Humor

High Desert Barbecue by J.D. Tuccille

High Desert Barbecue, by libertarian author and columnist J.D. Tuccille, is a fun romp through the dry country of the southwest. The protagonists are libertarian and manage to slip in many an observation about life and the government. The antagonists are government agents, usually environmentalist wackos and bumbling idiots to boot. Mr. Tuccille does not try to hide his colors, but whatever the reader’s are he will at least find some humor and adventure in the tale, and if he is libertarian some satisfaction as well.

The story concerns a plot by environmentalists to burn out animals — humans especially — from northern Arizona so that plants may take their place at the top of the food chain and not be bothered by inferior creatures. The irony of these mammalian Forest Service enviros passionately fighting for plants, against their own kind, is thick throughout the book. One can sense the author’s amused disdain and the pleasure he takes at the antics of these defectives.

Their act of arson — referred to as “The Carthage Option” — is witnessed and filmed by Rollo, his friend Scott, and Scott’s girlfriend Lani. A chase through uninhabited territory follows, while the fire burns. The three protagonists are desperate to get the footage uploaded to the internet so that everyone can see what the government is up to. The Forest Service hippies, a group of incompetent boobs who are good for a couple dozen chuckles through the course of the story, pursue them, determined to keep the intelligence from reaching Youtube but having difficulties getting out of their own way during the chase.

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BOOK REVIEW | Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1: The Complete and Authoritative Edition Thumbnail

Good things come to those who wait, the old adage goes, and the world has waited a century for Mark Twain’s autobiography, which, in Twain’s words, is a “complete and purposed jumble.” But this 760 page jumble is a good thing. And well worth the wait.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1: The Complete and Authoritative EditionTwain, or Samuel L. Clemens, compiled this autobiography over the course of 35 years. The manuscript began in fits and starts. Twain, while establishing his legacy as a beloved humorist and man of letters, dashed off brief episodes here and there, assigning chapter numbers to some and simply shelving others. In 1906, he began making efforts to turn these cobbled-together passages into a coherent narrative. He even met daily with a stenographer to dictate various reflections and then to compile them into a single, albeit muddled, document. The result was a 5,000 page, unedited stack of papers that, per Twain’s strict handwritten instructions, could not be published until 100 years after his death.

To say that we’ve waited a century to view this manuscript is only partially accurate because pieces of the manuscript appeared in 1924, 1940, and 1959. But this edition, handsomely bound by the University of California Press, and edited by Harriet Elinor Smith and others of the Mark Twain Project, is the first full compilation of the autobiographical dictations and extracts to reach print. The editors, noting that “the goal of the present edition [is] to publish the complete text as nearly as possible in the way Mark Twain intended it to be published before his death,” explain that “no text of the Autobiography so far published is even remotely complete, much less completely authorial.” The contents of this much-awaited beast of a book, then, are virtually priceless, and no doubt many of the previously unread or unconsidered Twain passages will become part of the American canon.

Stark photographs of the manuscript drafts and of Twain and his subjects — including family members and residences — accompany this fragmentary work. The lively and at times comical prose is in keeping with the rambling style of this rambling man whom readers have come to know and appreciate for generations. Would we have expected any less?

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NEWS ROUNDUP | NASA FAIL, Community Mocks Politics, Cheap eBooks, D&D, History of SF Thumbnail
  1. NASA wasted over $400 million taxpayer dollars last week as its new global warming research satellite (I thought the science was settled?) failed to make it onto orbit. The cause? A rocket “glitch.” That’s the second time in two years. Just abolish the agency and myriad regulations already to make way for private space endeavors.
  2. A recent episode (S2Ep17) of the tv series Community mocks politics and student government elections, that training ground for our future rulers. You might want to watch it on Hulu.com, while it’s still available, before reading the rest of this entry as I picked out my favorite parts to highlight and they might spoil it for you.

    Britta, the same character concerned with orc/goblin (I forget) property rights in the AD&D episode, declares that democracy (rule by the people ) is a sham and that human beings should not be governed. But she’s not well-received by the masses. Pierce (Chevy Chase) enters the race simply to harass a fellow candidate for not loaning him her pencil earlier. Jeff enters simply to demonstrate to the lone serious candidate, Annie, who comes off as a typical hyper-competitive douchebag, that he can beat her simply by uttering empty feel-good slogans, prompting her to turn to dirty politics in order to embarrass him into pulling out of the race. There are several other joke candidates as well. Good stuff.
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EDITORIAL | The Perils and Importance of Futurism and Science-Fictional Speculation Thumbnail

When you make predictions about the future, there is a good chance that you’ll be wrong. People have a tendency to grow attached to certain visions of the future and become so jaded by its failure to materialize that they are blind to the technological wonders that actually are materializing around them. Some even take this attitude to an extreme that resembles making the perfect the enemy of the good.”  They become so obsessed with their ideal vision of the future that they lose all other perspective; they look back and can evaluate what they already have only in light of this perfect vision, compared to which everything else is shit: worthless and unenjoyable. They can’t be happy with what they have now.

A recent xkcd comic illustrates these points well:

The flying car and the personal jetpack were popular dreamed-of products in the last century. I remember That 70’s Show episodes in which the father, Red Foreman, complained about lacking the flying cars that his generation had been promised and daydreamed about having a robot servant and a personal jetpack. There’s even a band called We Were Promised Jetpacks. Gizmodo has a list of 10 technologies we were promised and never got. As if to underscore my point and the xkcd comic, the title of the post is 100 Years of Failure.

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