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March 31, 2006

Open thread 62
Posted by Teresa at 03:56 AM *

“I am in a position, thanks to our Mr O’Hagan here, to tell you that an American court has held that part of ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’ is a direct steal from Handel’s Messiah. It is. In fact, there are those who claim that the entire chorus is pinched from other tunes. Try this: ‘Hallelujah, Bananas/Oh bring back my Bonnie to me/I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls/The kind that you seldom see/ I was seeing Nellie home/ To an old-fashioned garden, but/Hallelujah, Bananas/ Oh bring back my Bonnie to me.’ My, that was fun, wasn’t it? Next!” —Captain Moonlight

Comments on Open thread 62:
#1 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:11 AM:

I have to thank Patrick for talking about Wilson's _Spin_ -- what a marvellous book!

#2 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:31 AM:

To quoth

461.26] Yes We Have No Bananas [...] from The Messiah: after the 1923 Silver-Cohen song became a hit, the Westman Company, which published Handel's music, took the song's publishers to court and successfully proved that the melody was indeed a direct steal from a portion of The Messiah. The Westman Company was awarded a share of the song's profits.

Wikipedia says
George Frideric Handel (or Georg Friedrich Händel in German) (February 23, 1685 – April 14, 1759)

Handel died 1759, the company sued in 1923? Even with the latest Life-Plus-70 year copyright terms, I'm a bit stumped as to how this isn't a hoax. I did read a bit of Moonlight's post and can't tell if he's insane or a completely misunderstood genius. To a moron like me, it's hard to tell.

Oh well.

#3 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:32 AM:

there is a distinct whooshing sound over my head, though. perhaps its sarcasm.

#4 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Teresa--thanks for recommending Steven Brust. I'm halfway through the Phoenix Guards. The Chapter headings alone are worth the price of the book!

"Chapter the Eleventh, in which the plot, behaving in much the manner of a soup to which corn starch has been added, begins, at last, to thicken."

Any author who can tease himself in the middle of his own novel is a gem.

:)

#5 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:53 AM:

New birth contrl pill making the rounds in the UK. It's a v. low dose of RU486. It may also help prevent breast cancer.

#6 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:54 AM:

Chiming in to agree with Scorpio. Spin just showed up on my doorstep yesterday, and it's proving to be a very welcome and much-needed distraction from worldly woes. When I finish it, what should I read next? (-:

As to bananas, I'm not sure where I originally found this (if here, my apologies), but do you know about the Banana Bunker?

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Considering that various Sixties shows that made it to the big screen, how come nothing has been done with Hanna-Barbera's The Banana Splits?

#8 ::: Sajia ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 12:11 PM:

Hi, I'm looking for some help here with a gift decision of a very peculiar sort. My sister has grown up in Bangladesh, which has a very homophobic culture (although curiously transexuals have a kind of jester status). I want to broaden her viewpoints a little - she's 16 and might be coming over to stay in Canada. Can you recommend a decent YA novel which deals with queer issues in a non-exploitative way? Thanks.

#9 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 12:26 PM:

Among my favorite recent teen novels dealing with queer topics are Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan(idealistic, funny, sweet), Geography Club by Brent Hartinger(realistic), Luna by Julie Anne Peters(transgender), Am I Blue? Coming Out of the Silence edited by Bruce Coville (short stories) and My Heartbeat by Garret Freyman-Weyr(realistic).

I'm a young adult librarian and so many good titles published recently, I know I've missed some. If you want more details on any of these books, let me know.

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 12:35 PM:

Wasn't there a homosexual pastiche of Nancy Drew called Nancy Clue and the Hardly Boys? I've never read it so I don't really know if that's what you'd be looking for.

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City... On second thought, forget that. Good novel, and absolutely hilarious, but not intended for kids.

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 12:50 PM:

I was in the exact perfect age demographic for The Banana Splits when it was running, and even back then it made me want to whack my head against the floor until I passed out.

That show, and the Krofft live-action shows, had a cheesy, jokey show-biz vibe that struck even the little kid me as phony and desperate. I mean, they had laugh tracks.

#13 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Obviously, the fact that The Banana Splits is unavailable on DVD indicates that Homeland Security can at least do something right.

It's sort of running on Boomerang* in an early morning slot; there's a half-hour cutdown that contains an episode of "Danger Island" (Richard Donner's finest moment), one of the cartoon series ("The Arabian Knights" or "The Three Musketeers," which are watchable, and Jonathan Harris is the voice of Athos), with the rest filled out with the creepy animal suits, and the even creepier teenybopper girls in the microskirts and boots. There's probably someone at NBC who narrowly evaded jail time for that.

Sturgeon General Law's Warning: I am not suggesting that you get up at five AM to watch this, or even that you tape it. I am often enough still working at that hour, and sometimes it's what TV programmers call the Least Offensive Program. This is an actual television concept.

*"Where cartoons go to die."

#14 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 01:56 PM:

I suppose Pat Califia's Doc and Fluff would be out of the question? (ducks, runs...) Oh, wait - Young Adult Fiction, not Adult Fiction.

Seriously, though, Saija - if you can find it, Lotus of Another Color is a now-dated-but-still-decent anthology of South Asian GLBT perspectives. As with most anthologies, it has its weak spots, but overall is quite good. Another resource for you to check out might be Trikone:

Trikone is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people of South Asian descent. Founded in 1986 in the San Francisco Bay Area, Trikone is the oldest group of its kind in the world. South Asians affiliated with Trikone trace their ethnicities to one of the following places: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet.

While neither of these resources are what you were looking for per se, they might help you frame the issue for her within a (more or less) common cultural perspective.

#16 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 01:58 PM:

another quote

After the song became a hit, the Westman Company, which published the sheet music for Handel's Messiah took the publishers of "Bananas" to court, claiming that the melody was a direct steal from a portion of the Messiah. They won and were awarded a share of the song's profits. Actually the song seems to be a pastiche of several popular pieces of music. According to "The Treasury of Popular Song", the tune of the chorus goes:

so confused.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 02:12 PM:

I see that I'm not the only one who has painful memories of The Banana Splits, based on what Stefan and Mike posted. The cartoon segments were OK enough, but the rest... Brrr...

#18 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 02:52 PM:

ARGH, the earworm, it gnaws and gnaws.....

The Banana Splits was my sister's (6 yr younger) favorite show and we had to watch it Every Time it was On. that and the Other One, HR Pufenstuf.

Scarred for life I am.

#19 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 02:57 PM:

It seems that Robert Jordan is terminally ill. Websnark has both a description of the issue and some thoughtful commentary on the situation.
-r.

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:15 PM:

The Onion ran a gag article about a guy wracked by nightmares of another Krofft horror, "Lidsville."

* * *

You know, there's a whole stratum of old Saturday Morning kid stuff that folks don't remember that deserve recognition.

Hal Linden hosted a nice one about animals. The same outfit did one called (as I recall) "Make a Wish" which featured a guy on a guitar riffing poetic on a theme for a half-hour.

Another I barely recall was a kind of medieval themed storyteller show.

And, OH! imdb has a listing for "Marshall Efron's Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Sunday School," which was a hoot. (And Marshall Efron is still alive and doing voice work!)

It could be that these would today come across as soporific low-budget early-70s earnest social engineering tripe, but at the time they sure beat "The Bugaloos" or the latest Hanna-Barbara bolus.

#21 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:37 PM:

It's bizarre to me that my house (I live on Monroe between 3rd and 4th in Hoboken, NJ (right near NYC)) would be under water with a 6m rise, but dry with a 7m rise. Anyone know why?

#22 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Does anybody know where I could find a hi-rez JPG of Star Trek's Scottie inside the Jefferies Tube? I'd like to use that as wallpaper for my desktop here at work.

I've long seen myself in the same situation, although I'm a computer programmer, not a starship engineer, and certainly nowhere near as smart as Scottie. But I often feel like I live in the darn Tube, feverishly patching things up so that the Captain can keep on strutting around the Bridge while Klingons are shooting at us. All this to say that, this morning, and without any warning or explanation, my manager changed the target of my big project, from an already tight deadline of April 21, to one week earlier, with new stuff added that also has to be taken care of by that same date.

"Scottie! I need that power!!!"

#23 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:48 PM:

Stefan -- I remember "Make a Wish." As I recall, the message of the show was something like, "You can be anything you want to be." I hold that show personally accountable for my deep and abiding sense of disappointment and cynicism.

Speaking of early 70s TV: I missed some of the Saturday morning shows, because I'd begged and pleaded to stay up late Friday night to watch Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I've been watching the complete series on DVD, and it just might be Nature's Most Perfect TV Show.

I am madly in love with the opening theme music (by Gil Mellé), which starts out like stereotypical 70s TV instro-pop (with the whistling and the disco strings), and then as Kolchak starts typing, the massed cellos come in with a discordant ground figure, playing senza vibrato, as the words "victim" and "monster" flash across the typewriter paper.

Darren McGavin, RIP, 2/26/2006

#24 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:51 PM:

I think it would be a Good Thing to build Jeffries Tubes into new houses.

Not tilted round ones though; a shaft, extending from basement* to attic, where you can access all of the plumbing and electric and such.

* Houses need basements. End of story. The trend to just having a crawl space is part of a plot by . . . uh . . . people who don't us to have cellars to store preserves in and hide from zombies in.

#25 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:59 PM:

Stefan: Houses need basements.

Tell that to my sister in Boynton Beach, Florida. The house is lovely, and, if it were up north, a full finished basement would be de rigueur. However, when the water table is within basement's depth of the house, it can do without.

#26 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 04:02 PM:

Paula: The Banana Splits was my sister's (6 yr younger) favorite show and we had to watch it Every Time it was On. that and the Other One, HR Pufenstuf.

And yet you didn't kill her in her sleep? Amazing restraint.

And yes, I've got the earworm now, too. I hope I left that Husker Du album on the iPod...

#27 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 04:10 PM:

Since this is an open thread, I'll ask: does anyone remember the name of a magazine that was about monster movies and SF in general, in the US in the late 1970s? I remember seeing issues around 1976, 1977 but have no idea how much before or after it would have been in print. Format like a newspaper, printed on newspaper-quality paper. I remember articles on Godzilla, and one article in particular called "Captain Kirk - EXORCIST!" comparing the original series episode "The Day of the Dove" with _The Exorcist_.

Both my memory and my Google searches have failed me as to the title of this periodical. I would be grateful if anyone remembers the name of this.

#28 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 04:21 PM:

Steve:

Sounds like "The Monster Times."

#29 ::: glitterflea ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 04:22 PM:

I have a question about accidental plagarism. How do those of you who are writers avoid it? I am wary of submitting any of my writings for fear I'll have unwittingly plagarized passages from someone else's work. It's driving me nuts because every time I reread my work I feel like I haven't written it - that it's somehow foreign to me. I don't know whether I'm being paranoid or have a valid concern. I don't want to be known as a plagarist nor do I want to steal another's work.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

#30 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 04:52 PM:

It seems that Robert Jordan is terminally ill.

NO.

The disease is quite serious, but the treatments are beginning, and have a good chance of success. If fully successful, the amyloidosis will be eliminated, and while the heart damage will still be there, a damaged heart (which lots of us have) is not a "terminal illness." If the first therapy fails (a real possibility), there are others that can be tried.

I do not want to trivialize the seriousness of the situation; this is one of my closest friends under discussion. But I will politely ask people not to toss around phrases like "terminally ill" unless and until that is the judgement finally sustained. Right now, it isn't.

#31 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 04:56 PM:

'Trikone' is a GBLT SE Asian organization? Wow.

Maybe that explains the persistent graffiti (sometimes spelled 'Trik1' or spoofed as 'Prikone') all over downtown Calgary and nearby areas.

#32 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:00 PM:

RE: my sister.
Because she was enough younger, mercy usually stayed my hand. Plus the ass whipping I'd get if I actually got angry enough and smacked her. I learned to leave the vicinity if she actually made me really angry, a useful education that persists.

RE: Basements
Water tables cause lots of trouble for basements. The first home we owned in KC was in a neighborhood with a high water table, we had to have a sump pump and it caused a lot of grief. But we will NOT have a house here without a basement due to weather. In Tulsa and OKC, where they really really need basements too, they can't build them for the reason they can't build them in Florida...

#33 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Renee: It might just be coincidence... It could just be a tagger.

But Trikone does seem to be used a fair amount by Desi GLBT groups in North America - I just googled a "Trikone Tejano", for instance.

#34 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:18 PM:

Thanks for the clarification and hope, Mike.

Do any of the folks at Tor have a current c/o address handy we could send cards and such to? I've been deeply involved in WoT fandom from...well, from day one of my internet experience back in '95. I like to hope I'd have wound up here without that, but I can directly point to that as my path in this lifetime. I figure the least I owe the man for hours of enjoyable time passed and many, many friendships is a "Get Well" card.

#35 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:23 PM:

glitterflex: First, the word is "plagiarize."

Second: What, exactly, are you talking about? Plagiarism is copying another person's words. It's pretty darn hard to do "accidentally."

Leaving aside the issue of intent (which is in fact important, but you clearly don't have such intent), has there actually been an occasion on which you looked back at your work, and discovered that an extended passage -- a long paragraph or more -- was a word-for-word duplicate of someone else's work? If so, what were the circumstances that brought this about? Was eidetic memory involved?

Some novices do pick up mannerisms from writers they like and read a great deal. Just about everyone has favorite writers, and (particularly in genre) they often use those people as models. That isn't plagiarism; it isn't plagiarism to borrow auctorial tricks and gimmicks (of characterization, say) from other people. It doesn't always work, and it's not a strategy for the long term, but it's not wrong, unless the "borrowings" are the precise transcription of phrases.

It is possible that Writer A might reproduce a long and distinctive passage that Writer B used, from unconscious memory; not very likely, but possible. In that case, a rereading should bring up the recollection, at which point one goes back and rewrites the passage to make it original. It is mechanically possible that Writer A might duplicate such a passage without ever having read Writer B's version, but it is distinctly unlikely.

I can't say much about the sense you have that what you've written seems "foreign to you," because that's an entirely different issue.

Saying the same thing that another story said isn't plagiarizing it. (If there were, there would be only a small handful of stories -- the precise number varies, but it's rarely cited as more than seven.) When two lovers woo, they still say "I love you," on that you can rely. (And that's quoting, not plagiarism.)

#36 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:36 PM:

Stefan: Yes! Someone else who's seen Marshall Efron's Illustrated, Simplified and Painless Sunday School! I only saw a handful of episodes, which must have been reruns in the mid-'80s, but it was great. (If Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse can make it to DVD, surely this can too.)Again in the mid-'80s was the "Doctor Science" TV series, which I'd love to see again.

The Hal Linden animals show was, oddly enough, "Animals, Animals, Animals." The theme song was similarly repetitive. It's also mentioned on IMDB.

#37 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:45 PM:

Randall Garrett said that when he was writing "Backstage Lensman" he discovered at one point that he'd -- without meaning to -- reproduced a few paragraphs of Doc Smith's writing verbatim.

#38 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:50 PM:
Plagiarism is copying another person's words. It's pretty darn hard to do "accidentally."

I've done it. I was working over a poem and reading a lot of Robert Graves, and I decided to work over one of his lines into an allusion to him and slip it into my own poem. All fine, except that my result was a rather famous Dylan Thomas line.

My teacher, who knew me, did not mock me in front of the class.

#39 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Since Doc Smith often reproduced his own writing verbatim, that's hardly surprising.

#40 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:51 PM:

I have a few videotaped episodes of "Dr. Science" (Dan Coffey, Ian Shoales). One of those shows I'm really glad to have taped, not because I watch it all the time, because it is nice to have proof that I didn't imagine the whole thing.

Yeah, Marshall Efron's (got his start as an old-timey lefty comedian, as I recall) show deserves DVD hood. A cheery, humane, non-dogmatic and damn funny telling of bible stories.

#41 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:52 PM:

By the way, my search fu is weak today--does anyone know the original release date for Even Cowgirls Get The Blues?

#42 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:57 PM:

adamsj - 76, 93 if you're talking the movie.

#43 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 06:02 PM:

Protected static: I've always assumed Trikone was just a tagger (or a small group of taggers); that doesn't mean they didn't adopt the word for themselves.

F'instance, the first time I saw the tag was the mid-90's, on a Centre Street light post just north of the bridge--just a block from the downtown area locally known as Chinatown and well within the residential limits of 'Greater Chinatown'. 17th Avenue, so-called 'ground zero' for this tagger, is a party zone--shops, cafes, bars and nightclubs.

It doesn't take higher math to put these two facts together with the comment in the link re: the tagger being a short man to come up with the conclusion of 'Asian GBLT person making a personal political statement'. I could be wrong, of course, but I like the theory.

YMMV.

#44 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 06:14 PM:

I loved Marshall Efron on The Great American Dream Machine circa 1971. Never got to see the Sunday School show.

I have made a small hobby out of Efron-spotting. I guess IMDB has taken most of the fun out of that. He's sproadically had parts in TV shows and movies over the decades.

For all I know, he may be blogging now.

#45 ::: glitterflea ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 06:23 PM:

has there actually been an occasion on which you looked back at your work, and discovered that an extended passage -- a long paragraph or more -- was a word-for-word duplicate of someone else's work?

There have been passages that worried me. I read so prolifically that I no longer remember much of what I've read. Like for my recent English paper I wrote In fact, he goes so far as to share the confidence that he is a Mason. If Fortunato believed Montresor to hold a grudge against him it is unlikely he would have revealed this fact...Fortunato must have suffered terrible mental agony in the interval of time it took Montresor to wall him up. Rereading this I had a sense of deja vu that I'd seen the words before but I can't remember where or even if I'm just imagining the similarity to anything I've read. In a childrens' book I'm writing the main character feels uneasy about the part of town he's entered -Tog lived in the bad part of town. Roger looked around uneasily at the rundown buildings, the bums sitting at street corners, the barking dogs behind chain link fences. Tog didn't seem bothered by any of it. When a vicious looking dog lunged at him, Tog swiped it with his fingernails. The dog ran away whimpering. Again I'm struck by a sense of deja vu. Do the passages in question ring any bells? Should I rewrite them?

Also I'm no expert on the subject but I have read about unconscious plagiarism. Isaac Asimov said he did it early in his career. In one of his writing books Lawrence Block talks about a friend who accidentally plagiarized the plot from another story.

Yes, you are right, it's plagiarize. I sometimes visually elide words which I don't realize until I've used spellcheck.

#46 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 06:38 PM:

Renee: true, nothing says that they're mutually exclusive...

#47 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 06:39 PM:

dolloch,

Yes, 1976 for the book--but the full date?

#48 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 07:17 PM:

glitterflea, your children's book excerpt rings no bells, but I'm a bit concerned about the idea of swiping a lunging dog with one's fingernails. Seems like the use of a palm, fist, or hefty stick might be more appropriate....

#49 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 07:23 PM:

Serge, I was a teenager when I read Tales of the City . . . it was a newspaper serial in the San Francisco Chronicle. But the gay-themed YA novels I've seen are so very very good that they're a better bet. Next I get to the bookstore I'll scope them out and see if I can add to the list.

#50 ::: Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 07:37 PM:

Count me in as another fan of Marshall Efron. As a teen-ager in the '70s, I watched him on "The Great American Dream Machine", (where I believe he did humorous but pointed consumer reports-type segments) and then on "Marshall Efron's Illustrated Simplified and Painless Sunday School", and its followup, "God's Country". I even had his odd comedy album, "The Neutrino News Network".

Unlike, say, "Lidsville", the Marshall Efron "Sunday School" show was not a fast-moving affair with songs and silly costumes. It aired on CBS-TV's old non-commercial religion/culture block on Sunday morning (long since replaced by the money-making "CBS Sunday Morning"). Efron dramatized Bible stories, with himself as the only cast member, treading a fine line between playing it straight and gagging it up. In some ways, it was the TV equivalent of a Sunday school Flannelgraph presentation.

Watching Efron was a solitary activity for me. I didn't know of anyone who had heard of him, let alone liked him. The only time I watched him with my teen-age peers, the loudest of them laughed derisively and called him a fag. And this was at an Episcopal church youth conference.

Actually, if I saw the show today, I would probably find it dull at best, but I have fond memories of my experience at the time.

#51 ::: glitterflea ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 07:44 PM:

Seems like the use of a palm, fist, or hefty stick might be more appropriate....

Oh, in the story Tog, who does the swiping, is supposed to be a goblin disguised as a human boy. His goblin nails are rather sharp and he's much stronger than the average child. Thanks for the suggestion which I might take up in the final draft.

#52 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 08:07 PM:

Another Efron fan here. "Is there sex after death?" and "Just Pie" are still favorite bits. I also liked when he compared Bayer to Brand X aspirin. "Great American Dream Machine" was a huge thing in my life, and of course, any time anybody watched it with me, they did a terrible episode. Go figure.

"Hallelujah Bananas" is a favorite paragraph of mine. I just searched in vain for any book of mine that contains it, but they're all hiding under the sink, laughing at me. We have too many sinks for me to search them all, and the books move around. I know I've used it in the past, perhaps as far back as Azapa.

There, I've said "Azapa." That means I have to go brush teeth with my daughter and spend the next couple of hours getting her to go to sleep. And I didn't manage to say anything about Bingo, Droop, Snorky and Fleagle. Night, all...

#53 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 08:36 PM:

adamsj - Ah. The exact date's a little out of my ken, but here http://dogbert.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?imagefield.x=54&fe=on&tn=even+cowgirls+get+the+blues&sortby=1&imagefield.y=13 at Abebooks might be a good start.

#54 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Stefan:

You are completely right, and I seem to have been a couple of years off, thinking 1975 was 1977. I even found the Kirk Exorcist bit as a cover blurb on this page:

Monster Times cover scans (see issue #43).

Much obliged. It's been bugging me for a week.

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 09:18 PM:

John M. Ford: There's also the issue of literary allusion. When I was writing my first (so far only) book, a line of Tennyson's got stuck in my head and in incorporated it with a double twist into the text. One reader, as far as I'm aware, got it.

#56 ::: dave ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 09:38 PM:

Richard Anderson:
glitterflea, your children's book excerpt rings no bells, but I'm a bit concerned about the idea of swiping a lunging dog with one's fingernails. Seems like the use of a palm, fist, or hefty stick might be more appropriate....

My first reaction was that the hero was obviously a werewolf, or some such beastie.

#57 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 10:10 PM:

Another vote here for a DVD set of the Marshall Efron Bible stories show.

"These are COSMIC fish parts!

#58 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 10:38 PM:

John M. Ford, re: Robert Jordan, and poorly chosen words.

My apologies. I phrased that exceptionally poorly.
-r.

#59 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:09 PM:

Saija: I like Empress of the World by Sara Ryan (and so does my 16-yr.-old bisexual daughter).

Call for ideas: My hometown, which has a truly horrifying 28 percent poverty rate (that's by the U.S. federal definition of poverty: income $10,000/yr or less), is just beginning a major effort to Do Something About It, focusing on education, employment, transportation/housing, dependent care, mental and physical health care, and economic growth.
If any of you live in places that have come up with good ways to tackle any of these problems, would you email me with info or links to same?

(If anyone's interested in my own town's efforts, check out "Partners for a Prosperous Athens" at http://www.fanning.uga.edu .)

#60 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:24 PM:

Lila, check out www.worldchanging.com. Not 100% apropos, but they touch on some of the issues you raise.

* * *

I remember exactly one skit from "The Great American Dream Machine." Efron was fnoodling with some cans of olives, noting that those with larger olives had fewer olives, and that the can of the extra-super-jumbo variety had just ONE enormous olive.

#61 ::: David D. Levine ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:24 PM:

I'm amazed that the thread has gotten this far without anyone mentioning that the chorus of Bob Marley's song "Buffalo Soldier" has almost exactly the same tune as the Banana Splits theme (slowed down and rastafized).

Speaking of mildly-educational Saturday morning TV shows that hardly anyone remembers (viz. Make a Wish), I spent many years wondering if I'd only dreamed Curiosity Shop, featuring such characters as Baron Balthazar and the Onomatopoeia. But the Net is bigger than it used to be, and there is now a little information out there about it. It was one of my favorites, but I don't believe I've ever met anyone who remembers it.

Another one of my favorites that few Americans remember is Vision On, a BBC show for deaf and hearing children that was delightfully surreal.

#62 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:26 PM:

Oh!

I have a "V for Vendetta" meta-question.

Who is Stephen Fry? Yeah, I can guess that he's an actor / comedian, and I know he had a voice credit in Mirrormask, but what is he best known for? Is there an American comedian he could be compared to?

#63 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:31 PM:

Open thread material: Hisses and jeers for, of all places, the Smithsonian Institution. They've signed a semi-exclusive deal with Showtime for access to the Smithsonian's archives. The terms of the deal are secret.

On March 9, Showtime and the Smithsonian announced the creation of Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture to develop television programming. Under the agreement, the joint venture has the right of first refusal to commercial documentaries that rely heavily on Smithsonian collections or staff. Those works would first have to be offered to Smithsonian on Demand, the cable channel that is expected to be the venture's first programming service.

The above quote comes from this article in the NY Times. Is there no part of the American public trust that is not open to plunder by the highest bidder?

#64 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 12:07 AM:

here is his IMDb listng

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000410/

Hope it helps, I didn't do more than look it up.

#65 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 12:09 AM:

Who is Stephen Fry?

Well, lots of things. Goes back to Cambridge Footlights, where he met Hugh Laurie, with whom he has written and performed in lots of things, notably the "Jeeves and Wooster" series, in which they had the title roles. (Fry was Jeeves.) Was in all the Blackadders except the first series, as the Duke of Wellington, Charles I, and any character named Melchett or variations thereon. Title role in the film "Wilde," no points for guessing which Wilde. Won a Tony for doing a highly successful rewrite of "Me and My Girl," the 1940 musical that "Doin' the Lambeth Walk" comes from. Narrates the movies about that English kid who does magic tricks, Harry Penn-Jillette or whatever his name is.

Four novels and a number of other books; Paperweight is a fat collection of essays, reviews, and short stories, (and a short play), many done for The Listener magazine, which are extremely funny, when they aren't quite moving -- the one on the death of Freddie Mercury and certain people's response thereto is particularly notable as a bit of absolutely level-voiced fury re certain people's complete lack of compassion or humanity, despite their alleged devotion to a particular prophet and apprentice woodworker. (I lucked into a copy of this book, though it does seem to be available new from Amazon UK.)

Busy man, and he's four months younger than I am. Jeeves, where's the old Webley-Fosbery? No, one cartridge will be quite sufficient, thank you. That's just the stuff I knew (and checked Amazon UK for). There's probably a whole bunch more on them those Internets there.

#66 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 12:28 AM:

Thanks. Doesn't sound like Fry has an exact American equivalent.

My father is a Blackadder fan. I'll have to see if any of his VHS collections have episodes with fry.

#67 ::: jeffy ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 12:31 AM:

Re: the wtfwjd? particle, I prefer the ones from the author of the Going Jesus blog at her wtfwjd? cafepress store.

#68 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 12:36 AM:

Kip, I was going to e-mail you about the issues Greg London raised.

Did the Westman company really sue to get a piece of "Yes, We Have No Bananas?" Fifty googleable places say yes. How could they have claimed a copyright on Handel's music? If it wasn't copyright, on what basis did they win?

Or is the whole thing made up? Or a severe distortion of something that really happened?

I am also left wondering if Spaeth had something to do with it. After all, he served as expert musicological witness in other plagiarism trials, and he made it into Louis Nizer's My Life in Court. And he loved to promote himself. And he is famous for the Hallelujah/Bananas thing. Could the lawsuit story come from him?

Is C.E. Petit reading this?

#69 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 12:57 AM:

Strong agreement with John M. Ford's recommendation of the Stephen Fry collection Paperweight. Good stuff, very re-readable. Also funny and moving is his autobiographical Moab Is My Washpot.

His TV show with Hugh Laurie was called A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and four books of the scripts were published by Mandarin in the UK -- much appreciated since I deafly missed a good many on-screen punchlines.

#70 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 01:23 AM:

Ooh, Stephen Fry's in V for Vendetta? Now I want to go see that. I just finished watching the whole Jeeves and Wooster series, and have been seeking out other things with him in it.

I can't think of an American actor equivalent. We never seem to get quite as dry OR goofy as the Brits, and he does both wonderfully.

#71 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 01:41 AM:

Thank you for recommending Paperweight, John and Dave. I've requested it from the library.

Since elementary school, when I went through all the biographies in the non-fiction room in a month, I've noticed that I tend to go through periods of reading only fiction and then periods of only non-fiction.

Since I've just about finished Robert Bringhurst's amazing Elements of Typographic Style--the link is to an interview with Bringhurst--I was just about ready to go out searching for something else when this recommendation fell into my lap.

#72 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 01:49 AM:

Recently appeared in an episode of the BBC TV show Who Do You Think You Are, in which some well-known person traces their ancestry.

His maternal grandfather was a Jew from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a decorated officer from the First World War, who came to England with his wife in the 1920s to help set up a sugar beet factory in Bury St. Edmunds. Most of the episode was about tracing that side of the family, finding the places they lived, the names of their children, and the official records of their deportations to what was death.

It was a chilling reminder.

#73 ::: petra ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 01:49 AM:

My most recent encounter with Stephen Fry was on the BBC comedy quiz QI which I tried not to miss after stumbling upon it.
Lovely wit and poise and totally at ease with being gay... My favorite kind of queer :-) I don't think there's an US equivalent of him.

#74 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 03:11 AM:

John Farrel: The opening sentence of, "To Reign in Hell" is probably the best piece of auctorial self-mockey I know.

It's what got me started reading Steven Brust.

#75 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 03:35 AM:

This is for Patrick and Teresa (if you get around to reading it):
For no particular reason, I was wondering today if you were Jazz Butcher fans as well as Richard Thompson fans. It just seemed like you might be, him being another musicians' cult fav.

#76 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 03:57 AM:

The other thing about Stephen Fry is that he knows nearly everything. It's become traditional on the christmas celebrity specials of Who Wants to be a Millionaire in the UK for someone to call him when they get stuck. Last year he actually got one wrong, but I think it's the first time ever...

#77 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 03:59 AM:

glitterflex:

It is unlikely but can happen. In high school, a friend of mine more or less faithfully recreated the Roald Dahl short story about the woman who bludgeons her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and then serves it, roasted, to the detectives who have come to investigate. The parallelism was quite precise, though in her version it was a frozen turkey. Judging by her surprise when I told her I'd read it before, I think she truly did think it was her own invention. As it had also been made into an Alfred Hitchcock Theater TV episode, my guess was that she had seen that and then forgotten about having seen it.

I think that kind of thing is very very rare, though; you can't be worrying about it with everything you write.

Many people who write find that what they've created feels rather distant and foreign to them when they read it. That's no sign of unconscious plagiarism; it's simply part of the creative process. It is one of the reasons people speak of the muse as being responsible for their work.

#78 ::: glitterflea ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 04:10 AM:

I think that kind of thing is very very rare, though; you can't be worrying about it with everything you write.


I've just been really worried that I'll unconsciously plagiarize something and be hauled off to Author's Jail and forever known as the
Plagiarist.

You're probably right, though. Thanks for the advice.

#79 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 04:45 AM:

A Stephen Fry (I've always assumed the same one, but don't actually know for sure) is also the author of the SFish novel _Making History_.

#80 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 05:02 AM:

Yes, the Stephen Fry who wrote Making History is the same one.

#81 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 07:42 AM:

Stefan,
Thanks for the link!

David,
I remember Curiosity Shop, just barely (I'm startled to see that it was the first venue for "Multiplication Rock!"). I wonder if anyone besides me remembers The Hudson Brothers? (British and Australian readers probably remember Rod Hull and his Emu.) Or how about Voyage of the Mimi, the first show I remember with a signing Deaf character?

Protected Static,
I love how something like the Smithsonian, that supposedly already belongs to the American public, can then become the "exclusive" property of someone else.
Maybe we should auction off Air Force One.

#82 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 08:52 AM:

Re Stephen Fry - another admirer here. On a completely silly note, it was wonderful during the television coverage of the Terribly Civil Celebration of the Charles/Camilla hookup to see Fry and Atkinson being the two in traditional costume — see photo: www.20minutos.es/galeria/146/0/16. One hopes he can flick the fags before too much damage.

BTW, medical problems aren't as deeply serieaux as feared, but still are not negligible, and I'll probably be offline in hospital for some while, as well as skint.

#83 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 08:57 AM:

Stephen Fry also hosts the BAFTAs - the annual UK equivalent of the Oscars. I tape it every year, watch his always brilliantly witty and funny opening monologue, then fast forward through the actual awards just to catch the bits of Fry interspersed between them. The man is a national treasure.

#84 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Re: The Smithsonian, I can't say I'm particularly surprised, if disappointed. When I was at NASM, there was lots of displeasure of such things as awarding the catering franchise to McDonalds (thankfully whilst I was there the staff canteen and sandwich deli were retained - much cheaper and better than the other dreck - although I believe these are now too gone.) They also renamed the Langley Theatre the Lockheed Martin (TM) IMAX (TM) theatre, after a generous bribe ^H^H^H^H^H donation from guess who...

Unfortunately, museums are very expensive places to run, and so the money has to come from somewhere. Feeelthy socialist that I am, I reckon a complex like the Smithsonian is worth all the government subsidy it takes.

#85 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 12:03 PM:

Did you know Madeline L'Engle wrote a book that had a major gay theme? In _Camilla_ it was an overt issue. In _The Small Rain_ it came up in the usual way of branding someone about whom it was not true.

#86 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 01:06 PM:

Quoth John M. Ford (wrt Stephen Fry): Narrates the movies about that English kid who does magic tricks, Harry Penn-Jillette or whatever his name is.

Though horrified to find myself correcting Mr. Ford, I feel compelled to point out that afaik, Fry does not narrate those movies but does read the British audiobooks thereof. The American audiobooks are read by a different Brit, Jim Dale.

The closest US equivalent I can think of for Fry is either Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. (In an interview w/ Colbert that was broadcast on public radio a few weeks ago, there was a comment about him projecting his personality in such an exaggeratedly straitlaced fashion that in some ways he comes across as "ethnically gay", which he apparently isn't.)

#87 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 01:22 PM:

I'd considered bringing up the Hudson Brothers earlier. The Emu! and Chuckie Margolis!

#88 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 01:58 PM:

I remembered the Curiosity Shop, but was afraid to mention it, because the only specifics I recall are that a) one of the characters was a talking rock, and b) the never-seen shop's proprieter communicated by tape recordings.

That puts it firmly in "I dreamed it up" category.

Oh . . . one more detail. One of the regulars was a fantastically annoying kid actress.

#89 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 02:02 PM:

In re Malzberg vs Virgin Atlantic:

. . .rumor has it that the second candidate for the program would be British author J. G. Ballard, whose flight would depart from the Martian-sand-swamped ruins of Cape Canaveral.

Nifty. Thanks, Patrick.

#90 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 02:02 PM:

Chris Quinones writes:

I'd considered bringing up the Hudson Brothers earlier. The Emu! and Chuckie Margolis!

For me, this remark was so context-free as to be almost a koan. The more I contemplate what it could possibly mean, the deeper it seems.

I suppose I could google, but that would spoil the perfection.

#91 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 02:24 PM:

I haven't been to the Smithsonian in (one.. two... other hand... carry the one... yeesh...) over a decade. While I can't say I'm surprised about the changes, I'm not pleased.

I'm all for museums finding creative revenue streams - but giving near-exclusive deals for access to public archives of materials is Just Plain Wrong (what's next? The Library of Congress or the National Archives doing the same thing?), and selling naming rights is tacky.

(Also, reality has a way of making naming rights somewhat... ironic. Around the time we left St. Louis, we had the TWA Dome and the Saavis Center - TWA had just been consumed by American Airlines, and Saavis had just declared Chapter 11. Whoops.)

#92 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 03:04 PM:

Fry does not narrate those movies

Of course you are correct; I had gone back and found a credit for "narrator" on imdb, and as I've only seen the pictures in bits and pieces on cable, brought it over without context. Always Follow the Link.

They would probably be better films if he did narrate them, but then, I might actually be able to sit through the entirety of a version of "Mission: Impossible 2" with voice-overs by Fry and Laurie as two British Intelligence chaps trying to interpret the events for Tony Blair --

Fry: "No, sir, MI5 no longer suggests that our agents chat up the ladyfriends of international villains."
Laurie: "Not after Christine Keeler. Oh, of course you recall, sir. The lady who wanted your autograph at the Party conference. For, ah, certain values of 'autograph.'"
Fry: "The lady the Shadow Minister for Deniable Acts referred to as 'Popsy One,' Prime Minister."
Laurie: "As for this part of the operation, sir, you will recall that our agents are still licenced to kill -- well, yes, they still lie and cheat and steal, that's true, but since Mr Reagan it's no longer required licences for that -- but they now have to fill out much more detailed expense-account forms. It would seem that the Americans have a broader charter in that regard."

At any rate, apologies all round.

#93 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 05:25 PM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey wrote:
Did the Westman company really sue to get a piece of "Yes, We Have No Bananas?" Fifty googleable places say yes. How could they have claimed a copyright on Handel's music? If it wasn't copyright, on what basis did they win?

I don't really know. The thing I knew about was "Hall-elujah, bananas..." and so forth.

The Great Song Thesaurus says that "Yes, We Have No Bananas" is from 1923, and instead of the singable lineage that I love to quote, it states (in the section "Elegant Plagiarisms") that the song is 'Based on the melodies of "The Vacant Chair," and the earlier "When I Saw Sweet Nellie Home" (Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party).'

I'm not sure what the statute of limitations on plagiarism is, but Freddy Chopin probably didn't get a cent for "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." Moreover, there were popular songs based -- openly, I think -- on pieces that actually were in copyright, like Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto ("Full Moon and Empty Arms" 1946) and Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Princess ("The Lamp is Low" 1934). I'm unaware of what copyright issues, if any, were raised by these.

As to Spaeth, I once again don't know. I flipped through Slonimsky's A Thing Or Two About Music in search of illumination -- bloody thing has no index -- and finished as dim as I was before, but with a couple of bits of trivia I'd forgotten. Hey, Debussy wrote a funeral march and never published it? Coo.

#94 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 05:33 PM:

Whoa - a richness of Particles & Sidelights.

Re: that botanical stuff, seeing the Albrizia whatsis (a.k.a. Mimosa) in full bloom took me back to hot Brooklyn summer nights when you could smell the Mimosas and Ailantus trees. Pungent, almost stinky, but redolent of iced tea on the front porch and the deafening shriek of cicadias.

And those thistles are lovely.

And the taco trucks make me want to jump on a flight to LA, just for lunch.

I'm also surprised that the Beeb is just discovering that subtitles have other uses. Haven't they been in a bar in the last 10 years?

#95 ::: RuTemple ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 05:43 PM:

I'm just surprised no one has yet shaken loose the earworm by singing or typing:

Yes! we have no chihuahuas
We have no chihuahuas today
We've alsatians, dalmatians,
The results of a flirtation
Between a pekingese and a toupée,
but yes! we have no chihuahuas,
We have no chihuahuas toda-aaaa-ay!


#96 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 08:28 PM:

Larry, don't have go that far. I live near what I consider the best tacos in Kansas City, a 24-hour drive-through called Pancho's that's about four short blocks from my house. In Kansas City. Their tacos are a wee bit more expensive than the ubiquitous Taco Bell and made with better, more careful ingredients. Plus they get lots of Hispanic business, folks looking for lots of good cheap food. I've been known to tell the counter help, "I'll have what he's having, just no as hot..."

And if I want to go to a sit down excellent Mexican dinner, I've got a multitude of good places (Sol Azteca, California Taquiria, Mannys -- I'd do business lunch at Mannys).

#97 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 08:35 PM:

Serenity retold by the Muppets.

#98 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 09:13 PM:

RuTemple: maybe because that's one of the more obscure Bogle works? He's done it on tour, but IIRC it's never been available on record in this country. (I first remember it from an LP I bought in Sydney.)

The saga gets worse; AP (quoted in yesterday's Boston Globe) reported that James Moran (D-Va), sitting on the panel that approves Smithsonian appropriations, suggested that the Smithsonian raise the money it needs for renovation by charging admission; he claimed to believe that one dollar would be sufficient. Let's hear it for the New Democrats!

#99 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 09:16 PM:

Here's an Open Thread kind of question that maybe someone here can comment on.

It starts with the fifth-season opener of Buffy. In the course of the episode, Spike claims that Dracula owes him eleven pounds.

More recently, Peter David is writing a comic book miniseries called Spike vs. Dracula. In the first issue, he explains this: Spike buys a copy of Bram Stoker's novel, spending eleven pounds on it; when Dracula subsequently destroys the book, Spike decides that Dracula owes him reimbursement for the money.

This is a clever invention, but it seems to me that in 1898 (in London, if it matters) eleven pounds would have been an insanely high price for a book. But I don't know for sure. Is there anyone out there who knows what book prices in general were like around the turn of the twentieth century, and what Dracula in particular would have sold for?

#100 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 09:42 PM:
This is a clever invention, but it seems to me that in 1898 (in London, if it matters) eleven pounds would have been an insanely high price for a book. But I don't know for sure. Is there anyone out there who knows what book prices in general were like around the turn of the twentieth century, and what Dracula in particular would have sold for?
You'd think this would be easy information to find, and perhaps it would be if I were thinking more clearly, but I can't find what any early edition of Dracula was originally priced at (the problem is that book collectors and dealers do not generally mention original prices unless they are printed on the book or jacket and are a useful "point," or edition/printing indicator).

In any case, the best information that I've been able to come up with is that the first US edition of The Phantom of the Opera, published in 1911, sold for $1.25. Based on that I think a price of 11 pounds for a book published 14 years earlier is certainly far too high.

#101 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 10:51 PM:

"Little Gomez" was on a tape available in the US. I had a copy. I can't tell you the title because I incautiously lent it to someone who did not return it several years ago.

#102 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 11:32 PM:

Saw the wonderfully silly thriller Slither today.

The trailer suggests that it is an Alien Slug movie, but it's also a Body Snatchers sort of movie and a Zombie movie too! Triple shlockstravaganza!

Besides a lot of laughs there are a few scenes which are genuine nail-biters. If I'd seen this as a kid it would be a real pajama-soaker.

There's one interesting and creepy element concerning, ummmm, I'll say recieved memories so as not to give away too much. It puts the movie into the realm of SF, if of the silly variety.

#103 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 11:51 PM:

Their tacos are a wee bit more expensive than the ubiquitous Taco Bell and made with better, more careful ingredients.

The concept of "less careful" ingredients than Taco Bell would make a swell Guillermo del Toro movie*, but I don't think you'd wanna eat there. Even with really, really cheap longnecks.**

*"Hellboy II: Gehenna Drive-Thru" or "Mimic 4: That's Not Chicken." (And yes, there were two sequels to Mimic, though del Toro didn't do either of them.)

**Spanish for "light beer:" Cerveza de vaca.

#104 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 12:15 AM:

After a little bit of hunting: what we'd think of as a mass-produced book was priced around two shillings at the end of the 19th C, though this was generallly discounted by about 25%. So, a shilling and a half for a new edition. It's obvious that two hundred times that isn't a reasonable price for Dracula, which (though the details of the first edition are vague) was a popularly priced book.

There are tantalizing references to a suggestion (some attribute it to Henry Irving) that Stoker make the work available for free "downwire" on the electrical telegraph, both saving on postal costs and increasing demand through word of mouth, but these seem to have come to nothing.

(Is it still before midnight? Good.)

#105 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 12:44 AM:

Evil....

I sat in the Burlington Barnes & Noble and read the first 100 pages of Brutal, by Kevin Weeks with a named writing assistant given co-author status and credit. Weeks was an associate of James Bulger, Boston Mob Boss. It's chilling. 100 pages was as much as I was willing to deal with in one session. And in this particular case, I feel reading it at the Barnes & Noble was a moral thing to do, I did come out of the store with a purchased book, not Brutal, though. While half the proceeds are going to families of victims of murders he was accessory to whose bodies he disposed of, half the proceeds go to Weeks. The jail time he served was five years--he got time off for leading law enforcement personnel to where he'd buried bodies.

The book is chilling; Weeks has got to be a sociopath. His moral sense doesn't exist. I've known people who obeyed various laws and rules because they wanted to stay in other people's good graces and saw downsides to not complying and not a whole lot of benefit, or at least, not enough benefit versus the costs, to not comply with rules and laws. Weeks, though....

No, I didn't take a shower after I got home; maybe I should have, to wash the virtual stench off.

#106 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 01:07 AM:

So, a shilling and a half for a new edition. It's obvious that two hundred times that isn't a reasonable price for Dracula, which (though the details of the first edition are vague) was a popularly priced book.

Perhaps if Spike had had his copy re-bound. In gold leaf. And kept a ten-pound note in it...

My guess is that it is probably much too high. Based on the price of gold then and now (which is to say, on a Google search - I don't keep the price of gold in my head), eleven pounds then would have nearly 100 times the purchasing power of eleven pounds now. So, about 200 books' worth (which corresponds nicely to Mike's figures). So... what could you buy in London for 1,000 pounds? Half a hansom cab? Dinner for twenty at Claridge's? An Oyster card?

I don't know how much flexibility there is with time in the comic, but presumably there has been a time when a first edition of Dracula was worth eleven pounds. About 1960, perhaps?

#107 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 03:05 AM:

There's a curious website called "How Much is That Worth Today" that does English currency conversions from the 13th century forward. It says that two shillings (one-tenth of a pound then) in 1897 comes out as seven pounds 56p in contempoary money. A mulitple of 75 seems about right -- remembering that, even in a money-based (rather than a barter-based) economy, the things one can buy, for any price, have changed a great deal.

Looking at abebooks indicates that first British (Constable, 1897) editions of Drac start at about US$7000, and go up based on the usual variables (the top price was $25k, but it's inscribed by Stoker to Ellen Terry). First US editions (Doubleday, '99) seem to start at about $4k. In 1960 (before devaluation) eleven pounds was US$55, and I doubt very much that you could have gotten a first edition for that; the book was by no means obscure then, and was certainly collectible. (The Antiquarian Bookseller's Association listing for the inscribed one describes it as "rare," but that is a word with a great deal of slack in its couplers.)

Before the war, a servant who lived in the master's digs made a pound a week (cf. Allingham, re Lugg). My guess is that, at that time, long before Antiques Roadshow, it might have been possible to find a First copy for twenty pounds or thereabouts. Unless you looked like a rich American collector who kept an autographed picture of Bela Lugosi in his bedroom, in which case the price would have gone ballistic faster than you could say "Good eeevening."

#108 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 03:52 AM:

Even more important than cerveza de vaca?

Cerveza muy fría ;-)

#109 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 08:12 AM:

What if Spike was already adjusting for inflation when he gave the eleven pounds figure? One seventy-fifth of 11 quid would be about three bob, which would be in the right ballpark for a mental calculation.

#110 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 09:22 AM:

Spike was including accrued interest.

#111 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 03:07 PM:

"Spike was including accrued interest."

Er, financial or literary?

#112 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 03:39 PM:

Oh, financial. The smarter vampires (and you don't live for a century-plus if you aren't paying some attention) have been taking advantage of compound interest, well, probably as long as it's been around. The fact that, at least in some legal interpretations, a corporation is a person that lives forever, ought to inspire some sort of Creepy Thoughts.

Remember that, once upon a time, the Catholic Church was be really hostile to interest-bearing accounts -- "wealth is sterile" and all that. Who really suggested that they change? There's probably a good short Fark Dantasy story in that, though I'm not sure I want to be remembered for creating EconoGothick. Now, where the heck is my copy of Raymond de Roover?

(And no, there are no plans to build a sequel to Dragon called something like Night on the Rialto.

#113 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 04:44 PM:

Alas, there is no chance that Spike was adjusting for inflation or including interest -- the comic has a scene set in the bookseller with the clerk asking for eleven pounds.

So it looks like I'm right: it's rather as if I'd had a run-in with Anansi the Spider, went into a bookshop and asked for a copy of Anansi Boys, and was told that the price would be $2000 -- and I paid it.

#114 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 07:21 PM:

John Ford wrote: The fact that, at least in some legal interpretations, a corporation is a person that lives forever, ought to inspire some sort of Creepy Thoughts.

Dracula, Inc.

I imagine Christopher Lee as the creepy CEO.
After our heroes stake him, they find that he never was the vampire;
it was the corporation.

Still free to suck the lifeforce out of its employees and customers,
with its new CEO (meet the new boss, same as the old boss).

#115 ::: Peter David ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 07:32 PM:

No, David, it's more as if you hadn't actually read the comic in question, considering:

A) Spike complains about the insanely high price.
B) The bookseller explains that the book has been signed by the author, so as far as he's concerned, that makes it valuable.
C) Spike would be perfectly content to simply kill the bookseller and take it, but Drusilla asks him in her dreamy way to purchase the book for her and the besotted Spike does so.
D) We establish that Spike habitually takes money (theater tickets, valuables, etc.) off the bodies of his victims, so it's not as if he blew a month's wages on it.

Furthermore, to me, there's nothing intrinsically amusing or entertaining or even appropriate about Spike continually adjusting the amount for inflation. Instead it's his FAILURE to adjust that seems much more in character. Never the sharpest tool in the shed, it's far more to be expected that Spike would overlook not only adjusting for inflation, but the fact that a signed first edition of "Dracula" would be worth a hell of a lot more than eleven quid.

So it's a cute example, and you're right for your circumstance, but it has nothing to do with the comic or the character.

PAD

#116 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 09:21 PM:

"The smarter vampires"

I now have an image of Marty Zweig and Jim Rogers rising from coffins, clutching fistsful of bonds and stock certificates, mouthing phrases like "I vill drink your basis points."

EconoGothick might have a future.

#117 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 09:30 PM:

I imagine Christopher Lee as the creepy CEO.

In Lee's last time out as Dracula ("The Satanic Rites of Dracula," Though It Has Many Names), Dracula has a "secret identity" as a reclusive millionaire, vaguely inspired by Howard Hughes. He's barely in the picture, and (as it postulates that vampires don't appear on video as well as in mirrors and photographs) there are scenes that he's only in part of the time. This is actually kind of amusing, and while the picture's not very good, it's not as bad as "Dracula AD 1972." But then, few movies are. And there's a pretty fair confrontation between Lee and Peter Cushing (playing a van Helsing descendant, naturally) in what passed for a modern office in 1974, that's nicely low-key, and, well, has two very good actors in it.

The unfortunate part is that Evil CEOs are no longer very interesting, if indeed they ever were. I suppose you could make a farce about Enron or Halliburton being run by vampires ("Look, I want Cheez-Its, Famous Amos, and blood in the breakroom. And red napkins. Who do I have to fire to get red [bleep]ing napkins?") but we're talking about an SNL sketch.

Speaking as a guy who was kept alive for three decades on the body fluids of dead animals, and is now kept alive on the body fluids of human beings (though they are peed out by mutant E. Coli), I can assure you that vampirism is waaaay overrated as a lifestyle choice, not to mention a romantic metaphor.

#118 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2006, 11:17 PM:

Glitterflea: I've just been really worried that I'll unconsciously plagiarize something and be hauled off to Author's Jail and forever known as the Plagiarist.

Don't let it worry you... Even if by some chance you did subconsciously repeat a phrase, line or passage, the context and story are all yours, which makes it a whole new ball game. Many fans, myself included, rather enjoy seeing an old idea made new in a fresh context, coupled with an original story. There are many times I've run across whole scenes that seemed to come from other authors, but were like a cover song that is better than the original. I'm not saying you should aim for that kind of writing, but please don't the possibility hamper your work, because even if it did happen by unconscious machination, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing...

I work on what passes for Skid Row in this town... I'll keep an eye out for Roger and Tog!

#119 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 01:01 AM:

Looking at abebooks indicates that first British (Constable, 1897) editions of Drac start at about US$7000, and go up based on the usual variables...

Wow, really? That'll be why I only ever see rare book in libraries. Did I tell you about the time the library I was working in discovered we had two sets of the first edition of Russell's Principia Mathematica on the open shelves? I can't find pricing information, but this is a second edition (despite the brief description). We took them out of circulation sharpish...

For some reason, though, it still doesn't register with me that books can be valuable. Especially when you can buy a modern copy of Dracula for a few dollars.

#120 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 01:25 AM:
There's probably a good short Fark Dantasy story in that, though I'm not sure I want to be remembered for creating EconoGothick.
Sidney Harris already created the closely-related Business Gothic:
It was a dark and stormy night. From the heavy, brooding clouds poured great torrents of rain, a cold rain, whipper to a frenzy by a biting, metallic wind.

"If this keeps up," he thought, "I should be able to sell at least two dozen umbrellas an hour."

#121 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 01:26 AM:

Well, books were once so valuable that there were entire libraries that had the volumes chained to the shelves (though in some cases "chained libraries" and lending libraries existed side by side, which is I suppose still true, without literal chains).

I know enough about antiques (my grandmother was in the trade) to understand the difference between objects that are simply useful (a writing desk, a Penguin Classics copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination) and objects that are desirable for different reasons (a Louis IV writing desk, a first printing -- or a manuscript copy -- of "The Raven"). I don't have the collector impulse, though. Packrat impulse, yes.

#122 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 01:45 AM:

Since it's an open thread and the cost of books and book collecting has been mentioned, who's read any of John Dunning's Cliff Janeway mysteries? Janeway's an ex-cop now making a living as a used bookseller in Denver. I own one of the books (The Bookman's Wake) and wasn't too enthused, but I wonder if I just got the runt of the litter.

#123 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 09:09 AM:

Factor of 75. . .huh.

I would have been wrong.

My mental math goes something like this:

$100.00/ 2006 = $10.00/1960-ish = $1.00/ 1907-ish.

$5.00 US = 1 [pound symbol goes here*] UK, for values of "a long time ago" more than about 20 years.

* Don't bother telling me the alt-keypad ASCII numeric, I'll just forget in ten seconds.

So I would have guessed $5500.

Either way, it was a cute attempt at a retrofit, if not a successful one.

#124 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 10:44 AM:

Does anyone else here have a browser so old and creaky, it balks at the New York Times's spiffy new format? Till I can afford a new machine, I guess I'll be reading a lot less of the Times from now on. Sigh.

#125 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 10:47 AM:

Serenity retold by the Muppets.

a nice way to start off a monday

#126 ::: Peter David ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 10:47 AM:

Well, I appreciate the condescending dismissal, and again, if actually read and put in context--which no one here seems either to be doing or have done--I think it works just fine, thanks.

PAD

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 10:56 AM:

Serenity retold by the Muppets... Kind of like when they redid Fireball XL-5 as Pigs into Spaaaaaaaaace? That should be interesting.

Meanwhile, and in a totally unrelated matter, the 4th trade paperback of the perils of Agatha Heterodyne just came out. I think I'm going to allocate some time this coming weekend and reread the whole thing from the beginning.

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 11:03 AM:

So, nobody knows where one could find jpegs of Scottie in the Jefferies Tube? Since I'll be using my laptop at the San Francisco office next week, I'd better come up with a wallpaper less likely to raise eyebrows than Agatha Heterodyne dressed up (or down?) like Magna Scientia. TCM's site has some wallpaper that'd be more appropriate to a work environment, like that scene from House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price standing next to a skeleton.

#129 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 11:50 AM:

John Ford wrote: I can assure you that vampirism is waaaay overrated as a lifestyle choice, not to mention a romantic metaphor.

I'd found the notion
that animated corpses feeding off of thin soup
would be superhumanly healthy and strong,
rather peculiar.

I suppose you could make a farce about Enron or Halliburton being run by vampires [..] but we're talking about an SNL sketch.

Well, the idea is that the corporate entity is the vampire, not the individuals in the corporation.
But I don't know where you go from there.
Wolfram and Hart? Supernatural Law?

Regarding Dracula, I remember reading Bram Stoker's book in junior high.
I was expecting it to be rather dusty (old book published in the 1890's),
and was impressed how creepy it was.

On the other hand, read Lair of the White Worm a few years ago,
and was struck how silly it seemed.

It might have been the inspiration
for the Image of the Fendahl episodes of Doctor Who
in the Tom Baker years.

#130 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 12:57 PM:

John M. Ford writes: I suppose you could make a farce about Enron or Halliburton being run by vampires [..] but we're talking about an SNL sketch.

Rob Rusick writes: Well, the idea is that the corporate entity is the vampire, not the individuals in the corporation.

I'd just like to state for the record that, while I was never very sanguine about working for Enron, I never met anyone there whom I could prove was a vampire. (I had my suspicions about Ken Rice, but alas— it appears to have been just an exploratory phase for him in college.)

#131 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 01:41 PM:

This TNH exposition

"Bush is to public discourse as Three Card Monte is to card game. . . .
about Mr. Bush's speeches in the post about Jane Smiley's "Notes to the Converts" made it into Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing column today. Page One, no less.

#132 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 04:31 PM:

Well, I appreciate the condescending dismissal, and again, if actually read and put in context--which no one here seems either to be doing or have done--I think it works just fine, thanks.

I don't think that anyone intended "condescending dismissal" - is it just that no-one has replied to your post? I didn't, largely because I haven't read or even seen the comic, and I've no reason to argue with your explanation. I was only agreeing that (as you say) 11 pounds is an insanely high price for a book in 1895.

But if you insist:

The bookseller explains that the book has been signed by the author, so as far as he's concerned, that makes it valuable.

It's your comic, and I guess the bookseller has his reasons - but this still seems a bit weak. Valuable enough to make the book over 100 times more expensive? Now perhaps if it had been signed by Dracula himself...

But in the end, it may be only a minor detail. Still, the question was: isn't it an remarkably high price for a popular book in 1895? And I think we've all agreed that it is. Other than that, I guess we can only wish you good luck with the comic.

#133 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 04:52 PM:

I like how Michael Reagan says that Bush's poll numbers are so low because we haven't seen the "real" George W. Bush yet. Apparently, Bush's bad standing in public opinion is the fault of bad handlers and PR guys, and, hey, look at that, Bush once again is not responsible. It isn't his fault that he followed bad PR advice for 6 years. Now that Bush gets to be Bush, we'll finally see his poll numbers jump as we get to the true Bush, and the quagmire in Iraq, the dead, the low-level civil war going on there, the hundreds of billions of dollars poured down that endless drain, will all make sense in the light of seeing the True Bush, because, well, people just need to see the last six years of results in the proper context to really appreciate them, to see them for the true vision and true leadership that gave them.

Tune in again next week when Michael Reagen applies the no true scotsman fallacy to pedophilic priests, how it's all just a misunderstanding, how these priests have simply been taking bad PR advice and haven't been their true selves.

OK, can I throw up now?

#134 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 05:02 PM:

$5.00 US = 1 [pound symbol goes here*] UK, for values of "a long time ago" more than about 20 years.

A bit longer than that. There's been a fairly constant decline in the pound's value from 1930 (which is not to say that the dollar hasn't dropped as well). The 1967 devaluation was from $2.80, which had been stable for a couple of decades, to $2.40. When I was in England twenty-two years ago, it was hovering near the dreaded parity (some of my card bills cleared at $1.03 to the pound), though it's of course come back considerably, both because of pound recovery and dollar weakness.

You start out talking about Econogothick and it just won't let go.

#135 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 05:13 PM:

Well, I appreciate the condescending dismissal, and again, if actually read and put in context--which no one here seems either to be doing or have done--I think it works just fine, thanks.

It's hard to know how to take that comment. "Are you talkin' to me?" comes to mind.

The problem being that, while I am from New Jersey, I am from a suburb in New Jersey with good school systems and bored cops.

Therefore, Mr. David may apply a tone to my comment which is not, in fact, present- a common problem on the internet.

I suppose I could answer, "If I show you my copy of the comic will you sign it?" But I have not established if, in fact, he's talkin' to me.

#136 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 05:43 PM:

$5.00 US = 1 [pound symbol goes here*] UK, for values of "a long time ago" more than about 20 years.

A bit longer than that. There's been a fairly constant decline in the pound's value from 1930 (which is not to say that the dollar hasn't dropped as well). The 1967 devaluation was from $2.80, which had been stable for a couple of decades, to $2.40. When I was in England twenty-two years ago, it was hovering near the dreaded parity (some of my card bills cleared at $1.03 to the pound), though it's of course come back considerably, both because of pound recovery and dollar weakness.

You start out talking about Econogothick and it just won't let go.

The pound slid from $5 in 1930 to $4.80 in 1947. That was unsustainable, so it was devalued to $2.80. Twenty years later, it went down to $2.40.

#137 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 05:58 PM:

Nifty!

http://spacesounds.com/

I was listening to some of the sounds on the main page, and thinking that some of them - especially Pulsar PSR B0329+54 & Vela Pulsar - would work very well as the beat of a music score. "PSR B0329+54" sounds like the stomp of a Gaelic waulking song, and the Vela Pulsar like a fast-paced something or other played on the spoons.

#138 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 06:48 PM:

The first SDK for the "$100 laptop" is now available. Since the hand-cranked laptop is still vaporware, the SDK includes a simulator.

http://www.redhat.com/magazine/017mar06/features/olpc/

I doubt that the simulator can simulate the intriguing peer-to-peer wireless networking feature. Which is a shame, since a lap-net could make for an interesting multi-player gaming platform.

#139 ::: Sajia ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 07:01 PM:

Thanks guys for all the book suggestions. Now if I can only find one of the books at Chapters...

#140 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 07:37 PM:

Serge writes:

So, nobody knows where one could find jpegs of Scottie in the Jefferies Tube?

Here are some hastily-googled examples. You owe me one.

Depends whether you want to see Scotty with, or without, rotoscoped bolts of Space Lightning raging around him.

[http://thecia.com.au/star-trek/original-series/3/09a800.jpg]

[http://memory-alpha.org/en/images/f/f7/MARA_access_tube.jpg]

[http://www.unification-online.org/IMG/jpg/star_trek_Scotty_2.jpg]

[http://www.startrek.com/imageuploads/200303/tos-007-scotty-works-in-the-je/320x240.jpg]

[http://memory-alpha.org/en/images/9/90/JeffriesTube1701.jpg]

[http://memory-alpha.org/en/images/9/90/JeffriesTube1701.jpg]

[http://www.thejeffriestube.com/jeffreistubeOS.jpg]

#141 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 07:39 PM:

j h woodyatt wrote: I'd just like to state for the record that, while I was never very sanguine about working for Enron, I never met anyone there whom I could prove was a vampire. (I had my suspicions about Ken Rice, but alas— it appears to have been just an exploratory phase for him in college.)

'Sanguine' seems a particularly apt word...

#142 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 07:47 PM:

Thanks, Bill. I had done some googling for Scottie in the Tube, but I must have fed it the wrong words, either too vague or too specific. Thanks again.

#143 ::: glitterflea ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 07:59 PM:

Edward Oleander

Thanks for your advice. It is genuinely appreciated.

#144 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 08:26 PM:

And for those who cringe at the cutting and pasting...

photo

photo

photo

photo

photo

photo

photo

#145 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 08:27 PM:

rotoscoped bolts of Space Lightning raging around him.

Those look a lot like Z-Beams crackling through space...

#146 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 10:34 PM:

Peter: Defensive much?

The point here is that there's no way in the world that the bookseller would ask that price, because it would never even occur to him that anyone would consider paying it. Remember -- we're talking about a book that was first published only a year before. There hadn't been time for signed firsts to appreciate in value. (That's part of why I chose Anansi Boys in my analogy, since it came out last year.)

You make some reasonable points about why Spike might end up paying that price (although I'd think it would be more in his character to shout, "You want HOW much?" and tear the guy's throat out immediately, before Drusilla had a chance to intervene) but you can't convince me that the bookseller would ask for that much.

#147 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 10:35 PM:

In the earlier discussions about ABC's "The Curiosity Shop" and it's unseen owner who was heard via audio tapes I'm surprised noone mentioned that the host's name was Mr. Jones.

Mr. Chuck Jones.

Who was, at that time, in charge of ABC's Children's Programming Division.

Oh, and as a footnote I should mention I have both of the records of "The Bananna Splits" that Kellog's sold for $.75 as a premium. One of the nastiest little collections of earworms I've ever come across.

#148 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 10:49 PM:

Ok, someone looped back to the "The Banana Splits" so I'm just going to chime in with WITCHYPOO! God, I loved that drag queen. It's so sad to think kids today are stuck with Tinky Winky.

#149 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2006, 10:55 PM:

Tom DeLay won't be running for reelection.

I guess he decided to spend more time with his family.

Before, you know, going to jail.

#150 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 12:10 AM:

Stefan beat me to it. The TIME article based on their interview with DeLay is amusing, of course:

Richard Cullen, a former U.S. attorney who is DeLay's Washington lawyer, told TIME that in December, the lawmaker's legal team turned over to the Justice Department about 1,000 e-mails from his office computers. "This was to show we had nothing to hide," Cullen said. "They were everything we felt related to the Abramoff investigation. None are from DeLay."
"Nothing to hide" and "Everything we felt related" indeed.

#151 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 12:21 AM:

Was anybody (who was Anybody, I mean) not involved with the O.T.O.?

I mean, last night I was watching a long documentary on Karl Haushofer, the guy that brought Geopolitik to interwar Germany, along with various of his other obsessions (his Wiki entry covers most of them, plus the various claimed occult connections, though it's decently skeptical about many of them), and there was Big Al Crowley, doing his Hammer Villain impression. He did certainly like to hang around with* the prominent and powerful, not that there's anything unusual about that.

Crowley was definitely friends with J. F. C. Fuller, British general and important theorist of tank tactics, who wrote a book about him, The Star in the West. Fuller is also a component of various conspiracy theories, and an unflattering conjecture about what might have happened had Germany occupied England, but conspiracy theory is a garden of forking paths and there isn't even a nice neat bullet at the end.

*Or in various other positions, but the Particle has already covered that.

#152 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 12:41 AM:

It occurred to me a while ago that there should be retaliatory disrespect to Republicans for talking about "the Democrat Party" as opposed to "the Democratic Party." Illiterate slime, replacing an adjective with a noun....

Reading http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/040306Y.shtml in the passage,

Asked if he had done anything illegal or immoral in public office, DeLay replied curtly, "No." Asked if he'd done anything immoral, he said with a laugh, "We're all sinners." Asked what he would do differently, he said, "Nothing." He denied having failed to adequately supervise members of his staff, even though two of his former aides have pleaded guilty to committing crimes while on his staff. "Two people violated my trust over 21 years," he said. "I guarantee you if other offices were under the scrutiny I've been under in the last 10 years, with the Democrat Party announcing that they're going to destroy me, destroy my reputation, and that's how they're going to get rid of me, I guarantee you you're going to find, out of hundreds of people, somebody that's probably done something wrong."

it occurred to me to use the term "Repubic"...

Meanwhile, on a different front in the war against the corrupt Repubic fascists....

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/040306Z.shtml

Fitzgerald Knew Identity of Leaker From Start
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report Monday 03 April 2006

The special counsel appointed in late December 2003 to investigate the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson found out the identity of the Bush administration official who disclosed her undercover status to syndicated columnist Robert Novak just two months after the probe began.
But in early February 2004... Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald shifted gears and started to build a perjury and obstruction of justice case against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney's former Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby...
The investigation [would have been over in 2004 except that] journalists Fitzgerald subpoenaed went to court to fight the subpoena and the legal challenge delayed the case for nearly a year

If only, if only, if only... Woodward and other reporters, heroes in one generation, co-opted cowards the next generation.

When I was in college, one of my classmates had an org chart of the upper ranks of the US Executive Branch, and was marking off the trail leading up to the impeachment of Richard Milhous Nixon, appartchik by appartchik indicted....

But Schmuck makes Nixon look like the most honorable of men, and makes Harding look like an honest judge of character and strong leader and eradicator of corruption.

#153 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 02:30 AM:

Well, here's the problem I have with the eleven-pound book; I can believe that, in the Gilded Age, there was a startlingly expensive edition of a sexy, adventurous novel. However, shouldn't it have been priced in guineas, not pounds? Or had that little U marker become Non-U by then?

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 06:01 AM:

Thanks, Greg. Back to Bill's own Scottie post, thanks again. I indeed do owe you one, whatever 'one' is. Would that be one qwatloo?

#155 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 06:03 AM:

Clew: Was that a non-U marker? I'm far too young to remember pounds shillings and pence, but as far as I'm aware, that's how prices were quoted. A guinea's worth 1 pound 1s., isn't it?

#156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 06:05 AM:

I saw that release about DeLay on Comcast's site. It's interesting to read what their intro says, refering to his unflinching conservatism and his bare-knuckle style of politics. I'm glad to see that unbiased news aren't dead.

#157 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 08:25 AM:

The thing is, you didn't use fractions of a Guinea (partly because it started out as a specific coin), so Spike could have said "21 quid" instead of "20 guineas", but GBP 11 isn't any round number of guineas.

And it wan't quite a U/Non-U difference. Guineas were used in several types of business that weren't high-class, though they had connections. Livestock breeding, for instance. And at the low end of things, you were more likely to see 40 shillings instead of 2 pounds.

#158 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 08:36 AM:

Jakob: For a while there, it was customary to price expensive things in guineas (which are as you say a pound and a shilling). I think the inteded effect was similar to American things being $39.99, or the ridiculous custom of pricing gas with 9/10ths of a cent.

Houses or horses or objets d'art would be priced in guineas, in the hopes people would forget that the extra shillings added up.

I have no idea what the relationship may be between guineas and "U", however, as I have only the foggiest conception of what that term means. :) But I can tell you how much a half-crown is, so I hope I may yet be redeemed.

#159 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 09:20 AM:

Non-U: not upper-class usage. At one time fairly common in Telegraph crossword clues.

As so often, Wiki has more than you wanted to know, though the cast of characters is interesting.

#160 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 09:26 AM:

Guineas were definitely U, and pricing in guineas was an indication of both class and quality. Certainly as late as my childhood in the 60s.

#161 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 09:54 AM:

JMF: I might actually be able to sit through the entirety of a version of "Mission: Impossible 2" with voice-overs by Fry and Laurie

I think the concept you are searching for is "Mystery Science Theater UK". A similar experience can be had by watching "Indiana Jones" with many of my relatives, who are well-travelled and highly knowledgeable about the early Christian church. So you get exchanges like this:

INDY'S DAD: There is more in the diary than just the map. He who finds the Grail must face three final challenges - devices of lethal cunning.
INDY: Booby traps?
INDY'S DAD: Yes. But I found the clues that will get us through the traps, hidden in the Chronicles of St Anselm!
AJAY'S DAD: (interjects) I don't think St Anselm mentioned anything of the kind.
AJAY'S BROTHER: (authoritatively) No, the whole Grail legend is much later than Anselm.
AJAY'S OTHER BROTHER: Perhaps he meant "between the pages". You know, like people use bus tickets as bookmarks.
AJAY'S DAD: Oh, look! Petra! I went there back in 1963!
INDY: (something inaudible)

#162 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 10:00 AM:

Finally heard back from Borders and went to pick up my copy of Tom Tomorrow's latest, Hell in a Handbasket. There's this long gushing blurb in the back, by Michael Moore, followed by one from Ann Coulter:

"Nothing remotely funny."

I especially liked the little cartoon next to that, of Coulter's bodiless head flopping around with red batwings.

#163 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 10:09 AM:

Re: DeLay:

My wife informed me this morning that no one should have to witness a grown man dancing a jig and singing "Ding, dong, Delay is dead!" at 7 AM. Then my calves started cramping (curse you, running!) and I was forced to agree.

#164 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 10:14 AM:

Well, here's the problem I have with the eleven-pound book;

Good gawd. You mean besides the hernia???

#165 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 10:29 AM:

I thought of doing that, Skwid, then I pointed out to myself that, when he's out of office, he'll be wielding almost as much power as he does now. The difference is that he won't have as high a profile.

Me, I'm saving the "Ding Dong" song for when the current batch of bums get thrown out of the White House.

#166 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 10:55 AM:

On a totally new topic, just wanted to report that Jane Yolen was appropriately honorary-doctorified this morning at the University of Massachusetts, and gave a wonderful (and absolutely heartbreaking) speech. Lots of people were there, though no one I recognized apart from the usual university folk in their silly gowns. There was a guy about three rows ahead of me who had total Jim Macdonald back-of-the-head, but when everyone turned around for the recessional I realized it was not he. I would not have been so easily fooled, Jim, were it not for the fact that he was sitting next to a woman who had perfect Doyle back-of-the-head. Are you aware you may have impersonators? (-:

#167 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 11:49 AM:

see what you did to me? I start off with the Schroedinger's War particle, to Tom Tommorrow, to Tom's cartoon archive, to this newsweek article from Jan 2005 saying the Pentagon was considering using special forces to train death squads to operate in iraq. And I look at the news in Iraq today, and all I can think is "Gees, we could have gotten to this point over a year ago if we hadn't been farting around"

Now I'm just depressed.

#168 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 12:11 PM:

Amazon lists the shipping weight for the Complete Far Side (2 vols w/ slipcase) as 19.8 lbs, so probably a fair number of us have ten-pound books or thereabouts.

Bet they'd be handy for smacking railroad spikes through someone's head, or something.

#169 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 12:32 PM:

The compact OED will do very nicely (makes a good doorstop in its slipcase). Although the eleven-pound book probably weighed much less than eleven pounds ...

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 12:45 PM:

How much does the Complete Calvin & Hobbes weigh? (I may finally break down and strongly suggest to my wife that THAT's what I want for my 51st birthday.)

#171 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Greg:

Haven't you heard? The pedophilic priests were victims of subliminal messages.

#172 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 01:38 PM:

"'Sanguine' seems a particularly apt word..."

Yeah, I know— I couldn't resist. Still, I did have other reasons for posting, i.e. pointing out that my experience on the inside of Enron suggests that a corporation-as-vampire story might have some plausibility issues. I guess Philip K. Dick may have come close to that with A Scanner Darkly, but I would say he wisely steered away from the vampirism angle.

Maybe it's just me, but I think the easiest and fastest way to destroy a good narrative is to introduce a vampire. My local used SF bookstore has a whole shelf devoted to "classic" vampire tales. Every second I stand in front of it, I can feel my soul draining out my sphincter. My wife loves those things, though— so I can't spout off too loudly about it.

Zombie tales, on the other hand— teh bom. I am loving the current Girl Genius story arc.

#173 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Paula Lieberman writes: "it occurred to me to use the term "Repubic"...

The term you want is Grand Old Party.

Don't use the common abbreviation. Spell it all the way out. They really don't like how that phrase comes across today, which is why you never see them spell it out anymore. I've seen Republican faces contort like they just swallowed a quart of spoiled milk after being faced with this. Make them explain why they don't want to be known as the "Grand Old Party" anymore.

It's sad that we're reduced playing silly word games like this, but it's been going on for centuries as near as I can tell. Maybe, Orwell was right, and these word games aren't so silly. Sigh.

#174 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 01:56 PM:

John Ford wrote: I know enough about antiques (my grandmother was in the trade) to understand the difference between objects that are simply useful (a writing desk, a Penguin Classics copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination) and objects that are desirable for different reasons (a Louis IV writing desk, a first printing -- or a manuscript copy -- of "The Raven").

My favorites are the ones that are both useful and desirable for different reasons. The summer before I went to grad school I held, in my trembling little hands, Anthony Trollope's personal copy (signed bookplate and all) of Milton's _Paradise Lost_. I remember thinking "I could have this book, or I could have a PhD..." and wavering terribly.

What I should have done, of course, was bought the damn thing and written a dissertation on the marginalia.

Hindsight, alas....

#175 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 02:42 PM:

Aleister Crowley was, in certain ways, the Kevin Bacon of his day. He inspired Jack Parsons, of SPL fame, who in turn, may have been one of L.Ron Hubbard's sources for Scientology. He was in the Golden Dawn with William Butler Yeats. He was the inspiration for shady characters for several authors, from Somerset Maugham to Ngaio Marsh.

#176 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 03:48 PM:

Two thoughts cross my mind in re. the 11-pound Dracula, which between them are probably a good measure of just what breed of geek I am. The first is that if that's the most egregious anachronism to be found in the Buffyverse, I'll be buggered with a troll-hammer; and the second is that the day such a thing would get under my skin enough to truly ruin my enjoyment is the day I take Aly Hannigan off my Freebie List.

YM, obviously, MV.

#177 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 04:03 PM:

Seems clear to me Spike is the sort to adjust for inflation, and Peter David forgot to undo the math when he wrote—I mean, transcribed the conversation.

(An interesting question of etiquette: do long-lived gentlemen fond of wagers and undocumented loans adjust the value for such vagaries as revaluation and currency collapse? Or is an eleven-pound note always by God and crumpets an eleven-pound note?)

#178 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 04:48 PM:

Open Thread Memory Jogging Request:

Someone somewhere mentioned a list that existed somewhere showing the top selling novels of any given year. Anyone have a URL.

Specifically, I'm looking for a list of American novels, short stories, plays, etc, that were published before 1909. It doesn't neccesarily have to be listed by year, but they need to be American and published before 1909. Half an hour of googling found that Brewster's Millions was first published in that time frame, but that's a bloody short list.

URL's appreciated.

#179 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 04:55 PM:

jh woodyatt: Um, why don't the Repubs want to be known as the "Grand Old Party" anymore? Please enlighten us so that we may more fully enjoy taunting them.

Serge: Amazon lists the Complete C&H as 22.5 lbs shipping weight, but that's allocated among 3 volumes (plus slipcase) instead of two; the individual volumes are slightly more lap-friendly than the FS volumes, being a tad lighter/smaller. Still no sign yet of a Complete Bloom County collection, alas.

#180 ::: Laur[ence] Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Back to a topic from the previous open thread - I saw V for Vendetta and liked it a lot, but the Evie-V relationship did not appeal to me at all. I can't see any redeeming characteristics in it.

#181 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 05:10 PM:

Julie L asks: " Please enlighten us so that we may more fully enjoy taunting them."

It used to connote a kind of folksy charm that now comes off as elitist and out of touch. Who describes anything as "grand" anymore in regular conversation? Nobody. And you have the word "old" there just to make it have that smells-like-a-rest-home flavor. Believe me, they don't like being reminded that GOP is an acronym except when they're around like-minded friends, because they know how well it plays with people who don't want to be associated with anything "old" and who think "grand" is a slang way of referring to one of these.

#182 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 05:28 PM:

For further reference, you can see what the Grand Old Party says about the term on its own web site.

A favorite of headline writers, GOP dates back to the 1870s and '80s. The abbreviation was cited in a New York Herald story on October 15, 1884; "' The G.O.P. Doomed,' shouted the Boston Post.... The Grand Old Party is in condition to inquire...."
But what GOP stands for has changed with the times. In 1875 there was a citation in the Congressional Record referring to "this gallant old party," and , according to Harper's Weekly, in the Cincinnati Commercial in 1876 to "Grand Old Party."
Perhaps the use of "the G.O.M." for Britain's Prime Minister William E. Gladstone in 1882 as " the Grand Old Man" stimulated the use of GOP in the United States soon after.
In early motorcar days, GOP took on the term "get out and push." During the 1964 presidential campaign, "Go-Party" was used briefly, and during the Nixon Administration, frequent references to the "generation of peace" had happy overtones. In line with moves in the '70s to modernize the party, Republican leaders took to referring to the "grand old party," harkening back to a 1971 speech by President Nixon at the dedication of the Eisenhower Republican Center in Washington, D.C.
Indeed, the "grand old party" is an ironic term, since the Democrat Party was organized some 22 years earlier in 1832.

There they are using that construction "Democrat Party" again.

Anyway, does this sound like a story they like to tell? It doesn't to me. Note that it's buried underneath two indirections from the main page of their website.

Oh, and "gallant old party" might be an even sharper stick with which to poke them— if you're the type to get cranked up about language games like this.

#183 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 05:43 PM:

GOP standing for "generation of peace"? About on the same level as calling the Sidhe the Fair Folk even though they were anything but that, because one of them might be around and not in the mood to appreciate injurious but more accurate descriptives...

#184 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 06:01 PM:

I'm a nominee for the G. O. P.
Or GOP,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom, you're the top!
-- Cole Porter, 1934

As will be clear from context, this is not a song of praise for the party.

And yes, I was going to write a parody verse ("You're a fraud/You're a crashing market/And your God/Meets the Godwin target"), joining a seventy-year tradition, as often off-color as on (King Kong's what?), but, as the Professor Emeritus of the Satiric Lyric put it,

Don't say that he's hypocritical;
Say rather that he's apolitical.

#185 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 06:50 PM:

Greg London: This seems to have what you're looking for.

--Mary Aileen

#186 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 06:50 PM:

Well, I shouldn't have said anything about song parodies. Maestro, da capo:

Ja, wir haben kein Bananen
Unter den Bananenbaum,
Schreib’ sein Antwort in die Spannen,
Auf der Seite gibt’s kein Raum.
Hier Bananen sind betrunken
Wie von Foster anbesicht,
Bring die Freude, bring das Funken
Ach, Bananen sieht man nicht.

Yes, I'm sorry already.

#187 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 07:04 PM:

I'd be astonished if many Republicans took offense at "Grand Old Party" unless it was accompanied with a Johnny Rotten sneer. Irony aside, the adjectives "grand" and "old" can just as easily be interpreted to mean "impressive traditions." Might "G-O-P" be preferred by Republicans because it's only three syllables long?

#188 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 07:19 PM:

I know enough about antiques (my grandmother was in the trade) to understand the difference between objects that are simply useful (a writing desk, a Penguin Classics copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination) and objects that are desirable for different reasons (a Louis IV writing desk, a first printing -- or a manuscript copy -- of "The Raven").

Why is a manuscript copy of 'The Raven' like a writing-desk?

#189 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 07:31 PM:

"Why is a manuscript copy of 'The Raven' like a writing-desk?"

It's not, unless it's a really big folio.

#190 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 07:33 PM:

Stephen Fry's performance of Harry Potter is well worth it and massively superior to the Jim Dale version you get stuck with in the US.
11 quid is a lot for a book in 1890 - I was just reading Orwell in 1944 saying that 7/6 was the price of a new hardback, and sixpence for a Penguin. (7/6 is 7 shillings and sixpence ie 37.5p, though of course you can't translate prices well between decades).
On a separate note, I've just signed up to take over the local Teenage Writers group at a local big bookstore. The way it works is we meet once a month to read each others' work and talk about writing. The wrinkle is that each month I have to pick a helpful book for teenage writers to read, which the bookshop will stock specially. I was thinking of "Making Book", naturally, but what else would you recommend?
(My initial instinct was Orwell's essays, but that may be a bit of an acquired taste, even though I loved them when I was 15).

#191 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 07:44 PM:

Richard Andersen writes: "I'd be astonished if many Republicans took offense at "Grand Old Party" unless it was accompanied with a Johnny Rotten sneer."

Have you seen my Johnny Rotten sneer? I spent untold hours practicing it in high school.

You'll note that Republicans have been referring to the "Democrat Party" for decades, but it's only been in recent years that Democrats have started to be touchy about it again. There are a lot of worse things the Grand Old Party likes to call Democrats. They're being polite when they use the "Democrat Party" as a subtle pejorative. I think it's only fair that Democrats have a polite way to jab back at them, and if it helps one person stop using the "Rethuglican" construction, then my job here is done.

p.s. Once again, Wikipedia has more than your want to know about pejorative terminology in politics. There's also a collection of pejoratives in use at Free Republic (note: I really hope the rel='nofollow' attribute is on that link there).

#192 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 08:08 PM:

J H Woodate, I haven't had the pleasure of viewing your sneer, but I've seen Mr. Lydon's twice. T'was a wondrous thing to behold. Wish it could be bottled and sold....

#193 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 08:23 PM:

The other thing, if Mr Ford wouldn't mind, is this: I wasn't aware that there was any particular value in 10th century writing desks (given that Louis IV reigned from 920 to 954). I would like to know more about this.

#194 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 08:24 PM:

Rough edit: *lived from 920 to 954*.

#195 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 08:41 PM:

Mary Aileen Buss,

That appears to be the aformentioned URL. Now if I can just find a list for works before 1900, I'll be all set.

Thanks.


#196 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 08:52 PM:

"Why is a manuscript copy of 'The Raven' like a writing-desk?"

Wait, this is some kind of zen koan riddle, isn't it? No, don't tell me... don't tell me, I'll can figure it out....

Is the answer, "Oh look, a fish!" ?

#197 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 09:06 PM:

Tom DeLay... **gloat**

#198 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 09:33 PM:

I've always thought Lair of the White Worm sounded indecently suggestive.

Mike, I'm not sorry you posted "Ja, wir haben kein Bananen," and I doubt you're all that sorry either.

Kevin Marks, god forbid I should talk anyone out of buying copies of my book, but ... how old are these kids? And how responsible are you for the content of recommended works?

OG, the paedophilic priests/subliminal messages in religious art thing is clinically insane. I've posted it to Particles. I can't do justice to it.

Dan Layman-Kennedy: "[I]f that's the most egregious anachronism to be found in the Buffyverse, I'll be buggered with a troll-hammer..."

You're safe and more than safe from said troll-hammer. My working theory about the historical flashbacks in the Buffy/Angel continuum is that they take place in an unknown country -- or several countries, so possibly it's Atlantis -- where (for example) a Puritan might name his son "Penn," and where the long-lived characters' accents are perfectly authentic.

ajay, can I come watch movies with your family?

Skwid, I don't know whether there's an official place to send cards. I wish I could make this news go away by popping in at rec.arts.sf.robert-jordan to say no, nothing of the sort, ignore it, just another one of those stupid rumors that go round, the way I used to.

#199 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 09:41 PM:

Re: subliminal messages

Gotta love the bit about the pre-cognitively painted portrait of Vladimir Putin.

#200 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 10:38 PM:

Why is a manuscript copy of 'The Raven' like a writing-desk?

Poe wrote on both.

#201 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 11:02 PM:

Serge writes:

Back to Bill's own Scottie post, thanks again. I indeed do owe you one, whatever 'one' is. Would that be one qwatloo?

That would do nicely. Modulo inflation since 1968, of course.

#202 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2006, 11:44 PM:

TNH: I've always thought Lair of the White Worm sounded indecently suggestive.

Oh, it is. It's the epitome of Victorian repression: you read it, and can't believe it's not a parody.

And for once, the movie is even better than the book.
Not only is the movie produced, directed and adapted by Ken Russell, but (as a consequence) it features a very callow Hugh Grant, and both Amanda Donohoe AND Catherine Oxenburg in various states of undress.

It's one of those movies that's just makes your jaw drop in disbelief. Which is some sort of recommendation.

#203 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 12:25 AM:

I still cherish the memory of browsing through a video store and seeing on their recommendations shelf, "If you liked Four Weddings and a Funeral, you'll love Lair of the White Worm!" Evidently all Hugh Grant movies were to be considered interequivalent.

#204 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 12:33 AM:

ajay: I got self-chuckles reading your movie dialog. I seem to recall generating eye-rolling during "Gladiator" with lines like: "That's not a roman statue" and "That sword's too long and you don't use it that way." Glad it's not only me!

#205 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 12:36 AM:

Open thread question: I referred to "blood libel" in a story I wrote and a reader didn't know what it meant. Button-holing a couple of knowledgeable friends produced blank stares. So, my question to the folks here, is blood libel something the average reader will know or is it something I just know because of my almost religion minor in college?

#206 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:10 AM:

Mark DF: So, my question to the folks here, is blood libel something the average reader will know or is it something I just know because of my almost religion minor in college?

No to both...

Any moderately literate Jew should be familiar with the term - me, I'm a goyim married to a Jew, but I'm familiar with it from political science and history... Others who'll probably be familiar with it will be anyone who has done much anti-Klan/anti-Nazi work. I'm pretty sure, for instance, that the Southern Poverty Law Center's materials on hate literature cover blood libel.

#207 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:33 AM:

I just saw V for Vendetta. Sigh. Very silly, and in places very offensive. The best thing about it was Natalie Portman's shaved head (I'm a sucker for good bones) and the music & stuff at the end, with the credits. No, I didn't walk out in the middle. Should have done. Good actors -- dumb movie.

#208 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:50 AM:

Would you believe, Roomba Frogger.

#209 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 02:08 AM:

I've read this thread quite haphazardly. I initially just ran across the phrase "the 11-pound Dracula" (in, uh, Dan Layman-Kennedy's comment) and my mind was filled with tiny scurrying vampires.

God, they'd get into such trouble with my cats.

#210 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 03:58 AM:

Well, this is also my excuse to get a copy myself. The age range is 10 to 17 or so, and 'how to get your child's work published; type books are a bit offputting...

#211 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 04:24 AM:

"how to get your child's work published"

Someone just ran a blue pencil over my grave.

#212 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 05:28 AM:

Regarding the party particle, I am irresistibly reminded of Philip Larkin's Vers de Société.

#213 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 06:41 AM:

Greg London: Not a Zen riddle, I assure you. In its original form it was posed by an Anglican priest named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Alex Cohen's response is entirely à propos.

#214 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:08 AM:

JMF:Ja, wir haben kein Bananen
Unter den Bananenbaum,
Schreib’ sein Antwort in die Spannen,
Auf der Seite gibt’s kein Raum.

Sung to the tune of "Ode to Joy", right? Though, trying it over, it seems to want to go to the "Internationale". Which seems appropriate - shortages, you know.

Julie L: a friend of mine has a large collection of double-bill DVDs - two on one disc - which seem to have been picked on similar lines, either by coincidence of star ("Captain Corelli's Mandolin"/"Con Air") or title ("Before Sunrise" with, no kidding, "From Dusk Till Dawn").
We were trying to think of other, even worse combinations, but couldn't do much beyond "Bambi"/"The Deer Hunter"...

TNH: I am flattered, but fortunately my family don't react like this to most films (and only comment out loud when watching at home, rather than in the cinema) as there is a sad lack of films that actually touch on their areas of expertise. For example, 'Nicaea', with Hugo Weaving as Arius of Alexandria, Eric Bana as Athanasius and Sam Neill as St Nicholas of Myra, would probably fetch them.

#215 ::: james henry ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:56 AM:

The 'A bit of Fry and Laurie' DVD is just now avaiable (on region 2 anyway), and I would urge anyone who likes a) words and b) silliness, to get it immediately.

I watched it when I was about fourteen, I think, just the right age for every word, sketch and line reading to etch themselves onto my runes of fire. Glorious stuff. The other three series are to follow.

#216 ::: james henry ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:58 AM:

Oh bloody hell. 'Available' and 'etch themselves onto my brain in runes of fire'.

Sorry, enthusiasm renders me utterly incoherent, even after previewing.

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 08:30 AM:

Is something going on with the Fabric of Reality that nobody sent me a memo about? Last night, I was doing the manly thing, i.e. channel-surfing, and I came across William Shatner doing his rendition (1) of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (2). A few day before, my wife is web-surfing and comes across a spoof of Star Trek's episode Court-Martial, complete with a commercial break that showed their own version of... yes... Shatner and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Very groovy montage, where 'Lucy' turns out to be Lucille Ball before she transforms into Lucy van Pelt.

__________

(1) Now, there's a word that has acquired a new meaning, although the new definition applies to Shatner's singing.

(2) I confess. I knew that the song was about drugs, but it's only a few days that I learned, from my wife, the obvious, which is that the title spells 'LSD'. I blame my lack of perspicacity on my sheltered childhood.

#218 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 08:53 AM:

My working theory about the historical flashbacks in the Buffy/Angel continuum is that they take place in an unknown country -- or several countries, so possibly it's Atlantis -- where (for example) a Puritan might name his son "Penn," and where the long-lived characters' accents are perfectly authentic.

It's merely a small corner of the larger alternative universe where all the historical flashbacks in the Highlander television series took place.

#219 ::: MLR ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 09:07 AM:

So, my question to the folks here, is blood libel something the average reader will know or is it something I just know because of my almost religion minor in college?

Mark DF,

Forty-something college-educated average reader here. I'm unfamiliar with that term.

#220 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 09:17 AM:

TV's Highlander and flashbacks... That, Debra, reminds me that the original movie came out almost exactly 20 years ago. I rather liked its flashbacks and their transitions, but I distinctly remember someone in the audience who obviously had no love for flashbacks since he exclaimed:

"This movie has got more flashbacks that an episode of Kung Fu!!!"

#221 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 09:30 AM:

I watched it when I was about fourteen, I think, just the right age for every word, sketch and line reading to etch themselves onto my brain in runes of fire

"The writing is in Elvish runes, of the mode of Beleriand. The language is that of Mordor, which I will not utter here, but in the Common Speech it reads:
We kicked ass in Grenada
We kicked ass in Iraq
We kicked the ass of the ozone layer
(Now they say we gotta kick it back);
We'll kick the ass of cancer
And we'll kick the ass of AIDS,
And, as for global warming,
We'll just kick ass wearing shades."

#222 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 10:37 AM:

james henry writes:

The 'A bit of Fry and Laurie' DVD is just now avaiable (on region 2 anyway), and I would urge anyone who likes a) words and b) silliness, to get it immediately.

A few words of caution: I learned last year, after buying a couple of music-related DVDs from New Zealand, that DVDs created for regions other than North America's Region 1 are not necessarily viewable on DVD players sold in the United States. Likewise if the DVD is formatted for PAL rather than NTSC (the latter is apparently the standard for domestically-available machines). I can watch my NZ DVDs on my computer, but it ain't the same as relaxing on the sofa, beverage in hand, in front of a larger screen....

#223 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 10:56 AM:

ajay:
I have some bad combinations for you:

Jaws/Blood and Sand (based on titles)

Swashbuckler/The Deep (actor and subject)

#224 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 10:57 AM:

Richard, don't worry, the DVD mess is only going to get worse when two incompatible formats for high definition disc's become commonplace, and players have to try to implement some form of backward compatibility with the older, non-HD, discs we use today.

#225 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 10:58 AM:

protected static and MLR: I've been bouncing the blood libel thing around work and you two are indicative of the response: most of the college-age forty-somethings (my work pool) don't know it. The jews do.

I'm finding it fascinating in that 1) it's a great term 2) it's been a political tactic against a few different groups and yet 3) it seems if it's never been about your group (or if you never studied religious persecutions) you've never heard of it and think it's weird.

I hate to lose it in the novel, so maybe I'll try and explain it without sounding like a commercial break for obscure terms. ;)

#226 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:08 AM:

Well, Google led me to explanations of "blood libel" and it turns out I'm quite familiar with the concept although I really don't think I'd ever encountered the term before (50-something product of SSND nuns [from whom I first encountered the distinction between knowledge and belief, by the way] and then the Jesuits, here).

But this reminds me vividly of a story I must have read in grade school, in which a child martyr was miraculously given the power of speech after death to testify against the "un-Christians" whose victim he had been. (Only vaguely remembering either of them at the moment, I believe it was a 50s-era re-rendering of one of the Canterbury Tales.)

#227 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:14 AM:

Aleister Crowley was, in certain ways, the Kevin Bacon of his day. He inspired Jack Parsons, of SPL fame, who in turn, may have been one of L.Ron Hubbard's sources for Scientology. He was in the Golden Dawn with William Butler Yeats. He was the inspiration for shady characters for several authors, from Somerset Maugham to Ngaio Marsh.

Not to mention inspiring—one might better say "being ripped off by"—Gerald Gardner, a charlatan of the first order who claimed ancient, mysterious, and sacred sources for his transparently pseudo-archaic "documents," which he used to con and manipulate others into believing in a new spiritual reality—one that got him naked with more women than he otherwise could have had access to.

Yep, he sounds an awful lot like Joseph Smith, except that he founded (TADAHH!) my religion (Wicca). A precursor to it, anyway. Fortunately we aren't required to believe any of his claptrap; we use what we like and discard the rest (he did assemble, from various sources, some pretty good designs).

The other main difference seems to be that while Smith wanted to acquire lots of followers (and wives) and do his thing in public (and justify his racism and a few other things), Gardner seems to have been satisfied with a small number of young women who were willing to whip his pasty English buttocks in private.

I practice Wicca because it works for me (that is, it fulfills my spiritual needs), not because I have illusions about Gardner (but o my gods have I met people who do!). I suspect there are many Mormons who feel the same way.

GOP standing for "generation of peace"? About on the same level as calling the Sidhe the Fair Folk even though they were anything but that, because one of them might be around and not in the mood to appreciate injurious but more accurate descriptives...

That's 'fair' in the sense of 'light in hair and complexion', and yes, it was a...is there a name for those things? Where you call people by the opposite of what you think of them? It's a specialized subtype of an epithet. The Erinyes are called the potniae ("awful ones," an epithet but not of this type) and the eumenides ("kindly ones," which IS this type). Anyone know?

Anyway, it was one, but because they were small and dark, not because they were unfair in the usual modern sense.

#228 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:23 AM:

Xopher, for some reason the word "euonym" crossed my mind.

#229 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:28 AM:

TexAnne, that works if it's something good...and maybe that's what this type is. But also big guys are called 'Tiny'.

Nah, you're right. I think it's probably 'euonym'. That actually sounds familiar. Thanks!

#230 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Rats. According to a couple of sources, a euonym is a name well suited to the person, place, or thing named. The opposite is caconym. No meaning of praise or derision, respectively, attaches.

Drat.

#231 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:36 AM:

Phooey. I was almost positive. Unfortunately my classicist friends are all at a conference, or I'd ask them.

#232 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:41 AM:

cmk

Yes. It's The Prioress's Tale.

#233 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:52 AM:

Mark DF, another data point: as a 40-ish college-educated non-Jew, I am familiar with the term 'blood libel', but have only a rather vague sense of what it refers to.

--Mary Aileen

#234 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 12:07 PM:

j h woodyatt wrote: The term you want is Grand Old Party.

Don't use the common abbreviation. Spell it all the way out.
They really don't like how that phrase comes across today, which is why you never see them spell it out anymore.
I've seen Republican faces contort like they just swallowed a quart of spoiled milk after being faced with this.

Maybe the opposition could campaign on
"cleaning up after the grand old party"
or "sobering up after the grand old party".

Or, "the other guys have had a grand old party at our expense,
but now its time to get the nation's work done..."

#235 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 12:15 PM:

Serge,
you wrote:
...Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds....
(2) I confess. I knew that the song was about drugs, but it's only a few days that I learned, from my wife, the obvious, which is that the title spells 'LSD'. I blame my lack of perspicacity on my sheltered childhood.

I think its rather clever that they exploited the traditional rules of capitalization in titles for obfuscation:
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds leads to: LitSwD

Hum. I don't suppose there's some kind of British joke about Lit Doctorates in that, is there? Anyone have other examples of title/acronym obfuscation?
-r.

Anyway, Serge, you can be forgiven, because it was only recently that McCartney finally admitted the song was about that.

#236 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 12:22 PM:

I'm having a slow day. . .which of the following are acceptable double bills?

"28 days/28 days later"
"What Women Want/Payback"
"Se7en/10"
"Dead Man Walking/Rocky Horror Picture Show"
"The Saint/The World Is Not Enough" (or is that just me?)

#237 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 12:23 PM:

M.A.B. - basically, it involves accusations of ritual murder. As it relates to Judaism, the accusation is that of sacrificing Christian children to use their blood to make Passover matzoh.

Not that Jews are the only group to have had such claims levied against them - but I am unaware of other instances where it was (and still is, in the case of some Muslim propaganda) employed quite so successfully to justify eliminating a set of 'others'.

#238 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 12:48 PM:

Xopher:
I think the internal evidence is pretty strong that Crowley ghost-wrote almost all of the "Book of Shadows" for Gardner, with all the bits about whipping put in on special request (though as I recall Crowley also had a thing for being whipped.) I gather there's also external evidence but I've never looked into the question. As you say, the important matter isn't where your religion came from, it's what you make of it.

Mike:
Did you know Crowley also spent a while sharing a house with Shunryu Suzuki, the Japanese priest who first brought Zen Buddhism to the US? It sounds as though neither of them knew quite what to make of the other.

#239 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Crowley ghost-wrote almost all of the "Book of Shadows" for Gardner.

John Crowley and Gardner Dozois?

#240 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:25 PM:

JMF:Ja, wir haben kein Bananen
Unter den Bananenbaum,
Schreib’ sein Antwort in die Spannen,
Auf der Seite gibt’s kein Raum.

Sung to the tune of "Ode to Joy", right? Though, trying it over, it seems to want to go to the "Internationale".

I heard "Mac The Knife."

#241 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:37 PM:

In decrying the Crowleyan bent
A Gardnerian's loath to relent;
Since a change of position
Would require the admission
That they both made it up as they went.

#242 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:43 PM:

Aleister Crowley's the man
Pulled a bird with his Thelemite plan,
But old Gerry Gardner
Found a way to harden her
Heart with his maunderings Wiccan.

#243 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:52 PM:

Clifton, last I heard, there was still on ongoing debate whether Crowley ghost wrote, or Gardner stole from everyone. And many Englishmen of that era had "a thing about being whipped". It came from the British Public School system, as I recall.

Witchcraft has taken on a life of it's own, and most of it has moved away from the Crowley/Gardner texts by now anyway.

Dan, I *LOVE* that limerick, and will pass it on to my coven!

#244 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 01:53 PM:

protected static sez: I'm a goyim married to a Jew

Actually what you are is a goy. Goyim is plural.

[/pedantry]

#245 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 02:00 PM:

Dan...I'm so glad I'm not a Gardnerian! Some of the best rituals I've ever led were 'wung', as we say, with wanton disregard for the perfectly regular English verb 'to wing'. I remember one occasion where the person who'd been scheduled to lead circle announced that she'd been sick all week and hadn't put anything together, so how about we all just go out to dinner? I said, no, we're having ritual, and led a simple, elegant, and deeply moving circle. The only thing I remember about it is that I rang Tibetan bells whenever I said the word 'spirit'.

Come to think of it, some of my Gardnerian friends are not at all averse to winging either. The ones who read everything straight from the book...are not my friends. They tend to be rather rude about my Neo-Eclectic heavy-black-quote-mark tradition heavy-black-quote-mark.

In that general connection...the Aleister and Babs story would have been a better joke if they'd gotten the details right. It's "Do AS thou wilt," for one thing. (And, as mentioned here before, that doesn't mean "do whatever you feel like doing," and didn't even to Crowley. As an example of the difference, I felt like going to dinner too, in the incident described above, but my "thou" insisted on having circle.) And OTO stands for Ordo Templar Orientalis.

#246 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 02:17 PM:

Lisa: See? What more proof is required? ;-)

#247 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 02:36 PM:

Mark DF, another data point -- mid-forties librarian, HAVE heard the term blood libel, knew it was related to Jews, but if I ever knew the precise meaning I'd forgotten it. But then like many librarians I have a flypaper mind and remember just enough to enable me to look something up again when I need it...

Xopher, you may be looking for the word "logizomai" and its opposite, if it has one. I ran across it frequently in Fleming Rutledge's The Battle for Middle-earth. It's a term for calling someone what you want them to become -- "to reckon as righteous" is the literal translation she gives. (Unfortunately the book has no index -- people who produce scholarly books without indexes should be taken out and horsewhipped!)Think of Frodo calling Gollum Smeagol, in hopes of recalling the better part of him. Wormtongue is the opposite, calling Gandalf Stormcrow.

#248 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 02:44 PM:

I mailed off a couple of packages yesterday. Too big to fit in the intake hopper of those nice new USPS automated mail systems, so I had to wait on line.

At each clerk's station was a roll of orange BIOHAZARD stickers.

I wish I had asked for a few. They'd be neat to stick on things you don't want folks to run off with.

Followup thought: Do people in Aloha, Oregon mail biohazardous materials often enough that the postal clerks feel a need to have labels on hand?

Is the USPS preparing to label mail from areas quarantined due to Avian Flu?

#249 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 02:51 PM:

Here in New Mexico, the post offices have signs warning that guns aren't allowed on the premises. I've seen that sign at the entrance of some bookstores too.

#250 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 03:12 PM:

I'd suggest using the term "blood libel" in a sentence or paragraph with "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," and hoping that the reader could get the meaning from context.

Or am I banking too much on the general reader's knowledge of that piece of tripe?

#251 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 03:28 PM:

Ja, wir haben kein Bananen
Unter den Bananenbaum,
Schreib’ sein Antwort in die Spannen,
Auf der Seite gibt’s kein Raum.
Hier Bananen sind betrunken
Wie von Foster anbesicht,
Bring die Freude, bring das Funken
Ach, Bananen sieht man nicht.

Yes, we do have no bananas
Under the banana trees.
Answer briefly if you can, as
Space is short. (Use margin, please.)
All bananas here are drunk
Just as Foster saw them done;
Bring the joy and bring the funk --
But bananas? We got none.

#252 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 03:33 PM:

Magenta: Thanks! I'm honored.

Xopher: the Aleister and Babs story would have been a better joke if they'd gotten the details right.

That was pretty much my reaction too. And thanks for mentioning "do as thou wilt" again; it's easy to gloss over how "Love is the law" is the first part of that quote when you want to be all sensational. (Besides, if you really want to make fun of Crowleyans, it helps to have been one.)

#253 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 03:34 PM:

that piece of tripe

oh look, a fish!

#254 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 03:39 PM:

Stephan Jones:

One of my favorite guitar-case decals is a sticker with a big Biohazard symbol on it that says "INFECTIOUS AGENT." I've long wished I had another; alas, it was a gift from a friend who had a medical job, and I didn't ask any questions.

#255 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 03:39 PM:

Or, perhaps, "Stefan." Eep.

#256 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 04:04 PM:

Quoth Serge:
About on the same level as calling the Sidhe the Fair Folk even though they were anything but that, because one of them might be around and not in the mood to appreciate injurious but more accurate descriptives...

It's a Pratchett moment.
Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.

#257 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 04:29 PM:

On the other hand, people looking for a snarky way to respond to Republican using the "Democrat Party" construction might consider spelling out the GOP acronym the way Kevin Philips does in this opinion piece in today's web edition of Izvestia On The Potomac: How the GOP Became God's Own Party.

#258 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 04:35 PM:

I'm not familiar with the Prioress retelling, though it fits with the m.o. In the middle ages, blood libels against Jews were often used to prop up claims for sainthood for Christian martyrs. It definitely got the most traction against the jews.

Other examples were (a bit ironically) claims against the early christian church (the whole communion ritual). Today, you see it with fears about satanic cults, which, to my knowledge, have never been proved to practice human blood rites seriously---most satanic-related human murders have been convenient revenge killings or thrill kills. Wiccans, as a result, experience a side-wash.

I'm sure it's still used in places where competing religions are vying for power.

Lisa G/static: Is he correct if he has multiple personalities or is possessed? "My name is goyim, for we are many christians."

#259 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 04:36 PM:

"Blood libel" is a new one on me, too, though when I looked it up I was familiar with all the examples given (background: 20something, engineer, reader, semi-Catholic upbringing, married into a Jewish family and worked in a Kosher kitchen as an undergrad). You're right, it is a handy term, and I've heard those types of stories in enough contexts to instantly understand that the person doing the accusing is probably the evil one.

I think it'd need some explanation--my quiz show guess would have been that it was the process of accusing someone of hiding Black (or Jewish, or other "undesirable") ancestry.

#260 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 04:38 PM:

Harumph. Ask a rabbi. ;-)

#261 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 04:39 PM:

Speaking of Jewish matters... When is a name's 'stein' supposed to be pronounced... er... 'stein', as in Albert Einstein, and when is it supposed to be 'steen'?

#262 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 04:52 PM:

Thank you for the link, j h. Excellent read. One wonders when the Republicans are going to replace their elephant symbol with that of a red cow.

#263 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 05:29 PM:
At each clerk's station was a roll of orange BIOHAZARD stickers.

I wish I had asked for a few. They'd be neat to stick on things you don't want folks to run off with.

You can buy those stickers and many others from medical supply catalogs - I had a passle of them (label catalogs) at my last job. In addition to biohazard labels, one could buy labels that said
Caution: Animal in Heat

Hold for Culture and Sensitivity
(lots of foreheads one could usefully apply this to)

Warning: Do Not Urinate Directly Into Flask

And my favorite:
Panic Values Exceeded
#264 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 05:41 PM:

One of my favorite guitar-case decals is a sticker with a big Biohazard symbol on it that says "INFECTIOUS AGENT." I've long wished I had another; alas, it was a gift from a friend who had a medical job, and I didn't ask any questions.

It is perhaps a sign of the times that until I got to the second sentence of the above I blithely assumed that "Infectious Agent" was the name of a band.

#265 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 05:42 PM:

Whenever I see that poem with the line about "And death shall have no dominion" I want to say it to the tune of "Yes, we have no bananas."

By the way, that Bananas/Mack the knife mashup had me giggling so hard everyone in the cubicles next to mine caught me in the act of slacking off.

#266 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 05:45 PM:

RE: the Kevin Phillips article. wikipedia had a funny quote from him here:

"Now what I get a sense of from all of this -- and then topped obviously by spending all the money in 2000 to basically buy the election -- is that this is not a family that has a particularly strong commitment to American democracy. Its sense of how to win elections comes out of a CIA manual, not out of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution."

-- Kevin Phillips writing about the Bush family in American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush

#267 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 05:54 PM:

I'd love to see the little graphic that accompanies "Caution: Animal in Heat." (A mouse with "stink lines" over its hindquarters maybe?)

A friend once put together a floppy full of interesting essays about cyberspace and netculture and such, back when that kind of thing was new and hip. He labeled it MEME HAZARD. The graphic wasn't great, but I like the idea. A better icon might be a shilloutte surrounded by inward-pointing spikey arrows.

#268 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 05:59 PM:

Mark DF, I'm 51, primarily self-educated, retired engineer, atheist (although reared in a fundamentalist Christian household) and I know about blood libel.

Speaking of phallic things, I had lunch at Chili's today and the new table lamps are very phallic.

Did y'all notice that the deputy press secretary for DHS has been arrested for enticing a minor? His lawyer says:

"Mr. Doyle has risen to some of the highest levels of our government," Helfand said. "I understand that he has a spotless record."

Heh.

#269 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 06:07 PM:

Greg, Kevin Phillips's history as a Republican Party partisan makes his essay (and recent book) especially provocative apropos the Jane Smiley thread.

#270 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 06:53 PM:

Holy Fripping Crypes:


'Bush Administration Media Collusion Memos Surface
Monday, April 3, 2006

WASHINGTON — In a disturbing turn of events for an administration already plagued by sagging poll numbers and waning support for the Iraq war, Friday's revelation that the Bush Administration issued direct guidelines for programming to media outlets is troubling even die-hard conservatives.

Late Friday a series of memos between senior Bush Administration officials and management at Viacom, Inc. were leaked calling for the media giant to focus on stories and programming choices that "reinforce the Administration's positions" and to "ignore and/or discredit points of view in opposition to the Bush Administration's foreign policy objectives for the purposes of National Security."'

http://www.fox-news.us/story/0,3566,190215,00.html

#271 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:07 PM:

Never mind . . . it's a hoax site!

#272 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:17 PM:

It didn't show up on snopes, so you're forgiven.

In other news, white house memoes were leaked showing deliberate misdirection and

Look! A fish!

#273 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:19 PM:
I'd love to see the little graphic that accompanies "Caution: Animal in Heat." (A mouse with "stink lines" over its hindquarters maybe?)
No graphics on most of those labels, sorry.
#274 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:37 PM:

To paraphrase Marilee:
Mark DF, I'm 50, primarily self-educated, a scientist manque, secularist (although raised in a Lutheran tradition) and I know about blood libel.

Then again, several of my roommates were Jewish, as are a few of my cousins, so perhaps I've heard a bit more about it than your average reader.

Come to think of it, just last month, I was in a store and forced to hear the unspeakable Michael Savage actually spread a blood libel rumor - about American liberals, no less. I was so appalled that I had to go look up whether the libel is ever applied to people other than Jews.

(And media-weasels wonder why the radio audience is in decline: when all they broadcast is filth and hatred, it's no wonder people are turning to other entertainments. The bit of Savage that I was subjected to was SO over-the-top offensive that it crossed my mind to complain to his local advertisers. It really drove home to me how firmly the Right has taken over the media while we weren't paying attention.)


#275 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:51 PM:

Bob, Michael Savage was kicked off of at least one Oregon radio station; the tactic used was that it broadcast state university basketball games.

Complaining to advertisers might help. It will also probably get you on his enemies list.

#276 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 07:53 PM:

Marilee, I almost ran off the road this morning when I heard about Mr. Doyle. Apparently he decided his position was an under-age chick magnet.... urk.

Has anyone determined if he was a patronage hire?

#277 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 08:22 PM:

There's a veterinary office-supply company with the "Animal in Heat" warning label (among others) in their PDF catalog, here-- indeed, there's no graphic, but presumably you could supply your own for a custom order.

#278 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 08:36 PM:

Bob/Stefan - Of course, the irony is that it's virtually impossible to talk about Mr. Savage without invoking Godwin's Law, mostly because he does it for you.

Mark DF - I've absolutely heard of blood libel, in several variations, all anti-Semitic. I'm not representative, though. I grew up in a substantially Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, and I've been in more Jewish wedding parties than any other religion.

Agreed that setting some context or a little light exposition might help if comprehension is critical. If not, leave it out - some readers may go and go a bit of light Googling to figure out what you're talking about.

#279 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 09:57 PM:

Mark DF: I knew about the blood libel thing. Can't remember when/where I first heard of it, but it was a very long time ago. (I'm mid-40s, raised Lutheran, life-long US Upper Midwesterner, if you're curious about demographics.)

#280 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 10:19 PM:

Apropos of the most recent particle:

http://www.rapeofthesoul.com/trailer.html - The insane art criticism has a trailer. Eeeps. (I wish it were bigger so I could see the vile and insidious things they keep pointing out.)

#281 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 10:21 PM:

Curiosity Shop! I thought I was the only person who remembered that show. Thanks for the link. Another thing to thank Chuck Jones for.

Stephen Fry is also notable as the narrator for the recent Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, the second person in the UK to own a Macintosh (his buddy Douglas Adams was the first), and a noted Usenet lurker.

If you'd like to read some of his superb work with Hugh Laurie, go to http://www.geocities.com/mmemym/ Incredibly funny stuff.

#282 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 10:59 PM:

I had read about blood libel when doing some various personal research in my late teens (I had been a baptized evangelical xian, but ditched it all over, among other things, the issue of the Jewish people needing to be 'born again' to be 'saved." ). Even then I went "that's' just wrong."

#283 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:47 PM:

Yeah, I knew about the blood libel from its application to early Christians, oddly enough, but I also knew it in the medieval anti-Jewish context. A few years ago there was a cartoon in a British newspaper of Ariel Sharon as Kronos eating his children (Jewish, presumably), which wasn't very pleasant and caused a fuss. (Although not as much as the recent Mohammed stuff, I seem to recall.) The most sensible arguments against it, I think, were that it evoked the blood libel. I don't know which reference would be considered more likely to be spotted by the average reader of a broadsheet newspaper. Probably the best argument was that it was just an egregiously unpleasant picture.

'Nicaea', with Hugo Weaving as Arius of Alexandria, Eric Bana as Athanasius and Sam Neill as St Nicholas of Myra, would probably fetch them.

I would so watch this, and I'll even chip in my 11 quid if you know anyone who wants to make it. And yes, I'm someone who spots the references to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (mispronounced) in Hellboy, and starts trying to remember whether he did in fact have much to say about demons. It was mostly angels, right?

But I taught a class last semester on Roman history which in part consisted of me showing films and talking over them, and I began to wonder if there were a market for commentaries by scholars on historically-themed movies. I'd love to see the Spartacus DVD include a commentary track by Teresa Urbainczyk, or Alexander with commentary by Robin Lane Fox. It's not as though DVD commentaries are expensive to produce, and scholars will work for practically nothing. (But I shouldn't have said that, perhaps.)

So: is there a market? Is there any way of doing this? I suppose we could just record CDs for you to synchronise with your viewing. I don't suppose this will really pass muster as a business plan, though.

Maybe you could get Umberto Eco to do the Indiana Jones movies...

#284 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:49 PM:

I've also just reminded myself of the film mooted a few years ago which would have Gerard Depardieu as St Augustine.

But he doesn't even look like St Augustine! Thomas Aquinas, maybe.

#285 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2006, 11:56 PM:

Since I work in a building with bio labs, I had to go through a safety briefing when I started there. (Mine was the "office version"; lab folks get a more detailed version.)

The safety office folks told us a story during that briefing. Biohazard waste bags are a particular shade of red, and require specific disposal procedures. (You don't really want them riding around getting smashed in a garbage truck, do you?)

Since Cambridge (MA) has lots of bio labs, the city has all this stuff well-documented for their folks as well.

Then one day, a local retailer had a promotion going and was using special plastic bags for it. Red bags. Biohazard red bags. Biohazard red bags that people took home and, in fine Cambridge reduce-reuse-recycle fashion, used as garbage bags. Which had to be dealt with as hazardous waste, because they were biohazard red.

Apparently the city was calling every lab safety office in town asking them WTF was going on, before they found out the real story.

#286 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 12:05 AM:

Mark DF: (I'm 52, married to a ~non-practicing Jew) I know the term "blood libel", but I'm not sure knowing goes further back than a Marge Piercy (?) novel (He, She, and It, maybe) that (IIRC) alternates between following a near-future golem and telling of a medieval ghetto. See? Reading SF is good for you....

Sandy B: no doubles in mind, but two all-time triples that I've seen on marquees:

Red Dawn       Oxford Blues
          Purple Rain

           Alien
        Meatballs
Escape from Alcatraz


#287 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 12:33 AM:

Great feedback on blood libel, folks. This has been one of those situations where I had no inkling how obscure a bit of knowledge I had was. It's one of the things I love about writing. I like to say "Writing is just an excuse for research."

When I asked my partner if he knew the term, he said no. Then added "I don't think that's something people would normally know." As I walked out of the room, he added further "Well, normal people." Which, of course, is why I like him.

#288 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 12:36 AM:

There is The Hollywood History of the World, a commentary on historical (or "historical") movies by George MacDonald Fraser.

As you would expect, it's a very readable book, and one certainly wishes it were longer and more exhaustive. He does a few unexpected things, like comparing actors' photos with historic illustrations. Roddy McDowall turns out to look quite a bit like statuary of Octavian, and he has a selection of Abe Lincolns and Oliver Cromwells. Of course there's also discussion of how well the actors performed, as well as looked. Flora Robson gets major points as Elizabeth I, though there was no physical resemblance. "She would have defrocked the Bishop of Ely, by God."

Fraser is aware that a movie isn't a history book, and is forgiving of minor errors, and sometimes even of major changes, if they have a dramatic purpose; in "Khartoum," for instance, he notes that Gordon and the Mahdi never met, but they were in written correspondence during the siege, and having them meet face-to-face doesn't invent a nonexistent communication, it just presents it in a more dramatic fashion. On the other hand, he won't pass the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary in "Mary Queen of Scots" (the one with Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave), because Elizabeth deliberately refused to do that.

And he really, really doesn't like Jack Ford's "Mary of Scotland," with Katharine Hepburn. Really. The fact that they can't pronounce "Moray" is the least of his difficulties with it. (It's not like the eel.)

#289 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 01:51 AM:

Open thread recommendation: the very, very funny Miss Doxie.

#290 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 02:09 AM:

Thanks, Mike. I'll try to find it. I've seen a couple of books along the same lines, but I don't think any of them were by G. MacD. F. - or else that just didn't register.

Messing with the facts for the sake of the movie is fine with me, of course, but two things really annoy me:

(1) Inaccurate lines of dialogue which could be amended or skipped without losing much or any of the effect. (A senator in Gladiator: "Rome was founded as a Republic!") This is why they hire historical advisers, right?

(2) Character names. "Decimus Meridius Maximus" is a perfectly reasonable Latin name, so why call him "Maximus Meridius Decimus" (which isn't)? I can see why they didn't go with the original plan of calling Russell Crowe's character "Narcissus", but let's have a name that would actually be plausible in the circumstances. ("Proximo" in this context is a worse offender, actually.)

I actually thought Gladiator was better than it needed to be at evoking the period (and I liked it): but these are things that matter and could be easily fixed. But anyway, these are only pet peeves. The movie I've found most useful in teaching about the Roman empire, incidentally, is Bunuel's "Simon of the Desert". Apart from the last five minutes, it's fantastically faithful to the historical sources.

#291 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 02:13 AM:

Movie trios:

Star Wars
Star Trek
Star 80

Nine to Five
9 1/2 Weeks
Ten Little Indians

Scooby Doo and the Lock Ness Monster
Monsters, Inc
Monster's Ball

#292 ::: tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 03:03 AM:

A.I.
Cecil B. Demented
C-Bear and Jamal
Jaws 3-D
e-Dreams
F Troop
G-Men
A Walk Through H
I, Robot
J-Men Forever
K-9
L'Age D'Or
M
Boyz N The Hood
O Happy Day
Pi
Q: The Winged Serpent
The Who: Thirty Years of Maximum R & B
Gas-s-s-s
Dr. T and the Women
U Turn
V For Vendetta
W
Malcolm X
Y Tu Mamá También
Z Cars

#293 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 03:49 AM:

Nil By Mouth*
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
The Two Towers
Three Men And A Baby
The Four Musketeers
Five Easy Pieces
The Sixth Sense
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
Eight Men Out
The Whole Nine Yards
Ten Little Indians
Ocean's Eleven
Twelve Monkeys
The Thirteenth Floor

Couldn't quite make it to Stalag-17...

*I'm a computer guy; I start counting at zero.

#294 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 04:37 AM:

Well, Sixteen Candles came to mind, and imdb filled the gap:

"15 Minutes," a fairly recent suspense flick about a couple of creeps who decide to kill somebody, videotape it, sell the tape rights for a fortune and then run an insanity defense. Has anybody copied this idea in reality, and if not, why?

"Fourteen Hours," which I saw long ago -- Richard Basehart as a guy threatening to jump off a hotel ledge for pretty much the whole running time (based on a real incident).

I got the count to twenty-one without a break, but you can do the same routine yourself if you're that interested

#295 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 05:14 AM:

Hmm. Depardieu as which St Augustine? Augustine of Hippo or the one who brought Christianity to Britain?

I picked "Nicaea" because it actually involves a fight ("a real fight") between Arius and Nicholas in the middle of the Council. Plenty of wirefu action by bearded men in flowing robes for the "Star Wars" demographic.
It shouldn't be hugely expensive to make, and with the profits we can fund the big-screen epic about the Nika Riots, in which gangs of blue- and green-clad chariot race hooligans plunge sixth-century Byzantium into anarchy through fighting over the Monophysite heresy. Just like Glasgow on a Saturday night.

There's a tempting aside in "The Name of the Rose" along the lines of "I have heard that grammaticians of Toulouse spent seven days arguing the vocative of 'ego', and in the end they attacked each other with weapons" - but this may just be something Eco made up.

The Piercy novel is "Body of Glass", I think.

re "Animal in heat" stickers - there is a celebrity photo magazine in the UK called "Heat", which has only one advantage, viz. being able to make jokes like "have you seen these pictures of Cameron Diaz in heat?" And "MEME HAZARD" stickers are a great idea - either for CDs of earwormish songs or for surreptitiously sticking on appealling but misleading books.(coughatlasshruggedcough).

#296 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 05:32 AM:

Stefan Jones: For every item somebody said "wouldn't it be cool if I owned those?" there's somebody selling it on ebay. I have a friend who once found some labels for sale from a medical supply company: "For Vaginal Use Only." She had some fun with those. (Particularly, she tells me, in picking up women.)

Nice to see another Oregonian commenting here.

#297 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 06:00 AM:

Homer used ironic epitaphs; (to paraphrase E. V. Rieu) the tuneful lyre of Phemius, when Phemius is lying dead, aqnd the great-hearted Acheans, even when fleeing the battlefield.

As for awful, etc. Apparently, and I can't mind where I read this, on first sight of the finished new St Paul's in London, the King at the time said that it was awful and artifical. It caused awe, and it was a magnificent work of artifice.

The most annoying historically inaccurate mistakes are ones where not only do they get something wrong, they actually make the story worse.

Take the Da Vinci Code's explanation of the fall of the Knights Templar. The Knights Templar were done over grandly; betrayed by the Pope and the King of France. And the reason for this betrayal, and the subsequent repression of the Order was money. Phillip and the Knights had a dispute over money, and he put pressure on the Pope to assist him. The Pope did.

Then, of course, the Templar leaders died, mainly at the stake.

If Dan Brown had written that in, it would have (a) established proto-econo-gothic before this thread, and (b) illustrated perfectly the ruthlessness of the Catholic Church at that time.

But no, he had to go for the fscking stupid pseudo-gnosticism/complete nonsense that doesn't even get its own theology straight. Of course, the other books Brown wrote are even worse for that.

#298 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 06:44 AM:

IIRC Maurice Druon used the burning of the Templars as the opening scene for his series of historical novels about the fall of the House of Valois-- great pageturners. The English translations are probably long out of print, although my local library system still has them. (Apparently there was a recent dramatic adapation which featured some of Gerard Depardieu's kids, but seems to be considered vastly inferior to an earlier adaptation, neither of which seems to be available with English subtitles.)

And then there was the article last week or so in the SF Chronicle, decrying Tom Hanks' hairstyle in the DVC movie as an apocalyptic resurgence of the mullet.

#299 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 06:45 AM:

In Robin and Marian, they kind of compressed what John did once he became King, didn't they? If I remember correctly, it took a few years after he was crowned before he started butting heads with the Church while, in the movie, he's into that within a few months of Richard kicking the bucket. But I don't let that stop me from enjoying the story.

#300 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 07:44 AM:

And epitaphs should be epithets. Oh well...

#301 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 07:44 AM:

Candle: You didn't find the portrayal of Marcus Aurelius in 'Gladiator' odd (not to mention the death of Commodus being followed by the restoration of the republic!)?

#302 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 08:14 AM:

There's a tempting aside in "The Name of the Rose" along the lines of "I have heard that grammaticians of Toulouse spent seven days arguing the vocative of 'ego', and in the end they attacked each other with weapons" - but this may just be something Eco made up.

I've read this story, and I think I read it somewhere other than Eco. It was used as an example of the failings of the Scholastic movement. The whole bit in "The Name Of The Rose" where they're taking St. Francis's preaching to the animals and laboriously reinterpreting it is a total shot at the Scholastics as well.

It was one of the points where I felt like Umberto Eco was going, "Good History minor! You got my reference! Have a cookie."

I don't have a source for the swordfight over grammar, but I suspect Umberto Eco could give one.

#303 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 08:36 AM:

Xopher: Ordo Templi Orientis. Goddess help me, I used to date one. He was one of the ones who didn't quite get the whole "as Thou wilt" aspect of it.

I was much fonder of the Ordo Templi Paislianum, myself. But alas, that has gone the way of the dodo.

Fragano: When Commodus died, I realized it had been an alternate Rome all along.

On the subject of hazard stickers: a couple friends and I tried to design a mana/magic-hazard sticker once, but we couldn't come up with anything that both evoked the radiation and biohazard symbols and looked decent. (Which book is it in which a group of priests is required to wear biohazard-symbol necklaces?)

#304 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 09:12 AM:

Joan Vinge's Snow Queen has biohazard-labelled sibyls. For magical complications, could the symbol be morphed from a trefoil to a pentacle?

#305 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 09:35 AM:

The St Francis discussion is a shot at the Scholastics? I thought the interpretation made a lot of sense - St Francis wasn't preaching to the cute little woodland folk, but to carrion birds and vermin, as a way of saying that no-one should be excluded from the Kingdom of God.

You could use a four-armed trefoil (if you see what I mean) as a symbol for "DANGER: THEOHAZARD" - if you were a member of a modern Inquisition looking for heretical materials. But a five-armed trefoil just looks too busy.

Linkage between Tom Hanks and the Nika Riots: the mullet is condemned by Procopius, writing in sixth-century Byzantium, as the "Hunnish mode", popular among fashionable young men: "First the rebels revolutionized the style of wearing their hair. For they had it cut differently from the rest of the Romans: not molesting the mustache or beard, which they allowed to keep on growing as long as it would, as the Persians do, but clipping their hair short on the front of the head down to the temples, and letting it hang down in great length and disorder in the back, as the Massageti do. This weird combination they called the Hun haircut" (pp. 35-36, Chapter VII).

#306 ::: MLR ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 10:16 AM:

the mullet is condemned by Procopius...

Too wonderful. Thanks for that tidbit, ajay.

#307 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 11:33 AM:

Since the April Fool's link seems to have died but the Undead shamble on, I'm repeating this posting of a hoax I found yesterday on the Archaeology Magazine website.

#308 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 11:49 AM:

Ajay, that mullet quote is the best thing I've seen since finding the joke in Bar-Hebraeus about why a rooster stands on one leg when it wakes up in the morning.

(because if it picked up the other leg, it would fall down)

#309 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 11:58 AM:

A friend has just sent me another link, to the BBC's Great Spaghetti Hoax of 1957.

#310 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 12:28 PM:

*ahem* ajay, Augustine did not bring Christianity to Britain. It was already there, and well-established. What he did do was convince local rulers that it was in their interest to make nice to the Roman church, because it was one of the major temporal powers on the Continent. This meant falling into line over such matters as the way to do your hair and the date of Easter.

Pope Gregory was of course delighted to welcome his previously-separated brethren of the Celtic church back into the fold. With him as shepherd, of course.

#311 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 12:40 PM:

Bush shows loyalty to his boss; takes fall for Karl Rove:

Papers: Cheney Aide Says Bush OK'd Leak

#312 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 12:59 PM:

Blood libel may be a generational thing - I'd be shocked that anyone with actual memories of WWII or immediately afterward missed the reference but then I'm easily shocked.

I can't mind where I read this, on first sight of the finished new St Paul's in London, the King at the time said that it was awful and artifical. It caused awe, and it was a magnificent work of artifice. Perhaps when our hostess used the reference see for details: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/003884.html

Almost everybody on this list will also remember this from the front matter to the Poul Anderson story A Tragedy of Errors - joy you unboot now (Russell)

Today, Thursday 6 April the Wall Street Journal fronts a piece on sects buying academic respectability or favor by endowing chairs at public universities always provided the chairs are filled by academics acceptable to the denomination. Some of this seems to be chilling effect rather than interference with academic freedom it's pandering for panhandling.

The lead subject is Dr. Quinn formerly of B.Y.U and formerly of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints who is currently unemployable in his field of religious studies. Lots of references to other religious groups and even to private church related universities that have lost their roots but are still open to money regardless of denomination.

#313 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 01:31 PM:

Love the mullet history. That made my morning, and I'm passing it on to others who may appreciate it.

#314 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 02:06 PM:

Depardieu as which St Augustine? Augustine of Hippo or the one who brought Christianity to Britain?

Sorry, Augustine of Hippo, not Augustine of Canterbury, as I ought to have made clear. As I recall, the story was actually that Depardieu was visiting Pope John Paul II, who told him that he looked like St Augustine (of Hippo). I'm still not convinced. But I do think The Aquinas Story should be made.

And yes, everyone should read Procopius. Hollywood screenwriters especially. Mind you, I was reading the Life of Daniel the Stylite yesterday and thinking that it would make a good movie. I don't expect to be able to convince anyone of this.

I was trying to forget the Da Vinci Code.

Candle: You didn't find the portrayal of Marcus Aurelius in 'Gladiator' odd (not to mention the death of Commodus being followed by the restoration of the republic!)?

I didn't actively dislike the portrayal of Marcus Aurelius, discounting the awful dialogue he was made to say. I don't think he was really like that, and I certainly don't think he was about to disinherit his son, but it's the kind of portrait that popular histories of the time would have been likely to go with. That was my justification, anyway. It would have helped if Richard Harris had portrayed him more as a stoic and general than as Dumbledore.

And at the end I assumed that the restoration of the Republic was only talk, and that as soon as Maximus was out of the picture they would find a new emperor. Things were pretty confused after Commodus was assassinated, after all, and I had fun thinking of Russell Crowe as a version of Helvius Pertinax. Every new emperor said they were going to restore the Republic. It just always seemed to take longer than they had anticipated.

(The best presentation of that was Brian Blessed as Augustus in I, Claudius. I was surprised at how convinced I was by his performance. I couldn't have imagined him in the role before I saw it.)

Still, more of Gladiator was plausible than a lot of people realise, I suspect. Commodus did fight in the arena, according to Cassius Dio, although it's a pity they didn't include the ostrich scene from chapter 21.

#315 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 02:19 PM:

I've always contended that Dr Who should have pioneered a hazard sticker with the legend "Warning: may exert mind control". Would've avoided all sorts of problems, though I suppose -someone- has to get close enough to put the sticker on in the first place. For the symbol, I suggest a brain with googly eyes, and concentric circles around it.

#316 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 02:25 PM:

bizzare but true:
A painter makes a copy of a Norman Rockwell he owned, and hides the original behind a secret panel in his studio to keep his wife from getting it as part of a divorce settlement. Years later, his kids figure it out and find the secret room! (Only fractionally exaggerated. Real life is waay more implausible than fiction. Nytimes has it as a cover story: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/arts/design/06rock.html )

-r.

#317 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 02:51 PM:

Candle: As portrayed by Richard Harris, Marcus Aurelius came off as very un-Stoic. I found that annoying.

#318 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Carrie: I take your point.

#319 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 05:17 PM:

There's a story that, when Samuel Bronston's "Carry on Falling Roman Empire" was beginning production, Philip Yordan, one of the screenwriters, found himself on a plane with Alec Guinness, who was playing Marcus Aurelius. Guinness was going through the script, and Yordan unwisely asked him what he thoought of it. He didn't like it at all, he said, and was slashing at it with a pencil even then. Yordan told this story -- and he may well have agreed about the script, which manages to be completely bogus as history (Loren playing Lucilla as Doris Day . . . right) and thoroughly uninteresting as drama.

Guinness is dignified, of course, but he was dignified explaining to Luke Skywalker that "Well, yes, young Jedi, everything I and everyone else has said to you up to this point has been a positively obese lie, but let me assure you that you should still follow our direction without thinking too hard. My, don't I just twinkle? And one last bit of gnomic advice: don't hump the space maiden."

#320 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Vampire Econo-Gothic:
How about:

We, The Undead by Ayn Rice

#321 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Well, yes, young Jedi, everything I and everyone else has said to you up to this point has been a positively obese lie, but let me assure you that you should still follow our direction without thinking too hard. My, don't I just twinkle?

But wait - I thought that was Laurence Fishburne's schtick in the Matrix?

#322 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Although warning a Keanu Reeves character against thinking too hard was probably unnecessary.

#323 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 05:59 PM:

Tim Walters, commenting on his movie list, said:
I'm a computer guy; I start counting at zero.

Then why not start with zero? Or do you have some secret objection to Zero Effect?

#324 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 06:14 PM:

Dave Luckett:
*ahem* ajay, Augustine did not bring Christianity to Britain. It was already there, and well-established. What he did do was convince local rulers that it was in their interest to make nice to the Roman church, because it was one of the major temporal powers on the Continent. This meant falling into line over such matters as the way to do your hair and the date of Easter.

I thought it was the Synod of Whitby (664) that brought about a general agreement on Easter, etc. within Britain.

St. Augustine was earlier (died 604), and was involved in converting the Angles, Saxons, etc. of (southern) England, who were pagan. (Yes, Britain had become Christian when conversion swept the Roman Empire, but the various Germanic invaders of the 5th and 6th Centuries were not, and so most of what's now England was no longer Christian by the end of the 6th Century.)

#325 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 06:47 PM:

Then why not start with zero? Or do you have some secret objection to Zero Effect?

Only that I'd never heard of it... but I guess I could have used Panic In The Year Zero.

#326 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 08:05 PM:

Iraq Museum watch:

I see that C-SPAN 2's "After Words" this weekend is devoted to the National Museum of Iraq and its looted antiquities. This topic led to a great deal of comment here in the spring of 2003.

"After Words" features one author, or other prominent person, interviewing another.

Description: This week on After Words Matthew Bogdanos, assistant district attorney in Manhattan and U.S. Marine Colonel reservist describes his journey collecting the antiquities stolen by from the Baghdad Museum during 2003 U.S-led invasion of Iraq. He also gives his version on why more U.S. troops were not allowed to guard the Museum during the initial days of post-war looting. He is interviewed by Angela M.H. Schuster, the editor of Icon, the quarterly magazine of the World Monuments fund, and co-editor of "The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad: The Lost Legacy of Ancient Mesopotamia."

According to current schedule, this one-hour program will be shown at 9 PM Saturday, 6 PM Sunday, and 9 PM Sunday, Eastern Daylight Time. They usually repeat this at least once on the following weekend, as well.

#327 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 08:31 PM:

I stick to my point: St Augustine of Canterbury did not bring Christianity to Britain. Christianity was already there. The Angles, Saxons and Jutes did not become Christian as a result of his activities, which concentrated on what passed for the big end of town. Grave-goods evidence shows that most of them were still pagan a century later, and those that were not had often come in via Celtic Christianity. As a servant of his Roman masters Augustine naturally came into conflict with the native church over its different customs and method of calculating the date of Easter. It is true that this conflict was forcibly resolved at Whitby, where the Celtic church was scientifically rolled and bludgeoned into submission by a more politically-savvy and better-connected elite, but it had existed since his first days in Britain.

#328 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 09:41 PM:

So Bill Nye spoke recently, and some audience members stormed out after he mentioned that the creation account in Genesis does not match the observable characteristics of the sun, moon and stars:

http://www.wacotrib.com/news/content/news/stories/2006/04/06/04062006wacbillnye.html?cxtype=rss&cxsvc=7&cxcat=11

"We believe in a God"--but obviously not in a big-ass hunk of rock up in the sky, clearly visible to the naked eye.

#329 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 10:25 PM:

don't hump the space maiden.

You know, Mike, I don't remember Ben Kenobi saying that. Was that in the re-released version of 1997?

#330 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2006, 11:02 PM:

Serge: possibly it was the one in which Margaret Hamilton appeared as Darth Mater, shrieking "I'll get you, my princess! And your little droid too!"

#331 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 01:03 AM:

And going in the other direction:

Less Than Zero

and (if you include short films):

J.G. Ballard's Minus One

#332 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 01:43 AM:

Relevant to earlier Makinglight threads-

Kaiser HMO as of today has stopped *all* sales of pseudoephedrine (sudafed) at all of their pharmacies. Not by prescription, not one at a time with a photocopy of your ID, just completely gone. As an ingredient it can be found in a cough syrup- not terribly useful for allergies.

Had I shown up yesterday I could have still bought some, I was told. "But people have done bad things with it, so today we've pulled it."

Long's (a chain pharmacy / general goods store) carries it behind the counter: at their prices its $0.50/day, $15/month. Used to be $3/ allergy season. sniff.

#333 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 05:28 AM:

Xopher writes:
Fortunately we aren't required to believe any of [Gerald Gardner's] claptrap

If Neil Gaiman is to be believed, this is a misuse of "claptrap". According to him (in an interview in The Guardian), "claptrap" is not just another word for "nonsense" -- it's vacuous stuff that people like politicians say for the sole purpose of getting applause. I quite like this meaning for the word.

#334 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 06:18 AM:

Margaret Hamilton appeared as Darth Mater

Chip... If George Lucas HAD done that to his souped-up re-releases of the original 3 movies, that would have been a more worthwhile exercise. But he didn't, so that wasn't.

#335 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 08:06 AM:

Got your Grand Old Party right here.

#336 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 09:05 AM:

May I ask a question to those people in this neighborhood who have an extensive knowledge of the history of comics?

With Bryan Singer's Superman returns coming out in time for the Fourth of July weekend, I find myself thinking back to the earlier movies. Much as I loved the 1978 movie, the second movie still makes me wince, and not just because of General Zod's obsession that people should kneel before Him. Still, that movie pointed out that, when superpowered beings fight, there's bound to be a lot of collateral damage, not just to buildings but also to human bodies.

My question is: until then, did comic-books pretty much ignore the carnage?

I think the answer is yes, but I'm not sure.

#337 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 09:05 AM:

Dave -- you seem to be painting Augustine as some kind of inquisitor or enforcer for the Roman Church, sent to Britain to bring the deviant Celtic Church to heel, but that's really not what his mission was, and not what he did. He was sent because Rome was under the impression that the Anglo-Saxons were unregenerate pagans (as indeed they were) in need of conversion.

Did Augustine bring Christianity to "Britain" (i.e., the entire island of Great Britain)? No. Did he bring Christianity to England, or to the "English"? Arguably, yes.[*] The Anglo-Saxons were mostly not Christian in 600 AD.

As it happens, missionary efforts from Ireland and the Irish parts of Scotland (the "Celtic Church" if you like) started only a few decades later (e.g., Aidan of Iona came to Northumbria in the 630s), and it's no accident that the Synod of Whitby was held in northern England, where the two missions overlapped. (The king of Northumbria -- brother, in fact, of the man who'd invited St. Aidan to Northumbria -- followed Celtic practices, while his queen, from southern England, followed Roman practices; this made disagreements over the timing of Lent and Easter a matter of very personal interest to the royal family!)

[*] Glossing over the role of Bertha, the Frankish princess who married the king of Kent and brought at least some Christians with her from France -- and who probably helped Augustine a great deal in his mission.

#338 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 09:07 AM:

title-based double bills:
All the President's Men/The American President
National Velvet/Blue Velvet

author-based:
Raiders of the Lost Ark/Regarding Henry

"thematic":
Amadeus/Beethoven
Ice Age/The Lion in Winter
Seabiscuit/A Day at the Races
Traffic/Speed

--Mary Aileen

#339 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 09:30 AM:

The Princeton Alumni Weekly receives 200 books from alumni each year for consideration for their "reading room" section. 11% of the books from undergraduate alumni are self-published; none of the books submitted by graduate alumni are.

The PAW on why it does not review self-published books.


An (overly kind, imo) article on why those authors self-published.

#340 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 09:31 AM:

Stefan Jones:

I got bored. Infectious Memes!

#341 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Double-bills...

"Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
"Five Came Back."

"Excalibur"
"Arthur"
(Yes, someone really double-billed John Boorman and Dudley Moore. At a drive-in, of course.)

"Someone Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe"
"Soylent Green."
(I think Ed Bryant came up with that when he emceed the 1981 Hugos in Denver.)

#342 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 10:22 AM:

Peter Erwin: There was an "ancient" church of St Martin in Canterbury that Augustine used, and it and others were already in use when he arrived. Bede states clearly that there were many others in southern England, though he credits Augustine with "repairing" them. This activity apparently was not even begun until about 604, Augustine's health being poor.

Gregory's letters were concerned, among other things, with the training of a native clergy - but this was after the Roman model, and implicitly failed to recognise others which were extant, because Gregory required clergy who looked to Rome. There were a number of British bishops whom Augustine met with in Canterbury, on two occasions, according to Bede. They were not from Scotland or Ireland - and Augustine failed to convince them of his claim to primacy.

Sir Frank Stenton comments: "The Roman mission, which required the abandonment of ancient customs by the British clergy, had little to offer of which they felt the need. The pupils of a great ascetic like St David could have had little sympathy with the humane Italian monasticism in which Augustine and his companions had been trained." Stenton "Anglo-Saxon England" (3rd) CUP, p110.

That is to say, there was a native British church in southern England. Churches were in use, and there was a native clergy and episcopacy, but Rome - and Augustine - ignored it for political reasons. Indeed, if the traditional story given by Bede is true, he seems to have gone out of his way to insult it.

At Whitby the Celtic church argued for its traditions, citing the Gospels and the practice of Anatolius, Doctor of the Church. Wilfred, for Rome, took a different tack. He emphasised "the folly of resistance to the unique authority of St Peter...obeyed by all Christians except a part of the inhabitants of the last two islands of the Ocean." (Stenton, op cit, P123.) This, with its subtle hint of menace, is an overtly political argument, and it certainly impressed the King, as it was meant to. He knew the side his political bread was buttered on.

Whatever the mission of Augustine might have been, he - or rather his successors - brought the British church to heel rather thoroughly. To that extent, I think it can be fairly claimed that de facto, he and his successors acted as "enforcers for Rome". On the other hand, the evidence that he converted any respectable proportion of the heathen English is, at best, very scant and very equivocal. He had success with some of their rulers, true. "The big end of town", as I said. But his claim to be the Apostle of the English is shaky at best.

#343 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 11:18 AM:

adamsj wrote: Got your Grand Old Party right here.

That's what I'm talking about!
Or at least one way I imagined it;
the aftermath of a wild party.

Serge wrote: [..] when superpowered beings fight,
there's bound to be a lot of collateral damage,
not just to buildings but also to human bodies.

My question is: until then, did comic-books pretty much ignore the carnage?

I don't know that the damage had never been addressed up until then;
I think the Fantastic Four might have got sued.

For the most part, though,
I'd say the collateral damage is ignored.
In the same sense, your average movie/TV car chase
results in a few comically totalled cars and no fatalities
(even when the chase ends up on the sidewalks).

Talking about this same idea with a friend once,
he'd told me that Marvel at one time had a comic
which featured the 'cleanup crew' responsible for patching up the city
after the superhero battles. I doubt it sold well.

Metropolis in the comics has been totalled more than once
(and reconstructed on one occasion literally by magic).

#344 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 11:28 AM:

Thanks, Rob. I guess the movie, besides turning my stomach, indeed was a turning point. Since then of course, Alan Moore's MiracleMan had the bad guy kill a few million people in London before the cavalry showed up, at which point they literally dropped the Bank of England on his head.

#345 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 11:40 AM:

(Also in the "Soylent Green" vein:)
"The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover"
"Eat Drink Man Woman"

"Gladiator"
"Hannibal"

"Brokeback Mountain"
"The Silence of the Lambs"

#346 ::: Valerie Emanuel ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Read here

by Dan Simmons

#347 ::: Alison ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 12:20 PM:

Reading the sidelight on how conservatives get called liberals I had an inspiration about how liberals get called communists. If conservatives who criticize George Bush are "liberals" then real liberals who actually espouse political views that differ from the conservative agenda *and* criticize George Bush must be some kind of hitherto undiscovered branch of ultra-liberal that conservatives have had to invent (or repurpose) terms for.

This is what is called a "swing to the right" in national politics.

At least I heard this morning that Bush's approval rating is down to 30%, Congress's approval rating is down to 30% and 45% think that the Democrats should be in power. So maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

#348 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 12:32 PM:

The Marvel "cleaup crew" is called "Damage Control" --- the top Google hit, here, claims that the Matrix guys are working on a movie version...

#349 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 12:32 PM:

Swid -

I love the meme warning! May I use it for an icon?

#350 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Another truly unfortunate double bill:

The Aristocats
The Aristocrats

--Mary Aileen

#351 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 01:17 PM:

And that Jaws double-bill I posted up there could be turned into a triple-title by adding (at the front end) Red Sails in the Sunset

#352 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 01:29 PM:

Just wondering when this will show up on Google maps.

#353 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 01:36 PM:

You're welcome to use it however you like dolloch, as are the rest of you.

Valerie, that was chilling. Something Simmons always seems to manage with ease.

#354 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 01:43 PM:

Double-Bills: The Postman plus Waterworld.
Only problem is you'll need six DVD's to hold the complete movies. The box should contain caffiene pills for two adult viewers.

#355 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 02:12 PM:

I recall the first "Damage Control" series as being pretty funny (wasn't aware there were others). They did stuff like resell abandoned supervillain equipment to cover the cleanup costs -- there was a sequence in which one of their guys finds a button on a giant battle robot, pushes it, and the robot folds down into a briefcase for easy transport. So obviously it was not a serious study of heroes and villains punching holes in office buildings. It was a comical zanified study, etc.

And Village Roadshow Pictures is not "the Matrix guys," in the sense of the Wachowski brothers or any other creative team folks. They're an Australian production company, and have been involved with lots of movies, some of them very good, some, well, not very good.

#356 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 02:16 PM:

In re "Windows the new OS 9," you may not need Boot Camp, or have to wait for "Leopard" to implement a compatibility box.

See here.

#357 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 02:27 PM:

Speaking of Damage Control... How many junked Sentinels are there lying around?

On a more serious note... The more recent Captain America has made references to some of Doctor Doom's old junk falling into the hands of terrorists. Speaking of Cap... They're finally making a movie, but it won't come out until 2009. Now, why would it be released AFTER the next Presidential Campaign?

Meanwhile, I followed the link to that Dan Simmons story and I can't say I care much for the politics expressed therein.

#358 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 02:44 PM:

Is it just me who reads Rob Rusick's contributions as verse?

#359 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 02:48 PM:

Serge,

What--didn't you vote for Kerry, too?

#360 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 02:52 PM:

candle — you're not the only one. It makes reading the comment threads an interesting experience. I'll be reading along rapidly, at my usual skimming-prose speed, and then my mind almost involuntarily slows down and switches into "poetry! look for deeper meaning!" mode. Heh.

#361 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 02:55 PM:

If Neil Gaiman is to be believed, this is a misuse of "claptrap". According to him (in an interview in The Guardian), "claptrap" is not just another word for "nonsense" -- it's vacuous stuff that people like politicians say for the sole purpose of getting applause. I quite like this meaning for the word.

So you think it was a misuse because GG wasn't a politician? Or is your definition of 'applause' too narrow to include pasty-English-butt-whipping? Shocking. :-)

#362 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 03:03 PM:

Damn right, adamsj, I voted for Kerry. I've always been a Democrat and proud of it too. I just didn't care about the Traveller's comments about civil liberties. And at no point does the story lay any blame at the feet of the bums currently in the White House. (If it does and I missed it, then my apologies. It's been a long week here at the office and I'm a bit exhausted.)

#363 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Also, while I'm not certain that Simmons' Traveller was actually proposing the Melian strategy ("slaughter of every combat-age man and boy [...], the enslavement of every woman and girl"), that seemed to be the closest thing he offered to a solution to the current crisis.

#364 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 03:18 PM:

Don't slow down while reading this post.
There is no poetry to be gotten here.
Quests for deeper meaning will only find ghosts.
Cause I'm too busy eating chips and drinking
mountain dew.

#365 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 03:18 PM:

Serge,

I get what you're saying, but the story is just a fiction--granted, a fiction of the sort that's supposed to bring on a strong reaction, but a fiction nonetheless. A different story might be that Traveller and another arriving on alternate New Year's Eves. The first visit is as we saw. The second is the other traveller, here to tell us that the Islamic menace was deliberately overblown, in order to bring down civil liberties. Of course, both give us words. As time goes on, both sets of words fit...

...but that's a novel.

What is there about the presence of the author in a story that gives us the heebie-jeebies? Not the fact of the author's presence, but rather, how does it provide the verisimilitude that creeps us out so? (By "us", of course, I mean "me, at least".)

#366 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 03:23 PM:

resell abandoned supervillain equipment to cover the cleanup costs

Completely mindless drivel TV, but for some reason I find myself compelled to watch it: "Venture Brothers" is sort of a "Johnny Quest" spoof, and one episode had Dr. Venture, who was short on cash, having a yard sale, selling surplus inventions he had made over the years. Most of the buyers were bad guys that had running grudges against him. His sons, the Venture Brothers, decided to set up a lemonade stand and sell drinks to the yard sale minglers.

That, and Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, are hilarious, mindless, fun.

At least, that's what I've heard.

#367 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 04:30 PM:

adamsj: What creeps me out isn't the presence of the author per se, but the sense that he is making a political argument but calling it fiction, and so trying to prevent it from being criticised. If that were presented as a political interpretation of the world as it is, I would be happy to argue with it point by point. But how can I criticise an imaginary time-traveller from the future? Well yes, the alternative is to write the reverse political argument as a story in the same way. But I don't have the talent for that, or the time for either.

I note from his reading list, though, that we would probably be better off reading Samuel Huntington. I disagree just as much with his views, but at least (unlike Dan Simmons) he takes responsibility for them.

#368 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 04:40 PM:

You said it better than I could, candle. After reading the story, I asked myself if Simmons is an apologist for Bush/Cheney/Rove, considering that not once does the story mention Bush/Cheney/Rove's responsibility for the current state of affairs. True, it has been said that one should not assume that an author shares his character's opinions, but, had this story been written by Jerry Pournelle, would there have been any doubt as to where the author's sympathies are?

#369 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 04:41 PM:

A short browse through Wikipedia suggests that while Simmons doesn't directly cite Bat Ye'or, she seems to be a key proponent of the concepts he's discussing. While I don't think I've ever heard of her before, I'm not surprised to see the laudatory quote from Victor Davis Hanson.

#370 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 04:50 PM:

So . . .

Dan Simmons is alarmed at the prospect of the West being overwhelmed by another culture, based on the fact that they subscribe to an ancient militaristic and triumphalist creed, and his response is to smack us around for worrying about the competence of our leaders and wave around texts from an even older militaristic and triumphalist culture.

I think Simmons has Cold War envy. Maybe we'll get a *Red Dawn* equivalent out of him some day.

#371 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 04:52 PM:

I highly recommend that you folks go over to the forum on Dan Simmons' site and read the thread on his story.

The best suggestion there said something like "Why don't you look at this story as a piece of writing and see how the author crafted it to push so many of your buttons?" There, those whose buttons were being pushed were mostly those who thought this was a stirring call to arms. Here, it's those who think it's just stirring up shit. Either way, Dan Simmons did a great job of it. (The second best was that the "three words" might be "April Fools' Day!" which is pretty much what the first guy said.)

#372 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 04:58 PM:

Keep in mind, however, that Oriana Fallaci has written a piece where she essentially adopts this pov wrt Islam and says it's the most dangerous thing on the planet....

Of course, it IS Oriana Fallaci.

#373 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 05:07 PM:

Ambivablog responds to that Dan Simmons fantasy. (I do not recommend following the link to Little Green Sh1th33ls.)

#374 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 05:07 PM:

Of course, maybe Simmons was getting buttered up by a guy who wants to free him of pesky subluxations:

Chiropractor Claims He Can Go Back in Time

#375 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 05:09 PM:

Skwid - thank you kindly!

#376 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 05:22 PM:

"it's the most dangerous thing on the planet...."

She might be right. But "most dangerous" doesn't necessarily mean "so dangerous that our only recourse is to go grim and grey and intolerant."

Getting to the point where Islam is the most dangerous thing on the planet could be a sign of progress, like getting to the point where shingles is Public Health Enemy Number One.

#377 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 05:42 PM:

I'm interested that when Dan Simmons (among others) looks to Thucydides for lessons, he automatically assumes that America = Athens. Do you think it's just a response to the word "democracy"? Because looking at the way the political systems function, the Spartan oligarchy seems to me a lot closer to the modern US than does Athenian-style direct democracy. And the Spartans won!

(I don't mean to be so cynical as to say that the US is an oligarchy by modern standards; just that no modern state is likely to be able to sustain the Athenian system. Leaving Swiss cantons aside.)

#378 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 05:44 PM:

On recommendation, I also recently finished Spin. Great fun. It reminded me a little of David Brin's old short story, "The Crystal Spheres", and a little of Fred Pohl's novel The World at the End of Time.

#379 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 09:52 PM:

Strikingly relevant both to discussions of Iraq and to prose masquerading as poetry, sometime last year (ie. 27 June 2005, p.51) I read a review in the New Statesman of a Christopher Hitchens book which offered the following quote, formatted (because of the size of the column) as below. I've added the division into verses:

When you meet a battlefield officer...
you are dealing with someone
who cut his or her teeth in
political-humanitarian rescue in
Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo or Afghanistan.

Their operational skills are
reconstruction, liaison with civilian
forces, the cultivation of intelligence
and the study of religion and ethnicity.
They like to talk about human rights

and civil society, not body counts or
'interdiction' ... what is happening
in today's Iraq is something more
like a social and political revolution
than a military occupation.

I don't feel obliged to agree with the sentiment, but I think it works quite nicely as a found poem. It sounds to me like the work of D.J. Enright.

#380 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 10:29 PM:

The "Windows: The New Classic" piece is good, but I think it makes a mistake in looking at Apple's business as Mac OS X vs. Windows.

All Apple needs to do to be spectacularly successful with its computer business in the next few years is to take just a few single digits of market share away from Windows.
Apple makes some money from software, but more from hardware. Windows used to be a competitive threat because people had to buy non-Mac hardware to run it. BootCamp allows Apple to compete more effectively with Dell and Sony. Those are the companies that Apple needs to take a few points of market share from. Microsoft will be glad to help, because it will drive more sales of Windows, not less. Even better for Microsoft, many of those sales will be at full retail, not the discounted OEM price.

#381 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2006, 10:54 PM:

Serge wrote: I guess the movie, besides turning my stomach, indeed was a turning point.
Since then of course, Alan Moore's MiracleMan had the bad guy kill a few million people in London before the cavalry showed up,
at which point they literally dropped the Bank of England on his head.

Despite all of the damage to the city in the second Superman movie,
I don't recall the humans got worse than getting knocked off their feet.
Things almost fell on people,
but Superman had been there to save them.

Things seem to have gotten darker in the DC universe recently.

Dial B for Blog is an entertaining comics-related site,
mostly entries on different artists, various themes.

However, the author has posted reviews of the DC's current 'Infinite Crisis'.
There are examples of superhero violence in his reviews of #6 and #4
which are particularly grotesque.

I haven't read MiracleMan,
but I loaned out my copy of The Watchmen to a friend
who enjoyed V for Vendetta (which I haven't read or seen either).


Charles Dodgson wrote: The Marvel "cleaup crew" is called "Damage Control" [..]

Thanks for the link! It sounds like it had been pretty interesting
(and John Ford's comments further add to that impression).
I regret suggesting it must have sold poorly.


Candle: I do think of it as a blank verse style
(but almost in the sense of a private joke).

I got into the habit
when I had been doing some HTML transcriptions
of Maya tutorial manuals we were using in class.

I felt that breaking the lines appropriately
helped in the parsing out the sense of what was being said
(not always clear in computer manuals).

[ We had a system where the instructor's primary monitor
could be broadcast to the student's secondary monitor.
Having the projects available as HTML docs
made it possible to drag a browser onto the screen
to indicate where we were in the lesson,
and the students could also track the instructions
through their own browsers. ]

I found that short lines and small paragraphs
made for easier reading on the computer screen.
I do the same thing with my emails
(less so with what I write on paper).

There is also a graphic design/typography concept behind it too.
Type on a printed page is usually broken out into columns,
because it is less tiring on the eyes
to make small left to right (and back) movements
than to go all the way right across a full page,
then back to the left side.

Supposedly, it is also better to have 'raw' type,
than type that is justified to the right margin (spaced to fit);
a little variety makes it easier to keep your place on the page
than a uniform right margin would.

But long lines, followed by short lines,
followed by long lines, whipsaw the eyes,
so you try to avoid that if you can.

So as much as possible,
I like to use the line as a unit,
without hurting the eyes.

Now I feel self-conscious...

#382 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 12:45 AM:

I'm still ruminating over Simmons' story... What I do know is that the right-wing blogosphere is going batty over it. "See! A former liberal who gets it!" *bleah* Pantswetters, all of 'em.

Personally, I see nothing of the sort - but I can say that there were parts that made me feel physically ill, the litany of nuclear destruction, the racial cleansing, atrocities committed by 'both' sides. And I'm leaning towards thinking that he hasn't written a cautionary tale, a 'you can turn things around now if you only have the will' story - he's written an Apocalyptic, John the Divine masquerading as science fiction.

Except that in his Book, there are only Tribulations.

#383 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 12:47 AM:

The "Windows is the new OS 9" particle makes me giggle.

I must be careful how I explain why I say that. Let me see... how about this?

The members of the technical staff in the Macintosh Hardware Engineering division of Apple Computer have the job of designing and engineering the next generation of Apple hardware products using software tools that only run on Windows. Until recently, they could easily justify their budgets for the purchase of new Windows-compatible 3rd-party hardware on these grounds. With the transition to Intel CPU architectures, you might imagine that such purchase orders are received by executive management with deep irritation.

Do not be dazzled by the seemingly strategic initiative to support Windows on Apple hardware. From inside Macintosh Hardware Engineering, it probably seems less like a bold move to increase market share, and more like something that would be pointless not to make available to the public while you're doing it. Nota bene: Apple continues to insist that it "does not sell or support Microsoft Windows"— not once, but twice, on the Boot Camp web page.

#384 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 01:00 AM:

At first, the Simmons story upset me greatly, then I started thinking about it.

The thing about the Simmons story that rings false is that the various countries and sects of Islam are so willing to tear their own guts out and eat them to spite themselves as a whole. "you faulted my ancesters 1000 years ago, so fk-u!" "you believe in slightly different things about al-Islam than I do, so fk-u!" "you let women do what? Fk-u." "You want to wear X, so fk-u."

Most often for the value of fk-u that = I'm willing to kill you in the streets like a dog because, since you believe X, you are an infidel dog.

The "Muslim" world is so fragmented into its sects and beliefs that I seriously doubt that they will ever get their shit together ever again. Which is a pity because the unified Muslim world of the 10-14th centuries helped us gain a whole range of scientific things that pushed the Europeans into Renaissance and reformation while suddenly the Islamic world started to fester and turn on itself.

Just sayin', ymmv.

#385 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 01:15 AM:

My main complaint with the Dan Simmons dark fantasy is that it's a badly structured story.

Near the end, the time traveler goes on an extended rant that's supposed to sound like he's remembering a future that hasn't happened for us yet. He spreads out on the rhetorical table a whole bunch of names and places that are supposed to be super-duper significant in the coming months and years, names and places that nobody today— or almost nobody, in some cases— has ever heard. Does Simmons tell us what he's done in the last four months to find out what these names and places mean? No. Does he even give us a clue that he cares? No. He just winds the story up with a twee hook about the mysterious identity of the time traveler and a cheap innuendo about being haunted by the last three words from the traveler that seems refined to precisely the right octane level to inspire his more dimwitted readers to set themselves on fire in a festival of right-wing conspiracy asshattery. Meanwhile, he completely fails to sell his narrator as a believable character.

Dear Mr. Simmons. Thank you for submitting your story. It was very well written, but unfortunately, we found it rather insufficiently dark and terrifying for a dark fantasy submission, and we have decided therefore not to take it. Sorry. Best of luck placing this elsewhere, and please send us more when you can.

#386 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 01:37 AM:

My reaction to the story was that it blatantly and obviously makes the precise kind of Category Error that its grizzled time-traveler mouthpiece blisteringly denounces. Namely, if one is trying to avoid category errors, and if one takes WW II as a stirring example of military action well executed, one should ask:

On Dec 8, 1941, did FDR declare war on the Shinto religion?

That would be a "No". He declared war on the specific political entity which had attacked us and on its allies, and then followed through, something we've done stunningly badly at. That kind of shoots holes in the whole implied analogy.

#387 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 01:52 AM:

Clifton Royston writes: My reaction to the story was that it blatantly and obviously makes the precise kind of Category Error that its grizzled time-traveler mouthpiece blisteringly denounces.

Well, yeah— the traveler is clearly a flawed character, as the narrator takes pains to say explicitly. Unfortunately, the story would have been so much darker and more terrifying if it had shown the narrator being drawn into this web of paranoia and category error, ultimately losing his grasp on reality itself. Instead, we get a schmaltzy "join me, and together we will destroy the Emperor and rule the galaxy as..." without even so much as a satisfying funeral pyre and Disney's haunted mansion scene before the credits roll.

I feel so cheated.

#388 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 03:08 AM:

On Dec 8, 1941, did FDR declare war on the Shinto religion?

That would be a "No". He declared war on the specific political entity

Well no, for most values of declared war Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States grants that power to the Congress. Congress is also empowered to ....make rules concerning captures on land and water; a power not currently well used. FDR did participate with others in making clear the war aims of the allied powers - also something not terribly well done currently.

I'd wager that this one story by Dan Simmons has been read by more people today than anything in Baen's Free Library ever or any single recent issue of Asimov's/Analog or F&SF and has gathered more comments than any of John Campbell's editorials. Some of today's readers were old farts drinking at the VFW and waiting to meet their personal valkyries again (YASID)so the story may also have a certain impact.

#389 ::: Tom Scudder ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 03:53 AM:

I'm pretty sure that the Simmons story is an April Fools' prank. Posted on April 1, and all.

#390 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 04:25 AM:

On Dec 8, 1941, did FDR declare war on the Shinto religion?

Not as such, no-- but after the war, the US Occupation methodically dismantled Shinto's political dimension. The Shintou shinrei ("Shinto directive") of 8 Dec. 1945 prohibited any public funding of or governmental institutionalization of Shinto; Hirohito was made to issue a public disavowal of divine status in 1946. There was also a ban on the formal promulgation of innate Japanese superiority, etc. etc.

This sort of thing is a lot easier when your target religion actually has a centralized leader, though. Conceivably one could declare a War on Catholicism and hope to decapitate it by making the Pope recant, but there's no Shi'ite imam or Sunni caliph to do that to, even assuming that it's a good idea in the first place.

(As a tangent, I am bemused at watching anime fans adopt Shinto here in the US, even though the lil' fox kami Inari is mighty cute.)

#391 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 04:38 AM:

Serge on Highlander: I rather liked its flashbacks and their transitions, but I distinctly remember someone in the audience who obviously had no love for flashbacks since he exclaimed:
"This movie has got more flashbacks that an episode of Kung Fu!!!"

Still better than the reviewer who complained that the hero keeps travelling backward and forward in time for no adequately explained reason.


(On the subject: I bought the Highlander DVD recently. I haven't watched the movie yet - as long as I hold off, there remains a non-zero chance that it does after all include the scene where Rachel meets Connor for the first time - but I have watched the extras. I was amused by the revelation that the overhead swoop that opens the film, which was actually achieved using cables suspended from the ceiling, had a very faint helicopter-engine noise added to soundtrack in post.)

#392 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 04:52 AM:

Serge: About on the same level as calling the Sidhe the Fair Folk even though they were anything but that, because one of them might be around and not in the mood to appreciate injurious but more accurate descriptives...

Xopher: ...is there a name for those things? Where you call people by the opposite of what you think of them?

TexAnne: Xopher, for some reason the word "euonym" crossed my mind.

Or perhaps "euphemism", which means speaking of a thing in terms that make it sound better than it is.

(There is also "dysphemism", which means speaking of a thing in terms that make it sound worse than it is.)

#393 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 05:04 AM:

Paul... You're pulling my metaphorical leg. Someone really thought that the Highlander was travelling backward and forward in time? Wow. A movie reviewer that has never come across the visual equivalent of that storytelling device... I think I'd stop paying attention to what such a person has to say. (Just like I stopped listening to Ebert after he trashed Gladiator and the first X-men after loving The Phantom Menace.)

Meanwhile, most Toronto reviewers hated Highlander, basically describing it as "a bunch of people running around cutting each other's heads off".

#394 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 05:14 AM:

Despite all of the damage to the city in the second Superman movie, I don't recall the humans got worse than getting knocked off their feet.

It has been a long time since I saw the movie, Rob, so maybe my memories have become colored by comics that later dealt with similar situations. Still, I seem to remember Superman contemplating the destruction, people crying, one woman holding her arm like it's busted. True, that's not a lot of human damage being shown, but it's implied.

#395 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 05:23 AM:

About Dan Simmons's story... So maybe it IS a Fool's Day prank. If so, then it's not a very well built one (*), as was pointed out up-thread.

Simmons set up his own fictional counterpart as an ineffectual straw man against the point that the story seems to make. Had he made the 'author' a bit more articulate, a bit better to counter some of the things said by the Traveller, that would have made the story work better. As things currently stand, this comes off as someone doing a pastiche of Pournelle.

__________

(*) Who am I to criticize an acclaimed author? I am not a storyteller. Nor have I ever played one on TV. But I married one 20 years ago.

#396 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 06:42 AM:

Greg, I'm a bit sceptical about that photo showing a magazine cover laid out in the Nevada desert.

Two reasons: The compass rose and Google title (visible on the large version) should have various copyright notices between them, roughly below the parked car. And, while there's a fence-line around the picture, old enough to show signs on the ground as well as a shadow-line, there's only a shadow of the fence rail/wire. The north edge shows the fence casting a curved shadow, suggesting a rope in a catenary, and has traces of posts, but the east-side shadow is just about dead straight. Looking at the shadow from the vehicle, you would expect to see more.

If it is Google Earth, the imagery probably comes from an aircraft, not a satellite.

Now, if only somebody had bothered to give a location fix. There's not many roads in the area that run almost north-south, and there's been nothing I could find today on Google Earth.

#397 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 07:42 AM:

The Dan Simmons story is a nasty piece of work; claptrap, in the fullest sense of the word. If it is an April's Fools joke, then the man should be ashamed; and the fact that he doesn't reply to the adulatory thread in the forums in a tone of horror would seem to suggest otherwise.

It plays to American Tory notions perfectly: the euros used as fines in the Khalifate, the `peace-loving' Europeans, the complete ignorance of the military prowess of the rest of the world, etc.

Ultimately, it is a nasty bit of parochial Americanism, that just embarrasses the man.

I'm not going to bother going through and pointing every single error he makes, because to do so would be pointless. The story has nothing in common with reality, or the very real problems of Islamic terrorism. After all, what force could subjugate the EU, save, (on a good day) America? The French have the fourth largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, in the world, and they are meant to get over run by a group of raving fools?

No, the story has no connection with reality, or sanity. It is merely the feverish dream of an American who has managed to substitute fear, selfishness, and honur, for faith, hope, and love.

(The comments thread at LGF is really creepy. Especially the part where `JakeWasHere' mentions his desire for a vasectomy. He is then told that it is his patriotic duty to have as many children as possible, in order that they may die in WWIII.)

#398 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 08:03 AM:

Of course the story doesn't hang together perfectly. The version of history you're hearing is coming from an unreliable narrator.

Look, the story posits that a war to restore the caliphate began with the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Don't you think that suggests this hard-bitten traveller and his history-obsessed culture might have a screw loose?

I'll say it again: Take it apart. See how he pushed your buttons.

#399 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 08:37 AM:

Right, the unreliable narrator... Unless the point of a story IS the unreliability of narrators, I think that it's a big cheat for a writer to fall back on that device.

Let's see...

Was H.G.Wells's War of the Worlds really about an alien invasion that takes then-superpower Great Britain down a few pegs? Or is it really the ravings of an opium-wrecked loon?

#400 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 08:48 AM:

Sorry, Serge, I was unclear--the visitor from the future is the "unreliable narrator", not the actual narrator of the story.

As for the unreliable being a cheat, I'll have to refer you to the many great works of fiction which use it. My opinion is that it's one of the hardest tricks to pull off, and I have the greatest respect for those writers who achiieve it.

(I like it, too, and worry that I see it when it doesn't exist.)

#401 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 09:02 AM:

So the debate comes down to: Either the narrator is unreliable, or the author is unreliable. (I mean, we all know right-wingers have a good grasp of logic, cough cough hack...) Either the authorial stand-in knowingly has a weak grasp of logic, or the author unknowingly has a weak grasp of logic, which has mapped into the story.

And since it's a talking-heads story, it's hard to tell. I could see an equal case either way.

I'm slightly leaning towards it being a mindf*ck, an ongoing prank: Simmons only has one comment in the ensuing forum thread, and that's a cryptic one, reinforcing a fine point of the story. No, there's no "ugh, you guys disgust me", but there's no "yay, I'm glad you liked it" either. I don't know much about the guy, though, and certainly don't know his forum habits, so it's not much to reckon from.

#402 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 10:08 AM:

I feel that (a) I must treat the work with respect, and not attempt to second guess it; and (b) that Simmons' other writings don't suggest to me that the April Message is out of character.

Take this quote:

The only obligation any writer has to his or her readers – and I believe this absolutely – is to write to the best of his or her ability and to write as honestly as possible. All the rest, as they say, is gravy. (To the writer as well as the reader.)

That doesn't suggest to me that he is playing us like a piano.

April 2005 Message from Dan

#403 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 10:42 AM:

Has anyone seen this?

Terrorists smuggle two-ton weapon 3000 miles across continent. As the writer says, where was Homeland Security?

#404 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 11:39 AM:

Heh, my above comment had nothing to do with the Dan Simmons story, which I only just finished reading a moment ago.

As for the story, the weird time-traveller story is an old form in the genre. At its best it plays with our ideas of reality and continuity, as in Heinlein's All You Zombies. Lesser stories merely play with our ideas of truth, free will, all that stuff.

Our first reaction -- if it isn't total rejection of the premise, the story, the author and even the short story form itself-- is to accept that what the character says is true, an apocalyptic vision of the future. Our reaction to this vision is to ask ourselves, What is required to make this happen, and what can I do to stop that from happening?

That's the point of the story. Simmons doesn't believe that tommyrot; he'd've put the words into the mouth of the narrator if he believed that, or more honestly just written a blog entry in the manner of LGF.

The storyteller within the story telling us that the future is immutable is only there to set the reader up for the shock of the vision. Even within the story there's nothing to suggest that he's telling the truth. A moment's reflection reveals that if he really believed that, his only point in telling the narrator the story would be sadism.

Unreliable narrators are either beside the point, or the whole of the point. Every author is unreliable, when you get down to it, and every character, narrator or otherwise, is unreliability squared.

#405 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 11:42 AM:

Dave Bell, as I understand it, Google Earth's most highly detailed images come from aircraft photos. Generally speaking, anything at the highest and next highest zoom level is from an aircraft flyover, while lower zoom levels usually come from satellite images.

#406 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 12:10 PM:

I read Simmons's story with increasing dismay. It departs so far from reasonable probability that it is hard to know where to begin. Paula's point about Islam's internal divisions is certainly one starting point (consider the Iraqi Civil War going on right now).

However, given the implication that Islamic terrorists will use weapons of mass destruction without any retaliation from the West because secular, liberal democracies are all wimps, I'd say that Simmons had simply lost the plot (although it could be argued that making the euro the currency of the Islamic superstate would be just as good a sign of having lost it). It isn't plausible that all of us brotherhood-and-sisterhood-of-humanity types would simply throw in the towel and let the horrible Muslims trample all over us.

What is, I suspect, more likely, and what I do fear is a world that is polarised between Christianists and Islamists, in which reason, science, and decency are either marginal or punished.

#407 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 12:14 PM:

Mood-Lightning Flash animation for today:

That's Your Horoscope for Today

#408 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 12:31 PM:

NelC, I'd say there's a pretty strong difference between an unreliable narration from third person omniscient (which, for lack of a better term, I'd call bad writing) and unreliable narration from first person.

Humbert Humbert lying to us about Lolita (or, if you prefer, the unnamed narrator of "The Green Hills of Earth" lying to us about Rhysling) isn't the same as a hack detective writer lying to us about evidence from the third person omniscient.

Whether a novel narrated by the Holy Ghost can be called first person omniscient is left as an exercise.

Fragano, you say, "What is, I suspect, more likely, and what I do fear is a world that is polarised between Christianists and Islamists, in which reason, science, and decency are either marginal or punished."

Me, too--but I think that's the world of Simmons' time traveller.

#409 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 12:43 PM:

I suppose I should say that the Dan Simmons fantasy reminded me of a Bruce Sterling story with a much more realistic envisioning of a "resurgent Caliphate" and a deteriorated West. You can even read it online. It's called We See Things Differently.

It's a little old, and some of its future history has obviously not happened as he predicted, but much of it is still surprisingly vivid. I trot it out periodically at story readings to horrify my friends. I wonder if it horrifies them to the same extent that it does me. I find its anti-hero "Sayyid Qutb" to be an extremely interesting character, and the way the story ends continues to haunt me to this day.

#410 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 12:45 PM:

Back in the late eighties, I spent too much time hanging around my alma mater's SF club.

One of the "fringe members" was a high school kid whose father worked at the university. He had an odd, watchful, suspicious affect, a dork among dweebs. I'll call him Joe Joseph.

As far as we could tell, Joe's one and only interest was The Soviet Threat. He tried to hijack conversations to talk about it. He laid out really deep insightful blurts like "The Soviet Union is socialist, and the Nazis were socialist, so really the Soviets are as bad as the Nazis."

Joe was full of quotable quotes about Soviet expansion: "General ____ said he wants Russian soldiers to be able to wash their boots in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean." "Lenin said that capitalists would sell communism the rope used to hang them." Also lots of familiar, time-tested anecdotes about "hippies," often involving veterans getting spit on.

He was scornful of people who tried to get him to loosen up. Knowing about the threat made him special; people who doubted it were fools and dupes.

He apparently lived for the day that Soviet tanks roared into West Germany, and he just plain couldn't believe it when Gorbachev began loosening things up. "It, it, it's PR propaganda! You'll see!" I wasn't around to hear how he reacted when the Eastern Block countries got disgusted and in the space of a year told the communists to fuck off.

Fast Forward.

In some ways, "Joe" reminds of Simmon's Traveler. Lots of sensational, ominous evidence of The Enemy's intent and methods. Sneering disdain for people who don't buy into his crusade.

#411 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 02:27 PM:

What gets me is Simmons quoting various Islamic sources in support of his (or his story's) position and ignoring others. Spain under the Caliphate, for example, was probably the only place in Europe where Moslems, Christians, and Jews lived together in tolerance, while a look at what Christians were doing to Jews and Moslems at the same time would make a modern-day person ill.

Simmons is free to write whatever he wants, of course, but it strikes me that a story like this, written now, is irresponsible, to say the least.

#412 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 03:22 PM:

I'm pretty sure that the Simmons story is an April Fools' prank. Posted on April 1, and all.

Well for me - and I may be being pretty intolerant here - I think you should take down April Fools' pranks after April 1, or at least mark them as such. You can't go on forever disavowing everything you may have said on an April 1st. It's of limited duration for a reason.

OK, maybe I'm taking that too seriously. As for how he's pushing my buttons - well, it isn't difficult to see and it isn't down to his abilities as a writer. He is pushing my buttons by recycling the work of commentators whom I think have misread the state of the present world and extrapolating it into an unconvincing future - and effectively discounting any possibility of argument by presenting as a fictional fait accompli.

Sure, his narrator may be unreliable, but surely you can only get away with that if you give some hint of it. You can't disavow any narrator you happen to create purely because they are fictional. And apart from the fact that I find his ideas unpleasant, there is no sign that the visitor is lying about anything. (In fact, he is tested pretty effectively for his bona fides at the start of the story.) And remember, his visitor isn't speculating: this is presented as factual information from an inevitable future for Simmons' own character. Unless we believe that he is being visited by a traveller from the future who wants to play a nasty prank on him, I think we have to take the character as reliable. And if the last three words are "April Fools Day", then he needs to hint at that a bit better, too. They could as easily be "Vote Pat Robertson".

So as I said, he's pushing my buttons by presenting a world like ours - so like ours as to have Dan Simmons in it - and offering an image of it distorted to fit the fantasies of demented right-wing ideologues. The fact that he chooses to do this by extrapolating from this picture into a fictional future doesn't change the fact that the content of the story does little except imply a hackneyed and polemical picture of the present.

Of course, he is free to write it, and I'd be happier if I thought he didn't believe it. But I don't have to like the story. And I don't have to think that my not liking it is a demonstration of the author's skill in constructing a plausible fantasy. After all, The Turner Diaries would no doubt push my buttons in the same way.

#413 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 04:30 PM:

What I'm saying is that what the time traveller says is not necessarily reliable. I repeat: His claim that the war started with the assassination of Bobby Kennedy strongly suggests that the future historians are a bit cracked in a conspiratorial way.

Suppose you were in a future that ended up the way the time traveller says. Are you sure your culture would have a rational view of how your situation came about? Or would it tend to "just so" stories and myths like the post-Weimar "stab in the back"?

The time traveller may know all the places and dates from history, but still be completely, utterly wrong in his analysis.

What Stefan says above about Joe Joseph rings true to me. I bet Joe knew fact after fact about the Soviet Union--that don't mean he understood a goddam thing.

Not that I think the story is entirely or simply a prank.

I note from the rest of the site that Simmons' daughter now lives in France. No doubt the future of Europe is of personal concern to him. That may even have inspired the story. And fundamentalism mixed with power is dangerous in any country.

However, I would suggest it's not so much a prank as a Rorschach blot. Those who want a reason for their own private jihadaho against Islam will find it. Those who want to shake their heads at warmonging intolerance will get a neck workout.

Heck, those of us who want nuance, irony, and ambiguity in our fiction might even see that in there. Might be wrong, might not.

Special Bonus Link! Read if you dare!

#414 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 05:10 PM:

adamsj - you beat me to it... I was about to post the Yahoo! news link.

#415 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 05:20 PM:

adamsj: I didn't see a Christianist West in Simmons's story, but you may well be right.

#416 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 05:30 PM:

Fragano, I could also be dead wrong--I just inferred it.

Also, I believe I was mistaken when I said "I note from the rest of the site that Simmons' daughter now lives in France."

#417 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 05:35 PM:

"I didn't see a Christianist West in Simmons's story"

I did :-/ If not outright Christianist, then so anti-Enlightenment/anti-humanist as to make no practical difference.

#418 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 06:10 PM:

Spain under the Caliphate, for example, was probably the only place in Europe where Moslems, Christians, and Jews lived together in tolerance, while a look at what Christians were doing to Jews and Moslems at the same time would make a modern-day person ill.

That may be so but I take the phrasing to be a little strong. By my reading e.g. the articles on Andalusia and on Spain in the current Britannica say otherwise. FREX:

In Africa the Almohad dynasty finally triumphed, and ʿAbd al-Muʾmin (1130–63), successor to Ibn Tūmart, was able to turn his attention to Spain and to undertake the integration of all the Muslim states—the second ṭāʾifas—formed under the shield of the latest internecine wars caused by the Almoravid decline. Of these states, there stood out especially that under Ibn Mardanīsh (1147–72), who, with Christian help, was successful in becoming the master of Valencia, Murcia, and Jaén and in securing Granada and Cordova.

The Almohads assumed the title of caliph, introduced a series of severe religious measures, and sought to strengthen their states through religious unification—i.e., by compelling the Jews and Christians to convert to Islām or to emigrate. emphasis added

Similarly see the words G.K. Chesterton puts into the mouth of Father Brown on the modern misunderstanding of the position given Jews in medieval England. Again from the Britannica

To be sure, some European rulers and societies, particularly during the early Middle Ages, afforded Jews a degree of tolerance and acceptance, and it would be an error to conceive of Jews facing an unchanging and unceasing manifestation of anti-Jewish oppression throughout this period.

But it could be pretty bad indeed hither and yon.

In sum as I read history life for a Jew under Islam wasn't uniformly good and life for a Jew under a Christian monarch wasn't uniformly bad - e.g. the King's Jew. That is a look at what Christians were doing to Jews is stomach turning but no more stomach turning than what Christians were doing to Christians. Muslims to Muslims and so it goes. There is ample precedent of all kinds - there were ever rightous Gentiles and evil.

#419 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 07:05 PM:

Clark E Myers -- Yes, the Caliphate wasn't uniformly good. And sure, some Christian societies "afforded Jews a degree of tolerance." I would still argue, though, that in its good phase the Caliphate in Spain was the most tolerant place in Europe in the Middle Ages. The Muslim rulers treated Jews and Christians as fellow "People of the Book" and respected them accordingly -- though of course they thought of Jesus as only another prophet.

#420 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 07:06 PM:

Does anybody know what happened to Brad Delong's blog?

#421 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 07:24 PM:

J Thomas: You mean the one with Teresa right up top? Right here.

He moved from Movable Type to Typepad, I believe.

#422 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 07:42 PM:

adamsj & protected static: I take your points. Simmons is postulating a Christian (not Christianist) West v. Islam showdown (hence the dhimmi stuff). That's worrying enough without making the West Christianist in the process (in reaction to Islamism?).

#423 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 08:58 PM:

To get just a little bit too picky - I'd argue strongly that the Caliphate in Spain was uniformly bad and that only when fractured and divided and weakened were the Muslim states tolerant.

I'll go on to say that by my lights some conclusions can be drawn from this. That among these conclusions is Lord Acton's famous remark on the nature of power with its implications for forecasting the actions of totalitarian regimes. I'd add that the Caliphate was indeed a totalitarian regime as is the essence of Sharia law today.

To some degree some of the rules of Sharia can lie lightly on the orthodox Jew - whether human hair wig or Hermes scarf headcovering does not seem to chafe. Imagine however the life of a Quaker, a Leveller or a purely hypothetical Jehovah's Witness under the Caliphate or under Sharia law anyplace anytime.

There are certainly tales of a lost golden age on the Iberian peninsula - see e.g. (obs sf) 1632 by Eric Flint with its loose but researched discussion of the lost glories of Andalusia. I could say the same thing about tales of Arcadia (e.g. not SF but fantasy Et in Arcadia Ego - Nicolas Poussin) compared with the reality of Thucydides as noted by Mr. Simmons.

We'll just have to agree to differ on the most tolerant place(s) in Europe in the Middle Ages - but I'll add that Europe is a big place and the Middle Ages a long time. If anybody wants to continue this by all meants email me with a place and time span in Spain, dates for the Middle Ages and boundaries of Europe. SCADians especially invited.

#424 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2006, 10:39 PM:

The time traveller may know all the places and dates from history, but still be completely, utterly wrong in his analysis.

I don't see that the distinction applies. I don't object to the parts where the time traveller gives his opinions as to the origins of his own situation; what I object to is the impression that the facts he reports (reliably, we are told) about his future world are a reasonable (as presented in the story, inevitable) extrapolation from present conditions. I suppose it's a possible world, but it's not one I care to read about - and I think it would be disingenuous of anyone to claim that Simmons picked on *that particular* possible future without intending to imply anything about our own world (or one very like it).

Also, I worry that presenting the current situation in terms of a conflict of civilisations only makes his possible future a little more likely. I'm not advocating censorship, but I am advocating taking responsibility for one's writing, fictional or not. And I'm against using fiction as a device to short-circuit potential criticism of one's political pronouncements.

Heck, those of us who want nuance, irony, and ambiguity in our fiction might even see that in there. Might be wrong, might not.

Oh, I like all of those things in my fiction. But I think you have to earn that response from your reader: there is a difference between using irony and just putting forth opinions you don't believe in. Irony must surely have a point to make. It's a little over-generous, for me, to allow that everything anyone says at any time might be intended ironically and therefore can't be safely engaged with. Fiction can be crude, scaremongering and even disingenuous, as well as sophisticated and ironic. Personally I don't see anything that puts the Simmons story into the latter category.

So perhaps Simmons intended his story as one filled with (or just hinting at) nuance, irony and ambiguity - but if so, then it didn't come across with me. Perhaps it's because I'm an ungenerous reader. But I'm not going to agree that it's because I'm not sophisticated enough.

#425 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 01:42 AM:

To treat his April Message as an ironic work because we feel that it is ludicrous `straight' is to demean the man. I give him the respect not to twist his story because I disagree with it.

Sorry for the rantitude of my first reply to the April Message. Writings which attempt to equate the EU to an Islamic Caliphate do that to me.

That link about Iran, that is just scary.

#426 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 09:24 AM:

Paul... You're pulling my metaphorical leg. Someone really thought that the Highlander was travelling backward and forward in time? Wow. A movie reviewer that has never come across the visual equivalent of that storytelling device...

I really have seen such a review, I promise.

To be fair, I think the problem was not that the reviewer didn't know about flashbacks, but that he (or she - I don't recall) was on unfamiliar territory watching SF. It doesn't help that many of the flashbacks aren't explicitly signposted - no wibbly screen or sepia or whatever - which wouldn't be a problem in a mainstream film, because you know it can't be time travel, but this is sci-fi, right, so time travel could be involved. And the guy in the past looks exactly the same age as the guy in the present...

#427 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 01:51 PM:

Clark Myers -- You're right, I misspoke. I was thinking of a time after the Caliphate, what's called the Golden Age of Spain. (I think. I did a lot of research about this once for a story that didn't work out, but those books are back at the library now.)

But my larger point is that Simmons picked and chose his examples to prove that Muslims are intolerant savages. It may be true, for example, that Mohammed said, "Perish all Jews and Christians," but he certainly did say, "Do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation otherwise than in the most kindly manner -- unless it be such of them as are set on evil doing -- and say... our God and your God is one and the same..."

Writers have a responsibility in what they write, and to engage in Muslim-bashing at a time when people are actually thinking of nuking Iran (and a part of me can't believe I just wrote those words) is deeply unhelpful.

candle -- what you said. Thanks.

#428 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 02:22 PM:

Adamsj, thank you, your link works. The link to Brad's own website still fails.

#429 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 05:10 PM:

Clark Myers -- I think Lisa Goldstein is fairly correct, bearing in mind that tolerance by medieval standards isn't the same as tolerance by our standards.

You mentioned the Almohad dynasty in Spain; but they were puritanical outsiders from North Africa (like the Almoravid dynasty before them) with no link to the previous traditions of (relative) tolerance practiced by local Islamic leaders in Spain. Both the Almoravids and Almohads made things worse for non-Muslims under their rule; they're not really representative of the fractured/balkanized Taifa states they conquered, or of the Ummayad Emirate/Caliphate which came before.

I'd argue that the Islamic state or states in Spain, prior to about 1100, were more tolerant of Jews than just about any contemporary Christian state in Europe[*], and certainly more tolerant of both Jews and Christians than Christian Spain was of Jews and Muslims. Were there any medieval Christian kings who had Jewish ministers?

[*] The one exception might be Sicily after the Normans conquered it in the late 11th Century.

#430 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 08:56 PM:

I think mistaking the narrator of this story for Dan Simmons is akin to mistaking the protagonist (if that's the right word) of a Madonna pop video for Madonna herself, and not the artificial media construct with the same name.

And anyway, even if they are the same person, the character who spills this bile isn't the narrator. It's the guy who tells the story within the story. To read this diatribe as the direct thoughts of Simmons with no other supporting evidence whatsoever is to make a naive error unworthy of the readers of this blog.

Dan Simmons the writer is at two removes from the future history presented, and the narrator is as shocked and disgusted by it as we are. If he comes to believe this tall story by the end, that's only because he's being made to by the author. That's the narrator's job, to aid in the suspension of disbelief necessary to evoke the emotional response needed to make the story work long enough for the reader to reach the end.

And our job as readers is to supply the reaction to that response, after the story is over. This reaction, the "OMG, I don't believe it, I don't want to believe it" reaction, that's what the author's after.

I believe. Maybe this is actually the first stage in an Orson Scott Card-like disintegration, and the next will be writing directly anti-muslim pamphlets or assaulting women wearing headscarves or something. At which point, you can all say, "Tch, told you." But in the meantime, I'd rather give him the benefit of the doubt.

#431 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 08:59 PM:

Mr. Erwin I don't know that we disgree on the facts on the ground. I'm pretty sure we disagee on the inferences to be drawn. Repeating myself from above:
I'd argue strongly that the Caliphate in Spain was uniformly bad and that only when fractured and divided and weakened were the Muslim states tolerant. My position was and is that the Spanish example (Spain taken to embrace the Iberian Peninsula plus or minus modern Portugal) is not an existence proof for a tolerant Caliphate. Certainly not for a necessarily tolerant Caliphate.

Assuming arguendo (and agreeing that it is pretty much consensus reality) that the previous traditions of (relative) tolerance practiced by local Islamic leaders in Spain [emphasis added] were indeed practiced by locals and assuming arguendo that when Both the Almoravids and Almohads made things worse for non-Muslims under their rule; they're not really representative of the fractured/balkanized Taifa states they conquered, or of the Ummayad Emirate/Caliphate which came before.[emphasis added] then by contrast the "fractured/balkanized" previous states must have been both "fractured/balkanized" and more tolerant?

As for the Ummayad rule in Cordoba I'll have to settle for suggesting that Cordoba was only a part of Andalusia and Andalusia only a part of Spain and so suggesting an exception that proves the rule. That is when the country is small then things are different. Cordoba was of course substantially wrecked in the Muslim conquest and for many years a hotbed of seething unrest. Still I quite agree quoting from the Britannica again first:
As a result of his early successes, and probably at his own suggestion, some of his court poets urged Abd al-Rahmān to adopt the title of caliph. He assumed that dignity in 929, shortly after the fall of Bobastro, and chose the honorific title Al-Nāṣir li-Dīn Allāh (“Victor for the Religion of God”). His reasons were, internally, to enhance his prestige and, externally, to counter the Fāṭimid claim to this honour. emphasis added.

Second again from the Britannica: Despite its political instability, scholars have seen the Moorish period as the golden age of Andalusia [I suggest not identifying Andalusia and Spain see above] and I suggest at least the possibility that because of its political instability, scholars have seen the Moorish period as the golden age of Andalusia

So a claim disputed by the Fātimids (who increased in power as time wore on) perhaps? and not what I mean by Caliphate any more than Mugabe is what I point to to define a President Cordoba is here an example of a state but not of the modern country of Spain.

Most specifically taking the topic sentence to which I reacted and which I quoted in my first essay at the subject: Spain under the Caliphate, for example, was probably the only place in Europe where Moslems, Christians, and Jews lived together in tolerance, while a look at what Christians were doing to Jews and Moslems at the same time would make a modern-day person ill.

Recalling Mr. Simmons story I am suggesting that under a Caliphate as postulated by the Time Traveler the totalitarian nature of the state tends to out and that counterexamples, which might be ascribed to hudnah, don't prove tolerance (I emphasize might - quite possibly Abd ar-Rahmān III was himself a time traveler and/or a truly enlightened ruler Plato's philospher king fit to rule Pournelle's Sparta II and all that).

Further that just as some but not all Muslims were tolerant and imposed tolerance around themselves so to we might better say that what some Christians were doing to Jews and Moslems at the same time would make a modern-day person ill. I don't recall the specifics of long ago research so I'll agree you may be right and all Christians were abusing all local Jews and all local Muslims everywhere in Europe between 900 and the millenium year but that's not my memory. I'm pretty sure there were rulers who protected both Jews and Muslims generally and severally and to whom some Jews applied for protection and various rights and charters

As to Europe there are certainly no shining examples of states liberal during the middle ages among the states which have survived to this day [bloody Iceland which may have been an equal opportunity killer perhaps excepted? that may imply something as well]. Under feudalism there were any number of great lords and even kingmakers who were not in fact Kings. I'd have to say let us define our Europe and our states and our period and I'll look. There were a remendous number of states in Europe and relatively free cities.

I'd start looking at Provence at this time as the other side of the frontier from a liberal Muslim influence and later during the 12 century when relatively free cities - not Kings - were trading with the Levant but I really don't know.

I suspect the period prior to the Albigensian Crusade was a period of tolerance but again I really don't know. Speaking of Scandinavian influence I'd look at Rudolf II and Hugh of Provence, Arles and much of what became modern Switzerland but again these may be notorious antisemites for all I really know. Jews were expelled from Provence circa 1515 a few years after being expelled from Christian Spain.

#432 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 10:14 PM:

Meanwhile: knitters with a taste for science geekery--or scientists with a taste for knitting geekery--will be amused to learn that the new issue of knitty.com has a pattern for knitted nautiloids.

#433 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2006, 11:08 PM:

NelC writes: "And anyway, even if they are the same person, the character who spills this bile isn't the narrator. It's the guy who tells the story within the story. To read this diatribe as the direct thoughts of Simmons with no other supporting evidence whatsoever is to make a naive error unworthy of the readers of this blog."

For the record, I'd like to clarify that, when I posted my comments about the Dan Simmons fantasy above, where I said, "He completely fails to sell his narrator as a believable character," I had not made the mistake NelC is writing about. I actually kinda felt a little sympathy for his time traveler character, flawed as he was. His narrator, on the other hand, is a complete waste of pixels— he totally fails to live up to any of the reader's prelibations. WTF is he doing there? Precisely one thing: he's the setup for the twee and heavy-handed joke about the identity of the time traveler. In every other respect, he's a cardboard cut-out of a pathetic, useless, whining, liberal, pansy nancy-boy— complete with the bit about pointing a firearm at someone without realizing it isn't loaded. His narrator doesn't even have the spark necessary to Google any of the words the time traveler throws at him near the end of his visit— like any normal person would. No wonder the wingnuts are in a lather. He confirms their twisted misunderstandings about the personalities of critics of the Administration's war policy. Sigh.

Note: I generally like the published SF novels from Mr. Simmons that I've read, and I still enthusiastically recommend them to my friends. This short story is the only thing I've seen from him that I would consider unsalvageable.

#434 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 12:05 AM:

Noticed something a little strange today: I was recently given a Video iPod, which I really like, but since my current budget does not allow me to download much from iTunes I was looking over what was available at the Internet Archive. Ran into two viewer reviews there that set me back a bit: one for the original version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much" which included

why can,t hollywood crank out any top notch talent they had back in the 1930's-1970's?

can't think of any since that was,nt a self absorbed drug addict.

or maybe there was then too.
you just did'nt see them on Oprah whinning or at the latest leftist protest rally.

The longest review for "The Quiet One" had this little gem:

While The Quiet One's racial politics are unspoken, they certainly do exist. Exactly what these politics are is something the viewer must decide.

But I wonder: does anyone on earth know or care what became of the young boy featured in this "10 Best of 1948" film?

So much for the constancy of the liberal heart.

(As a footnote: I looked him up in The New York Times filmography, and the young boy seems to have grown up into a working actor with at least two produced screenplays.)

What was interesting to me was that no similar snide comments appeared in the reviews of "Salt of the Earth," a film about forty-seven times more "progressive/lefty" than either of the above films could ever dream of being. I was wondering: is this very common for Internet Archive reviews or did I just hit the Daily Double for sour grapes?

(Along similar lines, take a look at the user reviews of "Dangerous Beauty" at imdb.com sometime. I don't know how close the film was to the book that it was based on, but a slew of conservatives showed up to attack it as feminist lies in a manner that brought to mind the old "Commies using Civil Rights talk to stir up everybody" line that was so popular among the powerful in the Deep South in the 60's.)

#435 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 12:40 AM:

And anyway, even if they are the same person, the character who spills this bile isn't the narrator. It's the guy who tells the story within the story. To read this diatribe as the direct thoughts of Simmons with no other supporting evidence whatsoever is to make a naive error unworthy of the readers of this blog.

Well, I haven't seen anyone here doing this. But you don't evade responsibility for what you write either by appealing to the truism that narrators are not authors - after all, it's difficult to see how authors can appear in their own works as anything other than literary characters - or by putting your bile into the mouth of a character other than the narrator: certainly not when that character's views are presented as indisputable fact within the story and thus circumvent any critical response by the narrator or the audience. And you pretty much throw away any sympathy I for one would have had with the "it's only a story" defence when you present a reading list of real-world books on a similar theme at the end.

["you" in this context refers to Dan Simmons, of course.]

I simply don't believe in Dan Simmons' narrator's visitor's universe: I think it is unconvincing as an extrapolation from current conditions; I see no reason to imagine that it is intended as an extrapolation from a different world, or that his facts are intended to be suspect (quite the contrary on both counts, in fact: he is established as a reliable witness after the first visit, and conditions in the narrator's world are similar enough to ours that the narrator can be named Dan and have written at least one of Dan Simmons' books, not to mention Katrina et al); and above all, I object to being presented with a political argument about the present-day world in a form which seems designed to pre-empt any disagreement.

As it happens, I was visited the other day by a fictional time-traveller from the near future of this blog, who informed me that I was right about all this and that everyone who disagreed with me was wrong. So there. I win, I think.

#436 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 01:04 AM:

As it happens, I was visited the other day by a fictional time-traveller from the near future of this blog, who informed me that I was right about all this and that everyone who disagreed with me was wrong. So there. I win, I think.

"The lurkers don't yet support me in email, but they will."

#437 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 01:35 AM:

JK Rowling as a publishing Abramovich?

Candle, you've said everything I was trying to say, only better. And with time travellers. But no ponies. Where are the ponies?

#438 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 06:05 AM:

Clark Myers -- Actually, it looks like we do have some disagreements over facts on the ground, and also about terminology (e.g., "Spain", "Caliphate", "Andulasia", "local"), which are obscuring things. So, some background:

Iberia (I'll use that for the whole penninsula, since the modern Spain/Portugal distinction didn't emerge until later) was invaded and conquered by an Arab-led Berber army in 711; it became a remote province of the Umayyad Caliphate (whose capital was Damascus, and whose name I misspelled earlier). The immediate aftermath was a political disaster for the Christians, since they lost power, but significantly better conditions for the Jews, who were being actively persecuted by the Christians.

Around 750, the Umayyad dynasty was violently overthrown by the Abbasids (cue one of those "invite the enemy faction to dinner and slaughter them all" scenes), who became the new Caliphal dynasty and moved the capital to Baghdad. A surviving Umayyad prince managed to escape to Iberia and set up an independent, breakway state; he and his descendants called themselves Emirs (possibly to avoid overly provoking the Abbasids). This was the first genuine split in the original Caliphate, by the way.

As you mention, the Umayyad Emirs started calling themselves Caliphs in the early 900s. This lasted until just after 1000, when the Islamic state in Iberia (what I meant by "Caliphate") abruptly fell apart. This led to the balkanized "Taifa" states.

(Taifa is usually translated as "party", in the sense of "political faction"; and so one sees serious scholars referring to the "Party Kings" and their "Party Kingdoms" with perfectly straight faces. But I digress...)

The main point is this: Islamic Iberia -- which means basically the southern three-quarters of the penninsula -- was a unified entity from the original conquest (711) until just after 1000; from about 755 onward it was ruled by the Umayyads. The period from 929 till the political collapse is referred to as the "Caliphate", because, well, the rulers were calling themselves Caliphs.

And it's this whole period, plus the century or so afterwards (i.e., roughly 711 to 1100), before the Almoravids and Almohads invaded from Morocco, that was the period of (relative) tolerance. The fact that, as an act of self-aggrandizement, the Umayyad rulers called themselves Caliphs during the 10th Century, is irrelevant.

Granted, Lisa Goldstein's term "Spain under the Caliphate" is (in a picky, technical/historical sense) maybe a little confused; but I think she'd agree that "Iberia under Islamic rule" is basically what she meant. And she's right, in that for most of that period conditions for Jews (and Christians) under Muslim rule in Iberia were better, overall, than conditions for Jews and Muslims under Christian rule elsewhere.

"Andalusia", by the way, can be a confusing term, since it can refer, somewhat loosely, to the Islamic-ruled three-quarters of Iberia (more properly, "al-Andalus", the Arab name), later (shrunken) remnants thereof, or to the modern Spanish provice of Andalucia, which was basically the last region to fall to the Reconquista.

#439 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 06:40 AM:

Concerning the relative tolerance of pre-modern Christian and Islamic states: I think it may be significant that the two predominantly Muslim areas that came under permanent Christian rule in the Middle Ages -- Iberia and Sicily -- lost all their Muslim population within a few centuries, to emigration, deportation, or forced conversions. Yet there are still significant Christian communities in places like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, which were under Islamic rule more or less continuously from the 7th Century.

(There were periods of tolerance in Christian-conquered Spain/Portugal and in Sicily, immediately following the conquests. But these did not, alas, last.)

#440 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 07:40 AM:

But, Candle, the views of the time-traveller aren't presented as indisputable fact by the narrator, only by the time-traveller. Dan Simmons the writer has no more responsibility for what comes out of the time-traveller's mouth than J.K. Rowling has for Voldemort's progressive views. That is to say, the time-traveller is the villain of the piece; if you disagree with him, then he's succeeded as a character.

Look again: there are contradictions in the time-traveller's narrative. He says the future can't be changed. So what is he doing there? If his narrative is true, then all he's done is set up Dan the narrator for 30 or 40 years of misery as everything that's foretold comes to pass. This makes him nothing but a time-travelling troll, intent on nothing but stirring up hatred and misery. And we know how often trolls tell the truth, don't we?

#441 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 09:09 AM:

On the Simmons... thing: the oddest bit in its references to actual history is the notion of Sirhan Sihan's bullet as the first shot in the global jihad. (And why would they have wanted Nixon in office? Never mind).

I can see two ways to read this:

1) As a sign that the "time traveller" is not to be taken entirely seriously.

2) As a sign that Simmons has, well... sources that he doesn't care to directly acknowledge.

On the second point: It turns out that the notion of Sirhan Sirhan as jihaddi martyr has had some circulation among the "jihad watch" crowd. I'm not sure I want to pollute this forum with direct links to this stuff, so those with an interest can paste in the URLs below to two examples: [1] a direct blog post on Little Green Footballs, or [2], a comment on "Dhimmi Watch", in which one "profitsbeard" advances the RFK-death-by-jihad theory for a bit, and then slides off into an oppression fantasy in which Michelangelo's David goes the way of the Bamiyan Buddhas. (Later in the same comment thread, someone points out that Sirhan Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian. "Profitsbeard" is, of course, unfazed).

It's certainly possible that Simmons meant his piece as a deadpan satire of this kind of stuff; however, looks likely to me he was at least referring to it.

So much for textual analysis. As to the content of Simmons's oppression fantasia, I've got only one question: Where the heck are the Chinese?

[1]http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=7078

[2]http://www.jihadwatch.org/dhimmiwatch/archives/004051.php#c56049

#442 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 09:24 AM:

A caveat on the prior post... A little further reading indicates that the "Sirhan first shot" meme actually has mainstream penetration --- specifically, an op-ed piece by one Michael Fischbach, a history professor at a college in Virginia. (Though Fischbach's claim is subtly different; he portrays Sirhan as a mentally unstable "lone wolf" who may have inspired more deliberate terrorism).

Ironically, the only free copy of the whole thing I can find now on line is here, at aljazeerah.info...

#443 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 09:34 AM:

I'm beginning to like this "Sirhan first shot" theory. In fact, we can go further--let's just say that every time an unstable Christian kills a political figure, let's call it jihad and blame it on Islam. Let's start with Dan White and Mark David Chapman.

Anyone else want to play?

#444 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 04:59 PM:

But, Candle, the views of the time-traveller aren't presented as indisputable fact by the narrator, only by the time-traveller.

Yes, I know. I'm not disputing the time-traveller's views, I'm disputing the historical facts he relays about the future (ie. his past or present). These *are* presented by the narrator as indisputable, through the device of having him visit once and pass the test about Katrina etc with flying colours. So even if we think he is talking nonsense about Sirhan Sirhan, in the story we are required to believe that the future he describes is accurate and inevitable. Not only is this not questioned at any point, but it is supported by everything in the story.

Do you see the difference? Dan Simmons has (maybe) allowed us to dispute the origins of this fictional clash of civilisations, but has not allowed us to dispute the inevitability of the clash itself. He has set up a character with knowledge that is inaccessible to us and has presented that knowledge as indisputable. In the story, everything conspires to make his visitor a reliable reporter from an inevitable future. At no point is doubt cast on the accuracy of his reporting.

So we can't argue with his time-traveller, except to say that "I don't think the future will really be like that" - and of course, the time-traveller has been there. Thus the Simmons story lowers the level of the debate to practically zero.

#445 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 07:02 PM:

I have to respectfully disagree, Candle. The very fact that we can't argue with the time-traveller is reason enough not to believe him. And of course the reader can dispute the inevitability of the time-traveller's predictions. You have done so here, very convincingly, as have others elsewhere. You can't do so in the story, it's true, but then you can't argue with Alex in A Clockwork Orange, or with Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Non-interactive fiction, you see.

As I've said before, there's nothing in the story to suggest that the time-traveller is telling the truth. He says that the future is immutable, but he does nothing to prove it. He says that this and that and the other will happen, but there's no proof that it will. The fact that the narrator is taken in means nothing. He's a schmuck, he's only there to help evoke the mood of the piece.

Simmons has set up a character with all the credibility of a wingnut troll, and then hidden the lack of credibility with some clever sleight of hand. Like, who cares what his last three words were? They are so not important.

I think we're in agreement about the vileness of the time-traveller. The only point I want to dispute is the identification of the character with the author. And that it's somehow irresponsible of him to put the words of a wingnut into one of his characters' mouths without waving a big banner saying, "This guy's the baddie. Don't believe him." I don't believe that the time-traveller's views are those of Dan Simmons, and I think there's more than enough clues in the story to support my case.

Simmons hasn't lowered the debate at all, he's widened it to include a lot more people. If he's done it by putting the willies up a lot of liberal backs, well, he's a fiction writer, for goodness' sake. Giving people the willies is what he's supposed to do. You'll be expecting Stephen King to write Road Safety leaflets next.

#446 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 07:59 PM:

Well - and I may be wrong, I admit - it seems to me that the difference is analogous to that between the following three stories (quoted in full):

(1) [a present-day ethnic group] is evil.
(2) "[a present-day ethnic group] is evil," said Beeblebrox.
(3) "[a present-day ethnic group] is evil," said Beeblebrox. And he was right.

(1) is a straightforward statement. If you present it as fiction then you can disown the view, but I think that would be an unacceptable move. After all, Mein Kampf must be narrated by "Adolf Hitler" and not by the author - who doesn't exist on the page - but the real-world Adolf Hitler doesn't thereby escape responsibility for the views the narrator expresses.

(2) is a more complicated case. "Beeblebrox" is a hint that the speaker maybe doesn't come from our reality. There is perhaps therefore some hint that he might be unreliable, or that his views don't apply in our world. But it's a pretty slim escape clause. This is certainly not to be placed in a class with Mein Kampf, but could you render Mein Kampf innocent by putting it all in quotations marks and adding "he said"? Perhaps formally you could - but ethically I don't think so. YMMV, however. This, anyway, seems to be the case the adamsj and NelC have in mind.

But I think the Simmons story is closer to (3). Here you have a possibly unreliable speaker, but his reliability is vouched for by the narrator. So is the narrator unreliable? Maybe. But there is no reason to suspect so. And we can't - or at the very least, we don't - suspend judgement on every narrative on the grounds that the narrator might be unreliable.

The authors of the stories in which Alex and Humbert appear go to great lengths to undermine their narrators and characters. They present opposing views with equal plausibility; and they present unexplained inconsistencies or patterns in the text. You can see this too in American Psycho, which is probably a closer parallel. But even five-year-olds know to do this: they know that an implausible story will automatically be taken as if it were meant to be true - which is why they will often end implausible stories with "and then I woke up". It's a crude way of signalling that the story is not to be taken straight - but it is the same kind of signalling that Nabokov and Burgess and Ellis do. I see nothing in the Simmons story that does that - quite the reverse, in fact.

So you don't cite anything in the writing: your only grounds for thinking that the time-traveller might be unreliable is that you think his story is implausible. Well, so do I: but rather than credit Simmons with taking great pains to present an unreliable character in such a way that there is *no way* within the story of seeing him to be unreliable, I prefer to think that he has simply ballsed it up. Or is trying to get away with something.

One major thing my three stories above have in common is that they aren't very good. For all that, I think (3) is as sophisticated in its structure as anything Simmons is doing in his story. And I would not expect to escape responsibility for the views my narrator validated in it just by adding a skimpy fictional frame. The parallel here is the Turner Diaries - and I'm not saying that such works should be censored, or that you have to read them straight; but I want to suggest that those of us who read them straight are not doing so out of a lack of sophistication. Perhaps that brick through my window was an ironic gesture. I don't think I'm obliged to assume that it was.

So I disagree with you (respectfully, of course). Or do I? Maybe these aren't really my views at all. See how annoying that is?

#447 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 05:27 AM:

Eh, that might be annoying if you put some more effort into it, Candle. As it stands, it's just been tacked onto a carefully reasoned argument that isn't being presented as fiction, and is easy to ignore. You're perfectly within your rights to be annoyed by Simmons' story, if you choose to be.

Perhaps I'm a post-modern child, but I can never regard any narrative as being absolutely true until it's been tested, and even then I can only put it in the practically true category. That is to say, only true for as long as the evidence supports it. And for fiction, I regard anything after the title and author's by-line as being up for grabs in the truth department. Funnily enough, I think it was my second reading of Heinlein's Starship Troopers as a teenager that taught me that.

Of course, another difference between Nabakov and Burgess on the one hand and Simmons on the other, besides the quality of the writing, is that Lolita and A Clockwork Orange are novels and Message from Dan is a short story. And the rules are different for short stories. A short story is all about economy of style and cutting back the verbiage. This story is meant to be disturbing; anything else is superfluous. I would say that if Simmons erred, it seems to be on the side of not signalling the fictional intent enough. Perhaps if he'd published it in a magazine there would have been sufficient cues for people to realise that he is not the time-traveller. Putting it in the blogosphere may have caused people to approach it as an opinion piece.

On the other hand... it's a time-travel story! That's established in the first few paragraphs. How seriously was it supposed to be taken? Not as seriously as we have, I'm sure.

I'll just point out (again) that the narrator of Message from Dan never establishes that the time-traveller is telling the truth about his right-wing view of the world of the 22nd century, so it isn't your category (3). The fact that you persist in this mistake indicates that maybe Simmons isn't such a bad writer after all.

#448 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 08:57 AM:

I'll just point out (again) that the narrator of Message from Dan never establishes that the time-traveller is telling the truth about his right-wing view of the world of the 22nd century, so it isn't your category (3). The fact that you persist in this mistake indicates that maybe Simmons isn't such a bad writer after all.

He does established the Traveller's factual knowledge; see the first visit. I don't know about candle, but my main problem with the story is that the `facts' are so stuffed up that the rest is irrelevant.

To be honest, the `solution' might not be DS's; the problem that is depicted as fact seems to be along the lines of his thoughts. And that problem is ludicrous.


#449 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 09:50 AM:

It's not facts that matter--it's the interpretation of the facts that matter.

It's a fact that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated--it's an interpretation of the facts that was the beginning of the war.

I say that's a crackpot interpretation--strongly hinted at by Simmons' immediately subsequent references to Oliver Stone--which is meant to say to us, "These people in the future are wacko."

I'm not sure--has there been a comment on this thread from someone familiar with Replay? (I'm not.) The specifics of time travelling are lifted from that book--why did people travel in time in it?

#450 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 12:38 PM:

adamsj: the people travelling don't choose to; it simply happens to them. The reason it happens? Hmm, spoiler.

#451 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 02:15 PM:

Yeah, but if I put more effort into it you might be *really* annoyed, and I don't actually want that. It's true that Dan Simmons' narrator never establishes that the time-traveller is telling the truth about his own time, because how could he? Short of getting another time-traveller back to disagree with the first, there is no way of establishing it for sure. What he *does* do is establish that the time-traveller is a reliable reporter with regard to everything that *can* be checked (ie. the 'future' events of 2006). That seems to me to establish our time-traveller (in the fiction) as the very opposite of an unreliable reporter. Er, a reliable one, I guess.

(And it *is* the facts that matter. I disagree that in the future there will be any such thing as "Eurabia", or any war of the sort he describes. Just like a person in 1957 could disagree that Bobby or Jack Kennedy would *ever* be assassinated. Obviously we can't argue with time-travellers from the future on (what would be) matters of public record. That's my problem with the story, in essence.)

So all I want to make clear, to NelC at least, is that no-one is mistaking authors for characters, or naively reading everything fictional as if it were intended as a factual statement. What we seem to disagree on is the extent to which the declaration that a work is fictional absolves the author of responsibility for the views expressed there. Clearly Nabokov - in his short stories too, it is worth noting - gets away with this, and I've tried to explain why. I'm sure you don't need the explanation in any case.

But Simmons, for me, doesn't get away with it. Perhaps, again, I'm being ungenerous, but when a story is 75% the viewpoint of a single character, and when all the other characters (one, in this case) do nothing except argue ineffectively and validate the reliability of the main speaker, and when the author gives no hint within the text that anything the speaker or narrator says is incorrect *within the world of the story* (in which the future may very well be fixed - why not?): well, in that case, I think the fictional frame is at best ill-constructed and at worst disingenuous. And I have enough respect for Dan Simmons to think that it isn't ill-constructed.

You may be a generous reader. I like to think I'm pretty good at the postmodern thing myself. But to insist that every narrator might be unreliable is to implicitly deny that fiction can ever be used to propound political views. Which I think is a mistake in the opposite direction.

#452 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 02:40 PM:

I'd like to wish everyone a happy Information Day!

#453 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 03:41 PM:

When someone invites you to chase the lady, and you spot that the queen card is marked, win a round or two on which little or no money is bet, do you then bet the contents of your wallet? No? Why not? The card sharp has demonstrated his bona fides, after all.

When it's the fate of the world on the table -- or your own future sanity -- do you trust a man just because he's told you the truth once? I don't think so.

I see examples even in this thread of people refering to "Simmons' politics" when they're really refering to the time traveller's politics. Perhaps there's less of a hue-and-cry here than elsewhere, but there's still quite unnecessary confusion of identity.

But if you don't want Simmons' head on a pike for keeping you awake at night with his modern ghost story, then I don't understand what you want him to be responsible for, or what form this responsibility should take. Should he have made the time traveller sound more reasonable or better researched? Should he have doubled the length of the story to patch up the holes in the narrative? Should he just be a better writer? He's not a must-read author for me, but I'm sure he put as much care into this story as he thought necessary.

#454 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 05:06 PM:

You see, by writing "card-sharp" you prove my point by casting doubt on the veracity of that person's story. If I wrote a story in which the narrator went to play cards, and verified for himself with every test that he could think of that the game was genuine, and if no money were demanded from him and there were no apparent motive for the card-player to lie - then even if the narrator lost money it would be unreasonable for you to assume that the other player was a card-sharp. In fact, it would be downright perverse in going against every grain of the story.

So it is natural to read Simmons' story as being in sympathy with the time-traveller's arguments. They are not successfully disputed by the narrator - as I say, to the extent that he engages with them he does nothing but confirm them - and there is no hint from the author that there is anything uncertain about them. The thing I most object to, though, is that the statements of the time traveller about his future time can't be disputed by narrator *or* reader. So he wins the argument by default.

So Simmons' time-traveller wins the debate he is engaged in by a fait accompli. In effect, he is a super-powered Samuel Huntington. This character I find crude, unless he is indeed playing a prank on the narrator (as you insist is possible), in which case he is just wholly psychologically implausible. (After all, why come back? He doesn't stand to gain anything, as people have pointed out.)

So for me, Simmons must take responsibility for one of three things:

1) Writing a crude character / short story.
2) Basing a short story around a main character whose actions are wildly psychologically implausible.
3) Trying to smuggle unpleasant political opinions into the world in the guise of fiction.

I don't much care which of these is the case, and I don't care what Simmons' true opinions are. But the claim that in fact the story is a sophisticated satire seems, as I keep saying, over-generous. It seems to imply that there is no such thing as a bad or a polemical short story, and I don't believe that. Besides, it falls foul of Teresa's rule of thumb on a different thread, that a satire which is indistinguishable (on internal evidence) from the genuine article is to be treated as genuine.

So it isn't just - or even primarily - a matter of disagreeing with the political opinions expressed in the story. As I said in an earlier post, I think, if I find I care about that I will take it up with Samuel Huntington. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. Bad or dishonest writing or argumentation offends me far more.

#455 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2006, 05:14 PM:

I won't ask how you rate my arguments.

Perhaps my sensibilities have been ruined by reading too many SF shorts in my life, but I can't see that Simmons has done anything different from many another SF writer. Yeah, the characterisation may be crude, and even unable to stand up to close scrutiny, but that comes with the territory. Short stories are different to novels; there's no room for character development and precious little for detail. Simmons was working on mood, everything else was subordinate to that.

Good luck getting Simmons to admit that his story is crude and characterisation implausible, though. Good luck getting any writer to say such a thing, short of a retrospective note in a collection published many years after the original.

As to your third item, it's not as though Simmons invented something new and horrible himself. Apparently this stuff has been circulating around the freepers and wingnuts for quite a while, though generally in an even cruder form. And, "smuggling"? It's hardly hidden in a secret compartment. He's exposed it, and to a lot of readers who were previously unaware of its existence. And he exposed it in a such a way that few could be in any doubt that this is a bad, bad thing. Bad things hate the light, y'know.

By the way, I'm guessing that by "main character" you mean the narrator? I'd've said the main character was the time traveller. Seems to me that the narrator isn't often the main character in a narration.

#456 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2006, 05:32 PM:

I did actually mean the time-traveller when I said the "main character", although I'm not sure either of them are especially plausible. And as you say, I don't expect Simmons to admit this. :)

(What I wanted was for it to be admitted that he has some control over what goes in to his story; postmodern theorising goes too far, for me, when it posits the story as entirely independent of the real-world author. Whatever one thinks of it, it's his, and he can be blamed/credited for it. It seems strange it's taken so long for me to put it that way. Sorry.)

As for exposing the stuff - yeah, maybe it's just that I've seen the present-day version of the argument a lot before. All the Huntington stuff was very popular six or seven years ago, and of course got a new lease of life in 2001. I seem to remember that it was all over the Atlantic Monthly, but possibly I was going through a phase of reading something further to the right. I like to read things that disagree with me - as long as they are presented in a form I can argue with.

(Hopefully the fact that I'm still trying to engage with them shows that I value your own arguments, by the way.)

Still, we should probably be closing up this thread now, since everyone else has moved on; and it seems like we've reached a stable point. Now, nobody say anything!

#457 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2006, 05:43 PM:

Celebrate! It's Yuri's Night!

#458 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 02:43 AM:

Hmmm. As pointed out on firedoglake.com, Mr. Simmons' "Message from Dan" now comes up as a screamin' 404.

Gone. Vanished. Pulled. Vamoosed. Buh-bye.

It is an ex-message.

How... interesting.

#459 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 03:06 AM:

Stefan - I found out about Yuri's Night via the message of the day at Days that End in Y. (A very entertaining booze site.) And you?

#460 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 05:10 AM:

I'm quite curious as to what happened to it; did Simmons just tire of the controversy? Change his mind? I'm really quite curious.

#461 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 02:02 PM:

Candle, it depends what the meaning of "his" is. He put the words in the mouth of the time-traveller, so in that sense he owns them. But that doesn't mean he has to agree with them. It rather gets in the way of writing if you have to agree with all your characters. It's even more of an obstruction if you have to engage in debate with everyone who takes exception to something a character of yours says.

Which is my guess as to why he's taken the story down. A tsunami of all sorts of unpleasantness has been directed his way. If he'd published on paper, the tide would have risen far less swiftly, and far less high, if it had happened at all. Perhaps an experienced editor would even have made suggestions to make the author's stance more obvious, or perhaps have persuaded him not to publish at all.

All right, I'll shut up now. Gonna be offline for a few days anyhow. Happy Easter, all. Don't eat too much chocolate.

#462 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 02:05 PM:

Yuri's night was plugged on bOING bOING.

And a bunch of model rocket geek sites.

#463 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 02:21 PM:

NelC: I actually agree entirely with your last post. My problem is only when the suggestion ends up as freeing him from *all* connection with *anything* his characters may say.

But I guess there is a lot of middle ground.

Oh no! If the story's been pulled, no-one will ever be able to make sense of this thread! Although that may have been largely the case already.

#464 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 02:48 PM:

If you'll go to Simmons' home page and click around, you'll see there's a lot of other stuff not available. I suspect it's a bug, not a feature, that the story is 404'd.

#465 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 02:57 PM:

Yuri's Night has also been plugged by LiftPort - a space elevator company based out of Bremerton, WA - they participated in (and sponsored part of) the Yuri's Night party at The Museum of Flight last night.

(And they'll have a table/booth at NorWesCon this weekend...)

#466 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2006, 06:48 PM:

adamsj: it looks like the "news" directory got nuked - every other link I clicked on worked...

#467 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 08:46 AM:

Apparently, he removed one word from the page and held a reader contest to identify it.

forum link

Quote:
...it was indeed the inappropriate "Sincerely" that had been axed just before the server had its convulsions and lost the Message and all other NEWS related items.

#468 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 10:22 AM:

Hmm. I just got a binch of directory listings in the News directory. Kind of interesting, in a sort of weird way.

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