Sunday, February 4, 2018

"MAGA 2020 & Beyond," by the Usual Suspects

My Amazon review, which needs votes, has yet to be released by the Amazon crew, after 22 hours.
Coincidence, or conspiracy? You decide!

The review is on Goodreads as well. Goodreads can, at least, reproduce a graphic on Facebook, which Amazon no longer seems able to do, but there is no discernable ranking system on Goodreads. (That's why I usually only provide the link to the Amazon review. But, they haven't released it yet, and I've GOT to get this post out!)

I received a review copy of  the book in Kindle format.

Anthologies are some of my favorite things to read, but gracious, they are hard to review!

In the first place, if the anthology has a LOT of entries, as this one does, I essentially have to read the book twice; first pass through is for the joy of escapism, second pass through is to recall in each story what makes it unique, so I can mention that in the review.

In the second place, some of the very best short stories often turn on a gimmick, a reveal, and that's the whole point of the story. The preliminaries are just there to set up the opening of the lid, when the old man says 'SURPRISE!' Well, in a review, you HAVE to give SOME hint of the story, but you can't give the plot away with a spoiler. It's difficult, especially with the shortest works.

In this case, though, the reviewing task is somewhat easier, although it still requires a great deal of work. What makes it easier is that all of the stories have a common theme: the vindication of Donald Trump in the 2016 election, extended into the 2020 election and beyond. (Hence the title.)

These are not, by and large, intended as well-reasoned political positions, intended to educate the masses about the complexities of the Trump Presidency, his vision for the future; these documents (with perhaps one exception) will not be introduced as reference material in any classroom, from grade school to graduate school. That is not meant as a criticism; it's just a description.

Instead, with the exception of John C. Wright's thoughtful essay, these are the raucous proclamations of the face-painted fans of the winning team, swarming through the streets, blowing air horns, and screaming "WE'RE NUMBER ONE! WE'RE NUMBER ONE!" These are not rhetorical exercises designed to persuade opponents, or even to sway the uncommitted; this is the celebration of an underdog team that won the World Series in an upset. Accept it in that spirit, and allow for excesses born out of exuberant good spirits.

Under normal circumstances, I might leave these out of the blog post, and just refer you to the Amazon review. This post would contain only the supplementary material. This has been suggested to me as a format, and there is much to commend that approach. However: NOPE nope NOPE. With Amazon's dilatoriousness, I have to include each review here, because I don't have any way of knowing how much traffic my  review on Goodreads gets.

I  have some brief commentary at the end of the reviews.

Foreword by Milo Yiannopoulos. I'm not a follower of this young person, and know very little about him. I do know that he has managed to aggravate certain progressive factions by his refusal to follow the prescribed script for gay men. Here, he reflects upon the failure of literature written by progressives, unless they adopt traditional middle class values in their stories. I wish he had mentioned Eric Flint, one of my favorite writers, and an unapologetic socialist.

Winning is What We Do by Jon Del Arroz This is a LOVELY adventure story, featuring young Barron Trump as the hero, urged on and inspired by his father. MECH WARRIORS!

Father Cincinnatus by Ivan Throne Not a story, but a speech, just perfect for performing in front of a screaming crowd of thousands. A somewhat spooky re-imaging of Trump as a father figure.

The Last Hippie by Scott Bell  In the distant future, those who cannot or will not accept the MAGA dream are offered their own island, and provided supplies through air-drops, to build whatever society they desire. One doesn't want to go. He has a bomb.

Cleaning the Rolls by P. A. Piatt I don't know HOW old the joke is about elections being won by the cemetery vote, but it's been around for a LOT longer than I have. This story offers a nice twist, and it also manages to toss in a dig at a certain person notorious for Asian 'influences.' 

M.A.G.A.I. by Arlan Andrews, Sr. A progressive hacker working for DARPA fails to close out a file correctly, and causes the AI overseeing the system to take unexpected action. Delicious mayhem ensues in tiny little bits of time.

On Greatness by Alfred Genesson. Genesson takes a close look at the word 'Great' as applied to world leaders, selecting Alfred the Great as his example. He then lists the achievements that resulted in that appellative, and considers whether Trump will rise to the standard.

An Afternoon with Grandpa by Daniel Humphreys. This is one of the 'gimmick' stories, although the clues are given from the beginning. A little girl is forced to spend time with her grandfather, a pleasant old gent who has seen all his dreams turn to ashes.

Dolus Magnus: The Great Hoax by Monalisa Foster. A climate scientist discovers that when he refuses to toe the line, everything is taken from him. Fortunately, he has a friend who is an engineer.

An “Out”-standing Chanukah by Marina Fontaine. It is a tradition in this family that you can say anything you want as a part of the Chanukah celebration. It is time for one young person, supported by an older relative, to take advantage. Fasten your seat-belt!

The Man in the Bubble by Elaine Arias. The man in the bubble is a big-name Hollywood power broker. You may recognize him from the description, but that isn't one of my knowledge areas. I do, however, recognize the utter cluelessness and ignorance of life beyond his narrow circle that afflicts this person.

Free Falling by Justin Robinson. The US in the MAGA universe has become a place of freedom and rational laws. Just north of the border, however, insanity reigns, as a result of privilege policies. Some people will do anything to escape.

The Magic of MAGA by David Harr. A fantasy story, in which the good guys are truly good, but over-powered by the forces of evil. The MAY be some Biblical allusions in here; it's not made explicit, but there is a somewhat parallel scene. Can freedom cross dimensions? Is John Moses Browning a force to be reckoned with everywhere?

Six Grandfathers by Dawn Witzke. This is a WONDERFULLY written fairy tale! It brings primeval beings alive, and allows a child to speak to them, and...nah, read it for yourself. It's GREAT!

The New Wall by Molly Pitcher This story also tells of the days when as a result of MAGA policies, Canada closes the border to keep it's people from escaping. People still escape.

The Downfall of Delusional America: Assessing the Legacy of Trump by John C. Wright. Of all the stories and essays in the book, this one is likely to resonate with the most people. Wright analyzes the issues leading up to the 2016 election, and identifies something that has bothered many of us for quite some time.

45 by Brad Torgersen. It's a time- travel story with a twist. Secret Service Agent Cobbler discovers a probable assassin when she pops into existence in front of him. She believes she has to kill Trump in order to prevent a civilization-ending war. Where does his loyalty lie?

Insurance for Life by Tamara Wilhite. If we aren't going to have socialized medicine, can we have ANYTHING that resembles adequate, compassionate medical care, that doesn't impoverish the usaer of the service? Here's an idea!

The Great Joke by Alfred Genesson. When some people just couldn't bear the idea of Trump becoming President, they revolted. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Works globally, too!

Equality by Monalisa Foster. The axiom states 'a conservative is a liberal who has been raped.' But what if the rape is prevented?

Scales in the Balance by Dawn Witzke. Witzke identifies PRECISELY the branch of government where MAGA will have the greatest impact.

Infected by Sandor Novak. Out of the blue, perhaps from Andromeda; all of a sudden, more and more people are compelled to tell the truth.

 Winning the Internet @Kaijubushi. Stupid frappen reporter questions deserve scathing answers. While Trump has been known to boot someone out of a press conference, THIS particular response came from elsewhere.

Pitch Session by Chris Donahue. Fat Slugs in Hollywood don't get it; they are NEVER going to get it. And when the consequences hit the box office, they have to come up with alternatives.

Auntie’s Magnificent Bricks by Christine Chase. Strange things can happen to a young person. After all, authentic heroes have to be SOMEBODY'S aunts and uncles.

Mad Dog Moon by Declan Finn Okay, this story is just fabulous! Mad Dog Mattis, the Warrior Monk, not only kicks bureaucrats around, he still likes to get his fingers dirty. NEEDS to, actually.

The Many Faces of Trump by Dawn Witzke. This is particularly hilarious to me, because I have shepherded a crowd of middle schoolers around an art museum. Paintings by Old Masters on the walls, and the kids are playing tag between the lamps and chairs and tables. Yeah, it will be like that in 100 years, too.

Exile by Marina Fontaine. I spent an afternoon in East Berlin in 1975, before the wall came down. I was SO glad to get back across Checkpoint Charlie to the freedom of West Berlin! I've seen what people will do to get themselves and their families out of a repressive society, sacrificing everything. But I've only seen it; the author has lived it. And we are glad she is here, and can write stories like this. It's by far the grittiest story in the book.

A Day in the Life by Richard B. Atkinson III. This is neither the Beatles' song, nor the story of Ivan Denisovich. Instead, it's a scene at a cocktail party celebrating an election, after the first battles have been won, and the progressives have (mostly) moved on.

The Pope’s Vision by L. Jagi Lamplighter. It's a FUNNY story, although I shudder somewhat when I see the lines blurred between political deliverance and spiritual significance. But, even after the shudder, it's a FUNNY story!

Afterword: Moral Rights, An Essay. The origin of this collection! Oh, how I LOVE backstory, and this is a PARTICULARLY great backstory!

As I stated earlier: take this as the cries of the drunken revellers, carousing through the streets of the city after the underdog team won the championship, and you'll love it.

Unless you are a fan of the other team.

BRIEF GLOBAL COMMENTARY: I have no clear idea of how I found myself in the conservative camp, much less the libertarian. I suppose it's because I don't trust bureaucracy; I have found INDIVIDUALS within various government and corporate entities who have been competent and compassionate, but the organization itself has almost always been characterized by inefficiency and hardening of the arteries.

I don't FIT into any of the the standard molds. I certainly don't fit into the extreme, cartoonish caricature of any of the Alt-Right movements. My gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, would cheerfully beat my furry white butt if she were to find me installing a White Power flag in my man cave. It's not a fit for me.

On the other hand, I AM an enthusiastic supporter of the Second Amendment, and I own and operate a growing number of firearms, to include handguns, shotguns, and rifles. I'm a Life Member of the National Rifle Association, and I have a concealed carry permit, and I am amed anytime I leave the house.

However, I am a staunch supporter of public education, and I am against a voucher system to fund private education. I am against capital punishment, but for conservative reasons: I don't trust the system to get it right,  and death penalty trials and appeals cost too many tax dollars.

I have numerous other aberrations, most of them traced to Mind Your Own Business.

So, as I stated earlier, I don't think I fit into any off-the-rack categories, and I'm good with that. It gives me perspective, I think.

And that brings me back to my encouragement that you regard these stories and essays as expressions of fans of a winning sports team. There were losers, too, and I think most of us were shocked by the extreme expressions of loss, too often accompanied with violence to property and person, that followed the transition of government. I'm hoping that will die down, on both sides, and we can be left to tend to our own private lives again.

Right now, though, I'm reminded of a scene in "The Last Battle," by C S Lewis. The rebellious dwarves have been removed from the battle, and are seated on a lush green lawn. However, they aren't able to perceive that. They crowd together, and grumble about being tossed into a donley's stable. They are provided with delicious food and wine; they perceive it as water from a donkey's trough, rotten turnips, and dirty straw. Then, they get to fighting over who has the better bit of turnip, until the feast is thoroughly spoiled. And we leave them in this predicament.

I fear that unless more people in this country open their eyes, we will be in the same position as the dwarves, surrounded by plenty, but huddling over little bits of nastiness. It's our choice; and, alas, I am pretty strong about allowing people the freedom to choose. 

Peace be on your household.

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