it was ok
William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (in 2 volumes)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 10, 2018
This is just the beginning of my review. Y review of
William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land (in 2 volumes)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 10, 2018
This is just the beginning of my review. You will be forever consumed by Monsters in The Night Land if you don't read the full thing here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This was possibly the 2nd most tedious bk I've ever read. The 1ST most tedious one is Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans, a bk I find inexcusably horrible (see my review here: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/4... ). I don't think anyone will ever top that Stein bk in the tedium dept. One of the things that saves The Night Land from the #1 spot is that it is written w/ imagination, there are interesting things about it for me. I'll get to those as I ramble along.
Lin Carter introduces the bk by saying: "For much of his forty-three years of life, William Hope Hodgson had sailed the seas. From the texture of his experiences he wrought stories of the sea and its mysteries which are without parallel in all of our literature. Not Joseph Conrad—not even Herman Melville—has captured with such depth and insight the strangeness and beauty and haunting terror of the mighty oceans." (pp vii-viii) That's high praise. I STILL haven't read Conrad yet & the only Melville story I've read isn't a sea story so I have no personal experience w/ wch to challenge Carter's claim. I've read Hodgson's The House on the Borderland, wch isn't a sea story (you can read my review of that here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ), & I don't have such high praise for it or for The Night Land — I'm curious to read Hodgson's sailor writing.
It's interesting to see what publishers do to make their product more saleable:
"It is a very long novel. It must be close to two hundred thousand words in length; far too long to appear in one volume at our standard price. So we are dividing it in half and bring it to you in two volumes, as we did a year earlier with William Morris's The Well at the World's End." - p viii
Calling it "two hundred thousand words in length" sure does make it seem BIG doesn't it? But that's about 500pp in a small paperback size, not really so big in contrast to many famous novels. It seems like there's at least a little psychology at play: the hero braves the dangers of The Night Land in the 1st pt in search of his soulmate. The 1st pt ends w/o his finding her but the reader knows he's close. After all the tedium of the 1st bk, who's going to be able to withstand the 'need' to move on to the 2nd one & finally get the 'reward'?
Carter informs the reader that "The Arkham House volume appeared in a limited printing of only three thousand copies, destined for collectors. But this printing of The Night Land is in the neighborhood of a hundred thousand copies". - p x
First of all, 3,000 copies is 7 times bigger than the largest edition of any of my bks. 2ndly, "a hundred thousand copies" is mind-boggling for this. I mean, I'm glad they did it but when it comes down to it I don't really think it's that good. It does, sortof, fit into a genre & can be sold as such & it has some strong points but.. "a hundred thousand copies"?! Wow, that really seems like a gamble. Carter further informs the reader that:
"C. S. Lewis, another admirer of this remarkable novel, noted that it bore certain flaws—the maudlin love-dialogue scenes, for example. These scenes only occur in the second half of this very long novel, but they are Victorian sentimentality at its nadir of taste and, in the opinion of many readers (myself among them), they severely injure the cumulative power and movement of the story. My publishers have judiciously trimmed these scenes of their most excruciating emotional excesses. I have closely compared the edited version of these few scenes with the original version, and in my honest opinion Hodgson is improved by a little pruning. Only the most rabid literary purist is likely to object to our tampering with the author's text." - p xii
Ok, I object & I'm NOT "rabid". Still, that objection aside, given that The Night Land is a post-apocalyptic romance novel & that it's already so heavy-handed that it's hard to imagine it getting any worse, it IS hard to imagine it getting any worse & that makes me curious about the deleted parts. The language, wch is faux archaic, is supposedly "Victorian" (or pseudo-Victorian) but, hey!, I read Victorian porn & it ain't nuthin' like this! Nonetheless, even tho the language is almost insufferably contrived for an effect that I don't think quite comes off, I think its persistence is one of the things that makes The Night Land interesting:
"Yet, until that time, I had never met her; for I had been oft and long abroad; and so much given to my Studies and my Exercises when at home, that I had no further knowledge of her than Rumour gave to me odd time; and for the rest, I was well content; for as I have given hint, my books held me, and likewise my Exercises; for I was always an athlete, and never met the man so quick or so strong as I did be; save in some fiction of a tale or in the mouth of a boaster." - p 4
&, yes, this is very romantic, the pre-apocalyptic soulmates share a 'dreamworld':
"And one evening, that I ever remember, as we wandered in the park-lands, she began to say—half unthinking—that it was truly an elves-night. And she stopped herself immediately; as though she thought I should have no understanding; but, indeed, I was upon mine own familiar ground of inward delight; and I replied in a quiet and usual voice, that the Towers of Sleep would grow that night, and I felt in my bones that it was a night to find the Giant's Tomb, or the Tree with the Great Painted Head, or— And surely I stopped very sudden; for she gripped me in that moment" - p 7
This couple seem to live both in the preapocalyptic present (past) & in the postapocalyptic present (future). The male is doing the telling & he's explaining this curious state of being to those in the preapocalyptic times by describing the postapocalyptic ones:
"And so back to my telling. To my right, which was to the North, there stood, very far away, the House of Silence, upon a low hill. And in that House were many lights and no sounds. And so it had been through an uncountable Eternity of Years. Always those steady lights, and no whisper of sound—not even such as our distance-microphones could have discovered. And the danger of this House was accounted the greatest danger of all those Lands." - p 28
Touches like the "House of Silence" interest me & characterize what's best about the bk for me. The extravagant time scale is interesting too & similar to that of The House on the Borderland:
"And so to tell more about the South Watcher. A million years gone, as I have told, it came out from the blackness of the South, and grew steadily nearer through twenty thousand years; but so slow that in no one year could a man perceive that it had moved.
"Yet it had movement, and had come thus far upon its road to the Redoubt, when the Glowing Dome rose out of the ground before it—growing slowly. And this had stayed the way of the Monster; so that through an eternity it had looked towards the Pyramid across the pale glare of the Dome, and seeming to have no power to advance nearer." - p 31
Much of the bk is fanciful & its author seems only minimally concerned w/ any sort of scientific believability. The likelihood of there even being a record of the "South Watcher"'s mvmt for 20,000 yrs seems small — let alone a million yrs. Another example being that in the Night Land there's no light from extraterrestrial sources b/c the sun has died — uh, but what about stars?! Then there's the little problem of how anyone on the surface can endure the low temperatures:
"And, presently, was I clad with the grey armour; and below the armour a close-knit suit of special shaping and texture, to have the shape of the armour, and that I mgiht not die by the cold of the Night Land." - p 99
That's all well & good but there're plenty of naked or near naked humans running around & even the main character takes off his armour to bathe. FREQUENTLY. The author has no qualms about repeating such scenes. OVER & OVER. &, frankly (or frankfurterly), the common volcanoes really aren't enuf to account for a survivable surface temperature. But, HEY!, everything doesn't have to be scientifically believable.
"And when the humans had built the great Pyramid, it had one thousand three hundred and twenty floors; and the thickness of each floor was according to the strength of its need. And the whole height of this pyramid exceeded seven miles, by near a mile, and above it was a tower from which the Watchmen looked (these being called the Monstruwacans)." - pp 32-33
"Now, oft had I heard tell, not only in that great city which occupied the thousandth floor, but in others of the one thousand, three hundred and twenty cities of the Pyramid, that there was somewhere out in the desolation of the Night Lands a second Place of Refuge, where had gathered, in another part of this dead world, some millions of the human race, to fight until the end." - p 38
In The House on the Borderland there's a post-mortem romance (& I don't mean necrophilia) & there's one in The Night Land too. The male gets married to the female in the past & she dies young & then they reunite in the future, initially thru some sort of telepathy:
"But often would I say with my brain-elements "Mirdath!" "Mirdath!"—sending the name out into the darkness; and sometimes would I seem to hear the faint thrilling of the aether around me; as though one answered; but weakly, as it were with a weakened spirit, or by an instrument that lacked of its earth-force." - p 45
"And I called:—"Mirdath! Mirdath," with my brain-elements, into the night; and lo! the far, faint voice spoke again to my spirit through all the darkness of eternity, saying again those words. Yet, though the voice was that of Mirdath the Beautiful it was also the voice of Naani; and I knew in all my heart that this thing was in verity; and that it had been given to me to be birthed once more into this world in the living time of the Only One, with whom my spirit and essence hath mated in all ages through the everlasting." - p 57
I don't know much about the author's life but it's easy to imagine that someone he loved might've died young & that he might've been a devotedly romantic lover.
"Yet, in a while I gathered that all the peoples of the Lesser Redoubt were in very deadly trouble; for that the Earth-Current had failed suddenly and mightily; and they had called her from her sleep, that she might listen whether we answered their callings by the Instrument; but, indeed, no calling had come to us.
"And they who had been of late so joyful, were now grown old with sorrow in but an hour or two" - p 63
Romantics are so sensitive. So everybody in the great Pyramid has a bad hair day b/c after having just discovered that there were other human beings survived upon the Earth they then learn that their fellow humans were now endangered & possibly facing extinction so a rescue force goes forth against all odds, risking the evils of the Night Land. Our hero is not amongst them, being too wise to think there was any chance of survival.
"And my heart stood quiet with fear, and the utter terror of this Monster, which I knew to be surely one of the Great Forces of Evil of that Land, and had power, without doubt, to destroy the spirit. And the Master Monstruwacan leapt towards the Home-Call, and sent the great Sound down to the Ten-thousand, that they might attend, and immediately, he signalled to them to Beware. Yet, already I perceived that they knew of this Utter Danger that was upon them; for I saw them slay the Youths quickly, that their spirits might not be lost; for they were Unprepared. But the men, being Prepared, had the Capsule, and would die swiftly in the last moment." - p 80
Just for pukes & snickers, let's alter the technique of the above a tad to produce this:
"And my heart stood quiet With fear, and the utter terror Of this monster, Which I knew to be surely one of the great forces Of evil Of That land, and Had power, without doubt, To destroy the spirit. And the master monstruwacan leapt towards the home-call, and sent the great sound down To the ten-thousand, That they might attend, and immediately, he signalled To them To beware. Yet, already I perceived That they knew Of this utter danger That was upon them; for I saw them slay the youths quickly, That their spirits might not be lost; For they were unprepared. But the men, being prepared, Had the capsule, and would die swiftly in the last moment."
Ok, I admit that wasn't really that fun but an evil force made me do it. SO, after reading that,
"they went back unto their Cities; and lived there mayhaps an hundred thousand years; and grew wise and cunning in all matters; and their Wise People did make dealings and had experiment with those Forces which are Distasteful and Harmful unto Life; but they did this in Ignorance; for all they had much wisdom; thinking only to Experiment, that they come to greater knowings. But they did open a way for those Forces; and much harm and Pity did come thereby. And then had all People to have Regret; yet too late." - p 110
Really? All that b/c of my little language experiment? The power is tempting me. I think I'll write part of this review only using words that have heretofore been capitalized & see what forces are unleashed:
1st, the vocabulary:
A Beautiful BIG Victorian Experiment For Forces, A Glowing Giant's Wise (Yet Unprepared) Touches That Ten-thousand Romantics Regret. Naani, A Hope To End Evil And Distasteful Exercises With Which Youths Wow People To Sleep. Naani, The World's Watcher, IS Really In The South And The North. Not Now, Monster, Watchmen Utter Prepared Rumour, Stein STILL Studies Silence, Sound Painted Morris's Night, Hodgson's Joseph Just Lands in Hodgson's Head. Years Stlll Pity Carter's Place, A Pyramid Of Monstruwacans With Which William Towers SO That Refuge And Our Only Ok House And Home-Call Had Great Earth-Current. Much Lesser Life May Master It But I'll Beware Of Danger From Harmful Lewis Lin And Herman Hodgson Borderland Arkham Cities. After All, Americans Always Land The Eternity Capsule So That's OVER. NOT. Gertrude Calling Carter, Gertrude Calling Melville, Gertrude Calling Mirdath. Conrad Touches The Tree. Well? Earth Dome C. IS A Tomb. I'm Making S., I've Frequently Had One Hope: First I Utter This "Redoubt" That Monstruwacan Touches. HEY!, It's Great Nonetheless. Nonetheless,
"Now, it may be thought that I did act with a strange valiance, in that I composed my body so properly to slumber, and with but a little trouble of the heart concerning the coming of monsters. And in truth this has seemed somewhat so to me, thinking since that time; but I do but set the thing that is truth; and make not to labour to an illusion of truth; and so must tell much that doth seem improper to the Reality. Yet must all bear with me, and have understanding of the hardness of setting forth with true seeming the honesty of Truth, which, in verity, is better served oft times by timely and cunning lies. And so shall you understand this matter so well as I." - p 128
Did I say that this writing isn't like Victorian porn? "the coming of monsters": I take that back. See how nicely I clomb out of that one?
"and I clomb out of that place of rest. Yet before I did come rightly up into the open, I peered about, and made some surety that no evil Brute was anigh. And then I gat me out" - pp 128-129
Gats ready for the Brute. ...more
Notes are private!
May 03, 2018
May 13, 2018
Mass Market Paperback
Oct 01, 1978
really liked it
Mack Reynolds's Trample An Empire Down
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 4-6, 2018
I was reading 4 other bks when I decided to read this. review of
Mack Reynolds's Trample An Empire Down
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - May 4-6, 2018
I was reading 4 other bks when I decided to read this. All 4 of the others were more important but I was finding myself a bit bored so I picked this as something to read that I'd enjoy more. It did the trick. It's always so tempting to only read bks like this that I can breeze thru & enjoy w/o too much mental effort. But, no, that's not the way I am, I always have to be challenging myself; mustn't let myself get stupid & complacent.
Anyway, Mack Reynolds can now officially be added to my list of favorite pulp writers. All 4 bks that I've read by him so far have had interesting political plots & it's been fun to read my way thru them to their conclusions. He doesn't have the flair for language that Philip K. Dick does but, as w/ all pulp, it's easily readable stuff where the reader (this reader at least) breezes thru the language w/o paying it much mind.
The initial premise isn't that unusual: a near-future utopia in wch everyone's taken care of & automation does most of the work but in wch there's dissatisfaction b/c people feel the need for more stimulus or challenge:
"Jack said, "This is a helluva world for an aspiring alcoholic to live in. The ultra-welfare state, People's Capitalism. Ha! Guaranteed Annual Income. Just enough not to starve on, but not enough to enjoy yourself."" - p 10
"He said definitely, "The country's gone flat. No more wars, no more depressions, and with ultramation and computerization, practically nobody works. Practically everybody's on Guaranteed Annual Income. Even the space program has gotten into a rut, with nothing exciting going on. Practically everybody just sits around taking trank or drinking beer and watching Tr-D like a bunch of idiots. The whole country's in a mental slump."
""And?" the other two said in unison.
""We need a revolution, that's what. There hasn't been a revolution in this country for well over two hundred years. The nation's ripe for it."" - pp 10-11
Once a revolution's been decided on, various programs are proposed. This bk's copyrighted 1978. I 1st encountered the notion of "preplanned obsolescence" sometime in the early 1970s. At the time, some of those of us who discussed it had the feeling that we'd outed the corporations & that the preplanned obsolescence wd have to stop since it was so obviously despicable. Alas, preplanned obsolescence is now worse than ever - largely thanks to computers. It was nice for me to read the following: ""We're going to end preplanned obsolescence.["]" (p 14) Reynolds's ongoing political critiques continue to please me:
"["]Democracy, in America, became a farce more than a century ago. Even presidents were elected because of their TV image, or some such. The candidate with the most dollars to spend for TV appearances, newspaper ads and so on, made it.["]" - p 16
Many political activists, such as myself, ridicule the US's 2 party system as ultimately just one party for the rich. As such, some of us refer to "Republocrats" & "Demicans". Reynolds's reference to such an idea might be the earliest I've read: "["]After we get going as a political party, we'll demand equal time every occasion a Democratic Republican gives a speech."" (p 19) Their new party is rife w/ good ideas: "SUBVERSIVE PARTY DEMANDS RETURN OF TEXAS TO MEXICO". (p 37) Imagine if the Bush family suddenly became Mexicans. Hhmm.. How about returning the land that the White House is on to the Native Americans? Might as well throw in the land that Rump Towers is on at the same time.
The bk also has some entertaining mistakes that the proof readers apparently overlooked. Viz: the name of a character: he's "Richard Oppenheimer" on p 46, he's "Robert Oppenheimer" on p 50 (actually the name of a fmous scientist who's referenced elsewhere), & back to "Richard Oppenheimer" on p 51. How many people notice such things? (or care?)
Reynolds has one character express something that I can relate to that I don't run across very often:
"Dominating one wall was a Monet. Morris stared. He said, "Where the hell did you get that? It's not a copy or a print."
"Her eyebrows went up. "I'm surprised that you knew. It was left to me by my grandfather."
""Why don't you sell it and live off what you get for the rest of your life?"
""Would you sell your soul?"" - p 55
Yes, there're things more important than money. Tell that to mafioso Lucky Luciano. According to Alfred W. McCoy's The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972):
"However, in 1930-1931, only seven years after heroin was legally banned, a war erupted in the Mafia ranks. Out of the violence that left more than sixty gansters dead came a new generation of leaders with little respect for the traditional code of honor.
"The leader of the mafioso youth movement was the legendary Salvatore C. Luciana, known to the world as Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Charming and strikingly handsome, Luciano must rank as one of the most brilliant criminal executives of the modern age. For, at a series of meetings shortly following the last of the bloodbaths that completely eliminated the old guard, Luciano outlined his plans for a modern, nationwide crime cartel."
"With the end of Prohibition in sight, Luciano made the decision to take the Mafia into the lucrative prostitution and heroin rackets."
"Heroin was an attractive substitute because its relatively recent prohibition had left a large market that could be exploited and expanded easily. Although heroin addicts in no way compared with drinkers in numbers, heroin profits could be just as substantial: heroin's light weight made it less expensive to smuggle than liquor, and its relatively limited number of sources made it more easy to monopolize.
"Heroin, moreover, complemeneted Luciano's other new business venture—the organization of prostitution on an unprecedented scale. Luciano forced many small-time pimps out of business as he found that addicting his prostitiute labor force kept them quiescent, steady workers, with a habit to support and only one way to gain enough money to support it." - pp 18-19, Alfred W. McCoy's The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (1972), Harper & Row
Nice guy, huh? Now according to the flap blurb of Martin A. Gosch & Richard Hammer's The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano (1975): "Luciano disdained dealing in "junk"". I suspect that McCoy's version is more reliable. ANYWAY, the point of going into this is that Reynolds also mentions Luciano:
""They're a bunch of crooks," he went on. "All politicians. Politics are so crooked that you have to be a crook to get anywhere in them. Take Tom Dewey. He made his name prosecuting the Mafia head, Lucky Luciano; got him sentenced to life, or something. And then, during the Second World War, when Dewey was governor of New York, pardoned him. Why? It was unrealistic to keep him in prison, he said. Supposedly, it came out later, the reason Luciano was pardoned was so that the Mafia in Sicily would collaborate with the United States military."" - pp 78-79
The initial 3 men of the revolutionary triumverate of the Subversive Party have been joined by a woman. Reynolds has the woman be the mouthpiece for the most extreme of the proposals:
"Karen said, "We're going to have to get the queer vote. The country's full of queers. We'd never come to power without getting their support."
""Make homosexuality legal between consenting adults, eh?" Jed said thoughtfully. "Like in England."
""Not just consenting adults and homos, all queers," Karen said. "Let them molest small children, practice sadism and masochism, expose themselves in public, the works.["]" - p 79
Karen continues to elucidate:
""Even more so with Lesbians. Who can settle for a tongue job when there are six inches of penis—and up?"
""Up what?" Morris Malone said mildly.
""I meant longer. What anybody can do with a penis more than six inches long I've never been able to figure out, but some seem to have the dream that the longer the better."" - p 80
Hhmm.. Karen's full of contentious statements. I wonder how many women I know wd agree that a penis over 6" long is unnecessary for their pleasure? Wondering about this, I did some cursory research about vaginal anatomy:
"1. How long is the vaginal canal?
Not that long. On average, the vaginal canal is three to six inches long. If you need a visual aid, that’s roughly the length of your hand. But your vaginal canal can change shape in certain situations, like during sex or childbirth.
"2. Does it get longer when you’re aroused?
When you’re having sex, your vaginal canal can get longer to accommodate penetration. Sexual arousal forces your cervix and uterus to lift up and out of the way, which causes the upper two-thirds of your vagina to lengthen.
"But if you feel a penis or sex toy hitting your cervix, that could mean your body isn’t turned on enough to allow for full penetration. Of course, that’s not the only reason — your cervix could be touched when thrusting is too deep, or if a penis or toy is larger than the average penis size. That’s about five inches when erect." - https://www.healthline.com/health/wom...
SO, guys, if you're feeling like you don't stand a chance of being sexually popular w/ a penis 3 to 6" long, THINK AGAIN! Just remember, Johnny "The Wad" Holmes cdn't even get his scrotum to reach the woman's labia. Wdn't that be a drag?
For all of you who didn't find Karen's proposal of legalizing child molestation extreme enough, what about this one?:
"["]As soon as we get in, send a firing squad to every insane asylum, hospital for incurables and old people's homes and mercifully execute them and about eighty-five percent of the guards, nurses and officials in charge."
"This time, all four of the men winced in pain." - p 81
Most of Karen's ideas don't go over too well. Nonetheless, she becomes the organizer of the women recruited into the Subversive Party. Here's her giving a speech to receptive recruits & potential recruits:
"["]Only in the last few thousand did patriarchal society take over from women who formerly dominated clan and tribe."
""Why?" somebody called out. "Why did it change?"
"Karen said, "Because of the development of the tool and also the larger domesticated animals. Women, as a rule, were not able to use the new heavy metal tools due to long months of pregnancy and then the need to take care of the new infant. Men took over agriculture and the flocks and became the providers. He who controls a person's means of subsistence controls that person.["]" - p 95
Karen cites such sources as "The Motherright, Frazer's The Golden Bough, Robert Graves' works, especially, The Greek Myths, above all, Morgan's Ancient Society." (pp 94-95) It seems obvious that Reynolds does his research. I think Reynolds had fun putting the most violent proposals as Karen's:
"Karen said, "I thought of something we might advocate. A return to gladiator shows."
""Zoraster," Jack muttered. "Why?"
""Several reasons," Karen said definitely. "For one, lots of people love violence. The more popular shows on Tri-Di are portraying violence of one sort or another; war, westerns, suspense, spy, detective."
""Sure," Morris said, "But where'd the gladiators come from. The Romans used to use slaves."
""Volunteers. No pay. Some crackpots would love to have the attention of being in the arena, being on Tri-Di, being celebritites in the sports magazines. If and when they got killed, wizard. Gets such drivel-happy types off the streets, keeps them from mugging honest citizens and such."" - p 121
Like most or all SF writers, in general, Reynolds likes to imagine the possibilities & explore them — in his case w/ a sense of humor:
"The Baron said, "It is the honor to meet the First National Organizer of the Zubverzive Party."
"Dick looked at Karen to be clued.
"She said, very earnestly, "The Baron has come from Common Europe..."
""From Chermany, actually," the Baron said. "Ven ve Neo-National Zocialists come to power we vill first disazzociate ourselves from zis Common Europe and zen,,," He combed his toothbrush mustaches with a thumbnail. "...und zen ve vill perhapz zee vat vill happen to them fellers that in the past have ztood in ze vay of the Vaterland, nicht?"" - p 135
Note that Trample An Empire Down was published in 1978. Note that the EU (European Union) was founded Novemeber 1, 1993. Reynolds predicted the EU 13 yrs ahead of time. Note that now neo-nazis are attacking the EU. Reynolds predicted that too. The Baron continues:
""Ach, ja. Ze final zolution to the Chooish problem." He shook his head sadly. "Zere der Fuehrer made a big mistake, but zen he was too lenient...lenient you zay?...Ja, lenient. He vas too chentle, too kind hearted, nicht? Next time. effrybody goes."
"They stared at him. "Everybody?" Karen blurted.
""Ja," the Baron nodded in satisfaction. "Choos, Polacks, niggers, wops, them Chinamens. Only Aryans will be left, Ja?"" - p 136
Even Karen balks at that one. Karen IS perceptive. She warns Dick, who she knows to be an undercover agent, that his boss might pull a dirty trick to destroy the Subversive Party:
"She said, "What I just mentioned isn't entirely without precedent. Did you ever read of the Haymarket Affair in Chicago back in the 19th Century? A bunch of anarchists were holding a peaceful street meeting. Hundreds of police turned up to be sure it didn't get out of hand. Somebody threw a bomb and several of the police were killed. The anarchist leaders were arrested, brought to trial and executed. Damn few honest investigators of the affair thought the anarchists guilty. Much the same happened to Tom Moony, the labor leader, also convicted of throwing a bomb at a parade. He got life in prison and wasn't pardoned for about thirty years."" - pp 155-156
Hey! I liked the politics of this bk, I like the ending. I became interested in the publisher, Leisure Books of New York City, who I've never heard of. They also published The Life of Kit Carson, The Yoke and the Star, The Return of Jack the Ripper, etc. They seemed like a marginal publisher trying to break into the pulp market.
"Leisure Books was a mass market paperback publisher specializing in horror and thrillers. They also published fantasy, science fiction, Westerns, and the Wildlife Treasury card series. Leisure Books was an imprint of Dorchester Publishing from c. 1982–2010, when it was closed down."
"As of 2000, Leisure Books was the only American publisher with a line of horror books. Leisure Books published novels and collections by a number of horror's notable authors, such as Brian Keene, Richard Laymon, Graham Masterton, Ray Garton, Stacy Dittrich, Jack Ketchum, Sarah Pinborough and Douglas Clegg."
"Harry Shorten founded Leisure Books in 1957. The company was acquired by Dorchester Publishing in 1982.
"Effective September 2010, Leisure Books, along with the remainder of Dorchester's mass market paperback lines, were canceled as print publications. Future titles were slated to be available only as e-books."
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leisure... ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 27, 2018
May 06, 2018
Mass Market Paperback
it was amazing
My full review of this bk is broken into 2 chapters starting here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Joan Peyser's Boulez, Composer, My full review of this bk is broken into 2 chapters starting here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Joan Peyser's Boulez, Composer, Conductor, Enigma
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - April 15-25, 2018
My reading this bk isn't exactly completely strange but doing so illustrates how I come to do things sometimes. I'm very slowly compiling an online list of my "Top 100 Composers" ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Top100C... ). Pierre Boulez is on that list. Alas, as w/ so many of the composers mentioned there, I don't feel absolutely enthralled w/ his music. Making matters 'worse' is that I'm making webpages for each of the composers but putting off making the webpages for the composers most important to me b/c making them will be so time-consuming. Since Boulez is a minor major composer for me it'll be easier to make a webpage for him than for other composers whose work I like much more. That results in a skewed prioritizing.
Reading this bk is an example of "skewed prioritizing". My friend Brainpang got a copy of Georgina Born's bk entitled Rationalizing Culture — IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde. He decided that he'd never read it so he asked me if I wanted his copy. I sd yes so he sent it to me. Since it's a present I prioritized reading it. However, since Peyser's bk covers Boulez's life up to the beginnings of IRCAM it seemed like I shd read it 1st & then read the Born. All this work, all this research for a composer whose work I'm only marginally enthusiastic about.
"On June 1, 1969, the New York Philharmonic announced the appointment of Pierre Boulez as its music director. He was to succeed Leonard Bernstein, the ebullient, gifted musical personality who had begun his career in the 1940s as the protégé of Serge Koussevitsky." - p 1
Hence begins the 1st paragraph of the "Introduction". As a 'setting of the stage' for English-language readers, it establishes Boulez as occupying a very prominent position in the classical music hierarchy of the US.
"The desire to escape from the severe discipline into which Boulez's idea had led moved whole sections of the new music world toward what he viewed as theatrical gimmickry and nihilism. Boulez accepted the Philharmonic post primarily to attack the situation. His purpose was to promote his own cause, to make familiar to large audiences the modern language in which he believed, in which form exercised a centripetal role." - p 2
Note that Peyser doesn't write "a central role" but "a centripetal role". Centripetal = "moving or tending to move toward a center.": SO is the reader to conclude that Peyser thinks that form isn't central but, instead, moves in that direction? That there either isn't anything in particular at the center or that there's something other than form? I think, more likely, she just liked the word "centripetal" more than "central".
I've already read one bk that focuses substantially on the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Bernstein, Benjamin Piekut's Experimentalism Otherwise - The New York Avant-Garde and Its Limits, in wch the reader learns of the Philharmonic's infamous resistance to performing John Cage's "Atlas Eclipticalis".
"Piekut actually interviewed members of the NYP decades after their notorious "Atlas Eclipticalis" concert:
""In Mansfield's opinion, the twenty concerts performed in the Avant-Garde series "were a gimmick . . . to satisfy the critics, to satisfy the people who wanted to see some kind of special interest being . . . programmed." The view of the series as a kind of conciliatory yet marketable gesture is held by another member of the orchestra (who wished to remain anonymous), who in conversation with me characterized Moseley as "a press man. His question was always, 'Is it newsworthy?'" Though the organization's administrators may have felt pressure to support the cutting edge of contemporary composition, they were also responding to the avant-garde's considerable notoriety in the early 1960s. As the clarinetist Stanley Drucker, who had joined the orchestra in 1948 under Bruno Walter, remembers, "As an idea, it was very New York. New York has an audience for everything. Maybe some things get a smaller audience, but they're all patronized." Indeed, "showbiz" was a term that sprang to the bassist Walter Botti's mind in my interview with him." - p 32 " - "Experimental, Ism; Other, Wise": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Piekut's bk covers a small time & place: NYC, 1964. That's 5 yrs before the announcement of Boulez replacing Bernstein. Regardless of how it turned out, Bernstein's "Avant-Garde series" was far more 'Avant-Garde' than anything Boulez ever did w/ the Philharmonic — but Peyser's bk presents Boulez as if he's the 1st person to ever try to expand the Philharmonic's repertoire into the 20th century. What Boulez did do was foster a rather moronic anti-Americanism that probably appealed to the diehard 'loyalists' whose ancesters hadn't escaped the American Revolution to go to Canada:
"Boulez said he had been in Chicago at the time but that someone had quoted to him Babbitt's remark that a performance of a Babbitt piece in Lincoln Center was like a philosophy paper being read on the Johnny Carson show. Boulez attacked Babbitt's "ghetto' point of view and then put the knife deeply into America's back. There had been no strong musical personalities in the United States, he said, since World War II." - p 4
1st, I'm even less enthusiastic about Babbitt's music than I am about Boulez's. Babbitt doesn't even make it to my Top 100 Composers list (although he might be a 'runner-up'). That sd, I think Babbitt's quote is funny. He's saying outright that a prominent American cultural institution is more commercial than its PR image wd have the general public believe. Boulez, on the other hand, is just revealing his own extremely myopic ignorance. If I understand correctly, the above Boulez quote is from 1969 so we'll say that the period referred to as having "no strong musical personalities in the United States" is from 1945 to 1969. I'm sure Boulez was only referring to classical composers but the quote doesn't say that specifically so here's a somewhat off-the-top-of-my-head list of "strong musical personalities in the United States" in that era:
Art Ensemble of Chicago
Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band
Doctor John the Night Tripper
Sonic Arts Union
..& that list is obviously very limited. I like most of the work by those above more than Boulez's so I think if Boulez had been more honest he might have sd: 'There have been no musical personalities close to or identical to me & my few European composer friends in the United States since World War II.'
I was immediately impressed by Peyser's writing b/c she seems to've pursued Boulez rapaciously regardless of his resistance to her writing this biography & b/c she actually seems to have some significant understanding of the music so her pursuit doesn't just come across as that of a malicious gossip.
"And so, for the next five years, through hundreds of hours of conversation, Boulez concealed a lot of his life from me. Just before I made my first trip to France I asked him for the address of René Leibowitz, his second and probably most important composition teacher. (Messiaen was his only other.) Boulez said, "Leibowitz is no friend of mine." I explained that I was not limiting my interviews to friends. "Of course," he answered, "you are preparing a document." Still, he did not help me to locate Leibowitz, who was then living in an apartment on the Left Bank. When I told Leibowitz my subject was Boulez, he became silent. Only after I explained that I was writing a history of midcentury music, in which Leibowitz had played a large role, did he begin to unfold his own story of the confrontation and terrible trouble with Boulez—including Boulez's efforts to wreck Leibowitz's career.
"A few weeks after our long conversation, Leibowitz died at fifty-nine of a heart attack. I wrote his obituary for the New York Times." - p 8
It seems like I've often sd that people who present their opinions as 'objectively true' & who, at least, have the appearance of being able to back up their assertions w/ great 'authority' are people who're going to 'go far' b/c the world is full of robopaths (aka 'sheep') who have no strong opinions of their own & who look to leaders to tell them 'what to think'. Boulez has had a highly 'successful' career b/c he is a substantial composer, a hard-working conductor, & b/c he meets the conditions of the opening sentence of this paragraph. I'm all for those 1st 2 characteristics, it's the last one that I find objectionable. Boulez sets himself up as an authority over just about everyone:
"Boulez wrote a letter attacking Craft's "sour mixture of incompetence and pedantry" and challenging the authorship of Stravinsky's writings, claiming what has subsequently been charged by others: that in the later years, they were not only written by Craft but not even reviewed by the aging master. Boulez ended by admonishing Craft to "stop imposing your insipid countenance on the features of a man who has nothing in common with your rancor, your impotence, and—in a word, your nothingness."" - p 9
Whew! Boulez is definitely throwing stones from a glass house when he refers to "rancor" or "impotence" (his sex life apears to be non-existent). I don't know anything about the controversy regarding Craft & Stravinsky so I'll let that lie. What I do know is that I 1st heard what was then reputed to be the 'complete works' of Varèse conducted by Craft, that Craft recorded his conducting Antheil's "Ballet Mechanique", that Craft recorded his conducting what were then purported to be the complete works of Webern (1957), & of Schoenberg too. Not only did Craft do this but he did it before Boulez did — putting Boulez in an obviously secondary position as a 'champion' of the 'Viennese School' in the US. Craft cd honestly say: 'Been there, done that.' Hence, Boulez has to attack Craft's integrity in order to put Boulez at the top. The competitiveness of it strikes me as rather nasty, like dirty politics. Finally, making things even 'weirder' is that the 1st piece I ever heard by Boulez was "Le Marteau sans Maitre", Robert Craft conducting, when I got the Columbia Masterworks recording in 1974.
"Boulez's first project at Columbia was one that was very important to him: the complete works of Webern. Columbia had produced a Webern album under the direction of Robert Craft, but Boulez wanted to do one of his own. Boulez began discovering undiscovered Webern and also started to compose an essay about Webern that would be included in the package." - p 211
"Among the eager Webernians then was Pierre Boulez, who returns to be the mastermind of the new recordings, just as he was 30 years ago for a set made by CBS, now available on CD from Sony Classical. But there are differences. One is that the new box (Deutsche Grammophon 457 637-2; six CD's) is twice as large, including many works Webern withheld from publication.
"Some of these are juvenilia, imparting the unsurprising news that the composer at 16 was a talented, hopeful, somewhat incompetent beginner. His later rejects, though, include wonderful pieces, especially among the songs and instrumental movements he wrote in 1913 and 1914. During that period he gave thought to a sequence of orchestral pieces, some with solo soprano, rather in the manner of a distilled Mahler symphony. There might have been a similar string quartet with voice.
"Much later, though, Webern decided to issue sets of purely instrumental movements: the Six Bagatelles (Op. 9) for string quartet and the Five Pieces (Op. 10) for orchestra.
"This left out of account not only the song movements -- two with orchestra and the one with quartet are breathtaking -- but also quite a number of orchestral movements. Mr. Boulez includes five, and two extra bagatelles." - "MUSIC; A Complete Webern, With 'New' Works" by PAUL GRIFFITHS - AUG. 27, 2000, https://www.nytimes.com/2000/08/27/ar...
For people like myself who've immersed ourselves in recordings of the more innovative 20th century musics & in reading about the same, this bk is something that fleshes out personalities more than most. A recurring character is the pianist Paul Jacobs. Peyser depicts him as a major champion of adventurous 20th century classical music. I hadn't realized how active he was. In my own pantheon of such pianists people such as David Tudor & the Kontarsky Brothers feature more prominently. Nonetheless, I have recordings of Jacobs playing Schönberg, Bartok, Busoni, Carter, Messiaen, & Stravinsky — certainly an impressive repertoire but not the most 'cutting edge' of the possibilities. One of the many points of interest about this bk, for me, was learning more about Jacobs. I'll probably pick up any recordings by him that I don't currently have out of curiousity.
"Boulez's refusal to share facts, thoughts, and feelings is not limited to his relationship with me. Paul Jacobs, the specialist in twentieth century keyboard music who has known Boulez since the mid-50s, says Boulez uses relationships the way other people go to the movies. Boulez would not argue the point. He believes "everyone is replaceable." No one, in any case, knows Boulez well. "Neither I nor anyone," Jacobs maintains, "has ever been able to penetrate Boulez."" - p 13
Since I'm obsessed w/ cultural production both as a creator & as a critic & since I have very specific opinions on the subject(s) it's somewhat 'inevitable' that I found myself critiqueing Boulez's philosophical positioning.
"I believe a civilization that conserves is one that will decay because it is afraid of going forward and attributes more importance to memory than the future. The strongest civilizations are those without memory—those capable of complete forgetfulness. They are strong enough to destroy because they can replace what is destroyed. Today our musical civilization is not strong; it shows clear signs of withering. . . .
"The more I grow, the more I detach myself from other composers, not only from the distant past but also from the recent past and even from the present. Conducting has forced me to absorb a great deal of history, so much so, in fact, that history seems more than ever to me a great burden. In my opinion we must get rid of it once and for all.
"—Pierre Boulez, 1975" - p 19
The above statement, taken literally, calls for total amnesia if it were taken to the extreme that the bombast seems to call for. We wd have amnesia, we wdn't even speak a language, let alone remember our names or know how to drive a car or ride a bike, let alone conduct an orchestra.
It seems flagrantly obvious that it's important to maintain a balance in society: a balance between conserving & creating. I'm all for conserving, e.g., libraries & food growing & distribution systems — to name obvious things. There is no such thing & never has been a civilization "without memory", nor cd Boulez point to one. It seems equally flagrantly obvious to me that Boulez detaches himself from other composers b/c he wants to proclaim himself the 'greatest, most distinct composer', one of a kind n'at. I doubt that any serious scholar of contemporary classical music feels as strongly about Boulez's work as he apparently does. To me, he tries & tries again to be on the 'cutting edge' but always ends up amongst the blunted razors. "Le Marteau sans Maitre" (1955) ain't shit in contrast to Schönberg's "Pierrot Lunaire" (1912), IMO, & the list goes on & on.
As for "Today our musical civilization is not strong; it shows clear signs of withering. . . . "?: To put it mildly, I find that an insupportable assertion. But, then, Boulez wants to be the one who defines what "musical civilization" is & his definition is apparently going to be to the detriment of everyone but himself. If a vital "musical civilization", one that isn't "withering", is one in wch there's healthy new growth (to continue to use the biological metaphor) in abundance then I think it's accurate to claim that there's more new growth & healthy cross-pollination than ever hostorically known before. The fear might be more of a metaphorical 'cancer', an overabundance, rather than a withering. I, for one, am not worried about a 'cancer' of "musical civilization" any more than I am of a "withering". Boulez's proclmation strikes me as so ludicrous that it's hard for me to even imagine the sheep baaaaaing along w/ it.
I'm primarily interested in & enthusiastic about music from 1885 to the present — but I have no desire to have the music prior to 1885 no longer conserved/performed. In fact, I wish that music as far into the past as there was music were something that we cd still hear now. I'd love to be able to hear music as it was performed in 2000BC.
At the same time that I'm often repulsed by Boulez I have to at least give him credit for saying things that few people wd dare to say. The next paragraph exemplifies this:
"Boulez saw benefits in the German occupation of Paris. "The theaters were crowded. People could not leave the cities and all of them jammed into concert halls. I went to a concert given by my own piano teacher and could hardly get into it. The Germans virtually brought high culture to France."" - p 25
Ahem. Um.. weren't the occupying Germans nazis? & weren't they killing & imprisoning & torturing hoards of people? '. Sheesh. I find it interesting that Boulez can make such a politically blasphemous statement but I can't exactly say I agree w/ it!!
"In 1944 when Boulez entered the advanced harmony class, he had heard only Messiaen's Variations for Violin and Piano. Boulez admits that he was initially awed, but soon the awe turned to disdain. Sometimes he is harsh on Messiaen today: "Messiaen never really interested me. His use of certain Indian and Greek rhythms poses a problem—at least to me. It is difficult to retrieve pieces of another civilization in a work. We must invent our own rhythmic vocabulary, following the norms that are our own. Even in my earliest pieces, I was aware of that."" - p 31
Oh, lardy. There he goes pontificating again! Why is it "difficult to retrieve pieces of another civilization in a work"? It's just something that one decides to do in whatever way one decides to do it. These 'laws' that Boulez is constantly laying down are a primary impediment to his being a truly GREAT composer instead of a 2nd rate excellent one. ...more
Notes are private!
Apr 15, 2018
Apr 25, 2018
really liked it
Pierre Boulle's Garden on the Moon
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 29, 2018
Once again, my review is tooooooooo looooonnnnnnngggggg. S review of
Pierre Boulle's Garden on the Moon
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 29, 2018
Once again, my review is tooooooooo looooonnnnnnngggggg. SO, to read the full thing go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . Otherwise, the review below gets chopped off in mid-thought (& you know how messy that can be).
Boulle is a writer I avoided for a long time precisely b/c he wrote Planet of the Apes, the movie from wch I associated too much w/ cheesy pop culture. I learned that he wrote Bridge Over the River Kwai, wch was also made into a movie I'd seen, & that didn't help increase my interest. Nonetheless, it seemed 'about time' to read something more obscure by him & I'm glad I did b/c it turned out to be well-written & well-thought-thru.
The author provides an introductory note about dating the bk:
"To describe events twenty-thousand years in advance does not intimidate me unduly, but the task becomes more delicate when it is a question of only six or seven years. What disturbs me most is a still close future, the short period intervening between the present time and the date of publication. Since the conquest of space is failr closely linked to the politics of the nations that have embarked upon it, and since these politics are sometimes subject to rapid change, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that two wekks after the book is published (a reasonable length of time to assume without hypocrisy that it will not yet have sunk into oblivion), some unexpected event might so affect the contents as to make them appear absurd to a contemporary reader." - p 5
I find that very interesting. Boulle really did write something challenging: a bk hypothesizing about the 'space race' to the moon while that race was beginning & projecting its immediate future. He must've been paying close attn to relevant contemporary events & he must've researched it reasonably well too.
"I treated these materials as it seemed to me a conscientious novelist should—that is, first I worked hard to indoctrinate myself as accurately as possible, and after that I devoted almost as much energy to forgetting all details, preserving only the bare skeleton of the facts and ideas and often altering historical events when I thought that clarity and compactness of the narrative might be improved by so doing." - p 6
This author's note is dated February, 1964, a mere 5 yrs, 5 mnths before the US landed a human on the Moon on July 20, 1969 (unless you believe that the moon landing was faked by Stanely Kubrick or whomever as some people do). I think he did an astonishingly excellent job of realistically detailing the race & still managing to provide a satisfying novelistic conclusion.
A core event in this space race is presented as the development of the V2 rocket at Peenemünde.
"The Peenemünde Army Research Centre (German: Heeresversuchsanstalt Peenemünde, HVP) was founded in 1937 as one of five military proving grounds under the German Army Weapons Office (Heereswaffenamt)"
"Wernher von Braun was the HVP technical director (Dr. Walter Thiel was deputy director) and there were nine major departments:
1 Technical Design Office (Walter J H "Papa" Riedel)
2 Aeroballistics and Mathematics Laboratory (Dr. Hermann Steuding)
3 Wind Tunnel (Dr. Rudolph Hermann)
4 Materials Laboratory (Dr. Mäder)
5 Flight, Guidance, and Telemetering Devices (German: BSM) (Dr. Ernst Steinhoff)
6 Development and Fabrication Laboratory (Arthur Rudolph)
7 Test Laboratory (Klaus Riedel)
8 Future Projects Office (Ludwig Roth)
9 Purchasing Office (Mr. Genthe)"
"Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun (March 23, 1912 – June 16, 1977) was a German, later American, aerospace engineer, and space architect. He was the leading figure in the development of rocket technology in Germany and the father of rocket technology and space science in the United States.
"In his twenties and early thirties, von Braun worked in Nazi Germany's rocket development program. He helped design and develop the V-2 rocket at Peenemünde during World War II. Following the war, von Braun was secretly moved to the United States, along with about 1,600 other German scientists, engineers, and technicians, as part of Operation Paperclip. He worked for the United States Army on an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) program and he developed the rockets that launched the United States' first space satellite Explorer 1. His group was assimilated into NASA, where he served as director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center and as the chief architect of the Saturn V super heavy-lift launch vehicle that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon. In 1975, von Braun received the National Medal of Science. He advocated for a human mission to Mars."
Wernher von Braun is the main character of Garden on the Moon, under the name of Stern. It's strange that the Wikipedia entry regarding Peenemünde lists the novels using it as a primary element but leaves out Garden on the Moon:
"Peenemünde is a setting in the novels Fatherland, Gravity's Rainbow, Moonraker, The Rhinemann Exchange, The Way the Crow Flies, and Space." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peenemü...
"By the time he was able to use his binoculars, the first V2 rocket was no more than an imperceptible dot in the sky." - p 16
von Braun / Stern is portrayed as being obsessed w/ putting someone on the moon & sending a manned expedition to Mars. He's also portrayed as developing the V2 as a step in that direction. Unfortunately, the V2 was used to bombard cities by the nazis:
"3,172 V-2 rockets were fired at the following targets:
"Belgium, 1664: Antwerp (1610), Liège (27), Hasselt (13), Tournai (9), Mons (3), Diest (2)
"United Kingdom, 1402: London (1358), Norwich (43), Ipswich (1)
"France, 76: Lille (25), Paris (22), Tourcoing (19), Arras (6), Cambrai (4)
"Netherlands, 19: Maastricht (19)
"Germany, 11: Remagen (11)
"An estimated 2,754 civilians were killed in London by V-2 attacks with another 6,523 injured, which is two people killed per V-2 rocket."
'Stern' is portrayed as simply using the German military to further his space exploration goals who is then, in turn, used by the German military to bomb the shit out of their opponents. How many scientists are there today who're in similar situations doing military research. Pittsburgh, where I live, is a center for robotics research. Some of it is funded by the miiitary. I've met at least one robotics researcher who's used the standard disclaimer to say: 'I don't know what they do w/ my research' as if to, thereby, wash his hands of any murderous consequences. I can't honestly say I accept that as an excuse. Nonetheless, to return to Garden on the Moon, it's thought-provoking to consider 'Stern''s actual intentions. Boulle speculates on 'Stern''s earlyu life (presumably based on some biographical material):
"He spent eighteen months sowing his wild oats. Then, at the age of nineteen, he had looked at the bright young things with whom he consorted, as though to say: Is that enough? Are you satisfied?" - p 25
I find the use of "bright young things" as an expression intersting b/c I've previously seen it used exclusively in relation to young British people in Evelyn Waugh stories (see my review of Decline and Fall here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... & of Vile Bodies here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ).
"Three months after the successful test of the first V-2, Peenemünde was still waiting for the necessary funds to pursue its work but kept encountering hostile skepticism from both civil and military authorities. All that Schleuder had received was a brief note from the Ministry informing him that a plan was being drawn up for mass production of the new rocket. No date had been given and no arrangemnt had been made for more extensive research.
"Stern roared with anger when he read this note and pitched into Schleuder so fiercely that the latter decided, one day in January, 1943, to request an interview with Speer and try to obtain from him that famous number one priority they felt they had deserved." - p 31
I have a neoist friend who read Speer's memoirs, probably Spandau: The Secret Diaries, & wrote me that he didn't think Speer shd've been put in prison or some such. Speer served 20 years. I disagreed w/ my friend. Consider this:
"Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer (/ʃpɛr/; German: [ˈʃpeːɐ̯]" [..] "March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981) was a German architect who was, for most of World War II, Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production for Nazi Germany. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office. As "the Nazi who said sorry", he accepted moral responsibility at the Nuremberg trials and in his memoirs for complicity in crimes of the Nazi regime, while insisting he had been ignorant of the Holocaust." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_...
I think that being "Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production" was more than enough reason to convict him of war crimes, "principally for the use of forced labor" as the Wikipedia entry goes on to say. I'd be perfectly happy if similar people in the US goverment were punished. Whoever was responsible for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima & Nagasaki should've been tried at Nuremberg too.
"When I started pressing the point with Speer, I was put in my place somewhat hastily. 'In view of the situation of our army in Stalingrad,' he said, 'this is hardly the moment to talk about rockets.'" - p 35
""It's appalling. Worse than ever. The Stalingrad army has surrendered with Von Paulus. A hundred thousand men and over twenty generals taken prisoner.""
""The Führer has just decided to grant us the number one priority and all the funds we need."
"A loud cheer echoed around the mess.
""I forbid any of you to rejoice," Schleuder resumed in a fierce tone that contrasted increasingly with his air of jubilation. "But this is the situation. I'll repeat it: the Führer has given orders for us to intensify our research. He wants more rockets and bigger, more powerful rockets. And he wants them quickly."" - p 37
For me, having Stalingrad in the background is important. Having recently witnessed a very dramatic & highly recommended movie on this subject, Enemy at the Gates, Jaen-Jacques Annaud, 2001, starring Rachel Weisz, probably the 1st actress/celebrity I can easily imagine myself falling foolishly in love w/, the harshness of the seige of Stalingrad has been on my mind. The suffering must've been almost unimaginable. The opening scene alone gives a pretty good idea of this.
The "Allies" do bombing raids on Peenemünde but don't do sufficient damage to stop the progress on the V-2:
"A few isolated bombs fell fairly close, but the airport was not the target. It was definitely the base. From where they stood it looked as though it were going up in flames, especially the living quarters.
""They seem to be purposefully aiming at the staff," Schleuder observed anxiously. He was thinking of his colleagues.
"This was partly true. Acting on sound information, the Allies regarded the scientists' quarters as a target just as important as the workshops and the factories. They knew that certain brains cannot be replaced. Stern at this moment had the feeling that he himself was the main objective of the raid, and he glowed with pride." - p 42
"At the beginning of 1944, Stern, who would have liked to devote himself entirely to the study of new missiles, was obliged to come back to the V-2, which was not functioning properly. In fact, scarcely ten or twenty percent of the trial shots were reaching their selected targets." - p 45
"The promise made to Himmler was kept. On the agreed date the V-2's began to fall on England, but it was too late to prevent the Allied landing. Shortly afterward the enemy captured the nearest bases on the coast. Peenemünde was bombarded without respite. Other test bases , other factories, were built further to the east. One after another, these installations had to be abandoned as a result of the Russian advance, and the materiel brought further back toward the interior as the unconquered regions of Germany gradually lessened. Schleuder, Stern, and a few others were kept traveling all over the Reich in search of safer spots in which to set up fresh installations, harassed by Hitler, Himmler, and the Nazi High Command, who had pinned their last hope on the secret weapon.
"They succeeded for a time in maintaining a precarious production, under exhausting working conditions. But for the last month all hope had been lost. On March 27, 1945, the last V-2 had been hurled into space. There was now no factory or suitable base left." - p 55
Go team go. 'Stern' switches to the winning team, the losers no longer cd afford to give him a good enuf contract.
"Whenever he had to deal with the authorities, Stern wisely refrained from mentioning the moon and instead discussed terrestrial satellites, taking care to point out that the space program could limit itself at first to small missiles weighing no more than few pounds, which would be of immediate practical use. There, he had ha some success. A precise program had been drawn up. That Army was preparing to launch one of these satellites, under his direction, and although the funds for this operation were limited, he thought he would be able to put it into effect by the beginning of 1958, just a few months away. It was far from what he had in mind. It was nevertheless an initial step." - p 74
Even though I was alive during the 'space race' & even though I was somewhat aware of the intense propaganda wars going on between the USSR & the USA & even though I read science fiction & liked it very much & even though I was interested in human exploration off-planet, I don't remember giving much thought to who's-going-to-get-off-planet-1st? Reading this made me finally conscious of how deep the competition ran.
""Daddy, the Russians have launched a satellite!"" - p 85
If I ever have a child I'm going to name it Laika — or Leica if its eyes focus fast.
"One month later, on November third, the launching of the second Russian satellite and the brief odyssey of the dog Laika revived the bitterness of the space fanatics at La Grange and the other few bases scattered throughout the United States." - p 97
I've always felt like Laika got a bad deal. I'm sure the dog was well-trained & very obedient to its human 'friends' only to find itself dying of lack of oxygen off-planet?! Never trust a human. It's interesting to think that the Russians enjoyed a period of superior technical advancement to the US at the same time that their cars & cameras & other technology were being mocked as shoddy. It makes me wonder whether there actually was better Russian machinery than US propaganda wd ever admit.
"Zharov, in an offhand manner, reminded them of the weight of the three Russian projectiles and the following progression: 182 pounds for the first, 1237.6 for the second, which had the dog Laika on board—the Russian had mentioned this quite casually—and 2919 pounds for the third, an absolute flying laboratory. The four American projectiles together did not exceed 110 pounds!" - pp 115-116
How many people remember or care about President Ray-Gun's 'Star Wars' proposals?:
"On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan made an audacious announcement: America would weaponize space.
"This was no idle threat. Reagan had built his political reputation on tough-talking the Soviet Union, and during a time in the Cold War when intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) made shooting a nuclear warhead from Russia to major American cities a realistic threat, any new military technology could mean gaining the upper hand in a decades-long struggle. The Russians had just put gun turrets on their space stations. Granted, they'd only been fired once, and at nothing in particular. But we had to ready our retaliation.
"The response was the Strategic Defense Initiative, the plan would put in place a system of satellites to shoot ICBMs out of the sky as a nuclear deterrent from above. It would have been an expensive undertaking to say the least, clocking in at anywhere from $100 billion to $1 trillion." - https://www.thrillist.com/entertainme...
Pierre Boulle writes about the 'space race' in Garden on the Moon in a fairly realistic manner: what starts off as military research becomes more of a superiority contest between politically used scientists. But there are other types of SF writers than Boulle:
"Larry Niven had the mind for space. An award-winning and best-selling author, his first installment of the Ringworld series -- a futuristic and sometimes tongue-in-cheek saga about a massive space station that orbits a distant star as an artificial planet -- was considered an instant classic. The book still remains one of the most popular of the several dozen he's published, and he continues to flesh out the series.
"But in 1980, Niven took a career detour. Soon after the election, the author hosted a group of colleagues for a meeting at his home to discuss President-elect Reagan's stance on space. The "Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy" included mostly right-leaning military figures, ex-astronauts, scientists, plus a number of Niven's science-fiction writer contemporaries. The group had the backing of the American Astronautical Society and the L-5 Society, both of which hoped to chart the course of the United States' space interests over the next two decades, with the more immediate goal of building its recommendations into Reagan's official policies.
"In attendance was Jerry Pournelle, Niven’s co-author on both the 1974 book The Mote in God's Eye -- about a worst-case-scenario alien invasion -- and 1977's Lucifer's Hammer -- about a comet impact that creates widespread anarchy. A self-described centrist -- but only in terms of his own elaborate political mapping system, the Pournelle Axes -- Pournelle believed in a robust, technocratic military state wedged between the New Left and conservative factions of government." - https://www.thrillist.com/entertainme...
As much SF as I read & as much as I love the stuff I still haven't read Niven or Pournelle yet — probably at least partially b/c I've always had the impression that they wrote space opera of the more typical weapons & monsters variety. It's interesting to have that impression further verified by the above. ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 23, 2018
Mar 30, 2018
Mass Market Paperback
Apr 30, 2016
Restif de la Bretonne's Discovery of the Austral Continent by a Flying Man
(adapted by Brian Stableford)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - Mar review of
Restif de la Bretonne's Discovery of the Austral Continent by a Flying Man
(adapted by Brian Stableford)
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 21-29, 2018
For my complete review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
The review below is truncated.
This is the 2nd bk I've read by de la Bretonne. The 1st one is called My Father's Life & my review of it is here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . That review is for adults only. My attn was drawn to de la Bretonne b/c he wrote a bk called The Anti-Justine, pornography with a different philosophy than the pornography of the Marquis de Sade that it's opposed to. I became more interested in de la Bretonne when I learned that he'd written 187 bks of a variety of natures — including this one, French science fiction that predated Jules Verne.
Since I love SF I was excited to read this. Having been written in 1781, how wd it compare to the SF of the 20th century that I've read the most of? I can't really say that I exactly recommend this bk. For the most part, I found it quite boring. &, yet, at the same time, there was much for me to appreciate about it: in many respects de la Bretonne was a visionary.
I'm most reminded of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726). I'm also reminded of H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896). De la Bretonne's hero, Victorin, develops mechanical wings that enable him to fly. He wants to marry a woman who is in a socially more privileged class than he is. He 'solves' this social gap problem by kidnapping her & many others & starting his own community where he is the ruler in a place that the kidnapped people can't escape from. This includes kidnapping a priest to marry him to the kidnapped woman. They have children, as do the other kidnapped people, & the whole crew is moved by winged flight to a remote island where they start their empire. Exploration of other islands ensues & each island has its own dominant species that's halfway between a familiar non-human creature & a human. Everything is used as an excuse for philosophizing & for drawing up the edicts of Victorin & his successors. The plot is basically the skeleton on wch de la Bretonne hangs his musings.
The back cover introduces the author:
"Nicolas-Edmé Restif de la Bretonne (1734-1806) produced over 180 books, totaling some 57,000 pages, many of them printed by his own hand, on almost every conceivable subject. Praised in Germany, he was mostly forgotten in France until being rediscovered by the Suurealists in the early 20th century. Two of his most important seminal works are being presented here for the first time in English in a four-volume edition."
&, in fact, I ran across a mention of de la Bretonne in Surrealist Philippe Soupault's Last Nights of Paris (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ). The relevant excerpt from my review is here:
""He described to us with many details the check room for small children, who were deposited under a number by nursery girls. This custom, he affirmed with a disarming certainty, is very ancient. And he cited cases of substitution of children infinitely more numerous than one would suppose. Now and then he underlined what he said with an observation borrowed from Restif de la Bretonne, who was plainly his model." - pp 106-107
"The implication being here that the children were vulnerable to sexual use."
Brian Stableford's Introduction is very informative:
"In 1742 the family moved on to the land that Edmé Rétif had recently bought, which included a field called La Bretonne; it was sold again later, but that did not prevent Nicolas from adding it to his signature, in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, in order to give it an aristocratic implication, further enhanced by changing Rétif to the more upmarket Restif, although he sometimes reverted to the earlier spelling." - p 6
"Having served his apprenticeship and learned the trade, he went to Paris in 1754 and became a typesetter at the Imprimerie Royale du Louvre for a year before moving on to various other employers, constantly shifting in the context of a long battle fought by the government against the activities of illicit printers of subversive posters, pamphlets and books." - p 7
"As a printer, Restif was very familiar with the peculiar pattern of French publishing in the 18th century, whereby publications printed legally had to be licensed by the royal censors: a law honored far more in the breach than the observance, as 18th century Paris was awash with illict publications of all kinds, especially the scurrilous, the scandalous, the anti-clerical and the politically subversive. Some such books were printed in Belgium, Holland and elsewhere, and then imported to Paris, but most were simply printed clandestinely on the spot, with fake title pages claiming to have been printed elsewhere; they were often anonymous or pseudonymous." - pp 11-12
The history of illegal printing fascinates me — there were the underground publications in resistance to nazi-occupied Europe, the samizdat publications of Soviet Eastern Europe, & Mike Diana's "Boiled Angel" comic bk wch was declared obscene in Florida in the early 1990s - leading to Diana's being forbidden to draw while on 3 years probation.
"the final count, according to the most conscientiously detailed modern study, Pierre Testud's Rétif de La Bretonne et la création littéraire (1977), was a hundred and eighty-seven volumes, comprising forty-four titles, and totalling some fifty-seven thousand pages."
"it has to be borne in mind not only that Restif was presumably writing with goose-quills, but also that he insisted on typesetting all his own works." - p 8
Typesetting 187 volumes is nothing to sneeze at (unless you're allergic to such things). I think it's safe to say that de la Bretonne was a highly motivated man.
"Restif's first considerable success was the quasi-autobiographical Le Paysan perverti [The Corrupted Peasant] (1775), which detailed the educative and corrupting effects of life in Paris on an emigrant from a humble principal background" - p 10
Now, cf that to a similar tale about his father in My Father's Life:
"Edmond did not return to lawyer Rétif's at Noyers at the end of that half year. His parents wanted him to see the capital, and so he left for Paris on November 11th, 1712, where he came to be a clerk to a magistrate in the law courts called Molé.
"This was an entirely new experience for Edmond, but it did not change him. Although he had a lively temperament, the respect which he had for his mother extended to the whole of the opposite sex, and this preserved him from libertinism. What is more, he was a hard-working fellow, and the best antitdote to vices of all kinds is to keep oneself fully occupied." - p 24
Restif respectfully depicts his father as not succumbing to the temptations that the son apparently did.
Stabelford certainly seems to be extrmely knowledgable about both Restif & the work being introduced & its historical mileu: "He might well, however, have come across Gabriel Foigny's La Terre australe connue [The Austral Land Discovered] (1676, reprinted several times, including an edition in 1732), in which he would certainly have been interested, in that it deals with the discovery in an austral land of a population of hermaphrodites who, by virtue of the absence of sexual inequality, have been able to establish a perfectly egalitairan communistic society based on reason and mathematics." (p 13) La Terre australe connue almost seems like what-I-miight-have-to-read-one-of-these-days-if-it's-translated-into-English-&-if-I-didn't-already-have-too-many-other-things-to-read.
"Both of the last-named texts make use, as La Découverte australe does, of the unknown Terra Australis, initially hypotheisized in antiquity, and repopularized in the 16th century by geographers who thought the world map unbalanced, and in need of a southern continent to "equilibrate" it, much as the Americas had provided a continent to fill a western hemisphere previously suspected to be oceanic. Those who believed in Terra Australis and placed it speculatively in their maps included Gerardus Mercator in 1538." - p 14
"Gerardus Mercator (/mərˈkeɪtər/; 5 March 1512 – 2 December 1594) was a 16th-century German-Flemish cartographer, geographer and cosmographer. He was renowned for creating the 1569 world map based on a new projection which represented sailing courses of constant bearing (rhumb lines) as straight lines—an innovation that is still employed in nautical charts.
"Mercator was one of the founders of the Netherlandish school of cartography and is widely considered as the most notable representative of the school in its golden age (approximately 1570s–1670s). In his own day he was the world's most famous geographer but, in addition, he had interests in theology, philosophy, history, mathematics and geomagnetism as well as being an accomplished engraver, calligrapher and maker of globes and scientific instruments." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerardu...
"Restif's description of the mechanism of Victorin's wings is, moreover, a masterly combination of the detailed and the vague, fully adapted to an era of technical innovation. In that context, the ingenious Victorin seems a worthy successor of the machine-maker and automaton-builder Jacques de Vaucanson, who was still alive and living in Paris in 1781." - p 17
The interested reader is directed to a movie of a performance by Kirby Malone as part of Apt 81, the 3rd International Neoist Apartment Festival, a mere 200 years later: https://youtu.be/Lg6os32NYN8 .
Stableford makes this claim: "La Découverte australe is undoubtedly the most significant work of science-based speculative fiction before the 1789 Revolution, and it remained so for some time thereafter." (p 17) I'm not knowledgable enuf about the subject to refute or agree w/ that assertion but I'm impressed enuf by Stableford to accept his opinion. What, perhaps, sits a little uneasily w/ me is whether or not to accept this work as "science-based speculative fiction" since it seems just as much, if not more so, a work of power-trip fantasizing w/ a tinge of sexuality.
I've compared Discovery of the Austral Continent by a Flying Man to Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau (wch, of course, came 105 yrs later) b/c he has among its main characters/emblems creatures that're half-human/half-animal-other-than-human. Stableford discusses a supplement to the original edition not reproduced here in wch "it tries hard to offer justifications for taking seriously the plausibility of La Découverte australe's representation of various kinds of mythical humans, including some not featured in the main narrative—tailed humans, monopods, albinos and marine humans" (p 19). A tailed human is also featured prominently in Restif's pornographic The Anti-Justine:
""Fysistère was one of those hirsute men who have descended from a mingling of our species with that of the strange men with tails who dwell in the isthmus of Panama and upon the island of Borneo. He had the vigour of ten ordinary men, that is to say he might have beaten ten if they'd fought with the same weapons and on an equal footing, and he needed all for himself as many women as ten men would require.["]" - p 122, The Anti-Justine (1793), Wet Angel Books, Forbidden Erotic Classics edition (2012)
Stableford continues to elucidate what's to be gotten from the supplements not provided in this edition. I'm thankful for his elucidation but I wd've been even more thankful if the supplements had been provided. That may not've been economically practical. I'd never heard of Restif until I was 63 or thereabouts so it's possible that in English translation he's not well-known or much cared about. As such, Stableford's welcome scholarship may be a wedge in that disinterest.
"The research invested in "Cosmogénies" and "Dissertation sur les hommes-brutes" is varied and intensive, and illustrates an aspect of Restif's tendency to obsession rather different from the one displayed in his relentless production of fiction, more akin to the earnest insistence of his plans for utopian reform" - p 21
Stableford then praises Restif's "Les Posthumes, first penned in 1787-89, although not actually published until 1802: the strangest work of fiction ever penned by anyone, and the most far reaching imaginative endeavor ever attempted." (p 21) That's quite a claim!! Honestly, I don't believe it — but I'm willing to read it. Regardless of whether Stableford's enthusiasm is insufficiently informed by a broad knowledge of unusual fiction, Les Posthumes must really be something special.
Stbaleford concludes w/ a justification of the exclusion of the supplementary material:
"Although it could certainly be argued that it would have been more scrupulous to reprint the entire contents of the first edition, including the elaborate prefatory material as well as the supplements, it did not seem to me that the additional material especially the long essays—which would have made the text much longer—really belongs in the same volume as the novel; the supplements do not add anything substantial to the enjoyment of the work as an example of classic speculative fiction" - p22
I appreciate Stableford's contribution to presenting this work to the public but I prefer to be able to witness the complete work. Perhaps it's less important as a work of speculative fiction than it is as a visionary philosophical fable.
The reader gets to the novel itself where the narrator self-describes in a self-deprecating way. I found myself forgetting that the narrator existed b/c he ultimately played so little or no role in the story put forth.
"There remains "me." That "me" is an eccentric, too singular to describe in a few words. Imagine a small man, who holds himself so awkwardly that he seems counterfeit, of sad and dreamy expression, his head sunk between his shoulders, his vague and indeterminate gait representing a living specimen of a Guianan Acephale; who alone, as in society, conversed with his own thoughts, to the point of bursting into laughter, crying out and weeping without the company being able to suspect the reason; timid and brutal to excess; loving pleasure and disdaining out of pride the objects that procure it; preaching tolerance and not being able to suffer the slightest contradiction, etc." - p 24
I found this interesting. I'm reminded of something I wrote called "Your Horoscope" ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/W1980sH... ). In that, I took all the horoscopes, probably from a newspaper, definitely from somewhere where the sign descriptions were very short, & combined them into one — the point being to show that everyone had all of these characteristics at some point or another —regardless of whether they were contradictory. In the above quote, the description ends w/ "preaching tolerance and not being able to suffer the slightest contradiction" — thusly demonstrating a contradictory or hypocritical nature — &, yet, not necessarily hypocritical b/c he's open about it.
""I call myself Friend Nicolas. I've been a shepherd, a vine-grower, a gardener, a laborer, a student, an apprentice monk, an artisan in a city, married, cuckolded, libertine, sage, stupid, intelligent, ignorant and philosophical; finally I'm an author. I've written numerous works; most of which were bad["]" - p 25
Since the narrator is just an alter-ego for the author, the author presents himself as complex & not w/o flaws.
The 1st of the flying men, Victorin, establishes an empire populated initially by people he kidnaps & flies off w/. Before the main tale is plunged into, the reader is given a glimpse of the more advanced stage of this 'recruiting' process:
"["]Which of your great men, for example, would consent to allow himself to be taken to the Austral lands?["]
""That question," I said, "isn't very difficult. The greatest men are Monsieur de Voltaire, Monsieur Rousseau and Monsieur de Buffon; there is also Monsieur Franklin here, an envoy of the United States of America, who might suit your purpose" - p 28
"I shall say very briefly that the abduction in question was carried out with perfect ease; only J.-J. Rousseau's friends were informed of it, and me. I shall keep silent as long as I live, and this story will only appear after my death. Thus, Posterity will know that the cenotaph in Ermenonville is empty."*
*"Rousseau died—or, according to N******, pretended to die—in 1778." - p 29
Despite my finding this bk generally boring, I also find it consistently rich. The narrator has people who die in France being actually transported to Victorin's empire & their deaths faked. When I was 19, I was picked up hitch-hiking by a guy in a stolen car who had a theory that Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, & Janis Joplin hadn't actually died but had faked their deaths so that they cd live in some utopia in peace. It amuses me that Restif was putting about such myths 200 yrs earlier. This introduction from the end of the tale then segues into the tale's early days when the mechanical wings were 1st being developed:
"After that trial, Victorin and Jean Vezinier only talked about their wings, and what they could do when they could fly long distances. Victorin only breathed for Christine, and wanted to go find an island or an inaccessible mountain in order to take her there and live with her, but Jean Vezinier had many other ideas. He wanted to avenge himself on his enemies, and kill them from high in the air. He wanted to carry off the daughters of the town, who had disdained him as a husband because of his idleness, and enjoy them at his whim, in order to return them to their parents dishonored." - p 32
"As the Flying Man had to be able to make use of both hands, the mechanism that gave movement to the wings was activated by two straps that passed under the sole of each foot in such a way that, in order to fly, it was necessary to make the ordinary action of walking—a movement that could, in consequence, be accelerated and slowed down at will. The two feet each gave a complete movement to both wings; they dilated them and caused them to beat simultaneously, but by virtue of the effect of a little mechanism, the right foot operated the extension of the closed parasol, and the left foot brought it back while opening it." - p 37
"Finally, the beautiful Christine went back to her room, and Victorin, no longer having any hope of seeing the sovereign of his thoughts, directed his flight toward the nearest city, which was seven leagues away. He arrived there in less than an hour, and lifted a young woman away from libertines who had attacked her.* He deposited her in her home through the window that she indicated to him, although half-fainted in fear, believed him to be the Devil, and then an Angel—which made a great deal of noise the next day.
*"The casual rescue of damsels in distress was later to become a standard part of the repertoire of "the noctural spectator:—the protagonist of Restif's quasi-autobiographical series of anedotes Les Nuits de Paris, and, at a much later date, a standard element of the stereotyped role of the comic book superhero." - p 40 ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 19, 2018
Mar 29, 2018
really liked it
Mack Reynolds's Blackman's Burden / Border, Breed Nor Birth
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 16-19, 2019
For the full review go here: h review of
Mack Reynolds's Blackman's Burden / Border, Breed Nor Birth
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 16-19, 2019
For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
The 1st & only other bk I've read by Mack Reynolds was another 1/2 of an Ace Double: The Rival Rigelians (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ). In my review of that I wrote:
"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."
Indeed. The Rival Rigelians has as its rivalry the competition between capitalism & socialism as systems for running planets other than Earth. Blackman's Burden & Border, Breed Nor Birth, wch is its sequel, have a similar conflict but one that I found more interesting: various forces trying to modernize Africa against a background of competition between capitalism, socialism, & various nationalisms.
I only sortof 'accidentally' read this bk as yet-another-bk-written-by-a-non-African-about-Africa. The last one that I read that fit that category was Evelyn Waugh's Black Mischief (see my review of that here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ). In my review of that I wrote:
"Africa's a continent. There're bound to be significant differences between the culture of Egypt & the culture of South Africa, between the culture of Liberia & the culture of Nigeria. It's awkward for me to review this bk. I've read so little from &/or about Africa. I haven't read Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. I have read Melvin B. Tolson's Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, I have read Sony Labou Tansi's The Antipeople, I have read Naguib Mahfouz's Midaq Alley, I have read Fathy Ghanem's The Man Who Lost his Shadow & other bks of, perhaps, lesser relevance such as Isabelle Eberhardt's The Oblivion Seekers, etc..
"The point is that reviewing this bk is awkward b/c it's a parody of an imaginary African nation written after Waugh had spent a few mnths in Africa. Africans get made fun of, the British get made fun of, the French get made fun of. It's my impression that everyone gets made fun of equally & that the Africans don't get mocked any more than anyone else concerned. HOWEVER, I'm not African—I don't really know how an African might respond to this. Of course, there're bound to be some Africans who think it's hilarious & others who think it's racist."
The same, or something similar, might be written about this bk — one of the differences being that I think Waugh is a brilliant writer per se but I don't think Reynolds is. Nonetheless, I think Reynolds's basic premise for these 2 bks is interesting: viz: that various extra-African agencies are formed to try to modernize Africa for various motives & that members of these agencies then form a 'rogue' group that's still working for modernization but no longer supporting the ulterior motives of the countries &/or political systems that they came from.
All of the protagonists are blacks, most are African-Americans. That, in itself, is somehat unusual. Mack Reynolds wasn't black. I wonder what an African-American critique of his characterizations wd be. He has most or all of the characters be college educated. They don't speak in any dialect unless one thinks of one character who goes in & out of beatnik-speak. If he'd had the people molded into stereotypes of 'blackness' these bks might've been insufferable. Instead, these are blacks who've come to Africa because they're descended from it & want to intervene in its development but who're also mostly Americans who don't really feel like Africa is their 'homeland'.
As is often the case w/ adventure & SF novels, these characters are exaggeratedly talented & capable: they might be sociologists who speak multiple languages fluently who can wear disquises convincingly & fight with lethal expertise. In other words, they're a bit improbable.
Reynolds is written about in the beginning of Blackman's Burden:
"Of all the writers published in the leading sf magazines, Galaxy and If, a poll conducted among the readers put the stories of MACK REYONOLDS consistently higher than any other. His stories have an uncanny way of discussing now the questions that will concern everyone ten or twenty years later. Blackman's Burden & Border, Breed Nor Birth are not only exciting to read—they may forecast the shape of events in Africa in years to come." - p 2
""When the great powers of Europe arbitrarily split up Africa in the nineteenth century they didn't bother with race, tribe, nor even geographic boundaries. Largely they seemed to draw their boundary lines with ruler and pencil on a Mercator projection. Often, not only were native nations split in twain but even tribes and clans, and sometimes split not only one way but two or three. It was chaotic to the old tribal system.["]" - p 67
"Crawford continued. "For a time aid to these backward nations was left in the hands of the individual nations—especially to the United States and Russia. However, in spite of speeches of politicians to the contrary, governments are not motivated by humanitarian purposes. The government of a country does what it does for the benefit of the ruling class of that country.["]" - p 64
"["]At the same time the other have nations including Great Britain, France, Germany, and the newly awakening China, began to realize that unless they got into the aid act that they would disappear as competitors for the tremendous markets in the newly freed former colonial lands.["]" - p 65
"The C.I.A. man said evenly, "We've already had reports that this conference was going to be held. I might as well inform you that a protest is being made to the Sahara Division of the African Development Project."
"Crawford said, "I suppose that is your privilege, sir. Now, in accord with the reason for this metting, can you tell us why your organization is present in Africa and what it hopes to achieve?"
"Ostander looked at him testily. "Why not? There has been considerable infiltration of all of these African development organizations by subversive elements . . . "" - pp 76-77
Blackman's Burden is copyrighted 1961 & Border, Breed Nor Birth is copyrighted 1962. Did questions of African modernization concern non-African readers from 1971 to 1982? Did these novels forecast events there? The novel has the "Soviet Complex" & the "CIA" pitted against each other. What was happening on that front in the 1970s? I'd say that in some respects Reynolds was pretty spot-on. Take the example of CIA operative John Stockwell:
"As a Marine, Stockwell was a CIA paramilitary intelligence case officer in three wars: the Congo Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the Angolan War of Independence. His military rank is Major. Beginning his career in 1964, Stockwell spent six years in Africa, Chief of Base in the Katanga during the Bob Denard invasion in 1968, then Chief of Station in Bujumbura, Burundi in 1970, before being transferred to Vietnam to oversee intelligence operations in the Tay Ninh province and was awarded the CIA Intelligence Medal of Merit for keeping his post open until the last days of the fall of Saigon in 1975.
"In December 1976, he resigned from the CIA, citing deep concerns for the methods and results of CIA paramilitary operations in Third World countries and testified before Congressional committees. Two years later, he wrote the exposé In Search of Enemies, about that experience and its broader implications. He claimed that the CIA was counterproductive to national security, and that its "secret wars" provided no benefit for the United States. The CIA, he stated, had singled out the MPLA to be an enemy in Angola despite the fact that the MPLA wanted relations with the United States and had not committed a single act of aggression against the United States. In 1978 he appeared on the popular American television program 60 Minutes, claiming that CIA Director William Colby and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had systematically lied to Congress about the CIA's operations." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_St...
"["]Remember the early days when the Congo was first given her freedom? Supposedly the United Nations went in to help. Actually, each element in the United Nations had its own irons in the fire, and usually their desires differed."" - p 127
"We were doing things it seemed because we were there, because it was our function, we were bribing people, corrupting people, and not protecting the U.S. in any visible way. I had a chance to go drinking with this Larry Devlin, a famous CIA case officer who had overthrown Patrice Lumumba, and had him killed in 1960, back in the Congo. He was moving into the Africa division Chief. I talked to him in Addis Ababa at length one night, and he was giving me an explanation - I was telling him frankly, 'sir, you know, this stuff doesn't make any sense, we're not saving anybody from anything, and we are corrupting people, and everybody knows we're doing it, and that makes the U.S. look bad'." - John Stockwell, https://libcom.org/history/secret-war...
"Patrice Lumumba became the first prime minister of the newly-independent Congo in 1960, but he lasted just a few months in the job before he was overthrown and assassinated in January 1961.
"In 2002, former colonial power Belgium admitted responsibility for its part in the killing, however, the US has never explained its role despite long-held suspicions.
"US President Dwight D Eisenhower, concerned about communism, was worried about Congo following a similar path to Cuba.
"According to a source quoted in Death in the Congo, a book about the assassination, President Eisenhower gave "an order for the assassination of Lumumba. There was no discussion; the [National Security Council] meeting simply moved on".
"However, a CIA plan to lace Lumumba's toothpaste with poison was never carried out, Lawrence Devlin, who was a station chief in Congo at the time, told the BBC in 2000.
"A survey of declassified US government documents from the era notes that the CIA "initially focussed on removing Lumumba, not only through assassination if necessary but also with an array of non-lethal undertakings".
"While there is no doubt the CIA wanted him dead, the survey does not indicate direct US involvement in his eventual killing." - http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-...
Now Stockwell cd be wrong about the CIA assassinating Lumumba or the BBC cd be wrong about their not doing it. Either way, the CIA was meddling in the Congo — thusly providing reinforcement for Reynolds's argument as stated thru Homer Crawford.
& what about the Soviet Union?:
"In the second half of the 1970s, the Soviet Union increased its supply of arms to countries around the world, and in particular to countries in Africa. As one after the other, African countries saw their colonialist regimes toppled by coups and independence movements, choosing a separatist side to support became a way for countries such as Britain and France, as well as the US and the USSR, to maintain their influence under the shifting political situation and maintain their economic interests in natural resources.
"In Ethiopia and Angola, Soviet arms were sent to support Cuban troops who were involved with backing communist separatist movements. For example, following a coup d’etat in 1974, foreign intervention in the civil war in Angola reflected the wider division amongst the super powers, with the United States supporting two of the independence movements (FNLA and UNITA) and Cuba and the Soviet Union supporting another (the MPLA)." - https://www.historyanswers.co.uk/peop...
Note that Reynolds's bks were written before any of this is reputed to've happened. As such, he was, indeed, prescient. Also note that the US was in there manipulating before the USSR. Some might say that that was prescient, others, myself among them, wd say that that was inexcusable. What's particularly interesting about Reynolds's bks to me is that he doesn't take sides w/ any of these super-powers but instead presents rebels for whom modernization thru such things as equal rights for women, lessened inter-tribal conflict, increased education, increases in oasises, birth-control, improved health care, etc, are really the primary goal — rather than, e.g., a new marketplace for exploitation. Whether such outside interference is really a good idea is still a debatable issue from my POV but at least these bks manage to address such things & still manage to be adventure stories. Is this "soft power"?:
"Can you explain why the Soviet Union saw soft power as an important element of their activities internationally? Why was film in particular significant to the Soviet Union?
"As well as supplying arms, the Soviet Union had sought to spread socialism globally through ‘soft power’ strategies such as offering scholarships to foreign students from developing countries. The idea was that these students would return to their own countries and sow the seeds of socialism there.
"The scheme also emphasised the Soviet Union’s message of internationalism and fair rights for all workers – ideologically in contrast to the United States, where black citizens were not offered the same opportunities for education. Scholarships were offered across disciplines, including engineering, medicine and filmmaking." - https://www.historyanswers.co.uk/peop...
Reynolds's heros are all Americans who're reasonably well-educated but what was it really like for blacks in the US in the time preceding the writing of the novels? As you can see from this chronology, Reynolds's heros wd've been mostly wishful thinking as of the time his bk was written. HOWEVER, the time of the novel is really in the future where such wishful thinking wd no longer be necessary:
"1950: Ralph J. Bunche, officially a member of the Harvard University faculty although he never taught there, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the 1948 Arab-Israeli peace settlement, becoming the first black to receive this distinction.
"1950: In Sweatt v. Painter the University of Texas School of Law is ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to admit Heman Marion Sweatt. Sweatt enrolls but eventually drops out of the University of Texas School of Law after receiving poor grades.
"1950: The Supreme Court rules in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education that black students admitted to the previously all-white graduate institution must not be segregated within the institution and must receive equal treatment in all aspects of the education process.
"1950: Kentucky’s Day Law is amended to allow black and white students above high school level to be educated together. Berea College is the first in the state to readmit black students.
"1950: The U.S. Court of Appeals requires the University of Virginia School of Law to admit Gregory Swanson, a practicing lawyer. Swanson, the first black admitted to UVA, did not complete his studies due to the inhospitable treatment he received.
"1950: The American Medical Association accepts black members for the first time.
"1950: The first Ph.D. in metallurgy is awarded to a black, Frank Alphonso Crossley, at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
"1951: The first black student is admitted to the University of North Carolina School of Law.
"1951: Princeton University awards its first honorary degree to an African American, Ralph Bunche.
"1952: The first black student is admitted to the University of Tennessee.
"1952: Joseph T. Gier, an engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley, is the second black faculty member to become tenured at a predominantly white university.
"1953: Walter N. Ridley, a psychology professor at Virginia State University, becomes University of Virginia’s first black graduate, receiving a doctorate in education.
"1953: Spelman College names Albert Edward Manley as its first black president.
"1953: The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania graduates its first black woman MBA student. Today, Wharton is unsure of the identity of the student.
"1953: Howard Thurmann was appointed dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, the first African American dean at a major predominantly white university.
"1954: The University of Florida is ordered to admit black students by the Supreme Court.
"1954: In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional.
"1955: Martin Luther King Jr., a graduate of Morehouse College, earns a Ph.D. in theology at Boston University.
"1956: Autherine Lucy is the first African American to enroll at the University of Alabama. After riots engulfed the campus, she is expelled for “her own safety.”
"1956: Lila Fenwick graduates from Harvard Law School, the first black woman to do so. Fenwick later led the United Nations’ Human Rights Division.
"1956: The University of Florida College of Law is ordered to admit Virgil Darnell Hawkins following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Florida ex rel. Hawkins v. Board of Control. Hawkins withdraws his application as a condition by which Florida agreed to integrate the law school.
"1957: Legislation is passed in Tennessee requiring the desegregation of state universities.
"1958: The University of Florida law school admits its first black student, George Starke Jr.
"1960: Four black students from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College hold a sit-in at the lunch counter of an F.W. Woolworth in Greensboro, North Carolina. This spurs a series of sit-ins in the South to demand racial equality.
"1960: Charles Edward Anderson becomes the first black to earn a doctorate in meteorology. He earned his Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."
As such, I think that Reynolds, once again, deserves credit — in this instance for his progressive anti-racist thinking. ...more
Notes are private!
Mar 11, 2018
Mar 19, 2018
Jul 18, 2016
it was amazing
Vermin Supreme's i Pony: Blueprint for a New America
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 7-13, 2018
For some reason, people seem to notice review of
Vermin Supreme's i Pony: Blueprint for a New America
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 7-13, 2018
For some reason, people seem to notice that Vermin Supreme often wears a boot on his head. He's often asked why he does this &, like any politician, his answers can be evasive — 'If the boot fits, wear it' n'at. At the beginning of this bk, he provides the following explanatory quote:
""If you want a picture of the future, imagine a rubber boot on a human head—forever."*
"* Or something like that." - p 4
The quote is from George Orwell's 1984 & is more fully like this:
""But always – do not forget this, Winston – always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever." (3.3.34, O’Brien)" - https://www.shmoop.com/1984/power-quo...
Supreme does what he does best & takes a grim vision of the human condition & at least partially defuses it by tweaking it for his own absurdist ends.
I was expecting this bk to be like those private conversations with Vermin that go somewhat like this:
Friend of Vermin: "Vermin, When the weight of oppression implodes under its own inability to maintain its contradictions, do you think that the Trickster will move into the vacuum created as a result?"
Vermin: "Without getting too technical, Backhoevan has stated that "T sub 1 and T sub 2 are evacuated (or filled with standard material) and white-light fringes are produced. The compensator is turned until the fringe systems in the upper and lower halves of the field appear to coincide.""
Friend of Vermin: "Are we talking about the lunatic fringes that still consume white lightning despite the danger of blindness resulting?"
Vermin: "Not exactly. To again quote Backhoevan: "Monochromatic light is then introduced, and a small alteration is made in the setting so as to bring the two systems into coincidence.""
Instead, the bk gets into more practical matters that can be easily understood by anyone tripping around in the woods lost. The approach is set from the get-go:
""Before we go to bed, will you tell us the story of how it was in the olden days, when grandpa was a little boy."
""Sure, honey. That was before I was born, but I know a little bit about it. Once upon a time... before the new world where we live today came into being, there was a time when people could drive a machine powered by motors fueled by a magic liquid called gasoline."" - p 5
Astute readers who didn't get distracted by taking a toke at one of those "before"s may have deduced that the time under discussion is the present. I was immediately so engrossed that I was unable to put the bk down. Then I noticed that there was some kind of skin-contact-activated-glue on the cover. Vermin always has been a joker. Further astuteness will reveal a reference to the Krononautic Organism:
"The steady voice of the ship's computer calmly made its pronouncement.
""Please evacuate the capsule..."
"He quickly came to the conclusion that his time and spaceship, Continuum, must have crash-landed on some unknown planet." pp 12-13
"Looking about the rest of the capsule, it was clear his fellow krononauts had not survived the trip." - p 13
Alas, the only thing I can recall having online relevant to link to here is a movie of mine called "VEX 1990E.V." filmed at the site of & during a Krononautic event: https://youtu.be/fGDsj1ZJnMU . It's not really the best representative.
Vermin's krononaut considers his crash site:
"Looking about, he found himself surrounded by humanoids.
"They looked like hippies.
"They were hairy all over and seemed to have no shame. They seemed to be unable to speak coherently and they smelled terrible.
"The tribe welcomed the lost man into their fold."
He's captured by ponies, the dominant species on the planet.
""We must cut him open and find out what makes him talk," said Dr. Zaius.
""I want his brain!"
""Let's cut off his balls!"
""Maybe we should keep him awhile and experiment on him alive before dissecting his brain," said Zira, a lone voice of pony reason. "We could still cut his balls off."" - p 19
Now if this seems like a take-off of Pierre Boulle's 1963 Planet of the Apes or the many movies made therefrom, keep in mind that the character is a Krononaut & probably was sitting in Boulle's apartment discussing his sexual fantasies before Planet of the Apes was written. Whatever the case, it goes away, never to return. Funny.
"There was much happiness and merriment among the citizenry. A tsunami of contentment waterboarded over all the good faces of all the good peoples.
"It was, indeed, the bestest of ALL the times. LOL. A big 10-4, that is for sure good buddies." - p 23
Are you convinced? But.. but.. only 2 pages later:
"The sound of the songbirds was synthiszed from speakers mounted in the artificial trees.
"Needless to say, there were no songbirds."
"At home and abroad, power plant meltdowns, workplace shootings, civil disorder, race riots, religious strife, terrorist attacks and such all took place just as often, if not more often, than ever." - p 25
However, at least Vermin Supreme had finally become president. Whether he was only technically still alive is a different story. That makes this as good a time as ever to link to my movie about him: Vermin Supreme, His Humble Beginnings ( https://youtu.be/9GmNOHKbRyY ). There are exactly ONE ZILLION movies about Vermin online so you should probably completely ignore him but how else could he become president if he weren't everywhere all the time?
There were some problems. Vermin Supreme, when was running for any political office that he could imagine associating himself with, had promised everyone a pony. Once he became president he decided he had to deliver. Why this bothered him is hard to understand. No other president had ever kept any promises before.
"During the days of his ascent to the White House, there were over 300 million Americans living within America's previous borders.
"At the time, there were only 200,000 ponies in the whole country." - p 35
"The Dental High Command was put on high alert. The Dental Re-Education Camps were readied. Homeland Dental Security coordinated with the nation's Dental Police Departments." - p 36
The paragraphs are all very short & don't use words that the majority of Americans don't understand. This will be an extremely popular book. It's like reading a newspaper aimed at a 6th grade reading level. Even though I like it, it's not like one of my books at all — I mean you're safe, really, buy a copy. The bk's full of all sorts of good ideas that cd be useful to all sorts of folks.. well, maybe, mainly a particular sort of person:
"The military application of zombies in warfare had been hotly debated. The use of zombies in warfare had been roundly condemned by the United Nations. Still, the US reserved the right to use zombies in a 'defensive' capacity." - p 40
"The First Council of Internet Memes Decree essentially ended landlordism as its first fully official act. Jimmy McMillan of the Rent is Too Damn High Party was victorious, as he successfully argued against all and any rent.
"There was a proclamation across the kingdom declaring everyone the owner of their current domicile." - pp 51-52
"Gaddafi banned much private enterprise and turned over property from landlords to their tenants. While this benefited Libya's underclass in the short term, it meant that there has been almost no investment in maintaining the country's housing stock. "All of this is collapsing on the inside," says Marrakis, pointing to apartment buildings along Gamal Abdel Nasser street, once among the city's most prestigious addresses, now more reminiscent of Soviet bloc eastern Europe than of the breezy Mediterranean. "There is a severe, chronic housing shortage," he continues. "Young people can't own their own homes, can't get married, can't start their lives."" - http://content.time.com/time/specials... (Time Magazine)
I don't exactly trust Time Magazine. I wouldn't expect Time to praise the renunciation of landlordism. Time is located in New York City. Space is located in smaller cities & rural areas. Rents there are outrageous. Even with extreme taxes I'm sure that landlords are making truly extreme profits. I've seen properties in substantial disrepair being rented. I've heard of Mafiosa torching buildings being squatted. I've known of community efforts to reclaim vacant lots as community gardens being destroyed by greedy people. In all 3 of these instances, the landlords were impediments to neighborhood improvement, their sole motive being to get even richer — w/o any concern for the people whose lives they're affecting.
I doubt that Gaddafi's turning over property from landlords to tenants turned out entirely bad. Such a claim is a transparent piece of propaganda stating that buildings are only kept up if there are landlords. I do think that the US bombing of Libya on multiple occassions might've been a little bit inspired by wanting to destroy the example that Gaddafi was setting in things other than just terrorism. Somehow, I suspect that the USA's bombings of Libya in 1986 & 2011 might've done a little damage too, eh? I'm not a Gaddafi enthusiast but letting people own the places they live in strikes me as an idea with plenty of potential.
In the future, or.. maybe this already happened?... (sound of heavy inhaling) I don't remember, anyway, you know what I mean, right, I mean Vermin's prez & school's have completely changed:
"The class had already begun to pledge their allegiance to victory.
"Gingivitis has been eroding the gum line of this great nation long enough. It must be stopped. For too long this country has been suffering a great moral and oral decay—in spirit and incisors. A country's future depends on its ability to bite back. We can no longer be a nation indentured. Our very salivation is at stake. Together we must brace ourselves as we cross over to the bridgework into the 23rd century. Let us bite the bullet and together make America a sea of shining smiles, from sea to shiny sea." - p 56
But there was one little boy sitting in the classroom who refused to recite the pledge. & he rode a giraffe to school instead of a pony. Even worse, he let the giraffe ride him home. It seemed only fair. He & the giraffe were never seen again. It wasn't President Vermin's fault, sometimes his staff are overzealous. Or, maybe, the facts were warped. I'm pretty sure that the facts are warped in the next passage:
"Zombie power produced zero emissions, other than the inevitable stench of rotting flesh. Dipping the zombies in polyurethane during their processing helped somewhat, but not much." - P 64
Sounds fishy to me. There's bound to be a rogue whistle-blower technician out there somewhere who can out some of the technical difficulties & negative side-effects. I've heard tales of limbs falling off & zombies tripping on them causing sudden power surges, explosions from accumulated slip gas & methane, the whole 9 yards. At any rate, everyone knows about the Zombie Power equivalent of Chernobyl by now, it's popularly called Corpsenobyl — not to be confused w/ Corpsesickle.
"Never before had hackers successfully breached a zombie turbine facility."
"The zombies emerged into the daylight for the first time in years. Their barely functioning eye-balls flooded with stimuli." - p 71
& this, of course, is where the urban planning of the Supreme administration was short-sighted. It was taken for granted that bright lights could be used to thwart zombies.. but.. they were dependent on powering the bright lights w/ zombie power. Duh. Hence, "When he was young, Chuck's parents had been eaten. Consequently, he'd been adopted by his grandparents." (p 83) Happens to the best of us. But Supreme himself, who was sortof dead but w/o being a zombie, had had foresight.. just not enuf.
"These were the cloned brains of Emperor Vermin Supreme.
"The brains pulsated. Working together, their vast number compromised a living super-computer.
"These were the brains that ruled the country.
"They must be protected at any cost." - p 118
This is the kind of thing that makes me suspicious again. How do they know that these are all Vermin Supreme brains? What if, when this brain computer was being assembled, the techs were under a quota gun & cdn't clone the brains fast enuf? They might've stuck a recently deceased relative's brain in their somewhere. Think about it: How many people do you think wd even notice? That's the burning question.
"The burning undead crawled on top of a squirming ocean of the undead, 10 zombies deep, spreading their wildfire like some sort of zombie virus. Soon, the fire, using the zombies as fuel, began to spread up the building's staircases. Terrible-smelling smoke began to reach the upper floors. Smoke and fire alarms sounded. Sprinkler systems activated.
"A happy-sounding voice intoned:
"Everything is under control. Please do not panic. Remain at your workstations." - p 154
I told them not to use lighter fluid in their sprinklers but nobody ever listens to me. At any rate, you get the idea. You don't even need to read the bk now — but you do need to buy it. It's your CIVIC DUTY. ...more
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Feb 22, 2018
Mar 13, 2018
it was ok
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 4, 2018
This is a catalog for a show of Sonnier's at Galleria Il Ponte in Rome in 1989 & review of
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 4, 2018
This is a catalog for a show of Sonnier's at Galleria Il Ponte in Rome in 1989 &/or 1990. The catalog seems to have been made available in the US by the Leo Castelli Gallery in NYC, a gallery that's represented the work of many people that I'm interested in. When I saw Sonnier's name it seemed very familiar to me, as if I'd read about his work before & been sufficiently stimulated to follow-up on it. The works represented here involve neon light so I'm reminded of Dan Flavin's work but Flavin's work seems a bit more raw & less aestheticized. Usually that wd appeal to me if I felt like the rawness represented a strong idea. In this case, I, at least superficially, seem to like Sonnier's work more.
I was curious about what I might've read about Sonnier so I started looking thru the likely-culprit bks that I wd've read 40+ yrs ago + some newer ones: Conceptual Art: nope; Six Years: The dematerialization of the art object: BINGO!; Individuals: Post-Movement Art In America: nope; Changing, essays in art criticism: yep, sortof, a little; Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology: nope; Late Modern: The Visual Arts Since 1945: nope. SO, only in 2 Lucy Lippard edited bks & only 'substantially' in one of those 2.
In Six Years there's a photo of a video installation that's a projection of a hand called Dis-Play (1969) & supposedly something about, a picture, probably, a piece called Mustee but I didn't find that one on the page that the index lists it as being on. In Changing, there's a quote from an article about him in Art Forum. Not much to go on.. so why does he seem so familiar? Even his picture looks familiar. No matter.
The catalog's in Italian & English. There're 4 color photographs, 2 black & whites, & 2 essays. The essays are typical art-world high-falutin' & overblown hyperbole. Here're the 1st 2 paragraphs of Cecilia Casorati's "Three Dimensional Writing":
"The geometric figure is an excellent antidote against a discontinuous form, against the deformations of living space. By using geometry, orderer measurements we have, if not fullness, at least a surrogate for the highest (Conceptual) aspiration of man, that of being a cube.
"These misunderstandings, prejudices, blunders would be spared us if cubes, squares or circles could prevail over our deforming affections. Even language — the great disturbed disturber — would convey something if only, instead of letters and pronunication, there were silent tessera with a severely geometric shape."
Whew! Casorati is such a square. A part of the 'problem' here seems to be the translation from Italian-to-English. Back in those barbaric days people didn't have Google-translate. SO, let's take advantage of today's mod-a-go-go far-out-nik possibilities & retranslate the 2nd sentence to try to get rid of "orderer measurements":
Italian: "Geometrizzando, misurando con ordine abbiamo, se non la pienezza, almeno il surrogato della massima aspirazione (concettuale) dell'uomo, quella di essere un cubo."
Google-translate turns that into: "Geometrising, measuring with order we have, if not fullness, at least the surrogate of the maximum (conceptual) aspiration of man, that of being a cube."
Now, I'll take a stab at it: "By using geometry & its ordered measurements we have, if not fullness, at least the surrogate of the maximum (conceptual) aspiration of man, that of being a cube."
Note that "conceptual" is not capitalized. Regardless of the awkwardness of the language, the basic premise seems to be that it's best for humanity to eliminate its emotions & their conflicts in favor of becoming uncomplicated geometric shapes. I don't know about you, but I am not going to give a cube a driver's license or have sex w/ one. Call me prejudiced. This silly, or provocative, or just idiotically modern-art-theory-skewed essay continues w/:
"The works in this exhibition are great three-dimensional ideo-pictograms. They do not speak, they are untranslateable, they are enigmatic and idealistic (or rather they are form, volume/manifestation of idealism) like man who would be a cube."
The 2nd essay, "The Janus Strategy: Keith Sonnier Looks East and West" is by Linda McGreevy, who was an "Associate Professor of Art History at Old Dominton University, Norfolk, Virginia". I don't know who did the proof-reading on this but I reckon we can't blame the translator for this essay: i.e.: read "Old Dominion" for "Old Dominton".
This essay informs us that: "Collaborating with artist Liza Bear on Send/Receive, Sonnier threaded the military-industrial maze to obtain permission to use NASA's satellite television to connect San Francisco's art community with New York's." That interests me.
All in all, I just liked looking at the pictures of the work. I didn't get all worked up over them but I can imagine proudly taking houseguests into my furnace rm, the only place where one might fit, to surprise them w/ the contrast between the vivid colors of a Sonnier & the otherwise general grunginess. I'd even go see an exhibit of his work. ...more
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Mar 04, 2018
Jul 01, 1990
it was amazing
Greg Bear's Queen of Angels
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 1-4, 2018
For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/sho review of
Greg Bear's Queen of Angels
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 1-4, 2018
For the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Ok, I might as well just add Bear to my personal pantheon of great SF writers & be done w/ it. I keep hesitating to put him there b/c the writing's just a tad bit too.. college-correct. But the ideas are always amazing & he's done a great job w/ this one, this is probably one of my favorites of the 20 bks I've read by him so far.
A central character is a man who murders his friends & acolytes in a seemingly calculated spree of death. He's a writer. His writings are quoted throughout. One of the nice touches is a footnote to the opening epigraph by him on p 3:
"1 Permission to Quote Unattributed Passages: International Artist's Rights Committee, World © Emanuel Goldsmith 2022-2045."
Another central character is a "PD", wch I initially took to mean "Police Department" or "Police Detective":
"She could not wash away the sight of eight young comb citizens in various stages of disassembly. Last night, the first investigation team had gone to the third foot of East Comb One in response to neighborhood medical detectors picking up traces of human decay. In the first two hours the team had mounted a sniffer, performed assay and scanned for heat trails. Then the freezers had come and tombed the whole apartment. Senior in her watch, Mary had been assigned this rare homicide at seven hundred. Spin of the hour.
"Layer by cold solid layer, forensics would now study the scene corpses and all and take as long as they wished. From the large scale to the microbial everything would be sifted and analyzed and by tomorrow or the day after they would know something about everyone who had been in and out of the apartment over the last year." - p 4
As usual, Bear's imagination is far-reaching & thorough. He pursues a multitude of well-worked-out possibilites for the near-future & makes it all cohere. The above 1.5 paragraphs give a taste. He imagines housing, He imagines forensics. I thought PFD meant the 2 things listed above but, as it turns out: ""You are a Public Defender in Los Angeles["]" (p 126) Mary's a "Public Defender". This no longer means a state-pd lawyer for the defense, it means a cop. But the whole legal system has changed dramatically in a more humane direction—& this is controversial. Bear's reimagining of the 'justice' system bears examination by 'Injustice System' Activists of today.
Just as I'm interested in a future where permission can be granted "to Quote Unattributed Passages" so am I interested in a future acronym of "O.V.F. & I.—Once Very Famous & Influential". (p 13) Thickening the plot, is a search for intelligent life in the universe by an unmanned vessel. Tech details are provided:
""By cutting through the galaxy's magnetic field and generating this electricity, AXIS relied on the law of conservation of energy to decelerate even more quickly without the use of onboard fuel. The power drawn from its vast wings was more han sufficient to dispel the cold of deep space; but AXIS waited for proximity to Alpha Centauri B to begin to grow its biologic thinker system.["]" - p 20
Goldstein, the murderer, who was 1st & foremost a writer, is quoted throughout. His writing tends to a Draconian perception of humanity:
"Examiner: "I remember Mr. Bormann. You've been before this court before, have you not?"
Examiner: "For outrages against your own kind."
Examiner: "What crime is he accused of this time?"
Clerk: "Outraging Hell, sire." - p 21
As is so often the case w/ just about everything, the extent of the perceiver's knowledge determines what they get out of something. In this case, the reader may just respond to the name "Bormann" as a fictional one. OR they may hearken back to "Martin Bormann":
"Bormann joined a paramilitary Freikorps organisation in 1922 while working as manager of a large estate. He served nearly a year in prison as an accomplice to his friend Rudolf Höss (later commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp) in the murder of Walther Kadow. Bormann joined the Nazi Party in 1927 and the Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1937."
"Bormann was one of the leading proponents of the ongoing persecution of the Christian churches and favoured harsh treatment of Jews and Slavs in the areas conquered by Germany during World War II."
"After Hitler committed suicide, Bormann and others attempted to flee Berlin on 2 May to avoid capture by the Soviets. Bormann probably committed suicide on a bridge near Lehrter station. The body was buried nearby on 8 May 1945, but was not found and confirmed as Bormann's until 1972; the identification was reaffirmed in 1998 by DNA tests. Bormann was tried in absentia by the International Military Tribunal in the Nuremberg trials of 1945 and 1946. He was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death by hanging."
The treatment of criminals in Bear's not-so-far-distant-future involves giving them therapy, reshaping their personalities. Much of the novel revolves around aspects of this. Martin, another main character, the "O.V.F. & I." one is a brain researcher.
""Do you know Emanuel Goldsmith?" he asked Martin.
""I know of him," Martin said. "If we're talking about the same man."
""We are. The poet. He murdered Mr. Albigoni's daughter three nights ago.""
""Would you be willing to help him?"
""How?" Martin avoided taking a sip from his drink though he fingered the glass.
""Mr. Albigoni was—is—Mr. Goldsmith's publisher and friend. He bears him no ill will." Lascal's voice did not skim so easily over this prepared statement." - p 29
That's quite the dramatic premise, eh?! Society is split between the therapied, who tend to be more financially prosperous, & the untherapied who tend to live in the shade of the exclusive high rise housing Combs where the therapied live.
"Here and in the stablize deep sunk pads of Malibu was where the notyetchosen waited for vacancies with the combs. Vacancies were becoming more and more rare as rejuvenators plied their controversial trade, turning good citizens into multicentarian eloi." - p 37
Again, what the reader knows or doesn't know effects the perceived inflection. "Eloi" is a reference to the delicate & spoiled people of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine. They lead an easy life where they're well-taken care of w/o any wear & tear on themselves. This is made possibly by the Morlocks, the working class who live underground & manage all the infrastructure that makes the Eloi's life possible. There is a price, tho. Sometimes the Morlock take the Eloi underground to eat them or some such. Wells's story was a sort of Socialist warning to elites that sooner or later the exploited working classes wd revolt & get their revenge.
Now imagine the Eloi, as Bear does, as people rich enough to afford tretaments that enable longevity. Are we there yet? We might be closer than one might think. Imagine parents who live long lives spending all the family money on being kept alive. Money that might've once gone to the children to help them thru precarious old age is kept instead for the oldest while the children die off in deprivation. It seems to me that medical practice, in the US at least, revolves largely around taking every cent from old people for things like extremely expensive drugs to keep their internal organs going when they might otherwise be ready to give up the ghost. The patients won't die until the medical system has drained the family coffers.
Bear's imagining of forensics in 2047 is one of my favrote things about this novel:
"All nonhuman debris were within normal levels in the metabolic carpet. Goldsmith did not smoke or use powder or aerosol drugs. Guests brought in detritus consistent with their travel-paths through apartment and points of origin. Clothing and other fiber matches consistent with above conditions and patterns. Analysis of nondomestic nontailored microbes consistent with above conditions and patterns. Routine searches based upon direct human cell evidence and analysis of territorial mitochondrial drift and evolution of nonsymbiotic/nonparasitic microbial traces expected to soon give leads on homes (breakdown by known microbial environments) of all unknown visitors to the apartment." - p 70
This bk was published in 1990. It's mostly about 2047 but, of course, there's some history leading up to then. One of the most fun things, for me, about reading SF is seeing wch predictions come true (when applicable) & wch don't. Some predictions are mainly wishful thinking about the possible but implausible. It's 2018 as I write this:
"["]in 2017, five nations, headed by the young technological giant China, decided to build the first interstellar probe. Reluctantly, the United States was persuaded to join" - pp 80-81
The "Reluctantly" part is perhaps the most accurate. After all, the US refused to sign or ratify the following:
• 1930 - Forced Labour Convention, not ratified
• 1948 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, not signed
• 1949 - Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949, not signed
• 1950 - Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, not signed
• 1951 - Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, party to only the 1967 protocol
• 1951 - Equal Remuneration Convention, not ratified
• 1954 - Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, not signed
• 1958 - Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, not ratified
• 1960 - Convention against Discrimination in Education, not ratified
• 1961 - Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, not signed
• 1962 - Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages, signed but not ratified
• 1964 - Employment Policy Convention, 1964, not ratified
• 1966 - International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed but not ratified
• 1966 - First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, not signed
• 1969 - Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, not ratified
• 1969 - Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, signed but not ratified
• 1972 - Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed but withdrew in 2002
• 1977 - American Convention on Human Rights, signed but not ratified
• 1977 - Protocol I (an amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions), not ratified
• 1977 - Protocol II (an amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions), not ratified
• 1979 - Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, signed but not ratified
• 1979 - Moon Treaty
• 1981 - Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981, not ratified
• 1989 - Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, not signed
• 1989 - Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed but not ratified
• 1989 - Basel Convention, signed but not ratified
• 1990 - United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, not signed
• 1991 - United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, not signed
• 1992 - Convention on Biological Diversity, signed but not ratified
• 1994 - Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, signed but not ratified
• 1996 - Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, signed but not ratified
• 1997 - Kyoto Protocol, signed with no intention to ratify
• 1997 - Ottawa Treaty (Mine Ban Treaty), unsigned
• 1998 - Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, unsigned 
• 1999 - Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, not signed
• 1999 - Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, signed but not ratified
• 1999 - Civil Law Convention on Corruption, not signed
• 2002 - Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, not signed
• 2006 - International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, not signed
• 2007 - Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, signed but not ratified
• 2008 - Convention on Cluster Munitions, not signed
• 2011 - Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, signed but not yet ratified
• 2016 - Trans-Pacific Partnership, signed but not yet ratified
• 2017 - Paris Agreement, signed but not ratified"
Not exactly an impressive track record for a nation that supposedly values "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". I suppose that's 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness unless somebody wants to get rich off of sex slavery or cluster bombs or polluting the environment or whatever'.
I've criticized Baer's writing for being too "college-correct" by wch I mean he doesn't break the conventions but he still has some flare w/ language when he fdares wax poetical:
"Mary Choy debarked from a pd interjag minibus and glanced up briefly at East Comb One, upright stack of narrow horizontal mirrors with four sectors aligned into silver verticals, preparing to reflect hours from now the lowering westerly sun on the sixth jag where E Hassida lived. The city lay beneath uniform pewter clouds pushing in from the sea, decapitating the combs. There might be no usable sun this evening perhaps even rain but still the combs arranged themselves as if motivated by guilt for their shadowing presence." - p 82
Did you ever think about that? Highrises that block out the sun from the 'low-lifes'? What about highways that bisect neighborhoods or go entirely too close to houses that were once peacefully located, that're now subjected to constant noise? Not to be too obvious or anything but that stuff only happens in poor neighborhoods where the victims are too poor to effectively resist in legal fashion.
Another thing that usually interests me in SF is descriptions of imagined future technology. Eevn tho I'm not really that much of a tech-buff it's fun to imagine what might be ferasible:
""I'm reading about your triple focus receptor. It picks up signals from circuitry established in the skin by special neurological nano. It's designed to track activity at twenty-three different points around the hippocampus and corpus callosum."" - p 92
Martin, "O.V.F. & I.", is a pioneer of this brain research who's had his career unfairly cut short by politics.
""Radical therapy was only fifty percent effective until you made the procedures more precise." Albigoni raised his dull eyes to Martin's and smiled faintly. "Thereby putting the final touches on a transformation of law and society in the last fifteen years."" - p 95
""I still do not understand what is meant by Country of the Mind."
""It is a region, an unceasing and coherent dreamstate, built up from genetic engrams, pre verbal impressions, and all the contents of our lives. It is the alphabet and foundation on which we base all of our thinking and language, all our symbologies. Every thought, every personal action, is reflected in this region. All of our myths and religious symbols are based upon its common contents. All routines and subroutines, all personalities and talents and agents, all mental structures, are reflected in its features and occupants, or are reflections of them."" - p 97
More about the writer/murderer: "Goldsmith like Ezra Pound in an earlier age had established by being a Yardley apologist a reputation for inept and perhaps dangerous political dabbling that had made secure his literary standing." (p 102) I found that comparison interesting. Pound was eventually imprisoned in a mental hospital in the US b/c of his support of Italy during WWII. I don't think that support made his "literary standing" "secure" tho. On the same page, Bear has Goldsmith using the pun "eRace". Bear wd've used that no later than 1990 when the bk was published. I've always liked the term when I've encountered it at political protests.
"ERACE, also known as Eracism is an anti-racism organization created in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1993 by Brenda Thompson, Black, and Rhoda Faust, White, in response to racially charged statements in letters to the editors of the Times-Picayune series "Together Apart/The Myth of Race". They created the ERACISM bumper sticker and started free, bi-racial, facilitated ERACISM discussions." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ERACE
Interestingly, Bear's coinage of the word predates the 1993 attribution quoted above.
One idea that, to my disappointment, doesn't get explored further is: "legal implications of decl. dead retaining citizenship status upon reincarnation" (p 111) Imagine the legal wrangles regarding inheritance over that! Artists cd particularly benefit b/c their work might be worthless while they're alive, become very valuable after they die, & then, upon reincarnation, they cd finally collect the bucks.
Bear's near-future imaginings has much to hold my attn. A major part of it is "a complex of computing and thinking systems" (p 112) trying to detect their having a sense of self:
""Are you unified?"
""I do not think I am."
""Is that a true opinion, or a colloquialism?"
""I am of the opinion that it is a true opinion."
""Good. Return to keyboard, please."
"!Keyb> Thank you for notifying me, Jill, but I'm afraid this is a false alarm. I don't think that you are truly self aware.["]" - pp 112-113
Here's a part of Bear's future that I find more likely than others:
"Breakfast built itself quickly in the oven, a film of reddish nano drawing material from dimples and side troughs in the glass dish and rising like baking bread. In most homes nanofood prepared itself out of sight; not in Ernest's.
"In three minutes the red film slid away, revealing think brown slices with a breadlike texture kippers applesauce scrabled eggs flecked with green and red. The oven automatically heated everything to it desired temperature then opened its door and slide the meal out for their inspection." - pp 136-137
In the future where such nanofood cooking happens there'll be a few catches: 1. If the owner of the oven allows the automatic updating it won't be long before a new oven will have to be purchased or it won't be able to cook the food anymore; 2. This'll take no longer than 3 mnths; 3. If the new oven isn't purchased the nanofood will be in the shape of the Pillsbury Dough Boy but it'll be made entirely out of shit & will be animate & immortal. Now imagine THAT contesting your ownerships. The nano companies will get yr money no matter what.
Bear uses Goldsmith to take a stab at Islam, something that I continue to think is as needful as stabs at Christinanity. We cd do w/o these 2 gangs.
""What's the book?" Martin asked.
""The Qu'ran," Albigoni said. "A special edition I published fifteen years ago. It was the only boom he had with him."
"Martin looked over his shoulder at Lascal, "He's been reading it all along?"
""Off and on," Lascal said. "He called it 'the religion of the slavers.'["]" - p 176
Indeed. True dat. ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 18, 2018
Mar 04, 2018
Dec 11, 2012
really liked it
Evelyn Waugh's Black Mischief
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 19-28, 2018
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/stor review of
Evelyn Waugh's Black Mischief
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 19-28, 2018
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Africa's a continent. There're bound to be significant differences between the culture of Egypt & the culture of South Africa, between the culture of Liberia & the culture of Nigeria. It's awkward for me to review this bk. I've read so little from &/or about Africa. I haven't read Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. I have read Melvin B. Tolson's Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, I have read Sony Labou Tansi's The Antipeople, I have read Naguib Mahfouz's Midaq Alley, I have read Fathy Ghanem's The Man Who Lost his Shadow & other bks of, perhaps, lesser relevance such as Isabelle Eberhardt's The Oblivion Seekers, etc..
The point is that reviewing this bk is awkward b/c it's a parody of an imaginary African nation written after Waugh had spent a few mnths in Africa. Africans get made fun of, the British get made fun of, the French get made fun of. It's my impression that everyone gets made fun of equally & that the Africans don't get mocked any more than anyone else concerned. HOWEVER, I'm not African—I don't really know how an African might respond to this. Of course, there're bound to be some Africans who think it's hilarious & others who think it's racist. It was originally copyrighted in 1932. I wonder how differently Waugh might write it today. After all, he's dead so he'd probably have a very different take on things. References to 'nappy heads' or what-not might be passed over in favor of less laden language. From Waugh's 1962 Preface:
"Black Mischief was written after a winter spent in East and Central Africa, an account of which appeared in Remote People and now survives, abridged, in When the Going Was Good.
"The scene of the novel was a fanciful confusion of many territories." - p vii
SO, Waugh wasn't mocking any particular people or country. The opening paragraph below could just as easily be put in the mouth, slightly adapted, of any pompous ruler:
"["]We, Seth, Emperor of Azania, Chief of the Chiefs of Sakuyu, Lord of Wanda and Tyrant of the Seas, Bachelor of the Arts of Oxford University, being in this twenty-fourth year of our life, summoned by the wisdom of Almighty God and the unanimous voice of our people to the throne of our ancestors, do hereby proclaim..."" - p 3
""Do hereby proclaim amnesty and free pardon to all those of our subjects recently seduced from their loyalty, who shall during the eight days subsequent to this date return to their lawful allegiance. Furthermore..."" - p 4
Some history of Seth's predecessor is given:
"Amurath instituted other changes, less sensational than the railway, but nevertheless noteworthy. He proclaimed the abolition of slavery and was warmly applauded in the European Press; the law was posted up prominently in the capital in English, French and Italian where every foreigner might read it; it was never promulgated in the provinces nor translated into any of the native languages; the ancient system continued unhampered but European intervention had been anticipated." - p 10
That just strikes me as realism. Yes, there are African slavers; yes, they want to continue unhampered; yes, such a move is a 'clever' one.
"Now the Empress was dead and Seth had returned from Europe to claim his Empire." - p 14
One of the main characters is an unscrupulous businessman, always venal, always maneuvering for more proft. After he's had a close brush with soldiers, he finds his wife tied up. Typical of his selfishness, he can't be bothered to untie her:
""Krikor, please...you must let me loose...don't you see? I've been like this all night. I'm in such pain..."
""You stay where you are. I can't attend to you now. You're always thinking of yourself. What about me? I'm tired. Don't you hear me?"" - pp 36-37
The cast of characters is an international one. Many or most of them are there because they're too unsavory to get away with what they want to do elsewhere. One of them is General Connolly, the leader of Seth's army, the one who's successfully suppressed the recent uprising. He's a white guy married to a black woman. Seth is uncomfortable with the nickname Connolly has for his wife:
"["]We wish to break down color barriers as far as possible. Your name for Mrs. Connolly, though suitable as a term of endearment in the home, seems to emphasize the racial distinction between you in a way which might prove disconcerting."
""I dare say you're right, Seth. I'll try to remember when we're in company. But I shall always thinks of her as Black Bitch, somehow.["]" - p 48
""Hullo, Black Bitch, what do you suppose this is? Madame Ballon wants us to dine at the French Legation tomorrow."
""But it's for both of us, old girl. The invitation is addressed to you. What d'you think of that?"
""Oh, my! Me dine with Madame Ballon! Oh my, that's good!"
"The Duchess could not contain her excitement; she threw back her head, rolled her eyes, and emitting deep gurgles of pleasure began spinning about the room like a teetotum." - p 157
How wd Waugh write this today? I'm sure it wd be different. & much funnier & more perspicacious than this:
' "Hullo, Strong Symbol of the Future, what do you suppose this is? Madame Ballon wants us to dine at the French Legation tomorrow."
' "But it's for both of us, woman of unspecified age. The invitation is addressed to you. What d'you think of that?"
' "O, yangu! Nafasi ya kula na Madame Ballon! Sio tu kutarajia kujifurahisha mwenyewe lakini itanipa fursa ya kumfundisha juu ya masuala ya kisiasa ambayo anachagua kuwa katika kukataa!"**
'The person of eminent integrity chose to not contain her excitement; she expressed her pleasureful anticipation with a talented array of expressive gestures that remained dignified.'
Having already read Waugh's Decline and Fall (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) & Vile Bodies (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) & having then checked out the movie based on the latter by Stephen Fry called Bright Young Things I admit to being enamoured of the partiers depicted therein (not resenting their wealth). I was even glad that Fry gave the movie a happy ending for the Waugh proxy that was lacking from the bk. As such, I was glad to have a bit of that witty playful 'decadence' reappear in Black Mischief:
""Oh, how maddening it is to have no one to make love with except you."
""That's not sophisticated. It's my gramaphone record voice. My sophisticated voice is quite different. It's like this."
""I call that American."
""Shall I do my vibrant-with-passion voice?"
""No."" - p 50
A part of what I like about the above is that the 1st sentence might lead you to think that the woman is being very mean. Then the man's reply recontextualizes it as intimate friends playing. There's a pleasant hedonism to it that the Bright Young Things excelled in. The world cd use more of that.
The British Envoy is depicted as the biggest airhead of them all, absolutely detached from any but the most trivial concerns, a person obviously accustomed to being well-taken-care-of w/o bothering himself about much else.
"The Envoy Extraordinary said: "We seem to have tinned asparagus for lucheon every day...I can't think why...I'm so sorry—you were talking about the massacre. Well, I hardly know. I haven't really thought about it...Yes, I suppose there might be one. I don't see what's to stop them, if the fellows take it into their heads. Still I dare say it'll all blow over, you know. Doesn't do to get worried...I should have thought we could have grown it ourselves. Much better than spending so much time on that Dutch garden. So like being on board ship, eating tinned asparagus."" - p 60
He's the British Envoy but he doesn't even know who the Emperor is. I don't suppose that's realistic.
"["]Still, the war's over, William tells me, and I, for one, am glad. It's been on too long. Very upsetting to everything. Let me see, which of them won it?"
""Ah yes, to be sure. Seth. I'm very glad. He was...now let me see...which was he?"
""He's the old Empress's son."
""Yes, yes, now I've got him. And the Empress, what's become of her?"
""She died last year."" - pp 71-72
The story cuts to London & the Bright Young Things where an obnoxious character named Basil appears:
""Look here, Rex," he said, "what I want to know is what you're going to do about Seth?"
""Seth?" Lord Monomark turned an inquiring glance on Sanders. "What am I doing about Seth?""
"["]I'm probably sailing almost at once. It occurred to me that I might cover it for you in the Excess."
""I'm afraid I don't interfere with the minor personnel of the paper. You'd better go and see one of the editors about it. But I don't think you'll find him anxious to take on new staff at the moment."
""I'll tell them you sent me." - p 86
""I'm thinking of going to Azania."
""Oh, were you?—and what'll you do there?"
""Well, Rex Monomark wants me to represent the Excess, but I think as a matter of fact I shall be better off if I keep a perfectly free hand. The only thing is I shall need some money. D'you think our mother will fork out five hundred pounds?"" - p 87
Emperor Seth is leaving with fanfare. He lays down the law about how the populace should act during his departure ceremony:
"No person, irrespective of rank, will be admitted to the platform improperly dressed or under the influence of alcohol." - p 113
& even though he has the power of life & death over them..
"These had not observed the Emperor's instructions to the letter. The Nestorian Metropolitan swayed on the arm of his chaplain, unquestionably drunk; the representative of the Courier d'Azanie wore an open shirt, a battered topee, crumpled white trousers and canvas shoes; the Levantine shipping agent who acted as vice-consul for Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal and Latvia had put on a light waterproof over his pajamas and come to the function straight from bed". - p 116
In short, despite Emperor Seth's vision & severity his plans go awry:
""His Majesty is now ready to start."
"Then, when all seemed frozen in silence, the engine gave a great wrench, shaking the train coach by coach from the tender to the mule boxes, and suddenly, to the immense delight of the darkies on the roof, shot off by itself into the country."
""The Emperor has given no orders for a delay."
""It is a strange thing I did not foresee," said the stationmaster. "Our only engine has gone away alone. I think I shall be disgraced for this affair."" - p 118
I wonder how many people remember chain letters? Meaning letters that one actually rc'vd in the mail? I made a fake one to put under car windshield wipers once (You can read that here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/W1979.C... ). These days, one can get something similar through messaging & the like but it just ain't the same.
"["]I say, though, here's something interesting, my word it is. It says, 'Good luck. Copy this letter out nine times and send it to nine different friends'... What an extraordinary idea."" - p 120
SO, if you've ever wondered how far back chain mail goes you now know it goes back to at least 1932, the publication date of this bk. According to Mental Floss:
"History can be maddeningly unspecific about certain things, particularly chronology. But when it comes to the history of the chain letter, it’s very possible that Jesus was the first to author one.
"Hundreds of years ago, a story made the rounds that seemed incredible. Fifty-five years after Jesus had been resurrected and ascended into heaven, he decided to author a letter offering wisdom to his human charges. The note was taken to earth and hidden under a rock, which a young and earnest boy was able to lift. From there, the note was copied and circulated, each facsimile bearing a strange warning:
“He that copieth this letter shall be blessed of me. He that does not shall be cursed.”
"As hoaxes go, it wasn’t a bad way to get someone’s attention. Copies of the letter survive from as early as the mid-1700s, proof that people have always had an innate curiosity—and superstition—about chain letters. In the decades that followed, hundreds of thousands of people have received and forwarded letters that promise charity, prosperity, or religious enlightenment.
"The price for not being on board? Usually awful luck. Or death.
"In 1888, a Methodist women’s missionary group was having serious cash flow problems. Additions to their facilities had added up to an astounding $16,000. While the group leaders prayed for assistance, they also acknowledged they might need to take the initiative.
"Just when all hope seemed lost, a woman who had heard of their troubles said that she had a possible solution: Someone had told her that arranging for a chain letter could be a possible avenue to financial reward. Around the same time, the church received a chain letter requesting funds for another now forgotten object, sent to them by someone who thought it would work for this group as well. The head of the congregation, Lucy Rider Meyer, took the suggestions seriously and drafted a letter that contained both a solicitation to send her one dime and to send a copy of the letter to three friends, who would (hopefully) repeat the process.
"Meyer dashed off 1500 copies and waited. The responses came pouring in. The missionaries eventually raised $6000, with many people sending more than a dime and others even using the letter as the inspiration to join their flock. In spirit and cold cash, the chain letter had been a success. Mostly." - http://mentalfloss.com/article/87625/...
Given that I don't believe that Jesus, y'know? the son'a'god n'at?, ever existed (see, e.g., Brian Flemming's 2005 "The God Who Wasn't There" documentary), the idea of 'Jesus' 'inventing the chain letter' is palpably ridiculous (Did he write it on parchment or stone?). However, the idea of chain letters as invented by religious people to try to gouge even more money out of their flocks than they were already getting is believable enuf. I credited my own chain letter as from "a missionary from S. America" & sd the recipient shd send it out "even tho U R not superstitious" & appealed to greed by claiming that "A few days later he won the lottery 4 2 MILLION $s".
The afore-mentioned unscrupulous businessman knows a 'good' thing when he sees it & manipulates his way into the government w/ the aid of the thieving, but productive, Basil:
"["]How about if on your board of directors you had a man of financial status in the country; someone who His Majesty trusts...see what I mean? ... someone with a fair little block of shares allocated to him. He would protect His Majesty's interests and interests of company too...see?"
""That's all very well, Mr. Youkoumian, but it isn't so easy to find anyone like that. I can't think of anyone at the moment."" - p 143
""Unless, of course, you yourself? But I can hardly suggest that. You are far too busy."" - p 144
"Seth was contemplating the wild expedient of employing slave labor to copy his design when Mr. Youkoumian discovered that some years ago an enterprising philanthropist had by bequest introduced lithography into the curriculum of the American Baptist school. The apparatus survived the failure of the attempt. Mr. Youkoumian purchased it from the pastor and resold it at a fine profit to the Department of Fine Arts in the Ministry of Modernization." - p 170
To some, that's just 'good business'; to others, such as myself, that's greed triumphing over civic-mindedness. Seth, on the other hand, is sincerely trying to 'modernize' the country under the influence of his British teachings & is approaching it from the position of someone with unlimited power. His big push is for birth control. Alas, his propaganda poster is interpreted as meaning the opposite of what's intended:
"See: on right hand: there is rich man: smoke pipe like big chief: but his wife she no good: sit eating meat: and rich man he no good: he only one son.
"See: on left hand: poor man: not much to eat: but his wife very good, work hard in field: man he good too: eleven children: one very mad, very holy. And in the middle: Emperor's juju. Make you like that good man with eleven children." - p 172
But Seth is a visionary, not very practical, perhaps, but a visionary — & his vision doesn't stop with trying to get the people to stop reproducing without consideration:
"For your information and necessary action, I have decided to abolish the following:
The Sakuyu language and all native dialects.
Please see to this. Also organize system of reservoirs for city's water supply and draft syllabus for competetive examination for public services. Suggest compulsory Esperanto. Seth." - p 173
Imagine having him for a boss, a boss with the power to have you executed for non-compliance. In general, misunderstanding rules the day. Two people from a society against cruelty to animals have arrived in Azania. Their message seems to've been a tad reversed by their Azanian host as one can see by the feast menu for them:
" Imperial Banquet for Welcoming the English Cruelty to Animals
MENU OF FOODS
Small Roasted Sucking Porks
Hot Sheep and Onions
Jam " - p 198
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 31, 2018
Feb 28, 2018
Jun 15, 2012
Jun 15, 2012
it was ok
Stephen Tabeling & Stephen Janis's Black October and the Murder of State Delegate Turk Scott
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 11 review of
Stephen Tabeling & Stephen Janis's Black October and the Murder of State Delegate Turk Scott
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 11, 2018
For the complete review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This the 1st e-bk I've read. I prefer bks that exist as physical objects & I prefer having a personal library of such bks. I don't like reading on screens (although I, perhaps ironically, publish huge amts online & make movies that're very text-heavy). I only got this e-bk b/c I didn't find anything available on this subject in hard-copy form.
I'm from BalTimOre. I moved into the city from the county in 1975. In the mid-1970s when I took the bus thru Baltimore City I saw graffiti that sd "Black October", mostly, if not entirely, in black neighborhoods. I remember it particularly along Greenmount Ave north of North Ave. Being interested in graffiti, this intrigued me. I was told by someone that black soldiers returning from Vietnam had found their black communities being devastated by heroin addiciton. I was told that they knew who the heroin kingpins were & that they started assassinating them. I was told that the police knew what was going on & eventually told the Black October assassins that it was time to stop. I never had any way of corroborating this story & that's one of the resaons why I wanted to read this bk.
One of the illustrations in the beginning is of a flier that was scattered at the scene of Scott's assassination. The flier says:
"THESE PERSON ARE KNOWN DRUG DEALERS. SELLING DRUGS IS AN ACT OF TREASON. THE PENALTY FOR TREASON IS "DEATH"!! BLACK OCTOBER ∆T∆"
The scan of the illustration is seemingly cropped too short so it really has "PERSO" w/ the beginning of what looks like an "N" & "DRU" w/ the faintest hint of a "G" & "TRE" is, apparently, the 2nd "TREASON" & "OCTOB" most likely finishes as "OCTOBER". More is cut off at the bottom. "∆T∆" is the Greek letter spelling of Delta Tau Delta", a Fraternity name. Nowhere in this bk is that ∆T∆ addressed at all. That strikes me as a significant omission.
The main body of text is large print on small pages. The 1st page of the story only has 142 words. These are in 6 paragraphs, 4 of the paragraphs are 1 sentence long, the other 2 are only 2 sentences. To give you an idea of how little content that is, my 2nd paragraph here has 138 words & 9 sentences. As such, it's about the equivalent of one page of this bk. This characterizes the whole thing. The bk is mainly filler, if you're looking for significant informative detail, like I was, forget it.
The bk does manage to tell the reader that the deceased was "State Delegate Turk Scott. / He was a politically connected bail bondsman, a consummate Baltimore insider who had been appointed to a seat in the Maryland General Assembly just months before."
"Scott had recently been indicted by federal authorities for drug dealing: one count for conspiracy and three counts for distribution of heroin by attempting to bring 40 pounds of dope into the city. An indictment that made headlines across the country regaling the tale of a public official who was alleged to have been involved in the business of moving drugs through the City of Baltimore."
40 pounds of heroin is a huge amt. Anyone selling that much is going to make a gigantic profit & is going to spread the misery-that-is-heroin-addiction far & wide.
"Allegedly named after an organized effort during the Vietnam War to aid heroin-addicted African-American soldiers, the group had come to our attention when another suspected city drug dealer was gunned down in broad daylight. Several days after that murder someone claiming to represent Black October called the News American newspaper and said the dealer was the first victim of their nascent war against drug dealers."
& that's about all I got out of the 1st chapter - basically a reiteration of what I'd already heard on the streets. The 2nd chapter has more stating of the obvious. I did learn:
"The person who pushed product into the Baltimore supply chain for many of the organizations we tracked was a New York-based dealer named Gary Matthews.
"Matthews was one of the biggest heroin traffickers on the East Coast. A legend, in fact, who gained notoriety by circumventing the Italian Mafia to buy heroin directly from the Cubans and Colombians and sell it in at least 20 cities up and down the East Coast."
As a long-term BalTimOre resident I agree w/ the author's saying:
"The growing business of distributing opiates gained momentum in the early 1970s and began the inevitable decline that has left us with the urban wasteland we see today."
Yep, the greed of a few, as usual, created a destitution of the many.
"What if, I thought at the time, this group really was preparing to wage war against drug dealers in the city? What if this was just the first in a series of planned killings?
"To be sure, whoever was behind Black October wanted us to believe that Scott’s murder was just the beginning.
"So when a man claiming to represent the organization called the News American and took responsibility for the killing, we knew we had to solve this case quickly, otherwise whoever or whatever Black October was, could mushroom into something far worse."
The "far worse", apparently, wd be the threatened killing off of the heroin kingpins. I have to wonder whether this might've cut the heroin business off in the bud. From my perspective, the "far worse" is what really did happen: namely the spread of heroin on a massive scale throughout BalTimOre. The result? Something like 10% of the population becoming heroin addicts, robberies at a presumably unprecedented level, plenty of murders.
In other words, in the scale of things: a few drug dealers executed vs 60,000 drug addicts & all the attendant misery. I get the impression that the detective who wrote this bk was more concerned about the drug dealers. That's not fair to him but, still, that makes sense considering how heavily the BalTimOre police dept has been implicated in the heroin business. I, personally, have witnessed a pay-off. Then there was the time when a large amt of heroin was confiscated from trafficing police officers & put in the evidence rm. Gee, the evidence 'disappeared', what a surprise! NOT. I'm told that recently an internal investigator who was about to testify against the police drug trafficers was murdered. Gee, what a surprise! NOT.
As it was discovered, the assassination suspect was "Sherman Dobson".
"He was the son of a minister and nephew of one of the most prominent African-American pastors in the City of Baltimore"
The author has 1st encountered him at a protest at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a public high school.
"More than 200 students were staging a “sit-down” to protest against the Vietnam War. We were called in to calm things down."
"One of the leaders of the student protest was Sherman Dobson."
The author ruminates on needing a search warrant to look for weapons at Dobson's home & explains his pro-by-the-law-bk-position:
"The Fourth Amendment not only protects citizens, it protects police as well. Imagine if we could simply barge into any home or open any door in a non-emergency situation without so much as a calling card. That we could simply stop people on the street whenever we felt like it, or break down the doors of people’s homes simply because we didn’t like them.
"That’s what life would be like without the Fourth Amendment. The police would be hated and feared by everyone, with no cooperation, and with good reason."
Yes, well guess what, there are ways around that, aren't there? Cops can dress in plainclothes & pretend to inform someone in a house that they're cops & then bash the door down in pursuit of a suspect who tries to keep them out w/o knowing that they're cops. This can then be augmented by claiming that the victim has tried to kill the officers. It happened to a friend of mine. It can be all lies. When the police lie, usually, the court is going to take their word for it. Fourth Amendment or not, if the cops want to break into your house they'll make it 'legal', somehow. The author makes his case for law-abiding police:
"A cop with a gun and a badge is an ordinary person with extra-ordinary powers. If he or she could stop you without probable cause or enter your home without a warrant signed by a judge, it would make the core right of democracy — the freedom to come and go as you choose — impossible."
Have you ever been stopped on the streets "without probable cause"? I have. Let's see, there was the time I was stopped b/c I "fit the description of someone going around & beating up black folks", someone "dressed in casual clothes". I was wearing clothes made entirely out of zippers, you would think a witness wd notice that, eh? Or there was the time when I was stopped as a suspect, as someone who'd robbed a guy who'd apparently been picked up by him for sex. Or the time I was stopped on the street & searched by an undercover cop as "matching the description of someone carrying an automatic weapon". In all of these cases, I was just a weirdo. Cops don't like weirdos. They've told me that after arresting me on false charges & telling me that I'm the "type who hangs himself in his jail cell". All of these experiences were in BalTimOre.
"In a sense, the trial of Sherman Dobson was a watershed moment for the city’s criminal justice system, a notorious case so thick with politics it was hard to breathe in the courtroom. Because from the onset of the trial the defense made it crystal clear that the defendant, Sherman Dobson, wasn’t the one who was on trial at all. It was in fact us, the Baltimore City Homicide Division."
"When I say politics, I mean the tensions between the Police Department and the community. That’s because it was the dramatic testimony of Sherman’s uncle, Rev. Vernon Dobson, that turned the proceedings into an indictment of us, the cops."
"a Baltimore City jury found him not guilty of killing Turk Scott.
"And while he was found guilty of kidnapping and robbing the city cab driver who identified him, the verdict in the killing of Scott was a stunning blow to justice in this city."
& I say: "Bravo!" to the community that turned the trial on its head. I, truthfully, don't give a shit that Turk Scott was executed. As for the "stunning blow to justice in this city"?: What justice is that, exactly? The justice that tortured & killed Freddie Gray? & the untolled other murders of young black men by city police? Gimme a fucking break.
"Several years after he was acquitted of Scott’s murder he shot a police officer in Baltimore during a robbery. The officer survived, but the fact remains that Dobson was willing to point a gun at a cop, and at least in that instance, fire."
Gee, I (DON'T) wonder why?!
"But what made me most uneasy about Scott’s murder trial was the role politics played in its outcome."
Can this guy really be this naive?! Turk Scott was a Maryland State Delegate. Don't you think he got there by "politics"? Politics that involved major criminal activities? Those are the politics that the author of the bk seems to turn a blind eye to (at least until the 2nd part).
"But there is a time for politics and a time to mete out justice. In the process of deciding guilt or innocence the meddling of politics that has nothing to do with guilt or innocence can render a justice system dysfunctional."
The very 'justice' system he supports is well-known to its victims & to the political activists who have the sense to fight it as an INJUSTICE SYSTEM &, as such, it's aptly named. The so-called 'justice' system is a card-game w/ a heavily stacked deck. How much more obvious does it have to be that if you're poor you'll get a cursory trial, at best, & then be whisked off to jail for unbelievably petty 'offenses'. I've been put in jail, literally, b/c I was walking down the street when a cop passed me who didn't like my looks. How often to you think that happens to the rich? As I like to say: "We are all UNEQUAL under the LAW & THAT is its PURPOSE."
"To be sure, Scott was not the only suspected drug dealer Black October took credit for murdering. Shortly after his death the group claimed killing two other known dealers. The city was, to say the least, on edge."
No member of Black October ever went to jail for these executions. I really doubt that the city was "on edge" b/c some major heroin dealers were being targetted. Walking on BalTimOre City streets under ordinary circumstances was enuf to make a person permanently on edge. I called BalTimOre my "psychopath training school". I lived in at least one neighborhood where it wasn't so improbable that I'd be murdered any time I left my residence.
Since the 1970s, the heroin problem in BalTimOre has become incredibly widespread & destructive. The author of this bk takes credit for keeping Black October under surveillance until they disappeared, presumably leaving the city. Apparently, they didn't succeed w/ such a strategy w/ the drug dealers. Do they want to know who the bigwigs are? What about when they bust someone in the chain & he's immediately represented by a 'smart' (read sociopathic & greedy) lawyer? Who pays that lawyer's bill?
Maybe if the cops were really interested in putting a stop to all this the evidence wdn't disappear from the evidence rm & the internal affairs investigator wdn't get killed. But, hey!, there's big money at work here & cops want those luxuries as much as the drug dealers do. In the long run, it's precisely the system & all its unwritten laws & subtexts that keep heroin a thriving industry. If people weren't so damned miserable, if they weren't so damned desperate, they wdn't be turning to heroin so much.
I'm not a vigilante, I've made it thru my life w/o killing anybody yet & I hope that can continue. Nonetheless, I respect Black October. They used desperate measures in a desperate situation in full knowledge that Turk Scott represented a NORM of the system, not an exception. This same system wasn't about to ultimately stop what he was doing—& it never has. BalTimOre is still a drug-addicted hell-hole 45 yrs later. Reading Alfred W. McCoy's The Politics of Heroin puts it all in very clear perspective.
For the complete review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 11, 2018
Feb 11, 2018
Oct 01, 1945
THIS REVIEW IS FOR ADULTS ONLY
Rétif de la Bretonne's My Father's Life
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 25-27, 2018
I just discovered THIS REVIEW IS FOR ADULTS ONLY
Rétif de la Bretonne's My Father's Life
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 25-27, 2018
I just discovered Restif de la Bretonne (the name is written both w/ & w/o the "s" - apparently, the "Réstif" version is the older French - both versions mean "restive") last yr in the paperback room of my favorite bkstore. I was interested b/c I saw a bk of his titled The Anti-Justine. I've read a substantial amt of the work of the Marquis de Sade & while I don't agree w/ the philosophy at all I've found the extreme obsessiveness of it somewhat fascinating. I've read de Sade's Justine wch may've been one of his more popular bks & is 'Sadism Lite' in contrast to his The 120 Days of Sodom, wch I've also read. SO, I picked up The Anti-Justine out of interest in what philosophy de la Bretonne wd oppose to that of de Sade.
De Sade's philosophy seems to revolve around the notion that nature is amoral & that, therefore, the most natural human behavior is also amoral. However, the behavior that de Sade espouses is far from the neutrality of amorality, it is, instead, completely immoral in the sense of having the pleasure of the Sadists be derived from a very non-neutral suffering of their victims. The infliction of this suffering is unrestrained by any conscience.
GIVEN THE NATURE OF THE SEXUALITY DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW I DIRECT THE ADULT READER TO THE FULL REVIEW HERE: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 22, 2018
Jan 27, 2018
Aug 01, 2011
really liked it
Karel Capek's Rossum's Universal Robots
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 24, 2018
Of course, as an ardent reader of SF I've known of review of
Karel Capek's Rossum's Universal Robots
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 24, 2018
Of course, as an ardent reader of SF I've known of this story for decades & it's been one of those maybe-I'll-get-around-to-it-someday type of bks. I don't remember knowing that it's a play. SF plays strike me as rare. Despite the centrality of the robots, it's really more of a human-drama-that-involves-robots. Anyway, I liked it, I can add Capek (sorry, I don't know how to put the diacritical mark on the "C") to my mental list of Czechoslovakian cultural figures of importance to me. This list also includes Vera Chytilova & Jan Svankmajer.
The well-known American playwright Arthur Miller wrote the Foreword used in this edition:
"I read Karel Capek for the first time when I was a college student a long time ago in the Thirties. There was no writer like him — no one who so blithely assumed that the common realities were not as fixed and irrevocable as one imagines. Without adopting any extraordinary tone of voice he projected whole new creatures and environments onto an oddly familiar, non-existent landscape. He made it possible to actually invent worlds, and with laughter in the bargain." - p vii
Miller goes on to say that: "When hospitals, of all institutions, are dumping bloody bandages and needles into the pristine seas, and the pollution of cities sickens and kills thousands of seals in the North Sea" (p viii) as a way of saying that Capek's "insouciant laughter" is needed. Miller's foreword was written in 1990. In 1988, I made a movie called "Tents Muir" ( http://youtu.be/oBBjSe3REHA ) in wch this plague among seals in the North Sea was addressed but I didn't know until reading Miller's foreword that hospital waste was the cause of it.
I find that interesting because there was a remote & more or less abandoned park in BalTimOre that started to be used for underground public events called "Pow-Wows" in the early 1990s or thereabouts & that park was across the harbor from a hospital & there were a huge amount of needles strewn around a fairly small area in the park, mostly on the shore across from the hospital. At the time, those who were cleaning up the toxic waste probably assumed that it was from junkies shooting up there—but there was also the suspicion that the hospital across the water was dumping its waste. Miller's info makes me wonder even more.
In the edition I read of Rossum's Universal Robots, Miller's Foreword is followed by David Short's 2011 Introduction in wch he quotes the Oxford English Dictionary's version of the etymology of "robot":
"from Cz. robot, a neologism by Josef Capek for his brother Karel's play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots, 1920), inspied by Cz. robota 'corvée'; one of the mechanical men and women in Capek's play" - p x
I usually find etymology interesting & Short gets deeper into it:
"an internet search shows that by far its commonest Czech meaning today is 'food processor', where it is abbreviated from kuchynsky (kitchen) robot, followed by analogously abbreviated expressions for certain types of floor-cleaning equipment. Perhaps the most notable extension of the word in the English-speaking world is to be found in South Africa, where it is the regular term for what are elsewhere known as traffic-lights." - pp x-xi
Now. Imagine replacing any references in the play to "robot" (singular or plural) w/ either "food processor" or "traffic light". That's what I'm going to do in this review. Won't this be fun?!
"The word robotnik 'a person behaving with mindless obedience to authority' (1960) is not, however, a borrowing of Czech robotnik, but an intra-English portmanteau creation, the -nik suffix being of Russian origin." - p xi
Short doesn't mention robopath as a synonym for robotnik coined by American author Lewis Yablonsky who's written an entire bk on the subject. Given that I've written a review of sd bk ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ) & that I've made a feature-length movie called Robopaths I favor this term over robotnik.
"the obvious Czech forerunner of Rossum's" floor-cleaning equipment "is the Golem, as realized after the fact by Karel Capek himself. The Golem appears in a legend of sixteenth-century Prague set in the ghetto, inhabited by Jewish fugitives from Russia and the Balkans." - p xi
The Golem appears in "literature in various parts of Europe, culminating in 1914 with a rather different Der Golem by the Austrian Gustav Meyrink (1868—1932). Generally in the twentieth century it is different dramatic genres that come to the fore, starting with the three Golem films of the German actor-director Paul Wegener" (p xiii)
I have a fondness for The Golem legend so I found that interesting. Short's introduction is obviously the product of someone writing on a computer & doing research online. I can relate. I didn't know that Wegener made "three Golem films", I've only witnessed one. Now I'm curious, In fact, to heck w/ Rossum's Universal Robots , let's just write about Golem. What I want to know is: Was it really necessary for Tolkein to call Gollum something obviously intended to be close to Golem when he's irrelevant to the original legend? I mean what if I were to call my 1st-born Golim? Or Goyem? Or Goy or Guy for short? We won't go there. Back to Rossum's Universal Robots:
"There can be no argument with the common description of it as a philosophical meditation on aspects of the modern age, most particularly overmechanization (and an excessive faith in the wonders of science and technology), here taken to the extreme, with the" food processors & traffic lights "capable of everything technological, but lacking emotion and any system of moral values as conventionally understood." - xiv
So true, so true. Why just the other day I made the leeeeeewwwwwdest proposition to a food processor just to test how it wd respond & it didn't even blush.
"A point frequently made is that the then-recent impact of the Great War, where impressive advances in the mechanics of war had led to an unprecedented bloodletting and loss of life, contributed to the force of Capek's warning." - p xiv
Hatstand Pincer Movement.
Short even manages to squeeze in Futurama wch, yes, I too, think is excellent (It helps that they use Pierre Henry):
"The possibly optimistic future following the end of the play is plainly not that described in the Futurama animated series, where there is a planet called 'Chapek 9', 'inhabited entirely by robot separatists, [who] left Earth to pursue a life free from humans'." - p xvi
[5th episode, season 1, "Fear of a Bot Planet"]
"HELENA: Are you Mr Harry Domin, the CEO?" - p 6
Ok, the use of "CEO" was somewhat jarring to me. The translation is by David Short & is copyrighted 2011. "CEO" struck me as too new of a coinage to fit the 1920 date of the play. No biggie, really, it's a translator's choice. Nonetheless, I decided to do a little research to see whether CEO went back as far as 1920 & this was one of the things I found:
"For some time now, I have been wondering when and how the acronym “CEO” came into general use. This isn’t just a matter of idle etymological interest. CEO is one of those rare acronyms – like scuba, radar, and snafu – that have become words. And in the course of becoming a word, CEO has redefined our world.
"I was intrigued by the entry in Webster’s Dictionary that seemed to pinpoint the date: 1975. Only Webster’s didn’t provide a citation or attestation. So I wrote to the publisher at the beginning of March to ask where this first CEO might be found. A mere two weeks later, a reply came from Joanne M. Despres, Etymology Editor at Merriam-Webster. She informed me that Webster’s researchers had found that first illustration of CEO in a British publication, Neville Osmond’s Handbook for Managers, volume 2 (London, 1975).
"But it turns out they had not dug deep enough: “In reviewing the standard sources we use to research dates,” Despres wrote, “I noticed that the Oxford English Dictionary now reports pre-1975 evidence of the word’s existence.” The 2011 online edition of the OED reaches back across the Atlantic, to America, and a little further back in time, a few years earlier, to the March-April 1972 issue of the Harvard Business Review: there we discover “a technician in his early forties who joined the company three years ago as president but not CEO.” (In light of this new evidence, Despres has requested that Webster’s “date for CEO be revised at the first opportunity.”)
"I hoped to find but I didn’t find an even earlier illustration yesterday, when I went to the New York Public Library to track down Despres’ OED reference and review past editions of the Harvard Business Review on microfilm. I still have a number of leads to follow. But in the course of my reading it became tolerably clear that someone at the Harvard Business Review made an editorial decision in late 1971 or early 1972 to start using – or allowing the use of — the acronym CEO. This was right around the time Ralph F. Lewis was named editor of the Review (in 1971)."
- Louis V. Galdieri's blog, https://lvgaldieri.com/2012/04/06/the...
There are so many interesting & intelligent people out there. Why do I feel so isolated? If I cdn't find things like the above online I might just feel like I'm living in a world of people devoid of curiosity.
DOMIN: "Anyway, by tinkering with the stuff in his test tubes he could have created anything he fancied: a jellyfish with the brains of a Socrates or an earthworm a hundred and fifty feet long. But because he had absolutely no sense of humour, he settled for making an ordinary vertebrate, or perhaps a man. And so he got on with the job." - p 9
"DOMIN: All right, then. So, young Rossum tells himself: A human... a human's a creature that can — taken at random — feel joy, play the violin, fancy a walk, or get the urge to do a whole lot of things that... that are, not to put too fine a point on it, actually pointless.
"HELENA: Hold on there!"
"DOMIN: Wait though. He meant pointless while a man's supposed to be working at a loom or doing sums. A diesel engine needs no tassles and other fripperies, Miss Glory. And manufacturing artifical workmen is just like manufacturing diesel engines. Their production should be kept as simple as possible and the end product ought to be the best in purely practical terms. What do you reckon? What workman is the best in purely practical terms?
"HELENA: The best? Perhaps one who's... who... provided he's honest — and loyal...
"DOMIN: No, no, the cheapest. The one with the fewest needs." - p 12
Ooohhh.. that's rich. Why did Capek choose "working at a loom" as an example? For me, this immediately evokes Luddism. I quote from my review of Marco Deseriis's excellent Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous:
""On March 11, 1811, a large demonstration of framework knitters gathered at the Nottingham marketplace. The knitters reclaimed higher wages and lamented the growing employment in the hosiery and lace trades of the region of new labor-saving machines known as wide frameworks. The demonstration was quickly dispersed by the military. On that same night, sixty wide stocking frames were destroyed in Arnold, a large village northeast of the city, "by rioters who took no precautions in disguising themselves and who were cheered on by the crowd."" - p 29
""First, contrary to popular identification of Luddism with technophobia, the Luddites targeted only the manufactories and the machines that downsized the workforce and drove down the wages by facilitating the employment of untrained workers." - p 30""
Note that Domin & the young Rossum's notion of the ideal worker is not someone who's intelligent, or capable of critical thinking, or skilled, or someone who has good reason to be loyal, or honest—but CHEAP & w/ FEW NEEDS. Ain't it the truth. & this lack of more subtle priorities of what's important is what ultimately backfires on humanity—in this case in their role as bosses . It's the Morlocks vs the Eloi all over again. Short doesn't mention the Russian revolution as important in forming this play & I think that was Short-sighted on his part. As for the mention of the Diesel engine? How can I resist linking to this movie of mine: "NASCAR vs. Rudolf Diesel via Turntablism": https://youtu.be/L45VUClyH1Y .
Capek does have a sense of humor:
DOMIN: "If you were to read the Encyclopedia Britannica to them, they could reproduce the whole thing verbatim, though they're incapable of thinking up anything new. They'd be good as university lecturers." - p 17
Helena is a visitor wanting to improve the food processor's lot.
"DR GALL: Not on your life, we won't! Why would we send you away?
"HELENA: Because now you know... because... because I might cause your" street-lights "to rise up in revolt.
"DOMIN: My dear Miss Glory, there's been hundreds of saviours and prophets here before you. With every boat that arrives we get another one. Missionaries, anarchists, the Salvation Army, take your pick. The range of different churches and lunatics that infest this planet of ours never ceases to amaze me.
"HELENA: And you let them address the" food processors "?
"DOMIN: Why on earth not? So far they've given up trying." - p 21
Domin & crew are believers in the usual promise of automation:
"BUSMAN: That five years from now the cost of anything at all will be a tenth of what it is now. Take my word for it, five years from now we'll be drowning in wheat and every other commodity.
"ALQUIST: Yes, and all the workers of the world will be out of work.
"DOMIN (getting up): Indeed they will, Alquist. They will, Miss Glory. But within ten years Rossum's Universal" Street Lights "will have produced so much wheat, so much cloth, so much everything that we'll be able to say: things no longer have a value. Help yourself to whatever you need. The poverty problem is solved." - p 26
Once again, I refer to Improper Names:
""Thompson effectively describes this dynamic: "When markets were sluggish, manufacturers took advantage of the situation by putting out work to weavers desperate for employment at any price, thereby compelling them 'to manufacture great quantities of goods at a time, when they are absolutely not wanted.' With the return of demand, the goods were then released on the market at cut price, so that each minor recession was succeeded by a period in which the market was glutted with cheap goods thereby holding wages down to their recession level." - Thompson, Making of the English Working Class, pp 277-278 as quoted in endnote 68, Improper Names, p 231"
The point being that any utopian fantasy tends to overlook realistic probabilities & actualities. Capek was obviously aware of this. Rossum's Universal Food Processors' particular dystopic outcome needn't be the only possibility. Let's say the street lights break down but there aren't any farmers or hunters left, what then?
W/in a very short time of Helena Glory's arrival at the island where the street lights are made, it's revealed that there are no other women there. Domin wastes no time:
"DOMIN: I'd like to ask you, MIss Glory, whether you fancy making a go of it with me.
"HELENA: How do you mean, making a go of it?
"DOMIN: As husband and wife.
"HELENA: Certainly not! Where did you get that idea from?
"DOMIN (looking at his watch): Three minutes to go. If you don't marry me, you'll have to marry one of the others.
"HELENA: Heaven forbid! Why would I marry any one of them?
"DOMIN: Because they're all going to take turns at asking for your hand.
"HELENA: What a nerve!" - p 29
This is where a Turing Test comes in handy: Ask a food processor or a street light to marry you. If they don't say "Certainly not!" or "What a nerve!" they're probably computers.
10 yrs go by but there's no little Goy running around gumming up the works.
"DOMIN: What went wrong?
"HELENA: Your plans, Harry. Like when the workers went on the rampage against the" food processors "and smashed them up. and when peop[le armed the" street lights "so they could fight back and then the" food processors "killed so many people... And then when the governments turned" street lights "into soldiers and there were all those wars and things, you must know what I mean." - p 37
This is a play, so there are playwright touchs like characters who speak differently from the main way of speaking in order to liven things a bit:
"HELENA: Leave me now, Nanna, and take the paper with you!
"NANNA: Wait a mo, 'ere's summat else in big letters. 'Po-pu-la-tion la-test'. Wazzat?
"HELENA: Let me see that, it's one bit I always read. (Takes the newspaper.) No, just imagine! (Reading) 'During last week, yet again, not a single birth has been reported.' (Drops the paper.)
"NANNA: What's special about that?
"HELENA: Nanna, people aren't being born anymore." - p 39
Like I sd.
But there's another tempest in the teapot:
"RADIUS: Send me to the shredder."
"RADIUS: I will not work for you.
"HELENA: Why do you hate us so much?
"RADIUS: You are not like" teapots. "You are not as capable as" golf clubs. Butt plugs "do everything. You only give orders. You produce unnecessary words." - p 45
No matter how you slice it, humans always come up w/ some new idea for making things worse:
"HALLEMEIER: Dammit, we'll make" paper shredder "Africans an'" blue shoe "Swedes an'" dressing "Italians an'" plate "Chinamen, an' then let someone try an' drum any idea of organization or brotherhood into their noddles, (hiccups:) hic, sorry, Helena, I'll pour myself another." - p 57
"Act Two is in "Helena's sitting room as before." Since this is a play, there's very little scenic changing & elements such as the amassing of food processors is described rather than shown. I'm reminded of the rhinoceri in Ionesco's great play. 2 flagpoles are in the sitting rm talking:
"PRIMUS: What's there?
"HELENA: Nothing. A house and garden. And two dogs. If you could have seen how they licked my hands, and their puppies... oh, Primus, I don't think there's anything lovelier! You set them on your lap and cuddle them" - p 96
That might not seem like much to a human—but to a flagpole sitter it's a sight for sore eyes.
In the "Biographical note" the reader is informed that "The 1938 Munich Agreement, in which the Czech Sudentenland was ceded to Germany, seemed to weaken Capek's already fragile health. Despite the threat of a full-scale invasion he refused to leave his country and died of pneumonia on Christmas Day 1938, at the age of 48. When the Nazis overran the country the following year Capek's works were blacklisted." (p 103)
Naziniks. When Naziniks are subjected to the Turing Test it doesn't matter what answers they give. ...more
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Jan 22, 2018
Jan 24, 2018
Jan 01, 1960
Harold Livingstone's The Climacticon
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 23, 2018
The cover proclaims: "THE MACHINE ANY RED-BLOODED MALE review of
Harold Livingstone's The Climacticon
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 23, 2018
The cover proclaims: "THE MACHINE ANY RED-BLOODED MALE WOULD PAWN HIS WIFE TO GET." - but the sentence ends w/ a period rather than an exclamation point. Does that mean it has something to do w/ PMS? The cover is a quasi-Surrealist cartoon w/ a central female-type form w/o arms, a duck-like face, an oscilliscopish read-out in the belly - flanked by background figures of a male chasing a more-or-less nekkid female thing, etc. I like it. I expected the machine to be something that triggers orgasms. It's not. Instead, it seems more like a parody of Scientology's e-meter - one that doesn't require physical contact w/ the human under scrutiny:
""What are the dials for?"
""This, on the extreme left," he said, tapping it gently with his thumbnail, "this is the 'emometer.'["]" - p 27
The Climacticon was copyrighted in 1960. The E-Meter was patented in 1954:
"Electrodermal activity (EDA) refers to the changing electrical charges observed on the surface of the skin. EDA meters were first developed in 1889 in Russia, and psychotherapists began using them as tools for therapy in the 1900s.
"Volney Mathison (chiropractor, radio engineer, psychologist, and hypnotist) built an EDA meter based on a Wheatstone bridge, a vacuum tube amplifier, and a large moving-coil meter that projected an image of the needle on the wall. He patented his device in 1954 as an electropsychometer or E-meter, and it came to be known as the "Mathison Electropsychometer". In Mathison's words, the E-meter "has a needle that swings back and forth across a scale when a patient holds on to two electrical contacts". Mathison recorded in his book, Electropsychometry, that the idea of the E-meter came to him in 1950 while listening to a lecture by L. Ron Hubbard" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-meter
The main character, a person of dubious & self-serving character who works in advertising, tries out the Climacticon:
"That week end I had my own troubles; "troubles" being a relative term, and in this case, a matter of opinion. I had talked Richard Richards into lending me the Climacticon (Richard was the last of the big beer drinkers; with three Tuborgs in him, he would agree to anything), so what started as a bleak week end turned into a satyr's dream. I'll spare you the details; there isn't enough room here anyway. What happened at the Saturday night YWCA dance would fill three full-size novels alone." - pp 29-30
I concur. I was at that dance & the floor was so slippery around the narrrator that it was almost impossible to walk near him without falling on the floor legs akimbo. No men even tried to.
""Now, darling," Dominique whispered, her breath hot in my ear. "We'll go to your place. I've been so selfish. I've suffered terribly all week end."
""Dominique, I've got to work tomorrow," I said."
[Did I say that?! That's so unlike me!]
""You've got to work?" she cried, stepping back again, peering at me. "My God! What's happened to you? You look like a tired old man!"
""I don't feel too well," I said. "Maybe it would be better if I just went home and got some sleep."
""Really, Dominique, I don't feel well," I said"[.] "I took the Climacticon off the bar now and placed it in my pocket. "In fact, I can hardly walk."" - p 31
'Just say no to constant weekend-long sex with the aid of a Climacticon' as Nancy used to say.
The bosses in the novel are presented as bullying unscrupulous blustering men who succeed mainly w/ a bulldozer style. One of them is "T.R.":
"T.R. claimed that too much time was wasted on the indefinite article, and he believed perfect speech was that used in newspaper headlines. He had charts and figures proving that over a normal life-span you lost two years and three months of your life by punctuating your speech with the indefinite article." - p 39
I've been working toward removing superfluous material from language for over 40 yrs now. Let's see what happens when "a" & "an" are removed from this review:
""T.R., let's give the boy" "chanct to collect his thoughts," said Sandy. "After all, ain't evahday fella makes the vahsity. Gits hisself promoted to five windahs." He peered very meaningfully at me, then took T.R.'s arm and guided him out of the kitchen. They sat on the edge of the bed again, regarding me like twin owls." - p 80
Waddya think? I don't think it made enuf of a difference. Maybe it wd be better to remove all "a"s altogether & all "an"s regardless of whether they were separate or inside another word. That shd make a difference:
'"You're ruining my business," she sid. "Don't you hve y considertion?"
'"I'm sorry, I didn't—"
'"You're sorry?" she cried. "I've got three kids d mother to feed, d you're sorry. You're being sorry doesn't help me. He's sorry, tht's something!"' - p 99
Not that big of a deal, right? It's kindof like taking the F sharps out of Beethoven's "Fuer Therese", it didn't even correct the "You're" that shd be a 'Your' at the beginning of the 2nd-to-the-last-sentence. Well, back to the drawing Climacticon.
W/o telling you exactly what the Climacticon does, can you guess from this passage?:
"The pretty girl over whom the fight had started had just dashed to a table in the center of the lounge and snatched a Climacticon from the fingers of a startled man. She flung the machine to the floor and began jumping on it.
""I've had enough!" she screamed. "I can't stand it anymore!"" - p 103
Is it an improved pepper-grinder?
Remember, this was 1960 & HUAC was still in existence: "HUAC’s controversial tactics contributed to the fear, distrust and repression that existed during the anticommunist hysteria of the 1950s. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, HUAC’s influence was in decline" ( http://www.history.com/topics/cold-wa... ):
""Jim Maginty," Chatterly said. "Senator Maginty, my boss. All right, buster, turn it on."
"I reached up and turned it on. A deeply sonorous voice boomed suddenly from the speaker: " . . . and I have here in my hand a piece of paper with six names. Six names, names of men and women in Government service who have become notorious—nay, infamous—infamous for their liberal views. Liberality, and immorality—twin daggers poised at America's heart!"" - p 105
Is he talking about those pointy bras?
""The League of Free Women has pledged itself to work unceasingly for state and federal legislation outlawing the Climacticon," said Mrs. Macintyre. She had spoken shoutingly, her mouth only inches from the microphone, and the announcer gently pushed her back. "This machine, the Climacticon, outrageously denies women their most sacred right—the right to the privacy of their emotional feelings. It is a sad commentary, indeed, when a man can walk into a store and purchase a machine that tells him precisely what a woman feels for him. You might as well invent a machine that reads our minds, and have done with it."" - p 118
I tried using a pepper-grinder to determine exactly what a woman was feeling for me but the results were ambiguous. I'm pretty sure my name made it to the list b/c of this:
""Mr. Chairman, I have here in my hand a list of fifteen names. Fifteen names, Mr. Chairman, of individuals with the colossal effrontery to call themselves American citizens. Fifteen sewer-dwelling rats who have participated in this gigantic plot, this Liberal-directed conspiracy to undermine the entire moral structure of our great and glorious and God-fearing American way of life! Fifteen names, Mr. Chairman. Fiftten known subversives!"" - p 128
I wodner wch 15 names of mine he had?!
"Girls could no longer claim virginity, nor men good inentions. Bridge, poker, gin rummy—all games of chance—would fast become extinct. Brand names—automobiles, cigarettes, soap, gasoline, toothpaste—would disappear. Along with our two-party political system.
"You know what anarchy is?" - p 165
There you have it. As soon as truth is measurable & detectable, society's norms fall apart. No wonder yr average liar fears anarchy so much.
THE END ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 15, 2018
Jan 23, 2018
Mass Market Paperback
Dec 11, 2012
it was amazing
Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 16-17, 2018
I've already written a review of Waugh's Decline and Fall ( h review of
Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 16-17, 2018
I've already written a review of Waugh's Decline and Fall ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ), which I enjoyed. I'll probably read 9 bks by Waugh, since that's how many I've got here, Vile Bodies being the 2nd. Apparently this was the 'hit' that 'launched' his career. I'm 'enthusiastic' about it too, it's far from the most esoteric thing I've ever read but, WTF?, that's ok, it was still good.
In Waugh's 1964 Preface he started off w/:
"This was a totally unplanned novel. I had the facility at the age of twnety-five to sit down at my table, set a few characters on the move, write 3,000 words a day, and note with surprise what happened. The composition of Vile Bodies was interrupted by a sharp disturbance in my private life and was finished in a very different mood from that in which it was begun. The reader may, perhaps, notice the transition from gaiety to bitterness." - p VII
After reading that, I forgot about it & I didn't really "notice the transition from gaiety to bitterness" but there was some sadness that seemed 'real' w/o being welcome. "There were not many comic writers at that time and I filled a gap. I began under the brief influence of Ronald Firbank but struck out for myself." (p VIII) Doncha just love it when people acknowledge their lucky breaks? Imagine this: 'My family was wealthy & had major connections in the publishing world so my 1st bks were bound to be published & promoted so I just took off from there' - I haven't read that one yet but maybe someday.
Ronald Firbank? Never heard of 'im: "Arthur Annesley Ronald Firbank (17 January 1886 – 21 May 1926) was an innovative English novelist. His eight short novels, partly inspired by the London aesthetes of the 1890s, especially Oscar Wilde, consist largely of dialogue, with references to religion, social-climbing, and sexuality." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_... ) I'l be looking for his work at my local subterranean paperbook room. He only made it to 40. Let's hope he had a good time.
But let's start off w/ a joke, shall we? Have you heard the one about the Yuppie, the Lawyer's child, the Leper, & the Noise Musician who had to share a bathroom at the Aberdeen Proving Ground? Neither have I. They all had Anthrax but it didn't prove anything. How about ""There was a man lived at Aberdeen, and he was terribly keen on fishing, so when he married, he married a woman with worms. That's rich, eh? You see he was keen on fishing, see, and she had worms, see, he lived in Aberdeen. That's a good one that is."" (p 15)
The main male character, easily enuf perceived as a surrogate for the author, is coming back from Paris to England after having written a bk there & gets stopped by Customs:
"One by one he took the books out and piled them on the counter. A copy of Dante excited his especial disgust.
""French, eh?" he said. "I guessed as much, and pretty dirty, too, I shouldn't wonder. Now just you wait while I look up there here books"—"in my list. Particularly against books the Home Secretary is. If we can't stamp out literature in the country, we can at least stops its being brought in from outside.["]" - p 24
Have you ever been harrassed at Customs by someone seemingly completely ignorant? By someone who's managed to get into a position of power that they then proceed to abuse in accordance w/ their ignorance? I have. I imagine any creative person has. A part of the humor of the above is that the Customs official calls Dante "French" instead of Italian. Given that Dante is arguably the most famous Italian poet the official's non-recognition of his name shows his level of illiteracy. I was entering England from France once & carrying films of mine. The Customs official leeringly asked if they were "Art Films", a term he appeared to be using in an insulting way. In this novel, the writer character's financial troubles begin here. A part of this is that he has to renogociate his publisher's contract.
""May I just see the terms?"
""Of course, my dear fellow. They look a bit hard at first, I know, but it's our usual form. We made a very special case for you, you know. It's very simple. No royalty on the first two thousand, then a royalty of two and a half percent, rising to five percent on the tenth thousand. We retain serial, cinema, dramatic, American, Colonial and translation rights, of course. And, of course, an option on your next twelve books on the same terms.["]" - p 36
In other words, instead of royalties he gets a royal screw job. While Waugh is probably exaggerating any bad experiences he may've had, he might be exaggerating less than one might think. I had a contract w/ a publisher once. I signed it. I pointed out to the publisher that they hadn't met a single one of their terms. One of the publishers replied that that was because they hadn't signed the contract! Neat, eh?! They give ME a contract to sign that protects them but then they don't sign it so that they're not culpable.
According to Waugh's 1964 Preface, "There was also a pretty accurate description of Mrs. Rosa Lewis" [ "Lottie" apparently] "and her Cavendish Hotel" (p VIII):
"She led Adam into the parlor, where they found several men, none of whom Adam had ever seen before.
""You all know Lord Thingummy, don't you?" said Lottie.
""Mr. Symes," said Adam.
""Yes, dear, that's what I said. Bless you, I knew you before you were born. How's your father? Not dead, is he?"
""Yes, I'm afraid he is."
""Well, I never, I could tell you some things about him. Now let me introduce you—that's Mr. What's-his-name, you remember him, don't you? And over there in the corner, that's the Major, and there's Mr. What-d'you-call-him, and that's an American, and there's the King of Ruritania."" - p 44
The "Bright Young People" who're the main focus of the bk are followed around by gossip columnists who aren't particularly beholden to any accuracy of reporting as long as they can get away w/ it otherwise.
"At Archie Schwert's party, the fifteenth Marquess of Vanburgh, Earl Vanburgh de Brendon, Baron Brendon, Lord of the Five Isles and Hereditary Grand Falconer to the Kingdom of Connaught, said to the eighth Earl of Balcairn, Viscount Erdinge, Baron Cairn of Balcairn, Red Knight of Lancaster, Count of the Holy Roman Empire and Chenonceaux Herald to the Duchy of Aquitaine, "Hullo," he said. "Isn't this a repulsive party? What are you going to say about it?" for they were both of them, as it happened, gossip writers for the daily papers." - p 59
Are there any gossip columnists that aren't assholes? I doubt it. My father was one & he was an asshole. Consider this: "The first gossip columnist, dominating the 1930s and 40s, was Walter Winchell, who used political, entertainment, and social connections to mine information and rumors, which he then either published in his column On Broadway, or used for trade or blackmail, to accumulate more power. He became "the most feared journalist" of his era." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gossip_... ) I was written about in a German magazine once by someone who didn't see fit to actually quote me more than once or twice in his whole article even though he'd 'interviewed' me. Why? B/c he kept trying to get me to talk about subjects that I wasn't interested in & I refused to do so. He was furious at his inability to manipulate me into saying what he wanted to 'quote'. He then used a full-page image of Freddy Kruger as 'my' picture. It was one of the only times of my life when I felt like I was a Hollywood movie star being stalked by a gossip & then being abused in print for my 'celebrity' sales potential.
Parties are central here & they're of the ilk that involve invitations - of wch "there was the sort that Johnnie Hoop used to adapt from Blast and Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto. These had two columns of close print; in one was a list of all the things Johnnie hated, and in the other all the things he thought he liked." (footnote, p 62) Those wd be collector's items for me. " Blast was the short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement in Britain. Two editions were published: the first on 2 July 1914 (dated 20 June 1914, but publication was delayed) and published with a bright pink cover, referred to by Ezra Pound as the "great MAGENTA cover'd opusculus"; and the second a year later on 15 July 1915. Both editions were written primarily by Wyndham Lewis. The magazine is emblematic of the modern art movement in England, and recognised as a seminal text of pre-war 20th-century modernism." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blast_(... ) For those of you not familiar w/ Lewis, I've written a review of his novel The Childermass here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... .
One of my favorite scenes in the novel is one in wch The Bright Young Partiers spontaneously go to the home of one of their lesser-noticed members for a late-nite continuation. The next morning, one of those remaining reads about it in a gossip column w/o initially realizing where she'd ended up:
"" 'Midnight Orgies at No. 10.' My dear, isn't that divine? Listen, 'What must be the most extraordinary party of the little season took place in the small hours of this morning at No. 10 Downing Street. At about 4 a.m. the policemen who're always posted outside the Prime Minister's residence were surprised to witness'—Isn't this too amusing—'the arrival of a fleet of taxis, from which emerged a gay throng in exotic evening dress'—How I should have loved to have seen it. Can't you imagine what they were like?["]" - p 71
OOPSIE! Imagine partying in Washington DC & going to somebody's house & passing out & waking up the next morning to a White House Tour in progress. That hasn't happened to me.. & I don't think I'd want it to. Even worse might be to have sex w/ someone that you're engaged to for the 1st time only to have yr partner say: ""All this fuss about sleeping together. For physical pleasure I'd sooner go to my dentist any day."" (p 111) OUCH!
"(...Masked parties. Savage parties. Victorian parties, Greek parties, Wild West parties, Russian parties, Circus parties, parties where one had to dress as somebody else, almost naked parties in St. John's Wood, parties in flats and studios and houses and ships and hotels and night clubs, in windmills and swimming-baths" - p 135
Now we're talking. What about a "One Word per Person Party"?: https://youtu.be/cvgoTPwwCog As long as they're not parties w/ dress codes.
"Adam and Miss Runcible and Miles and Archie Schwert went up to the races in Archie Schwert's car. It was a long and cold drive. Miss Runcible wore trousers and Miles touched up his eyelashes in the dining room of the hotel where they stopped for luncheon. So they were asked to leave. At the next hotel they made Miss Runcible stay outside, and brought her cold lamb and pickles to the car." - p 193
Remember those days? I'm sure they still exist in many places but all the people who have tattoos & piercings now would've been turned away from most places 30 yrs ago. It happened to me many times. I personally claim responsibility for being a sort of human ice-breaker, breaking thru the matephorical frost in the chilly social climate. Waugh is what ya might call a 'keen social observer' if you don't mind using a well-worn phrase now & then. OR, one cd call him a 'Kleenex Slop Remover', like I might, & confuse just about everyone w/ the obliqueness of the joke.
"The effects of their drinks had now entered on that secondary stage, vividly described in temperance handbooks, when the momentary illusion of well-being and exhilaration gives place to melancholy, indeigestion and moral decay." - p 224
That almost sums up the whole bk. Who'd-uh thunk that Waugh got his ideas from a temperance handbook? Yes, Waugh's mood does change:
"Presently he became aware of a figure approaching, painfully picking his way among the strands of barbed wire which staryed across the ground like drfiting cobweb; a soldier clearly. As he came nearer Adam saw that he was leveling towards him s liquid-fire projector. Adam tightened his fingers about his Huxdane-Halley bomb (for the dissemination of leprosy germs), and in this posture of mutual suspicion they met. Through the dusk Adam recognized the uniform of an English staff officer. He put the bomb back in his pocket and saluted." - p 285
I'm going to join the crowd w/ this one & say it's great. It even foreshadows Flann O'Brien to a certain extent. I hope no-one decides to assassinate me for that one. I still like O'Brien better but I have 7 more Waugh bks I plan to read. Who knows what might happen?! ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 13, 2018
Jan 17, 2018
Dec 11, 2012
really liked it
Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 7, 2018
Evelyn Waugh has probably been floating around on the fringe review of
Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 7, 2018
Evelyn Waugh has probably been floating around on the fringes of my consciousness as someone witty to read for many a decade (sorry to leave you hanging Evelyn) but it took my buying 9 hardbacks of his work (from Copacetic, plug, plug) w/ the intent of having a Waugh spree to finally get me started. Even then, it's taken me 2 yrs.
Decline and Fall is his 2nd bk, a biography of Dante Gabriel Rossetti preceded it in 1928. It seems that he's most well-known for his satires & that the biographies & travel bks are a bit brushed under the toupée. Having now read a satire & been impressed by its style I'm curious to read a bio to learn how different or not it is stylistically.
As Waugh explains in a 1961 Preface: "This story was written thirty-three years ago. I offered it to the publishers who had commisioned my first book, but they rejected it on what seemed, and still seems to me, the odd grounds of its indelicacy." (p IX) Not surprisingly, IMO, this "indelicacy" is largely what makes this a significant novel.
When I 1st started reading it I wondered something along the lines of 'Oh, shit. Is this going to be another tale of depravity in a British school system I still don't completely understand?!' But, no, it didn't really turn out that way, it wasn't necessary for me to know whether public schools are private schools or not & the 'depravity' is probably part of the "indelicacy" & parodies something common to the rich everywhere: the rich commit the crimes - but somebody else gets punished for them.
"There is a tradition behind the Bollinger; it numbers reigning kings among its past member. At the last dinner, three years ago, a fox had been brought in a cage and stoned to death with champagne bottles." - pp 3-4
Ok, I was just beginning the novel, it started on p 3, & this detail was more than a bit disturbing since I find fox hunts inexcusably cruel - so I wasn't sure whether this was intended as satire or not. It was. When I think of "Bollinger", I have a vague memory of hardback bks I used to see when I was in the bookstore business. They all had powder-blue covers & were reputed to be scholarly. I thought they were part of an acadmic series called "Bollinger Books". I found nothing about them online. Can anyo of you readers confirm that for me? If they exist, do they have anything to do with the "Bollinger Club" parodied above? Ok, never mind, a little more research fevealed the below:
"The Bullingdon Club is an exclusive all-male dining club for Oxford University undergraduates, though it is not officially recognised by that institution. It is noted for its wealthy members, grand banquets, boisterous rituals and destructive behaviour, such as the vandalising ("trashing") of restaurants and students' rooms. Many local outlets refuse to host these events."
"The Bullingdon is satirised as the Bollinger Club (Bollinger being a notable brand of champagne) in Evelyn Waugh's novel Decline and Fall (1928), where it has a pivotal role in the plot: the mild-mannered hero is blamed for the Bollinger Club's destructive rampage through his college and is sent down." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulling...
"At the gates Paul tipped the porter.
""Well, goodbye, Blackall," he said. I don't suppose I shall see you for some time."
""No, sir, and very sorry I am to hear about it. I expect you'll be becoming a scoolmaster, sir. That's what most of the gentelmen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behavior." - pp 10-11
I reckon Paul is a character in the lineage of Voltaire's "Candide" (1759), the Marquis de Sade's "Justine" (1791), Nathanael West's "A Cool Million - The Dismantling of Lemuel Pitkin", & Terry Southern & Mason Hoffenberg's "Candy" insofar as the protagonist gets used by people considerably less ethical than himself. Interestingly, Paul doesn't really complain, he takes it as it comes & things more or less turn out fine for him. His misfortunes don't constitute the entirety of his life & Waugh isn't really pummeling the reader with a philosophy-of-cruelty like de Sade or a philosophy of pessimism like the other 3. This is 'victimization-lite' & I'm thankful for that. He gets kicked-out of school for something he wasn't responsible for, he doesn't even bother to defend himself, & then his guardian keeps Paul's inheritance using the ejection from school as an excuse:
"["]In the event of your education being finished before that time, he left me with complete discretion to withhold this allowance should I not consider your course of life satisfactory. I do not think that I should be fulfilling the trust which your poor father placed in me if, in the present circumstances, I continued any allowance.["]" - pp 15-16
I'm also reminded of Edward Gorey's morbid humor. Most of my artist friends in the 1970s & 1980s, esp women, loved his work. I always found it a bit annoying. Like, apparently, many other people, I also assumed he was British because his bks are in Victorian & Edwardian settings - but he was actually American. I wonder if Gorey, (February 22, 1925 – April 15, 2000), was at all influenced by Waugh.
Paul does get a job as a schoolmaster & does find himself amongst a motley crew of dubious characters. Upon arrival, he's told about one of the students: "["]Little Lord Tangent has come to us this term, the Earl of Circumference's son, you know. Such a nice little chap, erratic, of course, like all his family, but he has tone."" (p 20) A little geometrical humour, anyone?
""I suppose the first thing I should do is to get your names clear. What is your name?" he asked, turning to the first boy.
""Tangent, sir," said the next boy. Paul's heart sank." - p 49
I had a friend named Nathan Long who who, during the late 1980s or early 1990s when the collective identity "Monty Cantsin" was widely in use, started teaching at a university in Pittsburgh by having someone other than him come in to the classroom & identify himself as "Nathan Long". 2nd class, a different person, also "Nathan Long". 3rd class, he was there as "Nathan Long", by then the students no longer believed. What if Paul went w/ the flow & called himself "Tangent" & proceeded w/ the class?
When I was in Australia in 2000, I discovered a beer called "Invalid Stout". It was cheap, it was delicious, it was local. It was sd to be good for invalids. I loved it at the same time I thought that the idea of any alcohol being good for invalids was a bit preposterous. I'd never heard of such a thing. &, now, in Decline and Fall, I find: "half a bottle of invalid port" (p 25) & I realize that there's a whole world of alcohol out there that claims to be good for invalids. There's even a discussion abotu this on Lonely Planet ( https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre... ) in wch some doubt is expressed. A poster named "889" quotes Eliot on the subject:
"T.S. Eliot: "And political religion is like invalid port: you calls it a medicine but it's soon just a 'abit."
"That is, it's for invalids."
"The London wine merchant Gilbey’s had developed a brand known as Gilbey’s Invalid Port, for which it claimed invigorating and tonic properties." - http://www.croftport.com/en/about-cro...
But what about the Invalid Stout I enjoyed so much? "Abbotsford Invalid Stout is a beer produced in Australia by Carlton & United Breweries. An 'invalid stout' is a high-sugar, low-alcohol stout, originally marketed as an especially nutritious variant." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbotsf... )
One of Paul's fellow teachers is a bounder whose lows aren't specified but they seem to involve probable sexual activity of an illegal kind. Like the 'anti-heros' of "Justine" & "Candy" he seems to always bound back:
"Then I got into the soup again, pretty badly that time. Happened over in France. They said, 'Now, Grimes, you've got to behave like a gentleman. We don't want a court-martial in this regiment. We're going to leave you alone for a half an hour. There's your revolver. You know what to do. Goodbye, old man,' they said quite affectionately.
""Well, I sat there for some time looking at that revolver. I put it up to my head twice, but each time I borught it down again. 'Public school men don't end like this,' I said to myself. It was a long half-hour, but luckily they had lefgt a decanter of whiskey in there with me.["]" - p 36
Well, yeah, Grimes doesn't kill himself & he gets out of the bind & goes on to do more of the unspecified same.
""You can't keep me in," said Clutterbuck; "I'm going for a walk with Captain Grimes."
""Then I shall very nearly kill you with this stick. Meanwhile you will all write an essay on 'Self-indulgence.' There will be a prize of half a crown for the longest essay, irrespective of any possible merit."" - p 50
"["]Your colleague, Captain Grimes, has been convicted before me, on evidence that leaves no possibility of his innocence, of a crime—I might almost call it a course of action—which I can neither understand nor excuse. I dare say I need not particularize.["]" - pp 129-130
In general, there's a great deal of horribleness of characters - although this is fiction so the 'horribleness' is tempered by how over the top everyone is. The most beautiful woman is also the most accustomed to getting what she wants.. no matter what. Can't say that Paul wasn't warned.
"["]She is the Honorable Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde, you know—sister-in-law of Lord Pastmaster—a very wealthy woman, South American. They always say that she poisoned her husband, but of course little Beste-Chetwynde doesn't know that. It never came into court, but there was a great deal of talk about it at the time. Perhaps you remember the case?"
""No," said Paul.
""Powdered glass," said Flossie shrilly, "in his coffee."
""Turkish coffee," said Dingy." - p 67
"The Hotel Metropole, Cwmpryddyg, is by far the grandest hotel in the north of Wales." - p 132
"Here Cwmpryddyg is an invented Welsh town, an allusion to the difficult Welsh language." - "Stylistics of the English Language" - https://revolution.allbest.ru/languag...
According to the Google Welsh-to-English translator that I used online, "Cwmpryddyg" actually means "comprehensive". So there.
Given that the Welsh have been heavily suppressed by the English, I have to wonder whether a Welsh reader wd find Waugh's depiction of the Welsh people funny:
"["]The ignorant speak of them as Celts, which is of course wholly erroneous. They are of pure Iberian stock—the aboriginal inhabitants of Europe who survive only in Portugal and the Basque district. Cekts readily intermarry with their neighbors and absorb them. From the earliest times the Welsh have been looked upon as an unclean people. It is thus that they have preserved their racial integrity. Their sons and daughters mate freely with the sheep but not with human kind except their onw blood relations.["]" - p 87
Is this the kind of thing English imperialists actually say to justify the oppression?
""I had such a curious conversation just now," Lord Circumference was saying to Paul, "with your" [Welsh] "bandmaster over there. He asked me whether I should like to meet his sister; and when I said, 'Yes, I should be delighted to,' he said that it would cost a pound normally, but that he'd let me have special terms. What can he have meant, Mr. Pennyfoot?"" - p 104
More "indelicacy". Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde has a black lover who she brings to a school event, wch scnadalizes the other attendees but she's so beautiful & rich she's untouchable. This was published in 1928. I wonder how Waugh wd approach a scene of bigotry in 2018, 90 yrs later?
"Eminently aloof from all these stood Chokey and Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde. Clearly the social balance was delicately poised, and the issue depended on them. With or without her nigger, Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde was a woman of vital importance." - p 102
""I think it's an insult bringing a nigger here," said Mrs. Clutterbuck. "It's an insult to our own women."
""Niggers are all right," said Philbrick. "Where I draw a line is a Chink, nasty inhuman things. I had a pal bumped off by a Chink once. Throat cut horrible, it was, from ear to ear."" - p 103
""You folks all think the colored man hasn't got a soul. Anything's good enough for the poor colored man. Beat him; put him in chains; load him with burden . . ." Here Paul observed a responsive glitter in Lady Circumference's eye." - p 107
""The mistake was ever giving them their freedom," said the Vicar. "They were all happier and better looked after before."" - p 108
Yes, Waugh delights in poking fun at ignorance.
"Mr. Prendergast ate a grapefruit with some difficulty. "What a big orange!" he said when he'd finished it. "They do things on a large scale here."" - p 134
One of the things I like the most about the humor in this bk is the showing of how lying is used to get around difficulties: "Six days later the school was given a half-holiday, and soon after luncheon the bigamous union of Captain Edgar Grimes and Miss Florence Selina Fagan was celebrated at the Llanabba Parish Church. A slight injury to his hand prevented Paul from playing the organ." (p 141) In other words, Paul doesn't play the organ - even tho he's been hired to teach it.
""The problem of architecture as I see it," he told a journalist who had come to report on the progress of his surprising creation of ferro-concrete & aluminum, "is the problem of all art—the elimination of the human element from the consideration of form. The only perfect building must be the factory, because that is built to house machines, not men."" - p 163
My solution is to build all buildings w/o means of ingress or egress: ie: no doors or windows, etc. It's a disappointment that the above-quoted architect character was too short-sighted to see the obviousness of this solution. AReinforced concrete was fairly fresh in 1884, aluminum was fairly fresh as of 1889. It's obvious that this architect was a fuddy-duddy. Making buildings out of elephant sperm seeking eggs at the highest point of the building was all the rage in 1928. That didn't last long. I took this bit of Waugh's to be a parody of Bauhouse. Apparently, I was at least partially right:
""I saw some of Otto Silenus's work at Munich," said Potts. "I think that he's a man worth watching. He was in Moscow at one time and in the Bauhaus at Dessau.["]" - p 168
If he'd been a woman architect wd that've made him a "Bauhausfrau"? The young Peter Beste-Chetwynde "mixed himself another brandy and soda and turned a page in Havelock Ellis, which, next to The Wind in the Willows, was his favorite book." (p 196) W/ a Hohausfrau like his mom, is it any wonder? Little Peter was a fortunate young man to spend part of his childhood in a house designed by the great Silenus:
"He admired the luminous ceiling in Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde's study and the indiarubber fungi in the recessed conservatory and the little drawing-room, of which the floor was a large kaleidoscope, set in motion by an electric button." - p 196
Is that where they play Pin the crime on the donkey? Waugh has a wonderful way of making scenes that cd be truly tragic into something that's just a spot of bother:
""There's a young man just like your friend Potts on the other side of the street," said Margot at the window. "And, my dear, he's picked up the last of those poor girls, the one who wanted to take her children and her brother with her."
""Then it can't be Potts," said Paul lazily: "I say, Margot, there was one thing I couldn't understand. Why was it that the less experience those chorus-girls had, the more you seemed to want them? You offered much higher wages to the ones who said they'd never had a job before."
""Did I, darling? I expect it was because I feel so absurdly happy."
"At the time this seemed quite a reasonable explanation, but, thinking the matter over, Paul had to admit to himself that there had been nothing noticeably light-hearted in Margot's conduct of her business." - p 203
&, alas, Paul suffers the consequences of the sins of the motherfucker & goes to jail.. but he handles it w/ aplomb "for anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison. It is the people brought up in the gay intimacy of the slums, Paul learned, who find prison so soul-destroying." (pp 261-262) But, ok, so Mrs. Beste-Chetwynde killed her husband.. that doesn't stop her from making Paul's conditions in prison cushy: "He showed him rather coyly the pile of gaily-bound volumes he carried under his arm. "I thought you'd like the new Virginia Woolf. It's only been out two days."
""Thank you, sir," said Paul politely. Clearly the library of his new prison was run on a much more enterprising and extravagant plan than at Blackstone." - p 264
& don't forget to support your local anarchist run bks-to-prisoners program.
& that's all I'm going to tell you about this one.
Notes are private!
Jan 05, 2018
Jan 09, 2018
Jul 19, 2011
really liked it
John Shirley's Bioshock Rapture
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 5, 2018
Go straight to the full review (please): https://www.goodrea review of
John Shirley's Bioshock Rapture
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - January 5, 2018
Go straight to the full review (please): https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I've previously written about & quoted John Shirley in my review of Marco Deseriis's Improper Names - Collective Pseudonyms from the Luddites to Anonymous:
""John Shirley is an unexpectedly repeated figure that I'm now more interested in than ever. In the Monty Cantsin chapter it's stated that he was a part of the vibrant scene of Portland in the late 1970s that included "Blaster" Al, "David "Oz" Zack, Maris Kundzins, Tom Cassidy (aka Musicmaster), Kay Hocket (aka Rhoda Mappo)" (you can see her signing a John M. Bennett poem here: http://youtu.be/l7H8DJ0CYJE ) "Steve Minor, John Shirley, Billy Haddock" etc.. & in the Luther Blissett chapter thusly:
""Named after John Shirley's cyberpunk novel Transmaniacon, the Transmaniacs explored a theory and practice of subversion for a generation that had grown up with a saturated media environment and in times of accelerated capitalist recuperation." - p 136
""In John Shirley's proto-cyberpunk novel Transmaniacon, the hero Ben Rackey surfs a telematic network of sorts, taking on different names and identities with the goal of inciting revolt and destroying the invisible ionic barrier that separates the United States from the rest of the world." - endnote 21, p 249
""the Transmaniacs seek to "liberate the language, use it to produce events, and use the events to create a new language" by quickly moving between liberated "interzones" before capital can recuperate them or shut them down." - pp 136-137
"I'm reminded of Ed Sanders's novel Shards of God (1970):
""Hi! Protestors. I am the
Freedomright Vale of Detention.
We hope that your stay with us
will be temporary. Be nice and
we promise not to chop up your
""Beneath the sign sat the camp bard, a blind poet from the Hudson Institute, who, fed intravenous food and kept awake by cocaine, perforce san twenty-four hours a day a continuous epic tale of the life and manners of the concentration camp. Standing in back of him were his musicians and in back of them were the six tiers of Fender amplifiers that sped the singing to the ears of everyone. The poet's epic was tapes and analyzed for slang and double- and triple-meaning language patterns, which were so complex that several computers were needed to keep track of the constantly changing language of the inmates." - pp 84-85
"I've only read 2 of Shirley's bks but adding to the proofs of his connectedness I quote from his 1988 SF novel Kamus of Kadizhar - The Black Hole of Carcosa:
"""How come the Darklord picked a couple of Earthmen for this?" But then, remembering "Bob"'s lighting-charged pipe, I realized my mistake. "You guys are wizards?"
"""Is the pope Catholic?" "Bob" said, cheerfully.
"""We're Earthmen," Stang said, "but not all Earthmen are really Earthmen." He spoke with a faint Texas accent. The cigarette clamped in his lips waggled with each word, spilling ashes into his lap. "Your Darklord, now, he picked us because we understand the nature of this particular kind of metaphysical infection. What you call the Outfit. We call it the Conspiracy." The car bounced as it went over a hump that marked the edge of an asphalt road. There were no asphalt roads on Ja-Lur. But we'd driven onto one, somehow, anyway. Up ahead was a cluster of harsh white lights. Stang went on, "The Conspiracy's mindset is perverting your planet. We've been chippin' away at the Con on Earth, in our own time." He glanced over his shoulder at me and added casually, "Besides being space travelers, we're time travelers, too. I forgot to tell you that."" - p 134
"It's worth noting that Stang, aside from being the Sacred Scribe of the Church & Foundation of the SubGenius, was also present at the Party for People from the Future on March 9, 1982EV in BalTimOre at the Empire Salon."
- that review starts here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... but is in 4 chapters so if you search for the above you'll have to advance thru them
It's b/c of the above that I have an ongoing interest in reading Shirley's work but I almost never see copies of it used so it wasn't until Bioshock Rapture that I found anything other than the 2 I've already read. Alas, this didn't seem very promising to me b/c the front cover pronounces it: "The Prequel to the Award-Winning and Bestselling Video Game Franchise" wch, to me, translates into: 'Shirley wrote this bk for the money.' The bk is copyrighted by "Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc." (p 4) If I'd grown up w/ stuff like this, I'd probably be a hacker - wch wdn't be a bad idea - but I didn't & I'm not.
I've only previously read & reviewed one other video game bk: Barrington J. Bayley's Eye of Terror - wch is a "Warhammer 40,000" novel. Warhammer 40,000 is a game that's announced thusly: "Welcome to Warhammer 40,000, the thrilling hobby of tabletop wargaming! This is your gateway into the grim darkness of the far future, where mighty armies clash across war-torn worlds, and the bloodthirsty forces of Chaos strive to overthrow the Imperium of Mankind." ( https://warhammer40000.com ) I was a child in the 1950s & 1960s so I grew up before such games existed. As such, I've never really 'gotten into them'. My review of Bayley's bk is one of the only hostile ones I've ever written. Here's an excerpt:
"I'm sick, so I wanted a break from intellect, so I started reading this piece of trash. I can only figure Bayley was desperate for money. This bk is "A Black Library Publication - Games Workshop", a "Warhammer 40,000 Novel". Apparently, these novels share things in common - Space Marines, etc - & authors are requested to write in a certain style. So there must be multiple Space Marine bks by multiple authors. Who is this stuff aimed at? Masturbating adolescent boys w/ fantasies of travelling the galaxies & hacking people up w/ laser-axes?! Beats me (pun intended). That there's actually money for publishing this garbage boggles my mind." - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Basically, I tend to lump video game bks together w/ tv-movie novelisations as things-I-shd'nt-really-waste-my-time-on. &, usually, I don't, but I did read & review Keith Laumer's The Invaders so there's another exception. Here's an excerpt from my review of that:
"As a part of my project of reading a slew of Laumer bks & exploring them, I've actually stooped so low as to read a bk "First in a thrilling new series based on the smash ABC-TV hit" as the front cover proclaims: viz: The Invaders. When I bought it, it was cheap, I was still hesitant: did I really want to be so thorough in my exploration of Laumer that I'd read this drek?!
"This bk was published in 1967. I stopped watching TV sometime around 1969 or 1970. SO, this wd've still been when i was watching it. Stopping watching TV was one of the best things I ever did. When I was in my early teens, when this bk was published, I'd spend Friday nites watching things like "Get Smart" & snacking. Now that I have almost no friends & very little social life what do i do almost EVERY nite? Watch movies & drink alcohol. It's not what I do all day, it's my R&R - usually after a long time of working on projects & going out & about in the world. Still, it's a little too much like what i was doing when I was 13. & reading The Invaders makes me feel like I've come full-circle to nowhere." - http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62...
The point is, I didn't exactly start reading this w/ total enthusiasm, I wasn't expecting it to be a novel worthy of Thomas Pynchon or William Gaddis & it wasn't. In fact, almost immediately I was so repulsed by it that I almost stopped myself from reading it. This was basically b/c it seemed like some sort of written-as-a-hack-job SF version of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I shd've given Shirley more credit. It does start off that way but if ever there's been a critique of Rand's philosophy this bk wd be it!
"I am Andrew Ryan and I'm here to ask you a question: Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow? No, says the man in Washington. It belongs to the poor. No, says the man in the Vatican. It belongs to God. No, says the man in Moscow. It belongs to everyone. I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose soemthign different. I chose the impossible. I chose . . . Rapture. A city where the artist would not fear the censor. Where the scientist would not be bound by Petty morality. Where the great would not be constrained by the small. And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well. Andrew Ryan in BioShock" - p 9
"The parasite hates three things: free markets, free will, and free men. —Andrew Ryan " - p 23
The character of Andrew Ryan strikes me as a deliberately Ayn Randian one - w/ the very name "Andrew Ryan" seeming vaguely reminiscent of "Ayn Rand". I read Rand's Anthem when I was a teenager after having read Huxley's Brave New World & Orwell's 1984 b/c I'd heard that it was in a similar vein of soci-political-philosophical criticism of the present in a near-future setting that wasn't SF. Around the same time, I read her The Fountainhead. I've seen the movie of that too. I only have Anthem left in my personal library these 47 or so yrs later so I'm consulting it now. According to the back cover, "ANTHEM is an unforgettable story of courage and rebellion against totalitarian collectivism" & "He was marked for death because he had committed the unpardonable sin: He had stood forth from the mindless human herd. He was a man alone."
I can relate. Where Rand & I seem to part ways is in believing in particular ideologies as conducive to free thinking. I'm not so convinced that any ideology is conducive to free thinking, Rand, as I understand it, believed that Capitalism was. For me, Capitalism is 'great' for those who benefit from it - deluding themselves that the reason why they're the top dog on a radioactive pile of shit is b/c they somehow 'earned it' when, in reality, they're more likely to be beneficiaries of parental crimes — like Rump & the Koch Bros — &/or more likely to be blissfully self-justifying in their massive victimizations of others. No doubt a slumlord, e.g., is full of justifications for charging too much for too little.
In Anthem, I don't find anything I want to use in this review except for a blurb for Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism at the end of the bk: "She advocates a new morality, an ethics of rational self-interest, that stands in complete opposition to the political, social, and religious attitudes of our day." Now that doesn't necessarily seem like such a bad idea on the surface to me but Bioshock Rapture does an excellent job of showing where that's likely to go wrong. Shirley has Ryan say:
"["]But self-interest is at the root of cooperation, Bill. I intend to prove that self-interest oils the wheels of business—and that freedom from the . . . the tentacles of government, from the usual social shackles on science and technology and growth, will produce unstinting prosperity. I have envirioned a great social experiment. But Bill, ask yourself, where can a social experiment on a large scale take place? Where in this world is there a place for men like us? My father and I fled the Bolsheviks—and where did we end up? This isn't the 'land of the free' it pretends to be. It's the land of the taxed. And it was his reluctance to pay taxes that put my father in jail.["]" - p 59
On the back of Anthem we're told about Ayn Rand that "Russian born, she came to this country at the age of 21".
In Trevor Blake's bk Confessions of a Failed Egoist he points out that: "Egoism not only has the problem of being unable to define when any particular Individual appears, but also when any Individual at all first appeared. Egoism cannot say whether there were egoist Neanderthals, or before them egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs, or perhaps egoist dinosaurs, or egoist fish, egoist algae... don't stop at selfish genes when you can imagine selfish molecules. There is likely a line of before and after egoism emerged in evolution. Egoism cannot say when that line is drawn." (p 8)
Imagine the "egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs", who stole them until there were no new dinosaurs to lay dinosaur eggs. Is that "self-interest"? Not if there's no more food for the "possum-critter". "Self-interest" needs to be able to recognize its self as part of a greater whole, needs to recognize when mutual aid is more beneficial than mutual exploitation. Ryan's statements implies that he recognizes this but, as w/ the World Bank or the IMF or Ryan's actual (fictional) practices turn out.. nah, he doesn't really get it: Ryan steals the eggs & eats them until a bigger dinosaur comes along w/ even fewer scruples & starts to eat him. That's the real world of so-called 'Free Trade': steal from the poor until someone who wants to be even richer than you are comes along & crushes you. & I'd hardly call that enlightened self-interest. To put Blake's observations & my take on them more into context by quoting more at length from my review of Confessions:
"Most, or all, the work I like has a sense of play, a sense of fair-play, a cents of fare-pay, a sense of humor - Trevor's exceptional.. but not an exception to what I like. Consider the opening 2 paragraphs:
""I am an egoist, a circular thinker of the most self-contained philosophy. Keep reading, though, and you'll see I'm not a very good Unique One. I see rusty rivets and loose lashings in the HMS Egoism. Egoism is the contrarian's philosophy, and so of course I begin this book with a broadside against it.
""Egoism is the claim that the individual is the measure of all things. In ethics, in epistemology, in aesthetics, in society, the Individual is the best and only arbitrator. Egoism claims social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual. Such impediments may be tolerated but they have no special standing to the Individual, who may elect to ignore or subvert or destroy them as He can. In egoism the State has no monopoly to take tax or to wage war." - p 5
"An egoist is a person who thinks of themself 1st & foremost - most people do this but in a way that's severely moderated by fear of negative consequences from the larger social whole. Only the brave (or devious) dare to challenge external society's 'right' to try to reel in the Individual's pursuit of their desires & self-definition. Self-definition is crucial to me & to most people I can relate to. The beauty here, for me, in Trevor's beginning is: "Egoism is the contrarian's philosophy, and so of course I begin this book with a broadside against it" - no cow (or water buffalo) is sacred - not even the one you ride in on, cowboy.
"Then again, while egoism might claim that "social convention, laws, other people, religion, language, time and all other forces outside of the Individual are an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual" consider this excerpt from a May Day speech I gave in 2014:
""Now, I'm an exemplary lone wolf lunatic fringe individualist. But I still believe in Mutual Aid! In this spirit, I've joined Fight Back Pittsburgh, a chapter of the United Steelworkers Associate Member Program. And I have to say: Fight Back is INSPIRING! Through them, I've gotten to hear from many great people struggling for better conditions for workers - a tradition that Pittsburgh can be very, VERY proud of! Through them, I've learned about the Fight for Fifteen movement, a movement for $15 an hour to be the minimum wage for fast food workers & others. AND I SUPPORT IT! I've worked for less than minimum wage - & I don't recommend it!"
"[The full speech can be witnessed here: http://youtu.be/FUY9DwiE1Dk ]
"In the long run, I really am a "lone wolf lunatic fringe individualist" & don't fit in very well w/ such groups as Fight Back. Nonetheless, I don't see working w/ other people as necessarily being "an impediment to the liberty and existence of the Individual" in all cases - even if it is so in most.
""Egoism not only has the problem of being unable to define when any particular Individual appears, but also when any Individual at all first appeared. Egoism cannot say whether there were egoist Neanderthals, or before them egoist possum-critters who stole dinosaur eggs, or perhaps egoist dinosaurs, or egoist fish, egoist algae... don't stop at selfish genes when you can imagine selfish molecules. There is likely a line of before and after egoism emerged in evolution. Egoism cannot say when that line is drawn." - p 8
"I'm reminded of a friend's dad, someone I like very much. We were sitting around talking when the dad sd something about his being the type of person who "lives in the moment". Being the pain-in-the-ass stickler that I am I replied w/ something to the effect of: "Do you know who I am?" to wch he replied: "Yes" - "Then you don't live in the present moment b/c you learned who I was in the past & have to be living partially in that past to remember me - Do you understand these words?" "Yes" - "Then you don't live in the moment b/c the language we're using is something from way before that wdn't exist as it does for you if you were only in the moment, its use relies on its vast history." You get the idea. Trevor hunts down the usually unexamined broader implications of egoism where few egoists have even had the imagination to consider going before.
""Solipsism slips in the egoist envelope. Solipsism is on board with the Unique One, going further to say that all else is a projection of that one. Egoism is okay with others existing, just not in elevating them above the Self. But who that Self is, and how there can be more than one One, and why it might be that others aren't just imagined, for these egoism is left shrugging." - p 14
"I'm fascinated by solipsism in a similar way to how I'm fascinated by Zeno's Paradox. If one accepts that one's perceptual apparatus is the way thru wch one is able to perceive & if one accepts the notion that that perceptual apparatus is subjective by definition then one is confronted w/ the notion of one's subjectivity being the center of one's universe - in order to reach 'objectivity' one has to get halfway there 1st & then halfway there again.. ad infinitum. In the mid-1970s I coined the word OGJECTIVE to signify a state of perception that defies subjectivity and objectivity to prove themselves to be true. 'Reality' is a Möbius Strip of self-inclusive sets - but that doesn't make it any less painful.
""Politics, philosophy, ethics, all those thinky things, can be corralled into two camps. One is the prescriptive, which can tell you what to do. One is the descriptive, which tell you what happened. Egoism is an exceptionally isolated lone little doggie in the descriptive camp." - p 17 ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 02, 2018
Jan 06, 2018
really liked it
Charles Williams's All Hallow's Eve
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 29-30, 2017
This isn't the same cover as my edition but the det review of
Charles Williams's All Hallow's Eve
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 29-30, 2017
This isn't the same cover as my edition but the details match otherwise. It's too much to be bothered w/ to change the cover image right now.
I've never heard of Charles Williams. I got this bk b/c it's published by Avon Bard, who I associate exclusively w/ great Latin American fiction so I was surprised to see this English horror story. Of course, it was also used & cheap.
"CHARLES WILLIAMS was born in 1886 of Welsh parentage. Though largely self-educated and the holder of no formal degrees, he was a lecturer at Oxford and was awarded an honorary M.A. He spent most of his adult life working as an editor of the Oxford University Press." - p i
Go team go! Of course, if he had been taught by other people, if he had learned to imitate them, & wasn't, therefore, an original & free thinker, then he'd really be someone to respect (what?!). T. S. Eliot wrote the intro, that intrigued me too. "I learned that Charles Williams had died in hospital in Oxford the day before, after an operation which had not been expected to be critical." (p viii) You mean like Andy Warhol & bpNichol? & how many others? I even have a 1,154pp bk entitled Deaths From Surgical Complications: Rudolph Valentino, Stonewall Jackson, Douglas Macarthur, Andy Warhol, Eddie Bracken, Ingrid Bergman. I prefer to not be charged for being killed so I think I'll avoid the hospital as much as I can.
"much of his work, especially for the theatre, was done without expectation of adequate renumeration and often without expectation of payment at all." - p x
""I played a concert for 16,000 people at Hollywood last night—unfortunately, they don't pay!" Surely he meant 1,600, unless the concert was out of doors,but in any event, according to one newspaper, it was the largest concert of the season." - p 102, Joel Sachs's Henry Cowell - A Man Made of Music
Ah, yes, the high-rolling life of the creative person! Just give 'em a few drinks & tell 'em how brilliant they are & then send 'em packing while you count the loot.
Eliot is very convinced of Williams's authenticity & originality:
"The stories of Charles Williams, then, are not like those of Edgar Allan Poe, woven out of morbid psychology—I have never known a healthier-minded man than Williams. They are not like those of Chesterton, intended to teach the reader. And they are certainly not an exploitation of the supernatural for the sake of the immediate shudder. Williams is telling us about a world of experience known to him: he does not merely persuade us to believe in something, he communicates this experience that he has had." pp xii-xiii
If Williams has had experiences such as what're recounted in this bk he was a very unusual man indeed. "And if "mysticism" means a belief in the supernatural, and in its operation in the natural world, then Williams was a mystic; but that is only belief in what adherents of every religion in the world profess to believe. His is a mysticism, not of curiosity, or of the lust for power, but of Love" (p xiv)
I have to give Eliot credit for setting the stage nicely in his intro. I don't read much horror or ghost stories or whatevs & I'm hardly a connoisseur but Williams impressed me as somewhat unique mainly b/c the writing seems much less rote than 'usual'. We're not immediately told that some of the characters are dead. Instead we experience their confusion:
"She took her hand off the wall and turned. The bridge was as empty as the river; no vehicles or pedestrians here, no craft there. In all that City she might have been the only living thing. She had been impressed by the sense of security and peace while she had been looking down at the river that only now did she begin to try and remember why she was there on the bridge." - p 20
"She went after him; he should not evade her. She was almost up to him and she saw him throw out his hands towards her. She caught them; she knew she caught them, for she could see them in her own, but she could not feel them. They were terrifying and he was terrifying. She brought her hands against her breast and they grew fixed there, as, wide-eyed with anger and fear, she watched him disappearing before her. As if he were a ghost he faded" - p 22
The jingle faded a bit here & the ad for an ethnic cleansing product flashed on the screen.
What?! I didn't write that! I swear! It was as if a malevolent spirit took possession of my hands & I was powerless to prevent the macabre humor from taking over!
"And then the sudden loud noise, the shrieks, the violent pain. The plane had crashed on them. She had then, or very soon after, become what she now was." - p 24
There's nothing worse than an astral plane crashing into you while you're minding your own business. Next thing you know, even in death you're unsympathetic to your fellow sufferers.
"Lester looked at her. Once she would have been impatient or sympathetic. She felt that, even now, she might be either, but in fact she was neither. There was Evelyn, crying and chattering; well, there was Evelyn crying and chattering. It was not a matter that seemed revelant. She looked away again. They went on sitting." - p 30
Same old, same old. That's about as tral as it gets. Good thing the clergy's a round.
""We know," said Richard, "that his name is Simon Leclerc—sometimes called Father Simon and sometimes Simon the Clerk. We gather he's a Jew by descent, though born in France, and brought up in America. We know that he has a great power of oratory—at least, over there; he hasn't tried it much here so far—and that it's said he's performed a number of very remarkable cures, which I don't suppose we've checked." - p 46
I saw him perform one of those Curés, I think he just put his jacket on backwards, round people tend to do that, absent-minded n'at y'know.
Williams's descriptions of Jonathan's paintings were part of what sucked me into this bk (messy) b/c the author really seems to have a painterly eye (messy).
""They look exactly like beetles," Lady Wallingford said. "They are not human beings at all. And Father Simon's face is exactly the same shape."" - p 48
I was reminded of paintings by James Ensor, maybe his "Ensor aux masques" (1899) ( https://www.wikiart.org/en/james-enso... ) - but that's not quite right. Or, perhaps, I'm reminded of Rene Magritte, maybe his "La reproduction interdite" (1937) ( https://www.renemagritte.org/not-to-b... ). But, most of all, I'm reminded of the movie version of Eugène Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" (play, 1959; movie, 1974) where the character that Gene Wilder's portraying steps off a trolley or a bus or some such & everyone he sees has their faces blocked by turned-down hats or umbrellas. Whatever. Father Simon likes the painting that makes him look like an insect preaching to the insects.
"in low triumph: "That is I."
"Jonathan turned. He said, "You like it?"
"The other answered, "no one has painted me so well for a hundred years. Everything's there.""
""She was rather annoyed with it," said Jonathan. "In fact, she talked, as no doubt she told you, about insects and imbeciles."
"The Clerk, still looking at him, said, "They aren't insects; they are something less.["]" - p 63
That's right, they're robopaths.. & the Clerk is a megalomaniac.. & I, dear reader, am yr humble observer.
"["]You shall have the girl if you want her. Show me something else."" - p 65
Yep, just like that. The Clerk will give the Painter the Girl. SO, remember that, readers, the next time you want to mate w/ someone, paint a picture of an authority figure looking like an insect leading insects & they'll give you whatever you want. Try it on the lust-object's father. Works every time.
""I haven't much here," Jonathan said. "The war paintings—"
""Oh the war!" the Clerk said. "The war, like Hitler, was a foolery. I am the one who is to come, not Hitler! Not the war; something else."" - p 65
Hitler is so passé. Too bad this day & age's neo-nazis haven't figured that out yet.
"Jew and Christian alike had waited for the man who now walked through the empty London streets. He had been born in Paris, in one of these hiding-places of necromancy which all the energy of the Fourteenth Louis had not quite stamped out." - p 68
I think he's talking about phone booths here. I saw a guy changing into some weird onesie in one w/ an "S" on it. I think it stood for "Sorcerer". Now that phone booths are gone what do those sorcerer's use to metamorphose in? There must be a cell-phone app. It probably takes the form of a 'Reality' TV Show where people reveal skeletons in their family closets:
"If she had been Lady Wallingford's real daughter, she might have had a better chance, or so sometimes she thought. But since, years ago, Lady Wallingford had spoken of her adoption, she had always felt at a disadvantage. No allusion was ever made to it now."
"There was in the north, in Yorkshire, a small house where she and Lady Wallingford sometimes went. They always went by themselves, and when they got there she was not even treated as a daughter. She was, purely and simply, the servant." - p 71
& you thought yr parents were bad. At least the house was small, less cleaning to do. Cdn't she've eaten her way out? Aren't those Yorkshire houses made of pudding? I think I read that somewhere.
"That other who stood over the girl who was his daughter also, did not wish her to be herself, or even that only for a purpose." - p 77
I foreshadowed that earlier. Eventually, we come to a discussion of Boot Camps.
"It lay there,as it always does—itself offering no barriers, open to be trodden, ghostly to this world and to heaven, and in its upper reaches ghostly also to those in its lower reaches where (if at all) hell lies. It is ours and not ours, for men and women were never meant to dwell there long; though it is held by some that certain unaccountable disappearances have been into that world, and that a few (even living) may linger there awhile. But mostly those streets are only for the passing through of the newly dead." - p 80
"She said nothing. She went forward and up the steps. She went on into Lady Wallingford's house." - p 94
Richard, you know, Lester's husband (or ex-husband?), "felt with a shock that Simon was between him and the door. He knew the door was there, but he could not focus it properly. The door was not behind Simon; it was Simon: all the ways from this room and in this wood went through Simon. Lady Wallingford was only a stupid old witch in a wood, but this was the god in the wood." (pp 101-102) I didn't tell you so. Don't say I never told you anything. You didn't hear it from me.
"They were going down the hall and turning into a narrow corridor, as if into a crack in the wall, insects passing into a crack; they were all passing through." - p 103
Don't panic in the event of a gas attack. Try our weight-loss plan & turn into a narrow corridor!
"All the poems and paintings may, like faith and hope—and desperation—live, they live; while human communication remains, they remain. It was this that the clerk was removing; he turned, or sought to turn, words into mere vibrations. The secret school in which he had grown up had studied to extend their power over vocal sounds beyond the normal capacities of man. Generations had put themselves to the work. The healing arts done in that house had depended on this power; the healer had by sympathy of sound breathed restoring relationship into the subrational components of flesh." - p 105
That's why I'm not an organ donor.
"It had been, earthly, about five that morning when Lester entered the house at Highgate. It had seemed only evening in the City she had left, for that other City was not bound either to correspondence or to sequence. Its inhabitants were where it chose they should be, as it engaged in its work of accommodating them to itself. They could not yet, or only occasionally, know contemporaneously. Lester still, in general, knew only one thing at a time, and knew them in a temporal order." - p 113
That's similar to knowing them in a 'biblical sense'.
"What had looked at Lester from Evelyn's eyes, what now showed in her own, was pure immortality. That was the seal of the City, its first gift to the dead who entered it." - p 130
I had a pet seal. She died. Its immortality must've been impure.
"It was not for her yet to know the greater mystery. That waited her growth in grace, and the enlragement of her proper faculties in due time. Yet all she saw, and did not quite wonder at seeing, was but a small part of the whole. There around her lay not only London, but all cities—coincident yet each distinct; or else, in another mode, lying by each other as the districts of one city lie. She could, had the time and her occasions permitted, have gone to any she chose—any time and place that men had occupied or would occupy. There was no huge metropolis in which she would hae been lost, and no single village which would itself have been lost in all that contemporaneous mass. In this City lay all—London and New York, Athens and Chicago, Paris and Rome and Jerusalem" - p 170
Hhmm.. I reckon that's a Metalopolis rather than a Megalopolis.
"With his hands thus encased, he took up the manikin between them and handled and dandled and warmed and seemed to encourage it, whispering to it, and once or twice holding it above his head, as a father might his child, and as it turned its head, now grown, and looked over its shoulder, the girls saw that its eyes were open and bright, though meaningless. They saw also that it was longer and now nearly three feet in height" - p 176
Some people just don't know when to leave well enuf alone.
Well, there it is, the story in a nut-shell. No need to read it, go outside & play now.
I was reminded a little of Maurice Blanchot & Wyndham Lewis. ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 27, 2017
Dec 30, 2017
Jan 03, 2018
it was amazing
Stefan Szczelkun's Improvisation Rites: from John Cage's 'Song Books' to the Scratch Orchestra's 'Nature Study Notes'. Collective practices review of
Stefan Szczelkun's Improvisation Rites: from John Cage's 'Song Books' to the Scratch Orchestra's 'Nature Study Notes'. Collective practices 2011—2017
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 22, 2017
The full review starts here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Reading this bk, it seemed so specific to my somewhat rarified interests that it seemed almost written for me only even tho, of course, it's not — & I can imagine other people that it wd also be important to who weren't direct participants in the actions described. Alas, this subject is so important to me that I might have to write something considerably longer than this bk just to satisfy my desire for detail. But I'm not going to do that (or am I?).
Stefan, the author, is an original member of the Scratch Orchestra. I probably 1st read about the Scratch in Michael Nyman's excellent bk Experimental Music - Cage and Beyond from 1974. I read that sometime between 1975 & 1977. The frequent mentions of the Scratch in there wd've stimulated me to somehow find a copy of the also excellent Cornelius Cardew edited Scratch Music (1972) wch I must've read almost immediately after the Nyman bk.
Cardew was the founder of the Scratch. In Scratch Music, his "A Scratch Orchestra: draft constitution" he begins by defining it:
"Definition: A Scratch Orchestra is a large number of enthusiasts pooling their resources (not necessarily material resources) and assembling for action (music-making, performance, edification).
"Note: The word music and its derivatives are here not understood to refer exclusively to sound and related phenomena (hearing, etc). What they do refer to is flexible and depends entirely on the members of the Scratch Orchestra.
The Scratch Orchestra intends to function in the public sphere, and this function will be expressed in the form of—for lack of a better word—concerts. In rotation (starting with the youngest) each member will have the option of designing a concert. If the option is taken up, all details of that concert are in the hands of that person or his delegates; if the option is waived the details of the concert will be determined by random methods, or by voting (a vote determines which of these two). The material of these concerts may be drawn, in part or wholly, from the basic repertory categories outlined below." - p 10, Cornelius Cardew edited Scratch Music, The MIT Press, 1974
This "draft constitution" was reprinted from a June, 1969, edition of The Musical Times. Cardew goes on to list & describe 5 "basic repertory categories": "Scratch music", "Popular Classics", "Improvisation Rites", "Compositions", & "Research Project". It's the "Improvisation Rites" that we're concerned w/ here so I'll give his complete "draft constitution" elucidation:
"A selection of the rites in Nature Study Notes will be available in Appendix 2. Members should constantly bear in mind the possibility of contributing new rites. An improvisation rite is not a musical composition; it does not attempt to influence the music that will be played; at most it may establish a community of feeling, or a communal starting point, through ritual. Any suggested rite will be given a trial run and thereafter left to look after itself. Successful rites may well take on aspects of folklore, acquire nicknames, etc.
"Free improvisation may also be indulged in from time to time." - p 10, Cornelius Cardew edited Scratch Music, The MIT Press, 1974
Starting in 1965, Cardew had been in the London-based pioneering free improvisation group "AMM". In the liner notes to the Live Electronic Music Improvised record (Mainstream MS/5002) wch features AMM as including Cardew, Lou Gare, Christopher Hobbs, Eddie Prévost, & Keith Rowe, it's written:
"For this occasion AMM Music was recorded at a concert given at the Crypt Programme in Notting Hill Gate, London, June 12th, 1968. The tape has been edited and interspersed with silence in accordance with a random number programme to give a representative cross-section of a concert lasting two hours. The text which follows is extracted from a lecture by Cardew on the ethics of improvisation:—
""Written compositions are fired off into the future; even if never performed, the writing remains as a point of reference. Improvisation is in the present, its effect may live on in the souls of the participants, both active and passive (ie: audience), but in its concrete form it is gone forever from the moment that it occurs, nor did it have any previous existence before the moment that it occurred, so neither is there any historical reference available."
[Reviewer's interpolation: Basically, I disagree w/ this. Participants have their own history that contributes to whatever present they create. A musician has every rehearsal & gig they've ever played behind them. This creates both the muscle memory & the skill that enables them to do whatever they're doing. A pianist sitting down at the piano for the 1st time isn't going to play the same thing as one who's played thousands of times. The "historical reference" that Cardew claims doesn't exist in improvisation is the history of whatever the player has done before.]
"Documents such as tape recordings of improvisation are essentially empty, as they preserve chiefly the form that something took and give at best an indistinct hint as to the feeling and cannot convey any sense of time and place." - Mainstream MS-5002
Be that as it may, it strikes me as probable that most people aware of AMM are interested in what they do/did for musical reasons & will listen to the recordings in lieu of opportunities to witness AMM play live. As such, the recordings become the primary source available & how they play becomes important for the listener.
I got this record at the end of 1977, again, around the same time as my reading of Experimental Music & Scratch Music. I wd've been eager for listening to such things. While this record only contains excerpts from that Crypt concert, there's since been released the recording of the entire session on Matchless Recordings MRCD05. I'm listening to it from beginning to end as I type this. It's very noisy, w/ feedback, amplified sounds of unknown origin, & tapped metal. I think it's an extremely remarkable & historical performance. If I were to attend one like it now I wdn't necessarily find it very interesting. The world of "Noise Music" has blossomed since then & performances such as this are more common.
I probably started improvising when I was around 13 to 16 & I recorded myself playing piano on an old Grundig 3" reel-to-reel. I then accidentally listened to the recording backwards, an easy thing to do by misthreading the tape. In a sense, this wd've marked the time of my personal discovery of what I later learned was called "Musique Concrete" or "Electroacoustic Music". That wd've been around 1967 to 1970. It wasn't until the fall of 1972, tho, that I really started trying to improvise seriously.
I'd learned to play Frank Zappa's "King Kong" on my electric guitar, a challenge, as I recall, b/c it was in Db Major &, therefore, had no open strings in conventional E-A-D-G-B-E tuning. I realized that I had no idea how to play an improvised solo as part of my playing of it. The type of improvisation I was groping for wd've hypothetically been based on scales & meter. I doubt to this day that I'd be able to play a "King Kong" break to my satisfaction.
It wasn't long, tho, I think I was probably 20, when I was playing what I'd now call free improvisation - mainly in conjunction w/ my friend "Herr Brain", Brian Wolle. I remember playing a session on piano, guitar, & trombone w/ Brian on drums, piano, & cornet? in the 1st floor of the house where we both might've lived at the time - much to the annoyance of the tenant living above. That might've been 1973 or 1974. I remember being already bored by 'free improvisation' by the winter of 1981. For me it was 'been there, done that, not interesting anymore'.
Nonetheless, I'd played many a free improv session before that date & I've played even more since then. E.G.: I was in a group called "B.O.M.B." (Baltimore Oblivion Marching Band) during its brief existence in 1979. Our 1st action was:
"015. B.O.M.B. crashing of improvisation class
- Corner Theater, Baltimore, us@
- March, 1979
- The Baltimore Oblivion Marching Band (B.O.M.B.) - variously called a roving band of defiant youths (in "newspaperese") by myself & No Name Interaction/Reaction Group by Sumu Pretzler (a.k.a. Doug Retzler) & co-founded by us with Richard Ellsberry & others - was a loosely knit group with variable membership that got together, mainly on weekends, to crash various events - usually with the intention of stirring up some action & catalyzing greater interaction between all those involved. This usually involved eccentric dress, toy instruments, & aggressive "socializing" (or "anti-socializing") with strangers.
- B.O.M.B.'s premier crashing was at an improvisation class where our crashing was meant to be a critique of how silly we thought the class was. We snaked thru the students & teacher(s) alike trying to get them to spontaneously react to our unexpected presence & then left before they had too much of a chance to integrate us into their perception of the class.
- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
Simultaneous w/ B.O.M.B. & extending for yrs beyond it to Xmas, 1983, was "Lacquerland":
"020. Visit to Lacquerland
- a construction site in Maryland, us@
- late March, 1979
- In fall of 1978, I started working as a hard-wood floor finisher. This job involved stooping over a bucket of lacquer & brushing the lacquer on the floors as a part of the finishing process. Inhalation of the fumes caused intoxication. Co-workers Brian Wolle (a.k.a. "Brain" &/or "Herr Brain Storm Drain") & Doug Retzler (a.k.a. "Sumu Pretzler") & I exploited this high & tried to have fun at work by improvising vocally while lacquering. These improvs centered around creating a mythology about the living conditions in "Lacquerland" - our name for the state of mind & body gotten into from the fumes. Our audience, when there was one, were our fellow construction workers - who were apparently entertained but who made jokes about our being "crazy". There were a fair amount of these sessions but, for the purposes of this history, I've restricted myself to only listing the 3 that we audio recorded." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
Unlike AMM, we didn't perform in music venues, our intentions weren't really musical. After B.O.M.B. ceased to exist, I founded or cofounded what I called the "nameless wandering wind ensemble". I didn't want it to have a name:
"030. nameless wandering wind ensemble
- Baltimore, us@
- winter, 1979/1980
- cris cheek (clarinet), Chris Mason (bass clarinet), Gayle Hanson (clarinet?), Patty Karl? (clarinet?), & I (alto sax) improvised while wandering the streets & alleys. We were joined by a guy named John(?) playing recorder who heard us passing by." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
Again, the emphasis was on the guerrilla nature of our performances but the music was central rather than just any type of action. After 1981, the quantity of free improvising that I engaged in, despite my being jaded, was enormous. In 1984, I started my "booed usic" project wch involved free improvising using some pre-recorded materials wch I mixed live in a process I called "Concrete Mixing". That cd be sd to've lasted from roughly 1984 to 1989:
"066.> booed usic
- t he telectropheremoanin'quinquennial, Galaxy Ballroom, Baltimore, us@ - Tuesday, January 24, 1984
- This was the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Baltimore Underground Telephone Network. The word "telectropheremoanin'" being a pun that combined "telectro" (as in having to do with telephone communications) with "pheremones" (lust inducing biological signals) with "moanin'" (as in moaning with pleasure). This pun was the theme of the night. I had paid a phone sex prostitute by mail to be called by me that night. In case there was any problem with that I'd asked my friend Lisa "Wet-Legs" (as she became known after this night) to act as a back-up. The basic idea was that I'd call the prostitute & broadcast our conversation to the bar's audience - gradually making it more & more perverse. As my conversation was to get stranger, the booed usicians were to gradually start playing until their sounds would drown out the conversation. The booed usicians were: Mark Harp (tapes & radio), Craig Considine (trombone), Ron Cummings (tapes, records, & mixing board), Leroy Keltner (trombone), & myself (tapes). There was "trouble on the line" at the phone sex prostitute's so Lisa substituted. Lisa had gotten mysteriously sick earlier, had vomited & passed out - my call awoke her. This added to the general feeling of it all. Suggestions from the audience were taken & someone's friend was called too. I was too drunk &/or inhibited to carry on a very good conversation so the extremely able Buddy Johnson was called in to relieve me. The highlight of his conversation with Lisa for me was their reminiscing about school-days they never had together when he pulled out his "short fat pancake" & she "covered it with Mrs. Butterworth's". Throughout the "phone sex" & the booed usic that encroached on it, an hour long analysis projector transfer to video of the 16mm version of my film "Subtitles" was shown on a large video projection screen.
- recollections from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE" - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
The pre-recorded materials were what I called "Usical Materials" & consisted largely of recordings I made especially for this purpose such as a tape w/ all cymbal playing on one side & all drum playing on the other side. I cd use auto-reverse to access either. This was one of my 1st free improv shows to take place in a music venue but later booed usics were, once again, guerrilla:
"110. street action with the booed usic busking unit
- Covent Gardens & Leicester Square, London, UK
- Saturday, May 28, 1988
- The "Portable booed usic Busking Unit / Nuclear Brain Physics Surgery School Lab / Philosopher's Union Member's Mouthpiece / Blatnerphone Hallucinomat", usually just called the busking unit, was a suitcase full of battery powered tape-player/radios, mixers, a tv, an amplifier, a PXL camcorder, & mouths that moved depending upon the volume output from the amplifier (etc, etc..). It was designed to enable me to present street actions with complex "concrete mixing". The tv-PXL connection enabled me to present the Philosopher's Mouthpieces (see the previous entry) - henceforth abbreviated P.U.M.M.s. The tape-player/radios & mixers enabled me to both mix prepared recordings & other "live" inputs. When set up, people could watch the tv (just barely - it was pretty small) & hear the sound coming from 4 speakers which could pan from left to right & from back to front &, of course, vice versa. This was the 1st street action "performed" with it. I was almost immediately moved along by the bobbies at Covent Gardens so I moved to Leicester Square where I was unmolested. Assistance in this was from Laura Trussell, who shot some footage with the PXL, & from Scott Larson - who threw money onto our collection cloth to try to catalyze the onlookers to do the same (to no avail). At least 1 tourist with an expensive video camcorder shot footage of us - I'd love to see it." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut...
Overlapping booed usic there was the free improvising instrument-based group named "Something that Dissolved the Shadow of Something that Was Next to Something that Burned Twice" wch lasted from 1987 to 1989. An aspect of the humor of the group was our disagreeing about what our name was. Our last gig:
"133. Something That Dissolves the Shadow of Something Which Was Once Close to Something That Once Burned Twice
- Displace, Baltimore, us@
- November 4, 1989, 9PM - 1AM
- The 2nd & final public presentation by this group. Neil Feather & I spent 20 hours installing our equipment in this room. John Berndt put in alotof time too. John Sheehan pulled his usual "difficult" routine by refusing to say whether he'd participate or not & then showing up at the "last" minute after Neil & I had set up his equipment for him. Neil's set-up was the most extreme: he had bowling balls hanging from a metal frame from piano wire which swung as pendulums against moveable bridges on necks - the resultant sound of the strings hitting the bridges was processed thru a 16 second digital delay. His other instruments included: Bendy Guitar, Nondo, & Contraption. I surrounded myself by 15 drums & cymbals & other metal things, a guitar, & a VCR & monitor playing a fairly complex feedback vaudeo I'd made. John Berndt was using some sort of home-made oscillator & Oddly-Strung Guitar - amongst other things. John Sheehan played a bass that he'd made from a kit. The agreement that we'd had before-hand was that we'd play for about 5 hours - with any of us taking breaks whenever we felt like it - but with at least 1 of us playing at all times. There were a few other agreed-upon things (few, if any of which, would John Sheehan commit to cooperating with) such as playing for an hour straight without any of us dropping out & with all of us playing as intensely as we could stand. When the time came for this latter, I had been drinking alcohol & taking oral morphine & was a bit worried that I might have overdone it so I played frenetically to try to work it out of my system. After John Sheehan dropped out, the rest us entered a nudist phase. The way the equipment was set up was basically so that it filled the large room we were in but so that people could walk anywhere around us. In the meantime, Brad Hwang & his room-mate Matt were having large mobile machine battles in an adjacent room. In 1 highlight & neoist reference, John Sheehan donned a sortof hockey face mask, lit a steam iron on fire that had a pick-up attached to its bottom, & played the pick-up by banging a piano wire against it that was mounted between 2 boards that he held between 1 foot & 1 very begloved hand.
"A movie from this is on YouTube broken into 2 parts:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCQHJk..." - http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOut... ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 18, 2017
Dec 25, 2017
Jun 20, 2013
Apr 28, 2015
really liked it
Christopher Priest's The Adjacent
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 19-21, 2017
I've probably read 4 Priest novels now: Indoctrinaire review of
Christopher Priest's The Adjacent
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 19-21, 2017
I've probably read 4 Priest novels now: Indoctrinaire (1970), The Inverted World (1974), The Extremes (1998), & The Adjacent (2013). Alas, I only remember The Inverted World, wch I liked very much, & The Adjacent, wch I liked almost as much. As such, I don't feel prepared to generalize about his writing. One of the 1st things that caught my attn in this one was:
"They walked as far as what Gordon described as the decoy site, one of dozens that had been built around London as a fire lure during the Second World War, to try to keep the Luftwaffe bombers away from the city. Bracknell then had been a village three miles away, and the decoy was out in the wild. There was not much to see; the remains of a dugout shelter, bricked up and overgrown with weeds, and some half-visible piping firmly buried in the soil. Gordon said he took an amateur interest in those old decoy sites, and described how they had been used." - p 14
These sites were known as "Starfish" b/c the "S" & the "F" stood for "Special Fires". Simulations of buildings set ablaze by bombings were created to make the bombers think they'd hit their targets. There were 237 of these sites wch are reputed to've diverted 730 bombing raids.
The story begins in the 21st century, focusing on a photographer whose wife has recently been apparently annihilated by a mysterious weapon. The world is even more war-torn than it was in the 20th century.
"Tarent spent the rest of the morning in the guest room, making a start on the immense task of sorting through the thousands of photographs he had taken during the trip. At this stage he restricted himself to looking for the dud or unfocused shots and erasing them. Fortunately, the signal was strong in the Roscoes' house, so he could access the online library without any problems. He kept all three cameras on recharge, because online editing quickly depleted the batteries." - p 16
Tibor Tarent, the photographer, has just returned to Great Britain & is confused about what his official status is as he travels under the auspices of a government agency:
"They passed through increasingly built-up areas, approaching the capital. The younger official leaned forward to the driving compartment, said something quietly to the driver, and almost at once the smoked-glass effect deepened on all the windows as well as the dividing glass, making it impossible to see outside. Two dome lights in the car's roof came on, completing the sense of isolation.
"'Why have you done that?' Tarent said.
"'It's beyond your security clearance level, sir.'
"'Security? Is there something secret out there?'
"'We have no secrets. Your status enables you to travel freely on diplomatic business, but national security issues are a matter of internal policy.'" - p 21
He switches to traveling an armored personnel vehicle:
"The Mebsher was originally designed for military use: a means of transporting troops and matériel through hostile territory in a vehicle that could withstand most forms of violent attack, including RPGs and IEDs." - p 25
I wonder: Is it common to most readers's vocabularies that RPG = Rocket Propelled Grenade & IED = Improvised Explosive Device? Do we really live in a world that violent? Alternatively, how many readers know that EG = For Example (translated from Latin to English)?
The reader gradually learns that Britain is apparently under Moslem control:
"They were soon under way again. As the Mebsher moved slowly out of the town centre one of the crewmen came on the intercom. It was a formula greeting: peace be unto you, Allah is almighty, welcome back aboard, keep your seat-belts fastened, food is available in the galley but remember that no alcohol is allowed aboard, please follow all instructions from the crew in the event of emergencies, Inshallah." - p 34
"After a year's visit to the USA he returned to Britain while the political and social upheaval that accompanied the foundation of the IRGB was still in progress." - p 39
The reader deduces that IRGB = Islamic Republic of Great Britain.
As Tarent travels, he tries to make sense of what's happening:
"Yet he was also convinced that none of the people he had encountered in the last few days had any conception at all of what he had been doing abroad, what the chaos of events there was like, the morbid sights he had witnessed and the terrifying events he had experienced, the parlous state into which so many parts of the world had fallen. Half of Europe was now virtually uninhabitable." - p 43
The reader is moved on to an earlier time period, WWI, where a stage magician & a famous SF writer are en route to France to add their expertise to the British cause:
"While the ship was immobile I could never quite throw off the fear that a pack of German U-boats must be speeding towards us, lining up their torpedo tunes. Our ship was so small, over-loaded, thin-hulled, seeming to me vulnerable to almost anything while it floated on this troubled sea." - p 74
"['] They are ruled by Prussian imperialism, and their economy is dominated by Krupp, the maker of armaments. Krupp and the Kaiser stand side by side. It has become an inhuman system. [']" - p 86
"I remembered what Simeon Bartlett had said about the giant Krupp cannon. Was it real? Would they really target bases like this one before turning it on Paris? I also remembered that H.G. Wells had prophetically written about the power and influence of the Krupp company." - p 102
I wonder: How much of the USA's economy is dominated by arms dealers? & how hidden is this dominance? According to an Amnesty International website, the USA is the largest exporter of major arms tallying 31% of the global shares ( https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/new... ). The same website claims: "A definitive figure for the value of international conventional arms transfers is difficult to calculate with precision. In 2010, the total value, as recorded in national statistics, was approximately US$72 billion. Since then, it is estimated that" [..] "the arms trade has been approaching US$100 billion annually."
I've sd it before & I'll say it again: if arms dealers were held accountable for what their weapons were used for, the international murder rate wd go way down. I think executing an arms dealer for every death caused by their weapons is an excellent idea - starting w/ the CEOs. The arms dealer's entire assets wd then go to improving the lives of those close to the original victim. It seems only fit that the arms dealer's spoiled families shd become homeless.
"'But you couldn't have written that book. It was by H.G. Wells!'
"Captain Wells nodded again. I stood up in astonishment, then sat down again suddenly, because the carriage was rocking. I gripped the edge of my seat.
"'Then you are...' I said." - p 87
Yes, he's Nicolas-Edme Rétif de la Bretonne! & this bk is about a secret weapon disguised as a shoehorn! Nah, I'm jest joshin'.
"British merchantmen had been attacked by German submarines from almost the first days of the war. The U-boats scanned their targets and took aim from beneath the surface, using the periscope." - p 107
Since the periscopes looked like fancy women's shoes from the late 18th century, the only defense against the diabolical German U-boats was to train shoe fetishists to look for the periscopes. Sighting them caused immediate ejaculation & the genetically-modified sperm swam quickly to the submarine 'egg' & penetrated its hull causing it to sink.
The magician muses on misdirection as camouflage, the reviewer muses on misdirection as spoiler-spoiling:
"There is one more method magicians use to make something seem to disappear. It is in fact one of the main techniques of stage magic and is employed in almost every trick you ever see performed." It is the art of misdirecting the reader. (p 108)
Finally we get to a shoe that's right next to the title:
"Another kind of misdirection is in the use of adjacency. The magician places two objects close together, or connects them in some way, but one is made to be more interesting (or intriguing or amusing) to the audience." - p 110
The time shifts to an earlier part of the 21st century:
"I had interviewed a Nobel laureate before — the writer, philosopher and pacifist Bai Kuang Han, who was awarded the Peace Price" [sic] "in 2023 — but Thijs Rietveld was a much more formidable challenge as a non-specialist journalist." - p 168
"Using what quantum physicists sometimes call annihilation operators, an adjacency field could be created to divert physical matter into a different, or adjacent, realm. An incoming missile, to use the famous example described by Professor Rietveld, need not be intercepted or diverted or destroyed — it could be moved to an adjacent quantum dimension, so that to all intents and purposes it would cease to exist." - p 169
It's kindof like diverting bombs to someplace where some nice peaceful birds & squirrels are living in the woods. What if that missile goes to an alternate dimension where there aren't any arms dealers?! There goes the neighborhood, right? Out of sight, out of mind. But what if that missile turned out to be like the 1987 "Gar-barge", a barge filled w/ NYC garbage that 6 states & 2 countries wdn't allow to be dumped in their turf. What if that alternate dimension sends that damned missile right back. It'd be like a toxic badminton match.
That sd, I've always wanted to be able do something like that. Imagine how much I cd've improved life in Baltimore if everytime some group of idiots in a passing car shouted out "Faggot!" I just made them go away. I promise to be selective about where they go. The sun might be nice. Then I can charge them tanning fees (in advance, of course).
"But then Tibor Tarent said, 'Would you help me get my stuff back in the car?' He led me outside—his car was parked opposite the house. As soon as we were away from the house he said, 'That is one of the most amazing men I have ever met. I'll never forget what happened. Did you see what he was doing while I was taking pictures of him?
"'I was in the kitchen — I couldn't see too well.'
"'It's impossible to describe. I'll show you the photos tomorrow. He was like a magician — he could make that big sh"oe "appear and disappear. I couldn't see how he was doing it.'" - p 174
Shoe fetishism was developed by Rétif de la Bretonne as a form of birth control by misdirecting jism from its human target. That's what the neolojism "fetishjism" refers to. Alas, what started out as a civic-minded way of keeping the population down w/o harming anyone during the French Revolution was immediately turned to harmful profit by the arms dealers:
"'You obviously now realize what happened to me a few years ago when I was in Strasbourg. We were naïve, all of us but especially me — we thought we were making a breakthrough into something that would neutralize" unwanted pregnancies from much-needed hedonism. "It would always be safe to use, non-aggressive in nature, harmless because it would remove harm. But what we all feared soon came to pass: minds other than ours worked out how to make quantum adjacency into a weapon of war." The shoe was on the other 3rd leg. (p 175)
Don't even mention WWII!:
"In charge of the Instrument Section of the squadron was Flight-Sergeant Jack Winslow, and RAF regular who had joined up in 1935, and who seemed to the new recruits almost omniscient about they aircraft they serviced." - p 183
"Zaremski finally realized I was there.
"We were to evacuate again, he announced, this time towards Bucharest. No civilians would be transported — priority would be given to air force personnel. The intention was to regroup and form an independent detachment of the Polish Air Force . We would then launch guerrilla air raids on the occupying armies of the homeland. Zaremski named an air base in the north of Romania where we had permission to land and where there would be all the facilities we needed." - p 226
"Staring down at the large field below the end of the main runway, Torrance looked for and found the still-visible trace of where H Henry had crashed after being shot down: the large black triangle burnt into the crops by the wreckage was starting to be grown through, and would soon disappear." - p 236
Not if I have anything to do w/ it. While we're not mentioning WWII:
"The reality was that in April and May 1940, which was around the time Krystyna had travelled from France to England, the Soviet authorities in Occupied Poland rounded up the entirety of the officer corps of the Polish army and air force, some twenty-two thousand men in all, transported them to the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in Russia, and massacred them." - pp 248-249
Was that really necessary?! No doubt that was some megalomaniac's wet dream, presumably Stalin's, but it's not mine. I have a bk entitled Katyn - Stalin's Massacre and the Triumph of Truth by Allen Paul wch I haven't read yet & may never read. According to the back cover blurb of this bk, the "U.S. government cover-up of the crime continued long after the war ended." Naturally, that makes me curious: Why wd the US do this?
When Tarent is 1st traveling in the Mebsher & he's been taken to the destination chosen for him the driver doesn't take him to the gate. It was unclear to this reader whether that was b/c there was no road to the gate or b/c the driver of the Mebsher had too busy of a schedule for such precision:
"'But which direction is it from here?'
"'Along this ridge,' the driver said, gesturing with his hand. There was a trace of an old footpath leading away. 'Parts of it are too narrow for this vehicle. You'll have to walk the rest of the way. Sorry about that but it's not far. This is as close to the place as we could take you, and this diversion means we are now running late.'" - p 136
The "Parts of it are too narrow for this vehicle" seems to indicate that the road leading to the gate was inadequate for the vehicle. However, 146pp later:
"He look across to the south, through the few trees that still stood there, past the first of the Warne buildings, and was rewarded with a glimpse of the huge dark shape of the Mebsher, heading slowly towards the main gate." - p 282
Did you find yrself doing the math to check whether I was correct about the 146pp difference? This apparent discrepancy between descriptions isn't a continuity error on the part of the author, it's an indication of the constantly shifting realities. Even tho he's seen his corpse in a metaphorical shoebox:
"The soldier straightened, glanced around, and for the first time looked directly at Tarent. The two men stared at each other.
"It was Hamid, the young Scot who had been one of the drivers of the Mebsher that brought him here." - p 285
Is my "Even tho" sentence misdirection or a clue?
"'Flo?' Tarent said, his heart racing.
"She looked at him more intently. 'Why do you call me that? Who are you?'" - p 287
This is a shoe-in for one of the most spoiler-spoiling reviews possible. I want to give you the story, b/c I'm writing about it & find it interesting, but I don't want the story to be spoiled for you. As such, I give you significant moments taken so far out of context that they become insignificant for you in terms of The Adjacent & only dubiously significant for you in terms of this review. It's my hope that you'll read this bk & have an AHA! moment in relation to this review. The narrative keeps refreshing itself (p 295), the narrative is a gradual reveal:
"These covered most of their faces, so Tomak Tallant did not even glimpse the woman's face until the second day." - p 297
"Tomak Tallant"? That's awfully similar to "Tibor Tarent", eh?! Priest does what I think most good writers do, he puts it there in front of the reader but doesn't hammer it into the reader's brain, the reader puts whatever number together w/ whatever number to reach whatever number. The characters don't understand what's happening but try to & the reader's put in the same situation. It's not really that hard but the clues take their good ole time to appear:
"'I thought Prachous City was the largest on the island.'
"'It's the capital, but Adjacent is more populous.'
"'What is that name you are using?' Tallant said.
"'The shanty town is know as Adjacent.'
"'Adjacent to what?'
"'I have no idea.'" - p 310
Most wars create refugees but the war or wars in The Adjacent put a new spin on that. Is the 21st century going to be worse than the 20th?!
"'Who are they?' Tallant said. 'Where have they come from? It's supposed to be impossible to get past the border controls.'
"'The people in Adjacent have found a way. In theory they are all at risk of deportation.'
"'So how do they do it?'
"'I've no idea.'
"'You said you were there. Didn't you ask them?'
"'I heard many answers, none of which I understood, and anyway I think none of the stories are true. Ask yourself, Tomak: how did you get to Prachous? Where were you before we met?'
"Tallant felt a cold, familiar inner fear, something he habitually shied away from." - p 311
"Using the ambient light in the hangar, Tarent took a series of rapid shots of the two Lancasters, expecting at any moment that he would be shouted at, or manhandled, or threatened with some breach of the regulations covering this place. But is was as if he was not there. Everyone ignored him. He moved towards some of the men as they worked, took close shots of what they were doing. They continued to ignore him." - p 409
Strange. People are ignoring you? You must be getting older. Maybe they want you to go away & stop being such an embarrassment.
"It was a long room, packed with airmen, the air thick with cigarette smoke. Tarent's first breath made him reel back, gasping. He turned away and re-opened the door, seized by a bout of helpless coughing. Never before in his life had he been in a place so full of smokers." - p 411
He hasn't been to a party in the 1970s yet.
The last page gives mod-a-go-go info-a-go-go:
"For more fantastic fiction, author events, exclusive excerpts, competitions, limited editions and more:
VISIT OUR WEBSITE
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
FOLLOW US ON TWITTER
I like it, there're some communication possibilities. I read an enormous amt of SF & it was nice to read something by someone who's, presumably, still alive. Now the reviewer is gone. ...more
Notes are private!
Dec 08, 2017
Dec 21, 2017
Jul 11, 2012
it was amazing
Joel Sachs's Henry Cowell - A Man Made of Music
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 7-19, 2017
The full review starts here: https://www review of
Joel Sachs's Henry Cowell - A Man Made of Music
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 7-19, 2017
The full review starts here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I've retired from working for other people for money so my life more than ever revolves around reading, book reviewing, listening to music, playing piano, witnessing movies, making movies, making websites, etc.. One of the websites I'm making is titled "Top 100 Composers" which means that it's a list of the 100 composers whose work I've found most interesting & enjoyable ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Top100C... ). Considering how much music I listen to & how obsessed with music I am, I thought it would be easy to pick my favorite 100 composers. Nope, I've been struggling with the choices since October & I'm still finding it very difficult. A few were obvious, most are ones whose work I like but who don't quite awe me with their brilliance.
Henry Cowell, at 1st, was in an ambiguous zone: I like his music, I've been listening to it for 40+ years, I'll pick up any recording of his I find, but most of it's a little too conventional for me. Sortof. Its the "sortof" that complicates things. When I listen to the later works they seem laden with history, they're stately old growths, not wildly budding saplings - but there's always something about them that makes them significantly different from other somewhat 'simple' contemporaneous works. In the long run, how could I not have Cowell on the list? ( http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Top100C... ) I include very few who didn't use electronics, Cowell's one of them. Reading Sachs's bk certainly helped fuel my enthusiasm for Cowell immensely.
The bk is dedicated "To my beloved family, and in memory of Sidney Cowell, who did not live to read it." (p v) Do you ever think about that sort of thing? Sidney Cowell was married to Henry. Maybe she wd've liked reading this bio, maybe she wdn't've - Sachs seems to try to be fair so he's not always kissing his subjects's asses. To us, the readers of this bk, Henry Cowell is in some sense alive: the bk keeps him alive, the recordings keep him alive. Of course, that's not much use to the actual Henry Cowell, who's been dead for 52 yrs. Cowell's life had its ups & downs, to put it mildly, & he got plenty of respect & love even at the worst of times so maybe he wouldn't've 'needed' a bk like this in his lifetime to help keep him emotionally afloat - but what about the rest of us? The ones who get little or no love, little or no respect? Is it enough to suspect that one's contribution to culture will be appreciated post-mortem? Not really.
"Sidney Cowell made the project possible by providing me with complete access to the Cowell papers, annotated copies of her personal correspondence, information about some little-known actors in this drama, and fresh insights (plus occasional confusion) in letters to and conversations with me." - p xi
"Now, at the end of the eternity that this book has taken, an apology is overdue to those who waited for it. I deeply regret that his widow Sidney Cowell—whom I liked tremendously—my colleague H. Wiley Hitchcock, and most of the people who kindly allowed me to interview them did not live to read this book. I confess, however, that a knowledgeable person, who shall remain anonymous, suggested only half-facetiously that I write slowly, lest I complete it during Sidney Cowell's lifetime. Otherwise I would be bombarded with corrections, largely of imagined errors. As I got deeper into the materials and saw Sidney's hair-trigger response mechanism in action with other authors, and became aware of the errors, confusion, and contradictions that infected her later writings and some of our conversations, I realized the seriousness of that warning. As it happened, however, deliberate delay was unnecessary. Sidney passed away in 1995, after a long and distinguished life. I still had years of work ahead and missed her greatly.
"The longevity of my labors had two principle causes. One is the richness of my life and activities over these twenty-three years" - p xvi
23 yrs, he spent 23 yrs writing this. Even so, Sidney Cowell had more of her life invested in Henry Cowell than Sachs did so I can relate to her possible fanaticism in relation to the telling of his story. I'm sure that many people dread or dislike my opinion on matters that I've been heavily involved w/, such as Neoism, but tough shit!, it's been my life, not yours. Ahem.
"The complexity of Henry's life in particular requires a preliminary visit with the three women who, believing that a biography would have to be written, created the archive of his papers.
"The first of them, Henry's mother Clara (or Clarissa) Dixon Cowell, a professional writer, saved her own papers and the scraps of his early life, and wrote an extensive memoir of his first eighteen years. The second collector, Olive Thompson Cowell, was Henry's second stepmother, that is, his father Henry's third wife. Accordingly, once she began to appreciate his talents, she amassed everything she could and wrote copious notes about their conversations, his lectures, his professional activities, his musings, and her own assessments of him. Although some of her literary legacy seems colored by the expectation that she would live on through her services to Henry, and much of her writing tends toward hagiography of Henry and his father, Olive's papers are indispensable.
"The third hoarder was Henry's wife, Sidney Robertson Cowell. A brilliant, determined, reserved yet fiery woman with extraordinary talents as a writer, photographer, folklorist, and musician, Sidney far surpassed Olive as a preserver of paper. The most objective of the three women, she loved Henry yet could be very critical of him. That duality gives special weight to her writing, which steers clear of hagiography, even at its most positive." - p 3
"Olive, convinced that his life would demand good documentation, now set up an archive into which went everything from scraps of paper to important documents and countless letters including many from friends in Menlo Park who were not professionally "useful"—even the first letters from Elsa Schmolke, his Berlin landlady". - p 128
Fancy that! Are your relatives respectful & supportive of your activities? I have some friends whose parents are, it's somewhat amazing to witness. My father told me once that he found some 8mm films of my childhood but that he didn't know what to do w/ them. I explained that they could be transferred to VHS, the most common medium for movies viewable at home at the time, & that I cd do the transfer. I asked him for the films but I never got them. History, even if it is only personal history, lost. When my mom was moving out of the house that I spent most of my childhood in she told me that she found a drawing I'd given her. I remembered it, it was a colored pencil drawing of a vacuum cleaner in nature. Now, yes, it was a parody of my mom's OCD mania for sterilizing everything that moved & that's why I gave it to her. It was 1 of the only surviving drawings from the days when I made such things, I might've been 16 when I drew it. I wanted to see it again after 35+ yrs! She asked me if I wanted it, after all, why wd she want it? I told her yes. When I asked her about it she sd "I don't know what happened to it." Translation: 'I threw it away.'
The point is here: some people really get the 'luck of the draw' & Henry Cowell was one of them. Reading his biography is reading about a person who was loved & supported to a fantastic extent. I've often joked that if my family were to get their religious hands on my estate post-mortem they'd erase all traces of my existence ASAP except, maybe, for some pictures of me in suits as a child. Then, if they were to talk about me at all, it wd be to either make up something that has nothing to do w/ me or say that the 'devil got me' & to then begin to pray. I didn't get the 'luck of the draw' & some friends of mine are even worse off than I am. Nonetheless, Cowell STILL didn't have an easy life. Don't that just beat all?!
Probably like most people who've pd some attn to Cowell's music & life I've read about his time spent in prison. I'd read 2 different stories: 1 that made him seem like a victim & 1 that made him seem somewhat ethically senseless. Sachs's 1st mention of this is still in his Prologue:
"At some stage, possibly as early as their marriage in 1941, she" [Sidney] "decided that the story of his imprisonment on a morals charge should not be told for the first time outside the context of a full biography." - p 4
Righto. As my friend etta cetera, a prison activist, says, people aren't the worst thing they do - & I think that's very succinct. Alas, once convicted, or even tarred w/ the brush, of certain crimes the perpetrator becomes very little else to most people. As such, a person cd be incredibly nice & generous & then snap & kill someone & from then on in they're a murderer & very little else - unless they're in the military, of course: in wch case: KILL AWAY HERO! It's all so tragic. Fortunately Cowell didn't kill anyone so he suffered a less-tarnished fate.
Sidney's next mentioned b/c "she had spent some seven years working on the biographical section of the Cowells' book about Ives, whose life was far less eventful than Henry's." (p 4) Maybe so, but, still 23 yrs on this bio?! Ahem. At least you got it done.
As for Henry's mom Clarissa?! Now there was an interesting woman - although her alleged anti-sex position rubs me the wrong way (pun intended):
"One editor also sought a romantic relationship with her. From 1889 to 1891 she was assistant editor of an anarchist weekly, The Beacon. In San Francisco, she teamed up with a young Irish immigrant to publish a fortnightly anarchist paper, Enfant Terrible (1891-1892), with which she built a following. One sample of her contributions unmasks the underlying temperament of this ex-housewife who was anything but placid.
" ['] The clergyman has no more right than the clown to marry people. The judge has no more right than the jail-bird to sentence people. The policeman has no more right than the pauper to arrest people. The tax-collector has no more right than any other thief to filch people's property. The legislator has no more right than the lackey to make laws. I have no reverence for God, nor parents, nor sovereigns, nor presidents, nor popes, nor bishops, nor dead bodies, nor ancient institutions; in short, I have no reverence for any person or thing. ['] " - p 14
Yes! I cdn't've sd it better meself.. Although.. I probably do have some reverence for life & I'm not sure how that wd've fit into Clarissa's philosophy but I imagine she & I wd've been close to being on the same page.
"The Clarissa Dixon of the early 1890s that was perfectly suited to the individualistic world of San Francisco, as was her co-publisher of Enfant Terrible, an Irish immigrant named Henry Cowell, known as Harry." - p 15
You can see where this is going.
"Unlike some famous childhoods, Henry's is not shrouded in mystery. In 1914, Clarissa felt so driven by fate to document his development that although mortally ill, she began drafting a biographical sketch, amplifying it until her strength gave out." - p 18
His parents edited an anarchist fortnightly called Enfant Terrible. His mother drafted a biographical sketch about him. "The Scotch Club of San Francisco later pronounced him the most beautiful child in the city. "Crowds used to gather around him ["]" (p 18) If crowds were to gather around me in BalTimOre it wd've been reasonable to expect them to begin stoning me to death. I might've met a guy w/ a tattoo of a knife on his lower leg but wd I've met the equivalent of Jack London? I think not. People wd've met me.
"A ditch-digger who happened to hear Henry and Clarissa discussing writing proved to be self-educated but with "astounding ideas and great clarity of speech." The laborer, Jack London, accepted Harry's invitation to see them for the first of many visits when Henry was about seven." - p 20
"self-educated but with "astounding ideas and great clarity of speech.": as if that's some sort of unusual combination. Maybe it is, but doesn't 'university educated' mean semi-illiterate?
"Henry enjoyed referring to his third grade certificate of promotion as his highest academic degree until he received an honorary doctorate in 1953." - p 29
That's more like it. Clarissa was remarkable. She was connected to early anarchist publications so what's not to like? She also published a novel:
"Janet and Her Dear Phebe, which appeared in February, 1909, was warmly received by the press, but only 310 copies were sold in four months. In fact, it is a fine book, but truly straddled the borderline between teenage and adult. Politely but decisively, Stokes dropped further options." - p 31
"only 310 copies were sold in four months"? That strikes me as a stunning success. My latest bk, "Paradigm Shift Knuckle Sandwich & other examples of P.N.T. (Perverse Number Theory)" has sold, maybe, 70 copies in the last 9 mnths & 60 of those were to friends (or reasonable facsimiles thereof). If I'd sold 310 copies in 4 mnths I'd be expecting the key to the city & a queue of bride-wannabes. Damn, I'd figure that I cd walk naked down the streets & the police wd tip their hats to me & call me SIR. I'd expect bankers to give me the combinations to their vaults & the alarm system codes.
"With sales peaking at 400, neither royalties nor contracts were on the horizon. She never received a penny for Janet." - p 34
Well that much hasn't changed. Maybe the publisher shd've promoted it more.
"A tone cluster is a chord in which all intervals are seconds. (Henry eventually called it "secundal harmony.") These chords, which can be found as early as the eighteenth century, were part of the arsenal of the piano virtuoso Leo Ornstein (1893-2002). Henry later found that Vladimir Rebikov (1866-1920) used them in Russia. Henry, however, wished to use them with more than a handful of pitches. Lacking enough fingers, he expanded the resources of pianism by using the flat of his hand, the side of the fist, or the entire arm. This too was not entirely unprecedented. Daniel Steibelt's late eighteenth century "battle pieces" included passages played with the flat of the hand, and Ives had used a board to produce oversized clusters in the "Concord" Sonata, but Henry would not have known either of them. He might, however, have heard of the ex-slave Blind Tom, a virtuoso pianist in his own Civil War battle pieces." - p 36
& here we get to what torched off Cowell's fame, his use of tone clusters & his playing of the inside of the piano are what 1st caught my interest 60 yrs or so later even tho such techniques wd've been somewhat common by then. Sachs's scholarliness comes thru here, I don't recall knowing about Rebikov or Blind Tom before. Steibelt I'm not sure about.
1898: "a new Theosophical sect, the Brotherhood of Man" - p 49
When I was 19 & hitch-hiking back from the West Coast of the USA to BalTimOre I was picked up in a station wagon driven by a youngish man accompanied by a woman of roughly the same age, a little girl, & 5 dogs. All 5 dogs had scars from ear-to-ear. The driver explained that he'd found them w/ their throats slit in a river where they'd apparently been thrown to die. He saved them. The 2 adults looked very fried - as if they'd been awake entirely too long, possibly w/ the aid of LSD. I've written about this in greater detail elsewhere so I'm just giving a synopsis here. He said he was in a group called The Brotherhood of Man. I'd never heard of them before but this was 1972 & it sounded like a hippie cultish sort of thing. I had very long hair at the time so most people wd've thought of me as a hippie.
He picked up 2 more hitch-hikers. He told us that he'd been spreading the word on the radio that there was a Satanic group who'd put a hit out on him. He sd that the group found where he was hiding & was going to kill him. He hadn't had a car but as he was walking down the street he saw this stn wagon w/ the keys in it & knew it was a sign from the Brotherhood (or some such) that the car was his for his get-away from the death cult. He took the car & his family & the dogs & here he was & here we were - in a stolen car. We all got arrested. I've only run across one other mention of the Brotherhood of Man since that experience 45 yrs ago until I read this Cowell bio. I hope that man & his family are ok. I liked him. His story might've been true.
"He planted rows of daffodils in his garden along with rows of garlic, and "the bulbous plants crossed and there were horrible little green budlike daffies that smelled like garlic. This could only have happened to Henry, we said."" - p 53
That's funny, when I lived in South BalTimOre & my neighbor threw all his garbage in my backyard, a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 crossed with a tree & some sort of carnivorous plant grew up & ate the neighbor. It didn't smell weird but the screams of the neighbor were really loud & went on for wks. I didn't mind, tho, I found it rather pleasant.
Henry Cowell, being, as the title of this bk says, "a man made of music", he began performing early, wowing & shocking people w/ his extended piano techniques. Not everyone was enthusiastic:
"Mason had more mixed reactions. The music was "lawless, without a trace of counterpoint"; on the other hand, Henry knew how to get his ideas "across the footlights." Convinced that Henry had not the faintest notion of "what is meant by development," he advised packing him off to Germany, "where he would be out of the reach of idolizing women folk who mistake anarchistic rhapsodizing for inspiration."" - p 58
So what, eh?! Who needs counterpoint?! Cowell may not've understood counterpoint or development but he was blazing a newer path & that path has grown up very nicely, no thanks to that reviewer very much. A new path is welcome, the old sights & sounds get boring after awhile. But Cowell was adulated:
"According to a reviewer, the Musical Association performance also led a San Franciscan to contribute enough money to justify planning six months of lessons with a fine teacher. (Henry identified the sponsor as a German baron who wanted to send him for lessons with Richard Strauss.)" - p 18
"As of October Seward had raised nearly $335 [2010: $7,540] from donors in Palo Alto and San Francisco of which little more than half remained." - p 18
Now Henry & his mom hadn't had it easy. They'd survived poverty & the San Francisco earthquake by this point. His mom was having trouble succeeding as a professional writer, difficult at any time if you have anything intelligent to say but insufficient publishing world connections, esp difficult for a woman in the early 20th century. But $7,540 raised from donors for his musical education?! That's mind-boggling. I had someone offer to pay me to leave BalTimOre once but I don't think she had more than enough for a one-way bus ticket in mind. ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 30, 2017
Dec 20, 2017
Jun 28, 2005
Greg Bear's Dead Lines
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 4, 2017
Greg Bear's Quantico followed this one. In my review of that I wrote review of
Greg Bear's Dead Lines
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 4, 2017
Greg Bear's Quantico followed this one. In my review of that I wrote:
"Ok, I've previously drawn parallels between Greg Bear's "Blood Music" & Michael Crichton's "Prey" that were unflattering to Crichton (see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34...) & then I HATED Crichton's "State of Fear" (see http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15...). SO, I credited Bear w/ being original & discredited Crichton w/ being a paltry 2nd (or 3rd or whatever). THEN Bear writes this - a novel not that dissimilar from Crichton's "State of Fear" but coming out a yr or 2 later." - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...
The reason why I start this review off this way is because Dead Lines, as the predecessor of Quantico, puts Quantico somewhat in perspective. I speculate (does that makes this SR instead of SF? Speculative Reviewing?) that Bear was trying to make more money by writing in established popular genres. Who knows? Maybe everyone in his family had flesh-eating disease & the bubonic plague, I mean he might've been desperate for money.
Dead Lines has a list of writers that it's "FOR":
"J. Sheridan Fanu.
M. R. James.
H. P. Lovecraft.
Bruce Joel Rubin.
Scary people, all." - p vii
I've heard of most of those authors, some of them are popular horror writers, others a bit more ambiguous. I read an entire Dean Koontz novel & found it to be a bit predictable in its chain-pulling, I read one Stephen King short story & have never had the desire to read anything else by him since - although I've seen more movies based on his bks than even a hypnotist cd ferret out. I don't think of either authors as being worth emulating but, having worked in the bkstore biz for 8 yrs, I can say that King was the most popular writer I've ever known of so if you want to make money that's apparently the way to go, or the road to hoe, or the road to ho.
&, heck'a'goshen!, King even endorses Dead Lines on the back cover: "A REALLY EXCELLENT NOVEL". I hope he didn't think too hard about that.
Bear, even at his worst, wch is what I'd say Dead Lines is, still has interesting ideas that put his stories a notch above the furthest my belt can stretch. In this case, a new post-cell-phone technology taps into some unexpected places. The pre-story flash-forward (of sorts) hints at the ambitious plot:
"We were all there in that city that draws its paycheck from the manufacture of ghosts. We were there when one man started handing out free talk. And we are there now, sad little dolls made of dust." - p 1
Ain't it the truth. But what is all this 'free talk' stuff I've been hearing about? Is it like 'Freedom Fries'?
""If you take the damned thing, turn it off while you're here/"
""They don't turn off," the young man explained to Peter, drawing closer. His wide blue eyes assessed Peter's character and the size of his wallet. "You can turn the ringer down, however."
"Peter smiled as if at a half-heard joke. "What is it?" he asked.
""Free talk," Joseph said. "But it doesn't work.["]" - p 12
That's b/c freedom isn't free. It is on sale this wk only tho. Buy 2 get 1 free. Unfortunately, all 3 of them are ghosts:
"With Baslan out of the doorway, Peter had a clear view through an arch to the dining room, about thirty feet from the porch. A little boy in a frilled shirt and knee stockings stood there. He looked sick; not sick, dead; worse than dead, unraveling. His face turned in Peter's direction, skin as pale and cold as skim milk. The head seemed jointed like a doll's. The grayish eyes saw right through him, and suddenly the outline blurred, precisely as if the boy had fallen out of focus in a camera viewfinder." - pp 35-36
Oh, he probably just came back from the dr's. You know what I say: A highwayman said: "Your money or your life!", a dr just thinks: "Your money & then you life." Business is business. Maybe the dr just gave him a steroid shot in the hip. The next thing you know, a mere 23 pp later, you're seeing another ghost:
"Through his tears, he saw that the woman's face was like a flat sheet of mother-of-pearl. Her eyes opened to quizzical hollows. Less than solid, she resembled a paper doll frayed by careless snipping. Peter could actually see her edges ripple." - pp 59-60
If I don't write something here before I move on to the next quote it'll seem that the ghost above is the "she". The wd be funny but I've decided against misleading YOU, dear reader, in that way.
"She introduced the guests to Peter. Two he had met long ago, writers from a group Phil had belonged to for almost thirty years, the Mysterians." - p 69
Now, maybe that's a take-off of "The Futurians", an early-to-mid 20th century SF group. Or maybe Peter's the question-mark. Get it? Question Mark & the Mysterians? HahahAHAhahA.. Another good touch is to have Peter be a former sexploitation Psychotronic moviemaker a little down on his luck:
"["]Out of the onetime slammer comes a promo campaign headed by Peter Russell, the edgiest sexploitation director ever." Weinstein's face grew serious. "And to be honest, Russ Meyer turned us down. But then he suggested you, one Russell to another."" - p 101
The clues fall into place like glue traps raining from heck:
"["]In less than twenty years, world will run out of bandwidth. Radio, TV, cell phones, wireless, all will halt screeching growth." He smiled. "But world's problem is solvable, I have solved it."
"Kreisler rose and started to move his arms, slowly at first, then describing large arcs. No need for waves, for radiation. I discover new source of bandwidth, forbidden information channels, not truly radiation at all, unknown until now. Channels in what I call Bell continuum" - p 105
I call it the "Taco Bell Continuum" but it's basically the same thing.
""Like cell phones, Trans units always tie into network. They are always on. What is more remarkable, as they work, they actually change surrounding space, perhaps permanently. They alter information permittivity." - p 107
Hence, Free Love.
""Yes, but we use term as a metaphor," Kreisler said. "A capacitor stores up charge. Space stores up information, but over time, it fades, dissipates. When Trans accesses the forbidden channels, she increases space's permittivity. Information does not fade, but builds up until it jumps like a spark.["]" - p107
It's like when you go to hug someone & you get shocked by static electricity & the next thing you know their whole life story flashes in front of you & you realize they're a serial killer & they know that you know & they stab you to death. Happens all the time.
As a (non-Psychotronic) moviemaker myself I appreciated this next bit:
""I presume I'm going to shoot HD video," he continued, his tongue gluey. "I've never used a Betacam, or whatever it is now. I'd like to see some of the equipment, just to know what to rent."
Karl shrugged. "Hell, with what's in Circuit City right now, you might as well buy. Only cost you a couple of grand for something pretty terrific."
"Peter shook his head. "This is professional, Karl."
""That's what I'm saying, Peter. Something the size of your hand, locked onto a hundred-dollar tripod, will give you great results. What kind of budget?"" - p 142
A "couple of grand"?! Pshaw! I use a $35 'sports' camera bought at another famous chain store & I'm the best moviemaker in the world!
"Peter stopped at an old pay phone near an Asian grocery, one of the last pay phones in Los Angeles—they were being dismantled everywhere. Everyone was going wireless." - p 231
True dat. The reader reading this might not even remember pay phones. They were the things that rival drug dealers pissed on the mouthpieces of.
& that, gentle wo(men), concludes today's PowerPoint on sails. ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 30, 2017
Dec 04, 2017
Jun 12, 1984
really liked it
John Brunner's The Crucible of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2017
I've already thoroughly praised Brunner in many other review of
John Brunner's The Crucible of Time
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 26, 2017
I've already thoroughly praised Brunner in many other reviews but I had the vague feeling that I might've exhausted my praise for him insofar as I thought that anything I might read new by him wdn't surprise me. I was wrong. The Crucible of Time surprised me, it was significantly different from anything I'd already read by him & satisfyingly epic.
The Foreword establishes what I assume to've been the basis for the bk:
"It is becoming more and more widely accepted that Ice Ages coincide with the passage of the Solar System through the spiral arms of our galaxy. It therefore occurred to me to wonder what would become of a species that evolved intelligence just before their planet's transit of a gas-cloud far denser than the one in Orion which the Earth has recently—in cosmic terms—traversed.
"In my attempt to invent history I have frequently relied on the advice of Mr. Ian Ridpath, whose prompt and generous aid I gratefully acknowledge." - p ix
Brunner wasn't satisfied to just take the reader thru such an imagined major shift in a planet's ecological condition. He invented a species, a protagonist being, & its culture & provides an epic in 7 parts + an epilogue to show this species faces near extinction over & over again but still manages to have enuf survivors to enable evolving to the degree of being able to attempt to cope w/ these cosmic catastrophes. Each section evolves into the legend of the next section. Each legend feeds the evolution. The initial protagonist is Jing, whose heritage forms an important lineage throughout the bk. One aspect of the epic thread is religion vs science:
"Shuddering, yet determined to pursue his quest, Jing eventually discovered the secret of their dominance. It lay not in their armies, nor their treasures. It consisted in the deliberate and systematic exploitation of the dreams of those less well-to-do than themselves, a possibility which had never occurred to him, and which the language barrier prevented him from comprehending until a lordling he had disappointed in his hope of brand-new armaments set sacerdotes upon him at his lodgings." - p 6
It's never completely obvious what sort of creatures these main characters are:
"children as yet unable to raise themselves upright were playing with a litter of baby canifangs, whose claws were already sharp. Now and then that led to squalling, whereupon a nursh would run to the defense of its charge, mutely seeking a grin of approval from the fathers who sat from left to right. Each had a female companion, and if the latter were in bud made great show of providing for her, but otherwise merely allowed her to bite off a few scraps." - p 12
The language is just close enuf to using (English) human terms to anthropomorphize the situation - but these aren't humans. "canifangs" could be 'canines with fangs', puppies in this instance playing w/ babies; "nursh" obviously is close to 'nurse'; "in bud" = pregnant.
"And strode forward fully upright, not letting the least hint of pressure leak from his tubules. Arriving in front of the Count, he paid him the Ntahish compliment of overtopping him yet shielding his mandibles." - p 14
We read physical descriptions of the characters involving tubules, mantles, & mandibles. I think of insects but I also think of Kafka's purported avoidance of having an illustration of what Gregor Samsa turned into in "The Metamorphosis". In other words, I'm not so sure that Brunner wants the reader to think of these creatures in an absolutely defined physical way, it occurs to me that he might want their alienness to be sufficient & for the reader's attn to be directed to more philosophical aspects of the story.
Jing is traveling to investigate rumors about a fantastic observatory in the far north:
"However, he was finding it a disappointment. It was a mere depression in the rock. Walbushes had been trained to make a circular windbreak, and their rhizomes formed crude steps enabling one to look over the top for near-horizon observations. A pumptree whose taproot reached down to a stream of hot water grew in the center where on bitter nights one might lean against it for warmth. A few lashed-together poles indicated important lines-of-sight. Apart from that—nothing." - pp 15-16
These beings specialize in some sort of bioengineering, as alluded to above. Almost everything they have is made of plants controlled to their purposes & other beings that they'd domesticated:
"Next day distraught parents came crying that a snowbelong had killed a child from the furthest-outlying village, and the Count hauled himself out of his sitting-pit and set out to hunt it down with hoverers and canifangs." - p 23
Given that this is an epic, it takes the reader thru the looooonnnnngggg term development of the technology needed for, eventually, leaving the planet:
""Ah! You found another magnifying drop. It's especially clear and fine, I must say."
""Not found," Twig announced solemnly. "Made."
""How? Out of what?"
""Sand, would you believe? Yes, the same sand you find beside the hot marsh! Keepfire's flames are getting better and hotter—oh, I know people are complaining about the smell, but that's a small price to pay!—and this time he's excelled himself! And there's more. Look at this!"
"He produced what he had in his other claw. It was of similar material, equally clear, but twice the size.
""Hold them up together—no, I don't mean together, I mean—Oh, like this!" Twig laid claws on Jing in a way the latter would never normally have tolerated, but it was certainly quicker than explaining. "Now look at something through both of them, and move them apart or together until you see it clearly. Got it?"
"Jing grew instantly calm. There presented to his eye was an image of Twig, albeit upside-down . . . but larger, and amazingly sharp except around the edges." - p 33
Yes! The people with claws have discovered the can-opener! After Jing is the 1st person to cut his claw on the can-opener he gets poisoning, his mantle turns paisley, & he has a vision:
""If stars are fire, then new stars happen when fresh fuel is fed to them. What fuel is there, barring worlds like ours? If we would rather not be fuel for a star, there's no one who can save us but ourselves . . . I've dreamed. It's made me weary. I must rest."" - p 44
So, the people tie a can-opener to a string & launch it with a kite & the sky cracks open! The story jumps forward in time. Out of the vagina in the sky, well, really, out of the hairs surrounding it, come giant crab-like creatures that the people tame as boats. Due to a cloacal misunderstanding, they name them "briqs" after "briq-shithouse".
"The sound he had recognized was the unmistakable munch-and-slurp of Tempestamer feeding.
"Week exhultation filled him. Surely she was the finest briq ever to set forth from Ushere! He had pithed her personally with all the expertise at his command, leaving untouched by his prong nerves which other Wego captains customarily severed. At first his rivals had derided him; then, however, they saw how docile she was, and how fast she grew, and in the end came begging a share of his knowledge, whereupon it was his turn to scoff. Now she had proved herself beyond doubt, for she had defied the worst weather in living memory and—he looked about him—brought her crew to a safe haven" - p 63
It was at this point that yr astute reporter, ME, realized that, YES, this IS an epic:
". . . In a giant tree at the heart of the city, hollowed out deliberately and ornamented with the finest and handsomest secondary plants, a glass container sealed with wax, through which could be glimpsed the original of Jing's scripture." - p 80
B/c, you see, Jing is long since dead, defunct, deteriorated, dried-up, all washed-up, you name it, but his WORD lives on! Hal 'til you're BLUE ya! I still don't get what any of this has to do w/ that Duchamp installation a the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It took me entirely too long to note the way the middle letters of words acted as hinges between 2 words happily conjoined in budding marriage these words into one. I must be becoming unhinged:
"Braverrant had not returned albeit her master was Boldare, wily in weatherways. No more had Governature with Gallantrue and Drymantle, not—next most envied after Tempestamer—Stormock, whose commander had been Cleverule, sole among them to make two-score voyages.
"Nor Wavictor, nor Knowater, nor Billowise . . . and even Tempestamer had not reported back." - p 87
Now, I don't mean to rub your face in this but I'm going to unspell it out for ya: "Braverrant" = "Brave" + "Errant" (like brave knights errant of old n'at), "Boldare" = "Bold" + "Dare" (the bold one is likely to marry Dr. Kildare), "Governature" = "Govern" + "Nature" (as in 'I'm going to govern nature if I have to bulldoze every damn tree in this fucking Amazon forest!'), "Gallantrue" = "Gallant" + "True" (Elvis offered his groupie a beer can tab for a ring before getting down to business to show how gallant & true he was), "Drymantle" = "Drym" + "Mantle" (Drym used his mantle as a surfboard in order to keep dry). Well, you get the idea.
On p 123 the epic jumps vastly ahead in time again & we're going to join in that process by jumping even further ahead to p 157 so that I can quote a section that refers back to a part that I didn't quote so that you wdn't understand what's going on if I hadn't just told you:
"["] At Ripar, do they know the legend of Skilluck?"
"Yockerbow looked blank, but to his surprise Arranth, standing by as usual but less bashful than before, said, "If the name is Skilq, we have the same tale, probably."" - p 4,000,968,157
I prefer to pronounce it "Scalduck" but maybe that's too much of a corruption. Just say "Balduck" & click yr heels together & you'll be at p 183 but while you're being silly I'll already be at p 188:
"A cable like a single immensely long nerve-strand had been laid along the sea-bed between the two places, and covered over with piles of rock carefully set in place by divers wearing things called air-feeders: ugly bulging, parasitical organisms bred from a southern species unknown, and unhappy, in these cool northern seas, which somehow kept a person alive underwater. Also they had means to lift even extremely heavy objects, using such substance or creature that contracted with vast force." - p 4,000,968,188
They have some nerve! In our world these "ugly bulging, parasitical organisms" are called millionaires but we misbred them so they're without hearts. They can only survive by sucking the blood out of non-millionaires. Gotta do something about that. Thanks to that not-really-a-joke, time is just flying by here as I make the greatest leap yet to the next era starting on p 241. True to the nature of bankers, a potentially sympathetic figure becomes a figurine of a jerk:
"But if he expected to impress her by boasting, he was wrong. Nothing could have more firmed her determination than this display of the luxury Awb had attained through corrupting the minds of the younger generation. Had she not needed food to power the argument she foresaw as inescapable, she would have voiced her contempt of his tactics; as it was, she resignedly filled her maw and, confident that even yet he would never have been trained in the Jingfired's techniques of dark-use, waited until he chose to speak again." - p 290
Turning on my darklite so I can blind better (or is it blend butter?) I scry that "Awb" is short for "Awful Banker" although these days "Awful Health Care Provider" or "Awful TV Newscaster" might be a more heinous insult. Now that we've mastered darkwordplay there's no reason to jump to the next era, we can just calmly walk there w/o necessarily even looking where we're going:
"At first Chybee was too startled to respond. This magnificent home had overwhelmed her even as she approached: its towering crest, its ramifying branches garlanded with countless luminants, its far-spread webs designed to protect the occupants against wingets and add their miniscule contribution to the pool of organic matter at its roots, cleverly programmed to withdraw before a visitor so that they would not be torn—all, all reflected such luxury as far surpassed her youthful experience." - p 299
& I thought that teaching my dog to fetch was something. So what if he's fetching a new girlfriend for me? "Out of the mantles of young'uns" (p 309) as we say.
Remember "Voosla"? One of those post-briqs that became a giant floating city but then got forced way inland b/c of a tidal wave generated by a meteorite crash? NO, of course, you don't remember it! This is the 1st you've heard of it! &, even then, only if you pronounced the word out loud:
""As nearly as we can establish, Slah was once a city of the People of the Sea," Ugant expounded in a perfectly relaxed tone. That may sound ridiculous, given how far it now lies above seas-level, but our researches have confirmed what for countless generations was only a folktale. When the Greatest Meteorite hit, the city Voosla was borne many padlonglaqs from the nearest ocean. Naturally the over-pressure killed its inhabitants." - p 316
Naturally. Our dear friend Chybee gets inveigled (don't you just love that word?) into infiltrating a CULT that may've been a descendent of the Awful Banker. J u s t a s y o u a r e b e i n g i n v e i g l e d i n t o a c u l t r i g h t n o w b y e v e n r e a d i n g t h i s w e i r d r e v i e w.. Boy will she be sorry.
"Impressed, Cometaster said, "And your means . . . ?"
"With stiff dignity, Chybee answered, "Those who attain enlightenment will recognize its import in due time."
"The other three exchanged glances.
""Aglabec is going to be very interested in you," said Witnessunbride. "He's the only other person I ever heard say anything like that. And the only other person so advanced he can contact other planets without needing to fast. That is, assuming you got your knowledge about Sluggard direct. Did you? Ot were you just told it by your budder or someone?"" - p 332
Yes, join my cult (a s i f y o u h a d a n y c h o i c e), & you will never have to eat again! I will take on that Earthly responsibility for you. SO, you joined the CULT OF THE BOOK REVIEWER & the next thing you know you've jumped up to another section beginning on p 357 & tripped over to p 359 where the pre-launch routine is in-progress:
""Propulsion mass and musculator pumps?"
"There were no complaints from the docile creatures responsible for his maneuvers in orbit. He said so.
""Sourgas level normal."
""Pheremone absorption?"" - p 359
These claw & mantle folks do things a little differently. For one thing, they know how to put farts to work, bless 'em. Anyway, I, as your book reviewer cult guru, am now ending this review as if I didn't have a care in the world. Good night, Tiny Tim, wherever you are. ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 22, 2017
Nov 27, 2017
Mass Market Paperback
Mar 21, 1991
Mar 21, 1991
it was amazing
the Richard Kostelanetz edited John Cage, An Anthology
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 15-20, 2017
full version: "There's no pun on review of
the Richard Kostelanetz edited John Cage, An Anthology
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 15-20, 2017
full version: "There's no pun on the last name "Cage" in this title.": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This is the 2nd edition of this bk. It was published in 1991. The 1st edition was published in 1970. I read the 1st edition sometime in the early to mid '70s. Now, over 40 yrs later, I've read the 2nd edition. The 1st John Cage record I got was "Variation IV - Volume II" in mid 1973. I would've been 19 at the time. I only bought 27 records that year & Cage's work was only on that one. It was an impressive beginning for me. The next Cage record I got was "Music for Keyboard 1935-1948" performed by Jeanne Kirstein. That was in the beginning of 1974, a year in which I purchased 64 records, 6 of which had Cage work on them:
Music for Keyboard 1935-1948:
"Two Pieces 1935" - 3:28
"Metamorphosis" (1938) - 16:10
"Bacchanale" (1938) - 9:10
"The Perilous Night (Winter 1943-44)" - 13:11
"Tossed as It Is Untroubled" (1943) - 2:28
"A Valentine Out of Season" (1944) - 4:12
"Root of an Unfocus" (1944) - 4:12
"Two Pieces 1946" - 12:18
"Prelude for Meditation" (1944) - 2:18
"Music for Marcel Duchamp" (1947) - 5:52
"Suite for Toy Piano" (1948) - 7:38
"Dream" (1948) 9:12
John Cage with David Tudor Presents Variations IV [Volume I] (1963)
Concerto for Prepared Piano & Orchestra (1951) - Yuji Takahashi: piano
Music Before Revolution:
"Credo in Us" (1942)
"Imaginary Landscape No. 1" (1939)
"Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" (1957/1958)
"Solo for Voice I" (1958)
"Solo for Voice II" (1960)
"Rozart Mix" (1965)
HPSCHD (1967-1969) - in collaboration w/ Lejaren Hiller
Three Dances (1944-1945) - performed by Michael Tilson Thomas & Ralph Grierson: prepared pianos
I don't recall whether I read this Cage Anthology before I got these records or after. After seems more likely but it's not listed in my list of books I read from September 1975 to August 1976 so it wdn't've been then & was probably earlier. Such details may be of little importance to most people but in the avant-garde where credit for innovation is determined by 'who-did-it-1st' such details can be very important.
For me, these were very heady times. I'd 1st learned of Cage when the teacher of my 9th grade music class told us about Cage's "4'33"", the so-called 'Silent Sonata'. I thought that was interesting. I was 20 at the beginning of 1974, 21 on September 4th of that yr, & probably lived at my mom's house most of the time with a few months spent in the basement of a friend's house.
I'd already discovered plenty of music that was important to by such folks as: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Soft Machine, The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Ravi Shankar, Bonzo Dog Band, The Incredible String Band, Miles Davis, Dr. John, Van Dyke Parks, Berlioz, Eric Dolphy, Tim Buckley, The Fugs, Erik Satie, George Russell, &, soon thereafter, Harry Partch but it was Cage & Tudor's "Variations IV" that was probably the freshest for me.
Even though I had played (what I take for granted were mediocre) piano recitals as a child & had played folk & simple boogie-woogie & rock on 12-string acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica, & voice when I was 17 I wasn't really inclined to play steadily metered music. I listened to mostly rock'n'roll but I never felt like the type of personality to play that particular genre of forceful music.
But when I 1st heard "Variations IV" I realized that this was much more for me - or, at least, that's how I think of it from this time distance of 44.5 yrs. There was no steady beat, it was a pool of data to be sifted thru using one's own original methods & I found the results rewarding. I liked the density, I liked that it was generally w/o everything that was generally considered 'musical' in my previous experience. It was NEW, newer than rock'n'roll, it was uncompromising, it was definitely not mediocre.
In retrospect, what was then a long time, a mere 10.5 yrs later, I was performing my own "booed usic @ t he Telectropheremoanin'quinquennial" on & off stage at the Galaxy Ballroom in the Congress Hotel on January 24, 1984. (2 movies from this are online: "Telectropheremoanin'quinquennial" (a quasi-document of the full event: https://youtu.be/SSP1tJK3pjs ), & "booed usic @ t he Telectropheremoanin'quinquennial": https://archive.org/details/BooedUsic (just the booed usic portion of the evening)). Cage & Tudor's suit & tie performance in wch some talk of sex was incidental had morphed into my zipper pants event in wch sex was forefronted. The philosophy had changed dramatically but the (m)usic had similar modes of production. & it was slightly less than 10 yrs later that Cage was dead & I was participating in a tribute concert to him on October 10, 1993 (a very primitive movie from that called "Sound Cage" is here: https://youtu.be/MamQegRTPGQ ). Given that it's now 24 yrs later than that, that all seems so close together & now seems so far away.
ANYWAY, sometime around this time of hearing those recordings was when I 1st read John Cage, An Anthology. I think I must've read a public library copy b/c this was during a time when I was trying to keep my belongings sparse. Those were the days. They're also long gone. I don't really remember my reading this as having a profound affect on me but it seems like it must have. Rereading it (in this revised edition) I find much of what's described & addressed to still be the work of Cage's that I like the most. Still, I was reading & listening 'voraciously', as the cliché has it, at the time (& still am) so there was plenty other than Cage to take in.
Kostelanetz's "Addendum to [the] Preface" he wrote for the 1st edition on May 14, 1970, says this:
"Twenty Years later, it feels good to see this book back, in somewhat expanded and updated form. Though Cage has changed, my sense of him remains the same, which is to say that he is not just a composer but a master of other arts as well, beginning with poetry. What is missing from this book is a word I coined just after preparing the first edition — polyartist."
"This new edition now concludes with a greatly expanded catalogue of Cage's compositions, a bibliography of his books, a record of his major visual art projects and a fresh, longer list of recordings." - p xvi
Kostelanetz goes on to quote Duchamp in his addendum: "Everybody is making, not only artists, and maybe in coming centuries there will be the making without the noticing." (p xvii) Duchamp was rejecting "the idea of the artist as a superman" (quote from the same quote) & that's all well & good but I, personally, think that the notion of everyone's an artist leads to an uncritical mindlessness (as opposed to a mindfulness) in wch the ego still dominates but there aren't even any critical standards anymore w/ wch to substantiate anything. Cage's take is on p 12:
"Does this bother you—the assumption that anyone can be an artist, regardless of his skill?
"No. No, not at all. Not at all, That's a European question, you know, not an American question, this whole thing of hierarchy—of wanting to make the most the best. And it took us ages, relatively speaking, to get out of that European things. Many people are now out of it."
This whole business of distinguishing European thought from American thought doesn't interest me much now but I can see how it was important then. However, to me, it's not "this whole thing of hierarchy—of wanting to make the most the best". I'll give an example: if that's the way Cage felt, wd he rather have lived in East Berlin at the time where if he wanted a car for his (fictional) child he might have to apply for it when the baby was born & maybe the 20 yr old grown-up wd get some shit car after a 20 yr wait? B/c that's an instance where the society wdn't be making "the most the best". I don't think it's necessarily 'hierarchical' to prefer that the car runs reliably, that it gets good gas mileage, that it survives well in a crash, & that it can be gotten w/o waiting 20 yrs.
In other words, sure, everybody can make art, everybody can do brain surgery, everybody can choose mushrooms to eat - but Cage wd intervene, as one of his stories tells, if he thought the mushrooms picked might kill the person about to eat them. As such, in Cage's ill-thought-thru argument, Cage becomes part of a 'hierarchy', he becomes a skilled mycologist whose skill has value. People might counter-argue that art is not a life-or-death matter but that making cars & performing brain surgery or picking mushrooms are. I'm simply trying to make the point that any activity worth pursuing is worth pursuing mindfully if one is to take responsibility for the results & that embracing unskilled & skilled approaches as somehow 'equal' is an act in favor of mindlessness.
Kostelanetz, in the addendum, then quotes Stravinsky:
"Is it only that Mr. Cage does things that Europeans do not dare do and that he does them naturally and innocently, not as self-conscious stunts? Whatever the answers, no sleight of hand, no trap-doors, are ever discovered in his performances: in other words, no "tradition" at all, and not only no Bach and no Beethoven, but also no Schoenberg and no Webern either. This is impressive, and no wonder the man on your left keeps saying sehr interessant.—Igor Stranvinsky, in conversation with Robert Craft" - p xvii
Amazing. I don't see a yr attribution for that one but I'd love to know when that was sd. Craft was the conductor who brought us most of Schoenberg on record, all of Webern, & what was at the time all the available Varèse.
Kostelanetz knows his shit, as I've often sd, & he pulls material out of a hat that most people don't know exists. At the beginning of Chapter 1 he quotes something by a man named Edwin Morgan who I've never heard of. The quote begins:
"I have to say poetry and is that nothing and am I saying it I am and I have poetry to say and is that nothing saying it I am nothing and I have poetry to say and that is saying it" [..] "(1965) From The Second Life (Edinburgh University Press), copyright © 1968"
Because Kostelanetz is such a prolific & prominent writer he probably gets books like The Second Life sent to him for review or he's probably forever searching bookstores, as I am, for obscure things that fit his interests. The Second Life might not be that obscure since it was published by a university press but, still, I've never heard of it before so, thank you, Kostelanetz for exposing me to it.
SO, since we're talking innovations in writing here & since people who're mindful of such things are mindful of the dates when they're done (as noted above once already) I go into my personal library & get my copy of Brion Gysin's Brion Gysin Let The Mice In wch has similar permutational txts to see what the dates on those are. The bk itself was published in 1973 by the wonderful Something Else Press. "The Permutated Poems of Brion Gysin" were copyrighted 1960, 1963, & 1973. Given that the latter copyright date was presumably for Brion Gysin Let The Mice In, such poems as the one partially quoted below presumably preceded Morgan's:
I AM THAT I AM
AM I THAT I AM
I THAT AM I AM
THAT I AM I AM
AM THAT I I AM
&, then I might as well throw in some Gertrude Stein:
It is very likely."
- from "Study Nature" (1915), p 197, The Yale Gertrude Stein, edited by Richard Kostelanetz
That Stein is pretty damned precocious & there was a time when I wd've been very impressed by it but I'm currently in post-having-read-Stein's-The Making of Americans (see my review of that here: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/4... ) -mode so I'm not so impressed anymore. For that matter, I never liked Gysin's permutation poems either. I even had a record by him on the important Hat Hut label called "Orgy Boys" that I found so boring that I got rid of it (unusual for me).
Kostelanetz had a conversation with Cage in 1966. There's probably plenty of things of interest for me in it, all of it probably, but I picked the following as the 1st thing to quote from:
"Do you watch that television often?
"Not right now, it's not working very well. But I generally go to sleep with it on, because it has a timing device so that the thing turns itself off. I use it as a lullaby.
"What do you watch?
"The old movies.
"Did you get a television early?
"I announced my desire to have a television set in my article on Rauschenberg  where I say that we are not so interested in poetry as we are in getting a TV set. I didn't have one at that time; but, having written that, shortly I found myself in a discount house buying one." - p 7
I stopped watching TV when I was 16. That was 1969 or 1970. I've never thought that was a bad decision. I'm sure that if I'd continued to watch TV I wd've got less accomplished. It wasn't until the 1950s that TV started to become common in homes in the US. I grew up in a house that had a black & white TV. I don't remember our ever having a color one before I stopped watching. Since TV was the primary propaganda medium in the US it was what people like my parents consulted if they wanted to know 'what to think' about something. That, of course, & the 'news'papers.
I'm sure that to Cage TV represented the avant-garde of the life-changing technology of the future. It is pretty amazing that he did things like perform his "Water Walk" on TV on the popular TV show "I've got a Secret" in January, 1960 ( https://youtu.be/SSulycqZH-U ). As such, it's no wonder he wanted one. What I do wonder is how long it took him to realize that such a powerful tool wd inevitably be used primarily for brainwashing?
Cage was a pioneer of taking mediums sold as passive consumer items & turning them into tools for active play. I love his work where he has radios & turntables be instruments, works like "Imaginary Landscape No. 1" (1939), "Credo in Us" (1942), "Imaginary Landscape No. 4" (1951), "Radio Music" (1956), etc..
On the other hand, I'm currently reading Joel Sachs's biography of Henry Cowell & I found this passage to contribute to a more well-rounded perception of radio's cultural function:
"Henry's developing perception of radio's potential can be traced through his articles on music for the Encyclopedia Americana's annual supplements. In his review of the year 1927, he mentioned radio only briefly, merely observing that better musicians were being used. Only two years later, radio seemed to him one of the most important forces in the musical world, since its music programming had greatly improved. He blamed radio, however, for a chain of side-effects that made it more threatening than recording. His "informal" survey revealed that up to 80 percent of concerts had been eliminated due to competition from broadcasting. Fewer children studied music as parents decided that radios rendered playing an instrument unnecessary. Consumers bought radios rather than pianos, pushing three leading piano manufacturers—Chickering, Knabe, and Mason and Hamlin—into receivership. Publishers failed as sheet music sales plummeted. Phonographs without built-in radios languished on store shelves. Composers' incomes dropped as performance opportunities shrank. Henry lamented that listeners would forget (or never learn) the acoustical superiority of live performances. Furthermore, radio companies were uninterested in new music. In his survey of 1930, radio looked even more pernicious." - p 218
I've encountered similar complaints that DJs & Karaoke have dramatically cut into the use of musicians at weddings & made it very hard for musicians who'd previously depended on those for a living to survive. Of course, new music is still not very often played on the radio. There are all sorts of explanations for that, the most obvious of wch is that most people don't like new music - or so it appears. But just as consent is manufactured (in the Chomsky critique) so can taste be. It's my opinion that simple-minded culture is deliberately propagated to keep people uncritical of propaganda. But that's an oversimplistic statement.
It's fascinating to be able to read this with the hindsight of a person 47 yrs after the original publishing date of the 1st edition. Cage says this:
"I say, in the "Diary" I mentioned, that we have to see chaos and order as not opposed." - p 9
Now, the 1st 3 of these Diaries were printed in Cage's 1967 bk A Year from Monday & Part Three was printed in a Great Bear Pamphlet in the same yr. Since then, there's also been a multiple-CD release. At the time that John Cage, An Anthology was released how many people wd've been familiar w/ this work? I have both A Year from Monday & the Great Bear Pamphlet.
"True discipline is not learned in order to give it up, but rather in order to give oneself up. Now, most people never even learn what discipline is. It is precisely what the Lord meant when he said, give up your father and mother and follow me. It means give up the things closest to you. It means give yourself up, everything, and do what it is you are going to do. At that point, what have you given up? Your likes, your dislikes, etc." - p 13
I appear to have noted the above b/c it's about discipline - self-discipline being something I respect & often find lacking in most people. However, reading that bit now I just feel like taking some pot-shots at it: "It is precisely what the Lord meant when he said, give up your father and mother and follow me.": How cd Cage say something like that?! I mean the man was 53 or 54 at the time, he wasn't a teenager, hypothetically he wasn't braindead - but such an approach to discipline reeks of cult-like imposition of discipline to turn people into slavish zombies. If you "give yourself up" what's left? Why not just kill yourself entirely?! B/c until you do that you're not likely to give up your "likes, your dislikes, etc." I was probably annoyed by that statement when I 1st read the bk 42 yrs or so ago but now it just strikes me as point-blank stupid.
Cage does get into class somewhat, w/o explicitly addressing it:
"Look at the difference between my life as a composer and La Monte Young's life. He never lived without some kind of support. Look what I had—nothing but opposition until 1949 and 1950.
"What did you do before then?
"Oh, I did everything. I had jobs as an art director for a textile company, also washing dishes, washing walls, doing library research, accompanying dancers. Not until 1960 was I able to live as a musician, so to speak—lecturing and concerts and so on." - p 15 ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 12, 2017
Nov 20, 2017
Mary Ulmer Chiltoskey's Cherokee Words With Pictures
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 14, 2017
I was excited to find this book becau review of
Mary Ulmer Chiltoskey's Cherokee Words With Pictures
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 14, 2017
I was excited to find this book because I've been researching endangered languages & consider most Native American languages to be in that category. Especially endangered are those languages that exist entirely in a spoken form, languages that aren't written. Almost all Native American languages were only oral when the cultures became endangered by European invaders. The author writes by way of introduction:
"Many people helped make this book. The great Cherokee man Sequoyah by 1821 had invented a syllabary—something like an alphabet—so that his people could write their way of talking. His syllabary is in this book.
"Years ago many Cherokee could read, write and speak their language. Now only a few can. About 25 years ago Will West Long, who lived in Big Cove, began writing down words, phrases and sentences. He passed away before he made a book." - p 4
Chiltoskey's attempt to carry on this work was published in Asheville, North Carolina, a city that I'm constantly reminded of the existence of despite my never having been there. It was published in 1972, 151 years after Sequoyah's beginnings.
There's a neatly designed chart on p 3 of the Cherokee Alphabet reproduced from the Bureau of American Ethnology's Nineteenth Annual Report, plate V. This presents what might be 78 letters. I write "might be" b/c in 7 of these instances what appear to be multiple letters seem to be presented as representing one letter.
However, Will West Long's Cherokee Alphabet (1947) is presented on p 53 & there appear to be 88 letters . Only 3 of those appear to constructed out of more than 1 symbol but it's difficult for me to be sure because the list is hand-written & what I'm reading as 2 symbols might just be one elaborate one.
Reading this didn't make me literate in Cherokee. I'd have to be surrounded by Cherokee speakers to even attempt that. I will, however, at least try to use it somehow in my 'opera' in progress entitled "Endangered Languages, Endangered Cultures, Endangered Ideas" (3 movies about that can be seen here: https://youtu.be/fiAVrCNtKvQ , https://archive.org/details/ELIPabridged, &https://youtu.be/XuoZopfS4CQ?t=54m59s ).
1st, I find it phenomenal that one man, Sequoyah, wd've been visionary enuf to undertake the project of creating a written version of his people's language; 2nd, it interests me that this language was created phonetically, that each letter represents ONE SOUND & that with a knowledge of the alphabet & how to pronounce each letter one can read the words as groupings of those sounds &, therefore, recognize the word (if one knows it already). That seems like a very basic & sensible way to proceed.
Pp 5-27 present Cherokee Words: 1st in English, then spelled out using the Cherokee Alphabet with a pronunciation guide under each letter. To the right are illustrations of some of the words. As I was reading this I mentally pronounced each of the Cherokee words. hence, I pronounced:
tsa-la-gi di-ka-ne-i-s-di to mean Cherokee Words
That, in itself was an interesting exercise. I decided to put a pencilled arrow next to all plant names to remind me to use them in "Endangered Languages".
acorn = gu-le
apple = sv-ga-ta
bean = du-ya
branch (tree) = u-s-di u-wa-ni-ga-lv
Whether I was even pronouncing them correctly is unknown to me. I pronounce "u-s-di u-wa-ni-ga-lv" "oo-ss-d oo-wa-knee-ga-llvv".
After the single words section there's a middle spread called "How This Book Came To Be" followed by a phrases section from p 32 to p 42. THAT was followed by a People section etc. I was at least paying attn enuf to note that on p 36 the Cherokee version of the phrase "no good" was incompletely phoneticized. The 3 Cherokee letters only had 2 phonetic correlatives: u-yo". It shd be "u-yo-i".
I found the people names interesting: "Charley", a name I presume to have an English origin, is pronounced in Cherokee as "tsa-li" - not that different. "Kanuga", being, presumably of Cherokee origin, is pronounced as one wd expect: "ka-nu-ga". But then "Oocumma" & "Oosowi" are slightly different: "u-ga-ma" & "u-sa-wi" - so why not just Anglicize them as "Ugama" (instead of "Oocumma") & "Usawi" (instead of "Oosowi")? Maybe the pronunciation differed when they were 1st Anglicized.
Then there's "Richard": "u-we-na-i". Is that b/c the appropriate sounds aren't in the Cherokee alphabet? That seems to be the case. That brings up an interesting problem: even though most, or all, English names probably have an etymological history that might be translatable, most people using the names only know them as designators of a person. As such, "Richard" might be most easily left untranslated & just pronounced as best as possible by the non-English speaker. However, that's not always so easy. I remember being in Germany & trying to pronounce someone's name & having that person become exasperated at my poor pronunciation even tho it sounded fine to me.
In the case of names that are translatable such as "Running-Bear" & "Running-Wolf" the pronunciation changes from "yo-nv a-di-si" & "wa-ya a-di-si" are irrelevant. Note that what I presume to be the "running" part is the 2nd word in the pairings.
Then we get back to an English name for wch Cherokee sounds exist: "Sallie" = "sa-li". Then there's a different "Tsali", a man's name, "tsa-li", in wch the Anglicized version is a direct pronunciation.
On p 52:
"Above is a sample page of the dictionary started by Will West Long for book publisher George Stephens in the 1940s. First comes the English word in the scholar's own handwriting, then Sequoyah's Cherokee word in characters each representing a syllable, then pronunciation in international phonetic symbols."
These "international phonetic symbols" use diacritical marks that most people wdn't be familiar w/. The question of who Tsali was is partially answered on p 54:
"Today the Cherokee people who live on the Qualla Boundary (also called the Cherokee Indian Reservation) are the descendants of the few who hid out in the Great Smoky Mountains until they were permitted to stay there after Tsali gave his life for his people." ...more
Notes are private!
Nov 03, 2017
Nov 14, 2017
May 01, 1991
really liked it
Jim Dodge's Stone Junction
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2017
[This review is truncated by a word limit. For the full review, review of
Jim Dodge's Stone Junction
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 30, 2017
[This review is truncated by a word limit. For the full review, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ]
I'm not familiar w/ the author. I probably got this b/c the front cover looks vaguely science-fiction w/ a 'futuristic' black dome w/ green lights & a smoke stack that looks like it might be more at home on a large sea-faring boat than in the desert where it is in the image & w/ a foregrounded black-gloved hand that's partially on fire. I don't recall noticing the ad blurb on the back from one of my favorite authors, Thomas Pynchon:
""Here is American storytelling as tall as it is broadly and deeply felt, exuberant with outlaw humor and honest magic. Reading Stone Junction is like being at a nonstop party in celebration of everything that matters.""
As much as I love Pynchon's writing, I admit that that capsule review alone wdn't've been enuf to hook me if I weren't so easily hooked anyway. This traces the life of a character who goes thru the usual sensationalist plot devices involving explosions, drugs, robbery, gambling, & call girls - all those things that a public in search of cheap thrills seems to love. At least one character is almost straight out of a Hunter S. Thompson tale of drug abuse. All that didn't necessarily bode well for me - including the sensationalist dramatic beginning:
""Sit down, slut," Sister Bernadette screamed, slamming the desk top with her open hands as she jumped to her feet. "I said sit down!"
"Annalee, just under sex feet tall and a little over 130 pounds, broke Sister Bernadette's jaw with her first punch, a roundhouse right with every bit of herself behind it." - p 4
A friend of mine who was left-handed went to Catholic school & every time he used his left hand & a nun saw it the nun wd hit that hand w/ a ruler. Apparently, one of the doctrines of the church was that the left hand is the 'devil's hand'. Now, to me, that's so obviously stupid it's ridiculous - but how many children suffered b/c of it?! Keeping that story in mind & other tales of sadistic nuns I'm not likely to get upset by the image of a nun being punched. NUNtheless, to some readers this might be a chain-puller.
One of my initial criticisms of Stone Junction was the fantastic improbability of much of it. I made a similar observation in my recent review of Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather:
"What happened when I started reading this? I was immediately sucked into the writing, it was thrilling, it's a thriller of sorts. I could identify with the characters, the lunatic fringe obsessed w/ studying tornadoes. Am I a storm chaser? Nope. Am I a meteorologist? Nope. Am I a hacker? Nope. So it really just plays into an aspect of my fantasy life. I am, however, an 'outsider', a person barely tolerated by a society of robopaths. & it's from that highly experienced position that I started questioning the narrative POV of Heavy Weather: Is this something written by someone who knows how to write a thriller but who doesn't necessarily come from the social milieu that his heros are located in?" - https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
My point is that it's all well & good to write a novel where all these exciting things happen, wham, bam, thank you spam, but I don't prefer wallowing in fantasies in the long run, I prefer actual real life activities wch don't usually involve the kind of sensationalism that bks like this represent. E.G.: Annalee goes out hitch-hiking w/ her very new baby & immediately gets picked up by an exceptionally good ride:
"As good-humored as his name implied, Smiling Jack was in his late thirties. He had a faded IWW button on his Stetson's band and a pair of rolling dice on his belt buckle. Annalee liked him immediately." - p 6
Yep, I'd say being picked up by someone showing signs of the Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World union, is pretty damned lucky. Then again, it's not impossible.
"Like most teachers, Annalee learned with her student. Each New Year's Eve they chose a subject to study together. One year it was rocks. One year, birds of prey. The year devoted to meteorology was the most fun. Each night they put their sealed forecasts for the next day's weather into a jar, opening them after dinner on the following day as if they were fortune cookies. They plotted their relative accuracy and the day's weather data on a wall chart that had become a mural by winter solstice. On New Year's Eve, a few minutes before midnight, they ceremoniously rolled the mural up, tied it with a sky-blue ribbon, and stored it like a precious scroll in a fishing-rod case." - p 18
Now, I'm not against home-schooling but I'm not for it either. Home schooling can be an honest attempt to break free from indoctrination or an attempt to make the indoctrination airtight. When I went to school, if we start w/ kindergarden that wd be 1958 to 1971, it was public school all the way - I never heard of private schools or home-schooling. There was Catholic School, maybe the Quakers had a Friends School, I don't know. I don't think there was a plethora of choices, kids just went to the nearest public school & that was that. I hated school but in my experience of it it wasn't so bad.
If there had been a school for 'exceptionally bright or talented' students my parents wdn't've wanted me to go there anyway - esp if it meant spending money. I certainly wdn't've wanted to be schooled by my parents. My dad was never home, I only recall seeing him a few times before my parents got divorced, & my mom was ignorant & brainwashed.
These days, schools have changed so much. I don't know anyone who sends their kids to public schools, as in the neighborhood school. Everybody sends their kids to more specialized schools, schools w/ particular philosophies, places where the arts are emphasized, or the environment. Parents & kids together can pick a place that appeals to them. It seems like an improvement to me. One friend of mine who taught at a local school for the arts put together a music ensemble that was so good that being part of it wd be an honor indeed. The public schooling I got was boring & mediocre. The current extent of my knowledge is based on my own research conducted outside of school. If a person's desire to be educated is self-motivated then they're much more likely to accomplish something important, IMO. Then again, there's the usual situation of privilege: when yr parents actually support you w/ deep pockets it goes a long way.
I only have one friend whose child has been partially home-schooled. I don't know how successful the home-schooling's been but I'm sure it's been subject to the erratic difficulties of the parent's life. My present impression is that the main people currently in favor of home-schooling are those who object to the separation of church & state. As such, these are people who want their children to be thoroughly indoctrinated in whatever their religious beliefs are. I suppose one can say 'That's their right' fairly enuf but I don't think any schooling is satisfactorily educational if its myopic. Then again, I'm an atheist, the thought of a child under my tutelage being bombarded w/ religious fantasy horrifies me. Parents like Annalee in Stone Junction wd be rare indeed. Parents like those that Betsy DeVos represents seem much more common.
One thing's for sure, if DeVos gets her way & students are allowed to bring guns to school I'd strongly advise parents to keep their kids away from those schools. DeVos justifies this by fear of bears but somehow I reckon that more humans have killed their fellow humans than bears ever will. For a reading of mine that's partially about DeVos check out "Cosmic Grunt / Betsy DeVos" ( https://vimeo.com/203362094 ).
Annalee & her son, Daniel, have to flee from their no-longer-safe-house along w/ the person that the law is really after, Shamus. Thanks to one of the more unlikely tropes of the novel, they are instantly aided by a network that Shamus & Smiling Jack, etc, are associated w/:
"A thin, hawk-faced man was waiting for them at the landing strip near the Great Salt Lake with new driver's licenses for Shamus and Annalee (now James and Maybelline Wyatt), credit cards in the same name, four thousand dollars in cash, and a '71 Buick registered to Mrs. Wyatt. He told them to drive to Dubuque, Iowa, and make a phone call to the number he provided." - p 27
The reason for the heat?
"When Shamus slithered through the hole he'd cut in the cyclone fence, a guard who wasn't supposed to be there called halt, but Shamus clubbed him with his flashlight just as the guard pulled his gun. It went off harmlessly, but the shot brought security to full alarm." - p 27
""If I didn't feel for sure that that guard off smoking a joint was an accident, a random twist, I'd have to believe Volta would have found a way to make sure I didn't pull it off." - p 38
So the guard was where Shamus wasn't expecting him to be b/c he'd sneaked off to smoke a joint. I've been critiquing the novel in terms of its improbabilities, not b/c I'm such a diehard 'realist' or against fiction but more b/c I am interested in the way underground networks might work in real life, the less sensational ways that people might bond & assist each other based on much more subtle shared intellectual interests, e.g..
As for a guard guarding a place where uranium cd be stolen getting stoned, some might say that's really ridiculous. To the contrary, I had a friend who was in the US Army whose job was guarding nuclear missiles as they came off a conveyor belt in South Korea. My friend loved being in the military in S. Korea b/c he & his friends had a local houseboy who kept their place clean & probably cooked for them & it was a very easy life. He told me that they got stoned all the time. He also told me it wasn't too unusual for the conveyor belt workers to be so incompetent that the nuclear missiles might fall off the belt from time-to-time. Apparently, it took more than that for them to explode but, still, wd you want stoned soldiers guarding nuclear missiles?! I wdn't.
Anyway, Shamus's fortune turns as he takes a hostage to drive him out who wants to escape too.
"Finding a hostage, however obtuse, wasn't the end of Shamus's luck, for the old man who drove him through the front gate with a gun at his head was Gerhard von Trakl, Father of Fission and the ranking nuclear scientist in America. Shamus intended to keep Trakl only until they reached the getaway car, the first of three switches he'd already set up.
"But to Shamus's wild surprise, von Trakl begged to go along. He told Shamus that he was a virtual prisoner of the U.S. government and was no longer interested in the work they wanted done." - p 27
Making matters even more exceptionally lucky, Shamus just happens to be in the right place at the right time to be rescued from roadblocks.
""Ain't none of my business, friend, but less'n my scanner done fucked all up, they'll have a roadblock at the end of the valley 'fore you can fart the first bar o' 'Dixie.' Be my suggestion to ride with ol' Silas Goldean here, seeing as how me and most of the local law grew up together and get on fine, and they know I have a fondness for going over to the res'vor this time of night and soaking a doughball for them catfish. Got a good place for you to ride, too."" - p 28
Right, sorry, it's possible but I have way too little faith in humanity to believe it's even remotely likely. I'm sure that many or most of my so-called friends wd turn me in immediately, people are venal. Big time.
At the core of the organization that unites & helps our heros is a group called "AMO". It's this type of group, w/ its incredible genius, imagination, skill, & flexibility that's very appealing at the same time that it's very unlikely. Even the Cosa Nostra, wch seems to be strongly united around greed, ends up having internecine bloodbaths. Anarchists are often mocked for not being able to agree w/ each other. In my opinion, what makes anarchists effective is our ability to act independent of each other & to make temporary alliances not reliant on stable hierarchies. Neoists may be even more extreme than anarchists w/ some neoists clearly pursuing personal power agendas while others do our best to undermine them.
""But whatever the true derivation of its name, AMO is a secret society—though more on the order of an open secret, in fact. Basically, AMO is a historical alliance of the mildly felonious, misfits, anarchists, shamans, earth mystics, gypsies, magicians, mad scientists, dreamers, and other socially marginal souls. I'm told it was originally organized to resist the pernicious influences of monotheism, especially Christianity, which attacked alchemy as pagan and drove it underground.["]" - p 30
Count me in. I'm criminally sane. Of course, I'm reminded of Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea's Illuminatus Trilogy (1975), written before this Dodge bk (1990) & Pynchon's Against the Day (2006 - although many of his early works wd also qualify such as The Crying of Lot 49 (1966)). Back to Annalee:
"Soon she was a singer and lead kazoo in a perpetually ripped aggregation known as the Random Canyon Raiders, whose repertoire included traditional, if obscure, favorites, as well as spontaneous and raucously pornographic sociopolitical polemics. The Random Canyon Raiders were devoted to high times and low art, and Annalee rediscovered a social life. She began to cut loose." - p 47
That wd've been in 1979 in the novel's chronology (maybe?). I think of the Holy Modal Rounders & the Fugs starting in the decade before. In my own life, I think of B.O.M.B (Baltimore Oblivion Marching Band), from 1979, who were a guerrilla action performance group &, hence, more theatrical than musical.
"The first bite left flesh hanging from the roof of Daniel's mouth. He sucked air to cool it.
""Spicy, huh?" Mott said, shoveling another spoonful.
""Yaaa," Daniel gasped.
""You bet. Secret's in the chiles. I grow my own, out o' my own stock—been perfecting it for ten years now. You mighta noticed that little hothouse out in back of the barn? That's all chiles. And I go in there every chance I get and insult 'em. Call 'em stupid-ass, low-down, dipshit heaps of worthlessness. I pinch 'em, piss on 'em, slice off a branch here and there. Water 'em just enough to keep 'em alive. No water—that's what makes 'em hot, but the abuse is what makes 'em mean."
"Daniel, popping his second can of beer, was still unable to speak, but he nodded in understanding.
"Mott shoveled down more chili, sweat coursing off his forehead. "This is venison chili. Where's the beef? Hey; Fuck the beef. And fuck all them fancy chili cookoff winner recipes. This stuff is deer meat chiles, spring water, little bit of wild pig blood, and three tablespoons of gunpowder. Sometimes I throw in a handful of them psilocybin mushrooms if there's any around, though personally I think they weaken it."" - p 102
That might seem extravagantly exaggerated &, yeah, I'm sure it's meant to be, but, HEY!, I had a roommate who was in a "Weird Food Club" & they tried to come up w/ the hottest hot sauce they cd. He synthesized something & I'm sure he gave them a run for their money. Another friend of mine met a guy in a rural area outside of Baltimore who sd he fed his dog gunpowder "to make it mean" & while he cd've been lying such behavior doesn't seem out of character w/ people I've met.
"They arrived back at the barn shortly after dark, taking a different route: cocaine, vodka, demerol, and the last few miles, a few Dexamyl spansules." - p 108
Outrageous drug intake is obviously something that's been glorified in a generally macho way as part of the rock'n'roll lifestyle &/or by the Yippies. Live fast, die young. I prefer live as fast as you can to still enable you to die old (or just "Live fast, die old"). I found an article online at openculture.com about the afore-mentioned Hunter S. Thompson entitled "Hunter S. Thompson's Harrowing Chemical-Filled Daily Routine":
"7:05 Woody Creeek Tavern for lunch—Heineken, two margaritas, coleslaw, a taco salad, a double order of fried onion rings, carrot cake, ice cream, a bean fritter, Dunhills, another Heineken, cocaine, and for the ride home,a snow cone (a glass of shredded ice over which is poured three or four jiggers of Chivas.)
"9:00 starts snorting cocaine seriously
"10:00 drops acid
"11:00 Chartreuse, cocaine, grass
"11:30 cocaine, etc, etc.
"12:00 midnight, Hunter S. Thompson is ready to write
"12:05-6:00 a.m. Chartreuse, cocaine, grass, Chivas, coffee, Heineken, clove cigaretes, grapefruit, Dunhills, orange juice, gin, continuous pornographic movies."
"HST outlines his ideal breakfast. It consists of "four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crêpes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned-beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or Eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert.""
Alas, Thompson eventually killed himself - but it might not've had to do w/ the above intake. There're probably some people who've tried to follow Thompson's example just like there've definitely been people who tried to follow William S. Burroughs's example. Bad idea, folks, not everyone's the heir to an adding machine company fortune, not everyone had Thompson's unique stamina.
"After that first obliterating trip with Mott, Daniel kept his drug intake down. he declined so often that Mott finally told him, "Tell me when you want something," and quit offering." - p 108
That wd be me. I've been accused of not being "hard-core" by a woman who cdn't function w/o smoking pot all day b/c I only took one toke. Sorry (NOT), but I have self-control - something I'd encourage cultivating more than pot in yr grow rm.
Daniel becomes apprenticed to a gambler.
"Daniel learned, if only theoretically, how to play position and manage money, when to raise, call, or fold, how to quickly assess the strengths and weaknesses of other players, the best times to bluff, how to calculate pot odds, how to spot tells, and cheaters, and marks." - p 139
I've, 'inevitably', been around gambling & gamblers most of my life but I cd never care enuf about gambling to ever be good at it. I will say, tho, that a real card sharp is a wonder to behold. I knew one once, I think his name might've been Leroy, & he was fast. Watching him shuffle cards in mid-air & all the rest was amazing. He was obviously seriously invested in his trade.
"Occasionally he wanted a woman, and most often she was a five-hundred dollar call girl. Daniel liked call girls. They were adventurous, usually independent, often beautiful, took pride in their erotic charms and understanding, and there were no complications." - p 143
No "complications"? Here's where the author's idealized fantasy is a bit too far-fetched for me.
[This review is cut off here by a word limit. For the full review, go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ] ...more
Notes are private!
Oct 20, 2017
Oct 31, 2017
really liked it
Paul Tabori's The Green Rain
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 27, 2017
When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was The Boy with G review of
Paul Tabori's The Green Rain
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 27, 2017
When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was The Boy with Green Hair (1948), ironically, I wd've witnessed it on a black & white TV. An online capsule description says this: "Peter (Dean Stockwell), an orphaned boy, is adopted by Gramp Frye (Pat O'Brien) after his parents are killed in Europe doing relief work. The boy feels safe with his new caretaker, but when he is taunted for being an orphan, he gets demoralized. The next day Peter wakes up with green hair. Enbarrassed and further ridiculed, Peter seeks solace in a nearby forest. To his surprise, he finds other orphans in the woods, who encourage him to spread the news of the injustices of war." At least he didn't wake up as a giant bug.
The film was directed by Joseph Losey, who I remember as a famous director even though I can't remember the names of any of his other films. Looking him up online I see that he studied w/ Bertolt Brecht, wch interests me. I see that he made Boom!, a movie I liked, & that he did a remake of Fritz Lang's M, wch surprises me. ANYWAY, as an adult, my childhood liking of The Boy with Green Hair is interpreted by me as having to do with intuitions of how anyone who deviates from the social norm, intentionally or otherwise, might be subjected to harsh societal pressure to conform. When I was 14, in early 1968, I started growing my hair long, against the strict instructions of my conservative mom, & was immediately subjected to what struck me as an insane amt of social hatred.
The Green Rain (1961) has a text below the title on the cover that reads: "A fantastic tale of a world gone made" wch is fair enuf but cd mean just about anything in an SF novel. The cover also has a somewhat Surrealism-inspired painting - something not too uncommon in SF at the time.
I wasn't familiar w/ the author, Paul Tabori, so I had no particular expectations. As it turned out, I probably did have some expectations b/c the bk took me somewhat by surprise. Just as I'm surprised to read that The Boy with Green Hair was partially an anti-war movie, I was surprised that The Green Rain seems to be partially an anti-racist bk.
Chapter 1 begins:
"SOMETHING WENT WRONG.
"Something always does, as Professor Pelargus used to say, smacking his lips. It was his pet opinion that humanity consisted entirely of bunglers—two and a half billion men, women, and children going industriously about their idiot affairs, creating—all unaware—monstrous linked chains of circumstance and consequence, and settling—still unaware—their own and everybody else's hash." - p 5
This bk was copyrighted & published in 1961. The world's human population is presented as 2.5 billion. I was born in 1953. I remember concerns about overpopulation appearing in the early 1970s, although I'm sure they appeared earlier. According to a Wikipedia article on world population the 1960 total was 3 billion - .5 billion more than The Green Rain wd have it. According to the same article, the population had increased to 4 billion by 1974. As of October, 2017, it's reputed to be 7.6 billion. That's quite the increase in a mere 57 yrs!! Some one alive today, born in, say, 2000, might be 74 when the population might 12.3 billion. A more conservative estimate from the UN has it at 11.2 billion by the yr 2100.
Plagues, wars, famine, & extreme weather conditions are the usual thinners of the herd & people are generally pretty unhappy to be exposed to any of those. I've been against human-inflicted misery my whole life - that means I'm against war, e.g.. Most people who think about these things are probably in agreement that humans cd act sensibly & curb population growth by more careful birth control & that, in turn, wars that result from attempted national boundary expansions & the like cd be curtailed, etc..
But will it happen? It doesn't seem likely. I was reading a very dry analysis of overpopulation in an impoverished place & details of economic conditions were the only data provided to explain the population growth. Nowhere was the pleasure that people get from sex mentioned. I found that quite strange. Isn't it obvious that if you're poor & living in overcrowded slum conditions that one of the few pleasures that might not cost you anything is fucking? & that fucking will produce more mouths that can't be fed? ETC?!
If people had fewer children, plagues, wars, famine, & even things like earthquakes might be less likely to happen. A generally better quality-of-life might result & people wdn't have to forego their pleasure from sex, just be more careful about family planning. Is that too much to ask? Alas, humanity seems to be like a race car driver ever more eager to drive faster & faster w/ newer models & in denial about the big wall that they're going to crash into ahead. But I digress.
"Perhaps they remembered the careful calculations of the German historian who asserted there had been only thirty-four years from the birth of Christ to the end of the nineteenth century when men were not trying to kill each other either with stone axes or high explosives" - p 13
In the unlikely event that those 34 yrs were contiguous imagine what an interesting time that wd've been to be alive in!
"In 1934 a sensitive, articulate and highly civilized writer named Aldous Huxley visited Guatemala. This visit set him to think about nationalism, war and hate. He decided that the three were more or less parts of the same whole; facets of the same horror. He quoted, with approval, Dr. F. Vergin's 'Subconscious Europe' in which the doctor contended that war was an escape from the restraints of civilization and that hate paid a higher psychological dividend than could be obtained from international amity, sympathy and cooperation." - p 14
So, what's the solution? Become a multiple-personality instead of having kids:
"The bottles, the whitewashed mural on the front of the house—and now this. Dr. Lukachevski's neighbors were all in his mind . . . if he was a schizophrenic he must have split into not two but three. Four if you counted his normal, brilliant, scientist-self." - p 10
Ok, I was kidding, I just wanted to segue to that last paragraph quoted.
"Chlorophyll, as any botanist will tell you, is a mixture of two green and two yellow pigments. The greens predominate; one is called Chlorophyll A and its chemical formula is C55 H72 O5 N4 Mg, while Cholorphyll B has been determined as C55 H70 O6 N4 Mg. The yellow pigments are carotin (C40 H56) and xanthophyll (C40 H56 O2)—if you insist." - p 12
What if I don't insist? What if I, instead, propose what Daniel Tonzig has suggested to me that Chloroplasts be used to pigment the skin to enable humans to draw nourishment from the sun - inspired by the interview that I link to next. Check out how Tonzig explains it in this section of my movie Don't Walk Backwards ( https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM ): https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM?t=4h32m12s .
"There are some plants that have no chlorophyll—fungi and a few flowering plants, among them the Indian Pipe." (p 12) Fancy that, I just happen to have footage of the latter in a different movie of mine, Spectral Evidence, wch you can witness at 1:06:52 at https://archive.org/details/SpectralE...
Tabori's writing is such that he uses the plot as an excuse for introducing various factoids that help enrich one's perception of the overall theme &, for me, are just generally fun to read:
"Green us one of the three primary colors. A green house is a house painted green but a greenhouse is a glasshouse for the growing and preservation of especially rare and delicate plants. Greengages are yellow-green plums which Sir Henry Gage made popular in England; he wasn't so successful with purple or blue gages." - p 27
When I really started to get interested was when Tabori started parodying racism, starting off w/ a parody of South Africa, wch was still in the grip of apartheid at the time:
"In the shadow of the Great Table Mountain the Trial of the Century entered its forty-first year. There were only sixteen defendants left; the others had died of old age or various ailments and of the original two hundred and thirteen twenty-two had actually been discharged for the lack of a true bill. The trial had used up over a dozen prosecuting attorneys—and because they were more advanced in age—over twenty judges." - p 32
So begins chapter 9. Something has happened worldwide that's causing people to turn green. Imagine the fuss that cd stir up in a society that's dependent on a skin color hierarchy:
""Are you a doctor?"
""No, but I could get one. What's the matter with Judge Prenger?"
""He . . ." the usher took a deep breath as if he needed extra strength for the enormity of his news, "he . . . he's started to turn green. . . !"
"He pushed the journalist aside but the two of them reached the exit at the same time. The reporter sprinted for the telecommunications room, pondering how he could get this dispatch through the ever-vigilant All-White censorship." - p 35
""Why beat around the bush? IS a nigger a nigger when he was turned green? That's what I want to know!"
""Precisely," the Foreign Minister was unquenchable. "or you may put it the other way round. Is a white man a . . ."
""Don't say it! the Prime Minister intervened hastily, "Don't even think of it!"" - p 36
Ha ha! Tabori spares no political creed in his mockery but he does seem to have a special thing against the USSR - wch is herein called the "UPPR":
"M. Vertbois, the French delegate asked what the attitude of the UPPR was to the alleged revival of the Green International? There had been reliable reports that several thousand members of this organization had been executed and over a hundred thousand had been deported to Siberia. Was this discrimination or not?
"Mr. Zelonnee declared that this was typical slander by the capitalist press; that the Green International, if it existed, was a counter-revolutionary organization of Fascist hyenas, the descendants of kulaks and murderers. The UPPR was entitled to take any steps necessary against those who threatened her internal security. He would also like to remind M. Vertbois of the millions of oppressed colonial subjects who were still groaning under the yoke of French imperialism. He, Mr. Zelonnee, had no wish to acerbate the discussion but perhaps he might quote a Russian proverb: "An owl should not tell a sparrow that its head is too big!"" - p 54
I have to wonder what the political inclinations of Tabori were. The only use of the word "anarchy" that I noted was pejorative in the mouths of the South African racists. Ha ha!
"this is the moment of danger, the most terrible test of our great All-White Republic! It is for us to fight for our sacred principle—that blood is more important than color, that race is rooted not in surface pigmentation but in the ancestry and blood line of any human being. Unless we find an immediate solution to our problem—to differentiate clearly and swiftly between a green-white and a green-black—out heritage will be destroyed, our country driven into anarchy, our very name wiped from the earth.["]" - p 69
"When G-Day came, the first thing the greenbods did was to cut all telephone cables, destroy all electronic communications so that the All-White Republic was suddenly isolated from the rest of the world." - p 85
Sounds good to me!
"They reached Los Angeles, the biggest city on the American continent—its merger with San Francisco was to be decided by a referendum in a few weeks' time as the suburbs of the two metropolises were now only a few miles apart" - pp 80-81
HHmm.. waddya think Rump's take on such a thing wd be? I think maybe he'd have a wall built between the 2 cities, maybe mine the intermediate zone? Put some billionaire buddies in charge of each city? Contract Haliburton to build the wall? Or is Haliburton out of favor now that Cheney & the Bush whackers are gone? I'm thinking a new highway shd be built across Washington DC that just has to cut the White House in half. Sorry about that but the urban planners know best. Is nothing sucrose?
Tabori's full of interesting ideas:
"Mimosa even developed the counter-plagiarism or 'theft-by-attribution'—he would trot out one of his dreary and shabby clichés and make it decisive, important and brand new by ascribing it to Lenin, Aragon, or any other approved Communist deity." - p 88
It's interesting that the Surrealist writer Louis Aragon is thrown in there w/ Lenin, I don't think that wd happen these days even tho he was a long-term Communist Party member. I've only read one of his bks, Paris Peasant (barely reviewed here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ) but I'd like to read more. As for "'theft-by-attribution'"?: I can think of at least one writer who'd take to that like a rat to a garbage can.
"There was a comparatively wise one among them who put it all into the mouths of a cockroach who could use a typewriter; it was all about a toad named warty bliggens:
"a little more
that warty bliggens
considers himself to be
the center of the said
universe" - p 95
That's one of those cultural references that wd've been widely recognized in 1961 that might only be remembered by a very few in the yr of writing this review (2017). The quote is from "warty bliggens the toad" wch I have as part of a bk called "archy and mehitabel" by don marquis. I have a "dolphin book edition: 1960". Here's the ad copy from the back cover:
"Don Marquis first introduced archy the cockroach and mehitabel, a cat in her ninth life, in his newspaper column, "The Sun Dial," in 1916. In a previous incarnation archy was a free-verse poet, while mehitabel's soul once belonged to Cleopatra. She is toujours gai, but archy is more philosophical. It is he who records their songs and observations on the boss's typewriter late at night. But he is not strong enough to make capital letters so it all comes out lower case:
"the main question is
whether the stuff is
literature or not.
The green-skinned people become more powerful - mainly b/c the people who were accustomed to seizing & wielding power before they were green now have a new excuse for doing so. Their cult issues commandments:
""Thou shalt obey no laws, decrees, commands, or temptations that are not hallowed by Gloriana.
""Thou shalt multiply in greenness and increase the ranks of those Chosen to be Green and shalt have no intercourse with any female who is not green." - p 103
&, this being a power struggle, those who win are those who play the dirtiest. Personally, I'd like to see that change in favor of integrity & mutual aid but I may very well be in the minority.
"Just two weeks before the Chicago Convention, the 'Byelo letter' was released. It was infinitely more skillful a forgery than the Zinoviev letter that had cost Labor so dearly in a historic" [Ah, English!, 'shdn't' that be "an historic"?] "British election earlier in the century." - p 137
The 1st paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on the "Zinoviev letter" states:
"The "Zinoviev letter" was a controversial document published by the British Daily Mail newspaper four days before the general election in 1924. It purported to be a directive from Grigory Zinoviev, the head of the Communist International (Comintern) in Moscow; to the Communist Party of Great Britain, ordering it to engage in all sorts of seditious activities. It said the resumption of diplomatic relations (by a Labour government) would hasten the radicalisation of the British working class. If true, it was a deeply offensive interference in British politics to the detriment of the Labour Party. The letter seemed authentic at the time, but historians now agree it was a forgery. Historians also agreed that the letter had little impact on the Labour vote, which held up in 1924. However, it aided the Conservative Party, by hastening the collapse of the Liberal Party vote that produced a Conservative landslide. A. J. P. Taylor argues that the most important impact was on the psychology of Labourites, who for years afterward blamed their defeat on foul play, thereby misunderstanding the political forces at work and postponing necessary reforms in the Labour Party." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zinovie...
"Exactly twenty-one months to the day since the coming of the Green Rain, Gloriana was inaugurated in Washington and a Demo-Republican (or as some called it, a Repu-Democrat) administration was installed in the great Republic." - p 139
I find the above particularly interesting b/c of the use of "Demo-Republican" & "Repu-Democrat". Political activist occasionally say Demmicans or Republicrats to mock the insufficient differences between the 2 parties. Note the voice of Mumia Abu Jamal in "Tails from the Unconvention" (2000): https://youtu.be/b-HKzrINS3M?t=12m41s .
This was written in London from January-July, 1960. Even tho. in some sense, it's an eco-disaster novel, it's more of a parable about human foibles than it is a warning about probable outcomes of current eco-insensitive practices. It even predates J. G. Ballard's 1st eco-disaster novel: The Wind from Nowhere (1962) but not M. P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud (1901). I'll definitely be reading more by Paul Tabori if I can find anything by him. ...more
Notes are private!
Oct 13, 2017
Oct 28, 2017
Jan 15, 2008
really liked it
Philippe Soupault's Last Nights of Paris
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 25, 2017
The last review I wrote, finished today, was one o review of
Philippe Soupault's Last Nights of Paris
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 25, 2017
The last review I wrote, finished today, was one of Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather wch I began by writing: "I keep picking on Cyberpunk writing in much the same way I pick on Surrealist writing. At the same time that I like it in theory I'm annoyed by it in praxis." ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) The point is that most Surrealist writing that I read doesn't strike me as Surrealist enough - but, then, I don't read much Surrealist writing anymore so I'm usually dependent of my memory of it.
This might be the 1st Surrealist novel I've read since Lisa Goldstein's The Dream Years read in April of this yr & that doesn't really qualify. Before that, the 1st bk I finished reading in 2009 might fit the bill: Giorgio de Chirico's Hebdomeros: With Monsieur Dudron's Adventure and Other Metaphysical Writings.. or maybe not. Even this novel doesn't fit into the category if one takes Soupault's expulsion from the Surrealists before its writing seriously.
William Carlos Williams, the poet, translated it & I think he did an excellent job. However, he refers to it as a "Dadaist novel" & I think that's even further off the mark than its being a Surrealist one is. The "Publisher's Note" has this to say:
"Co-author with André Breton of the first self-proclaimed book of automatic writing, Les Champs Magnétiques (1919), and co-editor with Breton and Louis Aragon of the avant-garde journal Lttérature (1919—1923), Philippe Soupault was one of the founders of the Surrealist movement. A poet, novelist, and journalist, with a much less political and less theoretical approach to writing than his colleagues Breton and Aragon, Soupault was expelled from the movement in 1926—along with Antonin Artaud—for "their isolated pursuit of the stupid literary adventure." Les Dernièrs Nuits de Paris was his third prose work, published in 1928." - p v
"Indeed, Last Nights of Paris seems to share much with both the Surrealist novels (Nadja, Paris Peasant) and the American expatriate novels (The Great Gatsby, The Day of the Locust) of its day." - p vi
"both the Surrealist novels"? Does that mean that it's commonly thought that there were only two? I've read them both & didn't find either very Surreal. As I've probably overstated by now I find Raymond Roussel's novels far more Surreal than anything the Surrealists ever wrote. As for "the American expatriate novels"?
Ok, The Great Gatsby was published on April 10, 1925 while the Fitzgeralds were traveling in Europe a few weeks before they settled in Paris but he began planning it in 1923 when he was still in New York. The Day of the Locust (1939) was written when Nathanael West was living in the US long after a brief 3 month trip to Paris in the early 1920s. Calling him an "expatriate" is stretching things a bit & calling either of those novels "expatriate" is also stretching it given that both are set in the US. Interestingly, West died the day after Fitzgerald did.
When I praise Williams' 'poetic' translation I mean passages like the following:
"The virtuosity of words in this historic quarter is amazing. Those that escape from the houses have a quicksilver sheen, those that hide in their cracks are phosphorescent." - p 4
In other words, the descriptions use images not usually associated w/ what's described, things like: words w/ a "quicksilver sheen" or words "that hide in" [..] "cracks". I enjoy this so the bk got off to a good start for me. It also has a fairly linear plot but one that's revealed in an intriguing enuf way:
"Georgette, the sailor, the dog and I myself had no answer ready and this we sought wandering at random, driven here rather than there by an invincible fatigue.
"Thinking it over as we were walking with soft steps under the trees of the Champs-Elysées, I seemed to catch a purpose, that of all the night prowlers of Paris: we were in search of a corpse." - p 20
Given that there've probably been many novels written about the criminal underworld, as this one partially is, I wonder how many criminals so depicted ever read such things?
"I read that they were on the assassin's track, a sailor from Chacal who had killed and cut to pieces one of his friends." - p 22
W/ friends like that, who need enemies?
The poetic descriptive language continues to please me: "Paris swelled out with boredom, then slept as if to digest it." (p 36) I hate to break it to you, Paris, but you might be pregnant & time has been known to eat his children. "I took pains to notice the time at each clock we passed on the trip, and on passing the seventeenth, and despite the distance run, pointed to eleven thirty-five. Had time stopped?" (pp 37-38) No, but when Paris is digesting, time slows down drastically.
Now, Philippe, is this type of behavior becoming of you?:
"She was picked up, near the Pont-Neuf, by some sort of student in a béret who was taken by her to a hotel room. With decision, Jacques bribed the patron of the hotel and obtained the room next to that in which the student was undressing. We were misled by the banality of that interview. Georgette first demanded her pay, then, having complained about its smallness, declared that she was in a hurry because of a rendezvous with a Spaniard.
"Jacques and I made no secret of your joy. Georgette was no more than an ordinary prostitute; and by ourselves we had manufactured a mystery out of whole cloth."
"However when the characteristic noises and the succeeding silence indicated to us that all was over, we quitted the room and took up our watch at the door of the hotel. We wanted at least to make the acquaintance of the Spaniard." - p 45
Hence, the historic meeting between Soupault, Cousteau, Breton, & Buñuel did not take place in an aqualung sauna as usually reported. This explains Soupault's eventual marriage to a street: "The avenue de l'Opéra was no longer the stream that I had always followed, nor the highway that one usually pictures. It was a great shadow flashing like a glacier, which one must first conquer, and then embrace as one would a woman." (p 46) Awkward, eh? Maybe this explains the alligators in the sewers? But to each his own & que sera, sera. Ah.. but what about Georgette? Men are so fickle.
"I realized perfectly that in appearance she was just a common prostitute, the sister of all the prostitutes who overrun Paris and who, they say, are all more or less alike. But Georgette was seductive only because she was somehow different and because her appearance was obviously deceptive." - pp 48-49
"She loved only the dark which seemed each night to wed and her charm itself did not become real until she withdrew from the light to enter obscurity." - p 49
Maybe it was just to hide traces of disease.
Chapter Five begins w/ a quote from Roussel, Soupault can do no wrong:
"O, Treïul, remember that we are of the same race
and that I am entitled to your aid.
"—Raymond Roussel (La Poussière de Soleil)" - p 60
We are all the alligator children of Philippe Soupault & the avenue de lOpéra. As such, I make beginnings meet.
""You have come for some drawings, sir?" asked Georgette, and I couldn't tell whether she spoke in this way to deceive me or to deceive Octave. I was careful not to contradict and passed myself off as an art lover." - p 62
Well, I guess that makes sense: 1st he's embracing the avenue de lOpéra & now he's tossing off himself as an art lover. He's probably thinking of one of the sewer covers opened at a "^" intersection. Is it any wonder that Octave is a little odd? Thank goodness he's not a 9th, then he'd really be odd.
"He stopped talking suddenly and began to count the number of hairs in a paint brush.
"Then, in spite of my questions, he relapsed into silence like someone drowning.
"Wasted effort. Octave had departed, and for a realm to which I could not follow him. He seemed to push aside the horizon, drive back the walls of the room, wipe out the boundaries of day and dismiss the objects which surrounded us." - p 68
Then, all heck broke loose & metaphor was forsaken as simile piled on simile in a veritable cluster fuck tackle of the quarterback, halfback, fullback, & backhand. "One of them was torn and hung like a dead hand above the shining tracks of the railroad. Here and there the red point of an electric lamp, as sad as the dead body of a dog. The cars on the switches looked like pretentious tombs. / Octave took up his walk. It was like the refrain of a hackneyed ditty" (p 79)
"Chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella" - Comte de Lauréamont - NO WAY that was chance, Bub.
"Chance, said I to myself, is at least sincere in that it does not conceal its deceptions from us. On the contrary it exposes them in broad daylight, and trumpets them at night. It amuses itself, from time to time, by stupefying the world with the shock of a terrible surprise, as if to remind men of its great strength, thinking they might forget its flightiness, its mischief, its whimsicalities." - p 83
I discovered Restif de la Bretonne in recent yrs, in particular his "Anti-Justine". This is early 19th century French incest pornography of the most vivid sort. I just stumbled across the bk while browsing my favorite used bkstore & got it b/c of the reference to de Sade. I don't recall ever seeing any mention of de la Bretonne before when, Lo & Behold!:
"He described to us with many details the check room for small children, who were deposited under a number by nursery girls. This custom, he affirmed with a disarming certainty, is very ancient. And he cited cases of substitution of children infinitely more numerous than one would suppose. Now and then he underlined what he said with an observation borrowed from Restif de la Bretonne, who was plainly his model." - pp 106-107
The implication being here that the children were vulnerable to sexual use. As if that weren't enuf, we further get to learn of walking privies.
"["] Do you know," said he, smiling in his best manner, "that toward the end of the middle ages, bucket carriers circulated through the streets to give aid to people who were 'caught short'? They were armed with a great cloak forming a sort of temporary shelter from which emerged the face alone of the crouching client. After which the bucket was emptied into the nearest stream." - p 107
Chapter Nine begins w/ this quote:
"A something or other that has no name in any language.
Lately I've been preoccupied w/ the notion of concepts specific to particular languages. See, e.g., my review of Howard Rheingold's They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . But an idea that I haven't come across yet is the one presented in the above Tertullian quote & an excellent idea it is. There are currently over 6,000 languages, what ideas don't have a word for them in any of them?! Discuss.
The novel's action meanders thru the activities of some criminals who're roughly clotted around a kingpin named Volpe:
"One day he sold pictures, the next day cotton and in all probability women. He possessed blocks of shares in a number of newspapers, whose policy he controlled and which served him at the same time as buffers against the world. What struck one about Volpe was his remarkable gift for using to the hilt everything that belonged to him. He had the taste for small enterprises whose yields were prompt and it could be said that he enriched himself through makeshifts. Like all those in his category, Volpe had a great number of vices. But he loved best of all to dominate." - p 126
The Publisher's Note declared Soupault a "poet, novelist, and journalist" & it's interesting to speculate how much of each was at play in the writing of this. The above description seems likely to me to be based on either a single individual known to the author or an amalgamation of character types - but is it? & what about the rest of it? I wonder if Soupault was ever interviewed in depth about just how fictional or non-fictional this is - but I don't wonder enuf to research it at the moment.
"One day, in a café—one of those cafés they love so much—I saw them listening with particular attention to a refrain spit out by a gramophone: it was the hackneyed of the hackneyed:
"Paris, c'est une blonde
Paris unique au monde.
"The imbecilic words spilled themselves before them and they listened with open mouths, ravished, convinced." - p 134
Ha ha! My French-Canadian friend Alan Lord wrote a bk called ATM SEX (you can read my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) in wch he writes about Paris thusly:
"You love Paris because you've never actually lived there. You just passed through with a temporary load of money, gawked at the usual tourist trappings, then said au revoir Les Mis-arabes. You didn't have to try dialing for operator assistance in a phone booth (it doesn't exist, and anyway your pocket change is useless—you need a phone card, which you can only buy in a Bar Tabac). And you didn't get kicked out of a supermarket for squeezing in through a checkout aisle instead of going all the way to the end of the interminable checkout aisles and going in through the proper "IN" gate like the rest of the obedient French sheep, who in fact are much more conservative and knee-jerk respectful of rules, tradition, and hierarchy than their former Nazi masters." - p 98, ATM SEX
In my review of that I recount my own story:
"In 1984 I went into the Paris underground, the former Roman mining tunnels, w/ some friends & a Parisian reporter who knew his way around somewhat. I picked an area that I then proclaimed the "PS.B.B.T.O.U.C." (the "Paris Suburban Branch of the BalTimOre Underground Club"). I explained that everywhere I went became a suburb of BalTimOre. Now BalTimOre's a hopeless shithole of the 1st order & I was parodying imperialism but the reporter failed to see the humor in it & seemed more than a little offended that I wd dare to reduce the-great-Paris to a mere suburb of an American industrial city in decline. I thought that was funny."
I don't actually have any feelings about Paris one way or another. I remember being treated rudely there b/c my French was so horrible, I can't blame them for that - although when I meet someone who doesn't speak the local Lingua Franca I try to help them not castigate them. But let's not dwell, s-hell we? Let's refresh ourselves w/ some more poetic description:
"Empty-handed, I set out upon the discovery of the flight of time and space. Words, like joyous companions, started before my eyes and spun about my ears in a carnival of forgetfulness." - p 135
Do all Parisians speak like this? Alaseth, I thinketh noteth. They're more like our pal Blin below:
"Blin, seizing his courage in both hands, got up and said: "There are various degrees of doubt just as there are progressive stages of insanity. You make me laugh. Let one of you throw the first stone, I'll fling it back. My position today permits me to face these obligations of which I myself have fixed the value. I demand, I DEMAND. . . ." The words—empty, useless, out-of-date—flowed until he was breathless." - p 170
Ok, maybe not. Here're excerpts from Soupault's afterword on translator poet Williams's time in Paris:
"I think it was the memory of these nocturnal wanderings that made him decide to accept translating my "testimony," incorrectly subtitled "novel," Last Nights of Paris. Which for me was a great joy. I was one of the few Europeans (or Americans) who knew that Williams was a great, a very great poet and an admirable writer of incomparable lucidity and even of incurable modesty." - p 178
Perhaps my question-mark-less question above, "I wonder if Soupault was ever interviewed in depth about just how fictional or non-fictional this is", is answered here by Soupault saying ""testimony," incorrectly subtitled "novel["]". I think Williams did a great job - esp considering that the original is just one symbol: "^".
"But, as he has written, he had retained pleasant memories of our walks in Paris, which he evoked in translating, with his mother, Last Nights of Paris.
"And after reading his translation I congratulated him, because he had done an admirable job of describing the atmosphere of the Parisian nights." - p 179 ...more
Notes are private!
Oct 06, 2017
Oct 26, 2017
Jan 01, 1994
Dec 01, 1995
really liked it
Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 24, 2017
[See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/s review of
Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 24, 2017
[See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ]
I keep picking on Cyberpunk writing in much the same way I pick on Surrealist writing. At the same time that I like it in theory I'm annoyed by it in praxis. What was the last cyberpunk novel I read & reviewed? Weeellll, that depends on how one defines Cyberpunk, obviously. Is Cyberpunk any story in wch societally fringe & rebellious characters are expert with computers? Hackers perhaps?
Wd a novel like Geoff Ryman's "The Child Garden"https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) Or do I have to go all the way back to January 6, 2011, to my review of William Gibson's "Spook Country" (2007)? ( https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... )
The point is that as soon as a genre name is coined & a vague definition attached to it there're bound to be people who then point out examples such as the above that might not be slotted into the market-speak but wch might still qualify - or proto-examples that lessen the importance of the term by significantly predating it. I think of Cyberpunk as starting with Gibson's Neuromancer (1984) but, then, wouldn't Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) have an important place in there somewhere? A place that seems monumental in contrast to Neuromancer? Or what about Alfred Bester's Golem100 (1980)? Visually, Golem100 is stunning in contrast to the design-banality of Neuromancer.
Heavy Weather, for me, is clearly Cyberpunk from the get-go & that probably helps sell Sterling's bks - but I don't really know if Sterling likes the term or just accepts it as a 'necessary evil' for marketing. I liked Heavy Weather, it's about storm chasers in a near-future (or present at this point 23 yrs after the bk was published in 1994) when the ecosystem has become increasingly disturbed by human intervention & extreme storms are more & more common. I can't object to that, the more humanity's reminded that our uses of the environment do have effects that we'd better take into consideration the better. Still, I think of John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up (1972) ( http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/3... ) as a much more important example.
What happened when I started reading this? I was immediately sucked into the writing, it was thrilling, it's a thriller of sorts. I could identify with the characters, the lunatic fringe obsessed w/ studying tornadoes. Am I a storm chaser? Nope. Am I a meteorologist? Nope. Am I a hacker? Nope. So it really just plays into an aspect of my fantasy life. I am, however, an 'outsider', a person barely tolerated by a society of robopaths. & it's from that highly experienced position that I started questioning the narrative POV of Heavy Weather: Is this something written by someone who knows how to write a thriller but who doesn't necessarily come from the social milieu that his heros are located in? I don't know, I don't know anything about Sterling so my suspicion that he's more cyber than he is punk is a gut-level reaction. At least he's sympathetic to the ecologically concerned instead of dismissive of them as Michael Crichton is in his State of Fear (2004) ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15... ).
OK, I'm pretty pessimistic at times about the present, I think what passes for the 'news' for most people in the world (if I can make such a generalization) is such despicable propaganda that I find this amusing:
"And some English-language happytalk news. Spanish happytalk news. Japanese happytalk news. Alex, born in 2010, had watched the news grow steadily more glossy and cheerful for all his twenty-one years. As a mere tot, he'd witnessed hundreds of hours of raw bloodstained footage: plagues, mass death, desperate riot, ghastly military wreckage, all against a panicky backdrop of ominous and unrelenting environmental decline. All that stuff was still out there, just as every aspect of modern reality had its mirrored shadow in the Net somewhere, but nowadays you had to hunt hard to find it, and the people discussing it didn't seem to have much in the way of budgets." - pp 5-6
It's funny-odd to me how I react to the above: for one thing I'm sooooo sick of how the so-called 'news' distorts life to make it seem like a constant threat - to keep people mentally-glued to the disasters & tragedies that the stns are just using as fodder to attract advertisers & suckers alike. On the other sharpened hook, I'm against censorship. Is the happy medium to devote the amount of media time that's statistically appropriate to the subject? Hence murder cd still be reported about accurately but wd occupy a very small time slot? That wd be a disaster for those poor struggling arms dealers - I'm told that after the latest mass murder in Las Vegas by one of those responsible legal gun owners the NRA is always telling us about gun sales went waaaaayyyyyy up. Fancy that. Fear tactics are the best marketing strategy. Maybe the accountant/murderer was just trying to give the economy a boost, eh?
"Concepcíon left Alex in the treatment room to wait for Dr. Mirabi. Alex was quite sure that Dr. Mirabi was doing nothing of consequence. Having Alex wait alone in a closed room was simply medical etiquette, a way to establish whose time was more important." - p 7
Go get 'em Sterling! I was once denied treatment at a clinic by a so-called doctor when, as response to the question: "How are you?" I replied: "I'd be alot better if you hadn't kept me waiting for an hr & 40 minutes." This in a clinic devoid of patients other than me. When I become supreme dictator, doctors who keep patients waiting will have to have a patient's excuse to justify it (that's a take-off on doctor's excuse, get it?) & if the patient kept waiting doesn't accept the excuse as valid then the doctor will have to pay the patient the doctor's own wages for that time period. 3 strikes & they have to practice in prison until the patients say they may be released. It's only fair. I go to the doctor's as a patient not to become IMpatient. Doctors beware, my supreme dictatorship is just a hop, skip, & a jump away so get yr shit together you pompous pampered creeps.
"Jerry was thirty-two, and he could remember when people did most of their own driving, and even the robots always left their headlights on. Jane, by contrast, found the darkness soothing. If there was really anything boring about the experience of driving at night, it was that grim chore of gripping a wheel with your own hands and staring stiff-necked for hours into a narrow-cone of glare. In darkness you could see the open sky. The big dark Texas sky, that great abyss." - p 24
Hhmm, a robot car driving w/ its headlights off might be a tad bit dangerous for us pedestrians. Living in Pittsburgh, as I do, where robot cabs are common, I love being a mere 23 yrs in the future of the novel's copyright date & being already almost there. How many people wd've believed that there'd be robot taxis in 2017? I still haven't ridden one. Sterling's good at descriptions of what he imagines as post-industrial conditions:
"Here and there along the highway dead windmills loomed, their tapered tin vanes shot to hell, their concrete cisterns cracked and dust empty above an aquifer leached to bare sandstone. . . . They'd sucked the landscape dry, and abandoned their mechanical vampire teeth in place, like the torn-off mandibles of a tick. . . ." - p 33
Concerns about aquifers are important. Ask an Australian aboriginal forced to live in the outback by the European invaders. My collaborator etta cetera & I made a movie in Australia called Don't Walk Backwards & we visited a camp of resisters to in situ leeching whose concern was w/ the destruction of the aquifer by uranium mining. The link to a possible beginning to the relevant section is here: https://youtu.be/kODzM_2_bRM?t=1h48m9s . Thrilling novels are designed to provide depictions of heightened situations, Heavy Weather does an excellent job of this, the reader is likely to be engrossed & excited. For a more realistic look at such activism, that is, nonetheless, not didactically dry, one might try absorbing the whole experience of Don't Walk Backwards instead.
""What the heck kind of drought can kill a mesquite tree?"
""Look, dude, if it doesn't rain at all, for more than a year, then everything dies. Mesquite, cactus, everything. Everything around this place died, fifteen years ago."
""Heavy weather," Buzzard said somberly.
"Martha nodded. "It looks pretty good right now, but that's because all this grass and stuff came back from seed, and this country has been getting a lot of rain lately. But, man, that's why nobody can live out here anymore. There's no water left underground, nothing left in the aquifer, so whenever a drought hits, it hits bad.["]" - p 77
How many people read such a passage & become concerned imagining the possibilities? If you lived near Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre you'd be likely to take such a threat a bit more seriously - esp if the lake became increasingly smaller bodies of water without returning periodically a few times a century to its more filled condition.
"Now Alex understood why Buzzard and Martha lay half-collapsed in their sling chairs beneath their sunshade, the two of them torpid as lizards while their eyes and ears flew for them. Sweat was water too. Civilization had been killed in West Texas, killed as dead as Arizona's Anasazi cliff-dweller Indians, because there just wasn't enough water here, and no easy way to get water anymore." - p 92
Of course, Cyberpunk novels just have to have cutting edge technology in them & characters who get their kicks pushing that technology to its limits. On example of this, here, is the use of ornithopters. An ornithopter is an aircraft that imitates birds by having wings that it flaps. The storm chasers use them to get close footage of the heavy weather in action.
""There's no light inside the core, either. It's almost always pitch-black inside a twister. But Jesse has a little night-light—red and infrared. I dunno what we'll see, dude, but we'll see something."" - p 103
"Jesse", an ornithopter, is about to flown by remote-control into a tornado to get data. The person controlling it will be experiencing it as virtual reality, it'll be terrifying but at least they'll be able to breathe. This is what they do.
"The Troupe had scared up an F2" [a scale rating for a tornado] "early in the day. The spike had come very suddenly, and rather unexpectedly, and out in the middle of nowhere. And that was all to the good, because the Troupe had had the spike all to themselves. Greg and Carol had taped the entire development sequence, from wall-cloud to rope-out, at close range from the ground. Buzzard and Martha had nailed it with chaff, so Peter and Joanne in the Radar Bus had gotten some very good internal data. That one had to be counted a success." - p 110
Purposeful social groups tend to organize around direction. I prefer the anarchistic ones where direction is provided by the most articulate spokespeople rather than by the people who consolidate power around themselves through dirty tricks. Sterling has the 'mastermind' of this group request something of one member after she'd gotten into a fight with another.
"A vow of silence was a very weird request. But she had never seen Jerry more serious. It was crystal clear that he was giving her a deliberate challenge, setting her an act of ritual discipline. Worst of all, she could tell that Jerry really doubted that she had the necessary strength of character to go through with it." - p 112
I think a temporary vow of silence would be an interesting discipline for many people to go through - just like I think fasting is a good thing. Like fasting, it could just be for a day or a wk or 2 wks or 3 wks or a mnth. A mnth seems stretching it. A thoughtful person might learn something from the increased introspection. I'm tempted to try it. Answering the phone wd be tough. Does txting break the rules? I think so. It wd have to be a vow of no communication maybe.
Cyberpunk novels seem to thrive on zeitgeists of fairly large subcultures. A little anti-money sentiment goes a long way w/ me:
"Rick grimaced. She'd brought up the subject of money; the Troupe's ultimate taboo. From the look on Rick's round, stubbled face, he seemed to be in genuine spiritual pain. She knew he'd be too embarrassed to complain anymore." - p 114
There will always be barter, there will always be bad deals where someone feels like they got the shitty end of the stick, so what's the solution? For every transaction to have to meet a standard of absolute integrity? & what wd that be? There will always be generous people & there will always be thieves.
""The density of information embodied in the modern technological object creates deep conceptual stress that implodes the human-object interface. . . . Small wonder that a violent reactive Luddism has become the definitive vogue of the period, as primates, outsmarted by their own environment, lash out in frenzy at a postnatural world."" - p 170
& now there's a Center for PostNatural History created & operated by Rich Pell in Pittsburgh. Check it out!
"Before heavy weather, there had been about nine hundred tornadoes every year in the United States. Nowadays, there were about four thousand. Before heavy weather, a year's worth of tornadoes killed about a hundred people and cause about $200 million (constant 1975 dollars) in damage. Now, despite vastly better warning systems, tornadoes killed about a thousand people a year, and the damage was impossible to estimate accurately because the basic economic nature of both "value" and "currency" had gone nonlinear." - p 182
So where are we at in 2017? A wikipedia page informs me that there've been 1,234 tornadoes so far this yr in the US (as of October 24, 2017) so, apparently, we're not quite to heavy weather yet. What about mass shootings in the US? There're plenty of statistics on that online, a chart from Mother Jones online covering 1982 to 2017 yields:
1982: 1 mass shooting, 8 killed
1983: NO mass shootings
1984: 2 mass shootings, 28 killed
1985: NO mass shootings
1986: 1, 15 killed
1987: 1, 6 killed
1988: 1, 7 killed
1989: 2, 15 killed
1990: 1, 10 killed
1991: 3, 35 killed
1992: 2, 9 killed
1993: 4, 23 killed
1994: 1, 5 killed
1995: 1, 6 killed
1996: 1, 6 killed
1997: 2, 9 killed
1998: 3, 14 killed
1999: 5, 42 killed
2000: 1, 7 killed
2001: 1, 5 killed
2002: NO mass shootings
2003: 1, 7 killed
2004: 1, 5 killed
2005: 2, 17 killed
2006: 3, 21 killed
2007: 4, 53 killed
2008: 3, 17 killed
2009: 4, 39 killed
2010: 1, 9 killed
2011: 3, 19 killed
2012: 7, 71 killed
2013: 5, 35 killed
2014: 4, 18 killed
2015: 7, 46 killed
2016: 6, 71 killed
2017: 8, 83+ killed
I was planning to look at the statistics from various sources but I think the above will do. Mass shooters in the US haven't quite become a force of nature yet but maybe if they had a convention they could pool their resources & practice on each other. It would be good to have all the arms dealers there too explaining why guns are such a great idea. Since pro-gun people seem to pull out a fair amount of statistics on how knives have been used in more murders, maybe at the convention they could have a contest to see who could kill the most people?: the automatic weapons users or the knife-wielders? The arms dealers could each get a steak knife, e.g., & they could prove their point by killing all the guys who have machine guns aimed at them. Just a thought, y'know, sometimes I'm moved by an image of an arms dealer going hungry while one of those vicious knife murderers carves up a juicy steak that's rightfully the dealer's.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was hoping Sterling wd throw in a little Fortean froggian stuff n'at:
""That's nothin' either. Once I saw a rain of meat."
""Meat fell out of the sky," he said simply. "I saw it with my own two eyes." He sighed. "You don't believe me do ya, kid? Well, go back in the anomaly records sometime and have a look at the stuff people have seen in the past, faling out of the sky. Amazing stuff! Black hail. Black rain. red rain. Big rocks. Frogs. Rains of fishes. Snails. Jelly. Red snow, black snow. Chunks of ice have fallen out of the sky as big as fuckin' elephants. Dude, I saw meat fall out of the sky."
""What kind of meat?" Alex asked.
""Shaved meat. No hair on it or anything. Looked kinda like, I dunno, slice mushrooms or slice potatoes or something, except it was red and bloody wet and it had little veins in it.["]" - pp 191-192
Next thing you know I was wackin' myself off & that meat was talkin' to me!
That's nuthin', man, I saw rain once that wasn't acid rain.
No fuckin' way!
I've been lovers with many women who were prone to self-destructive activities who weren't so self-destructive when they were with me even if we had very volatile times together. As such, I highly identify w/ this next passage:
"Jerry made her do crazy things. But Jerry's crazy things had always made her better and stronger, and with Jerry around, for the first time in her life she no longer felt miserably troubled about being her own worst enemy. She's always been wrapped too tight, and wired too high, and with a devil inside; in retrospect, she could see that clearly now. Jerry was the first and only man in her life who had really appreciated her devil, who had accepted her devil and been sweet to it, and had given her devil some proper down-and-dirty devil things to do. Her devil no longer had idle hands. Her devil was working its ass off, all the time.
"So now she and her devil were quite all right, really." - p 203
So, yeah, my friends & I have done pretty 'extreme' things but what would we have been doing if we hadn't learned to channel our anger as creatively as we have? What if I were just a psychopath instead of a psychopathfinder?: "Seriousness is Death": https://youtu.be/fIr1_U-dDHI .
"every once in a while some anxious weedy-looking guy would show up at camp who didn't give a hit about tornadoes and really, really wanted Jerry to forget all about it and get back to proving how many soap bubbles could fit inside a collapsing torus in hyperspace. Jerry was always terribly kind to those people." - p 205
[See the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ] ...more
Notes are private!
Oct 25, 2017
Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson's Undersea City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 22, 2017
I've been praising Frederik Pohl for a review of
Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson's Undersea City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 22, 2017
I've been praising Frederik Pohl for a few yrs now - esp his collaborations w/ C W Kornbluth. As far as I can recall, I've never read anything by Jack Williamson before - although I've seen his name many times.
An interesting thing about Science Fiction is the way that scientific data can be explored, somewhat as background, in an action-packed plot that's designed to keep the reader's interest w/o being too drily didactic. Sometimes the science is more interesting to me than the story or it, at least, gives more substance than the story does. That might be the case here.
I found this to be like a Robert A. Heinlein novel aimed at teens. I'm reminded of Heinlein books like Space Cadet (see my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... ). Both bks might appeal to a young adventurous spirit, to imagining the challenges of a possible near future - in Space Cadet the challenges of extraterrestrial travel, in Undersea City the challenges of undersea living for humans. Both try to imagine the possibilities using a somewhat reasonable scientific basis. No doubt the basis is too simple to satisfy real scientific rigor but, HEY!, these are novels, not treatises.
I note that Undersea City's copyright date is 1958 but that its 1st printing is shown as April, 1971. What that signifies might be something already addressed by someone more knowledgeable than me. My primitive interpretation of it is that it was written no later than 1958 but didn't find a publisher until 13 yrs later. Why? Maybe Pohl & Williamson didn't promote it, maybe publishers rejected it. If the latter was the case, as it was, e.g., with Philip K. Dick's non-SF novels, then I find that annoying.
Considering the possible implications of the above paragraph gives me the excuse to laud this day & age in wch rejected writers can fairly easily put their own writing on the internet & let publisher be damned. I direct the interested reader to my own "Censored or Rejected" website: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/s mentality.
I'm reminded of a woman that I had the misfortune to live with in 1995. She was young & pretty & I'm sure that those were her main 'qualifications' for the job she had vetting manuscripts submitted for advice & critique to a company that charged for that service. Imagine, you've written a novel & you want 'professional' opinions about it & advice about how to get it published & your manuscript, after you've paid a few hundred dollars, ends up in the hands of a barely literate young woman who could care less about you or doing her job. Now imagine that your novel's title is "Country Airs" or some such & that your main character is a woman with large breasts. The young woman being paid to read your ms says: "Who cares what the air in the country's like?!" because she's too ignorant to know that "air" can also refer to "melody". So much for the expert opinion. &, then, you had the audacity to have your character's breasts be a focus of attention! Well, that makes you a sexist scumbag. Your manuscript doesn't even get read & you're out 4 or 5 hundred dollars. Of course, you don't know that that's the process, your book just gets some short critique that's very negative, you get discouragement for your buck because the anonymous person you've paid is an exemplary shallow dipshit.
But I digress. The main subject of this novel being the threat that seaquakes provide to underwater cities the reader gets plenty of interpolated tech-talk including this acronym explanation:
"He only said: "It was necessary. But I found no one. I believe the sea-car was struck by boulders thrown up in the eruption and disabled. The locks were open. All the scuba gear was gone."
"And that marked him as a true sea-man too, for no lubber would refer to Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus by its nickname, scuba." - p 12
"The word SCUBA was coined in 1952 by Major Christian Lambertsen who served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1944 to 1946 as a physician. Lambertsen first called the closed circuit rebreather apparatus he had invented "Laru" ( acronym for Lambertsen Amphibious Respiratory Unit) but, in 1952, rejected the term "Laru" for "SCUBA" ("Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus") Lambertsen's invention, for which he held several patents registered from 1940 to 1989, was a rebreather and is different from open-circuit diving regulator and diving cylinder assemblies also commonly referred to as scuba.
"Open-circuit-demand scuba is a 1943 invention by the Frenchman Émile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, but in the English language Lambertson's acronym has become common usage and the name Aqua-Lung, (often spelled "aqualung"), coined by Cousteau for use in English-speaking countries, has fallen into secondary use. As with radar, the acronym scuba has become so familiar that it is generally not capitalized and is treated like an ordinary noun. For example, it has been translated into the Welsh language as sqwba." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scuba_set
Regarding the Welsh, I like to quote an old Welsh proverb (I'm glad to see that someone's pro-verb, I want to see some scuba action around here - but, hey!, wait!, isn't scuba an adjective there?!):
"["] Cefais fy syfrdanu'n syfrdanol, i weled, yn bellter o sawl milltir, ac yn meddiannu cnetre'r arena, strwythur rhyfeddol, a adeiladwyd yn ôl pob tebyg os jâd werdd. Eto, ei hun, nid darganfyddiad yr adeilad oedd mor syfrdanol i mi; ond daeth y ffaith, a ddaeth bob eiliad yn fwy amlwg, nad oedd y strwythur unig yn amrywio o'r tŷ hwn lle rwy'n byw ynddo, heb fod mewn lliw a'i faint enfawr. ["]" - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
THERE! That's everything you'll ever need to know! You can relax now.. just don't relax toooooo muuuuuccchh or you might start vomiting boulders. Don't you just hate it when that happens?! I broke a Jethro Tull record that way once. I guess I should be glad I didn't make it to the toilet in time because I can't afford to replace my toilet. Vomiting boulders did work to my advantage once though when some blue-boy was pointing a TASER at my SONAR.
The plot hints then thickens.
"Working Model of
Mechanical Ortholytic Excavator
Experimental craft of this type, now under test by the Sub-Sea Fleet, offer the promise of new opportunities to Academy graduates. With it explorations may be made at first hand of the strata beneath the sea bottom."
"Danthorpe confessed, "Well, all atomic drills generate a lot of heat—and the ortholytic drill cuts faster, but it makes more heat. And the earth's crust is already plenty hot, when you get a few miles down. They've got a terrific refrigeration problem."" - pp 17-18
Have you ever noticed that? Whenever I get an Earth's Crust delivered I won't eat it if the cheese's still bubbling. No sense in burning the roof of my mouth just because I'm so damned hungry.
""Alright you men! Let's get ready to debark!"
"Eskow looked at me and scowled, but I shook my head. Because Danthorpe's name came ahead of our's alphabetically, it had appeared first on the orders—and he had elected to assume that that put him in charge the detail." - p 20
May Alphabeticists be doomed to Lemming Detail, ten hut!
68 pp later:
"Complete data for a really accurate quake forecast would, I believe, require complete information about every crystal—perhaps even every molecule!—in the curst of the earth." [Ok, ok, it really does say "curst" - a lesser writer might've written "wretched"] "You would need to know the temperature and the melting point, the chemical constituents and impurities, the pressure and the shearing strain, the magnetic moment and the electrostatic potential, the radioactivity, the anomaly of gravitation, the natural period of vibration . . . all of those things. And then, having learned them all, you would know only a tiny fraction; for you would have to learn how all of those millions of tiny measurements were changing; whether they were going up or down—how fast—regularly or unevenly. . . ." - p 88
Then again, if you lived in Pittsburgh, you cd just say: "It's going to rain" & you'd probably be right. Are you picking up what I'm putting down? If so, why are you doing that? Are you my servant? This was a predictable novel, the boy gets the girl but then they get arrested for public indecency. ...more
Notes are private!
Sep 21, 2017
Oct 24, 2017
Mass Market Paperback