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May 1, 2007

Report on the Current Cultural Status of Our Beloved Genre
Posted by Patrick at 11:22 AM *

The good news: Even unblinking, homunculus-like Republican presidential candidates, asked for their favorite novel, cite works of modern SF!

The bad news: Mitt Romney’s professed “favorite novel” is Battlefield Earth.

Comments on Report on the Current Cultural Status of Our Beloved Genre:
#1 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:45 AM:

There's nothing surprising in a Republican coming out in favor of weapons of mass destruction.

#2 ::: madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:45 AM:

**shudder**

Well, it's not like I was going to vote for Romney anyway, but...eew.

#3 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:49 AM:

You know, for a second I was going to say that I remembered reading that book when I was 15 or 16 and I vaguely remember thinking it was entertaining and funny... then I remembered that I wasn't thinking about "Battlefield Earth," I was thinking about "Mission Earth," which was really not the same book at all.

And I have to stress that my memories of "Mission Earth" are about two decades old.

#4 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:51 AM:

A fan of global snuff stories wants to have his finger on the big red button. Excellent.

#5 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:54 AM:

That figures....

#6 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:55 AM:

I was in high school when I tried to read Battlefield Earth. I finally gave up when Jonnie discovers the reason why he's this magnificent specimen of humanity and not deformed like everyone else is because he never deigned to do "woman's work." (i.e., he was never exposed to the radiation by the river.)

I'm sure the book had more odious things in it. But, for whatever reason, this was the thing that pushed me over the edge.

(As for Mit, like I was ever going to vote for him. I'm still thrilled he's no longer governor of MA.)

#7 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:57 AM:

Ha! You can't make this stuff up. I'm amused that one man in the comment thread says of Romney, "I’m dumbfounded. Mitt Romney was a valedictorian English Major." Well so was I, and since when did that preclude a person from loving genre? Sigh.

However, the internet seems to collect things like this and here is a list of favorite books mentioned by him (mostly on Nightline, I believe):
http://myclob.pbwiki.com/books. He's previously quoted Huck Finn as his favorite book.

In any case, I'm unsuprised. If people want to argue about his religious beliefs, remember that genre has a significant Mormon presence and is generally extremely accepting.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:59 AM:

My favorite memory related to "Battlefield Earth" was after landing in Chicago for the 1982 worldcon. After the shuttle bus left the airport, my buddy and I started wondering how many other people on the bus were also on their way to the con. We wondered until the bus drove by a billboard advertising "Battlefield Earth" and pretty much everybody got up to stare and started making jokes.

Then there was 1984's worldcon in Anaheim, and the infamous inflatable giant mosquito man.

#9 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:08 PM:

Serge @ 8

That sounds like the story about the flight back from Chicago, where the stewardi were surprised by the people who turned down headphones and were obviously following the movie. (It was Star Wars.)

#10 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:14 PM:

PJ Evans@9:

There's no better way to watch Star Wars than with the sound off.

#11 ::: Christopher Turkel ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:17 PM:

_oh_my_god_

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:23 PM:

P J @ 9... Heheheh... Speaking of in-flight movies... I once had a chat with an SF writer who told of her experience watching 1978's Superman while on some strong cold (or flu?) medication. That made her watching the Kryptonians falling to their death a very... ah... interesting experience.

#13 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:24 PM:

At least he didn't pick the Left Behind series....

#14 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:25 PM:

HJohn Scalzi @ 10... I once took my super8 condensed version of Star Wars and replaced its soundtrack with the sped-up opening credit's music from 101 Dalmatians. I'm not saying that was an improvement.

#15 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:40 PM:

Well, then there's that other potential candidate who has actually written speculative fiction, and I'm not talking about political platforms.

#16 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:52 PM:

Christopher @3 -- I also attempted to read Mission Earth (a series of ten books, actually) some twenty+ years ago (one of my best friends in school had won a set at a local book fair). As a thirteen-year-old, I know I enjoyed the early books (because they had lots of sex and crude humor), while likely missing most of the underlying themes. But by book five or so, even I hit a wall when Hubbard ran with the idea that the "problem" with lesbians is that they'd never been with a man, and that the "cure" for them involved raping them. Never made it any further in the series.

I suspect that if either of us were to try to read them again, they'd be a lot less readable.

#18 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:57 PM:

I'm going to cut against the grain here and defend Romney. Dislike Mitt for his politics, sure, but this man is not stupid. You don't rescue the Mass. state budget or the Olympics by being a dummy. He is arguably one of the smartest in the field, both Left and Right. And while I have never read Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" can we at least take small pleasure in the fact that a Presidential candidate is even reading? In our genre no less? What SF or F novels have Guliani or Obama read lately? Clinton? McCain? Are any of them even reading anything besides polls and political rags and press reports and other campaign-related stuff?

Of all the things to pick on Romney for, this seems mighty petty and pointless.

There. I said it. You may all commence with the bombardment of rotten tomatoes.

#19 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 12:58 PM:

#16 Adam -- er... yes. I actually only read the first book, and given your description of book 5 I don't feel inclined to revisit it.

#20 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:06 PM:

#15 - Speaking of candidates who write speculative fiction, what about the former President who wrote historical fiction. You can even read an excerpt!

#21 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:06 PM:

...cite works of modern SF!

Well, for some values of "modern", maybe.

a) It's 27 years old, a full generation old now.
b) Stylistically, it wasn't exactly "modern" the year it was published. Perhaps it's more accurately labelled "modern" by way of contrast with Verne? with E.E. Smith?

I mean, I looked inside it when it came out, and it certainly felt "pre-Campbellian"....

#22 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:06 PM:

BRT @18, why should I be pleased that a presidential candidate is reading SF? What does that have to do with his suitability for office? Isn't this just an SF fan's version of the more common voter who favors the candidate he imagine he'd like to have a beer with?

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:12 PM:

It's the last paragraph of that article that has my favorite bits.

"I'm not in favor of [Hubbard's] religion by any means" Romney says. Yeah, an absurd faith whose scriptures read like bad pulp SF, who could take that seriously?

And "Asked about his favorite book, Mr. Romney cited the Bible." Really? The Bible? Not the Book of Mormon, or the Pearl of Great Price? The journalist really flubbed that one.

#24 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:14 PM:

I dunno - I kind of get suspicious when a presidential candidate with reasonably serious authenticity problems announces how much he loves [one of the central works of a psuedo-religion with a bunch of extremely rich, extremely stupid, extremely politically active movie-star adherents] that perhaps genre is not his main concern.

#25 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:15 PM:

I wonder how Mitt enjoyed the movie adaptation.

@BRT: I cannot take any joy in the fact that any human being would cite Battlefield Earth as a favorite book. SF as a genre is diminished by Battlefield Earth's inclusion in it.

#26 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:16 PM:

Avram, given the fact that SF still gets labeled as a "ghetto" genre, I am always pleased when anyone reads SF or F; whether they themselves identify as a genre fan or not. Romney's candor on this small question is also notable for the fact that it does not appear to be a scripted answer. He could have easily named a Heinlein book or an Ayn Rand book to appeal to his con and neo-con base. But Hubbard? That kooky Scientolography(mutter) guy? What aspiring con candidate admits to reading him??

I also suspect that had someone like Obama said, "I liked Battlefield Earth!", none of us would be having this conversation right now.

Again, of all the things to pick on Romney for...

#27 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:18 PM:

I'm not surprised that he didn't mention a Holy Book; mention the BoM, and he reminds the loony evangelicals whose votes he relies on that he's a Scary Mor-Mon. Mention the Bible, and the LDS voters wonder why he didn't pick the BoM.

But I am shocked he didn't pick or Ender's Game or any of the Alvin Maker series.

#28 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:25 PM:

He should have named Wyrms. For creepy SF transformations of Mormon theology, that takes the cake - but you have to know at least a little Mormon theology to recognize it.

#29 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:28 PM:

#26:I also suspect that had someone like Obama said, "I liked Battlefield Earth!", none of us would be having this conversation right now.

No, we wouldn't. Instead, we'd be having the conversation about how we're all extremely disappointed in Barack Obama. Then we'd start picking on the other books he claims to like.

As a rule, I express disappointment in anyone who claims to like Battlefield Earth. Maybe it's not the worst book in the genre, but, IMHO, it's down there somewhere.

I think Patrick's title for the blog post has it about right. Nobody is saying that this is a reason not to vote for Romney. (I mean, there are so many other better reasons.) This is just a sign of the penetration written SF has (or hasn't) into contemporary culture.

#30 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Avram #23:

And "Asked about his favorite book, Mr. Romney cited the Bible." Really? The Bible? Not the Book of Mormon, or the Pearl of Great Price? The journalist really flubbed that one.

It's a legitimate answer for a Mormon. As far as I know the Mormons don't believe the Book of Mormon replaces the Bible, it simply extends it.

Adam #25:

SF as a genre is diminished by Battlefield Earth's inclusion in it.

I'll disagree with this. I don't think it's possible for a genre to be diminished by any single work. Author was neither the first nor the last author to tell that kind of story. I don't really see how the book affects the SF genre at all, to be honest -- Heinlein's later books do far more damage, in my opinion, because he was a much better author and his books were genuinely fun to read (up to a point at any rate).

#31 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:33 PM:

I think Battlefield Earth gets a lot more bad press than it deserves. I mean, sure, the story's totally stupid and the main character's - well, all of the characters' - actions are ethically suspect. And the characters are flat stereotypes and bad cliches. And the plot follows absurd tangents that feel like part of a totally different (but equally cheesy) book. But in the end, despite all of these flaws, I read it to the last page and found it amusing at many stages.

But, yeah, picking it as your favourite book is pretty weird.

#32 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:37 PM:

I also suspect that had someone like Obama said, "I liked Battlefield Earth!", none of us would be having this conversation right now.

Of course we would be. In fact, we'd probably having a much more serious conversation about our extreme disappointment that he'd say something stupid like that. Battlefield Earth is a pretty bad book. Someone who cites it as their favorite novel is revealing a great deal about their tastes and attitudes.

#33 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:38 PM:

[a former president has written an historical novel]

While I yield to few in my admiration for Jimmy Carter, I have read his novel and it is unfortunately very bad. The research and setting are very interesting, but essentially it reads more like notes for a novel than a novel itself -- the characters are very dull and the writing clunky. Carter says he began writing books because he found himself broke after leaving office due to his blind trust being mismanaged -- I can recommend Turning Point, his autobiographical story of his first state senate campaign in 1962.

The novel Dragon Fire by William Cohen, SecDef under Clinton in his second term, is also very bad. It is a present-day thriller where several individually-plausible threats to US interests unite in a single conspiracy, which is eventually foiled personally by the US SecDef and a beautiful Mossad assassin. Again, miserable characterization and clunky writing, without Carter's advantage of a plausible story. The main interest is whether the figure of a waffley US president manipulated by his National Security Advisor owes anything to Cohen's personal experience.

#34 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:43 PM:

BRT, #26: "I also suspect that had someone like Obama said, 'I liked Battlefield Earth!', none of us would be having this conversation right now."

Thank you for the flat-out accusation of hypocrisy. In fact, I think if Obama had announced his favorite novel was Battlefield Earth, I would have posted in boggled astonishment even more quickly.

Your earlier comment, #18, is in equal parts self-flattery ("I'm going to cut against the grain here"), rashness (lengthily insisting that Romney isn't stupid, when in fact nobody had said he was), and pre-emptive self-pity ("You may all commence with the bombardment of rotten tomatoes"). Avram asked the right question, which you responded to with a non-answer: why should anyone be pleased that someone read an SF novel, no matter how craptastic? The Turner Diaries is an SF novel; it's also a manifesto for race hatred. If someone tells me it's their favorite book, I'm going to back away from them with great speed, not pat them on the head and give them a gold star for reading a novel. Conservatives like Romney make a lot of noise about how we need to stop being embarrassed about having values and making moral judgements. As it happens, I've never had a problem making moral judgements, and one of mine is that any grown-up who considers a piece of sadistic balderdash like Battlefield Earth their favorite book has got something seriously wrong with them.

That said, the point of the original post wasn't "picking on Romney," not that we at Making Light have anything against "picking on" that particular empty suit. The point of the original post was that, while in some ways the world of 2007 fulfills our subculture's longtime dream of a world in which reading SF is commonplace, that fulfillment is not without its amusing ironies. I was "picking on" myself and several generations of earnest SF fandom as much as I was picking on the preternaturally nerveless, all-things-to-all voters Gov. Romney.

#35 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:44 PM:

Torie @ 7

I'm amused that one man in the comment thread says of Romney, "I’m dumbfounded. Mitt Romney was a valedictorian English Major." Well so was I, and since when did that preclude a person from loving genre? Sigh.

I haven't read that comment thread, but I would have taken the "amazement" to be that someone with that solid a grounding in classic literature (assuming it was a decent English department, which I'm sure not all are) would choose such a lousy book as his favorite because it's a lousy book, not because it's a genre book. My English major didn't stop me from reading genre books either, but it certainly gave me a much better stance for realizing how much of what I'd read was schlock and could be safely avoided in favor of better works.

(It also taught me how to stop reading books I didn't really like. When I had three days left to finish a Trollope behemoth, spending my free time slogging through a book I'd started reading but wasn't really engaged by seemed like a much worse idea than it once did.)

#36 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:48 PM:

The trouble is that not it was a book he remembers reading, and presumably enjoyed. It's that he classes it as his favourite novel.

I'm not sure I could pick a favourite novel: I've read so many. But there are relatively few books that I've re-read. And The Lord of the Rings almost seems like a too easy answer.

But, based on my experience of the particular author's works, I think this does reveal a certain lack of judgement.

#37 ::: Nina Katarina ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:50 PM:

Newt Gingrich wrote (or co-wrote, or paid somebody to ghost) some SF, too, and some say he's running.

#38 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:50 PM:

(Attentive readers will note that I did not write that anyone who enjoys Battlefield Earth has something wrong with them. Inattentive nitwits will of course quickly jump to the opposite conclusion. Be the former.)

(I could spend all day in this comment thread discussing lousy novels I nonetheless enjoy. Judging from the responses of many readers, Battlefield Earth clearly has merits that keep some readers reading even when they're entirely aware of the full depth of its echoing badness. Art is like that. Sometimes the unkillable merits of otherwise terrible work are a lot more interesting to discuss than the several perfections of the best.)

#39 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:56 PM:

Hi Patrick,

(#34)

The Turner Diaries is an SF novel;

...

It is?

I've never read it, but everything I heard of it made it sound like it was aiming for the "thriller" genre, sort of a Tom Clancy with white linen outerwear kind of thing. I never thought of Clancy as SF.

#40 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:58 PM:

I'm seeing a a specious argument here:

That somehow admitting you liked a novel which is considered "bad" also indicates a serious flaw in your mentality, ideology, character, etc. Given this logic, does liking "bad" movies also indicate a serious defect? All of us, I think, have enjoyed some sort of media product, be it a book or a movie or an album, which the rest of the universe considers "terrible". This doesn't automatically mean that we're "terrible" people. Besides, one man's "bad" fiction is another man's art. We're dealing in the realm of taste, which is purely subjective, and I don't think it's fair to ding a person on taste alone.

And I won't even address the couple of pot shots taken at the LDS church. I am surprised to see that kind of commentary here; although I must admit I am a "new" reader to Making Light. Maybe this kind of stuff is de rigeur?

#41 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Newt Gingrich has co-written a fair amount of SF, primarily alternate-history adventure. Gingrich was also the dinner speaker at the 1991 Nebula Awards ceremony in Atlanta, on which occasion I met the gentleman.

I'm not sure who Steve Buchheit is referring to in #15, though I imagine I'll commit a facepalm when I'm finally told. Certainly there have been other politicians who read SF. Ronald Reagan was fond of Edgar Rice Burrough's "John Carter of Mars" series. London mayor Ken Livingston has frequently cited Ursula K. Le Guin as a formative political influence. BRT's suppositions in #18 to the contrary, I actually suspect most of the candidates he names have read at least some SF, along with a reasonable scattering of other popular and literary fiction. In my experience of them, successful politicians are actually a little more likely than average to be consumers of fiction, because successful politicians are highly attuned machines for divining the crosscurrents of human social life, which is of course one of the central subjects of most fiction in any genre.

#42 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:04 PM:

PNH #34: "The Turner Diaries is an SF novel."

I'd classify it as fantasy, masturbatory variety. (And, yes, I have read it.)

#43 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:05 PM:

#40, meet #38. Better luck next time.

#44 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:07 PM:

#40 BRT:

I'm seeing a a specious argument here:

That somehow admitting you liked a novel which is considered "bad" also indicates a serious flaw in your mentality, ideology, character, etc.

I don't think the objection is to Romney "liking" the novel. I think the alarm is that Romney has declared it the bestest novel ever in the history of all space and time at quantum levels of brilliant.

At least, that's how I describe all my favorite things.

For example: my favorite movie is "A Boy and His Dog" -- which probably puts me in danger of Harlan Ellison tracking me down and gutting me like a fish, among other things, but compare me saying that to me saying that my favorite movie was a snuff film... not that I'm actually comparing Battlefield Earth to a snuff film, I'm just saying that yes, what you hold up as the best example of something in terms of art or entertainment can say something about you.


#45 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:08 PM:

As its Wikipedia entry notes, The Turner Diaries is a novel about "a future violent racist revolutionary struggle in the United States that escalates into global genocide, leading to the extermination of all people who are not white."

This is SF. It may also be a thriller and it's certainly a subcategory of fantasy. Genres are tags, not containers.

#46 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Patrick (#34),

I outlined my main beef in post #40, and if I seem ruffled over this entire thread, it's only because our entire political discourse in this country has sunk to this level: we attack candidates not on their policies or actions in office, but rather we attack them from irrelevant side avenues which have nothing to do with anything important. Does anyone remember all the pointless flak Kerry got over his windsurfing? Or who he is married to? I see little difference between those kinds of pointless jabs, and a jab at Romney for liking a bad SF novel.

Again, of all the things to smack a candidate around for.

And yes, you implied Romney was stupid. Or have I misunderstood your use of the words, "unblinking, homunculus-like Republican presidential candidates"??

#47 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:15 PM:

"And I won't even address the couple of pot shots taken at the LDS church. I am surprised to see that kind of commentary here; although I must admit I am a 'new' reader to Making Light. Maybe this kind of stuff is de rigeur?"

We like Mormons fine around here. Why, some of them are practically members of the family.

Your method of "not addressing" a subject is interesting, however. On your planet, is "I won't address this" customarily followed by several lines of, you know, addressing it? Culminating in an insinuation? Interesting.

Maybe this is because you're a "new" reader, as opposed to a new reader. Clearly "new" is in this sense a modern slang term, requiring quotation marks, and meaning something other than the usual connotations for "new." Such as "from Betelgeuse." Making Light welcomes its readers from all corners of the civilized galaxy.

#48 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:17 PM:

"Unblinking, homunculus-like" means "stupid"? Clearly we have much to learn from the inhabitants of faraway Betelgeuse!

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:20 PM:

PNH #45: I take your point.

#50 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:24 PM:

BRT @ 44

You seem to be missing the point here. It's that Romney is saying BF is *his favorite novel*, and what that tells us about *him*. If he's read a lot of SF - and I don't know if he has - then it say a great deal about him, more than if it's the only SF novel he's ever read.

Personally, I'd hope he'd read more than just supermarket-level fiction. Hand him some books that have won Hugos, and see what happens.

#51 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:25 PM:

Reagrding #44 (Christopher),

Yes, perhaps, a man or woman who obsessively reads one particularly narrow kind of fiction (like vampire books?) might be saying something pretty big about who they are on the inside. The vampire-obsessed (for example) have become their own sub-culture within F/SF, to such an extent that this sub-culture has split off and become its own entity in the larger metaculture.

But we don't know if Romney is a a Hubbard fanatic. We only know he said he read and liked 'Battlefield Earth' more than any other fiction book that came to his mind at the time the question was asked.

Me? If you popped that question at me five times in a row, in different weeks, you'd get five different answers, depending on my mood, what I happened to be reading (or re-reading) that particular week, and so on and so forth.

I'm currently re-reading the Thomas Covenant novels, prior to embarking on Donaldson's newest (and last?) Covenant books. I first read them as a teen and this is my fourth go-through on the First and Second Chronicles. Heaven help me if someone starts making judgments about me because I find this series endlessly engaging. The main character in these series is a rapist and a coward! What does that say about me, the avid Covenant fan?

Absolutely f***ing nothing.

#52 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:29 PM:

I was curious about our Betelgeusian friend's assertion that Romney 'rescued' the MA state budget. I certainly didn't remember that, so I looked it up. It turns out: not so much.

PS - Everyone knows a homunculus has Int 10, which is average.

#53 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Isn't Battlefield Earth the novel where the heroes find an ancient-but-still-operable VTOL fighter and use it to overthrow the ruling alien race? If it was I tried very hard to forget it when I got to that point.

#54 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:31 PM:

"our entire political discourse in this country has sunk to this level"

First, mocking the personal quirks of political opponents is hardly something to which American political life has recently "sunk to."

Second, in a world in which John Edwards' haircut leads newscasts, the amused observation of a blogger about Mitt Romney's crap taste in SF is hardly the moral crisis you're making it out to be.

Third, if literature matters, morals matter, and values matter, as conservatives like Mitt Romney repeatedly declare, it's entirely legitimate to examine their preferences with an eye to what it tells us about their inner selves. The idea that matters of "taste" are "purely subjective" sounds an awful like one of those everything-is-relative bromides that right-wingers are always discerning in the rest of the culture.

Taste is complicated. Hitler liked Wagner; that doesn't mean that liking Wagner makes you a Nazi. I like Pound. I also like Georgette Heyer...and Ken MacLeod. As Samuel R. Delany once wrote, "The royalist Balzac was Marx's favorite novelist--and Heinlein is one of mine." None of which means we can't possibly consider an individual's declared "favorite novel" to tell us something about their inner life. To regard such information as inadmissable evidence seems to me to turn one's back on the entire modern project of trying to think intelligently about human affairs.

What you sound like, in your final paragraph of #51--about your fondness for the Covenant books--is defensive. "What does that say about me, the avid Covenant fan?" Oh my gosh, someone might have an opinion about you! Good grief. Enjoy the books. Deal with the opinions. Are you so sure they'd be negative?

#55 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Patrick, never have I ever heard the words "homonculus" or "homoncular" used to refer to another human being, and have it not mean that the person was:

a) stupid
b) unthinking
c) simple
d) small
e) a combination thereof

Sue me if the word's use in our popular lexicon does not adhere strictly to the dictionary definition.

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:34 PM:

Timeout?

#57 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:40 PM:

#33 - I never said it was any good...

#35 - I like that interpretation.

If liking bad things makes one ineligible for public office, I think most of us are screwed. Once the press found out about my affinity for the weekly Saturday Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie, my campaign would be in ruin! All those evenings of watching Manticore (featuring Chakotay as a military commander in Iraq who has to fight an enormous manticore summoned by a "Persian" enemy! The message here is clearly that like terrorists, mythical beasts hate freedom), Gryphon (exactly the same plot except "medieval"), Disaster Zone: Volcano In New York (evil hippies who want to harness geothermal energy tap into a hidden volcano! With Michael Ironside!), or Mansquito (which I sadly did not get to see, and thus cannot adequately summarize).

#58 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:41 PM:

I am going to take some of that timeout to marvel at the lovely, succinctly expressed truth in Patrick's parenthetical statement:

Sometimes the unkillable merits of otherwise terrible work are a lot more interesting to discuss than the several perfections of the best.

And sometimes the best stuff is in the parentheses, have you noticed?

#59 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Patrick, if you say you're perfectly fine getting down in the mud and slinging along with everyone else, then be my guest. If your argument in favor of mud-slinging essentially boils down to, "Hey, everyone else is already doing it and has done it for years!", then be my guest. I find it disappointing, that is all.

And yes, I would be quite defensive if anyone started making judgments about me: as a person, as a husband, as a father, as a human being, based purely on the kinds of fiction I choose to consume. Or the movies I watch. Or the music I listen to.

There is an old saying, about not judging the book by its cover. And I believe that saying applies here. This whole thread runneth over with judgment, and I think this is just crap, because nobody here (even you) would appreciate someone else wagging their finger in your face or staring down their nose at you, based on the music or the movies or the books you enjoy. Especially if the assumptions they made were wrongheaded or just flat-out false.

#60 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:43 PM:

Perhaps we should simply mail Mr. Romney books.

I have extra copies of All Hallows Eve and The Greater Trumps that I think I'm willing to part with.

#61 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:46 PM:

#56: ys, tht wld sm t b n rdr, spclly snc hv sd ll prtty mch cn sy n th sbjct. bvsly Ptrck s nnyd, bt thn nbdy vr sd gttng cmmnts n yr blg ws gng t b nnync-fr.

#57: LL!!!!!!! Rmnd m n n pn thrd t dscss ll th trrbl mvs hv drd vr th yrs. "Bg Trbl n Lttl Chn" mng thm. LL!!!!!!!

#62 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Um, Cohen's novel sounds like a Mary Sue. Not that there's anything strange about that; I suspect it's the easiest kind of first story there is (haing committed well-and-truly unpublished marysue myself, and no, you *don't* get to read it). As long as you-the-author don't do all the rest that way too.

#63 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:50 PM:

BRT @ 59

And yes, I would be quite defensive if anyone started making judgments about me: as a person, as a husband, as a father, as a human being, based purely on the kinds of fiction I choose to consume. Or the movies I watch. Or the music I listen to.

And yet many of the social networking and dating sites ask users to name their favourite movies, books, and TV shows in their profiles. Why do you suppose this is?

Me, I'd always assumed that it was so that I could avoid finding myself blinking across a café table at someone whose formative literary experience was Atlas Shrugged or any of the Gor novels, trying to find something to say about the relative merits of Armageddon and fervently hoping that my cell phone might ring with an excuse to pay my bill and leave, conveniently forgetting to get the other person's contact info.

#64 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:51 PM:

BTW Ptrck, dd y mk yr dntst ppntmnt?

;^]

#65 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:53 PM:

#59:And yes, I would be quite defensive if anyone started making judgments about me: as a person, as a husband, as a father, as a human being, based purely on the kinds of fiction I choose to consume. Or the movies I watch. Or the music I listen to.

Yes, that's clear to see. I don't recall anyone judging Romney based purely on him choosing Battlefield Earth as his favorite book though. People have mostly expressed disappointment in his choice. I will also be pedantic and point out that expressing "X is my favorite book" is not the same thing as "I choose to read books of genre Y." So, you are taking offense to something no one here has done. (Making Light is hardly a forum where people get marked down for reading SF in general.)

My question is, though, are you ready to retract:
I also suspect that had someone like Obama said, "I liked Battlefield Earth!", none of us would be having this conversation right now.

#66 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:54 PM:

Me, I'd always assumed that it was so that I could avoid finding myself blinking across a café table at someone whose formative literary experience was Atlas Shrugged or any of the Gor novels, trying to find something to say about the relative merits of Armageddon and fervently hoping that my cell phone might ring with an excuse to pay my bill and leave, conveniently forgetting to get the other person's contact info.

Now be fair. Would someone whose formative literary experience was Atlas Shrugged really be inclined to bring up the relative merits of Armageddon? ;)

#67 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:54 PM:

Balzac may perfectly well have been royalist, but I don't think his novels are. (Not that I have read more than a fraction of them, and I probably had selection bias. But still.)

I don't know that the pleasures of being a SF fan while it's a despised (and yet remarkably successful) genre would survive having it become truly mainstream. Even if one has absolutely no tinge of rarity-snobbery, there are... numerical... game-theoretical... practical advantages to belonging to a group significantly smaller than, though distributed through, the population. We know more about fellow SF readers now than we would know if nearly everyone read SF.

There's a Dandelion-13 argument in here that I can't elucidate.

#68 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:55 PM:

#41 Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Newt Gingrich was whom I was refering to. I didn't mean to make it a cryptic remark given the fanfair his books received (even my Uncle peddled them to me). Looking back I was needlessly coy. Sorry about that.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 02:57 PM:

BRT @ 61... Thanks. By the way, this thread reminds me that I haven't watched my DVD of At The Earth's Core in months. Then again, my wife has made it quite clear what she thinks of that movie. I don't get it. It has so many things going for it. Not just Doug McClure as the hero, but Peter Cushing as a scientist who uses his suspenders and his umbrella to kill a giant monster. What more could one ask for?

#70 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:00 PM:

Torie: As well as what you saw, I noticed in Manticore that the troops were overworked, stetched thin, had no back-up and had substandard equipment, so came away with a slightly different message. They didn't have specialised mythological-monster-fighting-equipment* but no one at the Department of Defence could have expected the middle east to have a high level of mythological beings.

* or did they?

#71 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:00 PM:

Christopher B. Wright @ 66,

Truth be told, probably not. I was simply trying to think of favourite books that tell me that someone probably sees the world very differently from the way in which I see it (sufficiently so that the deep ideoligical differences are likely to preclude a meaningful relationship), and I blanked on movies that send the same message, so chose the worst movie I could think of that I'd actually seen.

#72 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:14 PM:

And yes, I would be quite defensive if anyone started making judgments about me: as a person, as a husband, as a father, as a human being, based purely on the kinds of fiction I choose to consume. Or the movies I watch. Or the music I listen to.

What a sheltered life you must have led, you lucky dog, you.

#73 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:20 PM:

#63 (Jennie),

I think you will find as many misses as you will hits with that sort of thing; which is why I think social/dating web sites are problematic because until you really know the person, you can't really know the person. You know? ;^)

Case in point: I am acquainted with a guy right now who is as much of a Larry Niven fan as I am, and yet we seldom get along very well and are always butting heads on all kinds of issues. If all you knew about us was that we liked Niven with equal intensity, you might make the (wrong) assumption that we'd be good buddies.

#65 (JC),

Patrick and others have stated that they'd be equally dismayed if someone like Obama claimed BE as their favorite book, but in the limited time I have been reading Making Light I have yet to see where a major Dem/lib politician gets taken apart with the same fervor as a Rep/con politician. As someone who has voted Ind/Dem most of his life, the thing I dislike most about our current form of American political "debate" is how everybody is always tearing apart the other side, and conveniently ignoring or overlooking the exact same sins being committed by their particular party or candidate(s).

Maybe I am making much ado about nothing. I just thought the original tongue-in-cheek post, and its follow-on, "Yeah, what a loser!" commentary deserved some kind of rebuttal; not because I think anyone here will magically change their mind about Mitt, but because I think we as SF fans should know better.

#74 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:25 PM:

Richard, pardon me. I did not intend to state that no one has ever judged me based on these things. Re-reading my post, I can see how I gave that impression. I should have said, "I get very defensive when...." I think I didn't use that here because nobody here (yet) has gotten on my case for, say, being a STEN fan.

;^)

#75 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:28 PM:

It's ironic to hear Patrick chided for "smacking somebody around for liking a bad novel" — to my mind, Patrick is one of the most vehemently* outspoken opponents of the (all-too-)common "[Creative work X] sucks, and anyone who likes it is an idiot!" pile-on.

*So vehement that at times I've seen him jump boots-first onto a discussion that, to my eye, didn't seem to be in danger of going down that path. But if anything, that only emphasizes the irony of the current criticism.

#76 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:29 PM:

If someone hacked into eHarmony's programming and reset the code to result in incompatible, rather than compatible, matchups...

...I suspect there'd be a lot of people meeting, over coffee, and having the sort of conversation BRT and Patrick are having.

#77 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:31 PM:

BRT, @ 73, the book thing is more a negative filter than a positive one. It's not a given that I'll like everyone who likes the same books I do. I like Jane Austen, but some of the other Austen afficonados of my acquaintance drive me right starkers. Shared tastes don't mean sympathy. However, just as an area of overlap indicates that we might have something to talk about, a complete divergence is a good indication that we'll be at sea, conversationally. My experience has been that I don't get on well enough to be getting on with 1) people who don't read, 2) people whose idea of a good read consists of not one book I can stomach for more than a page, and 3) people whose taste in literature points at vast ideological gulfs between them and me.

In my dating adventures, avoiding people on account of their love for Ayn Rand has been at least as reliable a filtering device as political affiliation and sensibilities, religion and religiosity, and ability to write and punctuate clearly, correctly, and coherently.

(This is not to say I date only people who agree with me. That would be boring. I just don't see the point in dating with people whose views I find idiotic. Life's too short.)

#78 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:32 PM:

#70 - Well, they did refer to the manticore as a "weapon of mass destruction." I thought they were expecting to find that in Iraq? Har har.

#73 - I don't see anyone "tearing apart" Romney (at least, not based on BE). Most of this thread has involved tearing apart, well, Battlefield Earth.

#79 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:38 PM:

jennie @ 58

And sometimes the best stuff is in the parentheses, have you noticed?

That's a universal law. The best manifestation of it I know is in comedy: "The finest lines are the ones that get thrown away."

#80 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:38 PM:

Well, there's bad and there's bad.

One of my favorite "bad" movies is RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. But unlike, say, BATTLEFIELD EARTH or THE TURNER DIARIES, it doesn't pretend to have a message. There's no agenda.

I think we can safely agree that if a politician said his favorite book was THE TURNER DIARIES, we should suspect him of extremist sympathies.

In the case of BATTLEFIELD EARTH, arguably a very bad novel, does it contain any "hidden messages"? Does it have an agenda? If so, what?
:-S

It would be interesting to hear what other SF/F novels are popular among politicians...

#81 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:40 PM:

#59: "Patrick, if you say you're perfectly fine getting down in the mud and slinging along with everyone else"

Oh, go jump in the lake. I never said any such thing. You, on the other hand, kicked off this exchange (in #26) by flat-out accusing everyone else in the conversation of moral and intellectual hypocrisy. You've been called on that at least twice (most recently by JC in #65) and you've pointedly ignored it both times. Your #73 isn't a response, it's a clumsy attempt to change the subject. Nobody here is obliged to earn decent treatment from you by criticizing an equal number of politicians from both "sides." They're entitled to not be falsely accused by you whether or not you approve of the ratio of their criticisms. You have no standing to be accusing anyone else of "mudslinging."

#82 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:43 PM:

And Jennie @ #63 is thinking along the same lines as I was. Great minds....

Serge @ #69: Well, if we're going to admit liking terible movies, I suppose I should admit that one of my favorites is WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S. (Back in the early 90's, when I was trying to sell movie scripts, I even wanted to try pitching an idea for a 3rd film in the series. Alas, CHRISTMAS AT BERNIE'S will never be.)

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:47 PM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 82... Considering the subject matter, shouldn't it have been "Easter at Bernie's?

#84 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:53 PM:

I think Mitt Romney has always been what he is now; a rather right-wing Republican with views the religious right can cheer. However, for some reason he ran for governor here in MA (as a moderate), got elected because the voters here are suspicious of turning all the keys over to the Democrats (though we did that this time), governed as a moderate (while lying about his true beliefs), and like all recent GOP governors here got rather tired of being powerless, and became frustrated with governing a state that thinks Republicans are irrelevant (especially because, except every now and then in the governor's race, they are).

I also think he was aiming from the start at a run for President. If he wins the GOP nomination he will probably tack back toward the center, and if wins the Presidency he will largely govern from there, not tack back to the fringes.

Our run of GOP governors has been a string of odd ducks (Bill Weld in particular comes to mind); no one but an odd duck would want the job. Now we have a Democratic governor, and we'll see if one-party rule works out any better. (Although I recall someone here a long, long time ago posting that MA actually has two Democratic parties and predicted they would split up -- I agree with the premise but not the conclusion.)

I think what I'd be interested in asking him is why Battlefield Earth is his favorite book, beyond it being "fun."

#85 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:57 PM:

jennie 77: I like Jane Austen, but some of the other Austen afficonados of my acquaintance drive me right starkers.

Um...I thought 'starkers' meant naked. If I met someone who drove me starkers, that would guarantee a second date, not preclude it!

And I admire the stamina of anyone who can read Donaldson, whose prose I find turgid in the extreme. But then I have friends who like Moorcock; I'm really quite tolerant of others' tastes.

#86 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:58 PM:

BRT #73:

You might look at a previous thread:

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007787.html

IMO, it's a mistake to use a single thing like book preferences to judge someone, but it does reveal a little information. Though I wonder how honest it is likely to be, since politicians have all kinds of weird stuff they try to do to avoid seeming insufficiently "a man of the people" or whatever.

I mean, for all any of us know, W spends his nights reading Dostoyevsky in the original Russian, but carefully hides such books inside a Tom Clancy cover to avoid being seen as too intellectual.

#87 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 03:58 PM:

A good test of a theory are its results, or "by their fruits you shall know them" (as the man said). By steadfastly refusing to make any judgement whatsoever based on someone's favorite book, BRT has ascertained whether Patrick would be as critical of Obama as he is here about Mitt Romney.

Continuing the parenthetical discussion, I can't flip past Casablanca but Umberto Eco has opined that aesthetically, it's not a very good movie.

#88 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Rats, Fungi, you beat me to it. PNH is not, shall we say, Obama's biggest fan.

Nor am I. I haven't been a big fan of any politician since Clinton in '92 (he disappointed and angered me later...still like the guy, but not a "big fan").

#89 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:03 PM:

DaveL #84: How do you infer anything about his beliefs? Or are those even relevant, if he governs from the center? Maybe Bush is secretly a bleeding-heart liberal, who simply finds it expedient to govern like a right-winger with a Napoleon complex. How would you tell, and what good would it do to know?

Fungi #87: Strange minds think alike.

#90 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:04 PM:

#86 - You're close. Laura Bush professed her favorite book to be The Brothers Karamazov, a statement Tony Kushner went with.

#91 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:07 PM:

There's also the angle that politicians know we're going to pick them apart, so they try to express preferences we agree with or at least don't flip out over. It's not quite the same to think that Mitt thinks voters will like him better for picking that book of all books.

If I were asked for a favorite almost-anything, I'd freeze and have to explain that that's not how it *works*. Favorite book I love to reread, favorite book I read to pieces when I was younger, favorite book for when I'm upset, favorite for when I want badassery, for when I want to laugh, for escapism, favorite book that made me cry... these are not all the same book.

I would judge a politician by his favorite book if it were bad enough. "I thought 1984 was a really great utopian vision!" and the like.

#92 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Torie, I'll confess I came this close to watching Gryphon because, yanno, Amber Benson. I think I held off mostly because my tolerance for pulpy B-movies is already dangerously high, and I shouldn't give myself any more excuses than I can help.

#93 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:14 PM:

Xopher - albatross beat me. I have this mental image of ML readers doing a spit-take with their beverage of choice, and racing to respond.

Re: presidents and their secret desires as revealed through novels, wasn't it Phil Dick's "Radio Free Albemuth" that posited Nixon was a communist sleeper agent?

(A.R.Yngve - Hubbard's subtext is firmly dry docked. His evil aliens are Psychlos, ruled by the Catrists.)

#94 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:15 PM:

FungiFromYoggoth @ 87

Much as I admire Umberto Eco, I have to admit he's right*. Why do the old lines and the old plots work? Because they say something we want to hear.

* Yep, it's a paradox. I wish he wasn't right; I would like 'Casablanca' to be great beyond cliche. And because I do admire Eco, I can't ignore what he says. But I'm still going to haul my DVD out every couple of years and watch it.

#95 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:23 PM:

#92 - Gryphon was great! You missed out. It wasn't as good as Insecticidal*, though.

A quick check of the Sci-Fi website reveals that June brings to the world Ice Spiders. I know what I'm doing that day.

*Nerdy sister of sorority leader does science experiment with bugs. Sorority girls think this is icky and spray insecticide on her science project. Mutant bugs attack sorority girls!

#96 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:29 PM:

Torie 95: I know what I'm not doing that day!

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Torie @ 95... Mutant bugs attack sorority girls!

Let me guess. Victoria's Secrets meets the girl's dorm?

#98 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:39 PM:

#97 Serge "Let me guess. Victoria's Secrets meets the girl's dorm?"

Note to self, set VCR. :)

Yeah, I'm a guy, sorry about that.

#99 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:41 PM:

I generally avoid movies that feature sorority girls or frat boys. (If the movie is outright porn, "frat boy" is just a shorthand for a particular look, and doesn't actually involve Greek...letters.)

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:47 PM:

Xopher @ 99... I generally avoid movies that feature sorority girls or frat boys

What about sorority boys and frat girls?

#101 ::: Torie ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:48 PM:

I'm totally working right now, I swear.

#96 - You're not not going to watch that movie!

#97 - Not quite. This is low-budget and the girls aren't exactly bombshells. The movie opens with a cringe-worthy sex scene where the lead sorority girl is having sex with her jock boyfriend and says, "Okay, now you're the blacksmith and I'm the princess..." You can imagine where it goes from there. The movie gets way better once the bugs attack.

#102 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:49 PM:

If it makes anybody feel better, even the Republicans (Althouse and Instapundit) are baffled by Romney's choice. (Three guesses as to which book Reynolds is recommending as a better choice.)

I read Battlefield Earth (well actually skimmed it in a library) and it's a real stinker.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:50 PM:

Torie @ 101... "Okay, now you're the blacksmith and I'm the princess..."

Maybe it's a scene imbued with great mythological significance. Remember the recent ML discussion about Thor's Hammer?

#104 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:50 PM:

All I see is confirmation that intelligence and good taste do not go hand in hand.

#105 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 04:54 PM:

#101 Torie "Okay, now you're the blacksmith and I'm the princess..."

Ah, another movie to watch with the sound off.

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Serge 100: Nope. Even worse.

I did enjoy Revenge of the Nerds, which has both Frats and Sores in it (why is it that no one abbreviates 'sorority'?).

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:14 PM:

Xopher @ 106... Previous jokes notwithstanding, I stay away from those T&A movies because there is no joy in their depiction of sex.

#108 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:16 PM:

Jennie, #77: Exactly! In my dating days, finding out someone's likes and dislikes in books and music provided more and better information on which to base a "do I want to pursue this?" decision than any other method I tried.

BRT... a few points.

1) The fact that you obsessively read and re-read Donaldson with enjoyment does indeed say something about you. Perhaps all it says is that you have a much higher than normal tolerance level for reading fictional studies of clinical depression -- but that's still something. And in a "potential date" environment, that would count as a significant negative to me, although clearly it didn't to your wife. :-)

2) It doesn't matter what YOU read or what you think is outstanding, except to those who know you personally. You aren't running for the office of Head Of State. Romney is; therefore, the fact that he lists Battlefield Earth as his favorite book (NOT, as has already been pointed out to you by multiple people, the mere fact that he read it) is grounds for discussion.

3) The sanctimonious aroma of moral superiority coming off your posts, when combined with your repeated cheap-shots, apparent lack of reading comprehension, and bashing of people on spurious and strawman arguments, adds up to a very ugly picture. Perhaps you should go back and read what you've posted again, while looking into a mirror.

4) When are you going to withdraw your blanket accusation of hypocrisy? In case you've forgotten, here it is:
I also suspect that had someone like Obama said, "I liked Battlefield Earth!", none of us would be having this conversation right now.

5) Reading, in and of itself, is no great thing to praise a candidate (or anyone else) for. What they read matters, as does why they read it. People who read Weekly World News to laugh at it are one thing; people who read it because they believe the stories in it are something entirely different. (And the latter do exist; I used to work with one.)

#109 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:50 PM:

BRT@73

I just thought the original tongue-in-cheek post, and its follow-on, "Yeah, what a loser!" commentary deserved some kind of rebuttal

But, see, I'm not clear what you think you've rebutted.

You've responded to a statement of subjective opinion based on your presumptions about the motivations of the total stranger who holds that opinion and your presumptions about the motivations (and subjective opinions) of the total strangers who responded, and on that basis announced to a group of people you know nothing about that not only are they rude and prejudiced, they're representative in microcosm of what you believe to be the besetting sin of coarseness and division in our society. You also, as a "new" reader, appear to have pulled Obama out of your ass.

What I thought you meant to rebut was rudeness, divisiveness and snide judgmentalism, but it clearly couldn't have been that.

#110 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Serge at @69 -- is that the one with the big scandahoovian guy with the wonky accent? Who ends up naked in the trees in a convent?

Patrick--Georgette Heyer, truly? One of my favorite "guilty" reads (not that I ever feel guilty about it!)

#111 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:01 PM:

Re Fade Manley at #35:

I am hereby behaving much better than I am inclined to, and not hijacking the thread with an impassioned defense of my man Tony T.

But, uh: which Trollope? If I might ask? Because, in truth, some of them would have benefitted from a strong editorial hand.

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:01 PM:

Emma @ 110... is that the one with the big scandahoovian guy with the wonky accent? Who ends up naked in the trees in a convent?

That sounds more like John Milius's Conan the Barbarian than any version of Burroughs's At The Earth's Core I've ever tripped over. Oh wait. You're thinking of Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, with James Mason and Pat Boone and the TALL Icelandic guy, which I also have on DVD. Fun movie. I especially liked the scene where Pat Boone starts singing and playing his accordeon, and Earth's magnetic field responds by yanking it away from him.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:03 PM:

(cont'd from 112)

And it's Pat Boone who winds up naked in a convent's tree. Luckily for him, there were sheep nearby.

#114 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:12 PM:

John Scalzi #10

I want to see Star Wars #1 with an alternate audio track (I've never seen it, actually. I did see #2... I think that the acting of Whiny Male would be enormously improved by application of Botox injections, there's be more facial expression...).

BRT #18

For Romney, it should be rubber chickens, not rotten tomatoes, since his statements have all bounced around so much....

As this time I would elect him to be the dog the dogcatcher puts -in- the pound, I wouldn't even elect him as dogcatcher.

#115 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:19 PM:

Actually, I find it remarkable that so many people have responded, in high dudgeon, to the charge of hypocrisy. I never made that assertion in my original post (#18) and it was not until my later response (#26) that I threw the proverbial match on the proverbial gasoline; because it seemed like so many people were in such a hurry to bash Romney (see posts #1, #2, #11) that I had to wonder: would anyone here care or be posting comments if a Presidential candidate closer to their own political leanings had cited a bad SF novel as his favorite book?

For everyone who has found themselves overly upset at this, I have to wonder if they're not protesting too much. Forget Obama for a second, and let's ask ourselves again: if a politician whom we like and support happens to say that (s)he likes a particularly bad novel, are we so quick to pass judgment on him/her and begin taking shots, as if the liking of the bad novel is just one more indicator that the person in question is "bad"?

It's easy to find fault in people we think are wrong.

It's harder to acknowledge fault in people we generally think are right.

Ah hell, I suppose I deserve the flak. I didn't follow my own damn rule.

I originally came to this blog through links from the Neil Gaiman web site; links regarding the business of writing and publishing. I've made a point to stay away from the political stuff precisely because that's not what interests me here. I'm not here to argue politics. There are other places and other boards for that. I'm here to read about the latest writing scams, get insight on publishers' and editors' processes, etc. This is a "work" blog for me, as it pertains to writing.

This thread on Romney suckered me probably because in many ways it relates to issues about which I feel passionately, and which are related to the work: the snobbery of the literary world, what is and is not considered "good" fiction, as well as the underlying strata of fans who play on this and spend so much time arguing with and ultimately putting down other fans because people like the "bad" stuff, and somehow this means they suck across a range of different issues, etc, etc.

I've never read "Battlefied Earth". Hell, I have never read Hubbard. But I would hope that if I had, and had liked one or both, people would not automatically assume that this makes *ME* somehow a defective individual, or is indicative of some larger flaw or problem with who I am, or how good I am at my job, or what kind of father or husband I am, etc, etc.

And this is the core of my argument, really.

#116 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:26 PM:

BRT... I hope you'll stick around.

#117 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:32 PM:

albatross (and others),

My thanks for the posting of the revealing Obama thread.

This explains much abouy why Patrick (and others) are thwacking me upside the head.

And yes, I did pull Obama out of my ass. He's the "Golden Boy" on the other side of the fence from Mitt. It was not because I believed for certain that people here were Obama-ites. (Obamists? Obamologists?) I just used him as an arbitrary example.

#118 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:33 PM:

"Forget Obama for a second, and let's ask ourselves again: if a politician whom we like and support happens to say that (s)he likes a particularly bad novel,"

Again, it's not that he 'likes a particularly bad novel', it's that a 60 year old man claims it is his *favorite*.

And it's not like he can even claim nostalgia for a favorite of his adolescence. He would have been in his 30s when it came out.

#119 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:34 PM:

Serge #116,

I'll stick around. There is too much cool information here about the writing biz. Lots of things to comment on, and the commentary is generally pretty funny.

=^)

#120 ::: JonathanMoeller ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Politics aside, I'm just astonished that a politician was telling the truth. Romney must have been telling the truth, because why on earth would anyone lie about Battlefield Earth to gain electoral advantage? It'd be a bit like claiming Catwoman is your favorite movie so you could appeal to cat owners

#121 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:43 PM:

BRT @115,

You appear to be focused on whether or not a politician's reading or liking a book is important.

Plenty of people read bad books-- sometimes you don't know until you're far into the book, sometimes there isn't anything else to read*. Plenty of people can like a bad book: perhaps it was enough to be entertaining, or the badness gets forgotten, or whatever is the name for the opposite of sour grapes**(?) happens.

But favorite books- you seem to be saying they can't say much about a person.

A question for you: if politicians are asked about their favorite books, are there any books they could list which would make you worry about that politician?

Or generally, are no books which as a person's favorite book would make you lower your opinion of them? How about in the other direction: are there books that'd make you think a bit more highly of them? None?

----------
* you only had $6 at the airport bookstore, and the 6 hour flight requires a long book.

** "Because I just spent 6 hours reading this, it must be good."

#122 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:50 PM:

"Politics aside, I'm just astonished that a politician was telling the truth. Romney must have been telling the truth, because why on earth would anyone lie about Battlefield Earth to gain electoral advantage?"

Maybe it was a coded shout-out to the Scientologists, in order to garner their support.

If that's the case, he may have flubbed it by knocking Hubbard's religion. But maybe they'll think 'He liked the book, he's halfway there!'.

Just wait ... he'll pick Tom Cruise as his running mate.

#123 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:53 PM:

THIS IS MY OLIVE BRANCH, YE OF THE MAKING LIGHT BLOG!

;^)

If your feelings have been hurt by anything I have written on this thread today, you have my sincere apologies. I am not here to hurt peoples' feelings.

If you feel you have been unjustly accused of being a hypocrite, then I apologize again. My sarcasm and cynicism on this issue stems from being tired of seeing people tar and feather those whom they politically despise, then turning around and giving a free pass to those whom they politically adore. Had I been feeling less grumpy this morning, I'd probably not have made such a charged statement on this blog.

So, I am officially retracting my statement, made in post #26, wherein I said I thought we'd not be having this conversation if Obama said he liked "Battlefield Earth."

I hope this satisfies Patrick and others.

Because I'm not so stupid as to think I cannot be wrong, nor am I so full of myself to believe that I should not apologize when offense has been given. Too often I hear, "Well I didn't mean to offend you!" That's fine, but offense is often in the ears of those who hear, the eyes of those who read, and because I did not intend to launch off on a quest to offend the entirety of Making Light and one of its core posters, I think some oil on troubled waters will help things.

Of course, Patrick might just say, "Whatever, you're still an ass!"

But I hope not.

This olive branch has been offered with utmost and heartfelt sincerity, and I hope that it will be taken in kind.

=^)

#124 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 06:54 PM:

Psychlos... Catrists... Psychiatrists. OK, I get it. (Real subtle, Hubbard. :-P)

"So, Barack, what IS your favorite novel?"
"I keep re-reading The Book of Mormon -- not that I believe it, it's just a very entertaining story..."
(*SATIRE - NOT AN ACTUAL QUOTE*)

#125 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:02 PM:

Kathryn #121,

I think if a person, or a politician, says they like a work of fiction, I would want to dig deeper, ask more questions. Why did they like the book? Was it the theme, the characters? Do they even read much fiction?

I'd want a context before I started drawing some conclusions about that person.

Hypothetical example. Suppose some pol (through madness or blunt honesty) admits to liking the movie "Birth of a Nation", as his favorite movie.

Now, on its face, you could draw all sorts of conclusions from that, especially if the Pol is white and/or Southern.

But suppose this same pol went on to say, "I like this movie because it gives me insight into the dangerous delusions of fascism, racism, the egomaniacal and paranoid mind, and how we as Americans must always be on guard against this sort of mentality," Yadda yadda.

That puts an entirely different spin on things, wouldn't you say?

#126 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:12 PM:

#125: "Spin" is the word you bring to mind, yes.

#127 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:15 PM:

"But suppose this same pol went on to say, "I like this movie because it gives me insight into the dangerous delusions of fascism, racism, the egomaniacal and paranoid mind, and how we as Americans must always be on guard against this sort of mentality," Yadda yadda.

That puts an entirely different spin on things, wouldn't you say?"

Maybe, depends on the work in question. Some lend themselves to such things. Others don't, because they simply aren't substantial enough.

If a politician said "My favorite film is 'Weapons of Ass Destruction'", he could try to come up with a high-minded rationalization ('wonderful camera work'), but I doubt anyone would believe it. Further, people would naturally, and correctly, peg the person as a pervy freak.


#128 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:16 PM:

I'm not sure how to take that, clew.

=^/

#129 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:18 PM:

This is a digression, but I am *so easy*, when it comes to bad SF movies. I cringe to admit how many times I've watched "Demolition Man," frex.

#130 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:19 PM:

Jon H,

Obviously, there are some kinds of media for which no person could give a reasonable apology.

Child porn comes to mind.

#131 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:21 PM:

Laura #129,

He he he he. I wasn't so much for "Demolition Man", but I will go to my grave swearing that "Robocop" is one of the greatest SF movies of the late 1980's.

Of course, the sequels to "Robocop" were abysmal.

I'll also admit to enjoying "Independence Day".

;^)

#132 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:29 PM:

I committed to Howard Dean when he told the Christian Science Monitor that his favorite novel (or was it favorite book? I forget) was Sometimes A Great Notion, partly because I love that book and partly because it wasn't a very politic choice.

#133 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:31 PM:

Without defending Romney or his defenders, there are other motives to read bad books. After stints of too much work -- I was getting a Ph.D. in something totally different -- I would read some trilogy or tetralogy at blinding speed (approximately 15 seconds a page) to clear my head out, rather like overwriting a hard drive with ones and zeroes. I even read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant; all six took about three or four days. I've never had the urge to read it again, or to read Peter Hamilton's The Reality Dysfunction trilogy (published in the US as a sextology) again either.

#134 ::: Canard ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:32 PM:

Jeepers. I was psyched to read the comments for this post, until I actually started doing so.

Battlefield Earth sucks. So does Mitt Romney. They belong together.

#135 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:40 PM:

BRT @125,

That answers a question I didn't ask.

Are there any books at all* that'd be of concern to you if they were a person's favorite books?

I don't want to imply that it's good or bad to be able to think of such a set of books, but rather just to ask if you're the type of person to do this**. I'm also not asking what those books are, or why they'd bother you.

----
* excluding the Godwin threadkiller types of books. None of us are likely to run into someone who'd both have that as their favorite and have a desire to tell others about it.

** Let me use music as an analogy. Some people don't care at all about what music their partners listen to. Some people do. (I'm the latter: there's a type of music I love, and a type I don't like. If a potential partner either hated the former, or loved the latter, I couldn't date them.) I can tell you I'm the type of person who does judge on music without saying which music, or why.

#136 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:55 PM:

Bruce Arthurs #82: I must confess a weakness for a certain kind of cheesy farce best exemplified by the Police Academy and American Pie films.

#137 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 07:59 PM:

#89 albatross: My opinions on Romney's true beliefs are just that, opinions. They are informed chiefly by having been a resident of MA during his governorship. He ran and governed here as a moderate because that's what people expect of a Republican candidate/officeholder in these parts.

For all I know he's actually Dennis Kucinich in disguise and has been faking us all out, but I doubt it.

#138 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:02 PM:

Way back at #18, BRT says:

And while I have never read Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" can we at least take small pleasure in the fact that a Presidential candidate is even reading? In our genre no less?

Some of us have read Battlefield Earth. I enjoyed it as a return to the pulp adventure genre by a writer who'd been away for 30 years, since before I was born. It wasn't great pulp, it was forced in places, but it wasn't totally faked, either. It was the real stuff.

But someone's favourite novel?. Not unless they've read no novels since they were twelve.

#139 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:04 PM:

Sara @133,

Reading bad books has nothing to do with Romney. There's a time for bad books, and it isn't always "never."

A bad book can be all we have, or all we have the energy for, or exactly what we need for inspiration to get going on our own projects*.

But would you call any of those books your "favorite"?

--------
*. i.e. either "If that got published, I should be able to write something better" Or "I just spent an afternoon reading that? Now I really better get back to work."

#140 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:04 PM:

sara @ 133: Reading a bad book and enjoying its badness is one thing. (For example, Nght Trvls f th lvn Vmpr has devoted fans.) His saying this bad book is his favorite book, out of all the books out there, is what makes my brain want to leak out of my ears.

#141 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:11 PM:

JESR #111: Trollope would have benefited from the editorial assistance of a cosh.

#142 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:15 PM:

To turn things around a bit, is there anyone you can think of where the "favourite book" question did the opposite? Made you think better of them?

First up, I'll say Christopher Lee. I knew nothing about him beyond his Hammer Horror reputation until the hype for Jackson's LOTR movies started, when I learned that he's an original Lord of the Rings fan dating back to the first edition.

Cool.

#143 ::: Mike Berry ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:30 PM:

"What's your favorite novel?" strikes me as a no-win kind of question for a politician. Someone's going to think badly of you, no matter what you say.

Depending on my mood, I might answer, "The Shining," which would strike some people as ridiculously low-brow. Or I might say, "Nabokov's 'Pale Fire.'" Which some might find excruciatingly pretentious.

As bizarre as Romney's pick is, at least it's not pretentious. (Like W. got anything out of reading "The Stranger" by Cam-moose a couple summers ago.)

#144 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:40 PM:

Mike Berry #143: In pretension, no one has yet equalled J. Danforth Quayle, who claimed to have attempted Plato's Republic several times. I've long thought that he believed it to be the founding text of the Republican Party.

#145 ::: Anton P. Nym ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 08:48 PM:

I must confess to having read Battlefield Earth and somewhat enjoyed it. Admittedly I was in my teens, and it did soak up a good chunk of boredom and kept a few synapses firing during two very long shifts at a self-serve gas station. As far as I can tell it's a big lump of not-particuarly-bad-or-good pulp suitable for neither framing nor wrapping fish.*

Having someone seeking power declare it his favourite novel is akin to having one declare his undying love for Kraft Dinner/Macaroni&Cheese. It's no heinous crime, but it does take one aback.

As to politicians reading SF, I really can't recall any examples from here except for the expedient reading of Margaret Atwood works. It seems to be a patriotic duty in Ottawa or something.

-- Steve

* However the movie is an abomination, a cinematic waterboarding I cannot endure for more than 10 minutes. I'm surprised Travolta wasn't forced to turn in his e-meter after that debuted.

#146 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:04 PM:

FungiFromYoggoth @ 87

Much as I admire Umberto Eco, I have to admit he's right*. Why do the old lines and the old plots work? Because they say something we want to hear.

* Yep, it's a paradox. I wish he wasn't right; I would like 'Casablanca' to be great beyond cliche. And because I do admire Eco, I can't ignore what he says. But I'm still going to haul my DVD out every couple of years and watch it.

#147 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:05 PM:

@ 146

Strike that. Rewind. I think there's an echo in here.

#148 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:20 PM:

#143 Mike Berry "'What's your favorite novel?' strikes me as a no-win kind of question for a politician. Someone's going to think badly of you, no matter what you say."

Which is why politicians (of Mitts level) have handlers who fire questions at him and craft his responses (for BRT's benefit, before we start a side on this, all of the people at that level have them, including Denny, which I have a soft spot for as both homeboy and slightly misunderstood person, not that I would vote for him). Which is why this makes it such a strange answer. Could be his favorite book and his handlers, while reminding him how much milk and gas cost that day, just didn't see that angle coming and so hadn't prepared the candidate and we got "an honest moment." Or it could have been carefully crafted and then it's meant to be disected for meaning. Either way, Mitt is a target, just like all the other candidates (and I'm sure we'll have plenty of buffoonery to get through before Nov '08).

I mean it could be worse. They guy could have said he actually *wrote* SF/F/H as a politician. I mean, what would that say about the guy. :)

Actually, it could be worse, he could have said "The Dead Zone" was his favorite (I'm not knocking Mr. King, I'm just thinking about the subject matter).

#149 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 144

J. Danforth Quayle, who claimed to have attempted Plato's Republic several times

And didn't finish it?

#150 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:26 PM:

LauraJMixon @ 129

cringe to admit how many times I've watched "Demolition Man," frex.

Cringe not. "Demolition Man" may look like a bad movie; it's actually (at least in places) rather keen satire. I was impressed with Sly Stalone; he actually acted. Dennis Rodman is another story, however.

But really, how can you not fall over laughing at the "sex" scene?

#151 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #149: Apparently not.

#152 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 10:16 PM:

Personally, when I name something my "favorite" book, it's because on some level I identify with it. There are many, but when pressed I'll name Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, since I am that geek who would have had to use a different book to prop up her bookshelf because the Chase and Phillips was in use. And because the line, "There's no such thing as a fucking future subjunctive!" still makes me literally laugh out loud, every time.

When you identify something as your favorite, people are going to yoke it and you together in their minds in some way. You have to be committed to it. Now, to name a *bad* book is one thing, but to name a book filled with bad ideas is another.

BRT @#125: "liking the movie "Birth of a Nation", as his favorite movie."

Saying it this way, couched in the "liking," attempts to block the outrage of calling "Birth of a Nation" a favorite. There's no spinning that kind of statement. My favorite book is not the one I most enjoy analyzing. It's the one I most identify with on a personal level.

I haven't read Battlefield Earth, but if it's filled with the bad ideas at the foundation of Scientology, then yes, I think we can use that piece of information to judge Mitt Romney, at least on some level. Because, on some level, he's chosen to identify himself with them.

#153 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 10:37 PM:

Fragano Legister@141: I'd be sorely deprived if Anthony Trollope had been deprived by cosh or other means of life or liberty (or someone to bring him coffee while he wrote 5000 words every morning before he went to work at the post office) I'm not sure why you brought up that (minor and marginal) work; he wrote worse.

He also wrote The Last Chronicle of Barset. I'd vote for someone who said that was favored of all novels.

#154 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 10:45 PM:

Laura, I too was surprised by how much I liked Demolition Man. I do remember saying to myself when i saw it, Wow, that actress who starred in it, Sandra Bullock, really has something. She's going to go places. (It's not her first film, but it's one of her first.) Not to mention Jack Black, Andre ("My Dinner with...") Gregory, Jesse Ventura, Denis Leary...

#155 ::: Canard ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:08 PM:

kouredios@152: So did your doughnuts, pens, student IDs and concert tickets slide backward off your bookshelf with an indistinguishable slowness and vanish dustily behind? And were you as a result strange, distracted, and inclined to quote Hamlet at length?

#156 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:24 PM:

Kathryn, #135: I am also the type of person who judges based on music. Do you ever notice that it's easier for you to deal with someone who doesn't care for music you really like than with someone who adores music you think is complete garbage? For some reason, it's easier for me to understand (on the gut level) that things I like may not be to someone else's taste than that the reverse may be true also.

Kouredios, #152: I think you've nailed down the issue. There are books I've read and liked for various reasons that I still find viscerally disturbing (e.g. John Barnes' Kaleidoscope Century) -- but I certainly wouldn't name any of them if asked for my favorite book!

Actually, if someone asked me for "my favorite book" in a non-SF-related context, I'd probably drop back and punt, and say Lord of the Rings, on the theory that at least most people will recognize it and it's not likely to offend many.

#157 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:29 PM:

Serge @112: That's it!!!! I remember watching that movie and laughing until I nearly had hysterics. Boy, it's been a long time ummm...netflix...

#158 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:34 PM:

Emma @ 157... Which one? Verne's, which had dinosaurs that really were iguanas with dorsal fins glued on, or Burroughs's, where the monsters were guys in really cheesy rubbersuits?

#159 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:37 PM:

Fragano Legister@141: Give Trollope another chance. My own experience with him: I slogged through about 200 pages of not-particularly-interesting narrative about characters going here and eating dinner and going there and talking, and it was pretty slow ... and then he told a joke about one of the characters, and I laughed for ten minutes. And then I realized that I wouldn't even have recognized it as a joke if I hadn't slogged through the 200 pages first. Once you realize how he makes the people come alive, it's not a slog any more.

#160 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:48 PM:

We're gearing up to Election Mode here in .au. So far we've heard a lot about the candidate's policies. We haven't heard that much about their reading choices. I tried searching to find out the PM's favourite book, but the first link was to a spoofed blog, and there was a later one to a myspace page which I also suspect to be a spoof. I also can't find anything for the current opposition leader, Kevin Rudd. I can't find anything for the previous opposition leader, Kim Beazley. I suspect it's not a question the Australian press asks of the politicians too often over here - they're generally much more interested in silly things like policies and similar.

Maybe it's a sign we're parochial.

Either way, I don't give a flying whatsit what the Member for Curtin reads when she gets home of an evening, provided she does a fair job of representing her electorate in the Parliament. Given she's the current Federal education minister, and her main platform appears to involve things like performance based pay for teachers and re-introducing the Dead White Males version of Australian history (which starts in Sydney in 1788, and doesn't involve anyone with brown skin in any role other than miscreant, black tracker, or poor pitiful native), I'm not that impressed with her performance. Of course, I've next to no chance of getting a different representative, because I'm living in what's blue ribbon (ie unlosable) Liberal[1] territory.

Mind you, the general feeling appears to be that the Liberals are due for some more time on the Opposition benches, so who knows. Maybe the unthinkable will happen. Alternatively, the ALP (see [1]) may go completely insane, and bring back Beazley, given his long and impressive record of being beaten by John Howard (Labor strategy for most of the past 10 years appears to have been that if the Australian public decided they wanted Howard's Liberals, they should get them good and hard).

Oh, and I'll put my hand up as another reader of Heyer. Good books, chewing gum for the mind. I should also confess not only to reading Eddings, but re-reading it (for much the same reasons as the Heyers).

[1] I should explain for those who are unaware of the ins and outs of Australian politics - the Liberal party are our equivalent of the Republicans, only they're occupying a position on the left - right spectrum somewhere about where the US Democrats are sitting. The Democrat equivalent is the Australian Labor Party, who are marginally to the left of the Liberals. Then we have the Australian Democrats (middle class small-l liberalism, minor party), the Greens (environment uber alles), Family First (Charismatic Christian family values - aka Aussie Fundamentalists), the National Party (Farmers first, last and always - very conservative), One Nation (Australia should be White) and a whole heap of other small parties[2].
[2] My personal favourites are the Natural Law Party, who appear to believe that yogic flying is the cure for the world's ills. I tend to preference them first purely because I regard them as harmless eccentrics who won't make things any worse.

#161 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2007, 11:49 PM:

#135 (Kathryn),

Hmmmmmm.... You know, there aren't any books that I know of, either fiction or non-fiction, which would, all by themselves, give me pause. Not even if they were cherished favorites. Not even books which I might find politically repugnant, like Marx or even Hitler's Mein Kampf. If anything, a person naming such books as their favorites would make me very curious to know why. Context really matters a lot, and until I knew the context of that particular person's reading interests in any particularly 'worrisome' tome, any reluctance I might feel would be a small and incomplete emotion.

Maybe it's just who I am. I kinda like big contrasts sometimes. They attract me, to a certain extent. My wife and I are an interracial couple, for example. She's also 12 years older than I am, and from a totally different upbringing in a totally different part of the country from where I grew up. Certainly my wife and I are as politically divergent, too; as divergent a couple as I have ever seen in this manner. Like, we are miles and miles and miles apart, and some of the stuff she reads, such as Howard Zinn, I would never read, except to try and poke holes in it.

Her friends have no idea how she stays married to me. And some of my friends think I should have her brought up on charges of sedition.

Somehow, we manage to stay in love and stay committed. We celebrate our 14th in December.

Of course, it could not have happened without some convergence.

One way in which we are in sync is music. There is a large overlapping between our aural tastes, and yes, I think it would be tough, as a couple, to have totally divergent music interests, since music is such a shared experience for partners. I suspect part of the reason she didn't end up with the guy she was engaged to before she met me, was because they were so out of sync, musically. He didn't like much of what she adored, and much of what he adored, she couldn't stand.

=^)

I suppose the difference between a book and an album is that books are still a solitary affair. My wife can read whatever she wants, and vice versa, and the things we read might make our eyes roll, but unless we're arguing politics (which does happen, and is heated) the stuff we read doesn't get inflicted on us the way music can be inflicted; like when one partner demands to hear an album on a long drive that the other partner cannot stand.

#162 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:00 AM:

Kouredios,

And because the line, "There's no such thing as a fucking future subjunctive!" still makes me literally laugh out loud, every time.

Me too!

#163 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:10 AM:

BRT @ 161... We celebrate our 14th in December

Congrats. My wife and I celebrate our 22nd on January 26.

#164 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:20 AM:

One more for Patrick.

Wow, I had no idea.

I myself grew up in an LDS family in Salt Lake City. I fell away from the church in my teens, circa 1989-1992, and got back into it when I met the woman who would eventually become my wife in 1993. She was a recent convert at the time, and showed me you could be be LDS without being an a**hole.

Since then, my experience has shown that there are generally two kinds of former and/or excommunicated LDS:

1) those who forget about it and move on with their lives and learn to be happy
2) those who remain bitter and hateful and cannot get over it

Hopefully Teresa falls into category 1.

Me? I tried to be an un-Mormon. I really, really tried.

It just didn't work out.

;^)

#165 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:22 AM:

Way to go, serge!!! That is awesome. I love it when people can work it out and stick together. I LOVE IT! Gives me inspiration and hope, that somehow our society is not completely selfish and f***ed; at least not yet.

=^)

#166 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:54 AM:

#130: Oddly enough, I seem to recall being forced in school to read someone's autobiography that contained material that would probably now be classified as child porn. (The author was apparently sexually abused as a child, and given the extraordinarily broad definition of that term...)

I certainly wouldn't have read it voluntarily; it's sometimes interesting to read books where bad things happen to characters I like, but I don't want the author to go *that* far torturing them. (Feintuch manages to combine the authorial tendency to torture his characters with a character vile enough to deserve it; but I still couldn't stomach it for long.)

Accordingly if someone named (say) a Gor book as his favorite ever, I'd have to deduce a few unpleasant things about him. (Note that the pronoun is important here. I'm not quite sure what a Gor book as favorite novel would say about a woman, but it would be quite different.) I've read just enough of one to be strongly averse to reading the rest, and I wouldn't be entirely comfortable with anyone who lacks that aversion. They might also lack other aversions important to maintaining civilized society.

There's also a few authors (in and outside the genre) who write some fairly heavy-handed political polemics, which might bother me as a favorite selection from a political figure. It would be hard to consider such a book a favorite unless you agreed with the author's politics, so if it were one where I disagreed rather strongly with the author's politics, I would conclude that I probably differed just as strongly with the candidate's politics.

#167 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:06 AM:

I'm going with Kevin Drum: Romney wasn't telling the truth. He wasn't exacly lying either, probably; I doubt if his real favorite is something else.

What this probably means is that (a) he doesn't have a favorite book, (b) he doesn't read very much, and (c) he named the first novel that popped into his head, which might have just been the last novel he remembered having read.

Not having a favorite book isn't so very shameful. I don't think I have one. I read lots of books, and like a fair fraction of them. The fact that Romney thought he had to pretend to have a favorite book, though, and the fact that he couldn't think of any better book than Battlefield Earth, is pretty funny.

#168 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:25 AM:

This discussion reminds me of:

Garden State Some Poor Fuck's Favorite Movie

There's another, older Onion article about a guy whose dates are turned off by his mediocre taste in DVDs.

I made an honest go of reading Battlefield Earth. A friend thought it was a rousing old-fashioned adventure. I couldn't get past the first chapter or two. "Breathe-air?" Nyunggg!

The movie struck me as silly and over-the-top, but not a groan-fest or even incompetent.

#169 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:44 AM:

#166 (Chris),

I never read any of the Gor novels. A tad misogynistic, are they?

I will say that there was one SF&F novel I put down because it disgusted me. I forget the author and the title. I read about a hundred pages into it, until the main character, who was a teenaged boy, engaged in consensual pederasty with an older, shaman-like male. The story portrayed the act as both sacred and beautiful.

Now, I am an open-minded reader, and it takes a lot for me to put down a book based on my internal moral sensibilities. In SF one expects to have the norms turned on their heads and to be exposed to new and exotic ways of thinking and being. This is part of the appeal of the genre.

But pubescent boys and old men having sex? Described in such detail as to qualify as soft porn? Sorry. I just couldn't take it.

#170 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:53 AM:

BRT, I'm calling a time out. You may not post anywhere in Making Light for the next twenty-four hours. You're also going to lose some yet-too-be-determined quantity of vowels.

Put a sock in it.

#171 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:59 AM:

Meg Thornton @ 160

I tend to preference them first purely because I regard them as harmless eccentrics who won't make things any worse.

For the last few local elections here in Oregon, my wife and I have had a policy of voting for crackpots wherever there wasn't a woman, person of color*, or competent person with reasonable ideas to vote for. We figure that even if they're not completely benign, the entertainment value will make up for that.

* well, I occasionally vote for men, but never for lawyers. You'd be amazed how many that eliminates.

#172 ::: BRT ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:06 AM:
#173 ::: Fats Durston ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:43 AM:

#168 - Isn't it "Breathe-Gas"?

And don't forget the other sins against the English language: "Man-animals," "Picto-Cameras," or naming the lead character Johnny "Goodboy" Tyler.

#174 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:47 AM:

Lee @156,

...someone who adores music you think is complete garbage

You understand, yes, exactly like that. I don't know how common it is, but I've had friends give me a sharp look when I tell them that music can be on my auto-dealbreaker list. To them it seems shallow, I suppose.

Same friends who would never, ever, date someone who doesn't love books*. I've analogized that certain types of music, to me, would be like trying to read while their partner shines a strobelight on them, to them.

Not everyone notices Muzak, either.

------
* I couldn't. That was one of the wonderful things about when I met my partner: we both love SF, and the sciences, yet we had only a 3% exact overlap of our libraries. We have to stay together, because we're not done reading each other's books, and we keep buying more books.

#175 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:07 AM:

Oh, my. Ole ElRon still has it.. I'm not--quite--horrified, but I wonder about Romney's critical sense.

PNH, #41: I think a lot of pols are likely to have read sf. "History is the trade secret of science fiction."

#176 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:18 AM:

#80: In the case of BATTLEFIELD EARTH, arguably a very bad novel, does it contain any "hidden messages"? Does it have an agenda? If so, what?

From long-ago memory, and it wasn't all that hidden:

1) Real men don't do women's work; conversely, until the happy ending women have little to do but (a) get kidnapped; (b) get rescued; (c) cry a lot.

2) Psychiatrists are very evil. (See Scientology, passim.)

3) Galactic bad guys are very evil because psychiatrists fixed their brains and made them that way.

4) Because their evil is so great and innate, bad guys gloat a lot.

5) It follows that total genocide is the sole possible way of dealing with galactic bad guys. And of course their women and children.

Not that any of this is exactly unique in sf -- from early Doc Smith (before the Rigellians got integrated), where you wipe out entire hostile races and breathe a sigh of relief, to sophisticated Orson Scott Card, where you do much the same but then feel guilty about it.

#177 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:21 AM:

Kathryn, #174: Yes, absolutely, on both counts!

I've been lucky with my current partner. Our musical tastes only partly overlap, and there are a lot of things that one of us likes a lot better than the other, but nothing that one of us hates and the other loves. We handle it by having our computers in separate rooms, and by selecting the music carefully when we're traveling together (and playing the things most likely to drive the other one bats when we're traveling alone!).

But yeah, someone whose CD collection was 90% country-western... that would be a deal-breaker, all right. And that would be for political reasons as well as musical -- I pay attention to lyrics, and I find the attitudes expressed by most C&W to range from "oh, PLEASE!" to downright terrifying. It's highly unlikely that I could even maintain a friendship with such a person, or they with me.

#178 ::: Randall ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:39 AM:

#150, Bruce Cohen:

I admit Dennis Rodman's not much of an actor. What, however, has he to do with Demolition Man? Were I less convinced of your erudtion, I might think you had him confused with Wesley Snipes, who played the villain in that movie.

#179 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:02 AM:

Dave, are you confusing Doc Smith's Rigellians with the Nevians in Triplanetary (Original text now available on Gutenberg)? As I recall, the Rigellians are never presented as a dread enemy. The Nevians almost fight a war of racial extermination by accident, but the heroes have a Kiplingesque[1] revelation that the other side are "real men" beneath the skin.

I'm not familiar enough with the dates of the originals to be sure if Tripanetary is the first time Doc Smith uses that ending, and Skylark Duquesne still has Seaton and Co. exterminating a whole galaxy of chlorine breathers without much grief. It makes you think that Blackie Duquesne is an OK sort of guy, really.

[1] The Ballad of East and West

OH, EAST is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

#180 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:59 AM:

Speaking of local elections, we get them in the UK on Thursday (3rd May). Except our particular local election just got cancelled when one of the candidates dropped dead. (Omnes: He is an ex-candidate.)

So the election process restarts with new nominations and a poll in about a month.

And reports are emerging of all sorts of shenanigans over the postal voting system. OK, some people, such as my parents, find it very difficult to get to a polling station (age and frailty, in their case), but the Government has been encouraging postal balloting for anyone who asks. And then decided that there needed to be more checks, and somehow got sold a computer-based system for checking signatures.

(No, you don't sign the ballot paper. The ballot paper is put in sealed envelope A, which is posted within envelope B, with a signed declaration.)

Now, writing a signature on a sensor pad, giving all the data on stroke-sequence and rhythm, as well as the final shape, seems a reputable method, with the usual human-as-backup. But that's not what they were getting. It's a system that should compare marks on two pieces of paper, made several weeks apart, and quite likely by the old and frail.

So we have an unworkable checking system, with a human back-up that is struggling to check the legally-required minimum proportion of postal ballots, and a whole bunch of candidates (reported as mostly Labour) going around saying, "Hello, Mrs. Smith. I've come to help you fill out your postal ballot."

At least none of them have admitted to reading Battlefield Earth. Our elections just have some embarrassingly petty little crookedness.

#181 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:38 AM:

Nicolas Sarkozy, asked a similar question, picked Curzio Malaparte's Kaputt. France: it's different.

#182 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:25 AM:

#179: Ahhh, Rigellians, Nevians, they all look alike to me. Mind you [he added hastily], don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are Fenachrone....

#183 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:11 AM:

I've read one Trollope...Framley Parsonage. I suspect many of you can guess why. I enjoyed it well enough, and I'll probably read more Trollope someday, but I've got much too much stuff on my shelf already for "someday" to be anytime soon.

#184 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:34 AM:

I'm sorry things went bad with BRT. I had suggested a timeout early yesterday. Maybe it was none of my business as I don't own this place, but I didn't enjoy the way things were going. My apologies for butting in.

#185 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:41 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 174... I've had friends give me a sharp look when I tell them that music can be on my auto-dealbreaker list

There's nothing superficial in that, Kathryn. Something is important to you, so of course you look for it in a potential Significant Other.

Sue already knew I liked music. Heck, somewhere I still have the tape she made for me in 1983 of various pieces by Debussy and Ravel and other Impressionists. But it was not one specific thing that brought us together. She and I met thru a certain writer's fanclub (as these things used to be called in the pre-internet days), but what brought us together was the love of F/SF as a whole.

#186 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:52 AM:

Serge, I think a timeout was an excellent suggestion, and I'm sorry I didn't stop after my "Ooh Patrick said something shiny!" post. I was suffering from "Yes, I do sometimes shut up -- just one more thing!" syndrome (and a bad case of "I don't know how to fix this chapter" causing me to post more than usual yesterday.)

One of the features of the Making Light Commentariat is the self- and community-propriety-promoting* among the participants in any given thread. I'm pretty sure that if you had been out of line in your suggestion Teresa would have noted this. (The usual disclaimers about not knowing Teresa's mind apply).

* I first typed "policing," but that connotes lots of "thou shalt not!" Whereas the commenters here tend more to "Oh, hey, let's all calm down." It's pre-coffee time for me, so I can't think of a succint term for "promoting propriety."

#187 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:02 AM:

#120 actually deserves some more attention, I think. I came here meaning to ask pretty much the same question, and since you people have a lot more insight than me into the political process over there, maybe someone can make an educated guess: assuming that Battlefield Earth isn't really this man's favorite book (which I just have to assume, or else I must hope that he has never actually read another book), can you imagine any kind of political reason--silly and misguided as though it may be--why he would have said that?

I mean, to get the Scientologists on his side is OBVIOUSLY too, ehm, obvious. It's always more complex than that. At least in cheap political thrillers it is. ;)

I almost want to say that his claim is like saying "Hitler is my favorite painter"--not just is it generally accepted within the field that he had no talent or skill whatsoever, it's also not exactly the kind of person you'd like to be associated with. All the "but I really disagree with his politics/sect" disclaimers you can add to that kind of statement won't help.

Of course, this being the internet, I should be careful with the nazi analogies, but hell, someone's gotta take the Godwin bullet.

#188 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:05 AM:

Emma @157, Serge @112: Journey to the Center of the Earth was apparently mined by Irving Allen; some of the musical themes used in Lost in Space came from that movie.

#189 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:09 AM:

A tangentially related thought: One hypothesis for the emergence of consciousness is that it arises from the need to model the mental states of other organisms in order to predict their behaviour, eg. predators guessing which way their prey will run. Might showing a learning agent a big enough archive of internet discussions in which participants consistently mis-read each other's intentions (and pointing out the mistakes, obviously) be a more fruitful path towards AI?

In fact, I'm sure there's a Neal Stephenson story with a similar premise (and, IIRC, paranoid schizophrenic car alarms...).

#190 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:24 AM:

Re #112 and #158, fans of subterranean Verne, Burroughs, et al might want to look at Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface by David Standish, "the cultural history of an idea that was wrong and changed nothing." (Which I haven't yet read. But I heard a terrific interview with the author on the radio.)

#191 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:36 AM:

jennie @ 186... Thanks.

#192 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:36 AM:

I haven't read Battlefield Earth, but by all accounts it is the same sort of ride LRH was providing to his readers in the 1940s. One uncomfortable thing about Hubbard is that, slapdash of style and heedless of science though he may have been, he was a writer who delivered the juice readers are looking for in pulp fiction.

A demonstration may be found here:

According to the monthly poll, of authors who sold ten or more stories to Astounding/Analog between 1938 and 1976, Hubbard ranks 30th most popular. Just below Lewis Padgett and Fritz Leiber, just above E.B. Cole (who?), Theodore Sturgeon, and L. Sprague de Camp.

#193 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:40 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 190... That sounds like a neat book. I'll see if I can get it thru my local Borders today.

#194 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:45 AM:

Rob Rusick @ 188... I do remember seeing Lost in Space's original pilot and being amused that Irwin Allen had also used another Bernard Hermann score, the one for The Day The Earth Stood Still, for his show's opening credits. That did improve the show.

#195 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:08 AM:

#160 Meg Thorton: We have the Natural Law Party here in the US as well; it's an offshoot of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation movement. A college friend of my wife's ran for Congress on their ticket once. She lost.

#170 TNH: A partial disemvoweling? That sounds even more painful than the other.

#192 Bill Higgins: Wow. Hubbard ranked ahead of Sturgeon, Silverberg, and Budrys as well. Maybe the voters knew he was going to become a god, eh?

#196 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:29 AM:

Randall @ 178

Oops. My bad. I have no idea where that came from; must be too many fried neurons from the misadventures of my youth.

To set that mistake right completely, Wesley Snipes is rather a good actor, though he doesn't get roles that allow him to show it as often as I'd like.

#197 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:37 AM:

BRT, when and if you return, I have a question I'm genuinely curious about. Why are you here?

You don't seem to like the people here. You have spent most of your comment time here taking shots at others, up to and including flat-out insulting both other participants and our host and hostess. You don't know much about the place or the people on it. You don't know much about the topic under discussion, and don't seem like you actually want to learn about it, either.

So why are you here?

#198 ::: Scott H xxx someone else ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:43 AM:

LauraJMixon @ 129:This is a digression, but I am *so easy*, when it comes to bad SF movies. I cringe to admit how many times I've watched "Demolition Man," frex.

I secretly sort of love the 2002 remake of The Time Machine a lot.

O the shame.

#199 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Scott H @ 198... What about the 1978 version starring John Beck? I've never seen it, but I've heard that it was, to put it mildly, quite dreadful.

#200 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:51 AM:

Jakob @ 189

If I understand that line of thought correctly, the key element of consciousness is that, once a sophisticated modeler is developed, it gets used to model the individual doing the modeling, including the modeler as part of the model.

I'm reading Douglas Hofstadter's "I Am a Strange Loop" now; this recursive modeling is precisely the subject. Hofstadter says that 'I' is the most complex, most cross-referential symbol in the human mind, and that it is created by the mechanism that allows humans to create arbitrary symbols to model anything.

It's not a new idea, but Hofstadter (at least by a third of way through the book) seems to have spent more time thinking through the implications than anyone but, perhaps, Daniel Dennet.

An interesting book, and it has a section of really fascinating color photos of video feedback, which is one my pet pastimes whenever I have a camera and a monitor in the same room.

#201 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:54 AM:

I didn't know that the Natural Law Party was still around. They used to run candidates in Canadian elections, and had magician Doug Henning as a prominent spokesman/promoter. But that was back in the early 1990s, and I don't think I've heard anything of them since then.

#202 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:11 AM:

JESR #153: Because:

(1) It is the only work of Trollope's that I have spent time reading and thinking about.

(2) It was enough to make me want to dig up the old bastard's grave.

(3) I tend to find racism worthy of punishment.

#203 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:11 AM:

I'm assuming it is his favourite book, because I don't see any advantage to saying it. In which case my reaction is pretty much the same as Patrick's.

"What a wonderful modern age we live in, gentlemen."

And say what you like about Trollope, I still maintain that he really understood dragons.

#204 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:14 AM:

Serge, Rob, now I have to see all three!

#205 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:18 AM:

Tehanu #159: Consider the following passage --

'My friend and brother over there, my skin-polished, shining, oil-fat negro, is a richer man than I. He lies under his mango-tree, and eats the luscious fruit in the sun; he sends his black urchin up for a breadfruit, and behold the family table is spread. He pierces a cocoa-nut, and, lo! there is his beverage. He lies on the grass surrounded by oranges, bananas, and pine-apples. O my hard taskmaster of the sugar-mill, is he not better off than thou? why should he work at thy order? “No, massa, me weak in me belly; me no workee to-day; me no like workee just ‘em little moment.” Yes, Sambo has learned to have his own way; though hardly learned to claim his right without lying.' (Anthony Trollope, The West Indies and the Spanish Main.)


Now tell me why I should give Trollope the least consideration.

#206 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Serge #163: You are a lucky man!!

#207 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Meg Thornton #160 & DaveL #195:

The Natural Law Party is everywhere. Its highest votegetter in the 1997 elections in Jamaica was my cousin John.

#208 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:31 AM:

I blame the Wright brothers for a lot of features of pulp-SF.

#209 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:32 AM:

As to the Battlefield Earth movie, I think Mr. Cranky said it best:
"The only thing I can figure out is that the Church of Scientology decided that they wanted to ensure nobody else joined up. This movie is like watching the Pope accidentally catch on fire while giving Easter Mass. If that's not a time to rethink your spiritual choices, what is?" (Sadly, the full review is no longer online.)

As a resident of Massachusetts I wouldn't call Romney a moderate but rather an ineffectual conservative. But then, I also think of Kerry as a moderate, so take that as you will.

#210 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Aconite, I think it's clear that BRT came for some writer/editor blogging over in Pitch Sessions Viewed as Useless, and then saw a thread which he interpreted as an attack on his fellow Mormon Mitt Romney. BRT jumped rather aggressively to Romney's defense, and things escalated.

#211 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:36 AM:

And Bill @190--that sounds like a fun book. You know, it didn't crystallize until you mentioned it, but I am a fan of the "hollow earth" sort of entertainments. Maybe because I cut my reading teeth on Verne and Burroughs (third generation scifi reader here; not many children receive a copy of The Martian Chronicles for their fifth birthday, I don't think).
Any other recommendations on the theme?

#212 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:41 AM:

Emma @ 204... now I have to see all three!

Even the supposedly awful 1978 version? I think it was a TV movie, by the way. I'm not sure if that's a plus or a minus.

#213 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:46 AM:

Emma @ 211... I am a fan of the "hollow earth" sort of entertainments. (...) Any other recommendations on the theme?

There was a Journey to the Center of the Earth mini-series about 10 years ago, with Treat Williams (gag!) as the main character. It owed more to Burroughs than to Verne, and yet it still managed to be quite boring. And it had only one dinosaur, I think.

#214 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:53 AM:

Fragano @207 -- because you will learn a great deal?

I'm not being facetious or sarcastic; Trollope was an observer of his times AND a man of his times, and you learn a great deal from him about Victorian politics and mores, even or especially from the things that make you cringe. One of the best history profs I ever had insisted we read Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples for the same reason.

And if you want to see a great political/social thrashing, try The Way we Live Now.

#215 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 10:56 AM:

Niall McAuley@210, I have to disagree. BRT's posts in the "Evil Overlord Applauds" thread that discussed the use of Monarchy in the Honorverse were pretty well received...

I think based on that discussion he made a few fundamentally incorrect assumptions about this discussion and then got carried away by Internet Madness...

#216 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:02 AM:

Dave Bell # 208: Pray do elaborate! You do mean Orville and Wilbur, yes?

Fragano # 205: He was supposedly the inspiration for George Eliot? I've not read The West Indies and the Spanish Main, and I can't say I see any need to now, but one could offer the excuse that he was a man of his times. And that his best writing was good enough to have survived.

#217 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:03 AM:

Getting in late (boy, this discussion expanded fast) on the "shared tastes?" and "togetherness" sub-threads, my husband and I didn't make it official for a long time, but as of May 15th we'll have been together for 24 great years. We don't like the same music or have the same hobbies, but we both love cats and hate football -- so we really *are* soulmates!

As for favorite books, I read too many in the course of reviewing to think of any one novel or series as *the* best thing ever. I'm also long past the days when I saw the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night about 20 times, but I have just ordered the DVD of another great oldie: the original version of Bedazzled.

#218 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:36 AM:

Emma #214: As far as I am concerned, Trollope was just another racist SOB whose ill-founded, irrational opinions and observations of the things that he wanted to see (coupled with ignoring the things he wanted to ignore) did much to promote evil in the world.

The following is taken from a paper I'll be presenting this summer:

The Victorian novelist records his impressions of the region in his account of the mission to The West Indies and the Spanish Main; beginning with the author’s arrival in “Niggery-Hispano-Dano-Yankee Doodle” St Thomas, and concluding with a brief description of a journey from Bermuda to New York and Canada before finally returning to Britain.

In between, Trollope describes his experiences in the wider Caribbean. While, as travel literature, there is much to admire in Trollope’s carefully crafted descriptions of both personal experiences and scenery, there is nothing whatsoever to admire in his comments either on politics or on race. In his introduction to the Carroll and Graf reprint, Fred D’Aguiar both praises Trollope’s style and notes “he exhibits all the symptoms of a mind produced during the reign of Queen Victoria,” which puts the problem into a very tight nutshell. D’Aguiar contends that Trollope’s attitude was the result of the influences of Darwin, Bentham, and Coleridge although Darwin’s Origin of Species was published while Trollope was in the Caribbean and there is no evidence in the text that Trollope had either read it or been influenced by it; the Benthamite position, that is best which produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people, is the basis for the arguments of John Stuart Mill; and there does not seem to be a connection between either Coleridge’s metaphysics or his poetry to the question of race and rule.

It is that question, however, which should preoccupy us. Trollope has much to say on the matter of race and on the question of how the West Indies should be ruled, and it is this that makes his work repulsive reading for Caribbean people of the present day.

Trollope makes the standard racial distinction of the time, among black, that is to say persons of purely or overwhelmingly African descent, coloured, that is to say biracial, and white West Indians. His opinions on the first group are given in nauseating detail. For example, he declares of Creole, which is to say West Indian-born, blacks that

"They have no country of their own, yet have they not hitherto any country of their adoption; for, whether as slaves in Cuba, or as free labourers in the British isles, they have no language of their own, nor have they yet any language of their adoption; for they speak their broken English as uneducated foreigners always speak a foreign language. They have no idea of country, and no pride of race; for even among themselves, the word “nigger” conveys their worst term of reproach. They have no religion of their own, and can hardly as yet be said to have, as a people, a religion by adoption; and yet there is no race which has more strongly developed its own physical aptitudes and inaptitudes, its own habits, its own tastes, and its own faults."

Trollope here combines a misunderstanding of the nature of language with a substantial ignorance of the mores, practices, and culture of black West Indians, specifically Jamaicans since Jamaica is the subject of this chapter, but feels perfectly free to make judgments on the basis of a relatively brief visit. His contention that, although they live in the British West Indies, the West Indian colonies are not their country or countries is a rather odd prefiguring of the arguments of the Rastafarians in the twentieth century.

He also rehearses the conventional white Victorian view of the racial characteristics of the African who “is capable of the hardiest bodily work” at lest physical cost than members of any other race, but is also lazy, unmotivated by material needs and, of course, “sensual”. The black man, perversely, while “apparently capable of but little sustained effort” of intellect is nevertheless ambitious in this field, yearning for recognition of his scholarly ability and using words he cannot understand; the black is religious only for appearance’s sake, “and delights in aping the little graces of civilization.” This is racism in the original sense of the term: the assumption that ancestry is destiny.

The black man is driven, Trollope believes, only by “the fear of immediate punishment, or hopes of immediate reward” and venerates the white man as “the god present to his eye”. The Christianity of the West Indian black is simply a superficial enjoyment of religious ceremony without the fostering of any virtues; knowledge of the Bible does not mean any mental appreciation of the truth of Christianity. The positive qualities of blacks are matched by parallel faults, and they are at bottom creatures of the moment: “Their crimes are those of momentary impulse, as also are their virtues.”

The white “friend of the negro” has tried to “rescue his black brother from the degradation of an inferior species” should consider whether or not “it be God’s pleasure that more time be required before the work is good.” This pious platitude, it must be noted, is shortly followed by an assessment of a different kind that deserves quotation at length:

"Emancipation and the last change in the sugar duties have made land only too plentiful in Jamaica, and enormous tracts have been thrown out of cultivation as unprofitable. And it is also only too fertile. The negro, consequently, has had unbounded facility of squatting and has availed himself of it freely. To recede from civilization and become again savage – as savage as the laws of the community will permit – has been to his taste. I believe that he would altogether retrograde if left to himself."

Leaving aside the issue of the excessive fertility of the land cultivated by the free black peasantry of Jamaica a quarter century after emancipation, the point of this is blindingly clear: savagery consists of not serving white people. Trollope has created a dilemma for himself, he has defined blacks as inherently servile, and he then has to deal with the fact that a free peasantry cultivating its own land is not cultivating the land owned by whites. This absence of servility, then, has to be recast as savagery. It has also to be defined in terms of a divinely ordained mission of improvement; transatlantic slavery is described as “a part of the Creator’s scheme for the population and cultivation of the earth.” This plan included the irruption of “Asiatic hordes into Europe” and the coming together of Celt, Saxon and Dane to form the English. A degree of “wild and savage” energy is necessary for civilisation; the Victorian Englishman, Trollope avers, obtained his “from his Vandal forebears”. The Englishman has overcome his primitive savagery, but the West Indian black is in a different state.

While work is a hardship, “It is clearly not Nature’s intention” that the black should not work. He should be obliged, by some means short of slavery, “to give the world a fair day’s work for his fair day’s provender.” It is as if the oranges, breadfruit, coconuts and yams that Trollope describes as the black man’s diet fell into his hands without the necessity of work, as if the task of digging a yam-hill under the tropical sun required no actual effort. In a celebrated passage, part of a disquisition on the sugar industry, Trollope tells us that while he cannot do without working for wages

"My friend and brother over there, my skin-polished, shining, oil-fat negro, is a richer man than I. He lies under his mango-tree, and eats the luscious fruit in the sun; he sends his black urchin up for a breadfruit, and behold the family table is spread. He pierces a cocoa-nut, and, lo! there is his beverage. He lies on the grass surrounded by oranges, bananas, and pine-apples. O my hard taskmaster of the sugar-mill, is he not better off than thou? why should he work at thy order? “No, massa, me weak in me belly; me no workee to-day; me no like workee just ‘em little moment.” Yes, Sambo has learned to have his own way; though hardly learned to claim his right without lying."

Eric Williams’s comment on this passage, that Trollope was ignoring the increase in peasant freeholds, the new crops raised by these peasants, and the increase in imports indicating that the free peasantry far from returning to “savagery” was eagerly consuming the manufactures of capitalism, culminates in asking whether “Carlyle had planted pumpkin in order for Trollope to reap breadfruit.” But Trollope had defended himself from such accusations well in advance, declaring “I utterly disbelieve in statistics as a science.” Williams’s judgment, that it was not that Trollope opposed abolishing slavery but that he “really regretted the freedom of the former slaves” seems perfectly apposite; Trollope saw black West Indians as subsisting without working according to the discipline of the factory or office and resented it.

Trollope believes that the long-run effect would be worse for the black than for the white man. So he asked “[c]an it not be contrived that he shall be free, free as is the Englishman, to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow?” This ignored the reality of an expanding peasantry which was bringing new crops to market, as Williams was at pains to note, not to mention the fact, acknowledged by Mill, that the black West Indian still had to dig for his bread.

Trollope, on the other hand, believes that the “coloured men of Jamaica cannot be despised much longer” and sees them as a race “fitted by intellect for civilization; and fitted also by physical organization for tropical labour” thus combining the qualities of his white and black ancestors. The “future race” which will inherit the West Indies will also include Chinese and East Indians in its ancestry. Unsympathetic as he is to blacks, browns for Trollope are the natural future masters of the West Indies and while they have “a portion of their lesson to learn; perhaps the greater portion” they are learning their lesson and developing as a race, a process which is not instantaneous. They will eventually achieve dominance within the West Indies, and Trollope does not see this as a bad thing as it will allow the British to achieve the goal of their civilizing mission and withdraw from the West Indies leaving it in the hands of a civilized people, although this will be in the distant future:

"I am here speaking of the general ascendency (sic), not of the political power of these coloured races. It may be that after all we shall still have to send out some white Governor with a white aide-de-camp and a white private secretary – some three or four unfortunate white men to support the dignity of the throne of Queen Victoria’s great-grandchild’s grandchild."

Jamaica, at the time Trollope visited, had a government of the Old Representative system with governor, Legislative Council, and Assembly playing the role of “Queen, Lords, and Commons.” However, this is not a system suitable for Jamaica or any other West Indian colony; to be fair to Trollope, he does not think it suitable for small dependencies with exclusively white populations such as Malta, Jersey, the Scilly Islands, or the Ionian Islands. In Trinidad and British Guiana, legislative power was in the hands of the Crown, and British Guiana was the best-governed of the West Indian colonies. In Jamaica “the handful of white men can no longer have it all their own way” but only a very few blacks are “fit to enact laws”. Representative government is not suitable to small colonies, and, in the case of Jamaica has done no good at all:

"Her roads are almost impassable, her bridges are broken down, her coffee plantations have gone back to bush, her sugar estates have been sold for the value of the sugar boilers. Kingston as a town is the most deplorable that man ever visited, unless it be that Spanish Town is worse. And yet they have Lords and Commons with all but unlimited powers of making motions!"

However, in Trinidad and British Guiana, governed directly by the Crown, sugar production has been increasing and East Indian labour has been obtained in order to plant and cut the canes. Indeed, British Guiana is the “Elysium of the tropics” governed by “a mild despotism, tempered by sugar.” The authoritarian rule of the governor as “father of his people” has led to considerable prosperity.

Trollope, thus, endorses the Crown Colony system as the best form of government for the West Indian colonies. He tempers this call for what was, after all, despotic rule with a modicum of trusteeship on behalf of the coming blended race which would be the natural rulers of the West Indies, and with repeated condemnations of black indolence and idleness. His condemnation of Jamaica’s representative system, it bears noting, is a condemnation of the low quality of the white men who dominated the Assembly and of their probity.

#219 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:40 AM:

Faren @ 217... Having politics that aren't too dissimilar helps too.

24 years together? Congrats. By the way, which of you has problems remembering that anniversary? My wife never can get it right on the first try. For me, it's easy because we got married 2 days before Challenger blew up. Strictly speaking, we've been together since a few months before that, starting on Saturday, Sept 28, 1985.

#220 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:49 AM:

Jakob #216: There were men of his time who were anti-racist, John Stuart Mill for example.

#221 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Fragano@218: I assume you won't read Celine, Chesterton, or Pound either?

Whatever else may be said of Trollope's writing about the West Indies, it is not typical in its subject of the rest of his work; nor would it be considered in any way a major work of his. The views he expresses are also not particularly unusual given the time and provenance of the author.

Trollope may have been "another racist SOB ... usw" (although even that has to be qualified with regard to his time and place); but to claim that he was just another is to ignore the fact that most of his work -- and his major work -- does not touch on the area at all.

#222 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:53 AM:

Fragano@220: And how normative for his time was John Stuart Mill?

#223 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:58 AM:

Jules Verne wasn't above the prejudices of his era, to put it mildly. The black character in Robur the Conqueror behaved like a prototype of actor Steppin Fetchit. And yet, Verne created Captain Nemo, who was eventually revealed to be from India, and didn't Phileas Fogg marry the Indian princess?

#224 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:59 AM:

quoted in Fragano's #205:
'My friend and brother over there, my skin-polished, shining, oil-fat negro, is a richer man than I. He lies under his mango-tree, and eats the luscious fruit in the sun; he sends his black urchin up for a breadfruit, and behold the family table is spread. He pierces a cocoa-nut, and, lo! there is his beverage. He lies on the grass surrounded by oranges, bananas, and pine-apples. O my hard taskmaster of the sugar-mill, is he not better off than thou? why should he work at thy order? “No, massa, me weak in me belly; me no workee to-day; me no like workee just ‘em little moment.” Yes, Sambo has learned to have his own way; though hardly learned to claim his right without lying.' (Anthony Trollope, The West Indies and the Spanish Main.)

I read that passage and thought, "Man, that sounds JUST LIKE the attitude Postal Service management has towards employees who call in sick; they're lazy, lying, and worthless."

Then I took a look at Trollope's bio on Wikipedia, and found this:

"He then obtained a position as a civil servant in the British Post Office" [emphasis added]

The more things change...

#225 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:02 PM:

My assumption about the politics is: for some reason, politicians don't feel that they're able to say "You know, I don't really have a favorite book. I just don't think about books that often." Ditto for favorite movie, favorite philosopher, favorite gin, favorite twelve-tone concerto, favorite colonialist hat, whatever. I don't know why they feel they can't say that, but that's the observed reality.

And given that they have to say that they have some favorite, they probably also know that it doesn't matter very much what they say. Romney wouldn't have gotten any more or less votes by naming Battlefield Earth than he would've gotten by naming Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. So why not just say the first thing that popped into his head, maybe the book he was reading on the airplane the day before? There's no downside, and it saves the trouble of thinking of a better answer.

So maybe it shows that he's shallow, and maybe it shows that he doesn't read much or doesn't think much about what he does read, but other than that it probably doesn't show much. As others have observed, it's not as if I would've voted for him anyway. It's not even the stupidest thing he's said on the campaign trail in the last couple weeks.

#226 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Our 26th anniversary took place a few weeks ago, two days after my husband's birthday, and five years to the week after we met. Easy enough to remember. (Would I pick that date again? No. Too much confusion about presents--who gets what when--and it has been known to be inconveniently close to tax time.)

We have a good Venn-diagram overlap in music, but a lot of it is convergence over the years. Ditto the books, although we were both always big-time readers.

#227 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Serge, speaking for myself, I appreciated your appeals to the better (Euclidian?) angles of our nature.

When I read BRT's post at #115, I wanted to post to point out that he still hadn't admitted he'd made a mistake. I read your post at #116, and decided that I could let it sort itself out for a while, and the next post was... BRT admitting his mistake. I then decided (again, related to what you'd posted) that my remaining issues fell under my Thumper right (If you can't say anything nice, you have the right not to say anything at all.)

Parenthetically, another good hollow world book is Subterranean Worlds: 100,000 years of dragons, dwarfs, the dead, lost races & UFOs from inside the earth by Walter Kafton-Minkel.

Square bracketally, if you want to see Hubbard's issues play out graphically and distressingly, read the oldest edition of Dianetics you can find. It may surprise you to learn that it is not uncommon for an expectant mother to make twenty or thirty abortion attempts.

#228 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:15 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 174: My boyfriend and I have the same sort of library. Our books get along so well together.

Dave Bell @ 179: Utterly tangential, but my quantum mechanics prof once told a terrible, awful pun in class based on that snippet of Kipling.

It appears, you see, that this farmer had a horse with a long, luxurious mane. The trouble was that sparrows kept building nests in it, and the poor horse was driven almost to distraction by the constant cries of the baby birds. The farmer was talking to his neighbor over the fence one day, and complained of the sparrows in his horse's mane. The neighbor said "Oh, here is what you do. Go and get some bread yeast and just sprinkle it all over the horse. That'll drive the birds away."

So the farmer did just that, and lo and behold, all the sparrows flew away and the horse was left in peace.

He went back to his neighbor in great excitement and said "It worked! This is wonderful! How on earth did you know to suggest that?"

The neighbor said "Oh, it's the old saying, you know: Yeast is yeast, and nest is nest, and never the mane shall tweet."

#229 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:16 PM:

I could avoid finding myself blinking across a café table at someone whose formative literary experience was Atlas Shrugged or any of the Gor novels, trying to find something to say about the relative merits of Armageddon and fervently hoping that my cell phone might ring with an excuse to pay my bill and leave,

Hence the phrase: "Arm-a-geddon out of here."

Sorry.

#230 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:16 PM:

James #221: One of the things I do is examine the development of political ideas in and about the Caribbean. As a result, I find it impossible to read Trollope or Kingsley without anger and disgust. To say that his ideas were 'not particularly unusual' for their time does not excuse them.

It may well be that Trollope's writing on the West Indies is a minor part of his oeuvre, but it happens to be the part that is of professional interest to me. It also had real influence on the policy-makers of the time, with consequences that I, for one, find abominable.

John Stuart Mill stood for decency with regard to both gender and race, that certainly made him unusual for his time (but, and this is why I mentioned him, it also points to the fact that Victorian intellectuals did not have to be racist).

#231 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:17 PM:

JESR @111:

Belatedly, I respond, the book was Can You Forgive Her? Which managed to be both Great in the literary sense, effectively depressing, and endlessly infuriating for the way it portrayed in what seemed a fairly accurate way the complete hopelessness of the protagonist's position. She was given no way to win, and the closest she or her friends came to 'triumph' in the end was to choose the least unpleasant of several dreadful alternatives. And I always felt sorry for Kate, whom I very much wanted to whisk away into some other setting entirely where she might actually manage to be happy.

#232 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:17 PM:

Fungi @ 227... better (Euclidian?) angles of our nature

I like the sound of it. It has the germ of a story of Abe Lincoln running into the Hounds of Tyndalos.

#233 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:23 PM:

Bruce Arthurs #224: I believe that Trollope invented the pillar box.

#234 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Caroline @ 228... Groan.

#235 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:33 PM:

joann (226):
Our 26th anniversary took place a few weeks ago, two days after my husband's birthday, and five years to the week after we met.

Wow, married for (almost) 21 years before you even met? That's remarkable...

#236 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Laura Mixon @129 -- "This is a digression, but I am *so easy*, when it comes to bad SF movies. I cringe to admit how many times I've watched "Demolition Man," frex."

Demolition Man is worth it for the knitting scene alone. :)

#237 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Fade Manlye @231, I wondered if that was it. Catherine's is an utterly miserable position, and, in AT's relentlessly detailed observation of his own society as it existed in that moment in time, every word is necessary to bring that misery to convincing life. There's an edited version out there that collapses the description of the green drawing room to a couple of short sentences, and in doing so lets the air out of the book- the hopelessness and thoughlessness that room embodies is left as a tolerable abstract.

Me, I tend to think of Trollope as an SF equivalent, his world being so utterly foreign to anything I've ever experienced. There's a postapocalyptic feel to many of his story environments, where the old order has passed but has nowhere to pass to.

#238 ::: thanbo ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:52 PM:

Debbie's take: Oh, he's a Sc13ntologist, then, not a mormon. Why not something by Card, like Ender's Game? It's a much better book, and it's Mormon.

#239 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 12:56 PM:

Also, and not to hijack not engage in endless disputation, let me say that Trollope and his mother were both, in their way, the thin end of the wedge for modern middle-class society, taking their lives into their own hands and working instead of living uselessly in respectable poverty at the whim of their titled family.

I was not, until Fragano Ledgister brought up the strange little work on the West Indies, even particularly aware he had opinions on that subject; it seems a very small thing in relation to the big bold ideas he had about the role of women, and the way that he illustrated social change in 19th century Europe.

#240 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:04 PM:

JESR @237, this is why I recognize that the work was Great. It was masterfully done; it simply did, in a masterful way, something I didn't want to read.

I frequently have trouble with 'serious' literature because I don't like unhappy endings, and Trollope made me spend several hundred pages with characters I began to care for in order to give me a resoundingly plausible unhappy ending for all of them when it finally finished. I appreciate being forced to read the book in my Lit course, and have no intention of reading anything else by the same author.

#241 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Canard @ 155: No, but only because I went to a small, private, liberal arts school in Massachusetts in the 90s as opposed to a small, private liberal arts school in Minnesota in the 70s.

Jennie @ 162: Yay! See, kindred spirits found through identification of a favorite book (nay, line in said book.) Also, these posts are by way of introducing myself to the denizens of the comment threads, as I'm another longtime reader, new poster. So now, I'm the one who loves Tam Lin, and I'm fine with that.

On the Trollope discussion: while I've not read Trollope, it sounds remarkably like the discussion I've had with students about Joseph Conrad. Now, I agree with Achebe that Conrad was a "bloody racist," but I still teach Heart of Darkness. I just follow it with Things Fall Apart and The Poisonwood Bible and we have it out about the effects of institutional racism. I think they can learn from reading the book and engaging in thought about the discourse that book wrought. So maybe Trollope can do as well?

#242 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:24 PM:

JESR #239: You will pardon me, I hope, if I don't find Trollope's racism 'a very small thing'.


Kouredios #241: Achebe's critique of Conrad centred on Conrad's having to go to Africa to find 'darkness', when such darkness can be found everywhere. Trollope in the West Indies observed but did not see. He brought his prejudices with him, and imposed them on the world. After all, as he put it, 'These people are a servile race, fitted by nature for the hardest physical work, and apparently fitted for little else.'

I realise that several people here read Trollope with enjoyment. I fear that I cannot, for all that Trollope saw people like myself as the natural heirs of British rule in the West Indies.

#243 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Serge (184), a timeout was an excellent suggestion. I'm at fault for not implementing it earlier. I was concentrating on editing a book, and let the thread run unmoderated much longer than I should have.

#244 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Fragano @218: now that's a paper I'd love to read (the Caribbean being a natural interest of mine). If you post it online, send the URL to my address.

Again, I'm not defending Trollope. I'm saying that if you are studying the Victorians, he's a very good source. I very much agree with JESR upthread; his ability to relentlessly pick apart his own society is invaluable--if depressing.

#245 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:43 PM:

#238: What's Mormon about Ender's Game?

I know the *author* is Mormon. But the *book*? Maybe I'm just not familiar enough with Mormonism to see how it's reflected in the book. Do the different armies in Battle School represent the tribes of Israel or something?

Ender isn't even much of a messiah, all things considered. (Although I guess you might consider that a retcon, and therefore not properly part of Ender's Game.)

#246 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:53 PM:

BRT @# 55:

Sue me if the word's use in our popular lexicon does not adhere strictly to the dictionary definition.

Linguistic precision is a source of both joy and lucre to our hosts (and most of our fellow guests). If Patrick says "homunculus" he bloody well means "homunculus."

#247 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Emma #244: I'm delivering it at a conference in Philadelphia this summer, I should post it afterwards (look for it at malvernmountain.blogspot.com).

#248 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 144: I want to see Star Wars #1 with an alternate audio track (I've never seen it, actually. I did see #2... I think that the acting of Whiny Male would be enormously improved by application of Botox injections, there's be more facial expression...).

I can confirm that SW1 is indeed vastly improved by watching it in a foreign language with subtitles, which allows one to chalk up clunky turns of phrase to poor translation. (Also, because of cultural factors, it's harder to tell whether the appropriate emotional/dramatic intensity is present.) Rent the DVD, select a non-English audio track, turn on the English subtitles, and you're good to go.

Or at least I vastly enjoyed it in Spanish. Pondering whether to buy a Canadian copy of the DVD so I can compare the French. No idea how they handle the various accents.

#249 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:05 PM:

Homunculus, li, dim. ab Homo. A litle man, a dwarfish fellow, one of no reputation.

Thomas Thomas, Dictionarium Linguae Latinae et Anglicanae, (1587)

#250 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:10 PM:

Fragano Legister, I've been schooled to avoid value judgements about the beliefs of people whose culture I do not share, and further to look at a writer's entire body of work when judging their usefulness and significance.

I will say, however, that your feelings about Trollope are a pale reflection of mine for Heinlein, so make of that what you will.

#251 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Fragano Legister, I've been schooled to avoid value judgements about the beliefs of people whose culture I do not share, and further to look at a writer's entire body of work when judging their usefulness and significance.

I will say, however, that your feelings about Trollope are a pale reflection of mine for Heinlein, so make of that what you will.

#252 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Jeopardy über-champ Ken Jennings, incidentally, has weighed in on the subject, noting that Romney's choice shows both bad taste and bad political judgment.

#253 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:13 PM:

Sorry for the double post, again, I have no idea what's happening.

#254 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Damn. Fragano, I'm really disappointed to hear that about Trollope. I was planning to read him in preparation for reading Tooth and Claw, but that kind of stuff is just too horrible for me to deal with.

I am not one to boycott a work of art because the artist is or was an unpleasant individual. I am certainly not one to expect twenty-first century political correctness in books more than a hundred years old. But the kind of direct racism Fragano quoted is a different matter. I don't think the era excuses that level of viciousness, either. Trollope's contemporaries might have had attitudes that don't feel comfortable to a modern audience; even using the word "Negro" would be unacceptable today. But that doesn't make them racist in the way those excerpts are. Blech.

I shall have to just read Tooth and Claw on its own, because I know perfectly well that Jo isn't racist.

#255 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:33 PM:

Fragano re Trollope: Egad.

ajay, #229: No, you're not. :-)

Aconite, #197: BRT did mention, earlier in the thread, that he came in by way of the Pitch Bitch post, and that he considers this a "professional interest" blog because it discusses writers and writing. Niall in #210 has probably nailed the reason why this post in particular caused him to trainwreck, when he'd been doing okay up to now.

However, I woke up this morning with some new insights on the entire trainwreck, which also relate to the topic of blog moderation, so I'm going to lay them out here.

As a longtime Usenet participant, I recognized that suite of tactics (well-dissected by Patrick in #34) -- and I'm sure I wasn't the only one to do so. Bluntly, it's the style of the Newsgroup Troll, who differs from the garden-variety troll in that he will stick around and participate in the arguments he stirs up. Right down to the "Aha, I see you haven't banned me yet" poke at Teresa after she finally said Enough.

BRT also mentioned upthread that he reads and participates in a number of political blogs. Unmoderated political blogs are where a lot of the Newsgroup Trolls have gone to hang out. I think it's possible that he's learned his style from people on those blogs*, without yet having made the connection that for a Newsgroup Troll, the whole point is not whether he's right or wrong, but how many people he can make how mad. This would also explain why he took the dogpile over the blanket-hypocrisy accusation to mean that people were "in high dudgeon" and "overly upset", when in fact this is one of the standard responses to the Newsgroup Troll -- you have to keep hammering at the offense he's trying to let slide, to show him that this tactic isn't going to work.

And this in turn is a demonstration of why moderation matters. Without it, any discussion blog will rapidly devolve into a collection of Newsgroup Trolls, and the signal-to-noise ratio goes to hell.

* Yes, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt here. It's equally possible that he learned his style by being a Newsgroup Troll, and uses it because he knows exactly how well it works. But most Newsgroup Trolls of my experience have little interest in any other form of discourse, which has not been the case with BRT until this post.

#256 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:39 PM:

JESR #250: I belong both to the culture from which Trollope sprang, and to the one which he condemns. That's one of the benefits (or curses) or being multiracial and multicultural.

#257 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:51 PM:

Adam, #252: He says, Plus, it’s not like the widely-held best SF novel of the last thirty years wasn’t by a fellow Mormon! and the link goes to Ender's Game. What I want to know is, who's calling it that? Certainly nobody *I* know, and I suspect I know a lot more SF fans than he does!

#258 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:56 PM:

Re: Trollope, I can't help mentioning the old tale of the clergyman asked about his bedtime reading habits:

"I like to take a Trollope to bed with me. It doesn't matter which Trollope; any Trollope will do."

Sorry! But it's been stuck in my brain for years, I can't go on suffering alone!

#259 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 02:59 PM:

Lee @ 257:

What I want to know is, who's calling it that?

I can't say who they are, but as this internet poll of science fiction favorites makes clear, they're quite numerous. Ender's Game comes in second, if you don't count fantasy.

#260 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:06 PM:

Fragano @ 252: A picky distinction, but as Achebe says himself: The real question is the dehumanization of Africa and Africans which this age-long attitude has fostered and continues to foster in the world. And the question is whether a novel which celebrates this dehumanization, which depersonalizes a portion of the human race, can be called a great work of art. My answer is: No, it cannot.

Which is, if I understand you correctly, what you're saying about Trollope. My point was only that we can still learn something by discussing him and his writings, which you clearly also have been doing. So, no disagreement here.

#261 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:07 PM:

Fragano:

Thank you for the information about The West Indies and the Spanish Main. I had read a number of Trollope's novels in college (Phineas Finn has the best two-line non-specific description of parliamentary debate ever written) and in the books I read there's NO hint of this--most probably because he's writing about Victorian society and the closest he gets to race or religion is the "shocking" behavior of a Jewish actress that's five times smarter than any of the other males in the books she appears in. Your post is both informative and horrifying, and reminds me of the way I felt when I found out that William Cowper Brann (a brilliant Texas newspaper editor and writer who crusaded long and hard for equal rights and treatment for the Chinese) was viciously racist towards blacks. Considering Brann's capabilities at invective (If Twain ever read any of Brann's stuff I'm sure he would have been shocked that there was a writer who could outcuss him), this makes reading "The Iconoclast" a gut-wrenching experience.

#262 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:07 PM:

Lee 255: Word. I'm glad to see BRT gone (if only for a bit) because it pisses me off when people beg for a flame war and then tell everyone participating how uncivil they are. What a waste of time.

The "child making a promise while crossing his fingers" winkies on every post were irritating, like a guy jammering at you while chewing, spitting little bits of cheeseburger all over you. But what really pushes me over, what makes it "jammering and spewing cheeseburger while driving down the highway" is "now you can all throw stuff at me". Way to ensure no reasonable discussion is possible, because you're stating flat-out that anyone who disagrees with you is just "throwing stuff" and you're already a victim. Anyone who begs to be hit oughtta be booted.

And wasn't there a "There I said it" discussion here just a few months back? It's a verbal marker just like "you people".

#263 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Sorry I'm a little late into this thread, but speaking of Mormon SF...

Based on a passing recommendation, the source of which I don't remember any more, I recently picked up Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. Based on the blurbs on the book jacket, the author is a Utah resident and Orson Scott Card likes him well enough to endorse his writing. I haven't read the book yet, and this meta-information is enough to give me pause. Has anyone here read the book and developed an opinion of it?

#264 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Individ-ewe-al #254: The past isn't just a different country, it's a different world. I spent part of last summer ploughing through Victorian writing on the West Indies (of which Trollope's is not the worst -- J.A. Froude wins that prize), and was constantly amazed at the ways in which prejudice effectively blinded people to what was actually going on right in front of them.

#265 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:09 PM:

John Houghton #235:

Oh the embarrassment. Can I die instead of everyone?

I meant to say that the wedding took place five years after we met, but clearly something got tangled up. I think I blame the weather radio going off at 4 am to inform us that there was a flood watch starting at 4 pm.

#266 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:17 PM:

kouredios #260: Thanks for the quote from Achebe. It's been years since I read that piece.

#267 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II: I can understand that.

#268 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Lee @255,

Also giving him the benefit of the doubt*, and analogizing to my music example in #174 (re: my #134), he here would be like a musically-indifferent person walking into a room of musicologists. If Romney had just admitted that his favorite piece of music was a Muzak-version of a Vanilla-Ice cover of the theme from Friends.

BRT's the sort of person who (claims he) couldn't use "favorite book" as a fatal flaw for politicians: this is different from many of us. I can see how that could cause confusion: that's why I pointed it out. If he could've then just said "ok, we're just different that way" it would've been a fine stopping point. But he went on to turn that into a fatal flaw itself, and then- the problem- assigned character judgment to it**.

------------
* although those benefits shrank greatly the more explicitly he avoided answering about "favorite" books, distracting with "read at all" books.

** my "fatal flaw" list*** includes "doesn't read science fiction," but it doesn't mean a non-sf-reader is bad. I have wonderful friends who don't read it, but it just wouldn't work for me for a life-love.

*** haven't had to think of it for years, now. hmmm: 1. loves books 2. loves SF**** 3. musically compatible 4. politically compatible 5. doesn't watch sports on TV 6. is mono not poly 7. likes roadtrips 8. is meta-philosophically compatible. With some thought I could even arrange those in chronological order of when I discovered them as such.

**** Add me to the list of folks who met their loves via SF fandom. Although we've spent the past decade trying to come up with a better story.

#269 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Fragano @266. My pleasure. I've been teaching it for a few semesters now, so it's within easy reach.

#270 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:43 PM:

#256 Fragano:

I guess I'm a bit surprised that the views of an author on unrelated topics ruin all his work for you, as it sounds like they do for Trollope.

I can read Kipling and enjoy it without spending too much time offended by support for colonialism or racism, Card without being forced to confront a disagreement about LDS, Heinlein without thinking that it's an especially noble thing to die in an unnecessary war, Dawkins without feeling like I must stop believing in God, etc.

#271 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:44 PM:

I mentioned this thread to my boyfriend. He said he quite liked Battlefield Earth.

When he was ten.

He said that he liked it fine when he was still young enough to just read it as an adventure story, and not get all the annoying allegory. He even got it counted as three or four books in his elementary school reading competition, since everyone else was reading short children's books.

So maybe Romney thinks he can get extra credit for length?

#272 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:51 PM:

#260:

But by our standards, all kinds of stuff in almost every book and work of art was nasty. Slavery, women as either property or helpless mental-children, acceptance of genocidal wars, forced conversions, interrogation by torture, rule by kings and lords and other thugs and descendents of thugs, modulated through the pronouncements of priests, etc.

This seems like a way to throw away nearly all the art, literature, sculpture, etc., ever made. It has the flavor, to me, of the Taliban blowing up ancient Buddhist statues, or that idiot Ashcroft covering up the nude statues in the Justice Dept.

Maybe art, music, math, and science should be judged on the basis of beauty and truth, not on the basis of the moral standing of the people who created it.

#273 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 03:59 PM:

JESR @ 239

Please don't take this personally, but I believe that your lack of reaction to Trollope's racism is in part because your own ox was not gored. My own personal reaction to Trollope is ambivalent; I recognize his writing talent, and the value of his social observations, but I am reluctant to pay much respect to him because he gored my ox; see "The Way We Live Now" and its treatment of Jews.

Maybe that's the difference between your reaction and mine: you feel a greater need to recognize artistic merit without judging the artist against your own scruples. I can respect that attitude, but I believe it is important for us all to respect Fragano's refusal to make judgments in that way.

Because I haven't paid much attention to Trollope, I was unaware of the work that Fragano quotes. Just as well, I am horrified by it, regardless of whether it was "typical" of its time. It's much worse than what he had to say about Jews, and I react to it the more because of that.

In an attempt to short-circuit a long and probably bootless discussion of who was or was not typical, and when we should care, I'd like to point out that, in general, the social and political views of the Flourosphere are not typical of the societies we live in. Certainly with regard to the civil rights of homosexuals we are not in step with the Anglo-Saxon world. That world as it will be in 30 years or so, perhaps, but isn't that exactly why we laud, for instance, Mills? Isn't that a reason to recognize the faults of his contemporaries who did not believe as he did?

What gives me faith in the future is that I see many people, here in Making Light and elsewhere, who care even when other people are the targets.

#274 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Fragano, in all sincerity, you're a brave man. I'm glad that someone is doing proper research about Victorian attitudes to race, and I'm particularly glad that it's someone with a personal connection to West Indian culture. I know I could not possibly do that kind of work, trawling through all that racist filth and collating it, particularly not if the racism was directed at me personally. So, I salute you for it.

#275 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:12 PM:

Patrick, @47: that method of not addressing things by addressing them reminds me of the former President Bush's habit of answering questions from reports by saying "I'm not going to answer that, but if I were going to answer it, I would say [x]",

#276 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:16 PM:

I've been reading this thread and feeling some relief that musical compatibility has not proven a deal-breaker in my own marriage. There's enough overlap that we can get through a six-hour car ride with minimal stereo-related disagreements, but there are a lot of places where we've had to come to an Understanding.

(Actually, I can find something to like about most things, at least in moderation. But the stuff that's closest to my heart is, well, difficult. Which is not to say I think it's somehow superior, only that I recognize that if you want a partner who's going to get on board with your passion for creepy and atonal, you are probably going to be lonely for a while.)

Compatible politics makes up for a hell of a lot.

#277 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:19 PM:

BRT:

What SF or F novels have Guliani or Obama read lately? Clinton? McCain?

At a Worldcon during the Clinton admin, an author (whose name I can't remember, unfortunately) who was a Congressional aide talked about bringing a SF novel he'd written to some White House gathering (Something about the Delta Clipper?) and giving it to Bill. He said that Clinton just lit up, saying "Thank you! Hillary and Chelsea love SF--they read it all the time!" I know that it's not a quote from the primary source, but since it was her husband I'll assume it's good enough for jazz.

Christopher B. Wright:

For example: my favorite movie is "A Boy and His Dog" -- which probably puts me in danger of Harlan Ellison tracking me down and gutting me like a fish, among other things

I've heard Harlan talk about the film after a 35mm showing at a convention in the area. He said he'd done the first five or ten pages of the script and then got into a time constraint and had to bail, at which point L.Q. Jones took over. He said it was the best adaptation of his stuff he'd ever seen (while pointing out that it took over 15 years to get any payments out of Jones, and that when NBC wanted to make A Boy and His Dog into a weekly TV series [!] it was Jones who messed up the project) and worked well with the exception of the last line, which revolted him because Blood, the only caring character in the entire damn story, would never have been callous enough to make a crack like that.

Harlan said he'd gone around to SF conventions before the film was released and sold 35mm clips to raise money to reloop some of the more sexist dialog when Jones said he couldn't afford to do it, but he could not get Jones to cut the last line and didn't have enough clout in his contract to block the film.

Neil Willcox:

They didn't have specialised mythological-monster-fighting-equipment* but no one at the Department of Defence could have expected the middle east to have a high level of mythological beings.

I'd pay at least six dollars to see a film where they did.

Bruce Arthurs:

If someone hacked into eHarmony's programming and reset the code to result in incompatible, rather than compatible, matchups...

...I suspect there'd be a lot of people meeting, over coffee, and having the sort of conversation BRT and Patrick are having.

I'd pay TEN dollars to see a film where they did!

Kathryn from Sunnyvale:

Are there any books at all* that'd be of concern to you if they were a person's favorite books?

Michael Fleisher's Chasing Hairy. The Marquis de Sade's Justine. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And that's after only 30 seconds or so--took longer to check the correct spelling for Fleisher.

#278 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:22 PM:

albatross @ #270:

I have a very hard time enjoying a book if I think its author is a jerk. Some people can look at text more objectively than that, but it doesn't seem to work that way for me. Conversely, if I like someone as a person, I tend to be forgiving of their textual flaws.

#279 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Bruce Cohen, STM: actually, I find Trollope's attitude toward Jews substantially less appalling than Dorothy Sayers', or Agatha Christies', for that matter, and they were not born in 1815. I acknowledge it's of a piece with his time and culture, I remind myself of some of the things Dickens wrote, and I put it in the pile marked "objections." I've yet to read anything for which that pile doesn't exist; you should see the one for Kruckeberg's Gardening With Wildflowers in the Pacific Northwest.

And, since I had not read the Trollope which Fragano Legister is discussing (and since it's not something which comes up in modern biographies, for some reason), not being outraged over it is more evidence that I'm jut not omniscient. Sorry about that.

#280 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Bruce Durocher @ 277... Neil Willcox: They didn't have specialised mythological-monster-fighting-equipment* but no one at the Department of Defence could have expected the middle east to have a high level of mythological beings. (...) I'd pay at least six dollars to see a film where they did.

What? Haven't you ever seen the movie HellBoy?

#281 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:30 PM:

albatross @ 272

I know I am not, and I don't believe that Fragano is* saying that no one should read or study Trollope. Certainly, Fragano is studying him. But I for one believe that people can't compartmentalize themselves as well as they think they can; that the art may be separable from the politics, but not the artist from the politician. Pound's poems may not be fascist**, but Pound believed in fascism.

As a clarification on my point of view, consider Wagner. Wagner is often reviled for his anti-Semitism and his connection to Nazism, and his work is rejected by many people because of those things. I believe this is an overreaction, because Wagner was dead by the time the Nazis decided to use him work as examplar of Aryan culture. Wagner himself had nothing to do with that. As for anti-semitism, yes, he hated Jews, but that was a personal attitude which he did not present as important truth to the entire world, as Trollope presented his racism.

I don't listen to Wagner myself***, but that's because I don't like his music. His whole notion of 'leitmotif' doesn't work for me at all.**** But that's a question of taste, not of social conscience.

* Please correct me if I misspeak for you, Fragano.

** Although I have always had trouble believing that the attitudes don't bleed over.

*** Unless sung by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.

**** Yes, I have seen most of the Ring Cycle, and that is still my opinion. Die Fledermaus isn't too bad, but it's not something I return to for listening pleasure.

#282 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:38 PM:

bruce cohen,

I believe that your lack of reaction to Trollope's racism is in part because your own ox was not gored.

exactly. it can be easy to get all up & say oh no, judging old works by our time's morality, political correctness run amok, oh terrible, you want to throw out the whole literature curriculum & read heather has two daddies all day. um.

but for those whose ox is being gored, to use your excellent analogy, reading literature in which people who look like you, people who share your background or beliefs are literally subhuman, it feels like a stab in the gut. it's not some intellectual exercise in being superior to olden timey people, it physically hurts.

maybe people whom it doesn't stab need to take the time to recognize that everyone doesn't experience literature the same, no matter how "great" it is. & it doesn't make you an evil person, in my opinion, if you can enjoy trollope, but it doesn't make fragano an oversensitive flower (or whatever) that he can't.

i got disgusted enough at the uncalled-for racism in tarzan that i would've thrown it across the room if it hadn't been an audiobook. but reading past the first few paragraphs about fagin in oliver twist proved utterly impossible. i just couldn't take it.

(i don't have opinions to advance about appropriate curricula or anything. i am just talking about leisure reading.)

#283 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:43 PM:

JESR @ 279

Sorry if I came on too strong there. I was trying very hard to hold myself back on a subject that gets under my skin far too easily.

The kind of cultural tolerance you described in your previous post is an important recent advance in human society; I think it represents the kind of change that may yet save humanity from itself. But I have seen it carried to extremes that are just as dangerous, and I tend to be (perhaps over-) sensitive about it.

The post you made while I was composing mine shows that you are not doing what I warned against: saying that, because Trollope is a part of the literary heritage of our culture, that no one in our culture has a right to object to his work. But I have heard this said, and I object to it, for the reasons I described.

Again, I'm sorry if my vehemence offended you.

#284 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:51 PM:

oh no, judging old works by our time's morality, political correctness run amok,...

just to clarify, i am not ascribing this argument to any of the posters here.

#285 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 04:59 PM:

albatross @ 272: This seems like a way to throw away nearly all the art, literature, sculpture, etc., ever made. It has the flavor, to me, of the Taliban blowing up ancient Buddhist statues, or that idiot Ashcroft covering up the nude statues in the Justice Dept.

Is anyone here saying the canon of literature should be thrown out? I don't think so. But should we swallow "that's just how it was back then" without comment?

When I discuss The Taming of the Shrew--a play I find sickening--with young people, I ask them if they find it funny. They know they're supposed to find it funny. They know it's Shakespeare, and he's supposed to be great and they are lowly students and who are they to question him? But if I put the question out there, and wait neutrally, many of them hesitantly indicate the play makes them uncomfortable. The young women, in particular, are disturbed by it. And many of them squirm, because it's Shakespeare, after all, and things were different back then and we're all supposed to just accept that, so how do they reconcile brainwashing and abuse with the fact that this is supposed to be funny?

Realizing they are allowed to think a great writer has some crappy attitudes and to not like a work because of those attitudes comes as a revelation to many of these kids.


Maybe art, music, math, and science should be judged on the basis of beauty and truth, not on the basis of the moral standing of the people who created it.

How beautiful or truthful is a sexist, racist, whatever-ist piece of work?

#286 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Don't worry, Bruce, I'm actually not much more than bemused. Part of it is because when Trollope is observing the parts of his time and place closest to his own socioeconomic position his observations are, I think, substantially more useful in understanding the nature of that society than any number of historians. Since decisions made then are still effecting daily life a century and a half later, reading his better work is of value.

It's also true that he wrote some total dreck- The Golden Lion of Granpere for one stinky, stinky instant. And he held some opinions, common in his time, which I find repellant.

But... may I bring Heinlein back for a moment. Ever read Farnham's Freehold? I flew through it one afternoon when I was supposed to be reading Boaz, and enjoyed every word, while I was reading it. Upon reflection, it is also stinky- sexist and racist and with Heinlein's special pong of incest.

(And also, I tend to save my really high-test rage for people who try to tell me that raising cattle for food is forever and always, inevitably and invariably, a bad thing for the environment and the soul. In that case, the ox-going is rather literal.)

#287 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Lee @ 255: Aconite, #197: BRT did mention, earlier in the thread, that he came in by way of the Pitch Bitch post, and that he considers this a "professional interest" blog because it discusses writers and writing.

Yes, but why is s/he here, if s/he doesn't like the people, doesn't know the people, doesn't like the discussion, doesn't know much about the topic, and doesn't want to learn?

If I were at a party going that badly for me, I'd get my coat and go elsewhere, not stick around and take potshots at the other people.

The only reason I can see to stick around under those circumstances is because you like stirring up trouble. If BRT has another answer, I'd be interested in hearing it.

#288 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:29 PM:

The interesting thing, to me, about Trollope and his sins is how he managed to compartmentalize them, and what that means about Victorian society, or eventually human nature.

His racist writing -- I would include all the novels set in Ireland* -- is distinctly not his competent writing. His genius was not in abstraction or understanding but in minute observation, in which he (willy-nilly?) describes the sins and follies of the powerful as well as the virtues and courage of the weak, which is why I enjoy his descriptions of English society even though I dislike the society. This might just damn him doubly for racism, if he could see worth in the poor only insofar as they were English, which is a painfully plausible explanation.

He's a lot better at seeing the untenable state of women in Victorian society, and admitting it's unjust while believing that accomodation was less damaging even for the women than rebellion would be. If he had a philosophy, I guess he was a utilitarian or pragmatist.

But he had more complicated sins; he may have bought his way into English respectability by selling a contract for the English postal service. He writes disturbingly good novels (Cousin Henry ) about the warping effect of a guilty conscience. And he definitely didn't recover from his unsettling upbringing, in which he was left in strait circumstances while his mother Fanny Trollope attempted to make the family fortunes by goofy entrepreneurship in the States and his father undermined her. In The Way We Live Now I think he's distinctly unfair to the 'authoress', and I think it's bitterness towards his mother.

If one is treating Trollope as a Trollopian character, it's probably also relevant that his mother went to the New World with a utopian abolitionist project which failed utterly, and began her rescue of the family fortunes with Domestic Manners of the Americans, which distinctly condems slavery.

*If Trollope's worldbuilding is accidentally a model for triple-decker fantasies of manners, his Irish orthography is an accidental model for inventing alien tongues by adding apostrophes.

#289 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:31 PM:

Bruce Cohen #281:Yes, I have seen most of the Ring Cycle, and that is still my opinion. Die Fledermaus isn't too bad, but it's not something I return to for listening pleasure.

Er, _Fledermaus_ is most emphatically not Wagner. I'm trying to figure out what opera you did mean.

#290 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:39 PM:

Hmm... how much would people pay for a film in which an expert in Middle Eastern Mythological Beings, with an interest in John Norman novels*, the movie Armageddon and Vanilla Ice is accidentally matched with a heroic Secretary of Defence who likes long walks and foiling plots, by an internet dating agency gone wrong, in a story that will change their lives forever with hilarious consequences?

INT: ELLEN'S HOUSE

US SECDEF ELLEN RAVENSWOOD is sitting in a dark room. She's in her early 40s, dark hair, looking depressed. Her face is lit by the computer monitor she's staring at.

VOICEOVER
She loved him. She really loved him. But it turned out he was a security threat. So she had to choose between her career and her heart. And now she was Secretary of Defence with an empty bed.


(The special effects in the climactic battle sequence, when Nazi Ghouls battle with the living fire of an Ifrit with a dark past, are going to increase the costs a bit)

* I've just discovered that not only are there 26 Gor novels, but he's a professor of philosophy!

#291 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:43 PM:

albatross #270: If you want to read Trollope I certainly won't stop you, but I can't understand how you would expect me to take pleasure in the work of somebody who had such deep contempt for half the people to whom I am related. Or how you would expect me to react to somebody like Trollope with anything other than anger.

Kipling, for all that he was an imperialist and a believer in the cultural superiority of the white man over all others, managed to temper that patronising world-view with a real understanding of the 'lesser breeds without the law' whose civilising he saw as the 'white man's burden'. He couldn't have written Kim otherwise, and he certainly couldn't have seen the common humanity that animated the colonel's son and the Pathan raider either.

#292 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:47 PM:

281, 289: Perhaps Der Fliegende Hollander? (Spelling approximate.)

#293 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:47 PM:

JESR @ 286

Yes, I read Farnham's Freehold when it was first published. I read it again some years later, because I wasn't sure I had remembered it correctly. I had. It's not the work of his that bothers me most, but it's up there, because it's a strange mixture of sophisticated (for his time) views on race combined with some very odd ideas about sex, family, and how racial politics actually works.

My guess, based on nothing but reading his work, is that Heinlein was a very complex dude, with a lot of contradictions in his attitudes. He may even have been a nice person to know, who can tell? Certainly, there are many people who still remember him who say so. But some of his ideas bother me, despite that I literally grew up reading him*. And I really didn't care to know that he had a yen for his mother, or his daughter or whatever that was**.

All of which leads me to a theory that I didn't get to before, that a lot of what we accept or reject has to do with context and timing. When I was a teenager I read "Scaramouche", and loved it. As an adult I re-read it, liked it for other reasons, and decided to read more of Sabatini's work. "Captain Blood" was great fun. There was some racism, but I could accept it, based on the assumption that it was a deliberate attempt by the author to invoke the thinking of the time.

Bad assumption. I got 2 pages into the next book I read before dropping it and Sabatini forever. I think the book was "Bellarion", but I've really tried to forget it. The first scene was a battle in which an Arab soldier is described in glowering, racist detail. Point being that it took a much bigger reaction after three books to drive me away from the writer than it would have if I'd read the nasty one first.


* I read my first Heinlein book when I was 7, and had read at least 5 by the time I was 9. This resulted in a level of imprinting that hasn't gone away, despite the problems I've had with his work since.

** Even when I was young (prepubescent in fact) the subtext of the relationship between the protagonist and his best friend's daughter in "The Door Into Summer" spoiled what otherwise was an interesting book for me. It just didn't make sense to me. Now it offends me.

#294 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:50 PM:

Individ-ewe-al #274: Thanks. I've been working on natioanlist ideas in the Anglophone Caribbean, and I found that those ideas begin in an adoption of English liberalism and a concomitant rejection of the conservative and racist worldview of people like Thomas Carlyle, Anthony Trollope, Charles Kingsley and James Anthony Froude. That meant that I had to pay attention to what Carlyle, Trollope, Kingsley and Froude said. It's been a fascinating experience.*

*Some years ago, I also did some work on the racist right on the Internet. If I can dig up that paper I may post it, dated as it is.

#295 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:55 PM:

TexAnne #292:

How could I forget that one, it's the only Wagner opera I've sung in.

Apropos of the thread, during that production, I asked a fellow chorus member who was Jewish why he wasn't sitting that one out. He responded that it was good music.

It later occurred to me that not singing because it was music by a pro-Aryan composer might have been all too similar to boycotting music written by Jewish composers.

#296 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 05:57 PM:

Eric Sadoyama @ 263: I picked up Elantris on the advice of an LDS friend and thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is not a series of typical quest-fantasy tropes, and there's some unusual and interesting character development. Some nice spooky bits, too, if I remember correctly.

Oh, and there are no sequels. It's all wrapped up in one juicy 656-page package.

#297 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:06 PM:

joann @ 289

Um, this isn't my day for citations, now is it? Yep, I'm wrong, and I'm not sure what I was thinking of there. Well, just scratch the whole reference out and consider that I just don't like Wagner.

#298 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:18 PM:

TexAnne @ 292

Yes, thank you, TexAnne, You are a lady and a scholar.

I swear I can't remember anything these days. Thank the Infinite for Google, it's the only way I can figure out anything some days.

It's the brain drain*.

* His brain is draining.

#299 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Bruce #298: His brain is draining.

Draining what? Ichor? Or just ick?

#300 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:30 PM:

Bruce, it was The Door Into Summer which put the fatal item on the objections pile, for me, when I was reading Heinlein.

#301 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:38 PM:

I think you need to distinguish between a racist author and a racist work. It's possible to enjoy either, but it's a different thing.

I am Jewish, and I do listen to Wagner; I've traveled to other cities for Wagner performances. (All on this continent, so far. I haven't applied to the Bayreuth lottery yet.) Wagner wasn't a Nazi, but he was an antisemite, his widow was a truly poisonous antisemit, and some of his heirs cooperated enthusiastically with the Nazis. And while interpretations differ, it's not at all unreasonable to see antisemitism in some of Wagner's best work. It certainly means I can't admire that work unreservedly.

In the case of Trollope, I simply haven't seen any noteworthy racism or antisemitism in anything of his that I've read. (Something like 8 or 10 books, including the Barsetshire books and some of the Pallisers.) He was an enormously prolific author, so that isn't a terribly high fraction of his work, not even of his major work. It's enough for me to be sure that whatever noxious ideas Trollope might have had, they're far from omnipresent in his books.

Maybe I ought to read The Way We Live Now next. I've heard good things about it. I hadn't heard that it was antisemitic. We'll see what I think... I'll probably wait until I'm done with The Tale of Genji first, though. I probably can't handle two doorstops at the same time.

#302 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:40 PM:

joann @ 299

Memories, stardust, all that jazz

#303 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:43 PM:

joann @ 299\

Actually it's an obscure reference to the second Beatles' movie, Help. But I'm trying to get myself to not react so literally to what people say, that way I get some time to think before I post.

#304 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Neil Willcox @ 290... Don't you see Claudia Black as Ellen Ravenswood? Is there any way you can fit in Bruce Cohen's suggestion of brains that ooze stardust and jazz music? Got a role that could be played by Dean Cain?

#305 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ #281:

Die Fledermaus isn't too bad

...because it's by Strauss. :)

[Which I know only because of Gaslight. "I vish I could write opera like Straaaauuuwwws!"]

#306 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Serge @ 304

Got a role that could be played by Dean Cain?

I could be snarky and ask if there is such a part, but you're right, he's perfect for this sort of cheesy thing. Think we could get The Rock to play the Mythological Being? And why am I thinking about Sherri Tepper's "Marianne" books?

#307 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:21 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ #293:

I think part of growing up is learning to read critically. When I was 13, my Dad, who read a lot of SF in his youth, picked up the book I was reading and had a glance through it...it was Heinlein's Friday. Dad was shocked and appalled that the heroine raqrq hc zneevrq gb n thl jub unq encrq ure rneyvre va gur obbx, and lectured me sternly about reading such misogynistic trash. Then he bought me a collection of early Heinlein stories to read instead (yeah, I have a cool Dad).

I was 19 years old and 4 books into Bio of a Space Tyrant when I realized, without prompting from Dad, that Piers Anthony was no longer my cup of tea. It took me more than half the series to notice that rirel jbzna va gur fgbel vf encrq ng fbzr cbvag.

Now that I'm all grown up (and then some), I read much more carefully. Which isn't to say I never read misogynistic trash, but I generally know when I'm doing it.

#308 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:21 PM:

#263:

Based on a passing recommendation, the source of which I don't remember any more, I recently picked up Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. Based on the blurbs on the book jacket, the author is a Utah resident and Orson Scott Card likes him well enough to endorse his writing. I haven't read the book yet, and this meta-information is enough to give me pause. Has anyone here read the book and developed an opinion of it?

I read it, found it well worth having read, and did not notice anything especially peculiar or Author's Worldview Leaking In about it. I'm not very sensitive to such things however.

#309 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:36 PM:

Tim, #259: Huh. Thanks, that's interesting!

Kathryn, #258: I'm not sure if I know you other than from here. But I am sure that if I don't, this should be remedied forthwith! We just have too many things in common not to be hanging out. Do you have a LiveJournal by any chance?

Dan, #276: I recognize that if you want a partner who's going to get on board with your passion for creepy and atonal, you are probably going to be lonely for a while.
Much the same can be said about medieval music, which is very definitely an acquired taste for most people. I don't know why it wasn't for me, but I adored it from my first hearing. And it's one of the things that drives my partner absolutely batshit, so I can sympathize.

Bruce, #277: Add to your list of worrisome favorite books The Handmaid's Tale.

Miriam, #282 and Aconite, #285: I've seen that trope play out even just in the realm of SF. Try mentioning that you don't care for the (typical of the period) stereotypes about women in ClassicTrek. Or the way so many of Heinlein's strong, independent female characters eventually discover that their True Happiness lies in giving it all up to Have Babies instead. Blasphemy!

And yes, discussing the societal assumptions of literature from earlier periods is a terrific way of casting light on the assumptions still operating in our own.

Neil, #290: Actually, I believe there are only 2 Gor novels, 3 at most. The others are all the same story told over and over again with the names and scenery changed -- like re-dressing a set for a TV show.

If anyone here is curious about them, I recommend Priest-Kings of Gor, which is fairly early in the series and contains some actual SF elements... which, sadly, disappear from the series after the end of the book.

Fragano, #294: If you do find that paper, I'd be very interested in seeing it.

#310 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Lee #309: If I can find the floppy it's on...

#311 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 07:55 PM:

The Barsetshire Chronicles are really great fun. The Warden is even pretty short...

#312 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:02 PM:

Mary Dell @ 307

I'm still trying to figure out what's with Piers Anthony. I read several of his novels early on, and couldn't figure out why nobody objected to the blatantly sexist plots and plot devices. Then I got disgusted and gave up. It just bugs me a little that he makes so much money and sells so many books with that stuff in them. Maybe that's why they sell, which is really nasty thought.*

* And his writing doesn't have any claim to redeeming social value, so with any luck no one will ever have to study him except as a bad example.

#313 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:10 PM:

Lee, medieval music is one of the things I usually have to enjoy on my own. (Not entirely - we both like Mediaeval Baebes and Faun. But Ensemble Unicorn and the similar more authentic stuff tends to happen on my own time.)

My wife is very sensitive to anything that's just a little off, especially in the vocals, so that even things she might otherwise appreciate musically, like Stone Breath and the Bevis Frond, become unlistenable because the voice isn't especially melodic. While this is ever so slightly frustrating to me, ultimately there's no point having her suffer just because my tolerance for off-key singing is higher than hers.

(There's surely a parallel in there somewhere to good writers with inexcusable politics, but I'll leave it as an exercise for folks cleverer and more articulate than I.)

#314 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:34 PM:

Speaking of musical tastes, is the Bay Area's group of the Bible Accordeon to Women still around?

#315 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:43 PM:

Matt, there is a certain very English attitude running through Trollope's work and prevalent in his characters, that regards anyone not entirely English as inferior, all foreigners as suspect, and anyone from Eastern Europe, or Southern Europe, or looking like they might be, as the next thing to being Jewish. Words like "swarthy" or "greasy" are used. It's not the most prominent strain in his writing, and it certainly isn't unique to him, but it's definitely widespread and unmistakable. To what extent this attitude must be attributed to the author himself as opposed to his characters is perhaps open to some debate, but Trollope is so much of his time and place, and so much in sympathy with his characters, that I certainly cannot acquit him--despite the pleasure I otherwise take in his writing. Look at The Prime Minister, if you like, to see the thing in full flower, in the treatment of the villain Lopez.

#316 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Yet another book that I haven't read! I really ought to finish the Palliser series someday.

And yes, I'm sure you're right about that strain. I've certainly seen it in any number of English writers from the past century and before, and it would be surprising if it wasn't in Trollope too. Possibly I failed to notice it precisely because it's so ubiquitous in books from that time and place. Or possibly my antenna is adequately sensitive and I just happen not to have read the right (or the wrong) Trollope. I have no trouble noticing that sort of thing in Chesterton---a writer whom I like very much, but who sometimes makes me squirm.

#317 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 09:58 PM:

Aconite @ 285

When I discuss The Taming of the Shrew--a play I find sickening--with young people, I ask them if they find it funny. They know they're supposed to find it funny. They know it's Shakespeare, and he's supposed to be great and they are lowly students and who are they to question him? But if I put the question out there, and wait neutrally, many of them hesitantly indicate the play makes them uncomfortable. The young women, in particular, are disturbed by it. And many of them squirm, because it's Shakespeare, after all, and things were different back then and we're all supposed to just accept that, so how do they reconcile brainwashing and abuse with the fact that this is supposed to be funny?

My take is that teaching literature without teaching history is pointless. Actually, teaching *anything* without teaching history is pointless, because history provides us with a lot of the context[1]. *At the time it was written* The Taming of the Shrew was probably hilarious. It's lost a lot of its humour over time, because attitudes have changed, and we no longer think like a sixteenth century Londoner. Over time, Shakespeare has been edited (most famously by Bowdler) to conform with current prejudices and preferences, and then re-edited to return to the most original version of the text. It isn't a "timeless text" at all.

However, The Taming of the Shrew is still *relevant* in these post-modern times, because it is about the way that the patriarchal structures of the time acted to facilitate abuse and brainwashing as a valid way of treating women. It's relevant because it gives a demonstration of these behaviours. I'd like to see it treated as a straight drama one day - it might be interesting, particularly if the actors aren't trying to make things funny for the audience. I have a feeling it would be almost Brechtian.

[1] Spot the history geek?

#318 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:12 PM:

Piers Anthony I was a fan of, for several years when I was younger. I mostly read the Xanth novels. In college I read the Incarnations of Immortality seven, and the fprar va gur friragu bar jvgu gur encr, jura gur srznyr punenpgre yrneaf ubj birejuryzvat n znyr frk qevir vf jura fur vf ghearq vagb n zna, naq ubj thlf whfg pna'g uryc gurzfryirf, made me stop and rethink everything Piers Anthony has written. I kept On a Pale Horse, because I connected with it at a very painful and emotional time in my life, and purged my library of all the low level misogyny contained in his books.

Heinlein I think is whacked out, but for some reason I have a higher tolerance for his attitudes than I do for Anthony's.

#319 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:15 PM:

Dan, #313: This encapsulates a lot of our differences about filk as well; my tolerance for recordings made by, um, non-professionals who sometimes have pitch and performance issues is considerably higher than his. Also, he only likes funny filk, while I enjoy serious and even dark filk as well.

Meg, #317: That's an absolutely brilliant idea. Remove the playing-it-for-laughs angle and see how people react to the raw abuse in it. Perhaps done as a double bill with "The Story of Ruth" set in the antebellum South, with Ruth cast as a black freedwoman.

#320 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:45 PM:

Bruce Cohen:

I'm still trying to figure out what's with Piers Anthony. I read several of his novels early on, and couldn't figure out why nobody objected to the blatantly sexist plots and plot devices.

I'd put him into the "reliable read while eating/doing laundry" category, although I was much disturbed by the entire situation involving the heroine of A Spell for Chameleon, which gave me a perspective on the author's viewpoint on women that may be unwarranted. Then I ran into David Langford's comment about how the stream got polluted in one of the Incarnations of Immortality books, and I decided I could give the rest of Mr. Anthony's work a pass.

The latest author to get bounced from the mealtime/laundry group is Laurell K. Hamilton. It's not the sex. It's not the violence. It's not the sadism. It's the feeling that the author is desperately trying to find ever new combinations of the above to keep her public reading that made me call it quits. Now that I've quit reading her stuff I think of when I bought the first Dirty Pair Flash collection on DVD. I got it cheap on an online auction, made it through, and mumbled that now I'd have to find the follow-up. My wife said "No, you don't. Your descriptions of the original Dirty Pair was always competent troubleshooters with the worst luck in the galaxy. Ever since you started that disk you've been mumbling how dumb the new versions were and how you wanted to take a shower. You don't have to watch any more if you don't want to". And she was right. And I felt great relief.

I've got to remember to sell off that Dirty Pair Flash DVD someday...

#321 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:53 PM:

Aconite #285:

I'd distinguish between:

a. A work of art specifically dedicated to some evil or stupid idea.

b. A work of art set in a context of ideas and beliefs which include some stupid or evil ones.

c. A work of art by an artist who also is known to have held, actively championed, etc., stupid, evil ideas.

I find myself having no problem with (c) in normal life, though I suppose I wouldn't be able to enjoy a comedy of manners written by Joseph Mengele or some such creepy thing. I've noticed that a lot of wonderful, bright, good people compartmentalize their beliefs, and often will have pretty nasty beliefs in some areas. (Think of the otherwise-decent people who think there ought to be no limits on our actions in the War on Terror.) I guess I see artists of all kinds the same way.

I mostly am not too irritated by (b), but Bruce and miriam's comments are definitely valid--some backdrops of dumb or evil ideas don't hit my buttons as much as other backdrops. I don't think this is as simple as whether my ox is being gored, though that's probably some of it.

For (a), it depends a lot on context. I can enjoy reading _Atlas Shrugged_ as a novel, even though I think a large fraction of Rand's ideas are all wrong, and even though the novel is a vehicle to explain the ideas. I can enjoy reading a Heinlein novel in which he explores all his rather creepy incestuous fantasies, and I enjoyed reading _Starship Troopers_ despite not agreeing with the ideas he was expressing much at all. But while those ideas strike me as wrong, and sometimes creepy, they don't have the feel of being genuinely evil. I don't know that I could enjoy a novel intended to propogate the idea of inevitable and desireable race war in the US, say, no matter how well written it was.

#322 ::: Bus Ridin' Traveler (BRT) ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2007, 11:54 PM:
#323 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Comments 144 and 149:

"J. Danforth Quayle, who claimed to have attempted Plato's Republic several times

And didn't finish it?"

Well, I hope our politicians don't finish the republic.

#324 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:05 AM:

I think some people started reading Piers Anthony 20 or 30 years ago, and they didn't notice the sexism then (because the prevailing social standards were different, or because they were 12 and did not know much about reading critically.) I know people with fond memories of snickering over Xanth novels. Years later, they don't remember the deep misogyny, because they didn't *care* about the misogyny. They remembered worldbuilding and puns and dirty jokes, and the sense of starting to be in on a joke. I used to have half a shelf of the things at my mother's house, unread for decades, half-remembered. When I tried to reread them, I flinched at how clueless I had once been.

If someone said, "Piers Anthony's novels were very important to me when I was in middle school," that would be very easy for me to understand. It's a different sort of statement than, "Piers Anthony is my favorite author ever," which I find somewhere between incomprehensible and disturbing. (I would suspect the person was trolling. Or whatever you call it when someone lies offline to be provocative.) Though the line that disturbs me most does not seem to be a provocative lie, and I don't know the best way to respond to it; a feminist woman says, "I used to love the Xanth novels in middle school and high school, but then I outgrew them. I'm saving them to give to my daughters, because they're such fun, light, fantasies." Right now, I'm thinking I should give her daughters Tamora Pierce books as soon as they're old enough. Or maybe a little sooner.

#325 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:37 AM:

Oh dear.

#322

BRT?

No, people didn't disagree vehemently with what you had to say because of unexamined prejudices. They disagreed with you vehemently because you were uninformed and you were rude about it.

You're still being rude about it.

Also? Changing your login to get around being banned is one of the defining attributes of a troll (for whatever use definitions might be to you).

Just saying.

#326 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Lee @ 255: That was almost precisely my take on it this morning, though I probably wouldn't have used the term Newsgroup Trolls.

There are a lot of fora (in the generic sense) where one gains status by being stubborn, by snideness, by never admitting one is wrong, by always posing as if in a position of authority, u.s.w. By the standards of such places, BRT is/was exceptionally civil and polite. They don't prepare one well for places where people at least try to be genuinely civil and polite to each other - even when carving up each other's positions with the occasional obscenity thrown in - or where you might be dealing with people far over ones head in relevant knowledge and verbal fluency. In short, places where politeness and humility are advisable.

I cut my teeth on some such fora myself, but I have sought - to borrow the term from Bandler and Grinder - "requisite variety" in my communication styles.

#327 ::: Bus Ridin' Traveler (BRT) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:33 AM:
#328 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:37 AM:

#324

I used to really enjoy Anthony, maybe mostly for the puns, before the sexual politics overwhelmed the rest of the books for me. Then again, one of my favorite books as a kid was Podkayne of Mars, which was a rollicking good story with some appalling sexual politics in it.

I guess the disconnect between what I believed and what the characters in the story believed was never a dealbreaker for me (and wasn't in Sayers and Christie either) because I saw the offensive ideas of the characters as offensive ideas that the characters had, not as expressions of the author's beliefs. Which, as it turned out, in some cases, they were.

That said, I've decided (a little sadly) not to pass those books on to my daughter because they had a big effect on my imagination, and I don't want to take the chance that they'll have the wrong effect on hers. She's a sensible child, and I don't think it's a big risk, but I don't think it's a risk worth taking.

Maybe when she's older. It seems like a shame, though, that she more than likely won't be exposed to books that sparked my imagination.

#329 ::: Bus Ridin' Traveler (BRT) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:40 AM:
#330 ::: Bus Ridin' Traveler (BRT) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 02:57 AM:
#331 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:20 AM:

brt,

it is my impression that the "regulars" here are either from wayback sf newsgroups, know the nielsen haydens personally, or spent weeks to months lurking or semi-lurking before posting enough to have their handles made familiar.

it is the third, in my case. just listening, reading lots of threads before making big statements, teaches one a lot. about what kind of discourse is acceptable or encouraged in a community, & which kind of particularly sensitive buttons particular commenters have...

(that said, i don't know in what universe "all ex-mormons either just get over it or are horrible bitter people. i hope you're not a horrible bitter person!" is considered friendly chat. you yourself said you were sensitive to your group [mormons] being attacked, which is why you posted the way you posted on this thread. would it be ok to say to you, "mormons either don't take their weird religion seriously or are brainwashed arch-conservatives. i hope you're not a brainwashed arch-conservative!")

#332 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:53 AM:

BRT @322,

You're setting off the troll-o-meter again.

It's that attitude of "I'm coming in with a big brave statement, so big and brave it'll set off all your unconscious prejudices. You people are so easily ruffled that you'll attack me for being honest, but I have to be me. You people, you're so combative, but I'm honest and you need to hear what I say."

Followed up after a long while (and a timeout) by a "sorry that you people can't handle caustic, and, ok, sorry about getting Obama wrong."

Nice pseudopology, that. The stuff about Obama is a feint, because it's couched in "you people, at least I'm honest" jabs.

Then there was that extended misdirection as if this were all about reading a bad book, vs. naming one as your favorite.

Thing is, we're not delicate- the commenters here, the guests. Certainly our hosts aren't delicate: they've calmly sailed through trollstorms*, they've been online long enough to not get flustered at pseudonymous, anonymous, fullynonymous or elsewise tantrums, rants, sonnets, and etc. Our topics aren't delicate: sure, key lime pie, but then results of car accidents and how not to die.

But this place, the sense of extended conversation, the permanent con party that never turns into a dead dog: while this place isn't delicate, it needs to be maintained. And part of that is calling troll-like behavior troll-like behavior**.

You know, I can tell something about a politician if they give a bad book as their favorite book: they're the sort of person who gives a bad book as their favorite book- that's a form of trolling, and it isn't particularly thoughtful. Yeah, I want thoughtful in my president. I miss it.

And I sure can tell something about a person if their comment sounds like a trolling: their comment sounds like a troll's. Maybe the person isn't a troll, but they're going to get the results of a troll, and those aren't good***.

------
* something about 'Tact of the Rocks.' Oy.

** It isn't as if you couldn't have said what you initially said without the brave-stance wrapping.

*** Even taking into account that the whole thing inspired my best.rant.evar, I still wish I'd listened to Xopher as soon as he called "troll" on Dn. I have better things to rant on. (Still, squeee on the compliments.)

#333 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:56 AM:

One of the interesting things about Shakespeare is that he also wrote Othello, and as near as anyone can tell it was written and performed when London's black population was a hot political topic.

There's nothing about the plot that requires Othello to be a Moor. He could, in the setting, as easily been English. Or Scots. Call him Lymond, even.

And there was a noticable black population in London--servants, musicians, etc.--at the time when Othello was written. More than that, people were saying that there ought to be a law against them.

So there's Shakespeare writing the play in which a black man is a victim of hatred. He's somebody who is misled; manipulated in ways the audience can recognise. Anyone in the theatre might ask themselves what they would do if their best friend told them their wife was unfaithful. Of course, they might also say, "but I'm not a black bastard like Othello." It goes both ways.

Over the years, my mental image of Shakespeare has shifted. What we were told at school was based on far less information than is available now. Researchers find the name in unexpected places.

His father was a crook, who made a fortune through illegal wool-trading, rose to the top in Stratford, and then lost it all. Shakespeare got a good education, cut short by that fall.

There are records that show his family to be Recusants, Catholic sympathisers in a paranoid Protestant England. There's similar evidence for people associated with him, including investors in the Globe Theatre. Shakespeare himself doesn't appear in records he would be expected to. He lived in London, but didn't seem to go to church. And the last house he bought in London, after he retired from the theatre, was a known den of Catholics, a known safe-house.

And then there is the Dark lady. We may even have a name for her: a good candidate at least.

Maybe he was the rock star of his time...


#334 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:30 AM:

Dave Bell #333: Little attention gets paid to Shakespeare's other black character, Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus, who is, I suppose, the opposite of Othello in some respects.

#335 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:01 AM:

#329: "Thug bar"?

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear.

I don't think I want to watch this. Is there a place where I can hide until it's all over?


#336 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:05 AM:

Straying wildly off-topic to the original subject, I see that a "Romney spokesman" here is doing his best to make lemonade:

"Battlefield Earth is pretty good science fiction. It’s about Earth being ruled by an alien race, sort of the way the Democrats are running Congress."

#337 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:34 AM:

On Taming of the Shrew:
First, there was a "straight" production done just a month or so ago at BAM by an all-male cast from Propeller, which I am devastated to have missed. The New York Times review made it clear that it (literally) pulled no punches on the brutality of Petruchio's treatment of Kate.

Second, the play stirred up some people in its own day too. You might want to check out Fletcher's "sequel", The Tamer Tamed, in which Petruchio's second wife (after Katherine's death), feeling that she owes it to all of womankind to tame this creep, successfully applies the Lysistrata strategy. The overall message is that men may have authority over women, but if they abuse it, they upset the natural order and women will then rebel to set the balance right. That's still not a modern attitude, but it shows that things were not quite as simple on the gender front in Elizabethan times as people seem to think.

#338 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:38 AM:

BRT, can you not count to 24?

#339 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:58 AM:

BRT @ #322:
I think he is that rare bird: an honest politician who will do his best to make decisions that are best for the country, not necessarily his own angle or his own particular party.

So, um, you missed the last few weeks where he's been spinning like a top on women's rights and gay rights? Or maybe your version of "the country" doesn't include women or gays? Or your version of "honesty" doesn't include flipping his position to cater to whatever group he wants to elect him?

I have nothing against him specifically as a Mormon that I don't have against a large number of fundamentalist Christians or any other whichever-religionists that want to head us further toward theocracy. (Or, for that matter, perfectly secular wanna-be dictators.) Most of these people are Republicans lately, but I'm not all that fond of Reid, and Obama's attitudes bug me too.

#340 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:59 AM:

Jon @335
I suspect that a thug bar is like a fern bar, where thugs are the decor. Perhaps they sit on the bar itself, or perch on well-anchored benches high up on the walls.

'Course, we don't really approve of places where the attraction stems from how rough the place is.

#341 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:02 AM:

About Taming of the Shrew...

Years ago, my wife saw a production of the play on TV which I think didn't deviate from the play until the very end, when Catherine, after the speech praising submission to one's hubby and all that stuff, turned to the audience and gave it a big wink.

Personally, I like the Moonlighting version, with Petruchio telling Catherine that he's here to tune up her piano, and pianist-envy jokes fly, along with ninjas.

#342 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:07 AM:

Mary Dell (338): Indeed. I especially don't appreciate his early reappearance just short of midnight EST.

BRT, for jumping the gun, an additional 48 hours.

And no, ML doesn't have a formally stated set of rules to be gamed. The local rules are learned by reading the board and paying attention.

#343 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:15 AM:

My fifth grade teacher had a single classroom rule: Be Appropriate.

There was rubric about what constituted "appropriate", of course, but the rule was the un-gamable heart of the matter. It still is, for me, though I do fail from time to time. I reckon it's the rule on this site, and no other is required.

(Sadly, the teacher in question was one of those "if you can, do; if you can't, teach" types, as the photo developer reported to the police about the pictures of the little girls in his neighbourhood. But that's another story.)

#344 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:06 AM:

My recollection from oh-so-long-ago is that the Burton-Taylor version of Shrew was done with tongue firmly inserted in cheek; that's one reasonable way to approach it, and I remember enjoying it.

I like the suggestion of a Brechtian take on the play, though it would probably be depressing as all getout. Maybe "Ben" and "Juliette" from Lost in the leads... Ben is brainwashing.

#345 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:11 AM:

abi @ 340... I suspect that a thug bar is like a fern bar

Do I have to start wearing a Carmen-Miranda hat now?

#346 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:22 AM:

Aconite @287 wrote:

> Yes, but why is s/he here, if s/he doesn't like the people, doesn't know the people, doesn't like the discussion, doesn't know much about the topic, and doesn't want to learn?

I was going to stay quiet on this one, as I'll usually go a long way out of my way to avoid a confrontation, but...

I love Making Light. For me it's the page where the internet starts. When I finally gave up on the r.a.sf.w and r.a.sf.c newsgroups, this is where I came, and I've been here since.

Anyway - I don't think BRT behaved at all badly at first, and only started getting difficult when the fight was already underway. I think Patrick over-reacted drastically and caused a fight where there was none previously.

And I'm scratching my head because I seem to be almost the only person who thinks that way. Serge showed some sympathy, but that's all that comes to mind.

And I really do suspect that if a Democrat announced that Battlefield Earth was their favourite book, they would have received at least a somewhat less scornful reception here.

> If I were at a party going that badly for me, I'd get my coat and go elsewhere, not stick around and take potshots at the other people.

Beats me. Some people prod back when they're prodded, and aren't willing to back down. (Not me. I go and hide under something solid.) When there are two such people involved, human history ensues.

I stopped reading this thread when it turned ugly, and have only just come back to it after taking time to calm down, so I haven't read any of the recent BRT entries, which Teresa has both disemvoweled and disconsonanted, so it may well be that he's since behaved in a way that I wouldn't dream of defending - but I don't know, as I wasn't around.

Anyway, I think he was treated worse that he should have been, that people who don't fit in well here often meet a harsher reception than they should, and that since Making Light is usually such a beacon of wit and decency it's all the more depressing to see. I also feel like I may have just painted a target on myself.

Oh - and if the above looks too much like sock puppetry - and I can see why it might - just click on "view all by" to see how long I've been posting here.

#347 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:28 AM:

"Battlefield Earth is pretty good science fiction. It’s about Earth being ruled by an alien race, sort of the way the Democrats are running Congress."

I haven't read Battlefield Earth. But I'm under the impression that the plot basically involves a few resistance fighters using guerilla tactics to fight technologically-advanced invaders, in an attempt to free their homeland from the occupying force. If so, I'm sure that if I put my mind to it, I could find some current situation that fits that model better than the Democrats having a marginal majority in the U.S. Congress.

#348 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:32 AM:

abi @ 340

Thugs make quite trendy furniture; simply put them in the approprate positions, whether for table, chair, or hat rack, and spray with fixative. In the case of multi-thug pieces such as dining room tables and lowboys it's the first truly cooperative act the thugs have ever committed.

#349 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:42 AM:

Steve @346
As a fellow member of submesal repentans (crawlers-under-tables, in the common tongue), I applaud you for coming out and stating your opinion.

I agree that it looks like BRT was treated with an assumption of bad faith, probably because of his politics. Heaven help me if my prose (or worse - my poetry!) were analysed to the extent that his was.

I may be deaf to the hidden codewords that mark embryonic trollery, but I think it was a less than welcoming reply to someone who may or may not have meant harm. Whether he responded proportionately or not is another ball of wax, though I do note that he did not use invective, unlike, say, Dn a couple of threads over.

#350 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:49 AM:

I am somewhat with you, Steve at 346. Outside this situation, it can be very hard to *stop* offending people without offering one's belly, if one has erred badly enough with the first few comments. I don't think BRT handled things well even before he handled things badly, but I was not as annoyed as others.
Part of the reason for this is probably that I haven't been slapped, poked, or cattle-prodded in the particular places he hit, so I haven't gotten any bruises there yet. If you've had the same argument over and over again, you react differently.

#351 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Steve Taylor #346: BRT managed to offend a fair number of people early on in the thread, and when called on it responded with (what came across to many as) aw-shucks non-apologies.

[It seems]that people who don't fit in well here often meet a harsher reception than they should.

Really - can you give any examples? I'm not trying to be combative, but that doesn't fit with my experience on ML. One of the things I like best about the moderation of this blog is the way that people who are 'part-time' jerks (see here) are welcomed for their positive contributions, and gently corrected when they're being obnoxious. If someone comes in and manages to offend lots of people, perhaps they need to look at their posts and stop digging, rather than trying to prove that they were right all along. I get the impression that newcomers who have taken the time to gauge the tenor of this space are warmly welcomed when they join in here - provided they are not obnoxious.

There is something to be said here about elitism and geek social fallacies, but alas this margin is too small...

#352 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Steve, 346: I have no opinion on most of what you said, but I wish to take issue with your statement that a Democrat would have gotten a pass for liking _Battlefield Earth_. No, no, no, not on your life! We expect neocons to enjoy books based on racism and sexism. We do not expect Democrats to do so.

#353 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:03 AM:

And Shakespeare also wrote "The Merchant of Venice". The jury is really out, probably out to lunch, on this play; I've heard it described as everything from anti-semitic propaganda to a plea for ethnic tolerance*. I think it's a good example of how some artists make the division between their work and themselves a real force to be reckoned with. IMO there's simply no way to tell what Shakespeare really thought about Jews from this play. And what the hey, as mehitabel might say, it makes the words live longer.

All of the Christian characters in the play never let us forget the intolerance of Elizabethan society for Jews**; but Shylock's lines are eloquent, some of Will's most eloquent, expressions of wrong, sorrow, and anger. Superficially, they'd probably pass muster as being anti-semitic: Shylock is petty, jealous, greedy, and selfish. And yet, and yet ... the language soars, it shows underneath the stereotype a real human, not a stock propaganda whipping boy. Maybe it was just that Shakespeare couldn't write a character with that much potential badly***.

All of which is to say that sometimes great art and great artists are at bottom ambivalent and ambiguous about what they're trying to tell us, and we just have to view it and use it as best we can, perhaps without ever knowing what it "really" meant. And we do, you know, even if they'd be horrified by what we've done with it. We may do it for no other reason than that of a director who feels impelled to mark the lines as theirs. So, much as some may scream about "liberties taken with the text", using Shakespeare as a visual aid in teaching race relations is legitimate use.

* And I've seen it produced both ways.

** Let's not forget that, poisonous as they were, they had not a candle on their ancestors, who used to find it great sport to run through the ghetto in mobs beating and burning whomever they found. Sometimes you take what advances you can get.

*** But I doubt it. Shakespeare committed a few potboilers in his time.

#354 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:10 AM:

Random, unawake musings:

I am one of the wandered-in-off-the-e-street people, and lurked here for a month or more before I posted the first time. My perception of BRT's inappropriate act is that he violated the basic law of all salons, saloons, and tea parties: don't contradict the host.

(Wandering off again to see if there's enough coffee on the planet to wake me up this morning.)

#355 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:16 AM:

The Taming of the Shrew has fared better than many other works of the time, in some ways -- the issues raised by it still get people to react. Other works have fared less well: people care far less about the issues surrounding monarchical statesmanship, say (so much for Gorboduc).

Luckily, Shakespeare's works are broad enough that one can always find a counter-example. For the termagant Kate, there's the termagant Beatrice, who is (fundamentally) never bested and who is presented entirely sympathetically.

Part of the point of the New Historicism in literary criticism was the emphasis of the fact that you can't separate the act of reading a work from the act of reacting to/thinking about that work's historical context. Blipping over the bits we don't like or find boring (assuming that the original audience found it interesting; there, of course, passages which have always been boring) is frequently the easiest way to avoid doing this -- because those are often the bits which tell us best just how the past differs from our present.

For a much more difficult example of reading a text because its context has changed, the sheer casual brutality of life implied by most of Plautus and Terence puts anything Elizabethan into the shade.

#356 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:20 AM:

It's interesting to read books that used to be about one thing, but are now about another. I read To Kill A Mockingbird after last year's Wiscon (where I was beaten over the head with the fact that I am classist and felt bad for ages afterward) and what I thought was a book about race turned out to be a book about class. Or a book about both.

#357 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Diatryma @ 356... Or one could watch Field of Dreams and think it's about baseball. We bring our own baggage when we get onboard a story.

Did you know that, before he went to Hollywood, a very young Charlton Heston once played Romeo in a production of Romeo and Juliet where Romeo's side of the conflict was played by an all-white cast while Juliet's side was played by an all-black cast (among whom could be found his friend Brock Peters)?

#358 ::: Natalie ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:40 AM:

Eric, #263: I've read both of Sanderson's books and I found them to be extremely entertaining and I think he's doing some really interesting things with the genre. I didn't notice any overt LDS-influence in his work, but there is, in my opinion, a definite religious element in his Mistborn series--and I don't see that as a bad thing, per se.

#359 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:48 AM:

James @ #355:
For the termagant Kate, there's the termagant Beatrice, who is (fundamentally) never bested and who is presented entirely sympathetically.

Never bested, technically, but she voluntarily subjugates herself to Benedick and acknowledges that the proper social order requires male domination. Is that better? All through the last act of the play it's made clear that being in love removes her (penetrating, phallic, shrewish, essentially masculine) wit, and Margaret, who briefly inherits it, gets a good ol' patriarchal smackdown. Beatrice voluntarily subjugates herself to a man whose command to her is "Peace, I will stop thy mouth!"

After that she never speaks again and Benedick is teased/congratulated on being a husband at last, having finally managed to control his woman and make her shut up. (I don't think assigning the line to Leonato, as is certainly plausible, undermines this particular point.)

The fact that one can wink-and-nudge the staging, as is frequently done nowadays (in both Much Ado and Shrew), doesn't eliminate that basic problem in the ending. Shakespeare presents Beatrice's problem as essentially being that high-quality women have a tough time finding men who can properly subjugate them. Neither he nor Beatrice challenges the idea that this subjugation is proper to marriage.

Much Ado is probably my favorite play in the entire canon, but it's still a play of its era.

#360 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Susan, 359: Same thing happens to Viola. She agrees to get married and never says another word.

#361 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:54 AM:

Susan @ 359... I can't remember how the movie version of Much Ado dealt with that. Do you?

#362 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:58 AM:

TexAnne @ 360... I always prefered the first half of The Sound of Music, probably because once the main characters get married, Julie Andrews becomes a non-entity. I guess fighting the Nazis is a man's job.

#363 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:11 AM:

I don't think that the overall text of Much Ado supports the idea that Beatrice is "subjugated" to Benedick. If anything, it runs the other way: once they have fallen in love, it's Benedick who has to abruptly change his intent after Beatrice's command "Kill Claudio".

Although some of the earlier dialogue (much earlier) talks of marriage in terms of subjection ("Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a pierce of valiant dust? to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl?") it's not the dominant model of love/marriage in the play. Benedick isn't congratulated for subjecting Beatrice; he's twitted for having subjected himself to the state of marriage which he had previously abjured. One can import that, of course, but then one is running slap up against the conventions of comedy going all the way back to Menander, in which marriage is seen as a desirable end; and implicitly making a demand that Beatrice needs to be a female version of As You Like It's
Jaques to be seen as "independent".

"Peace, I will stop your mouth" is normally seen as a play on words immediately before a kiss; and about thirty seconds before the end of the play. The idea of it implying a command which is more serious is not, to my mind, a standard reading.

#364 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:25 AM:

Further Romney/BE commentary in Slate ...

#365 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:53 AM:

I believe there are several Dunnettophiles on this forum, so I will take the liberty to digress from the Shakespeare criticism for a moment.

I'm curious to know what parallel Dave Webb @ # 333 sees between Othello and Lymond, if that was more than a passing joke? One is honourable and guileless to the point of almost coming across as stupid, the other is, well, not.

It seems to me that, imagining Dorothy Dunnett were to use the plot of Othello, Lymond would instantly see through a pretty damn obvious schemer like Iago. There would be several books of manipulation and counter-manipulation and Venetian politics, followed by the defeat of the villain in dramatic circumstances probably involving elephants or chessboards or something. In the process of said clever counter-manipulations, our protagonist would undoubtedly manage to alienate most of his friends and relatives, as well as taking out a goodly handful of them with friendly fire. But, if he did decide to fall on his sword as a consequence, someone would inevitably intervene first.

Nope, I'm not sure I see the similarity...

#366 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 11:55 AM:

James @ #363:
Yup, that's a very standard mid-20thc reading of the text you're advocating, right up there with the people who talk about Theseus and Hippolyta's romance. It is not, however, the "standard" reading in the longer perspective, any more than the wink-and-nudge idea that Katherine and Petruchio are just play-acting her surrender is, nor is it reflective of a great deal of scholarship in the last thirty years. I do not have time to walk through Much Ado scene by scene today (sadly - that would be a lot more fun than doing my day job), but you might note that the silencing of the woman by marriage is, as TexAnne points out, hardly unique to Beatrice and that a proper (in this sense, not in my personal opinion) comedic resolution requires the restoration of the social order, not the toppling of it, typically by neatly sorting everyone out into marriage and restoring the patriarchal hierarchy. Jacques is a fascinating challenge to this proper resolution (much more so than Don Pedro, despite a superficial similarity of situation); Beatrice is not. Do you really think that being silent and leaving the end of the play as a dialogue between the men would be typical of the Beatrice of Act I? Really?

It's interesting to look at this sort of resolution as an anxious reaction to the presence of Elizabeth on the throne - Elizabeth herself was very careful to note that she was an exception to the general rule - or in the context of the later Hic Mulier/Haec Vir pamphlet exchange resolved in HV with the decision that the man should be more properly manly and then the woman would no longer have to be masculine, but could retreat to her proper womanliness.

#367 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:06 PM:

Dave Bell @ # 333, I mean. Why did I write 'Dave Webb'? Google suggests an ex-Chelsea football player, but I don't even follow football. I'm mystified. Sorry, Dave Bell.

#368 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:07 PM:

Susan, 366: Damn, I forgot about Theseus and Hippolyta. I just saw a production of that last month: Theseus was a bumbling, fatuous idiot, and Hippolyta was the Queen of the Amazons. O the looks she gave him...I have a suspicion that the sequel to that one would be "Hippolyta has a son; Thesus dies in a tragic hunting accident shortly thereafter; Hippolyta is regent."

#369 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:08 PM:

Catching up with a thread (and attendant sub-threads) this lively after 24 hours can feel a bit like venturing into rapids in a leaky canoe, but here goes...

On that question way back when about marital politics: Well, I *sometimes* refer to my husband as a "Libertarian gun nut," but we share a distaste for government types in general and he's highly conscientious about firearms.

On Elantris: those favorable opinions mentioned above do hit the mark -- that was my take on it in an '05 review.

On obnoxious stances of authors and composers: Have you seen the recent mentions (maybe in the NY Times) about the real thing being celebrated in the "Halleluliah Chorus"? (The downfall of Jerusalem, I think it was.)

And finally a more general observation: It's odd how much of this thread has dealt with trolls, trolling, and Trollope (not to mention trollops, in the preacher's pun). Wish I could tie it all together with some witty remark, but I didn't get enough sleep last night -- stayed up past my bedtime to watch the great PBS show about Ahmet Ertegun.

#370 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:11 PM:

albatross @ 321:

I enjoyed reading _Starship Troopers_ despite not agreeing with the ideas he was expressing much at all.

I apologize for going off on a tangent, but... what ideas was Heinlein actually trying to express?

I ask this because when I read the book in high school, I took it as brilliant political/military satire. All these characters in a deeply flawed setting with bizarre governmental policies and culture, playing it straight all the way through and doing the best they could under the circumstances. A great adventure story on top of that, which most of the satire I read didn't manage. And I snickered in an adolescent smugness about people who thought Heinlein really meant all the stuff his characters said in that book seriously and personally. No doubt those people would think Swift was also advocating the eating of babies.

...but that was a while back, and when I'd read mostly Heinlein's juveniles, not his adult fiction. So I want to know: was that book supposed to be a serious honest-to-god advocation of the society presented? Or was it satire like I thought? Or was it just a good fast-paced adventure story that doesn't say much either way about what the author really thought about politics and sociology and philosophy himself?

#371 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:31 PM:

Kathryn, #322: Spot on! That's an excellent description of the whole kerfluffle. BRT, pay attention; people are telling you why you're being perceived as a troll, and you just keep doing it... which is in itself one of the warning flags.

Madeline, back in #262, mentioned a discussion of verbal markers for trollery -- things like, "There, I said it" and, "You people". While I remember reading this, my attempt to find it last night was unsuccessful; anyone else got a link handy?

I happened to catch one of BRT's since-removed comments last night, and because I thought it might not still be here by the time I woke up, I archived this particular bit:

I approach this blog as I approach all on-line forums: they are places for the exchange and (occasional) contest of ideas. This exchange and contest cannot always be done by 'playing nice' or avoiding ruffling the feathers of the site operators. I knew I was taking a risk of offending PNH and/or TNH, especially as the argument wound onward yesterday, but I felt PNH and everyone else deserved honesty. It might not have been honesty many agreed with, it might have even crossed the line, but I would rather insult someone with honesty than curry favor by warping myself or submerging how I really feel and think. I don't know about any of the rest of you, but I just hate it when I find out someone has been ingratiating themselves or otherwise bending themselves so as to present a falsely friendly face. This I cannot respect, because behind that false and friendly face there is always a knife, waiting. But I do respect someone who will disagree with me, even heatedly, and do me the honor of a fair and honest argument. (emphases mine)

That set off another of my red-flag alarms, because I've seen this line of argument before. IME, it tends to be a marker for someone who doesn't intend to be a troll, but who does have what I consider to be a social disability: a definition of "honesty" which eschews any form of choosing one's words for politeness or tact because that is seen as "lying". People who have this trait frequently end up wondering why other people are so angry with them, and fail to understand how anything they said could have been taken as trolling; they weren't rude or abusive, they were doing us the courtesy of being honest! Furthermore, they don't trust people who do use tact, because they see those people as "constantly lying and backstabbing".

Here's an elementary example of the difference. A friend of yours has a new outfit, and asks how it looks. You think it looks absolutely hideous.

Most people, in this situation, will automatically go for something like the following:
1) I don't think it's especially flattering.
2) I don't think it goes well with your hair color.
3) I like $OTHER_OUTFIT better.

A person with this definition of "honesty" will say something like:
1) That's really ugly.
2) It makes you look like a sofa.
3) I wouldn't wear that to a dogfight.

... and then wonder why their "honest opinion" got such a negative reaction.

There's a difference between honesty used as a gesture of trust and honesty used as a club to beat someone over the head with. Someone who doesn't get that difference is going to have a very hard time in most online fora, or any other situation involving people who don't know them well enough to discount their abrasive manner.

#372 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Med @ 317: I once saw a performance of Taming of the Shrew, in which the ending was played for giggles -- that is, all the women were in on the joke that they were manipulating men by seeming compliant. It was both funny and somewhat offensive to me, as manipulation in personal relationships is, to my mind, appalling.

And kudos on your observation about teaching history and literature in tandem. I read Trollope as an addendum to a history class and learned more from his observations than from some of the required texts. In fact, what fascinated me about him is that he doesn't seem to be able to help observing the actions of those around him, whatever his own philosophy (I mean, those of his own millieu -- obviously, as Fragano demonstrates, he's a lousy observer of those outside). The actions are there, and they give you a picture he might not have intended.

#373 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Lee #309: If anyone here is curious about them, I recommend Priest-Kings of Gor, which is fairly early in the series and contains some actual SF elements... which, sadly, disappear from the series after the end of the book.

I'm told he lifted the first four books from Burroughs' The Gods of Mars, which would explain the "actual SF elements", but not much else.

#374 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:44 PM:

Emma, one of the things which first hooked me on Trollope is the whole family of ADHD/minimal Aspergers disorder people in Barchester Towers (the so called Contessa, her parents and siblings). Ways in which they failed to be self-reliant and socially responsible adults could illustrate whole sections of the DSM-IV.

That, and the satire of fundamentalism which runs through the Barchester stories.

#375 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 12:56 PM:

#369 Faren Miller: The text of the Hallelujah Chorus is taken from Revelation. The "he shall reign for ever and ever" part is from chapter 11, and is about the downfall of Jerusalem ("the holy city"). "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth" and "King of Kings, Lord of Lords" parts are from chapter 19, where Christ saddles up and gets ready to head out and kick ass.

Chapter 19 is also where Tiptree found "Her smoke rose up for ever," btw.

#376 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 01:49 PM:

JESR @ #354:

My perception of BRT's inappropriate act is that he violated the basic law of all salons, saloons, and tea parties: don't contradict the host.

Oh, I don't think that rule exists here at all. Polite contradiction is welcomed. If someone said "Battlefield Earth is a great book!!!" there would be shock and disagreement, but Patrick wouldn't have gotten out the big stomping boot.

Putting words in the mouths of others, on the other hand, is verboten.

#377 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Serge #304, Bruce #306 - all good ideas and there are a couple of scenes that demand to be written. But not until the weekend. (I kind of see the mythologist introduced finding the Home Stone of Ur* in a mysterious catacomb, which turns out to be the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark)

* Which is similar, but legally distinct from the Home Stone of Ar

#378 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:17 PM:

Being an energy creature is also frowned on.

With very rare exceptions (exercise for the reader: what are those exceptions?), the conversation isn't all about you. If you've gotten to a point where you think that you have to respond to every comment in the thread, where you're no longer seeing it as an N-way conversation but as N-1 two-way conversations, this person talking to me, that person talking to me, or, worse, if you start seeing as N-1 two-way debates, then you're doing something wrong and you should stop.

Even worse, if you start seeing the discussion as a series of two-way debates and you actually enjoy it, then you are an energy creature. In that case you probably can't stop, and the community will have to shut you down.

#379 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:22 PM:

Neil Willcox @ 377... Don't forget. We need at least one giant mummy. And its priestesses have a night job modeling for Victoria's Secrets.

#380 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:30 PM:

I feel I should go reread John Rawls' The Law of Peoples, which as I remember is all about how systems-of-interacting that work internally are sometimes completely mutually incomprehensible or destructive.... but it's a hard book, although a short one, and I'm too busy.

Applying it to various Internet communities should be slightly more amusing and less depressing than its original application to nation-states.

#381 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:46 PM:

Serge @ 379

And swarms of vermin: rats, cockroaches, dung beetles, whatever. Gotta have something for the CGI guys to obsess over.


#382 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 03:47 PM:

[/lurk]

Bus Rider screwed up the second he got on Patrick's nerves. That's the bottom line.

This happened because Bus either ignored, or was not aware of, the Prime Directive of on-line message forums. It's a hoary old thing that dates back decades to the good old days of dial-up bulletin boards.

It goes like this:

The owners/admins of a forum are the Gods and Goddesses of that forum. They have the power and they have the control. It's their world, and everyone else is just commenting in it. Make them mad at you, and you deserve whatever punishment you get.

No, it's not a very egalitarian set-up. I suspect Bus Rider came here thinking he could just open up with no reservations and get slapped on the back and handed a beer for his efforts. Instead he got several right-crosses to the chin, and a couple of lightning bolts from Teresa once she got wind of what was happening.

And he deserved all of it.

Which is not to say Bus is a bad guy. He just had no clue. Something I think all of us are guilty of at different times.

But like the old saying goes, ignorance is still no excuse.

So if Bus or anyone else needs a primer on how to comport oneself at Making Light, this topic makes for excellent reading. And thanks to Jakob for posting it, as I myself am relatively recent to this forum and found it instructive.

One more comment, for Bus specifically.

Dude, what are you thinking?? Patrick and Teresa are editors at one of the major SF publishing houses in the U.S. As a budding or beginning writer, don't you think it's bad form to engage in pointless quarrels with Patrick and/or Teresa and/or their friends? How is this, in any way, going to help you if/when one of your manuscripts comes across one of their desks??

Answer: it isn't.

#383 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:18 PM:

I mislike talking about BRT when he can't participate and is scheduled to return to the discussion, but IMO he went awry by misreading Patrick's post, and several people have bought into that misreading.

As I read it, the point of Patrick's post was not to criticize either Mitt Romney or Battlefield Earth - the post doesn't work unless you already believe that both are unpleasant.

That first misreading spawned others: people on this board wouldn't criticize Obama if he said his favorite book was Engrams of Gor, Patrick was calling Mitt stupid, Mitt was being criticized for liking the book.

Things went south in large part because of how BRT responded to people who pointed out his misreadings.

#382, in his first post BRT prepares himself for net.martyrdom, quite openly. I don't think things went as he planned.

#384 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 381... swarms of vermin: rats, cockroaches, dung beetles, whatever. Gotta have something for the CGI guys to obsess over.

How about a giant mummified mansquito?

#385 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Mansquito! wooo!!

#386 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:39 PM:

I have this brilliant idea for a Skiffy Channel movie original. Well, not really brilliant, but I rubbed it a long time with some wax and a very soft rag.

Some company has a factory in a small town. (Probably in Eastern Europe along with every other movie made and shown on the Skiffy Channel.) The company has taken the brilliant but still untested robotics work of a beautiful (hence female) scientist played by Claudia Black and, against her dire warnings that something could go wrong, they are building robotic toys. The only person who will listen to the BFS is the factory's head of security, played by Dean Cain (or Ben Browder, if that'll make Xopher happier).

Then something does go wrong, and many copies of the dog-sized mosquito-shaped robots escape.

The title?

MosquiToys

#387 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 04:58 PM:

Mansquito sounds like a tie-in to the Tlingit legend of how mosquitoes came into being. It's a great story, I've written a summary.

Cannibalistic giant is attacked by hero, who is defending humanity from the giant's hunger. Hero eventually prevails by hacking the giant into bits, burning the bits, and scattering the ashes. Giant gets the last laugh by transforming his ashes into mosquitoes, since he still has a taste for blood.

#388 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Tania @ 387... There REALLY is a movie called Mansquito.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0430334/

#389 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Serge @ 384

How about a giant mummified mansquito?

And just imagine how thirsty that thing's going to be when it wakes up! It'll drain whole armies at once.

Hmmm ... but where are we going to find a tire big enough to hold it?

@ 386

Hand me that rag ... We could make everyone happy. Make Browder the hero, but keep Dean Cain on as the evil CEO who won't allow anyone to stop the project.

#390 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:06 PM:

There's a Hungarian folk tale in which the hero heads off up a river to face terrible danger ('the giant's thirteen sons: five with stone eyes and seven with iron eyes') and makes it back again, wounded and exhausted, to be confronted by his little page boy complaining that while his master has been gone the mosquitoes have bitten him half to death.
I believe it, especially if the story is supposed to take place near Szeged, which has some of the most voracious mosquitoes I ever met.

#391 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:15 PM:

Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers @ #389

How about a giant mummified mansquito?

And just imagine how thirsty that thing's going to be when it wakes up!

It'll need a mojito!

#392 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:17 PM:

Jenny @ 390... the story is supposed to take place near Szeged, which has some of the most voracious mosquitoes I ever met

Sounds like Minnesota.

#393 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 389... keep Dean Cain on as the evil CEO who won't allow anyone to stop the project

Nah. That sounds more like a role for Ron Silver.

#394 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:20 PM:

If it's voracious mosquitos you want, try Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in the depths of summer. The evenings I spent in the field there, while doing basic training, will not soon be forgotten. I think the bugs took at least a pint a night. They were not huge, but they were legion.

As for skiffy "original" movies, I long for an era when the Sci-Fi Channel starts doing bona fide SF again, and not just camp horror centered on mutant man/beast combo monsters. The man-shark movies was just... No, I don't want to talk about it.

#395 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:22 PM:

PublicRadioVet @ 382: Bus Rider screwed up the second he got on Patrick's nerves. That's the bottom line. [...] The owners/admins of a forum are the Gods and Goddesses of that forum. They have the power and they have the control. It's their world, and everyone else is just commenting in it. Make them mad at you, and you deserve whatever punishment you get.

Plenty of fora, including this one, don't require anybody to kiss the hosts' rear ends or have the wrath of gods fall upon them. One of the things I like about this forum is that there's an exceptionally high tolerance for a variety of views, whether they coincide with the hosts' or not, as long as the posters are civil and actually participating in the conversation.

And I really must disagree that if you cheese off the owners/admins of a forum, you deserve whatever you get. You may get it, and should probably not be surprised, and won't have much choice about swallowing it, but some sites flatly cross the line of what's acceptable, civilized behavior towards someone who's annoyed an admin. Crossing the line doesn't justify anything that might be done to you, regardless of how appalling, on the grounds that admins are gods of their little realms.

BRT made some extremely rude statements. Note that this person's posts weren't disemvoweled and the person was not banned until after s/he had done so.

If I throw a party and invite people to come and have conversations, I hardly insist that everyone there agree with me or get the boot. That would defeat the whole purpose of having intelligent people get to gether to share ideas. The discussion may get spirited, and some guests may say things I disagree with, and we may argue those points, with no harm done. If one of the guests can't mind their manners, however, they're not welcome at the party. This does not mean it's acceptable for me to knock them to the floor, allow my guests to kick them, and then drag their bleeding body outside to the street.

BRT got rude. Then BRT violated a time-out. The consequence? Another time-out. That's all. Pretty mild--more embarrassing than anything.

#396 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:23 PM:

Serge @# 390: seriously, I stayed in a hotel room in Szeged where the ceiling and walls were flecked all over with blood where other hapless travellers had swatted the wretched things. There were double screens on the windows but even that didn't seem to help.
I seem to get bitten more often than other people anyway when I travel. If I ever visit Minnesota, I'll take some weapon-grade insecticide.

#397 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Jenny #396: About the only thing that works in that kind of mosquito cloud is smoke. The question is always how much you can take (having had to work downwind from a smudge fire in order to keep the mosquitoes off, I've developed, shall we say, a certain aversion to the smell of burning allspice wood and leaves).

#398 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Jenny @ 396... There were double screens on the windows but even that didn't seem to help.

"The fools! I warned them against installing lasers on the MosquiToys."

#399 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:38 PM:

Fragano @ 397, I like the smell of woodsmoke: I think it's my favourite smell of all (provided it's not smothering you to death, obviously). There's a tradition -- I think it's Hungarian as well, though it might just be made up by my nearest and dearest -- that the smoke always heads towards the most beautiful person seated around the campfire. This does at least provide some consolation to the person who, wherever they sit, finds that the wind has shifted to blow the smoke towards them...

Serge @398: ha ha. that would explain it...

#400 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Jenny @ 399... the smoke always heads towards the most beautiful person seated around the campfire

How sootable.

#401 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:47 PM:

400, ouch!

yes, I suppose you have to assume a kind of rugged outdoor beauty that is not marred by charcoal smudges on your face and ash in your hair. (I'm fine with that).

#402 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:48 PM:

(Cont'd from #400)

Wrong emergency pun. I meant to say it's no wonder that person has plenty of sooters.

#403 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:52 PM:

clearly they are hot stuff...

#404 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:54 PM:

There were double screens on the windows but even that didn't seem to help.

"No hollow screen of wire can ward, I trow/who's once been set her tryst with Mansquito".

Ahem.

Ben Browder as Corwin and Claudia Black as Deirdre would actually make me look forward to a SciFi Chronicles of Amber.

#405 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Jenny @ 396

I've been to Minnesota, I've been in the swamps in Louisiana and I've been to the west coast of Florida. But the nastiest mosquitoes I've ever encountered were the ones that tried to eat me alive one night in Vietnam. In one 2 hour guard watch on the post down by the rice paddy* I used up an entire spray can of mosquito repellent and still had welts all up and down my arms, legs, and face. The only defense I had was the flak jacket I was wearing over my torso; not too many of them got through that. The Vietnamese soldier I shared the post with told me** he'd never seen them like this either, because he was from further north, outside the Mekong delta where the swamps are.

* To a mosquito a rice paddy is just one enormous swamp, with people for dessert.

** That's what I think he told me; we had about 0.1 shared languages between his broken English and my few words of pidgin Vietnamese.

#406 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Fungi, your little piece of verse is making the experience considerably more disturbing in retrospect. Plus, since, after all, I was fairly near Transylvania, I am worried about whether they were vampire mosquitoes (in the dark and supernatural sense, not in the bloodsucking, evil and very difficult to kill one, which all mosquitoes share).

Ok, I have an entirely random question of the sort that occasionally occurs to one. The other week I went to give a blood donation (which in the end wasn't accepted because it was too near the last one) having recently drunk several strong espressos. They asked me about prescription drugs but not about caffeine/ alcohol. I wonder, had I ended up giving the donation, would the person who received my blood have get a buzz from it? If I was drunk when I donated blood, would the recipient get drunk too?

(if this is getting too ridiculously off-topic from... um, whatever the topic was, by this point... please feel free to ignore this or point me to the open thread.)

#407 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:19 PM:

PublicRadioVet, #394:

Oh, they got in our eyes and they got in our hair,
Them damn mosquitoes wuz everywhere.
It got to where we didn't care
When the man said, "3-2-1, fire!"
We didn't care... mosquitoes wuz in our underwear.
(There were ladies present; we weren't sure if it'd be polite to scratch...)

Say, Mr. Old-Timer, tell me please,
What do you do with these awful anopheles?
Well, I heard you shout and I heard you scream,
And it's not as bad as it may seem;
They die off around July.
Why's that?
'Cos that's when the wasps eat 'em...

(This is from a talking-blues piece that I have a recording of Clam Chowder doing, somewhere that I can't find it to look up the title, about a bunch of model-rocket hobbyists who have some trouble with mosquitoes on a field trip. If anyone can provide a citation, I'll be grateful.)

#408 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:22 PM:

Aconite @ 395

I suppose the way I look at it, as someone who has participated in and moderated/admined/SysOped several fora, going all the way back to the dial-up days at the end of the eighties, is that fora are not democracies. There is no fora Bill of Rights. Instead, fora are like fiefdoms, and the amins/mods are the nobility at the top of the social pyramid. They make the rules, they have the control. And if you walk uninvited into the Duke's dining hall and argue with him and upset his supper guests and make a nuisance of yourself, don't be shocked when the Duke banishes you. Or throws you in the dungeon. Or worse.

Re-reading the first 150 posts in this thread, I noticed that there was a kind of pile-on effect, in that once Patrick got going, other people jumped on, until BRT had several people coming at him at once. Perhaps this explains why, as the day wore on, the more people told him he was screwing up, the less open he was to hearing why he'd screwed up, and just kept arguing until Teresa blew her whistle? Nobody responds well to a pile-on. I have never seen that happen, not in almost two decades of doing this sort of thing.

Thus I would suggest that just about everybody involved in this rhubarb could have and probably should have behaved a little better. Patrick included.

But again, the onus is always going to be on posters/commenters to keep their behavior in check; which is where Bus Rider went wrong, because he seemed to be trying to argue with Patrick as if he and Patrick were peers, which clearly they were not. Patrick is an admin, and as soon as Bus Rider got Patrick upset, it became an almost irrecoverable error.

Bruce @ 405

It doesn't get said often enough, especially to those who toured in Vietnam, but thank you for serving your country Bruce! I have no doubt the Vietnamese mosquito is a brute. If memory serves, one of the old Master Sergeants I met while I was on duty in 2004 called them Hosquitos, as a reference to Ho Chi Minh. (grin) If I might ask, were you a Marine? Army? USAF?

#409 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:23 PM:

Lee @ 407

LOL!!! I had never read/heard that.

#410 ::: Occasional Poster, frequent Lurker ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:54 PM:

TNH / PNH / JDM / others: You guys put up with a lot of crap for the sake of this blog. Making Light is, no kidding, my favorite place on the internet. To whatever degree keeping ML running is a pain in the keister, I'm confident that you will be rewarded in the afterlife. Thanks.

#411 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 06:59 PM:

Hey, a story from Northwest Australia:

They found a dead stockman out in the bush, miles from anywhere. How did it happen - Well..

A mosquito picked him up off his motorcycle and flew off, looking for a quiet place to eat him. But on the way, he saw a four ship of F111s heading into RAAF Derby and mistook them for his family, so he dropped the guy and got into formation..

#412 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:08 PM:

# 410,
yes, there's really nowhere else like Making Light. I'll second that, and I'm sure a lot of other people would, including those who just read and don't post much (such as me, much of the time). I'm in awe at the amount of work and goodwill it takes to keep a place like this going. Thank you, all of you.

(and goodnight -- it's nearly midnight, I have a train to catch tomorrow morning, and I haven't packed!)

#413 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:09 PM:

PublicRadioVet

Thanks for the thanks. I was Army; Signal Corps to be exact. It meant I stayed most of my year in a compound about the size of 2 football fields with a road on one side, rice paddy on another, and swamp on the other two*. Hence the mosquitoes.

* When you could tell the difference between the sides by smell alone you knew you'd been there too long.

#414 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:16 PM:

Jenny @ 412

I'll second or third, or whatever that sentiment. ML is the main reason I've come back to any sort of net presence. I dropped out in the mid '90s, when rec.arts.sf became unmanageable and no longer worth the effort, and I never expected to participate in this sort of community again. I'm glad I was wrong.

#415 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:24 PM:

PublicRadioVet: Nonsense.

This was not a case where everyone was at fault. BRT was at fault in his first comment, for trying to make the thread into a melodrama with himself as the hero. Avram, Adam Rice, and JC all politely pointed out that he'd missed the point, without taking him up on his suggestion that they should be Javert-like. Then Patrick politely pointed out how BRT was going wrong, not just by missing the point, but by talking like a fool.

BRT stubbornly insisted on missing the point even after four (and more) different polite corrections. At this point, I'd say he's agreed to be thwacked until candy came out.

Making Light is not one of the totalitarian dictatorships you've seen elsewhere on the internet. Teresa's rules of moderation work here. A key one in this thread is "2. Once you have a well-established online conversation space, with enough regulars to explain the local mores to newcomers, they’ll do a lot of the policing themselves." Took Teresa to zorch the guy, but if he'd only listened to everyone else it wouldn't have been necessary.

As for Patrick, he can be a firebrand, and runs a toasty flamewar when he chooses. But people disagree with him all the time without problems. Check out this thread, nearly the exact same thread as the one we're in currently in that it's a two-liner with a value judgement that applies to his tribe. Except there, when people disagree with Patrick, they engage what he's saying, and they don't act like they're marching off to defeat the evil overlord.

That is, they respect him and treat him like a peer.

And lo, he comes around.

#416 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:39 PM:

Jenny #399: Woodsmoke is one thing, a smudge fire burning green wood and leaves is quite another. Imagine, if you will, smoking a ham and then apply that to several human beings who can't move from their positions and are still being attacked by the most daring mosquitoes.

#417 ::: PublicRadioVet ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 07:48 PM:

Madeline @ 415

Well, I guess each of us has our own perspective on this whole thing.

I'm not going to gainsay your judgments if you've been here longer and have a better handle on the nuances of this blog than I do.

What I would suggest is that if Bus Rider returns from his exile, and is genuinely penitent, then Teresa's 13th rule applies.

#418 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:22 PM:

Serge waay back @ #388: Good golly. What will those crazy kids think of next?

This would be another reason for me to consider getting cable. I'm depriving the spouse of opportunities to watch things like Mansquito, and that is wrong.

#419 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 08:54 PM:

FungiFromYoggoth @ 404

Ben Browder as Corwin and Claudia Black as Deirdre would actually make me look forward to a SciFi Chronicles of Amber.

Well, all right! I say, get the whole Farscape crew back together, writers, creature designers and all and turn them loose. Think of the Hellmaids they could create.

PS
There ought to be something I can do to tie the number of your post to the subject. Page of Wands missing , maybe?

#420 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:03 PM:

Here'sa [gruesome!] German trailer for Mansquito, (AKA MosquitoMan.) So awesome (the trailer, I mean...I haven't seen the movie)!

#421 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:30 PM:

Steve Taylor:

And I really do suspect that if a Democrat announced that Battlefield Earth was their favourite book, they would have received at least a somewhat less scornful reception here.

I can't speak for any of the others here--I have enough problems speaking for myself at times--but this is one I need to urinate on from a great height.

I read BE when it first came out. I was lucky enough not to have bought it: I walked past the New Arrivals shelves at Odegaard Undergraduate Library right after it came in. I read it all, mainly because I have this strange, masochistic, and possibly Calvinistic streak that says if someone spent a good part of their life putting something down on paper you're honor bound to finish it if you start it. (Sadly enough, I have more fingers and toes than books I've given up on.)

Let's put it this way: the Analog review at the time was too kindly and favorable to it (I think the reviewer said with careful cutting it could be in the running for Best SF Novel of 1936, which means he was either running a fever or giving the blurb folks the reviewer's version of Pity Sex). David Langford's review was much too gentle and witty for such a scab-laden pile of rotting flesh. (Sorry, Mr. Langford.) BATTLEFIELD EARTH IS A BAD BOOK. (And possibly a Dead Parrot.) NO MODIFIERS.

It was the first book that had ever made me wish that Mark Twain could be reborn long enough to pick up the ten ton hammer he'd used for Fennimore Cooper's Literary Offenses and Christian Science and start wailing away again. Then I started wishing it was a play and that Robert Benchley had a cold, so Mrs. Parker would be sitting in the audience. Possibly with a high-powered rifle.

BE is a bad book. It is bad in ways that go beyond boring and repetitious language, hackneyed plotting, vile sexism, and total ignorance of science into a far distant land where Jim Theis may not pass because he Writes Too Gooder and maps his story out too carefully.

If you are a candidate for an office and announce this is your favorite novel, either you are an idiot or you buy your books by the pound instead of by actual worth. And I'm going to put you in the category of Pete Rose, who on a promo tour for his autobiography said "The only book I ever read was my autobiography, and it was pretty good." Thank you, I Get My Best Ideas in Bed, which is a collection of book-tour comments.

And we can all be happy that I've tried to state my opinion in a restrained and mild fashion so I don't suddenly become Brc . Drchr

#422 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 09:56 PM:

Bruce @ 353

Most of Shakespeare's plays are capable of being treated in a multitude of ways. But then, this is true of *any* theatrical script. Heck, I've long held a desire to see a production of "Oliver" which is truer to the book than to the film - and it could be done without modifying the script or the songs. It could be done just through the staging and the performance of the actors.

This is part of what is described as the magic of the theatre - the fact that in any theatrical performance, you have (at the very least) two interpretations of the text working. You have the intentions of the writer. Then there's the actor, the director, the producer, the other cast members, the stage designers, the lighting crew and similar all working together to produce the finished product, and that product alters every time it's performed. Each cast and crew will bring something different to a production, and each production will be unique. The final factor, however, is the perspective of the *audience*, and each audience is different. One audience may love a particular reading of a story, another may hate it. I think this is part of why Shakespeare is still enjoyed even today.

Jenny @ 399

*grin* Ah, so this is different to the law of cigarette smoke, which always drifts toward the non-smoker (even in dead calm conditions, cigarette smoke will find the non-smokers).

#423 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:31 PM:

PRV:

I think the more complete statement is that online communities are communities, with their own community standards. It's a mistake to wander into a restaurant in a small town in Switzerland and assume you should act the same way you do at your nearest Starbucks, or to go to the company cafeteria at Intel and assume the rules are those used in your high school cafeteria.

Similarly, different discussion places on the net have different community standards. If you violate local community standards, you tend to get a pile-on. Annoying the moderator personally enough to get banned looks very different--indeed, that's one way a group sometimes gets torn apart, when the community standards are violated by the moderator. (A corolary of this is that if the community standards are inconsistent with the level of moderation needed to keep order, the group is doomed. An almost exact analogy exists with physical communities and police.)

#424 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:35 PM:

albatross @ 423: That's an elegant analogy.

#425 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2007, 10:53 PM:

Bruce Durocher, the combined mention of Battlefield Earth and OUGL has sent me into an aesthetic funk, is all I can say.

#426 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:16 AM:

Meg @ 422

Certainly any play can be interpreted in multiple ways, though some may be a bit of a stretch*. My point was just that sometimes you can conclude something about the original intentions of the playwright, and sometimes you can't. And I think that in the case of "Merchant of Venice" that you really can't conclude whether or not Shakespeare was an anti-semite.

* A musical of "Proof" seems like a good example.

#427 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:33 AM:

Othello
Lymond

Both foreigners in positions of power. For Lymond, think of his sojourn in Russia, his departure, and the implicit consequences of his attempt to return.

#428 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:33 AM:

#333, Dave Bell: [Shakespeare's] father was a crook, who made a fortune through illegal wool-trading
What made wool-trading illegal? Was there more money in black-market wool than the legal stuff?

#429 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 05:02 AM:

Bruce Durocher@421: As I recall Analog's review of Battlefield Earth, Tom Easton was rather harsher than you imply. I distinctly recall reading something like, "If this what SF has to offer, we should all switch to mainlining tetraethyl lead. It would be more fun, and the mind-rot would be less."

#430 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 08:26 AM:

Todd Larason @ 428, John Shakespeare (father of Will) was a glove merchant. Trade in wool was restricted to authorized wool merchants, but he supplemented his glove-trading with illegal buying and selling of wool (which was called "brogging"), probably because the wool trade was lucrative, but the wool merchants controlled the trade and the number of middlemen and stages wool had to go through. As with many licensed, necessary commodities, black market trading circumvented these regulates, getting goods to market more cheaply and at a higher profit for illegal traders.

#431 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 08:29 AM:

#428 Todd--At that point, wool-trading was a Crown monopoly, and wool-traders were licensed, which both raised money for the Crown and made it possible for the legal dealers to limit the prices they paid for fleeces, since it was hard to shop around for a better price legally.

Plenty of people besides John Shakespeare were black-market wool dealers

#432 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 09:10 AM:

Tania @ 418... Serge waay back @ #388: Good golly. What will those crazy kids think of next?

They'll probably come up with something even worse than what we've been cooking up around here. There was one about dragon cloning that, in spite of its having a Beautiful Female Scientist and Dean Cain as head of security started out decent. Then it became not so decent.

This would be another reason for me to consider getting cable. I'm depriving the spouse of opportunities to watch things like Mansquito, and that is wrong.

Or are you trying to have him committed so that you can spend his vast fortune on frivolous things? ("Those shoes! I must have those shoes!")

#433 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 11:23 AM:

Too... many... g/o/o/d bad... ideas... so... little... time...

(I was watching Doctor Who last week and the "Next Time" Trailer was especially good: Vg fubjrq na byq thl tbvat vagb n obbgu, pbzvat bhg nf n lbhat thl, naabhapvat gung ur unf gur frperg bs erwhaivangvba naq gur Qbpgbe ybbxvat haunccl nobhg guvf. V guvax "Guvf ybbxf vagrerfgvat, gurl pbhyq ersrerapr nyy xvaqf bs pbapreaf nobhg ybatrivgl rgp. ... nu - gurl'ir tbar qbja gur tvnag-fpbecvba-jvgu-n-uhzna-snpr zbafgre ebhgr.")

#434 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 11:35 AM:

(Sorry, Neil, but I shan't disenvowel your post as I'm still waiting to see any of the post-Rose adventures of the Doctor.)

#435 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 11:36 AM:

Meanwhile, John Shakespeare's other son, Bob, was reduced to writing standup routines for SNL (Stratford Night Live, of course).

#436 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 11:39 AM:

Hugh Laurie as Bill Shakespeare?
www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwbB6B0cQs4

#437 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 11:44 AM:

#433:They still have an opportunity to deal with the issues you bring up jura Pncgnva Wnpx Unexarff ergheaf gb gur fubj.

#438 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 12:53 PM:

Does anybody have a quote from Bill Shakespeare about motherhood and birth and all that stuff? Keep in mind that this is for a card for a co-worker who's extecting. Titus Andronicus might be deemed inappropriate...

#439 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Hmmm, Serge. Shakespeare mentioned mothers and babes a lot, but many of the quotes are not entirely suitable.

Here's Lady Macbeth:
I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.

Well the first two lines are nice.

#440 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:18 PM:

jennie @ 439... Thanks. The first two lines are nice, yes, but even those might be inappropriate coming from a male co-worker.

#441 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:24 PM:

Oh, jeez, OUGL, what is UP with that library design?

There's a huge space in the middle to heat and cool, which *holds no books*, and the fancy staircases aren't convenient to sit and browse on, and noise of any kind echoes throughout. Idiotic design. Dim dim dim.

#442 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:38 PM:

Serge @ #438:

A quick search of Bartleby.com confirms my suspicion that Mothers don't fare well in Shakespeare. Lots of weeping, groaning, and the like. All I can come up with is that whatsisname in Macbeth was from his mother's womb untimely ripp'd when she was gored by a boar, and that Hamlet's mother hit it with his uncle. And children in Shakespeare tend to get run through or and called things like "thou egg."

Does it have to be Shakespeare?

#443 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Serge @ #438, here's an alternative:

Sue's got a baby now, an' she
Is like her mother used to be;
Her face seems prettier, an' her ways
More settled-like. In these few days
She's changed completely, an' her smile
Has taken on the mother-style.
Her voice is sweeter, an' her words
Are clear as is the song of birds.
She still is Sue, but not the same--
She's different since the baby came.

--Edgar A. Guest

[pries tongue out of cheek]

#444 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:47 PM:

Clew, my thoughts exactly. Least reading-friendly library ever.

#445 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:51 PM:

Thanks for the suggestion, Mary Dell. It indeed didn't have to be Shakespeare.

#446 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 01:55 PM:

Serge,

Here's Sophocles: To give birth is a fearsome thing; there is no hating the child one has borne even when injured by it. (Electra, l. 770).

Maybe try Ben Jonson?

#447 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:00 PM:

I saw Morgan Freeman and Tracey Ullman do Taming in the park (don't hate me) and their take was that the two of them had their own separate peace, based on mutual recognition of the fact that they had far more on the ball than everyone else around and they were not icidentally incredibly hot for each other, and they played the rest out in public because it was none of anyone else's business.

Which is questionable, but worked fairly well.

#448 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:03 PM:

jennie @ 446... I like that one too, but it might scare my co-worker.

Lady MacBeth's "Out, out, you damn spot!" probably would be a big no-no.

#449 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:05 PM:

My soon-to-be-mother co-worker is quite a fan of Neil Gaiman. I wonder if...

#450 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Serge, I didn't say it was a great quote for the purpose.

Maybe try Lois McMaster Bujold?

#451 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Serge @ #445: You get that I was kidding with that Guest poem, right?

I'll see if I can dig up something cool that doesn't reference breast-feeding or death...

#452 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Serge,

I believe what you're looking for is Rufus Is A Tit Man.

#453 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:23 PM:

There's this, from Barbara Kingsolver...
"A mother's body remembers her babies--the folds of soft flesh, the softly furred scalp against her nose. Each child has its own entreaties to body and soul."
The context isn't very happy, but I always liked the imagery.

#454 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Mary Dell @ 451.. Much to my embarassment, I must confess to not realizing you were kidding. (Slinking away into the shadows... Tic-tac-tic-tac... I'm back.) But I decided early on against using it.

("What do you mean Her face seems prettier. You used to think I looked like a toad?")

I haven't been married for almost 22 years without learning a few things.
Heheheh...

#455 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Here's an obscure one which is currently credited as mostly by Shakespeare and part of which might suit: Pericles Prince of Tyre

PERICLES Now, mild may be thy life!
For a more blustrous birth had never babe:
Quiet and gentle thy conditions! for
Thou art the rudeliest welcome to this world
That ever was prince's child. Happy what follows!
Thou hast as chiding a nativity
As fire, air, water, earth, and heaven can make,
To herald thee from the womb: even at the first
Thy loss is more than can thy portage quit,
With all thou canst find here. Now, the good gods
Throw their best eyes upon't!

#456 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Thanks, kouradios. One thing is sure, I hope that my co-worker doesn't across the movie Our Town any time before giving birth.

#457 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Kelly McCullough @ 455... Hmm...

#458 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:16 PM:

Serge, #439: how about Audre Lorde's "Now That I Am Forever with Child"?

How the days went
while you were blooming within me
I remember each upon each--
the swelling changed planes of my body
and how you first fluttered, then jumped
and I thought it was my heart.

How the days wound down
and the turning of winter
I recall, with you growing heavy
against the wind. I thought
now her hands
are formed, and her hair
has started to curl
now her teeth are done
now she sneezes.
Then the seed opened
I bore you one morning just before spring
My head rang like a fiery piston
my legs were towers between which
A new world was passing.

Since then
I can only distinguish
one thread within running hours
You, flowing through selves
toward You.

#459 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Mary Frances... I like that one too. Decisions, decisions, complicated by the parents refusing to know the kid's sex.

#460 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 05:13 PM:

Oh, my. The Lorde poem is gorgeous.

Serge @434: Chez LeBoeuf-Little has not your willpower. BitTorrent has become our dearest friend each Sunday and now we are All Caught Up. (And my reaction to the trailer for Ep 6 was similar to Neil's.)

#461 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 05:24 PM:

Nicole @ 460... Get thee behind me, Temptress. That being said, I wonder when the Skiffy Channel will start showing the post-Rose episodes of Doctor Who.

#462 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 05:52 PM:

Considering what happened recently in this thread, I think there is another metaphor for what Making Light is. It's been compared to someone's front-porch, with people dropping by, or with a room party at a con. What about the following?

Rick's Café Américain.

#463 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Serge @ 462

I like that. I had a similar idea yesterday: the Inn at the End of the World, from Sandman (Book 9, "The Wake", IIRC). Or, if you want to be a little more traditionally SF/F, Poul Anderson's The Old Phoenix.

#464 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 06:47 PM:

Mary Dell, #443: As a childfree woman, I can think of some occasions where that would indeed be an appropriate baby-card verse.* But to a co-worker whom one presumably likes (and, even if not, will still continue to have to work with!) isn't any of them.

* I am not at all above using greeting cards to make a fairly pointed jab, if the occasion merits such.

Mary Frances, #458: Now, that's creepy. Talk about someone with boundary issues!


#465 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 07:15 PM:

Play it, Serge, play 'As Time Goes By'.

#466 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Lee, #464: Oh, I dunno. I think the last verse clearly indicates the mother's separation from the child--who is now become her own "thread," running through versions of herself in the process of becoming herself. And then there is the child as a "new world" in the moment of birth itself . . .

Up until that last verse--well, isn't part of the definition of childbearing the unity of mother and unborn infant, until labor and birth? Hard not to have "boundary issues" of some sort when the other person is actually in one's womb, I suspect.

When we get right down to it, gestation and birth can be seen as sort of creepy-by-definition. (Why am I thinking of the Alien movies now?)

#467 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2007, 08:26 PM:

Serge @ #462: I'm glad you think of Rick's rather than Milliways.

#468 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:21 AM:

#466:

Or perhaps the spoof of that scene in _Spaceballs_....

#469 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:36 AM:

Mary Frances, #466: Okay, I can sort of see that interpretation. But what I got out of it on first reading was the mother feeling the child, even once born, as still "one thread" connected to and thru HER. Having spent the better part of 20 years trying to get it across to my own parents that there was indeed a point where *they* stopped and *I* started, that pinged one of my hot-spots.

But then, that's one of the beauties of Art -- that the same piece can speak very differently to different people, and much of what it says to any person depends on what they themselves bring to it.

#470 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:44 AM:

Written upon the morning of the birth of his son.

No gulls cry here. The warm wave rises, curled
About a double surge. In time, the light,
The parting of the dark; not yet. The world
Unseen, unknown, is formless, out of sight.
Yet shapes the dreaming. Sound, now. It may be
There always was: the drop and wash of tides
Devoid of mer-folk. (In this oldest sea
The oldest legends fail, no tale abides.
They vanish in the murmur and the swell
That is their centre and their spring.) The night,
Still starless, quickens, turns, and for a spell
Is airless as a shroud drawn strangling-tight,
Confined as grave. Confounding death and hell,
Another morning opens into light.

#471 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 04:39 AM:

Mary @466


I made a point of seeing Alien both times I was pregnant. I would wait until after the quickening.

Why are you all looking at me like that?

(Actually, one thing that film does is make one profoundly grateful for the human mechanism of childbirth. It could be worse.)

#472 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 04:45 AM:

I gt prtilly dsemvlled onc. I stll hrt n th bd placs.

wh am i lwys th lst prson 2 fnd oot abt th fun commnt thrds?*

*pls note: was not actually disemvolled.** Disemvowelled self. †

**or disemvowelled. what would a disemvolling look like?

† Is partially disemvowelling oneself the linguistic equivalent of seppuku?

#473 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:35 AM:

abi @ 471... I would wait until after the quickening.

What? You wound up in bad weather, on a Scottish hillside, doubling over in pain while lightning was coming down from the sky onto your fingertips?

#474 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 08:45 AM:

Tania @ 467... I'm glad you think of Rick's rather than Milliways.

Indeed. Of course if ML is Rick's, which part do I play? The French croupier? I'd see abi as the girl from the French Resistance. And maybe Kathryn from Sunnyvale as the maniacally gleeful girl from the Russian Resistance.

#475 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Just in case nobody else dares, I am now imagining abi speaking in a very phoney stage-French accent, and saying, "Now listen very carefully, I shall say this only once."

#476 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 09:32 AM:

What I say about Trollope is that he really understood dragons.

Trollope wrote extremely well about an extremely narrow slice of society -- middle class British Victorians. He was hopeless on working class English people, he's appallingly racist about Irish peasants, every bit as bad as that Carribean quote Fragano quoted, and he's worst of all about Jews, because there isn't the class thing and he tries to write about them. He was slightly more racist and anti-Semitic than most people of his class and period -- at the upper end of the range of normal. His views on the world outside Britain were bizarre. (Whenever I see an overly pretentious Victorian house in Montreal, I smile to remember that for Trollope, moving to Canada is usually spoken of in the same breath as suicide.)

Even within the narrow borders in which he is brilliant, he's very weird about women. I mean modern women do not actually become unchangeably sexually fixated on one man in an instant without ever having had a sexuality before, and there's no reason to believe this has changed in the last century.

The whole inspiration for Tooth and Claw was this insight that he wrote brilliantly and observed brilliantly within these tiny weird bounds, and his characters might as well be another species where the lower classes are misshapen and shrunken and the people in other countries are of different species. Trollope's characters might as well be dragons who eat each other, it would make more sense and not be so problematic if they were dragons who eat each other. I did a lot of things consciously with this, but because I unconsciously believe that lower-class people and slaves are equivalently-significant people in exactly the same way that Trollope unconsciously didn't, some things didn't come out exactly as I had intended.

I'd never have written Tooth and Claw if Trollope hadn't been a racist and a classist with odd views about women... and nevertheless brilliant.

#477 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:03 AM:

Dave Bell @ 475... Yes. And the story of abi the Resistance Fighter is a very sad one. She fell in love with a handsome Scottish ace flyer of the RAF who was downed in Occupied France. He had to go back to England to fight again. And was downed again (*), this time somewhere in the desert near Casablanca. She doesn't know if he's still alive, but she will find out.

(*)Sure, he was an ace pilot, but he kept flying across Germans who were very good at hitting their targets.

#478 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 10:34 AM:

Jo Walton @ 476,

That just made me want to go grab a Trollope book I've never read, read through it, and then reread Tooth and Claw. I am somewhat boggled that anything could make me want to go read more Trollope, but that does.

#479 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Dave Luckett (#470): excellent poem!

PS: A quick look at the index in my Bartlett's doesn't find many upbeat quotes on "birth" or "childbirth", except as metaphors. I suppose the process was so dangerous (ditto for the child's first few years) until recently, most positive references would be to somebody like Guest.

#480 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:01 PM:

Dave Luckett #470: Wow! That's wonderful.

#481 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:03 PM:

Serge #474: I think I will just channel Claude Rains...

#482 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Jo Walton #476: That's an amazing insight. Now I have to read Tooth and Claw.

#483 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:25 PM:

Jo, thanks so much for writing that. It is wonderful to get the chance to see inside your inspiration like that.

#484 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Fragano @ 481... I am shocked, shocked!!!

#485 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Serge #484: I smash bottles of Vichy water too...

#486 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2007, 03:20 PM:

Neil, #433, the questions are raised.

#487 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 07:26 PM:

Have you heard Romney's latest idiocy?

"It seems that Europe leads Americans in this way of thinking," Romney told the crowd of more than 5,000. "In France, for instance, I'm told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past."
French experts are baffled by the claim.

The only source people have found for this notion is Orson Scott Card's The Memory of Earth

Might make a fun thread to suggest other SF plot points political candidates could or should assume are real...

#488 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Steve Taylor, #346: Regarding BRT, no offense taken. I wondered myself if I hadn't been a little hard on him, which is why I pulled away from the discussion for a while. (Not that I disagree with other people's use of his performance as an opportunity to discuss techniques of trollery. I especially sympathized with Madeline F's #262.) Frankly, I think his later remarks to Teresa--aptly summed up by miriam beetle in #331 as "all ex-mormons either just get over it or are horrible bitter people. i hope you're not a horrible bitter person!"--were a lot more genuinely unpleasant.

Thanks, FungiFromYuggoth, for understanding (in #383) that the main point of the fershlugginer post wasn't to dis Mitt Romney!

#489 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:02 AM:

Sure, he was an ace pilot, but he kept flying across Germans who were very good at hitting their targets.

"I've flown four hundred and seventy combat missions. Crashed every time. Come to think of it, I've never landed a plane in my life" - ADM "Tug" Benson, USN.

Lis: I was just going to remark on that.

"Black magic is a very real threat to our national security. I'm told that the British government has an entire secret department devoted to defending their nation against occult threats" -- Mitt Romney, May 16, 2007.

"The melamine contamination scandal has highlighted the importance of safeguarding our nation's food supplies from contamination. As president, I will order the Food and Drugs Administration to conduct an immediate investigation into the composition of Soylent Green" -- Mitt Romney, June 4, 2007.

"No, I'm not going to campaign in California. Don't you know they have, like, vampires there?" -- Mitt Romney, July 2, 2007.

#490 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 06:13 AM:

Lis@487: Temporary contract marriage is mentioned in several Heinlein novels. The Puppet Masters comes to mind as one example.

#491 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 06:23 AM:

ajay @ 489... "Black magic is a very real threat to our national security. I'm told that the British government has an entire secret department devoted to defending their nation against occult threats" -- Mitt Romney, May 16, 2007.

You made those up, didn't you? Otherwise, we have someone who's running for President of the United States who thinks we live inside the Reality of HellBoy.

("Red means stop!")

#492 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 07:24 AM:

ajay #489:

The thought of Mitt Romney reading Charlie Stross does not compute.

#493 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 07:52 AM:

I thought Ajay was referring to Charlie Stross's Laundry.

Steve (346), I'm sorry you were distressed by my treatment of BRT. I didn't think he was a bad person, but IMO he was loud, at times notably inconsiderate, quicker to post than to think, and prone to camp out at center stage. Another way to put it would be that conversations with him in them tended to become conversations about him. He wasn't anywhere near as nasty as some characters we see, but other readers found him more wearing than you did. (Which happens. We don't all get along with everyone equally.) Also, at the point that I imposed the first time out, he'd already made quite a few remarks that could easily have started flamewars. If he didn't slow down, sooner or later one of them was bound to catch fire.

I never thought he was hopeless. There were moments when he obviously took pleasure in the conversation for its own sake. From that central good, all others may in time proceed.

#494 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 08:25 AM:

Teresa @ 493... I thought Ajay was referring to Charlie Stross's Laundry.

That too. Then again, both the Laundry and HellBoy dealt with things that are squamous and rugose.

#495 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 08:32 AM:

Lovecraft had his collection of toys, but aside from giving them names, scarcely played with them, since for him it was enough that they existed. That left room for other writers to play with them; which, of course, they have.

#496 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 08:49 AM:

Teresa... I try to imagine Lovecraft as a young child playing with toys in a sandbox and all I can come up with is a creepy Gahan Wilson cartoon.

#497 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 09:20 AM:

"Now Howard, don't touch that tentacle. You have not idea of where it's been!"

#498 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 11:52 AM:

And if he told any of the grownups what he'd *named* his toys, they would have either taken him to get counseling or performed the Heimlich on him!

#499 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Back to Mitt Romney and science fiction: Over the weekend, Romney was speaking at Pat Robertson's Regent University, and made the following claim:

"In France, for instance, I'm told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past."

This was reported without comment in The Washington Post, as if it were perfectly plausible that the French might have such a legal arrangement.

The New Republic's blog, The Plank, points out that there's an Orson Scott Card book, The Memory of Earth, in which marriages are contracted for seven-year terms.

Reagan used to mistake movies for reality; maybe Romney has the same thing going on with SF books.

#500 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:25 PM:

Dave #486: I missed Doctor Who on Saturday, so am in ignorance of what happened in that episode. But the trailer reminded me that it's a kids show in the best way; not that they aren't afraid to tackle relevant, interesting, classic or indeed adult* themes, but that there are also always going to be monsters in it. Those of us that are still kids who like monsters will jump up and down** when they come on. Those of us who are adults who calmly enjoy explorations of clever themes and ideas will enjoy those bits. And those of us who are both*** will sometimes be able to feel our emotions shifting gear, especially when the two parts are rammed into each other in a 30 second trailer.

If I'd had more time at the time, I'd have put it like this, and I might even have tied it more neatly into the whole bad film/book thing this thread is partly about in some way.

* In the paying bills and keeping house sense
** Literally or metaphorically
*** Which I'm assuming is going to be most Dr Who fans older than some unspecified age.

#501 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Re Trollope and women (#476): I think this does Trollope an injustice. Trollope might think he thinks that women are irremediably marked by their first thought of love, and he certainly believes everyone else thinks so, but I don't think it happens to his women much more than to the men. I don't see that Can You Forgive Her? makes much sense if we all assume we can't (forgive her).

This probably won't be apparent to a modern who reads only Trollope and great literature from that period, but it stands out if you read the main vein of decent popular literature; Yonge or maybe Maria Thompson Daviess. The conventional writers of his day are so much worse in comparison that I think they make Trollope's trammeled but plausible women stand out in sharp relief.

I have no argument at all with the depiction of Victorian property politics as cannibalism.

Next week: East Lynne!

#502 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 02:49 PM:

clew, it is also true, I think, that Madam Max loves Phineas Finn more than whoever her first love was, and that the problem in the Palliser marriage is not that the Duchess still loves her skeezy first love more than she loves the Duke, but that the Duke thinks she does.

#503 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2007, 05:42 PM:

An interesting question is, just how well-observed are Trollope's works? The humanity of his characters is evident--at least, of those who fall within the geographic and social ambit for which he cared--and his general portrait of his society is remarkable. However, he also notably wrote in detail about the inner workings of particular branches of society, notably the clergy and Parliament, to which he did not actually belong. It is difficult to tell at this remove, but I sometimes get the sense that he has put a foot wrong, that his imagination of how cabinet members speak to one another, for example, has gone astray. Perhaps something of the same sort may be said for his portrayal of women--that his depiction of them in their public life is well drawn, but that when it comes to their inner lives and private interactions, he may well err.

#504 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 05:01 AM:

Serge, #491: Check the dates on those quotes.

#505 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 07:11 AM:

Lee @ 504... Argh. Oops. Blush.

#506 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 08:30 AM:

Tomorrow's news, today!

Eat *that*, MSM.

#507 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 03:20 PM:

#80

Battlefield Earth has a huge 'hidden' message.

The bad guys are psychiatrists. The good guys are Scientologists.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlefield_Earth_%28novel%29#Scientology-related_themes

It is more than creepy that Romney likes this book-- the implication was that he was trying to cuddle up to the influential fundraisers in Hollywood who are Scientologists.

#508 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 03:53 PM:

In #502, JESR writes:

clew, it is also true, I think, that Madam Max loves Phineas Finn more than whoever her first love was, and that the problem in the Palliser marriage is not that the Duchess still loves her skeezy first love more than she loves the Duke, but that the Duke thinks she does.

I haven't read any Trollope, but for some reason, this description sounds to me like a Brown-wears-a-green-tie-type logic puzzle.

#509 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 03:58 PM:

If Valuethinker's suspicion is correct, Romney should never be elected. A presidential candidate who is willing to flirt with Scientologists for the faint chance of some quick campaign cash ... who else would he court for money?

#510 ::: Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 06:10 PM:

A.R.Yngve @ 509

who else would he court for money?

Anybody who had it. My suspicion is not that he's after their money, but that he's after their influence in Hollywood, and the rest of Medialand. They could give him a lot help behind the scenes in terms of favorable PR, or just making his position on issues look good. Since Hollywood is largely anti-conservative if not liberal, that could give him a lot of differentiation from the other Republicans.

#511 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2007, 06:50 PM:

#503: That's a good point, about observation vs imagination; his women's interior lives seem more realistic to me than their outer ones, how not? their outer ones are bathos-scapes to survive social pressure.

But, mmm, we all have to extrapolate inner from outer behavior, and probably spend more time on it than we spend extrapolating private from public behavior in the government. (Except in this thread, trying to suss out Romney's real intent.) Trollope could be better at the former than at the latter w/o damaging him in my esteem as a novelist of character. Because I certainly wouldn't want to replace his work with more of Disraeli's novels, in which the characters are incredible; but Disraeli certainly knew how people in power spoke to each other.

#508: Victorian courtship novels are a kind of logic puzzle because they're very game-theoretic, there are lots of gambits that make you permanently worse off if you fail, and things attempting to be zero-knowledge proofs, and all.

#512 ::: OtterB sees probable spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2011, 11:06 AM:

Huh?

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