Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I just read my post from Thanksgiving 2006 and, for the most part, I still stand by my statements there. Yet, two years later, things have changed. Our economy is in a shambles and everyone has an opinion but no one has just come right out and said why it might have got that way. Gasoline for $4 a gallon ... that's why. It's a mystery to me that three months ago, we were paying $4 a gallon for fuel and now I can buy it for a $1.50. The supply didn't change that much: The suppliers did. We were victims of a cartel-like monopoly on fuel that took full advantage of its position to post "Record Profits" for several quarters. Now that they've practically ruined our national economy and made all the money they could ever need from us working folk, they've moved the prices back to maybe give us poor pukes an opportunity to save our houses. I'd call on the government to step in and do something but ... that's how we get here in the first place: The government is so deep in bed with the oil companies that it may no longer be possible to separate them. So, don't ask the government for help: They're part of the problem.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Heinlein Contents from MySpace

MySpace finally pissed me off to the point that I quit trying. I went into my profile, got my Heinlein Blog stuff and am posting it here. I'll even consider continuing writing it ... provided the muse strikes me...

Small change and the big picture
Category: Writing and Poetry

RAH: Small change can often be found under seat cushions.

This is an awesome observation. Just because everyone knows it and it true doesn't mean it doesn't need to be said. Like a cliche -- just because it's a cliche doesn't mean it's not true. And in the same light, it also doesn't mean it doesn't need to be said.

Like a good song. Just because you've heard it a thousand times, doesn't mean you don't want to hear it again.

Then again: Maybe RAH wasn't talking about monetary change but changes in society or in one's life. The same principle applies: This kind of small change comes to you, generally, when you're looking for something else.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Impact of Stranger

This is an article I worked up a few weeks back concerning the Heinlein book, Stranger in a Strange Land. One of the most controversial books of its day, it pushed Science Fiction into the mainstream market for fiction.

By John P. Smith

Robert A. Heinlein wrote science fiction for nearly 50 years. Heinlein's impact on science fiction, fantasy and fiction writing in general cannot be quantified. As the first-named Grandmaster of Science Fiction (1974), he is honored and revered as one of this country's most influential writers.

Equally important to some, RAH waved the banner and led the charge for a better future – particularly a future in space – but ideally a better future for all of humanity.

One of Heinlein's works, "Stranger in a Strange Land," remains one of the most famous science fiction novels ever written nearly 50-years after the original publication in 1961

The book reveals the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised on Mars by Martians. He returns to Earth in early adulthood and must learn how to be human. While learning, he also teaches many of his would-be mentors what it means to be human, and sometimes, how to be Martian.

Using Mike Smith's naivety and open-mindedness as a doorway, Heinlein takes a mid-Twentieth Century look at human institutions such as money, ownership of property, marriage, and fear of death. A book written specifically to challenge the social status quo of the day, Stranger takes a stab and a slap at practically every major element of our modern civilization. Heinlein holds no punches when dealing with big, stupid government and bureaucracy. He takes direct action against mass-market religion and television evangelists. Mass media – television, radio, newspapers, books and magazines – all take it on the chin. (Through all this, Heinlein never lambastes the military, showing his well-known soft spot for our boys and girls in uniform.)

As do many influential works of Fiction, Stranger contributed to the language. Specifically, the word "grok" entered common parlance among sci-fi readers, hippies, geeks and nerds. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "grok" as meaning "to understand," "to love," and "to be one with."

A key element of the novel is the religion founded by Mike Smith, the "Church of All Worlds." This church, as described in the text, is a blending of elements of paganism and revivalism with (Martian) psychic training and instruction in the (fictional) Martian language. In 1968, a group of neopagans inspired by Stranger took it upon themselves to found a religious group with this name, modeled in many ways after the fictional organization. The Church of All Worlds remains an active part of the neopagan community today. It is headquartered in Toledo, Ohio.

Stranger also details an an early description of the water bed. One inventor was refused a patent on the grounds that Heinlein's descriptions in Stranger and another novel "Double Star" constituted prior art.

In the end, Mike's "discorporation," with the help of an angry mob which stones him, plays around the world over television. His most devout followers watch almost unconcernedly as this happens, thus proving they understand that for Mike, death is not the end, but another beginning. However, Stranger's most most dramatic impact is in the re-telling of the age-old adage that God always demands a sacrifice.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


RAH: What a wonderful world it is that has girls in it.

Heinlein's got a point here. Volumes and tomes have been written on this subject and - there's nothing new under the sun - what else needs be said?

I like girls.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Crime: Public Poetry

RAH: A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits.

This tells me that RAH feels the way I do about poetry: There's a time and a place for it, and that time and place are wherever I'm not and when I'm not there. (How's that for a run-on sentence!) I don't know for sure that RAH disdained poetry with the same passion that I do, but it's clear from this statement and other hints I've picked up from reading his stuff that he wasn't one of the biggest fans of poetry.

To me that's okay. I don't care for poetry; same as I don't care raw oysters. You want that shtuff you can have it... include me out.

But, to be fair, there are some types of poetry that are okay. For instance that easy to learn, usually slightly dirty or bluntly suggestive form of social commentary -- the limerick. There's a form of poetry anybody can appreciate; anybody can write and anybody can quote after hearing it like, once.

Also, song lyrics, often poetry set to music are mostly okay. And many songs can eventually become simply poems by removing the music. For instance: Mary Had a Little Watch:

Mary had a little watch;
she swallowed it one day.
She took a dose of Castor oil;
to pass the time away.
The Castor oil, it did not work;
the time it did not pass.
So if you need to know the time;
just look up Mary's friend who also has a watch.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Past and Future...

RAH: A generation which ignores history has no past—and no future.

Right on RAH! This is simply a different version of the old standard: Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. However, Heinlein, in his usual modus operandi follows this ideal to its logical conclusion -- that a generation too stuffy, simple or stupid, to examine the lessons of history will inevitably repeat the mistakes of their forebears and is, in fact, destined for oblivion. One might think this an oversimplification of a more complex problem, but it's not. It's taking a complex social phenomena and breaking it down into its least common denominator. The only people who have the excuse of not having a historical reference are the original settlers of this planet. And you'd think they would take a hint from the people who dropped them off. Or from the people who were already here...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back to Heinlein and ... Saggy boobs?

RAH: Nursing does not diminish the beauty of a woman's breasts; it enhances their charm by making them look lived in and happy.

You know, I really like Heinlein, but here, I think he's wrong. All this tells me is that Heinlein never got to play with anything that hadn't been used. Saggy boobs with stretch marks and a lethargic attitude may be the norm for middle-class Americans, but that doesn't mean we have to like it!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

D-Mac: Heisman 2007

As a change of pace from the Heinlein commenatry, I offer the following football editorial:

Darren McFadden may well be the football messiah come to Fayetteville.

The Razorback fan-base is in the midst of a hostile uprising.

Frank Broyles, Arkansas Athletic Director for 50 years, announced his retirement in the midst of this pressure and somewhat because of it.

Running back coach Danny Nutt, brother of Houston, recently stepped down due to a recurrence of his troublesome brain-stem swelling and bleeding condition.

A good percentage of feral Razorback fans are calling for Coach Houston Nutt's head and most don't really care if the rest of him follows it to somewhere besides Fayetteville.

Coach Nutt has been subjected to a storm of criticism following the transfer of all but one of the "Springdale Five," including much-touted five-star recruit Mitch Mustain. He's been raked over the coals for the hiring and subsequent release of Gus Malzhan, the former Springdale High School Coach. His personal life has become a subject of debate and hostile antagonism between the "Haters" and "Huggers," much of the ammunition for both sides based on a fan-subpoenaed transcript of his personal cell phone records.

A dark cloud of suspicion, mistrust and foreboding assail the entire football program. A malicious web of rumors, lies and ad hominem attacks create casualties on both sides of the conflict every day.

It's a mess.

In the midst of this maelstrom of dissatisfaction and recrimination stands Darren McFadden.

Is he a paragon of virtue? No. He's a football running back with a history of off-the-field issues and personality quirks such as his "501" tattoo.

And right now he's the glue that's holding it all together.

Every Hog fan loves D-Mac. As a star recruit, he chose Arkansas over advances from football powerhouses such as Tennessee, Texas and Alabama. He grew up wanting to be a Razorback. Now he's living the dream for himself and fans alike.

So while Hog fans across the state can agree on few things, they all agree that Darren McFadden is the man to beat for the Heisman. They're not alone in that assessment. For instance, from CBS Sports touts D-Mac as "The best pure running back in the nation. He will see plenty of work as the leading man for the Razorbacks. Plain and simple: it's his Heisman to lose."

MSNBC is equally impressed, calling McFadden "the most athletically gifted player in the nation." Even as far away as Detroit, we hear, "He's talented and versatile, a speed and power back complemented by tailback Felix Jones."

Even if D-Mac fails to win the Heisman, he'll still have the votes of thousands of Hog fans as the kid from Little Rock who could have played football anywhere but chose to be a Razorback. He's the guy who may keep the fans from fighting in the stands; may help the coach keep his job and may put yet another mark in the Arkansas record book as the first Hog to bring home a Heisman.

Imagine a laundry list of stats and game facts displayed blow-by-blow to show McFadden's superiority over any other running back in the country. Visualize an in-depth comparison of all Heisman hopefuls based on strength of schedule, team performance, rankings, polls and publicity campaigns. Do the numbers speak for themselves?

Sure they do, so there's no reason to go into them here.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Pacifically Speaking

From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, By Robert A. Heinlein:

RAH: A "pacifist male" is a contradiction in terms. Most self-described "pacifists" are not pacific; they simply assume false colors. When the wind changes, they hoist the Jolly Roger.

Again, here, Heinlein shows that he is a true student of human nature. There are few "real" pacifists. Ghandi meets the criteria for true pacificism; as does Mother Theresa. Most everybody else claiming to be a pacifist is nothing more than a coward looking for an easy way out.

His view that piracy is not beyond most pacifists is right on. As soon as things go as "the pacifist" believes it should, he'll have no problem naming who to put against the wall and yelling "fire."

As for myself, I don't understand how any man could be a pacifist when it comes to defense of family and home. No one in his right mind could stand by and watch his wife and/or children be hurt; nor could he stand in front an allow himself to be killed first -- again the cowardly way out -- rather than fight for those unable (or less able) to fight for themselves.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Scientist defined.

From Robert A. Heinlein's "Notebooks of Lazarus Long." With my commentary

RAH: Most "scientists" are bottle washers and button sorters.

Heinlein is making a distinction between scientists who actually devise and perform experiments vs those whose "research" involves statistical analysis of data a "real" scientist has produced and other who spindle, fold and collate data produced by others.

Reading Heinlein, you'll find that he has a real problem with people who can't do their own math. It's troublesome to him and he points out in many of his writings that the fall of American society began when the math requirements in schools were eased to allow more students to pass entrance requirements. I can't argue the point ... I agree with it. I don't think it was the primary cause of our plummet into decadence and narcissism, but it was definitely a contributing factor.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Functional Delusion

From Robert A. Heinlein's "Notebooks of Lazarus Long." With my commentary

RAH: Delusions are often functional. A mother's opinions about her children's beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth.

Wow...this one is almost self-explanatory. Except...RAH as led us to assume that the mother in this case can see into the future enough to realize her child will actually amount to something. This is also Heinlein just being humerous (if you haven't read any of his books, you really should...) We know she can't see into the future...what this mother is banking on is Hope. And while the mother keeps the child alive for hope for the future, every growing child should feel loved. Even if they're not actually loved, they should at least feel that way.

That's another nice, functional delusion.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Cassandra's Spanking Continued

RAH: A fake fortune teller can be tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she deserved .

Here RAH is merely being practical. Anyone with a view of the ACTUAL future must be killed. This would possible prevent the inevitable war his or her existance will eventually perpetuate. Should you kill one to save a million, or let the millions suffer for the sake of the one? Pragmatically speaking, it's not even really a choice. Kill the future-teller.

The real quandry is: What if the future-teller says that killing her will not prevent the war? If she always sees ONLY the actual future, then she must also know that the war will happen whether she is alive or dead. In this case is the future-teller better off dead? Are we better off with her out of the way? Of course we are!

Have you not figured out why an actual future-teller cannot be allowed to exist? Because then there would be no reason for Hope. And in my life and existance, Hope can change the future.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What's the Difference?

From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, By Robert A. Heinlen.

RAH: It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another--but which one? Differences are crucial.

I'm not sure where this one came from or where it's going. It may be Heinlein's way of warning us away from stereotypes There's the old saying that "stereotypes exist because they're true." Maybe so, but only in a general sense. Once you get past the generalizations, you start to see individual strengths and weaknesses in groups, sub-groups and single people.

The same applies to practically anything: The difference between a rare coin and a common penny may be simply the place of minting.

Just because the eggs are all white doesn't mean the chicks will all be yellow. Avoid generalizations.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Re-Reading Heinlen -- Leave me alone!

The notebooks started me thinking about all the Heinlein books I've read and then how long it's been since I read them. Now, I rarely re-read anything. However, I'm suddenly finding myself with a half-dozen old RAH books and wanting to do NOTHING but polish them off. I've started with Starship Troopers and am now working on Stranger in a Strange Land. I'll follow these up with Job, Expanded Universe and To Sail Beyond the Sunset.
So until I finish these off, don't pester me for more blog on the Notebooks.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Just the facts, man.

From Robert A. Heinlein's Notebooks of Lazarus Long...with my commentary :)

RAH: If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.

This kind of thinking is really hard on "religious" scientists and doctors of theology and philosophy. Real "hard" science deals with real, cold, hard facts. I agree with RAH; if you can't prove it, it's an opinion.

There's a place for dreamers and true believers -- someone's got to show the rest of us the importance of staying grounded when not equipped to fly. I would only ask those who proclaim their opinion as fact, their sloppy, lopsided research as "findings" supporting their pet theory -- please, if you do not have the actual documentation to back up your claim, start your discourse with words such as "I believe..." , "I think..." or "In my opinion..."

Thank you

Friday, February 02, 2007

Life's too Short

From Robert A. Heinlein's Notebooks of Lazarus Long...with my commentary :)

RAH: There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?

Heinlein was an agnostic. His characters reflected his ambivalence toward the almighty. My wife says, "What does he mean there's no evidence of life after death? He needs to read the bible." When I try to point out that the bible is a religious text and not a fact book, then I'm an evil hell-bent bastard. (Confirming her belief in the afterlife.) So taking the opposite approach, as Heinlein has done here, there is no evidence against it either. Then again, how do you prove a hole is empty -- fill it with something.

And of course, he's right: Soon enough we will know, so why worry about it. If you believe it, then I hope you're right and if you don't believe it then I hope you're wrong...But I'm not going to fret about it. Life is too short to spend it being upset, unhappy and unfulfilled.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Taking Aim...

From Robert A. Heinlein's Notebooks of Lazarus Long...with my commentary :)

RAH: Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.

Here, in a fit of anti-political-correctness, Heinlein is suggesting that if someone appears to be on the verge of attack, that you should shoot first, perhaps the old shot across the bow. This will make the enemy blink, at least, giving you the time to set up a head shot. This should end the conflict ... at least at this point.
Afterwards, after you've won the war and all the battles, insurgents will continue to harrass, threaten and coerece the general population and anybody who might try to live a normal life. Other insurgents will plan and implemnt suicide bombings, the main target of which are the very people they claim to be fighting to free.
After several years of this, you, being the legitimate government, will see that it's a pointless exercise and succomb to the futility of it all, turning the leadership over to "locals" who will lose it within a half-year to the "insurgents." At which point, everything will revert back to the point at which you fired the first warning shot...the only lesson learned here is that it also helps to make the first shot count.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Expert Advice...

From Robert A. Heinlein's Notebooks of Lazarus Long...with my commentary :)

RAH: Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it!

RAH is right on it here! Experts are people who know so much about a subject they can't see any way clear of it. An expert will rarely tell you how to get something done ... they're most proficient at explaining how not to do it. Even if this is by virtue of experience, it's still like going around the house twice to get through the door.

RAH also points out that just because an expert says it can't be done, that doesn't make it the truth. If that were the case, the earth would still be flat, the moon made of cheese and gravity against the law.

You will find a way.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Religious Furvor .... er Fever?

From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long by Robert A. Heinlein:

RAH: Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.

Here Heinlein is right on the mark without his oft encountered intentional ambiguity. Religious leaders throughout history have pretty much had it their way by simply convincing the general populace that their way is the right way. In many cases, the only way and if not followed, would lead to the deepest pit of Hell. Many of those same religious shamen and priests would be glad to send any who would argue with them on their way. In fact, most wouldn't even have to get their hands dirty, but simply point and shout and let the wide-eyed believers handle it for them. No problem having a croud of those true to the faith beat/stone/hang someone who doesn't believe like we do. God Almighty forbid someone voice his or her own opinion -- only the views of shamen, priests and the like will be tolerated in this village! Off with his head! Send him to Hell now, before his ability to think for himself infects others. (There's more than a little self-interest to protect here.)

So, obviously, I agree with RAH. Religious leaders, by definition, are automatically suspect and guilty until proven otherwise.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Game rigged? You bet!

From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long:

RAH: Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win.

Once again, RAH is being intentionally ambiguous.

If he's talking about life, he's being sarcastic, knowing that, when it's all tallied up at the end of a lifetime, the sum total is futility.

On the other hand, if he's talking about living life to the fullest, doing the best you can, trying and not giving up, then he's right on. In fact, to take this whole thing a step further ... if you gamble enough, and win enough, there's not reason you can't be running the game.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Excessive vindictiveness...

From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, by Robert A. Heinlein:

Men are more sentimental than women. It blurs their thinking.

First of all, I don't like to generalize -- most people tend to do that and I personally disagree with it -- but I have no choice here. So as you read below, remember, I'm not talking about YOU -- Everybody BUT you.

RAH is being intentionally ambiguous and backwards here. Notice, please, how he completely fails to specify exactly whose thinking is blurred. I agree that men are more sentimental than women -- when it involves a relationship between a man and a woman.

A man will look back at a relationship gone sour with wistfulness and longing for those things that were and those that might have been. Is that sentimentality...maybe. Mostly, though, men look back and wish for the days when she wasn't doing everything in her power to utterly destroy him. Those are the Good Old Days.

A woman from the same relationship will look back and regret that she missed so many opportunities to completely destroy the man. A woman will harbor anger, hate and resentment until the day she dies. If an opportunity arises, even years later, she will strike at the man with anything and everything she has to HURT the man. If she kills him, she'll be baffled that it's illegal to do so. She'll not understand the it's an even greater crime to murder with spite and malice aforethought. After all, he DESERVED it. I believe that if a woman were allowed to HURT a man an much as she wanted to whenever she wanted -- we'd all be dead. The law is the only thing keeping us alive.

Again, I don't want to generalize: This is only true of women who've been in a relationship gone bad. Or who ever will.

Enemy Me?

From the notebooks of Lazarus Long: (with additional commentary by yours truly.)

RAH: By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man -- man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.

This is easy enough to understand. If you think about it, we've mastered all the animals, climates, natural dangers, etc. this planet has to offer. We've gone out into space and are well on our way to mastering the final frontier.

"Oh, no!" I hear you cry. "Man can't master everything ... like volcanos and hard vacuume. We die in such extreme environments!"

Yeah, well, we master those by staying away from them.

Yet, we continue to die through stupidity, malice and anger.

Mostly stupidity.

Like, out there in hard, deep, unforgiving space, there's gonna be a guy who thinks it won't happen to him. Trust me, this is the guy it'll happen to: And blam, he's sucking vacuum and exploding in a constellation of blood, dying with the realization that it can too happen to you.

This is the stupidity of man and how the first will die in space.

The first murder in space won't be with a ray gun or a blaster rifle. Someone will get their Oxygen tube cut and that'll be the end of that. And it'll be about something stupid, like religion, a woman or a man, or a disagreement over a card game.

Thus, on a microcosmic scale, we see what Heinlein means about man being his worst enemy. On a cosmic scale, man is really no different than he is as a single entity: We just die in larger numbers and kill with greater efficiency

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Notebooks of Lazarus Long

I ran across the Notebooks of Lazarus Long today ... after nearly two decades of completely forgetting about them. Wow. Even after all these years, Heinlein manages to hit the nail on the head.

For instance, the very first note is: Always store beer in a dark place.

I'm willing to bet that in this day and age of canned beer, most people don't know this or know why. The basic reason: light breaks down beer and causes it go bad. Makes it taste funny.

But maybe that's not all Heinlein meant by this phrase.

First of all, beer in a dark place is hidden beer. If you stashed it, others will only find it by accident or if you tell them where it is. If those others already know you've got beer, then keeping your beer in a dark place makes it more difficult for others to find it, should they choose to steal -- or borrow -- your beer. The dark place requires others to work to get your beer by making light or, if they're exceptionally lazy and stupid, stumble around in the darkness risking life-threatening injury looking for your beer.

It also makes you do the same thing, thus ensuring that the beer is not always easily accessible -- you will have to put some effort into getting your beers.

Then again, Heinlein might have just meant that storing beer in a dark place keeps it from going bad. And beer gone bad is a waste.

Sunday, January 07, 2007