PNH & TNH home
Check here if you want links to spawn new browser windows.
"We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of
life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be
"Plot is a literary convention. Story is a force of nature."
(--Teresa Nielsen Hayden)
"Just because you're on their side doesn't mean they're on your side."
(--Teresa Nielsen Hayden)
"Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."
"You will never love art well, until you love what she mirrors better."
"They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and, in moving, he always returns whence he came."
(--Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose)
"Details are all that matters; God dwells there, and you never get to see Him if you don't struggle to get them right."
(--Stephen Jay Gould)
"For every complex question, there's a simple answer. And it's wrong."
(--H. L. Mencken)
"History is the trade secret of science fiction."
Some weblogs I look at:
Pigs and Fishes
The Null Device
Follow Me Here
World New York
Talking Points Memo
Arts and Letters Daily
I've been busy at work, and now I'm at the World Science Fiction Convention, so I've
been stacking up links and not getting around to posting them.
In The New Republic, James Forman Jr. explains
why people who claim to be "conservatives" ought to oppose racial profiling,
instead of making excuses for it:
In The Dream and the Nightmare, which President Bush cites as one of
the most influential books he has ever read, the conservative theorist Myron
Magnet writes: "[W]hat underclass kids need most...is an authoritative link
to traditional values of work, study, and self-improvement, and the
assurance that these values can permit them to claim full membership in the
larger community." Magnet quotes Eugene Lange, a businessman who promised
scholarships to inner-city kids who graduated from high school: "'It's
important that [inner-city kids] grow up to recognize that they are not
perpetuating a life of the pariah, but that the resources of the community
are legitimately theirs to take advantage of and contribute to and be a part
The Guardian reports
on the BBC's preposterous preparations for the Queen Mother's death:
Magnet is right. But random and degrading police searches radically
undermine this message. They tell black kids that they are indeed
pariahs--that, no matter how hard they study, they remain suspects. As one
Maya Angelou first-year student explained to me: "We can be perfect,
perfect, doing everything right, and they still treat us like dogs. No,
worse than dogs, because criminals are treated worse than dogs." Or, as a
junior asked me, noting the discrepancy between the message delivered by the
school and the message delivered by the police: "How can you tell us we can
be anything if they treat us like we're nothing?"
[A]s anyone who has participated in one of the BBC's regular "royal death
rehearsals" knows (look serious Luckhurst this is not remotely funny), there
is an absolute ban on risking the possibility that ordinary licence-fee
payers might express anything ranging from mild indifference to outright
From Mike Godwin, a very good piece about
the sinister changes being wrought to our laws by the big copyright-holding
Despite significant internal scepticism, some of it from very senior
figures, the corporation is determined to mark the Queen Mum's passing with
the sort of reverence which went out of fashion shortly after the Suez
One officially recommended script achieves a tone hovering neatly between
Iraqi state radio introducing Saddam Hussein and a Monty Python sketch. Over
the next two hours (the presenter will say): "We'll be looking back over her
long and remarkable life...We'll be hearing from many of the people
who--although they never met her--felt that they knew her too." (As long as
their views have been vetted in advance and declared safe by those
responsible for the defence of the nation's airwaves.)
Congress has essentially delegated the business of writing copyright law to
the copyright industries, which have used technological advance as a
rationale for expanding its protected interests under the law [...]
We are moving toward a world in which everything is property and nothing is
commons, in which every cultural artifact will be controlled in perpetuity
by the rights-holders' heirs to the Nth generation--and we are doing so with
the consent and support of small-time writers and creators who imagine that
if they support this kind of grab against the commons by Disney, Microsoft,
and AOL Time Warner, they will somehow benefit. These writers should
consider Teresa Nielsen Hayden's advice: "Just because you're on their side
doesn't mean they're on your side."
The increasing expansiveness of the copyright law has led to a shift in the
theory behind the law. What began as a government-created monopoly
established in the public interest has increasingly come to be understood,
especially by the copyright industries, as a kind of natural right.
Old-fashioned American bravery. Protesting George W. Bush's nonsensical
photo-op at a Habitat For Humanity site, gutsy Texans encounter police and
Secret Service determined to isolate them in faraway "First Amendment
Zones." (Imagine if Clinton's handlers had pursued such a policy.)
The SS were yelling on the police radios to move us back. There seemed to be
an unholy relationship between the Bush advance people, the SS and the Waco
police. When the Waco Sergeant in charge on the scene came out he demanded
that we go to this first bullshit zone that was supposed to be set up for
us. "The press is there and everything" he said. That's where you want to be
anyway. No I said, I like it here. The local press is here I am staying.
Well I couldn't stay there he said. Oh yes I can I said. "Every piece of
public property in this free United States is a 1st amendment zone." He said
I was going to get myself in trouble if I didn't go. I said that he was
going to get himself in trouble if he tried to make me.
in the New York Times, the Church intends to canonize the
nineteenth-century pope Pius IX, which is roughly the equivalent of giving
the Nobel Peace Prize to Jesse Helms.
I had warned everyone in our group and my husband that I would not be
put in any stinking BS zone. period! I warned them that It might get
me arrested in gw's fascist state. "Americans died so I could have
this right to speak in public on this street and no one is going to
take it from me without a fight!" I told the sergeant.
We are talking about a Pope who enforced a system of laws and restrictions
on Jews in the Papal States by which they were literally locked into their
ghetto neighborhoods at night, and forbidden to hold public office or
practice medicine or law.
By the way, remember that panel of Catholic and Jewish scholars appointed
around the time that Pope John Paul visited the Wailing Wall? The one
that was going to go over the Vatican's World War II-era archives? The
Times reports that it "disbanded last month, its work unfinished.
(A news release issued by the panel's Jewish coordinator blamed the
Vatican, saying its refusal to grant access to relevant archives
effectively hamstrung the scholars.)"
Garry Wills argues in his entirely wonderful
Papal Sin that the core offense of the modern papacy--its central
offense against common morality and, not insignificantly, against its own
flock--is intellectual betrayal: the utter unwillingness of the
Church's princes, including the media-worshipped John Paul II, to face plain
and obvious truths about the Church's own history. Including perfectly
well-documented recent history, which accounts for the repeated and always
comically transparent shenanigans about access to the famous Vatican
archives. Against all this, the much-ballyhood "apologies" of John Paul II
are meaningless PR gestures so long as he and his rich, comfortable
lieutenants persist in systematically excusing, obfuscating, and hiding the
Church's centuries of systematic anti-Semitism--and, just as unforgiveably,
valorizing the very scoundrels who most vigorously promoted it.
We are not, after all, talking about the a proposal to canonize some
barbarian from the eighth century whose rough talk and moral lapses may be
accounted typical of their time. Rather, we are talking about canonizing a
powerful, educated, cultivated 19th-century European head of state...who, in
speeches, referred to Jews as "dogs."
Also from the Independent, a memoir of
British "regional" journalism in the author's youth, with very thoughtful reflections on how habitual cliches and deference to
authority color latter-day reporting on the Middle East:
[...] We wrote in cliches. Always cliches. When the police were seeking a hit-and-run driver, they either "spread their net" or
"narrowed their search" or "stepped up their hunt". Company directors were "bosses", scientists were invariably "boffins",
officials were always "chiefs", storm-battered ships inevitably "limped" into port. Suicides were always tragic, brides always
beautiful, angry councillors were "hopping mad" and protesting villagers would always "take to the streets". Those who discovered
bodies were, of course, "horror-struck" or "mystified"; the latter applied to the construction gang building a new Blyth bypass
who excavated dozens of corpses -- all in their Victorian Sunday best -- and thought they'd discovered a mass murder before
realising they were digging up an old cemetery. Needless to say, Tory election candidates always "lashed out" at the sitting
Labour MP, Eddie Blythe.
They actually taught us to write like this. There was a whole Thomson school of journalism in Newcastle which I and my fellow
"cub" reporters from other Chronicle district offices were ordered to attend once a week[...] The best stories could be told in
400 words, we were told. All the facts in the first para, plenty of punchy lines, equal time to all parties in a dispute and a
good "kicker". No anger, no passion, no suggestion that there was right or wrong. I was reminded of Joe Friday in Dragnet.
"Just the facts, Ma'am, just the facts," he'd yell at the broads. We were given "story-lines". Write the intro to the following:
a retired soldier -- who once took part in the Normandy landings -- was blaming the local council because his wife had disappeared
after seeing a ghost in her council-supplied house. Answer: "A mystified D-Day vet lashed out at council chiefs last night after
his terrified wife fled 'phantoms' in their council home." Anything that moved away from this rubric, that suggested a more
subtle, nuanced approach -- perhaps the old soldier was suffering from shell-shock or his wife was mentally ill or perhaps the
ghosts were real -- was wiped out. [...] We were supposed to write stories the readers would easily "understand". Readers were
in a hurry, tired, often not well educated, we were taught. Having talked for hours to miners and part-time shipyard workers
and firemen and cops and landladies, I didn't think our readers were that dumb. I thought they might like something more than
our cliches. But not according to the journalism teachers. We had to have "key" words. Lash out. Bosses. Phantoms. Chiefs.
[...] Out in the Middle East, more and more journalists, each with their local reporting experience, their "training", their
journalism schools -- the American version being even more banal than the English ones -- are using cliches and tired adjectives
to obscure reality. Turn on your television tonight or read tomorrow's agency reports and we are told of the "cycle of
violence" -- no side taken there -- of "clashes" (in which the identities of victim and killer are obscured) or of "the fears
of Israeli security chiefs". Note how the word "security" is always linked to the word "Israel". And how "chiefs" has made the
grade from Blyth to Palestine. And just as the police chief in Blyth would tip us off on a story, so Israelis -- to a much lesser
extent Palestinians -- tip us off on stories. No one wants to rock the boat, to be controversial. Why write about the Blyth
staithes if we're going to carry a Coal Board denial? Why write about the outrageous nature of Israel's killing of stone-throwing
children if we're going to get outraged letters to the editor?
Much better to stick to cliches. Arab "terrorists" threaten Israel. Israeli "security chiefs" warn Arafat. Can Arafat "control"
his own people, we asked when the Israelis asked the same question. Yet when a Jewish settlers' group killed two Palestinian
civilian men and a baby, we did not ask if Sharon could "control" his own people. Since the Palestinians had not asked that
question, we did not ask it. We were silent that time round. Over five days in the North-east and on the long drive back to
London, I listened to the radio news. Two Israelis had been killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber at Binyamina. The Israelis
"struck back" at the Palestinians, killing four guerrillas in a "targeted" killing. "Targeted" was Israel's word. In other words,
death squads. But that wasn't what the BBC said. When the Israeli settlers murdered the three Palestinians -- including the
baby -- the Israeli police were reported as "narrowing their search" for the killers.
From the Independent, and worth reading in
In a major surrender to Israeli diplomatic pressure, BBC officials in London have banned their staff in Britain and the Middle
East from referring to Israel's policy of murdering its guerrilla opponents as "assassination". BBC reporters have been told
that in future they are to use Israel's own euphemism for the murders, calling them "targeted killings".
Goodness, "euphemism" is such an ugly word. Can't we say, instead, "targeted rhetorical device"?
BBC journalists were astonished that the assignments editor, Malcolm Downing, should have sent out the memorandum to staff,
stating that the word "assassinations" "should only be used for high-profile political assassinations". There were, Mr Downing
said, "lots of other words for death".
Welcome to the rapidly-darkening 21st century.
"Who is your government?" Genoan police make it clear:
The protesters were loaded into prison vans and taken to the Bolzaneto detention centre. Norman called it 'the sort of place where you
know terrible things happen'.
Under supposedly "progressive" New Labour, British immigration
policy becomes overtly racist:
Terrible things did happen. The psychological abuse began. Prisoners, including those with broken limbs, were spread-eagled against
a wall for up to two hours while abuse was hurled at them. Prisoners were spat on, urinated on and not allowed to go to the toilet.
Some were made to sing fascist songs.
'I could hear people screaming and one woman saying "Please help me, please help me" over and over again,' said Norman.
Then, one by one the prisoners were asked, in broken English: 'Who is your government?' Norman thought they meant what nationality
he was, but then he noticed the replies of the others. Taking his cue from his neighbour, he answered in Italian: 'Polizia'.
Anything else would almost certainly have meant another beating.
The daily discrimination practised by British officers in Prague was exposed last week by two undercover Czech television reporters.
Richard Samko, a journalist of Roma -- or, as some still like to say, gypsy -- origin, was told he would be refused entry to the UK,
while Nora Novakova, his white colleague, was allowed to travel freely. Both gave exactly the same information to immigration
officials: that they had $200 on them, were travelling as tourists and earned the same amount each month.
In the United States: seven years in jail for thinking bad thoughts:
While Ms Novakova passed through the British control without any problems, Mr Samko endured a humiliating 25-minute interrogation in
a private room before being told he had not provided sufficient evidence that he simply wanted to visit Britain. The whole sordid
affair was caught on a hidden camera and shown on Czech national television, provoking many to conclude that Britain was deciding
whether a Czech citizen could visit the UK largely on the basis of race.
In the first 10 days British officials were at the airport, 90 people -- mostly Roma -- were refused entry to the UK. Almost 50 years
to the day after Britain became a founder signatory of the UN convention on refugees, it is deliberately flouting its own commitment
to provide asylum to the persecuted by filtering out the most plausible cases on the basis of ethnic origin. [...]
Roma have been in the sights of the British media since 1997 when aslyum applications from the Czech Republic and Slovakia peaked -- and
gave the Labour government a timely scapegoat to flex its bogus-bashing muscle. The campaign of vilification reached a pitch in the
now infamous Dover Express editorial which referred to Roma as "human sewage".
Such sentiments have found protection in British law. The 2000 amendment to the Race Relations Act, which outlawed racial
discrimination by public bodies, exempted the immigration service, allowing asylum decision-makers to discriminate legally on grounds
of skin colour.
Racism is once again being built into our immigration system -- with immigration officers authorised to treat certain nationalities "to
a more rigorous examination than other persons in the same circumstances".
An Ohio man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for thinking bad thoughts about children and writing them down in his private
journal. In Ohio, that's against the law.
Soon there will be no escape:
It didn't matter that the man never wanted anyone else to see the journal, or that the children he fantasized about were entirely
fictional. What mattered to authorities in Ohio -- the only thing that mattered -- was that the thoughts were vile. The fantasies
written down by Brian Dalton, who is 22 years old, involved the sexual abuse and torture of children.
Mr. Dalton made up names for the children and said they were 10 and 11 years old.
This should not be an issue in the United States of America. This is a country in which you ought to be able to write down in
private whatever you are thinking, no matter how awful the thoughts. This is not China, or Afghanistan under the Taliban. This is a
country in which freedom is supposed to matter.
Mr. Dalton, a resident of Columbus, was charged under a state law that prohibits the creation of obscene material involving minors.
Such a law sounds reasonable. But the local prosecutor believed (along with others) that the statute covered not only images of real
children, but printed or written words involving fictional children. And not only words involving fictional children, but words that
were never intended to be shown to anyone. This is as close as it's possible to get -- short of ESP -- to criminalizing thought.
The United States is exploring the development of a 'space-bomber' which could destroy targets on the other side of the world within
Meanwhile, when not preparing to enforce their whims on the entire globe, American authorities are
protecting us from the menace of German tourists
reading Esquire in public:
As part of a weapons modernisation strategy personally directed by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon is drawing up
plans for a 'sub-orbital vehicle' launched like a spacecraft, which Rumsfeld describes as 'valuable for conducting rapid global
strikes'. The craft -- which would set the scene for a new generation of stratospheric warfare -- would be able to drop precision bombs
from a height of 60 miles, flying at 15 times the speed and 10 times the height of America's current bomber fleet. It is unclear
whether it would be manned. [...]
It would drop bombs from such a height that they would act as 'bunker busters', penetrating deep into underground silos without
explosive warheads and causing massive pre-emptive damage on the ground within minutes of the start of a conflict - indicating a
clear intention to take out enemy missiles before they have the capacity to launch. It would also be out of reach of conventional
air defence systems. [...]
The development of the bomber -- details of which have been obtained by the Los Angeles Times -- has keen supporters, including the
man tipped to be nominated by Rumsfeld as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force General Ralph Eberhardt, commander of
The officer scanned the pages sternly and declared them to be pornographic. He had Sebastian open up his backpack to make sure that
there were no more offending materials hidden within, but there was only his diary, his wallet and a copy of the New York Times.
Once more the officer scanned the offending pages, shaking his head ruefully. Sebastian offered the only two defenses that came to
mind. First, he explained, he was a foreigner.
"I don't know what the laws are in Germany," responded the officer, "but here it is against the law to read such materials in public."
Then Sebastian attempted to say that the materials were not pornographic, that they came from a serious magazine. They had been torn
from the pages of Esquire magazine, from an article titled "How a Woman Ages." There were no pictures of buttocks or breasts,
although the woman featured in the photos did cover herself up with her arms in one or two of the black-and-white shots. [...]
I called the Toledo bus station and spoke with the officer.
His name is Arrow Osborne. On the phone he was quite courteous, but he contradicted nothing Sebastian had told us. "That was material
that was clearly borderline pornographic," he told me. "I'm sure it's acceptable in Germany, but it's illegal here in the United States."
Never in my three years of law school had I been introduced to the term "borderline pornographic." It seems the law of the land with
regard to pornography is indeed "knowing it when you see it."
"It was a call that I made and I stand by it," said Officer Osborne. "There were kids in the area. One of the pictures shows a girl
covering up her breasts. It's illegal to show pictures of breasts or buttocks. He had it out in the open and that makes it illegal."
Apparently, this was not the first time such a thing had happened. "I stop people all the time," said Officer Osborne, who explained
that Greyhound encourages him to do so.
Fascinating online interview with Jack Womack (author of
Elvissey, Terraplane, Let's Put the Future Behind Us, and the recent Going, Going, Gone).
Asked about his famously gourmet taste in crank literature, he answered (in part):
When it comes to woo-woo, I believe in the people who believe in and write about woo-woo; I don't believe in the woo-woo
This interview is part of the Well's "inkwell.vue," a Well conference that, unlike anything else on the Well, is publicly
readable. Unfortunately, the Web interface is confusingly designed; the link above will take you to the Inkwell "front door", and
if you then click on "An Interview with Jack Womack", you will be taken, not to the start of the interview, but to posts from
two days ago. Click on "see all responses" to read the interview from the beginning. It ought to be possible to do this directly
from a static URL, but it's not.
Let me repeat that. I don't believe in the woo-woo itself. [...]
Much woo-woo is terrifically boring but without the necessary frisson. There are no channeled texts in the Womack collection,
for example, save for my sister's book (she makes her living channeling angels, we rarely speak, she's generally on a higher
plane, somewhere. It was in Rockland county and is now in Santa Fe.). There is nothing about astrology, save as it appears in
such academic works as the 8-volume History of Magic and Experimental Science (Columbia University Press, 1923 on.) I
have no works on palm reading, on divination, next to nothing on ESP. The books I have on Spritualism are either historical
accounts or 19th-century volumes I've picked up for a song simply for the fact that I could pick them up for a song -- any
bookperson knows how that works.
However, confronted with Biblical Dinosaurs, and quickly realizing that the author is actually proferring the theory
that the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were, in fact, dinosaurs, stops me dead with -- well, that all-important sense of wonder. The
author isn't saying: man lived at the same time as dinosaurs, as creationists are wont to do. He's taken it several extra steps
further, to a truly unique position, and that's where the fascination, to me, comes in. Through what possible process of logic
did the author arrive at such a conclusion? Find the book, and read it for yourself.
What I get from the books I collect is a sense of the human mind in all its possible manifestations, good, bad, indifferent, and
crazed (sometimes, delightfully, all four in the same book). This gives me ideas. It increases my appreciation of the workings (or
lack thereof) of the brain. It enables me to see how extrapolation can not only go off on a tangent, it can slide off the edge of
the world. The comic aspects, almost inevitably inadvertant, of course delight me.
Another interesting review of
Jonathan Rose's The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. If this book didn't cost $50 I would have bought
a copy by now.
Poul Anderson has died. About a day before it happened, Anderson's
son-in-law, the SF writer Greg Bear, circulated a letter to Poul and Karen Anderson's many friends and
admirers, urging folks to send Poul email now. Along with, I gather, many hundreds of others, I sent a
note. I have no idea whether it reached Poul in his last hours, and it is no masterpiece of eloquence,
but it says most of what I wanted to say.