Sunday, February 28, 2010

The fierce urgency of brown rice

What with my spouse being Japanese, we eat a lot of rice in my house. But white rice isn't really good for you, so recently I started eating brown rice again. Brown rice is much better for you. I also like the taste better. It has a rich, nut-like flavor compared with white rice.

But now brown rice is taking over my life. Because brown rice is rich in fiber. Very, very rich in fiber. That means that brown rice can make me do what it wants me to do, when it wants me to do it. And what it wants me to do is poop.

See, ordinarily, when your body says, "Time to poop now," you can go now, or you can go later. If you want to, you can say "Wait a minute. I'm busy now. I'll go in a little while." And your body will say "OK." You can finish whatever you're doing and then go.

But with Brown Rice, things are different. Brown Rice is in charge. The first time Brown Rice said "Time to poop now" to me, I tried saying "Wait a minute. I'm busy now. I'll go in a little while." And Brown Rice turned into Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.

"Time to poop now."

"Wait a minute. I'm busy now. I'll go in a little while."

"Time to poop. Now."

"Wait."

"SAY 'WAIT' AGAIN! SAY 'WAIT' AGAIN! I DARE YOU! I DOUBLE DARE YOU MOTHERFUCKER! SAY 'WAIT' ONE MORE GODDAMN TIME!"

I didn't say "Wait" again.

When Brown Rice says "Poop," you say "How much?" And the answer is always "A lot." And it's everything out. Nobody needs to spend money on a high colonic. Just eat brown rice. Everything out. That gum you swallowed six years ago? Out. That piece of aluminum foil you ate in 1st grade? Out. That hamburger you ate -- oh! sorry -- agh! ihavetogodosomethinnnnn

Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction:


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/27/2009)

Climate denialist edition.

Scientific consensus, climate change, and vaccines: "how much weight should an individual give to any specific scientific consensus, and is this just an argument from authority?"

Climate-Change Denial as an O.J. Moment: "The campaign against climate science has been enormously clever, and enormously effective. It's worth trying to understand how they've done it. The best analogy, I think, is to the O.J. Simpson trial...."

When (semi-literate) state legislators attack (science): the South Dakota House of Representatives passed a resolution urging:

...that instruction in the public schools relating to global warming include the following:
...
2) That there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological, thermological,* cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity of these factors is largely speculative; and...

(*I don't think that word means what they think it means. In case you were wondering, according to the Font of All Knowledge, "thermology is the medical science that derives diagnostic indications from highly detailed and sensitive infrared images of the human body." I had to look that up. I didn't have to look up the difference between astrology and astronomy or affect and effect, though.)

I didn't have to look those up, because liberals and atheists are smarter than conservatives and religious people.

Hahaha! j/k. Like PZ says, neither the study nor its author are very credible.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My dog Izzy

Here's a true story:

When I was a little kid -- about 5 years old -- I really wanted a dog. Every day, I'd ask my dad to get me a dog. But he wouldn't get me one. It wasn't like we didn't have room for a dog, or couldn't afford one; we had plenty of room and money. And I was a responsible little dude. I'd have taken good care of a dog. But my dad wouldn't get me one. And he never told me why. He just ignored me whenever I asked.

This went on for years. But one day, when I was 10, my dad brought home a dog for me. Just out of the blue. "Here's a dog for you, kuri," he said.

Wow! "Gosh, thanks, Dad!" I was so happy and grateful. I had the best dad in the whole world.

I named my new dog Izzy. And he was the best dog in the whole world. He was smart, and brave, loyal and obedient. We went everywhere and did everything together. I loved him more then anything.

After I'd had Izzy for about two years, my dad called me into his den for a little talk. Izzy was with me, of course. "Son," he said, "I want you to shoot Izzy."

"Wh-what?"

"I want you to shoot Izzy."

"But Dad -- "

"Take him into the woods and shoot him. Here's a gun."

"But Dad, I can't shoot Izzy!"

"Don't you love me? If you love me, you'll do whatever I ask."

"You're right, Dad. I'll take Izzy into the woods and shoot him."

"That's my boy!"

I took Izzy into the woods. I hugged him one last time. He licked the tears from my cheeks, but that only made them come faster. I put the pistol against his head. Izzy looked up at me with the same absolute trust he always had. "Good-bye, Izzy," I said as I cocked the gun.

"kuri, wait!" It was my dad. He ran up to us. "You don't have to shoot Izzy! I was just testing you to see if you'd do whatever I asked. You passed the test! Now I'm really going to love you!"

I was so happy and grateful. "Gosh, Dad, I love you so much for not making me shoot Izzy. You're the best dad in the whole world!"

OK, that's not really a true story, of course. It never happened. I never had a dog named Izzy, and my dad wasn't a manipulative psychopath.

But maybe the story seemed a little familiar somehow? I hope so, because it was an attempt to retell the story of "the Binding of Isaac," when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son but then said "...NOT!" at the last minute.

I wanted to retell the story to make my perspective on it clear. Religious people -- some religious people, I should say, some true believers -- are somehow able to read the story of the Binding of Isaac and see it as expressing God's love. This description of a painting by Chagall, which I found here, is fairly typical.

The bound and naked Isaac is a symbol of extreme vulnerability and suggests acute sensitivity to the word of God. God answers in kind, rushing his angel in sudden descent to arrest the movement of Abraham’s knife. Thus, although bathed in an atmosphere of frightening proportions, the pictorial narrative speaks of two worlds reconciled by tender love.

"Tender love." Yes, that's a story about "tender love." The "tender love" that a manipulative psychopath of a god has for an idiot who'll do anything to gain his god's sick love.

Anyone can see that in my little dog story. The best anyone could say of the boy in that story is that he's pitiable, a deeply confused and damaged co-dependent. And no one would defend that father. He's indefensible. He's twisted; evil and frightening.

So why is it, I wonder, that some people don't see the same things when there's an almost identical story in the Bible, with Abraham as the pitiable child and God as the manipulative psychopathic father? Why do they see it as a story of faith rather than one of horrific manipulation? Why do they give God a pass for behavior that would (or at least should) land a human being in a prison or a mental hospital?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Team Mom

There's a little story that goes with the soccer trophy I used in Space Doctor No. 19. It's my son, T's, trophy from 5th grade. (And isn't it kind of scary looking? How would you like to meet that on a dark soccer field? I wouldn't blame Kirk for wanting to shoot it.)

Youth sports teams often have what's sometimes called a "Team Mom." She's the one who takes charge of snack schedules, carpools, team parties, and basically anything that has to do with the team but doesn't actually involve playing the game. She's kind of an administrative assistant for the coach. And she plays an important role in keeping things organized and working smoothly.

So T's 5th-grade soccer team had a Team Mom, and she did fine. I certainly had no complaints. But then we came down towards the end of the season, and she was organizing the team party. And she went around asking the parents if they wanted to get trophies for the kids.

Now, little kids love to get trophies and medals, no matter why. It doesn't have to be for actually accomplishing something; they just love getting them. So at their end-of-season parties, they always would.

But these were 5th graders. They'd kind of outgrown that. So when Team Mom asked me if I thought we should get the kids trophies, I said, "Well, I think they're old enough that getting a trophy just for showing up doesn't mean much to them." I also said, "I don't think there's enough time before the party to get them engraved anyway."

I could tell she didn't like that. She just said, "Hmm. Really?" and moved on to the next parent. She'd obviously already made up her mind to get trophies; polling us was just a pretext. But whatever. No big deal. I thought it was pretty funny, actually. And I'm generally a cooperative person, so I chipped in my ten bucks for the party, trophies, and a present for the coach when she asked me later.

At the party, she unveiled the trophies, and it was those creepy bobble-heads. And they weren't engraved, just like I'd said. So they were just generic creepy bobble-heads. I thought that was pretty funny too.

But the best was yet to come. Because she also got a trophy for the coach. And it wasn't a generic bobble-head. It was this elaborate thing at least two feet tall, with columns and stuff. It looked a lot like this one, but with a dude on top instead of a lady. It wasn't engraved either. Again, pretty funny.

But then she unveiled another trophy. It was identical to the coach's trophy. Two feet tall, with columns. (But not engraved.) Who was it for? Why, the Team Mom, of course. That's right. She'd taken some of the money all the parents chipped in and used it to buy herself a giant trophy.

And that was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. It was well worth the money I'd contributed.

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 19)

"Wait, Jim! I think it just wants to play!"

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm not blaming the victim, but...

...I'm blaming the victim. Here's a purportedly feminist website, where a man writes how a

recent article in the sidebar about women who blame women for being raped. Shock was expressed that an astounding 20% of women respondents seemed to think that “if they went back to the assailant’s house”, and “that dancing provocatively, flirtatious behaviour, or wearing revealing clothing made them partly to blame.” Even more shocking, “Another behavior meriting culpability, according to nearly three quarters of lady respondents, is willingly climbing into bed with the eventual attacker.” The article goes on to explain how women are indoctrinated to believe it’s their job to protect against getting raped, and consequently they blame the victim, and the cycle perpetuates.

Shocking, I suppose, but not surprising. "Blaming the victim" is human psychology. I think it's a way of comforting ourselves. It's a way of telling ourselves that the universe isn't random and scary, it only hurts people who do something wrong. Don't do something wrong, and you'll be safe. Nothing bad will happen to you if you're careful. It's not true, of course. Bad things can happen to anyone, at any time. But it's comforting to believe otherwise, and "blaming the victim" helps us do that.

Anyway, the author of the post says the right things, in places. He says, for example, "The fault for perpetrating a crime such as rape is always the fault of the perpetrator... and people shouldn’t be withholding sympathy from the victims" and "I don’t believe any woman under any circumstance deserves to be raped or that it is ever her fault." So far, so good.

But then he goes on to say that "something in the article’s attitude makes me uneasy." Why? Because "in some cases the woman is guilty of being a tease, a slut, or at the very least, an idiot, and that often is her fault." That's not to say that "she is at fault for getting raped. She’s merely at fault for being a tease, a slut, or an idiot," but such women are "minimizing the responsibility we have towards one another."

Which caused them to be raped. Because they were "provocative."

Bullshit.

I'm fine with talking about ways to keep women (and men) safe from rape and other crimes. But I draw the line when people start tossing around words like "provocative" and "guilt" and "responsibility." Because people who are raped do not provoke it, they are not responsible for it, and they are guilty of nothing. Any talk about "minimizing the responsibility" of rape victims to behave in certain ways is really just minimizing the responsibility of rapists.

Women get raped because rapists rape them. Period. There is no such thing as "provocation" for a forcible rape. There are no mitigating circumstances for rapists. None. Zero. Never. "No" means no. "Stop" means stop. It doesn't matter who says it or what they were doing before they said it. There is nothing any person in the world can do that would make any normal, decent person rape them.

Happy birthday George Washington!

You BAMF!
And oldie but goodie (NSFW/C/P).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 18)


"Jim, we need to talk."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Vote for meeee!!!111

So, um, some of my posts are nominated for some bloggy awards. Please vote for me. If I win, then I can always refer to my blog as my award-winning blog, and then I will be happy.

If you'd like, please vote for me as follows:

Under "Best Humor Piece":
The Top 10 most annoying freeway drivers
or
The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 4)

Under "Most poignant story":
That won't happen now

Under "Best post title":
Jesus beats Hef, 4 -3
or
Only scary people and crazy people talk to me

Under "Best book review":
The unreliable author: Why Stephenie [sic] Meyer is accidentally a great writer (sort of)

I want to have an award-winning blog! Please help! Thanks!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/14/2010)

...a significant number of people, and of course a great deal of pop culture, was not remotely kidding with all the stuff about, you know, people thinking it matters if they have a date on Valentine's Day and men paying and women being given gifts and all that other stuff.
It hasn't escaped my attention, I've just always thought it's nuts. Anyway, don't boycott the holiday, boycott the values system.

Speaking of weird values, Digby talks about the inability of some people on the right to empathize with anybody who isn't a whole lot like them.

What Obstructionism + Nihilism + the Wurlitzer Looks Like.

Check out these maps of soda consumption and adult diabetes. (And look closely at northern Georgia.)

Happy Valentine's Day!

My sentiments exactly.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 17)


Where no man has gone before...

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday and Friday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/11/2010)

So, a website publishes an article called "Facebook wants to be your one true log-in." It becomes the first result that pops up when you Google "Facebook" and "login." What happens next? The article gets over 600 comments from people who just clicked on the first link that came up on Google and think they're on the Facebook log-in page and say "The new Facebook sucks" and "How do I log in?" Srsly.

The perfect Valentine's Day gift for geeks (possibly NSFW/C/P).

The Adidas Star Wars collection. I like the Skywalker sneaks.

Some genuine rejected designs for Star Wars merchandise, by one of the designers. Some of them are actually pretty awesome.

Book review: Eating the Dinosaur

Eating the Dinosaur, Chuck Klosterman ***

Something is like something else. But not really. Except that it is. But only sort of. Also, my apartment.

Ratings:
**** Highly recommended
*** Recommended
** Meh
* Don't bother

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Good reads/Random Cool Sites (2/10/2010)

Hmm. I guess this might explain why they ended up trying to justify torture: Justice Department seeks mentally retarded lawyers.

The first ironic muscle car?

"...intuitive judgments of right and wrong seem to operate independently of explicit religious commitments." (h/t: Friendly Atheist).

Make your own comic at the Batman & Robin Comic Generator. For example, here's one I made:

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 16)


"I believe it's attempting to say 'Hello,' Captain."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday and Friday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

It's a young man's game

Not much more to say.

Good Reads/random Cool Sites (2/7/2010)

The Westboro Baptist Church nutter bigots held a protest outside Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. San Francisco was ready for them.

Our world may be a giant hologram. Seriously (i.e., it's a scientific hypothesis, not a metaphysical one).

The real-life Omar Little.

"Zero tolerance" runs amuck again: a 12-year-old girl was handcuffed and detained by police for doodling on her desk.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Video favorites (February 2010)

Haven't done one of these in a while.

Fumiko's confession, I like big butresses, Billie Jean: Literal Video Version, Jersey grandma hates "Jersey Shore," and Ricky Gervais reads the book of Genesis.

Independent anime: "Fumiko's confession." (It's in Japanese but there are only five lines: "Will you be my boyfriend?" and "Sorry, I want to concentrate on baseball right now" are the dialogs at the beginning and end. In between there's a "He's so stupid!" (H/t and a fuller discussion of the meaning of the Japanese dialog: Eugene Woodbury).



I like big buttresses and I cannot lie.




There are lots of good Literal Video Versions. "Billie Jean" is one of the best ones.




Jersey grandma hates "Jersey Shore."




Ricky Gervais reads the book of Genesis.


The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 15)

"Well, yes, Captain, they're female, but..."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday and Friday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/4/2010)

The President should be able to kill anyone he wants.

Nic Cage as everyone.

Just some really nice writing: This is my story.

Giant Japanese salamanders.

The greatest band you've never heard of

Or maybe you have heard of psychedelic pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators. If you have, you're lucky. I only found out about them last year, even though they're a '60s band.

They were only together from 1965 to 1969 and only put out three studio albums, the last coming out after they'd more or less broken up. Led by lyricist Tommy Hall, who was into psychedelic drugs as a means of raising consciousness, the band was heavily into marijuana and LSD. Ultimately, this led to the band's breakup, when lead singer Roky Erickson was busted for marijuana possession and ended up spending three years in a mental hospital rather than go to jail on a felony charge.

Erickson was one of the greatest rock singers ever. His passionate, often screaming vocals heavily influenced Janis Joplin, who was friend of the band. But Erickson struggled for decades with drug addiction and mental illness, which kept him from the fame and fortune his talent deserved.

Musically, the 13th Floor Elevators ranged from straight-up old-school rhythm and blues to tripped-out psychedelia. Their R&B songs were solid, but their psychedelic songs were awesome. They featured fuzz-tone guitars and Tommy Hall's weirdly frantic electric jug. And Hall's strange lyrics, in Erickson's passionate voice, brought the whole thing together.

Here's four of my favorites.

"You're Gonna Miss Me" (1966) The clip is from some kind of Dick Clark show. The vocal sound that influenced Janis Joplin is pretty obvious.




"Splash 1" (1966) is a beautiful falling-in-love song; I really love the lyrics.

I've seen your face before
I've known you all my life
And though it's new
your image cuts me like a knife
CHORUS:
And now I'm home
And now I'm home
And now I'm home, to stay
The neon from your eyes is splashing into mine
It's so familiar in a way I can't define
CHORUS
And though this is awful speedy
We needn't bother speaking
All we might say is understood
CHORUS
The fierceness of my feelings
rocks me like a war
It's good to know we won't be strangers anymore
CHORUS X 2




"Roller Coaster" (1966) A quintessential LSD song. You can really hear the jug on this one. It's that weird "doo-doo-doo-doo-doo" sound.




"Slip inside This House" (1967) This is kind of a tour de force of everything that was great about the 13th Floor Elevators -- the fuzzed-out guitars, the intense vocals, the weird electric jug sound, and some awesomely trippy lyrics, like these:

Every day's another dawning
Give the morning winds a chance
Always catch your thunder yawning
Lift your mind into the dance
Sweep the shadows from your awning
Shrink the fourfold circumstance
That lies outside this house don't pass it by.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/3/2010)

Those wacky Republicans! edition:

First, I just want to say that I'm really glad to live in a state and a city where the majority of people are reasonable about taxes, unlike Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Second, if you only watch one video today, make it Carly Fiorina's new campaign commercial. (She's seeking the Republican nomination for Senator from California.) This is not a parody, nor is it satire. It's a serious campaign ad by a serious candidate. Seriously. They actually put out a press release and made a website about it. And O. M. G. is it funny.

Third, Sen. Susan Collins is spouting the bogus claim -- the patently silly claim, really -- that the Constitution is intended to protect only American citizens.

Fourth, a while back, I wrote that two out of three Republicans are completely nuts. I guess I have to take that back. It's more like one in three is crazy, one in three is sane, and one in three is not sure. These are the results of a poll of self-identified Republicans:

Question
Yes
No
Not Sure
Should Barack Obama be impeached?
39
32
29
Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States?
42
36
22
Do you think Barack Obama is a socialist?
63
21
16
Do you believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win?
 24
 43
 33
Do you believe ACORN stole the 2008 election?
21
24
55
Do you believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Barack Obama?
53
14
33
Do you believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates white people?
31
36
33
Do you believe your state should secede from the United States?
23
58
19
Should openly gay men and women be allowed to teach in public schools?
8
73
19
Should contraceptive use be outlawed?
31
56
13
Do you believe the birth control pill is abortion?
34
48
18

The poll was commissioned by Daily Kos, but it was carried out by Research 2000, a reputable independent polling firm.

The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (No. 14)

"He's dead, Jim! But grateful."

Follow the adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor, as he explores the far reaches of space (and my house... and my backyard... and my kids' toy boxes) with his friends Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Every Wednesday and Friday, right here at ToTryANewSword.com.

Equinoxious!

I was tired of shaving, so I decided to grow a beard. I didn't want to keep it permanently, though -- I hate having a beard during the summer. Coincidentally, I decided that during the week of the autumnal equinox, so I thought "Hey! I'll grow it from equinox to equinox!" Six months, from the autumnal equinox to the vernal equinox.

So that's what I've been doing. It's been about four months now; six weeks to go.

I've been trimming it around my lips, which was a mistake. I should have let it grow and combed it out of the way instead. Live and learn.

It actually looked reasonably neat for about three months. Then it went crazy and started getting all curly and fluffy and stuff. Brushing and combing no longer work. I look like a homeless giant now. I kind of like it.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Book review: Bambi

Bambi: A Life in the Woods, Felix Salten ****

Yes, I read Bambi. Yes, I'm giving it four out of four stars.

Bambi was published in 1928, but I'd never read it before. In fact, I hadn't even known the book existed. I knew the film, of course, and since Disney almost always adapted existing works, I would have realized there must be a source if I'd thought about it. But I never did think about it, because who reads Bambi nowadays? I'd never heard anyone mention reading it. I loved animal stories as a child, yet I don't recall ever coming across anything but Disney picture books.

But earlier this month, I read Ursula K. Le Guin's book of essays Cheek by Jowl. In it, Le Guin called Bambi "a beautiful book, truthful in its observations and its emotions, disturbing, austere, and subtle." With that recommendation, I had to read it. And Le Guin is right. Absolutely right.

The book is nothing like the movie. Le Guin is right again: "The movie, for all its brilliance and seductive power, betrays the book on every level." There's nothing "cute" about this book. In fact, it's not a "children's book" at all. It was written for adults. (Although I think many intelligent and sensitive children of, say, 10 and older will like or even love it.)

I want you to read one scene that startled me with its depth and power. Bambi and another deer watch as a dog corners a fox. The "He" that they speak of is, of course, Man, the hunter, a looming presence throughout the book.

...the dog was never silent for a minute. His high rasping bark only grew fuller and deeper. "Here," he yapped, "here he is! Here! Here! Here!" He was not abusing the fox. He was not even speaking to him, but was urging on someone who was still far behind.

Bambi knew as well as the old stag did that it was He the dog was calling. ...

A weakness overcame the fox. His crushed foot sank down helpless, but a burning pain shot through it when it touched the cold snow. He lifted it again with an effort and held it quivering in front of him.

"Let me go," said the fox, beginning to speak, "let me go." He spoke softly and beseechingly. He was quite weak and despondent.

"No! No! No!" the dog howled.

The fox pleaded still more insistently. "We're relations," he pleaded, "we're brothers almost. Let me go home. Let me die with my family at least. We're brothers almost, you and I."

"No! No! No!" the dog raged.

Then the fox rose so that he was sitting perfectly erect. He dropped his handsome pointed muzzle on his bleeding breast, raised his eyes and looked the dog straight in the face. In a completely altered voice, restrained and embittered, he growled, "Aren't you ashamed, you traitor!"

"No! No! No!" yelped the dog.

But the fox went on, "You turncoat, you renegade." His maimed body was taut with contempt and hatred. "You spy," he hissed, "you blackguard, you track us where He could never find us. You betray us, your own relations, me who am almost your brother. And you stand there and aren't ashamed!"

Instantly many other voices sounded loudly round about.

"Traitor!" cried the magpie from the tree.

"Spy!" shrieked the jay.

"Blackguard!" the weasel hissed.

"Renegade!" snarled the ferret.

From every tree and bush came chirpings, peepings, shrill cries, while overhead the crows cawed, "Spy! Spy!" Everyone had rushed up, and from the trees or from safe hiding places on the ground they watched the contest. The fury that had burst from the fox released an embittered anger in all of them. And the blood spilled on the snow, that steamed before their eyes, maddened them and made them forget all caution.

The dog stared around him. "Who are you?" he yelped. "What do you want? What do you know about it? What are you talking about? Everything belongs to Him, just as I do. But I, I love Him. I worship Him, I serve Him. Do you think you can oppose Him, poor creatures like you? He's all-powerful. He's above all of you. Everything we have comes from Him. Everything that lives or grows comes from Him." The dog was quivering with exaltation.

"Traitor!" cried the squirrel shrilly.

"Yes, traitor!" hissed the fox. "Nobody is a traitor but you, only you."

The dog was dancing about in a frenzy of devotion. "Only me?" he cried; "you lie. Aren't there many, many others on His side? The horse, the cow, the sheep, the chickens, and many, many of you and your kind are on His side and worship Him and serve Him."

"They're rabble!" snarled the fox, full of a boundless contempt.

Then the dog could contain himself no longer and sprang at the fox's throat. [They fight, and the dog kills the fox.]

The dog shook him a few times, then let him fall on the trampled snow. He stood beside him, his legs planted, calling in a deep, loud voice, "Here! Here! He's here!"

There is profound truth in that passage. I don't know that I've ever read a better depiction of the cruelty of fanaticism, of the way that people can betray their very humanity for the sake of an ideal.

The dog's devotion is religious in type, and it's easy to see echoes of him in religious murders, in the Crusades, in the Inquisition, in witch trials, and in present-day suicide bombers and abortion doctor shooters. But religious people, of course, aren't the only ones who act that way. The 20th century alone offers a long sad list of examples where people were cruel to other people -- where they betrayed all humanity -- for the sake of an ideology: Communism, Fascism/Nazism, a dozen different genocides, all carried out by people immune to pleading, immune to shame, quivering in exaltation, in frenzies of devotion to their ideologies.

The beauty of Bambi as a novel is that this kind of profound commentary on the human condition is expressed perfectly in character. The dog at all times is very doggy. If a hound dog could think and talk to other animals, those are the kind of things, we imagine, it indeed might say, and just the way it might say them.

And this is true of all the animals in Bambi. Rather than simply sticking human minds into animal bodies, as many a lesser writer has done, Felix Salten wrote about animal minds. If animals could think and talk, what kind of thoughts would make them act the way they do? That's the approach Salten took, and his writing consistently rings true. That's why Bambi works as an animal story, and as more than an animal story. Like all great novels, it has things to teach us about what it is to be human.

Ratings:
**** Highly recommended
*** Recommended
** Meh
* Don't bother