The downside of the benefit of the doubt: more doubt

Lately I'm starting to feel I've been feeling like I've been giving too many people the benefit of the doubt—myself included, maybe.

For instance, I founded an Executive Communication Council this year, peopled by folks who work for CEOs. Running this organization doesn't mean I have to like CEOs, but it does make me less likely than some of my lefty friends to see all CEOs as the scourge of the universe. (And it makes me more likely to see the good, and the power of that good, in some of these people.) But I hope none of it blinds me (or mutes me) to CEOs who are the scourge of the universe. Behold this item, from the latest issue our Executive Communication Report: Coronavirus, out later today.

Pfizer CEO vows not to gouge patients on a coronavirus vaccine, when it’s available. "If we were to implement free, open-market principles in pricing the product, we could go to huge prices and sell everything we can manufacture,” Pfizer chief Albert Bourla told a Goldman Sachs conference Tuesday, according to Axios. “But it would be unethical, I think. We will not do it, because that's really taking advantage of a situation, and people will not forget if you do that." Still, Bourla said, the vaccine is still a “huge commercial opportunity” for Pfizer; and furthermore, the coronavirus in general is a chance for drug companies to restore their reputation, as its "strict critics … are slowing down their criticism now," Bourla said. "Now is a great opportunity to reset all this."

I think all of us have given a lot of us the benefit of the doubt over the last few months, on our shared sense that: Everyone is having a hard time, and if you accuse someone of monstrousness at this moment—a colleague, a friend or a family member—they'll always remember and they'll never forgive your piling on, on the very day the music died.

Except, the music died more than three months ago, and that's an awful lot of time, as Dr. Phil would tell you, to stuff your feelings.

And it's dangerously too much time to stuff your good judgment, especially now, as we take on a social crisis where the bad guys are part of the disease. (As opposed to the last crisis, where the bad guys only exacerbated the disease.)

I'm coming out next year with a book called An Effort to Understand: Hearing One Another (and Ourselves) in a Nation Cracked In Half.

When people ask me what the book is really advocating, I spend more time telling them what the book is not advocating: bland civility, middle-of-the-road political philosophy or suspension of judgment. Because if you're just going to practice that smarmy bullshit, there's no reason to understand other people, or even yourself.

So this concept of listening to others without losing your perspective—and retaining your point of view while endeavoring to examine its sources and its limitations—it's complicated.

But it's also urgent.

So I should hasten to say: Fuck you in strongest possible terms, Albert Bourla.*

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* My mother used to say that before you are 30, you have the face you were born with. After you're 30, you have the face you deserve.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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