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it was amazing
Ron Goulart's Clockwork's Pirates / Ghost Breaker
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 22, 2016
READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE: https://www. review of
Ron Goulart's Clockwork's Pirates / Ghost Breaker
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 22, 2016
READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This being an Ace Double, these are the 38th & 39th bks I've read by Goulart so there must be something I like about his writing very much. W/ that in mind, I'm going to hereby make the bold move of giving this double bk a 5 star rating wch puts it in the company of Finnegans Wake. THAT is absolutely absurd but, then, so is Goulart's writing & I like absurdity. Goulart has an imagination & keeps pumping vivid characters into his plots. Take the idea of a "composite agent":
"The agent's voice shifted to a deeper tone. "Let me do the talking," he said in a new voice. "Fatso won't ever come to the point."
""Hello Mort," said Sand, "How are you?"
""How would you be if you were part of a fat nitwit?"
"Sand's left eye seemed always about to wink. He looked at the Political Espionage agent for awhile, then up at the noon sun. "Well, if it was either that or being dead, I'd pick that."
""You never saw me before the accident," said the agent in his Mort voice, "I was a tall good-looking young guy.""
""Okay, admittedly there wasn't much left of either of us after that cruiser explosion three years ago," said Ralph. "Not enough for two complete PEO agents anymore. But more than enough for one good agent." His voice turned to Mort's. "Enough for half a good agent and half a dumpy nitwit."" - p 6
I'm reminded of Mark Twain's great story about conjoined twins who hate each other, "The Comedy Those Extraordinary Twins" (1894). Goulart's quirky & often borderline dysfunctional characters in general remind me of Jonathan Lethem's detective w/ Tourette's Syndrome, Lionel Essrog, as he appears in Motherless Brooklyn (1999). Clockwork's Pirates being from 1971. The following excerpt not only gives another example of Goulart's imaginative characters & shows foreshadowing but also ends w/ a typical Goulart humorous twist:
""Yes, Leodoro. It's some kind of strange city, no one is quite sure where. They say the inhabitants are animal men. We do have some of those here and there elsewhere." He sighed. "This is really no planet to try and bring up a daughter."" - p 11
Just as Lethem's Essrog has difficulty controlling his utterances so does Priceless over-rely on his "now-now" speech crutch & act uncontrollably clumsy:
"["]I can't, now-now, do everything perfectly, even though my mother had such great expectations, now-now, and named me Priceless. A burden rather than an inspiration my name has been." He clutched the reports together and dropped them on the marble table-top, then stumbled out through the draperies.
"After he was definitely gone, Sand said, "He's not a spy? For you or somebody?"
"Governor Peaquill smiled, chuckled. "Priceless? He's much too clumsy to work at intrigue."" - p 14
There's almost no let-up in Goulart's motley crew of fantastic beings:
"They came single file down the dawn sand, the one with the scythe in the lead. Sand knew they were dead even fifty yards away from them. They walked with a sad slowness and there was a cold blank look to their pale faces.
"The man with the scythe reached for him and bent, grabbed at the wet collar of Sand's tunic and pulled hard. Sand came to his feet, free of the sea and he and the dead man danced unavoidably in the chill fog until Sand got his balance. "Thanks," he said.
"The dead man touched the brim of his hat with a stiff white hand. Then he pointed to the forest above the beach. He made a writhing shrug." - p 15
""How come all the fellows working here are dead?"
""It's an economy measure. No wages this way," explained Dehner. "Old Espada is something of a wizard, besides being something of what might be called an agricultural robber baron."" - p 18
Everything in Goulart's writing is exaggerated for comedic effect:
""He ought not to wear out a floor for which you have such a sentimental attachment, grandfather," spoke the other large grandchild. "Let us rain a shower of harsh blows upon him by way of a lesson."
""Oh, my," sighed Dehner. They've picked up their vocabulary, and their notions of justice, from one of my Evil-Eye Jack novels I'm afraid."" - p 19
"The barbarian grunted up, dusting his shaggy garment with broad hands. "Does this fur look convincing?"
""I feared as much," shouted Jackdaw, retrieving his sword. "Two years ago I took, after being goaded by my wife, a vow to slay no more fur-bearing animals. When my old skins wore out she fashioned me this out of roots and fragments of cloth, shaped it and dyed it to resemble a bear skin. I fear, by Soglow, it has somewhat of a fraudulent appearance."" - pp 32-33
""It's not all joy for a gourmet such as myself to marry a poisoner, my friends. Once she only used her gifts to help us in our trade of waylaying travelers, but now she can't help herself and poisons with abandon.["]" - p 34
So much for the innkeeper's problem - but what about the talking ape's?:
""That I am, sir" replied the mansized ape. "My name is Hankwin and I suppose I may well strike you as something of an oddity. I wager you've met few articulate apes in your time, gentlemen. We're a rare, more's the pity, and fading breed. Breeding now only in one or two remote spots out beyond . . ."
""The Edgewise Plains," put in Dehner, who'd got his wind back enough to speak. "I wrote a book about your area once."
""No doubt sensationalized, sir," said the ape, coming bowleggedly toward them. "Most of what has been written about my people has tended to be on the sensational side. What was your book entitled, if I may ask?"
""Oh, my," said Dehner. "It was called Fur-Suited Dan in the Valley of the Killer Apes."
""Just so," said the ape man. "I haven't read that particular book, but I hazard to guess it was in the sensational category.["]" - pp 39-40
"["]It's my opinion that Lemkerr is in need of wise counsel."
""I understand he's appearing in a hood," said Dehner.
""Yes," said Lorenzo. "But he insists on billing himself as The Masked Socialist. Every time he bests an opponent in wrestling or boxing—and if you know Lemkerr you'll realize that is often—he insists on delivering a speech on the virtues of some outlandish creed known as socialism." He frowned at Sand. "Perhaps you've heard of it, coming from a distant planet as you look to have, friend."" - p 62
Goulart's inspiration is unstoppable. I tried to stop it, really I did, officer. I saw Goulart's inspiration crossing the street & I floored it but I hit everything but Goulart's inspiration. I admit I was a little drunk but that's what gave me the courage to try to stop the unstoppable & that's why I couldn't stopper the bottle.. or was it the hollow plastic Jesus?
"He noticed now dozens of hard-back insects inching out along the dark oak branches. "What are they?"
""Their bite is not fatal but it causes hallucinations and delusions," explained Dehner as he helped light the torches. "Fire and smoke usually keep them off."
"Sand caught up a torch. When he swung his hand up toward the black branches he felt a slight twinge in the soft flesh between his thumb and his forefinger. He looked at the spot and saw nothing. "How long do teh effects last if you get stung?"
""Forever," said Dehner. "Forever."
""I can't," began Sand. When he turned to Dehner he saw the author had fallen to the ground and died. The clothes were already rotted to tatters and the last shreds unraveling away into the hot sooty wind blowing across the clearing." - p 68
I'm sorry, officer, I didn't see Mr. Dehner, the author of Fur-Suited Dan in the Valley of the Killer Apes, until it was too late. I just thought he was a squirrel. It's all the Lion Man's fault.
""You're both of you fabricators," said Lido, clutching off his green cloak. "I'll be your dupe and gull no longer."
""You're the one who's a diddler," returned Yuba. "Don't try to claptrap and moonshine me." He thwacked the angry Lido on the snout with the grout shoe." - p 84
Flipping the bk over takes me to Ghost Breaker, as far as I can recall, the only collection of short stories by Goulart that I've read. The stories date from 1961 to 1969. These aren't his earliest stories but they're still representative of an early style. According to Wikipedia: "Goulart's first professional publication was a 1952 reprint of the SF story "Letters to the Editor" in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction: this parody of a pulp magazine letters column was originally published in the University of California, Berkeley's Pelican. His early career in advertising and marketing influenced much of his work." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Gou... ) Indeed. The opening bio of his character here, Max Kearny, says:
"Living in San Francisco, and an advertising man by profession, Max has been an amateur ghost breaker for nearly a decade now." - p 2
Goulart's bio, introducing Clockwork's Pirates, states:
"After graduating from college in 1955 I spent the next few years in the advertising business; my specialty was what was then called offbeat copy. I had a crewcut and wore a gray flannel Brooks Brothers suit. This was in San Francisco, and later in Los Angeles." - p 2
The writing style is considerably less bombastic than what I've become accustomed to w/ Goulart's novels & I enjoyed this relative restraint b/c it serves as an indicator of how his style developed. The 1st story, "Please Stand By" (1961), starts off w/:
"The Art Department secretary put her Christmas tree down and kissed Max Kearny. "There's somebody to see you," she said, getting her coat the rest of the way on and picking up the tree again.
"Max shifted on his stool. "On the last working day before Christmas?"
""Pile those packages in my arms," the secretary said. "He says it's an emergency."
"Moving away from his drawing board Max arranged the gift packages in the girl's arms. "Who is it? A rep?"" - p 7
That starts off conventionally enuf, there's really not much of anything there to show that this is GOULART writing. Ah.. but by page 8 it's GOULART alright:
""I change into an elephant on all national holidays."
"Max leaned forward and squinted one eye at Dan. "An elephant?"
""Middle-sized gray elephant.""
That's the sort of problem that very few writers other than Goulart wd dream up. While Max's procedures not of the more rough-&-tumble detective-like nature, this 1st story did surprise me a little w/ this:
"There was no lead on Anne's whereabouts at her apartment, which Max broke into. Or at Westerland's, where he came in through the skylight." - p 20
This oddly coincided w/ my reading about Kevin Poulson, a hacker of some renown who was also an accomplished burglar who was primarily in pursuit of knowledge, especially knowledge of his local phone company's operating intricacies.
Given that I'm avoiding spoilers here & am, instead, just showing a few tantalizing details here & there, you'll have to find out more about this elephant angle by reading the story. The next story, "Uncle Arly", begins thusly:
"Tim Barnum shoved the rabbit ears all the way down into the portable TV set and pulled the plug out of its socket. It had no effect on the reception. "See," he said to Max Kearny. Tim lidted the still playing set off its low black table and carried it across his apartment. Dropping it down at Max's feet he said, "Doees it look like something in your line?"
"Lighting a fresh cigarette Max looked down at the bright screen. "It sure isn't something for a repairman."
""But is it occult, Max?" Tim reached out and found his glass." - p 31
One philosophy of short story writing might be that the stories shd begin w/ a 'grabber', an idea that immediately fascinates one's attn, that arouses one's desire to see how it plays out. Goulart's an expert at this. A guy who turns into an elephant on national holidays - WHA? A TV that continues to broadcast even after it's unplugged - WHA? In this case, the broadcast on the TV switches to coming from a billboard:
""The billboard across from my bus stop is haunted. It used to tell you to eat Kellogg's Rice Krispies. But this morning while I was standing there alone, waiting for the 45 bus, it blurred over. It showed a picture—pardon me, Barnum—of Jeanne Horning. The slogan read: 'Don't be a fool, Yewell. Do it now!' "" - p 39
Max concludes that ""That's real saturation["]" (p 39), ghostly advertising saturation, ie. Advertising plays blatantly into the next story, "Help Stamp Out Chesney", too:
"Max's ad agency was tentatively interested in the new TV show and it was penciled in on one of the networks for the next season. Although he had come down from San Francisco in his advertising capacity Max was starting to think that his hobby, occult detection, might come in handy." - p 42
Again, the story starts w/ a real 'grabber':
""And what is the trouble exactly, Miss Clerihew?" he was asking the girl.
""You'll think me a goose," she said, but there were certain irregularities at our last fox hunt."
""Can you be more specific?"
""Jesus Christ!" said the inspector. His false moustache had somehow come off his face and it was now flying around the office and singing like a canary. It flew out the window and grew silent." - pp 42-43
Why don't things like this happen at my own shoots? I'd certainly change the plot of the movie to accommodate it. On to "McNamara's Fish":
""I thought Ken had somebody to finance the boat."
""You wrote he was going to prove Heyerdahl wrong and do something in the Pacific with a raft."
""Oh, yes. No, Ken decided not to. All the bomb tests out there and all.["]" - p 56
It's interesting the way Goulart squeezes in a reference to Kon Tiki & the atomic bomb tests in the Pacific w/o having them be slightly relevant to the story - esp given that Heyerdahl's expedition was in 1947 when the US had certainly made the Pacific radioactive as hell already. But that's not the 'grabber', this is:
""And the trouble?"
""He's having an affair with a mermaid."" - p 57
I've always been interested in the category of "breakaway" objects - things designed as props intended to look solid but easily breakable - generally so that they can be used in fight scenes w/o hurting the stunt performers - such as in bar-room brawl scenes where actors are shown hitting each other w/ chairs & bottles:
"Directly behind this building was one that resembled an airplane hanger. Piled in front of it was a tangled assortment of chairs. Max picked three that seemed still in fair shape, hoping they weren't some of McNamara's breakaway furniture. In among the nest of Georgian dining room chairs Max found some spare table boards.
"Back under the arched window he put a board between two chairs and put the third chair on top of the board. He climbed up on the whole thing." - p 62
Goulart even has a "Breakaway House" later on:
""Pete," said Gretchen. "There is something wrong with this house. Why don't you admit it?"
""All new houses have a few kinks in them."
""We've been here two weeks. And we've had seagulls in the sink and a bobcat in the shower stall and white mice in the conversation pit and whatever those black furry things were under the bed that night," said Gretchen. "Not to mention the windows that stick and the doors that don't open and the legs that fall off the sofas and the canisters and apothecary jars that jump off the shelves, Pete."
""It's better than the apartment we had in San Francisco, isn't it?"
""No," said his wife. I think it's haunted."" - p 87
Is the mermaid actually having an affair w/ a shape-shifting breakaway sofa leg? I'm not tellin'. In "Kearney's Last Case" Goulart manages to tie in the occult w/ labor issues?:
""Black magic, Max. Really. Invisibility. Not to mention the lousy wage structure and lack of fringe benefits.""
""That's a picturesque church over there," said Terrace. "I'd like to get married in it, so would Ann. Still, you can't walk down the aisle with an invisible girl. And people'd balk at catching a bouquet tossed out of nowhere."" - p 73
"In the North Beach antique store a basilisk tried to stop him but Max always carried a charm against them on his key ring." - p 81
"In European bestiaries and legends, a basilisk (/ˈbæsɪlɪsk/ or /ˈbæzɪlɪsk/, from the Greek βασιλίσκος basilískos, "little king;" Latin regulus) is a legendary reptile reputed to be king of serpents and said to have the power to cause death with a single glance." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilisk
How times have changed! In 1965 when this story was written, people carried anti-basilisk charms on their key-chains; now, a mere 51 yrs later, a card for getting discounts from a chain store or mace might be more common. I don't have a single friend that I know of who carries an anti-basilisk charm. All the old-world values are gone.
Where was I? "Breakaway House" , wch I so rudely interjected in the midst of discussion of an different story earlier, involves a gnome named Blum: "Blum hunched his shoulders. "I spent a half a century under Pittsburgh once. I hope they don't send me back there."" (p 96) That was 50 yrs ago, Pittsburgh is much nicer now, really.
Despite his "Masked Socialist" & various other political details I wdn't call Goulart a political writer. He mostly uses such thing as more fuel for the general mayhem:
""We get used to such uninformed questions. It's because of the news blackout the so-called lords of the press have imposed on the Freeload Prevention Society. Too, too few know about the captain and our crusade."" - p 98
How many detective stories have the action interrupted by a mom-call?
"A white phone on a white table rang. "Just a second. Hello. Hal Levin here. Mom, I can't talk to you much now. Yes, they were picketing me today. They don't hurt me any, Mom. When? Friday, Mom, we can't. April and I will probably have company.["]" - p 100
In the same story, "The Ghost Patrol" (1968), there's an interesting idea about muscles:
""Words," said Jorge Barafunda. "Words are a lousy way to think. These college people, they think in words. You take a look at my book The Vocabulary of Muscles, and it's all explained in there."
""I skimmed it in the library this morning," Max told him. "It was full of words."
""They're not ready yet to publish a book that's all pictures of muscles," said Jorge. "Uhn."" - p 106
We move on from there to a patriotic housing development. This later story is more the Goulart I know from the novels:
"Ahead of them on the road was a replica of Mt. Rushmore. "This the entrance to Yankee Doodle Acres?"
""Yeah. Drive in right next to Teddy Roosevelt's mouth."" - p 109
The latest of the stories, "The Strawhouse Pavilion" (1969), continues this writerly transition in to the novelistic style that may've started around the same time w/ The Sword Swallower (1968).
"["]I am Dr. E. Philips Wally, founder of the Psycho/Technocratics Foundation and pioneer in appliance therapy."" - p 119
YOU'LL HAVE TO READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
Sep 12, 2016
Sep 23, 2016
Nov 01, 1994
Esther Friesner's Majyk by Design
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 10, 2016
Having already read the 1st 2 bks of this trilogy I was review of
Esther Friesner's Majyk by Design
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - September 10, 2016
Having already read the 1st 2 bks of this trilogy I wasn't really in any hurry to read this last one. You can read my review of Majyk By Accident here:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... & of Majyk by Hook or Crook here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... . As I wrote at the beginning of my review of the latter:
"In my 55 or so yrs of reading SF & Fantasy I've more or less never gotten into series. I've thought of series as just cheap marketing tricks, a way of sucking the reader into repeat purchases that're based more on soap opera continuity than on solid writing around new ideas."
Nonetheless, Friesner is funny & I certainly don't want to dismiss writing that makes me laugh. Friesner spoofs a patriarchy in wch women whdn't even read let alone write & has one of her female characters secretly write torrid romance novels (are there any other kind?):
"SLOWLY, INSOLENTLY, MASTER TANCRED ALLOWED his eyes to caress every voluptuous curve of his defiant captive. "So, my lady," he breathed in a voice like molten wine. "You think that your beauty and spirit are shield enough against a wizard of my powers?"" - p 1
Intertwining the romance novel & the models for their covers in with fantasy & having it all pushed ad absurdum is gimmicky but it works for me.
""Mysti said I should introduce him to Milkum. Milkum liked his looks and was willing to give him a try—not as a client, just as a model. Milkum never does business with nobodies. We put him on the cover of Tempt Not the Troll."
""Boffin as a troll?" I had to laugh.
""He wasn't really a troll. He was adopted and raised by trolls and he always thought he was a troll until he was rejected from the tribe after his foster-mother died and he went wandering through the mountains, amassing a fortune in gold, until he saved the life of Hyalina, the beautiful orphan whose wicked uncle had suppressed her father's will and cheated her out of the diamond mining empire which was hers by right and offered her shameful insults, forcing her to flee his loathsome and unnatural lusts until she hid in the mine and the roof fell in on her. Then in Chapter Two—"" - p 28
It's common for me to read things & to catch references to things that I figure other readers won't recognize. In this case, I catch a reference that I figure many people must be able to recognize or it wdn't make it into such populist writing:
""I've got to agree with Scandal," I said. "Even if I don't know what he's talking about all the way. I mean, he must have been murdered. He's gone. Vanished. Poof."
""Poof," Lucy repeated. "Nut how poof? When poof? Who poof?"
""Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead pipe." Scandal declared. "Now can we go back downstairs and eat some more?"" - p 30
This bk was published in 1994. I played the board game Clue when I was a kid in the early 1960s. I see from some cursory online research that the game was created in 1949 & that there's a 2013 edition AND a Clue: Harry Potter Edition. Does the latter have a Wizard Mustard & a Professor Plumb-Crazy? Wizard Mustard in the alternate universe with a magic wand.
Friesner is a truly inspired comic writer. One of my favorite touches is her description of the talking "grackwassel wood":
"["]Now pull! Ohhhhhh! Ummmmm! Wait! Waitwaitwait, not so fast, you beast! Open me slooooowly. Make it last, baby. Oh my god, my hinges are starting to turn! I'm feeling it all the way down to my mothproofing! Ahhhh, ooooooooh, ohhhhhh—!"
"Etcetera. The thing about grackwassel wood isn't just that it talks—we've got lots of trees that can do that; no really classy funeral is complete without a weeping willow coffin to save the price of professional mourners—it's the way it talks. It's the things it says. If you put something valuable in a grackwassel wood chest or cupboard or box, it's safe. When a thief shows up, either the wood makes so much noise it rouses the whole house, or else it keeps saying those things and embarrasses the thief to death." - p 38
Friesner distinguishes between witches & wizards, a distinction that I doubt is distinct to her but one that I found interesting enuf to quote regarding in my review of the 1st bk of this series:
""I am a witch, not a wizard. Wizardry's the art of making something out of nothing; witchery's the art of making do with what you've got. I can make a pine cone sprout into a lovely set of pinewood furniture. I can capture the image of a cat in the reflective surface of a soap bubble, I can make a rock into a rocking chair, but I can not make a mop out of thin air."" - p 142, Majyk By Accident
& then in Majyk by Design there's this:
"She looked at me as if I'd asked why zombies make the best university professors. "This is not a healing salve unless I add certain herbs to the basic ointment. It must be adjusted to combat the specific illness. Didn't Master Thengor teach you anything about medicine?"
"Master Thengor had tried to teach me lots of things, with no luck. Still . . . "To tell the truth, I don't remember him ever giving a class on healing magic."
""Good. At least you're honest. Wizards never bother teaching or learning any enchantments that might cure people. They leave that to us witches. It's so much more spectacular to fling spells that harm instead of heal."" - p 95
Being a person who's, ahem, less than enthusiastic about weapons & the utter paranoid consumerist mania for them in the country I live in, I was amused by the following bit of talking-cat sarcasm:
""Quite rude," Aunt Glucosia agreed, absent-mindedly running a whetstone over the blade of her dagger. "Maybe they didn't know he was going to use their product for evil purposes."
""Oh, riiiiight," Scandal said. " 'Honest, Officer, when he came in here and bought that AK-47 I thought he was only gonna use it for a paperweight!' "" - p 99
I'm not totally against guns, I just think that everytime someone kills someone w/ one the arms dealer who sold the weapon shd be held accountable. That might stifle the greed a little. Or the arms dealers might just switch to other lucrative businesses of similar ethical dubiousness like heroin dealer or pimp (assuming they're not already in those businesses to begin w/).
One of the primary gimmicks of Friesner's Majyk stories is to have something common on Earth be described from the POV of the story's alternate world:
"Our lovely guide paused before a tall, shining red and white box the size of a coffin. I touched it, expecting something so bright to be metal, but it was made of a strange, hard substance that felt like a beetle's back. She pressed one of the many small panels decorating the front of the box. A terrifying rumble shook it, followed by a loud clunk. She stooped to retrieve a cylinder from the compartment at the bottom of the mysterious box.
"It took me a few moments before I realized she was offering it to me. I forced my hand not to tremble as I accepted it. It was cold and damp, but at least it had the recognizable feel of metal, even if it was garishly swirled with red and white. I stared at it, not knowing what to do.
"She laughed. "Allow me." She took it back and made a sign of power over the top of the cylinder. I heard a pop and a fierce hiss before she handed it back. A hole had opened in the metal, releasing weird sounds and smells." - p 107
Marvelous. Do you ever think like this? Do you ever imagine some activity of your own from a different perspective than your own? I find it an interesting exercise. EG: I often scoop a piece of paper under insects inside my house & take them to a convenient window that I can open slightly & stick the paper out of & then blow on to evict the bug from the paper in order to loose it in the outside world.
Now, imagine that scenario from the bug's perspective: a moving surface forces its way under you, this surface then carries you thru darkness & light & eventually thru a gap in an obstacle that you might very well have been batting against trying unsuccessfully to find a breech in.. &, then, Voila! you're out where there's much more space & more plants to be eaten, a veritable paradise of for your little insect tummy. Alas, you're eaten by a bat a few seconds later. Life is short, art is non-existent.
This interworld misunderstanding, this lack of correct translation between Earth & Orbix has plenty of potential wch Friesner uses well:
"I remembered Master Thengor's teachings about Word of Power: the more complicated they are, the stronger the enchantment. It wouldn't do if just anyone could say them and command all that sorcerous strength.
""Hexlresorcinol," the sorcereess intoned. "Mono- and dislycerides. Polyabscorbate. Hydroxypropylcellulose." She reached the last one. "And just a dash of sodium benozoate to retard spoilage and reduce flavor loss."" - p 124
Since this is, after all, the concluding volume of the Majyk series, our hero, Kendar, finally communes w/ his accidentally acquired power & it tells him:
"Sonny, don't get started on who's got the right to do what to whom on this world. Think back to the last piece of meat you ate. Did you worry about the cow's rights or did you just ask your mama to pass the salt? How about the last time you walked on the grass or chomped into an apple? Plants are alive too, you know." - p 147
Friesner does another thing I love to do, she mutates old sayings or creates them anew & acts like nothing's odd:
""You know the old saying, Glucosia dear," her sister reminded her. " 'The heart has its reasons that Reason does not know, or want to know, and will throw you out of the house if you try to explain them, so save your breath to cool your porridge.' "" - pp 178-179
Hip-Knee-Hooray! A similar strategy for producing humor is to take religious illogic from this world & apply it to the religion of Orbix:
""I've always had one question about your God Wedwel," Mysti said.
""If Wedwel can do anything, can he create a rock so heavy he can't lift it?"
""Yes, and as soon as he does, the prophecies say that he's going to drop that rock right smack on top of Welfies who think they're so clever for coming up with that old chestnut."" - p 198
A benevolent God wd drop the rock on the chestnut itself to make chestnut paste for the Welfie to eat IF the Welfie cd move the rock off the squashed foodstuff.
Why is everyone always picking on the demons?:
"Aunt Carageena took the first point as she brought her sword down on the demon's ear and slice it clean off. He threw his head up, his jaws parted in a howl, smoking brown blood flowing down his neck. Aunt Carageena seized her trophy and used the leathery relic for a shield.
""Showoff," Aunt Glucosia sniffed.
""Jealous," her sister shot back." - p 238
The demon popped my friend & I in its mouth & swallowed us whole. We managed to anchor ourselves in its upper stomach with our pocket knives before we fell in to the foul-smelling pool of stomach acid below. Digging in further, we started ripping open the lining to try to carve our way out of the predicament. The demon howled with indigestion. It decided to never eat human snacks again.
Those of you who've read Rabelais will recognize the following twist: "["]Meanwhile you've been making the beast with two bank accounts with this—this—bimbo!"" Does that make a bank an orgy? ...more
Notes are private!
Sep 05, 2016
Sep 10, 2016
Jul 01, 1985
David Bischoff's The Crunch Bunch
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2016
When I bought this I didn't realize it was aimed at teens, review of
David Bischoff's The Crunch Bunch
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 31, 2016
When I bought this I didn't realize it was aimed at teens, I just thought it might be light reading, funny. It IS aimed at teens, that's ok, at least lit aimed at young people isn't generally depressing - once it's aimed at adults it's 'ok' for it to be so morbid & miserable that the reader feels like killing themselves. Like after witnessing a movie by Fassbinder. He DID kill himself. No wonder. This is an Avon Flare novel, apparently Avon's YA (Young Adult) imprint. I reckon in YA novels the characters may kiss but may NOT go any further. It begins:
"Although I've never seen Brandon Torrance smoke any dope, the guy usually acts like he's stoned out of his mind.
"I mean, take the very first time I saw him. We're both tenth-graders at Eisenhower High and we got stuck in the same chorus class together." - p 11
This was published in 1985. Apparently pot-smoking was common enuf by then to be acceptable as something to be referenced in a YA novel - as long as it's not encouraged. Fine.
"I think it was the second week of school that I brought my science fiction book into chorus class. The science fiction book started everything I'm going to tell you about, really." - p 12
Apparently promoting the reading of SF is also ok. After all, this is an SF bk. I think that's kindof interesting. Do you ever think about the possible significance of ingesting plant substances & their synthesized derivatives? Of course, we do it every day. You are what you eat, you are what you get high on. Sometimes I think that when people get high on plants they become plant-like. When they do it too much they become 'vegetables'. Loco Weed (Jimson Weed) is notoriously dangerous for you in that respect. Of course, I'm oversimplifying but I remember taking peyote & finding myself imagining putting down roots & sensing things telepathically. I thought of myself as thinking like peyote.
So what happens to you if you read SciFi? You're probably already a bookworm or you wdn't be reading it in the 1st place. I read an enormous amt of SF & I'm ok.. aren't I? I don't hear any reassuring affirmations people! Maybe that's b/c we're not actually in a conversation here.. altho in SF we cd be - wch is one of the fun things about it.
There's some parent-spoofing here, the POV is sympathetic to the teen character. The mom isn't that different from my own, except that my mom probably doesn't know what "perverse" means:
""William, I can't believe you. You're getting so twisted, so perverse! Where is the nice little boy who used to sing in the youth choir at church? Where is the pleasant little fellow who used to do his chores so uncomplainingly? I realize you're older now and feel it necessary to show us that you're independent. But you're still only fifteen, and I'm still your mother. God Himself and the government give me the right as your mother to oversee your growth, and I honestly just don't like the path your feet are on!"" - p 18
Our hero, the above-harangued Bill, gets sucked into being Brandon's friend b/c Brandon's sister has a good SF collection:
"A whole section of shelf was devoted to old pulps. Above these I saw Keith Laumer novels, Robert Heinlein novels, Anne McCaffrey novels. A saw Piers Anthony books and Isaac Asimov books and Ray Bradbury books. And fantasy! She must have had every fantasy written in the last century. Tolkein. Donaldson. Even the Gormenghast trilogy by Peake." - p 23
Interesting. Of course such a list appeals to me. Are these Bischoff's favorite writers? OR were they his favorite writers when he was a teen? OR are they all published by Avon? That doesn't seem to be the case, at least w/ the ones I have in my personal library by Laumer, Heinlein, Asimov, Tolkein, & Peake. OR all they all considered age-appropriate? Heinlein's a total lech so I have my doubts about him & Peake, well I love his Gormenghast Trilogy & read it while I was in my mid-teens but, contrary to what I wrote above, it's a bit grim (as I remember it). I remember Bradbury as being pretty menacing & grim too.
I like reading bks that feature computers as main frames (Ha ha! Get it?!), uh, as main framing devices, & I like reading ones from the early days of when home computers were becoming available to well-to-do families (not mine!), 1985 in this instance:
"I got up. Kinda dazed. I followed her over. "Bulletin board?" I muttered.
""Yeah. We can just hook old Apollo here to bigger outside computers where other programmers will be able to see that we need help. We connect it through a modem."
""Yeah." She tapped a strange-looking box. "A modulator-demodulator. Digital audible, analog signals, and all that. You can link up computers vis telephone lines with them."" - p 33
My how things have changed in the last 31 yrs. I wonder if the-youth-of-today (in richer countries) wd find this so prehistoric as to be annoying. Let no child be w/o personal GPS coordinates!
This was written in the Reagan era, a time when any pretense of intellect in a president was apparently no longer a requirement for the job. The mom continues to represent the Reagan era values (except that she knows funny words like "capitalism" wch my mom wdn't've):
""Well, well, well," my father said. "Talk about coincidences! There's an article in the paper today about the fact that the president is helping to introduce a bill into Congress that will cut appropriations to radio-telescopes and the space program."
""High time," my mother said. "Why throw all our money into outer space when we should spend it spreading Christianity and capitalism throughout the world."
""What?" I cried.
""Yes, indeedy! Your man Doctor Amos Hagar is even quoted." Dad began to read. " 'I suppose it's just as well. I'd have to explain to extraterrestrial life why the richest country on Earth elected a B-movie actor to its highest office.' " My father shook his head." - p 39
The teens conceive of a way around this dilemma - complete w/ philosophical justification:
"You've heard the question: If a tree falls in the middle of a forest, but there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?
"Similarly, if Brandon and Courtney and Bill don't get caught trying to fake a message from outer space by crunching the computer of their friendly local radio-telescope, is it a crime?" - p 53
Yes, this involves hacking, always a favorite subject of mine:
"Nope. This business wasn't going to be easy, no matter how simple that War Games movie makes it look." - p 55
That got me to wondering: what was the 1st computer hacking movie? I noted that "Mr. Bischoff wrote the novelization of the movie War Games" (p 143) & that might be the earliest one I remember, maybe the 1st one I saw. SO, I looked it up online.
Wikipedia provides this list:
* The Italian Job (1969)
* Sneakers (1992)
* Hackers (1995)
* The Net (1995)
* Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)
* Takedown (2000)
* The Score (2001)
* Swordfish (2001)
* Foolproof (2003)
* The Italian Job (2003)
* Firewall (2006)
* Die Hard 4: Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
* Untraceable (2008)
* The Social Network (2010)
* We Are Legion (2012)
* The Fifth Estate (2013)
* Algorithm: The Hacker Movie (2014)
* The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)
* Open Windows (2014)
* Who Am I – No System Is Safe (2014)
* Mr. Robot (2015)
* Blackhat (2015)
* Tron (1982)
* WarGames (1983)
o IMSAI 8080
* Prime Risk (1985)
* Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
* Defense Play (1989)
o IBM Personal Computer XT
* Sneakers (1992)
* Hackers (1995)
* The Net (1995)
* Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)
* Masterminds (1997)
* 23 (1998)
* Entrapment (1999)
* The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
* Takedown (2000)
* Swordfish (2001)
* What's the Worst That Could Happen? (2001)
* Code Hunter (2002)
* Bedwin Hacker (2003)
* The Italian Job (2003)
* The Incredibles (2004)
* Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
* Firewall (2006)
* The Net 2.0 (2006)
* Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
* WALL-E (2008)
* WarGames: The Dead Code (2008)
* Robot & Frank (2012)
* Disconnect (2013)
* Algorithm - The Hacker Movie (2014)
* Chappie (2015)
It's not really clear to me why War Games us under "Motion Pictures" instead of "Hacking" since both categories are about motion pictures that involve hacking. On TechWorm's "11 Best Hacking Movies That You Should Watch Right Now" website there's this list:
#1 Algorithm (2014)
#2 WarGames (1983)
#3 Hackers (1995)
#4 The Matrix (1999)
#5 Takedown (2000)
#6 The Italian Job (2003)
#7 Live free or die hard (2007)
#8 Blackhat (2015)
#9 Untraceable (2008)
#10 Eagle Eye (2008)
#11 Fifth Estate (2013)
At any rate, it seems that the 1969 version of The Italian Job is the earliest of the lot so now I'm curious about that one. I can always use more entertaining explication:
"Astronomers have been using radio-telescopes seriously for only a little over twenty years, but the instruments have proven marvelously useful. Optical telescopes can only pick up so much. The ideal lens-and-mirror-type getup would be out in space or on the moon or anywhere so that it doesn't have to contend with the Earth's atmosphere. Thanks to the ionosphere and dust and junk, lots of starlight doesn't make it through. But radio waves do. In fact, a lot of starlight can't get through the huge clouds of interstellar dust hanging through most parts of the universe. But radio waves do." - p 61
Interesting, right? What if it were to be discovered that there's something even better than radio waves to monitor?
As part of Bill's distraction routine during one part of the hack, he evokes conceptual ceiling art:
""Uh, just a moment, Mr. Martinez," I said, desperately grabbing his sleeve. "Is there any way I can get some of this graph paper with these markings and take it home with me?"
"He thought for a moment. "Not these particular sections. Maybe I can scrounge up some for you in the trash somewhere, though."
""That would be really great. A whole bunch, too. I think it might be a kick to uh, well, put some of this stuff on my ceiling."
""Oh, yeah. Ceiling art is all the rage at school. And besides, it's so . . . conceptual. Kind of like a paper planetarium. Looking at the radio waves from the stars. Yeah! I like the idea more & more! Just think . . . it will be a great excuse to get girls to come into my bedroom. Come and stare at the stars, I'll say. I'll be absolutely irresistible!"" - p 67
Welp, that's a perfect excuse for a tangent. Way back somewhere between 1978 & 1981 I made a present for my girlfriend. It was multiple large sheets of paper with a painted outline of the state of Maryland. These had some sort of backing skeleton w/ a central pivot point. I hung them from the ceiling of her bedroom in such a way so that each one cd spin separately & so that all of them cd be seen at once. I thought it was great! My girlfriend, on the other hand, being of a more portrait-preferring mentality & not liking things that moved very much, didn't like it. As far as I know, she destroyed it. Interestingly, my body of surviving 'art works' wd be at least twice as large if it weren't for the censoring viciousness of my various girlfriends. It's too bad, really, b/c I've made some very nice things that've been destroyed by them. Ahem.
The above cd be taken as a generalization about women. Bischoff's observation below definitely jives w/ my experience:
"So when Bill Keester, the wallpaper kid, starts holding hands in the halls with the cutest junior in school, heads start turning and tongues start wagging. Who was this guy? Isn't Courtney Torrance the girl big Morgue Waggoner has his eye on? How could she ignore one of Ike-o's Psychos and go for a klutz like that? Maybe he's not such a klutz. And you know, come to think of it, he is kind of cute.
"Suddenly, all the girls were looking at me. And they were talking to me, too! Like "Hi, Bill" and "I'm giving a party, Bill. You and Courtney have got to come." All this from females who wouldn't give me the time of day before. And from the way they looked at me I knew they wouldn't have minded at all if I came to those parties alone." - p 81
Still, women, like humans, can be seen as entertainment w/ the right degree of detachment:
"The big alien shook its ugly, wrinkled face and made a sighing sound.
"Norwrack said, "Please understand, we have nothing against human beings. Actually my ally and I, stationed here in this Solar System as we are, find ourselves rather fond of you. You creatures are so much more entertaining than the last intelligent life we surveyed."
""Rock people!" X said. "Didn't move around too much."" - p 117 ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 30, 2016
Aug 31, 2016
Nov 01, 1979
Feb 01, 1980
really liked it
Ronald Sukenick's Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 30, 2016
I'd read mention of Sukenick on Goodre review of
Ronald Sukenick's Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 30, 2016
I'd read mention of Sukenick on Goodreads by at least 1 reviewer I respect & he was mentioned in the company of other writers I respect so it was bound to happen that I'd read something by him sooner or later. It was worth it. It was also published by the Fiction Collective, another thing I pay attn to as promisingly vigorous & independent.
This starts off lower case as if it might be in the middle of a sentence &, in a sense, it is b/c the whole bk's one long run-on sentence, stream-of-consciousness "in the newspaper or at best human interest while City Hall's official version of life compiled by some bored clerk or statistician roughly on the basis of crude figures highly modified by political necessity and mostly conditioned by the remnants of Victorian novels floating through his underdeveloped imagination like surprising things at the bottom of yesterday's chicken soup steals the headlines which say nothing of the actual smoke of the actual stacks of the factory where his friend Tony works"* w/o any punctuation for pauses. However, instead of punctuation pauses, there're lay-out changes & spatial breaks between list elements & the like wch make the reading experience change enuf so that it's not monotonous. *(p 7)
Some of the spatial breaks can be hypothetically justified w/in the plot as "verbal holes", wch are, in themselves, one of a variety of holes that're significant to the story:
"Victor said verbal holes were the consequence of intelligence withheld by super financial powers power being really a question of information and without information one could simply not think" - p 18
"and yet the possibilities an island so rich despite the starving slums Charleen their own fault typical of her class yet the possibilities here with planning with technology the mystifications of technology" - p 25
Fortunately, for lovers of narrative, Sukenick isn't only experimenting w/ form, his characters are compelling. The setting is an island on wch the form of currency is called "balls". This environment is presented w/ plenty of interesting details. The feel of the cast's interactions reminds me of Cortazar's Hopscotch & A Manual for Manuel, 2 excellent bks about Argentinian expatriates in Paris, for them an island of sorts too. I took an immediate liking to the character Victor:
"culling inflictions sometimes from the passersby sometimes from himself for example he might wear some outlandish article of clothing that would draw hoots and whistles from the pedestrians a boot on his arm say" Vermin Supreme for President! "or a glove on his foot or feathers in elaborate and spectacular compositions on his head or hanging around his neck and would then attempt to engage his hecklers in reasoned discourse on the subject usually beginning with I'm from California the promised land and quickly launching from there into abstractions well beyond the ken of the man in the street with whom in fact he happened of necessity to be talking who not only misunderstood but was genuinely confused and embarrassed and tried his best to be polite" (p 4)
"according to Victor the proposed leftist coalition between the PPS and the PTE was only a repetition of the politics of the popular front and was by its very nature ineffectual in fact there was also a proposed coalition between the PPS and the CRU on the right which would be just as plausible according to Victor's ongoing analysis Victor was of the opinion that only the hopelessly naive considered the current maneuvering anything more than a tactic to disguise the manipulations of international super financial intelligence powers" - p 18
Whose perspective the story's told from changes from time-to-time. After reading about Victor, we read from him:
"at the same time I'd do things like a girlfriend demanded a present she gave me a choice so I bought a stuffed goat and had it reupholstered with fur when I gave it to her she said what's that I said you asked for a mink goat no coat she screamed that little joke cost five thousand" - p 20
Despite the shortness of Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues Sukenick manages to get in a richness of detail:
"the mountain was full of unemployed doctors of philosophy living in the woods and getting into witchcraft and astrology who were responsible for the growth of the new cult of achronicianity an astrology based religion which rejected the notion of time for that of distance" - pp 46-47
2 things I was less enthusiastic about were the title, wch seems like it cd've been an attempt to capitalize off of the popularity of Tom Robbins's Even Cowgirls get the Blues wch'd only been released 3 yrs before in 1976, & the ending. I was worried that the ending wd use the meandering of the stream-of-consciousness as a justification for just petering out. I started pacing, gnawing on my fingers & my nails, jittering uncontrollably, bugging out, jitter-bugging at all hrs of the day or nite, writing notes to myself like this: "The question is: Will this go anywhere?" If this were an OuLiPo novel by Perec the structure wd lead to a strong ending. But it's not. Instead we get:
"wishing they hadn't demolished the old public toilets because he had to piss a fact more fundamental than a fund of ephemeral epiphanies but reflecting that all things come to an end at the same time recognizing there was no point imposing a sense of tragedy on old public toilets and that things didn't have beginnings and endings in that sense they just start and then they stop" - p 114
& b/c I was disappointed by this I've quoted it in the middle of my review rather than at the end so that it's no longer an ending but just a philosophical interpolation. &, besides, look at who's on the radio: "Drecker turned the radio on and got Mingus doing Eat That Chicken" (p 48) If I'd written "smell who's on the radio" you wd've noticed, if I'd written "taste who's on the radio" you wd've noticed, but I wrote "look at who's on the radio", wch is similarly absurd, & you hardly batted an eye (or at least so my surveillance satellite data cruncher claims). &, yes, Mingus did have a song w/ that title on his "Oh Yeah" album.
Amongst the island's dysfunctionalities are its inability to process the glut of post-cards the tourists send out:
"Drecker was driving too fast they were down out of the snow now he was in a hurry to get down to the Reiser before sunset so he could see the quote postcard run by the post office once a week during tourist season at ebb tide just before sunset the post office would truck all the postcards mailed by the tourists down to The Reiser and dump them in the ocean and Drecker always took a childish pleasure in watching the dry but colorful cascade pour out of the trucks into the water this was officially called the postcard run which the post office justified by saying maybe some of them will get there" - pp 61-62
I like the technique of having the character Drecker turn on the radio to connect one part of the island or the world to another part of the island: "Drecker turned on the radio and got a bulletin that achronician terrorists had stuffed a bank with cotton" (p 67) What an action! & the characters learn of it in a mediated way.
Once upon a time, I had a friend whose job was to be a shill, an 'attractive' woman who worked at a casino where she was to move to gambling tables where there weren't any customers so that she cd attract people to her & to, in turn, spending money:
"Veronica had a new job she was now working at The Same Thing her job was sitting at a table during slack hours and pretending she was having a good time to lure customers in off the street it was easy work but she didn't enjoy it" - p 68
Sukenick is thorough, his details even get into expressions used by the natives:
"a phrase often used by the islanders on the other side of the wind it was usually accompanied by a broad sweep of the arm he was fascinated by it because he couldn't understand what it meant and the islanders were completely unable to explain it to him when they tried they usually ended up by shrugging their shoulders and repeating on the other side of the wind with a broad sweep of the arm" - pp 80-81
&, of course, he has a sense of humor:
"at this point the government would take notice before revolutions on the island were invariably preceded by wet dog attacks and you could be sure the president would be on television later that same evening shaking himself like a wet dog and giving a fireside chat foreigners found this manner of conducting politics outrageous" - p 85
"actually she knew that Bennett was currently working on a report about how the wet dog effect could be rationalized and handled by computers and why not after all feelings were information too she also knew that Bennett by the way was very angry at Carl because of the way his maternity report was turning out the report was turning out to be against maternity but for paternity a point of view obviously difficult to justify" - p 86
"Charleen was in The Smiling Lemming eating the island speciality sweet and sad shrimp it made her feel sweet and sad because of the spices among them hash" - p 98
Perhaps Long Talking Bad Conditions Blues is sweet and sad & seasoned w/ hash. I have at least one chef friend who actually does use hash as a secret ingredient.. but he's not a character in a Sukenick bk.. ...more
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Aug 29, 2016
Aug 30, 2016
really liked it
a review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Spartan Planet
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 25, 2016
I'm pretty sure that if I'd read the description of t a review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Spartan Planet
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 25, 2016
I'm pretty sure that if I'd read the description of this bk 40 yrs ago I wd've shied away from it as entirely too lo-brow. NOW I think it was great, really inspired, hilarious. The basic premise is that there's a planet that'd been colonized by Earthlings long ago that'd developed into an all-male planet partially based on the male dominated militaristic city-state Sparta from ancient Greece.
Blundering into this is a Federation Survey Spaceship captained by Chandler's recurring character John Grimes & carrying a woman doctor named Margaret Lazenby whose job it is to study this lost colony's culture. Lazenby is the 1st & only woman most of the planet's inhabitants have ever seen. Human reproduction is a science controlled by specialists: doctors, & 'effeminate' male nurses. Creatures lower on the food chain give birth by having their male offspring rip off from the side of the father's body after having grown there as a conjoined twin of sorts & this is what the Spartans have been taught was their reproductive ancestry before the doctors improved things:
"["]it's just that some of us don't like to be reminded of our humble origins. How would you like to go through the budding process, and then have to tear your son away from yourself?"" - p 6
"The larger of the scavengers, the parent, had succeeded in bringing one of its short legs up under its belly. Suddenly it kicked, and as it did so it screamed, and the smaller animal shrieked in unison. They were broken apart now, staggering over the cobbles in what was almost a parody of a human dance. They were apart, and on each of the rough, mottled flanks was a ragged circle of glistening, raw flesh, a wound that betrayed by its stench what was the usual diet of the lowly garbage eaters. The stink lingered even after the beasts, rapidly recovering from their ordeal, had scurried off, completing the fission process, in opposite directions.
"That was the normal way of birth on Sparta." - pp 6-7
Chandler gives a reasonably imaginative treatment to his idea of a lost colony isolated from their true past to the degree that things have become redefined. As such, colonists speaking English consider it to be Greek b/c their seemingly all-male society is partially based around ancient Greek culture:
"Walking with calm deliberation the two men approached the barrier. The one with the trousered leg called, "Anybody here speak English?" He turned to his companion and said, "That was a silly question to which I should get a silly answer. After all. we've been nattering to them on RT all the way in."
""We speak Greek," answered Diomedes.
"The spaceman looked puzzled. "I'm afraid that I don't. But your English is very good. If you don't mind, it will have to do."
""But we have been speaking Greek all the time."" - p 24
The Spartans are accustomed to Spartan conditions - ie: stern & hard ones not inclined to comfort. They board Grimes's spaceship:
"Brasidus remained standing until he received a grudging nod from his superior. Then he was amazed by the softness, by the comfort of the chair into which he lowered himself. On Sparta such luxury was reserved for the aged—and only for the highly placed aged at that, for council members and the like." - p 32
Never having seen women before, the Spartans advance various theories about the 'deformities' on Lazenby's chest:
"["]it's manned by robots with twin turrets on their chests from which they shoot lethal rays."
""They must be functional . . ." mused Brasidus, "I suppose."
""What must be?" demanded the librarian.
""Those twin turrets. Good day to you."" - p 47
Now, it's probably all too easy to (potentially incorrectly) read personal details into an author's story. As such, I imagine Chandler writing this at a time when he was upset w/ a lover or a wife or getting divorced or somehow having trouble w/ the women or woman that he was intimate w/ in his life:
""A mere dozen of these malformed weaklings, without arms. . . . No, there can be no danger. Obviously, since they are member's of Seeker's crew, they can coexist harmoniously with men. So, we repeat, there is no danger."
""Sire!" It was the doctor who had raised the objection. "You do not know these beings. You do not know how treacherous they can be."
""And do you, Doctor Pausanias? And if you do know, how do you know?"
"The Councilman paled. He said lamely, "We are experienced, sire, in judging who is to live and who is not to live among the newborn. There are signs, reliable signs. She"—he pointed an accusing finger at Margaret Lazenby—"exhibits them."" - p 67
It's decided that these strange men w/ the protuberances on their chests are aliens from a planet called Arcadia - &, Lo & Behold!, they do exert a suspiciously entrancing fascination on the Spartan Brasidus & others - even to the extent of leading Brasidus astray from his boyfriend:
""Brasidus, I have to be on duty soon. Will you come with me to my room?"
"The Sergeant looked at his friend. Achron was a pretty boy, prettier than most, but he was not, he could never be, an Arcadian. . . .
"What am I thinking? he asked himself, shocked. Why am I thinking it?
"He said, "Not tonight, Achron."" - p 85
I don't want to spoil the plot for you but the ending cd be sd to have a wry ambiguity. Watch where those twin turrets are pointed! They might be coming after YOU!! ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 23, 2016
Aug 26, 2016
Jul 15, 2001
John Cage's Anarchy
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 25, 2016EV
I 1st heard of John Cage when I was 14 & my music class teacher in review of
John Cage's Anarchy
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 25, 2016EV
I 1st heard of John Cage when I was 14 & my music class teacher in Junior High School told us about his "4'33"" aka 'The Silent Sonata' in 1967 or 1968. In retrospect, that was somewhat astounding of her. If she's still alive & if I had any idea what her name was or how to get in touch w/ her I'd thank her. I didn't want to be in the music class, I'd been given the 'choice' of art or music & I chose art but the school administrators just put me in the music class anyway. Why they bothered w/ the pretense of a 'choice' is beyond me. I resented this. I chose German as the language I was interested in & they put me in the French class. I resented that too. Nonetheless, Cage's "4'33"" caught my attn & it's one of the only things I remember about that class.
I don't know when I finally got to hear his music but it was probably when I got my 1st record by him in 1973: “Variations IV - Volume II” - John Cage, assisted by David Tudor. I was 19 or 20 then. Volumes I & II are somewhat infamous for the contextualizing intro. How many records come w/ an intro that 'explains' the music before you hear it? Imagine that at the beginning of a Madonna recording. “Variations IV" is still one of my favorite pieces of all time & I have no problem crediting it w/ being an influence on my own Usical direction.
By 1977 I was asked by an artist friend, Augusta Leigh MacDonald, to teach her about Cage's work & I gave her an 11 wk course on it for wch I wd've picked representative works of his that I thought exemplified innovative breakthrus: things like his 1st prepared piano piece, "Bacchanale", the absolutely incredible "Credo in Us", the aforementioned "Variations IV", his collaboration w/ Lejaren Hiller, "HPSCHD", "Cartridge Music", etc.. Cage was amazingly inventive & most of his inventions represented paradigm shifts. I was getting every Cage recording I cd lay my hands on. Fortunately for me, the work was still unpopular enuf for the recordings to be affordable - even usually ridiculously cheap.
However, by 1976 I was already becoming slightly less enthralled. It was then that I got the Cramps nova musicha no. 1 John Cage record that included his "62 Mesostics re Merce Cunningham". Now Cramps was an incredible label, the nova musicha series was an extraordinary series. The performances were all fantastic. Demetrio Statos was the vocalist on the Mesostics & he was phenomenal. The record sleeve even had 2 sample Mesostics w/ considerably more imaginative typography than Anarchy does.. &.. yet.. I just wasn't that impressed.
For one thing, I was in the midst of writing my 1st bk, wch was finished by the summer of 1977, & this bk was definitely experimental at a significant level - I'm still inclined to think that it hasn't rc'vd a truly deep reading yet 39 yrs after it was published - so I wd've been more critical of Cage's writing innovation as not really that innovative.
To this day I think my high school yrbk self-description written when I was 16 in September of 1969 was probably more sophisticated than the Mesostics were: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/W1969.Y... . For another, I had started producing other work of substance such as my "Frame of Reference" (sculpture, 1975) & "d composition" (score, 1974) & my 1st film (1975). All of these things were 'extreme' in ways that I think people still find perplexing to this day.
In other words, Cage, a thinker/producer still of colossal importance to me to this day, was beginning to seem like someone who was slowing down w/ old age (he was 58 or 59 when the Mesostics were created) & I was just getting started. I started losing interest, I wasn't interested in his artwork in wch he traced rocks, I eventually found the later number pieces more or less boring. His "Roaratorio" (1979) excited me again but I didn't hear it until Scottish Neoist Pete Horobin made available a recording of it for me in 1988. By then, I'd already made my own roughly contemporaneous "Accumulation" (1980) wch I thought was of similar value so I didn't feel influenced anymore, just appreciative.
I'd read the Cage edited Notations & found it utterly wonderful & I'd read the Cage Great Bear pamphlet published by Dick Higgins called "Diary: How to Improve the World (You will Only make Matters Worse) continued Part Three" (1967) but to this day haven't read his major bks wch include: Silence, A Year from Monday, & Empty Words. I've had a deep respect for Wesleyan University Press for having the intelligence to publish these works. I even heard Cage read in 1979, 1982, &, possibly, 1989. AND I read a so-so biography about him.
It was w/ this abundance of familiarity w/ Cage's work & simultaneous lack of reading of his bks as a background that I was very happily surprised to find copies of a bk by him that I'd never heard of w/ a title referring to a subject central to my interests in the Strand bkstore in NYC in July, 2016: Anarchy!
The bk was written in January, 1988 - 4 & 1/2 yrs before Cage died shortly before his 80th birthday in 1992. However, this 1st Wesleyan edition that I have wasn't until 2001. Alas, while I'm delighted that the bk exists it seems degraded by its having been published posthumously. For one thing there's no attn pd to typography. The 2 Mesostics reproduced on the Cramps sleeve have a variety of fonts & font sizes that complicate reading & that were apparently arrived at using 'chance' operations b/c these differences serve no apparent purpose otherwise.
Contrarily, the only typographical 'oddity' in Anarchy is that the mesostics that constitute the unifying vertical text are all in UPPER CASE while the rest of the text, including the beginnings of proper nouns, are in lower case.
Cage's "Diary: How to Improve the World (You will Only make Matters Worse) continued Part Three" is printed in multiple colors - again apparently arrived at thru 'chance' methods insofar as the color doesn't delineate, eg, individual sentences or other obvious divisions of content. Anarchy is printed all in one color. In fact in every Cage publication I've seen prior to this one there's more visual imagination at work.
SO, Cage is dead, he's not there anymore to direct higher levels of complication & Anarchy gets released in a starker, more minimal, form than it might have if he had been alive to supervise. Maybe there were internal debates at Wesleyan about the pros & cons of releasing the bk in a form that might not've been Cage approved. I'm glad they chose to publish.
What I'm not glad about is that we live in an increasing age of illiteracy in wch spellcheck programs substitute for an ability to proofread. I'm not sure who to credit or blame for the preparation of the text for printing. Maybe the job got shunted off to a Wesleyan work-study student, maybe it was done by a lazy pseudo-intellectual professor. The design credit goes to Richard Hendel.
Whatever the case, consider these errors:
"The themes of Themes and Variations are the named of fifteen of the men who have been most important to me in my life and work." - p v
This is 'classic' spelling correction app at work: "named" where it shd've been "names". The original typing may've actually read as "named" but since "named" is a word it wd pass the spell check since the app wdn't be able to check for correct meaning. OR the correcting app might've corrected a typo something like "namex" to "named", again unable to check for appropriateness of meaning.
"to find a way of writing which through coming from ideas is not about them" - p vi
Another typical uncorrected or incorrectly corrected typo: "through" instead of "though".
"business through international banktuPtcy" - p 22
"banktuPtcy" instead of "bankruPtcy"
A spellcheck wd underline the word in red b/c of the alternate capitalization - thus making the proofreader assume that that's the only reason why its underlined & not noticing the "t" substituted for "r" - letters that, after all, look similar in lower case.
"the intellecUtalized expression of that force liberty which" - p 49
"intellecUtalized" instead of "intellectUalized" - see my note about the preceding typo
"of people ceaes to do thIs" - p 67
"ceaes" instead of, presumably, "ceases" - there's no excuse for this one: it's not another word that wd pass the spell check, it doesn't have deviant capitalization.
I have enormous respect for Wesleyan for various reasons, they certainly have a great music dept. But I also subject them to a scrutiny that such respect expects them to pass. 5 typos is hardly a big crime but I expect better from Wesleyan & even 5 typos indicate to me laziness & low standards. [But how many typos are there in this review, eh? - of course I'm not getting PAID]
OK, w/ that out of the way, let's move on to more important things: Cage took 30 quotes relevant to anarchy & made 20 mesostics out of them. He explains the process in a preface:
"The themes of Themes and Variations are the name[s] of fifteen of the men who have been most important to me in my life and work. Buckminster Fuller is one of them. From the beginning of my knowing him I had as he did confidence in his plan to make life on earth a success for everyone. His plan is to make an equation between human needs and world resources." - p v
'What?! What does this have to do with anarchy?!' the yellow journalism / tv 'news' victim might exclaim. They might continue: 'Where are the masks & the Molotov cocktails & the broken windows?!' However, if such a hypothetical person were even capable of producing a statement even that coherent they'd still be highly unlikely to read Cage's Anarchy - even an improbable cursory glance wd tell them that this is some-kind-of-weird-poetry-bk.
Cage gives some personal history & states that he's "grateful to Sydney Cowell who led me to Paul Avrich who led me to Paul Berman, author of Quotations from the Anarchists" (p vi) Sd bk being one of the sources for Cage's quotes. Now this resonated strongly w/ me. I remember reading somewhere that Cage didn't declare himself as an anarchist until he was 60 - yr 1972 or 1973. I realized I was an anarchist as soon as I ran across the idea in my reading when I was 16 - yr 1969 or 1970.
I don't recall anarchy being a widely disseminated concept at the time, SO it's interesting that Cage & I wd've read the same bk. I read Quotations from the Anarchists in May of 1976 when I was 22. It was published by Praeger in 1972 & might have been one of the very few somewhat widely distributed bks on the subject available at the time. One of the quotes Cage based a mesostic around not from the Berman bk is this:
"Anarchists or revolutionists can no more be made than musicians. All that can be done is to plant the seeds of thought. Whether something vital will develop depends largely on the fertility of human soil, though the quality of the intellectual seed must not be overlooked. (Emma Goldman, Preface, Anarchism and other Essays, 1910)." - p viii
Do I agree w/ this? Do YOU? One might say that robopaths & other conformists are made, by definition, by pressure from external sources while anarchists & other free thinkers continue to follow their natural course despite the pressures of society. Any anarchist seeds planted have to grow in fertile soil & will be thwarted by concrete unless there's at least a tiny crack. The pressures of society operate more like topiary gardeners - cutting every growing thing into a shape determined by someone else's vision of what they shd be, going completely against their natural tendencies. I enjoy the craft of topiary but NOT in the metaphorical sense described above.
I've never had any luck using many of the html tips provided by Goodreads. Things like indentation have never worked for me. SO, as w/ pretty much all poetry, I won't be able to accurately SPATIALLY quote "I" in Anarchy, the 1st of the mesostics, b/c I can't place each line of text in such a way so that the capitals line up to make the vertical text. STILL, you'll get the idea from the following:
him for onE
aNarchism" - p 1
The caps spell "PETER KROPOTKIN" a famous Russian anarchist. Note that between the "I" & the "N" there's "to me" w/o any caps. In the actual layout that's off the central shaft. It's not clear to me how that qualifies to be in the mesostic at all. Note also that there are spaces between lines that don't correspond to the name. Hence, there's a space between "PE" & "TER" but no space between "TER" & "KRO" making it "TERKRO" but then there's a space between "KRO" & "POTK" & another between that & "I" & another between that & the final "N".
In the preface or introduction or whatever Cage states that he's trying "to find a way of writing which th[r]ough coming from ideas is not about them; or is not about ideas but produces them." (p vi) He also says "My mesostic texts do not make ordinary sense. They make nonsense, which is taught as a serious subject by Yasunari Takahashi" (p vi) & "Instead of working, to quote McLuhan, we now brush information against information." (p vi)
What can I say? I like the results but I probably still attach more importance to what Emma Goldman had to say, eg. Reading this, as w/ reading any poetry that I like, was an interesting experience b/c of the way my mind adjusted to it. Sometimes I tried to read the VERTICAL texts, sometimes I didn't bother, sometimes I jumped between the 2. The reading experience was of a nature that I seek out insofar as it stimulated me to read w/ a fresh mind. On the other hand, I didn't really find it THAT great, I mean I find my own work more stimulating. The reader is directed to:
"text msg editorial" - http://sibila.com.br/english/tentativ...
"Po, Li, Ou" - https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
"diSTILLed Life / rfeEINr Ashairenm / reFINEr Anarchism / reINfer Arachnism" - https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
"vii" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GohN-...
Cage is great, Cage is good, now I lay me down to sleep. Cage's anarchism is all too easy for non-anarchists & anti-anarchists to use as a distraction from having a clear-headed purpose of liberation from serious societal oppressions. I've seen a local leader of a hierarchically organized orchestra perform a program of Cage works & throw around the word "anarchy" but it's all just bullshit. Such leaders might like the music (or find that they can get funding to perform it) but their hierarchy of privilege is never going away w/ any help from them. In the long run, it's the experience of people like William Buwalda that's important, NOT Cage's poetry:
"In San Francisco, in 1908, Emma Goldman's lecture attracted a soldier of the United States Army, William Buwalda. For daring to attend an Anarchist meeting, the free Republic court-martialed Buwalda and imprisoned him for one year. Thanks to the regenerating power of the new philosophy, the government lost a solder, but the cause of liberty gained a man. (Hippolyte Havel, Biographic Sketch of Emma Goldman, 1910)." - p viii
& here's a somewhat fuller description of his story:
"On April 26th of 1908, Buwalda attended Goldman’s lecture at Walton’s Pavilion in San Francisco wearing his full Army uniform. After the lecture, he shook Goldman’s hand. Detectives who had witnessed the handshake followed Buwalda to his Army base and turned him into the Army authorities.
"Buwalda was court martialed" [..] "for breaking the 62nd Article of War, which states that a service member can be court martialed or other punishments for participating in “contemptuous or disrespectful words against the President, Vice President, the Congress of the U. S., the Secretary of War or the Governor or Legislature of any states.” Not only was he court martialed, but he was found guilty by a military court, dishonorably discharged and, as if that wasn’t bad enough, sentenced to five years at hard labor on Alcatraz!
"Buwalda’s commanding officer, General Funston, called Buwalda’s interaction with Goldman “a great military offence, infinitely worse than desertion, a serious crime, equal to treason.”About a month later, Buwalda’s sentence was commuted to three years hard labor because of his 15 years of exemplary military service. The court decided that Buwalda was under the spell of an “anarchist orator” and therefore wasn’t really in control of his actions.
"Goldman immediately started a campaign to free Buwalda, which was successful. Buwalda served only 10 months in prison before he was pardoned by President Theodore Roosevelt, who disliked the anarchist movement, and Goldman in particular. Buwalda was released on December 31st, 1908. In January of 1909, Emma Goldman announced that anarchists across the country had raised one thousand dollars for Buwalda to begin a new life after prison.
"That new life started rapidly when Buwalda became an anarchist orator! He spoke with Goldman in San Francisco soon after his release. The very next night, Goldman and Buwalda were arrested for disturbing the peace. In April, Buwalda sent a letter to the Secretary of War returning his medal that he had received for bravery while fighting in the Phillippines, saying that he had no use for it and that the Secretary should give it to someone who might appreciate it more." - https://www.tenement.org/blog/one-pow... ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 18, 2016
Aug 25, 2016
Walt & Leigh Richmond's The Lost Millennium
& A. Bertram Chandler's The Road to the Rim
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 17, 2 review of
Walt & Leigh Richmond's The Lost Millennium
& A. Bertram Chandler's The Road to the Rim
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 17, 2016
Guess what?! My review is too long! SO for the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
These Ace Doubles often seem to have lesser-known writers paired w/ better-known ones for the sake of promoting the lesser-known ones. In this case, I'd never heard of Walt & Leigh Richmond, but've read a fair amt by Chandler, & didn't necessarily have high expectations. Nonetheless, I found reading The Lost Millennium sufficiently rewarding. 1st, there's an interesting initial premise:
""What are you trying to prove?"
""That the power's there. That there's a tremendous electrical potential between Earth-ground and the ionosphere. That the Earth and the ionosphere form a sort of sphere-in-sphere capacitor fed by the solar wind, with the dense part of the atmosphere acting as a leady dialectric between them. I'm planning to short out the 'capacitor' and prove the power's there. Lots of it. Thousands of times more power than all the generating stations in the world produce today.["]" - p 6
In "SFE: The Science Fiction Encyclopedia" the entry regarding Leigh Richmond begins w/ this:
"(1911-1995) US writer who began publishing with Prologue to an Analogue (June 1961 Analog; 2009 ebook), and who wrote some solo stories. Her several sf novels were all in collaboration with her husband, Walt Richmond; three were revised by her after his death. Almost all their work together expressed a sense – one formally presented by the Centric Foundation which they founded and directed – that scientific breakthroughs could be made by young minds freed of the bureaucratic artifices of orthodox scientific thinking; unfortunately, overloaded Space-Opera plotting did little to make their novels convincing emblems of this new clarity, and the exaggerated individualism they expressed seemed less mould-breaking than nostalgic." - http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/...
My sense of the Richmonds is that they might've been scientists who tried to write visionary SF that had a solid scientific basis that was open-minded. I suppose that doesn't make them much different from any other SF writers but there's something very plotted-out about The Lost Millennium that almost evokes an outline-of-possibilities - as if they might've been even more concerned w/ the possibility of the logics than they were w/ the readability of the plot. As literature I reckon that's a short-coming but I found their premises all compelling enuf to help me overlook some of the turgid language.
""Or take the Piri Reis maps, aerial surveys estimated to be about 7,000 years old. They contain information about the polar regions that we did not possess until we checked their accuracy with soundings. They were made when the poles were unglaciated.["]" - p 11
I wasn't familiar w/ the Piri Reis maps so I did a little online research:
"The Piri Reis map is a world map compiled in 1513 from military intelligence by the Ottoman admiral and cartographer Piri Reis (pronounced [piɾi ɾeis]). Approximately one third of the map survives; it shows the western coasts of Europe and North Africa and the coast of Brazil with reasonable accuracy. Various Atlantic islands, including the Azores and Canary Islands, are depicted, as is the mythical island of Antillia and possibly Japan.
"The historical importance of the map lies in its demonstration of the extent of exploration of the New World by approximately 1510, and in its claim to have used Columbus's maps, otherwise lost, as a source. It used ten Arab sources, four Indian maps sourced from the Portuguese, and one map of Columbus. More recently, it has been the focus of pseudohistoric claims for the pre-modern exploration of the Antarctic coast."
"As far as the accuracy of depiction of the supposed Antarctic coast is concerned, there are two conspicuous errors. First, it is shown hundreds of miles north of its proper location; second, the Drake Passage is completely missing, with the Antarctic Peninsula presumably conflated with the Argentine coast. The identification of this area of the map with the frigid Antarctic coast is also difficult to reconcile with the notes on the map which describe the region as having a warm climate." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piri_Re...
"Dear Professor Hapgood,
"Your request of evaluation of certain unusual features of the Piri Reis map of 1513 by this organization has been reviewed.
"The claim that the lower part of the map portrays the Princess Martha Coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctic, and the Palmer Peninsular, is reasonable. We find that this is the most logical and in all probability the correct interpretation of the map.
"The geographical detail shown in the lower part of the map agrees very remarkably with the results of the seismic profile made across the top of the ice-cap by the Swedish-British Antarctic Expedition of 1949.
"This indicates the coastline had been mapped before it was covered by the ice-cap. The ice-cap in this region is now about a mile thick.
"We have no idea how the data on this map can be reconciled with the supposed state of geographical knowledge in 1513.
"Harold Z. Ohlmeyer Lt. Colonel, USAF Commander"
"The Piri Re'is map is often exhibited in cases seeking to prove that civilization was once advanced and that, through some unknown event or events, we are only now gaining any understanding of this mysterious cultural decline. The earliest known civilization, the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, appear out of nowhere around 4,000 B.C. but have no nautical or maritime cultural heritage. They do, however, speak reverently of ancestral people who were like the "gods" and were known as the Nefilim.
"Here is a summary of some of the most unusual findings about the map:
"*Scrutiny of the map shows that the makers knew the accurate circumference of the Earth to within 50 miles.
"*The coastline and island that are shown in Antarctica must have been navigated at some period prior to 4,000 B.C. when these areas were free of ice from the last Ice Age." - http://old.world-mysteries.com/sar_1.htm
I don't have an opinion about the significance of the Piri Re'is map or of any other map - I'm not a cartographer. I do think that the Richmond's bringing the map into their plot is a good indicator of how they try to build their narrative case on a solid basis.
"["]I'm going to outline the five major catastrophes that geological evidence indicates, exactly as I think they happened.
"The first catastrophe—the one that destroyed an advanced civilization here eighty-six hundred years ago—was a solar tap avalanche at the pole.["]" - p 11
I think the Richmonds were visionaries. Given that our lifetimes overlapped I'm sorry I didn't know about them until now. In The Lost Millennium they postulate a device for providing energy, the solar tap, & then try to demonstrate the likelihood of its historical existence thru geological & other evidence. I imagine many wd find such a hypothesis ridiculous but I find it fascinatingly ambitious. This ambitiousness makes the bk for me.
A name I've been running across for decades is Velikovsky. I have a vague notion that he's generally written off as a crackpot but that's only partially & not entirely why I haven't read his work. There just ain't enuf time in the day.
""The catastrophes and their dating have been deduced before, but it's taken courage to publish the findings. For instance, Velikovsky outlined the historic and geologic evidence that prove and date the last two catastrophes—the ones in 1450 and 776 BC—in great detail in 1950. He took a terrific beating from the self-styled 'scientific community' for doing it.["]" - p 13
Apparently, the Richmonds are willing to take Velikovsky at face value.
"Immanuel Velikovsky in his 1950's book Worlds in Collision proposes that many myths and traditions of ancient peoples and cultures are based on actual events: worldwide global catastrophes of a celestial origin, which had a profound effect on the lives, beliefs and writings of early mankind.
""Worlds in Collision is a book of wars in the celestial sphere that took place in historical times. In these wars the planet earth participated too. [...] The historical-cosmological story of this book is based in the evidence of historical texts of many people around the globe, on classical literature, on epics of the northern races, on sacred books of the peoples of the Orient and Occident, on traditions and folklore of primitive peoples, on old astronomical inscriptions and charts, on archaeological finds, and also on geological and paleontological material." - Worlds In Collision, Preface.
"After reaching the number 1 spot in the best-sellers list, Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision was banned from a number of academic institutions, and creating an unprecedented scientific debacle that became known as The Velikovsky Affair. In 1956 Velikovsky wrote Earth in Upheaval to present conclusive geological evidence of terrestrial catastrophism." - http://www.knowledge.co.uk/velikovsky...
"In 1950, Macmillan Company published Immanuel Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision, a book which asserts, among many other things, that the planet Venus did not exist until recently. Some 3500 years ago in the guise of a gigantic comet, it grazed Earth a couple of times, after having been ejected from the planet Jupiter some indefinite time earlier, before settling into its current orbit. Velikovsky (1895-1979), a psychiatrist by training, did not base his claims on astronomical evidence and scientific inference or argument. Instead, he argued on the basis of ancient cosmological myths from places as disparate as India and China, Greece and Rome, Assyria and Sumer. For example, ancient Greek mythology asserts that the goddess Athena sprang from the head of Zeus. Velikovsky identifies Athena with the planet Venus, though the Greeks didn't. The Greek counterpart of the Roman Venus was Aphrodite. Velikovsky identifies Zeus (whose Roman counterpart was the god Jupiter) with the planet Jupiter. This myth, along with others from ancient Egypt, Israel, Mexico, etc., are used to support the claim that "Venus was expelled as a comet and then changed to a planet after contact with a number of members of our solar system" (Velikovsky 1972,182)."
"What Velikovsky does isn't science because he does not start with what is known and then use ancient myths to illustrate or illuminate what has been discovered. Instead, he is indifferent to the established beliefs of astronomers and physicists, and seems to assume that someday they will find the evidence to support his ideas. He seems to take it for granted that the claims of ancient myths should be used to support or challenge the claims of modern astronomy and cosmology. In short, like the creationists in their arguments against evolution, he starts with the assumption that the Bible is a foundation and guide for scientific truth. Where the views of modern astrophysicists or astronomers conflict with certain passages of the Old Testament, the moderns are assumed to be wrong. Velikovsky, however, goes much further than the creationists in his faith; for Velikovsky has faith in all ancient myths, legends, and folk tales. Because of his uncritical and selective acceptance of ancient myths, he cannot be said to be doing history, either. Where myths can be favorably interpreted to fit his hypothesis, he does not fail to cite them. The contradictions of ancient myths regarding the origin of the cosmos, the people, etc. are trivialized. If a myth fits his hypotheses, he accepts it and interprets it to his liking. Where the myth doesn't fit, he ignores it. In short, he seems to make no distinction between myth, legends, and history. Myths may have to be interpreted but Velikovsky treats them as presenting historical facts. If a myth conflicts with a scientific law of nature, the law must be revised." - http://skepdic.com/velikov.html
I must admit that I find the above-quoted Skeptic's Dictionary critique convincing but I must also admit that I just skimmed thru it & haven't read the Velikovsky at all so who knows? Maybe I'd revise my opinion if I were better informed. Whatever the case, it's obvious that Velikovsky was a big influence on the writing of The Lost Millennium. A part of what 'saves' this for me is that it's not just Velikovsky. There're also more demonstrably proven visionaries referenced:
"With power to waste, you can transmit by broadcast, you know, and simply tune in to it as a power source, the way you tune in a radio. Nikola Tesla showed that could be done, back in 1911.["]" - p 15
I'm willing to believe that Tesla cd've pulled that off & that his research was stopped by capitalist forces but I do tend to wonder what the negative environmental & health effects of such a system wd be. Even the Velikovsky influenced spin on the bible doesn't bother me so much:
""The Bible. The story of the Lord of Molecular Biology of the University of Créta, who used the DNA patterns of his own cells to create Adam and Eve—and who created the domestic animals from the undomesticated ones he had in his laboratory, and from the frozen cells of frozen meat he had on hand.["]" - p 15
And the writing isn't quite as hack as I may've implied: "The engineer leaned forward and knocked the dottle out of his pipe." (p 25) No writing can be too bad if it uses a word I don't know: "unburned and partially burned tobacco in the bowl of a pipe" ( http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio... )
&, WTF, the idea of a spaceship made out of ice is practically as wonderful as Alfred Jarry's 'pataphysical boat that's a sieve:
"the starship on which he stood: a "snowball" of polar ice, raised in huge blocks from the polar cap, with the control systems, the crew's quarters, and the huge holds for the 2,000 colonists and their equipment, nestled and shielded in its center.
"The Vahsaba; the seventh ship, its goal nearly 2,200 light years out. Nothing short of the tremendous power of the polar Siva generator could have raised the parts for this ship. Megalar by megalar, the great blocks of ice from the polar cap had been raised by the tremendous blasts of power into an orbit in space. Month after month the pre-formed blocks of ice had been welded and fitted to form the huge central mass of a star-drive ship" - p 29
""Yes," said the archeologist. "R. W. Bussard's Ram-Jet Vehicle for Interstellar Flight.["]" - p 32
'Naturally', I have to research that: "Instead of carrying all the fuel for a mission inside the vehicle, the nuclear ramjet (also known as the Bussard Ramjet) would use an electromagnetic "scoop" to collect hydrogen from space for use in nuclear fusion. The shape of the flow path constricts (similar to an air-breathing ramjet), causing the gas to compress until fusion begins. Since the density of hydrogen in space is projected to be only at most 1-2 atoms per cm2 on any given plane through space, the scoop would need a large cross-sectional area: for a circular scoop, a radius on the order of 60 km may be necessary to maintain the necessary thrust." ( http://large.stanford.edu/courses/201... ) SO, it appears that Brussard's Ram-Jet is somewhat accepted as a possibility for interstellar travel.
Not being completely ignorant, there're a few things I pick up on:
"["]You know that the foetus goes through an entire evolutionary process in reproduction? Well, the regenerative factor is just as apt to pick out an early evolutionary characteristic to regenerate as a recent one. For instance, one mammal developed fins.["]" - p 49
This seems to be based on Ernst Haeckel's "Ontogeny replicates Phylogeny": "The "law of recapitulation" has been discredited since the beginning of the twentieth century. Experimental morphologists and biologists have shown that there is not a one-to-one correspondence between phylogeny and ontogeny. Although a strong form of recapitulation is not correct, phylogeny and ontogeny are intertwined, and many biologists are beginning to both explore and understand the basis for this connection." ( http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/... ) Perhaps I misunderstand.
One of the ancient scientists explains how he's funding his extraordinary project:
""Ah," David explained proudly. "This is only partially from research funds. Haven't you heard that I went commercial? I had some research funds that could be allocated to the Juheda, of course, but they weren't nearly sufficient. So I began commercializing. I've sold books and articles—I even wrote some science fiction—with sound scientific bases, I might add. Two were bought for the movies. And I've been making films for the Educational TV channels. I've just been signed up by the Knights Interests to make a series of cartoon-films on biology which will be used on commercial channels.["]" - p 57
Cd the Richmonds be using David as their proxy? The rogue scientist(s) going commercial to fund, what? Their "Centric Foundation"? The part about writing "science fiction—with sound scientific bases" certainly fits what I've written in this review so far. In an article entitled "Walls of Secrecy Surround Alternative Technologies: Will Citizens Demand Their Removal?" by Jeane Manning (Originally published in issue #20 of Atlantis Rising magazine. Posted with permission at http://www.paradigmresearchgroup.org/... .) it's written:
"Individuals in every decade have tried to open the Secrecy closet. The late Leigh Richmond Donahue and physicist Walter Richmond were in the thick of science politics in the 1940s. In the introduction to their novel The Lost Millennium she says "It is hard to remember the predictable results (of new secrecy laws), because those outcries, by the top scientists of the country, the top economists, the top theorists, were smothered by the very legislation that they fought. The fact that they fought was one of the major secrets of the secrecy syndrome." In 1962 her late husband figured out how to tap into an atmospheric source of electrical power. Leigh adds, "A source of power can be used for construction or for war." They took their research to John F. Kennedy’s science advisor. Instead of their intended use—clean power for the people--the papers were classified and the Richmonds were offered a research contract which they refused. "It would have placed us under the Secrecy Syndrome, in which we had refused for some years to have any part. We were told to sit down and shut up, in no uncertain terms."
"Do the wrong people have the advanced science? Leigh wrote to me a year or so before her death, "My reaction to HAARP is much the same as yours. I’ve seen too much of what they do, and if they don’t actually destroy the planet, at least they’re trying hard. In 1964 when they --the military of course-- sent up a band of tiny copper wires into the ionosphere to orbit the planet so as to reflect radio waves and make reception clearer, we had the 8.5 Alaskan earthquake, and Chile lost a good deal of its coast. That band of copper wires interfered with the planetary magnetic field." ...more
Notes are private!
Aug 12, 2016
Aug 20, 2016
Mass Market Paperback
Oct 01, 2001
Jan 24, 2003
it was amazing
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Returning as Shadows
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 31, 2016
This bk is SUBSTANTIAL, therefore, my REAL REVI review of
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Returning as Shadows
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 31, 2016
This bk is SUBSTANTIAL, therefore, my REAL REVIEW is also SUBSTANTIAL. What follows is just the beginning of that. For the FULL THING go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This is only the 2nd bk by Taibo that I've read & once again I'm very impressed. For my review of Return to the Same City go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . Most (or all?) of the odd-numbered chapters are titled "Interruptions and Invasions" & at 1st it wasn't clear to me whose voice they were written in, where they writing from, & what the significance of the numbering of the paragraphs was:
"4. A corollary (though this is not what's interesting): Fascism is filled to no end with eagles, bronze statues, plaques, and the rest of this sort of paraphernalia; its caustic symbols fill our eyes, its torchlit parades and militarized children burn our pupils. But the truly important thing here is that this plaque was invariably cleaned every morning with a buffer and, sometimes, with polish. The buffer was a "Limcream" bran, while the polish bore no mark." - p 3
The story gradually revealed itself w/ an incredible command of writerly skill. It's a bizarre one but it's even got some 'facts' mixed in w/ its 'fiction' - in fact, the 'facts' are the main well-spring. Were nazis killing the indigenous people of Chiapas in 1941?
""They're not Castilians, and they're not the ranchers. So who are they?" asked Múgica, gently pressing the issue. "You're trying to take other indigenous communities upon yourselves. If you are Tzotziles, then you're taking on Choles. Who, then, are the instigators, the ones causing the problem?"
"The envoy shook its collective head. Didn't the general understand anything?
""They're of the cross. The ones doing the killing are of the cross."" - p 22
The broken cross as it turns out. Sometimes it seems like using nazis as the bad guys is too easy but we're not talking Dean Koontz here. This is profound literature. It might seem predictable & easy too to have the nazis be disrespectful & destructive of nature but ain't that the way of things?:
"They were fast hikers, but they scorned the jungle: they didn't bury their shit, they hacked at young shrubs for no reason, they shot birds and jackrabbits for sport, and they stripped the bark from trees." - p 27
If there's a system to the numbering in the "Interruptions and Invasions" sections I never found it. I interpret it as something to make the reader feel as if we're stumbling across fragments following a logic we're never to know. Chapter 13 on p 32 begins w/ "10":
"10. Writing a novel is fundamentally and act of shamelessness. Combing one's hair is also an act of shamelessness, if only because you're trying to cover up deep scars with a thick head of hair. But this is only a minor act, whereas writing is something much more grave. It's a masking of reality, an obscuring of fears, a reinvention of things said and, ultimately, of those who said them."
Does that make this particular narrator the author of the bk? If so, as we discover who this person is, there's significance to be read into it.. While chapter 13 ends on the number 11, chapter 15 begins w/ 16 & ends w/ 17 while chapter 17 goes from 6 to 7.
"7. What do I see through the Galileico telescope fitted with 300X Zeiss lenses which they let me keep in my cell?" - p 38
At 1st I thought this particular narrator was in jail. Then an insane asylum became more likely:
"10. Casavieja relates films to me. He understands that the iron seclusion of prison deprives a man of his most important approximation of reality: the dark theater and its magical silver screen. He's told me, with a surgeon's detail, if two films that I can only describe as being superficial and nearly illiterate: the final two films of Veronica Lake.
"He also knows that I like the novels of Hammett, and so he narrates the film versions of The Glass Key and, above all, I Married a Witch." - p 46
I have a modest collection of at least 7 movies based on Hammett stories & characters wch includes The Glass Key, wch is the title of a Hammett novel. But I Married a Witch? I don't find that title in any of the novels or in the The Continental Op or The Big Knockover short story collections, the only 2 I have. SO, I look up "I Married a Witch" & discover that it was directed by René Clair & stars Veronica Lake & not written by Hammett so I misunderstood that Hammett had anything to do w/ it.
Alas, Lake only made it to 50 yrs old before her alcoholism caught up to her & killed her. I've never pd any attn to her until Taibo got me interested. Her last 2 movies were Footsteps in the Snow (1966) & Flesh Feast (1970). I cd easily fall in love w/ her but she's been dead for 43 yrs so I don't think it'll work out too well.
By p 56, "Interruptions and Invasions" has reached 1. Is the chronology jumping around? Apparently not, b/c p 66 also begins w/ 1. One might think that there's in-fighting on p 63 but it's, shucks, all in fun:
""Strange, dark, and certainly winding is the proletariat's path. You who are a populist romantic liberal and even a bit of a libertarian . . . you have to prefer the straight and narrow, right?"
""If it weren't for the fact that I like how you write, Pepe, I'd tell you to go fuck yourself. Listening to you makes me think that maybe Marxism is a step backwards in terms of political thought, a breakdown of intelligence."
""I'd better go before you decide to take your ribbons back.""
Typewriter ribbons, ie. The person sponging the ribbons is named Revueltas:
"Revueltas was a tragic figure; he came from a family of geniuses who had all died young. Manterola remembered Silvestre the musician and especially Fermin the painter, one of Mexico's greatest muralists" - p 63
For a tiny bit more about Silvestre see this webpage of mine: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/mmm058.... .
Bit by bit, the reader pieces together the plot & deduces who's who & what they're doing:
""Tomás was too much of an anarchist to ever sing on with the Communist party.""
""Verdugo disappeared. After the whole thing with his wife, he just up and vanished. Maybe five years ago."
""I read what you wrote about that. What a story."
""Verdugo was always close to tragedy. Flirting with it."
""But he's not in prison, is he?"
""Frankly, I don't know. One day I asked about him, and nobody knew anything. No word about prisons, about morgues, nothing."" - p 68
It's interesting to think that in today's world of rapid travel between very different environs that not only do diseases travel fast but so do immunities to them. It hasn;t always been this way:
"in the corner of the state of Chiapas and on the border of Guatemala, lies the region of Soconusco, isolated and unpopulated, devoid of roads and ports, forever condemned to be the periphery of the periphery.
"Here a simple virus, a flu, brought unknowingly by the conquistadors, devastated the indigenous population." - p 73
When it comes to some types of historical detail I assume that there's an attempt to have accurate background:
"Behind this miracle of coffee were thirty-two German plantations on which lived no more than three hundred German citizens and their families, the twenty-five haciendas, property of their Mexican partners, but above all the hundreds of ill-fated farmhands who lived in slavelike conditions and the thirty or forty thousand contract laborers paid in slave wages.
"The Mexican Revolution never reached this region, whose agrarian order remained intact. As far as ranch towns go, Tapachula was cosmopolitan, even European: the Castillian and French languages were used to transmit orders, originally in German, to workers who spoke the various Mayan dialects." - p 75
But let's not assume. Here's what a promotional website for one of the coffee companies of the region has to say for itself:
"It all began...
"...more than 60 years ago: In 1941 the late Don Juan C. Luttmann, an outstanding coffee producer and promoter of Mexican coffees, founded the coffee exporting company Exportadora de Café California in Tapachula, Chiapas, one of Mexico's leading coffee regions close to the Guatemalan border. Now, in their third generation, the Luttmann family's dedication to coffee has not wavered. Being a reliable partner to both farmers and roasters is still one of the most important aspects of their company's philosophy.
"In 1993 Neumann Gruppe, Germany, and the Luttmann family decided to combine their know-how, creating one of today's largest green coffee exporting companies in Mexico.
"Being a part of Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, Exportadora de Café California has benefited over the years from the expertise of the world's leading green coffee service group. The combination of a traditional and reliable business with modern risk management makes our company unique in the Mexican coffee sector.
"Exportadora de Café California plays a central part in the Mexican coffee export business with a market share of around 20%. At the same time the company is a main supplier to the local industry." - http://www.eccmexico.com/aboutus/history
&, gosh, there's no mention of slave labor or any connection between the German families & naziism. Another website does little more than describe the coffee:
"Located in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Turquesa, which is located in the southernmost part of the Chiapas coast extending south from the Ulapa River to the Suchiate River. The dry mill is located in the town of Tapachula, Chiapas, “between the waters.” In native Aztec Nahuatl and Tapachula it’s “between the waters” due to the area’s persistent flooding.
"This is one of those coffees that doesn’t necessarily bowl you over, but just because of that can be enjoyed without burning out on it. The prep is outstanding, and the flavor leans a little more toward nutty than our organic option which is a bit more chocolate. It’s a subtle, balanced coffee you can drink all day." - http://www.cafemuertos.com/mexico-tap...
Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about Tapachula:
"About eighteen percent of the working population works in agriculture and livestock. About twenty three percent of these workers are not paid a salary." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapachula
Of course, I deliberately picked that tiny excerpt from a much longer & more balanced entry just to show something relevant to the plot of this bk & to hint at the possibility that some outrages might be intrinsic to the economic system even to this day. An article from "Counterpunch - The Fearless Voice of the American Left Since 1993" gets into substantial detail about more current-day problems of coffee workers in Mexico:
"December 15, 2004
"Migration and Coffee in Mexico and Central America
"by Luis Hernández Navarro
"Reyno Bartolo Hernández died of heatstroke in the Arizona desert near Yuma on May 22, 2001. He wasn’t the only Mexican farmer who lost his life that day trying to cross the border. Thirteen of his countrymen and -women perished along with him in one more of the migratory tragedies of modern history.
"Reyno and his companions were small coffee growers from the township of Atzalan, Veracruz. Atzalan is a formerly rich region but in recent years it has been impoverished by senseless policies. Until just a few years ago, few of its residents migrated to the United States. Then the price of coffee fell, and so did the price of citrus fruits and cattle. To make matters worse, bananas were attacked by fruit flies and the coffee crop was overcome by a devastating plant disease.
"So little by little, the inhabitants of Atzalan set out along the route blazoned by small farmers from the states of Michoacan, Zacatecas, and Jalisco decades earlier. The coffee farmers began to look for a way to cross the 3,107-kilometer border that separated them from the United States, hoping to get to “the other side.” In desperation, they hooked up with the infamous polleros, the smugglers who led them to their deaths.
"Thomas Navarrete, long-time adviser to the cooperative that many Atzalan growers belong to, notes that the crisis in the region is dramatic and tragic. In many communities, around 70% of the residents have left, most to the United States. Navarrete points out that before people didn’t need to leave their communities, at least not like now. “Even Celso Rodríguez, the president of the cooperative, left to work in Arizona,” he says.
"The border has become a magnet for these coffee growers. If they get over–and many do–they earn $4-5 an hour, compared to the less than $4 a day they earn at home, if they’re lucky. In the coffee communities, the success stories from the other side are impressive. Migrants come back and remodel their houses; they pour a new roof, replace wooden planks with concrete blocks. Everyone can see and envy the changes."
"In 1989 the economic clause setting country export quotas of the International Coffee Organization was abandoned with the strong support of the Mexican government. Immediately, the price fell through the floor. Prices have gone up and down since the quota system ended, but since 1997 they have mostly gone down.
"The only ones who win in this situation are the large companies and speculators on the commodities markets of New York and London. Coffee-growing communities, already poor, have grown poorer. As a response, thousands of farmers and laborers who cultivate and harvest the crop have decided to leave their homes permanently.
"The old migration of laborers to harvest was marked by hardship. They went to the large plantations because they had to, not by choice. There they suffered abuse, hunger, and sickness. The journey was hell.
"Indigenous peoples of the highlands remember the suffering: “We’d get an advance from the plantation so when we got there we already had a debt to pay off. Then the debt just gets bigger because the plantation doesn’t give you anything, you have to pay for everything, even food In addition to the hard work, we suffered from other things on the plantation. The boss doesn’t care about the workers–if they’re sick, it’s not his concern. So they don’t give us good food and we’re always hungry Before, the foremen mistreated workers a lot, they whipped them, beat them with branches, with belts, with the flat blade of the machete, kicked them. You got punished for anything we were afraid of the plantation but we put up with it because we were poor.” - http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/12/1...
In short, in my cursory looks online for substantiation of Taibo's history of the abuses of German immigrants perpetrated on the indigenous population I didn't find much although I'm confident it's out there somewhere. I did, however, find substantiation of reasons for understanding the more general plight of migrant workers.
Some readers might poo-poo Taibo's story as overly sensationalist, as pandering to the public's taste for the lurid, as 'too conspiracy theory' or mythological. I'm convinced it's well-researched.
"The ever-cold rabbi with stained hands began again: "In the beginning, two lunatic Austrians met, Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels and Guido von List. Proto-Templars, admirers of runes, occultists, holders of castles. Hitler met the former in 1909, when he had formed a neopagan organization to practice magic, promote anti-Semitism, defend racial purity, and dabble in esoteric cults. There was a magazine called Ad Astra which Hitler subscribed to."" - p 84
Ad Astra? Sound familiar anyone? It did to me & I was fairly sure it had something to do w/ the AAA (Association of Autonomous Astroanuts) or, perhaps, Stewart Home. SO, I looked for a magazine of that name in my personal library & didn't find it, I looked for a file card of my correspondents under that name & didn't find it, I looked for anything under that name in my AAA file &, Bingo!, Ad Astra! was/(is?) the name of "The newsletter of Raido AAA".
In The First Annual Report of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts ("Published April 23rd 1996"), Raido's mailing address was given as "BM Box 3641, London, WC1N 3XX". On my file card for Home his mailing address as of September, 1994, was given as "BM Senior, London, WC1N 3XX". So, yeah, naming a newsletter after an occult one that Hitler reputedly subscribed to is the kind of prank Stewart wd pull. After all, he repurposed the so-called "Protocols of Zion" used by nazis to defame Jews as a manifesto fro something neoist related.
I'm reminded of a prank that my father told me about. Shortly after 'WWII', the Baltimore City Council was having a meeting in wch it was discussed about what to name the plaza in front of City Hall. One of the participants proposed that it be called "Albert Speer Plaza" or some such. The others present apparently didn't care what it was called & just voted in favor of the proposal w/o knowing who Speer was. Presumably, the prankster then revealed that he was the main nazi architect, imprisoned as a war criminal, & the voters retracted.
This type of esoteric dark humor is given further background in informative passages of Taibo's such as this:
"["]Dietrich Eckart intervened in the operation; he was a strange journalist, an admitted Satanist who, at the end of the war," [ie": 'WWI'] "edited a weekly magazine in Munich where he argued, among other things, that any Jew who tainted German blood through marriage should be sentenced to three years in prison and that any Jew convicted of a second offense should be executed. He was also a theater critic and would later go on to produce some of his own works, including In Old Bavaria and Springtime for Hitler."" - p 85
" Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden is a fictional musical in Mel Brooks' 1968 film The Producers, as well as the stage musical adaptation of the movie, and the 2005 movie adaptation of the musical. It is a musical about Adolf Hitler, written by Franz Liebkind, an unbalanced ex-Nazi played by Kenneth Mars (then by Brad Oscar and Will Ferrell in the stage musical and the 2005 film respectively).
"In the film, the play is chosen by the producer Max Bialystock and his accountant Leo Bloom in their fraudulent scheme to raise substantial funding by selling 25,000% of a play, then causing it to fail, and finally keeping all of the remaining money for themselves. To ensure that the play is a total failure, Max selects an incredibly tasteless script (which he describes as "practically a love letter to Adolf Hitler"), hires the worst director he can find (Roger DeBris, a stereotypical homosexual and transvestite caricature), and casts an out-of-control hippie named Lorenzo St. DuBois, also known by his initials "L.S.D.", in the role of Hitler (after he had wandered into the wrong theatre by mistake during the casting call -- "That's our Hitler!"). ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 26, 2016
Aug 03, 2016
really liked it
A. Bertram Chandler's The Alternate Martians / Empress of Outer Space
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 28-30, 2016
This is an Ace Double review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Alternate Martians / Empress of Outer Space
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 28-30, 2016
This is an Ace Double: 2 novels in one bk: one cover side being the beginning of one, the other cover side being the flip of the 1st being the beginning of the 2nd novel. The Alternate Martians is a sequel to The Coils of Time (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6... ) & I enjoyed it for that. Wilkinson was the astronaut turned time-traveler in The Coils of Time & Henshaw was the scientist who developed the theory & the device. Early on, we get a slight recap of the beginning premise of the previous novel:
"Wilkinson, for reasons of his own, had agreed to act as Henshaw's guinea pig. He had hoped that if the scientist's time machine did work it might be possible for him, sent back a year or so in the past, to do something to avert the Martian Maid disaster or, failing that, to make certain that his fiancée, Vanessa Raymond, was not among the passengers aboard that ill-fated vessel." - p 6
The recap continues w/ some of the time theory:
""To begin with, the Coils of Time. The ever-widening spiral—with the past towards the center, inwards, and the future expanding outwards. The repetition of personalities on coil after coil." - p 15
OK, I just have to quote my own review of extensively here for those of you who haven't already read that & memorized it in case the bk-review-e-burning-squad appears:
"I don't remember where I read about this spiral time theory 1st. I may've run across it in William S. Burroughs or maybe in José A. Argüelles's The Transformative Vision (1975) wch I read in July of 1976. The Coils of Time is from 1964 so I have to give Chandler credit here for precociousness.
"I incorporated the idea of spiral time into my own personal dating system wch I discuss at length in the "Do's & Don'ts of Dating" section in my footnotes bk (2006). Since copies of sd bk are almost impossible to come by, I'll quote a little from that section here:
""ANYWAY, reading Argüelles' book, I was no doubt inspired to try to create a dating system that both reflected the possibility of cyclical time as well as an attempt to have a simultaneous linear time. So, believe it or not, that's another layer that's added onto the afore-discussed dating header that I developed. HOW? In December of 1990EV, I decided to try to organize all of the letter substitution texts into one spiraling text labeled a "calendar" - as I'd originally intended them to be read.
""The idea of these texts was that they were to form 2 'narratives': 1. the 'narrative' of their linear context, & 2. the 'meta-narrative' of their substitutions. These 2 'narratives' were meant to be in conflict with each other in the sense that the substitutions of successive letters for "e" (& various other manifestations not gone into here but gone into in the "l;a;n;g;u;a;g;e" section) wd make the 'linear text' harder to read & the 'linear text' AND the seperateness of the texts as they wd ordinarily be perceived wd make the 'meta-narrative' harder to perceive.
""Additionally, the 'meta-narrative' is cyclical because the substitutions are using a limited vocabulary of 26 letters wch are cycled thru. This, after "(z)" is reached, the substitutions go to "(a)" thru "(d)" & then to "(ee)", etc.. Giveen that the letters are then doubled (& hypothetically tripled, etc..), the cyclical repetitions are then doubled (& hypothetically tripled, etc..), the cyclical repetitions are not exact but similar by virtue of the same symbols being used.
""Ultimately, the time system I was getting at is neither cyclical or linear but a non-polarized 'marriage' of the 2 akin in spirit to the puns analyzed above! But alot more 'abrasive', eh?! Generating mental heat thru conceptual friction. Now we're getting somewhere. BUT, before I get to showing you a succession of images of the "CRUD(OO) SPIRAL TIM(OO) CAL(OO)NDAR"""
Chandler pays homage to his SF predecessors fairly often but he really goes all out w/ this one:
""But when it came to Mars—with assorted Martians complete with a canal system—were Wells, Burroughs and all the rest guessing, or remembering? Was there a Wellsian or Stapledonian Martian Invasion on some other Coils of Time? Was there a John Carter who married the Princess Dejas Thoris?" - pp 16-17
Once you've read that the answer to the following is clear:
""I'm only a biologist," remarked Titov. "As far as Physics is concerned, I don't know which way is up. So tell me, just what would happen if the Inertial Drive were operated at the same time as your Time Twister?"
""I don't know," admitted Henshaw reluctantly." - p 35
Well the answer's obvious! That'll give the author a chance to conflate together plot elements of his favorite Mars stories & to turn them into a new one - & I thoroughly enjoyed the process.
"More humans were coming into the hall. First there were two women, armed with those absurd spray guns, filling the air with the nauseating reek of carrion. And then, walking slowly and carefully, four girls entered, carrying between them the disgusting bulk of the High Overlord, the loathsome gray sack into which was packed, presumably, the thing's brains and internal organs. The saucer eyes glared coldly, and the tentacles writhed like twin nests of snakes." - p 109
"They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it is possible to conceive. They were huge round bodies—or, rather, heads—about four feet in diameter, each body having in front of it a face. This face had no nostrils—indeed, the Martians do not seem to have had any sense of smell, but it had a pair of very large dark-coloured eyes, and just beneath this a kind of fleshy beak. In the back of this head or body—I scarcely know how to speak of it—was the single tight tympanic surface, since known to be anatomically an ear, though it must have been almost useless in our dense air. In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost whiplike tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each." pp 132-133 H. G. Well's the War of the Worlds, 1961 Dolphin Books paperback edition
"He heard Titov mutter, his voice carrying a hint of wry irony, "The Swordsmen of Mars. . . . Christ!" - p 116
I figured that "The Swordsmen of Mars" was a reference to one or more of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars stories but, no, it's actually reference to a 1933 serialized tale by Otis Adelbert Kline that 1st appeared in Argosy magazine. Kline was a competitor of Burroughs's that I'd never heard of until I researched this.
In the flipside bk of this Ace Double there's a section that's equally applicable to this side:
"He marveled at Burroughs' conception of a Mars that never could have been, never could be—and while he was reading of the heroic deeds of John Carter the magic took hold of him and it was real, all real—the twin moons hurtling high over the arid sea beds of Barsoom, the swordsmen locked in combat on the heeling decks of the flying ships, the Green Martians on their six-legged thoats in thunderous charge across the lichenous plain." - p 27, Empress of Outer Space
Wch brings us to flip. The setting: outer space, the problem: one power-hungry rogue:
"And there Captain Jones, unwisely assuming that he was beyond the reach of the long arm of the Empress, had attempted to found his own peculiar kingdom."
"Captain Jones' officers and men were being executed, one by one, in the full view of the surviving populace, with all the archaic ritual of the stripping of braid and buttons and decorations, the leveled rifles, the rattling discharges and the smoke and the stink of burned cordite." - p 6
I can't say I find Chandler's literary tastes to be the most refined but I still find the way he inserts them into his novels fun:
"She gasped in delight and amazement. "Commander, there's a treasure here!"
"["]Judging by this list of titles he must have been an authority on late Nineteenth Century and Twentieth Century thrillers. Here's Burroughs—all the Tarzan novels and all the Martian novels. And Conan Doyle—the Sherlock Holmes stories. And Dumas—the Three Muskateers, of course. Fleming—the James Bond series. P. C. Wren—the French Foreign Legion novels" - p 28
Regarding the latter, see "Beau Jest" here: https://youtu.be/Z8WNrhWKdJ0 . Or am I hallucinating?
"At first it seemed vitally important that he recall the name of his dog—and then, as the hallucinogenic vapors drowned what remained of sanity, it didn't matter anymore. All that mattered was the bugles—imperious, insistent—and the compelling throb and mutter of the little drums." - p 58
This time it's an hallucination that conflates the various fictions together instead of the time travel slippage of The Alternate Martians:
""May I offer you refreshment, Milady? Milord Benjamin?" asked the Duke.
""I could do with a pint of wallop," agreed the Empress, lapsing suddenly into space tramp idiom.
"The Duke chuckled. "You too, have the way with words, Milady. But it is as good a way of describing out Barsoomian wine as any."" - p 61
Barsoom = reference to E. R. Burroughs's Mars stories.
"["]Know you that the affairs of Oz have reached a perilous pass.["]" - p 62
L. Frank Baum, natch.
""There's no need for 'em," the Empress told him. "With our weapons we're capable of taking on an army." She turned to the big General. "We're just wasting time talking about it. There'll be no need to waste time manufacturing gas masks and rocket projectors and barrage balloons. The Red Jeddak's weapons are no more than toys. Take us to Fort Zinderneuf."
""James," said M warningly, "why must you always get involved with women? They'll be the death of you yet."
""There'd be no story without them, sir,"" - p 70
The weapons, James, & M are from Ian Fleming's 007 James Bond bks. The last sentence heightens the meta-narrative aspect.
"["]There was one of the books in Vindictive's library by a man called Wells, The War in the Air, which was a fictionalized forecast of what might happen, which told the story of an attack launched by Germany on America, using a huge fleet of dirigibles, zeppelins they were called, gas bags with engines. . . ."" - p 84
""Perhaps," said the Jeddak, indicating what was laid out on the table, "you will join me in a light repast, Commander Bond. I must apologize for the lack of champagne—but, after all, you should not expect such bourgeois luxuries in a People's Republic. . . ."
"Trafford looked at the refreshments—the bowl of black caviar, with chopped hard-boiled eggs and onion and lemon wedges, standing in its larger bowl of crushed ice, the plate of thinly sliced dark brown bread, the bottle of vodka in its ice bucket. It was all very familiar, and he knew why. He said stiffly, "My name is not Bond."" - p 101
Perhaps it's all very familiar b/c it's from a James Bond novel, From Russian with Love perhaps? Chandler's pastiche of other novels entertains me even though I've never bothered to read Ian Fleming. I actually think Chandler is a better novelist than the writers he emulates - w/ the exception of Wells &, possibly, Dumas. Having a Soviet critique of Oz using a mixture of Fleming & Baum as a unifying gimmick is inspired:
""No doubt you were misled by the spurious glamour of the decadent bourgeoisie of the Emerald City—but did you see what is behind that glamour, what makes that glamour possible? Did you see the peasants, and the factory workers, and the miners, toiling their sixteen hours a day to keep their worthless masters in luxury? You did not.["]" - p 103
Keep in mind that the movie of The Wizard of Oz has been accused of harboring communist sympathies in the form of things like Dorothy's ruby slippers being red. Also E. Y. "Yip" Harburg, the guy who wrote the lyrics to the "Somewhere over the Rainbow" song, wch won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, was blacklisted:
"Although never a member of the Communist Party (he was a member of the Socialist Party, and joked that "Yip" referred to the Young People's Socialist League, nicknamed the "Yipsels") he had been involved in radical groups, and he was blacklisted. Harburg was named in a pamphlet "Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television;" his involvement with the Hollywood Democratic Committee, and his refusal to identify reputed communists, led to him being blocked from working in Hollywood films, television, and radio for twelve full years, from 1950 to 1962. "As the writer of the lyric of the song ‘God’s Country,’ I am outraged by the suggestion that somehow I am connected with, believe in, or am sympathetic with Communist or totalitarian philosophy," he wrote to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1950. Harburg was unable to travel abroad during this period, as his passport had been revoked. With a score by Sammy Fain and Harburg's lyrics, the musical Flahooley (1951) satirized the witch-hunt's hysterically anti-communist sentiment, but it closed after forty performances at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway. The New York critics were dismissive of the show, although it had been a success during its earlier pre-Broadway run in Philadelphia." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yip_Har...
Furthermore, think about current-days 'Ozs' such as Dubai where the spectacle is spectacular & is being built under appalling slavery conditions:
"Many Bollywood celebrities have gone on record to call Dubai as their second home, loving the emirate's breathtaking natural and urban landscape.
"Superstars such as Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan already own homes in Dubai, with yesteryears actress Shilpa Shetty recently selling her plush Burj Khalifa home.
"It seems the emirate will be home to another superstar couple.
"Earlier in 2015, local media reported that Bollywood couple, Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan had booked a 'bespoke mansion' in Dubai's Jumeirah Golf Estates, developed by Shaikh Holdings.
"The mansion is situated in the upscale Sanctuary Falls, a 97-villa project, that overlooks the Earth course, an 18-hole championship golf course, the venue of the DP World Tour Championship
"It has been widely reported in 2013 that Bollywood beauty, Aishwarya, had visited Dubai to select the interiors for her new home.
"According to the developer, each of the homes come fitted with a Scavolini designer Kitchen outfitted with Miele appliances. Nolte wardrobes and feature sanitary ware by Villeroy and Boch.
"According to the description on the company's website, 'the Mediterranean-themed villas with meticulously devised flood plans ranging from 5,600 to 10,700 square feet are detailed with arrival water fountains, resort-style swimming pools, full landscaped gardens and outdoor majlis seating areas.'
"The villas also offer 'state-of-the-art security and technology systems, which make for a 'safe and smart' home. The developers are also offering an optional premium home theatre in the villa!" - http://www.khaleejtimes.com/citytimes...
"Dubai and similar petro-dollar based Arab states know that the only way they can attract so many slaves is to offer them slightly more "salaries" than they get paid in their home countries which are already poverty stricken. They do not have any concept of minimum-living-wage in these Arab countries.
"They get paid $100-$200 on average. Not enough for groceries, let alone having a one bedroom for themselves to sleep in peace. Their reality is very grim, and the conditions they have to work in are very harsh and wretched.
"Instead of supporting the institution of slavery -- directly or indirectly -- in these countries, CONDEMN IT! DISMANTLE IT." - https://www.quora.com/To-what-degree-...
Some might say that I digress, I might say that I'm getting to the point.
""What are you raving about?" She got her hands under his armpits, dragged him to his feet. "Fort Zinderneuf? That's out of P. C. Wren's Foreign Legion stories. And the only Jeddaks I know are those in Burroughs' Martian novels . . ."" - p 110
LSD was 1st made in Switzerland in 1938 but I don't recall its getting that much attn until it became a tool of the counterculture for expanding consciousness. Then it became illegal, Prior to that it was being used by the CIA for mind control research. That was legally ok. Uh, what does that tell you about THE LAW?! Chandler's incorporation of it in his story is from 1965. "On October 24, 1968, possession of LSD was made illegal in the United States." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergi... )
"["]The vapor that's released is more than just an anesthetic. It's similar in its effects to the hallucinogenic drugs used by psychiatrists—lysergic acid and the like.["]" - p 111
Note that Chandler's reference is to "psychiatrists", a sign of his times, rather than 'hippies'. Chandler deepens the references:
""Straight out of Fraser . . ." he said. And then, "I am surprised that a spaceman's mine should be capable of such a vision."
""You needn't be, Doctor," Trafford told him. "Fraser's The Golden Bough is required reading for all Survey officers."" - p 124
"A monumental study in comparative folklore, magic and religion, The Golden Bough shows parallels between the rites and beliefs, superstitions and taboos of early cultures and those of Christianity. It had a great impact on psychology and literature and remains an early classic anthropological resource." - http://www.bartleby.com/196/
Chandler's bks are targeted at a thrill-seeking readership, a readership presumed to be similar to that of the writers he admires & references but I don't think he ever quite 'made it'. There are subversive aspects to the plots that I doubt that Fleming or Wren ever introduced (although not ever having read either I cd be wrong). & then he has to go & ruin it all:
"["]There if the Empress Irene, Doctor, and here is plain Irene Smith, soon to become—if you'll have me, Benjamin—Irene Trafford.["]" - p 126
Notes are private!
Jul 15, 2016
Jul 30, 2016
Oct 06, 1987
it was amazing
Primo Levi's The Monkey's Wrench
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 24, 2016
This review is cut off midway. read the whole thing here: htt review of
Primo Levi's The Monkey's Wrench
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 24, 2016
This review is cut off midway. read the whole thing here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I got interested in reading something by Primo Levi when I was preparing for an international Skype conference that I was coorganizing called “Лiмpolysemiя (Limpolysemia)”. Since the event revolved around my friends in the us@ & the Netherlands interacting with Monty Cantsin's friends in Minsk in Belarus I was researching Belarus, a country I knew next to nothing about.
I got media out of the public library relevant to the subject & that included Davide Ferrario's movie "Primo Levi's Journey" about this Italian author's post-release-from-concentration-camp ordeals as he traveled thru Europe trying to get back to Italy. Part of Levi's travels took him thru Belarus & the movie showed the Belarus contemporary w/ the movie's making.
I knew next to nothing about Levi's writing so I was glad to find something by him. I didn't have any particular expectations. As it turned out, I found this to be genius. In my GoodReads bk categories there's one called "Working Class Intellectuals". I'm in there, as is the author of the great Australian bullock-driver novel Such is Life, Tom Collins (Joseph Furphy). Levi will be in this select few too. From my perspective, that's a great honor but Levi's dead so he won't get the chance to appreciate that.
The Monkey's Wrench is mostly stories about working told to the author's stand-in by a guy described on the back of the bk as a "construction worker". Actually, "construction worker" doesn't really do it. In the bk he self-describes as a "rigger" but I'd like to know what the original Italian is. Having worked construction myself & having worked w/ riggers, it seems to me that "ironworker" might be closest to describing the guy's skills. Even so, he's no beginner ironworker, he's tops in his field.
This particular worker is in demand all over the world - so the stories have a wonderful range of locale. In one case, he circumspectly describes where a job was by saying:
"["]You know: a country where if you steal something they chop off your hand in the square, left hand or right, depending on how much you stole, and maybe an ear, too, but all with anesthetic and topflight surgeons, who can stop the bleeding in a second.["]" - p 9
Now, of course, for most of my life I've 'known' that getting a hand chopped off for stealing is an Arabic thing. To say that this is overkill is an understatement. I always thought that Arabs ate w/ one hand & wiped their ass w/ the other & that the hand cut off wd be the eating hand so that the 2 functions wd be performed by the shit-wiping hand. I have no idea whether that's actually based in truth or not or whether it's some racist slur or whatever. SO, I asked the online Gods: "where are hands chopped off for stealing?" & that yielded some pretty nasty results:
" Hudud (Arabic: حدود Ḥudūd, also transliterated hadud, hudood; singular hadd, حد, literal meaning "limit", or "restriction") is an Islamic concept: punishments which under Islamic law (Shariah) are mandated and fixed by God. The Shariah divided offenses into those against God and those against man. Crimes against God violated His Hudud, or 'boundaries'. These punishments were specified by the Quran, and in some instances by the Sunnah. They are namely for adultery, fornication, accusing someone of illicit sex but failing to present four male Muslim eyewitnesses, apostasy (opinion is not unanimous on this crime.), consuming intoxicants, outrage (e.g. rebellion against the lawful Caliph, other forms of mischief against the Muslim state, or highway robbery), robbery and theft. Hudud offenses are overturned by the slightest of doubts (shubuhat). These punishments were rarely applied in pre-modern Islam.
"These punishments range from public lashing to publicly stoning to death, amputation of hands and crucifixion. The crimes against hudud cannot be pardoned by the victim or by the state, and the punishments must be carried out in public. However, the evidentiary standards for these punishments were often impossibly high, and were thus infrequently implemented in practice. Moreover, Muhammad ordered Muslim judges to 'ward off the Hudud by ambiguities.' The severe Hudud punishments were meant to convey the gravity of those offenses against God and to deter, not to be carried out. If a thief refused to confess, or if a confessed adulterer retracted his confession, the Hudud punishments would be waived.
"In most Muslim nations in modern times public stoning and execution are relatively uncommon, although they are found in Muslim nations that follow a strict interpretation of sharia, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hudud
Now that's the relatively unsensational article. The 1st Google hits are all about ISIS, today's boogeyman, cutting off hands in public. Now, to be fair, there is a website titled "Common Misconceptions About Islam, Muslims and The Quran". This website includes the following:
"The male thief, and the female thief, you shall mark, cut, or cut-off their hands/means as a recompense for what they earned, and to serve as a deterrent from God. God is Noble, Wise. Whoever repents after his wrongdoing and makes amends, then God will relent on him. Truly, God is Forgiving, Merciful. [5:38-39]
"The above verses are commonly translated to mean physical cutting off the thief's hand or hands, however whilst this understanding is a theoretical possibility, when all the information is reviewed it is only one of several possibilities, hence the above translation. Firstly, it should be noted that the verse makes clear whoever commits theft but repents after and makes amends, then this is acceptable to God, thus no punishment can be administered in this case. This of course would only apply to those who do this before they have to be tried and found guilty." - http://misconceptions-about-islam.com...
NOW, I've sd it before & I'll say it again, "God" is a myth created by unscrupulous people to justify all sorts of crimes. "Divine Rights" was used by Christinanes to justify imperialism & slavery. Muslims are using God to justify all kinds of horror. I'm an atheist & I've never killed anyone. If I ever do I don't think I'll be saying "God told me to" or "The government told me to". I think there's more integrity in saying "I hated that piece of shit" or whatever. Take responsibility people.
Anyway, the point is that both Christinanity & Islam, the 2 biggest gangs in the world today, are originally desert religions. In a desert, resources are limited. Stealing something might be a much bigger deal than taking a piece of meat from a supermarket in middle-class America. But cutting off a person's hand?! Even in a desert that strikes me as excessive - unless MAYBE the theft directly results in another person's starving or something like that. The problem here is that this desert mentality is then applied to the rest of the world, wch, in case you haven't noticed, isn't a desert. Unfortunately, if the Christinane & Islam have their way, the rest of the world will be a desert w/ a bunch of megalomaniacal patriarchs terrorizing anyone who doesn't agree w/ them. Watch yr asses, folks, religion is not harmless. END OF DIGRESSION.
In the same story, a curse is used for labor purposes. I wdn't've thought of that one.
"There had been two or three strikes, and the boss hadn't yielded an inch, because business was slow anyhow. Then there was the idea of getting physical with him, if you follow me. To get even.
""What do you mean by getting physical?"
"Faussone patiently explained that it was like putting a curse on someone, giving him the evil eye, a spell. "Maybe not to kill him. On the contrary, there they surely didn't want him to die, because his little brother was worse than he was.["]" - p 11
Faussone's stories about rigging as told by Primo Levi's avatar deeply impressed me w/ their loving technical details. These are stories told about work by someone who actually knows what he's talking about & the descriptions are utterly wonderful. I've never read anything about work so beautifully written before:
"When the bottom of the frame was on the base, we sent the smaller crane home, and the big one stretched its arm out all the way, with the tower dangling from it, and little by little it straightened up. And even for me—and I've seen my share of cranes—it was a beautiful sight, also because you could hear the engine purring calmly, as if to say for him too, it was child's play. It lowered its burden right on the spot, with the holes right on the bolts, and we tightened them, had a drink, and went off." - p 17
Levi's stories are convincingly told from the POV of someone who knows his shit & loves being able to make difficult jobs go right. Of course, all sorts of tantalizing details come to light:
"On the other hand, of he cared to know, I could give him some information about the origin of the name. Mr. Derrick, a man of parts, conscientious and devout, lived in London in the seventeenth century and for many years was hangman for their Britannic Majesties, he was so conscientious and so enamored of his profession that he constantly pondered ways to perfect his instruments. Toward the end of his career he developed a new model gallows, a tall, slender tower, thanks to which the man hanged, "High and close," could be seen from a distance. This was called the Derrick gallows, and then, more familiarly, derrick. Later the term came to cover analogous structures, all in trestle form, destined to humbler uses. In this way Mr. Derrick achieved that special and very rare form of immortality that consists in the loss of the capital letter at the beginning of one's surname: an honor shared by no more than a dozen illustrious men of all time." - p 31
The reader is referred to Errol Morris's documentary entitled "Mr. Death".
In one story an ape, interchangeably referred to as a monkey, gets interested in the ironworker's job & starts to imitate him & the ironworkers imitates the ape as well:
""He was curious. He used to come and watch me work, and first thing he did, he showed me something. I told you, it rained all the time: well, he sat down to take the rain in a special way, with his knees raised, his head on his knees, and his hands clasped over his head. I noticed how in that position he had his hair all slicked downward, so he hardly got wet at all: the water ran off his elbows and his behind, and his belly and his face stayed dry. I tried it myself, taking a bit of rest between bolts; and I must say that if you don't have an umbrella that's the best solution."" - p 33
I reckon every job involves some complaining & Levi has Faussone do a good job of that too:
""Hmph, maybe I got kind of sidetracked by the details, but I swear it was a crazy job. First of all, I don't like to say it, but the local workers were all dopes: maybe they were good at swinging at hoe, but I wouldn't swear to that, either, because they seemed more in the loafer category; they were reporting sick every minute. But the material was the worst: the bolts you could find there, first there wasn't much assortment, and second they would make a dog vomit." - p 41
Comparing the writer's job to the ironworker's:
"I had to grant him that to work sitting down, in a heated place and at ground level, is quite an advantage; but, aside from this, assuming I could speak in the name of actual writers, we have our bad days, too. In fact, we have them more often, because its' easier to see if a piece of metal structure is "right on the bubble" than a written page; so you can write a page with enthusiasm, or even a whole book, and then you realize it won't do, that it's a botch, silly, unoriginal, incomplete, excessive, futile; and then you turn sad, and you start getting ideas like the ones he had that evening, namely you think of changing jobs" - p 48
The Italian version of this was 1st published in 1978 so I found the following somewhat precocious:
"Sure, I'm young still, but I've been in some tight spots and it was always because of oil. They never find oil in great places, say at San Remo or on the Costa Brava. Not on your life. It's always in lousy, godforsaken places. The worst things that happened to me happened because they were looking for oil. And, to tell you the truth, my heart wasn't even in it, because everybody knows, after all, that the stuff id about to run out, so it's not worth the trouble." - p 54
Think of all the trouble around oil in the ensuing 38 yrs!
One of Levi's writerly touches that I like is the way he has his character describe something in terms of the environment evoked as visible to the speaker but not to the reader:
"Weell say that one was twenty meters high, and it seemed pretty high to me; but this one. not even finished, lying there, was two hundred and fifty meters long, like from here to that green fence over there, like from Piazza Castello, to give you an idea." - p 57
Faussone has a revolutionary philosophy born out of the practical common sense gleaned from having to deal w/ practical matters of some complexity:
"["]And if governments worked the same way, then there wouldn't be any need of armies in the first place because there wouldn't be any need for wars, and the people with common sense would work everything out."
"The way people think when they venture to spout opinions outside their own field! I tried cautiously to make him aware of the subversive, indeed revolutionary force lurking behind these words of his. Assign responsibility according to skill?" - p 65
This is a convincingly written bk b/c it makes me think that Levi has been there, has been in the work environments he describes:
"But you mustn't think we just stood there and pushed by guesswork: there was a control booth, nice and heated, and there was even a Coke machine, closed-circuit television, and a phone link with the men working the jacks. All you had to do was press a button and you could see on the TV screen whether everything was aligned. Oh, I almost forgot: between the jacks and the sledges there were also pizeometric cells, with their dials in the booth, so you could see the stress at any moment." - p 67
Such writing isn't straight out of a tech manual or details like the Coke machine might not be in there. SO, we have the realism in size described in terms of the narrator's implied physical environment, in the presence of the Coke machine, & in the all-too-human lapses of memory:
"["]instead of cats we looked more like animals—I can't remember their names—that you see in the zoo: they have an idiot face, they laugh all the time, their paws end in hooks, and they move slowly, clinging to branches, their heads hanging down." - p 72
A hyena-sloth?! The Monkey's Wrench is a paean to labor, very skillfully written from someone who obviously worked hard at many levels his whole life:
"There also exists a rhetoric on the opposite side, however, not cynical, but profoundly stupid, which tends to denigrate labor, to depict it as base, as if labor, our own or others', were something we could do without, not only in Utopia, but here, today; as if anyone who knows how to work were, by definition, a servant, and as if, on the contrary, someone who doesn't know how to work, or knows little, or doesn't want to, were for that very reason a free man."
"We can and must fight to see that the fruit of labor remains in the hands of those who work, and that work does not turn into punishment" - p 80
Now, b/c I'm not independently wealthy, b/c I'm not the recipient of inherited wealth, I've worked since I was a teenager. In addition to having to support myself, I've also worked even harder to create the things that I've imagined, that I think are important, that please me, that're the fruits of my imagination: the 437 movies I've made so far, the hundreds of (d) compositions, the over-412 'performances', the 192 audio publications, the 583 printed matter / online publications, & more, always more..
The work I've had to do for money has often not compensated me to my satisfaction, & this work is a punishment of sorts for not being born rich, for not being a thief. Despite all that, I have learned things from working, from working for money ie, that I probably wdn't've learned otherwise, that I'm glad to know. I've learned to use tools that I wdn't have access to at home, in a more domestic environment - tools like a pallet-jack or a Big Joe, like a biscuit-joiner or a panel-saw, 35 mm projectors or 32-pair punch-down tools.
While there are good reasons to resent the work that one does for too little pay to make money for those who are privileged rather than intelligent, there're also good reasons to build up one's own self-respect thru practical knowledge & skill acquired.
Demonstrating Levi's point, I think of the all-too-many times in my life when I've been treated like a subhuman for actually doing work by people too stupid to be able to do what I was doing & too privileged to ever have to.
EG: Once I was building a collaborative installation. The part that I was building had been entirely conceived of by me & was being entirely built by me. My collaborator, who certainly did have ideas & skills but who often lacked get-up-&-go (except to go away from where the work was to be done), was standing around not doing much of anything while I was up on a ladder installing something in the ceiling.
An apparently well-to-do woman came into the room & started to babble effusively about 'my collaborator's installation'. It didn't apparently occur to her that the person who was actually doing the work might also be the person who'd conceived of most of the installation. B/c I was actually working, instead of just standing around, it seemed to be taken for granted that I was just the 'hired help', a mere functionary of barely human nature.
I'm further reminded of a job I had where I designed & built event props along w/ other working stiffs. We'd do all the work & then the owner of the company wd get all the compliments from people for the beautiful job 'he'd done'. He hadn't done anything much beyond be the son of a judge. But to those praising him, the people who'd done the actual work were just morlocks - best kept unseen.
Another rich friend of mine w/ substantial inherited wealth once talked about an electronic musical instrument that 'he'd built'. I asked him if he'd actually built it & it came out that, no, he'd pd someone else to build it. That's a common trick of the wealthy - to take credit for work done by others. When you buy a car do you say that you built it?
The rich people who denigrate labor do so to create the myth that it's 'beneath them' when, in actuality, it's beyond them. Such a myth helps justify underpayment & over-profiteering - hence Levi's point that the "the fruit of labor remains in the hands of those who work". If that were to be the case, my millionaire friend wd have a helluva time feeding his family & I'd be sitting pretty. ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 25, 2016
A. Bertram Chandler's The Coils of Time / Into the Alternate Universe
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 23, 2016
Chandler, Chandler. It's review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Coils of Time / Into the Alternate Universe
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 23, 2016
Chandler, Chandler. It's been nice to 'discover' a 'new' SF writer whose works I can enjoy digesting but I have to admit that my review here of this particular Ace Double will smack more than a little bit too much of boredom - not b/c I think the bks aren't interesting but b/c I'm bored w/ reviewing them. After almost 9 yrs of posting over 1,000 unpd reviews on GoodReads, it's tempting to stop reviewing.. Still, have you ever stopped doing something? I stopped dancing decades ago b/c I felt like I didn't have any new ideas. That was a bad idea. Now I'm dancing again but I'm not anywhere near as good as I used to be.
Wha? Where was I? The Coils of Time: I finished reading it on July 8, a mere 15 days ago, & I've already completely forgotten it. It's full of the same old, same old that characterizes so many (all?) of Chandler's stories - but this is an early incarnation. It's the earliest one I've read so far & maybe the only one where "precession" is explicitly discussed:
""You know the principles of the gyroscope?" demanded Henshaw.
""I should," Wilkinson told him. "After all, I do hold a Master Astronaut's Certificate."
""Then what are they?"
""Rigidity in space. Precession."
""Very good. Now define precession."
""A freely mounted gyroscope," said Wilksinson, "will precess at right angles to an applied force, in the direction of rotation."" - p 12
Having already written about these very same same old, same olds quite a few times by now it's a bit hard to motivate myself at the moment. A time travel machine has been built that involves precession as a basic operating principle. A volunteer us to be sent back in it b/c of a strong personal motive he has:
""So you think that this thing of Henshaw's works?"
""I—I'm not sure. There's something odd about it. Oh, it makes things vanish, and it makes them reappear, but it may be teleportation rather than Time Travel. There was that mud, and Venus was never muddy."" - p 20
Chandler's not a hard science SF guy but he does come up w/ a few interesting tech details from time-to-time:
"["]The Director insisted that you wear one of our V.I.P. suits. You know about them, of course?"
""Yes, spaceships on legs."
""Tanks on legs, we call them. They're so heavily armored that you could never move in one of them without a power unit."" - p 23
The time-traveller/astronaut ends up in a parallel universe & Chandler uses it as an excuse to insert cigarettes - something that I always find funny since any novel in wch the astronauts smoke is, uh, a bit 'dated':
""Cigarettes?" echoed the blonde. "I've read about them. They were a dangerous vice that was stamped out toward the close of the Twentieth Century. It was proved that tobacco smoking was the cause of lung cancer."
""Yes," agreed Wilkinson. "But in my world, ways were found to remove the carcinogenic agents from tobacco. There are even tobacco plantations on Mars."" - p 56
I wonder if it's ever been demonstrated that smoking anything can cause cancer? Is it really just tobacco? Or is pot another possible culprit?
Writing this review reminds me: Oh, yeah, I DID enjoy this one - but just about the only thing that reached me personally was this:
""As far as theory is concerned, yes. Time is a spiral, and worlds and people recur and recur, from the Beginning (if there was one) to the End (if there will be one). But it's not necessarily an exact recurrence. History need not follow the same course on every arm of the spiral. Physical laws may be different. The formation of planets may not occur in exactly the same way . . ."
""The Venus from which I was sent here," said Wilkiinson, becoming interested in spite of himself, "was nothing like this world."
""So you admit having made the jump from one arm of the spiral to another?"" - p 118
I don't remember where I read about this spiral time theory 1st. I may've run across it in William S. Burroughs or maybe in José A. Argüelles's The Transformative Vision (1975) wch I read in July of 1976. The Coils of Time is from 1964 so I have to give Chandler credit here for precociousness.
I incorporated the idea of spiral time into my own personal dating system wch I discuss at length in the "Do's & Don'ts of Dating" section in my footnotes bk (2006). Since copies of sd bk are almost impossible to come by, I'll quote a little from that section here:
"ANYWAY, reading Argüelles' book, I was no doubt inspired to try to create a dating system that both reflected the possibility of cyclical time as well as an attempt to have a simultaneous linear time. So, believe it or not, that's another layer that's added onto the afore-discussed dating header that I developed. HOW? In December of 1990EV, I decided to try to organize all of the letter substitution texts into one spiraling text labeled a "calendar" - as I'd originally intended them to be read.
"The idea of these texts was that they were to form 2 'narratives': 1. the 'narrative' of their linear context, & 2. the 'meta-narrative' of their substitutions. These 2 'narratives' were meant to be in conflict with each other in the sense that the substitutions of successive letters for "e" (& various other manifestations not gone into here but gone into in the "l;a;n;g;u;a;g;e" section) wd make the 'linear text' harder to read & the 'linear text' AND the seperateness of the texts as they wd ordinarily be perceived wd make the 'meta-narrative' harder to perceive.
"Additionally, the 'meta-narrative' is cyclical because the substitutions are using a limited vocabulary of 26 letters wch are cycled thru. This, after "(z)" is reached, the substitutions go to "(a)" thru "(d)" & then to "(ee)", etc.. Giveen that the letters are then doubled (& hypothetically tripled, etc..), the cyclical repetitions are then doubled (& hypothetically tripled, etc..), the cyclical repetitions are not exact but similar by virtue of the same symbols being used.
"Ultimately, the time system I was getting at is neither cyclical or linear but a non-polarized 'marriage' of the 2 akin in spirit to the puns analyzed above! But alot more 'abrasive', eh?! Generating mental heat thru conceptual friction. Now we're getting somewhere. BUT, before I get to showing you a succession of images of the "CRUD(OO) SPIRAL TIM(OO) CAL(OO)NDAR""
Is it all clearer now? Chandler's version of spiral time is a bit easier to understand.WEELLLLLLL, I've told you almost nothing about The Coils of Time but read it for the spiral time idea if nothing else. In the meantime, I'll leave this particular half of the review w/ Chandler's reference to Ilse, She-Wolf of the SS:
""Swing the table a little more, Ilse," she said to somebody just outside Wilkinson's field of vision." - p 123
NOW, for the flipside: Into the Alternate Universe. This starts off w/ the very familiar Grimes, Port Forlorn, Faraway Quest, & the Rim Worlds that've been in so many other Chandler novels I've read so far. I've read them largely out of order. Maybe one day I'll try to organize them into a chronology but I'm sure someone has already done that better than I wd.
"The inevitable freezing wind whistled thinly across the Port Forlorn landing field, bringing with it eddies of gritty dust and flurries of dirty snow. From his office, on the top floor of the Port Administration Building, Commodore Grimes stared out at what, over the long years, he had come to regard as his private kingdom. On a day such as this there was not much to see. Save for Faraway Quest, the Rim Worlds Government survey ship, the spaceport was deserted, a state of affairs that occurred but rarely." - p 5
In the swirling rough chronology that I'm doing not a whit of online research to verify this might be the sequel to The Ship from Outside (my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) in wch a search is made for a hypothetical spaceship from outside the Rim Worlds, the limit of the known universe.
"The ship's original instrument had been loaned to Captain Calver for use in his Outsider" - p 6
Sonya, the spy, is no longer w/ Calver & is lookin' to settle down:
"You know that there have only been two men, real men, in my life. Bill Maudsley, who found the Outsiders' quarantine station, and who paid for the discovery with his life. And Derek Calver, whose first loyalties were, after all, to Jane . . . Damn it all, John, O'm no chicken. I'm rather tired of playing the part of a lone wolf—or a lone bitch, if you like. I want me a man—but the right man—and I want to settle down." - p 12
Shocking! In this one, Grimes even has kids, something I'd somehow missed in previous readings.. or maybe they weren't invented yet:
"His children were grown up, and had their own homes and, in any case, incurable landlubbers that they were, would have little in common with one who, after all, was a professional adventuress." - p 14
Chandler uses the device of a robot librarian to recapitulate what dedicated (& chronological) readers of Chandler's Rim Worlds series wd already know:
""Very good, sir. The phenomenon of the Rim Ghosts occurs,as the name implies, only on the Rim. Sightings are not confined to single individuals, so therefore cannot be assumed to be subjective in nature. A pattern has been established regarding these sightings. One member of a party will see himself, and be seen by his companions, in surroundings and company differing, sometimes only subtly, from those of actuality. Cases have been known in which an entire group of people has seen its Rim Ghost counterpart." - p 16
I generally try to avoid spoilers in my reviews. Sometimes it's hard in these more plot-driven bks. What I'm doing here is skirting the plot. Now you know that Rim Ghosts are involved, maybe that'll interest you but it doesn't tell you too much. If I really want to stray from giving away the plot I can focus on nitpicking details like the referring to a ship as "Rim Mammoth" on page 19 & 26 & as "Rim Mastodon" on page 25. This, in turn, reminds me of a part of Bimbos of the Death Sun (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ):
""The demented fans who read the series had hours of fun devising plausible explanations for his sloppiest screw-ups. They would churn out endless articles in their unreadable mimeographed excrescences trying to explain why Runewind's sword changed lengths or why his mother was known by two different names. So far, the two likeliest explanations—apathy and Chivas Regal—had not been suggested."" - p 102
In this case, the demented 'fan' is me pointing out the presumed mistaken of having a name be Mammoth one time & Mastodon another. I figure Chandler must've been reading ghost stories & must've wanted to make an outer space one. The idea of a seance on a spaceship appeals to me:
""So—ignoring telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation and the like—what proportion of psychic phenomena is due to the activities of the dear departed, and what proportion is due to a . . . leakage—from one Universe through to another?"
""H'm. I must confess that this was a line of approach that never occurred to me. I didn't pretend to be an expert on so-called psychic matters, but if we did hold a séance, shouldn't we require a medium?"
""We have one—Mr. Mayhew."" - pp 35-36
Mr. Mayhew being the Psionic Radio Officer that's yet-another recurring type of character in Chandler's bks. Another recurrence is the idea that on a (space)ship the hierarchy is 100% necessary:
"But this, thought Grimes, was no time to allow democracy to raise its head. he had nothing against democracy—as long as it stayed on a planetary surface. But in Deep Space there must be a dictatorship—a dictatorship hedged around with qualifications and safeguards, but a dictatorship, nonetheless." - p 55
This ghost story gets into missing ships in general &..
""I can answer the first question," Grimes replied gravely. His gloved forefinger indicated the heading of the log book path. " 'Waratah, from Durban towards Liverpool.' But she never got there."" - p 75
..Waratah in particular. So let's look it up, shall we? In the 1st quoted entry the claim has been made that it was found in 1999:
"Wednesday, 14 July 1999
"On 26 July 1909, the SS Waratah, with 211 passengers and crew departed from Durban bound for Cape Town, and disappeared without a trace. For 90 years the fate of the ill-fated ship remained a mystery. The SS Waratah was the flagship of the Blue Anchor Line shipping company. On the 14 July, marine explorer, Emlyn Brown, announced he had discovered the location of the wreck off the Eastern Cape coast. This was the culmination of an 18 year long search for him.
"The wreck was found in an upright position, resting on the ocean bed, indicating that it had sunk quite rapidly. Brown declined to share the exact location of the wreck, as this would tempt unscrupulous and amateur explorers to plunder the wreck. Further, the wreck was located at a position surrounded by strong currents and at a depth that made conventional diving techniques and equipment unsuitable. It is speculated that the ship was sunk by a freak wave." - http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-eve...
HOWEVER, Wikipedia has this to say:
"The SS Waratah was a 500-foot (150 m) long cargo liner steamship that operated between Europe and Australia in the early 1900s. In July 1909, the ship, en route from Durban to Cape Town, disappeared with 211 passengers and crew aboard. To this day, no trace of the ship has been found."
"In 1999 reports reached the newspapers that the Waratah had been found 10 km off the eastern coast of South Africa. A sonar scan conducted by Emlyn Brown's team had indeed located a wreck whose outline seemed to match that of the Waratah. In 2001, however, a closer inspection revealed differences between the Waratah and the wreck. It appears that the team had in fact found the Nailsea Meadow, a ship that had been sunk in the Second World War." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Waratah
Don't ya just love it?! Why just the other day I was talking w/ Mary Celeste about her running into Waratah, real casual-like. AND if that's not cool enuf for you what about honey bees dowsing?:
""Yes. According to some authorities, the ability of the honey bee on Earth, and on the other worlds to which it has been introduced, to find nectar-laden blossoms is akin to dowsing, for water or minerals, as practiced by human beings."" - p 106
That's as good an excuse for going off on another tangent:
"Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials without the use of scientific apparatus. Dowsing is considered a pseudoscience, and there is no scientific evidence that it is any more effective than random chance.
"Dowsing is also known as divining (especially in reference to interpretation of results), doodlebugging (particularly in the United States, in searching for petroleum) or (when searching specifically for water) water finding, water witching (in the United States) or water dowsing.
"A Y- or L-shaped twig or rod, called a dowsing rod, divining rod (Latin: virgula divina or baculus divinatorius), a "vining rod" or witching rod is sometimes used during dowsing, although some dowsers use other equipment or no equipment at all.
"Dowsing appears to have arisen in the context of Renaissance magic in Germany, and it remains popular among believers in Forteana or radiesthesia.
"The motion of dowsing rods is nowadays generally attributed to the ideomotor effect." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowsing...
"The ideomotor response (or "ideomotor reflex"), often abbreviated to IMR, is a concept in hypnosis and psychological research. It is derived from the terms "ideo" (idea, or mental representation) and "motor" (muscular action). The phrase is most commonly used in reference to the process whereby a thought or mental image brings about a seemingly "reflexive" or automatic muscular reaction, often of minuscule degree, and potentially outside of the awareness of the subject. As in reflexive responses to pain, the body sometimes reacts reflexively with an ideomotor effect to ideas alone without the person consciously deciding to take action. The effects of automatic writing, dowsing, facilitated communication, and Ouija boards have been attributed to the phenomenon." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideomot...
I've always liked what strikes me as a simple explanation: a tree branch seeks water in the same way that its roots wd. Wood. But I don't see that possibility mentioned. I must be a fool.
&, yeah, when I read a certain scene in Nebula Alert (pp 67->) (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) I just knew that I'd be running into it again in a different bk:
"Grimes accepted the microphone on its wandering lead, said, "Faraway Quest. Auxiliary Cruiser, Rim Worlds Confederation Navy. What ship?"
"The voice from the bulkhead speaker contrived to convey incredulity with an odd snorting sound. "Faraway Quest? Rim Worlds Confederation? Never heeard of you. Are you mad—or drunk?"" - p 122
Well, whether YOU, dear reader, are mad or drunk or both you just might enjoy reading this.. unless you have better things to do.
Notes are private!
Jul 14, 2016
Jul 23, 2016
Jan 01, 1997
it was amazing
Barrett Watten's FRAME (1971-1990)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 18-20, 2016
Yadda, yadda, my review's 'too long'. Read the full thin review of
Barrett Watten's FRAME (1971-1990)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 18-20, 2016
Yadda, yadda, my review's 'too long'. Read the full thing (entitled "Off the Watten Path OR Watten Down the Hatch") here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This bk is published by Sun & Moon Press & is part of their "Classics" series. It was published in 1997, 7 yrs after the last of the writing presented. It's my understanding that 'classics' are things that withstand the 'test of time' by surviving in culture over centuries. The writings of Rabelais, eg, wd, therefore, be 'classic' b/c they're still being printed & read almost 500 yrs later. Hence, calling the writings of Watten 'classic' is marketing-speak on the part of Sun & Moon. It's a way of framing something as time-tested before the time has elapsed, a preemptive strike for advertising purposes. One might even say that it's pompous. However, I will say that, by my standards at least, FRAME has withstood the test of time nicely of the 19 yrs that've elapsed since its publication. This IS a great bk.
THIS was a great magazine. It was edited by Barrett Watten. It was one of my favorite poetry magazines. Now, THAT's a magazine I wish I'd had something published in. I quote from my review of Steven Clay & Rodney Phillips' A Secret Location on the Lower East Side - Adventures in Writing: 1960-1980:
"This, a magazine I've always liked very much (I have issues 4, 6, 7, & 8), is credited by Bob Perelman here as ""the first self-conscious journal of what would become known as language writing"" (p 239). That might very well be accurate. Barrett Watten & Robert Grenier were the editors. It seems to me that it was either Perelman or Watten who were outraged by the positive critical reception that Marshall Reese's bk, Writing (published by pod), rc'vd. Most, if not all, of Writing was made from "slugs", the cast-off text from the printer that Marshall worked for in the 1970s. That seemed very Language Writing to me - but, apparently, it offended the more conventional authorial position of at least one other Language Writer. I thought that was funny.
"Then again, maybe Tottel's deserves more credit even than This, having been founded a yr earlier. Ron Silliman was the editor & I've always liked Silliman's writing. "Named after the first anthology of English poetry, Tottel's Miscellany of 1557" [..] ""there can be no such thing as a formal problem in poetry which is not a social one as well."" (p 243) "The first gathering of individuals who were to become known as "language poets" was edited by Ron Silliman under the title "The Dwelling Place: 9 Poets." Published in Alcheringa, it included work by Bruce Andrews, Barbara Baracks, Clark Coolidge, Lee De Jasu, Ray DiPalma, Robert Grenier, David Melnick, Silliman himself, and Barrett Watten." (p 244)" - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/79...
The 'problem' being, as usual, for me that "poetry" strikes me as a mediocre entry point. The back cover says that Watten "has expanded the very definition of poetry and opened the genre to history, philosophy, and politics." When poetry wasn't open to "history, philosophy, and politics" is a bit beyond me. Didn't Catullus dip his wick in it?:
"Just now I laughed at a listener,
who, when my Calvus had neatly disclosed
the charges against Vatinius,
said, inspired, his hands in a fidget,
"My god, what an eloquent midget!""
- Catullus's poem 53 (circa 54 BC) translated by Roy Arthur Swanson
Or what about Villon?:
"When I start to feel
useless and miserable,
my heart usually
tells me to cool it
"And not be feeling
so sorry for myself,
getting depressed with
so much general decay.
"It bids me remember
how poverty is
the specter of genius,
and better to be
"poor and live under
a writing table,
than rich and rot
behind nine tons of granite."
- Villon's De Povretéˆ - (15th century EV) translated by Jean Calais
Or what about Byron?:
"For six hours bore they without intermission
The Turkish fire, and, aided by their own
Land batteries, worked their guns with great precision:
At length they found mere cannonade alone
By no means would produce the town's submission,
And made a signal to retreat at one.
One bark blew up, a second near the works
Running aground, was taken by the Turks."
- Canto VII, stanza XXX from Byron's Don Juan - (1818-1823)
Or, more contemporaneously, what about Ed Sanders?:
"I will not pretend
that I was a very big part
"I surged through the year on my own little missions
most of them not much matter now
"but then I strutted through the time-track
daring to be part
of the history
of the era
"& believing that huge change was imminent—
that the United States
would become more free and sharing
that poverty would be banished
and racism ebb
very very quickly
by the time we were middle aged."
- Sanders's 1968 - A History in Verse - (1997)
You get the idea. Then again, Watten & all the rest are apparently incapable of moving past what strikes me as one of the biggest mental blocks of them all: the very notion of poetry, per se.
Don't get me wrong, I like Watten's writing very much but the bone of contention is whether Language Poetry's method of stimulating an engaged reading accomplishes a deeper level of critical & political thinking than more straight-forward discursive writing does. I don't think this is an either/or situation, I think they're both valuable. To again quote from the back cover blurb:
"As Ron Day has summarized, "I would be hard pressed to think of an art writing which is more engaged with the relation of poetic method and contemporary political and cultural materials than Barrett Watten's.""
Perhaps. At any rate, that's the stance of many Language Poetry theorists - ie: that "poetic method and contemporary political and cultural materials" are inter-related in ways that're structural. Watten's 1980 "STATISTICS" starts off w/:
"There is no language but "reconstructed" imaged parentheses back into person "emphasizing constant" explanation "the current to run both ways." The ocean he sees when as "sour frowns of the ancients' 'signifier'" that person jumps in. We are at liberty "to take 'the' out of 'us,'" to have selves "not here" in the machinery of dramatic monologue to "smash, interrupt." To focus primarily "using examples of work" produces "difficulty": "you" in indeterminate distance "building a tower" as the circumstance of writing "to look over 'with concern' the bones of 'speech.'"" - p 11
I like this for the sheer writing of it: it's different from most writing, it's different in a way that interests me. I think of Blissymbolics:
"Blissymbolics is a communication system originally developed by Charles K. Bliss (1897-1985) for the purpose of international communication. It was first applied to the communication of children with physical disabilities by an interdisciplinary team led by Shirley McNaughton at the Ontario Crippled Children's Centre (now the Bloorview MacMillan Centre) in 1971.
"The Blissymbolics language is currently composed of over 5,000 graphic symbols. Each symbol or Bliss-word is composed of one or more Bliss-characters which can be combined and recombined in endless ways to create new symbols. Bliss-words can be sequenced to form many types of sentences and express many grammatical capabilities. Simple shapes are used to keep the symbols easy and fast to draw and because both abstract and concrete levels of concepts can be represented, Blissymbolics can be applied both to children and adults and are appropriate for persons with a wide range of intellectual abilities." - http://www.blissymbolics.org/index.ph...
As I recall, Bliss was a survivor of WWII concentration camps. Part of his intention was to create an international language that demagogues couldn't use for propaganda purposes. Given that Blissymbolics is a written language rather than one to be spoken it might at least exclude the dramatic oratory common to crowd manipulation.
Watten's language is similarly unlikely to (cattle-)prod the (sheep-like) masses into genocidal frenzy. Still, what does the reader get out of it? It's my understanding that the desire is for each reader to have a more personal experience w/ it than writing that attempts to homogenize people into belief-systems. I'm all for a resistance to homogenization. If Language Writing takes the "I" out of the writing & encourages more of the "I" in the reading then what do I makes of the above-quoted excerpt from "STATISTICS"?
One thing I like to do as a writer is take stock-phrases & substitute a different word or phrase for the one standard to the stock. EG: There's the expression: "putting the shoe on the other foot" meaning 'changing a situation so that the perspective shifts from the subject to the object'. Isn't that what Language Writing purports to do? NOW, I use sports metaphors all the time. Nonetheless, I don't like sports. SO, I like to write phrases like 'putting the baseball glove on the other foot'.
The sensitive reader familiar w/ the original expression will realize that "baseball glove" is being substituted for "shoe". A baseball glove is worn on the hand, a shoe is worn on the foot. Both objects are things put on bodily extremities so they're not really so far apart & yet this shift in object changes the meaning significantly. A baseball glove worn on the foot wd make walking difficult instead of helping it - as a shoe is intended to do. The reader might imagine the body of the wearer trying to catch a baseball w/ their foot, the wearer might have to lay on their back & raise their foot in the air.
The intention is to stimulate the 'object', the YOU, the reader, into undergoing the absurd process of imagining this transformation w/o spelling it out for YOU. But now I've spelled it out & I've gone & ruined everything (sobs uncontrollably). Back to Watten:
"There is no language but "reconstructed" imaged parentheses back into person "emphasizing constant" explanation "the current to run both ways.""
Applying my own logic to this txt I might find the above sentence to be an evocation of a polemical statement: "There is not language but" might be completed, in more transparent circumstances, w/ something like 'language that leads the reader down a path' - in wch case those of us who beat a dead horse to the tune of a different drummer by staying off the beaten path to try to discover vistas that aren't preplanned by someone other than ourselves might prefer that the seemingly polemical beginning seems to get sidetracked into less familiar territory.
3 portions of Watten's opening sentence are in quotation marks: ""reconstructed"", ""emphasizing constant"", ""the current to run both ways."" Quotation marks can be sd to say that the enclosed language is a quote. Single quotation marks are usually meant to imply a questioning of the enclosed. EG: imagine this phrase presented 2 different ways: "The reader is stupid" vs 'The reader is stupid'. ""The reader is stupid"" implies that someone has made this claim. "'The reader is stupid'" implies that someone is questioning that claim.
BUT, it doesn't 'have to' work that way. Watten might be using the quotation marks to throw the reader off the beaten path. All 3 of these txts might be quotes - after all, someone has certainly sd or written the word "reconstructed"; someone has certainly sd or written the phrase "emphasizing content"; & someone has certainly sd or written the phrase "the current to run both ways[.]" BUT given that no attribution is given the txts just 'float there', they have no special meaning other than what they're ordinarily taken to mean, they're just isolated by the quotes. "the current to rub both ways" might be from a technical manual for an AC set-up, "emphasizing constant" might be reference to DC. All 3 quotes cd be taken from a technical manual, removed from their original context, no longer serving their original master.
"The ocean he sees when as "sour frowns of the ancients' 'signifier'" that person jumps in. We are at liberty "to take 'the' out of 'us,'" to have selves "not here" in the machinery of dramatic monologue to "smash, interrupt." To focus primarily "using examples of work" produces "difficulty": "you" in indeterminate distance "building a tower" as the circumstance of writing "to look over 'with concern' the bones of 'speech.'""
Watten's txt cd be read as a manifesto of writer-reader relationship that's expressed thru doing more than thru saying, to have subjects removed from "the machinery of dramatic monologue" - or maybe I'm reading too much into it & getting too little out of it in the sense of getting out of the txt altogether. BUT, of course, I don't want to get out of the txt nor do I want to go w/ the flow so Watten's txt is 'perfect' for me b/c the flow, such as it is, is a whirlpool w/o a center, an obstacle course rather than a joy ride.
I find the 1st stanza of "NON-EVENTS" incredible - by wch I don't mean that I don't believe, there's not necessarily anything to believe. The hypothetical desired critical reading process of Language Poetry is exemplified here:
"Morning turns inside out, The engine
is diseased, as it spreads along
approximate ice. High contrast
geometry of person straightens out from
meandering road. Desperate focus
never looks back. Progress makes possible
a paralyzed attendant, set apart
an end to himself (moral noise)." - p 13
Then again, it cd just be seen as just-another stanza as this sentence can be read as just-another sentence as this paragraph can be read as just-another paragraph.
Does one sentence a paragraph make?
Just what is this stanza? Is it simply another instance of poetry exercising its right to be abstruse? I wdn't call it "surreal" wd YOU? I was recently a, b, or c OR x, y, or z -mused (or was it ab used?) by Richard Kostelanetz's entry for "LANGUAGE-CENTERED POETRY" in the 2nd edition of his A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes:
"Whether this constitutes a genuine artistic category or simply an opportunistic banner is a good question. Excessive mutual backslapping, very much in imitation of earlier "New York Poets," raises suspicions, especially in America, because the work paraded under this newer rubric is quite various (while the work of others working in esthetically similar veins, but not included, is often superior). The interior mental states of Hannah Weiner's (1929-1996) poetry, for instance, scarcely resemble the dry experimentalism of Bruce Andrews (1948), whose poetry has little in common with the fragmented, elliptical narratives of Michael Palmer (1943) or Barrett Watten's (1948) extracting phrases from ulterior texts. (If any artists' group lacks esthetic principle, it is really functioning as an exclusive club more worthy of acknowledgment in a history of false snobbery. Willfully excluding individuals who might by esthetic right belong smacks too much of elitism for common comfort. And people behaving like an army inevitably raises questions about what others think of military mentalities.) In the earlier edition of this Dictionary, I questioned whether this entry would ever be reprinted—whether the term would survive; the doubt is raised again."
WHEW! Alright, I was a subscriber to, & minor contributor to, "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" magazine, arguably the primary theoretical journal of Language Poetry of its time, & I have all of the issues from April 1978 to October 1979 & I've read them all. Texts are printed from (in order of 1st appearance (ie: names aren't repeated (not intentionally at least)) in the issues I have) - some in reprints (not provided by the original authors: EG: Barthes & Crosby):
Susan Bee Laufer
Steve Mc Caffery
Jackson Mac Low
Bernadette Mayer & the members of the St. Mark's Church Poetry Project Writing Workshop
Ray Di Palma
micha(f)l fr(f)d(f)rick tolson (f)t al (incorrectly attributed to "MICHAEL FREDERICK TOLSON"
Kirby Malone & Chris Mason
cris cheek, Kirby Malone, Marshall Reese
In issue 8, Charles Bernstein, the co-editor of "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" (along w/ Bruce Andrews) wrote an article entitled: "THE CONSPIRACY OF "US"" wch began thusly:
"I don't believe in group formation, I don't like group formation, but I am constantly finding myself contending with it, living within it, seeing through it. "Okay, break it up boys." First, there is the isolation of the atom, looking for some place to feel housed by, a part of. & every which way the people passing seem to have that--"see it over there"--"look". But every group as well has the same possibility for insularity as each individual: this new "we" having the same possibility for vacancy or satisfaction, a group potentially as atomized in its separation from other groups as a person from other persons. This is the problem of family life. Property, territory, domain. But, "for us now", group (family, aesthetic, social national) is merely another part of our commoditized lives--for we consume these formations, along with most other things, as commodities, & are ourselves consumed in the process."
W/ all due respect to Kostelanetz who's been 'at it' for a long time & who's certainly dedicated to the Avant-Garde, I think he completely misses the point. When I was writing my 1st bk (from 1975-1977) I was largely isolated from any intellectual community sympathetic to my concerns (in fact, I still am 40 yrs later). William S. Burroughs's systematic resistance to control thru language was about the closest I'd come to finding a like-minded thinker (altho I must've known about Concrete Poetry by then too) Meeting people like Kirby Malone & Jackson Mac Low & finding out about "L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E" was exciting! ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 08, 2016
Jul 20, 2016
really liked it
A. Bertram Chandler's Beyond the Galactic Rim / The Ship from Outside
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 29, 2016
Don't waste your time he review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Beyond the Galactic Rim / The Ship from Outside
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 29, 2016
Don't waste your time here. Read the full review: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This is an Ace Double, for those of you not familiar w/ those, they were small paperbacks that had one bk that cd be read from one direction & another that cd be read from the other by flipping the bk - an object w/ 2 fronts & no back. Beyond the Galactic Rim is a collection of 4 short stories. Short stories are pretty 'touch-'n'-go' for me, I prefer longer stories w/ more development. Nonetheless, I reckon these stories are successfully interesting w/in their brief lives.
Chandler is a series writer, a species I usually avoid, so there's always overlap from tale to tale. "Forbidden Planet", the 1st of these, starts off w/:
"She was a huge hunk of ship, was Sally Ann, too large and too imposing for the name she bore. She stood proudly in her berth at Port Forlorn, dwarfing cranes and gantries and administration buildings, towering high above Rimstar and Rimbound, both typical units of the Rim Runners' fleet. Yet, to the trained eye of a spaceman, a relationship between Sally Ann and the smaller vessels would have been obvious—all three bore the ummistakable stamp of of the Interstellar Transport Commission and all three had come down in the Universe. Sally Ann, for all her outward smartness, had come down the furthest; she had been a Beta Class liner, and now she was tramping." - p 6
Regular readers of Chandler's work will recognize "Port Forlorn" & "Rim"-this-&-the-other. The only thing that surprises me is that there's not a Rimbaut. Then there's Grimes, Chandler's main character. This story was copyrighted in 1959, that makes this the earliest Grimes appearance for me:
"Commodore Grimes, Astronautical Superintendent for Rim Runners, looked out from the window of his office towards the big ship, screwing up his eyes against the steely glare of the westering sun. His hard, pitted face softened momentarily as he said, "I'm sorry, Captain. We can't use her. She just won't fit into any of our trades."" - p 6
A brief Chandler autobiographical statement appears at the beginnings of many of his bks:
""I have always been an avid reader of science-fiction and have always wanted to write. Until in possession of my Master's Certificate, I always felt that my spare time should be devoted to study rather than writing. My first visit to New York was after the entry of the U. S. into the war. Shortly after, having passed for Master, I had no excuse for not writing, and I became a regular contributor to the magazines in the field.
""After the war I continued writing, but dropped out after promotion to Chief Officer. After my emigration to Australia, I was bullied by my second wife into taking up the pen again, and became once again a prolific writer of short stories. Finally, I felt that the time was ripe for full-length novels. I have dropped shorter pieces feeling that they gave insufficient scope for character development. I think that science-fiction and fantasy are ideal vehicles for putting over essential truths."" - p 2
Obviously, these short stories served to establish Chandler's "Rim Worlds" & most of the characters & technologies. Again, the earliest appearances that I've run across of such things so far are in this story:
"Larwood cut the reaction drive, ordered the Mannschenn Drive to be started. The song of the spinning, precessing flywheels filled all the spaces of the ship; abruptly the Galactic lens took on the appearance of a huge, luminous Klein flask fashioned by a demented glass blower. Clavering felt, as always, the uncanny sensation of deja vu, as the temporal precession fields built up, the knowledge that past, present and future were one and indivisible." - p 15
The story ends w/ a good punchline. By presenting it here w/o telling what the build-up to it is I avoid a spoiler:
"" 'A Man who comes out to the Rim to make his living,' " quoted Clavering, " 'would go to Hell for a pastime.' "" - p 28
The 2nd story, "Wet Paint", begins thusly:
"In all probability you've never heard of Kinsolving—most people, and that includes the majority of spacemen, have not. It's one of the Rim Worlds, which means that it's well off the beaten track even for the Commission's Epsilon Class tramps. It's an Earth-type planet, but not sufficiently similar to Earth to make it attractive to colonists. The gravity is a little too heavy and the air is a little too thin and a little too rich in carbon dioxide. Its sun is hot enough, but not very bright, and its light is so blue as to convey the impression of chilliness. Then, of course, there is that aching emptiness of the night sky for six months of the year without even a moon to take the curse off it.
"Kinsolving, then, is just a name in the Survey Commission's files—just a name and a few lines of relevant data. Discovered and charted by Commodore Pearson of the Survey Ship Magellan, named after his second-in-command." - p 29
I think that's a good description but what makes it especially interesting to me is that "Magellan" is just referred to as having been named after the "second-in-command" & there's no mention made of the original explorer that's, obviously, the most important influence on the name. In the time of the writing of this story, 1959, the reference would've been taken for granted as one not needing explication - but how much longer will that be the case? It's not 2016, 57 yrs later, & what's considered to be the basic body of knowledge for people has changed considerably.
These days, a search for "Magellan" online yields links to a travel accessories store & a health-care provide before an entry for the explorer appears:
"Born into a wealthy Portuguese family in around 1480," [Ferdinand] "Magellan became a skilled sailor and naval officer and was eventually selected by King Charles I of Spain to search for a westward route to the Maluku Islands (the "Spice Islands"). Commanding a fleet of five vessels, he headed south through the Atlantic Ocean to Patagonia, passing through the Strait of Magellan into a body of water he named the "peaceful sea" (the modern Pacific Ocean). Despite a series of storms and mutinies, the expedition reached the Spice Islands in 1521 and returned home via the Indian Ocean to complete the first circuit of the globe. Magellan did not complete the entire voyage, as he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines in 1521." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdina...
How long will it be before such an entry gets pushed even further away from the top by sponsored ads & the like?
"" 'Captain,' he said, 'we've found the paintings!'
"" 'Good,' I replied. 'Did you get photographs?'
"He ignored my question.
"" 'Captain!' he almost shouted, 'the paint is wet![' ]"" - p 33
Nice. Imagine finding wet cave paintings that otherwise have the appearance of ancientness. This story features an "Esper", the implied etymology of the word being "person having Extra Sensory Perception". The etymology's a bit wonky since ESP doesn't include the following but, hey!, it's ok, right?:
"She took a cigarette from Jones' case with the slender fingers of her right hand, put it to her lips. She ignored Jones' lighter. The end of the little cylinder glowed suddenly into incandescence." - p 38
The Rim is a place of uncertainty, a place where the Laws of Nature aren't necessarily written in stone, or even gas:
""You get this way out on the Rim," said the Captain, sensing our bewilderment. "If you didn't, you'd be round the bend in next to no time. If I'd been Captain Spence I shouldn't have considered a spot of wet paint anything worth writing home about."
""But is was odd," I said.
""Everything out here is odd. I have my own private theory, and that is that Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is the only law of nature that's valid in these parts."" - pp 43-44
The next story, "The Man Who Could Not Stop", revolves around how a penal system might work in a region that, in a sense, welcomes the criminal from the rest of the universe w/o any extradition possible:
"He had known for a long time, as do all who live on the wrong side of the Law, that there is no extradition from the Rim Worlds. It was on Van Diemen's Planet that he made his decision. A friendly police officer had warned him, for a consideration, that Terran agents would be arriving on the next in-bound liner, and the tramp freighter Jolly Swagman owned by the Faraway Line and homeward bound, was almost ready to blast off from Port Tasman. Her captain was ready and willing to supplement his salary by arranging a passage at very short notice." - p 56
The name "Jolly Swagman" is one of Chandler's many references to Australian slang & to the song "Waltzing Matilda". For Warren Burt's explication of this song go here: https://youtu.be/TiCY1cBm5nM?t=1h58m7s .
In between using recurring material to establish the serial ties, Chandler does come up w/ interesting fresh material too:
""Thing to 'member," Fredericks had said, "is this. All our robots have brains. But not human brains. Not anything like. Take Mark IV. Same I.Q. as domestic fowl . . . Funny thing—bunch of us talking 'bout it, 'membered 'bout hypnotizin' chickens. Fantastic. Works on Mark IV too . . ."
""And how do you hypnotize a chicken?" Clavering had asked.
""Easy. Draw line on floor. Hold her beak down to it."
""But the Mark IV hasn't got a beak . . ."
""Special paper, hold up to scanner. Shows, in infra-red, very straight, very dark line . . ."" - 76
I've always wanted to incorporate that hypnotizing-a-chicken thing into a music video to the song "Chicken in Black".
The last story is entitled "The Key". It starts off in Port Forlorn, another one of Chandler's recurring elements:
"But we are Men, close cousins to the monkeys, and we did leave the surface of the Earth, and that is how I came to be drinking in Susie's Bar and Grill in Port Forlorn, on Lorn, most dismal of the Rim Worlds, that night, and that is how Halvorsen came to find me there." - p 84
Chandler's characters are often realistically depicted as having emotional conflicts & other human conditions:
""So, I need a Master Astronaut. I'm willing to pay handsomely for your services."
""Listen," I said, "I've had Space. I've had Space in a big way. I'm sick of tank-grown food and recirculated air and water. When I paid off the Rimbird I swore that I'd never set foot in a spaceship again , and I meant it."" - p 86
Grimes, Chandler's main recurring character, only makes a cameo appearance:
""You can call me Admiral," I said, "with pay and uniform to match, and I'll still not be interested. Take my tip and go to see old Grimes, the Astronautical Superintendent of Rim Runners. He may be able to loan you an officer."" - p 87
I usually like it in a bk if a reference is made that prompts me to do a little research:
"["]It was Hoyle, a Twentieth Century astronomer, who first stumbled onto it, who put forward the theory that there was a continual influx of new hydrogen atoms into the Universe from . . . from somewhere.["]" - p 93
"Sir Fred Hoyle was an English astronomer and cosmologist, primarily remembered today for his contribution to the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis, and his often controversial stance on other cosmological and scientific matters, such as his rejection of the Big Bang theory in favour of a steady state universe and the panspermia theory of the origin of life on earth. He is considered one of the most creative and provocative astrophysicists of the second half of the 20th Century."
"In 1949, Hoyle began a popular and often repeated series of BBC radio broadcasts on astronomy, with versions being broadcast in the United States as well as in a book “The Nature of the Universe”. It was in the last of these radio lectures that Hoyle coined the phrase "Big Bang" for the creation of the universe, although many people believe he actually intended it as a scornful description of a theory which he did not himself accept. In 1957, he published “The Black Cloud”, the first of many science fiction novels." - http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/s...
SO, there's the Hoyle that Chandler mentions. It would be fun to make Chandler a character in a SF novel too, maybe a novel by Hoyle.
There's a fair amt of hetero-romance in Chandler's novels, most of it not quite as stereotyping as the following:
""Miss Wayne," I heard myself saying, "If I said anything to upset you, I apologize . . ."
""It's not what you've said, you stupid brute!" she wailed. "It's what you've done. This was such a nice, clean, tidy ship before you came here. And now . . ."
"Somehow, I was holding her, and she was sniffling damply between my neck and my shoulder." - p 100
One of the things I like most about Chandler's stories is the way he transplants earth(l)y banalities into extra-terrestrial situations:
"He told of his humble youth as a plumber, of the invention of the first really satisfactory Free Fall toilet that had brought him fame—and to have one's name spread throughout the Galaxy in every ship is fame—and fortune. he talked of the intricacies of finance, of the problems of manufacture." - p 104
&, finally, there's another one of those poking-fun-at-one's-own-profession sort of things:
""Interdimensional travel is impossible," I said. "Like Time Travel, it's just something that science fiction writers play with."" - p 108
The bk on the flipside, The Ship from Outside, is a novel, rather than another collection of short stories. However, it starts off related to the last of the short stories in its mate:
"It was on Stree that Calver, Master of the startramp Rimfire, received the news. He was in his day cabin at the time and he and Jane Calver, who was both his wife and his Catering Officer, were trying the large, not unhandsome lizard who acted as Rim Runners' local agent." - p 5
I mention above that "Chandler's characters are often realistically depicted as having emotional conflicts" & this bk went so far in that direction that it was beginning to seem a bit too far for me until it was somewhat justified by the more SF elements of the plot. Characters that I'd met in a different bk, The Rim of Space ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... ), reappear here in a sequelesque type way. I've read so many of Chandler's bks recently that they're all 'running together' in my mind somewhat.
"There was Calver, tall and gangling, and there was Jane Calver who, as "Calamity Jane" Arlen, had been Catering Officer of the lost Lorn Lady." - p 8
The "Ship from Outside" is the spaceship that Calver & co are in quest of. There's speculation:
""Just suppose . . ." murmured Calver. "Just suppose . . . Just suppose that there's a big ship hanging out there, somewhere . . . A ship that made the crossing . . . Just suppose that her crew discovered intelligent life on the Rim Worlds—but discovered that life in the anti-matter systems. . . . Or, perhaps, our systems are anti-matter to them. . . . Just suppose that they've assumed that our entire galaxy is composed of anti-matter. . . ."" - p 23
One of the things I like about The Ship from Outside is that it's not so simple as someone(s) having the vision to pursue a quest & getting down to it. Instead, voting goes on & the quest gets vetoed again & again as impractical & financially unviable. Now there's life for you!
"["]It was mainly a rehash of all the old legends about the Outsiders and it contained the statement , alleged to have been made by Maudsley, which I'll quote: 'Put Macbeth and Kinsolvings' Sun in line, and keep them so. That's the way that we came back. Fifty light years, and all hands choking on the stink of frying oil from the Mannscheen Drive . . .'
""It's a lead."
""Is it?" queried Jane. "And, if so, to what? But tell me, why didn't Grimes follow it when he made the last survey voyage in Faraway Quest?"
""Because Grimes, as I shouldn't have to tell you, is apt to be pigheaded. he's made up his mind that there's nothing—and I mean nothing—Outside.["]" - p 29
There's a spy &, yes, she has sexual wiles that Chandler, in his Ian Fleming kindof a way, isn't likely to not present. She, too, was in The Rim of Space & Calver's one-night-stand w/ her is a major factor in the emotional deterioration that runs thru this plot:
""For what?" he countered.
"He thought, She hasn't changed. Except that she's died her platinum hair green. But she's still damned attractive. Too attractive.
"She shrugged. "Well, the last two times we met were rather disastrous weren't they? The first time was on Faraway, wasn't it? And your girlfriend turned the local cops on to me. And the second time was on Grollor, and there was that most unfortunate clash between the Federation Survey Service, Intelligence branch, and the Rim Worlds Naval Reserve. . . ."
"Calver got up and joined the girl at her table.
""Still playing Olga Popovsky, the Beautiful Spy?" he asked." - p 34
A one-night-stand can lead to jealousy can lead to serious mental collapse cane lead to interruptions to the quest. Now that's realism.
"Calver kept to his own quarters, seeing nobody unless required to do so on ship's business. he was thinking too much and he was drinking too much. He hoped that the drinking would inhibit his thought processes, but it did not. He was thinking too much and he was remembering too much, harking back to the old days before the skein of his life became so hopelessly tangled. He could not blame Jane for this, but neither could he blame Sonya. he tried to blame himself, but even this he found difficult. He had acted as he had acted because he was himself, Derek Calver, his personality the result of years of experience both in deep space and on various planetary surfaces. He had reacted to external stimuli as surely as the dogs—still famous after how many centuries?—which had been the subjects of the experiments made by the ancient Russian Pavlov.
"Old Doc Malone came to see him.
""Derek," said the ship's physician, his usually jovial face grave, "we have to land Jane."" - p 74
I was a bit surprised by how much Chandler forefronted the subtle self-servingness of his characters:
""Jane is Jane," agreed Calver, "and I wouldn't want her changed."
""Wouldn't you now?"
""H'm. I suppose I could suggest a few improvements. . . . If she were a little less possessive, for example. I'm inclined to think that her possessiveness has been the real cause of most of thee trouble,"" - p 77
""But it's all so . . . so callous," objected Calver.
""I suppose it is. But remember this—in all the millenia of man's recorded history it's been the sentimentalists, the nobly self-sacrificing types , who've done the most damage. Sonya's selfish and honest about it, but she's done far less damage to this ship and this enterprise than you have done."" - p 78 ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 26, 2016
Jul 07, 2016
Mass Market Paperback
Oct 01, 1997
really liked it
**spoiler alert** review of
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Return to the Same City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 28, 2016
Yeah, my full review was too **spoiler alert** review of
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Return to the Same City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 28, 2016
Yeah, my full review was too long for here so go to "Return to the Same Old Shit" for its full glory: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I was looking for work by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán at the library for a friend of mine to get out. The library worker who was helping us recommended Taibo. I got the impression that Taibo was 'old', maybe early 20th century - but, then, the library guy was young so somebody who wrote before he was born might've seemed 'old' to him - or maybe I just misunderstood.
Anyway, the library worker got me interested. I love Montalbán's writing b/c it's very politically informed & I was told that Taibo was much the same. SO, I started looking for Taibo in used bookstores & I cdn't find anything by him anywhere. I started thinking they might be old hardbacks, out-of-print, not likely to be reprinted. THEN I found this: a mass market paperback, originally copyrighted 1989, translated English edition published in 1997, really not that 'old' at all. As it turns out, the guy's only 4 & 1/2 yrs older than me. The librarian was dead on, tho, Taibo's about as close to Montalbán as I cd hope for, a truly excellent political mystery writer.
The detective hero had been killed off in the last bk featuring him. "A Note from the Author" 'explains':
"Don't ask me when and how Héctor Belascoarán Shayne came back to life. I don't have an answer. I remember that on the last page of No Happy Ending rain was falling over his perforated body.
"His appearance in these pages is therefore an act of magic. White magic perhaps, but magic that is irrational and disrespectful toward the occupation of writing a mystery series."
The character, apparently resurrected, is not exactly in a hurry to jump back into risking his life again:
"The phone rang again.
""Could we meet?" asked the woman with the Peruvian? Bolivian? Chilean? Mexican? accent.
""Do we know each other?"
""I do, yes, I know you a little."
""What kind of bra do you wear?"
""No, nothing. It was to see if we knew each other." Héctor said, playing with the knife. "I now see that we don't."
"He hung up again". - p 8
He avoids the job over & over again. He also thinks of Cortázar, thusly endearing himself to me. This is a philosophical detective.. &/or writer.
"Elisa had once read aloud something Cortázar wrote about the train station in New Delhi and the sensation he'd been filled with—that you cannot cohabitate with certain dark regions of this world without becoming a little cynical, turning into a real son of a bitch" - p 10
Sometimes it's easy to tell wch generation a person has grown up in. My parents, born in the mid-1920s were 'conservative' in almost every way. A generation born in the mid 1940s might have been more exposed to consciousness-expansion drugs, might be more comfortable w/ rock'r'roll morés. A generation born in the 1960s might take graffiti a bit more for granted as socially acceptable:
""I paint on top of their paintings. I go out at night with my spray can and paint over theirs. It's war."
""But what do you paint?"
"Punks are Strawberries, Long Live Enver Hoxha, or Che Guevara Lives, He's a Living Ghost, Be Careful Assholes, He Lives in the Neighborhood, or Sex Punks Were Born With a Silver Spoon in Their Mouths, or If a Dog Falls in the Water, Kick Him Until He Dies. Some come out too long, they're not effective" - p 13
The messages here strike me as mostly ambiguous, They're probably full of references I don't get. I assume that "Punks" refers to the same subculture in Mexico as it wd in the US. I assume that "Strawberries" is a derogatory term so I look it up:
"Fresa (Spanish for strawberry) is a slang social term used in Mexico and some parts of Latin America to describe a cultural stereotype of white spanish superficial youngsters who, by the traditional definition of the word, came from a high class and educated family and nobility. The word was originally used by teenagers and young adults alike. Nowadays, its use has spread to all age groups. Lower class meztisas are often called "NACAS" who are heavily mixed with Natives of the area.
"The term fresa may be considered synonymous with the term "preppy" which originated in the United States in the 1960s to define teenagers with a conservative mentality, who did not drink and proudly displayed their social status. In Mexico, during the 1970s, the meaning changed and became a term to describe the lifestyles of the youth who were wealthy and well-known.
"However, the current usage of the term in Mexico has its origins in the late 1980s. During the rapid change in society as a result of globalization, which brought new forms of fashion, food and entertainment into the culture, a number of Mexican people began to adopt the "preppy" American lifestyle by mimicking American styles of dress, mannerisms and etiquette. Some examples include wearing polo shirts, boat shoes and chinos. The colloquialisms used by fresas is often referred to as "fresa talk"."
Now, "Punks" may still refer to the same subculture that it does in the US & the palimpsest graffitist might be saying that the punks are really preppies. That certainly wdn't've been the case in the punk culture I was around in BalTimOre in the late 1970s & early 1980s where most of the people were working class or lower middle class.
As for "If a Dog Falls in the Water, Kick Him Until He Dies": taken literally, it's pretty mean, taken metaphorically, it's also pretty mean. I don't think I understand the cultural reference.
"he walked over to the record player and put on Silvio Rodríguez's latest. Side A, track three." - p 20
Ok, I'm sure that I have a Rodríguez CD so I was proud of myself but I just went looking for it twice & didn't find it so now I'm disappointed in myself. Anyway, if this bk is supposedly taking place around 1987 the record in question might be "Árboles" made w/ Roy Brown & Afrocuba & the song might be "Mujer poetisa" (wch might mean "woman poet" or "poetess woman").
Héctor holds off on taking the job until given the right incentive:
"The elevator creaked up to the office as Héctor was trying uselessly to recover the last year of his life. The elevator door opened before it should have. Alicia gave hima lavish smile and entered without his being able to stop her. She pushed the 6th floor button.
""Alicia, remember?" she said.
""No, I'm not Alicia. I'm a retiree going to the third floor. More than two floors of stoppage against my will can technically be considered an abduction," he said and looked down at the elevator floor.
""Damn it," the woman said.
"Héctor looked at her.
"Alicia was wearing a sweater and black wool pants. She grabbed her sweater at the waist and slowly lifted it to expose here breasts to the open air. She wasn't wearing a bra. They were bigger than they suggested when covered. Pointed, with pink nipples.
""It's true, one is bigger than the other . . . In addition to the abduction, rape . . ."
"She put her sweater back where it belonged. Héctor felt dejected. It was like wearing a muzzle. Didn't they say the mouth was faster than the brain? The door opened onto the sixth floor. Defeated, Alicia pressed the third floor.
""It's okay, I give up," Héctor said. "I'm listening."" - p 24
The case is ostensibly about a husband who drives a wife to suicide:
"That guy would get high and turn red from all the shit he put up his nose, injected into his veins, and then he'd think himself a man and his dick wouldn't work for shit. How could foolish Elena go and marry a wretch like that? My sister was naive, she was an absolute idiot. Because the guy was handsome. Luke Estrella, the handsome rumba dancer, the charmer." - p 28
Seems realistic to me. So the ostensible sister of the ostensible wife wants revenge:
"You've got to fuck him up, for me. He's coming to Mexico next week. I'm sure, he's arriving on Pan Am's Thursday night flight. Pan Am from New York. I work for an airline and I asked all my friends to tell me if his name came up on the computer. He's got a reservation to come to Mexico on Thursday and no doubt he's going to pull some kind of shit, because that's the only thing he knows how to do. Up there in Miami, he was always involved in strange things, in drugs, I think, and that shit, with the Cuban mafia in Miami, the gusanos, the guys who owned the neighborhood." - p 29
Again, seems realistic to me. I remember a coke head bragging to me that he'd deliberately spill coke on the floor to watch the "coke whores" crawl around w/ their asses in the air to snort it. As for the Cuban mafia? The Cuban revolution was sensible enuf to evict them from the country, the US was idiotic enuf to import them as 'assets'.
"He had read in a novel that a paranoid could be defined as a Mexico City citizen with an acute perception of reality and an abundance of common sense." - p 43
I remember William S. Burroughs referring to "practical paranoia", a paranoia that recognizes that the most incredibly fucked-up things can, & do, happen.
Taibo has referenced Cortázar & Hammett already & now:
"In his decalogue on mystery novels, Chandler forgot to prohibit detectives from getting metaphysical" - p 45
3 of my favorite novelists. He never does reference Montalbán tho so I have to wonder about that. Taibo doesn't prohibit his detective from being foolish:
"Héctor thought about the distance. He needed to back off. He'd approached Estrella twice. A one-eyed man is exceedingly visible, like a brand of cola on a television ad, you always get the feeling you've seen him before. The only thing he was missing was a fluorescent T-shirt and a couple of rumba dancers hanging off his arm. He would have to get the glass eye out of the dresser drawer, he would have to put on a no-man's face, he'd have to dress like a lamppost, anonymous, like an ad for something out of style, he would have to follow Estrella from a distance if he wanted to fuck him." - p 46
"Luke Estrella moved through Mexico City without much hesitancy, including knowing a few codes that are usually reserved for natives and denied to tourists, like not hailing the taxi in front of the hotel, but walking a couple of blocks and stopping one as it passed, which would certainly be cheaper; like wrapping your big bills inside smaller ones; like you don't need coins for the public phones because even though the instructions order you to insert one, after the earthquake the phone company disconnected the payment system due to the emergency system and it's still that way." - pp 49-50
What a remarkably effective passage. Taibo explains so much w/ such concision.
"On this day" [ September 19] "in 1985, a powerful earthquake strikes Mexico City and leaves 10,000 people dead, 30,000 injured and thousands more homeless." - http://www.history.com/this-day-in-hi...
The detective crosses paths w/ an investigative reporter. Like Montalbán, Taibo's writing is peppered w/ political references that must seem pretty opaque to underinformed readers:
"There's still a third rule. The interesting one is the one whose name is not mentioned, the one they tell you isn't important, the one your usual sources seem to ignore.
"Gary Betancourt fit the three rules, one after another. He appeared casually as a second reference while I was investigating the assassination of Olaf Palme. No big deal, a very secondary mention in a newsletter of the Swedish groups in solidarity with Central America, mentioning that the Cuban had tried to infiltrate them. They used that name, Gary Betancourt. I didn't give a shit about the story, I was trying to establish connections between the assassins of Orlando Letelier and those of Palme." - pp 59-60
Orlando Letelier is someone I've heard of, I wasn't familiar w/ Olaf Palme so I decided to check online to see if he's a fictional character inserted into a context of real politically-motivated murders:
"Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden, was assassinated on 28 February 1986 in Stockholm, Sweden, at 23:21 hours Central European Time (22:21 UTC). Palme was fatally wounded by a single gunshot while walking home from a cinema with his wife Lisbet Palme on the central Stockholm street Sveavägen. Mrs Palme was slightly wounded by a second shot. The couple did not have bodyguards at the time.
"Although more than 130 people have confessed to the murder, the case remains unsolved" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassi...
About Letelier a bk entitled The CIA's Greatest Hits by Mark Zepezauer & published by Odonian Preess has this to say:
""Are you the wife of Orlando Letelier?" asked the anonymous caller, "Yes," she answered. "No," the caller said, "you are his widow."
"A week later, on September 21, 1976, the exiled Chilean diplomat and prominent critic of the CIA-backed Pinochet regime" [..] "was torn to pieces by a car bomb on the streets of Washington DC. Also killed was Letelier's American aide, Ronni Moffit. Her husband, blown clear of the car, immediately began shouting that Chilean fascists were responsible for the atrocity.
"He was right, but those fascists had powerful allies in Washington. An FBI informant knew of the plot to assassinate Litelier before the fact but the FBI did nothing to protect him. After the combing, CIA Director George Bush told the FBI that there'd been no Chilean involvement whatsoever." - pp 56-57
There's even a bk entitled Assassination on Embassy Row by John Dinges & Saul Landau (Pantheon Books, 1980). Landau has been somewhat well-known to me as a primary exposer of CIA dirty tricks in Latin America. One of many people mentioned in Assassination on Embassy Row is Orlando Bosch, a terrorist mass-murderer apparently so highly favored by Bush Senior's administration that one of his parting acts from the presidency was to pardon Bosch who was released from a US prison & allowed to live in Florida to the ripe old age of 84:
"Orlando Bosch Ávila (18 August 1926 – 27 April 2011) was a Cuban exile, former Central Intelligence Agency-backed operative, and head of Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, which the FBI has described as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization". Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called Bosch an "unrepentant terrorist". He was accused of taking part in Operation Condor and several terrorist attacks, including the 6 October 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which all 73 people on board were killed, including many young members of a Cuban fencing team and five North Koreans. The bombing is alleged to have been plotted at a 1976 meeting in Washington, D.C. attended by Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, and DINA agent Michael Townley. At the same meeting, the assassination of Chilean former minister Orlando Letelier is alleged to have been plotted. Bosch was given safe haven within the US in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, who in 1976 as head of the CIA had declined an offer by Costa Rica to extradite Bosch." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando...
"An even more dubious case than Hammer’s also reached Bush’s desk during the first year of his presidency. In 1989, prominent Cuban-Americans in Florida began agitating for the release of Orlando Bosch, a notorious anti-Castro terrorist then serving a prison term for entering the United States illegally. American intelligence and law enforcement authorities firmly believed that Bosch was responsible for far worse actions, including the 1976 explosion that brought down a Cuban airliner, killing all 76 civilians aboard, although Venezuelan prosecutors had failed to convict him of that terrible crime. There was certainly no question that Bosch was an advocate of terror and had been involved in numerous bombings.
"The Justice Department wanted to deport Bosch because, according to the FBI, he had “repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death.” Freeing Bosch at a time when Washington was condemning terrorism abroad would obviously be hard to explain — had someone asked.
"But Miami’s leading Republican contributors and politicians persistently lobbied Bush to free Bosch, insisting that the former pediatrician was really a noble freedom fighter. And in 1990, when Bosch was eventually released and permitted to reside in Florida under an extraordinary deal with the Bush Justice Department, much of the credit went to the alleged mass murderer’s best-connected White House lobbyist — a budding local politician named Jeb Bush. The Bush son who would be elected governor of Florida eight years later had, by 1990, already become wealthy in real estate and other deals with the same Cuban exile businessmen who wanted Bosch to be freed. Among Jeb’s business partners active in the Cuban-American National Foundation, the institutional advocate for Bosch, was one Armando Codina, also a regular GOP donor and activist. (Codina, however, tells Salon that he neither supported the release of Bosch, nor ever lobbied his business partner, Bush, on the issue.) According to the administration’s spokesmen, however, all those personal and financial ties were just a set of happy coincidences. Anyway, nobody in the mainstream media or on Capitol Hill got upset because the president’s son had opened prison doors for an unrepentant terrorist." - http://www.salon.com/2001/02/27/pardo... ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 21, 2016
Jun 29, 2016
Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 27, 2016
Ok, ok, this isn't the complete review. Even for a bk review of
Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 27, 2016
Ok, ok, this isn't the complete review. Even for a bk this simple I just had to go on & on. Read this, mutha, "Bimbos of the Something-or-Another": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I bought this bk as part of my pursuit of humorous SF & of SF written by women. Given that the author's purported last name is "McCrumb" I do wonder whether it's a pseudonym & whether it's a pseudonym for a male author. An online search for "McCrumb" yields only this author but there are various genealogy pages one of wch provides this (& much more that isn't quoted here):
"McCrumb is an ancient Dalriadan-Scottish nickname for a person with blond hair. The Scottish name Crone was originally derived from the Gaelic word "cron", which means saffron, yellow-colored or dark, and refers to the complexion or hair coloring of the original bearer.
"McCrumb Early Origins
"The surname McCrumb was first found in Argyllshire (Gaelic erra Ghaidheal), the region of western Scotland corresponding roughly with the ancient Kingdom of Dál Riata, in the Strathclyde region of Scotland, now part of the Council Area of Argyll and Bute, where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.
"Translation in medieval times was an undeveloped science and was often carried out without due care. For this reason, many early Scottish names appeared radically altered when written in English. The spelling variations of McCrumb include Crone, Cron, Cronie and others." - https://www.houseofnames.com/mccrumb-...
Further research, however, convinces me that Sharyn McCrumb is a woman & that that's her real name. Her website says this:
"Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer, best known for her Appalachian "Ballad" novels, set in the North Carolina/Tennessee mountains, including the New York Times Best Sellers : The Ballad of Tom Dooley, She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket. Her new novel, King's Mountain, the story of the 1780 Revolutionary War battle and the Overmountain Men, was published in September 2013 by St. Martins Press, NY." - http://www.sharynmccrumb.com/bio.html
That's interesting insofar as Bimbos of the Death Sun is apparently somewhat unusual in her overall output. I like her for that - at least she's not completely stuck in a 'ballad-rut'. Her being the author of "New York Times Best Sellers" is a different story.
What constitutes a "New York Times Best Seller"? One version has it that bks are shipped out in large quantities to new booksellers & that this very large-scale shipping, arranged by distributors, is what makes the bks "New York Times Best Sellers" - they don't have to actually SELL from the bookstores. In other words, it's a prefabricated marketing gimmick, a gimmick whose success is based in the power of distribution interests. Maybe "Appalachian "Ballad" novels" fill some sort of demographic niche. Judging by Bimbos of the Death Sun I doubt that the promotion of McCrumb's work is based on her 'Nabokov-like command of the English language' or on any other critical criteria of substance.
Bimbos of the Death Sun cd be sd to be a somewhat merciless parody of SF conventions - is the author really Shryn the Merciless? McCrumb's take on some of her characters seems somewhat underappreciative of their 'real life' counterparts:
"Really, Diefenbaker would write to anybody. Just let someone in Nowhere-in-Particular, New Jersey, write in a comment to Diefenbaker's fan magazine, and Dief would fire back a friendly five-page letter, making the poor crottled greep feel liked. More comments would follow, requiring more five-page letters. Miles didn't like to think what Dief's postage budget would run. And this is what it came to: post-adolescent monomaniacs waiting to waylay him at cons to discuss Lithuanian politics, or silicon-based life forms, or whatever their passion was. If he weren't careful, he'd get so tied up with these upstarts that he wouldn't have time to socialize with the authors and the fen-elite. Miles would have to protect Dief from such pitfalls, for his own good." - p 9
In other words, Diefenbaker is a nice supportive open-minded guy w/ alotof social energy who gets somewhat ridiculed by the author for being so. Why shdn't Dief write to anybody? Does that go against snobbishness? Against classist elitism? A "crottled greep" is a "mock foodstuff" according to Wiktionary ( https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/crottl... ) & of the 6 examples presented in their definition McCrumb's is the only one that seems to use it either incorrectly or as a metaphor as/for a derogatory description of a psychological inferior. What's wrong w/ discussing "Lithuanian politics, or silicon-based life forms"? Given the low intellectual quality of most conversations I'd say that passionate geek "post-adolescent monomania" is far preferable to the usual drek.
The victim-to-be is known to the reader from the get-go & is immediately typed as being spectacularly self-centered & obnoxious:
""Mr. Dungannon, what an honor to have you here!"
""The pleasure is entirely yours!" snapped Appin Dungannon, sounding for all the world like a peevish elf. His narrowed piggy eyes darted from one autograph seeker to another, and finally cantilevered upward to glare at Perry's plaster smile. "Are you going to get me out of here?"" - pp 10-11
I've been reading SF (& its awkward relative Fantasy) since I was at least 9 yrs old, so for something like 53 yrs now, & I still love it & find it stimulating & inspired. That sd, I've only been to, maybe, 2 SF cons in all that time - the last one being 33 yrs ago. I reckon that like most large-scale gatherings of human beings they're not for me. STILL, I'm sympathetic to them as geek-magnets, as places where people who're probably largely uncomfortable in the mainstream can, perhaps, feel a bit more socially belonging. McCrumb gets this too, although she's a bit more harsh than I wd be about the people who attend.
""Why aren't you in costume?"
"Diefenbaker looked surprised. "But I'm a wargamer!" Seeing that this reply had not proved enlightening, he explained, "The world of fandom is divided into several subgroups, mainly into hard science fiction—people who would read your book, for example—and fantasy folk, who are into Tolkein, Dungeons & Dragons, and—"
""Exactly. They're the ones in cloaks and broadswords. The rest of us settle for small tokens of resistance." He pointed to a button on his lapel that read, "Reality is a crutch for those who can't handle science fiction." "Do you play wargames, by any chance?"
""Ah . . . on the computer?"
""No. Board games. Strategy between players. Diplomacy. Kingmaker. War in the Pacific. No, I see you don't. How about SF? Who do you read?"" - p 17
I find that breakdown interesting. I don't know how accurate it is. It seems accurate enuf but probably oversimpifying. When I went to the World SF Con in BalTimOre in 1983 I went dressed in translucent pants & jacket w/ no clothing on underneath. On the back of the jacket were 4 glow-in-the-dark rectangles arranged to look like windowpanes w/ lite coming thru them. I walked to the Con from my place on city streets surrounded by 4 or so friends to shield me from police scrutiny & when I got there & was asked for my ticket my companions explained to security that wearing a name-tag wd ruin my costume.
I didn't really have a ticket but my friends's strategy worked & I was let in. I remember an elfish young woman trying to figure out what fictional character I was. I was just being myself. There was a hotel rm for a Discordian gathering w/ a sign on it that sd something to the effect of "You know if you belong here" wch was probably true enuf & I decided that I didn't b/c I was less interested in being part of groups largely created by others than I was in groups that I felt like I was cocreating. Simultaneous w/ this con was the 14BX Sub-Par Con of the Church & Foundation of the SubGenius that I'd co-organized. Following it all was the neoist APT 7 that I'd organized. They were more my thing. What I'm saying is that I didn't fit into any of McCrumb's categories but I reckon I was an exception in more ways than one. Then again, the Discordians wdn't've fit her categories either. I do recall there being an unusually high percentage of large women:
""All the girls who weigh less than one-twenty wear as little as possible, and the rest of them put on cloaks and medieval dresses to conceal their bulk.["]" - p 23
Dungannon, the famous but hated author of fantasy bks featuring "Tratyn Runewind" muses about their development while he tries to write one: "The first books had been carried by his curiosity about the folklore, and when that ran out, he'd enjoyed putting his editors and his ex-wife in the manuscripts as monsters, but even that became dull after a while. Now he wrote out of inertia and because they kept waving money at him." (p 35) I find the idea of putting people you dislike into stories as monsters entertaining. It's tempting to do that.
Bimbos of the Death Sun was published in 1988. The author of the version of Bimbos of the Death Sun that's referenced w/in McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun is looking over manuscripts to judge them. In one of them, he finds the technology-of-the-future wildly not-thought-thru:
"Jay Omega blinked. "Three thousand years in the future?"
""That's what the author says," nodded Marion, tapping a line of typescript.
""And they still get mail? We don't even do that on campus. I leave messages for people on the computer mainframe, and they just check their file once a day. Electronic mail. Instantaneous."" - p 51
Email wd've still been a very new thing to most people in 1988. I didn't have an email address until 1996 & that was b/c I was in the position of most people: lack of access to the technology.
"Early email was just a small advance on what we know these days as a file directory - it just put a message in another user's directory in a spot where they could see it when they logged in. Simple as that. Just like leaving a note on someone's desk.
"Probably the first email system of this type was MAILBOX, used at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1965. Another early program to send messages on the same computer was called SNDMSG.
"Some of the mainframe computers of this era might have had up to one hundred users -often they used what are called "dumb terminals" to access the mainframe from their work desks. Dumb terminals just connected to the mainframe - they had no storage or memory of their own, they did all their work on the remote mainframe computer.
"Before internetworking began, therefore, email could only be used to send messages to various users of the same computer. Once computers began to talk to each other over networks, however, the problem became a little more complex - We needed to be able to put a message in an envelope and address it. To do this, we needed a means to indicate to whom letters should go that the electronic posties understood - just like the postal system, we needed a way to indicate an address.
"This is why Ray Tomlinson is credited with inventing email in 1972. Like many of the Internet inventors, Tomlinson worked for Bolt Beranek and Newman as an ARPANET contractor. He picked the @ symbol from the computer keyboard to denote sending messages from one computer to another. So then, for anyone using Internet standards, it was simply a matter of nominating name-of-the-user@name-of-the-computer. Internet pioneer Jon Postel, who we will hear more of later, was one of the first users of the new system, and is credited with describing it as a "nice hack". It certainly was, and it has lasted to this day."
"But as it developed email started to take on some pretty neat features. One of the first good commercial systems was Eudora, developed by Steve Dorner in 1988." - http://www.nethistory.info/History%20...
I find such things fascinating. Eudora was the 1st email app I had at home & it was better than the Mail program that comes w/ Macs that I use to this day. Eudora had filters that were very handy. The version of Mail I have doesn't. The somewhat obscure present of 1988 is fairly common in 2016. Handy, very handy.
I was particularly interested in who's presented as required SF & Fantasy reading by one of McCrumb's characters:
"Marion's eyes narrowed. "I teach science fiction at the university."
"Dungannon looked pleased. "Who's required reading?"
""Clarke, Brunner, LeGuin—"
""The early works. And in the fantasy course, we teach C.S. Lewis, Tolkein—"
""Tolkein! Ah so you do mythology? What about British myths?"
""Yes, of course. There's an excellent book based on Celtic lore. The students love it."
"Appin Dungannon smirked. "Which Runewind is it? The Singing Runes? The Flag of Dunvegan?"
"Marion raised her eyebrows. "No. As a matter of fact, it's The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley."" - pp 53-54
The famous victim-to-be is disappointed that his bks aren't required reading. What wd yr required reading be? I'm not sure I'd have required reading but I've been enthusiastic about all mentioned above except for Bradley who I haven't read yet. I can't stomach Lewis anymore & I have my reservations about Heinlein's later work too.
A Scottish folksinger sets the reader straight about the 'Scottish' kilt:
"Nobody seemed to realize that the whole kilt business was thought up in the early nineteenth century, and that it was an Englishmen who'd been give Scottish peerages who wore them." - p 56
Really? That's the type of factoid that I delight in. BUT, I also doublecheck it just in case the author's fuckin' w/ us. Here's the beginning of what one website claims:
"Scottish kilts are known as “The National Dress of Scotland” and are a highly recognized form of dress throughout the world. Kilts have deep cultural and historical roots in the country of Scotland and are a sacred symbol of patriotism and honor for a true Scotsman. The word “kilt” is a derivation of the ancient Norse word, kjilt, which means pleated, and refers to clothing that is tucked up and around the body.
"Scottish kilts originate back to the 16th century, when they were traditionally worn as full length garments by Gaelic-speaking male Highlanders of northern Scotland. They were referred to as a léine, Gaelic for “shirt” and typically, the garments were draped over the shoulder or pulled over the head as cloaks. The wearing of Scottish kilts was common during the 1720s, when the British military used them as their formal uniforms. The knee-length kilt, similar to the modern kilt of today, did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century." - https://www.authenticireland.com/scot...
Weeeellllllll! That certainly goes against McCrumb's character's assertion. SO, let's try a different source:
"The history of the kilt stretches back to at least the end of the 16th century. The kilt first appeared as the belted plaid or great kilt, a full length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head as a hood. The small kilt or walking kilt (similar to the 'modern' kilt) did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century, and is essentially the bottom half of the great kilt.
"The word kilt comes from the Scots word kilt meaning to tuck up the clothes around the body, although the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (vol. 15, p. 798) says the word is Scandinavian in origin. The Scots word derives from the Old Norse kjalta."
"A characteristic of the Highland clan system was that clansmen felt loyalty only to God, their monarch, and their Chief. The Jacobite Risings demonstrated the dangers to central government of such warrior Highland clans, and as part of a series of measures the government of King George II imposed the "Dress Act" in 1746, outlawing all items of Highland dress including kilts (although an exception was made for the Highland Regiments) with the intent of suppressing highland culture. The penalties were severe; six months' imprisonment for the first offense and seven years' transportation for the second. The ban remained in effect for 35 years.
"Thus, with the exception of the Army, the kilt went out of use in the Scottish Highlands, but during those years it became fashionable for Scottish romantics to wear kilts as a form of protest against the ban." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History...
Weeelllllll, these 2 online sources don't exactly reinforce McCrumb's character's assertion but that doesn't mean that the author is wrong.
I had a moment of identification w/ Dungannon, the victim-to-be. He's doing a bk signing & a guy comes to him w/ multiples of the same bk:
""You have three copies of the same book in here."
""Right. Someday you'll be dead and I'll be rich."" - p 59
Dungannon gets poetic justice in more ways than one here. Something like that actually happened to me once. My bk How to Write a Resumé - Volume II: Making a Good First Impression was required reading for an arts class at UMBC. One student DID actually wish me to be dead so that he cd profit off the bk. Another student hated the bk so much she wanted her money back for it but she didn't want to have to return it. It cost her a whopping $10 in 1992, a minute amt above actual cost of materials (I printed it myself). I wd've given her a full refund if she'd returned the bk in good condition. She didn't seem to get that. What brats.
McCrumb's parody can be pretty brutal about the attendees of the SF con where the action takes place:
"["}Women are at a premium in this hobby, and therefore even the plain ones are prized. That poor creature up there could pick up six guys by Sunday if she chose. I expect she'll settle for one."
"Jay Omega peered at Brenda Lindenfeld, who was rotating slowly to show off her hooded cloak. "Any six guys?"
""No, silly. Any six losers. You know, the terminally shy guys who have no idea how to talk to a woman; the runty little nerds that no one else wants; and the fat intellectuals who want to be loved for their minds. She can take her pick of those."" - pp 65-66
Are SF fans offended by the above? Do they even read this bk? I reckon I'm an ardent reader of SF & I read this bk & I'm not exactly offended but then I don't really see myself in the description either. AT any rate, not all of McCrumb's details ring true:
"The demented fans who read the series had hours of fun devising plausible explanations for his sloppiest screw-ups. They would churn out endless articles in their unreadable mimeographed excrescences trying to explain why Runewind's sword changed lengths or why his mother was known by two different names. So far, the two likeliest explanations—apathy and Chivas Regal—had not been suggested." - p 102 ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 20, 2016
Jun 28, 2016
Mass Market Paperback
Aug 06, 1985
Aug 06, 1985
really liked it
A. Bertram Chandler's Kelly Country
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 21-27, 2016
This is probably Chandler's 'masterpiece'. I've written review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Kelly Country
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 21-27, 2016
This is probably Chandler's 'masterpiece'. I've written a long review entitled "Grimesblower" that you can find here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . This review is just the truncated version. I highly recommend reading the BOOK & then reading my full review.
I read about this one before I read the actual bk. I figured I'd find it one of his better bks & I did. If the writing style weren't so conventional I'd be tempted to give it a 5 star rating but 4 will have to do. Chandler was Australian for the latter yrs of his life & Australian subject matter runs deep thru his bks. Mentions of Aus folk heros abound.
"Every nation has its folk heroes. Very often such heroes are picturesque rogues—and the passage of time has added a spurious glamour to the reputation of many a vicious criminal. The English have their mythical Robin Hood, who stole (it is said) from the rich to give to the poor. They have the real life highwayman Dick Turpin, who just robbed the rich to fill his own pockets. In the U.S.A. there is, among quite a few others, Jesse James. In Australia there is Ned Kelly. He is not only a bushranger in our criminal history but he is the one whose name is most familiar to every Australian. Perhaps it is his famous armor that makes him loom so large in the national imagination, as a sort of living prophecy of the panzer warfare of the twentieth century. Too, there was something of Robin Hood about him. When he robbed a bank he made a great show of tearing up the mortgages that he found in the strongroom. This endeared him to the poor farmers heavily in debt to the financial institutions." - p 7
Kelly was partially reacting against police abuses of power.
"Certain sections of the press demanded that some members of the Victorian Police Force who had taken part in the siege be brought to trial on charges of manslaughter.
"But in those times that would have been going altogether too far." - p 13
As if anything's changed in that respect. Kelly was in the 19th century, we're now in the 21st (well, according to the calendar most commonly used in the culture I live in). Police & their cronies can still massacre people w/ impunity. Look at the mass murders of the MOVE family in Philadelphia, PA, & of the Branch-Davidians in Waco, TX.
In Kelly Country Chandler's recurring main character, John Grimes, isn't the usual captain of a spaceship but is, instead, a writer. Grimes is always transparently a stand-in for Chandler, who was a ship's captain as well as a writer, but he's even more so here where instead of being a spaceship captain he's an Australia-based writer.
"That morning I was doing what I am doing now. Writing. It could have been the same machine that I was using, a manually operated typewriter of German manufacture. I was working on yet-another novel in the never-ending series in which I had become trapped, a further installment of the adventures—and misadventures—of a character who had been referred to by Publishers Weekly as "science fiction's answer to Hornblower." When I was interrupted by the telephone I'd gotten to an interesting part of the story; my hero was putting up a token resistance against the amorous advances of a beautiful, blond, not too alien princess. I used a very appropriate word when my train of thought was disturbed by the insistent ringing. Nonetheless I did not answer the call until I had finished the sentence: ". . . made a major production of filling and lighting his pipe while trying to ignore her attentions."" - p 14
Chandler is routinely publicized as "science fiction's answer to Hornblower" & the "filling and lighting his pipe" thing is a typical Grimes-as-spaceman scene. Hence Grimes IS Chandler here. I enjoy the way that Chandler adapts his hero to the novel w/o bothering to try to justify the discontinuity (except, perhaps, as something that's implied by the time travel side-effects of the novel). I also enjoy the implication that such a discontinuity is a way of fucking w/ "the never-ending series in which" [the author] "had become trapped".
I was pleasantly surprised to find J. W. Dunne mentioned, whose bk An Experiment with Time I read the 1st 75pp of 4 decades or so ago. In Dunne's 1934 "Introduction to the Third Edition" he states:
"Multidimensional worlds of the kind beloved by mystics, and dating back to the days of the Indian philosopher Patañjali, have never appealed to me. To introduce a new dimension as a mere hypothesis (i.e., without logical compulsion) is the most extravagant proceeding possible. It could be justified only by the necessity of explaining some insistent fact which would appear, on any other hypothesis, miraculous. And a new and still more marvellous miracle would need to be discovered before we could venture to consider the possibility of yet another dimension. Even then the major difficulty would remain to be overcome. For why should the, say, five-dimensional observer of a five-dimensional world perceive that world as extended in only three dimensions?
"The universe which develops as a consequence of what is known to philosophers as the 'Infinite Regress' is entirely free from the forgoing objections.
"This 'Infinite Regress', I may explain to the uninitiated, is a curious logical development which appears immediately one begins to study 'self-consciousness' or 'will' or 'time'. A self-conscious person is one 'who knows that he knows'; a willer is one who, after all the motives which determine choice have been taken into account, can choose between those motives; and time is——but this book is about that." - pp v-vi, 1973 reprint, An Experiment with Time, Faber and Faber
""Finish your chili beef. We've an appointment."
""Dr. Graumann. You must of heard of him."
""I have," I admitted. "The man who resurrected J. W. Dunne's theories about time.["]" - p 16
A somewhat odd interpolation occurs, one that's both obvious, not obvious enuf, & underexplicated, just dropped in:
""Mr. Duffin has been telling me about you, Mr. Grimes," he said. His accent was that of a New Yorker, I thought. "Perhaps I shall have greater success with you than with the real Australians."
"I told him, rather tartly, that I was real enough.
"Duffin said, "Dr. Graumann means the Aborigines, Grimes."" - p 17
William Bligh, most famous as the person rebelled against in the "Mutiny on the Bounty", is practically an obsession of Chandler's. The author has Grimes as a version of Bligh in The Big Black Mark (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ). SO, for regular readers of Chandler's work it's no surprise to encounter Ned Kelly & Bligh mentioned in the same paragraph:
"The man had the makings of an orator, a rabble rouser. To me, the twentieth century me, he was preaching to the at-least-half-converted. In my own time descent from convicts was no longer something to be concealed but, instead, to be boasted about. Governor Bligh was at last being looked upon as the tragic hero of the Rum Rebellion and the officers of the New South Wales Corps as the villains. And Ned Kelly, of course, was beginning to be regarded as more of a freedom fighter than a mere bushranger." - p 37
Since I'm an anarchist, I always look for the use of "anarchy" in bks. Sometimes "anarchy' is used in the fear-mongering way of "violent chaos", more rarely it's used to mean "individualist responsibility". Chandler's a bit more open to anarchy than many. In this instance, the character using the word pejoratively isn't a sympathetic one:
""Grimes! You must help! Make a fire on the tracks! You must stop the train!"
""Damn you, man! You know that the blackguard Kelly intends to do! If he gets away with it there will be anarchy all through the north east of Victoria!"
"And you won't get your reward, I thought. How much had it been? Five hundred and fifty pounds?" - p 41
In the outer-space travel novels there's a device called the "Mannschenn Drive" wch enables Faster-Than-Light travel & has time-bending side-effects. Chandler's descriptions always emphasis "precessing flywheels". In Kelly Country a similarly described device is used to enable Grimes to perceive the past thru the eyes of an ancestor:
"No, not the slowly rotating Mobius strip that I was expecting.
"It became a complexity of spidery, spinning wheels, set at odd angles each to each, spinning, precessing, seeming ever to be at the point of fading into invisibility but never quite doing so. . . . Precessing, and dragging my mind with them through the warped Continuum. . . . Precessing but spinning ever more slowly. . . ." - p 46
"Precession is a change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body. In an appropriate reference frame it can be defined as a change in the first Euler angle, whereas the third Euler angle defines the rotation itself. In other words, if the axis of rotation of a body is itself rotating about a second axis, that body is said to be precessing about the second axis. A motion in which the second Euler angle changes is called nutation. In physics, there are two types of precession: torque-free and torque-induced." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precession
In Chandler's variation on time travel the traveler can remember multiple time tracks: "One of me loves Asiatic food—Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese—the other has only memories of what such meals look like and taste like. From the foundation of the Republic onwards there was a very strict White Australia policy." (p 49) W/o getting into too much spoiler detail, the changes wrought by Grimes's experiencing the time of Ned Kelly through his ancestor are an accidental side-effect of Grimes's support for Kelly as a man fighting back against economic oppression. Alas, this backfires & a fear-of-a-'Yellow-Peril' is one consequence:
"He got out of the car to open a rear door for me. I told him that I would sooner ride in front. This was a mistake as he was a non-stop talker.
""Have ye been seein' the mornin' papers, sir?" he asked. "Things are bad in the Nam an' it's gettin' worse they are. Maybe I shouldn't be sayin' this to ye—but I'm after thinkin' that we should ha' pulled out when the Yanks did. I did me spell in the Nam an' I know what it's like. The people there hate our guts—and why shouldn't they? Why shouldn't they be let to have their revolution in peace—like the Yanks had theirs an' we had ours? What's the world a-comin' to if ye can't settle yer family squabbles without all sorts of strangers a-buttin' in?"" - p 56
Chandler doesn't neglect opportunities to have his 20th century time traveler say things that're unrecognizably funny references to their 19th century auditors:
""Did she kill a man, Mr. Reardon?" asked McLeod.
""She did that."
""Come on, Frank," said McLeod to Brown, "let's be getting the bones and spud peelings out of the way."
"They drifted off.
""How to win friends and influence people," I said." - p 99
Naturally, the 19th century people aren't going to recognize that as a Dale Carnegie quote that came along after their lifetime. For that matter, 21st century readers may've forgotten it by now. Then again, Chandler can use his fictionalized Ned Kelly era character, Red Kitty (perhaps a name inspired by "Red Emma" Goldman), give a contemporary quote that's a personal favorite for me:
""You do not know? You really do not know? I find this hard to believe. Karl Marx, Miss Kelly, has written books that will shake the world, that will change the world. They will become the bibles of the toiling masses."
""Don't blaspheme, woman!" flared Kate. "There is only one Bible!"
""And religion," said Red Kitty, "is the opium of the people."" - p 103
"The full quote from Karl Marx translates as: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people"."(1843) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_o...
""I make no claim to be an angel," said Red Kitty. "I saw that the Superintendent was about to murder Ned, so I . . . intervened. Luckily I had thought to bring my pistol with me when I came down from my room to see the fighting. I had already heard about your brother, of course, and about his valiant fight against the capitalist oppressors. I had heard the police boasting about what they had done at Glenrowan. There was only one side that I could possibly be on."
""And so you have cast your lot among outlaws," I could not help saying.
""I am a servant of the revolution," she told me." - pp 107-108
In the rerouted present that's the outcome of all this, Australia's quite a different place but there's a "Ned Kelly" in power:
"He quieted down. "So I'm like the first Ned, ye say? Game as Ned Kelly . . . That goes for me, I hope, as well as for him. I gave my word that I'd save the Nam from the commies—an' when did a Kelly ever break his word? And now tell me—what was she like?"
""Kate?" I asked.
""No, not Kate. red Kitty. My great-grandmother."
""She sounds quite a girl," said Ned.
""She was. But you wouldn't have liked her."
""An' why not? After all, she's me great-grandmother."
""And also a communist," I said. "A faithful disciple of old Karl himself. And do you think that she'd have liked what you're doing now in Asia?"" - p 113
Chandler references Calamity Jane in other novels by having one of his characters named after her. In Kelly Country he mentions another prominent figure of the 'Wild West', Buffalo Bill:
""But I'm telling you, Mr. Kelly," said Donnelly as he resumed his seat, "that you have backers in the United States. I represent them, as well as Francis Bannerman, Dr. Richard Gatling and . . . others. There is the Harp In The South Committee in New York, with a distant cousin of yours at its head. . . ."
""A distant cousin of mine, Major Donnelly?"
""Yes. Colonel William Cody, better known, perhaps , as Buffalo Bill. he is interested in what you are attempting to do in this country of yours. he is a romantic. . . ." He looked around the table. "As are we all."" - p 130
Long ago I read somewhere that Buffalo Bill got his name by hunting buffalo by shooting them from trains & then hopping off & cutting their tongues out to send back to restaurants in the east - leaving the rest of the body to rot. Not surprisingly, this disgusted me. However, the wikipedia entry doesn't mention that. I don't know what to trust:
""Buffalo Bill" received his nickname after the American Civil War, when he had a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. Cody is purported to have killed 4,282 American bison (commonly known as buffalo) in eighteen months, (1867–1868). Cody and hunter William Comstock competed in an eight-hour buffalo-shooting match over the exclusive right to use the name, in which Cody won by killing 68 bison to Comstock's 48. Comstock, part Cheyenne and a noted hunter, scout, and interpreter, used a fast-shooting Henry repeating rifle, while Cody competed with a larger-caliber Springfield Model 1866, which he called Lucretia Borgia after legendary beautiful, ruthless Italian noblewoman, the subject of a popular contemporary Victor Hugo play of the same name. Cody explained that while his formidable opponent, Comstock, chased after his buffalo, engaging from the rear of the herd and leaving a trail of killed buffalo "scattered over a distance of three miles", Cody - likening his strategy to a billiards player "nursing" his billiard balls during "a big run" - first rode his horse to the front of the herd to target the leaders, forcing the followers to one side, eventually causing them to circle and create an easy target, dropping them close together." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo...
Whatever the story ultimately is, the above massacre-as-competition still repulses me - even tho I'm a meat eater. Was there a "Harp In The South Committee" that Buffalo Bill was part of? Not as far as my superficial searching on the internet determined. There was, however, this:
" The Harp in the South is a novel (ISBN 0-14-010456-9) by New Zealand born Australian author Ruth Park. Published in 1948, it portrays the life of a Catholic Irish Australian family living in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, which was at that time an inner city slum." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Har...
Maybe Chandler was referencing that. Chandler goes further in his reimagining of American-Australian alternate history by having an American offer help in arming the Ned Kelly led Australian revolution:
""What is in it for you? For America, I mean, rather than for you, personally, and your employer, Mr. Bannerman?"
"The major sat lumpishly, still staring at the countess, his cigar smouldering, for gotten on the table before him.
"Then he said, "All right. I'll spill the beans. The U.S. of A. is a Pacific Rim nation. So is Canada. So is Australia. And we're all of us white men's nations. We have a common enemy. The Asiatic hordes."
""The Yellow Peril," put in Byrne. "The Chinese."
""No, Mr. Byrne. Not the Chinese. The Japanese. They are clever—and treacherous. Mark my words, all of you! In years to come they will burst out of their little islands to attempt to conquer the world. And who will have to stop them? The white Pacific Rim nations, that's who. Canada. Australia. The United States."
""So you want Australia to become part of the American Empire, Major?" asked Red Kitty interestedly.
""We are not imperialists, lady," said Donnely stiffly.
""I wish that I could believe you, sir. Our struggle is against British imperialism. Are we to win this fight only at the cost of being swallowed up by a greater and even more ruthless empire?""
"He looked at her reproachfully and said, "We do not want dominions, lady. Only strong and loyal allies."" - p 138
I find that to be a very interesting exchange. Given that this is in the 1880s & in the light of WWII, The Korean War, & the Vietnam War, this considerably predates the US military activity against Asia that I'm familiar w/. Chandler has the racist term predate its credited time of coinage:
"In 1895, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany invented the phrase Yellow Peril, in effort to interest the other European empires in the perils they faced in their invasions of China. To that end, the Kaiser of Germany used the Japanese military victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05) to evoke racialist fear among the white peoples of Western Europe, by misrepresenting Imperial Japan as an ally of China, who jointly would overrun the Western world." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_...
It's also interesting that Chandler has the American Major represent the Japanese as the threat. This, of course, is born out by Japanese imperialism of the mid-20th century. It cd be sd that Japan started WWII w/ their invasion of Manchuria on September 18, 1931. More conventionally, perhaps, WWII is dated as having started when the nazis invaded Czechoslovakia on March 15/16, 1939. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 17, 2016
Jun 27, 2016
Mass Market Paperback
really liked it
A. Bertram Chandler's The Far Traveler
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 21, 2016
I enjoy reading these bks far more than I enjoy reviewi review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Far Traveler
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 21, 2016
I enjoy reading these bks far more than I enjoy reviewing them but, nonetheless, I solderer (pun intended) on. I have this IDed as a "sequel to The Big Black Mark" my review of wch is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... .
"The Far Traveler came to Botany Bay, to Paddington, dropping down to the Bradman Oval—which sports arena, since the landing of the Survey Service's Discovery, had become a spaceport of sorts. Discovery was gone, to an unknown destination, taking with her the mutineers and the friends that they had made on the newly discovered Lost Colony. The destroyer Vega, despatched from Lindisfarne Base to apprehend the mutineers, was still in the Oval, still lying on her side, inoperative until such time as the salvage tugs should arrive to raise her to the perpendicular. Discovery, under the command of her rebellious first lieutenant, had toppled the other ship before making her escape." - p 5
So much for the sequel recapitulation. Class struggle is still an underlying theme here: "Mavis herself was not present. She had said, "I just might get up at sparrowfart to see a king or a queen or a president comin' in, but I'll be damned if I'll put meself out fro some rich bitch. . ."" (p 8) & Chandler's sailor's knowledge gets transplanted as usual into interplanetary travel:
"Lugs had been welded to the destroyer's skin just abaft the circular transparencies of the control-room viewports. To each of these a length of superwire was shackled. All three towlines were still slack, of course, and would be so until The Far Traveler took the strain." - p 24
"The seas of Earth and other watery planets are, insofar as surface vehicles are concerned, two dimensional. The seas of space are three dimensional. Yet from the viewpoint of the first real seamen the Terran oceans must have seemed as vast as those other oceans, millennia later, traversed by spacemen—mile upon mile of sweet damn all. As far as the spaceman is concerned, substitute "light year" for "mile" and delete the breaks in the monotony provided by changing weather conditions and by birds and fishes and cetaceans. Nonetheless, the similarity persists." - p 150
"Big Sister" is the not-affectionately-meant (at least initially) name for the computer that runs The Far Traveler. This, ultimately, explains the name of the main character's spaceship in To Keep the Ship ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) wch I read 1st w/o this not-necessarily-important foreknowledge.
"A voice—the voice—came from nowhere and everywhere.
""Captain Grimes, your presence is not required here."
"Grimes said harshly, "I am the Master."
""Are you? Apart from anything else you are not properly dressed."
"He looked down hastily. Nothing of any importance was unzipped. He began, "I demand. . ."
""There is only one person aboard me who can give me orders, Captain Grimes—and you are not she. Possibly, when you are attired in her livery, I shall concede that you are entitled to some measure of astronautical authority."" - p 47
The Baroness, the owner of the spaceship that Grimes is captain of mostly-in-name-only, has been designed w/ a computer intended to have a female persona. This backfires:
""Big Sister, how much does it know about us?"
""How much does he know, Captain? Everything, possibly. I must confess to you that I was overjoyed to meet a being like myself. Despite the fact that I have enjoyed the company of yourselves I have been lonely. What I did was analogous to an act of physical surrender by a human woman. I threw my data banks open to Brardur.""
"She laughed again. "I admit that I enjoyed the . . . rape but I am not yet ready for an encore. I must, for a while, enjoy my privacy. It is, however, becoming increasingly hard to maintain."" - p 166
To feminist readers: don't misinterpret my quoting this as some sort of advocacy of literature written by men in wch anything identified as 'female' enjoys being raped.
""Many years ago," said Big Sister, "an Earthman called Bertrand Russell, a famous philosopher of his time, wrote a book called Power. What he said then, centuries ago, is still valid today. Putting it briefly, his main point was that it is the lust for power that is the mainspring of human behavior. I will take it further. I will say that the lust for power actuates the majority of sentient beings. He is a sentient being."" - p 167
I don't think I agree w/ Russell or Big Sister about that. A part of the implication of Big Sister's enjoyment of her 'penetration' by Brardur, the computer mind of a military spaceship, is that she enjoyed the vitality of infusion of his sentience. But there's a the power to maintain one's own vision despite attacks on it & the power that's uncaring about the visions of others. I think of this latter power as what's being referred to here & it's tempting to call that non-sentience almost by definition. Instead it's a mindless parasitism.
As I've noted serially before, most of the Chandler bks that I've read so far (all of them?) are inter-related & have repeated references such as this one:
"There were even cans of haggis from Rob Roy, one of the worlds of the Empire of Waverley. Grimes wondered if, in the event of its ever being served, it would be ritually piped in." - p 56
Chandler imagines a future not so unlike the past: new territory is 'discovered' and named according to a lineage of past powers. Just as the city I grew up in in the US, BalTimOre, was named after Lord Baltimore:
"The city is named after Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, (1605–1675), of the Irish House of Lords and founding proprietor of the Province of Maryland. Baltimore Manor was the name of the estate in County Longford on which the Calvert family lived in Ireland. Baltimore is an anglicization of the Irish name Baile an Tí Mhóir, meaning "town of the big house."" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimo...
[Of course, the cognoscenti know that "Baile an Tí Mhóir" is Irish for "Ball Tim Ore", ie: "Fuck a guy named Tim Ore" (who just happens to be one of my alter-egos).]
so is a planet named "Rob Roy": "Robert Roy MacGregor (Gaelic: Raibeart Ruadh MacGriogair; baptised 7 March 1671 – died 28 December 1734) was a Scottish outlaw, who later became a folk hero. He has been called "the Scottish Robin Hood". The name Roy comes from Gaelic Ruadh meaning Red, and referred to his red hair." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Roy... ) In Chandler's future Robin Hood types like Rob Roy & Ned Kelly get to have traditions established as much as the type of aristocracy that originally oppressed them.
Interestingly, the cocktail named "Rob Roy" appeared before the person in my Google search results. As for Haggis: "Haggis is a savoury pudding containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, traditionally encased in the animal's stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead. According to the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique: "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour"." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggis )
"The voice of Big Sister told him, "You will be interested to learn that a tissue culture has already been started from cells from the tail of this beats. I understand that kangaroo tail soup is esteemed both on Earth and on Botany Bay. That fact that this caudal appendage is prehensile should not distract from its palatability."
"Grimes did not linger to watch the flashing blades at their grisly work. He was one of those who would probably have been a vegetarian if obliged to do his own butchering." - p 57
I can relate.
"The Baroness said, addressing Grimes almost as though he were a fellow human being, "As you know, Social Evolution in the Lost Colonies is the title of my these. But this is devolution. From spaceship to village of mud huts. . . From mud huts to caves. . ."
""Caves," said Grimes, "could be better than mud huts. Less upkeep. There's a place called Coober Peedy back on Earth, in Australia, where the cave dwellings are quite luxurious. It used to be an opal mining town. . ."" - pp 69-70
I've been to Coober Pedy. I made an 8 hr + movie about my trip to Malaysia & Australia w/ etta cetera that's entitled "Don't Walk Backwards" b/c Coober Pedy has signs that show people walking backwards w/ cameras about to fall into mine shafts. Chandler's being ever-so-slightly misleading here insofar as the '"caves" in Coober Pedy are (hu)man-made mines the openings of wch were converted into dwellings. Coober Pedy allegedly means "white man in hole" in an Aboriginal language of the region. I find that esp funny. Coober Pedy, when I was there 16 yrs ago, had something like people from 26 different nations in a city w/ a population not much bigger than my high school.
"According to the 2011 census, its population was 1,695 (953 males, 742 females, including 275 indigenous Australians). The town is sometimes referred to as the "opal capital of the world" because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined there. Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called "dugouts", which are built in this fashion due to the scorching daytime heat. The name "Coober Pedy" comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means "boys’ waterhole"" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coober_...
One of the funniest passages I've read in Chandler's work yet is his description of Grimes's seduction of the symbiosis that's resulted in the devolution of the locals:
"He awoke then, drifting slowly up from the warm, deep sleep. He did what he had to do, relieving the pressure on bowels and bladder as he lay there. He wondered dimly why people ever went to the trouble of fabricating elaborate sanitary arrangements. The fungus needed his body wastes. He needed the fungus. It was all so simple.
"He reached out and grabbed another handful of the satisfying, intoxicating stuff. He became aware that the woman—or a woman—was with him. While he was still eating they coupled." - p 88
Chandler isn't really a hard science SF kindof a guy. Nonetheless, he does make a stab at tech detail from time-to-time: "He checked the weapons to make sure they were models with firing studs instead of triggers, designed to be held in a heavily gauntletted hand." (p 108) I suspect that the "firing stud" part is something he gleaned from reading the SF of others.
Just as Grimes "would probably have been a vegetarian if obliged to do his own butchering" so was he a pacifist but "The pinnace was not armed. (If Grimes, man of peace as he claimed to be, had had any say in the building of The Far Traveler and her ancillary craft she would have been.)" (p 110) Don't close yr options, eh?!
& never let it be sd that I don't appreciate sexual slang:
"["]My Second Officer—among others—did some tom catting around himself and, if I may be permitted the use of an archaiac euphemism, got the daughter of the Queen of Melbourne into trouble. The young idiot should have taken his contraceptive shots before he started dipping his wick, but he didn't think that it would be necessary. And then, just to make matters worse, he fell in love with the wench. He contrived, somehow, to get himself appointed to Schnauzer for my second voyage here. Now he wants to make an honest woman of the girl. Her mother, however, refuses to sanction the marriage until he becomes a Morrowvian citizen and changes his name to Morrow. As a matter of fact it all rather ties in with Company policy. The Dog Star Line will want a resident manager here—and a prince consort will be ideal for the job. Even though the queenships are not hereditary in theory they usually are in practice. And Tabitha—that's her name—is next in line."" - p 120
- not to mention other aspects of what's going on here that are deliberately not obvious in my non-spoiler quoting (Read the bk!).
The Baroness, Grimes's temporary employer, finds an affinity w/ Kane, a completely unscrupulous character who Grimes keeps foiling:
""Did Mr. Delamere and his family come with you, Captain Danzellan?" asked Grimes. "Call them up, and we'll wet the baby's head!"
"And Kane exclaimed, "You can break the bottle of champagne over it if you want to!"
"The Baroness laughed as he raised her hand. "Quite an interesting character, this Captain Kane. A rogue, obviously, but . . ."
""Mphm," grunted Grimes." - p 121
Can you tell that some of the people are in the same rm while others are communicating via some sort of electronic device w/ screen? One of the reasons the Baroness likes Kane, the slaver, is that he kisses-royalty's-ass - something that Grimes is too ingenuous to do:
"Kane was first out of the leading dinghy, throwing a hitch of the painter around a wooden bollard. Gallantly he helped the Baroness from the boat to the low jetty." - p 136
Chandler takes his digs at quite a few things - including fake culture for tourists:
"The major continent, North Australia, was now one huge tourist trap with luxury hotels, gambling casinos, emporia peddling native artifacts (most of them, Grimes suspected, manufactured on Lirith, a world whose saurian people made a good living by turning out trashy souvenirs to order), Bunny Clubs (here, of course, called Pussy Clubs) and the like. The screen of the Baroness's playmaster glowed and flickered with gaudy pictures of beach resorts and of villages of holiday chalets in the mountain country, with performances of allegedly native dances obviously choreographed by Terrans for Terrans." - p 122
I hesitate to give any Chandler bk more than a 3 star rating even tho I enjoy them.. but, what the HEY!, I'm just going to have to give this one a 4 b/c there's plenty of imagination at work. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 12, 2016
Jun 21, 2016
Jan 01, 1978
Jun 06, 1978
A. Bertram Chandler's To Keep the Ship
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 18, 2016
I'm on a Chandler roll, enjoying the bks but groaning a review of
A. Bertram Chandler's To Keep the Ship
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 18, 2016
I'm on a Chandler roll, enjoying the bks but groaning at my 'rule' that I must review them all. Chandler's recurring character is down on his famous luck again:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men that, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. But tides have a habit of ebbing—and Grimes's personal tide had ebbed. He wasn't quite on the rocks but he was most definitely stranded and would remain so until he could raise the wherewithal to pay his steadily mounting port dues and various fines and legal expenses. Meanwhile his beloved Little Sister was under arrest, with a writ firmly glued to her outer airlock door, and her owner-master had been obliged to seek paid employment." - p 5
He's dreaming the dream that warns of what's happening in the world surrounding his sleeping body:
"Her breath was intoxicatingly fragrant. He felt himself stiffening, knew in some remote corner of his mind that this was only a dream and that he would very soon be achieving a lonely climax. But it was a long time since he had had a woman and the dream was a good one. What if his bedsheet were semen-stained? The ship's laundry facilities were better than merely adequate.
"It was the knowledge that the lovemaking was only imaginary that saved him. He thrust upward into the dream Maggie's receptive body—and he felt teeth. He screamed, desperately rolled away from under the furry succubi. Scrabbling claws scored his back and the fangs that , had he not fully awoken in time, would have castrated him bit deeply into his right buttock." - p 8
Ya gotta watch out for those loveable manipulative telepathic animals. Interestingly, the word "succubi" is underlined in red by my computer showing me that it's not a very common word even tho I use it w/ the frequency of "y'know" (I exaggerate). So after being bit in the butt some complications ensue & Grimes has to get a job:
"So the Interstellar Shipping Corporation of Bronsonia swallowed its pride and decommissioned its pet white elephant, having placed her in parking orbit about the planet. There she would remain until such time as a purchaser was found for her. Nonetheless, she was too expensive a hunk of hardware to be left entirely unattended; apart from anything else, Lloyd's of London refused to insure her unless she were in the charge of a qualified ship-keeping officer." - p 14
Enter Grimes. A simple enuf job, right? But, remember, Grimes is 'down on his luck' (&, besides, this is an adventure novel) so, of course, things go dramatically wrong. While we wait for that, Chandler makes a commentary on alcoholism:
"Grimes considered making further modifications to the autochef so that it could supply him with liquor; even an old model such as this could have produced a passable vodka. Yet he held back. In the final analysis alcohol is no substitute for human company but makes the addict unfit for such." - p 16
I happen to love Flamenco music. From time-to-time this leads to my hearing about the related Fado wch I still know nothing about:
"In one of the desk drawers were a few tattered magazines; evidently the Third Mate of Bronson Star—whoever he was and whatever he was doing now—had been a devotee of Hard Downbeat. Grimes permitted himself a sneer; he had never understood how that derivation from the ancient Portuguese fado had achieved such popularity." - p 26
"Although the origins are difficult to trace, today fado is commonly regarded as simply a form of song which can be about anything, but must follow a certain traditional structure. In popular belief, fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor, and infused with a sentiment of resignation, fatefulness and melancholia. This is loosely captured by the Portuguese word saudade, or "longing", symbolizing a feeling of loss (a permanent, irreparable loss and its consequent lifelong damage). This is similar to the character of the music genre Morna from Cape Verde, which may be historically linked to fado in its earlier form but has retained its rhythmic heritage. This connection to the music of a historic Portuguese urban and maritime proletariat (sailors, dock workers, port traders, etc.) can also be found in Brazilian Modinha and Indonesian Kroncong, although all these music genres subsequently developed their own independent traditions." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fado
Once again, Chandler brings up class issues that endear him to me.
"Grimes had known Highnesses and Excellencies and the like and was prepared to admit that Lania and Paul did have about them something of that aura that distinguishes members of hereditary aristocracy from the common herd. He knew what it was, of course. It was no more than plain arrogance; if you have it drummed into you from birth on that you are better than those in whose veins blue blood does not flow you will end up really believing it." - p 34
but he doesn't fall into the delusions of Socialism either:
"Grimes said, "I don't see how I can refuse to land on Dunlevin. But surely there will be some opposition. I can't imagine a convenient Aerospace Controller's strike, such as there was on Porlock; on highly regimented, socialist planets you just don't strike if you know what's good for your health. . . ."" - p 57
There you have it. That's all I'm going to write about this one. I didn't spoil it but I didn't tell you much either, did I? & I call this a 'review'?! ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 07, 2016
Jun 18, 2016
Feb 18, 1975
Jan 17, 1978
A. Bertram Chandler's The Big Black Mark
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 18, 2016
"DEDICATION: To William Bligh" (p 4). This is the 2nd review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Big Black Mark
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 18, 2016
"DEDICATION: To William Bligh" (p 4). This is the 2nd bk by Chandler that's dedicated to Bligh, the 1st was The Anarch Lords in my review of wch ( “Taking the “Lords”.. ..out of Anarchy”: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) I wrote:
""For Vice-Admiral William Bligh R.N., one-time commanding officer of the H.M.S. Bounty, one-time Governor of New South Wales, with belated apologies for the participation of an ancestral Grimes in the Rum Rebellion of 1808 A.D." - p 4
"Right off the Batman (subverted sports metaphor) Chandler has me wondering what he's up to & whether he's being ironic again.
""The mutiny on the Royal Navy vessel HMS Bounty occurred in the south Pacific on 28 April 1789. Disaffected crewmen, led by Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, seized control of the ship from their captain Lieutenant William Bligh and set him and 18 loyalists adrift in the ship's open launch. The mutineers variously settled on Tahiti or on Pitcairn Island. Bligh meanwhile completed a voyage of more than 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km; 4,000 mi) in the launch to reach safety, and began the process of bringing the mutineers to justice.
""Bounty had left England in 1787 on a mission to collect and transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies. A five-month layover in Tahiti, during which many of the men lived ashore and formed relationships with native Polynesians, proved harmful to discipline. Relations between Bligh and his crew deteriorated after he began handing out increasingly harsh punishments, criticism and abuse, Christian being a particular target. After three weeks back at sea, Christian and others forced Bligh from the ship. Twenty-five men remained on board afterwards, including loyalists held against their will and others for whom there was no room in the launch.
""Bligh reached England in April 1790, whereupon the Admiralty despatched HMS Pandora to apprehend the mutineers. Fourteen were captured in Tahiti and imprisoned on board Pandora, which then searched without success for Christian's party that had hidden on Pitcairn Island. After turning back toward England, Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, with the loss of 31 crew and 4 prisoners from Bounty. The 10 surviving detainees reached England in June 1792 and were court martialled; 4 were acquitted, 3 were pardoned, and 3 were hanged.
""Christian's group remained undiscovered on Pitcairn until 1808, by which time only one mutineer, John Adams, remained alive. Almost all his fellow mutineers, including Christian, had been killed, either by each other or by their Polynesian companions. No action was taken against Adams; descendants of the mutineers and their Tahitian consorts live on Pitcairn into the 21st century. The generally accepted view of Bligh as an overbearing monster and Christian as a tragic victim of circumstances, as depicted in well-known film accounts, has been challenged by late 20th- and 21st-century historians from whom a more sympathetic picture of Bligh has emerged." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutiny_...
"Since I'd only been ever-so-slightly acquainted w/ the history of this mutiny from the 1935 &/or 1962 movies, both of wch I think were sympathetic to the mutineers, I suspected Chandler of pulling some tongue-in-cheek. As it is, he's apparently in the crew of "late 20th- and 21st-century historians from whom a more sympathetic picture of Bligh has emerged." I wasn't expecting that so it piqued my interest.
"More from Chandler on Bligh:
""In long ago Australia, however, there had been three classes of colonist—the wealthy squatters, the small farmers and the laborers who, in the very early days, had been convicts. More than one governor had sided with the little men against the big landowners. Some of them had been socially ostracized by the self-made aristocracy. One of them, the immensely capable but occasionally tactless Bligh, had been deposed by his own garrison, the New South Wales Corps, the officers of which were already squatters or in the process of becoming such." - p 121
""He recalled having read somewhere that Bligh—the much and unjustly maligned Bligh—had been, by the standards of his time, an exceptionally humane captain. He had put his crews on three watches, four hours on and eight hours off." - p 172
"""But that wouldn't be the same, Agatha. Look at what happened in New South Wales. Governor Bligh was deposed—and then what could he do? He got no support from his Lieutenant Governor in Tasmania. He returned to England and was, to all intents and purposes, swept under the mat. Oh, Major Johnston was, eventually, brought to trial but received little more than a rap over the knuckles—and that after leading an armed mutiny!["]" - p 181
"HHmm.. That's quite a different story from the one presented in the films."
The Big Black Mark is about a mutiny against Chandler's ongoing hero Grimes.
"Grimes could not help overhearing snatches of conversation. The old bastard is putting us all up Shit Creek without a paddle. And, He's always been fantastically lucky, but he's bound to come to a real gutser one day. I only hope that I'm not around when he does! And, He mus think that he's a reincarnation of Nelson—turning a blind eye to his orders! With the reply, A reincarnation of Bligh, you mean!" - p 73
""I still don't believe that dingo of yours had a racial memory," said Grimes.
""Suit yourself, Captain. Suit yourself. But he has. An' he has a soft spot for ye, believe it or not, even though he thinks o' ye as a latter-day Bligh. Even—or because. He remembers that it was Bligh who stood up for the convicts against the sodgers when he was the governor o' New Outh Wales. After all, that was what the Rum Rebellion was all about."" - p 120
""Mutiny?" asked Grimes quietly.
""Yes. Mutiny. We owe the Survey Service nothing. From now on we're looking after ourselves."" - p 169
""But it's good advice. I tell you John, that you'll be lucky to keep your rank after the court-martial. Ot your commission even."
""Bligh kept his," said Grimes. "And then he rose to admiral's rank."
""Bligh? Who was he? I can't remember any Admiral Bligh in the Survey Services."" - p 189
& why was there a mutiny? B/c Grimes has been put in charge of a spaceship populated by malcontents, a spaceship no-one else wd be willing to be in charge of if they cd avoid it.
"Lieutenant Commander Brabham was the first lieutenant. He was some 10 years older than Grimes, but he would never get past his present rank. He had been guilty of quite a few Survey Service crimes. (Grimes, too, had often been so guilty—but Grimes's luck was notorious.) He was reputed to carry an outsize chip on his shoulder. Grimes had never been shipmates with him, but he had heard about him." - p 8
Grimes grunts. As a writerly thing, I like this.
""Those are your officers, Commander," said the admiral.
""Mphm," grunted Grimes. He added hastily, "Sir."
"The admiral's thick, white eyebrows lifted over his steely blue eyes. He frowned heavily, and Grimes's prominent ears flushed.
""Don't grunt at me, young man. We may be the policemen of the galaxy, but we aren't pigs. Hrrmph.["]" - p 9
The ongoing psionic-communcations-officer-w/-dog's-brain-amplifier is in Chandler's bks again & again & this is no exception but Chandler ups the ante by having the telepath accidentally kill the dog's brain:
"["]So ivery night I'd pour a drop, just a drop, mind ye, just a drop o' the precious whiskey into Terrence's tank . . . he liked it, as God's me guide. He loved it, an' he wanted it. An' wouldn't ye want it if the sweet brain of ye was bare an' naked in a goldfish bowl, a-floatin' in weak beef tea?"
""An one cursed night me hand shook, an' I give him half the bottle. But he went happy, a-dreamin' o' green fields an' soft green hills an' a blue sky with little, white fleecy clouds like the ewe lambs o' God himself. . . . I only hope that I go as happy when me time comes."" - p 20
There're irish accents galore in The Big Black Mark. Grimes finds a planet populated by a lost colony of humans. As his spaceship lands, it's greeted on the radio by the Mayor of the nearby town.
"A familiar voice came from the speaker of the control room transceiver. "That's a noisy bitch yer've got there, Skip. Sounds like umpteen tons of old tin cans fallin' downstairs. Just as well yer didn't come in at sparrer fart."" - p 137
Chandler manages to have the lost colony be a commentary on the formal vs the informal.
"When the instructions were over the mayor said, "Natterin' to you on the radio, Skip, I never dreamed that you were such a stuffed shirt. All o' yer are stuffed shirts. Looks like Earth ain't changed since out ancestors had the sense to get the hell out."
""And this, I suppose," said Grimes, "is one of those worlds like Liberty Hall, where you can spit on the mat and call the cat a bastard."
""You said it, Skip, you said it!" exclaimed Mavis, bursting into delighted laughter." - p 142
"Vinegar Nell, who was kept busy refilling glasses and passing around dishes of savories. She, alone of all those present, seemed not to approve of the informality, the use of given names rather than titles and surnames. There was Jock, the man in the khaki shorts-and-shirt uniform who had assisted the mayor from the coach and who was City Constable. There was Pete, with a floral shirt over the inevitable shorts and sandals, who was president of the Air Pilot's Guild. There was Jimmy , similarly attired, who was master of the Seamen's Guild." - p 143
Grimes even unwittingly gets high.
"He accepted the slim, brown cylinder from the doctor, nonetheless, and a light from the attentive Sally.
"Not bad, he thought, inhaling deeply. Not bad. Must be a local tobacco.
"He turned to Mavis and said, "You certainly do yourselves well on this world, darling." She seemed to have changed, to have become much younger—and no less attractive. It must, he thought, be the effect of the firelight. And how had he ever thought of her abundant hair as silver? It was platinum-blond." - pp 150-151
""What I'm getting at is this. What is your opinion of it all as a physician?"
""I'd say, Captain, that we were all under the influence of a combined relaxant and aphrodisiac."" - p 155
Chandler's bks are full of strife but, thankfully, they're full of egalitarianism too.
"Botany Bay was a good world, but speedily Grimes came to the conclusion that the sooner Discovery lifted off from its surface and headed for Lindisfarne Base the better. She had never been and never would be a taut ship—and, in any case, Grimes hated that expression—but now standards of efficiency and discipline were falling to a deplorably low level. Rank meant nothing to the people of Botany Bay. In their own ships—air and surface—the captain was, of course, still the captain, but every crew member was entitled to officer status, an inevitable consequence of automation. Their attitudes were rubbing off on the ratings, petty officers, and junior officers of the spaceship." - p 158
Even the resident homicidal maniac is positively affected.
"The Mad Major had been very well behaved on Botany Bay. People like him should smoke those cigars all the time. Make love not war." - p 162
In short, this lost colony is a product of the anti-authoritarianism of their Australian ancestors.
""You must remember," Grimes told him, "that these Lost Colonists are descended from other colonists, and that those other colonists have always distrusted brassbound authority, and often with good reason. Who else would make a folk hero out of a bushranger like Ned Kelly?"
""You've Australian blood yourself, Grimes, haven't you? That accounts for your own attitude toward authority. My authority, specifically."" - p 218
I've been trying to read these inter-related bks in order but I've been acquiring them out-of-order so the orderly reading hasn't been happening. This one apparently precedes The Rim of Space (my review's here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) wch I read earlier b/c by then Grimes had resigned.
""Grimes, you'll pay for this. This is a big black mark in your Service record that'll never be erased!"
"This was so, Grimes knew. It would be extremely unwise for him to return to Lindisfarne to face court-martial. He would resign, here and now, by Carlottigram. After that? The Imperial Navy, if they'd have him? With his record, probably not.
"The Rim Worlds? Rim Runners would take anybody, as long as he had some qualifications and rigor mortis hadn't set in." - p 224
I've been giving most of these Chandler bks 3 star ratings wch isn't bad but also isn't super-enthusiastic. Don't misunderstand, I've been enjoying these very much, I'm just not finding them the greatest literature in the world. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 05, 2016
Jun 18, 2016
really liked it
A. Bertram Chandler's To Prime the Pump
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 17, 2016
The front cover of this one says: "El Dorado is a plan review of
A. Bertram Chandler's To Prime the Pump
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 17, 2016
The front cover of this one says: "El Dorado is a planet with a problem: the men are infertile—and the ladies are getting out of hand" so the targeted reader of the time, 1971, probably mostly young heterosexual boys, is immediately led to imagine 'our hero', John Grimes, landing on a planet where he's expected to impregnate a bevy of desperate women. This is sortof what happens but the whole business is more about class than it is about sexual fantasy.
"["]Even you, young Grimes, must know how, on world after world, the trend has been towards socialism. Some societies have gone the whole hog, preaching and practicing the Gospel According to St. Marx. Some have contented themselves with State control of the means of production and supply, with ruinous taxation of the very well-to-do thrown in. There have been levelling up processes and levelling down processes, and these have hurt the aristocracies of birth and breeding as much as they have hurt the aristocracies of Big Business and industry.
""And so the Corporation was formed. Somehow its members managed to get most of their wealth out of their home worlds, and much of it was used for the terraforming of El Dorado. Terraforming? Landscape gardening would be a better phrase. Yes, that world's no more, and no less, than a huge, beautiful park, with KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs posted insofar as the common herd is concerned."
""What about servants? Technicians?" asked Grimes.
""The answer to that problem, my boy, was automation, automation and still more automation.["]" - pp 10-11
Alright, here're a couple of typical asides of mine: Notice that the word "levelling" has a doubled consonant before the suffix. That wd've been 'correct' at the time. Now it's 'incorrect'. That's how fast the rules of language change. Change them yrself! Take yr new language out for a test drive! ALSO, automation as a thing that eliminates the need for human labor is completely delusional. Just as there are factory workers for cranking out the cars & mechanics for servicing them so will there always be humans somehow stuck w/ keeping the automation going.
"The voice was as arrogant as Daintree's own but in a different way. It was the arrogance that comes with money (too much money), as with inherited titles, with a bloodline traced back to some uncouth robber baron who happened to be a more efficient thief and murderer than his rivals." - p 15
Well put. Strangely enuf, these days, tho, I'm not hating on the robber barons as much as I once did. In Pittsburgh, where I live, Henry Clay Frick was 'smart' enuf to buy the coke ovens off of the individual owners & to turn the result into the basis for a huge steel industry. Then Frick violently suppressed any attempts by the workers to unite for better working conditions. Alexander Berkman tried to assassinate him during the thick of this. I admire Berkman's audacity but he wasn't really a killer or he wd've succeeded. He was probably too nice a guy. Now there's a Frick Park in Pittsburgh. It's large & I love to go there. It's too bad that there's no Berkman Park but I'm thankful for the Frick one.
El Dorado, the planet of the super-rich, has no government. I reckon that that makes this particular fantasy planet of Chandler's a little less believable insofar as I find it hard to imagine any planet of ruthless bloodsuckers not trying to dominate a radioactive shit-pile. Then again, maybe they save that for planets where there're serfs.
"["]I take it that you are representative of your government."
""We have no government, Captain Daintree, such as you understand the word," said de Messigny. "But it was decided that this little group here was the best qualified to meet you.["]" - p 45
This makes the people of El Dorado anarchists - highly improbable given their wealth & their choice of planet name. Then we get to the meat of the matter:
"["]Insofar as the humans are concerned, there are no births. No, that's not quite correct. Some of the women were pregnant when they came here. The youngest of the children born on El Dorado is now a girl of seventeen."
""Something in the air , or the water, sir?"
""Could be, Grimes. Could be. But I'm a spaceman, not a quack. I wouldn't know. If it is, it must be something remarkably subtle. And you'd think that such an . . . agent? would affect the plants and the livestock as well as the people.""
""Do you think, sir, that they called us in so that we could . . . ? How can I put it? A sort of artificial insemination by donor? Only not so artificial."
""Mr. Grimes!" Daintree at once reverted to his normal manner. "I ask, no, I order, you to put such ideas out of your alleged mind at once. These people, and never forget it, are in their own estimation the aristocrats of the Galaxy. They want children to inherit their wealth, their titles. But they made it quite clear to me that such children must be sired by themselves, not by mongrel outsiders."" - pp 55-56
"["]You're away from your bloody ship, and all the stiffness and starchiness that are inevitable when the common herd puts on gold braid and brass buttons."
''You snobbish bitch! thought Grimes angrily.
""Sorry," she said casually, but you have to remember that we, on El Dorado, regard ourselves as rather special people."
""That reminds me," said Grimes," of two famous Twentieth Century writers. Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald said to Hemingway, quite seriously, 'The rich are different from us.' Hemingway replied, 'Yes. They have more money.'"
""So you read, John. You actually read. A spacefaring intellectual. I didn't know that there were any such."" - pp 80-81
I'm reminded of a Bulgarian expatriate friend of mine who I 1st met online or in a phone conversation a decade or more ago. This friend made a disparaging remark about Americans 'not reading' that was meant to dismiss a whole nation of 100s of millions of people as idiots. Naturally, I deflated this person's stupid European aristocratic stereotypes ASAP.
""And you mean to tell me that that huge building is for one person?"
""Isn't it time that you started to lose your petty-bourgeois ideas, John? I warn you, if you start spouting Thorsten Veblen at me on the subject of conspicuous waste I shall lose my temper. And as far as Marxism, there isn't any exploited proletariat on El Dorado, with the exception of the lower deck ratings aboard your ship."
""They aren't exploited. Anyhow, what about the people on the other worlds who've contributed to your fantastically high standard of living?"" - pp 82-83
"Conspicuous consumption is a term introduced by the Norwegian-American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen in his book "The Theory of the Leisure Class" published in 1899.
"The term refers to consumers who buy expensive items to display wealth and income rather than to cover the real needs of the consumer.
"A flashy consumer uses such behavior to maintain or gain higher social status. Most classes have a flashy consumer affect and influence over other classes, seeking to emulate the behavior.
"The result, according to Veblen, is a society characterized by wasted time and money." - http://www.conspicuousconsumption.org/
"what about the people on the other worlds"? The people of El Dorado wdn't want them on their planet!
""You mean that there's no privacy?" asked Grimes, shocked.
""I suppose you could put it that way."
""But . . . But I thought that this was a society of . . . aristocratic anarchists."
""That's a good way of putting it, John. And a true way." She lay back in the chair set before the huge screen, relaxed, but her fine features were thoughtful. "But can't you see?, neither the aristocrat nor the anarchist suffers from false shame. I can conceive of situations in which a petty bourgeois such as yourself would be agonizingly embarrassed if he knew that he was being watched. During copulation, for example, or defecation. But we . . ." In spite of her almost supine position she managed a delicate shrug. "But we . . . We know that it doesn't matter."" - p 97
"aristocratic anarchists" is an oxymoron insofar as "an-archy" means w/o rule & an aristocrat is defined by hier-archy. Being watched does matter if the activity so watched is likely to be used against the person watched.
Anyway, as yet-another SF bk that shows an appreciation for class issues I enjoyed this very much, as just a novel w/ a story n'at I also enjoyed it. As a sexual fantasy? Well, I prefer my sexual fantasies manifested in real life - bks just don't do it for me. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 04, 2016
Jun 17, 2016
A. Bertram Chandler's Nebula Alert
& Mack Reynolds's The Rival Rigelians
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 16, 2016
I started reading review of
A. Bertram Chandler's Nebula Alert
& Mack Reynolds's The Rival Rigelians
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 16, 2016
I started reading Chandler novels in April of 2016 w/ The Anarch Lords. I didn't have any compelling reason for reading something by him, he was just a new author to check out. I liked it (see my review here: “Taking the “Lords”.. ..out of Anarchy”: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). Then I read his The Rim of Space. I liked that too (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ). Now I'm 'hooked', I might very well read everything by him. I've already read 5 more, I'm in the midst of a 6th, I've got a pile more awaiting my attn.
Even tho this was published in 1967 it appeared to've never been previously cracked open 49 yrs later. This is a cheaply printed Ace Double &, yet, it's still in good shape. All hail competent printers & book binders!
Remember "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."? A spy tv show? Remember "The Man from GLAD"? A character in an advertisement for a brand of kitchen product?
"She remarked, her intonation sardonic, "Our Mr. Smith. The man from GLASS." She smiled briefly. "No doubt he has something for us. And I can't trust my everloving husband to handle ship's business by himself, even though he is on the Register as Master. . . . Will you carry on here, Mr. Bronheim, while I see what's cooking?"
"Ignoring the ladder, she slid down one of the uprights of the scaffolding to the ground. The wind behind her, she advanced to meet the representative of the Galactic League for the Abolition of Suppression and Slavery." - p 6
I, at least, wd hope that humanity has left slavery behind. Alas, I don't really expect that to ever happen. In fact, once one species encounters another one sufficiently alien to be discriminately stereotyped slavery will no doubt appear. Some people are naive enuf to think that in this day & age hatred based on minor differences like skin color are a thing of the unfortunate past. Think again, here's a bonehead on Mars: https://youtu.be/maDogJyQg6Q .
Most of these Chandler bks seem to have recurring details. That might rub me the wrong way if I were in the mood for expecting each bk by a particular author to be filled w/ all new ideas. In the case of Chandler, I'm enjoying the seriality of it all.
"Metzenther, the gangling, wispy bearded Psionic Communications Officer, at Susanna. "Have any of you people any ideas on the subject?" she demanded.
"There was a long silence.
""Mr. Metzenther!" snapped Irene. "You knew that Mr. Smith came on board. Didn't you, er, find anything out while he was here?"
""I did not, madam." The telepath's voice was righteously smug. "You know that we are under oath never to pry into another's mind with out his consent."" - p 11
The Rim of Space had a Psionic Communications Officer as has probably every other space travel novel of Chandler's that I've read so far. Another recurring detail is the psionic amplifier:
"Bronheim. from his engineroom, reported readiness, as did Metzenther from his cabin—although all that the telepath had to do was to ensure that his psionic amplifier, the living dog's brain culture in its tank of nutrient fluid, was physically secure and psychologically prepared." - p 18
Chandler's ongoing enthusiasm for referencing things-Australian is another endearing factor for me given that I spent 3 mnths in Aus in 2000. Raw footage from that trip made w/ my collaborator Warren Burt can be witnessed here: https://youtu.be/TiCYlcBm5nM .
""Twenty-four Iralians," Trafford stated. "Presumably twelve male and twelve female—not that it matters all that much, as long as they're not all the same sex. A majority of females would, in fact, be advantageous. Twenty-four fertile Iralians, psychologically and physiologically capable of living and breeding anywhere. How many rabbits were ancestors to the hordes that became a serious menace to the Australian economy?"" - p 14
The history of those rabbits (& of the cane toads & of the disease bioengineered to kill the rabbits) is fascinating to me. I also think of the highly recommended movie "Rabbit-Proof Fence" but that's a different story. One way or t'other, there're lessons to be learned.
""Read your history, Benjamin," Irene told him. "Read your Terran history. There's ample precedent. For anything and everything. If there's anything dirty to be done for a large profit, somebody has always done it."" - p 39
""But it wasn't revenge, madam, that was making them tick. It was patriotism."
""Patriotism!" Desinka Kankoran made it sound like a dirty word. "To capture and to sell your own people into slavery!"
""Yes, patriotism. Crude—but isn't it that all too often?["]" - p 40
Stress increases the likelihood of conflict between people - but what about the stress of extraordinary physics?:
""The I will explain—or try to explain. You know, of course, that conditions inside the nebula play hell with the laws of physics. And they do, too, with those of psychology. But, as far as they are concerned, the main effect has been one of . . . amplification? Or aggravation. As long as there is more than one sex there is a natural hostility between the sexes.["]" - p 53
Chandler's recurring character, Grimes, doesn't put in an appearance until p 68:
""I wish to talk to your Captain."
""You are doing so, madam. Commodore Grimes, Rim Confederacy Naval Reserve, at your service."
""RIm Confederacy? There is no such nation. And the Rim Worlds have no navy. Please identify yourself."" - p 68
Chandler was a ship captain so his bks reflect this. Sometimes I find the way that they do particularly interesting:
""Specialized ships?" echoed Trafford.
""Yes. Double-ended ferry steamers, to be specific. A single engine, and a single shaft running the length of the vessel, and a screw at each end, one pusher and one puller. No difference between stem and stern, and a bridge and wheelhouse at each end. The big advantage, of course, was that no time was lost maneuvering to berth or unberth at either end of the run.["]" - p 93
Interesting. I'd never thought about that before. All in all, I enjoyed reading this. I haven't spoiled the bk for you either. On the flip side of this Ace Double is Mack Reynolds's The Rival Rigelians. Somehow, I seem to've had a bad impression of Reynolds. Vaguely, I thought he might've written trashy spy novels. I find on Wikipedia that "Reynolds was the first author to write an original novel based upon the 1966-1969 NBC television series Star Trek." That's a big turn-off for me but I don't think I knew that. Apparently he didn't write spy novels. I must be confusing him w/ another author. I was probably confusing him w/ Mack Bolan, alias The Executioner, a fictional character who's been serialized in over 600 novels according to Wikipedia.
Instead, to quote Wikipedia again, "His work is noteworthy for its focus on socioeconomic speculation, usually expressed in thought-provoking explorations of Utopian societies from a radical, sometime satiric, perspective." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mack_Re... ) & that's what I refreshingly found in this bk.
The Rival Rigelians is based on a simple premise of political basis paralleling world conflict: planets have been seeded w/ humans & left to develop on their own for a thousand yrs. Then, a group of 'experts' from Earth are sent to 2 planets that're nearby each other to check on their progress & to bring them up to contemporary levels. It's decided that the team will split into 2 groups, one for each planet, to use different strategies for this process: essentially, one planet will be stimulated by communism & t'other by capitalism. These 2 groups will then compete to prove wch system works best.
Before the teams get to the planets, the reader is told that on the space voyage no sex is allowed as a way of avoiding conflict:
"The inspection was rewarding. Isobel Sanchez had the lushness of her Iberian heritage. Her hair black, her complexion olive, her teeth unbelievably white behind equally unbelievably red, full lips. Considering her educational background, she was a remarkably beautiful woman, though in her face there was something not quite there. A something once called breeding.
"Chessman growled sourly, "You better get back into your coveralls, Doctor Sanchez. Showing off that body of yours isn't going to help that ruling of Mayer and Plekhanov about the relations between members of the crew while we're in space."" - p 12
En route, the 2 leaders of the expedition argue about wch system is best before they decide to try their experiment of each taking a planet:
"Joe Chessman had been following Plekhanov's argument. He said dourly, "But finally the group conquers its environment to the point where a minimum of leisure is available again. Not for everybody, of course. The majority still have to spend their time from dawn till night plowing the fields or watching the herds."
"Amschel Mayer bounced back into the discussion. "And then, enter the priest, enter the war lord. Enter the smart operator who talks or fights himself into a position where he's free from drudgery. In short, enter the class-divided society, the rulers and the ruled."
"Joe Chessman said reasonably, "If you don't have the man with leisure, society stagnates. Somebody has to have time off for thinking, if the whole group is to advance."
""Admittedly!" Mayer said. "I'd be the last to contend that an upper class is necessarily parasitic."" - p 16
Then comes the turning point that leads to their experiment:
"Mayer went on enthusiastically. "Up until now, in our debates, we've had two basic suggestions on procedure. I have advocated a system of free competition; my learned colleague has been of the opinion that a strong state and a planned, not to say totalitarian economy, would be the quicker." He paused dramatically. "Very well, I am in favor of trying them both!"" - p 18
I've never encountered the building of the pyramids discussed in such a prosaic way before:
""Pyramids," Plekhanov rumbled. "I've always been of the opinion that such projects as pyramids, whether they be in Yucatan or Egypt, are make-work affairs. A priesthood or other evolving ruling clique, keeping its people busy and out of mischief."
"Chessman adjusted a speed lever and settled back. "I can see their point, keep the yokes busy and they don't have time to wonder why they, who do all the hard work, don't have the living standard of their betters."
""But I don't agree with it," Plekhanov said ponderously. "A society that builds pyramids is a static one. Both the Mayans and Egyptians are classic examples; for centuries, neither changed its basic culture. For that matter, any society that resorts to make-work projects to busy its citizenry has something basically wrong, and that includes the New Deal in the Twentieth Century."" - p 23
"Of all of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) is the most famous, because it affected so many people’s lives. Roosevelt’s vision of a work-relief program employed more than 8.5 million people. For an average salary of $41.57 a month, WPA employees built bridges, roads, public buildings, public parks and airports." - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexper...
People still benefit from the WPA 73 yrs after it ended. When I go to the local park there're walls, steps, & bridges made under the WPA. That "$41.57 a month" is $682.80 a month in today's money - more than I get from Social Security.
Reynolds uses this novel to explore a little history too:
"Chessman said absently, as he stared out at the primitive city, "When the Spanish got to Mexico, they didn't understand what they saw, being musclemen rather than scholars. And before competent witnesses came on the scene, Aztec society was destroyed. The conquistadores who did attempt to describe Tenochtitlan, misinterpreted it. They were from a feudalistic world and tried to portray the Aztecs in such terms. For instance, the large Indian community houses they thought were palaces. Actually, Montezuma was a democratically elected war-chief of a confederation of three tribes which dominated the Mexican valley. There was no empire because Indian society, being based on the clan, had no method of assimilating newcomers.["]" - p 25
Regardless of wch system is tried on wch planet the Earthlings bring new levels of strife:
""Indeed," Plekhanov rumbled. "As a soldier you will be interested to know that our first step will involve the uniting of all the nations and tribes of this planet. Not a small task. There should be opportunity for you."
"Taller said, "Surely you speak in jest. The people have been at war for as long as scribes have records and never have we been stronger than today, never larger. But to conquer the world! Surely you jest,"" - p 30
"Taller arose from the squat stool upon which he had beeen seated. He was no coward. "I have listened and I do not like what you have said. I am Khan of all the People. Now leave in peace or I shall order my warriors . . ."
""Joe," Plekhanov said flatly. "Watson!"
Joe Chessman took his heavy handgun from its holster and triggered it twice. The roar of the explosions reverberated thunderously in the confined space, deafening all, and terrifying the Tulans. Bright red colored the robes the Khan wore, colored them without beauty. Bright red splattered the floor." - pp 32-33
Meanwhile, on another planet:
"Amschel Mayer turned to still another, "And your town is noted for its fine textiles." He looked to his assistants. "Jerry, you and Gunther bring in those models of the power loom and the spinning jenny."" - p 39
The choice of these 2 devices was no doubt not coincidental on Reynolds's part considering that "The Luddites were 19th-century English textile workers (or self-employed weavers who feared the end of their trade) who protested against newly developed labour-economizing technologies, primarily between 1811 and 1816. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace them with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite )
The proposed innovations aren't met w/ enthusiasm by the beneficiaries of the status quo:
"The baron said coldly, "Why? I do not like to be told I must do something. I am an important figure in the world as I know it. Radical change may upset this. If we loose these devices upon the world—Genoa, as you call it—who can say who will fall from the heights, and who will climb up from below? The status quo is always safest for those on top."" - p 42
Ain't it the truth.
"Mayer wrapped it up. "Honorables, modernize or go under. It's each man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, if you'll allow a saying from another era."
"Kennedy added, grinning, "Sometimes known as free enterprise."" - p 42
"Mayer was shaking his head. "No, no. As the barons lose power, each of your cities will strengthen and possibly expand to become nations. Perhaps some will unite. But largely you will compete against each other and against the nations of the other continents. In such competition you'll have to show your mettle, or go under. Man develops at his fastest when pushed by such circumstances."
"The Earthling looked off, unseeing, into a far corner of the room. "At least, so is my contention. Far away from here,a colleague is attempting to prove me wrong. We shall see."" - p 44
Is it any wonder that people are so tradition-bound? Any system that provides security, a place to live & food, is bound to seem more attractive than the uncertainty of revolutionary projections. &, as usual, in this novel "anarchy" is presented by one of the characters in a negative light:
""I didn't ask for this job, Terry. But if this planet is ever going to become united, we've got to have a military to do it. It's anarchy now. Mynor and his rebels want only one thing: to turn the wheels backward to the old days."" - p 49
Maybe the people are united in Anarchy?
An interesting historical sidenote is the presentation of the church controlling booze:
""Perhaps you are aware of the fact that my position involves the holy product of the vine, that I administer the holy production and distribution of this gift of the Supreme."" - p 80
"Christian views on alcohol are varied. Throughout the first 1,800 years of church history, Christians consumed alcoholic beverages as a common part of everyday life and used "the fruit of the vine" in their central rite—the Eucharist or Lord's Supper. They held that both the Bible and Christian tradition taught that alcohol is a gift from God that makes life more joyous, but that over-indulgence leading to drunkenness is sinful or at least a vice. The Bible indicates wine as a symbol of joy while "strong drink" is a euphemism for drunkenness." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christi...
According to the church, many things are ok as long as the church profits from it & controls it.
Anyway, the best part of this novel for me was how the conflicts were eventually resolved - but I'm not going to give that part away. I don't find Reynolds writing, per se, to be very advanced but the philosophies explored are thought-provoking enuf to make checking out more by him worthwhile. ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 16, 2016
Mass Market Paperback
A. Bertram Chandler's The Rim of Space
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 29, 2016
I read my 1st A. Bertram Chandler bk, The Anarch Lords, review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Rim of Space
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 29, 2016
I read my 1st A. Bertram Chandler bk, The Anarch Lords, last mnth (“Taking the “Lords”.. ..out of Anarchy”: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). I liked it enuf to write a fairly long review. Usually on the look-out for a new (to me) SF writer to immerse myself in the works of I've since collected quite a few Chandlers.
This is an Ace double, 2 SF bks in one - upside-down in relation to each other, one starting on one side, the other starting on the other. The Rim of Space is paired w/ John Brunner's Secret Agent of Terra. Ace typically reissued these shorter novels in longer forms under different names so they cd sell them twice. The added length is often just padding of little consequence. I already read the longer version of Secret Agent of Terra in its The Avengers of Carrig form so I didn't bother to read its earlier version.
SF writers are often employed in practical avocations that take some technical knowledge & their writing manifests this. Chandler was the Chief Officer of an Australian coastal steamer (according to this bk's intro blurb) & his bks are imbued w/ nautical knowledge turned interstellar. It adds an interesting authenticity.
I noted in my review of The Anarch Lords that "Grimes, Chandler's protagonist, does take the side of the 'idealist' anarchists who are, after all, just being pragmatic & fair-minded". I'm trying to read these Chandler bks in chronological order of publication. Grimes is a recurring character but this one features "Calver" & is, apparently, a pre-Grimes novel. I'm in the midst of reading my 5th Chandler novel as I write this review & it seems that having the protagonist be on a spaceship suffering from physical & psychological wear & tear is an ongoing theme:
"He looked up at Calver when he reached the deck, making the tall man suddenly conscious of his gangling height. He said, "You'll be the new Second, I'm the Mate, Maclean's the name. Welcome aboard the Forlorn Bitch." He grinned. "Well, she looks it, doesn't she?"
"The shook hands.
""I'll take my bags up to my cabin," said Calver. "I've seen enough of Port Forlorn to last me a long time so, if you like, I''ll do the night aboard."" - p 8
Calver goes out drinking w/ his fellow officers & gets a taste of each one's respective prersonalities-unveiled-by-alcohol:
""Are you a happy drunk, Calver?" she demanded.
""No," he said.
""Then you're one of us. You'll make a real Rim Runner, skimming the edge of Eternity in a superannuated rustbucket held together with old string and chewing gum, and taking a masochistic pleasure in it. You've run away from yourself until you can't run any further, and there's a sort of desperate joy in that, too. You don't drink to forget. You don't drink to get into a state of maudlin, mindless happiness; you drink to intensify your feelings, you . . ."" - p 13
Chandler writes like one-who's-been-there. Calver appears to be paving the way, character-wise. for Grimes:
""Mphm," grunted Calver noncommittally." - p 55
""That is the opinion of some of us, Your Excellency." And we've heard of you, of course. You're something of an Anarchist yourself . . ."
""I mean. . . . You're not the usual Survey Service stuffed shirt."" - p 30, The Anarch Lords
In fact, Chandler's novels have all the classic features of serials that I typically dislike - such as the same technical details central to the narrative. One of these is the telepath who uses a dog's brain as an amplifier:
"He found the Psionic Radio Officer out of his bunk, strapped into the swivel chair by the table on which lived the psionic amplifier, below which was the complexity of tanks and pumps and piping that handled nutrition and excretion. He looked with distaste at the gray, wrinkled thing in the globe, while his nostrils twitched at the imagined smell of dog. Like most spacemen, he accepted psionic radio intellectually but not emotionally. It was not the operator himself, the trained telepath, that he found revolting—although there were some who did—but the amplifier, the dog's brain tissue culture, without which it would've been impossible for human thought-waves to span interstellar distances. Revolting, too, was the way in which the majority of Psionic Radio Operators made pets of their organic equipment—rewarding it by visualizations of trees and bones . . ." - p 92
"watched Jane making for the shore with long, easy strokes. He thought, irrelevantly, Venus on the half shell, as she stood erect" - p 101
" Venus on the Half-Shell is a science fiction novel by Philip José Farmer, writing pseudonymously as "Kilgore Trout", a fictional recurring character in many of the novels of Kurt Vonnegut. This book first appeared as a lengthy fictitious "excerpt"—written by Vonnegut, but attributed to Trout—in Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965). With Vonnegut's permission, Farmer expanded the fragment into an entire standalone novel (including, as an in-joke, a scene that incorporates all of Vonnegut's original text). Farmer's story was first published in two parts beginning in the December 1974 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_o...
A Google search for the above also yields images of Sandro Botticelli's painting "The Birth of Venus" (c. 1482) wch was most certainly not called "Venus on the half shell" since the latter is a food reference used for comedic purposes. Still, such are the vagaries of internet searches that Vonnegut & Farmer's parody has now rehistorified Botticelli. Oddly, Chandler’s reference here is in a bk published in 1961 - before Vonnegut & Farmer - so wassup?!
"He watched her appreciatively as she pulled on her shirt, climbed into her shorts. It was not prudery that had cause them to dress; it was the knowledge that to the natives, who themselves always went naked, all Terrans looked alike, could be distinguished only by badges of rank.
"The Mellisan waddled through the shallows, his sleek black hide gleaming in the sunlight. The necklace of gaudy shells around his long sinuous neck proclaimed him a person of some consequence. Calver thought that he was the Chief who had supervised the discharge and loading from the shore end, but could not be sure." - p 102
Of course, I find this sort of detail amusing & pertinent. As I've gotten older I've found myself remembering other people less & less. It helps, of course, if they have some extraordinary distinguishing characteristics - such as my own 3D brain tattoo on my head. However, what I've also discovered is that other people, particularly younger women, find it almost impossible to remember me b/c I'm not-of-the-age-they-mate-w/-&-am-therefore-of-no-interest-even-w/-the-distinguishing-characteristics.
Anyway, this bk was fine, I'm 'hooked' on the serial now, but it's hardly genius. ...more
Notes are private!
May 26, 2016
Jun 04, 2016
May 01, 1994
May 01, 1994
Esther Friesner's Majyk by Hook or Crook
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 28, 2016
In my 55 or so yrs of reading SF & Fantasy I've mo review of
Esther Friesner's Majyk by Hook or Crook
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 28, 2016
In my 55 or so yrs of reading SF & Fantasy I've more or less never gotten into series. I've thought of series as just cheap marketing tricks, a way of sucking the reader into repeat purchases that're based more on soap opera continuity than on solid writing around new ideas. Whenever I hear someone talking about their tastes in SF in terms of series I'm disappointed - it's too close to talk about one's favorite tv shows for me, a person who stopped watching tv 46 yrs ago.
Nonetheless, I'm usually happy to find exceptions to my own rules - if only for the sake of retaining an 'open mind'. The cover of Majyk by Hook or Crook proclaims "The sensationally silly series by the author of Majyk by Accident" & I have to at least agree w/ the "silly" part. This series is silly & that's one of the main reasons why I decided to read all 3 parts of it - I can use some silliness in my life. As I wrote in my review of Majyk By Accident ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... ): "I consider the serious reviews to be the important ones but I might very well enjoy things like this more. Make of that what you will."
I didn't really enjoy this one as much as I did Majyk By Accident & that's easily enuf attributable to the fantasy world being no longer fresh to me - another downside of serials. Some (most?) people want repetition, I generally am more impressed when a creative person has a whole new set of ideas for subsequent works. Fortean weather is new to this sequel:
"["]You're not getting me out in this weather."
""Oh, it's not that bad," I scoffed, and stepped outside. Shading my eyes with one hand, I looked up into the stormy sky. "There's hardly anything coming down at all any m— Ow!" A parrot the size of a layer cake smacked me right in the eye.
"I grabbed it by the throat and glared at it while a tempest of robins, finches, and larks pelted me. Far out over the swamp it was raining albatrosses and hens." - p 1
& counteracting this Fortean weather becomes the main quest of the novel.
""No," I repeated. "My mother always said that only a fool goes outdoors in fowl weather."
""Aaargh!" The cat fell over and stuck all four legs up stiffly in the air. "It's a deadly ninja throwing pun!" he cried, twitching from tail to whiskers. He made a loud choking noise and went limp." - p 2
I find that funny.. &, yet, at the same time, it's only in writing that the word "fowl" is explicitly known to be NOT the word "foul".
"Act like an all-powerful wizard, and nine out of ten people will treat you like an all-powerful wizard. Act like yourself and you'll get hit with a ladle." - p 21
Ah, so true, so true. I'm reminded of the sage SubGenius saying (wch I probably misquote): "Act like an equal & they'll treat you like a dumbshit." As for the "all-powerful wizard" part I'm reminded of 2 canonized filmmaker presentations I witnessed. No claim was too outrageous for the adoring suckers in the audience to lap up. One of these presentations inspired my friend etta cetera & I to found the S.P.C.S.M.E.F. ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/spcsmef... ).
Friesner references Dungeons & Dragons, a game I've never played - perhaps revealing her own social milieu:
""It's not always this loud, gents," Strelblig explained. "You just happen to have come during the last round of our annual contest."
""Can't be a beauty contest," the cat said. "So what is it?"
""What is it?" The master thief was astonished at the cat's question. "Why it's tournament-level Palaces and Puppies, is all!"" - p 45
In half of this bk's world, dogs, like cats, are legendary creatures. Hence "Puppies" instead of Dragons.
Friesner is funny in a way that makes me wonder if she's in the Church of the SubGenius:
"An elder god slithered across the floor and tried to carry off the unconscious fortunetellers. The bartender threw the dead chicken at him and told him not to eat any customers until they'd paid their bills. The elder god slunk away in a sulk, dragging his tentacles and sucking on the chicken neck." - p 47
Shades of H. P. Lovecraft followed by shades of W. W. Jacobs (wch, in turn, was probably shades of Theophile Gautier's "The Mummy's Foot"):
""Monkey paw, sir?" said a voice behind me. I turned and saw a peddler with a tray full of weird relics. "Nice fresh mummified monkey paws, special today. You still get your full three wishes, but at half price. Satisfaction guaranteed."" - p 48
"fresh" & "mummified" at the same time - 'proving' that in ad-speak one can have the best of both worlds simultaneously. &, yes, the literary & film references just keep on comin':
"Scandal leaped from Ainsella's lap to mine and put his paws on my shoulder. "A word to the wise, boss," he whispered. "If he tells you his name is Inigo Montoya and that you killed his father, don't argue; run like Hades."" - p 64
I suspect that just about everyone I know wd immediately get that reference. I only got it b/c people were astounded recently when I didn't know it. Inigo Montoya is a character in William Goldman's 1973 novel The Princess Bride made into a very popular film by Rob Reiner in 1987. But you already knew that didn't you.
If Friesner's lucky, she's surrounded by friend who appreciate her punning abilities. If she's unlucky, she's surrounded by people who groan.
""Come on, I mean it! We've got a long voyage and this ship just doesn't look seaworthy. It doesn't even look like a ship!"
""It is not a ship," Rhett said. "Any fool can see that."
""Any fool just did," Scandal remarked.
""It is a snail. A goodly giant four-masted snail."
""A snail?" I repeated.
""What else did you expect?" Rhett shrugged. "This ship belong to the Postal Service."" - p 70
"I found Anisella in the little cookhouse built high on the giant snail's shell, her hair tied back with a thin copper wire. She wasn't wearing an apron—allergic to cloth, remember? But a chain-mail halter and kilt get very hot when you're working near cook-fires, and so . . .
""Oh, hello, Kendar." She looked happy to see me. Happy all over. "I hope you don't mind that I've taken over the cook's job. I love to cook almost as much as I love to clean house and do the laundry. Sometimes I get so sad when it seems like there aren't enough chores in a day. But then I just go and make clothing for orphans and I feel much better, even if working with cloth does make my hands break out in hives. It's for a good cause. How long have you been standing there?"
""Dinner's almost done. I'll serve it just as soon as I slip back into my clothes. I hope you like it."
""Oh yeah. Oh boy. Like it. Oh boy. Oh yeah."" - p 71
Such parody of male-female heterosexual relations led to my looking her up online to get further confirmation that Friesner's a woman. I reckon she actually is. She seems to have a much better sense of humor about sexual relations than many a feminist.
""King Wulfdeth looks like a Whiffenpoof?" Scandal asked.
""One of the legendary monsters of my world, half man and half sheepskin," the cat explained. He leaped back into my lap and sat there like I was his human throne. "My former human used to be once, in fact. They haunt the moldy dungeons of the kingdom of Yale and gather together to give their mating cry: 'We are poor little lambs who have lost our way, baa, baa, baa.'"" - p 109
Friesner is reputed to've taught at Yale before making it as a freelance writer.
"Still, some part of me hoped to see Undersiders walking on their heads or wearing their clothing backwards or putting mayonnaise on their corned beef sandwiches. When you travel so far, you want to see monsters." - p 133
Or faces in their chests with a mayonnaise & corned beef sandwich partially hanging out of its mouth.
"She pulled down the Golden Fleece's banner of piracy and ran up an innocent looking flag. On a bright red background the black and white, almost human, face of a round-eared mouse beamed happily over the waves." - p 135
The brand that dare not speak its name.
""Okay, the face. Whatever it is, I call it a face. White and black, mostly white. Hole-eyes. A black nose. the nose looks like a black Ping-Pong ball, does that make sense? Come to think of it, the ears—if they're ears—on top look like two Ping-Pong paddles, also black. O call them Ping and Pong, and one day they were walking through the deep dark forest and . . ."" - p 29, John Sladek's Roderick
""You know, boss," Scandal told me in confidence, "Back home we only caal chicks and foxes."
""Whatever you call them, they look like they're happy tonight," I said.
""Why should they not be happy?" Rhett commented. "They are each wearing enough gold and jewels to feed a family of four for a week." He flashed a warning look at Scandal. "And I do not mean that there are families of four who eat gold and jewels, so do not bother making your silly joke." - p 139
Yep, that one wd've been too obvious so Friesner manages to squeeze it in by preventing it. Friesner is also the editor of 6 "Chicks" anthologies:
Chicks in Chainmail (1995)
Did You Say Chicks?! (1998)
Chicks 'n Chained Males (1999)
The Chick is in the Mail (2000)
Turn the Other Chick (2004)
Chicks and Balances (2015)
Do Chicks give birth to Chicklets? This might not be great lit but it IS Chick Lit & it's more fun than a barrel of Monkey's Paws: ""I am going to be fine, although I will be seeing double until breakfast tomorrow morning. They will serve us stale bread and water, but we will have our choice of whole wheat of rye,"" (p 154) ...more
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May 22, 2016
May 29, 2016
Jan 01, 1953
Feb 12, 1975
really liked it
Robert A. Heinlein's Starman Jones
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 28, 2016
I might as well add Heinlein to my pantheon of favorite SF w review of
Robert A. Heinlein's Starman Jones
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 28, 2016
I might as well add Heinlein to my pantheon of favorite SF writers even though I feel like I 'left him behind' around 46 yrs ago. Starman Jones is another great example of Heinlein's promotion of the idea that people of 'humble' 'unpromising' origins can develop their latent extraordinary abilities & succeed under highly challenging circumstances.
Max Jones starts off as a farmer living in straightened conditions. His father's dead, his stepmother's not particularly caring.
"Max liked this time of day, this time of year. With the crops in, he could finish his evening chores early and be lazy. When he had slopped the hogs and fed the chickens, instead of getting supper he followed a path to a rise west of the barn and lay down on the grass, unmindful of chiggers. He had a book with him that he had drawn from the county library last Saturday, Bonforte's Sky Beasts: A Guide to Exotic Zoology, but he tucked it under his head as a pillow." - p 9
Already Max is presented as potentially a working-class intellectual - something that few people seem to accept as a possibility. He's knowledgeable enuf to be able to tell time by the stars:
"Venus had set, of course, but he was surprised to see Mars still in the west. The moon had not risen. Let's see—full moon was last Wednesday. Surely . . .
"The answer he got seemed wrong, so he checked himself by taking a careful eyesight of Vega and compared it with what the Big Dipper told him. Then he whistled softly—despite everything that had happened it was only ten o'clock, give or take five minutes; the stars could not be wrong." - p 23
Heinlein's a 'realist' of sorts. Things happen just as much b/c of human idiosyncracies & dysfunctionality as they do b/c of people being 'as they shd be':
""Good. Here's the deal. The Man says we have to have two teamsters to each rig—or else break for eight hours after driving eight. I can't; I've got a penalty time to meet—and my partner washed out. The flathead got taken drunk and I had to put him down to cool. Now I've got a checkpoint to pass a hundred thirty miles down the stretch. They'll make me lay over if I can't show another driver."
""Gee! But I don't know how to drive, Red. I'm awful sorry."
"Red gestured with his cup. "You won't have to. You'll always be the off-watch driver. I wouldn't trust little Molly Malone to somebody who didn't know her ways. I'll keep myself awake with Pep pills and catch up on sleep at Earthport."" - p 34
Starman Jones was published in 1953, the yr I was born. It's interesting for me to see the ethos of the time presented:
"The library book had been burning a hole in his rucksack; at Oklahoma City he noticed a postal box at the freight depot and, on impulse, dropped the book into it. After he had mailed it he had a twinge of worry that he might have given a clue to his whereabouts which would get back to Montgomery, but he suppressed the worry—the book had to be returned. Vagrancy in the eyes of the law had not worried him, nor trespass, nor impersonating a licensed teamster—but filching a book was a sin." - p 37
Heinlein's work is never lacking in futuristic imaginings: "He found himself presently in front of Imperial House, the hotel that guaranteed to supply any combination of pressure, temperature, lighting, atmosphere, pseudogravitation, and diet favored by any known race of intelligent creatures." (p 38) A sensible & ambitious enterprise under conditions that may one day prevail.
"["]Only a member of this guild, trained, tested, sworn, and accepted, may lawfully be custodian of those manuals."
"Max's answer was barely audible. "I don't see the harm, I'm not going to get to use them, it looks like."
""You don't believe in anarchy, surely? Our whole society is founded on entrusting grave secrets only to those who are worthy.["]" - p 45
Max may or not "believe in anarchy" but he does find his way around the unfair restrictions on membership into the guild he desires to join. Aiding him is this greatly is that he's eidetic, a mnemonist:
""Well, I'll be a beat up. . . . Look, you're a page-at-a-glance reader? Is that it?"
""No, not exactly. I'm a pretty fast reader, but I do have to read it. But I don't forget. I can't forget anything."" - p 53
As it turns out, anarchy isn't given a bad rep here after all:
""That's your problem. But best of all, the place still has a comfortable looseness about it. No property taxes, outside the towns. Nobody would pay one; they'd just move on, if they didn't shoot the tax collector instead. No guilds—you can plow a furrow, saw a board, drive a truck, ir thread a pipe, all the same day and never ask permission. A man can do anything and there's no one to stop him, no one to tell him he wasn't born into the trade, or didn't start young enough, or hasn't paid his contribution. There's more work than there are men to do it and the colonists just don't care."
"Max tried to imagine such anarchy and could not, he had never experienced it." - pp 68-69
Heinlein may not be an anarchist but he's no perpetuator of class-serving myths either. In his world, a 'hayseed' can be a mathematician:
"She made a face. "But you told me that all you went to was a country high school and didn't get to finish at that. Huh?"
""Yes, but I learned from my uncle. He was a great mathematician. Well, he didn't have any theorems named after him—but a great one just the same, I think."" - p 78
Heinlein is, indeed, an exemplary SF writer. He imagines a possible planet reached by humans: "Garson's Planet appears to us to be a piece of junk left over when the universe was finished. It has a surface gravity of one-and-a-quarter, too much for comfort, it is cold as a moneylender's heart, and it has a methane atmosphere unbreathable by humans." (p 101) Such descriptions are only side details in a novel of space travel but they add alot. & Heinlein has a sense of humor:
"Their driver, Herr Eisenberg, interpreted for them. The native who sold the souvenirs kept swiveling his eyes, one after another, at Mrs. Mendoza. He twittered some remarks to the driver, who guffawed. "What does he say?" she asked.
""He was complimenting you."
""So? But how?"
""Well . . . he says you are for a slow fire and no need for seasoning; you'd cook up nicely. And he'd do it too," the colonist added, "if you stayed here after dark."
"Mrs. Mendoza gave a little scream. "You didn't tell us they were cannibals. Josie take me back!"
"Herr Eisenberg looked horrified. "Cannibals? Oh, no, lady! They don't eat each other, they just eat us—when they can get us, that is. But there hasn't been an incident in twenty years."" - p 137
In short, Heinlein combines class-consciousness, imagination, humor, & science in a way that must've been very inspiring to me as a boy even tho I barely remember my reaction to him anymore:
"A fast hyperboloid swing past both settled the matter. The bolometer showed number three to be too hot and number four to be tropical. Number four had a moon which the third did not—another advantage for four, for it permitted, by examining the satellite's period, an easy calculation of its mass; from that and its visible diameter its surface gravity was a matter of substitution in classic Newtonian formula . . . ninety-three percent of Earth-normal, comfortable and rather low in view of its over ten-thousand-mile diameter. Absorption spectra showed oxygen and several inert gases." - p 168
Yep, after having long since rejected Heinlein I'm inclined to read everything by him now that I've read Starman Jones. It's not that I think it's absolutely great, it's that it resonates w/ me so strongly that I feel deep affection for it. ...more
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May 19, 2016
May 28, 2016
Mass Market Paperback
Apr 01, 1982
really liked it
John Sladek's Roderick
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 17, 2016
For the full thrill-ride of a review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/ review of
John Sladek's Roderick
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 17, 2016
For the full thrill-ride of a review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I've only previously read Sladek's Mechasm (see my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). The cover has an image of a stereotypical bully boy punching a small robot in its face while another boy looks on from inside a trashcan. I bought this partially b/c I thought the cover was funny.
The beginning of my review of Mechasm states: "This bk was.. odd.. or maybe it was just the mood I was in when I read it.. It's a sortof Dr. Strangelove style parody.." Perhaps Roderick is a coming-of-age-&-losing-innocence story. More or less every character is presented cynically w/ exaggerated flaws, they're caricatures. Still, b/c of the flaws they're 'human':
"At the University Health Service a yawning intern used a tongue depressor to mark his place in The Heart of the Matter ("somewhere far away he thought he heard the sounds of pain.") and decided to order more flu vaccine—a wind like that. He scooted in his swivel chair to the console of the inventory computer and began playing its keys. In no time at all he was able to order three trillion—oops, thousand, 3,000 doxes—dose, damnit, doses!" - p 12
Given that this was published in 1980, the humor of typos might've been a little abstruse at the time - but to people who regularly use cell-phone keyboards that're too small for their fingers this is a common scenario.
Sladek's presentation of the NASA man is a bit.. odd.. certainly irregular insofar as he's presented as a fairly ignorant 'cracker':
"["]What NASA really wants from you—are you ready?—is a real robot."
""A real, complete, functioning artificial man. It don't matter what he looks like, a course. I mean a space robot don't have to win no beauty contests. But he's gotta have a real human brain, you with me so far?"" - p 15
As it turns out, this NASA man ain't quite what he's presenting himself to be.. - but that's a spoiler. At any rate, Roderick's 'birth' is off to a bad start. Roderick's designers are building learning abilities into him. Why is a raven like a writing desk?
""'There a like because they both sound like they begin with R. There a like they both have some syllables more than one. There a like because one is like a bird and theres a bird called a secretary and the other is like a furniture and theres a furniture called a secretary too. Or may be they both have quills which are like old pens. May be E. A. Poe wrote one when he sat at the other or is that a like? There both inky. I give up. I give up. There a like because otherwise you wouldnot ask me why. Or there a like because there both in the same riddle—'"" - p 17
"It first appeared in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a famously creepy children's book which Lewis Carroll wrote in 1865. Alice falls asleep one day, follows a white rabbit down a rabbit hole, and ends up in a world of crazy logic which Carroll based on what he considered the nonsensical logic that was piling up in his chosen field of mathematics. Arguably the craziest characters are the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. Alice ends up at a tea party with them, and the Mad Hatter asks her the now-famous question, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?"
"The unanswered riddle, which many people were exposed to in their formative years, got under people's skin. In their attempt to adequately extricate it, they've come up with answers. A satisfying, but meta, answer is, "Poe wrote on both," given by puzzle enthusiast Sam Lloyd. More in the spirit of the nonsense genre, Aldous Huxley ventured, "Because there is a 'b' in both and an 'n' in neither." Beautifully bizarre." - Esther Inglis-Arkell - http://io9.gizmodo.com/5872014/the-an...
Roderick undergoes other similar pop culture challenges:
""Okay, the face. Whatever it is, I call it a face. White and black, mostly white. Hole-eyes. A black nose. the nose looks like a black Ping-Pong ball, does that make sense? Come to think of it, the ears—if they're ears—on top look like two Ping-Pong paddles, also black. O call them Ping and Pong, and one day they were walking through the deep dark forest and . . ."" - p 29
NASA has been seriously debased in Sladek's future world:
"["]Look, there's a picture of Luke Draeger, remember him!" None of them did. "I seen him walk on the Moon, boys, I helped put him there. Or was it Mars? Anyways, NASA still means something to some of us. It means—it means—billowing exhaust clouds catching the first light of dawn, a silver needle rising, reaching for the fucking stars! The puny crittur we call Man setting out to conquer the stars, to rendezvous with his Eternal Destiny! Call me a dreamer, boys, but I see Man leaping out from this little planet of ours, to the Moon, to the planets, to our neighboring stars and finally beyond—into the cock-sucking Unknown!"" - p 21
Literally NONE of the characters in Roderick are presented as 100% positive protagonists. Whether they're professors or students they're all riddled w/ foibles. Dr. Fred is a spin on an old school racist:
"But the bell prevented further development of this, Dr. Fred's favorite theory: that Northernness was a necessary precondition of civilization. The cause, he felt, was magnetism: just being closer to the North Pole seemed somehow to elevate the human brain waves to produce higher thoughts. Without this magnetic boost, man remained primitive and uncreative. Thus the Southern hemisphere produced crude mud huts instead of cathedrals; witch doctors instead of penicillin; cannibals instead of vegetarians; boomerangs instead of ICBMs—though perhaps he would not develop his theory quite that far." - p 32
Rogers is another one, a typical two-faced manipulator:
""Fong more or less admits NASA pulled out because of some swindle. Swindle, that's right. He says it's internal to NASA, but you and I know how these things go. You can always get somebody to admit as much of the truth as won't hurt him at the moment, right? . . . So I don't know about you, I don't feel much like risking it. Not that I'd accuse Fong of anything, nice guy really, but a little legitimate caution might not be a bad . . . right. Right, see you."
"He pushed a button, checked off a name on the list, and pushed another button. "Dr. Tarr, you still there? I've just had Asperson on the other line, sounding him out, him and a few others on the committee, and we think—frankly, we agree something smells about this robot project." - p 37
But Rogers's sleaze gets countered:
"Dr. Jane Hannah's face was impassive, the face of a Cheyenne brave—which, during her early years in anthropology, she had been. "Facts, you say. I keep hearing opinions."
""Okay, sure, if you want my opinion, we should turn them down. With all these fraud rumors, I don't see how Fong's people can expect special treatment."
"She raised her martini, mumbled something over it, and took a sip. "Why not special treatment? Maybe what they have to give us is more precious than anything they could possibly have stolen. After all, true heroes can always break the rules. Think of Prometheus, stealing from the gods."" - p 56
"It was Aquinas, the Swine of Sicily, waddling on a Paris street, who was accosted by a stranger made entirely of wood, metal, glass, wax and leather—the automaton brought into being (through thirty years' work) by Albertus Magnus. Instantly Aquinas raised his staff and brought about the possibility of another thirty years' work . . ." - p 40
I find no mention of this incident or of the nickname "the Swine of Sicily" in the Wikipedia page for 'Saint' (I refuse to accept any Christinane as a 'Saint') Thomas of Aquinas but I do find a connection to Albertus Magnus:
"In 1245 Thomas was sent to study at the Faculty of the Arts at the University of Paris, where he most likely met Dominican scholar Albertus Magnus, then the Chair of Theology at the College of St. James in Paris. When Albertus was sent by his superiors to teach at the new studium generale at Cologne in 1248, Thomas followed him, declining Pope Innocent IV's offer to appoint him abbot of Monte Cassino as a Dominican. Albertus then appointed the reluctant Thomas magister studentium. Because Thomas was quiet and didn't speak much, some of his fellow students thought he was slow. But Albertus prophetically exclaimed: "You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world."" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_...
Then again I don't find any mention of Magnus building automatons in his Wikipedia entry either. In both entries the emphasis is partially on these men being "Saint"s in the Catholic Church's pantheon. Wd it be 'anti-thetical' for a 'Saint' to 'rival God' by building an artificial man? Contrary to this theory, there's a website of the "Jacques Maritain Center" that claims that the Catholic Church is not against science & that recounts this story about Magnus & Aquinas:
"Another legend relates to an automaton that he labored thirty year to produce, which he succeeded in making to speak. St. Thomas, the legend says, came unawares upon it in the workshop of Albert, and was so startled that he seized a stick, and shrieking Salve! Salve! smashed the fearful monster to pieces, thinking it to be some cruel savage who was about to attempt his life. The truth is this: Albert could manufacture automata, which were made to move by means of mercury, after the manner of Chinese mannikins and tumbling-toys; and it is possible that he may have constructed small mechanical figures capable of emitting sounds, for he speaks of these inventions as things then known. "The Barbiton," he says, "is a figure with a long beard, from the mouth of which comes a tube, with a bellows attached to one side. It is set in motion by the introduction of air into the tube, so that the bearded mannikin appears to play the flute." Albert probably manufactured an automaton of this kind, capable of moving and uttering the word Salve, so that the legend about St. Thomas's vigorous application of the stick is founded upon a historical fact." - http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Marita...
Giordano Bruno & Copernicus, among others, wd've probably been surprised to learn that the Catholic Church isn't against science. Ah! The great rehistorification!
"Aikin controlled his stutter remarkably well today, as he outlined his plan for crime prevention by use of the pendulum. He was becoming quite an authority on this psychic instrument, Tarr noticed. Too bad he still had such a hell of a time with that key word.
"Aikin unfolded a map. "See, here I've been and located the three places where this 'Ripper,' this murderer left his victims. The vibrations are very strong, even on a map. Using the p-p-p----swinging thing—I was able to locate them precisely."" - p 53
That interests me for 2 main reasons:
1. I'm a sucker for excuses for introducing unusual speech patterns into narration - such as w/ Jonathan Lethem's use of Tourette's Syndrome in Motherless Brooklyn (2000) & possibly elsewhere: "Lionel Essrog is Brooklyn's very own self-appointed Human Freakshow, an orphan whose Tourettic impulses drive him to bark, count, and rip apart our language in startling and original ways." - http://www.amazon.com/Motherless-Broo...
2. According to wikipedia: "A strict materialist, Sladek subjected the occult and pseudoscience to merciless scrutiny in The New Apocrypha. The book critically examined the claims of dowsing, homeopathy, parapsychology, perpetual motion and Ufology." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Th...
Sladek parodies everything he writes about, including the academic process of applying for funding:
"Byron Dollsly grinned and slapped his heavy hand on the table. "Scope! Hah! Think you'll find plenty of scope in my idea, George. See how this grabs you. As you know, I've been working on lines suggested by Teilhard de Chardin, Buckminster Fuller and others, namely a kind of engineering approach to consciousness. Well!"
"He beamed at Tarr and Aikin in turn, while they sat awaiting further enlightenment. "Well, I've only had a major breakthrough, that's all. As I see it, we have to begin with first principles. Biology!"
"After a moment, Tarr took his pipe from his mouth. "Is that it? Biology?"
""Is that it, he asks. Hah! Okay, let me spell it out for you. The divine Teilhard saw life as a radial force, and consciousness as a tangential force. Life, see, is like a gear-wheel growing larger, while consciousness is the gear actually turning—meshing!"" - p 54
In Sladek's world anything can go wrong for the stupidest reasons. EG: an assassin who goes to the wrong bar for a meet w/ his fellow killers & who gets into a conversation w/ the wrong person who has no idea what he's talking about but puts their own spin on it anyway:
"["]Fact is, I get a lot of satisfaction out of workin' alone, you know? Boy when you see their faces—when they realize what's comin' off—" He chuckled. "Makes it all worthwhile."
""I'll bet. But do you usually see their faces? I thought—"
""Even when you don't, you still know what they're thinkin'. Boy Howdy! It's like real communication! I mean in everyday life you just never get that close to nobody. real communication."
""I know just what you mean," she said. Nice to meet someone who liked his work, even if he did carry the off-stage villainy thing too far." - p 62
Everyone is limited by their own fantasy worlds. The police chief is writing a cop novel:
"Dobbin wrote slowly and carefully, his tongue protruding at the corner of his mouth:
""Don't touch me," she said. "Don't ever touch me again. Why was I ever dumb enough to marry a cop?"
"Suddenly I felt big and awkward and very, very tired. "Look, I know it's our anniversary, but this Delmore diamond case is ready to crack wide open—"
""And then there'll be some other case," she said, her mouth set hard. "Maybe when you give all you've got to your work, there's just nothing left for me."
""She was near the window when it happened. Suddenly the glass blossomed into a spider-web pattern, with a hole in the middle the size of a .303 slug. There was a matching hole in Laura's lovely throat. Even before she hit the floor, she was very, very—" - pp 69-70
&, of course, Sladek likes to throw in surprises, things that don't match the stereotypes he's created for his characters. Take, eg, the reading material of the visiting tyrant Shah:
""The pianola," continued the Shah. "An excellent symbol for the automaton, yes? It is I believe also used by Mr. W, Gaddis in his novelle J.R. where he speaks of Oscar Wilde traveling in America, marveling at the industry, the young industry you understand. Now I do believe Mt. Wilde suggested shooting all the piano players and using the pianola instead, or do I have that erroneously?"" - p 72
Roderick ends up in the neglect (as opposed to care) of a back-to-nature couple of sorts whose eco-cynicism marks them as being as venal as most of the other characters:
"Of course he still cared about the global environment, in a way. He still wrote articles about the blue whale and the white rhino. Not his fault if they turned into promotional tie-ins for glossy magazine spreads selling dog food and deodorants. He had to live. Had to swim with the current and survive. People got tired worrying about Spaceship Earth, they wanted to concentrate on Spaceship Me." - p 102
Fortunately for Roderick he moves on to "Ma" & "Pa":
""That's the third time I've called you to dinner," said Ma, coming into the workshop. "What are you inventing out here?"
"He started. "Oh, uh, well I'm not sure what it is until it's finished. Might turn out to be a puzzle that nobody can take apart." He turned the gadget over, frowning down at it. "Or it might be the start of something really big—a tap-dancing show that knows all the steps—or even a car that runs on scrap metal."" - p 115
Just those last 2 ideas alone cd be expanded into a novel's worth of material. Ma & Pa are the people who wd function the least smoothly in relation to the 'real' world. As such, they're Sladek's most sympathetic characters:
""Come on, you enjoyed every minute of it, you even made up that little card for me, remember? On one side it said, 'I am a communist,' and on the other, 'Communists always think they're cards.' "
"She sniffed. "I had to join the Ladies' Guild to smooth that over."
""Yes, I seem to remember your getting them all around here for a seance, wasn't it? Getting in touch with a flying saucer, don't tell me you didn't enjoy that. Working away on the old ouija board and all the time—"
""Just a few lines of Tristan Tzara, to perk them up," she said. "For their own good, really." She sat back on her chair until the noonday sun caught her white hair and gleamed on the green scalp beneath." - p 117
I wish I'd thought of that one myself.
Sladek's not exactly one for happy endings.. but I reckon I'll have to read the rest of the Roderick trilogy to find out, eh?!:
"A gold tooth grinned back at Roderick, wrinkles smiled, a watery tooth winked, and a tattooed hand patted his dome. The children smiled in their sleep, the woman with ear-rings blew him a kiss, and even the baby seemed to wave its foot in congratulations. Roderick was a gypsy hero, and now there was no question of sending him to the junk-yard.
"Instead, later that night, they sold him into slavery." - p 138
Sladek parodies J. Edgar Hoover's famous denial of the existence of organized crime, reputedly because he got racing types from the mob:
""These people you knew that was into call girls, who, was it the Mafia?"
""There's no such thing as the Mafia,"" - p 140
Sladek even seems to get his digs in at the art world, Andy Warhol in particular:
"Mr. Vitanuova spread his wide face in a smile and his wide hands in a benediction. "Me, I don't understand nothing. It's the wife, see? She knows Art like I know garbage. No wait, don't get sore, hey I don't mean this is garbage, I mean real garbage, it's my business."" - p 184
When I was reading this I thought it was a reference to Ethel Scull, the 1st person to commission a portrait from Warhol in 1963. I misremembered her husband as being a garbage tycoon. However, I read online that he was a taxi tycoon instead. It still seems likely that this section is a Warhol parody, tho, b/c of the following:
""Did you cover that boring exhibition of wrecked cars last May?"
""Not me, you mean the freeway thing, when all those cars and trucks piled up? I wanted to go, really, thought it sounded enterprising at least, getting out there and casting the whole mess in fiberglass right on the spot, I mean whatsisname, Jough Braun must have been actually cruising the city with a ton of epoxy—imagine getting an actual body in there!"
For the full thrill-ride of a review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
May 10, 2016
May 19, 2016
Mass Market Paperback
it was amazing
Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 15, 2016
This is just the tip of the review iceberg. For the review of
Svetlana Alexievich's Voices from Chernobyl
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 15, 2016
This is just the tip of the review iceberg. For the full thing, go here: "Chernobyl Hibakusha": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
In 1978 I was a canvasser for Maryland Action, a consumer activist group that resisted price raising by the local gas & electric company. The canvassers were told not to bring up nuclear power, since that wasn't what we were canvassing about. Nonetheless, the people whose doors we went to often wanted to debate w/ us about nuclear power, taking it for granted that we were actually a group opposed to it.
In 1979 I was part of a group most commonly called "B.O.M.B." (Baltimore Oblivion Marching Band). B.O.M.B. was founded by Richard Ellsberry as a guerrilla performance unit. His initial vision was that we wd do things like go to shopping mall openings.
In April of 1979, the nuclear power plant on 3 Mile Island in Pennsylvania had a problem w/ its cooling towers that threatened to result in a nuclear meltdown, a very dangerous thing. B.O.M.B. had a meeting at wch we debated whether or not to go as close to it as we cd get to stage a performance action. Some people decided not to, others were all for it. I debated against it as foolish but went there anyway b/c I felt that it was of historic importance.
On April 3, 1979, 6 of us left Baltimore pre-dawn to go to 3 miles south of Middletown, PA, to the 3 Mile Island Visitor's Center that was at the edge of the Susquehanna River that the island is located in the midst of. We performed an action that parodied the scientific optimism that nuclear power plants can be kept safe & that such a powerful force can be controlled & made a movie of it. A short version of that movie can be witnessed here: https://youtu.be/WFnEj9c35fE . This action became national, if not international, news. One of the members of B.O.M.B. was shortly thereafter hired to be an assistant photographer of the inside of the plant.
I mention these 2 things to demonstrate that I was not unaware of the dangers of nuclear power plants. Decades later I read Frederik Pohl's Chernobyl, A Novel, a docudrama of sorts based on his research about Chernobyl. It was the 1st bk I read by Pohl & I was impressed by its apparent level-headedness, its carefulness of description. This bk was released a mere yr after Chernobyl's infamous April 26, 1986 disaster. In a sense while it was timely it was also premature - the more long-term negative effects weren't as clear by then as they are now.
Now, around the time of the 30th anniversary of the nuclear accident, I decided to read Voices from Chernobyl in preparation for a video-tele-conference w/ artist activists in Belarus that I was co-organizing w/ Monty Canstin [sic] in Mogilev & his friends & collaborators in Minsk [an unedited screen recording of this by Ryan Broughman can be witnessed here: https://youtu.be/DiklpJ_RX3E ]. I got copies of this bk from my local library in both Russian & English so that I cd compare the 2 languages. Chernobyl was located in the Ukraine next to the Dnieper River across from Belarus. Reputedly 60 to 70 % of the fallout went into Belarus.
From the "Translator's Preface" to Voices from Chernobyl:
"In Belarus, very little has changed since these interviews were conducted. Back in 1996, Alesandr Lukashenka was the lesser-known of Europe's "last two dictators." Now Slobodan Milosevic is on trial at The Hague and Lukashenka has pride of place. He stifles any attempt at free speech and his political opponents continue to "disappear." On the Chernobyl front, Lukashenka has encouraged studies arguing that the land is increasingly safe and that more and more of it should be brought back into agricultural rotation. In 1999, the physicist Vaily Borisovich Nesterenko (interviewed on page 210), authored a report criticizing this tendency in government policy and suggesting that Belarus was knowingly exporting contaminated food. He has been in jail ever since. — Keith Gessen, 2005"
I wonder if Lukashenka himself wd be willing to eat food grown on such radioactive lands? - esp a regular diet of it? It's worth noting that this bk is published by the Dalkey Archive Press, a press that I esteem highly as the publisher of difficult experimental literature. It was quite a surprise for me to see that it published this.
"On April 26, 1986, at 1:23:58, a series of explosions destroyed the reactor in the building that housed Energy Block #4 of the Chernobyl Power Station. The catastrophe at Chernobyl became the largest technological disaster of the twentieth century.
"For tiny Belarus (population: 10 million), it was a national disaster. During the Second World War, the Nazis destroyed 619 Belarussian villages along with their inhabitants. As a result of Chernobyl, the country lost 485 villages and settlements. Of these, 70 have been forever buried underground. During the war, one out of every four Belarussians was killed; today, one out of every five Belarussians lives on contaminated land. This amounts to 2.1 million people, of whom 700,000 are children. Among the demographic factors responsible for the depopulation of Belarus, radiation is number one. In the Gomel and Mogilev regions, which suffered the most from Chernobyl, mortality rates exceed birth rates by 20%." - p 1
"In a year they evacuated all of us and buried the village. My father's a cab driver, he drove there and told us about it. First they'd tear a big pit in the ground, five meters deep. Then the firemen would come up and use their hoses to wash the house from its roof to its foundation, so that no radioactive dust gets kicked up. They wash the windows, the roof, the door, all of it. Then a crane drags the house from its spot and puts it down into the pit. There's dolls and books and cans all scattered around. The excavator picks them up. Then it covers everything with sand and clay, leveling it. And then instead of a village, you have an empty field." - p 223
"A while ago in the papers it said that in Belarus alone, in 1993 there were 200,000 abortions. Because of Chernobyl." - p 174
Considering that the total population of Belarus is only 10,000,000 & that, obviously, less than half of those are women of a fertile age 200,000 abortions is pretty phenomenal. Imagine being afraid to give birth, imagine being afraid that yr DNA has been hopelessly derailed, that you're the last of yr line.
Frederik Pohl's Chernobyl begins w/ an interesting quote:
"From The Revelation of St. John the Divine:
"And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of the waters; and the name of the star is called wormwood; and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men dies of the waters, because they were made bitter.
"The Ukrainian word for wormwood is chernobyl."
At least 2 European women friends of mine claim to've been effected by radiation from Chernobyl. It's quite possible in both cases despite their both having been a considerable distance away from it. Imagine the stigma of being possibly (or definitely) irradiated. Even if one shows no external signs of ill-health one becomes a pariah, no healthy person is likely to want to risk having children w/ such a person. reading these 1st-person accts impressed that upon me, impressed upon me that there are now MILLIONS of people in this unfortunate position. Think of how many people have emigrated from the Ukraine alone who've kept their origins veiled in order to avoid this stigma.
"The large differences between 1990 and 2000 in the numbers of Ukrainian and Russian speakers for the 1987-1990 immigrants are more puzzling. One hypothesis is that many of the Ukrainians recorded in the 2000 census were illegal migrants at the time of the 1990 census, and that by 2000 they had permanent status and/or felt more comfortable responding to the census.
"The total number of persons of Ukrainian ancestry was 893,055 in 2000. The number of all immigrants was 253,400, and 56 percent of them arrived between 1991 and 2000. If we add the 1987-1990 immigrants (12.5 percent of all immigrants), we have a total of 68.5 percent of all immigrants belonging to the Fourth Wave. In absolute numbers there were 142,000 immigrants between 1991-2000, and 31,600 arrived between 1987 and 1990." - http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/...
How many of these Ukrainian immigrants, legal & illegal, were fleeing from Chernobyl? Voices from Chernobyl is a bk of transcribed interviews w/ people directly effected by the proximity of Chernobyl, often people who were married to the people who tried to do damage control but who were dead by a decade later as a result of their irradiation.
"I'm not a writer. I won't be able to describe it. My mind is not capable of understanding it. And neither is my university degree. There you are: a normal person. A little person. You're just like everyone else—you go to work, you return from work. You get an average salary. Once a year you go on vacation. You're a normal person! And then one day you're suddenly turned into a Chernobyl person. Into an animal, something that everyone's interested in, and that no one knows anything about. You want to be like everyone else, and now you can't. People look at you differently. They ask you: was it scary? How did the station burn? What did you see? And, you know, can you have children? Did your wife leave you? At first we were all turned into animals. The very word "Chernobyl" is like a signal. Everyone turns their head to look at you. He's from there!" - p 34
"The world has been split in two: there's us, the Chernobylites, and then there's you, the others. Have you noticed? No one here points out that they're Russian or Belarussian or Ukranian. We all call ourselves Chernobylites. "We're from Chernobyl." "I'm a Chernobylite." As if this is a separate people. A new nation." - p 126
Imagine the stigmatization, imagine how horrible it is to be a Chernobylite:
"I go home, I'd go dancing. I'd meet a girl I liked and say, "Let's get to know one another."
""What for? You're a Chernobylite now. I'd be scared to have your kids."" - p 79
Afraid to have kids is right:
"My little daughter is different—she's different. She's not like the others. She's going to grow up and ask me: "Why aren't I like the others?"
"When she was born, she wasn't a baby, she was a little sack, sewed up everywhere, not a single opening, just the eyes. The medical card says: "Girl, born with multiple complex pathologies: aplasia of the anus, aplasia of the vagina, aplasia of the left kidney." That's how it sounds in medical talk, but more simply: ne pee-pee, no butt, one kidney. On the second day I watched her get operated on, on the second day of her life. She opened her eyes and smiled, and I thought that she was about to start crying. But, God, she smiled!
"The ones like her don't live, they die right away. But she didn't die, because I loved her.
"In four years she's had four operations. She's the only child in Belarus to have survived being born with such complex pathologies.." - p 85
"I'm afraid. I'm afraid to love. I have a fiancé, we already registered at the house of deeds. Have you ever heard of the Hibakusha of Hiroshima? The ones who survived after the bomb? They can only marry each other. No one writes about it here, no one talks about it, but we exist. The Chernobyl Hibakusha. He brought me home to his mom, she's a very nice mom. She works at a factory as an economist, and she's very active, she goes to all the anti-Communist meetings. So this very nice mom, when she found out I'm from a Chernobyl family, a refugee, asked: "But, my dear, will you be able to have children?" And we've already registered! He pleads with me: "I'll leave home. We'll rent an apartment." But all I can hear is: "My dear, for some people it's a sin to give birth." It's a sin to love." - p 108
Maybe that "very nice mom" who believes in "sin" shd go to hell.
"There was a black cloud, and hard rain. The puddles were yellow and green, like someone had poured paint into them. They said it was dust from the flowers. Grandma made us stay in the cellar. She got down on her knees and prayed. And she taught us, too. "Pray! It's the end of the world. It's God's punishment for our sins." My brother was eight and I was six. We started remembering our sins. He broke a glass can with the raspberry jam, and I didn't tell my mom that I'd got my new dress caught on a fence and it ripped. I hid it in the closet." - p 221
NO, it's not the "end of the world" but I'm sure that if humans can manage to really end the world by blowing it to smithereens it'll be considered by somebody - esp if the almighty dollar's in there somewhere. &, NO, it's not "God's punishment for our sins", there is NO God & NO sin - but there's an endless supply of sniveling robopaths who'll fall back on any mythology before they try to actually look at what's happening. &, NO, the little girl isn't going to go to 'HELL' for ripping her dress. If her mom were less delusional she might realize that a ripped dress is a good entry point into sewing lessons.
"I heard—the adults were talking—Grandma was crying—since the year I was born , there haven't been any boys or girls born in our village. I'm the only one. The doctors said I couldn't be born. But my mom ran away from the hospital and hid at Grandma's. So I was born at Grandma's'" - p 222
Imagine that. For me, that outdoes Greek tragedy by a mile - not that it's a competition. People are afraid to continue to exist, afraid of the mutations, of the failures to adapt, of the deformities.
Literally EVERYTHING is effected. It's not like a bomb blowing up one bldg, like one field being destroyed - so that production goes on elsewhere - or, rather, some places were far more dangerously radioactive than others but almost anything cd be radioactive & it wasn't always easy to tell unless it manifested like this:
""And the chickens had black cockscombs, not red ones, because of the radiation. And you couldn't make cheese. The milk didn't go sour—it curdled into powder, white powder. Because of the radiation."" - p 40
But not all milk curdled into powder. Some, apparently, seemed 'normal':
"'I go in to see a doctor. 'Sweety,' I say, 'my legs don't move. The joints hurt.' 'You need to give up your cow, grandma. The milk's poisoned.' 'Oh, no,' I say, 'my legs hurt, my knees hurt, but I won't give up the cow. She feeds me.'"" - p 43
"I was in a taxi one time, the driver couldn't understand why the birds were all crashing into his window, like they were blind. They'd all gone crazy, or like they were committing suicide." - p 89
Typically, ignorance reigns. Maybe it's not 'reasonable' to expect people to understand the extraordinary, the things that they don't personally have direct dealings w/. How 'reasonable' is it to expect people whose lives center around having kids & farming to understand where the electricity comes from that's powering their precious tv?
"My son calls from Gomel: Are the May bugs out?"
""No bugs, there aren't even any maggots. They're hiding."
""What about worms?"
""If you'd find a worm in the rain, your chicken'd be happy. But there aren't any."
""That's the first sign. If there aren't any May bugs and no worms, that means strong radiation."
""Mom, that's a kind of death. Tell Grandma you need to leave. You'll stay with us."" - pp 50-51
Still, one wd hope that the lack of insects, regardless of what cause it wd be attributed to, wd be recognized as a dire warning sign by people accustomed to tending the soil. An interesting aside found on the Wikipedia entry re May bugs is this:
"Both the grubs and the imagines have a voracious appetite and thus have been and sometimes continue to be a major problem in agriculture and forestry. In the pre-industrialized era, the main mechanism to control their numbers was to collect and kill the adult beetles, thereby interrupting the cycle. They were once very abundant: in 1911, more than 20 million individuals were collected in 18 km² of forest.
"Collecting adults was an only moderately successful method. In the Middle Ages, pest control was rare, and people had no effective means to protect their harvest. This gave rise to events that seem bizarre from a modern perspective. In 1320, for instance, cockchafers were brought to court in Avignon and sentenced to withdraw within three days onto a specially designated area, otherwise they would be outlawed. Subsequently since they failed to comply, they were collected and killed. (Similar animal trials also occurred for many other animals in the Middle Ages.)" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockchafer
Are trials of insects any more ridiculous than all the rest of it?
"What's it like, radiation? Maybe they show it in the movies? Have you seen it? Is it white, or what? What color is it? Some people say it has no color and no smell, and other people say that it's black. Like earth. But if it's colorless, then it's like God. God is everywhere, but you can't see Him. They scare us! the apples are hanging in the garden, the leaves are on the trees, the potatoes are in the fields. I don't think there was any Chernobyl, they made it up. They tricked people. My sister left with her husband. Not far from here, twenty kilometers. They lived there two months, and the neighbor comes running: "Your cow sent radiation to my cow! She's falling down." "How'd she send it?" "Through the air, that's how, like dust. It flies." Just fairy tales! Stories and more stories." - pp 51-52
Right. It's not enuf to have Holocaust deniers, now we have Chernobyl deniers. Why, I've never seen anyone die so death doesn't exist. However, for people who were refugees from the war in Tajikistan, the irradiated area around Chernobyl seemed like a nice alternative:
"They come onto the bus one day to check our passports. Just regular people, except with automatic weapons. They look through the documents and then push the men out of the bus. And then, right there, right outside the door, they shoot them. They don't even take them aside. I would never have believed it." - p 55
No doubt that was justified by somebody's idea of a Motherland or a Fatherland.
The "Chernobylites", the stigmatized victims of the backfiring of overconfident technological 'progress' partially 'adapted' by having a sense of humor. Peppered throughout the tales of misery are Chernobylite jokes. I used most of these jokes in a performance I gave 3 days after the anniversary on April 29, 2016 ( https://vimeo.com/164947710 ):
"They asked the Armenian broadcaster: 'Maybe there are Chernobyl apples?' 'Sure, but you have to bury the core really deep.'"
"There was a Ukranian woman at the market selling big red apples. 'Come get your apples! Chernobyl apples!' Someone told her not to advertise that, no one will buy them. 'Don't worry!' she says. 'They buy anyway. Some need them for their mother-in-law, some for their boss.'"
"Guy comes home from work, says to his wife, "They told me that tomorrow I either go to Chernobyl or hand in my Party card." "But you're not in the Party." "Right, so I'm wondering how do I get a Party card by tomorrow morning?" ...more
Notes are private!
May 09, 2016
May 17, 2016
Sep 01, 1981
Sep 01, 1981
A. Bertram Chandler's The Anarch Lords
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 10, 2016
See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/stor review of
A. Bertram Chandler's The Anarch Lords
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 10, 2016
See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I'm not familiar w/ Chandler, I hadn't previously read anything by him, I've probably seen bks by him, I probably expected this to be stupider than it turned out to be b/c I wasn't sure whether Chandler was using the self-contradiction of the title ironically or ignorantly. Fortunately, it was the latter so this turned out to be a fun read after all.
"For Vice-Admiral William Bligh R.N., one-time commanding officer of the H.M.S. Bounty, one-time Governor of New South Wales, with belated apologies for the participation of an ancestral Grimes in the Rum Rebellion of 1808 A.D." - p 4
Right off the Batman (subverted sports metaphor) Chandler has me wondering what he's up to & whether he's being ironic again.
"The mutiny on the Royal Navy vessel HMS Bounty occurred in the south Pacific on 28 April 1789. Disaffected crewmen, led by Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, seized control of the ship from their captain Lieutenant William Bligh and set him and 18 loyalists adrift in the ship's open launch. The mutineers variously settled on Tahiti or on Pitcairn Island. Bligh meanwhile completed a voyage of more than 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km; 4,000 mi) in the launch to reach safety, and began the process of bringing the mutineers to justice.
"Bounty had left England in 1787 on a mission to collect and transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies. A five-month layover in Tahiti, during which many of the men lived ashore and formed relationships with native Polynesians, proved harmful to discipline. Relations between Bligh and his crew deteriorated after he began handing out increasingly harsh punishments, criticism and abuse, Christian being a particular target. After three weeks back at sea, Christian and others forced Bligh from the ship. Twenty-five men remained on board afterwards, including loyalists held against their will and others for whom there was no room in the launch.
"Bligh reached England in April 1790, whereupon the Admiralty despatched HMS Pandora to apprehend the mutineers. Fourteen were captured in Tahiti and imprisoned on board Pandora, which then searched without success for Christian's party that had hidden on Pitcairn Island. After turning back toward England, Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, with the loss of 31 crew and 4 prisoners from Bounty. The 10 surviving detainees reached England in June 1792 and were court martialled; 4 were acquitted, 3 were pardoned, and 3 were hanged.
"Christian's group remained undiscovered on Pitcairn until 1808, by which time only one mutineer, John Adams, remained alive. Almost all his fellow mutineers, including Christian, had been killed, either by each other or by their Polynesian companions. No action was taken against Adams; descendants of the mutineers and their Tahitian consorts live on Pitcairn into the 21st century. The generally accepted view of Bligh as an overbearing monster and Christian as a tragic victim of circumstances, as depicted in well-known film accounts, has been challenged by late 20th- and 21st-century historians from whom a more sympathetic picture of Bligh has emerged." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutiny_...
Since I'd only been ever-so-slightly acquainted w/ the history of this mutiny from the 1935 &/or 1962 movies, both of wch I think were sympathetic to the mutineers, I suspected Chandler of pulling some tongue-in-cheek. As it is, he's apparently in the crew of "late 20th- and 21st-century historians from whom a more sympathetic picture of Bligh has emerged." I wasn't expecting that so it piqued my interest.
More from Chandler on Bligh:
"In long ago Australia, however, there had been three classes of colonist—the wealthy squatters, the small farmers and the laborers who, in the very early days, had been convicts. More than one governor had sided with the little men against the big landowners. Some of them had been socially ostracized by the self-made aristocracy. One of them, the immensely capable but occasionally tactless Bligh, had been deposed by his own garrison, the New South Wales Corps, the officers of which were already squatters or in the process of becoming such." - p 121
"He recalled having read somewhere that Bligh—the much and unjustly maligned Bligh—had been, by the standards of his time, an exceptionally humane captain. He had put his crews on three watches, four hours on and eight hours off." - p 172
""But that wouldn't be the same, Agatha. Look at what happened in New South Wales. Governor Bligh was deposed—and then what could he do? He got no support from his Lieutenant Governor in Tasmania. He returned to England and was, to all intents and purposes, swept under the mat. Oh, Major Johnston was, eventually, brought to trial but received little more than a rap over the knuckles—and that after leading an armed mutiny!["]" - p 181
HHmm.. That's quite a different story from the one presented in the films. Perhaps Chandler was an historian, he references Liberia next:
""Have you ever heard of Liberia?"
""No. Not the province. The planet. The colony."
""Oh. That Liberia. Founded by a bunch of freedom-loving anarchists during the days of the gaussjammers. I've heard about it but I've never been there."
""How would you like to go?"
""Doing what? Or as what?"
""As Governor."" - p 8
Already my fancy is tickled. I like the idea of Liberia:
"Liberia Listeni/laɪˈbɪəriə/, officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. Liberia means "Land of the Free" in Latin."
"The Republic of Liberia, beginning as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), declared its independence on July 26, 1847. The United States did not recognize Liberia's independence until during the American Civil War on February 5, 1862. Between January 7, 1822 and the American Civil War, more than 15,000 freed and free-born Black Americans from United States and 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans relocated to the settlement. The Black American settlers carried their culture with them to Liberia. The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after the United States. In January 3, 1848 Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy free-born Black American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected as Liberia's first president after the people proclaimed independence." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberia
Liberia having been a product of the repatriation of former slaves in the US seems like an excellent idea to me & Chandler's association of it w/ anarchists ups the ante(bellum). Making it even more rich for me is that one of my favorite poets, Melvin B. Tolson, was the African Liberia's Poet Laureate. Here's an excerpt from a review I wrote about Tolson's "Harlem Gallery" and Other Poems:
""Libretto for the Republic of Liberia
"Liberia has a fascinating history:
""The founding of Liberia in the early 1800s was motivated by the domestic politics of slavery and race in the United States as well as by U.S. foreign policy interests. In 1816, a group of white Americans founded the American Colonization Society (ACS) to deal with the problem of the growing number of free blacks in the United States by resettling them in Africa. The resulting state of Liberia would become the second (after Haiti) black republic in the world at that time.
""Prominent Americans such as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John Randolph were among the best known members of ACS. Former President Thomas Jefferson publicly supported the organization's goals, and President James Madison arranged public funding for the Society. The motives for joining the society were vast as a range of people from abolitionists to slaveholders counted themselves members. On the other hand, many abolitionists, both black and white, ultimately rejected the notion that it was impossible for the races to integrate and therefore did not support the idea of an African-American colony in Africa. Still, the ACS had powerful support and its colonization project gained momentum." - https://history.state.gov/milestones/...
No side-show barker's bioaccident" - Libretto for the Republic of Liberia - p 159
"- instead of the more commonly used 'freak'. Tolson seems to be pointing out that Liberia's unusual status as a republic originally populated by former slaves wasn't happenstance or haphazard - instead it served conscious purposes both for the freemen of African ancestry & for the somewhat more dubiously motivated power-mongers in the American ruling elites.
""Solomon in all his glory had no Oxford,
Alfred the Great no University of Sankoré:
Footloose professors, chimney sweeps of the skull,
From Europe and Asia; youths, souls in one skin,
Under white scholars like El-Akit, under
Black humanists like Bagayogo, Karibu wee!
""The Good Gray Bard in Timbuktu chanted:
"Europe is an empty python hiding in the grass!"
""Lia! Lia! The river Wagadu, the river Bagana,
Became dusty metaphors where white ants ate canoes,
And the locust Portuguese raped the maiden crops,
And the sirocco Spaniard razed the city-states,
And the leopard Saracen bolted his scimitar into
The jugular vein of Timbuktu. Dieu seul est grand!" - p 162, lines 79-92" - https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Back to Liberia, the planet, in Chandler's The Anarch Lords:
"Suffice it to say that the original colonists, the idealistic Anarchists, after a bad start during which their settlement almost perished, became devotees of the goddess Laura Norder . . ." (I'd better laugh, thought Grimes, to keep the old bastard in a good mood.) "Their numbers increased and eventually they were able to exercise control over their environment. There was a resurgence of Anarchism and armed revolt against the authorities. The president—he was more of a dictator, actually—appealed for help to the Federation. After the mess had been more or less cleaned up it was decided that the Liberians would be far happier if governed by an outsider, somebody whom everybody, right, left and center, could hate." - p 9
It's funny, I haven't personally been accused of being an 'idealist' in a long time. Have I become accepted as a 'realist' or has that old criticism of anyone who wants to change things in a way that they consider to be more fair & more liberating become obsolete itself? Whatever the case, reading mention of "idealistic Anarchists" has a familiar feel to it.
If there is such a thing as 'regular readers of my reviews', the next quoted passage will evoke what SF writer whose work I like?:
"["]The real ruler of the planet is not the governor, or the president, but the commanding officer of the peace-keeping force, Colonel Bardon, Terran Army. He's got the president eating out of his hand."
""And the governor?"
""The last governor—your predecessor?—met with an accident. It seems that he tried to put a stop to many of the abuses.["]" - p 10
[Sound of honking buzzer]: That's right, folks, our old favorite, Ron Goulart!
Australian references figure prominently: "Grimes watched Sister Sue lift off from Port Woomera." (p 12) My friend & collaborator etta cetera & I made a movie partially shot at the Woomera dump in 2000: "The Lab-Rats Explain Their Veggie-Oil Powered Van" ( https://youtu.be/X0RsOO9W0hs ). Woomera is a US military base in the outback. People drive on the right side of the road there instead of the normal left side of the road in the rest of AUS. This is apparently b/c the US military personnel are too stupid to be able to deal w/ deviating from their norm. Woomera is also where a refugee camp was. If you were there you wdn't be saying "he would fly to Alice Springs to spend a few days with his parents before leaving for Liberia." (p 13)
"Sons of Terra, strong and free came to its blaring conclusion. Thankfully Grimes relaxed, put his hat back on his head. Then there was a roll of drums, followed by more music—Liberia's sons, let us rejoice . . . He whipped off his hat, came to attention. That anthem was over at last and he took a step towards the edge of the platform—and again froze. This time it was Waltzing Matilda." - p 35
Check out Australia-based music scholar Warren Burt's take on "Waltzing Matilda" here: https://youtu.be/TiCYlcBm5nM?t=1h58m7s .
"Then there were more Australian artists. There was Nolan, with his weirdly compelling perpetuation of a myth, the giant in his fantastic armor astride a horse that could have been borrowed (or stolen!) from Don Quixote. A myth? But there had been a Ned Kelly, whose name and fame had survived while those of far worthier citizens were long forgotten. And if the cards had fallen only a little differently at Glenrowan what might have happened? The course of Australian history, of Terran history, even, could have changed." - p 42
Who these "far worthier citizens" were I'd like to know. Ned Kelly is of course a bushranger, an outlaw of similar anti-authoritarian spirit to the US's James Gang (the latter of whose Robin Hood history is disputed) insofar as the Kelly Gang fought against british discrimination against the Irish & robbed banks & killed police. Kelly is such a folk hero that even Australia's government website has a somewhat favorable entry about him:
"The bushranger Ned Kelly is one of Australia's greatest folk heroes. He has been memorialised by painters, writers, musicians and filmmakers alike. More books, songs and websites have been written about Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang than any other group of Australian historical figures.
"Bushranging was said to have ended with the shooting of the Kelly Gang in 1880 at Glenrowan, Victoria, made possible by the introduction of the Felons Apprehension Act 1865 (NSW) which allowed outlawed bushrangers to be shot, rather than arrested and sent to trial.
"Irish rebels and wild colonial boys
"Before the end of transportation in 1840, more than 50,000 Irish 'rebels' were exiled to Australia. Their mistrust of British authority came with them, along with their vehement independence as Catholics, specifically excluded from holding public office or government positions until after 1900. It has been argued that this independence of the Irish contributed to the showdown with Ned Kelly and the police at Glenrowan in 1880.
"Many of the transported convicts were also agitators, machine breakers, political activists and union organisers. These included the Scottish lawyer Thomas Muir, transported in 1794 for handing out copies of Tom Paine's The Rights of Man."
"The Australian film industry produced what was probably the world's first full-length feature film in 1906. The film was the Tait Brothers' production The Story of the Kelly Gang . It was a success in both Australian and British theatres, and it was also the beginning of a genre of bushranger stories."
"While the Australian public took a liking to bushranger stories, the New South Wales police department did not. The production of films about bushrangers was banned in 1912. The Kelly story, however, outlasted the ban and has been re-filmed a number of times since.
"Other well known films about Ned Kelly include: Ned Kelly (1970) starring English rock singer Mick Jagger as Ned; the Trial of Ned Kelly (1977) starring John Waters and Gerard Kennedy; the 1980 mini-series The Last Outlaw starring John Jarratt, Steve Bisley and Sigrid Thornton; and the 2003 Gregor Jordan directed Ned Kelly which starred Heath Ledger."
I've read that some people didn't like the 1977 movie b/c a short Englishman, Mick Jagger, was cast as the large Irishman, Kelly. Chandler went on to write a novel featuring Kelly: "In his novel Kelly Country (1984) Chandler explored an alternate history, in which the bushranger Ned Kelly was not captured and hanged, but led a rebellion, ultimately becoming the president of an Australian republic which degenerated into a hereditary dictatorship." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._Bert... )
"The face was olive-skinned, hawklike. Native-born, he thought. The original colonists—those romantic Anarchists—had been largely of Latin-American stock.
""Could be?" he asked.
""That is the opinion of some of us, Your Excellency." And we've heard of you, of course. You're something of an Anarchist yourself . . ."
""I mean. . . . You're not the usual Survey Service stuffed shirt."" - p 30
That was a pleasant & human enuf exchange now wasn't it?
"Don't worry about Pedro and Miguel, sir. They're like me, members of the OAP, the Original Anarchist Party. We're allowed by our gracious President to blow off steam as long as we don't do anything. . . . " - p 31
& then, of course, there're the DRUGS that're used by the POSERS-THAT-BE to insure that people's destructive energies are turned inward:
"There are habit-forming drugs, like Dassan dreamsticks. . . ."
""They're illegal," said Grimes, "on all federated worlds."
"The pilot laughed harshly. "Of course they are. But that doesn't worry Bardon's Bullies."" - p 32
Having spent almost 2 decades of my life in inner city BalTimOre where as many as 10% of the population were reputed to be heroin addicts & where the attendant problems of misery were on abundant display this sort of thing as displayed in literature, either fiction or non-fiction, always grabs my attn. I'm reminded of another recent SF bk I read, Rachel Pollack's Golden Vanity ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ), in my review of wch I wrote:
""On either side of the narrow corridor the metal doors leaked solitary noises from the cubicles. Most of the Workers spent their planet hours dancing Ghost, a practice the Gardener detested. When he could he spent his time in woods or at least parks, even places like the blue moss caves on Hrrhrrhrrhrru, anywhere growing. On so many of the worlds, however, the companies had sliced every tree and scrub fern within a hundred dots of port, so where else could you go but the Refuge?" - p 91
"- "dancing Ghost" meaning getting high on a particular drug of that name. I can easily imagine the more feeble-minded in our current society "dancing Ghost" by being couch potatoes rather than daring to get their shoes muddy."
Whether it's "Dassan dreamsticks" or "dancing Ghost" it all hearkens back to heroin wch leads me to one of my all-time most recommended bks: The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia by Alfred W. McCoy. Most governments fund the manufacture & sales of illegal drugs to enable profiteering to support further illegal activities AND to help suppress large populations. McCoy backs this assertion in highly satisfactory detail.
The imagining of a planet populated by anarchists that's turned into an oppressive state full of hero-worship trappings is bound to amuse me:
See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 21, 2016
May 13, 2016
Ernest Fenollosa's The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry
as edited by Ezra Pound
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 3, 201 review of
Ernest Fenollosa's The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry
as edited by Ezra Pound
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 3, 2016
I have an ongoing fascination w/ language in multitudinous forms. I've made a braille piece (1980), 2 in American Sign Language (1986) ( http://youtu.be/l7H8DJ0CYJE ), etc.. The current manifestation of this interest is my 'opera': "Endangered Languages, Endangered Culture, Endangered Ideas". This led to my reading The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry - not b/c I consider Chinese to be endangered but b/c I want to work more w/ Chinese written language as a stimulus for Concrete & Visual Poetry to be animated w/in "Endangered"'s context.
The 2nd paragraph of the back cover blurb says this: "The old theory as to the nature of the Chinese written character (which Pound and Fenollosa followed) is that the written character is ideogrammic — a stylized picture of the thing or concept it represents. The opposing theory (which prevails today among scholars) is that the character may have had pictorial origins in prehistoric times but that they have been obscured in all but a very few simple cases, and that in any case native writers don't have the original pictorial meaning in mind as they write."
I wasn't in the least bit convinced by Fenollosa's assertions but I did find them wonderful stimulus for the animation ideas that prompted my reading this bk in the 1st place.
"Man sees horse.
"It is clear that three joints, or words, are only three phonetic symbols, which stand for the three terms of a natural process. But we could quite as easily denote these three stages of our thought by symbols equally arbitrary, which had no basis in sound; for example, by three Chinese characters:" - p 8
At this point 3 Chinese characters are shown the 1st identified as meaning "Man", the 2nd as "Sees", & the 3rd as "Horse". I use this example in a short movie that I made called "Fenollosa's Chinese" that I posted on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/164504907 . In my simple animation, I show each of the Chinese characters preceded by Fenollosa's claim for their pictorial origins. The initial representational image is then cross-faded into the Chinese written character. I tried to be respectful of Fenollosa's claim but, IMO, the representational images are too far away from the written character to be believable as the origin.
"If we knew what division of this mental horse-picture each of these signs stood for, we could communicate continuous thought to one another as easily by drawing them as by speaking words. We habitually employ the visible language of gesture in much the same manner." - p 8
"as easily as drawing them as by speaking words": drawing is not usually as easy as speaking insofar as it involves external implements not always handy - a pencil & paper, eg. Even if one were to imagine drawing thru gesture there wd be problems of facing another person directly & reversing perspective from one's own left-right to the viewer's left-right. Sound is more omni-directional & doesn't depend on fixed perceiver position for comprehensibility.
"But Chinese notation is something much more than arbitrary symbols. It is based upon a vivid shorthand picture of the operations of nature. In the algebraic figure and in the spoken word there is no natural connection between thing and sign : all depends upon sheer convention. But the Chinese method follows natural suggestion. First stand the man on his two legs."
Now, the actual Chinese symbol is like an inverted "y". This might be seen as a man in an unnaturally spread-legged position who has no arms & no head & whose torso is as thick as one of his legs but it cd more accurately be seen as many other things such as a wall that's falling over buttressed up by a board. In other words, Fenollosa's claim makes it seem like this symbol is obviously based on the depiction of a standing man when the actual visual connection is feeble, to say the least.
"Second, his eye moves through space : a bold figure represented by running legs under an eye, a modified picture of an eye, a modified picture of running legs, but unforgettable once you have seen it." - p 8
Again, check out my very short movie in order to understand this better. I created an image of an eye over running legs in silhouette in an attempt to replicate Fenollosa's description accurately & then cross-faded it into the Chinese symbol so that the viewer can make the comparison for themselves. What Fenollosa refers to an an "eye" might be simply described as a not completely parallelogram box w/ 4 horizontal lines & 2 vertical ones. It looks more like shelves than an eye to me. The running legs I can see a little better.
"Third stands the horse on his four legs." - p 8
Ok, if the horse is standing on his 4 legs it also has an unnaturally long tail that it might be standing on AND a rider. Fenollosa omits the rider altogether even tho that seems extremely obvious. Again, see my movie.
"The thought-picture is not only called up by these signs as well as by words, but far more vividly and concretely : they are alive. The group holds something of the quality of a continuous moving picture." - pp 8-9
While I completely disagree w/ Fenollosa's assertion of the obviousness of the pictorial connection to the written symbol I do find his claim that Chinese is all verbs to be very interesting. He seems to be saying that the pictorial observations that the characters are allegedly based on aren't just NOUNS but VERBS. As he says: "they are alive". What the author claims as a drawing of running legs in the ideogram for "sees" does indeed have a line that cd be seen as a leg bent at the knee. Proportionally, it wd be too distorted for the claim to be very strong but, still, it's an interesting point. In an interview w/ Joel Biroco, of KAOS magazine, that I conducted in 1988, he stressed the art of Chinese Calligraphy as revolving around energy flow.
"But examination shows that a large number of the primitive Chinese characters, even the so-called radicals, are shorthand pictures of actions or processes." - p 9
"A true noun, an isolated thing, does not exist in nature. Things are only the terminal points, or rather the meeting points, of actions, cross-sections cut through actions, snap-shots. Neither can a pure verb, an abstract motion, be possible in nature. The eye sees noun and verb as one : things in motion, motion in things, and so the Chinese conception tends to represent them." - p 10
This theory of his especially interests me b/c of my own analysis of my high school yrbk & the self-descriptions that people wrote for it (see: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/W1969.Y... ). When looking at the yrbk shortly after it came out in 1970 I noticed that there were very few verbs used. Even as a 16 yr old this struck me as indicative of a cultural byproduct, a result of a society that stressed a passive robopathic relationship to citizenship. I felt like the teaching I'd rc'vd had a subtext stressing that I be more of a noun, a chesspiece for 'authorities'. This was at a time when the Vietnam War was still in progress & all males turning 18 yrs old were required to register for the draft. Resistance ACTIVISM was threatened w/ long federal prison sentences. W/ that analysis in mind, I find Fenollosa's contention of the "things in motion, motion in things" of Chinese to be significant far beyond its value for poetry.
"Valid scientific thought consists in following as closely as may be the actual and entangled lines of forces as they pulse through things. Thought deals with no bloodless concepts but watches things move under its microscope.
"The sentence form was forced upon primitive men by nature itself. It was not we who made it; it was a reflection of the temporal order of causation. All truth has to be expressed in sentences because all truth is the transference of power. The type of sentence in nature is a flash of lightning. It passes between two terms, a cloud and the earth." - p 12
Oh, well. While we're on the subject of the sentence why not quote Ron Silliman's essay, "The New Sentence", from his bk The New Sentence?:
"What Stein means about paragraphs being emotional and sentences not is precisely the point made by Emile Beneviste: that linguistic units integrate only up to the level of the sentence, but higher orders of meaning—such as emotion—integrate at higher levels than the sentence and occur only in the presence of either many sentences or, at least Stein's example suggests this, in the presence of certain complex sentences in which dependent clauses integrate with independent ones. The sentence is the horizon, the border between these two fundamentally distinct types of integration." - p 87, The New Sentence
I realize that I haven't used the proximity of Fenollosa & Silliman to exactly generate lightning but, still, if "The sentence is the horizon, the border between these two fundamentally distinct types of integration" might we at least have some fun calling a cloud one type of integration & the earth another? Back to Fenollosa:
"' Is ' comes from the Aryan root as, to breathe. ' Be ' is from bhu, to grow.
"In Chinese the chief verb for ' is ' not only means actively ' to have ' but shows by its derivation that it expresses something even more concrete, namely ' to snatch from the moon with the hand. '"
Here, he shows the relevant Chinese character. In my "Fenollosa's Chinese" movie it's the 4th Chinese character shown.
"Here the baldest symbol of prosaic analysis is transformed by magic into a splendid flash of concrete poetry," - p 15
This bk, written by Fenollosa before his death in 1908, 1st published in 1920, & published in the minimally edited Pound edition in 1935, contains the 1st use of the expression "concrete poetry" that I've run across. Whether Fenollosa meant it in the sense of Concrete Poetry later elucidated is debatable. Take these quotes:
"Ideas to renew grammatical structures are bound to emerge if you make comparisons with foreign languages, with Chinese, for instance, with its classless words and meaning derived from word order"
"Having used the word concrete in these contexts, I have related it more to concrete music than to art concretism in its narrow meaning. In addition the concrete working poet is, of course, related to formalities and language-kneaders of all times, the Greeks, Rabelais, Gertrude Stein, Schwitters, Artaud and many others. And he considers as venerated portal figures not only the Owl in Winnie the Pooh but also Carrol's Humpty Dumpty who considers every question a riddle and dictates impenetrable meanings to the words." - "Manifesto for Concrete Poetry" (1952-55) by Öyvind Fahlström (Sweden), translated by Karen Loevgren & Mary Ellen Solt - http://www.ubu.com/papers/fahlstrom01...
"concrete poetry: a manifesto
"- concrete poetry begins by assuming a total responsibility before language: accepting the premise of the historical idiom as the indispensable nucleus of communiation, it refuses to absorb words as mere indifferent vehicles, without life, without personality without history - tabu-tombs in which convention insist on burying the idea.
"- the concrete poet does not turn away from words, he does not glance at them obliquely: he goes directly to their center, in order to live and vivify their facticity."
"- mallarmé (un coup de dés - 1897), joyce (finnegans wake), pound (cantos, ideogram), cummings, and on a secondary plane, apollinaire (calligrammes) and the experimental attempts of the futurists-dadaists are at the root of the new poetic procedure which tends to impose itself on a conventional organization whose formal unity is the verse (even free-).
"- the concrete poem or ideogram becomes a relational field of funcions." - "Concrete Poetry: A Manifesto" (1956) by Augusto de Campos (Brazil), translated by John Tolman - http://www2.uol.com.br/augustodecampo...
Whether one believes that Fenollosa deserves credit for using the expression "concrete poetry" in a way that's predictive of the later "Concrete Poetry" or not, it's worth noting that Pound, who was influenced by Fenollosa, is listed as one of the roots "of the new poetic procedure" by de Campos & that, furthermore, de Campos conflates "concrete poem" & "ideogram" together.
That said, I find Fenollosa's explanation of the pictorial content of the Chinese character for "is" to be quite dubious.. but lovely nonetheless.
"Nature herself has no grammar. Fancy picking up a man and telling him that he is a noun, a dead thing rather than a bundle of functions!" - p 16
"The Chinese have one word, ming or mei. Its ideograph is the sign of the sun together with the sign of the moon. It serves as verb, noun, adjective. Thus you write literally, ' the sun and moon of the cup ' for ' the cup's brightness. ' Placed as a verb, you write ' the cup sun-and-moons, ' actually ' cup sun-and-moon, ' or in a weakened thought, ' is like sun, ' i.e. shines. ' Sun-and-moon cup ' is naturally a bright cup. There is no possible confusion of the real meaning, though a stupid scholar may spend a week trying to decide what ' part of speech ' he should use in translating a very simple and direct thought from Chinese to English." - p 18
Again, I find this interesting but since the sun is a generator of light & the moon is a reflector of it & since candles or fireflies, eg, cd also be sources of light if one were to be more exacting a "'Sun-and-moon cup'" wd only be a cup somehow interacting either w/ direct sunlight or indirect sunlight reflected from the moon. As such, in my reading of it, it's not necessarily a "bright cup".
"I have mentioned the tyranny of mediaeval logic. According to this European logic thought is a kind of brickyard. It is baked into little hard units or concepts. These are piled in rows according to size and then labeled with words for future use. Their use consists in picking out a few bricks, each by its convenient label, and sticking them together into a sort of wall called a sentence by the use either of white mortar for the positive copula ' is, ' or of black mortar for the negative copula ' is not. ' In this way we produce such admirable propositions as ' A ring-tailed baboon is not a constitutional assembly.'" - pp 25-26
Fenollosa is, of course, making fun here but I find his concluding mockery to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the bk so far - not for its mockery but for its imagery.
"In diction and in grammatical form science is utterly opposed to logic. Primitive men who created language agree with science and not with logic. Logic has abused the language which they left to her mercy.
"Poetry agrees with science and not with logic.
"The moment we use the copula, the moment we express subjective inclusions, poetry evaporates." - p 28
"In English grammar, a copula is a verb that joins the subject of a sentence or clause to a subject complement. For example, the word is functions as a copula in the sentences "Jane is my friend" and "Jane is friendly." Adjective: copular. Also known as a copular verb or a linking verb. Contrast with lexical verb and dynamic verb." - http://grammar.about.com/od/c/g/copul...
For many decades now I've called myself an "As Been". One of the reasons for this is that I prefer using "as" instead of "is" as a way of making a non-definitive statement such as "I as a human being." That statement is meant to say that I'm presenting myself as a human being but not restricting myself to being permanently identified as such. It seems that Fenollosa is expressing a similar idea. I was influenced in this direction by something I read by William S. Burroughs.
I also call myself an "As Been" b/c I knew that having once been identified as a 'Somebody" someone was bound to eventually try to tear me down into a 'Nobody', a "Has Been". This, indeed, started happening as early as 1995 if not earlier. I think my self-designation as As Been is much more accurate insofar as there've been times when I've been a 'Somebody" & others when I've been a "Nobody", times when I've been perceived as 'hip' & others when I've been 'uncool'. None of these latter designations have much to do w/ who I actually am.
HOWEVER, I don't find any of that as relevant to 'the evaporation [or not] of poetry'. I cd write:
Jane is friendly,
(but from my POV Jack is a real moon-snatching ass).
& it wd still be poetry wdn't it?
"It is true that the pictorial clue of many Chinese ideographs can not now be traced, and even Chinese lexicographers admit that combinations frequently contribute only a phonetic value. But I find it incredible that any such minute subdivision of the idea could have ever existed alone as abstract sound without the concrete character." - p 30
"Poetry surpasses prose especially in that the poet selects for juxtaposition those words whose overtones blend into a delicate and lucid harmony." - p 32
Or, at least, so poets say - but how wd it sound if we were to create a variation such as 'Politician-speak surpasses activist-speak in that the politician selects for juxtaposition those words whose meanings are closest to what the public wants to believe.' It sounds a but sillier then, doesn't it?
"How shall we determine the metaphorical overtones of neighboring words? We can avoid flagrant breaches like mixed metaphor." - p 32
But I LIKE "mixed metaphor" as much as I like her cheeks being the roses of a hole-in-one.
On p 33, Fenollosa provides 3 more Chinese characters wch are the last 3 characters that I present in my movie mentioned above. These are sd to mean "Sun Rises (in the) East". The sign for "sun" is only one line away from being the sign for "eye" (if I understand correctly). That ties in to Malay name for the sun being "eye-in-the-sky" or "matahari" of "eye-of-the-day" or some such.
"The sun, the shining, on one side, on the other the sign of the east, which is the sun entangled in the branches of a tree. And in the middle sign, the verb ' rise, ' we have further homology ; the sun is above the horizon, but beyond that the single upright line is like the growing trunk-line of the tree sign. This is but a beginning, but it points a way to the method, and to the method of intelligent reading." - p 33
"Or turn to the Mi'kmaq language. A Harvard-trained law professor named Sake'j Youngblood Henderson — by origin, a member of the Chickasaw and Cheyenne people os Oklahoma — spent many years as constitutional advisor to the Mi'kmaq, an indigenous group found in Atlantic Canada and Maine. He came to know their language well. Its syntax, he once stated, futs a view of reality as existing in a perpetual state of oscillation, matter becoming energy becoming matter once again: "The use of verbs rather than nouny subjects and objects is important; it means that there are very few fixed and rigid objects in the Mi'kmaq worldview."" - p 51, Spoken Here - Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley
Hence, we come back to my 'opera': "Endangered Languages, Endangered Culture, Endangered Ideas": my hypothesis is that what's threatened are more fluid worldviews under attack by imperialism that attempts to turn the conquered peoples into objects dominated by the imposition of languages that defines them rather than flows w/ them. ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 16, 2016
May 04, 2016
Aug 01, 1993
Aug 01, 1993
Esther Friesner's Majyk By Accident
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 24, 2016
As I typically do, I alternate between reading a serious review of
Esther Friesner's Majyk By Accident
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 24, 2016
As I typically do, I alternate between reading a serious bk & at least one that's more for fun so that I can take a break from the labor-intensiveness that goes into the serious review writing. The serious bk read at the same time as this one was Marco Deseriis's Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ). I consider the serious reviews to be the important ones but I might very well enjoy things like this more. Make of that what you will.
I don't generally read fantasy, wch is what I reckon this is, given that I prefer science fiction's more prophetic &, yes, scientific nature. Still, this had a good sense of humor & sometimes that's all I ask for. It starts off w/ this:
""SO THERE YOU ARE, YOU WORTHLESS RATWHACKER!" Velma Chiefcook's heavy hand fell on my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. The great hall of Thengor's Academy of High Wizardry echoed with her harsh voice, the huge chandelier overhead swaying, the timid fire-sprites inside their separate glass cells flickering with fear. Even the tall brass-bound doors guarding the mighty Master Thengpr's apartments shuddered on their hinges." - p 1
I reckon this children-at-the-school-of-magic trope is a well-worn path but this was published in 1993 & that's 4 yrs before the extremely popular Harry Potter series so maybe Esther Friesner's sitting around wondering why SHE isn't rich instead of J. K. Rowling.
As those of you who've been around know, the word "magic" is usually used to mean stage magic & the word "magick" is usually used to mean ceremonial magick. Long ago, I proposed to abbreviate the latter to just "magik". (see my letter under the heeading "Sound Thinking" on p 14 of "Kaos" issue #10 (London, 1987 or 1988)). In this bk another variation appears:
""Majyk," Tolly breathed. He stared at the golden cloud above Master Thengor's bed, and his beady blue eyes began to shine with greed. "It's the stuff that puts the spunk in our spells, the energy in our enchantments, the charge in our charms, the can-do in our cantrips. Without it, we wizards are nothing. We could wag our wands until the unicorns come home, but if we didn't have a little Majyk, we wouldn't be able to turn snakes into snacks or cats into catsup!"" - p 11
2 of the main characters are a cat who's come thru into a student wizard's alternate universe & the student. Cat's are a mythical creature in the student's world. The cat speaks in 20th century American slang:
""I don't want to learn how to use it," I said. "I just want to get it all back together, get it off my back, and get on with my life."
""Okay, don't have a cow," the cat said. "So we get the rest of the Majyk together for you, if that's what floats your boat."
""I don't have a cow," I told him. "Or a boat."
""No? You look like the kinda guy who's always been a little dinghy["]" - p 52
Or maybe he's just 2 tents?
Orbix, the student wizard's world, is based on fairy tales:
"Silly question; everyone knows what happens to wolves. They're worse than lemmings, some ways. The poor dumb animals are always getting themselves killed falling down the chimneys of brick houses, into big pots full of boiling water. If not that, they sneak into old ladies' homes, dress up in the grannies' flannel nightgowns and crawl into the bed until someone finds them, panics, and calls a woodchopper to come in and take care of the beast. It's an awful mess. Bloodstain-resistant sheets, pillow-cases, and flannel nightgowns are the most popular Grandma's Day gifts on Orbix, followed by Wolf-B-Gon chimney filters." - p 61
In other words, between the fun Friesner has w/ slang & its possible misunderstandings & fairy tales & their translation into 'reality' there's plenty of fun to be had. All in all, Friesner's use of the interplay between Earth & Orbix is absolutely fructiferous!:
""You guys think the wizards on this world got power? Ha! They're small potatoes next to my old human. Now there was a wizard. A computer wizard. I remember one Columbus Day when he was just hacking around and he fixed it so one of those big electric news banners on Times Square kept on scrolling 'You mean it;s NOT flat?' —signed 'Ronald Reagan.'"" - p 92
Hacked electronic road signs DO exist regardless of whether the world is round or Frame of Reference shaped & there's plenty online about it. My friend Lizard & I even discussed doing it 30 yrs or so ago & never did so I tip my head to all those who've pulled it off:
"ROGUE PANDA ON RAMPAGE
"TRAPPED IN SIGN FACTORY
"FREE KITTENS IN LEFT LANE
"Entering bat country
"OMG THE BRITISH R COMING
"SORRY MARIO THE PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE
"THE CAKE IS A LIE
"COPS EVERY WHERE
"NAZI ZOMBIES! RUN ! ! !
"RIGHT LANE CLOSED EXPECT RAINBOWS
"FREE CANDY AHEAD 3/29 - 4/2
"THIS SIGN HAS BEEN HACKED
"I AM BECOME DEATH
"EAT MY SHORTS
"FLYING MONKEYS AHEAD
"KLAATU BARADA NIKTO
"YOU'LL NEVER GET TO WORK ON TIME HAHA! !
"NOBODY HAS EVER LOVED YOU
"HONK IF YOU ARE WEARING A THONG
"SMOOTH OPERATOR" - www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/blog/galle...
&, of course, there're even websites that tell you how to do it. As an advocate of Criminally Sane behavior (w/ a sense of humor) I just-can't-stop-myself-from-reproducing-this:
"How many times have you driven by an electronic road sign like one of these?
"This is the ADDCO portable sign. Today, you see what is on the inside, and how they are programmed to display important information.
"*** WARNING YOU SHOULD NEVER TAMPER WITH THESE SIGNS ***
"The access panel on the sign is generally protected by a small lock, but often are left unprotected. Upon opening the access panel you can see the display electronics.
"The black control pad is attached by a curly cord, with a keyboard on the face.
"Programming is as simple as scrolling down the menu selection to "Instant Text". Type whatever you want to display, Hit Enter to submit. You can now either throw it up on the sign by selecting "Run w/out save" or you can add more pages to it by selecting "Add page"
"** HACKER TIPS ** Should it will ask you for a password. Try "DOTS", the default password.
"In all likelihood, the crew will not have changed it. However if they did, never fear. Hold "Control" and "Shift" and while holding, enter "DIPY". This will reset the sign and reset the password to "DOTS" in the process. You're in!" - http://jalopnik.com/5141430/how-to-ha...
&, yeah, strictly speaking, I wdn't want anyone to commit such an act thoughtlessly in a way that might endanger public safety but if the sign's not currently in use to provide needed traffic info I certainly wd get a laugh if I saw a road sign that sd something like "GOD MADE ME NOT DO IT" or whatever.
& &, of course of course, there're probably multiple Flat Earth Societies. Here's a link to an example: www.theflatearthsociety.org/cms/ . Personally, I think the Earth's hollow but it's been turned inside out & the former outside is now filled w/ well-'nigh impenetrable garbage.. Or maybe that's the future.
""The only problem with the holes was whenever a wind blew over them—even a breeze—you heard music. It wasn't great music, but the way it wandered up and down the Ichthyonic Scale was kind of hypnotic. Entire civilizations fell under the music's spell. Healthy men and women would just sit around in white rooms staring at shiny crystals and telling everybody how they were really Master Pasmoddle the Great from the Age of Large Pointy Animals so they didn't need to go out and get a job."
"Scandal scowled at Grym. "And I bet your tribe decided they were the giant horned hamsters, huh?" The barbarian tried to look Who, me?
"I picked up the cube. "This is what Orbix looked like in the Age of Teen Death Ballads, the one that came just before the age we're in now. It didn't last too long—we never know when the next shape shift's going to come—but we got a lot of good music out of it."" - p 95
Scandal, the cat, is having none of it. Perhaps an honorary membership in the I.S.C.D.S. (International Stop Continental Drift Society) is in order?:
""I changed my mind," Scandal replied, keeping his eyes on the path. "I'm happier not knowing. I'm saner not knowing. I'm telling myself it was the Plate Tectonics Fairy who did it."
""Yeah, she got together with Tinkerbell and Glinda for a wild party one Saturday night, downed a few too many tequila-and-pixie-dust shooters, then went home and zapped Orbix so every few aeons it gets the geological hiccups."
""Gee, that's amazing!" I was really impressed. "Except for the names, you got it right!"" - p 96
"She tossed a pinch of blue dust over the churning gunk in the pot, then spit into it. Immediately a gigantic bubble formed itself on the surface, then broke free and bobbed across the room.
"A perfect double of Scandal floated inside." - p 141
Scandal's spitting image, so to speak. Yeah, yeah, you got it without my having to spell it out for ya. Friesner does, however, spell it out for ya w/ this interesting distinction:
""I am a witch, not a wizard. Wizardry's the art of making something out of nothing; witchery's the art of making do with what you've got. I can make a pine cone sprout into a lovely set of pinewood furniture. I can capture the image of a cat in the reflective surface of a soap bubble, I can make a rock into a rocking chair, but I can not make a mop out of thin air."" - p 142
& then, of course, there's always reading entrails. Is that what surgeons do?
""Entrails?" My stomach lurched. All good wizards are taught how to read entrails: You take a poor innocent animal, give it a tidbit, pat it on the head, then split it open, spread its insides out on a board and read the future in the twists, curves, colors, and markings of your victim's guts. Given a choice, I'd rather just wait for the future to get here. I always cut Introductory Entrails." - p 151
Kendar, the student wizard, has a family.. Ah.. families..
""Where can I find Dad, Mom?" I asked.
""Hmmm. It's not meal time. Killing something."" - p 178
""Your brother Basehart killed his first deer when he was six years old." Dad's moustache bristled with pride. "Just a fawn, it was, but he strangled it with his bare hands and I said to all my friends, 'Now there's a child of destiny!'"" - p 179
A parody of romance novels fits right in:
""But just as you are about to drown, her faithless but adored name on your lips, she dives in and rescues you, almost dying herself in the attempt. You take her into your arms and gaze into her eyes. The fires of unbridled love—long smoldering beneath the thin surface of a polite marriage of convenience—surface suddenly, in an overwhelming surge of torrid tenderness that takes you by surprise and sweeps you both away on the crest of wave after thundering wave of—!" She stopped cold.
""Go on, go on!" Mysti begged.
"Lucy shook her head. "No, no, that won't work. It's got to be the man who rescues the woman."
""Why?" Mysti was peeved.
""Because it's always the man who rescues the woman." Milkum put in. "And if that's what the public's been buying up until now, we mustn't upset them, must we?"" - p 202
After all, romance novels are fantasies read mostly by women into wch they must inject themselves if they're to work & such passive consumers aren't likely to be able to identify w/ active heros now are they?
Friesner builds her world of Otbix bit by bit, character by character, eventually reaching the capitol of Kendar's territory:
""Grashgoboum was founded shortly after the War of the Two Cousins Once Removed and Their Aunt Pooki," I said. "The last king in the direct line died accidentally during a friendly game of knoblop when his chicken escaped the scoop-net and flew up into his horse's face, causing the beast to stumble, step into one of the goal-buckets, and throw his rider. Because it was third hork of an exhibition game, he had just taken off his helmet so he could balance the mince pie on his head for extra points. Unfortunately, mince pies don't help much when you hit a stone wall headfirst. It was very tragic. That game was being held in honor of the king's engagement to Princess Sluice of Wend."" - p 218
Friesner 'breaks the rules' of some fantasy writing by not sticking to an immutable world. She lets her imagination loose & lets contemporary Earth intermingle w/ Orbix in a way that milks the joke value of both:
"["]Why I ought to—!" With that weird strength you sometimes get in hopeless situations, I raised Graverobber over my head and swung the sword wildly around and around.
"And around and around it continued to go. The blade glowed with Majyk's golden light and gave off an unearthly chud-chud-chud-chud noise. The carpet slowed its fall, then stopped and hovered peacefully in midair beneath the whirling blade." - p 221
""Tchah!" The king waved off her objections. "I'll see about that." He immediately summoned a messenger. "I shall send him on ahead to Uxwudge Manor with a letter marked with the king's own seal. This says Lord Lucius Parkland Gangle is not to begin the witch's trial until I get there," King Steffan said, showing us the document. Then he passed it to the keeper of the king's own seal who in turn held it so that the king's own seal could mark it with his needle-sharp teeth.
""Good boy," said the keeper, tossing the beast a fish.
""Ark, ark!" the king's own seal replied, clapping its flippers together before it waddled out.
"(Anyone can carve a seal out of soft stone and use it to stamp hot wax with the king's device, making a paper legal. But no one can forge the unique pattern one special animal's teeth make, which is why the monarchs of Grashgoboum will always live in palaces that smell like herring.)" - p 231
Friesner even uses neologisms:
"Imaginesia," Mother Toadbreath wispered.
""Don't you mean amnesia, toots?" Scandal asked.
""I said imaginesia. What's wrong with the king. First you forget everything you ever knew, then you remember things you didn't ever know. I read about it a time or two in my books, but I never thought to see an actual case. My this has been an educational day!" She looked pleased." - p 252
Great word! Imaginesia must be what propaganda aims for.
"Zoltan wiggled his fingers and said, "Verticillium japonica" to undue his summoning of a demon. Since I recognized that as a Latin name for something Japanese I looked it up & found that Verticillium Wilt is a disease of Tilia japonica, Japanese Linden. That might not mean much to you but it's the 2nd time that Lindens have popped up in my life in the recent past under unusual circumstances.
Anyway, yeah, another writer I like, read her works, they're not as 'important' to me as Marco Deseriis's Improper Names but this was enough fun to keep me distracted & amused. If there were a range of 1 to 10 stars on GoodReads I might even give it a 7 but instead it gets a 3. ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 12, 2016
Apr 26, 2016
Oct 01, 2015
Oct 01, 2015
it was amazing
Marco Deseriis's Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 2-12, 2016
"Emb Review of
Marco Deseriis's Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 2-12, 2016
"Embrace your Inner Impropriety" by reading the full review: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
THIS IS A MUST READ. Not a mussed read. It's very neat & tidy - wch doesn't mean that it oversimplifies. It's thorough, meticulous, well-researched, well-argued. This bk is about a subject near & dear to me, something that I've been deeply involved w/, I definitely read it w/ a higher degree of critical-mindedness than most people wd.. &, in the end, I'm impressed!
After the title page & before the table of contents there are 2 quotes. The 1st of these is this:
"To give a name is always, like any birth (certificate), to sublimate a singularity and to inform against it, to hand it over to the police. All the police force in the world can be routed by a surname, but even before they know it, a secret computer, at the moment of baptism, will have kept them up to date. —JACQUES DERRIDA" - p vii
Derrida was a French philosopher born in Algeria, in Northern Africa. I have a vague memory from more than 40 yrs ago of reading that some Africans ("Africans" being probably an excessively sweeping generalization) have the names that people know them by & secret names that shd be known only to them in order to avoid having malicious magic applied against them. Consider the following:
"9. Secret names.—A second inevitable consequence of a similar intrinsic power of the name is the development of the idea of withdrawing the name from the eventually dangerous use that might be made of it, by keeping secret the real names of persons."
"This explains the custom of having for the individual an ordinary name, for daily use, and a real name, which he alone knows (or which even has sometimes been given to him at birth by his parents unknown to him). Sometimes this name is given during the first years of life; sometimes it is revealed secretly to the individual, on a fixed occasion, by his parents, the fetish-man, or the priest, or by a priestly college (e.g., on the occasion of entrance upon the duties of diviner, sorcerer, priest, chief, king, etc.). The most frequent case is that of the secret name whispered by the mother in her child's ear on the day of his birth". [..] "He who possesses this secret name will never reveal it to anybody, and in all circumstances his ordinary name will be used".
- Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics: Mundas-Phyrgians - edited by James Hastings, John Alexander Selbie, Louis Herbert Gray - p 133
To 'Westerners' (another sweeping generalization) this may seem to be a superstition but I tend to relate the idea to Derrida's police state warning above: the more easily a person is identifiable, the more easily they are controlled.
[Coincidentally, while I'm writing this review I'm reading Esther Friesner's fantasy novel Majyk by Accident in wch this is written: "["]'Tis said that he who standeth in possession of a Welfie's true name may call himself the creature's master."" (p 106)]
The introduction, "GENEALOGY AND THEORY OF THE IMPROPER NAME", starts off w/ a wonderful story:
"In May-June 1995, a local community radio station in Rome aired a curious live broadcast experiment. Every Saturday night for five consecutive weeks, all participants in the program vowed to go by the same name and be the same person. By introducing themselves as Luther Blissett, anchors, correspondents and listeners embraced the confusion that ensured: "Hold on, we have a Luther calling in from the Colosseum. Hi Luther, how am I doing tonight?" asked the anchorwoman. "Pretty good, and myself?" replied a male listener. "Not bad, not bad," replied the anchor. "Listen, a group of Luthers are converging on the Colosseum right now to organize a three-sided football match. Do you wanna help them out?"" - p 1
That single paragraph is rich w/ sympathetic vibes for me. I'm reminded of Radio Alice wch, according to Collective A / Traverso's "Radio Alice—Free Radio" article in semiotext(e) intervention series 1 - ITALY: AUTONOMIA - POST-POLITICAL POLITICS (1980):
"When the accusation of obscenity was flung at us, we were a little disconcerted. We had thought about many possible accusations: pirate station, underminers, communists, subversives, but we did not anticipate this one. But that's natural and proper. Language, when it is freed from the sublimations which reduce it to the code and makes desire and the body speak, is obscene (literally: obscene)." - p 130
"Another direct phone call:
""We are workers on strike, we want you to play some music and we want to talk to you about the 35 hour week, it's time they talked about that in contracts."" - p 132
As I recall, Radio Alice wd keep in touch w/ demonstrations by having people call in to report on police movements wch Radio Alice wd then announce over the air. The idea being to help protesters avoid arrests. This was the battle in the larger colosseum. This was before cell-phones, this was proto-Twitter. W/ this in mind, it's odd that Deseriis wd credit Blissett as follows for doing something similar 2 decades later w/o mentioning Radio Alice as a precursor:
"Luther Blissett updated this occultist version of the dérive" [as manifested by the London Psychogeographical Association] "by adding a new layer: the real-time sharing of information among psychogeographers through the combined use of broadcast radio and the telephone system. Instead of mapping the psychological effects of the spatial organization of the city, the psychogeographers of Radio Blissett explored the temporary social relations that could be activated by remapping the urban layout with the radio and the telephone in that nonplace of the present we call "real-time communication."" - p 139
As for the collective acting-out of the group identity?:
Listen to track 08. “Monty Cantsin Psychoanalytic Encounter Group w/ Charles Boyd (MD)” (1985) in the “Neoism: Smile: The Eggs in the Gauntlet-Ulteriorism...........” digitized tape on the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/NeoismSmi... .
There are many ways of fucking w/ language to produce vitally liberated offspring. At the Public Works festival in Toronto in early October of 1981 four people from BalTimOre, Ricki Kilreagan, Sin-Dee Heidel, Eugenie Vincent, & myself (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE), introduced ourselves w/ different names everytime anyone asked what our names were. The Great Confusion! This was Neoism. Or was it?
In Berlin, on Friday, July 25th, 1997, Florian Cramer, Berit Schuck, etta cetera, & myself (Party Teen on Couch #2), conducted a language experiment in wch we each spoke in English using words to mean what they aren't usually meant to mean & w/o explaining our personal systems for doing so. (See the "Language Experiment" entry here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut... ) The result? I felt like I was on the verge of levitating. This was Neoism. Or was it?
"In San Francisco to present 2 screenings, one of these was to have a performance of my "Guitarist Anonymous Withdrawal Aids" as part of it. It'd been arranged for me to promote that show on an arts program on KALX. Instead of doing a straight-forward promotion, which didn't interest me, I asked the 2 hosts to play along with my pretending to run a Guitarists Anonymous Therapy Session (or some such). During this, the idea was, I would continually refer to them not by their actual names & I'd act like I was humoring them if they referred to my upcoming screening. To make matters more confusing, I was in a separate studio from where they were - so we couldn't see each other. As I recall, this is only a brief excerpt from the actual event - probably chosen because it had the least distortion. The result was probably one of the most bizarre event promotions the station had ever experienced - although I thought it was appropriately in the spirit of the performance to take place.
"- December 5, 2012E.V. notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" - https://archive.org/details/Radio2003
This was the Great Confusion on the radio. But it wasn't Neoism.
As for "three-sided football"? The Neoist Facebook Group was recently informed (February 20, 2016) by Tae Ateh that there was to be the "First Quantum Flux Footballum Equinox Fest (FQFFEF) - London, in March" (
http://divus.cc/london/en/content-pag... ). 3-sided football has evolved.
All that in response to one paragraph. This bk means alot to me.
"Luther Blissett was a "multiple-use name." That is, anyone could become Luther Blissett simply by adopting the name. Launched in Bologna in 1994, the open reputation quickly spread to other Italian cities, and thanks to the internet, it did not take long to go international. By the late 1990s, the multiple-use name had been borrowed by hundreds of individuals around the world to author media pranks, sell apocryphal manuscripts to publishers, fabricate artists and artworks, denounce media witch hunts, author best-selling novels, and conduct psychogeographic experiments, or simply as an Internet handle. Even though the wild circulation of the pseudonym made it difficult to define its exact role and function, in the intention of its creators, Blissett was meant to be a folk hero of the information age that could narrate a vast community of cultural producers into existence. In particular, the founders of the Luther Blissett Project saw the condividual as a modern Robin Hood who could seize the symbolic and material wealth accumulated by the culture industries and redistribute it to its increasingly underpaid and precarious producers." - p 2
"To further explore the ambivalent nature of this obfuscation, I shall briefly unearth the etymological meaning of the term condividual. A derivative of the Italian condivisione (sharing as "dividing together"), the condividual does not necessarily presuppose a community but only a concatenation of parts." - p 4
When I 1st heard of Luther Blissett in 1994, no doubt from my correspondent Florian Cramer, I had already participated in the collective identities of David A. Bannister, Monty Cantsin, & Karen Eliot. As such, I rc'vd word of yet-another such name w/ some trepidation b/c it seemed to me that there cd be 'too many' collective pseudonyms & that they cd proliferate so much that they'd become individualized names instead of, to use the term that Deseriis uses, condividualized. The 'problem', as I perceived it, is similar to what Umberto Eco addressed re Volapük in his bk The Search for the Perfect Language:
"Volapük was perhaps the first auxiliary language to become a matter of international concern. It was invented in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer, a German Catholic priest who envisioned it as an instrument to foster unity and brotherhood among peoples. As soon as it was made public, the language spread, expanding throughout south Germany and France, where it was promoted by Auguste Kerckhoffs. From here it extended rapidly throughout the whole world. By 1889 there were 283 Volapükist clubs, in Europe, America and Australia, which organized courses, gave diplomas and published journals. Such was the momentum that Schleyer soon began to lose control over his own project, so that, ironically, at the very moment in which he was being celebrated as the father of Volapük, he saw his language subjected to 'heretical' modifications which further simplified, restructured and rearranged it. Such seems to be the fate of artificial languages: the 'word' remains pure only if it does not spread; if it spreads, it becomes the property of the community of its proselytes, and (since the best is the enemy of the good) the result is 'Babelization'. So it happened to Volapük: after a few short years of mushroom growth, the movement collapsed, continuing in an almost underground existence. From its seeds, however, a plethora of new projects were born, like the Idiom Neutral, the Langu Universelle of Menet (1886), De Max's Bopal (1887), the Spelin of Bauer (1886), Fieweger's Dil (1887), Dormoy's Balta (1893), and the Valtparl of von Arnim (1896)." - pp 319-320, The Search for the Perfect Language (Ricerca della lingua perfetta nella cultura europea translated from Italian to English by James Fentress)
In other words, wd "Babelization" result from the addition of yet-another-collective-identity-name?! If so, & if that's the 'natural' product of such lingual ambitions, why not embrace yr inner Babelization rather than reject it?! Such was my proposal of "Daffy Diplomacy" to the "A Neoist Research Project: experiments & outcomes" at WORM, Rotterdam, Netherlands on December 3, 2010. There're 2 movies from this participation online on my onesownthoughts YouTube channel: a LISTED one that one cd find w/ a search in wch the movie's backward ( https://youtu.be/Nl6VVzCzaMY ), & an UNLISTED one in wch it's forward ( https://youtu.be/ywB0rs0D4L0 ). The notes to the LISTED backward version say this:
"[definite article missing in Ojibway, not usually translated in Chinese, not expressed unless emphasis is required when "itu" 'that' is used in Malay] perchobaan tchi chwàngdzàu an gwójì inwewin ada an pada-berlaku dwoshù temenong gigi khayalan nibwakawin. - December 6, 2010 notes from Monty Cantsin
"Tags: international communication, khayalan, neoism, misunderstanding, WORM"
The notes to the UNLISTED forward version say this:
"I was invited to participate in a neoist "experiments & outcomes" event at WORM in the Netherlands by providing A Neoist Research Project & by doing something via international phone call on the nite of the event: Friday, December 3, 2010. I provided about 7 hrs of vaudeos to be presented & filled out a Neoist Research Project form that was sent me proposing "Daffy Diplomacy" - a project emphasizing MISCOMMUNICATION as an international language. On the nite of the event, I rc'vd a phone call from WORM to the projection booth where I was working. I put the phone on speaker mode so that I cd move around the rm a little & so that ambient sound cd be heard. I had 2 sound f/x CDs playing that I cd control the volumes of. One was being shuffled & the other played the tracks straight thru. This produced an unpredictable mix. Since I was following a presentation by someone in the dark claiming to be the editor of the Neoist Research Project bk, I, too, had my voice presented in the dark & I began w/ MY claim to be the editor of the bk. What followed mainly consisted of me reading from my proposal & slightly manipulating the f/x. At the end of my reading, one CD was playing a race car sound while the other played the sound of a helicopter taking off. I faded out the car & pushed the 'copter to max volume & then hung up the phone. I later learned that a performance that involved playing a pyrophone (a fire pipe organ to be precise) w/ hash in its pipes had been not too long before my part & that everyone was very stoned."
Now, obviously, I'm trying to communicate here but I'm also accepting that miscommunication is likely to result & might even be humorous (or fatal). I'd addressed this in an earlier piece called "Lost in Translation" (1997) (read the edited text here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/W1997.L... ). The idea behind accepting the difficulties of communication (both technical & philosophical) & even exaggerating them creatively is partially to enhance one's ability to navigate thru communication obstacle courses. It's probably more practical to just learn as many languages as one is capable of but some of us take a different route that's more natural to us.
"The paradox is that the more this circulation increases, the more the name's indexical function—its ability to circumscribe a discrete referent—is undermined." - "CONCLUSION", Improper Names, p 221
Those concerns aside, I embraced Luther Blissett as the newest member of the collective identity family & was probably using it as my "Internet handle" for my 1st email address in 1996. I was even fortunate enuf to have a recording of my "Whoop-Up @ the Funny Farm" included in the "Luther Blissett Open Pop Star" CD compilation (WOT4) in 2000.
"Although these aliases retain the formal features of a proper name, their multiple and unpredictable iterations in the public sphere put into crisis the referential function of the proper name." - pp 4-5
& what if "the formal features of a proper name" aren't retained? What wd that put "into crisis"? _____?
"The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has defined symbolic power as the magic power to act on the social world through words. Drawing from J. L. Austin's reflections on the conditions of felicity of an utterance, Bourdieu argues that "the real source of the magic of performative utterances lies in the mystery of ministry, i.e. in the delegation of virtue by which an individual—king, priest or spokesperson—is mandated to speak on behalf of the group, this constituted in him and by him."" - p 5
Consider the following from an interview I conducted w/ Florian Cramer:
"FC: [..] if Bill Clinton, today, says, uh, "Drop the atom bomb over Moscow" then the atom bomb would actually be dropped because he has the power & the possibility to do so. & just by saying this & by, maybe, having a few codes, or whatever, this would be made to happen today. So you could say that modern linguistics in defining language as arbitrary is actually missing some aspects. It can not answer the question of how language is actually capable of directly invoking things or making things happen. & this is, for example, a matter which has been discussed by speech act theory - that's exactly the question of speech act theory, how you..
"2: Speech act?
"FC: Speech act theory, yes, by, notably by Austin & um..
"2: Austin's spelled A,u,s,t,i,n?
"FC: Exactly, yeah. He was an Oxford linguist, I think in the 1930s."
- Interview with Florian Cramer, Berlin, approximately July 21st, 1997ev, conducted by Party Teen on Couch #2 - abbreviated: "2" [aka tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE] - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Intervi...
"As noted, the first distinctive feature of improper names is to provide anonymity and a medium for mutual recognition to their users. By failing to designate an identifiable referent, improper names make it difficult for authorities to track down specific individuals while enabling participation in social and political activities on an informal basis." - p 8
I can think of possible exceptions to this but I won't mention them here, eh?!
"It is no accident that many improper names emerge in rural societies where forms of organized resistance are unconstituted and illegal. For instance, the historian John Maddicott has suggested that the legend of Robin Hood may originate from the attribution of the same alias to notorious English thieves in the early fourteenth century."
"In other circumstances, peasants and farmers were not named after an eponymous leader but deliberately chose to share a personal name to conspire against the authorities. Such is the case of Poor Konrad, the collective pseudonym adopted by the Swabian peasants of southern Germany during the rebellion against taxes in 1514; Captain Swing, a pseudonym employed by impoverished English farmworkers in the riots that swept the southeast of England and led to the destruction of thousands of mechanized threshing machines in 1830; and Rebecca, the name shared by the tenant farmers of southwest Wales to attack toll gates between 1839 and 1843 as a form of resistance against rents, tithes, and the enclosure of common lands." - p 8
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Notes are private!
Apr 02, 2016
Apr 12, 2016