Sittin here watching the wheels go round and round

Wheel #1 -- THE FANTASY WORLDS OF JEFF WEBB, linked to from the sidebar, has gone dark. Apparently, somebody complained about the site and Angelfire shut it down. It makes me sad. However, I've started pulling together various examples of Jeff's art that I had scanned and posted to various other sites over the last ten years, and you can see about 17 of those pics over here.

I'll try to add more as I get the chance. Unfortunately, the bulk of my scans of Jeff's artwork are on my old computer, which is in the back room here at Castle Anthrax and which has neither an Internet connection nor a functional C or D drive. I could scan Jeff's artwork in again using this computer, but this is a family machine, and between three computer savvy kids and a computer savvy wife, it's difficult to imagine me having the several days worth of uninterrupted access I'd need to complete that project again.

In the meantime, enjoy what there is.

Wheel #2 -- It's just occurring to me that the 15th anniversary of Jeff's death passed unnoticed by me a week and a half ago. Well, it was a working Monday, and working Mondays are always pretty distracting in and of themselves. I still miss you, old buddy, and if I'm moving on and not thinking about you quite so much any more, well, I have to think you wouldn't mind. Seasons don't fear the Reaper, and neither did you in the end, but I still think he's a prick for taking you away from us. So, I raise a glass of bubbly Zik-Zak Cola and tip the old Black Blade in your general direction, and sometime today I'll try to play a little BOC for you, too.

Wheel #3 - Things aren't going badly at work, but an Unemployment claim is a nice thing to have to fall back on. As Woody Allen once described Annie Hall's apartment, it's like a free floating life raft, out there, just in case the worst happens. (Or something like that; I haven't watched ANNIE HALL in twenty years.)

And while it seems that nearly anything can happen at my current assignment, one of the things that cannot happen is for the U.S. Congress, staring bleakly into the abyss of what may be a grimmer global economic catastrophe than the Great Depression, to pass a fucking stimulus package containing extended Unemployment coverage.

Because, with a time of perhaps double digit unemployment looming, we wouldn't want people to be able to pay their bills or support their families or anything.

Supposedly, extended Unemployment, food stamps, and Medicaid benefits have been traded away by Congressional Democrats in exchange for bigger tax rebate checks targeted to more poor people. Now, when I say 'bigger', it looks as if those extended benefits have been sold down the river in exchange for maybe another $300 per check, which would raise the average rebate for poor to middle class folks from around $300 to around $600.

As I keep mentioning to SuperWife, when people live on our economic scale, for a government rebate to have any kind of real impact, the amounts have to be in the thousands, not the hundreds. A few hundred bucks, even seven or eight hundred, if we got it, is a month's rent and some groceries.

Plus, whatever they end up giving us, we won't get it until June at the earliest. Should my employers decide to end my current temp assignment tomorrow, well, it will be a long pull to June, and another six months of Unemployment benefits, funded by the Feds, would be a lot more help to me while I'm out looking for work than a check for a month's rent sometime this summer.

All this, because Republicans just hate the idea of giving a free check to the jobless. Like any Republican Congresscritter has actually worked for a living since early adulthood, if then.

Well, okay, I guess Katherine Harris blowing any Bush within twenty yards of her probably counts as 'work' in some sense. At least, no sane person could possibly think of it as recreation...

Wheel #4 - Tony Collett has been nice enough to give this blog a pretty solid plug in his latest blog entry. Thanks, Tony. And to all you ravening hordes of Mah Two Cents readers coming over here for the first time... yeah, this is pretty much the deal, right here. Sorry about that.

Wheel #5 - Plenty o' reading being done around Castle Anthrax since the holiday. In that time, I've knocked off... um... er... well... three out of the four ENFORCER books SuperWife somehow dug up for me, Dave Van Arnam's STAR BARBARIAN, and COBRA TRAP, the last Modesty Blaise book O'Donnell will likely ever write.

The ENFORCER stuff is bilious crap, as I'd long suspected, but I have fond memories of it from early adolescence, when the bizarrely pornographic sex scenes made me think I was putting one over on my mom by reading the shit. While some of the concepts are interesting, the insanely blatant Ayn Rand worship inherent in the series' basic premise, along with the way FIRST DRAFT WRITTEN IN A MATTER OF DAYS WHILE HALF OR MORE DRUNK is nearly stamped in invisible ink between every line of (badly typeset) text, would consign these books to a compost heap in the hands of nearly anyone else with even bare pretensions to sanity or reason. However, the twin sentimental associations of (a) childhood nostalgia and (b) SuperWife giving them to me for Christmas makes them treasured additions to my personal library.

COBRA TRAP contains what is probably some of O'Donnell's worst writing, which is sad, but no true Modesty and Willie fan can be without the story depicting their last appearance ever on this mortal coil, so I'm happy I have it, as well.

STAR BARBARIAN was cool, but to my surprise, its sequel, LORD OF BLOOD, which I'd first read around thirty years ago and which had made me yearn for decades to read its predecessor, is actually a much better book. It's wonderful to have both, though.

The In Stack is still pretty healthy, containing most of my CAPTAIN AMERICA and HULK MARVEL MASTERWORKS, and many actual books -- the new Joe Haldeman and S.M. Stirling hardcovers, and a whole lot of paperbacks, ranging from one of the L. Sprague DeCamp CONAN installments through an August Derleth Cthulhu anthology and back through some of Ben Bova and Andre Norton's hackier work, as well as KAMPUS by James E. Gunn, THIEVES' WORLD (edited) by Robert Asprin, and ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS, one of Mike Resnick's perpetual ALTERNATE SOMETHING titles, which I normally ignore, but this one has a story by Michael Kube-McDowell in it, and when the author of perhaps the best alternate timeline novel ever (ALTERNITIES) writes an alternate timeline story, I take notice.

"Perhaps the best alternate timeline novel ever" is a big claim for ALTERNITIES, I know. I mean, it's better than Poul Anderson's DELENDA EST? Better than S.M. Stirling's DRAKA books, or his PESHAWAR LANCERS? Better than James P. Hogan's THE PROTEUS OPERATION, or even Ward Moore's BRING THE JUBILEE?

Well... yeah, I'd say so. Obviously, your mileage may vary. Still, while I vastly enjoy all the other listed alternate timeline explorations, my favorite remains ALTERNITIES. Perhaps because of Kube-McDowell's rather unique set up depicting a series of color coded alternative timelines all of which seem to have diverged from a specific, central timeline within the last 50 years, thus setting up a framework full of 'alternities' fascinating close, yet oh so different, from our own present day. I find this more appealing than the rather wilder, more divergent timelines depicted in these others -- the modern day of Paul Anderson's DELENDA EST is virtually unrecognizable to me, and as it stems from an obscure change to the history of the Punic Wars, has little emotional power over me.

Stirling's alternate timelines as depicted in both the DRAKA novels and PESHAWAR LANCERS are intricately detailed and beautifully evoked, yet, again, while these are timelines I find fascinating and enjoyable (for the most part -- the resolution we are presented with in THE STONE DOGS, Stirling's third DRAKA novel, in which the vile and vicious Draka actually triumph over their more freedom loving, democratic foes, is one I find unacceptable and intolerable, and can't make myself reread), still, they are much further afield to me than the 'alternities' Kube-McDowell depicts, and thus, less interesting to me. (Having said that, PESHAWAR LANCERS is a fabulous novel on many levels; not only is it a superb alternate timeline extrapolation, but it's probably the finest pulp adventure ever written in the late 20th/early 21st Century.)

The one alternate timeline book I wouldn't say ALTERNITIES exceeds is, of course, the classic PARATIME by H. Beam Piper. However, PARATIME is a collection of short stories, not a novel, so it doesn't really count here.

Nonetheless, any or all of these works are terrific examples of the presently insanely popular alternate timeline SF sub-genre. I don't expect ALTERNATE PRESIDENTS to be anywhere near that good -- no Mike Resnick anthology is ever that good -- but, still. Kube-McDowell alternate timeline story? I'll read it.


Wheel #6 - There is no Wheel #6!

You can be about your business.

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