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April 30, 2002
Woofing or not?
Posted by Teresa at 02:53 PM *

Erik Olson has sent me the URL of the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club. I’ve been going back and forth on whether it’s serious. On the one hand, the coffee mug, the CDF Rap Sheet, and the whole idea of the thing. On the other hand, the rest of the site, which sounds like it’s straight.

Darth Cardinal, and a smoking gun
Posted by Teresa at 10:34 AM *

The scandal of the Catholic hierarchy’s indifference to sexual abuse by clerical pedophiliacs has now widened to include the Vatican itself. According to an ABC news story, a group of former pupils of Father Marcial Maciel — an immensely powerful and well-connected churchman who’s a long-time crony of Pope John Paul II — have been trying for eight years to get the Vatican to listen to them. They’ve all signed sworn affidavits detailing their sexual abuse at the hands of Maciel when they were young religious students. The Vatican has never responded in any way.

In 1997, they went public with the story in the Hartford Courant, and their allegations were once more passed on to the Vatican. There was still no response; but later that year the Vatican finally sent a clear signal: the Pope appointed Maciel to represent him at a meeting of Latin American bishops.

Four years ago, in a last-ditch effort, some of the former students filed a lawsuit in the Curia, asking for Maciel’s excommunication. They say they were stopped by that perennial Vatican heavy, Cardinal Joseph “The Enforcer” Ratzinger, who made the lawsuit fold up and go away. There was no investigation. They weren’t asked any questions, or asked for their statements. Ratzinger just disappeared the whole thing.

Recently, Ratzinger was appointed by the Pope to investigate the entire sex abuse scandal in the church. “But,” says the ABC News story,

when approached by ABCNEWS in Rome last week with questions of allegations against Maciel, Ratzinger became visibly upset and actually slapped this reporter’s hand.

“Come to me when the moment is given,” Ratzinger told ABCNEWS, “not yet.”

What I want to say is this:

Have you ever noticed how well Ratzinger’s statements work when you say them in Darth Vader’s voice? “KOMMMMM to MEEEEE when the MOment iss GIVENNNN … NOTTT BEFORE!”

The ABC reporter was lucky he just got slapped. For a second offense, Ratzinger picks you up by the throat and crushes your trachea.

Skip forward to the part about my mother
Posted by Teresa at 10:02 AM *

This is a story from CougarBlue, an online magazine about BYU sports. By my lights, the good bits start right around where it says “It was in high school that I learned another rule of the playground: Jocks got passed.”

My mother is a teacher. It’s what she is, not just what she does. I’ve lost count of how many professional journalists got their start in her classes.

And by the way? Vai Sikahema isn’t kidding when he says she made him work like the dickens. She was like that. When I started at Mesa High, she quietly made it clear that for me to get an A in any of her classes was going to require about twice as much work as it would for anyone else — and she made me call her “Mrs. Nielsen” in class, too.

I got a certain amount of revenge a few times in her beginning journalism class, which met just before lunch, by raising my hand near the end of the period and saying “Mrs. Nielsen? You forgot to give me my lunch money this morning…”

April 19, 2002
The color of God
Posted by Teresa at 09:47 AM *

Phil Scoville had sight until he was about eleven. The Color of God started out as his personal file of color descriptions, but when a discussion of color came up on a mailing list for the blind, he says he was challenged “to expand my list to offer an explanation of color for those who have never seen.” I have excellent color vision, and I found it plenty interesting in its own right.

Damon Knight, 1922-2002
Posted by Teresa at 09:33 AM *

Damon is dead, and I find I suddenly feel much poorer. I hadn’t realized he was part of my internal sense of wealth.

As I’ve mentioned here before, the last time I talked to Gordy Dickson he observed that this will be a different world when the last person dies who remembers a world without science fiction. Technically we’re still not over that line, but it feels like a different world. Damon was arguably the most important person in modern science fiction. He was variously a fan, fiction writer, editor, critic, organizer, historian, educator. He also founded SFWA and Clarion and helped Art Widner found the N3F, but never mind that.

For the last ten years or so he was a truly sublime curmudgeon on line, first on the GEnie SFRT and after that on SFF Net. One of my most cherished online memories is of watching Damon Knight and Jerry Pournelle’s encounters when Damon first got online. Online, Pournelle is inclined to be forceful, and chronically splenetic. What’s less obvious is that he’s got a real case of fancestor worship. When Damon went online — there was all of a week or two between his first tentative moves and going up en pointe — it rapidly became clear that he wasn’t moved to a reciprocal sense of noblesse oblige by the discovery that he was Pournelle’s reverend fancestor. (He also had the drop on him, plain and simple. He had the drop on most of us.)

I don’t want to write his obit here. I want to quote my favorite section from his book The Futurians (New York: John Day, 1977). It’s from Chapter 6, titled “A country yokel, just what we expected”, which is about the teenaged Damon Knight coming to NYC to join the Futurians.

Earlier in the chapter, Damon describes his discovery of science fiction:

I discovered Amazing Stories in the fall of 1933, when I was eleven; then Wonder, and a year or so later Astounding; then I found the secondhand bookstores in Portland, with their shelves piled high with huge old Wonders and Amazings.

In one of his short stories, “We Also Walk Dogs,” Robert A. Heinlein says of a character’s first experience of beauty: “It shook him and hurt him, like the first trembling intensity of sex.”

Christ! Beauty was not in it, or sex either—I knew them both, and they were pitiful, pale things in comparison. Battleships hanging upside down over New York! Men in radio tubes being zapped by electricity! Robots carrying off pretty girls to Antarctica! Here was the pure quill, the essential jolt, so powerful that if my parents had understood what it was they would have stopped my allowance, painted my eyeglasses black to keep me from reading such stuff.

I went through all the stages of the proto-fan, recapitulating Wollheim’s phylogeny. In Fred Pohl’s magazines I found lists of fanzines, subscribed to several, and in this way got into correspondence with a number of fans, including Lowndes, who kindly offered to look at some stories I had written. In 1940 I produced two issues of a fan magazine of my own called Snide … Snide, I realized later, was my passport out of the Pacific Northwest. It so impressed the Futurians that they fell upon Lowndes for writing a lukewarm review of it in Le Vombiteur

How the idea of my going to New York came up I don’t remember, but it was somehow decided that I would meet the Futurians at the convention in Denver and go back with them to live at the Embassy. My parents fell in with this scheme with what I thought was surprising alacrity; now I have grown sons of my own, and I know better.

Here’s the passage, pp. 76-77:
In memory I reenter the Embassy — climb the stairs, round and round, then along the hall, open the door, and I am in the kitchen. In these railroad apartments, the kitchen is always the first room. The ceilings are high. The kitchen is painted a peculiarly dull and dingy white, and looks shabbier than the rest of the apartment. I don’t know why this should have been so, unless the lease required the landlord to repaint the other rooms oftener. And I don’t know why they were always that almost-white color.

To my left are the sink and the bathtub, covered but not disguised (its clawed feet are visible below) by an enameled drain board. Straight ahead is a kitchen table of enameled metal; behind it is a window opening on an airshaft. The floor is worn linoleum. The only decoration is a calendar on the wall.

To the left, past the bathtub, is a long vista of open doorways. No one is here. I walk through the first doorway, past the bathroom on the right, the closet on the left where my pornographic magazines are stored in a cardboard carton, beside a pile of Communist pamphlets. The next room is the guest room — nothing in it but a folding metal cot covered with a worn gray blanket. It has no window; the only light is a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. All the rooms except the kitchen have floors of bare varnished wood.

The next is Johnny Michel’s bedroom, cot, wardrobe, bureau, and a dark green footlocker, all neat and clean. Then my room, cot, battered bureau.

Then the living room, where Lowndes’s bed is in an alcove to the left. This is the largest room, airy and bright: it has bow windows looking out on the street four stories below. A card table to my right, with a typewriter on it; a stand nearby with a small phonograph, Lowndes’s—it has the kind of turntable that can revolve in either direction, and it has steel needles, or perhaps Lowndes is experimenting with cactus. On the wall behind the table is a cover painting by Hannes Bok: it shows a creature like a ray, with many tentacles, ascending and drawing after it two hypnotized-looking young people, a man and a woman. It is painted on illustration board, partly in oil, partly in tempera, and the tempera is flaking.

How can I explain how happy I am to be here?

Perfectly Damon. It’s that jolt of waking into your real life; and what a world of explanation is subsumed in that one brilliantly lit, silent, hyper-precise long tracking shot.

If you thought Tony Blair/Gordon Brown slash was scary…
Posted by Teresa at 09:16 AM *

Try “PrezMash 2000”, a piece of Al Gore/Bill Bradley slash. It’s better written and more fun than you might imagine. As one of its two pseudonymous writers says, “My lovely co-author and I are not Paul Krassner, but we try our best.”

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