Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause I’m Human

*So, I’ll do a chapter tomorrow, I promise.  I’m — yeah — rather lazy today and I need to do a very quick clean and work on Through Fire.

We’re having frozen fog and a few flurries…

So, below is a blast from the past post, Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause I’m Human” from December 9 2010 — three years and a few days ago.  Where does time go?*

There’s this disturbing trend I’ve observed recently – okay, the last thirty years.

It’s part of what I was talking about yesterday, in a way. For a book to be considered serious, or introspective or relevant, it has to attack the past or western culture or civilization or tech or… humanity.

Not that there is anything wrong with attacking these, mind, to an extent. And they used to be shockers and a very good way to attract attention immediately. And I’m not saying the mindlessly chauvinistic “our people, right or wrong” was much better. For instance, the cowboy-and-Indian trope became really tired after a while and when my brother gave me a book called – I think – (in Portuguese translation) The Mace of War, detailing all the injustices against Native Americans it was a mind-altering experience. Literally. And very worth it. [Though I’ve found it was also full of politically correct made up stuff like the small pox blankets — note from 2013 Sarah.]

I’m just saying that these days, by default what you hear is against-whatever-the-dominant-culture is.

I first realized this when I was studying for my final exam in American culture in college. The book changed opinions and contradicted itself but it was ALWAYS against the winners and against whatever ended up being the status quo. So, the book was against the North of the US, because the North… won. Even though it had before been against slavery. It was very much against modern US and raged against… embalming practices for three or four pages. (Because they divorce us from the Earth. Just SILLY stuff.)

And then I started noting this trend in everything, including fiction. Think about it. Who is to blame in any drama: the US; the successful; the British; the Europeans; the… humans.

Years ago when Discovery Channel put out its “future evolution” series, my kids and I were glued to the screen. We’re the family for whom the Denver Museum of Nature And Science is home away from home, the place we will visit if we have an afternoon free, the place where we have watched lectures and movies. I refer to it as “molesting dinos” and it’s usually my way to celebrate finishing a book.

So we were glued to the TV. Except that after the beginning, I realized the way it was going, and I started predicting it. Instead of taking a “what might humans become” the people who wrote this went down a path where first humans and then everything VAGUELY related to humans became successively extinct, till the only warm-blooded survivor was a bird, and then that too became extinct. In the end, tree-dwelling SQUIDS inherited the Earth.

Yes, you DID read that right. Tree. Dwelling. SQUIDS.

The contortions were capricious and often absurd, but you could predict where it was going.

It’s been a while since we had cable, but I understand there was a very popular series called “Life After US” about what would happen to the works of humans if we were suddenly extinct. And people watched it, fascinated and – from the tones of posts about it – a little wistful.

This is when you must step back and go “What is wrong with us?” “Is this a sickness of the soul?”

The answer? Yes and no.

Part of it, of course, is wanting to shock, wanting to revolutionize, wanting to be innovative… in safe ways – in (dare we say it?) politically correct ways. It’s easy and approved of to attack: males, America, western civ, humans.

People who select works at publishers and studios and all that are often liberal arts graduates and they come from this curious world where they still think the establishment is circa 1950s and that they’re telling something new and wonderful.

Part of it is, of course, that we do see problems in our own culture, in our own society, in our own species. Of course we do. We are an introspective culture. We examine our consciences, we find ourselves lacking, we try to improve. This is, in general a good thing – though perhaps a little perspective is also in order.

Part of it is politeness/sensitivity to other cultures, mingled with the consciousness our ancestors were often wrong. We’ve been taught the crimes of colonizers in various lands and most of those colonizers (and colonized, at least for most of us) were our ancestors. We’re conscious we’re big and others are smaller. It’s a peculiar form of noblesse oblige. We don’t want to trample others by pointing out faults in other cultures or other species. I understand this, because I learned to drive in my thirties and lived in a mountain town with lots of foot traffic downtown. I was excruciatingly careful driving through there, because I could crush a pedestrian and not notice. This is why we tend to turn our flagellation upon ourselves.

And part of it is sicker/darker. I notice this tendency every time we discuss a great figure of the past, from George Washington to Heinlein – as different as they are. I call it “counting coup.” George Washington? Well, he was slave owner. And he had wooden teeth. And Lincoln? Well, he was very ill, and besides, he was probably gay and in the closet. Heinlein? Despite all his efforts at including – for his time – minorities and giving women starring roles, he must have been closet racist and sexist, donchaknow? Because he doesn’t fit OUR superior notions of inclusiveness.

What is going on here – besides tearing at our own past, and thereby continuing the self-flagellation – is being able to prove we are “superior” to these high achievers. We might do nothing and achieve nothing, but we are superior beings because we’re more moral than they are.
Individually, none of these trends is really bad – or at least not for those of us who grew up with the opposite tradition.

Oh, the constant and predictable chest-beating becomes boring. At least it does for me. Maybe it doesn’t for other people?

But think of (grin) the children. They have no perspective. All they hear is how their country, their culture, their SPECIES is evil. How things would be so much better without us… How things would – ultimately – be much better if… THEY hadn’t been born.

It’s not healthy. It’s vaguely disgusting. And the best it can do is engender the MOTHER of all backlashes and bring about a cultural chauvinism the likes of which you’ve never seen. The worse… well, one of the other cultures we don’t criticize because they’re small and we’re big becomes the norm.

And before you cheer them on, let me put this in perspective: Western civ has committed crimes. ALL human cultures throughout history have committed crimes. Slavery? Since the dawn of time. Exploitation? Since the dawn of time. Murder? War? Genocide? Yep, and yep, and yep. And many of those cultures STILL do all of those things and don’t feel in the slightest bit guilty, mostly because we handily and frequently blame OURSELVES for their behavior and they get our books, our TV series and our movies.

Such as it is, the West has brought the greatest freedom, prosperity and security to the greatest population.

Yes, there were crimes committed, but a lot of them were the result of a clash of world views – tribalism met the state. Look, it’s not that Native Americans or Africans lived in a state of innocence and harmony with nature. If you believe that, you need to study history and put down Jean Jacques Rosseau. And get out of your mom’s basement. And take the Star Trek posters off the wall. And the Avatar poster, too, while you’re at it.

To the extent the native were innocent and helpless, it was because of their mental furniture. What gave colonizers the edge was not their weapons or civilization (Oh, come on, back then, there wasn’t that much of a distance.) It was their mental furniture. To wit, they had overcome tribalism and organized on a large scale. Most of the colonized (excepting some small empires) hadn’t. So they would attack in ways that worked in tribal warfare: exterminate a village or an outpost. And the reaction of the colonizers (who by the way also didn’t understand the difference in mental furniture and therefore thought this made the native peoples’ “bestial” or “evil) was to exterminate all of a tribe or a federation of tribes. And it worked because westerners were united as a MUCH larger group. Which made them stronger. Western civilization started overcoming tribalism with the Romans. That was the real innovation.

If you think that we’re rich because of those acts, you must study economics. It doesn’t work that way. If anything those acts made all of us worse off. We’re way past any wealth we could plunder off others. We’ve created wealth. The whole world lives better than it did five hundred years ago.

And if you’re going to tell me the fact that all humans are flawed proves that we’re a bad species, you’ll have to tell me: As opposed to what? Dolphins are serial rapists. Chimps commit murder. Rats… Every species we examine has our sins, but none of our redeeming qualities.

Heinlein said it was important to be FOR humanity because we’re human. Beavers might be admirable, but we’re not beavers. He was right. But beyond all that, we’re the only species that tries self-perfecting. We exist – as Pratchett said – at the place where rising ape meets falling angel, but as far as I know, we’re the only species reaching upward. (Of course, we wouldn’t know if there are others and again, we have to assume we are it. The others have flaws too.)

We are part of the world and in it. To love the other animals of the Earth – or the hypothetical alien – and hate us is strange. Are we not animals? Are we not of the Earth? And who the heck can compete with sentients who exist only in the story teller’s imagination?

By all means, let’s protect the weaker. Let’s shelter the little. But let’s not beat ourselves because we’re bigger and stronger. Let’s USE our powers for good instead.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t tell these stories then?

No, I’m not. I would never repress anyone’s right to create, or anyone’s opinion. But I’m asking you to think. I’m asking you to pause and go “The west is bad… as opposed to? Humans are bad… as opposed to?” And tell your kids that, ask them those questions.

And then, perhaps, every now and then, try to imagine a story from the contrary view point. Just to wake things up. And to keep others thinking.

 

207 responses to “Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause I’m Human

  1. Recently I read a biography of Louisa May Alcott, written shortly after her death. It felt really weird, praising her (mostly), instead of tearing her down.

  2. Until the past 10 years or so, (mostly in the past 5 years), I didn’t really see these messages in stories. Only when I really started hearing or reading other people complaining about them did I start to truly notice.

    I hadn’t read Jurassic Park in over 5 years, so I was surprised when I picked it up last week how near it came to hitting the wall. The anti-Western mantra spouted by the mathematician guy, which was clearly the message of the book, just made my eyes cross.

    • If that was Crichton’s message, he must have made a MAJOR change after he wrote it.

      Or the mathematician was intended to be a jerk. Considering who played him in the movie…

      • It may not have been his intended message, but since all the predictions he had made in his analysis of the plan pretty much came true (of course, requiring a string of coincidences that beggar the whole notion of “Nobody would believe this if I wrote a story about it” stories), that’s the one that came across to me.

        Incidentally, I hate that line about black being the best color to wear in the heat, because it radiates better. He didn’t account for absorbing sunlight, and he (the character) should have known better.

        • If the character had been a physicist? sure. But mathematicians have a tendency to know as little about the sciences as… come to think of it, they are in the Liberal Arts.

          • He didn’t analyze it as a physicist. He modeled it as a generic chaotic system with several points of instability.

            When the character in the book was describing it, it sounded to me like a description of an electronic circuit with amplifiers, and he denied the possibility of adding negative feedback to the system to prevent runaway oscillation.

            • Someone said a couple of months ago that the newest buzz on chaos was that the chaotic universe is not only non predictable, it is also non statistical?

            • It’s been a long time since I read the book—more than ten years, i.e., before I started my engineering education—so I may be misremembering things. But the mathy bits were about chaos and fractals, so I think you’re referring to Crichton’s (mis)use of “strange attractors”.

              These aren’t runaway oscillation, but a kind of bounded limit cycle that’s often impossible to eliminate if the system is non-linear. (My Control Systems prof gave us the example of the vertical axis in maglev systems.) Strange attractors are just a particularly weird kind of fixed point.

  3. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    One thing about the American Indians was that often a “tribe” was more of a “large family” than a small nation. Thus often there was no individual or group who could make an agreement (lasting or otherwise) between the tribe and somebody else.

    If an agreement was made between the US and some leader of a tribe, other leaders in the tribe would not see themselves bound by that agreement.

    So some member/leader in that tribe would “break” the agreement and the US could, by our standards, believe that the entire tribe had broken the agreement.

    It’s not to say that the US didn’t break their share of the agreements but when US civilians were attacked by “peaceful” Indians (ie ones the US thought it had an agreement with) then by Western standards the US had to punish the entire tribe.

    Oh, I remember hearing that the Navajo considered an area in the American Southwest as being “created” for them by God. I happened to know that other tribes were living there before the Navajo arrived. Need I say that some of those tribes (even today) don’t really like the Navajo? [Very Big Evil Grin]

    • Native Americans as a single unified race is a very recent concept. Many Indian tribes were only too happy to help the whites against the neighbors they had fought for centuries. The Five Civilized Tribes joined the Confederacy under Stand Watee, and they committed horrible atrocities against the bow-and-arrow tribes they considered “primitive,” who tried to stay neutral. And the plains Indians years of glory came after the admittedly accidental Spanish introduction of the horse (the ancestors of the plains Indians ate all the native horses.)

      • One side effect of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 (the Pueblo peoples won, at least for the next 7-8 years), was the spread of horses into the Great Plains and Great Basin again. A sub-group of Shoshone acquired them, and in 1706 the Comanche appear in the historical record.

        Yeah, to Charles and Drak’s point, there are Hopi stories about using chemical warfare to help them slaughter sleeping pueblo families (drip chili peppers into the fire, pull the ladder up onto the roof, and shoot anything that moves.) The Mississippi Valley peoples, under the leadership of the city-state of Cahokia, beat up on the neighbors pretty frequently, too. We won’t mention what the Huron and Ojibwe did to some of their captives. So there was a whole bunch of conquest/massacre/rapine/uncharitable behavior long before the eeeeeevil Europeans arrived. But that’s not what the PC/ Rousseau fans want to hear about.

        • “The Mississippi Valley peoples, under the leadership of the city-state of Cahokia, beat up on the neighbors pretty frequently, too.”

          At Cahokia there’s a mass grave containing nothing but young women who, based on the chemical contents of their teeth, came from widely scattered areas and NOT Cahokia itself.

        • Just about every race and every civilization has committed harsh violence against themselves (civil wars) or others not like them. It’s not a uniquely European sin.

        • There was a video game published a few years back called Age of Empires 3. Among all of the ahistorical silliness (one mission had you stopping against Russian troops who were crossing the Great Plains… at the same time as the American War of Independence) was one particularly troubling mission. One of the levels – set during an earlier time period than the one mentioned above – had you defending the temples of a few different South and Central American Indian nations from Conquistadors. I’m pretty sure that one of the temples was supposed to be an Aztec temple, and my vague recollection is that the Incas – also present in that mission – weren’t much better. I wonder how many players realized just what it was they were defending in those temples?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            IIRC the Incas were much better than the Aztecs. But yes, the idiots who “white-wash” the Aztecs get me mad. To give Mercedes Lackey credit, the chief “bad guy” in one of her urban fantasies was a historically-accurate Aztec God. Oh, there’s a series out there that has an Aztec priest (pre-Cortez) investigating crimes. I haven’t read it and won’t read it.

            • “IIRC the Incas were much better than the Aztecs”

              I’m curious, by what standards do you consider them better? I admittedly don’t know as much as I should about the Incas, but I understood that they committed mass murder on a scale that made the Aztecs look like pikers.

              • I vaguely remember that one had on-site numbers in their favor, and the other had horror factor and a wider range- kids and all over the place.

                I tend to rant a bit about folks talking on how horrible the Spanish were for interfering with that groups freedom of religion…..

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                The Incas were conquerors so there would be deaths in war, but they weren’t into human sacrificing at the level that the Aztecs were. The Incas went to war for territory but the Aztecs went to war to bring back people to be sacrificed. I’m not saying that the Incas were angels but they were known to accept symbolic tribute from a conquered tribe if that tribe had little to give.

                • Indeed, they went to war regularly for the purposes of taking captives. (I have, oddly, enough, just finished Aztecs: An Interpretation by Inga Clendinnen, which is an interesting book on them.)

            • mikeweatherford

              Both the Aztec religion and their lifestyle was based on conquest. None of the Native American civilizations were peaceful, but the three most notable Latin American tribes — Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas — were especially bloodthirsty. The Incas would incorporate other tribes into their nations some even as equals. The Aztecs took slaves and sacrifices. The Mayas also took slaves, but about half their sacrifices were Mayan. The Spaniards weren’t half as bad, but their legacy lingers in corrupt governments and a caste system that’s almost impossible to be broken.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Citizen!!! The Spanish showed their absolute evil by conquering the innocent Native American people. You are ordered to report to the nearest re-education facility. [Sarcasm]

      • Charles | December 20, 2013 at 1:09 pm
        > The Five Civilized Tribes joined the Confederacy under Stand Watee,

        Not all of them — the Choctaw and Chickasaw were solidly behind the Rebels; but the Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole were as divided as the rest of the country. It didn’t help that individual Indians changed sides as the fortunes of war shifted (most notably Cherokee leader John Ross, who started with the South but ended with the North).

      • Heck, they would invite the whites in as allies.

  4. Okay. I won’t hate you because your human. Can I hate you because you write better, faster, and get paid more for it, than I do?

    😉

    • Not copping on the better, don’t know about that, but for the rest? Sure, you can be upset. Hate might be a little strong.

    • Eh, instead of hating, please try to prove you’re better, can get faster, and will get paid more. Hate’s one of those corrosive emotions that tears up the soul of the hater, and does nobody any good. Besides, the competition will mean the reading public will win with more good stories, no matter who’s faster or gets paid more!

  5. As for the content of your post, I’ll need to think on it when I have some time.

  6. “The idiot who praises in enthusiastic tone, all centuries but this and every country but his own”

    Such twits were a music-hall joke cliche in 1885. This ain’t new.

    • it seems like there are more of them now. And, oooh, boy, are they on the list.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        They’re the ones in charge of the music halls now.

      • The “Everything is going to Hell in a hand basket” crew are a constant. Especially since their position on hand baskets is always that all and sundry need to jump into theirs before it’s too late. The passel of Western Intellectual Twits who run down Western Culture as a basis for offering to fix everything for us stretches back to the late Victorian era. Kipling wrote acidly about them (“My Son’s Wife” being a prime example). Bunch of pasty-faced, clammy-handed, work-shy, would-be Aristocrats. I am comforted by the thought that, should they ever succeed in bringing about a Socialist State in America, one of the first things that the new Stalin will do is order their liquidation.

        *spit*

  7. Was this supposed to be done before you ‘came out’ politically? I never remember what that date was. If it was supposed to be before, I think your camouflage was getting a bit tattered there. If it was dance of the seven veils, you were down to about 2 veils with this one.

  8. The story of what happened to the Moriori should be mandatory for every $var-Studies program that likes to assign guilt by ethnicity. I especially love the “moral imperative” that got them all killed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moriori_people ). Bonus feature, no Europeans involved.

    I also noticed with raised eyebrow how the recent exclusion of the Freemen from Cherokee membership (due to, wait for it, health care costs) got downplayed in the news. People might ask awkward questions of how the Cherokee, genuinely oppressed by the Trail of Tears, still had the means and interest to oppress their black slaves at the same time. Messy, *messy* historical facts ….

    • Well, who are the Euro-Americans to tell the Cherokee about tribal enrollment, after all, even if it is oppressing another minority? (And the Federal courts have ruled that tribes control their enrollment, yet the Feds also determined that the children of a Lakota and a Blackfoot were not Indian, but the children of a Lakota and an Anglo are. Go figure.)

  9. But if I take down the Avatar poster, what will I use as a target for my eeevil Nerf ™ pistol (the one with the shoulder thing that goes up)?

  10. This taxonomic sloppiness on TV is getting very irritating. Its not a tree dwelling squid. Its an octopus.

    The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

  11. Well, it might be the tree squid. The tree octopi are endangered after all!

  12. Even when I was ten, I knew Captain Planet was exaggerated and a bit anti-human.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      No kidding! If Gaia really wanted to help stop pollution, she would have shared her advanced technology with humanity, instead of using the Planeteers to create the goofiest superhero ever. Even when I was a kid, and something of an environmentalist, I knew this show was crap.

      • Funny how children can catch on to things, don’t you think? But every time I turned on the TV it was one of the few cartoons within reach, so to my little-kid brain it was “the only thing on.” I watched it.

        Wheeler (the fire wielder) was my favorite character since he wasn’t always such a goody-goody.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Yes, but as the Token American, he was the hot-head and usually had to be lectured by the other Planeteers.

          • That’s exactly why I found his character enjoyable — he was just a fun-loving guy, not some stick-in-the-mud preacher.

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              Yeah. The character you’re not supposed to like becomes your favorite. It happens quite a bit in shows like that.

              • It’s part of the appeal of villains and anti-heroes; they say the stuff we’re all thinking, but aren’t allowed to say because it’s “not nice.”

                • The Heeerrrooo of Canton! The man they call Jayne . . .

                  • *looks it up*

                    Interesting.

                    • You had to look it up? Run, don’t walk, down to your local library and borrow the DVD set of Firefly. Or use Netflix, or Amazon Prime, or borrow it from your nearest geek friend. Seriously, do it now.

                    • To be fair, I have seen the Serenity film.

                    • Oh merciful heavens, I envy you the opportunity to watch that for the first time. (in the right order, and with no commercial breaks). Get thee to a Netflix or sommat. Go!

                    • I see.

                    • … but make sure it’s the real “right order”, not the DVD order.

                    • Personally, I find Firefly continually breaks my suspension of disbelief, because the characters are too pretty, too quippy, and the frontiers and the moving of freight around don’t really work like that. However, when on strong pain killers and extremely bored, I gave it another try and found it hilarious and some of the better-written television to come out lately.

                      I’d still chose Dirty Jobs, Good Eats, or a BBC Earth documentary over it any day of the week, but when my choice was Firefly, daytime soaps, a boxed set of “sex in the city” (porn of real sex in a real city would have been less tortuous to watch), or crawling across the floor looking for where some helpful person left my crutches, it was the superior choice.

                      It’s worth a try. But if you’ve ever lived in the bush, have a beer first.

                    • Duly noted.

                    • I can’t stand Mal– think he’s a jerk.

                      Ah well. 😀

                    • I agree with this woman across the board, and I’ve never even lived in the bush. (And I HATED — LOATHED — Sex in the City.)

                    • Well Dorothy, I could definitely see your point, I struggled with the suspension of disbelief myself. Still I enjoyed Firefly (while I hated the Serenity movie, that was like taking a chainsaw to the cables holding my disbelief) probably because it was a) basically anti-government/libertarian b) action oriented, kinda space-westerny c)with the possible exception of Armaggedon by far the best science fiction show I have seen. The fact is that most science fiction shows or movies I find utterly and completely unwatchable. And I like science fiction books, so it is disappointing whenever I try to watch them and five minutes in I have to leave the room because I find a un-aneasthesized root canal more pleasant.

                    • *looks around*

                      Wow, I didn’t proclaim absolute love for firefly, and I didn’t get run out of here on a rail. Tolerance and diversity in action! 😛

                      I do find the whole show to be a very interesting example of allowing the characters to stay true to themselves resulting in a story with vastly different values and virtues than the creator’s own political leanings. I need to re-watch it not for the quippy, quippy lines, but because Whedon does an excellent job at handling an ensemble cast. I want to deconstruct that and learn from it.

    • Not to mention badly animated, badly voice-acted, badly written…..

      There are always a few True Believers that think that the Shining Truth of the Message makes telling the goddamned story superfluous. And then they wonder why they are ridiculed.

    • My siblings and I horrified our aunt by going utterly MST3K on it when we were, at most, the same age. (Ranch kids– and I think the first episode had Hollywood Farming on it in some exotic location.)

      • Please describe “Hollywood Farming” as opposed to real farming — I’m genuinely curious.

        • Now here’s a topic that’d do better face to face, and with someone better at expressing themselves, but I’ll try….

          Short form, in Hollywood animals are scenery. Like extras in a crowd. They don’t do anything unless it’s to advance the plot, and other than that they have no homes, no demands, require no more thought than the dozens of people that happen to walk past a coffee shop while you’re sitting there and writing.

          If the animals are important to a plot, then they’re more like pets in movies– caring for them is a half-hour exercise in an upgraded version of pouring food in the cat’s dish.

          In reality, animals are more like… having kids, minus the ability to communicate with words and with an “I can kill you on accident because I’m basically a walking car” issue. You don’t have total control of them, and they do things for their own reasons, and a lot of the time you think their reasons are really dumb, but if you pay attention and learn well enough you can sort of communicate well enough to keep the situation under control. The effort saved on figuring out how to dress them is expended on figuring out what to feed them depending on the weather, their diet, their health, how long the days are, if they’re going to calve soon.

          Here’s an example: cows will have calves at a time that means they don’t miss breakfast, and I’m not joking– it’s better than 75% accuracy with the first timers! Mom has the records to prove it.
          Even though both of my parents grew up working on ranches, including some that were the largest for hundreds of miles around, and my mom has a BS in animal husbandry, they didn’t know this until their kids were in high school. It was a tip-off from an old ranch hand that kind of adopted our family, who mentioned that his dad had taught him to always feed last thing before dark so the cows would calve in the morning.

          In movies, cows don’t take three hours to feed, and it’s not an eternal learning process. The farmers are either stand-in Noble Savages that are so mystically in touch with nature, or they treat their animals like vehicles– and the animals act like it.

          There are bad ranchers out there. They don’t last long because if you don’t care about your animals, they die. Growing up, everything was arranged around caring for the animals. Not many folks would put it this way, but my mom (original Tolkien geek, still surprised none of us have Elvish names) hit it on the head: when you own an animal, that’s a sacred commitment. You are responsible for their well being. It doesn’t matter if they’re going to die– you are responsible. You can shoot one in the head if you really have to, but you don’t leave it up to starve above the snow line, even if it is crazy and this is Thanksgiving and your three young teenagers are waiting at home. (To pull an example.)

          Hollywood animals have no life in them, and Hollywood farmers have no honor. It’s like someone who’s only adult experience is working a spreadsheet based desk job trying to apply that metric to romance.

          I hope that helped…. (and if you have specific questions, I can do that, too– although I might be slow, we’re heading to the ranch tomorrow morning for Christmas)

          • Thanks. Excellent insights — those were things I hadn’t even considered when writing farmer characters. Then again, all that makes sense when the animals are the very source of your livelihood as a farmer.

            • If your character has to be a farmer/rancher, might consider that you CAN ask neighbors to pick up he slack for a few days, or even a week. Retired ranchers, or people who are halfway through learning to manage a homestead, area also ways to lighten the load so they have time to do something. From what I’ve seen, it’s perfectly normal to ask a neighbor to watch the place for a week. (And that’s a LOT of work.) It’s the same with riding in the summer.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Makes sense to me. It’s also like how some fantasy “treat” horses as organic motorcycles compared to how people who know horses would treat them.

          • I scent a series of guest posts on ways in which “real life” is different from fiction. Other entries could include “Hacking data* (or writing a “quick” program) is a lot more tedious than you see on TV” or “Why most businesses portrayed on TV would be bankrupt inside three years” or even “Restaurants are a lot more work and a lot less fun than on TV.”

            The Comics Buyers’ Guide used to run a regular column “The Law Is An Ass” on real law versus TV/Movie law. One notable example was (I forget which movie) in which the jury in a trial had been tainted so the judge, just before the summations, swapped juries with the courtroom across the hall.

            They don’t all have to be guest posts, either, as I am sure Sarah or several other writers here could do an “I am NOT Castle” post.

            *Note the lower case — I am not suggesting a post on taking a hack saw to Brent Spiner’s ST:NG character even though I’ve no doubt several here would argue it could not be other than an improvement. Frankly, Data is no higher than fifth on the list of ST characters I would take a hack saw to.

            • The movie is “The Untouchables.” The Treasury agents had the judge convinced that his name was on their list of people on the mob’s payroll, so he swapped the bought-and-paid-for jury with “the jury in the [Jones] divorce case across the hall.”

              • Yep, I remember that, and incidentally that is a very good movie; with Sean’s line just before he is killed being one of the greatest most memorable movie lines, ever. “Just like a [insert whichever derogatory expletive fits the situation here] to bring a knife to a gun fight.”

            • I have NEVER watched Castle, because I’d throw something through the screen…

              • What, like watching CSI with a forensic anthropologist? (Without lots of beer and soft things to throw at the screen, don’t even try to make it through the intro.)
                Or watching a war movie with soldiers? Or a flying movie with pilots? (Why no, I didn’t criticize the AN-8 in the latest Indiana Jones. I was too busy squeeing because I know that plane. Owner was so proud that he not only got a good paycheck out of the deal, but a free (and pretty snazzy) paint job for the plane…

                Or any hospital show with actual nurses or doctors? Or interns? Or folks who’ve spent too much time in the hospital?

                (There is a magnificent rant about how House is one of the worst doctors ever: http://www.lygerlyger.com/2011/01/why-house-m-d-is-a-bad-doctor/ )

                • My WORST time was Shakespeare in Love — I got warned TWICE and the third time they’d have removed me from the theater, so I contented myself with rolling my eyes and sighing.

              • Hey, he actually writes once in a while. 🙂

          • Nice explanation, Foxfier. I should warn you: for my “A Boy and His Unicorn” story, I’ve been putting together a list of people who might be able to give me data on raising and caring for horses, and your name just went on the list. (I know you only mentioned cattle above, but that’s why the list has “might” on it). At some point if I ever get the free time to start writing it in earnest, I just might be contacting you to say “Hey, can I pick your brains about horses? Or if you don’t know too much, do you know someone whose brains I can pick?”

            • I’d be delighted– if I can’t answer it, I can ask my parents or– worse comes to worse– find someplace that does have good information.

            • Would horses and unicorns actually have much in common behaviorally? Horses run, kick, and bite. Unicorns though, they have that horn. I’d expect them to be much more naturally aggressive than horses, which would likely lead to quite a few other behavioral differences. Maybe bison or water buffalo would be a better basis for unicorn psychology? I’m no expert though, so take these ruminations for what they’re worth:-).

              • Considered it– since there’s only one, though, and it’s poorly placed, they’d be unlikely to attack with it. Probably more like a peacock’s tail.

                Oddly enough, even dehorned cows move their heads like they’ve got horns. Their feet are the real danger, IMHO.

                My worries are more along the lines of traits introduced by breeding– wild animals don’t select the same way as domestic ones.

                • Actually its placement lets it strike much more strongly with it.

                  • Look at a horse skull– that’s a horrible place to take impact. It’s like having a bayonette attached to the bridge of your nose.

                    … which, actually, if you ignore the bone problem, is a really good place to have a striking weapon; even better than the movie-famous head-bang move.

                    • Yep, that’s the weak spot in their skull. I guess I just always assumed the pedestal was wide enough at the base to attach to the thicker portions on either side to help spread impact.

                    • I think I now have our “long day of driving” conversation for my family…..

                    • a head known and feared wherever fighting men gather!

                    • I guess the pokémon Rapidash is a load of crap, then, even hypothetically.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Well, since the Rapidash uses fire as a weapon more than its horn, the problems of an unicorn’s horn don’t really apply. [Wink]

                      Of course, the Rapidash is a magical critter and rules for magical critters differ than rules for non-magical critters.

                      On the gripping hand, is an unicorn a magical critter or a non-magical critter.

                    • I’d say unicorns are magical.

                    • They’re magically delicious!

                      Sorry. I’ll go get caffeine in me, shall I?

                    • Everyone needs a shot of caffeine once in a while.

                    • Unicorns are not horses, their skulls are merely superficially similar. Evolution would dictate the bony structure required to brace such a weapon.

                      Except, since unicorns are magical maybe evolution don’t mean squat? It could also be that myth lies, their horn is more like unto a Rhino’s or perhaps a Triceratops’?

                    • As promised, my husband and I discussed it.

                      He suggested that the horn may not grow until after the skull is fully fused.

                      We figure if the horn is sort of spiraled, visually similar to the frills on some conch shells, and is able to break or flake above the skull level– you’ll be able to have the traditional spiral horn (with frills/teeth/ridges) that can be sharpened (think like cat claws or normal horns, with layers) and if you assume that the horn-bud makes its own base, that point being incredibly weak can be removed.

                    • Also suggested having the horn curve, like a saber, and the unicorn using it more like a slashing weapon (or fencing) than a stabbing one. It’s too long for stabbing to be a good idea, or you’ll end up with dead unicorns still entangled in a predator.

                    • Another possible function of the horn: communication. Perhaps unicorns are like hadrosaurs and their horns are hollow, with a blowhole at the base. Then the impact resistance function would be irrelevant as the horn wouldn’t be used as a weapon.

                    • Jabrwok,
                      You just infected me with a story called “The music of the unicorn.” — you are SO dead.

                    • I ask only that it be quick and painless:-).

                    • Don’t hurt him too bad. The unicorns in The Apprentice Adept series could play music through their horns, as well as using them as weapons, and their horns played various instrumental sounds (one instrument per unicorn). When they all played together is sounded like an orchestra.

                    • Huh, I’d consciously forgotten about that. Maybe that’s where I got the idea.

                    • This is probably on topic with unicorns, but I always wondered how Greek phalanxes worked: you have two wedges of guys with pikes marching towards each other. They get into range and…stop and stare? Make stabbing motions like with billiard cues? Keep marching into each other and wind up so many hoplites ready for spit roasting? I’ve heard the Greek states kept making longer and longer spears, up to 20′ according to some sources, but the longer spears would be easier to deflect, and be much less able to maneuver, leading to the tactic of flanking your opponent while not getting flanked yourself.
                      I’d figure Unicorns to have the same issue when dealing with threats. No-one wants to be spitted and the horn would keep a predator or competitor back, but the unicorn would be very leery of anyone coming up from the side; I’d think it would take loads of trust and training to convince a unicorn to let a rider on.

                    • I don’t think I’ve ever heard that the Greeks used lances. The *Swiss* did in their phalanxes. It was a tactic to counter mounted cavalry (the horses were reluctant to pincushion themselves). The Greeks, IIRC, just used swords and shield and slammed into one another.

                    • The way a horse’s eyes are positioned might actually make it even better….

                    • I’m thinking of the successor states after Alexander, they used bigger spears, called the Sarissa. But even a pike square marching on a pike square would seem like porcupines mating

              • Many horned animals use them only in mating conflicts and, like horses, run away from predators.

                then, there’s the question of whether they are like goats. . . .

              • In some versions unicorns are more horse-like, in some they’re more goat-like. I’ve decided to go with horse-like for my unicorn story. And another reason I need to research horses is that in my story, unicorns have a few “special” powers (whether they’re magical or psychic I’ve not yet decided), and one is the ability to hide their horn and appear like a normal horse, except to people they’ve decided are completely trustworthy. So my main character, whose parents own a ranch and raise horses, finds a unicorn in chapter one but thinks it’s a horse until chapter 5 or 6. He takes it back to his parents’ ranch and puts out an ad in the local paper saying “Found a stray horse at such-and-such a place. If it’s yours, contact me at ______, and if you can describe it accurately before seeing it, I’ll return it to you.”

                So for a while, he’s taking care of this “horse” alongside his parents’ (real) horses — and I need to be able to describe what it looks like to take care of horses day in, day out.

                • “In some versions unicorns are more horse-like, in some they’re more goat-like. I’ve decided to go with horse-like for my unicorn story”

                  Good idea, an animal that bends his head down between his front legs and pees all over it in order to be more attractive to females loses a lot of his mystic appeal. At least within a hundred yards (easy scenting range)

            • If you get a chance, or can find it, read Willy Ley’s article The Legend of the Unicorn in the book The Lungfish, the Dodo, and the Unicorn It talks about where the idea of the unicorn comes from (the Re’em in Hebrew), the depictions on the Ishtar gate at Babylon, development of the unicorn legend, and wanders into the discussion of surgically unicorned sheep and cattle by transplanting horn buds of calves to the center of the forehead. All while discussing Aurochs, passages from Job, Pliny, Marco Polo and Conrad Gesner. Fantastic stuff, but Willy Ley always wrote fantastic stuff.
              OK, I just looked at my copy and it was published in 1947. I will no longer park cups of coffee on it, I promise.

          • Foxfier, thank you for pointing out *reality* to the the great stupid. I had “pets” as well as ducks (nasty little s—s), and rabbits (stupid in an urban environment). I learned that lesson early, and well. It’s one reason I haven’t had a pet in over 40 years. I couldn’t take care of one (space, landlord issues, etc.), as much as I’d have liked one. I couldn’t keep one, so I didn’t. Instead, I fed Liberal idiots with tax dollars.

            • we had dogs, chickens, turkeys, ducks (yep), cats, rabbits, guinea pigs (as food animals), pigeons (ditto) and bantam hens.
              Neighbors kept pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys, cows, horses. I’m awful with horses because where I come from they were what you plowed with, not what you RODE as such. But mostly I KNOW how much work those critters are.

          • ” The effort saved on figuring out how to dress them”

            Knowing how to dress them is very important to figure out, if you want a tasty and tender dinner. 😉

          • Hollywood animals also utterly fail to react to anything that happens to humans around them, even when the event should scare the crap out of them.

            Classic example, horror-movie cat will just stand around unconcernedly while someone kills its owner. Now, quite aside from the fact that the cat presumably liked its owner, isn’t the cat a bit worried that an intruder has just entered its territory and killed someone who is from the cat’s point of view a godlike giant? Doesn’t it occur to the cat that this hostile demonic thing might next kill the cat itself?

            Any real cat with two brain cells to rub together would probably run and hide if someone killed or seriously threatened its owner. One of my cats — who is insanely brave when it comes to defending my wife against any threat real or imagined — would probably jump the attacker.

            But never in Hollywood.

            It’s also hard to get animals to act angry, frightented etc., so in cheap movies they don’t even try. They’ll just play some sort of scary roar or hiss or growl over the animal, while its body language indicates either that it is bored, friendly or watching its offscreen trainer.

            The funniest Hollywood Stupid Animal Trick involves mountain lions. Like most predators, if they’re hunting you, you will not hear them until they actually attack you (if then). Hollywood mountain lions snarl continually, and what’s even more amusingly, are likely to give their mating call (because it sounds scary) when they leap at the human characters. Hmm, lotta really aggressive and horny mountain lions in the Hollywood version of the wilderness!

            • I have a lot of experience with mountain lions. You know how they open their mouth and scream in all the movies? I have that action on video at least a hundred times… but the don’t make in sound when they do that, except if you are close enough you can hear a quiet hiss of breath. I don’t know how many people I have had tell me about hearing a cougar scream, but I can tell you not a single one of them was someone who has actual experience with them.

              • “… hearing a cougar scream …”

                Put a scratch on her Beamer. Tell her she just missed a Louboutin BOGO sale. Install a turbocharger in her vi …

                Low hanging fruit.

              • My wife has worked with various kinds of cats for a long time, including for a couple of years peripherally with a mountain lion. She’s noticed that mountain lions in movies who are supposed to be hunting or attacking are often displaying “friendly” or “playful” body language (as they are actually following trainers’ cues, and generally like their trainers). A real mountain lion doing this, if it vocalized, would be making various chirps and rumbles (the equivalent of a housecat meeping, trilling and purring).

                That loud complex yowl they always run over the scene is the cat’s mating call. If it’s did that while attacking, that would be one confused kitty.

                If a mountain lion was hunting you, it wouldn’t be snarling in any way, unless it was a very young and inexperienced cat. Mountain lions attack by stealth and are usually afraid to confront humans save by stealth. For that manner, mountain lions don’t regard “prey” as “enemies,” their hunting behavior could better be descrbed as intense concentration than hostility. A mountain lion is hostile towards humans who confront her, but she’s more likely to be snarling, hissing and backing away from such an encounter than leaping to the attack — unless she’s protecting young cubs.

                Rosanna’s explained this to me in connection both with cougars and with other cats, big and small.

                And thus many movie scenes have been ruined for me forever 🙂

  13. Pretentious Prog Psuedo-Intellectuals love, Love Love them some victims because in their hearts they know they are losers, too.

    The unavoidable premise of Human Exceptionalism, the irrefutable truth which Animal Righters deny without refuting, is that ONLY Humans are capable of even conceiving of moral action. Self-criticism is a fundamental human trait and attribute on personal, tribal and species level.

    • There are also the inconvenient facts that:

      1) “Protecting the animals” means only protecting the carnivores — because they’ll eat the rest!

      2) We accept that animals have a hierarchy called the “food web.” Humans participating in it makes perfect sense, since all the others are doing so.

      3) We do not hold most animals morally culpable anyway.

      4) Animals don’t give a tinker’s damn about the “environment,” as any invasive species will show you.

    • Given the existence of non-human sapience, why would non-human sapients be incapable of conceiving of moral action?

      Having said that, humans are no worse, and sometimes on the average better, at behaving morally as are the other likely Terrestrial sapients. So we shouldn’t imagine ourselves uniquely evil.

  14. This post is overdue for most people to read. There’s no point in trying to bring someone down just because they’re good at what they do.

  15. “It’s not you I hate, Cardassian, it’s what I became because of you…..”

    I was going to make a joke out of it, but… I think there might be something to that. Folks who don’t like themselves very much, and they don’t want it to be their fault.

    • If you take responsibility for you actions and have good perspective on them then you can feel better about yourself by doing better. Just wallowing is disgusting!

  16. “I’m just saying that these days, by default what you hear is against-whatever-the-dominant-culture is.” Yes, anything people might be tempted to take pride in is stomped. Prosperity was making Amercans too content in the 1950s, so the Left set about leeching contentment. (The content don’t make Revolution.) Say, Sarah, what happened to that Independent Book announcement page on PJM?

    • It’s up, but we haven’t been getting many pings — I wonder if the gmail is funny?

      • I shot you a book (electronically speaking) a few minutes ago. FYI, gang, there’s a Hun price discount on _Elizabeth of Starland_ from now until Christmas Eve. More details tomorrow (Saturday the 21st).

  17. I rather liked the “After Humanity” stuff, because it’s actually a good primer for post-apocalyptic decay if you’re a writer (or a reader). It’s good to know that certain things fall apart before other things, and that Hoover Dam is going to outlast just about everything else on the planet…

  18. Jonah Goldberg’s G-file, if you haven’t read it– and why not? It’s free!— had a great and oddly fitting couple of paragraphs:
    The ASA, Israel, and Anti-Americanism

    So the American Studies Association has announced a boycott of Israel. This has generated a lot of semi-predictable charges of anti-Semitism. I think Larry Summers has it right. The boycott isn’t anti-Semitic in intent, but there is something vaguely anti-Semitic about the result. That’s because the double standard against Israel is so glaring, it causes some people to think it’s an awfully odd coincidence that the one country in the world run by Jews is singled out this way. After all, whatever Israel’s sins, it hardly sinks to the level of many of its neighbors, never mind the human-rights abuses of such regimes as Burma, North Korea, China, or Zimbabwe, just to name a few. It’s like the U.N. Human Rights Council over the years has basically developed two functions: To protect horrible regimes from criticism and to criticize Israel as a moral horror.

    But it seems to me the real culprit isn’t anti-Semitism, it’s antiselfism. Since antiselfism isn’t a word so much as a cheap effort to cultivate some alliterative parallelism, let me clarify. What I mean about antiselfism is self-hatred or, more specifically, hatred of Western civilization. The American-studies racket long ago became one of the great bastions of left-wing hornswoggle and codswallop. Obviously, there are exceptions, but American Studies in general has become the catch-all discipline for people who want to come up with reasons why America sucks and why Western civilization is a problem.

    • It’s holding some people to a higher standard. Because they are perceived as more capable of morality. Thus… the US and Israel.

      This, however, means that other people are held to a lower standard because there is not much point in trying to shame them because they are not actually capable of morality.

      And yes, that is every single bit as racist as it sounds. But those who insist so strongly on constantly condemning Israel and are constantly condemning America for our faults never actually bother to think it through… on account of they’re busy congratulating themselves for working to defeat evil in the world.

      • No, it is the difference between giving jay-walking tickets to the guys wearing ties and letter jackets instead of the guys who stagger, scream at invisible friends, and smell of stale urine: which ones will obey you out of self respect and which ones are going to at best ignore you and at worst attempt to eat your face?

        • Or, alternatively, which ones are going to pay the ticket, and which ones are going to at best shove the ticket in their shoes to help keep their feet warm?

        • If it’s anything, it’s another example of Alinsky-ite tactics. Hold your opponent to their own impossible moral standards, force them to play by their rules while refusing to accept any yourself. Standard radical-left playbook.

  19. OT: The alt-history, sci-fi novel “Elizabeth of Starland” is available at Amazon. The price goes up to $4.99 or so on December 25.

    http://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Starland-The-Colplatschki-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00HFEWKXY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387649249&sr=8-1&keywords=Elizabeth+of+Starland

    Sorry EPUB fans, KOBO is down until after Jan 4. I’ll get that version up ASAP once KOBO allows new uploads.

  20. Since my Kimble for Android went belly up, I can only read EPUB on the tablet. Guess I will have to wait. Be sure to advise where to buy from when it is up, I’m new to ebooks and get lost away from Baen.