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Journal of No. 118


July 9th, 2010

Ends & Odds & The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing @ 02:04 pm


aaronjv is bringing the HP Lovecraft Film Festival to Los Angeles. It'll be a one-day program (9-11-10) of some of the best films shown at the previous HPL filmfests in Portland, Oregon. Get your tickets.

Nifty news that a MA court struck down part of DOMA, saying (as far as I can tell - IANAL) that legislation about what is or isn't a valid marriage is a right retained by the states. Going further into IANAL-dom, I'm a little confused about the scope of the ruling. As I understand it, unless it is appealed higher up the court system, the ruling applies only to MA. So is (part of) DOMA 'banned in Boston' but operative elsewhere? How does a federal law live a twilight existence like this? My mental picture of a law being declared unconstitutional has it being banished to the outer darkness amidst flames of eternal woe, never more to trouble the sunlit lands. But it appears that it has only been kicked out of MA, but remains on the federal lawbooks. Fuckin' laws, how do they work?

Enjoyed many 4th festivities, including a small shinding at our place, featuring the triumphant return of pig candy. Then I managed to pick up a winter cold or something from one of the many dear people I hung out with that weekend, which has kept me kinda blah this week.

Achieved 100% completion in RDR, but I still need to kill a duck to get the Unnatural Selection Trophy. There are quite a few funny trophies. I tiptoed into the multiplayer to look around, but still haven't gotten into any fierce action.

Dr. Pookie and I signed the refi docs last night. 15 years at 4.125%. Man, I can remember when interest rates were over 10%. Anyway, if we keep the payments the same as what we were paying on the old loan, we'll even get out 28 months early.

But speaking of smart things to do with money, I think I need to get into the title insurance business. What is title insurance you ask? Why, it's one of the dozen little fees and things in your loan documents that you pay that you don't what the fuck it is.
"Title insurance exists in the U.S. in great part because of a comparative deficiency in the U.S. land records laws. ... for the most part, the states have opted for a system of document recording in which no governmental official makes any determination of who owns the title or whether the instruments transferring it are valid."
But the important thing about title insurance is this: "In 2003, according to ALTA, the industry paid out about $662 million in claims, about 4.3% percent of the $15.7 billion taken in as premiums." Makes loansharks look altruistic.

I read MT Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation (vol. 1 - The Pox Party). It won a National Book Award and racked up a number of other honors. Set at the time of the American Revolution, the titular hero is a boy being raised rather unconventionally in an eccentric Enlightenment 'college' in New England. Without spoiling too much, Octavian is a young slave being raised with a classical education in order to gauge the mental capacity of Africans. This allows the novel to explore a lot of touchy and important topics: slavery, education, race, Enlightenment ideals, the political compromises on which America is founded, etc. It's an engaging story and I think the book does an excellent job of presenting these ideas in the course of the plot without hammering at them polemically. I very much enjoyed the book's first two-thirds... the final third (which shifts to an epistolary format) loses narrative power and loses its way. Enough so that I'm not itching to get my hands on vol. 2.
I also wonder a bit that the book is being marketed as YA. Sure, the protagonist is YA, and it's told in relatively short little episodes, but the 18th century-esque diction and vocabulary is pretty formidable in places. But for the stronger readers, a good choice.
 
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From:dustchick
Date:July 9th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
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The second volume of Octavian Nothing isn't as good as the first, but I thought the first volume was amazing. I'm a big fan of MT Anderson. Even his middle-grade stuff has moments of profound beauty and lyricism.
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From:zorker
Date:July 10th, 2010 01:21 am (UTC)
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Felt the same way about Octavian Nothing, the last third loses a lot of the momentum. I have been debating reading the next volume, and figured there was no way it could hold up without the weird background setting of the place he was raised.

Think it's an interesting YA choice because it really underlines the dehumanizing attitudes that accompany rampant racism, something a kid raised in current society might not easily grasp.
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From:aaronjv
Date:July 10th, 2010 09:24 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the plug!

Journal of No. 118