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Jo498

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  1. Aren't these collections secondary anyway? Until a few years ago when I reread two of the collections (I think, apparently I have only the "Adventures" on my kindle now) I had not even been aware that they had been published in that way. I had read all of them so long ago as a teenager or even younger (I think the first few at 11 or 12) in translation in all kinds of mixed or omnibus collection. The last few times I re-read a couple or a dozen (I think the last one was prompted by having watches the Brett movies almost 10 years ago and then getting a kindle reader a year later or so) of them, I usually find them rather inconsistent in quality. They are rarely less than entertaining but nevertheless some are quite cheesy or extremely implausible. I am usually not bothering anymore with the four novellas I loved as kid because I think they are all rather weak, except for Hound of the Baskervilles which in turn suffers a lot if one remembers the main plot twists (which I sometimes forget in less famous stories although I often remember them then during re-reading). But as I said, Holmes was among the first "adult" (in the innocuous sense) literature I read as a kid which will probably prevent me from a fair assessment. (I also already loved back then how in some cases Holmes solves them from "home office", just sending and getting a few messages and telegrams, otherwise just smoking, relaxing in a frayed dressing gown and thinking in his lair in Baker Street 221B.) I finished another of Biggers' Charlie Chan Novels (CC carries on) and also liked this one although it is among the more implausible ones (needing a fairly elaborate construct to involve Chan at all) and a bit too long as well. For light entertainment without the typical depressive moods and topics of more recent mystery/crime novels they are still recommendable.
  2. In the last month or so I read the last Morse novel I had not yet read (The Jewel that was ours) which was among the better ones but overall the series seems a mixed bag. It is very well written, plots are often ingenious but sometimes too convoluted and implausible, Morse becomes more and more a cynical caricature of himself and the sexism (for lack of a better term, I usually have hardly any problems with sexism in older (say up to the 1940s) literature) exhibits a particularly creepy and voyeurist vibe that I grew really tired of in the later novels. Then a little known non-Wolfe book by Rex Stout (The Mountain Cat murders) which was o.k. and both quite different from a typical 1930s whodunnit and from the Nero Wolfe stories but not close to the latter in overall quality. (I had just read the posthumous edition of three Wolfe/Archie stories. These might not be as original as that mystery in Wyoming but Wolfe/Archie and especially the latters narration does make them special. I feel similarly about Jeeves/Wooster vs. almost any other Wodehouse.) Then even further back to Charlie Chan in the 1920s. I had read the first two in German years ago and now I am at the third ("Behind the curtain", but I skipped the "Chinese Parrot" and read "The Black Camel" before) and they are quite cozy. Not that exciting but reasonably surprising, well written in a rather light-hearted mildly ironic manner, and with interesting aspects of Honolulu/Hawaii in the 1920s at the beginning of becoming a tourist destination. Entertaining and relaxing with a particular atmosphere 90+ years later but maybe not for everyone today. They are free for kindle from australian? sources as Biggers died in 1933 at only 48.
  3. Now that I think about it, are there two versions of the Salem story by King (one novel one novella or short story)? Or did King also write a very similar short vampire story? As I seem to recall it, neither was bad but especially the long version didn't live up to the hype as it supposedly was the book that put King on the map but reading it 30+ years later it seemed a fairly "standard" vampire/horror story? And one reason could have been that I had read the other version long before and then remembered common plot elements.
  4. That one is dealing with some kind of vampire is also rather obvious from the actual cases of the vampire's victims, isn't it? While it goes with a certain tradition, to me it seems often very difficult to find a balance between the superpowers of vampires on the one hand and the options of quick and easy defeat. Because daylight or garlic are too easy, some authors simply skip them and they become even more ridiculosuly powerful than before.
  5. But they are loathsome. Seductiveness does not mitigate evil, quite the contrary. If someone is a supernaturally dangerous powerful killer (or rather transformer to a fate worse than death) it doesn't matter that s/he is also an immortal seductively glamourous sexy "rock star". There is simply no way the latter characterization could "balance" the former or somehow make it morally acceptable. This is different from the attraction of pirates or rebels because they often have a just cause, at least to some extent. Despite the ingeniosity of Rice or the woman who wrote the stuff "True Blood" was based on this is an extremely implausible case to make for vampires. Furthermore, to keep it exciting, all these books/movies/series also have obviously evil vampires, so the repulsion humans have is completely justified (because if something is so bloody dangerous and powerful as vampires usually are, one simply needs to err on the side of caution). The best one can do plausibly, I think, is to evoke a certain pity like with a rueful but madly driven serial rapist/killer who cannot master his impulse.
  6. One reason for this is probably that the billionaire today is so sure he has absolutely nothing to fear for his power status from such remarks, so he will not bother. However, I think that in many not quite first world countries, you might end up at the business end of a weapon after a wrong public remark about a powerful billionaire.
  7. The only Powers I read was Anubis Gates and I loved that book. I cannot imagine that he wrote something as horrible as the book on Polidori etc. even granting that Powers might be an author of uneven quality. I suspect that the book I meant could have been "The Merciful Women" (Las Piadosas) by Federico Andahazi because the German title (Lord Byrons Schatten) seems familiar. It wasn't really about vampires at all, now that I think of it, only about the writing of that famous "Vampyre".
  8. One point against the broadly social democrat welfare states is that they are not very stable. Not in the sense of collapsing altogether but they have been gradually yielding to corporations and never got rid of HUGE differentials in wealth, income, personal independence and political power. (One can argue that this was somewhat better for a few decades from the 1950s through the 80s or 90s but this is also true for the US, only it lasted a bit longer in Europe.) Another is that the levels of consumerism, wastefulness and environmental impact of Sweden and the US are clearly in the same ballpark, even if healthcare is organized differently. So if the main point (as for some discutants here) are severe measures to curb enviromental impact/global warming, the track record of the European style social democracies is not that different from e.g. the US, so it is highly doubtful that a bit of social democracy would help a lot here. In fact, Rippounet seems to avoid a crucial point above: "Democratic" control of energy etc. by the majority of the populace in some European country would almost certainly not result in a vote for austerity and a drastically less comfortable lifestyle (which would be necessary for reducing global footprints etc). This could only be achieved by "benevolent" dictators. I doubt that this is a real option. Most countries (except some East Asian, NZ and Australia) are obviously overtaxed by Covid (both by coming up with rational measures and by enforcing them). It's pure fantasy that current administrations could enforce measures reducing the standard of living for most people by 30-50% without creating riots and anarchy. And obviously they wouldn't get democratic majorities for such measures either.
  9. These two options are not exhaustive. I'd bet that Calmet considered and apparently rejected this, but one obvious (and I think traditionally considered) option is that undead are a kind of demonic phenomenon, i.e. some evil spirit somehow animates the dead body. (This also fits with the idea that devils and demons, unable of original creation, mock and ape God's creation/action and what could be a better example of this than undead half-life instead of real eternal life?) I think I have read about 4 vampire books (discounting short stories). "Salem's lot" I found also rather disappointing, nothing special at all. I never read Dracula but I read Polidori's "Vampyre" and a totally weird book about that summer of Byron, Polidori, the Shelleys in Switzerland that also brought some supernatural element into it but its was so bad that I forgot author and title. And the first book of Lukianenko's series "Nochnoi dozor". Fairly original and atmospheric but lengthy and not enthralling enough to keep going with the series. I probably should read "Dracula" at some stage.
  10. They used to be called Aunt Agatha or Honoria Glossop. And once one thinks about it, such clichées seem more damning on the Uncle whatevers and Bertie Woosters of the world because they are so easily intimidated by such females of the species (being deadlier than the male). More seriously, as I understood the meme, gender and age are incidental, the core is mostly someone behaving annoyingly and haughtily towards people in tough and (usually low paid and low status) service jobs. Not sure if younger women or middle aged men do this less frequently than the supposedly typical "Karen". There are certainly cultural and personal differences here as well. I am annoyed easily but absolutely hate complaining and so I usually won't but this can have the effect that when I actually bring myself to complain about something I can tend to be severe and uncompromising but because of my general character I would never be able to raise Hell like Meme Karens do.
  11. The very first Rebus "Knots and crosses" contains a fat title clue the protagonist and colleagues miss for a long time and I have seen a cover that basically resolves it! I totally missed it because as a non-native speaker I wasn't familiar with the name of the game and I am horrible with clues/puns based on (near) homophones because I read/write far more English than I speak and listen to (OTOH there was an anagram clue in "The falls" I saw before the investigators) and I had an omnibus edition with a more neutral cover.
  12. As I read five in English and only one in German, the translation can hardly be the main problem. I liked the atmosphere of the first three books and there is some in "Black and Blue" with the extraordinary places like an oil platform. But I clearly have the impression that Rankin got worse (and also far more "ordinary" and less special/scottish?). The popsong sillyness only popped up later and while drinking as a pastime and vice had a role since the beginning the utterly boring gory details about the precise drinks and snacks of every bloody lunchbreak, or literally every line of trivial banter among the colleagues was not in the early books (or at least not to such an annoying extent). Not every details creates atmosphere or characterises a character, there is a point when it feels like routinely filling up pages. Next recommendations I received are books by John Harvey, Reginald Hill, Tana French and William Brodrick? Any comments on these?
  13. I liked the first three with Rebus, so I do not want to condemn the whole series, but as I wrote, I was disappointed by all of the later ones I read. The character changed towards a far less interesting type and Siobhan who apparently is to become a major side character is utterly boring in "The falls" where she has already an important rôle. I think he only started the pop song references later. I find them cringeworthy and also that (despite me being usually far from the current woke sensibility in these matters), like Rowling's Cormoran he is shown as a fairly unattractive man both in appearance and manners, Rebus is also workoholic and borderline alcoholic, but has no problems getting laid, although not with supermodel girls like Strike, they are intelligent and attractive women who can hardly be that desperate.
  14. I read two more of the Rebus series and unfortunately, I still find the first three the best of the now six books I read. Black and Blue is a bit too long and way too ambitious with too many cases and persons intricately combined and really stressing plausibility at times. But such are faults easy to overlook as overall it still moved along nicely for the most part. But The Falls (which I read in German translation because I can get these for free from a library) was really bad. The mediocre translation didn't help but this was overlong, convoluted, boring, somewhat predictable, not really exciting at all. I understand that Rankin loves Scotland and Edinburgh but half page or longer infodumps on local stuff are getting tedious (and I can't even know if real or made up, he did make up a historical figure but one cannot tell from the infodumps if they are about a real or made up historical killer, case or doctor). So are the excruciating details about what everyone is eating, drinking and I also came to dislike the "trademark" mentionings of pop songs (I usually don't know being in the wrong age bracket and generally not much interested in popular music). I'll try two more because I already borrowed them ("Resurrection Men" and "A question of blood")
  15. The ridiculous thing is that the German passport did have both spellings even back then. The one with "ö" was in the main body of the personal information, the other with "oe" in some different section at the bottom. But the person at the office that was responsible for giving out state ID cards in Seattle could not be convinced to use "oe" instead of "o". I tried several minutes but when you realize that you are not gaining ground and are beginning to annoy clerk whose service you need you better give up. Fortunately, I don't recall that it ever caused any major trouble later on although it is annoying to have different spellings on ID documents, bank or credit cards etc.
  16. I am surprised as well. As a German with an umlaut in the last name this was a major pain when I studied for one year in the US in the mid-1990s. In effect, my name was spelled in three different ways on different ID documents (German passport, Student ID, WA state ID, I don't remember if the debit card had a name one it and which spelling...) because some people in the US didn't understand that the next best to "ö" was "oe" and insisted on "o" on the ID document.
  17. As people have shown, these things are more independent of the overall system than one might think. Just as bureaucracy and bullshit jobs grow both in public admin (the "state") and in large corporations, there can also be innovation or "safe stagnation" in both. Like mp3 from a publicly funded German institution (Fraunhofer). Most "innovations" of the last 20 years have basically been "toys" and were heavily dependent on earlier stuff (electronic gadgets and internet based social media). Partly probably because some saturation points have been reached, partly because these are low hanging fruit with high monetary rewards. Partly because some things were good enough already several decades ago and the possible marginal returns upon innovation very low (e.g. fast trains like TGV that were already so good with basically 1970s tech, that the monorail magnet trains simply don't improve enough on them, especially considering the huge infrastructural investments). We are also notoriously bad in that we reward non-innovative jobs (Finance, Real Estate, Law, Tax evasion, Consulting, etc. many of which actually hurt the economy and society as a whole) with disproportionate incomes, so that many smart people are seduced to be rather a tax lawyer or stock trader instead of a research chemist or engineer (of course, this is also a question of ability and personality, but still, I think it is a bad allocation of talent and funds and seems also very different compared to technologically innovative times like the 50-70s). And there are also options of recognizing genius/innovation with rewards beyond capitalism. Like a knighthood, a Stalin medal, or some nice house with a garden the administration can assign to you when everyone else lives in tiny flats.
  18. Most of Western Europe has had all this to a reasonable extent since the 1950s. Unlike some Americans seem to believe it is neither socialism and killing all entrepreneurship nor is it paradise on earth. In effect it is remarkably similar on the whole and in the long run to the US. Social democracy in a broad sense is not easy to preserve (in most of Western Europe it has been eroding in many respects since the 1980s) and it is obviously not a panacea against very powerful corporations and pollution. I am not sure, but I'd guess that the larger global footprint of the US vs. most European countries is more due to ingrained differences in culture and infrastructure than to polit-economical differences. Or simply climate. Because Canada and Australia are more "leftist" than the US but they are about as bad in carbon etc. footprints. So overall, I'd bet that for the climate/environmental aspect many people here are especially concerned with, the differences between the systems we have experienced in the last 50-100 years, are not that big. EDIT: Bluntly, US, Canada, Australia would have to cut their footprint (not only carbon, carbon alone is misleading because eg. France has lots of nuclear power) down do one third, the more affluent countries of Western Europe to about one half of its current value. Let's be very generous and assume that on average the reduction in lifestyle/consumerist goods would only be half of that percentage (although it is not clear how the other half could somehow be made up easily by technology etc.). So people would face downsizing (income, living space, luxuries) of 25-33%. Maybe inconvenient but possible for the richer third of the population of the "West" but hardly feasible for the lower 50% without social unrest of a scale noone in the West has witnessed in their lifetimes. So regardless of details and niceties as who controls the means of production this would only be feasible in a totalitarian system anyway.
  19. The point is that the main experiences we have from the past wrt pollution are negative from the Eastern bloc and mixed/hopeful from the capitalist/somewhat social democrat economies of the "West" (inl. Japan, Australia...). This is not to deny the actual problems but we do have cases like the Rhine or the air quality in European industrial cities (London smog) etc. that were successfully improved in the last ca. 40 years. And as I understand many here, they are advocating to work along such experiences instead of creating some cloud cuckoo land that has never been tried and even less worked and most importantly has no realistic chance of political realization. I am not really on any side. I think the main problem is consumerism which is at the core a (broadly speaking) spiritual failure neither mainstream capitalism nor utopianism are willing/able to address properly. And tbh I am not sure if smaller movements or religions that could address this have any chance to work on a larger scale. An obvious start for a typical middle class person in the West would be to cut consumption of Everything down to 25-50% of its current value which would wreck economies if more than a few thousand freaks would follow the idea. And this would not help with political participation, nihilism etc., only with the environmental impact.
  20. I don't think there is good evidence that pollution was handled any better under communism than under capitalism but neither was the Chernobyl catastrophe something obviously closely tied to the flaws of communism. While it is true that Western capitalist nations were quicker to provide to some extent against pollution I am not sure that this was a typically "capitalist" feature either. Most of them were simply ahead on the curve, i.e. had been further industrialised around 1900 than Russia etc., so did not have to catch up as quickly as the Eastern bloc did and then they were both richer and able to transition away from heavy industries (that were simply off-shored to other countries, often with bad environmental consequences). Most people here (myself included) are simply too young to remember the 1950s/60s when heavy industries were still central to Western European economies. I am old enough to remember disastrous pollution of the Rhine (Sandoz, I think, in the 1980s) and all these things have improved a lot (within a fairly short period of time). But other things actually became worse. There were was no heap of disposable coffee cups in the 1980s and lots of other lifestyle changes within the last 20-30 years that seem to be taken as birthright of everyone in a Western country are surprisingly recent.
  21. Three parts dead is a very interesting book. It has very little to do with any traditional (or at least none I am aware of, maybe some aspects in Hinduism) religion but more with modern problems of energy supply and barely legal legal tricks. It was almost a bit to lawyerly for me as a total layman.
  22. You can hardly deny that the UN climate conferences since the 1990s have helped almost nothing. The Greens have had a lot of influence in Germany and achieved almost nothing. (The strongest effect on the reduction of emissions in Germany was the shutting down of the East German coal plants in the 90s and this was mostly for economical reasons.) Useless additional rules like banning ordinary lightbulbs and other jokes are what green influence. As you well know the Greens have been ruling Baden-Württemberg for a while now without ever leaving the rectum of the powerful automotive industry there. They are a joke and the definition of lip service.
  23. From a more general perspective it seems that both the "science will come up with something" or "the market will solve it" as well as the "more green/leftist government control of everything or international committees and conferences are the only solution" have a) been what produced the current state in the first place and b) have been claimed many times as only feasible solutions within the 50 years we have been aware of global environmental problem. Each side is demanding more of the same medicine that has been mostly useless so far and is claiming that the other side's medicine is poison.
  24. If one is disturbed by gore, violence and connections between sexual nonconformity and crime, I'd rather warn against Ahronovitch's Peter Grant. There is probably much worse but I found some things sufficiently repulsive (The 3 or 4 books I've read were also flawed in several other ways).
  25. Do you mean a "real supernatural" element or only the suspicion like the Hound of the Baskervilles, the Sussex Vampire or some other Holmes stories? (Fred Vargas does frequently have the suspicion of something supernatural (curse, werewolf, vampires, wild hunt...) but it is (almost?) always resolved naturalistically.)
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