Being Normal

RES  yesterday made a comment that came darn near that sort of simple profundity that touches a fundamental truth of humanity.  I’m not going to page down to find it verbatim – sorry, guys, while I slept well, I literally spent all night working in my back brain.  I now have the next four writing columns for PJM, as well as figured out the hole in my plotting for Through Fire.  OTOH I woke up late and have only had one cup of tea – but it was something about how mass entertainment creates an impression of “normal.”

What he didn’t say – but was implied – is that all human beings want to be normal.  Yes – probably – even us.  At least I remember a time – before at 14 I decided (I almost typed I remembered – I’m not assuming responsibility for that.  More mystical people than I can figure it out) my real name was Sarah – when, beyond feeling that the name “Alice” – pronounced Uh-Lease – didn’t belong to me, I also wished my parents had named me what a good half of my classmates were named: Paula, or Ana, or Cristina, or one of those “normal” names.  I also remember in middle school being profoundly vexed that I couldn’t play the elastic game.  I simply lacked the coordination (likely the result of being born too premature, but maybe not.  My kids suck at that kind of thing, too, though their dad doesn’t.  Maybe we simply are descended from very uncoordinated Neanderthals.  They went extinct because it’s hard to hunt when tripping on your feet.)  This excluded me from all the fun games and talk, and made me sit in a corner with my SF book.  (Of course, then I got to liking the SF book…)

That wish for normality, that desire to belong to a group is what causes the whole concept of “normal.”  I don’t know anymore who I was reading the other day, when a character says “What if nobody really is normal?  What if everyone is just pretending?”

I’d say it makes no difference, really.  Partly because the concept of normal and people acting externally normal makes it easier for rulers to control you and particularly to hold over you the threat of exclusion form the group; and partly because eventually you internalize what you pretend to be.

The first threat was worse, of course, in more primitive days.  Lacking mass media to control the people, rulers had to be very black and white about it.  “If you don’t eat your peas the way we do, you’re one of THEM and we’ll kill you/throw you out.”

In the modern age, this has become less harsh – in most places.  Communist regimes, like all theocracies, are still very harsh.  On the other hand Mass media – even mass dissemination of books, has made it easier to make people fall into line of themselves.

You see, the human desire to mimic and fit in is one of our strongest instincts.  We are social apes.  And we take our cues from stories, whether those stories unroll before our eyes, are in a sacred book, are passed down in the culture, or are poured at us in books and TV.

Now, here’s the thing – the Marxists understand this all too well.  A few of you, before, when I called them a religion (there is no such thing as a secular religion, btw.  Believing in afterlife is not needed for a religion.  If I’m informed correctly some older forms of Judaism are at least mum on the subject.  Communism is a mystery religion, relying on “something happens” to make their paradise come about right here on Earth.  To their credit they work towards the ‘something” that is to transform man.  To their lack of credit, both their goal and their methods are repugnant.)  But they are.  They have created their fantastical past paradise – the supposedly communitarian past/female dominant option not included, though they let the feminists run with it – their fall from grace – the introduction of private property – their sin – “greed”, meaning wish for personal improvement in circumstances – and their hope of paradise – the emergence of the homo Sovieticus, though I suppose they don’t call it that now.  After that, of course, it would be the return to the communitarian paradise.

(They fail to understand that their communitarian paradise is actually a h*ll of individuals being treated as things, and that, because the collective can’t ever decide things as a collective, an individual ends up taking control.  Which takes us right back to feudalism.  But let that pass.  And having told a commenter not to trust enemies of a religion as information on it, I’m bound to say I’m not.  I was taught by true believers.  It just didn’t take.)

In the same way, they’ve been quite good at looking at how Christianity permeated and changed culture, and then how modernity did.  Which is why they took control of the means of disseminating stories, both supposedly factual stories (news) and imaginary stories (fiction.)

It is my authorial mind that hopes that they managed their full control just a little too late, and that the distributed media will take them down, but I’m not the Author of this story.

At any rate, a lot of what we now consider “normal” is exactly a creation of that complex of story telling.  To an extent, it might always have been, from the sagas retold by the camp fire to Shakespeare’s plays which got such wide audience, in so many languages that in many ways they might have greatly contributed to the idea individuals and their personal choices mattered; then there’s novels.  The reason that good mothers in the eighteenth century didn’t want their children reading such trash is that girls would try to model themselves on heroines who would do anything for love – when it was far more convenient for the daughter to take the sensible idea of learning to love the man the family chose for her.

In modern age…  Until we take the TV outright, we won’t fully be there, because – insert thing about schools producing illiterates and, worse, smart people who can’t read well enough to read for pleasure and don’t know what they lack —  a lot of people still get their entertainment from it.

I stopped watching  Married With Children, which seemed intent on making sure people thought of marriage as H*ll on Earth.  And because I could see my friends modeling it.  (I couldn’t get them to see it, though.)

While I’m glad the treatment of homosexuals on TV has been softened compared to what it was before, I wouldn’t mind if it became realistic.  One doesn’t become a saint because one is gay.  One doesn’t become a devil here (As Card said, homosexuality does not destroy the good or brilliant in a person.)  In the fifties and before (I read a lot of stuff from that period) saying someone was “an homosexual” or “invert” was a cue to hate them.  Now it’s a cue to regard them as victims.  Inevitably the pendulum will swing again.  I will know real progress has been made when they’re treated as people – just people.

At the same time, I’m really tired of the “White male did it” or “Christian did it” or “Father did it” or “business owner did it.”

And what appalls me most is when I see people in those categories modeling those stereotypes they see on TV.  This baffles me.  I keep seeing Christians in public act like the caricatures presented on TV (please don’t tell me where I’m going after death because of what I write.  I am doing the best I can, and I think He’s far more understanding and encompassing than that.)  Particularly when I know these people in private, and they’re not like that at all.

So why do they act that way in public?  And do they even know they’re doing it?  Probably not.  It’s “normal.”

In the same way the slow, trickle, trickle, trickle distorts our impression of normal too.  It’s become impolite to say in public you’re a Tea Partier, for instance.  The slur of sexual innuendo, followed by never substantiated rumors of violence, have stained the name, though there is no truth at all in it.  At the same time, unless you are with friends and know them well enough, it is against politeness to refer to Occupiers as “Louse infested would be communists” – though it is true of the vast majority of them.

Because that’s not how the stories present those groups.  And people want to belong to the majority – to the “normal.”

Even outliers, people who step out, can break and fall back into the norm.  A great example is that blog that shall never be mentioned, but which has turned completely around in the last 5 years or so.  I was talking to a friend about that and wondered if it was always a false flag operation, designed to turn before 08 and confuse the issue.  He said maybe but – and he’s a right outlier, by virtue of what he is, the same I am – he thought what it actually was just pressure.  Because the owner of that blog is an artist in a leftist community.  The pressure to “return to normal” just broke him at last.

In my case, of course, the more pressure to return to normal the more I explode in weird directions, but growing up when and where I did with non-pierced ears and wearing pants (for the UK visitors that means trousers) I was sort of like the boy named Sue and learned to fight before I could walk.  The shock is not that I won’t return to “normal”; the shock is that I managed to semi-pretend for ten years.

Of course, the most effective strategy would be to pretend to be of them and change it from the inside, but I’m not sure it’s possible.  Religions take time to subvert and cultures take time to change, and we’re nearing the end of that time.  (No?  Look at our economy.  Or our feral children.)

Christianity, while it was replacing the old culture, at least was aware of how the world works.  The culture the Marxists seek to impose doesn’t fit ANY real world with real people, not even the places where they won.  To be “normal” people are going around pretending to believe things that simply aren’t so, like that anyone wanting to look after himself and his is “greedy” and must have stolen what he has; that women are physically stronger than men, and more independent in spirit; that children are wiser than their parents; that everyone must have sex all the time, or they’ll go mad; that every culture in the world is superior to ours.

No one sane can believe any of these even for a minute, if they examine it.  But people don’t.  They just try to “act normal” – which is bringing down Western civilization.  That part might be a feature not a bug, except that communist regimes in the end are like all the old empires: they must feed off healthy societies near them.  If they destroy the healthy societies, the world will go down to a long darkness, until the culture changes.

This is why I keep saying “I wouldn’t mind their winning, if their model could work in any way.  It doesn’t.”

We have to at least try to stop their final victory.

Write.  Write stories.  Write news.  Write.  Even if only a few people see it, it has a ripple effect.

And if you have any talent at all in that direction, look at the tech and the possibility to start video-stories: blogs, discussions, panels and most of all fictional stories.  (I haven’t yet watched Courage, New Hampshire, though I have the first season waiting a bout of ironing – that’s when I watch TV – but I understand it is done very professionally on a shoe string budget.  Something to emulate, perhaps.  I wish I could convince my nephew with the film degree to move here and join the effort.)  There’s also animation, and if I had more time, that’s what I’d be learning.

The solution to the narrowing of “normal” to “What the Marxists think is proper” is to fight back.  To present better stories.  Ours have the advantage of being more plausible.  Also we’re more creative than the people now resorting to an endless stream of remakes.  (Fanatical religions always squash creativity.)

Go.  Create.  Be Free.  Be not afraid.  (Not even of not being normal.)

UPDATE: There will be another post at MGC on writing in about an hour or so. I must get caffeine first.  Post up and tangentially related to this.

229 thoughts on “Being Normal

  1. > A great example is that blog that shall never be mentioned, but which has turned completely around in the last 5 years or so.

    OK, it shall never be named…but can it be hinted at?

      1. Ah – that brief window when LGF was interesting and not a morass of hate. Oddly, the people currently there would perhaps characterize it as exactly the opposite…

            1. You were banned, you just didn’t realize it. Its what happened to me. I hadn’t commented in months, showed up and tried to comment to find I’d been banned.

              1. I got banned when I defended a photoshopped image that portrayed Obama as a witch doctor. Charles had singled it out as somehow being “racist.” The image in question was an effective and visceral criticism of what we now know as Obamacare. I’ve tried to find it since, but without success. It was very funny because it didn’t look fake.

                I pointed out that the image was entirely appropriate because 1) it was a criticism of Obama’s policies. 2) There is nothing “racist” about being a witch doctor. 3) The same image could not possibly be dishonestly portrayed as “racist” had it featured Hillary or some other pasty-faced idiot instead of Obama. Double standards are no standards at all.

                In response, some leftard spewed a slew of nonsense about how the bad things that happened to black people in centuries past mean that they can’t be treated equally today, but must be shielded from criticism. (I mean, REALLY, how can anyone actually believe that?) Before I could skewer the idiot, Chuck banned me.

                Only a few weeks before, in response to a question from me, Charles had made a post about The Black Book of Communism, which is how I discovered that book. So he wasn’t all bad, just broken.

                I don’t think that Charles was a false flag operative. I think, as others have mentioned, that he was up to his eyeballs in leftist nonsense thanks to the circles in which he chooses to travel. He made the all too common mistake of trying to “make nice” with leftists, in private at least. Thing is, you can’t make nice with rabid dogs.

                I also think he was obsessed with creationist numbskulls. Half his posts there towards the end seemed to be about textbooks in Texas and supposed plots by people who think the earth is 6,000 years old to bamboozle our nation’s schoolchildren with their idiocy.

            2. I did … the serious cray-zee began to be just overwhelming.
              I recall burning half a day when I was supposed to be working, explaining to the Lizadoid hordes, how it would have been very difficult (not to say impossible) for the US Army Air Force to have bombed the rail lines leading to Auschwitz: Out of range until about 1944, time-line to plan concentrated raids being a lead-time or more, Soviets not being cooperative, USAAF technologically not able to do pinpoint accurate strikes, never mind all that stuff about being able to hit a pickle-barrel with a Norden bombsight … and rail lines being swiftly repairable, in any case.

              Well, what about hitting the gas chambers?

              Strong chance of not hitting them at all, and offering the Nazis a propaganda victory by killing a lot of Jews before the Nazis could do it

              Well, shouldn’t they have at least made a gesture?

              Yeah, an ultimately futile and pointless one, which would have killed a lot of Allied aircrew in the process … to make a gesture.

              That’s when I first realized that I was wasting my time. Alas, poor Chuckles – we knew him well, or at least, thought we did.

              1. There did seem to be this thickening of the crazy and stupid there as intelligent and reasonable people became disgusted and stopped coming around. I had some guy try to tell me that Communism and Nazism are different because the first is internationalist and the second expressly nationalist. Didn’t seem to understand that both stem from the same font of evil. I suspect that LGF became a hang-out for victims of higher indoctrination.

            3. I was a regular. Even had a t shirt. Went on a three week vacation (was at the Smithsonian and another regular noticed the shirt, we started talking, and ‘knew’ each other from there. Small world.) in fall 2007, come back, and CJ had gone completely batshiite crazy. I just quit going there once I realized he’d reverted to his previous nutburger status. It’s sad, he had one of the better blogs for a good while. I still see former regulars at Ace’s place and WUWT.

      2. Ah! I thought that might be it, but the reference to “artistic field” threw me off. Didn’t he switch BACK one more time? I pegged him for a flake a while back. Sometimes its the goofballs “on your side” that are the worst enemies…

  2. I should probably also expanded bit on some related commentary that I believe RES was actually responding to at the time when he inspired this.

    The question was asked in some of the related commentary on why one should learn to go to events and do things that one may not like just to be perceived as normal and hang out with “normal” people. I’m afraid that the way I answered made it sound like perhaps being normal is the point.

    Part of what I was trying to get across was that when you are part of a community, say in business with other businesses, or you want to get along with your neighbors so that they are there to help you in turn, you do have to make some effort to meet them halfway. Sure, that means you might not act quite as out there is you would inside your house. You may not bring up some topics that you may feel comfortable discussing with your family, or with your science-fiction or gamer friends. That said, you’re not making yourself somebody else, either. You don’t have to sell out.

    And yes, especially for an introvert, or for somebody who grew up without a good sense of social graces and reading/getting along with people, it can be very difficult to learn to read people well enough to realize when you’re losing them and their eyeballs are glazing over. Wearying even once you do know how – someone else had discussed masks and suits, as a metaphor for putting on personas. I also use the term “facets”.

    But there is a world of difference between finding common ground and interests with people, learning how to make friends even if they don’t have many, or worse, most of your interests, and selling out.

    1. Oh, I wasn’t aiming this at you. I just went from RES’s comments to how the media shapes culture.
      I happen to agree with your commentary. You ain’t changing anyone’s mind if they see you as “Powerfully weird” and don’t even talk to you. If you see me at a panel in a con, surrounded by soft and hard left, you’ll know I don’t go into a “you’re all stupid rant.” Of course you have to act “normal” — it’s the power of shaping “normal” that we need to go after.

      1. Being able to “behave in public” is a somewhat different matter, falling under the “not scare the horses” rule, and has little to do with being “normal.” There is a difference between “normal” behaviour and public behaviour, just as the normal public behaviour varies according to setting; we don’t tip our doctors, for example, even though we’ve every reason to encourage their pleasant provision of service.

        The thing is, nobody is “normal.” Normal is a statistical construct, an illusion, a lie. The ability to define normal is extremely powerful, however, and subject to abuse. In San Francisco it has apparently become so normal for people to practice the nude life that there was a huge furor over a proposed city ordinance requiring people in restaurants to sit on a disposable napkin, lest their effulgence convey unwanted microbial life to later diners.

        Is it “normal” to resolve disagreements as Jayne would, or as Shepherd Book would? Or is neither normal?

        1. Agreed.

          What is really neat is how many of my “normal” co-workers at my “normal” corporate big ol’ business job think my Odd stuff is cool, or are even fellow Odd SF&F fans (granted, I’m in the accounting department and that’s full of intelligent geeks). A friend of mine took her Pratchett Assassins Guild binder to work and found several people who knew exactly what it was. ^_^

          I think a lot of teens (where conformity is hammered in hardest) would be more Odd if they could thought they could get away with it. One of my Oddest high school friends was approached at one of the reunions by a person who had been quite cruel to him – the former bully pumped my friend’s hand and said he’d been so cool, the one real rebel.

          1. A friend of mine took her Pratchett Assassins Guild binder to work and found several people who knew exactly what it was.

            I feel like there’s a name for this concept, but I can’t think of what that name is. The closest I’m coming is “secret handshake”, but that’s a subset of the concept I’m thinking of. It’s kind of the reverse of protective camouflage; a marker of some kind (an item, a topic of conversation, or some secret gesture) that lets you identify those “in the know”, while those who haven’t a clue won’t read it as weird. Example: a secret handshake, or the fish symbol that early Christians used to identify each other (it’s an acrostic based on Greek). Or, in my case, a messenger bag I got when ThinkGeek had a 50% off sale: it looks like a nice capacious messenger bag, but instead of a company logo, the front part says “Bag of Holding”. If someone comments on it, I know I’ve found a fellow RPG geek, but it doesn’t freak the mundanes.

            Anyone know a good name for this concept? And what do you use for your “secret handshake”?

            1. Speaking the “shibboleth”?

              On Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 1:39 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

              > ** > Robin Munn commented: “A friend of mine took her Pratchett Assassins > Guild binder to work and found several people who knew exactly what it was. > I feel like there’s a name for this concept, but I can’t think of what that > name is. The closest I’m coming is “secret handshake”,” >

              1. That’s also close, except that a shibboleth test tells you not who is in, but who is out. It’s a negative test (pass this, or else you’re cast out — or killed, in the original shibboleth test), whereas I’m looking for a term for a positive test (if you pass this, you’re in). Almost, but not quite, the same concept.

            2. I wish there was some kind of marker like that – so that you could know in a casual conversation or contact exactly how honest you can be in discussing matters political. I’ve lost track of how many times my daughter and I have had a conversation with someone we’ve just met turn to … well, matters political … and there has been this nervous moment when they look at us and wonder if they have said something indiscrete – and they look really relieved when I say that we are quite libertarian-conservative, and went to a number of Tea Party rallies. For both of us, being military veterans is kind of a semi-secret sign that we may be libertarian-fiscally-conservative-free-market fans.

            3. I can’t think of the term, either, but– a sign, yes. It tells those who share an interest that you are likely to be open to conversation on a topic, but doesn’t blare “I IZ DIFFREN THAN U!!!!!”

              Like getting Mason cuff links.

                  1. In Niven & Pournelle’s Fallen Angel, I enjoyed how the hidden fans could reveal themselves to other fans, while staying invisible to the mundanes.

                    1. Seriously? You could rig one with a series of twenty sided dice I think. You just have to decide on out what 6 letters get to share up with other letters and how to show orientation. That would be a whole lot better than using a book code based on _Contact_ or _The Difference Engine_

                      ….actually a Jeffersonian cypher wheel would be better, really, but dice are easier to sneak around.

                    2. If I wanted pretty good encryption I wouldn’t use a a cypher wheel. I’m after the cool factor.

                      And how do you align the dice? Chaotic good, of course!

                  2. Sign: “Thank you, Mister Atkins”

                    Password: “You’re a better man than I am.”

                    Countersign: “Blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.”

                    No prizes for identification; do it for the honour alone.

                    1. In truth, I considered “For God’s sake, John, Sit down.” But that calls for “Somebody ought to open up a window.” for the password and by the time the countersign is given everybody’s singing and our cover is blown.

                      So, I figgered: How many Liberals are gonna quote him?

                  1. Cloaks? No, scratch that. We’d be mistaken for Assassins’ Creed LARPers or for members of the Bergman Film Appreciation Society and Chess Club.

                    1. I like cloaks– make them out of that weather/rain resistant material– I would be happy and keep referring to it as my Snuggle. 😉

                    2. Did you know nerf guns are teh awesome to ambush your just-adult sons who are studying for serious tests. Their expressions are priceless. (Hey. I might never have grandkids. Revenge begins now!)

              1. The AR fans have a sticker that resembles the profile of an AR15 bolt from the front. No one recognizes it but gun nuts. Quite amusing.

                1. I have it on good authority it came out of the M16 crowd first. And yes, it’s amusing, right up until I don’t check the shirt stack for work-appropriate before heading groggily into an early meeting, and then having to figure out why some of my subordinates were unusually awake and amused, and staring at my chest.

                  Ah, well, it had a positive outcome: some very reserved and curmudgeonly subordinates suddenly opened up and spoke more than three words a day in my presence. “Hey, boss, we got a problem over here. Well, we did, I fixed it. Anyway, I heard so and so say – you reload? Do you know where I can find some…”

                    1. Actually, it was odd-caliber brass, but yes, that’s come up. Mention .22 Jet as a pun on airplanes once, and people start assuming things…

        2. Jayne. Nice toys, less hassle. Who cares if it’s normal. 🙂

          My daydream was always not to be normal, rather to be the respected eccentric. Perhaps somebody like Sherlock Holmes – weird type, but knows his craft well enough that he can name his price. Wouldn’t have needed to be anything major for me, just, I don’t know, perhaps something like being able to see a bit ahead in the fashion trends or something, having something, anything, which would be seen as valuable trading commodity by the more normal types, valuable enough that most would not care to piss you off in case they might find themselves needing your services.

          Er, maybe that’s just the dream of having your cake and eating it too. Being openly Odd but being accepted or at least not openly rejected at the same time. And yes, in day to day life I pretend, or at the very least keep quiet, most of the time. It’s just a lot easier since I don’t have the necessary trade goods for playing the valuable eccentric.

          1. It’s a universal dream, at the heart of things like the gay marriage movement. “I want to be me and accepted.” For some Oddities it can work, for others no so much.

            1. Yes. I have always thought the best bet would be having that valuable skill. Oddities are more easily accepted if they are tied to something normals need, and know damn well they need, and their Odd is the only one who can give it, or one of the best. Shamans have always been pretty damn odd. Or if not a case where the oddity itself is valuable, then the Odds who have some normal skill which is will do best. If the best tracker or the old woman who knows all the best berry batches in the whole territory of the tribe is a trifle odd, or even completely weird as long as that weirdness is not something potentially dangerous, they will probably not be picked on that much, or if somebody tries they will be defended. But if the guy who can neither hunt nor gather well and has not even learned how to make fire is the Odd one he may end up as feeling rather miserable. Or, worst case, if he has no close family looking after him, even dead.

              But for that to work the skill would probably need to be something which already is valued. If the Odd figures out a wheel at a time when there is no need for those nobody is going to care (unless he starts making toys and his wheeled animal figures catch on with the tribe’s children, maybe).

              1. The Incas had wheeled toys for centuries, but no practical use.

                Of course, the Incas lived on mountains and had incredibly narrow roads in most places, so maybe that’s why.

                1. That and llamas don’t make good traction animals. They can carry packs, but they don’t pull well. Turns out, there’s not really any animal native to the Americas (post-Pleistocene) that makes a good cart animal. Even travois dogs can’t carry that much.

                2. They also had steps on their roads. Turns out that llamas can handle steps, though horses can’t. Ah, how apparent benefits turn out to be limits.

        3. ” Is it “normal” to resolve disagreements as Jayne would…?”

          Don’t know if it’s normal, but it’s certainly honest. Which is one of the two highest compliments I can think of.

        4. I’m partial to Cap’n Mal myself. Steps on board, assesses the situation in a split second, draws, fires, and drills the bad guy through the forehead. Or his attempt to negotiate a deal with another violent character: “I’ll return the money and we call it quits.” When the BG starts expounding on all the hurt he was going to visit on the Captain and his crew all it took was the toe of a boot to introduce him to the engine intake.
          And my favorite: “no more running. I aim to misbehave!”

          1. *Or his attempt to negotiate a deal with another violent character: Ill return the money and we call it quits. When the BG starts expounding on all the hurt he was going to visit on the Captain and his crew all it took was the toe of a boot to introduce him to the engine intake.* * * And then he starts the exact same spiel with the next bad guy in line, and the bad guy says, “Right, return the money and we’re even. Whatever you say.”

            I think my favorite exchange is in the same episode, though, when the sheriff tells him something like, “I know times are hard, and a man might take a job without looking at it too closely. But when he finds out the truth, well, then a man’s got a choice.”

            And Mal says, “No, I don’t rightly thing he does.”

            On Wed, Apr 17, 2013 at 1:50 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

            > ** > Uncle Lar commented: “I’m partial to Cap’n Mal myself. Steps on board, > assesses the situation in a split second, draws, fires, and drills the bad > guy through the forehead. Or his attempt to negotiate a deal with another > violent character: “I’ll return the money and we call it ” >

          2. [standing over his wounded opponent, refusing to kill him]
            Mal: You know, they say mercy is the mark of a great man.
            [stabs the man]
            Mal: Guess I’m just a good man.
            [stabs him again]
            Mal: Well, I’m all right.

            1. I loved the much later followup when Mal and Wash were captured and being interrogated. After escaping and fighting with the crime boss… Mal hanging by his fingertips. Zoe, when asked if they should help Mal, makes a comment that the captain feels a need to take care of things himself. Mal looks up “No he doesn’t”

        5. The thing is, nobody is “normal.” Normal is a statistical construct, an illusion, a lie.

          Aw, why are you picking on Norm like that? He just wants to get along. (Runs)

        6. Suddenly the engineer in me wants to say “well then what we need to do is write a good common interface spec.”

    2. I have found I talk at times too much. People might not care yet wont just leave. So how else am I supposed to find out you have no interest in so and so?

      1. Look at the eyes. One of my fellow authors is the only person to be so awful that way that I considered feigning death. When I left, he followed. The only other time almost as bad was Kate Paulk and my son were talking physics/metaphysics and the restaurant JUST wouldn’t bring us the bill. They didn’t stop long enough for us to tell them to stop, and hitting them on the head in public was over the top.

        1. What, you never excused yourself to the bathroom and hunted down the waiter before? That’s just me?

          …sigh. Okay.

                  1. I have been known to remember all sorts of things about a person and their family, but still not be able to remember their name. I find myself chatting along. I ask how the soccer playing child is progressing and whether the latest swim meet went well for another. The whole time I hope like anything that someone else will join and call the person by name. 😦

                    1. *snort– you must be a long-lost sibling– I can’t believe there are two of us out there. I can remember so many other things except that one important bit–

              1. 🙂 The more I get to know you the gladder I am that Sarah put us working together in the great mammoth/mastodon party.

                  1. I think you denied it and then promptly did your best to forget about it, as it was kitchen duty. 😉

                    1. So true– you got me… I used to be the cook and bottle washer for eleven people and friends (every one brought a friend so the dinners would double in size). It gets tiring after awhile. 😉

            1. Apropos of almost nothing at all, that reminds me of the time, when my eldest granddaughter was — maybe — two, and we took her to a buffet restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. After everybody had eaten and was sitting around filling in the cracks, she stood up on a chair and demanded “Gimme kiss!”

              She’s — like — ten, now, and would be mortified if that story was told on her.


              1. LOL. Well, when I stood and waved, I was 24, married, and we’d been waiting for our bill for an hour while being POINTEDLY ignored. I presume this was our accent, since we were in the South of Portugal. My ploy worked, but unless mom has forgotten, I haven’t been FORGIVEN yet.

                1. Oddly, for some people (a category commonly known as “mothers”) it is a greater breach of decorum to point out the rudeness of others.

                  It makes no sense, but then, neither does being a mother, so there you go …

                  1. It is rude to point out the rudeness of others.

                    Now, finding the right point to confront them about it, that’s the role I’ve been filing….

    3. You may not bring up some topics that you may feel comfortable discussing with your family, or with your science-fiction or gamer friends. That said, you’re not making yourself somebody else, either.

      You may have noticed I have a rather eclectic range of interests.

      Do I feel compelled to discuss everything with every group with which I gather? No. Do I assiduously avoid any subject? I guess that is best answered by the nature of the subject and my knowledge of the particular people around me.

      I try to think of the comfort of others. Do I think of this as acting normal? Maybe, but I am not sure about that, it doesn’t seem average behavior. Um? I have been in a car for hours with two WOW players who got started … no, I don’t play WOW. Lest you say that is gamers, there was a time where I feared The Thursday Night Knitters was going to entirely morph into a Survivors fan club that happened to do things with yarn … no, I didn’t watch the show. 😉

      1. I try to think of the comfort of others. Do I think of this as acting normal? Maybe, but I am not sure about that, it doesn’t seem average behavior.

        Good manners are seldom common.

        My husband and I have gotten going on geeky subjects, but if there’s someone who doesn’t know it we try to explain it. TrueBlue is really good at explaining storylines so they’re interesting and fun. (Back when WoW had those, and a sense of humor.)

  3. How badly I desired to be “normal” back when I was in school…. I thought that if I was not obviously different, then I would somehow be accepted. Alas, that is not actually the basis on which acceptance is given. Just knowing the nuts and bolts of how status is actually gained would have been more useful to me– if, that is, I ever truly cared. (Whatever vision I was chasing was always far more interesting than the tedium of investing in social capital. It also got a far better return for my time.)

    1. Yeah, I can’t think of a time when I wanted to be “normal”. Maybe I’ve just forgotten.

    2. I figured out in high school that I probably ought to be “normal”, for some loose value of normal, but it wasn’t worth being too rigorous about it. Worked out pretty well, all things considered.

  4. You know, this explains what happened the summer between 6th and 7th grade. In the course of three months everyone else in my class went from normal (to me) kids to being teenagers and left me behind. Not physically (in some ways I was about nine months ahead of the other girls), but I was reading Azimov and watching Voltron and Doctor Who while the others were being “cool” and “in.” It was as if I’d missed the memo and never could catch up. Looking back, I suspect because I didn’t watch TV or listen to pop music (wasn’t allowed), in a very real sense I did miss the message.

    I was reading golden age sci-fi and later stuff (McCaffrey), along with hard-science and history books, and my normal fell away from the group normal. I learned to pass with adults but never could blend in with my “peers,” until I found a batch of other Odds several years later.

  5. “please don’t tell me where I’m going after death because of what I write. I am doing the best I can, and I think He’s far more understanding and encompassing than that.”

    I really wonder sometimes if we will make our own heaven or hell by the way we are remembered when we’re gone…

    1. Some doctrines believe you don’t go either way till all the repercussions of what you did on Earth play themselves out. Don’t get me started. I think He understands we’re human and fallible and what we do is not always what we mean.

    1. And somebody will complain if what I’m posting is different from the EARC. [Wink]

      ::Heading off to find out how different the EARC is::

    2. Announcement of a new book of Sarah’s being available for purchase, either for oneself or as a gift for friends is NEVER off topic here.

    3. For the edification of anyone here not (yet) a Baen barfly, an eARC or electronic Advanced Reader Copy is a clever plot cooked up by Jim Baen may he RIP to squeeze extra cash from a devoted readership by offering the unedited final author submissions of a few of Baen’s favorite writers months before the official release date. For example, Noah’s Boy is set for official release in July, but those desperate for a quick fix can get it today at the web site through their Webscriptions service. eARC price is $15 same as the hardcover, just three months sooner. eARC does NOT entitle one to a copy of the final e-book. A much better bet for those who can stand to wait is to purchase the entire July Baen e-book release, six books in total I believe, for the princely sum of $18. Only catch is you must purchase by the 15th of the month prior to release.

      I will now return the hat I swiped from Toni when she wasn’t looking.

        1. I’ve seen worse sites. As for buying eARCs being “worth it”. For lots of us, it’s worth it to get the book earlier. [Smile]

        2. The bar isn’t that complex, just confusing to some at times, if you can follow these threads you should be fine at the Bar. Oh, and the authors have some say on the rules at their individual forums. And the new Bar even seems to work. 😉

  6. But I am normal! Ok, Sarah, I’ll wait until you finished laughing to explain. I have made peace with who I am, with my personality, my faults, and my quirks. Lying to others well always starts with lying to yourself, and the mask you wear is the one fitted to your fears of how the world would react (often not the same as the reality). When I started being honest with myself, I found it easier to be honest with others instead of trying to pretend based on my fear of their potential thoughts. Because I am not trying to pretend I’m someone I’m not, I feel utterly normal.

    Now, my pre World War 2 airplane may have fuzzy dice that are 20 sided hanging from the door post, and I may be inclined to rant about how ecstasy ruined the goth scene, but in my head, I’m normal. Although I do tone down for politeness and for work ), people rarely try react to me as abnormal. A little weird, a little strange, little fun, and basically a harmless neighbor, that’s me. Part of the normal neighborhood.

  7. My experience is that children care a LOT more about being normal than adults, especially adults in their 2nd half-century. However, children are the most susceptible to media and popular culture and will generally strive to adapt to that definition of normal.

    1. Children don’t have a data base for normal and are desperate to fit in — in to the expectations of their parents, their families, their playmates, their school. Old folks have been through multiple societal redefinitions of normal in a variety of modes. Their memories extend from a time when sitcoms were centered around a loving family to becoming focused on young unmarrieds entering adulthood.

      A basic aspect of this is expressed in The Big Bang Theory in Penny’s observation, “In your circle, you’re the cool guys.” Part of moving from child to adult is the process of finding what our personal normal is and finding ways to fit that into the broader society.

  8. Looking back, I suspect because I didn’t watch TV or listen to pop music (wasn’t allowed), in a very real sense I did miss the message.

    I wonder how much harder we’re making my daughter’s life because we don’t watch TV or listen to commercial music radio. It’s not a matter of “not allowing” her–she’s too young to ask, and neither of us do it.

    1. I think you might also in a way make her life easier. Depends on personality. Older boy just achieved, at 18 or so what most of us don’t get till, like Bret said, their second half century (okay, I got it around 40.) Younger boy SUFFERED a lot, but now has learned to negotiate.

      Our kids grew up without TV because we don’t watch much of it. They also had computers from age 3. (At the time Dan worked for MCI and they were upgrading, so they let employees buy computers at a huge knockoff. It avoided their paying the recycling fees. I think year old computers cost us around 100 then…)

    2. I’d say it depends on her personality. If she’s an introvert like I was (over-weight, physically awkward, glasses, braces on the teeth, couldn’t wear trendy clothes because of coloring and body shape), a little exposure to some pop culture might not be bad, at least so she’ll know what bands are cool and the general gist of TV and ‘Net stuff. If she’s an extrovert, she’ll pick up the social aspects on her own, I wager. And being in extracurricular activities can make a difference.

    3. In the short run you are depriving her of the ability to bond with others over shared TV shows — My Little Pony, Care Bears, Pokemon, Barbie’s Dreamhouse, etc.

      In the long run you are giving her the opportunity to grow up with values and opinions free of the ephemeral diktats of mercantilist culture.

      Of course, she won’t have any friends …

      “What is a friend who’d want you to fall?”

      1. Gram Parsons had such issues with his family, he cut out the lines about abandoning or being abandoned by ones FAMILY because they object to the new faith.

  9. When I was a kid everybody was all “do your own thing.” Funny how much alike everybody’s thing looked. But I took it to heart. Now, I’m still doing my own thing — pretty much the same as it was back then — and people I knew back when (or would have known if I’d known them back then, if you can follow that) find me — what’s that phrase? — loose and hard to swallow.

    To which I say, “Tough. Get over it.”

    I define “normal” and it doesn’t look a BIT like the consensus reality. I think post-modernism is witless and the post-modernists are idiots. Sheep.

    Because f*ck you is why. I’m like a butterfly or a pretty girl — I don’t need no excuse.

    I like to think that makes me a better neighbor than the metrosexual who wants to run your life for you.


  10. I had a different problem– I could fit in with the normal kids at first (until I reached puberty and then I just didn’t hear the music like very one else), but I was not interested. When I got past the awkward teenager stage, I found that because I looked a certain way, had certain ideas, and did certain things that the folks around me thought I was liberal. When they found out that I wasn’t, certain people (usually women) felt betrayed.

    I went through the –break down phase (I was told to discard out-dated beliefs about abortion and other subjects), the conversion phase (I was told you would do really well in our movement), the bribery phase (look what you can get), and then the shunning phase (she is not one of us– though I found it funny that they had to tell each other). When I went to get my degree in my late 30s, and realized how liberal English Literature professors were, I just kept my mouth shut and wrote. Of course my beliefs came out in my writings– but because of my ability to organize ideas and make them coherent, they tried, but couldn’t ding me on the papers (I might get an A- instead of an A+. but since we were on a 4 point grade scale, it didn’t change my grades. A is an A) 😉

    What I am getting too– in this long-winded explanation is that I looked like a duck (liberal), I quacked like a duck, but I wasn’t a duck. And so the ducks felt really betrayed when they found out I was really a swan. I didn’t believe in masks then either and portrayed myself as best I could. I think that there was a lot of self-betrayal involved– like if we can convert her, she would make a great person on our team.

    1. Also this strange progressive/liberal/marxist group (or whatever) has a strong ability for self-deception. They think that to be a conservative (or a Constitutionalist) you need to be a right-wing, gun-nut, religious-nut, white patriarchal male. 😉

        1. Uh no, we should be proud— I am a right-wing, gun-nut, not so religious (I feel down on that one), white female (oops wrong gender) 😉

  11. I grew up in a small town in Ohio. I don’t think that I was considered “normal,” perhaps weird would be more accurate. I wanted to be an engineer and build space ships. I read every book of science fiction in the town’s small library. Fortunately paperbacks were 35 cents in those days. Unfortunately 35 cents was a lot of money then. When I was still in grade school I decided to go to the 7th + grade section, and when I took the books to be checked out the Librarian looked at me and said, “You know these books don’t have pictures in them.” I replied slightly irritated, ” I know.”
    So I was weird.

    1. I suspect a lot of us read our start on sci-fi by that age. I got Orphans of the Sky from the public library the year I started 4th grade. Then I picked up a really wierd novel from the next shelf over called The Haephestus Plague. I lose track after that, bit I was smart enough to prefer Heinlein.

      1. Yep, 5th grade, went upstairs to the ‘adult’ section of the library, since that’s where the science fiction was. Picked out Dune (because the movie was on tv once), The Earth Book of Storm Gate (because the name was cool), Gateway (because of the cover art), and The Number of the Beast (again, the name). Nevereven knew the Heinlein juveniles existed till i was 20, because they were in the childrens fiction section, and I only borrowed nonfiction, there.

      2. I raided my parents bookshelves and carted off Witchworld, a couple of Azimov books, the Pern novels, Dune, and some westerns that my father quickly retrieved. And military histories (ah, Bantam pocket books!) I’d already read a bunch of Clark, including Childhood’s End. Never could understand (as a 4th grader) why that book creeped out my elementary school principal. 🙂

        1. I read the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum when I was eight and home with the flu for a week. I then read the rest of them, but don’t remember much. By ten I was reading translated to modern English Shakespeare. I was also reading biographies. I didn’t get into sci-fi until my parents were given the library that belonged to a pastor (one of my mother’s aunt and husband were the housekeeper and gardener and were given the books when he died). He had 2nd and 1st editions of several books Edgar Rice Burroughs, Asimov, and Heinlein, plus classics like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. That was from 12-18. Unfortunately my parents went on a “books are evil” kick after what one of the GA (General Authorities) said and they got rid of all their books that weren’t written by members of the church.

          What brought me through an interesting (and terrible) childhood and teenhood were the books. Also the library had a small bus that contained books that we could borrow. I found fantasy on the bus– (Witch World-Andre Norton).

          1. I want to mention that my mother had been in several plays as a teenager and young adult. I read all of her screenplays and then went back to Shakespeare w/o the modified modern English. The modern English lost a lot in the translation. (I was also ten at the time). Comparing the translation to the real thing. lol

            I didn’t get all the jokes though until I took a Shakespeare class with a professor who taught on a military base. Now that was fun.

  12. I like this post Sarah, and I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. Of course this isn’t a point that only applies now..

    Forcing every German child into a Hitler Jugend group was a tactic used with massive success by the Nazi government. Once every person in a given age group has been taught that something is normal it is, at least for that society.

    That’s what scares me about our current situation here in the US. Does fiction writing/reporting play a role in determining what is normal? Sure. But do you know what plays an even bigger role? Textbooks. And unlike Isaac Asimov, most SF authors don’t write them.

    If we really want to take this country back we need to focus our efforts on the public school system. Children in the US are being taught that it is the governments job to provide services in exchange for taxes and that people with money should have it taken from them. Don’t mistake what I’m saying. What you’re proposing is a Good Thing. It just doesn’t go far enough.

    1. The textbooks are a huge problem. I’ve been reading some of my kid’s 8th-grade textbooks and the only thing more pervasive than factual inaccuracies is the deep philosophical bias. Unfortunately, textbooks seem to actually be written by committee according to standards that guarantee political correctness will win over academic integrity.

    2. “Greenhouse effect.” If that hadn’t been in grade school textbooks since the dawn of the Space Age would anyone take the global warming talk seriously today?

  13. Slightly OT: Back a few years ago, our family was going through a rough time. Some well meaning folk gave us books to help us go through the situation, but they were really no help to me at all. What helped me was re-reading all the old Louisa May Alcott and L.M. Montgomery books that I could get my hands on. They helped me remember what “Normal” was supposed to look like.

    (Sure, an idealised “Normal”. But that probably helped me reach equilibrium faster.)

    1. Now there’s a whole new topic – I love all those old books, too, loved ’em as a kid, still love ’em as an adult. Of course, those are books that were trashed by THEM as old-fashioned and goodie-goodie and unrealistic.

      These are the people who put out award-winning books about teens cutting themselves or the dog dying or divorces (yes, there is a place for books like that, but it should be a small place, not the majority) and then cry about kids not reading anymore. (It’s getting so a book that wins an award goes on my “do not read” list.)

      1. For an interesting* experience, try reading the generational iterations of the Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew books. These have been in print continuously for almost a hundred years now, rewritten regularly to keep them “fresh” and “available” for each generation.

        Pay particular attention to the values and behaviours being modeled, and how they morph over time.

        *Interesting being here employed as a euphemism for depressing.

        1. Yes, I was so disappointed. I bought a new Hardy Boys (#1) and the writing isn’t as good as the ones I read in the ’60s (and some of them were used books from the ’40s that I bought at the used book store.) The Hardy boys aren’t as three dimensional, Fenton is cardboard, and Aunt Gertrude isn’t a “maiden” aunt type. The mystery was also shallow, and ended with a writer’s trick not a real denouement.
          When I get grand sons, I’ll have to buy him used books from my generation, in addition to the Heinlein juveniles to make him like reading.

          1. Just fyi, Baen has most all of the early to middle years Heinleins as electronic e-books, most at $6 a pop.
            They also have free teacher reading guides for 2011 and 2012 for a number of their releases including Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones and The Star Beast.

        2. I can’t find a reference to it on line, but I’m sure there was a Hardy Boys novel way back there in which there was a Ku Klux Klan like hooded vigilante organization and it turned out… all the members were black.

            1. I read all of the original 50 hardy Boys books when I was in grade school, and I don’t remember that plot. I’m not as conversant with Nancy Drew (have read about 5 of them) so your ref is probably correct.
              OBTW, I should have said ” to show the fun of reading” not “Make him like reading”.

  14. I grew up without television, and while it did make some cultural references opaque to me, eventually I saw the *good* stuff and completely missed out on the bad. I don’t think it harmed me, quite the contrary. I can look up things on the internet now, and I spent my free time READING.

    What seemed to infuriate my peers was not my TV ignorance, but that I didn’t *care* about it. It discombobulated their world view (and not just my peers– my mother recounted a teacher took her aside to share her concern that I was “missing out on world events” by not having TV in the house. Of course, same teacher complained that I was learning about scary things by listening to NPR (before it went commie) so there was no pleasing her.)

    Maybe what we need are Helpful Hints for Odds in Social Situations. Tricks on how to turn the topic of conversation adroitly, or strategic use of the counter-question when asked an awkward question that would start a war if you answered honestly. (e.g. “why won’t people just accept global warming as fact? All these scientists say it’s real” gets “Wouldn’t it be really effective if Al Gore showed by example how to live a low-carbon lifestyle? Yeah, I know he buys carbon offsets but he’s so rich, what about ordinary people like us?”)

    1. You know, my MIL told us raising the kids without TV was “UnAmerican” so I consulted Mrs. Heinlein. She said “I wish all mothers carried as much about their children’s minds as you do.” Not an answer, but it gave me permission… 😉

      1. I haven’t actually had a television in at least five years. My grammar school-aged boys read Kipling and Tolkien and run amok in the yard with boffers, hypothetical future daughters will likely do the same, and we couldn’t be happier with the situation.

      2. Oh, I hope Mrs. Heinlein wished mothers “cared about” and not “carried on about” their children’s minds. 😉

          1. You say that like you didn’t have anything to do with them being that way… (runs)

    2. There was a TV in the house when I grew up, but it got two channels, and I never watched it. My mom actually tried to get me to watch cartoons before I started reading heavily, but I hated cartoons. When they used to have boxing matches on regular tv on Sunday afternoons I would watch them with dad, or sometimes Monday night football. Otherwise dad was the only one that ever watched it, and he had one or two shows that he would watch every week, the rest of the time it was never turned on. I don’t have a TV now, or rather I do, but I don’t have tv, just a VCR/DVD player; and it will go months at a time without being turned on.

    3. As a preschooler Daughter did choose to watch Captain Planet. Aside from content problems, she found them rather dreadfully made, which is often the case material with high polemic content. We did watch Danger Mouse and a bunch of nifty educations series that PBS broadcast during the school day. I fondly recall one series centered on Chief Justice John Marshall and the landmark cases which shaped the Supreme Court – such as Marbury vs Madison.

      Years later: In The Daughter’s fourth grade class the students kept journals, writing on an assigned subjects each day. I discovered this when the lead teacher approached me after school on January 8th to inform me that The Daughter lacked certain important shared cultural knowledge. This was lack considered a grave failure on our part. She knew next to nothing about Elvis, which was, of course(?), the subject for the day. The teacher told me that she had let The Daughter write about Kurt Weill instead. 😉

      Anyway, this brings us back to the subject of normal. Is it normal to prefer Weill or have a favorite opera (The Magic Flute) as a preschooler? No. Should we have tried to make The Daughter more normal. Many suggested it, but I doubt it would have worked. What we did do is try and teach her how to be polite in public.

      There are ever so many reasons that I am glad we choose to home educate in the middle of sixth grade. (Picture the difference between breaking a horse and training a horse.)

      If you aren’t familiar, this is the song and performance that lead The Daughter, as a preschooler, to enduring Weill fandom (she didn’t never did develop a taste for pop music, boy bands, etc…):

      1. …didn’t choose to watch…

        Can’t blame lack of caffine, but rather my own fault for over editing without anyone to check it afterwards. I wonder what else went wrong?

      2. well… I knew about the journal thing because they tried to get us to put the kids in counseling for this sort of thing. (I can’t remember the specific incident, but Robert read A Canticle for Leibowitz at 9 or so and wrote about it, and it was considered double plus ungood.) After we learned that the journals were monitored this way, both kids started writing about the things EXPECTED of their age. I’m still rather proud that Marshall memorized characters and settings for whatever the stupid show was that was “got to catch them all” so he could pretend to watch TV 😉
        When I read Witchweek later, I thought how odd our NORMAL schools did what a bad school for at risk kids did in the novel.

        1. Marshall had to pretend to have watched Pokemon? Oh, I am so sorry.

          Sometimes I forget how good our system was, for all of its faults.

            1. Getting back to the topic of being normal, every normal boy wishes to put one over on his teacher.

              So, is this a sign you are failing or succeeding as a mother? 🙂

  15. I eat my peas with honey
    I’ve done it all my life
    It makes the peas taste funny
    But it keeps them on the knife.
    Ogden Nash

    As for the whole gay rights thing, I can’t help but keep flashing on a cartoon I saw many years ago, British I believe. Image of a very fey gentleman with the caption:
    First it was a felony
    Then a misdemeanor
    Then it was frowned upon
    Now accepted
    But we’re not stopping until it becomes mandatory

    But that sums up the attitude of most militant minority activists now doesn’t it.

    1. Isn’t that a verse from “It aint’a gonna rain no more, no more?” My grandfather sang that song a lot and especially liked that verse. 😉

  16. I remember recognizing that I was an “ODD” when I was about 12, and brought a water moccasin I’d caught on the way to school to my science teacher. This was 1958-59, in a rural school, so it wasn’t that big a deal then. After that, I got called to ‘take care of’ any snake that happened to wander in. I spent part of the time wanting to fit in, and part of the time not caring, and swung back and forth between the two. The only time I feel really, really comfortable is when I’m among my “peers” — other ODDs. I don’t even feel comfortable among my relatives, and ours has always been a close family. Part of it is because I’ve seen almost a third of this planet “up close and personal”, and most of them have never lived anywhere else than where they do now, but a large part of it is that I grew up differently, even when I was in the same place. Luckily for me, I’m very good at camouflage, and even when I don’t blend in, I can see that I’m overlooked.

  17. If I were normal, perhaps I would have to discard the plot seed of ‘Ayers was behind the Boston bombings’ as soon as it came to me. Or maybe I wouldn’t have had it at all.

      1. My (admittedly young) intuition says that if it were politically motivated, right or left, there’d have been a manifesto of some sort by now. Why blow something up to advance a cause, and then remain mum about the cause? And it seems to me the domestic political terrorists the US tends to turn out (McVeigh, Ayers, etc) like to make a political statement with the target, rather than going after large amounts of random civilians at sporting events.

        1. I suspect that whoever did it left a manifesto somewhere where it has so far been unnoticed. I mean, what good’s a YouTube video if nobody watches it, or a manifesto that you leave on your desk at home or where somebody tosses it?

          Alternatively, the manifesto has been found and suppressed by investigators for suspect-getting purposes.

        2. Well, AlQ has been known to wait a while before releasing claims of credit. And if it was an independent jihadi, one of the kind who downloaded “Inspire” or picked up copies of the print editions, he (or she) might not make a public claim. *shrugs*

        3. My version of Ayers has him becoming disenchanted with politics and realizing that his true love is murder. That was last term. With old age knocking, he feels that this term provides a window of opportunity for many attacks, as long as he isn’t sloppy and provides plausible deniability.

          This is what happens when I try to make sense of a thing and only have enough information for nonsense.

      2. It doesn’t help that the bomb they were setting up for the dance had similar builds to it.

        I’d rather it’s radical lefties than lone loony, myself; it’s easier to stop a gunman than a bomber.

    1. Contrary to rumours, the Obama Administration is not calling for mandatory background checks as a prerequisite for the purchase of pressure cookers, ball bearings, BBs, backpacks and nails.

      People will be able to buy nails, although special license may be required for quantities greater than six at one time, and large capacity nail-gun magazines will be banned (with restrictions on the purchase of semi-automatic nail-guns, as well.)

  18. *pant, pant* Too… much… homework… can’t… keep up… with the comments…

    My personal theory re: “normal”, since, oh, at least high school, has been that it’s an illusion. I’ll do my thing, and whether and where it does or doesn’t match up with someone else’s idea of “normal” is something they can worry about, not me.

  19. I don’t think I ever had much idea what it might be like to be “normal”. My Father was a professor of the History of Science and Technology. He was also politically “Conservative”, which is to say that he was an 18th Century Liberal – makes perfect sense, since that was his period of expertise. My Mother had been raise Quaker, but had no patience for the “Friends” who opposed the Vietnam War; her generation had served in (mostly more dangerous) non-combatant jobs. She had studies acting at RADA, and been an actress in rep theatre in the 1950’s. We didn’t have a TV in the house until I was 13, and then I wasn’t exactly encouraged to watch during “Prime Time”. I got caught up in very few “shows that everybody watches”, and then dropped out entirely about the time the season-long story arcs started (circa X-Files … which made me giggle).

    I think the real reason I had no driving desire to be “normal” was Father; he didn’t go along with the Liberal tide in Academia, but they were too scared of his scorn to try to gang up on him. It took me quite a while to realize that that strategy simply wasn’t going to work for me.

    1. Me like.

      Of course, I have sipped deeply from the cup of English Folk, as well as the Celtic, Cajun, Zydeco, Norteno, Klezmer Quebecois and other styles as has been possible.

      All of which fall well into the category of music guaranteed to make people give you a wide berth. The pablum of Pop rapidly makes me annoyed.

    2. One of the things that most annoys me about “multi-culturalism” is the way it strips cultures to their most superficial components. Their idea of of culture is as deep as a shopping mall food court, with a Mr. Dunderbak, a Takee-Outee and a Taco Bell.

      By treating all cultures “equally” what they do is render all cultures meaningless.

        1. Yes. And in ALL cases they buy other cultures’ propaganda, but come up with bizarrely convoluted “explanations” for why we’re really evil. I’m all out of patience with them.

          1. Give them their due, there is some right non their side: any culture that would allow trash like them into positions of authority and power probably is evil and might ought be eliminated, although I think a radical lumpectomy (removing the radical lumps) might be sufficient.

            Although there is a sparkle of hope for the proposed chemotherapy (medical marijuana.)

            1. Well, Neil Gaiman’s wife just made a poem in honor of the captured terrorist.

              This is my field. G-d help us, this is the safe thing to do for anyone even marginally connected to my field or entertainment (she’s a singer.) It’s unbelievable. It’s…

              And these aren’t bad people. They’ve been taught to believe this stuff though…

              Not even Europe is this screwed up.

                  1. No, no, it’s good! C-section is scheduled for the 24th, and I’d really rather make it until then… even if I feel like I need that music from the Battleship Potempkin when I walk around the house…..

                    1. The wife should have had a C-section on the first, but they expected him to be two pounds smaller than he was (10lbs, 11oz), and she wasn’t made for that.

                    2. I don’t think I’ll ever manage to forget the feeling when they gave me that drug that is supposed to hurry up the labor and our eldest’s heart rate went through the roof, then dropped to something like 40 bpm. Thank God for well designed hospitals, and fetal heartbeat monitors.

              1. I still have hope. Apparently somebody abducted Bill Maher and substituted this Life Model Decoy* of him:

                Bill Maher Slams Guest Claiming All Religions Are Equally Violent: “That’s Liberal Bull****”
                Sun, April 21, 2013 NewsBusters Dateline:America
                Maher: “there’s only one faith, for example, that kills you or wants to kill you if you draw a bad cartoon of the prophet. There’s only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith. An ex-Muslim is a very dangerous thing. Talk to Salman Rushdie after the show about Christian versus Islam. So, you know, I’m just saying, let’s keep it real.”

                *Comics geek reference, type: Marvel

                1. Sigh. I am no connoisseur of poetry, but that poem seemed as bad as the sentiment it expressed. It read like the sort of twaddle penned by adolescent girls on their FB pages.

                  She might have done well to have expressed some empathy for Martin Richard, or (at least) his family and friends and schoolmates. She could have acknowledged the boom in prosthetic purchases that is under way in Boston, or for the terror felt by families in lock-down last Friday, the working mother on a business trip to New York, wondering what she will find when flights to Boston restart, or the husband & father having to sit at his office, connecting with wife and kids by phone and praying there will be no earth-shattering ka-boom just before the connection is lost.

                  She could have done a lot of better things with that poem than draw attention to herself and her empathy with the killer rather than the killed. As the saying goes, sometimes it is a good idea to just STFU.

                  I note Gaiman has a signing in Cambridge in June. I trust people will not push him to defend his wife’s poem; sometimes the only thing for decent people to do is avert their gaze.

                  1. Yes. It’s a horrible poem. But at which point DOES one need to name and shame? I don’t want to start WWIII in my field. I truly don’t. But I don’t remember EVER being this angry. EVER.

                    1. Name and shame won’t achieve anything worthwhile. Such people as she (having glanced through the comments from adoring adolescents and her comments in response) will only take such criticism as proof of their moral superiority, dismissing the critics as haters.

                      Her inability to grasp how she is insulting America by implying the Tsarnaev Bros. haven’t perpetrated an act of great evil, that anything could possibly justify their wanton assault, and that the American people are quivering in our blocks just waiting an opportunity to lynch the stupid git also renders her incapable of the moral imagination required to apprehend how banal her effort is and of appreciating her critics’ arguments.

                      Does anyone think she would be so empathetic for a tea partier perp of so heinous an act? Some people are too morally obtuse to comprehend criticism, so the most appropriate thing to do about this “poem” is ignore her, now and forever. Anything else allows her to polish her moral armor with the self-pitying “victim” rag of the bullied.

                      She has demonstrated herself an attention-seeking child and should be dealt with as such.

                    2. I understand where you’re coming from, RES, but there is a lot of evidence that part of our problem of having gotten where we are is that for too long, we have done exactly that, instead of getting up and demanding retractions.

                    3. To be clear, I deplore the asininity of the emotion expressed, but differ on the appropriate response. To “name and shame” requires the target to hold you in at least some esteem; such as Ms Palmer would merely find their bigotry against conservatives justified by a “name and shame” effort.

                      To address the matter properly requires hitting her where she lives: by mocking the poetry as banal tripe of the sort produced by soppy seventh-grade girls and by calling her out on her racism. For racism it is, exaltation of “the other” for actions that would repulse her if done by a white male.

                      Frankly, I doubt you can shame a woman who sought to exploit her fans by leveraging her celebrity to get free labor on a recent tour. You can only make her pose as a person of character untenable.

                    4. When faced with an attempted mass-murderer that killed a child, maimed his sister and mother, killed a few more and maimed dozens, she decides to empathize with the one that killed a sweet little kid and gutted dozens of families– literally, in some cases.

                      That’s beyond what’s allowable in polite company.

                    5. The most apt expression of how I feel about this was captured by William Daniels’ marvelous line reading of the single word which concludes this quote:

                      John Adams: Good GOD! A whole week! The entire earth was created in a week!
                      [Jefferson turns to face him]
                      Thomas Jefferson: Someday, you must tell me how you did it.
                      John Adams: Disgusting.

                    6. THIS is what worries me — And I mean literally. For far less than this, they scream, and fling poo. NO ONE on this side would even dare defend oh, the Koch brothers (sweet Libertarian bachelors, a friend who worked for them tells me) because the entire left side goes nuts, screams and flings poo until all you see is the poo.
                      But they do this, and they’re UNAWARE they’re even crossing lines or disgusting anyone. Truly, they are unaware.
                      At which point does it become our duty to say “Stop, the bridge is out, and you’re headed for the abyss” or “Stop, what you’re doing is morally reprehensible and disgusting.” If no one does, why should they stop? How can they know if only one or two voices hesitatingly say “well, now” that they’re going beyond bounds?

                      Is it our duty to talk? I don’t know. I don’t want to start a war. I have novels to write. And they WILL scream and fling poo till you can’t SEE.

                      So should we shut up and do nothing? When does it become our duty to stand up and say “it’s your right to be an idiot, but you should KNOW you’re saying repulsive stuff”?

                      Are we in the territory of Heinlein’s analogy to training a dog? Do we just let it go on till you can’t salvage polite society?

                      I don’t know. All I know is that I’m VERY tired.

                    7. I recently unfriended a relative on Facebook because she chose to draw a line connecting terrorism in Boston with unsubstantiated claims of off-target airstrikes in Afghanistan… with an opening about “I know this will upset some of you, and I’m sorry.” BS.

                    8. By “I’m sorry” what she means is she is “sorry you are so hate-filled and morally retarded that you are incapable of joining in admiration of the moral wonderfulness that is me.”

                      But what it actually means is “I’m pathetic.”

                    9. I would suggest that the first thing we need to do is to “To place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.” 😉

                      I sincerely hope that a friend of mine does not bring up Ms. G’s bit next time I see her, but if she does I plan to follow Mr. Maher’s lead and call it what it is. (OMG, I never thought I would say this in my life, and in print, no less!)

                      Yeah, yeah, yeah: the kids were broken. Yeah, yeah, yeah; they had been sold a vicious evil lie. But they bought into it — when others in similar position did not. They perpetrated an act that is unjustifiable and unforgivable in a civilized society, they targeted civilians.

                      War is not the answer? A war has been openly declared against us. I think you have the wrong question, and you won’t win the $200 at Jeopardy.

                      Yeah, I’m mad, too. (I have been madder. I have been more disgusted. Think the public and press’s generally blind eye regarding Gosnell.) Regarding Boston the people and the press do understand, for the moment, that the action was wrong. We can identify the outliers by who is making the excuses for the inexcusable.

                      So, to me, the question is, how do we keep the outliers from taking over the conversation? (See the quote at the beginning… Remember Human Wave. Think Human Wave. Write Human Wave. Talk Human Wave.)

                    10. I am very tired too. I told some one who considered themselves a child care expert (with credentials and degrees) that training the dog training was more effective than child training therefore we should use dog training techniques so that children could know boundaries.–

                      Yep, poo flinging.

                  2. The point, too, is that both the UK and the US academic world have had _plenty_ of bombings, and so she ought to feel for the victims more than the perpetrator. But nooooo.

                  3. Oddly enough, I was just reading Orwell’s An Age Like This where he attributed the popularity of Housman for adolescent boys being due to his tendency to romantic depressingness — angst not being in use then.

                2. Yes, I saw at least one post on FB asking, “Who is this, and what have they done with Bill Maher?”

                  Maybe he’s growing a few brain cells? Well, miracles do occur…

                  1. Billy Boy is still dumb as a box of rocks, but he has from time to time included islam in his sermons from mount atheist. He can get wishy-washy when pressed about islam by muslims, but he will at least say things while they are not near by to attempt to decapitate.

    3. Aye. (Although, listening I couldn’t help but smile. Using essentially the same percussion pattern as Bride and Prejudice‘s A Marriage Has Come to Town?!? Well, exactly, roots, but whose?)

      Once we had been English. From 1776, scene 3:

      DICKINSON: … Now, Mr. Adams, are these the acts of Englishmen?

      JOHN: Not Englishmen, Dickinson — Americans!

      DICKINSON: (again pounding the desk): No, sir! Englishmen!!

      FRANKLIN: — (he’s been asleep, his chin on his chest; now an eye opens): Please, Mr, Dickinson — but must you start banging? How is a man to sleep?


      DICKINSON: Forgive me, Dr. Franklin, but must you start speaking? How is a man to stay awake?


      We’ll promise to be quiet, sir. I’m sure everyone prefers that you remain asleep.

      FRANKLIN: If I’m to hear myself called an Englishman, sir, then I assure you I’d prefer I’d remained asleep.

      DICKINSON: What’s so terrible about being called an Englishman? The English don’t seem to mind.

      FRANKLIN: Nor would I, were I given the full rights of an Englishman. But to call me one without those rights is like calling an ox a bull — he’s thankful for the honor but he’s much rather have restored what’s rightfully his.

      (Laughter, Franklin laughing the longest.)

      DICKINSON (finally): When did you first notice they were missing sir?


      Fortunately. Dr, Franklin, the people of these colonies maintain a higher regard for their mother country,

      FRANKLIN: Higher, certainly, than she feels for them. Never was such a valuable possession so stupidly and recklessly managed than this entire continent by the British Crown. Our industry discouraged, our resources pillaged — and worst of all — our very character stifled. We’ve spawned a new race here — rougher, simpler, more violent, more enterprising, and less refined. We’re a new nationality, Mr. Dickinson — we require a new nation.

      Sadly I think now we are putting the record of British Crown to shame regarding levels of mismanagement of a continent, and we are forgetting our own roots … so, I say Aye, Mr. Kratman.

      1. We’re still English, English in our language and our laws, English in our history, cuture, and sense of rights…and wrongs. English in our penchant for trade. English in ruling the seas in ways the Royal Navy at its height could only dream of. Why, even our Irish are English, much as they may hate to admit it; my grandmother, a nice Cavan girl, for example, held tea.

  20. “Maybe we simply are descended from very uncoordinated Neanderthals. They went extinct because it’s hard to hunt when tripping on your feet.”

    This comment is entirely tangential to the story but the Neandertals were every bit as smart as we were, they just got gene-swamped by incoming modern humans into Europe. Good post, otherwise.

    1. Hmpf! Nobody ever sympathizes with the fate of the very uncoordinated Cro-Magnons. They went extinct because it’s hard to make tools when mashing your thumbs.

  21. Yes! Everyone wants to be normal. That is why Saul Alinsky famously embraced ridicule as the most potent weapon to silence dissent. When Bill Maher recently featured Brian Levin, a professor at a state school in California, on his show Maher burst the bubble of moral equivalence between Islamic violence and Jewish/Christian intolerance. At that point the professor sputtered, “I have a girl for you: Pam Geller.” Maher rejoined that he had no idea what Levin was talking about, and Levin shot back, “She’s an Islamophobe.” The message was loud and clear: don’t read or listen to Pam Geller or you will be not “normal”. Same with the demonization of Sarah Palin and a score of other conservative voices.

    Until conservatives can find a way to fight back against being tagged as not normal they will not be able to reassertion themselves.

    I would add that peer pressure is especially keen in late adolescence, and that is why the leftist hegemony over the universities is so dangerous. It can take people years, if ever, to shake it off and think independently once again, and in the meantime they have given perhaps a decade of their votes and their conversational support to the left.

    1. For ridicule to work it must be carefully deployed. For one such as Amanda Palmer who has made her living mocking the values of the bourgeoisie, attacks from the Right are not just “water off a duck’s back,” they are watering her plants. Her self-regard is reinforced, not undermined, much as most of us here would be inclined to chuckle over Palmer accusing us of racism.

      Mocking the “empathy” expressed in her poetical attempts will be less effective at shushing her than mocking her attempts at poetry. Criticism of the empathy can be included as an apparent afterthought once having broken through her shields.

    2. Pam Geller is a darling. But I can’t help but remember all the buildings she and 18 others haven’t crashed airliners into.

  22. Zarathustra expatiates, “No shepherd and one herd. Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels different goes voluntarily into a madhouse…. One has one’s little pleasure for the day and one’s little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health.”

  23. It just shows how corrupt academia has become. Of course Maher was correct.
    However, I take issue with the idea that peer pressure peaks in your late teens. It peeks between 13 and 16. If you’re still emitting or under the sway of peer pressure in your late teens or early twenties, you are suffering from arrested development (and I don’t mean the TV show, funny as that was).
    Now what does that tell you about post-modern academia?
    Wonderful quote from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.

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