Sibble Saturday: Two for the Price of One (Deuteronomy 29:9–31:30)

This week you get twice as much Torah as usual, firstly because I’m behind and I’m ready to be done with Deuteronomy, and second because פָּרָשַׁת נצבים (“Standing” portion) and פָּרָשַׁת וילך (“And he went” portion) are both very short.

The quick snarky summary: You’re entering a covenant now. You might’ve thought you already did that a couple times, but this is the Real Deal. All you have to do to not fuck it up is not worship idols. Really it’s very simple, and I’m writing it down so that you can’t possibly forget it. Look, I’m leaving Joshua in charge. You’ll listen to him, right? Hey, God’s got a message for me. And that message is: y’all are gonna screw this one up. In spite of me, in spite of what I’m writing down, and in spite of Joshua. Seriously, I don’t know why I bother.

You’d think omniscience would include knowing when to stop

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Wibble Wednesday: Responsive Readings (Deuteronomy 26:1–29:8)

The end is nigh! Well, the end of the Torah, at least. We’ve gotten to פָּרָשַׁת כי תבוא (“When you enter” portion), the part right before the preantepenultimate parsha.

The quick snarky summary: Make sure that you do all the right things with your agricultural products. You might not have gotten the gist the last two times I gave you these rules, so we’ll reiterate them, and demand that you swear you’ve followed them correctly. Also, once I’m dead and y’all go into Israel, write stuff down and proclaim curses just the way I would do. Here, let me show you by proclaiming a few curses right now.

I gore your ox, I drink your milkshake

The Short Victorious War, by David Weber

I’m afraid that I continue to self-harm with David Weber’s long-running mil-SF series. That’s not entirely fair, actually: On Basilisk Station and The Honor of the Queen were authentically good in their way. Certain admirable aspects of those works continue in this, the third Honor Harrington book. For instance, Weber still has a pretty coherent, self-consistent way of how space naval battles might work (in a way suspiciously similar to the way that, say, actual naval battles worked in the 19th century, but, hey, at least he goes to the trouble of trying to make his contrivance make sense). However, in terms of plotting, character development, and suchlike, I can’t help but feel that Short is coming up, er, short.

Both Basilisk and Honor were set on worlds which were in themselves unusual and provided grist for the plot. This work, by way of contrast, is set on wholly unremarkable Manticorean worlds, with wholly unremarkable Havenite foes. There are a few technological twists, but neither of them are quite equal to the gender politics and religious subplot of Yeltsin or the native uprising plot on Basilisk. The weight of the story thus falls on Manticore and Haven themselves, and not only are they not terribly interesting, but the places Weber shows interest come across as political potshots.

For instance, previously, Haven was just the designated black-hats. They were skirmishing with our designated heroes, and that was enough to give them the role of guys-we’re-rooting-against. Also, they weren’t front-and-center in previous stories, and the central villains (particularly the Masadans) were loathsome enough that we didn’t need to delve very far into who the Havenites were and why we should be rooting against them. But here Weber decides to actually spend some time on world-building Haven, and it’s awful. The premise, which I suppose we’re supposed to take seriously, is that the existence of social welfare has developed the majority of society into a nonlaboring underclass on the dole, with the result that the economy is wholly unsustainable except by relentless pillaging. It’s like a bad parody of Communism blended with a strawman version of the US’s welfare system. With transparent references to revolutionary France that seem frankly a bit cheesy and unworthy of a work that wants me to take it seriously. Manticore itself is not terribly well-developed, but they come across as basically a fantasy-UK. One without the dole.

So the basic premise of Haven is this weird bit of socialism-bashing, and the unfriendliness to liberalism doesn’t end there. Remember Houseman, the straw bleeding-heart diplomat from Honor that didn’t understand that sometimes force was necessary? Well, his cousin’s in this story. He basically does nothing and has no impact on the plot, but he’s present so that every 50 or so pages we can get a reminder of just how weak and stupid he was.

So, yeah, there’s another Honor Harrington story here (spoiler: she wins), which unlike the last two, doesn’t do much to develop her character. She gets a romance subplot and faces some fears, but all in all she feels pretty static here. A lot of energy is devoted to worldbuilding, and the world built is so incomprehensible and crafted to score cheap political points that it was quite hard to actually view the page-count spent on it as worthwhile.

Wibble Wednesday: Extra Virgins (Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19)

We’re still keeping it pretty interesting, as we go into פָּרָשַׁת כי תצא (“When you go” portion), which has a lot of civil laws.

The quick snarky summary: Jews are enjoined, in several ways, to be excellent to each other. Yay! There are occasional horrifying bits to remind us that we’re discussing an ancient culture here, like killing kids for being uppity and keeping stained sheets around for skeevy proof-of-virginity purposes.

More good than bad here

Wibble Wednesday: Kings and Things (Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9)

No excuse for this being late. Yes, I’ve had other interesting things going on, but I should have the time to devote to this properly. Particularly since for once we have something more interesting than dire warnings against idolworship, here in פָּרָשַׁת שפטים (“Judges” portion).

The quick snarky summary: Your nation needs to be a just and well-organized one, so set up a bunch of local tribunals, and defer to the priests, And you can have a king too, if you really want one. This kind of love of structure is what sets you apart from the common ruck of humanity. Well, that and not worshipping idols and performing divinations. No, really, you better not worship idols. I’m afraid you might’ve forgotten it since the last time I warned you, so let me tell you a couple more times how awful idolworship is.

This is actually one of the more civilized parshot of Deuteronomy

Bánh mì in Louisville (part 12 of an onging series): Bánh Mì Hero revisited (a couple of times)

I’ve really been remiss in writing about Bánh Mì Hero. I’ve been back several times since my first visit, and I really ought to report on it’s development.

[Photo of sandwiches from Bánh Mì Hero]Banh Mi Hero on UrbanspoonBánh Mì Hero (2245 Bardstown Road) was previously reviewed here and a lot of the comments on decor, service, and price still hold. Since then, I’ve gotten a chance to go back and try a few of their other sandwiches, including Lee’s own eponymous creation and the grilled pork sandwich.

I can keep this pretty short, because a lot of the relevant matters of composition have been dealt with. Suffice to say that the fillings on all of the sandwiches I’ve had so far have been well-balanced, tasty, and extremely generous (the prices here are well north of the Iroquois-Beechmont standards, but damn do you get a lot for your money). The three sandwiches pictured here were an ample, enormous lunch for four of us.

Now, way back when, I gushed about the fillings and composition, and expressed strong reservations about the bread. I’m pleased to be able to report that the bread supply’s been worked out: Lee’s working with bakers at Sullivan and getting custom made-to-specifications rolls, and after a few false starts has gotten the right lightness and frangibility. They’re a bit weak on the bottom still, which only becomes apparent because these are such fully loaded sandwiches: the sheer weight of meat and juice from sauces takes a toll even on these robust rolls by the end. But it’s nice to be able to report that the one significant reservation I had about the sandwiches at this excellent Douglas loop joint has been resolved.

They’re still a bit Westernized, of course, which is a necessary concession to local tastes. But I have full faith that Lee will put out the most authentic product he can get people to buy, and in honesty he really does stick to very faithful designs. He’d go further if he could: he’s chatted with me about his adventures in homemade head cheese and other meat products which are a tough sell. So I don’t think I’ll see my beloved bì any time soon on his sandwiches, but Bánh Mì Hero puts an awesome selection of other meats, with no cause for complaint.