Terry Pratchett’s The Truth

Terry Pratchett's The TruthI’ve read a handful of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. And The Truth is by far the best of them. Admittedly, I haven’t read a wide selection: The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic, Making Money, and Raising Steam. So the first two and and then the Moist von Lipwig ones. The Truth sits in what must be considered the central section of the series. It is book 25 out of a total of 41. And if it is indicative of this period, it’s a very good sign.

The Truth tells the story of the creation of the newspaper industry — and The Ankh-Morpork Times in particular. William de Worde is a young man from a rich family, who wants nothing to do with it. So he scrapes by as a writer of newsletters about the goings on in Ankh-Morpork for rich clients in other cities. But everything changes when the dwarfs bring movable type to the city. Once dependent upon engravers, who took a long time to produce his newsletter, he is now able to print on a daily basis and he finds that there is more than enough content to justify it — even if some of it has to do with vegetables that grow in obscene shapes.

The other major characters include Sacharissa Cripslock, the granddaughter of William’s old engraver. She comes to complain about William putter her grandfather out of a job, and William ends up giving her a job. They are soon joined by Otto Chriek — a temperate vampire photographer who is in love with light — and Gunilla Goodmountain — an entrepreneurial dwarf who brings movable type to the town. Together, they fight the engravers’ guild and eventually even hired assassins who have been brought to town to take Lord Vetinari out of power. The novel ends with William and Sacharissa trying to go on a date, but the news just never stops.

What sets The Truth apart from the other novels is that William de Worde actually grows as a character. For all of Pratchett’s cleverness, he is not usually that interested in the development of his characters. Moist von Lipwig is still very much the same man in Raising Steam as he was in Going Postal. But William, being the black sheep of his family very much comes to terms with that fact — taking what’s good and leaving what’s bad of the nature of his father, Lord de Worde. And it is very nice to watch the transition, because at the start of the book, he seems very much like he’s hiding from the world.

Maybe I liked it so much because I feel rather like William: hiding out. And, of course, I like the newspaper business. But especially in Raising Steam, there isn’t much happening at a human level. In fact, the Moist von Lipwig stories seem more like television shows where Moist is forced to do something he doesn’t want to do and ends up having some adventures. That’s true of the Rincewind novels as well. And certainly, William gets dragged through some adventures. But he’s self-actualized — and he becomes more so the further we get into the novel. I know many people around here are much bigger Discworld readers than I am. So if you have any recommendations, I’d be glad to hear them.

Afterword

It’s also true that there is a certain His Girl Friday aspect to The Truth. And that is one of my very favorite films.

Does ‘Moderate Republican’ Have Any Meaning?

Jon HuntsmanI must admit to being somewhat out of it. I’m not that interested in horse race politics anyway and I don’t know what’s going on. Last year, I did write, Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Real Liberal. That was about people going around talking about how Clinton was really a conservative. But it probably speaks to an unfortunate narcissism on my part that once I write about something, I consider the issue settled. But that ain’t reality. And I guess people still make that claim to such a degree that yesterday, Scott Lemieux felt the need to write, Can the “Hillary Clinton Is Really A Moderate Republican” Argument Be Salvaged? (SPOILER! No.)

I’m not really interested in the issue, because as I’ve noted: I have spoken! But Lemieux brought up Jon Huntsman. You can forget the likes of Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush or Chris Christie. Huntsman is a guy that almost everyone in the establishment media thinks is a moderate. After all, he worked for the Obama administration! But Lemieux does a good job of summing up what Huntsman actually stands for, and it ain’t pretty. There is no moderation that I can see:

He favors a constitutional amendment that would make abortion first degree murder in all 50 states. He wants to massively slash the top income tax rate and eliminate capital gains and estate taxes entirely. He wants to repeal the ACA and he’s smart enough to know that it would be replaced with nothing. He wants Dodd-Frank repealed. He has denounced the EPA’s “regulatory reign of terror.” He opposes any form of gun control.

Let me add to this that Huntsman was also one of the guys who said that he so cared about the budget deficit that he would not take a 10-to-1 spending cut to tax increase deal from the Democrats. And then after he was no longer running for president, he went back on it and said that he would take it. He never said what he would require though. 7-to-1? 5-to-1? I’m damned sure he wouldn’t take 3-to-1, and there is no way he would ever take the actually fair 1-to-1 deal.

What makes both men moderates in the eyes of the press is that they don’t scream; they don’t push a lot of conspiracy theories; and they don’t insult each other’s spouses (although they do insult the spouses of Democrats).

Lemieux noted that being seen as a moderate Republican “can be purchased on the cheap by taking a standard-issue conservative Republican and appending a few things like ‘maybe we shouldn’t crash the world economy’ and ‘now that I’m not running for office same-sex marriage seems OK’.” But I would say it is much worse than this. What defines being a “moderate Republican” is the same thing that defines being an establishment Republican: style. Huntsman hardly qualifies as a moderate Republican; he’s more in the Josh Barro realm where the press hardly think of him as a Republican at all.

Marco Rubio is the prototypical “moderate Republican.” And it basically just means that he is polite. The same thing can be said of Jeb Bush. Remember Terri Schiavo and all of Jeb’s abuses of power regarding that? What makes both men moderates in the eyes of the press is that they don’t scream; they don’t push a lot of conspiracy theories; and they don’t insult each other’s spouses (although they do insult the spouses of Democrats).

What all this means is that there is no such thing as a “moderate Republican.” It’s not just that any kind of moderation would make someone not a Republican. It is that the Overton window within the Republican Party is so small that to talk about a conservative or moderate Republican is meaningless. And the whole party is so bunched to the right that no one even uses the term “liberal Republican.” So, of course, Hillary Clinton is not a moderate Republican. But the more important point is that no one is a moderate Republican. They simply don’t exist.

Morning Music: Cabin Fever!

From Her to EternityBy 1983, there were great tensions in The Birthday Party between Nick Cave and Rowland S Howard. So Mick Harvey left the band and that was the end. As a result, Cave and Harvey formed Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the band that everyone knows. Really: it’s Nick Cave’s band. Harvey was always a powerful musical influence, but I don’t think he was ever the artistic equal of Cave the way that Howard was.

The first album (which only lists “Nick Cave” on the cover) was From Her to Eternity. The music certainly turned in a darker direction. It is also a lot more portentous. It is, in other words, what we’ve all come to think of as Nick Cave. So we’ll listen to “Cabin Fever!” which is a good indication of just how different the band sounded. It’s also so clear now how influential the band has been. In 1984, I don’t remember anything at all like it.

Anniversary Post: Karl Wallenda

Karl WallendaOn this day in 1905, the amazing high wire artist Karl Wallenda was born. He is best known as the founder of the The Flying Wallendas. Whatever. I hate this kind of stuff. I admire it, but I do wish people wouldn’t do it. Isn’t there enough to worry about? People die just walking down the street, or getting out of bed, or because someone left a loaded gun in a sock. Life doesn’t need to be made more dangerous! Just the same, how can I not admire people who are so foreign to me?

Wallenda was born into the business. He began performing with his family at the age of six. The act appears to have always been pretty much the same: they create human pyramids on the tightrope. And they’ve only made the act more and more dangerous and ridiculous over the years. You can see a video of them doing a seven person pyramid. It’s amazing stuff, but I want to scream, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to open up a nice hot dog stand?!”

Probably the only reason I’m writing about Karl Wallenda today is because of his death. At the age of 73, he performed on a wire stretched between two ten story buildings in Puerto Rico. There were high winds as is often the case when these stunts are performed. And he lost his balance and fell. You can watch it on YouTube if you want, but I’m not going to provide a link because it is extremely upsetting. Instead, watch him four years earlier, doing a head stand on a wire — also with high winds and rain: