At the end of the day, it’s morning in America.
Continue reading Mike Ford: Occasional Works (Part Eleven)
I think the key point to be noted here is that the NYRB has used the word “intergalactic” in a context where it is, at least sometimes, actually correct. This may be a first.
If they should follow this with an analysis of print comics that does not contain sound effects (e.g., “Zap!”) we could be wobbling on the brink of a Colloidal Golden Age.
It has been claimed (though I do not know how accurately) that the creation of the Lunar Receiving Laboratory was influenced by Michael Crichton’s THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, a you-know-what novel of quite spectacular lack of scientific (or literary) merit but very large sales.
The LRL, for those not there at the time, was designed to isolate us from any nasty microrganisms brought back by Apollo missions from the Moon. The few biologists that commented pointed out that nothing whatsoever had been done to isolate the Moon from Terrestrial contamination, a far likelier prospect.
To be fair, this was at a moment when Americans had been abruptly made aware of our CBW programs, which led to a brief ripple of nervousness about biological disaster (and, following ANDROMEDA’s success, a number of biocrisis novels and movies).
But hey, Nixon, now -there- was an incisive scientific thinker for you.
Welcome to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Mk II Mod 1a (ISO 9002 and 802.11b compliant)
WARNING: The MMPI-II/1a is an extremely important test. If you cheat on it, we will know, just like we know how, where, and when you fudged your SATs. Messing with the MMPI-II/1a’s head will only get you assigned to a career you will hate, no matter how qualified you are for it.
Okay, sharpen the damn #2 pencil and get cracking. All questions are True/False; no weaseling about “Strongly Disagree” for us.
1. I have a personality.
2. My personality is closed for inventory.
3. The last time my personality was inventoried, I cooked the books on accounts receivable.
Okay, that’s it. What, you want a numeric score? Heck, we’re not even going to tell you “how you did.” You want to know that, get a psych degree. You want a psych degree? You’re not qualified.
SCOOP, I would note, is by Evelyn Waugh, who was what was called a satirist before the concept became obsolete.
Without attempting here to judge the Murdoch empire — as they are fond of saying, you can look at their actions and make up your own mind — there seems no sensible reason why they should not be up-front about these payments.
“This is what Iraq demands for us to operate there. We spend this much on things we are told are official, and this much on pure corruption. This, by comparison, is what we pay, above actual operating costs, to work in [insert name of favored nation — let’s say China, just at random — here]. A complete comparison chart is on our website.”
If the Iraqis threw them out for saying this, it would make their point at least as strongly as the tactics they are presently using.
Xopher, with no desire to cause topic drift, there is no evidence that George III was syphilitic. He pretty certainly had hereditary porphyria, which caused well-documented bouts of insanity — though these did not become severe until -after- the Revolution. (Regency, while proposed, didn’t actually arrive for a couple of decades.) It’s assuredly the wrong day to be defending the Hanoverians (not sure if there -is- a good day for that), but the decisions that led to the Declaration and armed revolt were by no means solely the King’s, nor was that particular King a caricature ogre (which I might grant you for George I). I could start in on Pitt’s attitudes toward insanity, or about North, or Fox, but that would cut the moorings on the topic. Was the American situation mismanaged? Yup. Was that because the King was an imbecile incapable of reason? No.
Okay, Sidney Hook I ain’t. Hell, Alan Bennett I ain’t. We now, with pleasure, return you to your regularly scheduled, and wholly deserved, celebration of Liberty among Men.
Long ago on Usenet, I started using the term “cuckoo” for folks who (often, though not always, under pseuds) showed up out of nowhere to post rants, and then disappeared into the Void-O-Tron. The reference was, of course, to the egg-posting bird, though I am given to understand that it has other connotations. (Of course, those would weaken its use as an inside reference.)
The discamelating straw, not that anyone asked, was a character who left four enormously long posts on the absolute supremacy of the Authorized Version of 1611 (or “King James”) over all other Bibles everywhere. It was obvious to this writer that it was ideal and perfect, because it was, quote, “the Author’s Version.” Somewhere, John Wesley was asking his namesake for the loan of a six-gun.
You know just what you mean but it might mean too much
So you limit yourself to a smile and a touch
But the lips have gone dry and the hands
Are as cold as the clay
All that silence can say
No one’s said their goodbyes but it’s still time to go
So you stand by the road in the long-distance glow
Of the eyes burning red in the West
At the end of the day
All that silence can say
(Don’t go looking; Zevon didn’t write that. Some of us owe him in other ways.)
Loyal to the Group of Thirteen. (Not me personally, you understand.)
If you want a vision of the future, it is a wireless broadband network feeding requests for foreign money-laundering assistance into a human temporal lobe, forever. With banner ads.
I was thinking about “Labour on a monument, smiling at grief,” or possibly “The quality of Labour is not strained; it droppeth as a bin-liner-wrapped MP down from heaven,” but never mind.
I would remind all of you, and you know who you are, that here in the land of the, thing, and home of the, uh, fries, as we like to call them, we have a Constitutional, whatsit, doohickey, annulment, affirming that everyone around here already has has free Blair speech, without answering to any “BBC political section,” though we are laboring mightily — that’s right-to-work labor, not, you know — to establish special sections throughout Heim — hrm — HOMEland Security, because freedom isn’t free, it’s competitively bid. Thank you and good night.
The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days —
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.
Any discussion of coincident birthdays has to take into account the troika of Dave Langford, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, and me: the Worldcon committee of your worst nightmares.
Of course, Max von Sydow and Harry Morgan were born that day too, so there’s someone to play Dave and myself in the movie.
Well, last night I bolted together a CPU stand that was labeled as “Assembled in China from US parts.” Given that this was about as completely unassembled an object as possible — three metal stampings, three pieces of adhesive foam, four casters (okay, they were preassembled) and a tiny bag of nuts and bolts — I must assume that the bits were shipped in huge bins across the Pacific, sorted into plastic bags and then a box, and shipped back to my friendly neighborhood Office Depot.
Oh. Okay. One of Neil Stephenson’s zeppelin transports just went over, darkening the skies like an invisible hand in an iron glove. That’s all right then.
All kinds of interesting things happened inside the Nazi weapons-research establishment, and a lot of them were not exactly efficient and not particularly honest. Once the Leader became enamored of Wonder Weapons, Wunderwaffenprojekten became an excellent way of not being sent to the Russian Front.
There was a steadily escalating series of priority hierarchies, as teams tried to leapfrog their projects ahead of others. Note that while some money was involved, this was not an issue of the workers trying to get rich — they were trying to stay out of the front line, and to get some basic resources (food, a decent place to live) that were in short supply. New classes of “very important project” were continuously created. About midwar, someone came up with “Führer Priority,” projects that the Boss supposedly was personally interested in; this was intended to be a trump card, but by war’s end there were six levels of Führer priority.
The effect of this was much labor but no product. Germany was, for instance, trying to develop a ground-to-air AA missile, which obviously would have been of great use; they tested a variety of designs, with varying levels of success, but instead of focusing the research into one AA Missile Group, it was scattered around numerous little teams, who competed for dwindling resources and, of course, shared nothing with each other. At war’s end, there were -over forty- such projects.
It will be noted that Germany had lots of social control and internal spying.
On the matter of the Secret Police knowing what they were snooping, Lavrenti Beria was always partly convinced that the Soviet bomb project was a hoax (this was after 1945, so it’s not skepticism about the Bomb -working-). During a test of the atomic pile, Beria had seen nothing “atomic,” just some lights and bouncing gauges, and demanded to be allowed inside the reactor core for a look. There were people there who wanted to let him.
One might note that this cheap hack named F. Scott Fitzgerald told a “guy lives backwards” story in a pulp yarn called “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and that other guy, Marty somebody (whose dad slummed around in sci-fi with his pal Bobby “Stalin was a Bad Dude” Conquest), did an entire novel in which time moves backward, which got reviewed in All the Right Places, but then one would have to assume that books do not spring like quantum particles from an absolute vacuum, and it is sometimes useful to know that literature has a history, and that’s so Twentieth Century.
Stefan, I’m pretty sure the piece in question was Luc Sante’s from HARPER’S, done at the time when Sante was trying to crash NY publishing by schmoozing various Right People. It kinda worked; he’s done a book or two — LOW LIFE, which is a rewrite of Herbert Asbury, comes to mind — and still appears in magazines every now and again. He is not untalented, and I think much of his attitude comes from wanting to remain In Good with those Right People.
If anyone missed it, Sante read five randomly selected sf novels and tore four of them to pieces. The fifth — as I recall, it was by Michael Bishop — he admitted he sort of liked. A large number of people wrote in noting that if you pulled five books off a Borders shelf at random you probably wouldn’t get a handful of aces, and suggesting titles, to which his response was “literary talent does not pass by osmosis,” which is, how do you say it, idiotic.
“… Plum and her sister Lucy …”
Whose nickname, we must assume, is Land. Both of them doubtless related to the noted Shirley Gunderson Mercy.
I think the publication of the Spectacularly, Hideously Bad Book — the Notably Awful Book, in fact — and the attention such things so often receive, may say a couple of modestly significant things about The State of Publishing and Stuff. One is that most Bad Books are just, well, plainly bad; they are dull, their grammar is awkward, with the occasional howler, but someone of an editorial persuasion has taken Vise-Grips and Bondo to the rattliest bits, they displace not a brilliantly eccentric manuscript but another precisely as lame (though the other lame author will never believe this — wait, wrong Nielsen Hayden blog thread). So when the Mutant Hellbook rises on its spavined limbs and pole-vaults “Good Morning,” it taps a pressurized dome of critical frustration (not all of it acute or worthy, but that’s another essay), and the Dead Book is staked in its native earth by the Killer Review. At the very least, it’s a change of pace from saying the same things about the same writers, or even saying different things about the same writers, or … you get the idea. People watch talk shows so they can see what a Writer So Bad They’ve Heard of Him/Her looks like. Eventually the party mood passes, and we return to the usual cycle of military romances and meaningful, human, not-sf-on-your-tintype novels about space amoebas and the Holden Caulfield Clone Wars, and the water is again calm, until the shark music starts again.
This has been “All Metaphors Considered,” brought to you by a generous grant from Pulp, the Display Technology of Tomorrow.
I do hope you will graduate at least one Undersecretary of Something Or Other With Primary Responsibility for Assuring That Particular Undersecretarial Office Has a Name on the Door.
Teresa, you and I aren’t “scholars,” we’re … well, we live in book-lined caves, produce papers on arcane subjects, and have twitchy internal mechanics and a fondness for concocting strange things in the kitchen. We’re Consulting Wizards.
Well, I have seen the term “independent scholar” used for such people as Catharine MacKinnon, in which case I will take broccoli. (The term seems to specifically mean someone with no affiliation to an institution, whether educational, thinkety-tankety, or The National Alliance for More PCBs In Food.)
At any rate, the outfit we are chartering here obviously needs some impressive sounding names to attach to things, preferably insubstantial ones. At a start, I would suggest:
—The Whitmore Cellar of Antiquities
—The E. B. White Chair of Not Using “Literally” as an Intensifier
—The Django Fett Concert Hall and Automatic Weapons Range
—Regius Professor of Garlic (gonna be a major scrap over that one)
—The Research Refectory
—Thog Professor of Hideous Sentence Construction and Allied Arts
—Liberty Hall (applications for Head Cat now open)
—Little Chapel of the Possessive Apostrophe
—The Mathom Gallery
“I’ve got no trouble with reading the works of absent authors,” said Gytha Ogg, with a blood-freezing calm. “Quite a few of the folks I knows is absent … some of them at very moments very crucial to the plot.”
Look, if Terry were here he’d have done better. Terry’s not here and he’s doing better.
(And I can channel Tony Robinson for a sentence or two, but, well, Fate may like a challenge now and again, but standing one end of Lancre Town at high noon and calling her out is quite another.)
Terry also wouldn’t have left a superfluous “very” in dialogue.
“… but the Bushites hassled him and eventually kicked him out of the rally.”
As somebody probably said once, power originates from a pork barrel full of guns.
Hm. Think I’d better print a couple more giveaway buttons for Worldcon.
“Mr. President, you remember that flying saucer that landed on the Mall? Well, there’s a guy in it, and he’s got a big robot — not, you know, Japanese big, but big — and the robot just disintegrated half the Military District, but that’s not important right now, ‘cause, he, it, like, seems to have gone to lunch or something. But the guy says he has an important message about mail servers, and he needs to talk to all the leaders in the world. I mean, like, ALL OF THEM. Right now. Do we even have a plan for that? I mean, a plan plan, with kinda grandish strategy and stuff?”
And I would suddenly like to do “How to Tell Rousseau from Voltaire From Quite a Long Way Away,” but there’s this Worldcon… .
Varicella (chicken pox) is minor for most (not all) of the kids that get it. However, the herpesvirus that causes it stays dormant in the peripheral nerves pretty much forever. It resurfaces as herpes zoster (shingles), usually two generations later, so that grandparents unknowingly infect their grandkids. H. zoster is, again, for most people a temporary nuisance, but some patients get postherpetic neuralgia, which can be debilitating, or the ophthalmic version, which if untreated — well, you can probably guess.
And I’m old enough to have gone to school with kids whose mothers had rubella. It’s not something you forget.
Claire, forgive me in advance, but the logical* T-shirt would be:
I SHOOT FISH.
IN BARRELS OR OTHERWISE.
It’s Payback Time.
*I am sometimes very mean to this word, and this is one of those times.
Any relation to Norman?
And I’m sure we’re all aware that scorpions glow under UV light. As far as I know, there hasn’t yet been a direct-to-Skiffy-Channel dime-budget horror epic making use of this fact, and I can’t imagine why.
Actually, the slices are of a dudess. About a centimeter thick, and not-too-garishly stained for anatomical convenience.
The last time I saw them, they had been semi-hidden in a stairwell, but that was very long ago. It is unfortunate that Chicago cons are usually a long haul from Hyde Park.
Science & Industry always struck me as a quintessentially stefnal museum, at least for certain, Astounding-to-Analog-transition-era values thereof. Some items, like the cylindrical Display of the Elements (under a giant, rotating globe) had a distinctly Trantorian quality, and the high level of corporate sponsorship (which I understand the current directorate is trying hard to move away from) was in keeping with other Golden Age qualities. Not that the Bell Labs stuff wasn’t swell (fold-up wireless telephones with little bitty teevee screens! What a notion in 1964! And you could hear a Bell voder sing “Daisy” long before you know who.)
Oh, I remember the broken exhibit buttons. (For those who’ve never been to the place, Science & Industry was noted for having operable exhibits; the level of hands-on varied — mostly it was “push the button to start the demonstration.” Union Carbide had a blow-molding apparatus that, for a dime, would generate a small bust of Abe Lincoln (leading to many home reenactments of Our American Cousin), and the Tribune’s rather good news-technology hall had a linotype that for a similar investment spat out a still-warm lino slug, but most just did something, of variable interest. (In 1968, the US Army remodeled its hall in unimaginably bad taste — the high point was a helicopter door-gunner “game” where one fired an M-60 at a model Vietnamese village, which would flash lights in response. I am not making this up. There were near-riots, and it was closed down very quickly.)
Okay, enough with the nostalgia trip already.
It was also open every day but Christmas, and had free admission. This meant that every bored kid in the area (Hyde Park, while it had the University of Chicago, was also seriously economic depressed, at least in my pre-1974 era) would go there, or be dumped by their parents, and run around the halls mashing buttons (an early incidence of that supposedly modern phrase) or, in a few cases, deliberately trying to break things. You know the drill. Things got fixed, but it was impossible to keep even. There’s now an admission charge, and as I noted above, a new set of directors that’s trying to be less commercial and more creative.
And were you in the Cal Region? I grew up just a few blocks over the Chicago line, in America’s industrial armpit. I ask partly because I just acquired a copy of Richard Dorson’s book on the folklore of the Region (“urban folklore” in a more classical sense) which I would recommend to anybody interested in modern mythopoesis, but particularly to fellow Region Rats. (Hey, that’s not my coinage.)
The extreme north end of Hammond — Robertsdale, a subdivision that existed so that the larger city could get water from the lake, and was correspondingly last in its mind and its appropriations schedule. I grew up at approximately 116th Street (the numbers actually count from downtown Chicago) and Indianapolis Blvd. (aka US 41). It was almost entirely industrial — seven oil refineries, five steel mills, other plants in various degrees of noxiousness (Lever Brothers was a breath of fresh soap on inversion days). The Dorson book calls it the most industrialized patch of ground in the US, which is not hard to believe. He does have a fascinating (for me, anyway) bit where he’s being driven around my old neighborhood, and is counting the ethnic influences from the successive waves of employment-seeking immigrants — East Europeans before the war, southern blacks during, poor Appalachian whites just after. It’s called Land of the Millrats, and it’s in print in an iUniverse edition that’s … okay; you might be able to find a used copy of the Harvard hardcover for about the same price.
And yes, I have Moonlight in Duneland, along with the two hundred-odd other railroad-related books.
Why does the photo of the couple looking at Mr. “Maybe You Can Be Too Thin” look like a still from Alphaville?
Oh, I forgot. The Nouvelle Vague was right all along.
At one time, there were sidebar adverts in Smithsonian for reproductions of Preston Brooks’s cane. As I recall, they were available with and without “Hit him again” plaques. (To be clear, these were third-party ads; the Institution was not itself producing or selling them.) I haven’t seen the ads in a long time, though I imagine that the product is still available.
So, who won the re-enactment of the Hamilton-Burr duel?
Customized tourism has always been with us to some degree, but there is certainly more opportunity to exploit it in an era of The More You Got, the More Pointlessly You Gotta Spend it. Those Americans who can still afford to visit Britain would probably drop a tenner at Highgate to widdle on Marx’s grave. Additional income could be raised by selling American lager on the run-up.
… the societal attitudes and the (in my opinion) neurotic inability/unwillingness to examine ourselves, that allowed things to come to this. Two paragraphs ago you were suggesting a large hidden conspiracy behind. Which is it? The Illuminati, or the Dullard Demos? Here goes the obligatory Nazi reference: Eichmann was a petty functionary who rose to (modest) power by assembling a plan for acts that everybody knew was wrong. He didn’t kill anybody; he facilitated the killing. He wasn’t a great intellect; he wasn’t even an interesting human being, as Hannah Arendt memorably pointed out. Are we mad because this makes Americans look bad, or because it truly is beyond grossly unacceptable? Any reason why it can’t be both? The French who detest le Pen both find his views repellent and are ashamed, not that such a person might run for office — that is what open elections are about — but that he should attract so much support. They are not wrong to see this as making their nation “look bad” in other people’s eyes. Berlusconi is a similar (not identical) case; both those countries were run by fascist regimes in living memory. I could ask who the “we” in the quote is, since you keep reminding us that you have-not-and-never-been American, but nobody has a monopoly on bad public figures, and everyone can feel an honest embarrassment at them, and for their subjects. Any small wonder the military, part of the populace fed with images and opinions from corporate media to demonize and dehumanize these peoples, would treat them with the similar disdain they believe others would inflict, had they the chance? It’s never required “corporate media” for prison guards to mistreat prisoner; that existed when “media” meant stone tablets. Nor is it the exclusive property of any nation or people to demonize their enemies (real or perceived), as a glance through the Authorized Version of 1611 will show. Cruelty toward enemy soldiers is nothing novel, either; the Red Cross, and the Geneva Conventions, weren’t abstract humanitarian ideas; like that other besieged document, the US Bill of Rights, they were direct responses to visible situations. The patterns of fascism are old patterns, just as the fasces is an old emblem. So are the patterns of brutality toward those who can’t fight back.
A few years back, George Martin did a three-part series called “Rhythm of Life,” in which he gets together with various musicians (the mind reels at the idea of the man’s Rolodex) to talk about what makes music “work;” there are three episodes, devoted to Rhythm, Melody, and Harmony. McCartney’s there, of course (and says, only semi-humorously, that he hopes Martin doesn’t discover a mechanical explanation of how to produce great melodies); so are Billy Joel, Brian Wilson, and Georg Solti. It runs periodically on the Ovation cable arts network, and is well worth catching.
THE EDISON LABORATORIES
Scientia Gratia Pecuniam
Announce Their Greatest Technical Advance In Nearly A Week
MyGram(tm) is a device for playing cylindrical wax records that is wholly contained within a gentleman’s top hat. Now, no formal occasion need be without the charms of music, no matter how confined it may be. Puccini in the Pullman berth, Borodin in the boudoir, Sousa in the showerbath! Business Executives may play Hortatory Messages throughout the Working Day, both increasing productivity and reminding the Lackeys of Industry that they are under surveillance. The mechanism, once primed with a Recording, is Rewound by the simple act of tipping the Hat to a passing Lady. (The Habitually Shy Gent may wish to peruse our catalog of Witty Repartee Cylinders for All Occasions, available in plain wrapper for the sum of $5 cash or stamps.)
I get the distinct impression that the neenerconservatives are, at the absolute peak, Flash villains — Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Captain Cold, The Top (who is of the spinning variety, not, well, you know). Though come to think of it, their level of competence puts them in the category of Tick villains.
Chip, while I’m pretty that you know all this and are being ironic, the list of rockers who’ve written SF music is, to turn a phrase, not a short one.
Donald Fagen’s “IGY” is SF without stretching at all. So is Blue Oyster Cult’s “ETI.” Elton’s “Rocket Man” puts me in mind of Malzberg in his less bitter mode. Quite a bit of Hawkwind has SF themes, though considering that Mike Moorcock was in the group, that’s not much of a surprise. (Moorcock also played on Robert Calvert’s “Lucky Leif and the Longships,” which is a concept album of pop music from an alternate universe where the Norse settled North America.) Eurythmics did “Sexcrime,” partially in Newspeak, for the most recent film version of 1984, though it was cut from the release. Bowie, of course. Alan Parsons (even if you count “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” as fantasy). Warren Zevon. Thomas Dolby.
Maybe the BLM found that some pot growers are sitting on top of a uranium mine in South Dakota?
The Bureau of Doper Affairs. It’s a perfectly logical step for this crowd, when you think about it.
Grand Theft Auto, the Anti-Drug.
Indian Gaming, the Anti-Drug.
The version of the Boucher story I’ve always heard (from people who were close friends of the man himself) is that a story arrived containing a puzzle mystery, a nun, some gourmet cooking, and so forth, and he sent it back with the comment, “Dear Sir: you have pushed all my buttons, but in the wrong order.” I’ve never heard that Boucher bought the story.
As weird as the bat bombs were, somebody in the US Department of Finding Obscure Ways to Win The War discovered a Japanese folk legend that, if you saw a glowing fox, it was an omen of death, and …
Foxes. Luminous paint. Submarine delivery. Do the math.
It’s not that we try to get animals to fight for us (war dogs go way back), it’s that we try to get militarized animals to do bizarre things.
Actually, zeppelins are the key to alternate history, or at least identifying such books by their covers. (With certain *cough* exceptions.)
Blimps — nonrigid airships (a zepp has a rigid internal frame, while a blimp is a soft gasbag with a gondola) — have quite a good military record. During WW2, the Navy used them as naval escorts, and to the best of my knowledge, no ship with a blimp escort was ever lost in combat.