Christmas

Reason's Holiday Gift Guide

Our staff recommends some of the best books, movies, and music of 2014.

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Our staff looks back at the books, movies, and music released (or in some cases rereleased) in 2014 and suggests a slew of gift ideas:

Ronald Bailey, science correspondent

Hannu Rajaniemi's Jean le Flambeur trilogy, which concluded this year with The Causal Angel, is simply the best-conceived post-Singularity universe ever. (The first two volumes are The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince.) It is not for the faint of heart: Rajaniemi shows rather than tells in his novels, so readers are thrown immediately into a solar system dominated by various vast and powerful forms of artificial intelligence that were once human. Among other beings, we meet Sobornost founders, who command vast armies of uploaded minds; Zoku clans, who link minds and volitions as they play cosmic games; and "wildcode," rogue nanotechnology that ravages the Earth. The trilogy traces the intriguing history and trajectory of one such intelligence, Jean le Flambeur.

Want to get an idea about how developing artificial intelligence could go right—or more likely wrong? Then Superintelligence; Paths, Dangers, Strategies is the book for you. Philosopher Nick Bostrom, who works at Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute, cogently explains how researchers will likely produce an intelligence explosion involving self-improving artificial intelligences sometime in this century. It could bring us a post-aging cornucopian utopia, or it could lead to the elimination of the human race. Bostrom outlines possible ways to nudge the new superintelligence toward being friendly to humanity.

Brian Doherty, senior editor

If you know someone who went wild the day the trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was released, Chris Taylor's How Star Wars Conquered the Universe is a perfect gift: an enthusiastic, deeply researched, character-filled telling of the story of George Lucas the filmmaker and Star Wars as a set of films and an industry. Lucas didn't even know how autobiographical his movies were: the story of how a lonely tinkerer from a backwater town changed the world via interplanetary heroism. Even non-Wars-heads can learn a lot about modern popular culture and the movie business from this book, which rightly focuses on both sides of the film series' prominence: not just its creators, but the fans who made the movies into cultural phenomena.

Over Easy, Mimi Pond's graphic fictionalized memoir of her years as an art-student-turned-waitress in late-'70s Oakland, delivers nostalgia that's neither mawkish nor glamorized; it just understands to the bone what age can discern in the cusp moments of youth, recollected in, if not tranquility, at least some distance from how people can seem and scenes can mean when their complicated realities buffet you for the first time. Her cartooning is lively, lived-in, and sweet; her writing is an appealingly deep and nuanced recreation of the vertiginous and magical feelings of discovering who you are and who you will be through immersion in a troublingly lovable group bohemia.

Anthony L. Fisher, video producer

Glenn Greenwald's No Place to Hide is not only vital as a first-person account of how the Whistleblower of the Century first revealed himself and his shocking knowledge of massive NSA spying on American citizens. Its first 100 pages are as exciting a potboiler as anything ever written by John Le Carre. 

Jonah Keri's Up, Up and Away is the perfect gift for baseball fans, who will be unable to resist Keri's gallows humor and passion for his beloved but ill-fated hometown team, the Montreal Expos. The book has a great cast of eccentric characters, especially during baseball's notorious cocaine-filled 1970s and 1980s, plus an interesting look into the strange economics and Canadian politics (including the failed Quebec secessionist movement of the mid-'90s) that ultimately led the Expos' extinction.

Nick Gillespie, reason.com editor-in-chief

First up is Anne Fortier's The Lost Sisterhood, a novel about honest-to-Athena Amazons that bounces back and forth between the contemporary world of academics and treasure-hunting and the ancient world of North Africa from which the mythical warrior-women sprang. It's tempting to try to summarize the book like a clichéd movie pitch—it's Bridget Jones Diary meets The Da Vinci Code!—but it's best to avoid that route. The plot built around the contemporary protagonist, Oxford prof Diana Morgan, is great, and so is the tale that follows the ancient warrior-priestess Myrina. It's December, but this is an awesome beach read that's packed with fascinating historical research and Big Ideas (not surprising, as Fortier holds a doctorate in the history of ideas from Denmark's Aarhus University). Go here for an interview with Fortier to get a sense of what The Lost Sisterhood is all about.

Second up is former Reason staffer Kerry Howley's widely acclaimed debut, Thrown. Part documentary realism, part fictional construct, it's impossible to easily summarize just what's going on in this tale of mixed martial arts fighters in the Midwest. Howley spent years trailing some actual MMA fighters through their training, bouts, and career reversals, and they are right there on the page, presented as living, breathing, nonfiction characters. But the story is narrated by a fictive dissolute philosophy grad student who is obsessed with the sheer physicality of guys beating the hell out of each other. Warn whoever you give this to: Block out the whole day when you start page one, because you won't stop reading until you've finished the last page.

Then there's Frank Portman's King Dork Approximately, the long-awaited sequel to his instant-classic young adult novel King Dork. Published in 2006, the first Dork was to me "an extended tour through that particular ring of hell known as high school as only the creative force of the punk band the Mr. T Experience could render it." Literally and figuratively, King Dork Approximately picks up where that one left off. The narrator, Tom Henderson, is simply one of the greatest voices of adolescence angst ever. I was turned on to King Dork by my then-teenaged son, who devoured the new book like a starving man devours his first meal in weeks. Whether you're male or female, old or young, these two books will put into words feelings that you've always struggled first to express and then to repress. Can't wait for the next one.

Finally, there's Not Cool, by Greg Gutfeld. This is a guy who cites torture defender Allen West and alt-punk icon Buzz Osborne among his pals and who once tried to open a gay bar named Suspicious Packages near the never-completed mosque near the old World Trade Center. For years now as the host of Fox News' Red Eye, Gutfeld has been the ringleader of the most interesting late-night show on the small screen. (Disclosure: I'm lucky to be a regular guest.) As far as I'm concerned, Gutfeld is to our era what Mike Douglass, Merv Griffin, and Dinah Shore was to theirs: a talk-show host who pulls together weird, wonderful groups of guests and forces them to crack wise and call out bullshit as they see it in a freewheeling way. But Gutfeld is even better when he's writing. A former editor at Maxim, Men's Health, and elsewhere, his pixels are always filled with the most delicious poison. Only the most tongue-clucking killjoy will fail to find laughter and insight in his extended tour of "the hipster elite and their war on you."

Todd Krainin, video producer

The only difference between No Place to Hide and a work of paranoid fiction is that No Place to Hide isn't a work of paranoid fiction. Glenn Greenwald's first-hand account of the most important news story in a generation details his discovery of the NSA's alarming ambition to "collect it all"—to secretly intercept, monitor, and analyze the world's electronic communications. Greenwald's earliest encounters with Snowden, and how his identity was strategically presented to the public for maximum effect, are thrilling to read. For anyone concerned whether Greenwald should be entrusted with the NSA's trove of secret documents, his robust moral defense of personal privacy and his withering indictment of the establishment media's cozy relationship with the politically powerful should put all doubts to rest.

Rory Kennedy's Last Days in Vietnam isn't out on DVD yet, but maybe you could buy someone a pair of tickets to see it in the theater. The documentary revives a chapter in American history we've been too eager to forget. The American ambassador's refusal to accept defeat, a belief he held until North Vietnamese Army was blasting through the city limits of Saigon, left us shockingly unprepared to evacuate the country. Astonishing footage—helicopters pushed from battleships into the South China Sea, civilians storming the U.S. embassy—reveal the tragic backstories of thousands of ordinary citizens who attempted a frantic, final-hour escape from a country on the brink of Communist control. Kennedy depicts the American presence in all its baffling complexity. A catastrophic war and the poorly conceived Paris Peace Accords somehow set the stage for a departure that was at once humanitarian and heroic. The parallels to Afghanistan and Iraq are unspoken but unmistakable: Departing a country requires as much planning as destroying it.

Ed Krayewski, associate editor

Johnny Cash's Out Among the Stars, released more than a decade after his death, comes from a trove of 1980s recordings made with pop country producer Billy Sherrill. Happily, the material doesn't appear to have been shelved for being mediocre: This is a substantive, satisfying addition to the Johnny Cash discography. It doesn't sound like most of the other, often lackluster, records Cash released around that time. Instead it has a timeless quality.

My favorite movie of 2014, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, picks up years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which ended with the superintelligent apes leaving San Francisco. By the time the second film starts, the human race has been virtually wiped out by the "Simian Flu" and the apes are constructing a sophisticated society. At its heart, though, the story in Dawn is a human one, about the fragility of life, the importance of integrity, and the problem with leadership.

The United States of Paranoia, the latest from Reason's own Jesse Walker, was released in expanded paperback form this year. What makes it especially enjoyable is how many historical anecdotes Walker managed to pack into it while systematically outlining conspiracy theories' role in American life. The theory and the history complement each other, making it a difficult book to put down.

Katherine Mangu-Ward, managing editor

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions is the latest from Randall Munroe, creator of the delightful, smugly geeky webcomic XKCD. Like all coffee table books, the main value of What If? is signaling: Gifting or reading this book (or reviewing it, for that matter) is the perfect way to telegraph that you are smart yet wacky, the manic pixie lab tech of someone's dreams. By a stroke of luck, it also happens to be a pretty good read.

Monroe tackles quasi-scientific questions submitted by his readers, such as "What would happen if everyone on Earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped?" (Answer: While the Earth wouldn't budge, things don't turn out too well for the participants of this whimsical experiment. "Within weeks, Rhode Island is a graveyard of billions.") Or this one: "From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hit the ground?" The answer involves the phrase ablation zone. And who hasn't wondered about this: "How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?"

Stephanie Slade, deputy managing editor

It's been called "the most libertarian Hollywood blockbuster of all time," a movie in which the villains are Environmental Protection Agency regulators and the heroes jumpsuit-wearing, poltergeist-wrangling businessmen. The eminently quotable Ghostbusters, which premiered three decades ago, has been a crowd favorite ever since. To commemorate the anniversary, the movie was rereleased to theaters over the summer; a limited-edition DVD gift set (complete with its rightfully less-celebrated sequel, Ghostbusters II) is now available.

The films star Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as paranormal experts offering their ghost-catching services to a be-haunted New York City. Not that you needed the plot recap. Named the funniest movie of the past 25 years by Entertainment Weekly, the original Ghostbusters has continued to age well.

Peter Suderman, senior editor

A mash-up of the science fiction, mystery, and political thriller genres, John Scalzi's Lock In is a highly readable and smartly constructed riff on what disability would look like in a networked near future. The book is set a few decades from now, not long after a massive virus outbreak renders four percent of the U.S. population "locked in"—fully functional mentally but with no physical capabilities to speak of. Instead, lock-ins live out their lives in virtual environments or in humanoid robot bodies. And sometimes, they ride inside unique human carriers who act as second selves. Scalzi's story is set in Washington, D.C., and cleverly imagines the ways that both the government and the private sector would respond, with giant subsidies and aggressive plays for market share. Scalzi's funny, conversational voice makes for fast, engaging reading, and his big ideas keep you thinking while the pages turn.

Scott Snyder's 10-issue comic-book series The Wake, which has now been collected as a graphic novel, was one of the best reads in what was already a great year for comics. A two-part story that takes place in both the present day and the near future, it's got the surface of a science-fiction story and the soul of an ancient horror yarn. Essentially, it's the tale of the merman apocalypse—and the decimated future world, full of adventure and political conflict, that results. Snyder's weird, frightening story benefits from cinematic art by Sean Murphy, and a limited-run approach that keeps narrative digressions to a minimum.

David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks is another time-hopping literary science-fiction/fantasy novel from the author of Cloud Atlas. Mitchell's book is built out of 100-page chunks, each of which is told from the perspective of a different character and each of which jumps a decade or so into the future. In its broadest strokes, it's about a war between two clans of immortal psychics, one whose members pass gently from old and dying bodies into young new ones, and another whose members sacrifice the young and innocent to keep themselves alive and young in perpetuity. The psychic war itself is a bit muddled, but the overall concept allows Mitchell to tell a series of highly personal stories that pit kindness and decency against greed and selfishness. His brilliantly crafted prose is a joy to read, and his story, despite its fantastical flourishes, is ultimately a very human one about what it means to live and to die.

Jesse Walker, books editor

Fred Turner's 2006 book From Counterculture to Cyberculture went searching for the prehistory of the Internet and found it at the intersection of Cold War science and the '60s counterculture. Now he's written a sequel—or should I call it a prequel?—that digs out some even deeper roots from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. The Democratic Surround is a fascinating tour through the formative years of what we now call multimedia, written in a way that illuminates not just how we got here but where we're heading now.

If you want to watch a movie about a costumed crimefighter but want a little more intellectual heft than you'll find in the usual Marvel/DC adaptations, you're in luck: This year Criterion gave Georges Franju's 1963 picture Judex a proper DVD release. (Before this, the only version available in America was a burned-on-demand DVD-R you could order from Sinister Cinema.) The story's title character—a masked avenger battling a villainous banker from a subterranean lair—was created during World War I by Louis Feuillade, a French filmmaker who made the kind of crazy pulp serials the surrealists later loved. He was the perfect subject for a director like Franju, who had a history of drawing on both pulp fiction and surrealist art. The result is a haunting mixture of magic and terror.

Matt Welch, magazine editor-in-chief

Those of us in the political journalism business have a dirty secret that gnaws away at us in the dark hours: Most writing about politics and policy is not just wrongheaded but actively unpleasant to read. It had been years since my eyes were graced by an exception to that rule, until I happily devoured Damon Root's terrific Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The book will make waves over its clear-eyed yet (for many) counterintuitive history of the sides-switching war over judicial activism and the concurrent rise of the increasingly influential libertarian legal movement. Truly, you cannot understand the modern Supreme Court without using this marvelous decoder ring of a book. Yet when I recommend it to friends, it's the writing that I sell: So concise, declarative, not a word out of place. Not only will you finish the damned thing—unlike so many other public-policy tomes—but you'll wish that it was twice as long.

NEXT: What Reason TV Saw at the NYC Eric Garner Protest

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  1. This probably won’t come out this year, but there’s a new Alfred Dreyfus movie in the works. Guess who’s directing it?

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/p…..ion-again/

    1. There’s already several English-language Dreyfus movies (not to mention French-language), esp. Prisoner of Honor:

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102715/

      1. And what would the French Dreyfus Affair be without Richard Dreyfuss.

        Cute.

        1. Richrad Dreyfus is actually a direct disendent of the famous Captain Dreyfus.

          1. Then why is it spelled differently? Who adds a letter?

            1. I have no idea. Perhaps they changed the spelling because of his infamy. I have heard Richard Dreyfus talk about numerous times. I have no reason to think he is lying. It is not like that can’t be checked out.

              1. People do weird things to names all the time. I had a college professor change his name from to John to Jhon.

    2. “Mel Gibson?”

    3. Remember – always believe the victim! (the French army)

    4. Dreyfus is convicted at a kangeroo court martial of buggery?

    1. Why do I keep clicking on commenters’ links?

    2. … hmmmmmm

    3. Ew. That is all.

  2. I’d give this lady a queef in the face

    Now the narrative appears to be falling apart…Many people (not least UVA administrators) will be tempted to see this as a reminder that officials, reporters, and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is “innocent until proven guilty.” After all, look what happened to the Duke lacrosse players.

    This is wrong. We should always believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, UVA should have taken her word for it until they could have proved otherwise. This is not a legal argument; it’s a moral one, about what happens outside the legal system.

    The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might de-friend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching, consuming his books, or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. But errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.

    1. And she’s an attorney!

      I guess we shouldn’t presume that this makes you automatically in favor of due process and the presumption of innocence. I mean, look at John Yoo.

      1. Interestingly, the Web address of the article (which generally reproduces the title) says we should *automatically* believe rape claims,” but when you look at the page, it says “*generally* believe.”

        1. It originally said automatically but the backlash has been very swift both in the comments and on Twitter that I suspect WaPo edited it quickly.

      2. and she’s an attorney

        She has a JD but shes no attorney.

        1. Maybe she isn’t, but she *says* she is:

          “Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst, speaker, *lawyer,* and writer.” [emphasis added]

    2. We should always believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says.

      “BELIEVE!”

      Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.

      Citation needed.

      1. Better a hundred innocent men be hanged than one guilty man go free.

        1. Better a hundred innocent men be hanged than one guilty man go free.

          I wonder what Zerlina Maxwell would say to the black men who were lynched in the early 1900s for allegedly raping white women.

          It’s great how un-patriarchal the 1920’s deep south was. After all, they always believed the woman when she claimed to have been ravaged by the Negro gardener!

          1. Atikus Finch is one of the great villains of American literature. Didn’t you know that Irish?

      2. We should always believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says.

        “Due Process of Law”: What is it?

        Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.

        Sure, let’s call innocent men rapists and imprison them alongside actual rapists because all men are closet rapists anyway.

        1. Holy shit I didn’t even see at first how logically broken that comparison is. To weigh the probabilities, you’d have to include all the possible combinations of raped/not raped rapist/not rapist. And she didn’t.

          Further, she compares “wrongly disbelieving a survivor (aka actual rape victim)” with “calling someone a rapist.” But of course the first situation is always a bad thing – it’s DEFINED as wrongly disbelieving someone who was actually raped. But the comparison is made to someone just being called a rapist – actual rapists would deserve this, so no cost to society on that!

          Stunningly bad logic. I…I feel sort of bad calling a woman on bad logic, as it feeds into the stereotype, but YIKES.

    3. New Zealand’s Labour Party wants to make the same change for rape and a special commission in the same country makes the same recommendation for family violence.

    4. That concept is fine for support groups and such, it’s insane to extend it to investigators.

      1. “That concept is fine for support groups and such, it’s insane to extend it to investigators.”

        That’s the most well stated point about that I’ve seen. Well put.

    5. This is wrong. We should always believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.

      Cuz teh feelz trumps the facts. Better that a 1000 innocent lives are ruined than one person’s feelings are hurt.

      Ignorant fucking cunt!

      1. No. the feelings of the preferred group trump the facts. The feelings of the poor bastard accused of rape don’t trump anything.

        1. He has no feelings. He’s a rapist!

    6. This is wrong. We should always believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, UVA should have taken her word for it until they could have proved otherwise. This is not a legal argument; it’s a moral one, about what happens outside the legal system.

      And what happens outside the legal system is that this fraternity got their house vandalized based on what is probably a false rape accusation.

      The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might de-friend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching, consuming his books, or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. But errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.

      Come on, guys! All that will happen is that the man will lose all his friends, lose his source of income and be made a pariah! Plus, if no evidence is ever found completely exonerating him, he’ll persist in this state of poverty and destitution until the day he dies!

      What’s so bad about that?

      1. Ok, I think that ‘but errors can be undone’ part can be read to say ‘if people believe the victim enough initially to launch a quick, serious investigation then any wrongly accused will be quickly absolved.’

        1. Unless the accused has a video tape of the event, how? If the default position is to believe the accused until proven otherwise, then anytime two people have sex alone, either is free to accuse the other of rape and have the charged be believed, because we always believe the accuser.

          1. They don’t even have to have sex. If someone is accused 6 months, a year, 2 years after the alleged incident, how do you prove something didn’t happen. If “Jackie” had been a little less careless about her lies, say she got the date of a party at the frat house right, and didn’t embellish the story so much, other than denying it how do the accused prove it didn’t happen?

        2. Right. And I want a car powered by faery farts.

          Once you’re accused of something, exonerated or not, there is no way the justice system can use the Neuralizer and make everyone forget you were accused.

          Live for the rest of your life with that hovering over your head, and realize that there should be as high a bar for rape accusations as there is for murder or any other crime.

          People are arguing today for lower barrier of entry for rape based on historical stigma associated with reporting it etc. But they are trying to right a wrong that no longer exists, and at the same time they are making it as easy to accuse someone of rape as it is to buy a Bic pen.

          Not acceptable. And I think “errors can be undone” is horse shit. The level these people want to get reporting and “believing” the victim are so low, any male can be accused of rape and clearing his name will be a lifetime task for a false allegation.

      2. “We should always believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. ”

        Either they’re too stupid to realize the implications of this, or they’re too evil to care.

    7. Dude, it’s Zerlina Maxwell. I didn’t even notice that.

      This Zerlina Maxwell.

      She’s among the least intelligent people in the history of the human species.

    8. Keerist, doesn’t even pass the logic test, let alone any kind of moral test.

      When the accused claims he was falsely accused, everybody must automatically believe him. And thus the circle completes.

    9. The comments contain this piece of A+ trolling

      vepxistqaosani

      1:54 PM EST [Edited]
      Y’know, Zerlina may have a point. Even true rape accusations — think Bill Clinton and Teddy Kennedy — don’t necessarily have any effect on a man’s life.

      1. It’s not trolling, it’s just pointing out a real honest contradiction in these feminist progressive SJW’s stances.

        If a prominent progressive was accused of rape tomorrow, they would do the same thing they did to defend Clinton – attack the victim/accuser. The very thing they like to pretend society does.

        This particular writer is a direct Obama lackey. Don’t think for a second if something unsavory came out about her messiah she wouldn’t relentlessly defend him.

  3. Bostrom outlines possible ways to nudge the new superintelligence toward being friendly to humanity.

    Yeah, because nudging the *old* “intelligence” toward being friendly to humanity has worked out so well.

    Despite that, IMHO Superintelligence is worth reading.

    1. I don’t know, the leap between really specific and intuitive programming and actual self-awareness and independence for an artificial entity seems pretty damn huge.

  4. I’m gonna add The Quantum Thief to my kindle, thanks Bailey.

  5. This is wrong. We should always believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, UVA should have taken her word for it until they could have proved otherwise. This is not a legal argument; it’s a moral one, about what happens outside the legal system.

    Goatfucking Jesus on a trampoline.

    “So, you say you are not an enemy of the Revolution. Of course you would say this. What evidence have you to offer?”

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  7. i buy almost everything except food and clothing from online auctions most people aren’t aware of the almost I unbelievable deals that they can get from online auction sites the site that has the best deals is.
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  8. i buy almost everything except food and clothing from online auctions most people aren’t aware of the almost I unbelievable deals that they can get from online auction sites the site that has the best deals is.
    (BEST HOME BASE FAMILY DEAL) Check Link == http://WWW.MONEYKIN.COM

    1. Why not clothes? Or non-perishable foods for that matter? Amateur.

      1. He keeps losing the food auctions. He once went a month without eating and was so desperate that he bid $10,000 on a half-eaten grilled cheese sandwich. He still lost.

  9. I’m buying tube socks for everyone, and they’re gonna deal with it.

  10. My best friend’s mother-in-law makes $85 /hour on the internet . She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her pay was $16453 just working on the internet for a few hours.
    Visit this website ????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  11. This is the gift, people: goo.gl/VGjOoy. If I do not receive it, heads will roll.

  12. And since I can’t figure out how to link correctly, I think I’ve just committed myself to something terrible.

    Here:
    http://www.amazon.com/Complete…..e+far+side

  13. I’m buying tube socks for everyone, and they’re gonna deal with it.

    You can always fill a tube sock with nickels, and beat a Social Justice Warrior about the head and shouloers with it. Stylish, and practical!

    1. I like it! Jefferson was a slave-owning rapist so the RDA of sweet irony is provided with every satisfying THWACK!.

  14. No list is complete without referencing at least one of Neal Stephenson’s books. “The Diamond Age”, shows, among other things, what a post-scarcity (well, at least in terms of basic needs), post-state world might look like. “Cryptonomicon” is a terrific story about cryptology and stateless currency that does a great job of keeping the non-technically-inclined interested while staying true enough to the tech, math, and science involved for nerds like me. It also leads nicely into the so-called Baroque Cycle, a three novel series surrounding European politics during the Glorious Revolution up to the Hanoverian dynasty, monetary theory, alchemy, the Newton/Leibniz feud, and a host of other things, beginning with the novel, “Quicksilver”.

    Besides being wonderfully approachable explanations of things like how banks, currency, and international finance work, they’re also great explanations of stuff like how stateless currency and panarchy might work. He’s a great example of how the best science fiction doesn’t just talk about awesome pew-pew lasers in space, but instead looks at how science (past, present, and future) influences and is influenced by human society, morality, and ethics. That his novels tend to reflect a particular suspicion of and at times disdain for state authority is icing on the cake.

  15. Matt Welch:

    Most writing about politics and policy is not just wrongheaded but actively unpleasant to read. It had been years since my eyes were graced by an exception to that rule, until I happily devoured Damon Root’s terrific Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Matt, you ought to read The Declaration of Independents.

    Oh …. you did. Never mind.

  16. The description of Over Easy doesn’t sound like anything that would appeal to anyone ever.

    “troublingly lovable group bohemia” Blech.

  17. Since we’re on the topic of gifts, here’s a gift-related rant: Why do people ask what I want and then buy me something totally different because what I wanted was too boring or cheap or whatever? When I say I want a book, I actually want a book. I don’t care that it’s not exciting. And get me the book I actually say I want, not some proggy bible that you think will change my entire political stance. I would rather get ill-fitting socks then the latest Naomi Klein BS.

    1. I feel your pain. Every year the cousins on one side of my family draws names and then we send each other a list of things we want, so even though I don’t know who has my name they still have a copy of my list. Every year the person who has me ignores my list. This year I just put Amazon Gift Card. I don’t understand people who think a gift card is such a bad gift. I can guarantee a $50 B&N gift card is way more awesome than something “more thoughtful” that will never see the light of day after I open it.

    2. Man, every Christmas and birthday for the past four years my wife has asked me what I want, I’ve either given her a list or pointed her to my Amazon Wishlist, and she gets me something random that she thinks is cool and I never use.

      I got an $80 gift card to a sunglasses store two birthdays ago. On the rare occasions I wear sunglasses I go for drugstore aviators because I always scratch the shit out of them or lose them, and I don’t really care about them anyway. So, I wound up having to drop another $40 to get a pair of aviators (only kind I like, and it was the cheapest they had), which the dog chewed up two weeks later.

      Other gifts have included an IP cam (no idea why) which is sitting in a dusty pile in our closet, a sweater with a zipper neck (she loves these, don’t know why), and button-down shirts suitable for going to clubs and such (again, not my thing). Now I just tell her that the best gift she can give me is to look the other way when I drop $400 on a video card or buy a bunch of AK mags or whatever. Really, I want 48 straight hours of silence in which to dick around aimlessly, but that’ll happen when hell freezes over.

  18. I would rather get ill-fitting socks then the latest Naomi Klein BS.

    Don’t forget to ask for a roll or two of nickels.

    1. ….

      my first thought was, “hmm. Take an old sock, fill with a few handfuls of nickels = instant Sap! Then you go and whap Naomi Klein on the head”

      it made sense to me. then i realized that wasn’t what you were saying.

  19. This was a favorite gift of mine a few years back. Bought a couple dozen of them and gave one to everybody.

    Sort of a NYC thing, but still.

    I’m a big believer in buying good booze for men and good chocolate for women. Hard to go wrong. Even if they’re on the wagon or a diet, they’ll just re-gift it anyway.

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  21. I just got paid $ 7500 working off my computer this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $ 8 k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do,,

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  22. I just got paid $ 7500 working off my computer this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $ 8 k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do,,

    COPY THIS URL IN YOUR BROWSER..

    ??????? http://WWW.PAYFLAME.COM

  23. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My neighbour’s sister has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out.

    This is what I do…. http://WWW.WORK4HOUR.COM

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