder in about half the episodes. It's amazing how much of Foyle's War traces back to rationing.

Yet plenty of the characters still want to get married and have kids. It's pretty creepy.
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Re: What are you reading?

Post by D.A. Ridgely »

Jennifer wrote:
D.A. Ridgely wrote:I'm very fond of the Brit TV show Foyle's War, but in one episode black marketing is the motive behind the requisite murder and it's hard not to cheer at least a bit for the black marketeer.
Depends on where the black marketeer got his goods -- if it was something like "Guy in the country raises his own chickens and sells black-market eggs" I'd be on his side, but if he were one of those black marketeers who went down to the docks and stole from American food shipments, fuck 'im.
If it was food for the troops or staples for a starving nation, sure. But as I recall, the guy was buying upscale food, e.g., an entire turkey, to serve in a private club restaurant. Maybe in Russia, but ration coupons for caviar in the UK even during war strikes me as preposterous.
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