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December 8th, 2008

Eid al-Adha

Go stone the devil today. 

Today marks the end of the Hajj season, and muslims the world over will celebrate by getting together with their buddies and sit around drinking thick coffee and chatting up a storm.  It is a low-key holiday, you might say.  (Unlike Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Fast and is marked by gift-giving and dinner parties.)  In tradition, today is the day that Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac when God told him, no, that isn't really necessary.  Supposedly, the Black Rock of the Ka'aba is a remnant of the altar that Abraham prepared.  Historically, Canaanite society practiced the sacrifice of children.  This was horrific to the Greeks and Romans, neither of which were notably squeamish.  Unique among the Canaanites, the Hebrew tribes did not kill their children -- no abortions, no "crying rock", no Moloch's furnace.  Unusual enough that Tacitus marked it as a distinguishing feature of the Jews of his day.  The Story of Abraham and Isaac is the mythic record of this breakthrough - that God does not require the blood of human beings. 

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I've been reading Tom Holland's Rubicon, a narrative history of the pivotal generation in Western history.  It's very nicely written so far. 
Narrow and obscure the stream may have been, so insignificant that its very location was ultimately forgotten, yet its name is remembered still.  So fateful was Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon that it has come to stand for every fateful step taken since. 

With it, an era of history passed away.  Once there had been free cities dotted throughout the Mediterranean.  In the Greek world, and in Italy too, these cities had been inhabited by men who identified themselves not as the subjects of a pharaoh or a king of kings, but as citizens, and who proudly boasted of the values that distinguished them from slaves -- free speech, private property, rights before the law.  Gradually, however, with the rise of new empires, first those of Alexander the Great and his successors, and then of Rome, the independence of such citizens everywhere had been stifled.  By the first century BC, there was only one free city left, and that was Rome herself.  And then Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the Republic imploded, and none was left at all. 
Nor would be for another thousand years.  That's why we ought to look on proposals not to wait for January to install the new president as a modern sort of Rubicon.  Amend the Constitution if you wish; but please do not simply ignore it as being "in the way." Republics, however fragile or corrupt, are not so common on the ground that we can afford to lose one. 

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Interzone Reviews The January Dancer
It is a mark of Flynn’s mastery that he can create such atypical characters and ingenious backgrounds with such authenticity and authority. One gets the feeling that Flynn has worked hard to make the whole experience as distinctive as possible, to avoid what has been said and done before and to create something vibrant, original and engaging – and successfully so.
The January Dancer is an innovative, intellectual and stimulating take on the space opera in which, once again, Flynn demonstrates that he is a writer of the highest calibre.

Well, I'm not going to nitpick over that. 
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The Irish Pub
The latest Irish Pub story, "Where the Winds are All Asleep," has been accepted for publication at ANALOG magazine.  This is the one that starts with do-wop music and ends with a justification of a form of Babylonian cosmology


Captive Dreams

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