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Nov 01, 1990
Manuel Vazquez Montalban's The Angst-Ridden Executive
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2015
To read the full review, please go her review of
Manuel Vazquez Montalban's The Angst-Ridden Executive
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2015
To read the full review, please go here:
"Franco is dead! THANK GOODNESS!":
Ever since I read Montalban's The Buenos Aires Quintet (my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) I've been hoping I'd find something else by him in used bk stores &, Lo & Behold!, I finally did in my favorite PGH bookshop last wk. What a treat! I'm in the midst of reading Wyndham Lewis's The Childermass wch is excellent so far but I was glad to get a break from it for Montalban.
According to the brief bio in the Quintet: "Born in Barcelona in 1939, MANUEL VASQUEZ MONTALBAN (1939-2003) was a member of Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya (PSUC), and was jailed by the Franco government for four years for supporting a miners' strike." His obviously substantial political know-how made the Quintet of deep interest to me & works just as well in Executive.
Generalissimo Francisco Franco was dictator of Spain from 1939 to his death in 1975. He was the main military leader to overthrow the republic in the Spanish Civil War. This bk was originally published in 1977, 2 yrs after Franco's death, & much of it centers around post-Franco conditions in Barcelona.
I was in Barcelona in 1978. There were nervous looking teenagers in uniform standing around w/ machine-guns. It wasn't exactly an atmosphere to inspire confidence & relaxation. I left the next day.
I went to Madrid in 1984. By that time, Madrid, at least, seemed almost like a paradise. People seemed very, VERY glad that the dictator was dead. News kiosks had displays of bks by Gertrude Stein, William S. Burroughs, James Joyce, & Philip K. Dick. At least that's the way I remember it now. I was told that people were openly having sex in the parks.
I went to a restaurant w/ a friend where a diverse crowd of people, a gay couple in black leather, an ordinary family, old women in lace, etc, etc, all sat around eating great food & drinking & joking w/ each other. It was one of the friendliest & most accepting environments I'd ever witnessed. As I recall, I got a huge plate of paella & a bottle of red wine for something like $2. The bars had good beer for something like a nickel & the tapas were free. The one good thing about Franco was how happy people were when he died.
The dedication of this bk is as follows: "One day the member of parliament Sole Barbera asked me: "When are you going to write another of your cops and robbers novels?" I have taken him at his word, and would like to dedicate The Angst-Ridden Executive to him." (p 5) 'Naturally', I had to ask: Who is/was Sole Barbera?: ..&, y'know what?, I didn't find Sole Barbera on the internet. Fancy that. Not even in Spanish.
The Angst-Ridden Executive is basically about Spain transitioning from dictatorship to democracy. When it was written, Spain was in great turmoil.
"'And this is quiet compared with some places, boss. Imagine what things must be like in Bilbao. Or San Sebastian. Or Madrid. The ETA and GRAPO kidnapping people all over the place. The right-wing firing at demonstrators. And the shoot-out at the lawyers' office. That way they're hoping to destablicize the situation.'
"'What does "destabilize" mean, boss?'
"'Creating a scenario in which the authorities lose control of the situation, and the political system is incapable of guaranteeing order.'
"'And who benefits from this?'
"'Invariably those in power. It gives them an alibi for doing what the hell they want.'" - pp 85-86
Montalban is careful to incriminate both leftist & rightist groups here. I find "'And who benefits from this?'" to be a little out-of-character coming out of Biscuter's mouth but it gives the author the opportunity to say his piece. Think of the burning of the Reichstag & how it assisted w/ the nazi rise to power. Think of the 9/11 attacks & the way it led to a justification of defenestrating civil liberties.
Montalban surprised me by having his recurring protagonist detective, Carvalho, be in the CIA:
"He'd not so much as requested as demanded a window seat. The girl at the Western Air Lines check-in desk looked at the card he flashed, and complied, albeit with an air of puzzlement.
"What reason could there possibly be for a CIA agent to insist on a window seat on a flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco? The girl had heard rumours about special training camps that were supposedly located somewhere in the Mojave Desert, but surely the CIA had their own reconnaissance planes." - p 7
Carvalho in the CIA?! Tell me it ain't so!! Former CIA agent Philip Agee lost his US citizenship by writing & publishing his exposé of the CIA entitled Inside the Company: CIA Diary in 1975. Jeffrey Steinberg, the 1st publisher of the bk, of Stonehill Press died in a suspicious car explosion on May 23, 1981. To quote my own 1984 article on the subject, "The Suspicious Death of Jeffrey Steinberg, Stonehill Press Publisher":
"Inside the Company was an important breakthrough in exposing the actualities of US covert assassinations, misinformation, overthrows, etc as contrasted with the public relations version of US government scruples."
Perhaps Montalban didn't know about Agee's bk when he had Carvalho as a CIA agent - wch must've happened in an earlier bk than this one &, therefore, might've been before Agee's public revelations.
"'Don't you know that it's against the law for a Spanish citizen to enrol in organizations like the CIA without authorization?'
"'I started off giving Spanish lessons, not realizing that it was the CIA. Then I found it amusing, so I carried on. When I left, I clarified my position with two ministries — Foreign Affairs, and the Home Office.'" - p 166
Given Montalban's socialist background, there's more than a little humor to passages like the following:
"[']The only thing that worries me is the idea of a crisis looming, and my having to start acting like a foreman. You know what I mean?'
"'You have the morality of a pinko.'" - p 11
Using the populist tool of detective fiction, what Montalban does is give an analysis of hidden possibilities in Spain's political transitioning & show how an observer might go about systematically researching something inspired by the methodology rendered thru the literary vehicle of his detective character.
"'What does Petnay make?'
"'Perfumes, alcoholic spirits and pharmaceutical products.'
"The German seemed inclined to stop there. Jauma, however, continued the list.
"'Fighter planes, bombers, high-tech communications systems, all highly "sophisticated", as they say...as well as newspapers, magazines, dailies, politicians, and revolutionaries... Petnay makes them all.[']" - pp 22-23
Throughout it all, Franco recurs again & again as a subject of great rancor amongst Spaniards: "'It was only women and good food that saved us all from going mad under Franco.'" (p 23) For those of you w/ short-term memories only &/or little or no understanding of 20th century Spanish history, keep in mind that Franco was dictator for 36 yrs, that he was responsible for concentration camps & the deaths of 100s of 1,000s of people, that he heavily suppressed a popular elected republic, etc, etc.. For such underinformed readers, the author doesn't allow one to forget. Hatred of Franco runs deep here:
"'He's on the way out. He's very ill, poor thing.'
"'He seems well, considering.'
"The wife gave him a look she'd copied from her husband.
"'It's his character. It's his stamina that keeps him going. I think the only reason he's lived this long is because he wanted Franco to die first.'" - p 139
At 1st, in a foreshadowing scene of central importance, Franco isn't dead yet: "By now Rhomberg was sufficiently drunk not to feel embarrassed. He gave three cheers for socialism and drank to the forthcoming downfall of Franco." (p24) Most of the action in the novel takes place a few yrs later after Franco's death.
A recurring fictional character is the fictional detective's employee/friend/cook:
"From the end of Carvalho's sentence to the present day, Biscuter had been in and out of prison many times. He'd been cured of his passion for stealing cars, but his record stuck with him. He would occasionally fall foul of a police round-up, and being unemployed, would find himself charged under the Vagrant Persons Act.
"'If only I could find a job...'
"'How would you fancy working for me? You'd be in charge of a small office. You'll make me a coffee or a potato tortilla every now and then, but apart from that your time's your own.'" - p 32
While there's plenty of sexual stereotyping in Montalban's bks & more explicit sex than there wd've been in Montalban's predecessor writers like Hammett & Chandler ("Charo devoted herself to a detailed foreplay that lasted the entire drive back. Having arrived home, Carvalho made his way, naked, down the darkened hallway of his apartment, and his cock was warmly welcomed, first by her lips and then by her tongue, as it pressed hard against her teeth and her mouth opened to make way for it." - p 170), what's particularly interesting to me is that Carvalho's 'secretary' is not an attractive young woman, as wd've been the case w/ the earlier novelists, but is, instead, an older, somewhat decrepit male ex-con who the detective likes & is trying to help out. On 2nd thought, it's not really that far from the supporting characters in Hammett's "Thin Man" stories.
"At university Pedro Paraa had been known as 'Colonel' Para. He'd been obsessed with the idea of setting up an anti-fascist resistance movement in the mountains." - p 33
&, in fact, there were armed resistance groups called the "Maquis" operating out of the Spanish mountains that were active from the loss of the Civil War in 1939 up 'til at least 1952 if not longer. Consider these excerpts from "Armed resistance to Franco, 1939-1965" by Antonio Téllez:
"Very little has been written about the scale of the armed struggle against Franco following the civil war. It was and still is known to few. A thick blanket of silence has been drawn over the fighters, for a variety of reasons. According to Franco's personal friend Civil Guard Lieutenant-General Camilo Alonso Vega - who was in charge of the anti-guerrilla campaign for twelve years - banditry (the term the Francoists always used to describe the guerrilla activity) was of "great significance" in Spain, in that it "disrupted communications, demoralised folk, wrecked our economy, shattered our unity and discredited us in the eyes of the outside world”.
"Only days before those words were uttered General Franco himself had excused the blanket silence imposed on reports of armed opposition and the efforts mounted to stop it, when he had stated that "the Civil Guard's sacrifices in the years following the Second World War were made selflessly and in silence, because, for political and security reasons it was inappropriate to publicise the locations, the clashes, casualty figures or names of those who fell in performance of their duty, in a heroic and unspoken sacrifice."
"This cover-up has continued right up until our own day. In a Spanish Television (TVE) programme entitled Guerrilla Warfare and broadcast in 1984, General Manuel Prieto Lopez cynically referred to the anti-Francoist fighters as bandits and killers. Not that this should come as any surprise - during the period described as the political transition to democracy (November 1975 to October 1982) all political forces, high financiers, industrialists, the military and church authorities decided that references to the past were inappropriate and that the protracted blood-letting of the Franco era should be consigned to oblivion. That consensus holds firm today*, and historians eager to lift that veil run up against insurmountable obstacles when they try to examine State, Civil Guard or Police archives."
"An example that sums up the mentality and spirit of the guerrilla movement of the time is provided by a small team of Anarchist guerrillas, led by the veteran fighter Francisco Sabate Llopart (El Quico). On their return to Spain after the end of the Second World War one of their first missions was the 'expropriation' of money and valuables in a series of aggravated robberies of local big-businessmen. On completion of 'business', those 'visited' would be left a note like the following one, left at the home of a wealthy big-store owner, Manuel Garriga:
""We are not robbers, we are libertarian resistance fighters. What we have just taken will help in a small way to feed the orphaned and starving children of those anti-fascists who you and your kind have shot. We are people who have never and will never beg for what is ours. So long as we have the strength to do so we shall fight for for the freedom of the Spanish working class. As for you, Garriga, although you are a murderer and a thief, we have spared you, because we as libertarians appreciate the value of human life, something which you never have, nor are likely to, understand."
"A small example of how, despite the loss of the war, and despite the ruthlessness of the fascist repression, those involved in the resistance still managed to maintain their politics, their humanity, and their self-respect." - https://libcom.org/history/1939-1965-...
I have a Spanish poster for an event honoring the memory of the Maquis that I was fortunate enuf to get from a Spanish anarchist friend displayed in my house. These are people worthy of my respect.
I was pleased to find shades of my own health care philosophy expressed by Biscuter: "[']Look at my brother-in-law. He was feeling a bit rough, so he went to see the doctor. The doctor told him he had cancer. "Don't give me that..." says my brother-in-law. Anyway, three months later he was dead, if you ask me, the reason was just because he knew he had cancer.[']" Ha ha! I'm always saying that my 'cure for cancer' is to not know about it & hope that it kills me quick. I've (almost) made it to 62 so maybe my philosophy isn't a total bust. Live fast, die old. For a taste of my disgust w/ the Kafkaesque protection racket of 'health insurance' in the USA, witness my "HealthCare NightMare" movie here: http://youtu.be/tjB3QBz4LAc .
Reading a Montalban novel cd be an excellent & entertaining educational experience for people willing to pay attn:
"'Rhomberg's indignation reminds me of the eminent geographer Paginal in The Sons of Captain Grant, when he discovers that the British colonial teachers had taught their geography in such a way that the natives believed the whole world was British. The viewpoint of the colonizer and the viewpoint of the colonized. When you work for a big multinational, the world takes on quite different geographical divisions.[']" - p 40
Montalban is careful to explore the various possibilities of character type in the early days of post-Franco Spain: "Nuñez had been a pioneer in the reconstruction of the Left in Barcelona University during the nineteen fifties. After torture, and spells in prison, he had fled to France, where he had embarked on a life that would have made him ideal material for the bureaucracy of his own party, or a doctorate in social science and an assured place in a future democratic Spain. Too cynical to be a bureaucrat and too academic to be an academic, he plumped for the role of an onlooker" (p 53) A part of the reader's 'job' is to decide wch of these characters to trust.
Carvalho moves in a world of criminals & prostitutes. As such, it's a relief to read that he detests pimps: "Carvalho could stomach just about anything, but he drew the line at pimps. For him they were like dog-ticks — loathsome little insects grown fat from feeding on someone else's blood. The athlete had the face of an evil-looking lamb, and the innocence of a micro-electronic computer." (p 67)
It was also a pleasure to see poets in exile get positive play: "While he waited for Parra to return, Carvalho found himself thinking of other poets with unusual jobs. Emilio Prados, in exile, working as a playground supervisor for children in a secondary school in Mexico. Or the poet who ended up teaching infants in a school in Tijuana. Carvalho had met him in a bar at the border, as he was drinking tquila solos, with salt, interspersed with a sip of water and bicarbonate. / 'I'm not coming back,' he had said, 'until Franco's dead. It's a question of dignity. Maybe I am nothing here — but at least I have my pride.[']" (p 72) Montalban is always slipping in details like this that're perfect for inquiring minds like my own. ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 31, 2015
Sep 02, 2015
Jan 01, 2009
GX Jupitter-Larsen's Sometimes Never
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 28, 2015
Yadda, yadda. My full review is here: https://www.goodr review of
GX Jupitter-Larsen's Sometimes Never
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 28, 2015
Yadda, yadda. My full review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... - You might as well go straight to it instead of reading this truncated thing.
According to studiers & theorists of plate-tectonics, vulcanism & colliding shifting plates causes land to rise & erosion causes it to get worn down again. Jupitter-Larsen seems to be largely allied w/ erosion but there's more than a touch of explosion & collision in there too.
I've been paying attn to GX's output since at least 1985 when he played some things of mine on the radio in Vancouver that few, or no, other people wd've played at the time (or even now). You can hear that radio program as track 3 here: https://archive.org/details/Radio1985 .
GX has a prolific output cohered by a thoughtful philosophy. He makes records, writes bks, makes movies, gives performances. He's one of the more imaginative people out there for making medium specific products. One of the earliest things I got in trade from him was a 7" recording of fire imprinted on flame-patterned vinyl.
Given his predilection for the forces of upheaval & erosion, in general: destruction, many of his audio recordings tend a bit too much toward white noise to provide me the variety that I prefer. I'd rather listen to, eg, Peter Maxwell Davies's "Eight Songs for a Mad King". That sd, GX is so thorough in his exploration of such things as counting sand that I 'can't help but appreciate' the polymorphous single-mindedness of it. In fact, GX has a movie called "Counting the Sand" on his Cinema Noise - Selected Videos 1983 - 2006 DVD (WorldCat lists it as being in the collection of at least one library: http://www.worldcat.org/title/cinema-... ). "They could talk freely as they were all alone. Everyone else was out counting sand." (p 37)
Then we come to Sometimes Never. Sometimes Never impresses me as an apotheosis of the many creations of Jupitter-Larsen so far. I'd previously read his Raw Zed & the Condor novel ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21... ). Despite the many repetitions this isn't just more white noise: it's 'noise' + science fiction + S&M + nonsense + philosophy + neologisms + sound poetry. The novel begins:
"Most thought the radio static was empty.
"They were quite wrong...
"...Nh ygshjk ygkjhwlhohwyfwkbNoihkj kjgfiluegfiwgfjhsbNlkyfuglkjh thNer wr g oiu ttrwge cjh ilu t 6Nytfgu" - p 1
Paragraphs of these difficult-to-pronounce nonsense strings continue until page 22. The 1st paragraph, the one quoted above has the "N"s capitalized. The 2nd has the "O"s, the 3rd has the "T"s, the 4th has the "A"s, the 5th has the "N"s, the 6th may not have any capitalizations although one might think that what appear to be lower-case "l"s (L) are upper-case "I"s (i), the 7th has "M", the 8th has "A", the 9th has "G", the 10th has "E", the 11th has "O", the 12th has "F", the 13th has "T", the 14th & 15th have "H", the 16th & 17th have "E", the 18th has "T", the 19th has "O", the 20th has "T", the 21st is like the 6th if one reads what may be a lower-case "L" as an upper-case "i", the 22nd has "M", the 23rd has "O", the 24th has "R", the 25th has "P", the 26th has "H", the 27th has "O", the 28th has "U", & the 29th has "S".
Now, given that the 2 instances of double-paragraphs w/ the same capitalized letters have the 2nd paragraph indented instead of separated by a space, those can be taken as really one paragraph. If we interpret what may be lower-case "L"s as capital "i"s then we can read the above embedded txt as follows:
NOTANIMAGEOFTHETOTIMORPHOUS or, w/ spaces inserted, NOT AN IMAGE OF THE TOTIMORPHOUS - w/ "totimorphous" being one of GX's neologisms:
"The Totimorphous is a house built out of logic. To know what kind of logic to use
in building a house of this type, one first has to know the structure and site." - www.jupitter-larsen.com/totimorphous....
At 1st, I figured I was likely to be the only person who wd read this 22pp section thoroughly, mentally struggling thru these letter strings. Then, after 10pp of doing so, I decided that I was wasting my time & skipped to p 22. I did look for patterns, such as the one explained above, to seek hidden meaning but, mostly, I just found cut'n'paste repetitions. I did note, eg, that on p2 the number "98" occurs in this string: "soh-viojhc98hsfohnviuhflsu" & on p 3 in this repetition string: "soh-viojhc98hsfohnviuhflsu". By having the unusual presence of numbers, the reader's attn is called to the repetition of the elements of the string. This repeats again on pp 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 - sometimes w/ the hyphen, sometimes w/o. I'm not sure whether I bothered to look for it after that. Such apparent nonsense strings cd be taken as encryption like the infamous number station broadcasts:
"Another characteristic of numbers station broadcasts is the messages feel like gibberish, or nonsensical words, letters, or songs strung together. In reality, they likely mean a great deal to the right listener. Numbers stations appeared shortly after World War II, and while they were most plentiful during the Cold War, many still broadcast today. If you ask the FCC about them, they'll say they have no information on them because the frequencies are unlicensed. Ask any specific government agency and they'll usually deny they exist, or at least deny broadcasting on them. Who operates them and who are they for? Most likely they're used by spies, sending and listening for coded messages." - http://lifehacker.com/5961035/how-to-...
Perhaps I underestimate GX, perhaps there is something encrypted happening here, but I decided that it's more likely a simulation thereof & moved on to p 22 where the section is ended by "...then the noise stopped!" But difficult-to-pronounce 'neononsenseisms' continue to occur throughout:
"Calm... Again, collapsing eweuwiøpewkumew swooned both the deiüdüwikew and the hifidiode." - p 22
I liked the language, GX isn't just emulating some person's idea of 'correctness', he's using language in his own way:
"He wondered briefly, how such plentiful yet tentative interest straggled in as these vaguely surprising discharges piled up between the half a dozen usual functions that would rise in plunked persuade while these tremendous perspicacious recipients were scuffing the transmissions under whooping xylowaves that yanked this zone." - pp 22-23
The plot thickens: "He had left hidden notes regarding the lost cosmonauts all over town." (p 23) (check out the "Zero Plus Zero" movie on the aforementioned Cinema Noise DVD) & an outsider artist is mentioned in connection w/ measurement: "Henry Darger used his archetypal Vivian Girls as his device for measuring the distance between contentment and despair." (p 23) Much later, another outsider artist is referred to for in much the same connection:
"A small dark man by the name of Adolf Wölfli could be seen nearby, observing; studying everything that was going on. Everyone had seen him lurking about these parts for some time now, but no one really knew what he was up to. Some said he was just a geologist on assignment, making a new map or some such thing. Others said he was some kind of census taker. Could he have also been a spy? He was always seen counting. Counting what? It was later discovered whatever he was counting, he was doing so by his own number system in order to calculate some kind of astronomical concept or two." - p 144
I went to Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1978, esp to see Adolf Wölfli's work at the L'Art Brut Museum. Wölfli was a laborer who was convicted of molesting a 3 yr old girl & put in a mental institution for the final decades of his life where he created an extremely large autobiography of himself as a Saint in wch txt, drawings, & large numbers appeared. The numbers, as I recall, were often heights of mountains that his fictional alter-ego climbed & then fell from.
"Immortality by its very nature disallowed self-awareness. One needs consciousness in order to keep from being killed, but if one was truly immortal, one was also then indestructible. Consciousness just didn't serve any purpose for the eternal." - p 25
GX always has an interesting spin to put on things. The science fiction kicks in w/ the appearance of the toxic waste creatures: "Nourished by emissions from the methane and carbon monoxide gases in the moon's extensively thick atmosphere, the toxic waste had evolved over the years into a race of intelligent beings." (p 26) GX really got on a roll w/ this one:
"What happened on Yuhec Siz was not at all uncommon. Over time, as pollution climbed up the food chain, the Sanitation Department became increasingly important to all systems of administration. Ultimately becoming its own regime. These days, in most of the civilized galaxy, the Sanitation Department remains the highest office of the land. With the Sanitation Commissioner the closest thing to a head of state." - p 26
"Human women with a fetish for authoritative uniforms would sway at the very sight of the Sanitation Engineer in his black leather. The smell of garbage became a powerful aphrodisiac." - p 27
"It has long been suggested that if a three-dimensional object casts a two-dimensional shadow, then a four-dimensional object would cast a three-dimensional shadow. The logic of this, however, only works if all 2D objects were shadows to begin with. Ever wonder if it were the other way 'round? What if direction was an optical illusion? What if all 3D objects were just shadows projected from a 2D realm? Then, instead of higher dimensions ejecting downwards, it would be the lower or flatter dimensions bursting outwards. The 4D plane would be a shadow of the 3D world. Light wouldn't be hurled out by the sun; light would be falling into the sun." - p 28
I have obvious objections to the speculation above: what GX refers to as 2D objects are no less than 4D b/c if they weren't they'd be imperceptible to us. One can't see a so-called 2D picture if it doesn't have depth & doesn't exist in time. That sort of objection out of the way, I love such speculation b/c it's not afraid to reverse typical mindsets, to think outside the box, & GX obviously revels in such processes.
There was much in this little bk to attract the attn of my thoughts: "Something they called "Interspatial Meteorology"": The term "interspatiality" is reputed to've been coined by architect Jill Watson about which she is credited as having said "The identity of a space is constructed from a reading of the other spaces represented within it.". My 1st collaboration w/ Michael Pestel was called "Interspatiality" & my movie of that is here: https://youtu.be/K5nsRUM90Bg .
Starting on p 24 there's a count-up interspersed throughout the bk in italics. The 1st one reads: "One second after midnight." If these are to place elements of the narrative in a chronology then things wd be moving very fast b/c 122 pp later only another 235 seconds wd've elapsed: "Two hundred and thirty-six seconds after midnight." (p 146)
"On his way to Yuhec Siz, Bartholomew met a fellow passenger, a genetic engineer. From the fresh little crater at the crown of his head, Bartholomew could tell that this genetic engineer had just been trepanned. As alien to each other as they were, the civilizations of the galaxy still had one thing in common. And that was trepanning. Everyone everywhere, for one reason or another, drilled into the cranium to expose the brain's membrane." - p 30
Jupitter-Larsen loves to invert society-as-we-now-'know'-it. Trepanning, obviously, is a practice rare in our day & age - perhaps most famously & publicly revived by artist Amanda Feilding in London in the 1970s: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.p... .
"Bartholomew just stood there, in the three-piece suit he always travelled in. He had a matching wrestling mask. He never took it off. He couldn't, it had become his face." - p 31
Such an outfit being one that GX & friends use in performance. Jupitter-Larsen is apparently into S&M w/ himself as the sadist & women as the masochists. I found a philosophical; statement potentially leading up to this interesting:
"No grizzlie shrugs here. Ao sir weee! If life can be compared to an amusement park, a major difference between males and females is that men want to ride the roller coaster while women want to be the roller coaster. Men want to have fun, while women want to be fun. Men want to have a life. Women want to be life." - p 32
& the next thing ya know:
"Craig gulped as she came closer. The girl bent over him with a seductive smile. She made a little purring sound like a cat. Just like a cat!
"Her moans were grinding against his utricle. Her bow-shaped lips approached his, when suddenly, he slapped her across the face. The sound of one hand clapping. Abruptly cutting another spin across a good number of dippings and swirlings, he almost instantly vanished after swiftly beating her within a moment of her snatch. The girl, at first shocked, looked at him wide-eyed and then nodded agreeably. She got down on all fours, sruck out her tongue and licked the boots on his feet clear.
"He would soon be attaching mouse-traps to each of her tits. Then he would attach mouse-traps to her pussy. He bound her flat on a table, and held burning candles over her body. The red hot wax dripped over her snared misshapen breast. He moved the candles over her face, slowly forming a gag over her mouth by allowing layers of wax to glaze her lips. She was biting down on her lips hard, trying to keep the wax out of her mouth. She was having the time of her life." - p 36
That's not for everybody but, HEY!, what is? As long as it's consensual. Personally, I'd rather just fuck a woman who's as naked & free to move as I am & come inside her.
"Inside one nearby little space-wreck, this guy was jerking off in his girlfriend's face. With every impact of semen on her face, he'd make an explosion-like sound effect with his drool-filled mouth. Bubbles lathered in the ruin. She just sat there, daydreaming of electro magnetism. All the while he was pondering the wide open sky. Accidents. It's what gave life meaning." - p 30
Having that paragraph on page 30 wasn't enuf so GX repeats it verbatim on pages 39 & 49. You see? I was paying attn.
"The genetic engineer and he couldn't speak each other's language, but during a conversation the two would understand the meanings of each other's politeness and sincerity." - p 30
& what sex was the genetic engineer? If any?
"The genetic engineer told him: "Free will is the predictability of one's personality. Hey! If I didn't want kids when I was one, why would I want them now as an adult?" - p 39
& then we're back to philosophy again:
"From out of change there is potential. If I designate a selected specialty as a 'that', and he terms it as a 'this'; it is really neither 'that not this', but rather 'this as well as that'. Which is which? neither and both; both and neither? It is, in fact, always both 'this and that' regardless what anyone may, or may not, call it. All answers are equally correct. However an answer will not always be workable. What makes an answer workable, or not, is the context it is enacted within." - p 44
By p 48 the 'noise' is back in aperiodic doses:
"Shattering air rotated between his body and the inner walls of the cabin. he could feel the pieces tear. Zoeflyogejofdufodbookods disfiwywjidibifikihouyjihed every wresarsycijohygiyn edridyudbooger and dehigeudugfuifnoobist on Zydiughonbohokhiujdogfosofia. Qurewtoofoodoofooboods were dydyhydidhudlly fakgohaaohjable!!!" - pp 48-49
Sometimes, the hard-to-pronounce strings transform a bit into more undefined neologisms/nonsense: "Post-neo-noticentinibaicheritransposeflectivammongarletciergraphy instead of classical tans-notocientinibaicheritransposeflectivammongarletciergraphy is gigglamorous to the supreme-maximum. Totalitarridopaste only ever boils if the tension is equal to the root of the perforation." (p 60) Instead of encryption being potentially implied, definitions are hinted at by having parts like this: "Post-neo-notice" & "transpose" & "Total" inside the strings.
This is a work of the imagination & GX is unrestrained. He even use alliteration when it fits his fancy: "An accident is always an announcement for avuncular aversion antiquating an azimuth anointing avatars; although any adaptation adamantly adjusting an allowance for alternatives will on no account apply." (p 62)
The parts about dinosaurs were some of my favorites:
"Whatever happened, the Dinosaur's complete language was a single syllable being spoken with the 120,000 inflections that only a Dinosaur's ear could distinguish." - p 52
"And what did The Dinosaurs talk about in their broadcasts? Not counting sand. Nor the weather. No, theirs was a sound poetry about perplexities that trudge angles for hedges." - p 53
Near the end, 3 different characters who may be the same person, it really doesn't seem to matter much, travel thru the desert on a motorcycle or a copper plate. This, as w/ many things in Sometimes Never, is inter-related to another work of Jupitter-Larsen's, a movie entitled "Facts on the Polywave", again available on the Cinema Noise DVD.
As I've already written, much of what happens here also happens in some variation or another in other of GX's works. As I wrote in my review of Raw Zed & the Condor: "At one point it's Raw Zed who's rocked to sleep by an earthquake, at the 2/3rds point it's Eduardc. I mentally pronounce this latter name as "Eduard C" but I initially read it as "Eduardo" w/ the right curve of the "o" cut off. I reckon that this was d liberate on Jupitter-Larsen's part. & there are many oddities of spelling, etc, in this bk." Spelling oddities, esp using homophones, abound here. One can suspect GX of not being able to spell or one can give him credit for doing it d liberately. I choose the latter. There's also an exchangeability of characters & a character named "Eduardc".
GX uses puns, people who don't get the joke might think he's made a spelling error:
"There's no mystery because everything moves as a polywave. All hypothesizes fit.
"At all, nothingness doesn't. Nothingness does not move at all.
"All tunnels lead to the same point because they all point to different spots. All tunnels lead too.
"Yet another abandoned subway, blacken with dripping grime.
"Because everything moves as a polywave, all hypothesizes fit. There's no mystery." - p 72
A humorless person might not realize that "all hypothesizes fit" is a pun off of "one size fits all", a common expression in relation to clothing so designed. An Ignorati will pompously 'correct' GX & condescendingly explain that the spelling is "hypotheses". This kind of shit happens to me all the time. ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 28, 2015
Aug 29, 2015
Sep 01, 2011
Sep 01, 2011
Bill Luoma's Some Math
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 19 & 25, 2015
I was somewhat predisposed to like this bk b/c it was sent t review of
Bill Luoma's Some Math
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 19 & 25, 2015
I was somewhat predisposed to like this bk b/c it was sent to me by its publisher, Kenning Editions, who had also published an excellent Hannah Weiner bk (Hannah Weiner's Open House - full review: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). I became even more predisposed to liking it when my anticipations were aroused by the text on the back cover:
"In Some Math, the syncopations of poetry meet the (ir)regularity of mathematical equations. Consider the "story problems" of high school math class. When encountering the word "and," replace it with the addition symbol "+." When encountering the word "of," replace it with the multiplication symbol "x." Now reverse the process. The result is a series of sound poems".
I became slightly less inclined to like the bk b/c the cover is an image of a painted target that's been shot by a shotgun. That reminds me of "The Thousand Symphonies": "Dick Higgins The Thousand Symphonies (July, 1967) boldly proposes machine-gunning score-paper & using the result as notation for symphonies. This predates considerably William S. Burroughs's more famous shotgun paintings (1982->) & David Franks's shotgun poems (1990s). Of course, shotgun weddings predate them all & are quite possibly more important." ( "Re: Source": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) In other words, I'm over it.
But, THEN, I started reading the 1st poem, "Dear Filesystem Panic". & I was bowled over by the freshness (3 strikes & you're spared!) or was it fowled by the brashness?:
"Dear filesystem panic
with whining the pleas of a coward
to the heart of of and the fantasies it feeds
to the rearing of the hindquarters of the automount of message
to the position of the saber of the people of we
to the ass of bluxome limn in donutsburg pennsylvania
to the jerk of tenderloin in funnelcake new jersey
to the pig the pig the message has hindquarters
to kingpin the mount point and the candlepin of wickets
on the occasion of the benediction of the shaftway
I'm calling the destructor on an iroq layer of inodes
by inserting into the sidebodies of the multiplex of molly
a handsfree ipod wired to the hooded electrodes
/* your wires and my electrodes */
I'm shorting the dendrites of the backbrain to the oblong iteration of the superblock" - p 9
I loved the language so much he cd practically do-no-wrong after this. There's a thin line here between Surrealism, Nonsense, Language Writing, Stream of Consciousness, & Bullshit but it worked for me. I found the poems to be basically of 2 types: ones broken into stanzas & ones not broken into stanzas. I was a bit disappointed by this lack of formal variety but I still enjoyed reading the work. It just work works. One might even call the stanza poems 'classic' Language Poetry (if such a term isn't ridiculous - or even if it is):
"ammo glan ye gary reynolds
tiz bat wren funky neros
shrimp fare tule varmin
dot dot jill b tay" - p 21
cd be compared to, oh, say, a stanza from Clark Coolidge's The Maintains (1974):
lifts form base
by a cause to be parts
been one chambers as own
coerce bias dog
not and cease
takes just only in also" - p 42
insofar as there's a tendency to just use one or 2 syllable words some of wch are unusual (cf: "ammo glan" to "gainer indwell") & that don't necessarily have any typical grammatic progression (cf: "dot dot jull b tay" to "takes just only in also") but Coolidge tends to greater erraticness & variety of stanza length & indentation while Luoma's stanzas are all 4 lines & left-justified. Luoma even goes so far as to rhyme:
"flavor berry singa brew
julie billiard banka tow
laker nono bootie skate
marley waver leather mate" - p 24
no dye hair" - p 49
"pulsate flatness plank length hot
jetty superluminous wet
so companion globule sky
coldie cluster garching spry" - p 75
but, then, even those remind me of Alan Davies's bk ODES & fragments in such poems as "For you'n":
"sling sluck over slend end oven sluck fend
aall 's ise tend nd the than that end
such 'n for t 'en sloughing is the enden oder
firckin zie zen send of the lader glend (blend" - p 106
or, going a bit further afield (& aflame of afun of walking faces), I think of "Shracticlat", an animation by Skizz P. Cyzyk of a poem by Bean wch is, in itself, closer to Lewis Carroll's "Jaberwocky". Enuf.
There're repetitions that're just odd enuf to seem like beacons of formal undercurrents but cd more easily be novelties thrown in to create that appearance. EG: poems numbered 6 & 9 both have the same title: "When the Pathogenic Wind Comes". Given that 6 & 9 are graphic inversions of each other that're paired as a symbol of mutual oral sex having such a repetition 'makes sense'.
The technique of framing a coupling phrase w/ "/*" & "*/", as in "/* your wires and my electrodes */", recurs: "/* your jammies and my prestolog*/" (p 13), "/* your elocution and my habitrail */" (p 14), & then changes on p 17: "/* that's a really good place for those power lines */".
He frequently plays w/ repeating "of" in ways that fly against typical grammar:
"of of at point among the canthus and access
disperses eyebrow of of with them of functions"
"of of indications of of" - p 54
& really lets loose w/ that on later pages:
"of the head of of of of of" - p 57
"Pouring itself of Of"
"of the yin of Of
of the three navel of of
of of of of of of great pouring." - p 60
Those "of" passage quotes are from the 1st of the 2 "When the Pathogenic Wind Comes" poems. The 2nd one doesn't seem to have that much in common w/ the 1st but then the "of" appears similarly again:
"of Of of Of of of of of of aphasia of asthma" - p 113
P 113 starts off w/:
"Over here shenmen"
wch I take to be a reference to "Shem the Penman" in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.
It's not that I haven't seen anything like this before. I have. But somehow Luoma makes it fresh. EG: he takes the tried & true form of the list poem & 'breaks its rules' by not keeping the same line beginning throughout. It's not really a big deal but it wORKS:
"who ships the strategy for problem solving to the new shore
who notifies the inodes of immament domain change
who mounts the superblock with stubs
who memcopies the clit of little white opie
to the foreskin of the beast of mexican larry
to the backbrain of the elocution of the ipod
to the sidebodies of the religion of the kitty collar" - p 12
he makes slight reference changes that wdn't be noticed by people not steeped in the same culture:
"starring gary mathers as the beaver" - p 18
That's a reference to Jerry Mathers as "Beaver Cleaver" in the tv show "Leave it to Beaver" (1957–1963). To someone like myself, born in 1953, such a reference is as American as Apple Pie but wd it be just-another nonsense phrase to someone younger?
Or take this for instance:
"stuck inside the large hardon collider" - p 31
instead of "Large Hadron Collider". It's a simple enuf pun, an easy rearrangement of 2 letters only to sexualize the scientific - how many people wd 'get' this? I imagine the LHC is pretty famous & maybe most of the presumably literate readers of Luoma wd read this & have some sort of mental equivalent of a chuckle.. but maybe not.
"posse commutation loggy androne tony floor" - p 45
in wch "posse commutation" cd be read as a substitute for "Posse comitatus". How many of these substitutions am I not noticing or not 'getting'? What about this one?:
"loo pet franky valley lana turner cheese quake" - p 44
Ok, the "franky valley" is easy enuf to turn into "Frankie Valli, the singer, but "lana turner"'s spelled as the actress's name wd ordinarily be spelled but that doesn't mean that there isn't something else going on b/c Lana Turner just so happens to also be the name of "A Journal of Poetry and Opinion". Not that any of that necessarily matters.
Luoma helps keep it lively by combining language ordinarily kept separate: say the language of asses, physics, & baseball (I'll bet you didn't know that asses have their own language did you? Ask Le Pétomane about that one..):
"will be reversed. Supersymmetry
predicts that your superpartners
all have the same ass. Ground ball." - p 37
& then there appear to be made-up words that Luoma reuses wch might actually be words that I simply can't find on the internet. Pick out the questioable word in the following lines:
"solenoid of awry with illustranves ago the mouth combinations" - p 67
"illustranves with meetings makes adjacent the headache" - p 68
"iluustranves with the adjacent meetings" - p 68
"dizziness apprehensions illustranves of with" - p 69
"of vertebra bilizing the three yang with the illustranves of one large ra" - p 70
I looked up "illustranves" & found one link to the poem in wch this appears. I also looked for it in Mrs. Byrne's Dicitionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words & didn't find it. then I tried The Oxford Dictionary of New Words. No luck. Finally, The Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words. No luck there either. It might not be English. But, nah, I'm betting on nonsense neologism. OR, if it's been put thru a large hardon collider, a nonsense neolojism.
What I didn't really find was the systematicness implied by the back cover copy - but that doesn't mean it's not there. ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 19, 2015
Aug 25, 2015
Aug 15, 1967
Works of George Herbert Mead - volume 1
- Mind, Self, & Society - from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist
- Edited and with an Intro review of
Works of George Herbert Mead - volume 1
- Mind, Self, & Society - from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist
- Edited and with an Introduction by Charles W. Morris
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 16-24, 2015
Being the somewhat thorough type of person that I am, I've written a long review of this bk entitled: "The Generalized Other don't know SHIT!" wch you can read here:
What's written below is just the teensiest beginning of that:
The genesis of my reading this bk may interest some. In December of 2000 I rc'vd a letter from a man named Detlev Hjuler from Flensburg, Germany. This letter contained a want list of rare recordings of avant-garde music + a catalog of things that Hjuler published himself. My days of being a prompt replier were long since behind me & I didn't answer. Hjuler was very persistent & we finally started corresponding. He bought 23 tapes that I publish (here's the link to my tape company website: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/WdmUind... - usually somewhat out-of-date these days) & we began trading.
Somewhere along the line I saw a list of Hjuler's record collection. It was very impressive. We started trading recordings. I'm usually very open to trading, my tape company isn't really a 'business' insofar as I usually lose money on it & have no aggressive commercial intentions, but I don't always like what I receive &, therefore, don't want to continue trading w/ that particular sender. That was the case here. By December, 2003, I stipulated that I wdn't trade w/ Hjuler any more.
Hjuler goes by the name "Kommissar Hjuler", reputedly b/c he was a police detective. He was also what, for simplicity's sake, one might call an "Outsider Musician". While I found his taste in music to be very sophisticated I found his own performances to be unbearably primitive. Still, given that I'm an anarchist & that he was a policeman & that these 2 types are usually in opposition to each other I found it somewhat fascinating that we shared similar musical interests.
12 yrs later, in 2015, Hjuler got in touch w/ me again b/c he's now publishing records & wants to publish work by Franz Kamin that I had previously published. At 1st I was wary of this b/c I'd disliked Hjuler's publications from my 1st correspondence w/ him but he sent me samples & I found them somewhat interesting so I eventually agreed. One thing led to another & he put out a short piece of mine on a record w/ longer tracks by himself & the Nihilist Spasm Band. He also invited me to collaborate w/ him by doing something w/ a CD-R that he sent me that's somehow based on the ideas of Mead:
" This is my invitation to you to collaborate with us.
"10. (SHMF-019+…) - Collaboration Project:
"Kommissar Hjuler and Mama Baer run a project called (SHMF-019+…) for which any artists are allowed to create versions of the reading DIE ANTIZIPATION DES GENERALIZED OTHER. A tape, several CD-Rs and some LPs still have become released in this series on Der Schoene-Hjuler-Memorial-Fond. A list of all artists that have been committing you will find at file (SHMF), just see no. (SHMF-019) following!
"The Generalized Other refers to George Herbert Mead's psychological explanation for the origin of social self-consciousness. Within Mead's theory, is the act of 'role-taking' in which individuals react to social gestures, and adjust to common attitudes. Through 'role-taking', people adapt to social exchanges based on gesture-response action sequences. Self-consciousness is then developed through these social actions and completed upon personal reflection. This text is hard to handle for other artists, we now have given away quite a lot of free Audio-CD-Rs to other artists, but only few were able to work with our spoken text. It is a stumbling dialogue with reading parts and conversation parts and in the result we do by far not justice to the grandilocant or intellectual theme.
"Mainly artists and musicians from experimental music scene have contributed, but not at least, this project is to create a mix of most different music styles, one of the stranges contributions was by the Afro-French Urban-Rap- and Dub-musician LO daam, who normally creates music far from any experimental scene, and the crazy version by the dark metal band HELLMOUTH from Rotterdam.
"Artists and musicians, who are interested into creating their personal version for this project, could get a promotional Audio-CD-R with the spoken text, the versions sent back become released on our label, the artists will get some free copies. Especially artists from very different music scenes are invited for their contribution, also film works or collages and paintings as limited prints are possible, it need not be the medium music, anything goes.
"Several more collaboration works like the mail-collaboration between Rudolf Eb.er of Schimpfluch Group (SHMF - Eb.er), LP in limited edition, re-issued as a CD by Blossoming Noise/USA in edition of 1000 copies, or the experimental smalltalk with Juergen O. Olbrich of NO-Institue/Paper Police (SHMF - 155), CD-R in limited edition, which is also a set for other anti-live acts, are possible."
I wasn't previously familiar w/ Mead or, if I was, I'd forgotten about him. I wasn't necessarily interested in the collaboration at 1st but "The Generalized Other refers to George Herbert Mead's psychological explanation for the origin of social self-consciousness. Within Mead's theory, is the act of 'role-taking' in which individuals react to social gestures, and adjust to common attitudes." resonated w/ me b/c one of the anarchist Street Rat slogans that I use is "Evict the Ruling Elites from your Mental Real Estate!" - the idea being that mind control is largely accomplished by behavior modification mass media techniques that colonize people's thought processes & bring them in-line w/ ruling elite interests that're particularly harmful to impoverished free thinkers.
SO, I decided to read a bk by Mead that explores this idea of the "Generalized Other" & to write a review of it. The idea being to then record my reading the review & to send the txt & the recording to a German friend of mine in the Netherlands w/ the request that he either translate my English into multiple languages & then make a recording of it & send me back his translation(s) & recording &/or to do whatever else he might feel inclined to do if anything at all. In the meantime, I haven't listened to Hjuler's D-R b/c I don't want it to bias my procedure. My plan being to then put my recording in one channel, my German friend's in the other, & to mix in the Hjuler material as the finishing touch. THEN, this is to be sent to Hjuler for possible publication, hopefully on vinyl rather than K7 or CD-R.
Mead was a "Social Behaviorist" as the title of the bk states. I've generally had a negative attitude toward Behaviorism b/c it seems to take a strictly mechanistic appraisal of human interaction w/ an eye toward being able to control behavior. For me, even if it were possible to reduce all processes to strict cause & effect sequences that can be controlled, wch I don't believe it is, it wdn't be a goal worth pursuing b/c the result wd be oppressively reductionist. Still, I decided to approach the bk w/ somewhat of an 'open mind' since I'm hardly an expert on Behaviorism, let alone psychology in general, & can, therefore, stand to learn much more.
1st off, I have to give credit to the compilers of this bk:
"The volume is in the main composed of two sets of excellent student notes on the course, together with excerpts from other such notes and selections from unpublished manuscripts left by Mr. Mead. A stenographic copy of the 1927 course in social psychology has been taken as basic. This set, together with a number of similar sets for other courses, owes its existence to the devotion and foresight of Mr. George Anagnos. Sensing as a student, the importance of the material of Mr. Mead's lectures (always delivered without notes), he found in Mr. Alvin Carus a sympathetic fellow-worker who was able to provide the means necessary to employ persons to take down verbatim the various courses." - p vi of Charles W. Morris's "Preface"
Having (a) student(s) pay (a) stenographer(s) to transcribe such a course is mind-boggling to me. It's very hard for me to imagine anyone doing anything nearly so caring or labor-intensive today. As such, I'm deeply impressed by the studiousness that went into making this bk. Then again, maybe these students were just rich enuf to hire people to take notes that they cd copy later rather than pay attn in class (or even attend?) - thusly doing the same-old-same-old thing that rich people usually do: take advantage of their privilege to give themselves the appearance of scholarliness they're actually lacking & to give themselves an unfair competitive edge. Whatever the circumstances, compiling this bk is an achievement.
On the other hand, I think the substances of Mead's ideas wd've been better served if Mead himself had organized them into carefully outlined & developed logical progressions of the type of 'I think 1. pertains & conclude that 2. follows logically' etc.. - rather than the somewhat tediously repetitive & meandering flow of the lectures - but Mead didn't do that so this is what the interested researcher gets.
I have no idea whether Mead really fits into the lineage suggested in the following but this is what Morris begins his "Introduction" w/: "Philosophically, Mead was a pragmatist; scientifically, he was a social psychologist. He belonged to an old tradition—the tradition of Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz; of Russell, Whitehead, Dewey—which fails to see any sharp separation or any antagonism between the activities of science and philosophy, and whose members are themselves both scientists and philosophers." (p ix)
While I'm all in favor of ethics, I'm more relieved than convinced by the way Mead combines the 'cold' rationality of Behaviorism w/ the community-mindedness of his social values. Here's what Morris says: "The pragmatic reliance upon the experimental method, coupled with the moral and valuational relation of the movement to the democratic tradition, has resulted in a conception of philosophy as having a double concern with fact and value; and a conception of the contemporary moral problem as the redirection and reformulation of human goods in terms of the attitudes and results of the experimental method. Darwinism, the experimental method, and democracy are the headwaters of the pragmatic stream." (p x)
Morris gets me more interested in Social Psychology by posing its newness (in the early '20th century', ie): "The terms "social" and "psychologist" have not long appeared together, nor in company with biological categories, Tradition has identified psychology with the study of the individual self or mind. Even the post-Darwinian influence of biological concepts did not for a long time break up the inherited individualistic presuppositions (as is evidenced by a Huxley to find a place for moral behavior in the evolutionary process), though it did formulate the problem as to how the human mind appeared in the history of animal conduct." (p xii)
At 1st I thought "redintegration" was a typo meant to be "reintegration". Then I read it twice in the same paragraph & figured it for a term I don't know: "Mead in some places admits the facts of redintegration" & "one event leads at some organic center to the expectation of and redintegration of some other event." (p xiv) SO, I found these definitions to quote for those of you who're also unfamiliar w/ the word: "1 archaic : restoration to a former state, 2 a : revival of the whole of a previous mental state when a phase of it recurs, b : arousal of any response by a part of the complex of stimuli that originally aroused that response" ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio... ) "Evocation of a particular state of mind resulting from the recurrence of one of the elements that made up the original experience." ( http://www.thefreedictionary.com/redi... ) What does redintegration have to do w/ the price of beans? Mead "feels that such processes do not come under the classification of "significant symbol" or "mind."" (p xiv)
Therefore, if I understand this correctly, wch I quite possibly don't, an element from a previous experience capable of stimulating some type of mental revival of sd experience is NOT a "significant symbol" & this redintegration (or reinstantiation?) is NOT a part of the "mind". Morris says: "it seems to me that he has shown that mind and the self are, without remainder, generated in a social process, and that he has for the first time isolated the mechanism of the genesis." (p xv) To wch I query: Is there, then, any process that is not a social process insofar as it's hypothetically 'impossible' for something to occur in a 'content vacuum'? &, given the possibility that all processes are social in the sense of non-isolated, is it then possible that a redintegration is 'inevitably' a social process that 'inevitably' generates significant symbols in a 'playing field' that can be accepted as a mind? Just sayin'. I mean I sure as shit don't 'know'.
"Mind was not to be reduced to non-mental behavior, but to be seen as a type of behavior genetically emerging out of non-mental types. Behaviorism accordingly meant for Mead not the denial of the private nor the neglect of consciousness, but the approach to all experience in terms of conduct." - p xvii
The notion of one's POV (Point-of-View) being something that prevents the possibility of objectivity or even any 'rational' basis for a belief in objectivity doesn't seem to bother Mead at all. Given the possibility that everything is interconnected &, therefore, centerless in terms of our own hypothetical subjectivity, when I was in my early 20s I posed the idea of "ogjectivity": a state that's neither objective or subjective, a state that's a hypothetically infinite flux of interpenetrating subjectivities that come as close to objectivity as we're likely to get. The idea being that solipsism is 'impossible' b/c, despite superficial appearances, we have no center, no fixed POV that can be the center of the universe (or multiverse). Whatever the case, I will most likely continue to act as if I believe there's a world outside me that there are desirable responses to - such as pleasurable engagement &/or self-protective evasion. I fully expect that no matter how expert I become at such responses my subjective center will eventually deteriorate & I will disintegrate in a very obvious way & reintegrate piecemeal into an environment wch no longer houses my POV.
"Certain of the radical behaviorists have frankly identified "I see x" with "my ocular muscles have contracted"; and have as frankly admitted that this identification leads into a behavioristic form of solipsism. Such a situation is simply the appearance in psychology of the logical and methodological scandal which has long harassed scientific thought: on the one hand science has prided itself upon being empirical, on bringing its most subtle theories to the test of observation; on the other hand science has tended to accept a metaphysics which regards the data of observation as subjective and mental and which denies that the objects studied have the characters which as experienced they appear to have." - p xviii
Is that really solipsism tho? It seems to me that it isn't b/c the notion that there are such things as "ocular muscles" implies a belief in physical reality outside of the POV.
"The individual must know what he is about; he himself, and not merely those who respond to him, must be able to interpret the meaning of his own gesture. Behavioristically, this is to say that the biological individual must be able to call out in himself the response his gesture calls out in the other, and then utilize the response of the other for the control of his own further conduct. Such gestures are significant symbols. Through their use the individual is "taking the role of the other" in the regulation of his own conduct." - p xxi
It's this feedback that generates mind, self, & society - making those nouns more processual than object-oriented although Mead uses words like "form" to, apparently, refer to people - returning them to object status, 'objectifying' them. What I want to know is: Are there, then, 'insignificant symbols'? Symbols that don't signify? I find Mead's position interesting & well-thought-out except that I can't really accept the notion of 'objectivity':
"Mind is the presence of behavior of significant symbols. It is the internalization within the individual of the social process of communication in which meaning emerges. It is the ability to indicate to one's self the response (and implicated objects) that one's gesture indicates to others, and to control the response in these terms. The significant gesture, itself a part if a social process, internalizes and makes available to the component biological individuals the meanings which have themselves emerged in the earlier, non-significant, stages of gestural communication. Instead of beginning with individual minds and working out to society, Mead starts with an objective social process and works inward through the importation of the social process of communication into the individual by the medium of the vocal gesture. The individual has then taken the social act into himself. Mind remains social; even in the inner forum so developed thought goes on by one's assuming the roles of others and controlling one's behavior in terms of such role-taking." - p xxii
I find Morris's summary above to be marvelously succinct & I appreciate Mead's working from the outside-in instead of the inside-out. However, I'm still not convinced that our subjective perceptual 'apparatus' can have objective data to work from no matter how we roll the die. Hence, I return to my admittedly fanciful 'ogjectivity': an infinite network of interpenetrating 'subjectivities' that are all us at the same time that none of them are us exclusively. These enable us to have multiple POVs & the more of these we have the closer we get to 'objectivity' w/o ever actually getting there.
"It is presumably the human cortex (whose place in the higher reflexes the reflexologists have made abundantly clear) and the temporal dimension of the nervous system (which allows the control of the gesture in terms of the consequences of making it) which permit the human animal alone to pass from the level of the conversation of gestures to that of the significant language symbol, and the absence of which prevent the talking birds from really talking. These two characteristics, coupled with the place of the human hand in the isolation of the physical object, are supposedly the organic bases which determine the biological differentiations of man and the animals." - p xxiii
I also always have a problem w/ 'scientific' differentiating humans from animals. Such reasoning usually smacks of speciesism, of creating a hierarchy that then gets used to justify acts of brutality. Remember that it wasn't so long ago that the notion of "subhumans" was used to justify Death Camps. Many other than me have drawn the parallel between slaughterhouses & Death Camps. I'm a meat eater & the meat I eat comes from slaughterhouses - as such, I'm not taking a more-moral-than-thou position, I, too, am culpable - but I don't want to delude myself w/ justifying ideology. ...more
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Aug 16, 2015
Aug 24, 2015
Jan 01, 2009
May 01, 2010
Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 5, 2015
I recently got into a somewhat heated debate w/ a good fri review of
Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 5, 2015
I recently got into a somewhat heated debate w/ a good friend of mine over publishing. Hopefully, I won't be doing a disservice to my friend's side of the argument in my encapsulation thereof here. His position was that the only way to be published in respected academic journals was to imitate the form of someone else's already published article w/ one's own content inserted in it. My position was (& still is) that the publications most worthy of respect are the ones looking for & appreciative of more original form & content. This summary doesn't really do justice to the sequence & nuance of the back-&-forth but it'll do as an intro to my review here.
I learned about The Windup Girl from a woman I was chatting up in a coffee shop line. Since I'm sincere when I ask people for reading recommendations, I found a copy of the bk soon thereafter & added it to my many piles of bks-to-be-read. It's Science Fiction, wch I generally love, & it's both a Hugo & a Nebula award winner, wch i respect, so I was expecting to like it & anticipating a pleasurable read.
When I started reading it, I wasn't disappointed. It struck me as off to a strong start, somewhat original, I wasn't sure where it was going & I was expecting to enjoy getting there, intrigued. "Another Thai genehacking success, just like the tomatoes and eggplants and chiles that abound in the neighboring stalls. It's as if the Grahamite Bible's prophesies are coming to pass." (p 2) [interpolation re American English: Why is is the "e" in the plural of tomato there?! That strikes me as another superfluous Britishism (like the 3rd "u" in "superfluous") that the somewhat arbitrary academic arbiters of American English have failed to eliminate.] "Ngaw. It shouldn't exist. Yesterday, it didn't. Yesterday, not a single stall in Bangkok sold these fruits, and yet now they sit in pyramids, piled all around." (p 2) Genetically modified food is important here.
"Still dim, still cavernously empty with desks and treadle computers" (p 12) "Hock Seng is already sitting at his computer. His bony leg ratchets steadily at the treadle, powering the microprocessors and the glow of the 12cm screen." (p 12) Power is provided by primitive manual means. "Less than one percent of the Malayan Chinese escaped the Incident." (p 13) Something or things has/have happened to cause massive deaths. "from the time when petroleum was cheap and men and women crossed the globe in hours instead of weeks." (p 16) This is a post-petroleum era. "It's all so reminiscent of when the Green Headbands came with their machetes and his warehouses burned." (p 21) In times of deprivation, minorities get scapegoated by religious zealots.
"Hock Seng grimaced. "Is this what my kindness to you has earned? Did I not attend your wedding? Gift you and Rana well? Fete you for ten days? Did I not pay for Mohammed's admission to college in K.L.?"
""You did that and more. My debts to you are great." Hafiz bowed his head. "But we are not the men e were before. The Green Headbands re everywhere among us, and those of us who loved the yellow plague can only suffer. Your head would buy my family security. I'm sorry. It is true. I don't know why I don't strike you now."" - p 71
Eventually, this novel fell into a pattern. Perhaps it cd be correctly called "Steampunk". I haven't pd much attn to the Steampunk genre. What the name evokes for me is a version of Cyberpunk in wch precomputer eras of technology predominate. I think of that possible prototype of Steampunk, Jules Verne's The Demon of Cawnpore. My review of that (online here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17... ) states:
"It started off very promising w/ a steam engine run mechanical elephant capable of pulling 2 houses, a sortof Recreation Vehicle on a grand scale - placed in the context of an anti-imperialist revolt in British-occupied India."
Verne's 1880 novel was certainly imaginative in its depiction of a steam-powered mechanical elephant put to work in India. Bacigalupi, 2009, has "megodonts", genetically engineered animals similar to elephants also being used as beasts of labor.
When I think of Steampunk I think of William Gibson & Bruce Sterling's 1991 The Difference Engine about the computer age arriving a century early thanks to Charles Babbage & steam-driven cybernetic engines.
My point here is that the initial good impression that The Windup Girl made on me became somewhat ameliorated by it's being an instance of what my friend advocated for in the debate mentioned at the beginning of this review: In other words, The Windup Girl puts slightly newish content into a pre-fab container proven to be commercially successful. I will say that it was very well done - better, I think, than many of Gibson's later novels of related ilk.
The Windup Girl of the title is one of the "New People", genetically engineered people grown in test-tubes:
"If her body, this collection of cells and manipulated DNA" - p 34 "Gendo-sama used to say that she was more than human. He used to stroke her black hair after they made love and say that he thought it a pity New People were not more respected, and really it was too bad her movements would never be smooth. But still, did she not have perfect eyesight and perfect skin and disease- and cancer-resistant genes, and who was she to complain?" - p 34
In a touch that's 'classic' cyberpunk, the Windup Girl is a sex object who gets abused for the entertainment of powerful people. "Nothing that Kannika conceives to hurt her and make her cry out is truly different. Except that she draws cries and moans from a windup girl. That, at least, is novelty." (p 34) I wd've liked the bk more if the author hadn't resorted to such a typical appealing to the lurid tastes of his readership - even tho this sex abuse fits the plot 'nicely'.
Sure, the clients who enjoy this sort of thing are depicted negatively: "New People serve and do not question. She moves toward the stage with the careful steps of a fine courtesan, stylized and deliberate movements, refined over decades to accommodate her genetic heritage, to emphasize her beauty and her difference. But it is wasted on the crowd. All they see are stutter-stop motions. A joke. An alien toy. A windup." (p 36) But isn't the appeal of such scenes for many readers a similar Ignorati vicariousness?
The problems of this future are connected to the genetic dead-ends engineered by greedy companies, companies much like the Monsanto of today:
"Without the lesson of the cheshires, Emiko might have had the opportunity ti supplant the human species entirely with her own improved version. Instead, she is a genetic dead end. Doomed to a single-life cycle, just like SoyPRO and TotalNutrient Wheat." - p 114
""You're saying that you yoked the world to your patented grains and seeds, happily enslaved us all—and now you finally realized that you are dragging us all to hell."" - p 151
In this post-petroleum future, an ultra-rich gangster can afford to use humans as the ballast that makes his elevator work:
"Dog Fucker drags open the gate and steps in. The woman at the elevator controls disengages the brake and shouts into the speaking tube before yanking the gate closed again. Dog Fucker smiles through the gate. "Wait here, yellow card." And then he is whisked up into darkness.
"A minute later, ballast men slide into view in the secondary shaft. They squeeze out of the lift and dash for the stairwell in a herd." - p 135
The Windup Girl revolves around different philosophies about genetic manipulation. One of the masterminds of this manipulation expresses his ideas this way:
""Everyone dies." The doctor waves a dismissal. "But you die now because you cling to your past. We should all be windups by now. It's easier to build a person impervious to blister rust than to protect an earlier version of the human creature. A generation from now, we could be well-suited for our new environment. Your children could be the beneficiaries. Yet you people refuse to adapt. You cling to some idea of a humanity that evolved in concert with your environment over millennia, and which you now, perversely, refuse to remain in lockstep with.["]" - p 243
Of course, like all utopic visions based around technology, a few possibilities, such as disease evolving to destroy the windups, are left out of the vision. I'm reminded of all the 'labor-saving' devices that've been created - such as automated phone systems. These automations haven't freed the workers for greater leisure time as much as they've led to unemployment, they haven't helped the caller as much as they've exasperated the caller w/ obstacle courses of inappropriateness.
Bacigalupi is thorough & thoughtful. A common exclamation is "Jesus and Noah" instead of the more common "Jesus and Mary" or just plain "Jesus". The myth of Noah has attained new significance as cultures try to save themselves be regenerating plants, that've been wiped out by plagues, w/ seedbanks.
In the authors "Acknowledgments" it's obvious that the bk is well-researched: "James Fahn, author of A Land on Fire, for his expertise and insights into Thailand's environmental challenges" (p 361): I have to ask my usual class warrior question: Where does the money come from to enable the author to do this?! the answer seems almost inevitably to be: From inherited wealth. In other words, the 'lower' classes need not apply to have the time to research & write such a bk. But, perhaps, I'm being too presumptuous & envious.
Ads in the back present an earlier Bacigalupi bk, a collection of short stories called Pump Six:
"The eleven stories in Pump Six represent the best of Paolo's work, including the Hugo nominee "Yellow Card Man," the Nebula- and Hugo-nominated story "The People of Sand and Slag," and the Sturgeon Award-winning story "The Calorie Man." The title story is original to this collection. With this book, Paolo Bacigalupi takes his place alongside SF short fiction masters Ted Chiang. Kelly Link, and others, as an important young writer that directly and unabashedly tackles today's most important issues." - p 362
It appears that some of the stories led up to this novel. I've never heard of Chiang or Link but I'll look for their writing. As for "today's most important issues"? I reckon what those are are open to debate, eh? It may be found that an important issue is how much fiction undermines critical reading - but that might just not be addressed by most fiction writers. ...more
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Aug 04, 2015
Aug 05, 2015
Jul 04, 2006
Philip K. Dick & Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly - A Graphic Novel
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 30, 2015
A Scanner Darkly w review of
Philip K. Dick & Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly - A Graphic Novel
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 30, 2015
A Scanner Darkly was the 1st Philip K. Dick bk I read. It wd've been recommended to me by my friend Lamar "Chip" Layfield. I'd read a fair amt of SF as a child & a teen, authors like Robert Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov, & Arthur C. Clarke. Then I decided it wasn't serious enuf literature & stopped reading it. Reading A Scanner Darkly over a decade later might've been my 1st delving into it again, giving SF a 2nd chance. I wasn't impressed.
Not much longer after that, that all changed. The 1st movie that I noticed based on A Dick bk was Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982). I loved it. Starting in 1984 I spent the next yr reading about a Dick bk a wk. I was hooked.
Blade Runner wasn't really the 1st of the Dick movies, there had been a 1962 tv show episode based around Dick's short story "Impostor", but Blade Runner marked the 1st of high-quality works based on Dick & I was excited about all of them. Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall (1990) was the next important milestone for me.
I'd already been familiar w/ Richard Linklater b/c of his Slacker (1991) wch interested me b/c of the subculture represented but also b/c he used the PXL-2000 camcorder wch I'd used extensively. Here's a link to a website that indexes some of them: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Philoso... . I liked Slacker so when Linklater made a purportedly rotoscoped version of A Scanner Darkly I was intrigued.
It's somewhat vague to me now but as I recall I was disappointed by Linklater's movie. 1st, I probably wasn't impressed by the 'animation'. I was long-since familiar w/ rotoscoping, a technique in wch drawings are based around individual frames of film & then animated. In its original form, where filmmakers wd project the film using an analysis projector & draw on pieces of paper that the film was based on, there was a labor-intensiveness that cd produce very rich results. My friend Steve Estes had dome great things w/ the technique.
Knowing how labor-intensive ir was, I'd get some cynical amusement when I'd see a rotoscoped film that wd start off very ambitious & detailed & gradually dissolve into lazier & lazier drawings made more & more minimal as the filmmaker broke down under the workload.
Linklater's movie didn't strike me as 'real' rotoscoping at all. It seemed more like using computer filters to 'posterize' color than it seemed like the result of actually making drawings. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe Linklater had a whole assemble-line of cell-animators. Whatever the case, the result has a homogeneity to it that reeks of computer generalizing rather than hand-touches. I much prefer the animation/pixillation of such greats as Norman MacLaren, Robert Breer, Jan Svankmajer, Walerian Borowczyk, & Wladyslaw Starewicz, to name a few. Anything that has a highly uniform frame-to-frame registration just seems visually dull. Furthermore, it seemed to me that Linklater's A Scanner Darkly was a bit too much yet-another-aren't-stoners-funny? movie w/o really getting into the tragedy of Dick's take on the down side of drug culture.
NONETHELESS, when I saw that the movie had been made into a graphic novel & that I cd pick it up for 6 bucks I 'just had to add it to me PKD collection. THEN, it sat there & collected dust b/c why the fuck wd I want to read the graphic novel version when I'd already read the bk at least twice & quite possibly seen the movie that many times too?
As I've no doubt written elsewhere, when I was a kid I read comic bks & Mad Magazine & its spin-offs: Cracked & Sick. Then there was Famous Monsters of Filmland. By the time I was a teenager National Lampoon came along. All were picture-heavy. Comic bks were 'looked down on' b/c they seemed to be targeted to, & reinforcing of, the minimally literate. There didn't seem to be much of an appreciation for their involving 2 art-forms, they were commonly seen as failed literature w/ the art hardly even worth mentioning. They certainly weren't glorified as "Graphic Novels".
That wasn't really fair. Culture snobs objected to their hybrid nature, the text wasn't full-blown literature, the images weren't paintings in & of themselves. Now it seems that the graphic novel has become 'respectable'.. but have comics? Maybe they're still not. Whatever.
I read thru A Scanner Darkly - A Graphic Novel in a few hrs. Alas, I find myself in agreement w/ my archetypal stuffy critic above: I didn't really get the literate experience from it that Dick offers, I didn't find the art outstanding, it just seemed like the easy-reading experience, an intellectual-lite beer. Still, I have some respect for the whole process that went into its making, it's all very 'professional'. Still, wd I recommend it over the bk or the movie? Nah. I'd recommend the predictable (from my critical perspective): read the actual PKD bk, maybe check out the movie, but, nah, don't bother w/ the graphic novel, it's so stylized & diluted that it's not worth it. ...more
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Jul 29, 2015
Jul 31, 2015
May 15, 1992
Stanislaw Lem's Mortal Engines
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 28, 2015
I suppose, strictly speaking, this isn't 'a bk by Stanislaw Lem review of
Stanislaw Lem's Mortal Engines
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 28, 2015
I suppose, strictly speaking, this isn't 'a bk by Stanislaw Lem' insofar as it's a collection of short stories by Lem, united by the theme of robots, chosen by the translator, Michael Kandel, at the prompting of the publisher, Harvest/HBJ, so that there cd be a Lem bk in English that hadn't previously existed in Lem's language, Polish. I wdn't exactly say that that negatively effects the collection but it does result in a bk that's less sylistically unified than, say, what I might think of as its predecessor, the bk that 11 of the 14 stories previously appeared in, Bajki robotów ("Fables for Robots") in Cyberiada (3rd edition), wch is, apparently not the same as The Cyberiad - Fables for the Cybernetic Age, published by Avon in English in 1976, since none of sd 11 stories are in sd The Cyberiad. Harumph.
This is the 16th bk I've read by Lem. He's one of my favorite SF writers, his bks usually have strong ideas & strong literary style. My favorites by him have been Solaris made into a movie 1st by the great Tarkovsky & 2nd by Soderbergh. I loved them both. I've also enjoyed very much Lem's The Invincible, The Chain of Chance, & Imaginary Magnitude. Mortal Engines isn't really 'up there' in their company, I'm somewhat indifferent to it.
I started reading this as a break from 2 other bks that I'm currently reading that I find somewhat tedious: GX Jupitter-Larsen's Sometimes Never & George Herbert Mead's Mind, Self, & Society. The days when I've finished both of those & reviewed them will be a relief, indeed. They're both excellent in their respective ways but that doesn't mean I'm exactly 'enjoying' them. SO, I read Lem for some relief & Mortal Engines did the trick but it didn't exactly inspire me to heights of passion or whatever.
In the translator's introduction there's this: "Norbert Weiner, the "father of cybernetics," presented cybernetics as the study of complex systems that could regulate their own performance or function (output) on the basis of received data about that performance (input)—in other words, systems possessing feedback. Man was one example of this kind of system; a "life-imitating automaton" would be another. The system was the important thing, not the raw material; that could be biological or nonbiological." (p viii)
This gives me an excuse to quote at length from my review of Rudy Rucker's The Hacker and the Ants ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) wch, in turn, quotes from my review of Rucker's Master of Space and Time ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... ), a critical nesting process that I quite enjoy:
""How did I look? Like most users, I owned a tailor-made simmie of my cyberspace body. Cyberspace users called their body simmies tuxedos." - p 14
""The funny thing about the "cyber" prefix was that it had always meant bullshit.
""Back in the 1940s, the story went, MIT doubledome Norbert Weiner had wanted a title for a book he'd written about the electronic control of machines. Claude Shannon, also known as The Father of Information Theory, told Weiner to call his book Cybernetics. The academic justification for the word was that the "cyber" root came from the Greek word for "rudder." A "kybernetes" was a steersman or, by extension, a mechanical governor such as a weight-and-pulley feedback device you might hook to your tiller to keep your sailboat aimed at some fixed angle into the wind. The practical justification for the word was contained in Shannon's advice to Weiner: "Use the word 'cybernetics,' Norbert, because nobody knows what it means. This will put you at an advantage in arguments."" - p 19
"This is obviously a pet peeve for Rucker b/c he also referred to it in Master of Space and Time 10 yrs before. In my review of that I wrote:
"""Cybernetics. That was a word Harry and I had always laughed about. Nobody had any idea what it means, it's just some crazy term that Norbert Wiener made up." - p 13
""Really? Paul Pangaro has this to say:
"""What does the word “cybernetics” mean?
"""“Cybernetics” comes from a Greek word meaning “the art of steering”.
"""Cybernetics is about having a goal and taking action to achieve that goal.
"""Knowing whether you have reached your goal (or at least are getting closer to it) requires “feedback”, a concept that comes from cybernetics.
"""From the Greek, “cybernetics” evolved into Latin as “governor”. Draw your own conclusions.
"""When did cybernetics begin?
"""Cybernetics as a process operating in nature has been around for a long time.
"""Cybernetics as a concept in society has been around at least since Plato used it to refer to government.
"""In modern times, the term became widespread because Norbert Wiener wrote a book called “Cybernetics” in 1948. His sub-title was “control and communication in the animal and machine”. This was important because it connects control (a.k.a., actions taken in hope of achieving goals) with communication (a.k.a., connection and information flow between the actor and the environment). So, Wiener is pointing out that effective action requires communication.
"""Wiener’s sub-title also states that both animals (biological systems) and machines (non-biological or “artificial” systems) can operate according to cybernetic principles. This was an explicit recognition that both living and non-living systems can have purpose. A scary idea in 1948." - http://www.pangaro.com/definition-cyb..."
"Note that in the The Hacker and the Ants incarnation of this pet peeve Rucker 'quotes' a conversation between Shannon & Weiner. Really? Was that somewhat incriminating conversation recorded in the 1940s? I think not. Rucker is putting forth someone's imagined version of a hypothetical conversation. It may be very accurate - but it's probably not an actual quote. Naughty, naughty, Rudy."
& since I'm in the midst of an intertextuality spree here, I might as well throw in a bit of Mead's Social Behaviorism: "In so far as one can take the role of the other, he can, as it were, look back at himself from (respond to himself from) that perspective, and so become an object to himself. Thus again, it is only in a social process that selves, as distinct from biological organisms, can arise—selves as beings that have become conscious of themselves." ("Introduction" by Charles W. Morris, p xxiv, to Mead's Mind, Self, & Society) "Social psychology is especially interested in the effect which the social group has in the determination of the experience and conduct of the individual member." (Mind, Self, & Society, p 1) In case it isn't glaringly obvious, I'm drawing a parallel between the "system [as] the important thing" & the emphasis in Social Psychology on the social as the self-determinant.
Ahem. Back to Mortal Engines's intro: "In his" [Lem's] "autobiographical essay The High Castle, he writes: "I used to be a philanthropist to old spark plugs, I would buy parts of incomprehensible gadgets, I would turn some crank or other to give it pleasure, then put it away again with solicitude. . . . To this day I have a special feeling for all sorts of broken bells, alarm clocks, old coils, telephone speakers."" (p xi) Once upon a time I wd've called this Animism, these days, thanks to Rucker, I prefer the term Hylozoistic (hylozoism: "The philosophical doctrine holding that all matter has life, which is a property or derivative of matter." - http://www.thefreedictionary.com/hylo... )
Yes, Lem likes to put the shoe on the other foot, he likes to imagine human life, life as we typically think of it, as seen from the perspective of robots, things usually considered to be simulations of life:
""Fine, fine!" said the King. "Is it true that the thing is made of water, and yet nontransparent, like that puppet of mine?"
""This too is true! It has, Sire, a multitude of slimy tubes inside, through which waters circulate; some are yellow, some pearl gray, but most are red—the red carry a dreadful poison called phlogiston or oxygen, which gas turns everything it touches instantly to rust or else to flame. The Homos itself therefore changes color, pearly, yellow, and pink. nevertheless, Your Royal Highness, we humbly beseech you to abandon your idea of bringing here a live Homos, for it is a powerful creature and malicious as no other . . ."" - p 17
The 1st 11 stories, as previously stated, are, indeed, fables, as is the last story, arguably the 'best', "The Mask". By "fable" I mostly mean stories told in a somewhat simple formulaic way that involve kings & kingdoms, wch might be more appropriately called "fairy tales" even tho no "fairies" are involved, but they're also fables in the sense of "a short tale to teach a moral lesson, often with animals or inanimate objects as characters" ( http://dictionary.reference.com/brows... ) insofar as the robots are the "inanimate object" characters & if there isn't always a "moral lesson" there's, at least, some sort of lesson, sortof.
"How Microx and Gigant Made the Universe Expand" is a fable in the sense of "legends or myths collectively" ( http://dictionary.reference.com/brows... ) b/c it makes a creation myth out of the Big Bang Theory, wch some wd probably consider to be a creation myth in the 1st place.
The 2nd story, "Uranium Earpieces", ends w/: "serves moreover as a constant reminder of the virtues of disarmament" (p 14), a moral. The 3rd story, "How Erg the Self-inducting Slew a Paleface" ends w/: "From which one can see straightaway that we have told the truth and not a fairy tale, for in fairy tales virtue always triumphs" ( p 30) perhaps explaining why these are fables & not fairy-tales after all. The 7th, "Tale of the Computer That Fought a Dragon", ends w/ "However from that time on he was an altogether different king: the events he had undergone made his nature less bellicose, and to the end of his days he engaged exclusively in civilian cybernetics, and left the military kind strictly alone" (p 62), another moral (sortof).
The last story, "The Mask", was my favorite & the one that Lem seems to've put the most work into in a writerly way. In keeping w/ his apparent hylozoism it begins w/ the birth of a creature thru electro-mechanical means: "In the beginning there was darkness and cold flame and lingering thunder, and, in long strings of sparks, char-black hooks, segmented hooks, which passed me on, and creeping metal snakes that touched the thing that was me with their snoutlike flattened heads, and each such touch brought on a lightning tremor, sharp, almost pleasurable." (p 181) Lem's not heavyhanded about it, he leaves it mysterious, the 'newborn' is, to all appearances, a human female of seductive beauty & wit.
All in all, yes, it's Lem, it's good, this wd be a great bk if it were in a lesser writer's oeuvre but in Lem's it's lesser. Still, I recommend it, read everything by him if you don't have anything better to do, et cetry, et cetry.. ...more
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Jul 27, 2015
Jul 28, 2015
Jul 15, 1997
Frederik Pohl's The Other End of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 12, 2015
Ok, I cd spend the rest of my life (assuming I die by th review of
Frederik Pohl's The Other End of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 12, 2015
Ok, I cd spend the rest of my life (assuming I die by the average age for a man on this planet: 65) reading & reviewing Frederik Pohl bks. That's how good he is, that's how prolific he is. I've read at least 15 of them so far, there're something like 79 more for me to read. But, of course, no matter how much I enjoy them I have better things to do. I'm only writing this review right now b/c I just finished reading the bk & I've got a long wait for some movie files to download. SO, why not review this & listen to Beethoven's "Fidelio"? That's less intimidating than making the French Foreign Legion costume I'm procrastinating on starting on.
Right. As is so often the case I'm going to avoid spoilers by paying attn to what might seem like quasi-ephemeral details that catch my attn (let go!). EG: In the "Before" chapter, the somewhat dubious hero has infiltrated "the terrorist Free Bavaria Bund, more commonly referred to as the Mad King Ludwigs." (p 7) I like that. I read a bio of Ludwig & was thinking of making a movie vaguely referencing his life. That didn't happen. The details are in the pudding - or something like that.
& then, a mere few paragraphs later, the reader is treated to a SETI reference (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence): "It was a major historical event. It was definitely the very first time that the patient astronomers who tended the SETI telescopes, or for that matter anybody else, had received an authentic, guaranteed alien message from an extraterrestrial source." (p 8)
Now, imagine: it's centuries in the future &, alas, copies of The Other End of Time are nowhere to be found but my review is everywhere. Just try reconstructing its plot from the fragments I'm putting out here:
"["]I'm gonna get rid of this crappy little peashooter I been carrying and get me a real gun. An then I'm gonna take that gun and—"
"Dannerman stopped listening before she got to the ways in which she was going to take the city's police system on single-handed." - p 15
I earmarked that passage b/c it's a woman who's having the violent gun-toting fantasy but it's really peripheral to the story & to this review. But, as I wasn't exactly saying, the proof is in the devil - or something like that - by wch I mean that this next part really got me: ""I don't know about hiring you, though, Dan. It says here you got your doctorate at Harvard and your dissertation was called 'Between Two Worlds: Freud and Marx in the Plays of Elmer Rice.' Who the hell was he?"" (p 26) Elmer Rice just happens to be the author of Judgment Day (1934) about the burning of the Reichstag. To quote from my review of that:
"This particular play is important as a commentary on the political machinations invoking "patriotism" for the destruction of civil liberties. Given that it's inspired by the nazi rise to power thru civil-liberties-curtailing after the burning of the Reichstag (German Parliament) bldg in Germany in the early 1930s & that it was written when that subject was topical, it's educational to compare it to the parallel curtailing of civil liberties in the USA after the mayhem of September 11, 2001." - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25...
The devil, too, is in the pudding. Let's hope Pohl's passing reference will get more people to read more by Rice. I intend to. The proof that's in the details is the state of inflation in Pohl's near future (2031 - 16 yrs after the writing of this review): "At the end of working hours, when all the employees were lining up at Janice DuPage's desk to collect their day's pay before inflation kocked another two or three per cent off it" (p 49) How many people really pay attn to inflation?
I've had a particular job since 1996. I started at something like $9.49 an hr (I was told I was hired at $10 an hr but that didn't happen) w/ a vague promise of a 3% 'cost-of-living' raise per annum. Let's say I started at the wage promised of $10 hrly, w/ the promised annual raises, I wd've made:
NOW, $10, in 1996, has now been inflated by 52.97%, that's an annual inflation of 2.26%, making it so that what I cd buy in 1996 for $10 wd now cost me $15.29. ( http://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/... ). That means that I wd be slightly ahead of my 1996 wages by 2015, after 19 yrs of working at the un-named job. However, since my actual wage at this job as of 2015 is $14.07 hrly due to the initial wage lie & the subsequent unreliability of the not-really-annual cost-of-living raise, I'm actually making less than I was when I started 19 yrs before! How many other people are in a similar position?! Think about this:
"Especially in an economic crisis or a war, the pressure to inflate becomes overwhelming." [The US has been continuously at war for my entire lifetime] "Any alternative may seem politically disastrous. Whether it be the Roman emperors repeatedly debasing their coinage, the French revolutionary government printing a flood of assignats, John Law flooding France with debased money, or the Continental Congress issuing money until it was literally "not worth a Continental," the story is similar. A government in financial straits finds its easiest recourse is to issue more and more money until the money loses its value. The entire process is accompanied by a barrage of explanations, propaganda and new regulations which hide the true situation from the eyes of most people until they have lost all their savings. In World War I, Germany -- like other governments -- borrowed heavily to pay its war costs. This led to inflation, but not much more than in the U.S. during the same period. After the war there was a period of stability, but then the inflation resumed. By 1923, the wildest inflation in history was raging. Often prices doubled in a few hours. A wild stampede developed to buy goods and get rid of money. By late 1923 it took 200 billion marks buy a loaf of bread." - http://www.usagold.com/germannightmar...
Thus, according to the above-quoted source, what one cd buy w/ 1 German mark in July, 1914 required 726,000,000,000 marks by November, 1923!!!!! German artists used the paper money as collage material. The USA GOLD site goes on to claim that:
"The many parallels between 1924 Germany and present-day United States are cause for concern. Though the U.S. has not yet reached the depths to which Germany descended in that era, few can look at the constant depreciation of the dollar since the early 1970's and fail to be alarmed. It seems contemporary America differs from 1924 Germany only in the duration between cause and effect. While the German experience was compressed over a few short years, the effects of the American inflation have been more drawn out." They substantiate this claim w/ these statistics: "The largest annual contribution to the outstanding public debt during the Nixon years was $30.9 billion; Ford - $87.2 billion; Carter - $81.2 billion; Reagan - $302 billion; Bush(Sr.) - $432 billion; Clinton - $347 billion; GW Bush - $1,017 billion; Obama - $1,885 billion."
Now, USA GOLD is a business. They sell coins & bullion. Therefore, they have an obvious motive for this alarmism: they stand to make a profit from people believing their position. Nonetheless, they state their case well & German history provides a precedent for both their future & Pohl's.
The dubious hero, Dan, works for the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) & his boss has blackmail material that she wants him to use for manipulating the people under his scrutiny. One of Pohl's touches is to have some of the blackmail material not be enuf: "Chesweiler, identified as a former member of the Man-Boy Love Association" can't be successfully blackmailed on that basis. Pohl's future is astonishingly different from now in that respect!
Another such touch is one re national formations: "the embassy of the United Koreas across the street. But then Florida was stretching a point to have an "embassy" at all, since it wasn't really an independent nation. At least not in name." (p 76) Can you imagine a future w/ North & South Korea reunited as one country? Can you imagine Florida as seceding from the USA? Maybe w/ Jeb Bush as president?
""So how do you like micrograv?" he asked amiably; then, glancing at Artzybachova and lowering his voice: "Tell you one thing, if my great-great had ever gone into orbit he would've had to write three or four new books. You don't know what screwing is until you try it weightless."" - p 111
I'm reminded of the AAA (The Asssociation of Autonomous Astronauts) from the 1990s. founded, in fact, before this bk was published. Of the 3 web-links I have handy for them, only the Oceania AAA one seems to work anymore: http://www.deepdisc.com/aaa/ . At any rate, their space program definitely involved sex in microgravity. One of my own modest contributions to the AAA can be read about in the September 4, 1998 entry, "Air Drop #2: Code Name: Alpha Alpha Alpha", here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut... .
Most of my favorite SF writers are prescient in their ability to imagine an accurate vision of the future from the hints of their time-of-writing. "Oh, it was interesting enough, as a souvenir of the days when wars were actually fought between nations, instead of between legions of police on one side, and on the horde of criminals and a few squads of slippery terrorists." (p 112) The Other End of Time was published in 1996. Wars were already like that by then - but the post-9/11 wars have been framed even more so like that.
Of course, the problem is that the 'peacekeepers' are often the criminals & terrorists - so the sides aren't so clearly drawn. Look at the example of the 'peace keeper' sex slavers of 1999 Bosnia. Check out the film entitled The Whistleblower "inspired by the story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska police officer who was recruited as a United Nations peacekeeper for DynCorp International in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1999. While there, she discovered a sex trafficking ring serving (and facilitated by) DynCorp employees, with the UN's SFOR peacekeeping force turning a blind eye." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Whi...
Do you ever get annoyed w/ the way people use words w/o an etymological clue? EG: people write "perks" b/c it's phonetically more common than the actual abbreviation "perqs" but also b/c they don't know what "perks" is a shortening of. As anyone reading my reviews knows, I'm all in favor of what I call "abbrevispeak" but I'm not in favor of ignorance. "She was also used to all the perquisites that went with being more or less rich." (p 137)
I falsely remember 1st reading about tachyons in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time (1962) wch I wd've read around when it was published. So much for my memory. According to Wikipedia:
"A tachyon /ˈtæki.ɒn/ or tachyonic particle is a hypothetical particle that always moves faster than light. The word comes from the Greek: ταχύ pronounced tachy /ˈtɑːxi/, meaning rapid. It was coined in 1967 by Gerald Feinberg. The complementary particle types are called luxon (always moving at the speed of light) and bradyon (always moving slower than light), which both exist. The possibility of particles moving faster than light was first proposed by Bilaniuk, Deshpande, and George Sudarshan in 1962, although the term they used for it was "meta-particle"." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tachyon
I still have an edition of A Wrinkle in Time. Looking thru it again to see whether there was anything resembling tachyons in it I now realize that I was confusing "tachyons" w/ "tesseract", a very different ball of 8-cell 4 cube wax.
""Hold it!" Pat commanded. "What do you mean, 'transmitted'? Not even photons can exceed light speed."
"Dopey said patiently, "I did not use the word 'photons.' The transmissions are carried by a different particle, the name of which—" He hesitated, while his fingers moved rapidly in the muff. "—is 'tachyons' in your language."
""Oh, my God," Pat breathed, remembering her days in graduate school. "Tachyons! Yes, I've heard of tachyons. They were, what's his name, Gerald Feinberg's theory, right? Particles for which the speed of light was a limiting veolcity, yes, but a lower limiting velocity, so that they could travel only faster than light."" - p 169
"I don't personally make up much" [science] "in my writing. I do, however, quite often make use of scientific ideas that have been put forth by some actual scientist but fall a long way short of being consensual. For example, I did not make up the faster-than-light "tachyons" I have used in this sotry (and in others) in order to provide a mechanism for getting my characters around this very large universe in reasonable travel times. They were originally proposed by Dr. Gerry Feinberg and others thirty or more years ago. Tachyons may or may not exist." - p 347
In defense of my faulty tachyon memory I will say that the way tesseracts are used in A Wrinkle in Time was basically also to "provide a mechanism for getting" [the] "characters around this very large universe in reasonable travel times." I quote: ""Well, the fifth dimension's a tesseract. You add that to the other four dimensions, and you can travel through space without having to go the long way around. In other words, to put it in Euclid, or old-fashioned plane geometry, a straight line is not the shortest distance between two points."" (p 78, A Wrinkle in Time)
I've noticed Pohl's penchant for using older forms of words before in my review of his Beyond the Blue Event Horizon ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ):
"Then, on p 129 it's printed: "But the relationship had been of suppliant and monarch" in wch "suppliant" was presumably meant to read "supplicant". But was it? After all, a "suppliant" is "a person making a humble plea to someone in power or authority" & a "supplicant" is "a person who asks for something in a respectful way from a powerful person or God". SO, what's the difference? According to http://dictionary.reference.com/brows..., the etymology for "suppliant" is "1400-50; late Middle English < Middle French, present participle of supplier < Latin supplicāre to beseech, supplicate" & can be confused w/ "supplicant". The same source, http://dictionary.reference.com/brows..., provides an etymology for "supplicant" as: "1590-1600; < Latin supplicant- (stem of supplicāns), present participle of supplicāre to supplicate; see -ant; doublet of suppliant"."
SO, when I read: "the U.S. Calvary would come charging over the hill with bugles blowing and pennons flying" (p 231, The Other End of Time) I check my assumption "pennons" 'shd be' "pennants" & look up the word:
"A pennon was one of the principal three varieties of flags carried during the Middle Ages (the other two were the banner and the standard). Pennoncells and streamers or pendants are minor varieties of this style of flag. The pennon is a flag resembling the guidon in shape, but only half the size. It does not contain any coat of arms, but only crests, mottos and heraldic and ornamental devices." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennon
Although, I have to say that mixing a Middle Ages term w/ a 19th century American reference is almost like a tesserwaxian mixing of devil's pudding. Some people might even complain that it's a whipped metaphor.
Funny you shd mention L'Engle. She & C. S. Lewis were 2 Christian fantasy writers whose work I enjoyed as a pre-atheist child.
""So you killed them all?" Pat asked in horror.
"Dopey said earnestly, "It was not an evil act! Do you not understand? In effect, we merely transported them all, instantly, to their immortality at the eschaton."" - p 273
In other words, to heaven. Since it's against most religions to commit suicide, I've always wondered why Christians & Moslems don't do each other a favor & kill each other off? That way that can both go straight to Paradise in defense of their respective religions w/o braking their own rules other than petty little things like "Thou shalt not kill." Oops! That's right, that's what they're already doing! Why aren't they grateful to each other?
The idea of the eschaton as heavenly immortality is another of those scientific ideas that "fall a long way short of being consensual." That's fine w/ me. The only thing I prefer to be consensual is socio-political relations - wch includes sex, of course. The man who proposed the eschaton is:
"["]Frank Tipler. Tulane University. He wrote a book. I also remember that old what's-his-face told us it was a lot of crap, since the Hubble Constant showed that the universe wasn't ever going to collapse again anyway."" - p 336
"Tipler has authored books and papers on the Omega Point based on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's religious ideas, which he claims is a mechanism for the resurrection of the dead."
"The Omega Point is a term Tipler uses to describe a cosmological state in the distant proper-time future of the universe that he maintains is required by the known physical laws. According to this cosmology, it is required for the known laws of physics to be mutually consistent that intelligent life take over all matter in the universe and eventually force its collapse. During that collapse, the computational capacity of the universe diverges to infinity and environments emulated with that computational capacity last for an infinite duration as the universe attains a solitary-point cosmological singularity. This singularity is Tipler's Omega Point. With computational resources diverging to infinity, Tipler states that a society far in the future would be able to resurrect the dead by emulating all alternative universes of our universe from its start at the Big Bang. Tipler identifies the Omega Point with God, since, in his view, the Omega Point has all the properties claimed for gods by most of the traditional religions." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_J...
"The stimulus which led to the present story came from a paper by Dr. Frank Tipler, sent to me some years ago by Dr. Hans Moravec of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University. Tipler's paper, originally published in a journal devoted to religious questions, was quite tentative in tone. However, it appears that, having started thinking on the subject, Tipler began to feel that he was onto something really important. So in 1994 he published a book, The Physics of Immortality". - p 348, The Other End of Time
Now, I'm back 'full-circle' to my beloved Pittsburgh & the often excellent CMU that I live so near to & have occasionally guest-lectured at. Thank you, Mr. Pohl, for having written yet-another bk to get those tesserwax juices flowing in my devil's pudding.
Notes are private!
Jul 12, 2015
Jul 13, 2015
Frederik Pohl's The Years of the City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 8, 2015
To read the entire review go here: https://www.goodreads. review of
Frederik Pohl's The Years of the City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 8, 2015
To read the entire review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
To paraphrase SF writer James Gunn's introduction to his bk of short stories entitled Breaking Point (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ):
"a concern for technique was exhibited by writers throughout the history of magazine science fiction" [..] "When they were successful their stories helped to bridge the gap between the ghetto and the larger world outside". [..] "The stories contained in this collection were intended as part of that effort. I called them my "serious stories"; I look back on them now as my attempts to bring to the task of telling a science fiction story everything I know about setting and symbol, theme and character." - p 9, Breaking Point
All of Pohl's stories are infused w/ a social consciousness that I admire but it's this bk in particular that seems to do what Gunn describes above, "to bridge the gap between the [SF] ghetto and the larger world outside". In other words, The Years of the City is the closest SF thing I've read yet by Pohl to combine somewhat realistic contemporary lit w/ SF. Given its emphasis on urban planning, I'm reminded of John Brunner's excellent The Squares of the City (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ).
Pohl focuses on a NYC of his near future (as of the time of the writing, 1984) to a NYC that's developed generations later along lines of sincere & visionary urban planning that encounters, & defeats, selfish & myopic resistance from greedy forces. This is an epic that has the city & its characters as its continuity - rather than the more conventional one family type historical epic.
Each section starts w/ a short italicized 1st person intro. The 1st is from the perspective of a New Yorker. I probably spent more time in NYC in the early 1980s than any time since & I can accurately say that the Lower East Side, where I usually was, was plagued by drug addiction & the attendant crime. Of course, the biggest criminals of all were, & still are, the landlords. "I pay through the nose to do it—monstrous taxes and preposterous rents are my way of life. I wouldn't change. This is where the action is. Even if the action turns out to be a good chance of being mugged and a near certainty that my apartment will be robbed every two or three years." (p 1) Yep, that describes the NYC I knew, I wdn't want to live there, I prefer affordable living conditions w/ fewer people out to victimize me for their own benefit. I've got more than enuf "action" for me to keep up w/ outside of NYC.
"In Washington's day it was a tiny town and not much worth visiting. He disliked it—would have burned it if the Congress had let him (but he didn't have to, because rioting New Yorkers did it as soon as he left)." - p 2
The 1st section of The Years of the City is called "when new york hit the fan", an obvious take-off of 'when the shit hits the fan'. It chronicles a not-unlikely sequence of negative events that add up to a crippling of the city. ""We've been warned there's a bomb on the premises.["]" [..] "No one protested being herded across the street into the park, although the place stank terribly—most of the grass was covered with ten-foot-high stacks of plastic garbage bags" (p 5) from a garbage-worker's strike.
A character named Brandon has a job in wch he can make some social proposals that might actually be considered. One of them is the "UTM": "The Universal Town Meeting itself was complicated enough, and Brandon wasn't at all sure that Fiegerman knew what it was about, other than that it involved using the electronic media to get all the people of new York City talking together." (p 8)
"The Universal Town Meeting, which, through the use of elctronic media and random-access interviewing of ordinary citizens, might achieve a decision-making assembly comparable to the New England town meeting or the old greek agora—on a scale of tens of millions of people." - p 15
Brandon meets an influential man named Feigerman while they're both evacuated during the bomb scare:
"""What do you need to have happen to get the thing going again?"
""Help from City Hall," Brandon said promptly, and searched Feigerman's face for a reaction. But you could never get one through those thick distorting glasses. He went on. "The stations are only stalling—nobody wants to be the first to give away a whole night's time. But they all know the FCC will give them brownie points for it. So if the Mayor would put in a word it might get them off the dime."" - p 8
""Everybody always wants more, Jeff, that's what governments are all about. That's what the UTM's about, it's what keeps the power brokers and the bribers from taking over. Not just unions. Contractors. Builders. Everybody who cam make an extra buck by breaking the law, or forcing the government to let them do something they're not supposed to." - pp 192-193
"The video monitors were carrying the current UTM discussion—dome repairs, for or against luminescent panels to make the night bright" - p 299
It's ideas like this that help get NYC rolling toward a brighter future. But, in the meantime, Brandon's got plenty of the typical New Yorker problems: "it was no surprise at all for Brandon to learn that while Jo-Anne was in school and he was performing his civic duty in the Municipal Building, their apartment had been burglarized." (p 10) But, of course, a part of those problems is that stereotyping other people isn't always a correct assessment & often exacerbates problems rather than solving them: "Their across-the-street neighbors were what was termed "Persons in Need of Supervision"—Pins, for short—which meant that they were graduates of a reformatory, a jail or an asylum." (p 11)
Gridlock wasn't making Brandon's life any easier. "Coming into the garment center the taxi inched along. then, for three changes of the traffic light, it didn't move at all, because a tractor-trailer trying to make a turn had blocked the intersection." (p 12) Neither was his wife's recent suicide: "It was tough times for a man when his wife went six stories airborne. It was even tougher for a ten-year-old girl, particularly when it was the ten-year-old who had been awakened first by the sirens and found that all that remained of Mommy was a note" (p 13) How do people overcome these obstacles & tragedies? By keeping their shit together, not an easy thing to do but ultimately worth it.
Brandon has other ideas w/ potential:
"The Five Per Cent Solution, by means of which individual citizens willing to pay a five per cent surcharge on their income taxes could direct that the whole of their taxes be directed to whichever function of government they thought most important." - p 15
Ever since i've been an adult I've sd that I'm less opposed to being taxed than I am to being taxed w/o having a say about where my money goes. Health care for everyone? Yes. Education for everyone? Yes. Food for everyone? Yes. Maintenance of public projects like road maintenance? Yes. Libraries? Yes. War? No. Corporate bail-outs? No.
Ideas like this are easy to criticize w/ "Yes, but.." statements. ALL "What if.." statements, common as premises in SF, are easy to criticize in that way. The genius of Pohl's novel is that he takes the reader thru the "What if" AND the "Yes, but" & shows the objection overcome - regardless of how rooted the obstacles are in what seems to be 'basic human nature' - ie: the brainwashed stupidity of the construction workers who'd terrorize people mourning innocent students murdered by trigger-happy National Guardsmen. This isn't a 'utopic' novel imagining a world w/o problems, it's a realistic novel imagining a future where people solve problems by keeping their shit together & staying true to their vision.
Bomb scares, ceasing of garbage collection, gridlock, terrorism, all-too-common problems in Pohl's near-future: "Terrorists, of course. Some terrorists. Any terrorists; and the bomb they had used this time was no fake and no toy." / "The bomb had been more than a block away, planted under the hood of a parked car in one of the theater blocks leading to Times Square." (p 37) This was written before 9/11. 26 yrs after this bk was published we get this; "Inside the mind of the Times Square bomber - Faisal Shahzad was a 31-year-old US citizen who lived in the Connecticut suburbs. He was an account analyst on $50,000 and mowed the lawn at weekends. But in May 2010 he was arrested after parking a car full of explosives in New York's busiest square." ( http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010... ) In this case, the bomb didn't go off.
Pohl's conception of a city remind me of a movie I witnessed tonight, Troy Herion's "New York: A City Symphony" & of its predecessors like Francis Thompson's 1957 "N.Y., N.Y.". In both these movies, &, perhaps, in City Symphony movies in general, there's an organic vibe or rhythm to a city that's highlighted. Pohl:
"City as organism?
"Why, yes. There was another sense, When an organism is in health its parts share the work of keeping it alive—so do a city's; when an organism's parts begin one by one to fail, it becomes ill—so does a city. But when the parts of a creature begin to fight against each other it does not matter which of them wins. before long they all die." - p 48
"It was true that the city had never been in worse shape. Nothing unprecedented had happened. There was not one of the things that had gone wrong that hadn't gone wrong before—even often before. But never before had it all hit the fan at once." - p 72
The 2nd section, "The Greening of Bed-Stuy", jumps ahead a little in time to the realization of Feigerman's vision:
"When Bed-Stuy was done it would not have to import one kilowatt-hour of energy from anywhere else—not from Ontario Hydro, not from Appalachia, not from the chancy and riot-torn oil fields of the Arab states. Not from anywhere. Winter heating would come from the thermal aquifer storage, in the natural brine reservoirs under the city, nine hundred feet down. Summer cooling would to warm the aquifers up again, topped off with extra chill from the ice-ponds. By using ice and water to store heat and cold the summer heating and air-conditioning and winter heating peaks wouldn't happen, which meant that maximum capacity could be less. Low enough to be well within the design parameters of the windmills, the methane generators from the shit pit and all the other renewable-resource sources" - pp 98-99
Pohl had obviously done his eco-design homework. Nonetheless, I tend to think any such massive rearrangement of an eco-system, gentle tho it may be in contrast to nuclear or coal power, etc, is bound to have unanticipated eco-drawbacks even if it's just something 'small' like the wiping out of microorganisms the value of wch we don't understand until it's too late, if ever.
"somebody named Charles Engelke had described a way of making a small suburban community self-sufficient for energy as far back as the 1970s" - p 118
In a quick search I didn't find anything about the above online. Still, if I were to make an educated guess, I'd say that Pohl's "homework" consisted of studying the ideas of an actual person named Charles Engelke whose work has since become more obscure than it was in the 1st place - making his name yet-another one to keep in the back of my mind to look out for. Of course, he cd be fictional.
Pohl, obviously, pays attn to his times. In the following excerpt, it's easy to deduce that "HARVEY" is fictional at the same time that I 'know' that "Captain Crunch" wasn't: "Inmate 838-10647 HARVEY John T. had a record that went back thirty years, to when he was a bright and skinny kid. he hadn't intended to get into violence. He started out as a Phone-Phreak, rival of the semi-legendary Captain Crunch. When Ma Bell got mad enough to put the Captain in jail, young Johnny Harvey got the message, Making free phone calls to the Pope on his blue box just wasn't worth it, so he looked for less painful ways to have fun. He found them in proprietary computer programs. Johnny Harvey could wreck anybody's security." (p 127)
Having cofounded & run Baltimore's "B.U.T.N." (Baltimore Underground Telephone Network) from 1979 to 1981, starting w/ "TESTES-3", I was peripherally connected to Phone Phreaking & have an ongoing affection for its history (wch I actually know very little about). Pleased w/ Pohl's informed reference to it as a precursor to computer hacking, I decided to do some casual research. The 1st online article that caught my attn was about where 5 old school hackers are at now. Clearly, I don't know the proper way to connect to such info b/c the msg I rc'vd when I clicked on the link was:
"You don't have permission to access /blog/5-old-school-hackers-where-are-they-now/ on this server.
"Apache/2.2.3 (CentOS) Server at wikibon.org Port 80"
Ha ha! An immediate obstacle that I deduce an actual hacker wd know how to bypass.
Pohl's character, Feigerman, is blind "but his otoliths were in fine shape". (p 139) &, what, pray tell, are "otoliths"? "The otolith organs sense gravity and linear acceleration such as from due to initiation of movement in a straight line. Persons or animals without otolith organs or defective otoliths have poorer abilities to sense motion as well as orientation to gravity." ( http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/... )
Pohl's epic chronicles the changes potentially wrought by persistent visionary action:
"Once the dome was up sanitation men wouldn't use trucks any more: there went one job classification. They would get more deeply involved in recycling on-site, maybe" - p 204
"Lucy was the one who had explained to him that with most of the drug laws repealed and all of the prostitution statutes, so that cocaine was sniffed even at the Mayor's fund-raisers and the Yellow Pages had a fifteen-page listing under "Sexual Services," more than half the revenues of organized crime had gone down the toilet. The unions were about all they had left." - p 205
The above possibilities are classic 'food-for-thought'. The envisioned dome covers a city for climate control. I wdn't want that. My nightmare vision of the future is a world where someone has learned to control the weather. That strikes me as the biggest eco-disaster, even worse than oil spills.
As for legalized drugs & prostitution? That's more complicated. Having spent a large portion of my adult life in a society of rampant drug abuse I certainly don't have very positive opinions about cocaine or heroin or speed or downers in general or even pot. Nonetheless, I see enormous problems caused by criminalizing the users.
As an anarchist, I'd rather that there be no laws but that doesn't mean that I therefore support heroin pushers & pimps. To the contrary, I prefer a society where people have enuf sense to recognize the bad effects of addictive drugs (& my version of that category includes pot - against the common apologist position) & the ethics to be against profiting off of other people's suffering.
Organized Crime profits exclusively off of other people's suffering. So how does one discourage it? According to Alfred W. McCoy's The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Mafiosa had an honor system that was against dealing drugs & pimping until Lucky Luciano came along & promoted those practices as immensely profitable. How wd society transform if doing things exclusively for profit w/o any other consideration were repulsive even to the Lucky Lucianos of the world? IMO, organized criminals shd find new skills that're more socially beneficial to thrive from - but under what conditions is that likely to happen? Super-Guidance-Counselor, where are you when we need you?!
As for prostitution? I'm all for people having control over the economics of their own bodies but it rarely works that way in prostitution. Even if it were to work that way, for me, the intervention of capitalism into basic human drives is a sad thing. But, then, eating is a basic human need & I don't object to farmers selling food. This is too huge a subject to get into here. At least Pohl is thinking about it.
"And when the dome was complete it made a new world. A magnificent one, with magnificent new temptations." - p 222
Each of The Years of the City's sections envisions a next step of the future in a fairly serious manner. The final section, "Gwenanda and the Supremes" is a bit more light-hearted but not completely. Crime has been minimized & redefined to the point where Supreme Court justices are drafted from the general population w/ minimal quick training.
To read the entire review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Notes are private!
Jun 30, 2015
Jul 09, 2015
Mass Market Paperback
Jul 12, 1987
Frederik Pohl's Beyond the Blue Event Horizon
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 6, 2015
I read Pohl's Gateway 1st in this Heechee Saga. M review of
Frederik Pohl's Beyond the Blue Event Horizon
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 6, 2015
I read Pohl's Gateway 1st in this Heechee Saga. My review's here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15... . I'm somewhat surprised to see that I read it 3 yrs ago. That's one of those time-flies-when-you're-not-having-fun-just-getting-older thingies. Skimming over my Gateway review I think I was more impressed by that one than I was by this sequel - wch isn't to say that I thought this was 'bad', it just didn't seem quite as inspired.
One idea that caught my fancy is that of "Gosh numbers":
"Gosh numbers are numbers which represent more than one quantity, so that when you perceive the coincidence you say, 'Gosh.'" - p 45
"“Ph, well,” said the Dead Man gloomily, “all right. Point-five degrees is the angular diameter of both the sun and the Moon as seen from Earth. Gosh! How strange that they should be the same, but also how useful, because it is partly because of this coincidence that Earth has eclipses. Minus-forty degrees is the temperature which is the same in both Fahrenheit and Celsius scales. Gosh. Two thousand twenty-five is the sum of the cubes of the integers, one cubed plus two cubed plus three cubed and so on up to nine cubed, all added together. It is also the square of their sum. Gosh.["]" - p 45
""One. The quantities Tiny Jim referred to as 'gosh numbers'. These are numerical quantities, mostly of the sort called 'dimensionless' because they are the same in any units you measure. The mass ratio between the electron and the proton. The Dirac number to express the difference between electromagnetic and gravitational force. The Eddington fine-structure constant. And so forth. We know these numbers to great precision. What we do not know is why they are what they are. Why shouldn't the fine-structure constant be, say, 150 instead of 137-plus? If we understoood astrophysics—if we had a complete theory—we should be able to deduce these numbers from that theory.["]" - p 289
SO, of course, I had to do at least some cursory research on Gosh Numbers wch led me to: http://mathtricks.org/gosh-numbers/go... where Beyond the Blue Event Horizon is discussed & quoted & then this follows:
"Well, that was a rather lengthy introduction, so I will not delay any further the first Gosh Number:
"1729 is the least number expressible as the sum of 2 cubes in two different ways:
"1729 = 123 + 13 = 103 + 93
"1729 is also the 3rd Carmichael number
"1729 is also a centered cube number, a dodecagonal number, a 24-gonal and 84-gonal number. The creators of the television cartoon Futurama thought so much of 1729 that they included it within the show on several occasions.
The author of the above is one Steven Pomeroy.
One of the Heechee artifacts found in Beyond the Blue Event Horizon is a "couch" that enables a person to broadcast their dreams: "["]We know that in human history many of the great inventions sprang up all over the world, apparently independently, maybe simultaneously. Are they Heechee suggestions, via the couch?"" (p 87) Zeitgeists fascinate me, I'm sure I've been part of many. A more Ockham's Razor explanation for them than Pohl's fanciful suggestion might be that certain mindsets reach the same conclusions at the same time b/c they're 'obvious' next steps in the mindset's progression. In other words, Marconi & Tesla shared a similar cultural background & education that led to an 'obvious' next step being the radio. W/o this shared cultural & educational background this zeigeist wdn't've occurred. In other words, radio wasn't suddenly conceived of & made by a farmer w/ no scientific training. That, however, doesn't necessarily explain Tesla's ability to completely visualize inventions before building them:
"[..]I was about seventeen when my thoughts turned seriously to invention. Then I observed to my delight that I could visualize with the greatest facility. I needed no models, drawings or experiments. I could picture them all as real in my mind." - p 33, My Inventions, Nikola Tesla, 1995, Barnes & Noble Books
It might be interesting sometime to develop whole vast theories based on deliberate acceptance of probable typos & misprints as not accidents. EG: the above Beyond the Blue Event Horizon quote from p 45 re Gosh numbers begins "“Ph, well,” said the Dead Man gloomily" w/ the "Ph" presumably intended to be "Oh" (as Pomeroy quotes it in his article).
Then, on p 129 it's printed: "But the relationship had been of suppliant and monarch" in wch "suppliant" was presumably meant to read "supplicant". But was it? After all, a "suppliant" is "a person making a humble plea to someone in power or authority" & a "supplicant" is "a person who asks for something in a respectful way from a powerful person or God". SO, what's the difference? According to http://dictionary.reference.com/brows..., the etymology for "suppliant" is "1400-50; late Middle English < Middle French, present participle of supplier < Latin supplicāre to beseech, supplicate" & can be confused w/ "supplicant". The same source, http://dictionary.reference.com/brows..., provides an etymology for "supplicant" as: "1590-1600; < Latin supplicant- (stem of supplicāns), present participle of supplicāre to supplicate; see -ant; doublet of suppliant".
& what's a "doublet"? According to Wikipedia:
"In etymology, two or more words in the same language are called doublets or etymological twins (or possibly triplets, etc.) when they have different phonological forms but the same etymological root. Often, but not always, the variants have entered the language through different routes. Because the relationship between words that have the same root and the same meaning is fairly obvious, the term is mostly used to characterize pairs of words that have diverged in meaning at least to some extent.
"For example English pyre and fire are doublets. Modern words with similar meaning but subtle differences contribute to the richness of the English language, as exemplified by the doublets frail and fragile (both from the Latin adjective fragilis): one might refer to a fragile tea cup and a frail old woman, but never frail tea cup, whilst fragile old woman adds a dimension of meaning by implying emotional infirmity rather than physical." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublet...
The point is, I don't see where suppliant & supplicant have diverged, they seem to have the same meaning - w/ suppliant coming 1st. What is Pohl really up to here? It's obvious to me that everything in this novel is just a smokescreen to hide the combined significance of "Ph" & "suppliant". Don't believe me? That's b/c yr pH balance is alkaline & I'm acid-tongued (both literally & figuratively). Further supporting my theory is this: ""That's not exactly a tenth of a number, Robin," said Sigfrid." (p 230) The careful reader will note that the psychoanalyzing program is credited w/ this sentence when it shd clearly be the science program, Albert.
("If you think back to high school chemistry class, you may recall that pH is an abbreviation for potential hydrogen. A pH number measures from 0 to14 how acidic or alkaline a liquid is -- anything above 7 is alkaline and anything below 7 is acid. Water has a pH level of 7 -- it's neutral, meaning it has the same amount of acids and alkalis, which balance each other out." - http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-... )
I don't want to give too much away about the story of Beyond the Blue Event Horizon - hence my punning tangent above. Shucks, I'm not really acid-teongued. Nonetheless, I 'can't' resist quoting this:
""They're called 'prayer fans', Wan."
""No, no," he shrilled crossly, taking it away from her and marching crossly into the chamber. "You do not pray with them. You read them. Like this."" - p 138
Let that be a lesson to you: the Bible & the Qur'an were meant to help keep kafirs like myself cooler in hot desert environments - they're not for reading. All those silly religious fanatics have got it all bass-ackwards.
The Heechee Saga is epic. "After more than three-quarters of a million years of rolling slowly around Earth;s very distant sun, the artifact pulled itself into a new orbit and surged away." (p 202) That may seem a bit too long-term to wrap yr head around but think of this: Mayflies have an average lifespan of 24 hrs & their lifespan can be as short as 30 minutes ( http://www.itsnature.org/what-on-eart... ), humans in the US have an average lifespan of 78.2 yrs. Interestingly, the US is 38 in the list of longest-lived & Japan's at the top w/ 82.6. The average expectancy independent of country is 67.2 (males 65, females 69.5). ( http://www.disabled-world.com/calcula... )
SO, contrast a Mayfly living 30 minutes to a human male making it to 65: the human male lives 1,129,580 times longer than the Mayfly who "depending on the species and after hatching [..] mate, lay eggs and die." ( http://www.itsnature.org.. again) We have time to notice them but do they even notice us? It's completely reasonable, if still only speculative, that there's another critter out there to whom we're naught but a Mayfly.
"Not much development occurred in the fifteen years between the removal of the colony from its prehistoric African home and Squint's death. The Heechee were not discouraged. In fifteen years, they did not expect much. They had much longer plans than that." - p 262
"They tidied up behind them, as they always did. Then they went away and allowed the rest of that particular experiment, among all their experiments, to run.
"For eight hundred thousand years." - p 262
Putting that in the human / Mayfly scale again: If the human male lives 1,129,580 times longer than the Mayfly by making it to 65 then the above "eight hundred thousand years" wd put the human male at age 46.
Thank you, Frederik Pohl, for stimulating me to do the above research. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 25, 2015
Jul 07, 2015
Mass Market Paperback
Frederik Pohl's Slave Ship
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 19, 2015
I just finished reading & reviewing Iain M. Banks's 1st SF nove review of
Frederik Pohl's Slave Ship
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 19, 2015
I just finished reading & reviewing Iain M. Banks's 1st SF novel, Consider Phlebas (1987) (my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5... ), & it occurred to me that it was the kind of thing that someone might write who might think something like: 'Oh, SF's easy! You just put a bunch of monsters in Outer Space & have them fighting all the time & then add some human love interest.'
THEN I read Slave Ship (1957), Frederik Pohl's 1st solo SF novel (he'd written 5 collaboratively before then), & it was an extreme breath of freshness that had close to none of the clichés that Banks's novel was built on. Largely b/c of the extreme contrast between the 2 bks I'm giving this a 5 star rating (I might ordinarily have given it 4 stars) b/c the Pohl is so much what I like SF to be & the Banks is the opposite. Perhaps I shd call it a Rebound Rating.
Even tho this was published in 1957, Pohl understands the remote warfare that so characterizes the use of smart missiles today: "Even in action, the closest I had ever been to a living Caodai aboard Spruance was a thousand yards of hundred-fathom water." (p 2)
Pohl predicts a completely militarized USA: "It was the first time I had ever been in Florida, and from the observation deck of the airport I could see a skyline of palm trees and hibiscus, just as the travel booklets had promised, back in the days when there were travel booklets. Those were pretty remote days, I told myself—only three or four years ago, but I was a civilian then, and so was my wife. The whole country was civilian then, barring eight or ten million cadres. It was hard to remember—" (p 2)
Pohl has the US's enemy originating from Viet Nam: "There they were—the enemy. The members of the religious cult that had stormed out of old Viet Nam and swept over most of three continents, and appeared to be about ready to take on a couple more." (p 5) What's currently called the Viet Nam War in the US started in 1955 (or even earlier w/ US involvement since it cd be sd to've started w/ advisors in 1950) but wasn't well-known to US citizens at the time. Pohl's story has a full-blown war in progress but it's never declared as such. Sound familiar?
"They called it a cold war. But fourteen million of our men were hotting it up over in Europe, against twenty or so million of theirs. Our land casualties were comparatively low—in the low millions that is.
"And no state of war.
"There was just this one little thing. Our troops were killing theirs all the way from the Pyrenees to the White Sea in local "police actions."" - p 9
Pohl's main character is a bit obtuse, he's a computer expert who doesn't recognize his colleague's experiments w/ using YES/(silence = no) signals for communication w/ a dog as being the equivalent of binary code:
"Language is a supple and evocative thing; how could you dignify a one-word vocabulary by that term? Imagine compressing information, any quantity whatsoever into a simple yes-and-no code.
"Thinking which, I checked the installation of my digital computers, capable of infinite subtle operations, packed with countless bits of knowledge and instruction. And all of it transcribed, summarized and digested into what the mathematicians call the binary system, and reproduced in the computers by the off-or-on status of electronic cells." - p 21
Communication between humans & 'animals" (to me, humans are animals) or, as I prefer, other animals, is a central subject here: "A team of four full lieutenants was reading meaning into the elevation of a dog's tail, and translating it into flipper-positions for the seals they were given to work with." (p 24) Consider this: when I was making my movie entitled "Tents Muir" with some seals in the North Sea in 1988, I waved goodbye to the seals, not expecting any response, & one of the seals lay on its side & waved its flipper, seemingly in reply back to me:
I find this a very convincing example of, at the very least, an unexpected mimicry (a somewhat difficult & unnatural one for the seal) &, possibly, an actual communication. In Slave Ship, Konrad Lorenz is referenced as a pioneer of such communication: "I found out that there was a man named Konrad Lorenz who managed to talk Jackdaw back when Hitler ruled Germany." (p 27) Yet another author whose work I shd read.
"The question, of course, turns upon the definition of the term "language." Bees have been clearly demonstrated to communicate with sets of signal, for example. If one allows only a "spoken" language, we turn to the frog, perhaps the lowest animal to have a voice at all. A species of frog from Santo Domingo owns at least one "word," a sort of pig-squeal alarm cry utterly different from its normal barking sound." - p 145
Check out :50 or so of this excerpt from "Rasps" (a remix of George McCowan's eco-horror movie "Frogs" & Charles M. Bogert's audio research "Sounds of North American Frogs"): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzZTr...
The idea of non-human languages influencing human language is one very well worth researching further: "A philologist named George Schwidetzky believes he has found traces of Chimpanzee loan-words in ancient Chinese ("ngak"), in a South African Bushman dialect (a tongue click), and even in modern German! (The German word, "geck", derived from Chimpanzee "gack.")" (p 146)
"IN 1931 A GERMAN ANTHROPOLOGIST AND PHILOLOGIST, Georg Schwidetzky, published a short monograph that was translated the following year into English under the misleading title, Do You Speak Chimpanzee? It was an ambitious goal that Schwidetzky set for himself: nothing less than "to discover, through systematic investigation of the speech of animals (in particular apes, monkeys, and prosimians), the first beginnings of speech and the language of prehistoric and fossil men." He proceeded, in self-conscious originality, by "empirical rather than theoretical methods." Schwidetzky, however, is careful to acknowledge the work of his predecessors— Franke, Garner, Boutan, Learned, Yerkes, Furness, Schmid. To many it will come as a surprise that there have long been in existence dictionaries of animal words, of which the most recent is that of Blanche W. [Learned]
"1 Georg Schwidetzky, Do You Speak Chimpanzee? (E. P. Button and Co., 1933)" - Issac Goldman's The Wonder of Words: An Introduction to Language for Everyman - http://archive.org/stream/wonderofwor...
So, 'of course,, yeah, I just ordered a copy of Robert Meearns Yerkes & Blanch W. Learned's Chimpanzee intelligence and its vocal expressions online. Don't I have anything better to do?! & when will I find the time?!
The somewhat naive narrator is annoyed by his Russian colleague who's researching communication w/ dogs: "I counted the spoons of sugar he dumped into his coffee: Six of them." (p 40) Have you ever experimented w/ sugar? I was at a party once where I drank something like 14 cups of tea in quick succession, each of them saturated w/ sugar. A special type of tingling distress resulted. I'll never do that again.
Ahhh, Yugoslavia.. Remember that country? It was kindof like Alfred Jarry's Poland in the Ubu plays. I dated a Yugoslavian woman once, she never forgot, she never forgave. I wondered: are all Yugoslavian's like this? Then I met the Yugoslavian boyfriend of an ex-girlfriend. He was worse. "the Yugoslav Push that had touched off the Short War. That was Semyon's first battle—against Marshal Tito's stubborn little army." (p 41) My Yugoslavian girlfriend sd Tito was good for keeping Yugoslavia united. Given what's happened since then I think Tito must've been quite the man.
There's a thread of 'anti-pacifism' that runs thru this bk. Given that Pohl was no fool I detect more than a little poking fun at the Ignorati here: ""Patchifist, patchifist!" Semyon was bawling; and whether he was the first to have the idea or not I cannot say, but in a moment it seemed that the whole town was screaming, "Lynch the dirty pacifists! String 'em up!"" (p 68) In this instance, the 'pacifists' were anything but. In fact, the 'pacifists' of the novel were.. but I don't want to spoil it for you. Well, maybe I will:
""For ultimate peace!" Winnington flared. "You think we like killing people, we peace men? You're an idiot, you think that peace means sitting quiet and taking punishment, eh?" He was flushed and excited, taking a queer pleasure in the fact that we were all of us near death. "No!" he almost screamed. "That is not pacifism, that's stupidity! We must fight for peace, we must destroy the enemy. Kill everybody who might kill us—then, only then, we'll have peace!"" - pp 109-110
Not exactly the notion of pacifism I grew up w/, eh?! Then again, 'police actions' are to 'keep the peace' & freedom isn't free or probably even French-fried.
I recently read a bk by the Russian writing team the Strugatsky Brothers entitled Space Apprenctice ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... ) There're sections about radiation in that & in my review I wrote:
"I'm reminded of having recently witnessed filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow's K-19, The Widowmaker supposedly based on a real Soviet nuclear sub in 1961 (just the yr before this bk) that was rushed thru in its production b/s of a threat from US nuclear subs. The result being a nuclear accident in wch the crew suffered horribly & many died young. I'm further reminded of Frederik Pohl's bk Chernobyl w/ its attribution of disaster cause being the rushing thru of bad concrete to meet quota. Then again, let's not forget 3 Mile Island: https://youtu.be/WFnEj9c35fE "
Pohl, as w/ so many post-Hiroshima-&-Nagasaki-atrocity mindful people, has the all-too-casual military attitude to radioactivity in a submarine presented here 4 yrs before K-19!:
"For one thing, four inches of sheathing had been stripped from her reactor. It made a nice economy in weight—Weems, from a lumbering snail of a vessel, could now in theory lope along as lightly as a corvette—but it had one drawback that everybody inside her hull was subject to a gentle wash of radiation all the time the reactor was going.
"Semyon looked at me with the roundest of eyes. "Logan," he gasped, "are they making a kamikaze of you?"" - pp 72-73
Never let it be sd that Pohl is w/o imagination. One particularly 'nice' touch is having people getting high, in a socially acceptable way off anthrax: "The anthrax colonies in my system were pretty well established, I had a fine building case of fever and approaching delirium. Any minute now the second layer of the pastille would dissolve and the antibiotics would take over, cleaning out the bacteria and sobering me up." (p 88) Horrifying, yes? &, yet, how many ways of getting 'high' are there that're similarly toxic? Alcohol isn't exactly user-friendly.
Pohl is thorough. He has a warship be named after a religious war rebellion: "We boarded Monmouth, a 40,000 ton carrier" (p 89) Sd naming leading to this reviewer researching it, 1st erroneously thinking it was named after a novel thought to be called "Monmouth the Wanderer" but actually called Melmoth the Wanderer (Charles Robert Maturin, 1820) - wch wd'vee been interesting insofar as according to the back-cover blurb of the Penguin edition that I have "In a satanic bargain, Melmoth has sold his soul in exchange for immortality and now preys on the helpless in their darker moments, offering to ease their suffering" - a good enuf metaphor for militarism. But, no, I was wrong, instead:
"The Monmouth Rebellion, also known as The Revolt of the West or The West Country rebellion, was an attempt to overthrow James II, who had become King of England, Scotland and Ireland upon the death of his elder brother Charles II on 6 February 1685. James II was a Roman Catholic, and some Protestants under his rule opposed his kingship." - https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Monmo...
Then there're the aluminum hats. I was in a movie by Bob Huff where I talked in a NYC park about the use of foil hats by some people in attempt to deflect remote brain manipulation. Then, in 1999, etta cetera & I made a movie called "Foiled Again!" wch partially involved making foil hats for homeless people in downtown Pittsburgh. There's so much to be sd about this subject! W/o getting into it further right now, it's interesting to note that Pohl's reference to such things is the earliest I've come across so far: "He displayed what had just been issued to him, an aluminum helmet, protection against the Glotch. The whole ship was being fitted with them." (p 92) Why, oh why, Mr. Pohl, did you choose aluminum helmets?! Do tell, I'm sure there's way more to this than meets the eye!!
&, yes, yes, Pohl is prescient - in this case I'm reminded of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (w/ the assistance of Alex Haley, 1965) in wch X has the revelation when he visits Islam that 'blacks' & 'whites' aren't necessarily at each throats: "Caodism, like the Mohammedans before then, practiced a rigid sort of tolerance; there was no distinction in skin color or creed for them—if the man whose skin in question was willing to embrace the Caodai revelations and, if necessary, join the Caodai armed forces." (p 113)
&, of course, Pohl is well aware of the machinations of propaganda:
"Picture the Devil come to life.
"Remember what I had seen of old Nguyen. Latrine posters, showing him luring helpless U.N. soldiery into haunts of bawdy vice, his wicked face yellow and fierce, his long fingers clawed like a killer cat's." - p 121
So, yep, I think I'm adding this to my top 50 favorite SF bks of ALL-TIME. ALSO, I haven't even gotten into the title of this bk but all you Animal Liberationists out there will appreciate it. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 19, 2015
Jun 21, 2015
Mar 26, 2008
Iain M. Banks's Consider Phlebas
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 16, 2015
I 1st heard of Iain Banks when a friend of mine gave me a cop review of
Iain M. Banks's Consider Phlebas
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 16, 2015
I 1st heard of Iain Banks when a friend of mine gave me a copy of his 1st novel, The Wasp Factory (1984), probably sometime in the late 1980s. I glimpsed at it, maybe read a little, wasn't really impressed & didn't bother to finish it. I picked this up for $1 & 2 other Banks bks thinking I'd give him a 2nd try.
Today, I got a bk called Lexicon of Musical Invective compiled by the great Nicolas Slonimsky. It's a collection of hostile reviews of work by composers who're now famous. Beethoven & Stravinsky get panned in it along w/ many other composers whose work is generally revered today. Slonimsky deliberately shows what fools critics can be. As I teeter on the edge of panning Banks, I think: 'Will I seem like such a fool a hundred yrs from now?' & I answer myself 'Nah, I don't dislike Banks's work for being 'too new' (as the classical composers were disliked) but for being too tried & true cliché.'
STILL, I read it, all 514 pp of it, & I sometimes say that I don't diss people who accomplish something that I've never accomplished - this excludes mass murderers, eg, whose accomplishment I don't want to equal, but it doesn't exclude the writing of a somewhat epic SF novel - even if I do consider it to be crap.
SO, I give Banks some credit but if you're going to read SF, I don't recommend Banks. It's just an adventure story in wch the protagonist moves rapidly from one shoot-'em-up scene to another. There's even a 'car chase' except that it's a flying inter-stellar shuttle. Still, same principle.
Anyway, usually when I read bks I take notes about what I want to comment on when I review them. By about the 1st 86 pp or so I hadn't taken a single note - mainly b/c I didn't find anything in the story particularly remarkable. Then by about p 200, I still hadn't taken any notes & I was relieved that, for once, I wasn't making more work for myself. Eventually, there were a few things I considered noteworthy but I was so relieved to just be reading the damned thing instead of analyzing it that I never did jot down anything. That's not really a compliment for the bk, tho.
I don't honestly even care if I 'spoil' the plot, the pregnant woman gets killed, b/c the heart-string pulling is so obviously melodramatic that it's sickening. This is space opera, wch is just soap opera in space but it's still just flakes in a box. I won't give it a star rating b/c I don't want to be so 'mean' as to give it a 1 star. After all, he did go to the trouble of writing this (unless there was software in 1987 that cd crank out plots like this wch, I reckon, there wasn't). ...more
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Jun 16, 2015
Jun 16, 2015
Jan 02, 2002
Greg Bear's Vitals
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 10, 2015
For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
As I review of
Greg Bear's Vitals
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 10, 2015
For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
As I was reading this, I thought something to the effect of: 'I shd finally give something by Bear a 5 star rating' [maybe I already have?] but, then, when I'm finished, I think.. NAH.. no matter how good it is it just doesn't tip the profound meter - although I'm sure that I've given other bks 5 star ratings that haven't either.
When I came across the Vietnam vet & the FBI as heros in this I was reminded of Bear's later Quantico (2006) wch I reviewed here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... . In that review, I took Bear to task by saying:
"He's a wishful thinker: the American Dream, yeah, it's been a nightmare.. but, c'mon, we're really the good guys in the long run n'at.
"AND I ALMOST AGREE - but only ALMOST. Ultimately, for me, there's a 'dream' of people, just PEOPLE, not just 'Americans', of justice - &, sorry, FBI agents (as heroicized in this bk) are not my idea of the ones who have this dream most firmly ensconced in their noggins. They're just too embedded in American historical lies & mythology. Has Bear forgotten exactly how fucked Hoover was? How fucked COINTELPRO was? I'll take the non-racist version of the Black Panthers over the FBI anyday - even if they 'lack' the technology."
What's a little weird to me on the personal level here is that I remembered Quantico as a relevant thing to reference in this review as if I'd just read it recently. Instead, I read it 5 yrs ago. On the one hand, I can be proud of my memory. On the other hand, I'm more than a little disturbed by how much time-flies-when-you're-becoming-a-decrepit-old-man. The 5 yrs in my life that lapsed between 1977 & 1982 seem very long b/c my life changed so much in that time; the 5 yrs between when I read Quantico & when I read Vitals seems like very little time at all b/c my life's changed so little during it.
Anyway, maybe, just maybe, the FBI's chockfull of agents trying to turn around the nasty legacy of Hoover & Cointelpro, maybe there really are agents who're more interested in counteracting the addictive drugs & sex slavery foisted on us by greedy sociopathic criminal syndicates. Maybe these very hypothetical agents are recognizing that much of what anarchists criticize in society is actually accurate, that the big corporations really will stop at little or nothing to make a profit regardless of how much they ruin humanity-in-general & the environment.
Bear ends w/ "Many thanks to Special Agent Carl Jensen, FBI; Juliann Brunzell, Special Agent, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension" (p 355) etc.. Who are these people? Did they help make Bear's law enforcement scenarios more realistic? Or more propagandistic?
Ok, Bear has the government & its agencies largely bought off by the villain here. Then he has rogue representatives from various agencies combatting them. That's standard thriller fare. Bear goes a step further, perhaps, by having "Dr. Val Candle", from the NSA, in this dialog:
""Who's going to tell us we can't live as long as we want?"
""They are," Candle said, pointing at the Lemuria. "Every rich son of a bitch, fat cat, church leader, yammering populist, self-righteous fascist, Communist, nationalist. They'll call it a sin. They'll make it illegal. But what they're really saying is"—she pointed a tense finger into the breeze—"it's wrong for everyone but me."" - p 308
Then he has "Nate Carsons", from the National Institutes of health say this:
""Chronovores," Carson said in disgust. "Plutocrats gobbling the feast and leaving scraps for the rest of us."" - p 309
Those are pretty speeches & maybe Bear knows people from those agencies who speak like that. It's a bit hard for me to take seriously. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. This novel's about a scientist researching life-extension. Life-extension's similar to hair-extension, you just glue some extra time on yr frayed ends. The scientist, Hal Cousins, goes to a billionaire to try to get funding:
"Six Dale Chihuly chandeliers hung behind the tinted glass, spaced evenly across the lobby like frozen purple-and-blue fireworks." - p 20
Nice. I admit it: I like Chihuly's glass work. A group of friends & I even made a movie called START heavily featuring their display at the Phipps Conservatory here in lovely Pittsburgh.
Bear's always excellent for keeping abreast of technology. Suck that teat, baby.
"The DSV" [Deep Sea Vehicle] "was equipped with a little railway system of steel weights that could be shifted fore and aft, or port and starboard, to adjust trim. This saved the sub from using thrusters, conserving power. The more power we kept in reserve, the longer we could stay on the bottom." - p 23
Nice, clever. On the subject of immortality: imagine all sorts of conflicting people being immortal, now imagine that being immortal doesn't mean that you necessarily recuperate quickly, just that you keep on going no matter how damaged yr body is, like zombies. Now imagine the immortals kicking the shit out of each other, just like we mortals do, & a bunch of ripped-apart sociopaths making life hell for the rest of us. Wait.. are we sure there aren't immortals now?
Speaking of not-unlikely scenarios:
"A cell phone rang on the nightstand. Data phones in the U.S. had been screwed up for weeks with viruses. I carried four with me, on four different systems, just to make sure: a PalmSec, an InfoBuddy, and two standard Nokias." - p 62
Bear does let loose some writerly humor from time-to-time: ""Hal Cousins, this is Kelly Bloom," Betty introduced. Shun, Bloom, Press . . . I was seeing a pattern here, all members of the Monosyllabic Verb club." (p 63) How do we know they're not hiding their suffixes? Y'know? Like the way yr file name might have ".doc" at the end or might not? If "A gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding "-ing."" ( http://www.englishpage.com/gerunds/pa... ) maybe these are all double-agent gerunds. Pause for thought.
I love reading SF & having disciplines referred to that I know next-to-nothing about. It makes me feel like I'm learning something even when I really don't know shit. I just reviewed Joan Slonczewski's Brain Plague (2000) yesterday & today I'm reviewing Vitals (2002) - 2 biology-based SF bks. Maybe I can pretend to know something about biology in the future by making reference to cells w/o nuclei. It sounds important:
"But when we carefully plucked a cell from a feather-fan colony, froze and micro-sliced it, then mounted it for the lab's little electron microscope, Dan reported taht there were no nuclei whatsoever. The cell was a blob of jelly with unbounded circular chromosomes floating in a thick but simple membrane, and that in itself would make a variety of bacteria or archaea, neither of which sequester their DNA in nuclei." - p 70
Sounds anarchist to me, no centralized authority? Does that mean that anarchy leads to immortality? It's obviously not working for me. Bear has the doorman reading, one can only hope:
"Shivering, I banged on the condo's glass door and asked the liveried doorman to call a taxi. He looked up from the copy of Red Herring on his podium as if I were one of the thin parade of homeless drifting north from Seattle Center. He returned his attention to the magazine." - p 77
Ok, I have the January, 1977, issue of Red Herring. It's the 1st issue. It's published by some of the former editors of The Fox, another publication that I have the 1st issue of - in this case, signed by Michael Corris who gave me the issue. Bless you Michael Corris. Bear's having the uncaring doorman reading Red Herring may be a red herring, a false lead. Whatever it is, consider this quote from the editorial of the 1st issue:
"While it is true to say that most of our production and history is appropriated, this process is certainly never air-tight. In any struggle against such appropriation, progressive forces emerge and coalesce. there may be little we can do to stop this magazine from becoming another coffee-table class diversion; there is much we can do to make sure that isn't all it becomes. Of course the forms this struggle takes are of necessity transitional, as Red Herring is transitional."
In fact, I have to give Bear credit, he's full of surprises:
""What do you know about a man named AY3000?" Finn lifted a page on his small stack. "That apparently is his legal name."
""He changed it from Jack Scholl," I said. "He comes to conferences on nanotechnology and longevity research."
""Why did he change his name?"
""A stunt. Philosophy, I guess. AY stands for Apollo Year 3000, dating from the first moon landing, approximating his hoped-for life span." - p 84
It's tempting to change my name to AY∞ but what if I cursed myself w/ no way out?
It's funny how a snippet of description can evoke Hammett & Chandler for me:
"The greenhouse sat cater-cornered to the garage, behind a big old 1920 half-timber house, hidden from my view by junipers and haunted by the staccato tap-and-whisper of the nice old lady's slippers." - p 92
Bear takes a leap into a type of character realism that's difficult to pull off, he has a main character be prone to outbursts of anti-Semitism that make him repulsive to Hal & others that he's trying to ally himself w/.
""The true Illuminati. I've spent the last fifteen years tracking down its history. The damned Jews blocked me every step of the way."
"I stared at him intently. Thought about just getting up and leaving the bar. One problem with libertarians, scientific elitists. and other rugged individualists is that a significant minority of them hold odd and sometimes pernicious views about races and religions other than their own. Think The Bell Curve and you'll know the type." - p 105
Bear obviously wants to snipe at The Bell Curve. I haven't read the bk but judging, perhaps unfairly, from this snippet from Wikipedia, I'm inclined to appreciate Bear's snipe.
" The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life is a 1994 book by American psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein" [..] "and American political scientist Charles Murray. Herrnstein and Murray's central argument is that human intelligence is substantially influenced by both inherited and environmental factors and is a better predictor of many personal dynamics, including financial income, job performance, birth out of wedlock, and involvement in crime than are an individual's parental socioeconomic status, or education level. They also argue that those with high intelligence, the "cognitive elite", are becoming separated from those of average and below-average intelligence.
"The book was controversial, especially where the authors wrote about racial differences in intelligence and discussed the implications of those differences. The authors were reported throughout the popular press as arguing that these IQ differences are genetic." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell...
Given that the Wikipedia article states that a central premise of the bk is that "Intelligence is one of, if not the most, important factors correlated to economic, social, and overall success in the United States, and its importance is increasing." I have to strongly disagree since I consider myself to be highly intelligent & highly economically unsuccessful. To me, it seems glaringly obvious that inherited wealth & an almost complete lack of socio-economic ethics are the 2 greatest factors in determining what is generally considered to be 'economic success'. Given that if one's parents are wealthy one is also likely to be wealthy that may present the false appearance of being primarily genetic - instead it's a matter of having one's cards stacked in one's favor followed by a willingness to always cheat.
However, Bear complicates his narrative by making many of his characters well-rounded enuf to never be simple villains. The anti-Semitic character wasn't always that way:
""I was subjected to mind-altering substances. My behavior changed."
""I lost all my money and my woman, and I was hounded out of academe. I became possessed." Banning looked as battered and drained of life as an old mannequin.
"He shrugged. "Let's just say that this is my afterlife, and it's hell. To all intents and purposes, I am a dead man."" - p 129
A part of the novel is about a Soviet gulag where political prisoners were experimented on:
"A few weeks after the special food arrived, the inhabitants of 38-J were walking naked in the streets, fornicating in public. Human meat—mostly children—was being sold in the butcher shops. Beria brought in truckloads of guns and gave them to every citizen. He showed off by walking unguarded through the streets in a town filled with armed dissidents and political prisoners who should have hated his guts.
"Squads took instructions by phone, or from planted neighbors, and hunted down people who visited the library, who were bald or bow-legged, who carried their babies in public. Some were told to go out and whistle and others were told to go out and shoot all of those who whistled." - p 136
Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria was, if one is to trust my brief research of him on Wikipedia, a real Russian historical figure: "Beria was the longest-lived and most influential of Stalin's secret police chiefs" "In August 1938, Stalin brought Beria to Moscow as deputy head of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), the ministry which oversaw the state security and police forces. Under Nikolai Yezhov, the NKVD carried out the Great Purge: the imprisonment or execution of millions of people throughout the Soviet Union as alleged "enemies of the people."" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavrenti...
Presumably, "38-J" is Bear's fiction. I wonder, are there works of Russian fiction that have secret torture camps in the US as part of the story? If so, I'd like to read one (in English) & see if it has any basis in history. It's easy to lay genocide accurately at the feet of Stalin, who ruled the USSR from 1929 to 1953, b/c of this long reign of 24 yrs. It's my opinion that power inevitably corrupts & that the people attracted to it are so attracted precisely b/c of how they can abuse it.
Fortunately, no president in the US can rule for more than 8 yrs.. but sometimes I think of the Reagan/Bush era as reigning from 1980 to 2008 - 28 yrs, 4 yrs longer than Stalin (Clinton hardly counts as a break). I wonder what a Russian novelist wd make of:
the Multinational Force in Lebanon (1982-1984),
the Invasion of Grenada (1983),
the Invasion of Panama (1989–1990),
the Iraqi no-fly zones conflict (1991–2003),
the Somali Civil War (1992–1995),
the Intervention in Haiti (1994–1995),
the Bosnian War (1994–1995),
the Kosovo War (1998–1999),
the War in Afghanistan (2001–present),
the Iraq War (2003–2011),
& the War in North-West Pakistan (2004–present)
- all wars engaged in by the US during what I'm calling the Reagan/Bush regime. Then, alas, we come to Obama's presidency where these 2 have been tacked on:
the Military intervention in Libya (2011),
& the Military intervention against ISIL (2014–present)
""They have turned germs into comrades and allies. They speak to them, and through them. They have opened a telephone line into the human psyche. This is power beyond imagination."
"—"Secret Report of Central Investigation Committee to Laventi Beria," 1937 (from the Golokhov papers, released by the Irkutsk University Committee for Openness and Historical Accuracy, August 16, 2001)" - p 174
Now, b/c Beria was a real historical character probably responsible for all sorts of horrors, the fictional element of this narrative is tinted w/ a dose of believability. "Irkutsk University Committee for Openness and Historical Accuracy" seems plausible enuf - & yet there probably is no such thing. As such, Bear gets into an awkward territory. It's easy enuf to justify such an approach to fiction as a strategy for deepening the reader's engagement but isn't he running the risk of muddying the waters of history?
""Rudy's books were pretty good once," I said. "He had a knack for sniffing out rare documents. But something happens after you dig into the thousandth official archive of intolerable brutality. Spiritual evil, as they say. But it's not demons, it's flesh-and-blood people doing the unimaginable, then recording it like you and I balancing our check-books. You come to mistrust everyone, and finally the paranoia kicks in. It can always happen again, you know. Ordinary people are out there waiting for the orgy to start. They lick their lips, waiting for the hate to flow. You study the twentieth century long enough, you want to pack a gun."" - p 179
Indeed. I'm always on about ROBOPATHS & their responsibility-free relationship to GENOCIDAL MEGALOMANIACS. The robopaths are the o"rdinary people" [..] "waiting for the" hate "orgy to start" &, alas, "It can always happen again, you know." I've lived thru the latter half of the 20th century & I don't want to pack a gun - but then I've been relatively lucky.
Bear seems to have a knack for dropping things in, like Red Herring & "AY3000" that perc my interest: "Rob snatched back his hand. "You're suffering from progeria," he said. "Premature aging. You're forty, tops."" (p 257) "Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome ("Progeria", or "HGPS") is a rare, fatal genetic condition characterized by an appearance of accelerated aging in children." ( http://www.progeriaresearch.org/about... ) Progeria is so rare that only 1 in about 8 billion live births have it. Imagine being that 1 in 8 billion.
"I thought of Nicolae Ceausescu, former dictator of Romania, recruiting his core bodyguards from orphanages, raising kids from childhood to serve in a kind of Praetorian Guard. He had been deposed and executed in 1989. His kids had supported him fanatically to the very end. they had to be put down like rabid dogs." - p 283
Ceausescu's history is fascinating. What wd it've been like if his guard wd've all been kids w/ progeria? Maybe he wd've died at a ripe old age reading Christian Bök's Xenotext Works to them as bedtime stories:
""NSA has been studying the potential for biological encryption. Our division is tasked to learn whether genomically coded messages can be or are being sent into our country in birds, insects, plants, or bacteria." - p 301
"The theory of aging described in this book is speculative. The concept of bacterial cooperation, however, is firmly established in scientific papers and books, including Bacteria as Multicellular Organisms, edited by James A. Shapiro and Martin Dworkin." - p 355
Fuck it, I'm giving this one 5 stars, it was too well-researched to deserve less & he mentioned Red Herring. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 09, 2015
Jun 10, 2015
Aug 12, 2000
Joan Slonczewski's Brain Plague
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 9, 2015
I've only read one previous bk by Slonczewski, A Door into Ocea review of
Joan Slonczewski's Brain Plague
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 9, 2015
I've only read one previous bk by Slonczewski, A Door into Ocean (1986) ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ). Much to my surprise, I haven't reviewed it - wch means that I read it no later than the middle of 2007: 8 yrs ago! I liked it but I haven't managed to read a single other thing by her in what seems like a rather long ensuing period.
A Door into Ocean was remarkable for its thorough depiction of passive & successful resistance to aggressive imperialism - set in a Science Fiction context. I was impressed by what seemed like the authenticity of the author's engagement w/ such a political position.
Brain Plague (2000) is different. There's a fairly deep non-oversimplifying socio-political sensitivity to it but it's not as much the central content as it is woven into the overall plot fabric. The bk's dedicated "For Elizabeth Anne Hull and Frederik Pohl" Hull is described on Frederik Pohl's "The Way the Future Blogs" as:
"Blond and brainy, Elizabeth Anne Hull (known as Betty to most of her friends and called Betty Anne by her husband, Frederik Pohl), is Professor Emerita of William Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, where she taught English and science fiction for over 30 years, earning the school’s Distinguished Faculty Award in 1997. The Alumni Association of Northwestern University honored Betty’s contributions to her profession with its Award of Merit in 1995.
Betty has authored essays and short stories, lectured on sf around the world, and led many writing workshops. She edited the anthologies Gateways: Original New Stories Inspired by Frederik Pohl and, with Fred, Tales from the Planet Earth." - http://www.thewaythefutureblogs.com/e...
Pohl himself, is one of my favorite SF writers & one that I've found to be consistently politically sensitive. Slonczewsk is a biology prof. Brain Plague is about the potentials of microbe communities interfacing w/ human hosts for their mutual benefit or detriment. The hosts become 'Gods' for the microbes insofar as they become the microbe's world upon wch they're dependent. Unintentionally, I followed this novel w/ an intelligent-bacterial-community-vis-à-vis-human-hosts one called Vitals (2002) by Greg Bear so I'm somewhat inundated w/ informed biological prediction at the moment.
Not surprisingly (given conventional novelistic development), the reader is slowly introduced to the "brain plague" & its implications, starting off in a Draconian way:
"The brain-plagued hijackers shipped their captives to the hidden Slave World, where they were building an armed fortress for their mysterious Enlightened Leader," - p 14
Eventually the Slave World is depicted like an opium den: "Within the room full of cots, the air was fetid, and flies settled everywhere. The slaves barely treated their wastes, either, she guessed. The humans, all thin and pale, seemd mostly asleep, although some sat up in chairs, their eyes glazed, rocking. One was being spoon-fed by a slave. "Rose? Is this what you call Endless Light?" (p 285)
In between, we learn that:
""Micros are intelligent," he said.
""Well, sure." Intellient buildings, intelligent medical machines—everything was "intelligent" these days.
""Intelligent people."" - p 30
Yes, but are they DIGITAL?! & do they listen to IDM?!
The artist protagonist becomes known to the micros that she hosts as the "God of Mercy" b/c she doesn't usually take advantage of her ability to kill rebellious micros:
"Chrys started to reply but thought better of it. She spread her hands. "If you kill the minion, that's the way to make the whole population read her stuff. Believe me."
""Your population," Selenite corrected. "Mine know better. Very well, you may keep her—but if she ever returns to my arachnoid, she's dead."" - p 140
I'm always interested in the way neologisms work their way into common usage in SF & elsewhere: Heinlein's "waldos" being one example. I don't know who coined "nanoplast" (nanotechnology + plastic) but I did find multiple industry references for such a product online. Here's an example:
"Nano-Plast coating is a natural, invisible and ultra thin, “breathing” and environmentally friendly coating optimally developed for the plastics industries, for polymer, synthetic surfaces, characterized by various plastic compositions and shades.
"The material excels in massive chemical durability to abrasion, with phenomenal lifespan extending properties for repelling water (hydrophobic) oil (oleophobic)." - http://www.nanoztec.com/Nano-Plast-NP...
Slonczewski refers to it: "A breeze from the sea swept her face as it keened across the towers of plast—nanoplast, the intelligent material that grew vast sentient buildings, as easily as it grew the nanotex bodysuits the artists wore. Plast formed the bubble cars that glided over the intelligent pavement". Clearly Slonczewski sees this as a 'material of the (near) future' &, yes, there's a Nanotex company already!: http://www.nano-tex.com/ . Does Slonczewski take money from them to promote their products?
I'm also interested in SF writers cross-referencing each other in other ways: ""Moraeg and Carnelian left for Solaris right after the show, as usual." Solaris, the number one leisure world" (p 141) Solaris, the name of a Stanislav Lem novel & 2 movies based on it: 1 by Tarkovsky, 1 by Soderbergh. Solaris is a thinking ocean planet that finds things in human observer minds that it then somehow materializes for them. It's hard to imagine that Slonczewski isn't making a bit of an inter-textual joke here.
Then there's "wetware". Who originated the term? I don't know. I 1st ran across it in (a) novel(s) by Rudy Rucker.
"Though its exact definition has shifted over time, the term Wetware and its fundamental reference to "the physical mind" has been around from the mid-1950s. Mostly used in relatively obscure articles and papers, it was not until the heyday of cyberpunk, however, that the term found broad adoption. Among these first uses of the term in popular culture were the 1987 novel "Vacuum Flowers" by Michael Swanwick as well as several books from the hand of Rudy Rucker, one of which he titled "Wetware"." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wetware_...
"The chair of the board was the giant black sea urchin, reputedly a top market investor like Garnet. Its twenty-odd limbs stood out straight from its body, each ending in a different mechanism for grasping, screwing, or drawing. The sea urchin methodically reviewed the city's needs: so much residential volume, of a dozen categories, from snake-egg to transit system; so many power connections, service conduits, and seage lines; and something called "wetware."" - Brain Plague, p 276
Health insurance is even more of a hot button topic than it was in 2000 when this was copyrighted:
""What a nuisance," agreed Topaz. "Back to the clinic and wait two hours." Topaz and Pearl had Comprehensive Health Care Plan Three. They could afford Plan Three, thanks to the sale of Topaz's portraits. Lady Moraeg, on Plan Ten, looked twenty years for her two hundred. Chrys got by on Plan One, which provided neuroports but did not service them." - p 16
Ah, yes, health insurance in the US - even under the NOT-Affordable Health Care Act it ultimately boils down s/he-who-has-the-money-gets-the-care - wch means the biggest crooks get to live longest. Crime does pay after all, esp if you're connected to Haliburton or some other warlord manifestation masquerading as peace-keeping & reconstruction. Being on Plan Ten enables one to choose their age: "The plan rep molded to the holostage. "Now, according to our records," she observed, "you have yet to choose your age and appearance."" (p 59)
Slonczewski's main character is an artist. "She blinked to close her window for the night, then set the volcano above her bed to explode at seven in the morning." (p 23) Ha ha! I had an alarm clock that was designed to look like a block of dynamite.
The micros make Chrys rich by funneling their architectural genius thru her: "The roots of the Comb spread gradually wider through each level they penetrated. At the seventeenth level, the roots housed a shopping center frequented by middle-class simians and university students. That was the level Selenite chose to inject the virus containing all the instructions the micros had programmed." (pp 168-169) I suppose that's the "root-down" theory instead of the "trickle-down" one.
In Slonczewski's future, the Theremin has become a portable instrument for minstrels: "By the twelfth course, the golden servers started strolling with harp and theremin". (p 203)
One of the funnier touches is when a microbial artist encourages the human artist who hosts her to start making what's tantamount to microbial porn:
"The next one drew silence, and the next. A very long silence.
""They're . . . effective," he admitted, his eyes still focused.
""Should I show them in public?"
""I don't know. You might get a reputation."
""I knew it," she exclaimed. "I knew that Jonquil would have me peddling porn."
""The children look okay," he assured her. "They're just doing what micro children naturally do. But elders—or elders with children—that's profoundly disturbing."" - p 213
An 'elder' microbe having sex w/ a 'child' microbe is something a bit hard for a human being to imagine. It's too anthropomorphic - but anthropomorphizing microbes is a large part of what this bk is about:
"Incapable of work, the grayish ring jostled aimlessly among the red cells, begging for vitamins. Fireweed brushed its filaments to pass it a few.
" "Why?" asked Jonquil. "Why prolong its miserable existence?"
" "The One True God decreed, 'Love Me, love My people.'"
" "You call that brainless microbe a person?" Mutant children whose brains failed to reach Eleutherian standards were barred from the nightclubs, never eexposed to the pheremones that ripened for breeding, nor did they mature as elders. Worth no more than a virus.
" "There, but for a twist of DNA, go you or I," flashed Fireweed. "All people are one."" - p 222
Microbe 'charity'. I wonder if organized versions of it has CEOs who make enormous profits off donations while very little actually goes to helping anyone. ...more
Notes are private!
May 29, 2015
Jun 09, 2015
Jan 01, 1970
N. H. Pritchard's The Matrix Poems: 1960-1970
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 8, 2015
I'm usually on the look-out for poetry w/ imagina review of
N. H. Pritchard's The Matrix Poems: 1960-1970
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 8, 2015
I'm usually on the look-out for poetry w/ imaginative typography, for poetry that isn't just just constructed of parallel lines in stanzas, for poetry that uses placement as part of its vocabulary. Hence my interest in Concrete Poetry & Visual Poetry. Furthermore, I'm interested in poets whose work isn't supported by the status quo, often b/c of suppression of content &/or b/c of isolation from an economic mainstream, often b/c of classism & racism. Hence I search for work on small presses that may present unusual &/or unpopular &/or minority viewpoints.
N. H. Pritchard is a black poet, The Matrix Poems uses placement as a major part of its vocabulary, a most unusual combination. According to Richard Kostelanetz's "Why Assembling" (1973) "Only one one-man collection of visual poetry, for instance, has ever been commercially published in the United States, even though “concrete” is reportedly “faddish”; and since that single book, N. H. Pritchard’s The Matrix (1970), was neither reviewed nor touted, it seemed unlikely that any others would ever appear—another example of how the rule of precedent in literary commerce produces de facto censorship." ( http://www.richardkostelanetz.com/exa... )
Kostelanetz is certainly an expert on the subject, more so than me, but I still feel the critical 'need' to differ from him here: I don't categorize these poems as either Visual Poetry or as Concrete Poetry. I think of Visual Poetry as poetry in wch basic elements usually associated w/ language in its most conventional sense, letters & words, are repurposed as primarily visual elements w/o necessarily referencing their defined semantic content. Instead, the more 'expanded' semantic content may be referenced: letters seen as evocative gestures, eg. For me, Visual Poetry, even when it uses the defined semantic content of words, may not be using the visual presentation of sd content to embody it but may, instead, be incorporating words into a pictorial situation where they're 'matter' to be mixed into a more generally imagistic collage. See the Anthology Spidertangle (2009) for an excellent selection of such work (my review's here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62... ).
Concrete Poetry, on the other hand, for me, is poetry in wch the visual appearance reinforces the defined semantic content w/ other visual elements irrelevant to this purpose not present. Take, eg, Aram Saroyan's simple example: "eyeye" in wch the word "eye" is doubled & conjoined to evoke the more usual 2 eyes of the reader. These distinctions are hardly hard & fast, they're ones I make that others will no doubt disagree w/.
For me, Pritchard's Matrix Poems don't seem to use the placement of elements either for primarily imagistic purposes or to 'flesh out' the definitions. His poems, while they're certainly more visually inventive than the conventional stanzas of parallel lines evenly spaced, strike me as more 'conceptually' ponderously placed, as mostly designed to prompt a path for the reader's eyes, to complicate the reading experience by making the words more present as objects but w/o heightening their defined semantic content in the process or making them primarily visual & ignoring or downplaying their defined semantic content. As such, while Pritchard cd certainly be lumped in w/ Concrete & Visual Poets, I find him to be somewhat in his own category.
The previous publication credits interest me. I'd like to see the original places to see what the other work w/in them is like in contrast. I suspect that Pritchard dramatically stands out: "Umbra #2, #3, #4; Athanor; The New Black Poetry, edited by Clarence Major".
The epigraph that precedes the table of contents in Matrix Poems is a quote from Pritchard himself: "Words are ancillary to content." The implication, as I read it, is that words aren't necessarily the primary carrier of content but are a part of a larger support system. In speech, body language would also be ancillary to content. Pritchard's use of positioning seems to be the main other half of what produces the content.
There's a formal strategy at work in wch "o"s in various sizes appear - mainly, but not entirely, as graphic elements on their own, like brackets. The 1st poem is called "WREATH" & consists entirely of an "O". That cd easily enuf be called "concrete" or a Picture Poem. The poem beginning on p 191 is called "O" as is the very last one. For those of us inclined to pay attn to detail, it's noteworthy that in the Contents the title listed for 191 looks like a lower-case "o" whereas on p 191 itself it looks upper-case "O". Again, in the Contents, the title of the last poem seems to be an upper-case "O" while on the page itself it looks more like a circle, round rather than ovoid. I don't see a typesetting credit so I imagine Pritchard chose the fonts himself. The "O" motif also appears on pp 17, 44 (marking the beginning of Pt II), 50, 68, 78, 86, 125, 126 (marking the end of Pt II), 138, & 185. Most of the time, they're circles. Circles are (perhaps, all-too-) easily read as symbols of tautological & regenerative completeness, as holistic. I prefer to just see them as a recurring visual element here - thusly, perhaps, making them akin to Visual Poetry.
Much of the poetry strikes me as evocative of leisurely, relaxed days spent in pleasant environments. Perhaps the closest poet I can compare him to is Ian Hamilton Finlay. One of the main techniques Pritchard uses is spacing between subunits of words:
"W here quiet ly on ly go e s" - p 3
What Pritchard's intention was, I don't know. The effect is multiple: it makes reading more difficult, it slows the reader, it makes the reader look at the words differently. "Where" becomes "W" + "here". In a sense it becomes 3 words: "W", "here", & "Where" (or a letter & 2 words if one doesn't want to accept "W" as a word).
"OLOGY" (p 8) goes a bit further in its placement-as-direction-of-the-eye insofar as there's a left column that spells out "a / see / d / r" downward wch then has the "r" continue on to become "r / i / s / e / s:" in an upward diagonal - w/ the "s:" being the top of the right column. This right column then descends thru "s: / to / gather / nes / t". The whole can be read as evocative of a bird picking a seed off the ground & flying w/ it to its nest. Again, it's close to a picture poem but the placement is more exploitative of a process than it is an image, it's time-based.
A similar semi-concreteness characterizes "AGON" wch has the poem upside-down starting at the bottom of the page w/ the title right-side-up at the top:
"b low C oo p e r Sq u are
the fun era r y late n e s s" - p 8
There's some ambiguity: "b low" can be "blow" or "below". Hence we have "below/blow Cooper Square the funerary lateness". Cooper Square being an area in NYC the poem's inversion makes me think of its being underground there, perhaps bodies buried, perhaps a burial ground not too different from the one not so far away uncovered decades later than this bk in October 1991 & memorialized as the "African Burial Ground National Monument".
This technique of spaces w/in words seems to be Pritchard's most common one. In "the own" (pp 53-55) the ambiguity of "blow/below" is both expanded & contracted: "an d a t he l as t" is difficult to resolve b/c the isolated "t" can be both part of "at" & of "the" but the "the" is syntactically odd whether it's "the" or "he". In other words, the pieces can be conjoined thusly: "and at the last" wch requires having the "t" do double-duty but the typical phrase of "and at last" is disrupted by the "the" or "he". The next line, tho, somewhat resolves this w/ " t he f irst is n ear" or "the first is near" making the "the" of "the last" more in keeping w/ the patter/n of " and at the last / the first is near". In the same poem, the phonetic abbreviation of "b" for "be" is less ambiguous in "b not shaken by the pat h" insofar as "bnot" is not a word but "be not" is semantically conventional.
"THE HARKENING" is another 'separation poem' (to, perhaps, coin a term) where slight irregularities make the reading process a little more 'bouncy':
"da dirt h o fsh all
sha ll we" - p 69
"da" instead of the or, perhaps, as a variant on "pa" or "daddy" cd make the beginning of this brief excerpt be "daddy dirt" similar to "mother earth" but the following "h" is more likely to conjoin in readers's minds as "dirth", a phonetic equivalent to or common misspelling of "dearth" - yielding "the dearth of shall". "shall" occurs twice: 1st broken into "fsh all", 2nd broken into "sha ll". The 1st combination has "fsh" wch can easily be read as "fish". SO, alternate reading: "daddy dirt fish all, shall we". This, however, is taken out of context by me here & a fuller reading might produce different or clearer results.
"GYRE'S GALAX" (pp 46-49) gets into quasi-permutational territory reminiscent of Brion Gysin from roughly the same time in Paris but not as systematic. I imagine it read aloud:
"Sound variegated through beneath lit
Sound variegated through beneath lit
through sound beneath variegated lit
sound variegated through beneath lit"
"VISITARY" (pp 64-67) functions similarly w/ stanzas like this:
"Where winged wings
Where winged wings
Where winged wings
Where winged wings
Where winged wings walk
Where winged wings walk
Where winged wings
Where winged wings walk
Where winged wings
Where winged wings
dewinged wings" - p 65
As I wrote earlier, "Much of the poetry strikes me as evocative of leisurely, relaxed days spent in pleasant environments." "THE NARROW PATH" (p 74) is an unusually straight-forward example:
"Very due that being each one dwells
through errant woods of stone
and roaming unknown streams
where few prints mark the air
contested only by that dare
and the narrow path
"AURORA" (pp 87-124) is, perhaps, the most adventurous in the path it creates for the reader. The 1st page starts w/ "There", down a space diagonally right, "are", down a space diagonally right, "only", down a space diagonally right, "pebbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb" & the "b"s continue on at the same roughly middle-of-the-page position onto the next page & on to the next where the word is finished at the right margin w/ "bles". The next 2 pages both have "NOW" placed in their center, the next pages after that have a similar centering but of, 1st, "NO", 2nd, "w". As such "NOW" transforms into "NO" - ie" "NOW" w/ "no w". From there, the trip becomes considerably more complicated by a variety of placements & hummings. This wd be a great one to be read aloud in an attempt to honor the layout as notation - perhaps w/ multiple voices.
Beginning the section titled "III Objects 1968-1970" the poems do become more 'concrete' but, again, less for the purpose of semantic amplification than I usually associate w/ Concrete Poetry. EG: the 1st poem is a capital "A" made out of capital "Z"s. It's very neat, I'm reminded of later work by Karl Kempton. It cd be read as an encapsulation of an alphabet: A to Z.
All in all, I find Pritchard's work to be very sparse & very original. I'm not moved by it in an emotional sense, I'm moved by it in a physical sense. Take the 1st 4 lines of """ (p 187):
" " " " "
" " " red "
" " " " " " red " "
" " " " red " " " red"
I'm sure that the neat columns won't display correctly on GoodReads. The quotation marks ("""s) can be re(a)d as "ditto". The 1st line of "ditto"s can be read as dittoing the title. The reader is seeing "red", an expression meaning "being angry" - but the reader is also just reading, the reader has read "red", has re(a)d. What Pritchard means by this is somewhat opaque to me but it definitely seems symptomatic of an active mind encouraging an active reading. Thank you, Doubleday & Company, for having the audacity to publish this. ...more
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May 20, 2015
Jun 09, 2015
James Gunn's The Witching Hour
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 5, 2015
When I previously read Gunn's The Magicians, in my review of it review of
James Gunn's The Witching Hour
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 5, 2015
When I previously read Gunn's The Magicians, in my review of it ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30... ) I remarked that "After spending something like 6 mnths reading Joseph McElroy's Women and Men I've decided to only read short bks for a looooonnnnnggggggg while - bks that I can read in a day or a few days. Every time I reach for something over 300pp long I shrink back. It's time for 'beach reading', 'vacation bks' - but when I was at the beach on 'vacation' I was reading McElroy. The Magicians fit the bill perfectly - even more perfectly than I'd hoped."
NOW, I chose to read 2 Gunn bks while I was in the midst of the somewhat grueling process of spending 4 wks reviewing Source - Music of the Avant-Garde, 1966-1973 ( "Re: Source": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) &, once again, they fit the bill. In the case of The Witching Hour, I'll be able to write this review in no time flat thusly proving that I'm a warlock or something b/c otherwise this review will really take me an hr or 2 to write.
Regarding p 29 I wrote a note to myself: "Influenced by Fort?" about the following:
"You can't just dismiss things, he thought. In any comprehensive scheme of the universe, you must include all valid phenomena. If the accepted scheme of things cannot find a place for it, then the scheme must change." - p 29
Then my note for p 3 says: "Bingo!" so I cashed in my cards & took my money off to buy alcohol:
"Matt thought about Charles Fort and his Book of the Damned, that strange and wonderful book that lists and documents the phenomena that science cannot explain in its own terms and which it therefore relegates to the inferno of the unacceptable." - p 30
In the same story, b/c after all, this IS a collection of short stories (but I didn't tell you that yet), "The Reluctant Witch", it is written:
"Between the middle of the fifteenth century and the middle of the sixteenth, one hundred thousand persons had been put to death for witchcraft. How many had come to the rack or the stake ir the drowning pool through the accusations of children? A child saw a hag at her door. The next moment she saw a hare run by and the woman had disappeared. On no more convincing evidence than that, the woman was accused of turning herself into a hare by witchcraft." - p 32
That type of 'evidence' is called "Spectral Evidence". I'm fascinated by its history. If you go to at least one presentation in Salem, Massachusetts, to hear about the girls who caused so much suffering w/ their own spectral evidence you'll be treated to the presenter telling you it was really all the patriarchy's fault, blah, blah.. Those little girls were sociopathic brats, don't make excuses for them. I made a movie called "Spectral Evidence". The trailer for it is here: http://youtu.be/PFtodKMQpXE . Chances are, it won't make a lick of sense to you. It'll make about as much sense as the following quote taken out of context:
"Matt looked up. He strangled, It was Abbie! Abbie's face bending over him! Matt choked and spluttered. Students turned to stare. Matt gazed around the room wildly. the girls—they all looked like Abbie!" - p 74
I reckon one cd say that "The Reluctant Witch" is a romantic comedy. As w/ all romantic comedies, I shd be so lucky as to have a girlfriend like that. "The beautiful brew"? It's another romantic comedy. "Is there anyone will not desert me? Oh, Dion, old friend, why have you deserted me, too? Dion! Is your name short for "Dionysus?"" (p 90) I shd be so lucky as to have a girlfriend made of beer. Then we cd have sex ""Under the table?" Jerry said with great dignity. "Of course not. Half seas over, yes. Also: fuddled, lush, mellow, merry, plastered, primed, sozzled, squiffy, topheavy, tight, oiled, and one over the eight. I am drunk as a piper, a fiddler, a lord, an owl, David's sow, or a wheelbarrow. I feel fine." (p 98)
The last story, "The Magicians", was also a novel of the same name. I didn't read the story here but I did review the novel, as already stated above, here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30... . So there. ...more
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May 12, 2015
Jun 05, 2015
Jan 01, 1962
Dec 31, 1981
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky's Space Apprentice
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 4, 2015
I've often stated that my personal canon of Sc review of
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky's Space Apprentice
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 4, 2015
I've often stated that my personal canon of Science Fiction writers is (in alphabetical order by last name:
Ballard, J. G.
Delany, Samuel R.
Dick, Philip K.
but that list is problematic b/c I've only found & read one thing each by Jeury & Savchenko. Then there're people whose work I've read more recently than those folks who almost make it to the list who may've made it to the list if I'd read their work earlier &/or in a different mood:
Kornbluth, C. M.
Le Guin, Ursula K.
Tiptree, Jr, James (Sheldon, Alice)
but the whole thing's misleading b/c I don't necessarily like every work I've read by the above-listed authors & there're many authors some of whose works I like as much as some of the works of the authors listed above. In other words, forget about canonization, even my own.
& that brings me to Arkady & Boris Strugatsky's Space Apprentice. This is the 1st bk I've read by them that I didn't think was totally great. In the Introduction, written by Theodore Sturgeon in 1980, it's written:
"There are, naturally, cavils, if one looks for nits to pick. During the recent Voyager encounter with Saturn, it took nearly 90 minutes for commands to reach the vehicle, and the same interval for its pictures to return, a limitation which the authors overlook at their own convenience, presenting us with instantaneous communication to anywhere from anywhere." - p x
Another little cavil that Sturgeon didn't point out for the simple reason that he wrote 20 yrs before the 21st century is: "Do you know how many people there are on Earth, Yura? Four billion!" (p 72) Alas, the population's supposedly reached 7 billion as of this writing &, nah, we're still not sending people into outer space. Oopsie!
Sturgeon partially defends them by adding: "One must be quick to add, however, that for the time it was written, this book's conjectures are truly remarkable, especially the description of a close inspection of the Saturnian ring system." (p x) One might conclude from that that the bk was written in 1744 or some-such but it was 1st published in Russia in 1962 so I'm not really impressed.
Given the name, Space Apprentice, & it's subject matter, I hereby compare it to Robert Heinlein's Space Cadet (my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ). Space Apprentice has a bit of a Soviet ideological bone to pick, as I'll touch upon later, & it's interesting to see how Heinlein fares as their American 'ideological counterpart'. For one thing, Space Cadet was published in 1948, 14 yrs earlier than Space Apprentice, & it seems to me that it's a little more successful on the hard science end. For another thing, Heinlein is actually anti-racist & diplomatic. I quote from my review:
""Matt noticed two boys with swarthy, thin features who were wearing high, tight turbans, although dressed otherwise much like himself. Further down the walk he glimpsed a tall, handsome youth whose impassive face was shiny black." - p 7
"These are the Space Cadets. Heinlein recognizes that astronauts must be judged on merit alone if the promise of the future is to bear fruit."
Unfortunately, the country Heinlein 'represents' was far from Heinlein's future depiction of it at the time he was writing & has STILL got a long way to go. In the Strugatsky Brothers's future, communism was 'won out'. An American named Sam in a space colony is playing chess w/ a Russian & having an ideological debate. Sam is speaking 1st:
"["]Yes, yes, communism as an economic system is winning, that's obvious. Where are they now, the famous empires of the Morgans, Rockefellers, Krupps, and Mitsui, and Mitsubishi? They all went broke and they're all forgotten. There are just a few remnants left, like out Space Pearl, a solid establishment producing luxurious mattresses for an elite clientele...and even they must mask themselves in slogans of general social consciousness. Check again. And several million stubborn hotel owners, real estate agents, and grim craftsmen, they're all doomed too. They're surviving only because both Americas still have currency. But here you are at a dead end. There is a power that even you cannot overcome—I mean philistinism, the obliqueness of the petty person. The middle-class type cannot be conquered with might because it would have to be exterminated physically to do so. And it can't be conquered by ideas, because the bourgeoisie is organically incapable of absorbing ideas." ""Have you ever been in any communist states, Sam?"
""I was, and I saw philistines there."
""You're right, Sam. We still have them, too, for now, and you've noticed them. But you didn't notice that we have many fewer than you do, and that they have a low profile. We don't have rampant philistinism, Sam. In a generation or two, they'll be gone completely.""
""You say in two generations? How about in twenty thousand generations? Take off your rose-colored glasses, Bela! They're all around you, these petty people.["]"
"["]Man is cattle by nature. Give him a filled food trough, no worse than his neighbor's, let him stuff his belly, and give him the opportunity to laugh once a day over some simple-minded show. You're going to say, 'We can offer him more.' But what does he need more for? He'll reply, 'Mind your own business.' A petty, small-minded, indifferent head of cattle."" - pp 135-136
Unfortunately, I'm more in agreement w/ the cynical capitalist than I am w/ the hopeful communist here. In my personal experience, all-too-many people think no further than their own personal comfort, most people aren't visionaries. Even more unfortunately, the people who are visionaries aren't necessarily envisioning something that's ultimately good for humanity-in-general. Dictators throughout the ages have been visionaries, or, at least, their kissin' cousins, megalomaniacs, & their 'visions' usually involve genocide somewhere along the way. In the Strugatsky novel, tho, Sam is an undercover agent, a saboteur of sorts:
""I'm the inspector general from IACC," he said. "The name is Yurkovsky."
"Bela rose. The engineer also stood up respectfully. A huge tanned man in a baggy jumpsuit came in behind Yurkovsky. His glance skimmed Bela and rested on the engineer.
""Please excuse me," the engineer said and left. The door shut behind him. After taking a few steps down the corridor, the engineer stopped and whistled thoughtfully. Then he took out a cigarette and lit it. So, he thought, the ideological battle on Bamberga is entering a new phase. We'll have to take measures immediately." - pp 138-139
The visiting inspector tries to talk some sense into the capitalism-ensnared workers:
"["]Using the demands for these stones, the company is getting rich."
""And so are we," someone shouted from the crowd.
""And so are you," Yurkovsky agreed. "But here's the point, in the eight years that the company has existed on Bamberga, close to two thousand men have completed three-year work contracts. Do you know how many of the ones who returned are still alive? less than five hundred. The average life span of a returned worker is under two years.["]" - p 147
Even tho I don't think this is one of the Strugatsky Brothers's best bks, they still address subjects like the above a bit more than many others. Then there's this exchange between a retired astronaut & his ex-wife:
"["]You've worked your whole life. You've developed your intelligence all your life, bypassing simple earthly pleasures."
""I never bypassed earthly pleasures," Dauge said. "I enjoyed them too much, I fear."
""Let's not argue," she said. "From my point of view, you did. And I spent my life extinguishing my intelligence. I spent my whole life nurturing my base instincts. And which of us is happier now?"
"I am, of course," Dauge said.
"She looked him over frankly and laughed. "No," she said. "I am! At best we are both equally unhappy.["]" - p 9
Vision vs hedonism are certainly NOT mutually exclusive in my bk. I like that there's so much class consciousness, it becomes Soviet humor:
""Yes, monsieur," the administrator said, folding her hands on the desk.
"Yura laughed. "You see, I'm not a monsieur," he said. "I'm a plain Soviet comrade."
"The administrator also laughed. "To tell the truht, I thought so. But I didn't want to risk it. We get foreigners here who get very upset when they're called comrades."
""Weirdos," Yura said." - p 16
"Weirdos"! That's funny. It's touches like that & the following that 'saved' this bk for me:
"Zhilin didn't reply. He stood Yura in front of him, stepped back one step, and asked in a horrible voice, "Do you drink vodka?"
""No," Yura replied in fright.
""Do you believe in God?"
""A true interplanetary soul!" Zhilin said in satisfaction. "When we get on the Takhmasib I'll let you kiss the starter key.""
Those were the days. Wd Pussy Riot have been arrested then? Yeah, probably.. but it wd've been for some other stupid reason. Yep, those were the days — the attitude toward radiation was, perhaps, a bit 'lax'? Well, maybe not 'lax' but maybe in a somewhat infantile stage:
""I'm asking you, what is this?" Yurkovsky said.
""Gamma-radiophage," Kostya explained. He turned to Yura. "Eat up, young man," he said. "You just received four roentgens, and you have to do something about it."
""Yes," Yurkovsky said, "that's true."" - p 122
"Well, what can I do with him, Bela thought. Convince him that drinking is bad for him? He knows that himself. When he gets up, he'll stay in the mine fourteen hours a day to make up his losses, and when he gets back to Earth, he'll have black radiation paralysis and he'll never have children, or if he does, they'll be deformed." - p 134
I'm reminded of having recently witnessed filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow's K-19, The Widowmaker supposedly based on a real Soviet nuclear sub in 1961 (just the yr before this bk) that was rushed thru in its production b/s of a threat from US nuclear subs. The result being a nuclear accident in wch the crew suffered horribly & many died young. I'm further reminded of Frederik Pohl's bk Chernobyl w/ its attribution of disaster cause being the rushing thru of bad concrete to meet quota. Then again, let's not forget 3 Mile Island: https://youtu.be/WFnEj9c35fE .
Arkady Strugatsky was a specialist in Japanese literature who translated such works into Russian. Hence, I speculate that this is his touch:
"Mikhail Antonovich, just off duty, climbed into Bykov's chair with a sigh to read The Tale of Genji" - p 165
"He was picturing, of course, the distant hero in strange garb and strange coif, with an unneeded sword in his belt, slender and mocking, a Japanese Don Juan—just as he had appeared from the pen of the woman genius—in a luxurious and filthy Japanese palace, setting out to travel invisibly across the world until translators of genius would be found for him. And Mikhail Antonovich sees him now as though there was no gap of nine centuries and a billion and one-half kilometers between them" - p 166
Now, if The Tale of Genji was written in the early years of the 11th century & this story is taking place 9 centuries later that wd put it in the early yrs of the 20th century & NOT the 21st century as I think was intended. Whatever.
The Strugatskys don't spare us depictions of human nastiness, regardless of how positivist their politics sometimes are:
""Who are you?" the blond man asked.
""I..." Yura said, "I'm from the Takhmasib."
""Ah," the man said with disgust. "Another favorite?"" - p 179
"["]Yes, disgusting. I didn't expect this of you young people. How easy it was to make you revert to your prehistoric condition, to put you on all fours—three years, one glory-hungry maniac, and one provincial intriguer. And you bent over, turned into animals, lost your human image. Young, merry, honest people...you should be ashamed of yourselves!"" - p 190
Why are animals always getting such a bad rep? As far as I know there aren't "glory-hungry maniac"s OR "provincial intriguer"s among any animals other than humans. All in all, a good read, but I have to wonder whether it's the Soviet answer to Heinlein's Space Cadet w/ both 'suffering' a bit from oversimplifying the respective nationalistic dreams. ...more
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May 09, 2015
Jun 04, 2015
James Gunn's Breaking Point
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 3, 2015
I spent 4 wks reviewing the Larry Austin and Douglas Kahn edited So review of
James Gunn's Breaking Point
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 3, 2015
I spent 4 wks reviewing the Larry Austin and Douglas Kahn edited Source - Music of the Avant-Garde, 1966-1973 ( "Re: Source": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) & while I was reviewing it & working & otherwise busy I read 5 other bks that went unreviewed at the time I finished them. This was one of them. I finished reading it a mnth ago.
This is a short story collection. I often say I avoid reading short stories, preferring novels. That's true. I also end up liking the short stories much more than I expect to. That's true in this case. This was one of my favorite bks by Gunn. In his introduction, it's written:
"For nearly two hundred years—since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-eighteenth century—science fiction was a part of the spectrum of general literature. It was so much a part of the rest of fiction that there wasn't even a name for it: the man who proved that science fiction could be popular, Jules Verne, called his novels "voyages extraordinaires"; the man who proved that science fiction could be art, H. G. Wells, found his earliest, most successful novels labeled "scientific romances."
"Then in 1926 the German immigrant inventor, science enthusiast, and publishing entrepreneur, Hugo Gernsback, created the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories. He also invented a word to describe the type of stories he was going to publish, "scientifiction"; it wasn't until 1929, when he lost control of Amazing Stories and started a competing publication, Wonder Stories, that he created the phrase "science fiction."" - p 7
All hail Hugo Gernsback! I have an issue of Amazing, Amazing Stories's descendent, from 1967. Close, but no cigar-shaped rocket ship. In the 1st story, "Breaking Point", the one the bk's named after, some astronauts have landed on a new planet & they're welcomed in English by a mysterious voice on their radio:
"A soft, smooth hum filled the room. "Carrier," said Ives.
"Then the words came. They were English words, faultlessly spoken, loud and clear and precise. They were harmless words, pleasant words even.
"They were: "Men of earth! Welcome to our planet.."" - p 15
Unfortunately, the astronauts were Russian & didn't speak a word of English & everyone died. Just Kidding. Later, one of the astronauts using the expression ""If we don't win the fur-lined teacup . . ."" (p 20) Is that reference to Mérit Oppenheim's sculpture, "Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure)" (1936), or did her sculpture refer to some pre-existing expression that the story is also referring to? Apparently, Oppenheim wins the prize! & now I find a "furlinedteacup" blog online for "san francisco food, film pop culture and music".
But, alas, even a fur-lined teacup won't help these astronauts. they're trapped in their space-ship & the claustrophobia is increasing:
"The Engineer came into the cabin, crossed over to his station, and began opening and closing drawers. "They've moved." From the bottom drawer he pulled out a folded chessboard and a rectangular box. Only then did he look directly at them. "The food's gone."" - p 32
I'm reminded of Stanislav Lem's excellent Solaris. I don't want to give too much of the story away but the Russian astronaut heads turn into pumpkins at midnight. After that, in "A Monster Named Smith", the blob loses control to his host's sex-drive. "Uncontrolled sensations quiver along the nerves inside the body, quiver along the feelers that lie microscopically inside the nerves. Glands are discharging their secretions into the body. The process seems automatic; I can't stop them. The body, too, must have automatic responses. It reaches toward the woman." (p 75) "Cinderella Story" starts off w/ a reasonable enough premise:
"Private enterprise made ET exploration possible. Government could do it, but Government wouldn't. That had been proved. Space was fantastically big, and ET exploration was fantastically expensive. Et exploration was also vital: humanity needed a frontier for the good of its soul; for the good of its body it needed that frontier as far as possible from Earth,
"Laws were drafted to make exploration profitable, and humanity was unleashed upon the galaxy, Jonathan Craddock, Exploiters and Importers, was born—along with one hundred competitors, more or less." - p 78
This reasonable premise is followed up by a description of one of the new technologies:
"Fairfax himself had always insisted that it did no more than satisfy the brain's visual scanning mechanism, the alpha rhythm; it stopped—or interfered with—the scanning sweep, giving the watcher the sense of seeing something without specifying what that something was. From there on, the incredulity factor took over—that habit of the mind which directs it to seek always the simpler explanation. That there are aliens among us is a wild fantasy; it is simpler to assume that what one sees is something ordinary, seen badly.
"But not every mind has an alpha rhythm to iterrupt—for instance, M-types. Some epistemologists doubted that the field affected the mind at all, and photographs supported them: an object inside a Fairfax Field was optically blurred, even to the mindless eye of a camera." - p 82
Interesting, eh? On http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.c... it's written that:
"They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. THEY LIVE.
"A rugged loner (RODDY PIPER) stumbles upon a terrifying discovery: goulish creatures are masquerading as humans while they lull the public into submission through subliminal advertising messages. Only specially made sunglasses make the deadly truth visible."
Many people know & love the movie "THEY LIVE" but, as I recall, it's never explained how the "g[h]oulish creatures" [maybe they mean goulash creatures?] succeed as "masquerading as humans" unless it's all done thru advertising subliminal messages. Gunn explores how one might fool the eye of another creature to make them accept one as one-of-them. I don't remember running across that idea before.
&, yeah, "The Cinderella Story" has tech update:
"Suddenly she said, "Pip! I lost my show!"
""The right shoe. The one with the unit in it!"" - p 89
At least she's probably still got her keys & her cellphone. In "Teddy Bear", Gunn uses his name for one of the characters:
"And then the cold thoughts: Some of us aren't real. And: Somebody slipped.
"But that was a foolish thought. I wasn't prepared to accept the inevitable consequences. It meant—
"I swung around." - p 95
&, yes, they made James Gunn into paperback bks. This one talks to me from time-to-time. It says things like "In such a world of law and order, nothing should be inexplicable. There should be no such mysterious disappearances as those of Ambrose Bierce and Judge Crater. (Had they learned too much?) There should be no mysterious appearances of men who are dead or long lost, who should be gone forever. But Enoch Arden returns—so often that we need an Enoch Arden law to protect the "widow."" (p 102)
"The Enoch Arden doctrine consists of the legal principles involved when a person leaves his or her spouse under such circumstances and for such a period of time as to make the other spouse believe that the first spouse is dead, with the result that the remaining spouse marries another, only to discover later the return of the first spouse. Generally, in most states, it is safer for the remaining spouse to secure a Divorce before marrying again." - http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictio...
If I ever get married, I think I'll change my name to "Enoch", ask my wife to change hers to "Arden" & propose that our last name be "Divarriage". That shd get us off to a good start. Speaking of the future,
"["]Can you fix that thing?"
"The plumber flinched. he said meekly, "What seems to be wrong with it?"
"Gingerly the red-haired plumber twisted the handle on the water closet. Water gurgled into the bowl and swirled up dangerously close to the edge before it subsided. Slowly the level dropped. "Well," said the plumber. "Well. My suggestion is that you get rid of the whole affair. I can get a crew of men in a few days, rip this thing out, and put in a modern disposerbot—"" - p 122
Car w/ a computer in it anyone? Gunn even gets into what seems to be his literary philosophy:
""Every science that deals with man ignores everything except what it deals with. Medicine deals with the physical man, economics with that simplification known as Economic Man, psychiatry with a fictitious creature in whom it would have no interest if he were 'normal,' and one branch of psychology with I.Q. Man, whose only significant aspect is his ability to solve puzzles.
""Literature is the only thing that deals with the whole complex phenomena at once. If it were to cease to exist, whatever is not considered by one or another of the sciences would no longer be considered at all and would perhaps vanish completely." - p 129
Fair enuf. More philosophizing:
"The most important single gift of science to civilization was freedom from superstition: the idea that order, not caprice, governs the world, that man was capable of understanding it. Beginning with Newton's discovery of the universal sway of the law of gravitation, am felt himself to be in a congenial universe; all things were subject to universal laws.
"But that conviction arose from the narrowness of his horizons. When he extended his range he found that nature was neither understandable nor subject to law. For this we may thank Planck, Einstein, Bohr, and Heisenberg." - p 134
Speaking of scientists, "The Power and the Glory" has this set-up:
""What are you then?"
""Scientists, experimenters. In your language those words might describe us best."
""And we are your experiment."
"The visitor turned around. His face, too, was shadowed.
""And now the experiment is over."
""We have found out what we wished to know. We clean the test tube, sterilize the equipment. You should understand."" - p 140
I like it, the idea of Earth as an experiment, the scientists who created the experiment are done. Imagine if you were experimenting w/ incorporating a plant from yr backyard in a recipe & yr dog ate it & died. Wdn't you throw the food away?
Finally, the last story, "The Listeners", originally published as a short story in September, 1968, is verbatim the 1st chapter of a novel of the same name published in 1972. I've reviewed that bk here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10... .
Plenty of thoughtful ideas in this one & it was very entertaining too. A Good Read for GoodReads. ...more
Notes are private!
May 03, 2015
Jun 04, 2015
Mass Market Paperback
Apr 01, 2011
Jul 06, 2011
Since my review is, predictably, HUGE, I've broken it into 13 chapters & placed it in my "Writing" section of Goodreads under the name of "Re: Sou Since my review is, predictably, HUGE, I've broken it into 13 chapters & placed it in my "Writing" section of Goodreads under the name of "Re: Source". The pre-fab categories provided by Goodreads are very frustrating. There's an "Art & Photography" section but not a "Music" one. Instead, there's "Entertainment", wch is what I ironically placed "Re: Source" in. What follows is the beginning of the "PREFACE:" followed by links to each of the successive chapters.
the Larry Austin and Douglas Kahn edited
Source - Music of the Avant-Garde, 1966-1973
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 30 - May 27, 2015
There are 3 main music magazines relevant to my primary musical interests that I don't have any issues of in my personal archive/library. The Henry Cowell edited New Music Quarterly (1927-1936), Benjamin Boretz et al's Perspectives of New Music (1962-present), & Larry Austin et al's Source (1966-1974). I've been reading mention of these publications for 4+ decades. Of all of them, Source seems like the most lavishly & imaginatively produced one - perhaps the one closest to my own development. I've managed to see 2 issues of it but never had the chance to read any of them.
Fortunately for people such as myself, the University of California Press has issued a selection of material from the 11 issues of Source as a bk (2011) & Pogus Productions has rereleased all of the six 10" records that originally were a part of these Source issues as a 3 CD set (2008). These are both very affordable & I'm extremely grateful to the publishers for the service they've thereby provided.
"Much as we would have desired to, it would have been impossible to reproduce the full contents of Source, let alone the original format and radical design and production, without creating a prohibitively expensive book. It made no sense to replace one collector's item with another. This has necessarily produced a series of compromises with our original editorial intent. Most obviously, we have not been able to include all those chosen for publication in the eleven issues of Source" - Douglas Kahn, Preface, p xii
The 1st paragraph of Douglas Kahn's Preface begins w/: "Source: music of the avant-garde was a beautifully produced publication of new music scores, essays by composers and artists, statements, interviews, artworks, sound and concrete poems, photo essays, circuit diagrams, instrument designs, event reports, documents, and LP recordings. It appeared in eleven large-format issues from 1967 to 1973, semiannually in runs of two thousand copies" (p ix) One might note that the title of the bk dates the magazine as being from "1966-1973" & that I date it as from "1966-1974". My dating is based on the date that the editor of the final 11th issue, Ken Friedman, signed his Editorial w/: "January 1974" (p 353). Presumably the issue had been compiled by the end of 1973 but, nonetheless, 1974 enters into it. No biggie.
The above quote gives an excellent summary of the scope of Source. What isn't immediately communicated is how forward-thinking, how utterly innovative, Source was. Source was truly "avant-garde" in the sense that enthusiasts for such things hope for. The contributors were very consciously using their imaginations & their analytical capabilities as fully as they were capable of. Source represents a phenomenal amt of paradigm shifting.
All this was happening in the general environment around the University of California at Davis w/o being strictly speaking a direct part of it. Kahn notes that "The arts at the University of California at Davis are often remembered as the visual arts, and for good reason. The Art Department faculty at the time of Source included such notable visual artists as Bob Arneson, Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, Roy DeForest, Manuel Neri, and their most famous student, Bruce Nauman." (p xi) This immediately resonates w/ me in ways that wd be very obscure to most people. For one, proto-Neoist David Zack heavily promoted a mvmt that he called "Nut Art" (& that, apparently no one else called that) of wch Zack promoted Arneson, Wiley, & DeForest as central members.
In the Istvan Kantor edited Amazing Letters - The Life and Art of David Zack there's a cover of a "Nut Art" catalog (p 97) from California State University, 1972. On the following page (p 98) it's stated that "Roy DeForest's Nut Art Manifesto, dated April 12, 1972, confirms David's principal part in launching this movement." On p 159 there's another Nut Art image. I don't mention these things as a proponent of Nut Art, I mention them as an example of why even more peripheral aspects of the Source environment have sent ripples thru my life: Zack lived w/ me briefly in 1981 & we were correspondents for many more yrs.
Kahn's descriptions of Source's actual physical construction presages my own similarly lavish publications:
"The status of Source as a work of art, however, is exemplified by its remarkable achievements in printing & publishing techniques.
"Perhaps best known, in this respect, was Nelson Howe's Fur Music, which required pieces of synthetic fur to be meticulously cut and glued into each copy. Jogn Cage's 4'33" required pages to be cut off-format, and his Plexigram IV (Not Wanting to Say Anything about Marcel) used screen printing onto a set of transparencies; Dick Higgins's The Thousand Symphonies consisted of pages from "Symphony #585" made by machine-gunning music paper"; and Jon Hassell's MAP2 required a large square of magnetic audiotape fixed into each issue, over which one would move a playback head in not-so-random access. Therefore, there may have been runs of two thousand copies, but each copy was handcrafted. Pages and materials would show up for assembly, collation, and spiral binding at the houses of the editors, where the task would be transformed into a social occasion involving family and friends." - p xi
For people who haven't encountered such lovingly prepared publications, it's crucial to understand that this level of meticulousness & printing-outside-the-box is a prime indicator of the overall philosophical attitude of the Source (& fellow travelers) approach. I was only 12 or 13 when Source started so they were way ahead of me as publishers but I feel it's only fair to provide a list of some of the other rare publications that've lived up to this high standard of labor-intensive creativity & to include my own:
"Fantastic Architecture" - various, edited by Wolf Vostell & Dick Higgins, 1969, Something Else Press, some translucent pages
"Dream Weapon/Aspen No. 9" - Angus & Hetty MacLise, etc, 1970, looseleaf folder, many sized pages & colors, flexi-disc
"t he book / t he referent 4 wch consists of / t he non-materialized transparent punch-outs from a letter/whatever stencil" - tentatively, a convenience, 1977, baggie containing small pieces of paper w/ letters on them, page written on in invisible ink, taped on rectangle of flash-paper w/ hand-written text
"Mike Film Distribution Forms" - Mike Film (tentatively, a convenience), 1978->, individual frames of super-8mm film + specially-shaped hand-cut page
"TESTES-3 Broadcast Tapes" - tentatively, a convenience, 1980, Widemouth Tapes, collaged covers & cassette bodies using stickers, newspaper comic fragments, marker, rubber-stamping, typing, ripped paper inserts, etc..
"Signatures: Baltimore Artists' Books Catalogue" - various, 1980, the Merzaum Collective's Desire Productions, assembling including page that can be read differently depending on how a cut-out section is folded, etc..
"Behavioral Drift II; Rugugmool" - Franz Kamin, 1980, Station Hill Press, record jacket w/ spinnable circular transparent wheel w/ images printed on it + thread attached to small rectangle inserted into reflective silver cut-out shape
"I only have eyes for you" - Richard Hambleton, 1980, bound human-size fold-out rubber-stamped
"January 1981 : A Painting - a spanner special" - edited by allen fisher, 1981, "comprising 76 sheets thermostencilled onto 38 sheets of waste and scrap paper left over from printing Spanner, Strange Faeces, New London Pride Editions, Aloes Books, I B Held Books, bluff books, Turpin magazine, etc."
Sluggo! The Journal of Disturbing Clues" - various, 1981, textured cover, folded "Rocky VII - The Game of Industrial Collapse!!" gameboard w/ die in small plastic bag
"DDC#040.002 #1" - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, 1981, "plenial wer": text with hand-drawn straight lines underlining it cut along lines & wound into a tight coil by taping each section end-to-end - text can then be viewed by pushing on middle of coil to make a cone that shows fragments of text on its outside, etc..
"Neoist Passport" - Monty Cantsin, 1981, tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, folded blueprint w/ multiple rubber-stampings
"Lightworks #14/15" - edited by Charlton Burch, 1982, "Total Art Matchbook" attached to front cover
"End Paper" - various, 1982, inserts, fold-outs, spectacular color printing
"Scribble Music Sampler" - Franz Kamin, 1982, Widemouth Tapes, cassette J-card w/ assemblage made w/ burns, watch parts, thread, etc..
"Spek 2 & 1/2" - assembling edited by Miekal And & Liz Waz, 1984, Xexoxial Editions, stenciled spray-paint on sandwich ziplock bag containing loose & cut papers w/ hand-drawing, etc..
"DDC#040.002 #3" - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, 1985, wrap-around brown leatherette National Geographic cover
"Hagaki Magazine - On Air" - assembling edited by Misao Kusumoto, 1985, small photo album w/ individualized contributions
"Transparent SMILE - Monty Cantsin Performing with White Colours" - Monty Cantsin, 1985, approximately 27 pp; multiple page sizes - no larger than 9 X 12" & no smaller than 1&1/4 X 8"; various colored inks & paints on various materials: mostly transparencies: blue, red, yellow; & clear; nail polish, tape, & cuttings; some white paper; seaweed; hair; rubber-stamping on condom, condom fit over cardboard 'phallus'; assembling magazine; magazine rolled inside 2 litre soda bottle with zippered opening; 2 mailing label stickers on bottle; shipped in shoe boxes
"Film Clips # 2 A Self-Destructing Compilation of Cultural Iconography and Mail Art or The iconoclast's Amanuensis Ingognito" - compiled by Ge(of Huth), 1991, an envelope full of miscellaneous objects including an old key, lunch passes, post-cards, a penny, unusual materials, etc..
"Usic - the square root of -1 = A Plethora of No Longer Neglected Audio/Conceptual Obstacle Courses" - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, 1995, Wafer Face Records, 2' X 3' poster printed on both sides in black & light blue ink w/ a pop-up cock, fake cum (hot glue) & rubber stamping
"Valantale" - Franz Kamin, 1999, Norkinshot Press, chapbk w/ small wreath glued to cover
"Air Drop Planes" - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, 1997 & 1998, black toner on 8&1/2 X 11" green paper folded into paper planes dropped from small plane
"Anonymous Family Reunion" - Anonymous, fall, 1997, 135 printed surfaces; 4 X 8&1/2"; black toner on multi-colored paper; 5 color photocopies; specially hand-cut edges, attached to the packaging of the vaudeo of the same name
"Street Rat #1" - The Street Rats, 1999, fake fur rat head w/ 'eyes' attached to front, fake fur rat tail attached to back
"Pandora's Box" - various, compiled by etta cetera, 1999, assembling in box w/ slides, elaborate folded object, stale bread in match-box, candy, etc..
"MandRagora" - various, compiled by Pete Coffin, 1999, assembling w/ cut-out & assembled paper, silk-screened fabric sewed to page, spray-painting, velcroed flap, etc..
"Street Rat #2" - The Street Rats, 1999, has envelope in back w/ stickers & CD-R
"Street Rat-Bag #5" - The Street Rats, 2001, car part glued to front from care taken apart & turned into musical instruments, CD of car part instruments being played + article re same, rubber-stamping, silk-screening, etc..
"Street Ratbag #6" - The Street Rats, 2002, has cover made from circular graphs from monitoring large bldg complex, etc..
"Mechanically Repetitive / ReRecorded Records RECORD" - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, 2008, Dear Skull Records, silk-screened cover, insert cut to look like record falling out of jacket, record w/ 3 holes drilled near center
"HiTEC (Histrionic Thought Experiment Cooperative) "Systems Management"" - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & HiTEC, 2009, Encyclopedia Destructica, bk held by surrounding band w/ CD, DVD, & 15 feet of unfolding paper dolls
The above-listed selection of publications w/ major hand-done touches is only a smattering of what's out there. Just about all assemblings, almost all artist's bks, & almost everything published by Pittsburgh's remarkable Encyclopedia Destructica could be listed here. I just picked publications in my own personal library/archive, mostly by friends of mine. The point being that Source is an early example, for me, of a way of publishing that I have the utmost respect for. In my personal chronology of publications that I'm aware of, it earns a provisional "Primacy of idea" award:
""Primacy of idea" became a term we used and an editorial stance with all the Source issues. We wanted to publish new original work, and primacy of idea—who did it first—was important to us. That didn't mean that everything published in Source was the first time it had ever been done, but perhaps the style of the way it was presented suggested that notion. Also, it was in the air, with the development fo electronic instruments and using the computer to make music, plus improvisation with these same instruments and so forth. It implied experimentation and research. We had a dedication to anarchy and the whole notion of being free. In fact, that term was used a great deal. You had to be a free spirit, as it were, in order to be experimental and appreciate the value of the things you discover through these experiments." - Larry Austin, Introduction, p 3
ISSUE NO. 1: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 2: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 3: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 4: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 5: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 6: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 7: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 8: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 9: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 10: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
ISSUE NO. 11: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
APPENDIX: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 29, 2015
May 27, 2015
Jan 02, 2013
Jan 02, 2013
John M. Bennett's The Sticky Suit Whirs: Los Preolvidados
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 25, 2015
John M. Bennett's body of poetry is review of
John M. Bennett's The Sticky Suit Whirs: Los Preolvidados
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 25, 2015
John M. Bennett's body of poetry is like a glacier. It's huge, he's prolific, anyone on his mailing list gets 3 to 6 poems from him a day, anyone on the Spidertangle VisPo list-serv gets those same poems daily. The form of the poems change very slowly over the yrs. A poem of his 20 yrs ago might've been hand-written w/ a special spidery hand-writing. Today they're usually written using a computer. So they're like a glacier, huge & slow-moving.
Now that he writes in Spanish almost as much as he does in English the writing's more like 2 glaciers. Someday you might look out yr window & see a glacier to the North w/ "The Sticky Suit Whirs" written on it & another to the South w/ " Los Preolvidados" written on it. But that won't mark the End Times, it'll mark the Lost & Found Times.
The Lost & Found Times was the name of the magazine that Bennett published from 1975 to 1998 (& beyond?). There's a marvelous anthology from those called Loose Watch published by Invisible Books. Highly recommended.
Bennett's work & his editorial inclinations combine the influence of Dadaism, Surrealism, Sound Poetry, Visual Poetry, Mail Art, Language Poetry, & the kind of visceral humor that one might expect from a parent who spends a fair amt of time changing diapers or a worker in a hospital or a nursing home who embraces the flatulence & pustulence for its vividness. As such, if Post-Modernism is an eclectic combination of preceding theories & movements, one might call Bennett's work "Post-Modern".
Is he, therefore, in the Paul Hoover edited Postmodern American Poetry - A Norton Anthology? Nope. How about the Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris edited Poems for the Millennium - Volume Two: From Postwar to Millennium? Nope. This isn't to say that they aren't both excellent anthologies but I do tend to think that there's often a prejudice against Mail Artists for being 'too' inclusive & a prejudice against people living in smaller American towns that AREN'T NYC or the West Coast.
Bennett lives in Columbus, OH - who cares, right? But, of course, one of the reasons why there're Mail Artists in smaller towns is so that they can carry on international correspondence w/o having to tolerate the crowded conditions of bigger cities or to pay the exorbitant living expenses of NYC or SF or Toronto.
I've reviewed 3 bks of Bennett's already: John M. Bennett & Bruce Andrews's Joint Words ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ), Bennett's Milk ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ), & Bennett's La Vista Gancha ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... ).
Ultimately, I prefer writers who change their writing technique to reflect the central idea(s) of the work - w/ these central Ideas changing for every new work. That eliminates, by far, most writers. Bennett does tend to have trademark characteristics that didn't necessarily originate w/ him but wch he concentrates on in a very focused way. Take, eg, the 1st 5 lines of the 1st poem in this bk:
"elimination storm cuzzle late s
ock fold blinky t ,ape sugar
fasted in ,faster slope runt
bang a bang .a lipper goop m
ule bray ing the wheeze l"
The 1st line ends w/ "s" & the 2nd begins w/ "ock" - the line break occurs mid-word. Having heard recordings of Bennett's reading many times I mentally hear his aggressive pronunciation, the alliteration of stutters & pauses as sound poetry. The middle of the 2nd line has a characteristic Bennett device: the placing of punctuation where it wdn't ordinarily go in its usual function. Here we have the word "tape" broken into "t" & "ape" w/ the "ape" beginning w/ a comma rather than the "t" ending w/ one. That problematizes the reader's reading. A casual reader might ignore it. A reader such as myself who accepts the challenge at least tries to imagine what a pause at the beginning of a word or a word-fragment might sound like. "faster", in the 3rd line, also begins w/ a comma & then there's ".a lipper".
In general, Bennett's 'punctuation' seems to serve more as visual poetry than as indicators of compartmentalization. The poem on p 62, eg, is titled ")". The next appearance of a close-parenthesis consists of 2 adjacent to each other, then 3, then 4, then 5. There's a progression but there's no open-parenthesis. In the same poem the capital "O" is written 'O' 1st & then [O]. "wasn't" becomes "wa,s,n't". I'm not sure Bennett articulates these sorts of abnormalities in a systematic way in every reading. I tend to think that he explores them spontaneously as sound poetry interruptions to conventional reading flow.
Much of the writing, for me, is viscerally imagistic w/o relying on context to give it meaning. Hence we have in the 1st poem "ruse or heavy wiping mean", wch is ambiguous as to what sort of "wiping" might be referred to, & "place )neck ((( green stool's teaming p ile my" - p 59 wch might refer to a green stool that one sits on or a green stool that one shits out &
"turated was ,that su
pperated bright bead
oozed 00ticking(( the" - p 60
wch might refer to a suppuration that oozes.. or, as in language poetry, there might be a process initiated in the reader that's not necessarily definitive as reference but, rather, infinitive as non-finite verb forms. Bennett's a slippery character:
"the dingle mot ,h ,ot
her all was ,indyclept" - p 45
The reader might get "moth" or "hot" or "mother" or "other" or "her". None wd be 'right', none wd be 'wrong'. The intermingling of 2 languages adds another layer of ambiguity:
"junk an clapping ,senda
way torn s hr oud ,ackt
pile hem porglosero ,fl
ender prim e g g rime me
ans o ne)kkid na(da ño
,the haw lobe ¡ chew so
r did knot ,heng lumbps
deflappy when ,spray an
born ,loud black miles
"when" o pulgateca glo
lawn groped the es)ca
(lera f l o j a" - p 8
I recommend this bk to all readers who don't speak English or Spanish. ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 25, 2015
Apr 25, 2015
Mar 19, 2015
Mar 20, 2015
Spat Cannon's Press Here and it will all Make Sense
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 20, 2015
See link at end for full review.
I've kno review of
Spat Cannon's Press Here and it will all Make Sense
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 20, 2015
See link at end for full review.
I've known the author of this bk since at least 1999. He was young at the time, maybe still a teenager or newly into his 20s. He was an anarchist at a time when anarchist political activism was surging in Pittsburgh. He was a musician & a poet inspired by popular forms of cultural revolt. He was quick-witted and amiable.
In the ensuing yrs we've participated in political activities together, he's participated as a masked nudist in 2 events of mine, he was in HiTEC (Histrionic Thought Experiment Cooperative), the 22-piece chamber orchestra I founded, he's been the explicator for the sound-track of a movie of mine, he's been a regular participant in the mms (m(usic(ian's))m(eeting)s) at my house, he's on the MM 26 CD. I've always enjoyed Spat's company, he's a good raconteur.
Throughout it all, we only saw each other sporadically but I've always kept somewhat in touch w/ his life. He moved to Leeds a while back but we still see each other as much as ever b/c he's frequently back in the 'Burgh. It was on Sunday, April 5, 2015 at mm 53 that he gave me this review copy of his new novel. 15 days later, I'm finished reading it. 15 days doesn't seem like much but I've read 4 other bks in the meantime so it seemed like a loooooonnnnnggg time for me.
What was my problem? Having known Spat for so long, having always had a good relationship w/ him, this novel struck me as a breakthrough of sorts in his life, as a big creative step forward. Spat has always been good at surviving on the economic edge but has sometimes seemed to lack the focus, the discipline, to produce a solid substantial work. This novel cd be it! So went my reasoning. As such, I was excited & eager to read it.
"Life always stood in the way of his ambition of being a writer. Poems he could harvest from discarded scraps on flophouse floors, but narrative, depthhow could he write a novel with all this chaos in his eyes? Lack of focus and impetuous decisions had always condemned him to middle management." - p 149
The problem w/ reviewing a friend's bk is simple: if you give it a good review, everyone's happy, the author's happy, the friendship becomes even stronger, life is good. But, for me, life is never simple, to me, writing the obligatory good-review-of-a-friend's-bk does intellectual standards a disservice. An honest review is what the world needs, not more bullshit.
DON'T MISUNDERSTAND: I am not giving this bk a bad review, the review might be more critical if I didn't know Spat, if we weren't friends, but, basically, I'm not giving it a bad review, I'm giving it a complicated one, one that acknowledges that I'm reading this from a somewhat deeply invested perspective & that that investment dominates the reading.
For one thing, this 'novel' is thinly disguised autobiography. People who know Spat will know this from the get-go. While Spat waxes philosophical & introspective in his guise as "Max Sutton", the narrator, for me the writing of it as 'fiction' gives it a strange feel of avoidance at times. I think I wd've preferred it as straight-forward autobiography. Of course, writing it as 'fiction' makes the interpersonal aspects less embarrassing & revealing for all concerned. Hence, it's perfectly reasonable for it to be fictionalized. Spat can tell the truth w/o having his fellow travelers feel too betrayed.
I'll say it now: I ended up liking this bk but it took me a while to get there & in the meantime I read 4 other bks as a way of avoiding the possibility that I might not like it at all. At 1st, reading a story w/ disguised friends & acquaintances was awkward: People who have fanciful names in 'real' life are then renamed in the bk to have fanciful names that just seemed all wrong, silly.
Press Here and it will all Make Sense is like a late addition to a tradition of novels written by punks & anarchists & political activists & fellow travelers of the 1980s on. It's a tradition that I pay some attn to b/c I feel like I've spent much of my life in the milieu & I've attached importance to the way the culture's taken shape. Perhaps the most direct contributions to my imagining of the lineage are:
We Should Have Killed the King - J. G. Eccarius, 1990; End Time - notes on the apocalypse - G. A. Matiasz (1994); Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed - Jacob Wren (2010). The novels of Stewart Home might fit in there too.
At the end of my review of Wren's Revenge Fantasies ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8... ) I wrote:
"I'm not opposed to the fictionalization of activist experience - after all, there're bound to be novelists who come out of activist backgrounds & it'll probably continue to be of interest to me to read what they do w/ their personal experience. I do hope that such writers at least TRY to address possible political consequences of such writing & I appreciate Wren's doing so. I wish him luck & will certainly make an attempt to read more by him - even though my own personal preference is probably to create work that sets examples rooted in real life rather than thru fictional proxies."
This quasi-'admonishment' is largely inapplicable to Press Here and it will all Make Sense insofar as Spat isn't really trying to politically propagandize as much as he's trying to just lay out his personal experience w/in a social context that includes political activism, punk music, illegal drug use, sexuality, & traveling - all intricately intertwined in the lives of many or most anarchists.
I haven't quite decided whether the yr that's covered in this bk was actually more like 5 or 6 yrs in Spat's actual life. Rather than just ask him, I prefer to speculate. The bk begins in a way that sets the tone of disillusionment & wandering:
"Max Sutton's dream had long been to tour the country playing music with his friends; now eight hours into his second trip out he had already grown weary. Pressing through vast stretches of American highways to play abbreviated sets to disinterested crowds in exchange for a floor to sleep on, some vegetarian food, and if lucky gas money to get to the next gig, somehow the D.I.Y. lifestyle had lost its appeal." - p 5
At the end of this brief tour, some of Max's friends are bound for Québec for a mass anti-globalization protest, presumably against the 3rd Summit of the Americas on April 2022, 2001. [Interested parties might look for a 30 minute movie about the protests called "In De-Fence of Democracy"] The narrative ends roughly a yr later when Spat returns from Brazil & gets immediately arrested. The circumstances of this arrest & his resultant trials & tribulations result in his becoming sober. I vaguely remember Spat's sobriety as being still somewhat new on March 31, 2007, when he acted as guest explicator for a presentation of my only super-8mm feature at Jefferson Presents... SO, for me, the one yr of the novel seems like 6 yrs of Spat's life. I'm probably wrong.
The details of the novel are familiar to many of us: "Over a colorful dinner of home grown vegetables and pastry and bread plucked from the dumpster of a local bakery, Peggy regaled the travellers with tales of her time as a migrant worker harvesting beets in Minnesota the previous autumn." (p 12) Beet & cranberry harvests being common ways of making a living for punk travelers.
I'm originally from BalTimOre & Pittsburgh's the only city I've lived in longer than there so references to the working-class sister cities (of sorts) also resonate as accurate to me: "When the two were together the energy was an unstoppable force, exhausting others who watched from the sidelines while the pair struggled just to keep up with each other. It was this connection that led the members of Electric Sheep to relocate to Pittsburgh when they grew frustrated with their home scene in Baltimore." (p 16)
Québec: ""C'mon," Nance took over the argument, "We're gonna shut down the summit, biggest action in years. They've been working on it for months, foam rubber armor, all out war, and Canadian cops are chumps, a real cakewalk compared to DC."" (pp 21-22) The latter probably being a reference to the April 16, 2000 International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank conference & the protests against it. Calling cops who're less violent than American ones "chumps" really rubs me the wrong way but I'm sure many people have this unintentionally ironic attitude. Why mock other countries for not being as militarized a police state as the US is? Personally, I'm glad that Canadian & Australian police, eg, aren't as gung-ho about assaulting protesters as US cops are.
Sutton's negative attitude toward protests is not one I share, having participated in 10s of them in multiple countries over the decades. I think when large groups of people protest it makes it obvious that people really do care. A lack of protest is a sign of complacency, a sign that gives the ruling elites (or the wd-be ruling elites) the signal that the population is too passive to resist whatever they feel like imposing.
" For the revolution, he lied to himself, shaking his head at the futility of protest. Aside from a few inspirational photographs from the front lines, nothing was ever achieved at these mobilizations. Sure, mass arrests pointed out the hypocrisytime and money wasted tying up an over-clogged (in)justice system-but that part never made the news. After the smoke cleared, the activists were always the ones paying the price, the months spent traveling to court dates to compensate for one afternoon's illusion of freedom." - p 23
What the news reports is somewhat besides the point. One of the reasons why the spin doctors are always hard at work twisting protests into actions by ignorant malcontents just out to break windows is b/c the powers that the spin doctors are lackies for are truly afraid of the truth reaching the masses. Therefore, the larger the mass that actually participates, the more the truth does reach the masses despite the not-always-successful lies of the propagandists.
It's also inaccurate to make it out as if everyone gets arrested at protests or that everyone ends up losing out financially as a result. The preemptive arrests at a park in DC at what was probably the same protest alluded to above were eventually ruled illegal by a court & many of those arrested rc'vd large financial compensations in a court ruling. It's important to protest & it's preferable to not get arrested for it. It's a drag to have to go thru the trials but the activists are NOT "always the ones paying the price". I'm an anarchist, so I'm not saying that the law 'works' or promoting law here - I'm just trying to preserve historical accuracy: sometimes the laws actually change or get clarified in favor of protesters: the Supreme Court decision, eg, that burning the American flag is not a crime being a case in point (although this has since been contested). William Kunstler & David D. Cole were the lawyers for the defense in that one & I was there at the trial in DC in 1984.
Sutton's acct of traveling in a poor person's barely functional vehicle is something I can identify w/ much more: "By the time they were back on the highway handling was nearly impossible. Next, visible smoke rushed out from under the hood. Then, at once, everything stopped. Max was barely able to pull off into a stretch of green as he watched Chubs and Rick merrily speed off back to their homes. / He was alone, abandoned in a dead truck full of expensive musical equipment in the middle of the Long Island Expressway. (pp 26-27) Been there, done that, hope to never do it again.
Of course, a part of the problem of being young & inexperienced is that you're less likely to know how to work on cars & less likely to spend what little money you have on something as cheap & sensible as AAA. Max's adventures largely revolve around an attitude of easy acceptance of risk-taking that often backfires on him. At least Cannon's telling of the tale strikes me as accurate, strikes me as something written by someone who's actually been thru it: "It was just a truck and him and a nine-hour drive." (p 34) IE: a 9 hr drive from NYC to PGH. That might not seem like a hard thing to get the time right for but I've heard many a person claim it's a 7 hr drive. NOT.
There's plenty of getting high in the bk & Sutton's lackadaisical attitude toward doing so, the classic 'recreational' drug user's attitude, is 'asking for trouble':
""You familiar with MDA?"
""You mean ecstasy?"
""No, no. I mean yes, but no. When people say ecstasy they're thinking of the modern counterpart MDMA. I'm talking M-D-A, it came first. The government created ecstasy to replace it, you know; it's cheaper, dirtier, leaves a hole in the brain, it's got no soul. MDA, the mellow drug of America, the hug drug, the most beautiful synthetic ever to be derived, it disappeared. But I brought it backthat's what they want me for. They don't want it back, but I brought it back ["]" - p 43
"["]This stuff is special, beautiful, powerful... I mean, I feel like I really tapped into telepathy. I could feel what other people were thinking.["]" - p 80
I've taken both MDA & MDMA (Ecstacy). I've never run across the theory that the "government created ecstasy to replace" MDA & find it unlikely. When I 1st took Ecstasy in 1986 it was sold w/ instructions about how to protect yr health while using it. I've heard from friends about muscular side-effects from MDMA use that're long-lasting & very unpleasant. I never had a bad experience w/ it but then I used it before cutting it w/ other drugs became common. By the time dealers started cutting it w/ heroin & other highly addictive & harmful drugs for raves & rave culture, Ecstasy had been ruined & rendered entirely too dangerous to be worth it anymore.
I also never experienced MDA as a telepathy drug. I thought of it as a focus drug. I remember taking it in the midst of one or 2 large social events finding myself very calm & concentrated in otherwise chaotic circumstances. The uncritical feelings of enthusiasm for one's fellow humans that one feels on Ecstasy reminds me of what William S. Burroughs criticized Timothy Leary for promoting as "love in a slop bucket". Burroughs was a great writer but he was also a junkie - that's hardly a recommendation for trusting his opinion. Both of them had philosophies that 'drugs are the answer' - one that I whole-heartedly don't share. Not everyone's ready for consciousness expansion at all times & consciousness suppression has never struck me as a good idea at any time.
Much of the writing at 1st seemed generic but Spat does pull out things like "even Stevie Wonder could've seen the clichés" wch might be a more common expression than I realize but still struck me as somewhat clever. It really wasn't until Max Sutton reaches Brazil that Cannon's descriptions were more vivid for me:
"It was nearly noon when they reluctantly hit the town. On the bus into Niteroi the scenery seemed nothing like the day before. Schools, children at play, the bus pausing for a horse that wouldn't leave the street, the whole thing seemed unreal. He wished for a better word.
"The stop in the center of Niteroi was more like he expected. Cracked stucco walls, primitive graffiti, storefronts that were garages or vice versa: the vehicles old and in disrepair, possibly abandoned or maybe just out running errands. In fact everything seemed dated and distant, as if he'd slid through a crack in time directly into Live Aid." - p 141
I've never been to South America, I've always thought it wd be better to learn Spanish or Portuguese 1st & I never have. As such, S America is 'inevitably' somewhat 'exotic' to me but, obviously, to the people who live there it's just home & North America wd be 'exotic'. As for the stucco walls being "cracked" & the vehicles being "old and in disrepair": well, there's plenty of that in the US too & sometimes '1st world' nations & the constant Keeping up with the iJoneses is a different type of handicapping, a handicapping where people who can't afford to keep up are left behind struggling to get things that don't have to be necessary but are made 'necessary' by a ruthless capitalism.
Traveler kids in North America, at least in this 2001ish era, got around by hopping trains & spanged (spare-changed) & dumpster dived to get food & booze. For people who travel the circuit of Renaissance fairs, selling home-made jewelry & entertaining in period-appropriate ways are common. For traveler kids in South America, the routine appears to be not that much different:
"Once the fire was roaring, two campers brought out small tin buckets; each was filled with the contents of a cheap bottle of Cachaça and several limes they'd picked up along the road. Ingrid explained that this was an inexpensive way of making Brazil's national cocktail. As the makeshift caipirinhas were passed, merriment broke down the language barrier. It seemed that most of their new friends were jugglers who also made jewelry, which is how Latin youth funded their wandering quests." - p 161
Cannon's "impetuous decisions" become particularly foolish when he decides to drink a psychedelic tea from a Brazilian plant that he knows too little about:
"Unsure of what the flowers were, all he knew is that they were
"" Trombeta," he was told the name. From side profile they looked merely like water lilies, or some sort of lilies-he'd never been good with botany-but each blossom was the length of his forearm and from head on appeared like a jagged six-sided star. At this point Luiz's eyes were nearly crazed with joy.
""These flowers are not long to be," Ingrid tried to express, "like whales, there are not many"
""Yes, that's the word, endangered, very rare. And we've found six. We'll take them and later make a great tea." - p 173
An endangered plant is made more endangered by taking its blossoms to get high off of. Bad idea. What if the plant protects itself by giving the user a death-trip experience that parallels what it, as a species, is going thru?
Sutton gets a warning: ""If you do drink the trombeta, you may see a-um, the word, a tiny wood guard-a gnome, you may see a gnome across the water. He will beckon you to join him but the water is deep. Many have drowned in joining the gnome."" (p 175) People who haven't experienced what one might call 'nature spirits' will most certainly scoff at such a thing. Having personally witnessed what I tend to call 'intelligent lightning' AND a gargoyle I'm not so skeptical. If I recall correctly, Spat says he did see the gnome. But some plants, such as loco weed, are too powerfully plant-consciousness-inducing to not have long-lasting dehumanizing effects on people foolish enuf to take them.
for the entire review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
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Apr 20, 2015
Apr 21, 2015
Nov 01, 1990
Keith Laumer's Zone Yellow
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 19, 2015
This is the 1st & only bk I've read of Laumer's written after review of
Keith Laumer's Zone Yellow
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 19, 2015
This is the 1st & only bk I've read of Laumer's written after he had a stroke in 1971. It was published in 1990. It's also part of a series that the last bk I read by him, Beyond the Imperium ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ), was a part of. Since a stroke or some other disabling thing can happen to just about anyone, myself included, I was hoping that this bk wd display Laumer's pre-stroke verve or, perhaps, some new touches of special intelligence - but I wasn't expecting it.
Alas, it was ok but not really anything new. The diplomat in Laumer, the person willing to ferret out a sympathetic POV for non-humans, is still in evidence. Even tho his hero's particular parallel world is being invaded by giant rats who're taking people as slaves, he still manages to not resort to genocide as the 'solution'.
"and reminded him that our side didn't murder helpless POWs.
""Helpless, hell, sir! Begging your pardon!" Helm burst out. "I've seen the rats swarming into town, eating folks alive!"
""Nevertheless, there's a hospital here," I told him. "And we're going to take this fellow—a general officer, by the way"—I was guessing, but that red stripe meant something—"over there and see what they can do."" - p 48
Ahh.. mercy & self-restraint - remember those? When it was part of the US PR image (if not in reality) to promote such traits? Before George W. Bush & Condoleezza Rice declared torture to be ok?! Those were the days!
& Laumer manages to do a few small things w/ language: ""'Tzl,'" the thing corrected. Gan none of you mongs learn to speag corregly?"" (p 13) Otherwise, much of the bk seems like something a(n un)creative writing student wd 'correct' for their job at the publishers. I wonder how much trouble H. G. Wells had w/ publishers suggesting rewrites of his work? War of the Worlds, eg.
""No wonder these rats don't show any fight, Colonel," Helm said. "They're sick." He nodded, agreeing with himself.
""Times we saw 'em in heaps," he added. "It explains that. Say, Colonel," he went on, 'you s'pose it's like in that book: they caught some kinda disease here they couldn't handle?"" - p 49
The rat general speaks: ""It is the high privilege and manifest destiny of the Noble Folk to occupy and make use of all suitable planes of the multi-ordinal All,"" (p 56) Laumer almost seems 'old-fashioned' here. To someone like myself, such imperialist justification parody is easy to relate to. I wonder: how many younger readers even recognize it as such?
The parallel universe stuff gives Laumer a chance to be a bit more surreal & to explore human fears of the mutated body: "Helm had gone back to watching the horrors on the screen: a vast heap of pale-veined flesh now, with human limbs and heads growing from it like warts. He wanted to know how such monstrosities could be." (p 82)
&, like most sequels, Laumer references predecessors, such as Beyond the Imperium, just like I did earlier in this review. Are Keith Laumer & I the same person?: "a humanoid species called the Xonijeel; maintained their own Interdimensional Monitor Service" (pp 82-83) &, Olivia, in the same Imperium bk, was influenced by an Oz bk just like the young princess is here: ""I think it would be lovely to be a real princess," she told me. She looked warmly at Helm. "Candy told me all about a place called Oz, and about Princess Ozma. I want to be like her." (p 159)
Alas, Laumer's bubbling volcanic zest for similes ain't much in evidence. The 1st one I noticed wasn't until p 92: "I was furious with myself, first for being weak as American beer, and second for being not able to handle it." At least I can honestly say that American beer brewing has progressed in leaps & bounds even if all-too-little else has.
& newish ideas seem largely lacking but this tidbit caught my fancy in its revolving door & ripped it off of me: "As a wisp of fog shifted I saw a shape, something that didn't belong in that landscape: a boxy, ornately decorated coach that needed only four handsome black geldings hitched to it to make an appropriate equipage for a queen."
"There was a white-wrapped bundle on the seat. A wail came from it.
"Djäveln!" Helm blurted. "A baby!"
"I stepped across into the coach, the physical contact with our shuttle creating an entropic seal that held back the external environment. The pink halo rippled, but held. It was temporal leakage from the imperfect temporal seal. I picked up the soft, blanket-wrapped bundle and looked at the face of a baby Ylokk." - p 100
All in all, the whole danged thing was very Alice in Wonderoutlandish: ""You don't understand, Colonel," he told me in a voice that was tight with anxiety, or whatever it was tight with. "We are in a most perilous situation. To be candid, I have attempted an experiment. I have transferred us across the Yellow Line, into the zone of the hypothetical["]" (p 150) To be Candide is to be tight. ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 19, 2015
Apr 19, 2015
Mass Market Paperback
Feb 01, 1986
Keith Laumer's Beyond the Imperium
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 16, 2015
I started getting interested in Laumer when I read my 1st review of
Keith Laumer's Beyond the Imperium
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 16, 2015
I started getting interested in Laumer when I read my 1st bk by him in June, 2013, Time Trap, & I read 8 more bks by him in quick succession w/in a mnth, ending on The Invaders, wch was made-for-tv crap. In the meantime, I bought every cheap bk by him I cd find, adding another 10 to the collection to equal a total of 19.
Now, after being disgusted w/ Laumer as a hack writer, I'm back to reading him again & enjoying it more & more. The 2nd Laumer I read was Worlds of the Imperium, the 1st of the Imperium tales to wch this bk, Beyond the Imperium, is a sequel.
In my review of the 1st bk I synopsized it by writing: "The basic plot being that there're parallel universes & that in many of them a way to navigate these universes was discovered but that in most cases this discovery led to the destruction of life on the planet where the discovery was made or even the destruction of the entire planet. 3 of these parallel worlds survived & inhabitants of one of them kidnapped an inhabitant of another to save them from the dictator of the 3rd - or so most of them thought." ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30... )
I'd read that Laumer had a stroke in 1971, after the 1st Imperium bk, & 10 yrs before the publication of this one, so I was looking forward to reading Beyond the Imperium as a post-stroke bk by him - essentially rooting for his recovery. Alas, instead, the 2 pts of this bk were copyrighted in 1965 & 1968, pre-stroke, & just not released in this form until 1981, post-stroke.
I liked it. It's the longest thing I've read by Laumer yet & I found it well-developed. One confusing thing is that on the copyright page "Book I, The Other Side of Time" & "Book II, Assignment in Nowhere" are referred to but in Beyond the Imperium, the labeling is: "Book I, Assignment in Nowhere" & "Book II, The Other Side of Time". I'll stick to the latter designation in my comments.
I liked Book I the most, Book II was a bit too sword'n'sorcery for my tastes. Both are adventure stories exemplified by passages like this: "I forgot all about the slug gun. I went through the door at a run, launched myself at the figure from whom heat radiated like a tangible wall and saw it turn with unbelievable, split-second speed, throw up a hand—five glowing fingers outspread—take one darting step back—
"Long, pink sparks crackled from the outflung hand, leaping toward me. Like a diver hanging suspended in midair, I saw the harsh electric glare, heard the pop! as the miniature lightnings closed with me. . . .
"Then a silent explosion turned the world to blinding white, hurling me into nothingness." - pp 16-17
I've mentioned Laumer's similes & my liking for them & their similarity to those used by early to mid 20th century crime fiction writers in other reviews &, once again, Laumer gives me more choice material to quote:
"The room was dark, silent, dusty and vacant as a robbed grave. I used an old tennis shoe in my mouth as a tongue, grated it across dry lips, made the kind of effort that under other circumstances had won luckier souls the Congressional Medal, and sat up. There was a ringing in my head like the echo of the Liberty Bell just before it cracked." - p 17
The hero of Pt I, Brion Bayard, finds himself in a dramatically changed world: "Barbro was gone—along with every other living thing in the Imperial capital." (p 21) What cd've happened?! He "backed away, flattened [him]self against the wall, remembering, for some unfortunate reason, a kitten that Gargantua had been very fond of until it broke. . . ." (p 33) Whatever it is, it's nothing that a little Rabelais reference can't spice up.
How many people learn about things from reading bks or watching movies? I've never tried to start a car w/o having the ignition key but I know that, at least in older cars, it's possible to pull out the wires behind the ignition & touch them to each other to close the circuit that starts the car. It's called "hot-wiring". Laumer provides us w/ 2 instances of this:
""Slide over!" I pushed in beside him, feeling the vehicle lurch as the men crowded in behind me, hearing the sprang! as a shot hit the metal body. There were no keys in the ignition. I tried the starter; nothing.
""I'll have to short the wiring," I said, and slid to the ground, jumped to the hood, unlatched the wide side panel, lifted it. With one hand jerk, I twisted the ignition wires free, made hasty connections to the battery, then grabbed the starter lever and depressed it." - p 162
""Quick, Anglic!" he snapped. "The leads there—cross them!" I wedged myself in beside him, grabbed two heavy insulated cables, twisted their ends together. Following the agent's barked instructions, I ripped wires loose, made hasty connections from a massive coil" - pp 53-54
Ok, so what if the 2nd instance (in my ordering) is a hot-wiring of a parallel universe shuttle, it's all the same, right? Funny how, in the movies, the car thieves usually just bust off the place where you put the key to get at the wires. They make it seem so easy.
Less than a wk ago I wrote a review of Laumer's Timetracks. In my review of the story "Time Thieves" I noted:
"Laumer even goes so far as to put the shoe on the other tentacle to show humans as fratricidal monsters:
"""Hairless! Putty-colored! Revolting! Planning more mayhem, are you? Preparing to branch out into the civilized loci to wipe out all competitive life, is that it?"" - p 99"
Well, Beyond the Imperium explores the same theme:
""But only you sapiens have systematically killed off every other form of hominid life in your native continua!" Dzok was getting a little excited now. "You hairless ones—in every live where you exist—you exist alone! Ages ago, in the first confrontation of the bald mutation with normal anthropos—driven, doubtless, by shame at your naked condition—you slaughtered your hairy fellow men! And even today your minds are warped by ancient guilt-and-shame complexes associated with nudity!" - p 61
Shades of "Hairballs, Wigs, and Weaves for Skinheads": http://youtu.be/b08MlvL-60k .
Dzok is a hairy member of the hominid family. To his mind, kidnapping human babies & raising them in his own culture is a way of making them civilized. That's the same thing that arrogant people of European ancestry did w/ the aboriginals in Australia, the Stolen Generation. A despicable practice. Once again, Laumer's putting the shoe-horn in the other glove to make the reader aware of just how despicable such things are:
"["]Managed to get myself assigned as escort to a recruitment group—all native chaps, of course—"
""Ahhh...Anglics, like yourself, captured as cubs . . . er . . . babies, that is. Cute little fellows, Anglic cubs. Can't help warming to them. Easy to train, too, and damnably human—"
""Okay, you can skip the propaganda. Somehow it doesn't help my morale to picture human slaves as lovable whites."" - pp 139-140
I don't know much, or anything, about Laumer's private life - such as whether he was married - & I don't feel like researching it at the moment, SO, I'll speculate that he was married & that that's a partial explanation as to why Brion Bayard is a married man faithful to his marriage even tho his wife has apparently ceased to exist & he's being helped under desperate circumstances by a fascinating woman:
"Sitting at the wobbly tables on the tile floors, often on a narrow terrace crowded beside a busy street, we talked, watched the people and the night sky, then went back to part at the flat door—she to her room, I to mine. It was a curious relationship, perhaps—though at the time, it seemed perfectly natural. We were coconspirators, engaged in a strange quest, half-detectives, half researchers" - p 116
A platonic relationship? That's a bit of a change in a Laumer story. It even stays that way after he finds that she's good w/ her hands: "Olivia was more than clever with her hands. I showed her just once how to attach a wire to an insulator; from then on she was better at it than I was." (p 121)
Laumer's thinking big w/ this one: "There was a paralyzing choice of cour[s]es of action open to me now—and my choice had to be the right one—with the life of a universe the cost of an error." (p 176) Imagine an epic SF novel in wch what's at stake is the life of a worm instead of the life of a universe. I'd read it.
Pt II starts off very differently than Pt I & features a hero named Johnny Curlon instead of Brion Bayard. Bayard plays a role but he takes a back-seat in the parallel worlds shuffle. &, yeah, there's even a broken-sword-to-be-brought-back-together-again-w/-great-effect thingie going on here. &, shucks!, Bayard's even in conflict w/ the Imperium!:
""Colonel, you're in considerable difficulty: absence from your post of duty without leave, interference with an official Net operation, and so on. All this will be dealt with in due course—but if you'll cooperate with me now, I think I can promise to make it easier for you."
""You don't know . . . what you're doing," Bayard got the words out. It wasn't easy; I knew what he was going through then. "There are forces . . . involved . . ."" - p 222
The problem is, you see, that ""Unless something is done now, at once, to reinforce the present reality, existence as we know it is doomed, Mr. Curlon."" (p 238) Do you ever have one of those days? But, I mean, what if reality-maintenance-traps were to disappear along w/ it? Wd we still be paying bills? Might not be so bad. After all, somewhere in all this mess:
"When we rolled into the outskirts of Londres, the town was carrying on some semblance of business as usual. The shops were open, and big canvas-topped buses rumbled along the streets, half full. We passed a big market square, lined with stalls with bright-colored awnings and displays of flowers and vegetables. At one side a raised platform was roped off. Half a dozen downcast-looking men and women in drab gray stood there, under a sign above the platform that said BULLMAN & WINDROW—CHATTELS. It was a slave market." - p 288
Once again, the parallel worlds story enables Laumer to mix together different periods. There's the slave market in London in the 20th century but there's also an elevator. It's not so unbelievable for the French to control England & for the same old, same old justifications to be used to excuse colonialism:
""Why not give the Britons their independence and save all that?"
"Garonne was wagging his head in a weary negative. "Milord, what you propose is, has always been, an economic and political fantasy. These islands, by their very nature, are incapable of pursuing an independent existence. Their size would preclude any role other than that of starveling dependent, incapable of self-support, at the mercy of any power which might choose to attempt annexation. A Free Briton, as the fanatics call it, is a pipe dream.["]" - p 292
& I like touches like the above so much that even the sword doesn't ruin it for me:
""Again, I underestimated you," he said. "Now I begin to understand who you really are, Plantagenet, what you are. But it's far too late to turn back. We meet as we were doomed to meet, face to face, your destiny against mine!" He lunged, and the False Balingore leaped toward me, and the true Balingore flashed out to meet it. The two blades came together with a ring like a struck anvil and the sound filled the world . . ." - p 311
This gives me a chance to quote a royal government website:
"The Plantagenet period was dominated by three major conflicts at home and abroad.
"Edward I attempted to create a British empire dominated by England, conquering Wales and pronouncing his eldest son Prince of Wales, and then attacking Scotland. Scotland was to remain elusive and retain its independence until late in the reign of the Stuart kings.
"In the reign of Edward III the Hundred Years War began, a struggle between England and France. At the end of the Plantagenet period, the reign of Richard II saw the beginning of the long period of civil feuding known as the War of the Roses. For the next century, the crown would be disputed by two conflicting family strands, the Lancastrians and the Yorkists.
"The period also saw the development of new social institutions and a distinctive English culture. Parliament emerged and grew, while the judicial reforms begun in the reign of Henry II were continued and completed by Edward I.
"Culture began to flourish. Three Plantagenet kings were patrons of Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English poetry. During the early part of the period, the architectural style of the Normans gave way to the Gothic, with surviving examples including Salisbury Cathedral. Westminster Abbey was rebuilt and the majority of English cathedrals remodelled. Franciscan and Dominican orders began to be established in England, while the universities of Oxford and Cambridge had their origins in this period." - http://www.royal.gov.uk/historyofthem...
Notes are private!
Apr 16, 2015
Apr 17, 2015
Keith Laumer's Retief: Emissary to the Stars
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 13, 2015
This is the 17th bk I've read by Laumer & I' review of
Keith Laumer's Retief: Emissary to the Stars
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 13, 2015
This is the 17th bk I've read by Laumer & I'm only just now getting to the character that's apparently his most well-known one: Retief. Retief's being the most well-known & popular doesn't mean I'd like him.. but I do. Retief is doomed to a lowly position in the diplomatic hierarchy largely b/c he's the one who's not out to succeed in climbing it. Instead, he sees clearly thru the bullshit & comes up w/ efficient & imaginative solutions to world-shaking problems. I like that in a fictional character. In my notes for this review, I marked the following passage as "very immediately funny":
""Get ready," Magnan whispered. "Here it comes."
""Oh, Magnan," Earlyworm spoke in tones of Lofty Kindliness (a modified 203-C). "If you've information to impart which you feel is of more value to the staff than the little announcement I have for you—pray rise, and share the intelligence with us all."
"Magnan swallowed a small tennis ball which had somehow lodged in his throat and smiled a glassy version of a 217-F (Sublime Confidence, Ehanced by Consciousness of Virtue).
""Now, Ben," Earlyworm soothed. "I hardly think even so sickly a 217 as yours—a subtle expression, and one you've never mastered, as I've pointed out repeatedly in my quarterly assessments of your career potential, and of which due note has been taken in high places; thus your glacial advancement through the ranks—even a sickly 217, I say, hardly represents an appropriate attitude for an erring junior to assume under mild and justified rebuke.["]" - pp 12-13
Laumer was reputedly an officer in the USAF & a US diplomat so a series about an interstellar diplomat is bound to be an exaggeration of his own experiences & of types of experiences he's heard of. Given that my own experiences w/ bureaucracy demonstrates that, just like w/ politics, the scum rises to the top, I get pleasure from Laumer's lampooning. Retief is often the only character in the diplomatic corps who just wants to take care of business & move on.
Having not really pd attn to the series, I don't know if this is the 1st of the Retief bks or even if Retief was originally intended to be the main diplomat character. I see on the Summary Bibliography provided by the Speculative Fiction database ( http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?211 ) that it's not the 1st. Instant answers! One might think he's somewhat marginal since he's still a bit of a side-character by pp 38-39:
""Staked out in the sulphur pits of Yush on Groac!" Magnan cried half an hour later, reeling back from the rank of stern-face judges who gazed down at him with expressions of mild curiosity. "You call that clemency? What would you hand down as a stiff sentence?"
""Easy, Mr. Magnan," Retief cautioned. "Don't tempt them.""
The Groaci are one of the main villain species &, of course, they're duly exaggerated - in this case as polluters: ""It's an outrage," Anne repeated, "that those sticky-fingered little Groaci should have the temerity to even make application to GROPE to have Delicia declared an authorized disposal area."" - p 49
This, in a story called "The Garbage Invasion". Even the 'good guys' are a bit suspect in the ecologically-conscious area: "The newly arrived vessel was indicated by a point of green light approximately a quarter mile distant. Retief noted the coordinates and punched them into the guidance console, the pressed the ACTIVATE button." (p 52) A quarter-mile away & they're driving. But at least there's time for opera, eh?!: "Anne activated the car's tape system and a Puccini aria emanated from the quad speakers." (p 52)
& even tho Retief [last name] is a new arrival to the planet where Anne [1st name] is in charge, Retief immediately feels free to expect Anne to be the food & drinks provider ['womanly duties'] at his beck & call:
""Why don't you take the car back, Anne? I'll escort Mr. Magnan over and we'll meet you at the office. It will give you time to mix us a couple of tall cool ones, and to punch in a nice dinner to celebrate Mr. Magnan's visit."
""How does fried chicken Sanders sound?" she asked." - p 53
Not too unusually, the cover of this bk has a fully dressed guy, presumably meant to be Retied, holding a gun [yes, phallic] in an erect position next to a blond woman wearing a bikini that barely covers her presumed pubic hair [wax job anyone?]. Maybe someday publishers will just have the women completely naked w/ their vaginal opening distended from recent entry & w/ some sperm dripping down their legs & on the tip of the gun. I'll make sure to request that if I ever write a SF novel for publication.
In a recent comment exchange between myself & Michael Grutchfield, a GoodReads reviewer whose reviews I respect, Grutchfield wrote about Laumer's similes thusly: "I tend to think of Chandler as the one who (over-?)relied on similes, not Hammett, although his would tend to be more refined than the above examples, so in a way there is something Hammett-like (or even Spillane-like) about the Laumers." ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) I like Laumer's similes & their frequency just adds to the humor of them for me:
""By all means," Magnan replied. "Unhappily, at the time of my departure, the GROPE docket was crammed with over one hundred urgent appeals from member worlds facing ecological breakdown due to the accretion of waste products both biological and industrial. For some curious reason Chief Ecological Coordinator Crodfoller allocated seventy-nine of these applications to me for solution, a task approximately equivalent in complexity to rescoring an equal number of Groaci nose-flute cadenzas for a steel bands, Jew's harp and comb." - p 55 [ok, it's not quite a simile but you get the idea]
&, as we all know, no pop culture can be w/o guns & tits:
""You don't have a gun, do you, Anne?" Retief inquired of the girl.
""I surely do," she replied. "No real lady would allow herself to be found alone on a planet with six big old rangers with no means of defending her honor." With a deft motion, she extracted a slim-barreled 2mm needler from her décolletage and handed it over.
""Amazing," Retief said. "I wouldn't have thought there was room in there for anything else." He tucked the gun into his belt." - p 59
Is there room between his erect penis & his belly for it to be held there?
Yes, pollution is a "time-honored institution" or, at least, one might think so if one were to listen to the proponents of 'free trade': "["]But seasoned veteran of the interplanetary conference table that I am, I'm fully aware that GROPE's function is a purely conversational one, for all their brave talk of attacking the time-honored institution of environmental pollution and of unnatural interference with inscrutable nature's weeding out of the unfit by ecological pressure, the history of galactic diplomacy assures us that no act so direct and effective as the use of force would be contemplated for a moment by that huddle of aging bureaucrats.["]" (p 69) One might say that it's to his credit that Laumer wrote this story sometime between 1966 & 1975 when concerns over pollution may've just started reaching a wider audience.
A sidenote here is that when I write notes for these bk reviews, I write them on the inside front cover in pencil, usually w/ inadequate lighting & no desk-like surface underneath the bk. That means my notes are often barely legible to me afterward. This is both efficient, since the circumstances of the note-taking are more comfortable & easy than sitting at a desk I don't have, & inefficient insofar as the resultant scribble is hard to navigate. The point here being that most readers, myself included, are not going to take into consideration the potential for error & misunderstanding that can be invisibly present in the circumstances of writing.
Retief is a sensible negotiator - even under gladiatoral stress:
""You there, fellow! I have a proposition for you. When the dire-beast makes his first charge, you step in and trip up this renegade crony of yours. While the carnivore is busy worrying his remains, you can enjoy a few extras seconds of joyous existence at his expense, while I'll net a pretty profit by backing the underdog. What say? How does the scheme strike you?"
""I've got a better idea," Retief said. "Slip us a couple of power guns and we'll confound the bookmakers by shooting up the menagerie, and bagging a few assorted customers as well."" - p 85
I haven't really pd attn to how Laumer's generally critically rc'vd so I don't know if I'm in a crowd or on my lonesome here but I always delight in the shoe-on-the-other-tentacle imagery: ""That whiteguard!" Harrumph croaked furiously, goggling his immense eyes at the Terran. "Inth is a mosst puissant alkaloid. Already I feel a quickening along my gloob conduits. No telling what it will do to a non-Haterakan. How do you feel, Bully?"" (p 88)
& some patriotic froo-froo lives on into future worlds: ""Well, golly," Magnan burst out. "Naturally I know all about the grand story of Furtheron—about the cherry tree and all, and all about the 'one if by rocket and two if by transmitter'; George just didn't happen to mention that part. All he said was about some Poor terry Trash, like I said."" (p 101)
"["]Now, what we at ACHE demand is that an end be put at once to this disgraceful planet-grabbing, like out of Furtheron." She placed her knobby fists on her lean hips and stared challengingly at Undersecretary Crankhandle.
""A commendable program, madam," he said smoothly. "Unhappily, the planet-grabbing is being done by another species, not by us; thus we find it difficult to terminate the outrage as briskly as desirable."
""I ain't no madam, you!" the lady interjected sharply. "You just keep a civil tongue in your head!"" - p 121
Sadly typical of such 'man's-man' adventures as Laumer's, the sympathetic women are conventionally sexualized & the unsympathetic ones might have "lean hips" [not good for breeding]. Laumer's activists, like all of his characters, tend to be spoofed so they're as ignorant as the spin doctors like them to be portrayed in 'real life'. While that might be too often the case, it's not as often as foes of opposition to business-as-usual wd like the general public to believe.
Anyway, the ACHE activist here, as an Ignorati, takes offense at the word "madam" as something suggestive of a woman running a whore-house. I'm reminded of a story from my own life (surprise, surprise): I was working a job where I wanted to park a truck in a parking space conveniently near the doorway where we were to load in our gear. A woman was about to move her car from the parking space we wanted.
My coworker asked me when we'd be able to get to work & I sd something to the effect of "as soon as that lady moves her car.' Now the woman was 50 ft or so away & my comment was a blasé answer to my coworker & not directed at the woman but she overheard it & shouted at me to the effect of 'I'm not a lady, don't call me that!!' to wch I replied 'I'm sorry, what wd you like me to call you?' & she replied: 'Anything but lady, call me sir!!' Apparently, in her circles, calling a woman 'lady' is something that marks her as old. But, to me, this was typical Ignorati arrogance - she took it for granted that she had the right to tell me how to speak - even tho I was obviously trying to be neutrally respectful. Don't fuck 'em all, let Somebody-Else's-God sort 'em out.
Retief uses whatever means he finds necessary & expedient to work for what he considers to be the better good - including sabotaging a warlord's spaceship:
""We might," Retief said. He took from his pocket a small metal cylinder and tossed it up and caught it. "While I was looking at the emergency boost gear," he said casually, "the auxiliary converter solenoid sort of jumped out and landed in my pocket."
"Gracious! Magnan said. "Won't that prove awkward for Ambassador Honk when he tries to shift into hyperdrive?"" - p 125
Retief has a wry wit, or, perhaps when he's drinking alcohol, a rye one:
""That comment has a rather cynical ring to it, Mr. Magnan—how can you tern our luxurious facilities imaginary, when you've seen the actual programming documents which call for construction to begin within six months of funding the project, which will no doubt take place within a year or two of the submission of the CDT construction program, which I'm sure will rank high on Ambassador Fullthrottle's agenda—as soon as he achieves full Embassy status or the Mission here on Sogood."" - p 146
It's absolutely not important for you to read these stories, even tho I'll give them a 4 star rating. I'm sure we both have better things to do. Nonetheless, if you feel the need to 'escape' this bk will help you do the job maybe better than a candy-bar wrapper embedded in concrete & it'll be better for yr teeth. ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 11, 2015
Apr 13, 2015
Mass Market Paperback
review of Keith Laumer's Timetracks
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 11, 2015
This is the 5th bk by Laumer I've read in a row in the last mnth. I review of Keith Laumer's Timetracks
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 11, 2015
This is the 5th bk by Laumer I've read in a row in the last mnth. I started off basically justifying reading them by saying that I'm depressed & they help me get thru the day (better for you than meds, eh?!). Then I started liking his writing again w/ Dinosaur Beach
( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ) &, dagnabbit all to shit'n'shinola if I didn't like this one even more.
Timetracks is a collection of 5 stories written from 1963 to 1970. The 1st one, "Timesweepers", was the basis for Dinosaur Beach. I've criticized John Brunner (&/or his publishers) by writing "Polymath (1974) is just a slight rewrite of Castaways World (1963) wch was part of an Ace Double." In other words, I expect the worst when I read a novel based on a novella or a short story or vice versa. The rewrites are often just token excuses for a reissue of not much merit. In this case, I'm happy to say that the rewrite is more substantial & I enjoyed reading both the novel & the original story.
Dinosaur Beach is 151pp & "Timesweepers" is 40pp. The difference between them isn't just filler & fluff. In this original story, the main character's name & address are different than in the novel:
""It's vital that I speak with you, Mr. Starv,"" - p 4, "Timesweepers"
""It's vital that I speak to you, Mr. Ravel,"" - p 9, Dinosaur Beach
"brought out a card with an address printed on it: 309 Turkton Place." - p 5, "Timesweepers"
"brought out a card with an address printed on it: 356 Colvin Court." - p 11, Dinosaur Beach
Ok, I realize that that's a completely unimpressive comparison. But, wait!, the changes become more substantial soon thereafter:
""You've made an error," Blackie said, and turned away.
"From the corner of my eye I saw the other half of the team trying a sneak play around left end. I caught him a few yards past the door.
"It was a cold night. Half an inch of snow squeaked under our shoes as he tried to jerk free of the grip I took on his upper arm." - p 7, "Timesweepers"
""You've made an error," Blackie said, and turned away.
""Don't feel bad," I said. "Nobody's perfect. The way I see it—why don't we get together and talk it over—the three of us?"
"That got to him; his head jerked—about a millionth of an inch. He slid off his stool, picked up his hat, My foot touched the cane as he reached for it; it fell with a lot of clatter. I accidentally put a foot on it while picking it up for him. Something made a small crunching sound." - p 12, Dinosaur Beach
Satisfied now? That scene's much more thoroughly developed in the novel. "He leaned sideways quite slowly and hit the floor like a hundred and fifty pounds of heavy machinery." (p 9, "Timesweepers") The "Karge" in "Timesweepers" had gained weight by this point (& lost a letter in his name): "He leaned sideways quite slowly and hit the floor like two hundred pounds of heavy machinery." (p 15, Dinosaur Beach) Maybe 150 lbs wasn't really heavy enuf to qualify as "heavy".
Not only did the Karg gain 50 lbs, but the protagonist gained 50 IQ points: "For a fraction of a second, I had enjoyed an operative IQ which I estimated at a minimum of 250."(p 28, "Timesweepers") "For a fraction of a second, I had enjoyed an operative IQ which I estimated at a minimum of 300."(p 132, Dinosaur Beach) Gee, if I believed in God (I don't) I'd ask IT to rewrite my story so that I'm skinnier at age 61 & ask IT to make a few other improvements. Ok, I'm just showing you that I pay attn (somewhat) when I read but indulge me a little more:
"I was still dizzy from the shock of the transfer. Otherwise I would probably have stayed where I was until I had sorted through the ramifications of this latest development. Instead, I started toward the end of the pier. It was high and wide—about twenty feet from edge to edge, fifteen feet above the water. From the end I could look down on the deck of the pseudo-galleon, snuggled up close against the resilient bumper at the end of the quay." - p 18, "Timesweepers"
"A sense of vertigo that slowly faded; the gradual impingement of sensation: heat, and pressure against my side, a hollow, almost musical soughing and groaning, a sense of lift and fall, a shimmer of light through my eyelids, as from a reflective surface in constant restless movement. I opened my eyes; sunlight was shining on water. I felt the pressure of a plank deck on which I was lying; a pressure that increased, held steady, then dwindled minutely.
"I moved, and groaned at the aches that stabbed at me. I sat up.
"The horizon pivoted to lie flat, dancing in the heat-ripples, sinking out of sight as a rising bulwark of worn and sunbleached wood rose to cut off my view. Above me, the masts, spars, and cordage of a sailing ship thrust up, swaying, against a lush blue sky. Hypnobriefed data popped into focus; I recognized the typical rigging of a sixteenth-century Portuguese galleass." - p 37, Dinosaur Beach
Nice, huh? From pier to sea. If he'd managed to write an epic based on this story the galleass might've been in a storm in outer-space. Since I already knew the gist of "Timesweepers" I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I did the following 4 stories.
"The Devil You Don't" is one of those the-devil-as-a-humorously-sympathetic-character stories. Since I think the devil's a fiction, it's always a relief when IT's treated accordingly instead of bending-over-&-spreading-it to the-gospel-according-to-the-biggest-bully.
"Dimpleby put out his hand. "Lucifer, hey? Nothing wrong with that. Means 'Light-bearer.' But it's not a name you run into very often. It takes some gumption to flaunt the old taboos."
""Mr. Lucifer came to fix the lights," Curlene said.
""Ah—not really," the young man said quickly." - p 48
I actually did know a young guy back in the mid 1980s who claimed that his parents named him "Lucifer". But that's another story. In this one, since it's FICTION, there's a nice twist that deviates from the usual mythology:
""But what about?" Dimpleby prompted. "What about Hell?"
""It's about to be invaded," Lucifer said solemnly. "By alien demons from another world."" - p 53
This is somewhat similar to something that I pointed out in Rudy Rucker's Postsingular: "One thing I like about Rucker's work is the way he explains fanciful mythology, angels, eg, by using contemporary General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology (or ideas from other scientific arenas) - even if he is playing fast & loose w/ them." ( "Upping the Nante": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... )
""Look, I'd better fill in a little background for you. You see, Hell is actually a superior plane of existence—"
"Curlene choked on her ale in a ladylike way.
""I mean—not superior, but ah, at another level, you understand. Different physical laws, and so on—"
""Dirac levels," Dimpleby said, signaling for refills." - p 54, Timetracks
That, of course, stimulates me to look up "Dirac levels":
"Imaging the two-component nature of Dirac–Landau levels in the topological surface state of Bi2Se3
"Ying-Shuang Fu, M. Kawamura, K. Igarashi, H. Takagi, T. Hanaguri, & T. Sasagawa
"Journal name: Nature Physics, Volume: 10, Pages: 815–819, Year published:(2014), DOI: doi:10.1038/nphys3084
"Received 10 February 2014, Accepted 04 August 2014, Published online 14 September 2014
"Massless Dirac electrons in condensed matter are, unlike conventional electrons, described by two-component wavefunctions associated with the spin degrees of freedom in the surface state of topological insulators. Hence, the ability to observe the two-component wavefunction is useful for exploring novel spin phenomena. Here we show that the two-component nature is manifest in Landau levels, the degeneracy of which is lifted by a Coulomb potential. Using spectroscopic-imaging scanning tunnelling microscopy, we visualize energy and spatial structures of Landau levels in Bi2Se3, a prototypical topological insulator. The observed Landau-level splitting and internal structures of Landau orbits are distinct from those in a conventional electron system and are well reproduced by a two-component model Dirac Hamiltonian." - http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/v...
I don't understand that but I love the language. Wish I'd written it in a trance or while indulging some free association of stream-of-consciousness.
""There've always been humans with more than their share of vital energy. Instead of dying, they just switch levels. I have a private theory that there's a certain percentage of , er, individuals in any level who really belong in the next one up—or down. Anyway, Yahway didn't like what he saw. He was always a great one for discipline, getting up early, regular calisthenics—you know. He tried telling these fellows the error of their ways, but they just laughed him off the podium. So he dropped down one more level, which put him here; a much simpler proposition, nothing but a few tribesmen herding goats. Naturally, they were deeply impressed by a few simple miracles."" - pp 55-56
"Lucifer shook his head bemusedly. "Professor, did you ever have one of those days when nothing seemed to go right?"
"Dimpleby pursed his lips. "Hmmm. You mean like having the first flat tire in a year during the worst rainstorm of the year while on your way to the most important meeting of the year?"" - p 56
& THAT gives me a most adequate excuse for quoting myself. From Monday, August 1, 2005 'til Monday, July 31, 2006, I kept a journal of sorts called "POSITIVE". The idea was that I was too negative & I wanted to force myself to pay more attn to positive things that happened to me during each day for a yr. Here's a relevant excerpt:
"Saturday, October 22nd, 2005EV
"Ok, as is sometimes the case here, the day wasn't too promising on the "positive" end: I got a flat riding my bike to work in the cold rain, I fixed it in the rain, I got ANOTHER flat riding home from work in the rain, I tried to fix that one & failed. FORTUNATELY, when I still had 2 miles to walk in the cold rain pushing my bike Katie Doody stopped & offerred a ride. Thank you, Katie!!
"Had a LONG conversation w/ Germaine about things like my relationship w/ the Church of the SubGenius.
"Sunday, October 23rd, 2005EV
"Well! Yesterday I got YET ANOTHER FLAT in the rain so I didn't mention that before because I didn't want to strain TOO MUCH to squeeze something positive out of it but today I got a 4TH FLAT IN 24 HRS & had a stranger offer me a ride while I was trying to fix it yet again! SO, THAT was POSITIVE.
"Then I succeeded in fixing it enuf so it didn't get a flat on the way home from work."
In "The Time Thieves" I had to laugh: A guy gets hired to protect a collection of valuable paintings by staying in the vault w/ them:
"Dan looked around at the gray walls, with shelves stacked to the low ceiling with wrapped paintings. Two three-hundred watt bulbs shed a white glare over the tile floor, a neat white refrigerator, a bunk, an arm-chair, a bookshelf and a small table set with paper plates, plastic utensils and a portable radio—all hastily installed at Kelly's order. Dan opened the refrigerator, looked over the stock of salami, liverwurst, cheese and beer. He opened a loaf of bread, built up a well-filled sandwich, keyed open a can of beer." - pp 78-79
"He finished his sandwich, went to the shelves and pulled down one of the brown paper bundles. Loosening the string binding the package, he slid a painting into view. It was a gaily colored view of an open-air café, with a group of men and women in gay-ninetyish costumes gathered at a table." - p 79
Anyone who works in a museum or archiving knows how ludicrous this is: food and BOOZE in the vault?! To attract insects & cause dangerous drunkenness in the people therein?! Bright lights to cause possible fading?! The guard actually being able to casually handle the art?! Not bloody likely.
""Wait!" Snithian shrilled. "I can make you a rich man, Slane"
""Not by stealing paintings."
""You don't understand. This is more than petty larceny."
""That's right. Those pictures are worth thousands."" - p 108
The reader can tell that this story wasn't written in the late 20th century, it was written in 1963 to be exact. By the time of this review, even painters that this writer considers to be utter hacks of the worst order, in particular Christopher Wool, sell paintings for prices in the millions:
"The final price for Apocalypse Now, including the buyer’s premium paid to Christie’s: $26.4 million. It had appreciated roughly 350,000 percent in 25 years."
& that's 'cheap' compared to some other crap sold the same night at the same auction on November 12, 2013:
"By the end of the night, the auction at Rockefeller Center would make history many times over. As auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen’s hammer fell on lot after lot, the figures posted on the screen behind him were as eyepopping as the works on display. A Francis Bacon triptych set an auction record for any artwork, at $142.4 million. Jeff Koons’s sculpture Balloon Dog (Orange), at $58.4 million, set a high mark for a living artist. An Andy Warhol picture of a Coca-Cola bottle sold for $57.3 million, pushing the overall take that night to $692 million, at the time the biggest single sale of art ever." - http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/...
I find human priorities nauseatingly suspect. As the authors of the above twice-quoted article, Vernon Silver and James Tarmy, point out:
"The same $142.4 million spent on the Bacon triptych at Christie’s would have funded India’s entire Mars orbiter mission—twice. Koons’s Balloon Dog, a 10-foot-tall stainless-steel rendition of a child’s party favor, went for roughly the same amount the White House recently requested to develop an Ebola vaccine."
But who cares about an Ebola vaccine when you can have "Koons’s Balloon Dog, a 10-foot-tall stainless-steel rendition of a child’s party favor"? Think of how happy its resale value will make you feel as yr guys liquify inside you?! But I digress.
"["]I'd like you to act as my agent in the collection of the works."
""Nuts to you!" Dan said. "I'm not helping any bunch of skinheads commit robbery."
""This is for Ivroy, you fool!" Snithian said, "The mightiest power in the cosmos!"" - p 110
That's exactly the attitude of this bunch: http://youtu.be/b08MlvL-60k
Laumer's one of the prominent humorists in the SciFi world when he's at his best, wch I reckon her is in Timetracks:
""Too bad." The words seemed to come from underneath the desk. Dan squinted, caught a glimpse of coiled purplish tentacles. He gulped and looked up to catch a brown eye upon him. The other seemed busily at work studying the ceiling.
""I hope," the voice said, "that you ain't harboring no reactionary racial prejudices."
""Gosh, no," Dan reassured the eye. "I'm crazy about—uh—"
""Vorplischers," the voice said." - p 88
Laumer even goes so far as to put the shoe on the other tentacle to show humans as fratricidal monsters:
""Hairless! Putty-colored! Revolting! Planning more mayhem, are you? Preparing to branch out into the civilized loci to wipe out all competitive life, is that it?"" - p 99
The result being that our hero, Dan, is relocated to somewhere where he can't do any harm:
""Life In a Community Center is Grand Fun!" (Dan read), "Activities! Brownies, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Sea Scouts, Tree Scouts, Cave Scouts, PTA, Shriners, Bear Cult, Rotary, Daughters of the Eastern Star, Mothers of the Big Banana, Dianetics—you name it!" - p 102
Laumer always gives us a happy romantic ending. I like happy romantic endings, maybe I'll even encounter one in real life sometime:
"She looked up at him, smiling, her lips slightly parted. On impulse, Dan put a hand under her chin drew her face close and kissed her on the mouth . . ." - p 118
Then there's "The Other Sky". On the 1st page of the story it's written: ". . . perturbation in the motion of Pluto. The report from the Survey Party confirms that the ninth planet has left its orbit and is falling toward the Sun." - p 121 In my recent review of Laumer's The House in November ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... ) I wrote:
"This casual mention of Pluto was made during the time Pluto was considered to be a planet. I imagine that any references to it these days wd be subtly different. This gives me an excuse to quote at length from NASA's website:
"Discovered in 1930, Pluto was long considered our solar system's ninth planet. But after the discovery of similar intriguing worlds deeper in the distant Kuiper Belt, icy Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet."
""But—what happened to Olantea?"
""It found a new orbit at last, far from its sun. You call it Pluto."
""And the remains of the moon are the asteroids," - p 189
"["]If we nudge Olantea from its cold orbit and guide it back to its ancient position, fifth from the Sun. once more it will flower." - p 193
I don't recall whether the yr of the story is specified but it's implied in this: "On the nine-hundreth floor he stepped out". (p 130) Too bad the view was probably ruined by the surrounding 3,000 story bldgs. On Pluto, we find a variation on Robin Hood or elves or Robin Hood & the Elves or whatever (Gulliver's Travels): "A shaft stood abruptly in its throat. It fell backwards. Vallant raised his head; a troop of tiny red and green-clad figures stood, setting bolts and loosing them." (p 152) "Vallant complied, groaning: he felt a touch, twisted his head to see a two-foot ladder lean against his side. A small face came into view at the top, apprehensive under a pointed hat." (p 156)
& the small face of the reader came into view over the top of the bk & read "Mind Out of Time".
THE END. ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 07, 2015
Apr 12, 2015
Keith Laumer's Dinosaur Beach
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 3, 2015
That was fun. This is the 4th Laumer bk I've read in the past fe review of
Keith Laumer's Dinosaur Beach
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 3, 2015
That was fun. This is the 4th Laumer bk I've read in the past few days. I made a bit of fun of 2 of them as hack work. I looked him up online & read in one place that he had a stroke in the early 1970s & that he cdn't write for awhile after that but that he eventually started writing again. Here's one person's take on him:
"John Keith Laumer was an extremely successful man, an author who kept fit, always. It was therefore more difficult for him when he suffered a massive stroke in 1971 that paralyzed one side of his body and part of his brain and therefore his mind."
"He was a master of his mind but he could no longer write. He tried, over and again but the paralysis took control of his mind and the rage drove everyone away.
"His writing suffered horribly. He could not write but he was published. It seems apparent no editor would tell Keith Laumer, a world famous author, that he could not write any longer. The publishers were too interested in taking advantage of Keith as he tried desperately to live up to his previous mastery." - http://www.keithlaumer.com/biography.htm
That's a tough break. Everything I've read so far was written up to 1970 but not beyond. Dinosaur Beach was published in 1971. I have 4 more laying around that I might read next. At least 2 of them were written post-stroke. It'll be interesting to see how his writing's changed. Given that I, too, might one day be the old-person-who-has-a-crippling-experience, I'm rooting for Laumer. I'm hoping that I find redeeming qualities in the writing that the above-quoted fan didn't.
In the meantime, I enjoyed this Laumer more than the other 3 I've read recently. In my most recent review of one of his bks, The World Shuffler, I started by quoting the 1st paragraph:
"It was a warm autumnal afternoon in Artesia. Lafayette O'Leary, late of the U.S.A., now Sir Lafayette O'Leary since his official investiture with knighthood by Princess Adoranne, was lounging at ease in a brocaded chair in his spacious library, beside a high, richly draped window overlooking the palace gardens, He was dressed in purple kneepants, a shirt of heavy white silk, gold-buckled shoes of glove-soft kid. A massive emerald winked on one finger beside the heavy silver ring bearing the device of the ax and the dragon. A tall, cool drink stood at his elbow. From a battery of speakers concealed behind the hangings, A Debussy tone poem caressed the air." - p 1, The World Shuffler
Now cf that to the 1st paragraph of Dinosaur Beach:
"It was a pleasant summer evening. We were sitting on the porch swing, Lisa and I, watching the last of the pink fade out of the sky and listening to Fred Hunnicut pushing a lawn mower over his weed crop next door. A cricket in the woodwork started up his fiddle, sounding businesslike and full of energy. A car rattled by, its weak yellow headlights pushing shadows along the brick street and reflecting in the foliage of the sycamores that arched over the pavement. Somewhere a radio sang about harbor lights." - p 7, Dinosaur Beach
Ok, there are some formulaic similarities. The season & place are established, the paragraph ends w/ music referenced. I don't claim this is great writing but expressions like "yellow headlights pushing shadows" & "a radio sang about harbor lights" please me. Headlights, strictly speaking, don't "push" anything (they illuminate the area they drive toward) & radios, strictly speaking, don't sing (the humans being broadcast by the radios do). The writing's just figurative enuf to make it not dryly predictable.
"Then I lifted the pistol I had palmed while he was arranging the chairs, and shot him under the left eye.
"He settled in his chair. His head was bent back over his left shoulder as if he were admiring the water spots on the ceiling. His little pudgy hands opened and closed a couple of times. He leaned sideways quite slowly and hit the floor like two hundred pounds of heavy machinery.
"Which he was, of course."
Right off the fiddling cricket bat, the reader is notified that there are machines posing as humans out to get the narrator. Of course, I'm reminded of James Cameron & Gale Anne Hurd's 1984 Terminator, the extremely popular SciFi story-become-movie about a robot posing as human traveling back in time to kill someone whose future influence is threatening the robot's hegemony. Oddly, this same robot became governor of California after that. Go figger. Anyway, I'm glad Laumer got to this type of story 1st.
""Beautiful, don't you agree?" the Karg said. He waved a hand at the hundred or so square miles of stainless steel we were standing on. Against a black sky, sharp-cornered steel buildings thrust up like gap teeth. Great searchlights dazzled against the complex shapes of giant machines that trundled slowly, with much rumbling, among the structures." - p 104
"In the case of the space garbage, it had taken half a dozen major collisions to convince the early space authorities of the need to sweep circumterrestrial space clean of fifty years' debris in the form of spent rocket casings, defunct telemetry gear, and derelict relay satellites long lost track of. In the process they'd turned up a surprising number of odds and ends, including lumps of meteoric rock and iron, chondrites of clearly earthly origin, possibly volcanic, the mummified body of an astronaut lost on an early space walk, and a number of artifacts that the authorities of the day had scratched their heads over and finally written off as the equivalent of empty beer cans tossed out by visitors from out-system." - p 18
I'm stretching things a bit here but one might even say that military-man Laumer was a mite bit ahead of peacenik Ed Sanders in regard to the latter's 1972 "Beer Cans on the Moon" ecological warning song - or, at least, roughly contemporaneous to it. In short, I found much more to laud in Dinosaur Beach than I have in t'other bks I've read by him recently. I even liked this bit of love-sickness:
"But every train of thought led back to her. If I tasted a daka-fruit—extinct since the Jurassic—I thought Lisa would like this, and I'd imagine her expression if I brought a couple home in a brown paper sack from the IGA store at the corner, picturing her peeling them and making a fruit salad with grated coconut and blanched almonds. . . ." - p 22
I like the way he sneaks in "a daka-fruit—extinct since the Jurassic" in the context of domestic bliss & segues into the details of a 1939 food store (presumably period-accurate) & foods that might be combined w/ the daka. Nice.
&, yeah, once again again, there are some similarities to The World Shuffler, written in fairly close proximity to each other, the narrator keeps encountering himself - in the 1st case b/c of parallel worlds, in this case b/c of time-traveling:
"I took three steps and stooped and picked up the gun. It was a .01 microjet of Nexx manufacture, with a grip that fitted my hand perfectly.
"It ought to. It was my gun. I looked at the hand it had fallen from. It looked like my hand. I didn't like doing it, but I turned the body over and looked at the face.
"It was my face," - p 43
I've sd it before & I'll say it again again again, I like time travel & parallel worlds stories b/c of the way their logic 'permits' all sorts of things that wd be illogical in more conventional stories - & I seem to like Laumer's writing the best when he's writing in those niches. As the character travels in time, Laumer takes advantage of the possibilities to imagine a prehistoric Earth as well as a future one:
"It was cold on the beach; the sun was too big, but there was no heat in it. I wondered if it had engulfed Mercury yet; if the hydrogen phoenix reaction had run its course; if Venus was now a molten world gliding along the face of the dying monster Sol that filled half its sky." - p 123
In other words, a red giant. Not a Red Star, mind you, That's a Pittsburgh based Adult Kombucha Brewery that I'm hereby promoting b/c my friend who runs it works too much & needs to make more money off it. Ahem. Has yr perception just been changed by knowledge?
"I saw the immaculate precision of the Nexx-built chamber disintegrate in my eyes into the shabby makeshift that it was, saw the glittering complexity of the instrumentation dwindle in my sight until it appeared as no more than the crude mud images of a river tribesman, or the shiny trash in a jackdaw's nest." - p 144
Anyway, all isn't really right in the world but romance wins out in the end - but what will the children be like? ...more
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Apr 03, 2015
Apr 03, 2015
Apr 01, 1984
Keith Laumer's The World Shuffler
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 2, 2015
Ahhhh.. Laumer... This is the 3rd bk I've read by him in the review of
Keith Laumer's The World Shuffler
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 2, 2015
Ahhhh.. Laumer... This is the 3rd bk I've read by him in the last few days. I didn't exactly rave about the last 2 ("The Day Before Forever" and "Thunderhead": https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... & The House in November: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... ) but I must admit they've been serving a vital purpose for me: distracting me from the downside of my life.
I've got about $20 to live off of for the next wk, many of the machines I have around me that I use for various constructive purposes are broken, I have barely enuf food, I only have a few friends, I stay home alone most of the time. These are all '1st world' problems, I live in a house full of bks & tools, I barely have to work (altho I cd certainly use more), I'm working on repairing an accordion - yet another skill I can add to my vast skill-set that I won't make a cent off of. Enter Laumer: I can read this lit-lite & be distracted. I've got 5 more of his bks unread to get thru, they'll help me make it to my next pay period, I'll stay just engrossed enuf w/o having to expend much intellectual energy - it's a good balance.
Laumer has written some real trash, the made-for-tv The Invaders is about as bad as he gets - but he'll never stoop as low as, say, Mickey Spillane. This'll be the 12th one I've reviewed. I've even given 4 stars to 3 of them (The Great Time Machine Hoax: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15... , The Monitors: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16... , & Nine by Laumer: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63... ). In my review of The Time Bender ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/88... ), the precursor to this one, I even wrote:
"Keith Laumer, my new temporary favorite SF writer - a shordurpersav in SubG lingo. Of the previous 3 bks I read by Laumer, 2 were time travel stories & one was a parallel universe travel story so there's a commonality there that borders on gimmickry but I don't care, I like the stories."
The World Shuffler as a sequel to The Time Bender is funny enuf, the same characters in different permutations b/c they're in parallel universes. Whenever I refer to funny, gimmicky, formulaic SciFi I refer to Ron Goulart, whose work I like. Goulart's funnier for me than Laumer but Laumer's less formulaic. If you've read one Goulart you've read them all (well.. not really) but they're like chocolates w/ cherry interiors & you keep gobbling them down (well.. I do, you might not). The story begins w/ Laumer's idea of an ideal idyll:
"It was a warm autumnal afternoon in Artesia. Lafayette O'Leary, late of the U.S.A., now Sir Lafayette O'Leary since his official investiture with knighthood by Princess Adoranne, was lounging at ease in a brocaded chair in his spacious library, beside a high, richly draped window overlooking the palace gardens, He was dressed in purple kneepants, a shirt of heavy white silk, gold-buckled shoes of glove-soft kid. A massive emerald winked on one finger beside the heavy silver ring bearing the device of the ax and the dragon. A tall, cool drink stood at his elbow. From a battery of speakers concealed behind the hangings, A Debussy tone poem caressed the air." - p 1
Do you ever wonder about the names authors choose for their characters? I figure most authors wd rather not have their character names be evocative of an actual person b/c that might not be good for sd actual person. Hence names like "Lafayette O'Leary": a not-completely-unbelievable name but one whose mixture of French & Irish wd at least make it somewhat unusual.
"She skipped aside from his lunge, brought up the iron skillet, and slammed it, with a meaty thud, against the side of his uncombed head. He took two rubbery steps and sagged against the counter, his face six inches from Lafayette's.
""What'll it be, sport?" he murmured, and slid down out of view with a prodigious clatter." - p 24
When I was reading this, I made a note to myself asking whose writing was published 1st: Goulart's or Laumer's? Laumer was born earlier but Goulart's satire was published 10 yrs or so before Laumer's apparent 1st date of publication. Ergo, I falsely conclude, Goulart invented humor & Laumer is not worth mentioning. [That was a joke, a not-very-funny one]
Lafayette undergoes constant threats to his life.
""You enjoy being a torturer?"
""That ain't a term us P.P.S.'s like mister," the man said in a hurt tone. "What we are, we're Physical-Persuasion Specialists. You don't want to get us mixed up wit' these unlicensed quacks, which they're lousing up the good name of the profession." - p 79
Yes, in the World of the Future, the victim must be more sensitive to his or her tormenter, eh? After all, people like The Blond Angel (see my review of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's The Buenos Aires Quintet:
https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) were 'only doing their job', right? Torturers are often depicted as dumb brutes but they're often 'sensitive people of taste' like this member of the royalty:
""Slow down, Rudy," Lafayette wagged an admonitory finger. "How about giving some thought to the little lady's tastes?"
""Eh? How could she object to chopped chicken livers washed down with Pepsi and Mogen David while a steel band plays variations on the theme from the 'Dead March from Saul'?"" - p 88
& that's an advantage of parallel worlds stories: the author can mix up different time periods & fictions into one O'Leary stew: Pepsi w/ flying carpets, eg, & it all makes sense.
Ever since I learned (or relearned) the word "susurrus" from its being the title of an electroacoustic piece by my friend James Mansback Brody, a new category of literature has appeared in my mind: the category of bks that use the word:
"Lafayette's eyes roved around the room. It was ivory-walled, tile-floored. The soft susurrus of air-conditioning whispered from a grille above the door." - p 116
Imagine organizing yr bks on yr bk-shelves according to whether they use the word "susurrus" or not: 100 bks that do, 5,000 bks that don't. Or it cd be bks that use the word "hebephrenic" (as the late, great "Blaster" Al Ackerman was so fond of doing), bks that reference flying carpets, & bks that include all 3.
""Now you want to be careful of the carpet, Slim" the Customer Relations man said as he rolled out the six-by-eight-foot rectangle of what looked like ordinary dark-blue Wilton carpet. "The circuits are tuned to your personal emanations, so nobody can hijack her. She's voice-operated, so be careful what you say. And remember, there's no railings, so watch those banked turns. The coordination's built in, naturally, but if you're careless—well, keep in mind you've got no parachute." - p 137
"I'm turning in a report to my PR rep that will clean out this whole nest of hebephrenics before you can say 'noblesse oblige!' "" - p 214
In the end, who cd dislike a bk that's so forward-thinking?:
"". . . can't imagine what it's about," a male tenor was exclaiming. "Unless it's my investiture as Squire of Honor to the Ducal Manicure coming through at last . . ."
""Gracious knows it's about time my appointment as Second Honorary Tonsorial Artist in Attendance on the Ducal Moustache was confirmed," a fruity baritone averred. "But what a curious hour for the ceremony . . ." - p 220 ...more
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Apr 02, 2015
Jan 01, 1971
Keith Laumer's The House in November
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 31, 2015
I wrote a review of a Laumer bk yesterday ( https://www. review of
Keith Laumer's The House in November
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 31, 2015
I wrote a review of a Laumer bk yesterday ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... ). That was about all I got done yesterday. Not a good day. Today's not much better, the only slightly substantial thing I've done today is take apart an accordion, now I know a little more about accordions, maybe I'll take my last few dollars & buy some carpenter's glue so I can try to fix it. Who cares, right? Get to the fucking bk review, right?!
This is another hack work by a hack writer who had some 'success' a few yrs before this bk came out w/ his Invaders wch was made into a tv series. I reckon he was trying to milk the last pennies out of the-things-from-outer-space-that-imitate-humans-who're-gonna-kill-us-all type story b/c that's what this is.
"There was a sharp thwack! of the mechanism, the stiff jolt of the recoil. Six inches of bright steel stood quivering against the bright-patterned chest. Mallory realized quite suddenly that the "shirt" was not a garment; it was part of the not-man's body, molded with it. . . ." - p 34
Mallory's trying to figure out what's going on, he's got amnesia, has the army fought the invaders?
"A hundred yards from his starting point, a burned out tank rested on its side in the ditch. So the army had fought—and lost. He plodded on, head down against the chill wind, headed north into the dark countryside." - p 36
It's ambiguous, there're a multiplicity of interpretations:
""There's been a war," the elderly man said cooly. "A short war—one which the United States failed to win. The country has been invaded. We're under occupation by Soviet troops."" - p 40
Is it the Russians? The Chinese? Devils? Aliens? Disease?
""Satan's clever," Brother Jack said. "Oh, I underestimated him. I'll confess to you that for years I was skeptical in my heart. I spoke the word of God, but in my private thoughts I was an unbeliever. That's why He loosed Satan on the world, you see, I admit it. I'm the guilty one!"" - p 75
""No . . . invade is not the correct word," the old man said. "Your planet is not occupied; it's infected. They're not invaders; they're a disease."" - p 94
The bk's 'dated' in a way that caught me off-guard:
""Then one day I caught a faint echo from deep space. I monitored it, watched it grow until there was no longer any doubt: A Mone space pod was approaching, had in fact passed the orbit of Pluto, and was falling sunward with gradually increasing velocity. In short, the day long-dreaded was approaching. the Mone was here.["]" - p 98
This casual mention of Pluto was made during the time Pluto was considered to be a planet. I imagine that any references to it these days wd be subtly different. This gives me an excuse to quote at length from NASA's website:
"Discovered in 1930, Pluto was long considered our solar system's ninth planet. But after the discovery of similar intriguing worlds deeper in the distant Kuiper Belt, icy Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet. This new class of worlds may offer some of the best evidence about the origins of our solar system.
10 Need-to-Know Things About Pluto:
1. If the sun were as tall as a typical front door, Earth would be the size of a nickel and dwarf planet Pluto would be about the size of the head of a pin.
2. Pluto orbits our sun, a star, at an average distance of 3.7 billion miles (5.9 billion kilometers) or 39.5 AU.
3. One day on Pluto takes about 153 hours. That's the time it takes for Pluto to rotate or spin once. Pluto makes a complete orbit around the sun (a year in Plutonian time) in about 248 Earth years.
4. It is thought that Pluto has a rocky core surrounded by a mantle of water ice with other ices coating its surface.
5. Pluto has five known moons. Pluto is sometimes called a double-planet system due to the fact that its moon Charon is quite large and orbits close to its parent planet.
6. There are no known rings around Pluto.
7. Pluto has a thin, tenuous atmosphere that expands when it comes closer to the sun and collapses as it moves farther away -- similar to a comet.
8. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is the first mission sent to encounter the Pluto-system and other members of the Kuiper Belt.
9. Scientists do not think Pluto can support life as we know it. Although, some scientists believe it is possible Pluto could possess a hidden ocean under its surface.
10. Pluto was considered a planet from 1930, when it was first discovered, until 2006. The discovery of similar-sized worlds deeper in the distant Kuiper Belt sparked a debate which resulted in a new official definition of a planet. The new definition did not include Pluto." - https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/...
Wasn't that fun? That little bit of quoting from NASA is the only thing that even makes this shitty little review worth writing. Imagine if I were writing this review under the conditions described in the next The House in November quote:
""But—Jeff Mallory—there is no human race to save. Surely you know! The first act of the Mone pod on picking a breeding site is to broadcast a killing gas which wipes the planet clean of organic life except in the protected area of the nest. The people of your city of Beatrice live—as mindless slaves of the Mone. All the rest, Jeff Mallory, are dead!"" - p 111
Some people are such downers, always looking on the negative side. But when the chips are down, there's nothing like a little mind-melding to save the day:
"Awareness of a woman's self-picture flooded into his mind; all the memories and complexities of a full human existence were comprehended in a single polyordinal gestalt. For a fractional instant he sensed her startlement at the strange touch invading her identity, the beginning of a flash of atavistic fear; then he had shunted aside her feeble ego-assertion reflex, adding the computational and conceptualizing circuitry of her mind to the Mallory/Strang duality." - p 146
Whatever. I'm being cynical here but Laumer's bk is better than my review of it so I deserve more criticism than he does. I enjoyed it, it served its purpose for today, escapism n'at. ...more
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Mar 31, 2015
Mar 31, 2015
Keith Laumer's "The Day Before Forever" and "Thunderhead"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 30, 2015
Ok, regular readers of my reviews m review of
Keith Laumer's "The Day Before Forever" and "Thunderhead"
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 30, 2015
Ok, regular readers of my reviews may know by now that when I read a Keith Laumer bk it's b/c I'm extremely depressed & I want something simple & undemanding to read to tide me over while I try to recoup my energies. It's kindof like taking a laxative to get the Fallon out of you.
The weird thing about this one is that I'm sure I read the Thunderhead story before but I can't find it anywhere in my library or in my bk reviews. On the other hand, I don't remember reading The Day Before Forever at all. In the past few yrs I've gotten into the habit of putting a check mark next to the title & writing in pencil underneath the title the date of finishing it after I've read the bk. This bk isn't so marked, therefore, this is not where I read Thunderhead before.
Ok, ok, that's neither here nor there. This is 2 novellas. Laumer was off & on in the military at the same time he was writing SF. Sometimes he's cynical about that, sometimes he tells stories that're basically military stories - the 'classic' spiders-from-outer-space-threatening-humanity type of stuff that many people probably think is all there is to SciFi. It's not.
In "The Day Before Forever, the world's human population is high: "We can't have the dead waking up, they tell us: there's no room for them, with a world population of twenty billion." (p 26) & class is nicely articulated in slang: "["]we live in a rigidly stratified society; Dooses know little of the activities of Crusters; Threevees never venture down to Forkwaters; and no graded citizen ever sets foot dirtside, among the visaless Preke rabble."" (p 32) This is, in most ways, a typical 'manly' adventure story:
"Blood was pumping from a wound in his back I couldn't have covered with my hand. I hooked his arm and he was on his feet; his legs were like broken straws, but his knife was in his hand.
""Leave me . . ." he sucked in air and it bubbled. ". . . by the door . . . I'll greet . . . the first one . . . through . . ."
"I slung him over my shoulder and ran." - p 51
& it has the typical manly-man-gets-woman trope:
""What are you doing?" She was right there, with an arm around me, propping me up. "Are you trying to kill yourself?"
"Her hand was against my bare back; it was smooth and warm. The arm that went with it was nice too. I put an arm around her, pulled her to me." - p 62
As generic as Laumer's writing is, tho, it's rare that I read something that doesn't have something in it to surprise me: "I was an untagged man, and as invisible to them as an Indian was to General Braddock." (p 69) A reference to the history of my neck of the woods! Wasn't expecting that. Slang expressions & euphemistic vulgarity & ways of not speaking directly while still being circumspect are always fun too: ""Excuse it kid, I was up all night, and I don't mean walking the baby," and patted her hip going past." (p 86)
So much for my 'review' of The Day Before Forever in wch there've been spoilers at all. Now, on to Thunderhead wch, for all I know, I've already reviewed somewhere. In it, he tries to provide some semblance of believability & respect for the spider-'monster' other:
"The One-Who-Records expelled a gust of the planet's noxious atmosphere from his ventral orifice-array, with an effort freed his intellect of the shattering extinction-resonances it had absorbed. Cautiously, he probed outward, sensing the strange fiery mind-glow of the alien . . ." - p 148 ...more
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Mar 30, 2015
Mar 30, 2015
Jun 21, 1994
May 15, 1995
Orson Scott Card & Kathryn H. Kidd's Lovelock
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 25, 2015
Another "too long" review - this time about review of
Orson Scott Card & Kathryn H. Kidd's Lovelock
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 25, 2015
Another "too long" review - this time about a bk I didn't even like that much (but still found 'redeeming' value in). See the full review, called, not aprticularly cleverly, "LoveLessLock", here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Some popular fiction, Science Fiction in particular, is sometimes notorious for having misleading covers. If the contents of the bk aren't likely to completely appeal to the marketing niche then a cover that does appeal to that marketing niche might be called for. Hence, this bk has a hi-techie 'outer-space adventure' look to it: there's a spaceship approaching a space stn w/ the Earth & the Moon in the background.. - &, yeah, there's some of that in the bk.. but it's mainly contextualizing to enable plot devices.
Otherwise, the bk's pure 'Peyton Place'. How many readers of today remember that expression? Is it still in use? "Peyton Place" was, 1st, a 1956 novel, &, 2nd, the 1st American Soap Opera on primetime TV from 1964 to 1969. It was a very popular series full of drama & sexual themes. As an expression, something was "Peyton Place" if it was melodramatic. This bk isn't Space Opera, despite its largely taking place off-Earth, it's Soap Opera that isn't selling soap.
I've seen Card's name on bk covers, I didn't know anything about him, the bks always struck me as probably lo-end SciFi b/c they're usually serials - serials don't have to be conceptually lo-end but they're often marketing niche products meant to suck the reader in in the same way that soap operas do - thru engagement w/ cliff-hanger situations for protagonists, that sort of thing. As such, I didn't have much interest in him. I'm more interested in bks w/ substantial ideas rather than consumer-engagement psychology.
Nonetheless, I'll usually give a SF writer a whirl - esp if I get one of their bks cheap, as I no doubt did this one. I'd never heard of Kidd before. Sure enuf, this is the 1st bk of a trilogy. Hopefully, I'll be resistant to the psychological manipulation & I won't read the following 2 bks. I don't think they'll be worth my time.
There's a "Foreword: On Collaboration" by Card in wch he writes about some of the forces behind such bks: "I realized this when a book packager approached me with the idea of putting together a series of "collaborations." My job would be to come up with a plot outline and some basic world creation for science fiction novel. then a young, unknown (i.e., desperate) writer would be engaged to do the actual word-by-word writing." (p ix) Fair enuf, he acknowledges the "collaboration" as a business strategy.
He goes on to explain that he chose Kidd b/c she "had been my friend since back in the days when she was a reporter for the Desert News and I was an assistant editor at The Ensign in Salt Lake City. I had been a witness at her wedding to Clark Kidd. And I had goaded her into writing a Mormon novel to help me launch my small publishing company, Hatrack River Publications. that first novel of hers, Paradise Vue, has gone through three printings and has given a new shape to Mormon publishing". (pp xi-xii) I admit to almost putting the bk down &/or trashing it immediately. A Mormon SF novel?! Gimme a fucking break.
Still, once I start reading something, I usually give a bk a fair chance. I even have a peripheral scholarly interest in Christinane attempts to co-opt Science Fiction in what I consider to be an attempt to reel-in believers thru popular media that currently provides mythology that wd've previously been mainly provided by religion.
So, eg, I have a bk that I haven't read yet called Cloning Christ. I've watched movies like Left Behind & Lost City Raiders. None of what I've checked out has been particularly compelling. At a more serious, non-SF, end of the movie-making spectrum there's Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski's Dekalog based on the "Ten Commandments".
I actually expected to like & respect the Kieslowski work b/c I'd seen
some of his movies around 1995 & thought they were well-done. HOWEVER, checking him out again in the 2010s I've found his work utterly insufferable. They're so obviously designed to make their viewers feel sick & 'sinful' that they're just sickening. In fact, for me, they reinforced the feeling that Christians are the real Satanists, the people ever on the move to degrade & enslave their fellow humans to make a buck. I'm sure Kieslowski got plenty of money from the Catholic Church.
In an online article ( http://www.christiantoday.com/article... ) called "Ten amazing Christian rapture movies that culture Left Behind", author Martin Saunders writes about the DVD packaging for A Thief in the Night: "The first of four films about the rapture, presumably involving a big clock, a van, and a woman with a melting face. If that's not scary enough to get you into church, nothing is." - & there you have it: the idea is to scare you into church. Forget about having some sort of ethics that binds you to yr fellow human beings, that's ultimately beside the point, eh?!
Card concludes his foreword by claiming "we wanted you to know that whatever flaws this book might have did not result from having a junior writer do the real work on an outline written by a senior one. This a true collaboration from beginning to end." (p xiii) That might be the case but it doesn't really seem that way to me. Given that I haven't read either of their work before but I 'know' that Card's a SF writer & that Kidd, before this, was a straight novelist it seems fair to me to conclude that the outline context is Card's & the soap opera drama filler is Kidd's. In other words, sorry, Card, I'm not convinced by yr claim.
What was ultimately strange for me in this &, therefore, somewhat engaging, is that the bk is an atheist's 'nightmare': religious people being launched off-planet in an "Ark" to colonize another planet w/ all the stupidest behavior - not their stated motive, of course, but the gist of a major part of it. What made it particularly strange is that almost all of the narrator's observations about human nature critique the worst characteristics of religious people that I noticed as a child growing up in almost exclusively Christinane surroundings.
The narrator is an enhanced monkey who's been programmed to be loyal to the scientist that he serves as a "witness". The monkey's isn't necessarily religious (it's somewhat ambiguous) & he's definitely snarky:
"The most obnoxious mourner was, of course, Mamie, the she-human who gave birth to Red. At least Stef's chatter showed that he had mastered the rudiments of speech. Mamie went around touching everything, caressing it, as if she thought by stroking the pewter tea set on the dining room buffet she could wake it up and entice it to tag along with us. Touching—grooming—that's a primate behavior that I indulge in. But I'd never groom a metal pitcher." - p 5
Right away, we get a sample of the intelligence-enhanced monkey's contempt for the family matriarch. What surprised me was that the observations so neatly jive w/ my own observations about human nature at its most underhanded & hypocritical & manipulative & that women are esp targeted. The authors don't take an explicitly Mormon standpoint, a central character, Carol Jeanne, is Catholic & she bids farewell to her nun sister before leaving Earth:
""I know your covenant is for a lifetime," said Carol Jeanne, "but don't you think you can serve God out there, too? Don't you think people will need you there?" And then her voice breaking a little, she added the words that were hardest to say. Don't you think I'll need you?"" - p 9
A "covenant is for a lifetime", what a perfect way to trap well-meaning people into slavery. Shd they take the Inquisition w/ them off-planet too? B/c, let's not forget, Giordano Bruno was tortured & burnt at the stake in public by the Catholics for contesting the Aristotelian notion that the Earth was the center of the universe, right? I mean, every good Catholic knew that the Sun revolved around the Earth. Just try using that belief when you're making the math calculations for getting a spaceship off-planet. No, the space pioneers 'need' a nun along like a hole-in-the-head, a trepanation hole in the head.
Still, what's weird about this bk is that if both the authors are Mormon why are they using a monkey as the narrator? & why is the narrator saying things like this?:
"I had my own ideas about what God, if he existed, must think of me. If he had wanted creatures like me to exist, he would have arranged it himself. There was no one like me when Adam was naming the beasts. If there was anyone like me in the mythical Garden, it was a certain talkative snake." - p 12
So what exactly is the authorial POV? Are they using the monkey & the monkey's perspective to ultimately debase the intelligence of the monkey's POV?, the potential atheistic/scientific POV? Or are they just Mormons who're accepting of the Mormon society they live in? Maybe going for the Mormon dollar?
When I think of Mormons, I think of the murder of Travis Victor Alexander, presumably by his ex-girlfriend Jodi Ann Arias, & of all the sexual twistiness surrounding the Mormon angle on that. I also think of the movie Licensed to Kill about gay-bashers in prison, most of whom seemed to be gay themselves, &, specifically about a child who was adopted into a Mormon family who grew up to be a closet gay man who turned into a killer of gay men - largely perverted by his adopted family's suppression of his sexual identity. In other words, I think of Mormons as suppressing healthy sexuality in a way similar to the way Catholics do it - the result being a world full of child-molesting priests.
The funny thing about this bk, is that its 2 Mormon authors don't deny this sort of thing, they even seem to revel in its drama - so why stay religious? Do they think that it's basic human nature to be so confused & hateful? & that it's better to allow religion to control you b/c you're too stupid to 'improve' otherwise? I'm reminded of an anti-anarchist cliché to the effect of 'without government people would just kill each other!' Well, maybe not, maybe government & religion are actually 2 of the main forces that increase the killing. Modern day Islam certainly seems to prove that point - & let's not forget the mania for conquering that Christinanity has. This bk is full of references to "God":
"The shuttle was just like the suborbital space cruisers that ran the one hour intercontinental express routes. The same fetishistic cleanliness. The same simple opulence that made you think you were flying to meet God instead of just going to another conference." - p 14
From my POV, the authors really nail manipulative behavior that most people don't seem to want to talk about:
"As for comforting Emmy, however, that was not to be. Emmy wasn't fully human yet, but she could certainly tell the difference between Mommy and not-Mommy, and Mamie was definitely in the not-Mommy category. The crying continued without slackening.
""You dear child, there must be something I can do with you," she said. There was now an edge to her voice. Patience was wearing thin. After all this trouble to get across the aisle, it would hardly do if she were shown to be ineffectual as a grandmother." - p 23
Maybe this bk is just catty but the motives of most of the main adult women are completely hypocritical & false - just like they were to me as a child growing up in a Christinane environment. THEN, there's the debased Pavlovian manipulation of the "witnesses", the non-humans:
"I knew my feelings of persecution were absurd. I wasn't being persecuted in particular. I simply belonged to an oppressed species. Which, in Earth at least, included every species that wasn't human. Most nonhumans didn't mind, of course. Most
nonhumans didn't even know they were being exploited, domesticated, dominated, and spiritually annihilated by the master race. Only I and a handful like me." - pp 31-32
In other words, the authors are using the enhanced monkey narrator to put forth an animal rights position - one that I, an atheist (& carnivore), personally, agree w/ - & one that's as antithetical to Christinanity as much as Bruno's positions were to the Catholic Church. Humans, according to the bible, were created in God's image - end of story, beginning of justification of oppression by divine rights. So, what are the authors doing here? Are they in favor of animal rights? If so, how do they jive it w/ being Christinane? Or are they, as I've hinted at above, simply co-opting contemporary, in this case ethical, positions in the interest of making the church seem OK again?
The snarkiness doesn't stop w/ jabbing at the phony passive aggressive women, let's take a stab at the French, eh? "The person in charge was French; therefore she felt no need to explain anything to anybody." (p 34) No doubt ALL French people are like that. NOT.
Most Science Fiction manages to envision a future in wch the banal control-freak religions of the writer's age are going, going, gone - the end of a Dark Age. Not this bk. The monkey's perspective on the Ark:
"Dividing communities by language made sense to me. But it was a typical human absurdity that, after language, the next important set of divisions was religious. Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Espiritistas: All had their own villages. Those groups with too few practitioners to maintain villages of their own—Baha'i, for instance, and Sikh, animist, atheist, Mormon, Mithraist, Druse, native American tribal religions, Jehovah's Witnesses—were either thrown together in a couple of catch-all villages or were "adopted" as minorities within fairly compatible of tolerant villages of other faiths.
"The whole thing struck me as absurd. Why didn't they simply limit the colony to rational human beings who were above the petty concerns of religion, and spare themselves all these meaningless dogmas and hostilities?
"The answer, of course, was that they couldn't have found enough rational human beings on Earth to fill the Ark. A man might be a brilliant scientist, but he was still a Hindu, and there was no hope of him living peacefully with a Sikh; or he was a Jew, and the Muslims would allow him only second-class citizenship at best. A certain woman might be the greatest gaiologist in the world, and perfectly rational, but she had grown up Catholic, and so her Episcopalian mother-in-law would always look down on her and "her people."
"Even most of the "rational" people—the ones who claimed to not have a religion—were just as chauvinistic about their irreligion, sneering at and ostracizing the believers just the way the believers treated nonmembers of their own groups. It's a human universal. My tribe is above all other tribes. That's what religion is—just another name for tribalism in a supposedly civilized world." - pp 37-38
It seems that the authors are putting their own thoughts into the monkey's 'mouth' - but, if that's so, why are they still Mormons (if they are)? & do they really find humanity so hopeless? I think there's hope for humanity & that religion is one of the biggest obstacles. Nonetheless, as an atheist I'd never call for the suppression of religion or the murder of someone based on their religion. That, of course, distinguishes me from Fundamentalist Christinanes & Moslems the world over whose blood-lust against atheists is called to my attn frequently enuf.
The mayor of the main characters' village on the Ark is also seen as disgusting. The size of her breasts is frequently alluded to in an insulting way. "She reached out a hand. Constricted by gaudy rings, here fingers were as bloated as sausages. I was tired. I couldn't stop my reflexes. I bit her." (p 40) "You can't be serious." Penelope's chest quivered when she talked. "It would be an affront to everyone in Mayflower Village. People will be here from all sixty villages, and Mayflower has to feed them all. Though I suppose you're so important that people will overlook it if you don't do your fair share."" (p 42)
The endless passive aggressiveness. & all this shitty human behavior is being exported to another world. Great. Just fucking great. I recently review Ron Moody's The Four Fingers of Death in wch the 1st Mars colony falls apart due to somewhat less banal human shittiness (see my review here: "The Middle Finger of Life": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) but in Lovelock it's like the main hopes for humanity's future are such a small minority that one might as well give up hope from the get-go.
""There is a lift," Penelope said, turning her most helpful face toward Red and Mamie. "For heavy loads." Since Pink hardly qualified, the remark seemed vaguely pointed at Mamie—and from the look of faint disgust on here face, Mamie didn't miss the barb, either. It was pretty absurd, coming from Penelope; although Mamie was round, she was small enough that each of Penelope's breasts probably outweighed her." - p 46
Catty, & not convincingly the viewpoint of a snarky enhanced monkey, more probably the viewpoint of a woman author whose breasts aren't large. Then again, it is fiction. The authors take a dig at Presbyterians & Mormons both. That was vaguely 'fun':
""We're pretty open-minded here. Presbyterians are tolerant folks. All religions are the same, anyway, as long as they're Christian. In fact, we even have three Jewish families who live with us, because Bethel Village is too Orthodox for them, and there are also some Mormons because nobody else wanted them. They have their own services, of course, but otherwise you'd never know they belonged to a cult."" - p 51
As I was reading this, I kept thinking that the story wd get past the petty human nastiness & the religion & get to the science fiction part, but NOOOOO.. it goes on.. & on.. & constitutes the bulk of the bk's contents:
""I was a prayer partner of Odie Lee's," the woman said. "She was always the first to know who had a problem and lead the prayers on their behalf."
"I heard another woman's voice mutter in the row behind us, "That's because her husband couldn't keep his mouth shut." Someone shushed at here. "Cyrus told her everything we ever said to him in confidence."" - p 62 ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 24, 2015
Mar 25, 2015