Of Trust and Processes

So apparently this antibiotic I took was so strong as to ALMOST be an anti-Sarah, which means as I stopped taking it, I came down with an epic head cold. I finally got tired of it yesterday and spent most of the day curled up with books or sleeping, and then went to bed at nine, which means I slept almost 12 hours, on top of all I’d slept during the day.

I keep forgetting that this works to cure colds. My aunt (mom’s younger sister) used to think Port Wine cured colds, because you drank as much as you could stand, then woke a day later without a cold. But I find for me it works just fine without the Port Wine in the equation. I’m still a little snuffly, but there isn’t that feeling I’m trying to think through cork.

And this morning I thought I never remember this works, because logically, in my head, it shouldn’t work. Yes, yes, power down and give your body a chance to fight the nasties, but it’s an infection, and sleep – by itself – shouldn’t cure it.

There are things like this that you think shouldn’t work, but do. And because you don’t really believe they will work, you tend to forget it. Or you never believe it.

Take for instance when I first took the Oregon Writers’ workshop and Kris and Dean told me to “trust the process” – that is to believe that just doing a thing over and over again makes you better at it. It’s not sense. And we probably all know people who have been “trying” for years to be writers, or musicians or basketball players and still suck at it.

But then if you look at it closely, all of these people “trying” aren’t trying very hard. Even for me, it took 13 years to publication, because I’d get discouraged and wander off to do something else (mostly bake carrot cake. Don’t judge me.) I kept coming back to it, and pushing, but then I’d go off for months and lose all the progress I’d made. And most people who try for years and never succeed usually have that pattern, or have some issue that makes it impossible for them to succeed in that field. For instance, it would be insane if younger son decided to become a musician and he couldn’t succeed without specialized classes, because he has sensory issues. So just trying and trying, when you can’t “hear” what you’re aiming for wouldn’t work. It would be crazy if I tried to be a basketball player. No amount of game could overcome the fact I’d be much shorter than everyone else who plays basketball.

For writers a peculiar temptation I’ve mentioned before is to become so immersed in your world and your characters you spend your whole time dreaming it, instead of writing it. And writing it is a painful process, since you have to introduce to your readers these people you know so well, and to mention details you think are obvious because you’ve lived with them so long. So the dream is super-seductive and will actually prevent you from writing.

So, yeah, you can spend years ideating your world and never write, but that’s not the process you should trust. You should trust the simple, dumb process of putting words down, and trying to write the best you can. Yeah, you’ll make a lot of the same dumb mistakes (and it will hurt you because you can see them) but eventually something breaks and you hit another level. This is of course, assuming you continue to read and study the masters of your craft. (Or listen to, or look at, or whatever your craft involves.)

My older son was talking to me, while painting walls, about the distinctive quality of Heinlein’s juveniles. His main characters, son said (and is right) are not particularly gifted. They’re not the chosen ones. Instead, they find themselves in a situation, or want to learn something, and very often have to work harder than anyone else. Think of Rico and his mathematical boneheadedness. Or Torby learning to scan for raiders before they come out of whatever they called warp drive (it’s been a year or two and my memory drops details.)

But they work hard and then they succeed.

This is very different from just about every other YA. Even Harry Potter. While he’s not the fastest or the smartest, he’s the “chosen one” and he’s a naturally good quiddich player. (Think how likely that would be.)

Even in Diana Wynne Jones, the kids are usually fated to be something or other, endowed with abilities to be something or other, and the book is a process of discovery.

Of course, those YA are drawing on a much older tradition, the tradition of folk tales and fairytales, in which you were born special or you weren’t.

But that tradition tied in to a society in which you were born special, or you weren’t.

Heinlein was writing for a (at least envisioned) society in which you were born equal, and those willing to strive harder (whether or not they had the gifts naturally) to do what they wanted to do came out on top.

Which btw, sounds like Heinlein felt about it sort of like I do. “Talent” is a myth. Some of us have a component of what we want to do for free. In my case, heaven help me, it’s words, which in the quiver of writing arrows is the least important. The rest I had to learn, by writing and writing, and writing, and trusting the process. But no one is born with the full panoply of talents to become an extraordinary writer. Even good beginners grow if they continue in the art. And this makes sense, of course, because why would someone be born with all that’s needed for a profession that didn’t exist when our ancestors were adapting to new conditions?

But there is a pernicious idea – weirdly amid those who don’t believe in anything more than the physical – that humans are “born” to do this or that. It was after all part of the package used to sell us a freshman senator from Illinois. He was “born” to this. He just naturally had “more game” than everyone.

We’re learning slowly and painfully he was born with the ability to impress people for a limited time, and in things requiring a not very deep analysis. Which is an ability people can be born with – like facility in the use of language – but the rest of the job takes time and effort, and might be too much for on-the-job training.

Getting away from politics, this is why we both have a poisonous fascination with degrees from the “right” institutions and those institutions continuously water down their curriculum. Because really, they don’t believe they have to TEACH anything, just credential what’s already there.

Which brings us again, like water circling the drain to the d*mn idea of the noble savage. It’s a long, long idea in our society, though it used to be believed because G-d endowed “innocents” with special insight.

So, for instance, when the babe at the mother’s breast, spoke for the first time to proclaim the true king (I must use that in a story!) it was G-d speaking through him. But we dethroned G-d and kept the innocent.

This is why any victim-of-the-week has “unique rights” to criticize western civilization and “speak truth to power.” (Mostly speak truth to people who want to prevent those with the real power – i.e. the government – from giving the “victim” whatever the “victim” wants.)

This includes people who arrived in the US yesterday from some h*ll hole, but who supposedly can see everything wrong with the US, because they’re endowed with the special sight of the noble savage. (As someone who went through acculturation, it will take them years even to see what’s really there, and not what they learned to see in their homeland.)

If we want sanity, if we want a meritocratic society, if we want to save representative government, it is time to get away from this very romantic idea that people are born to do this or that. Sure, they can have a set of characteristics that makes the learning easier, but in the end, they have to trust the process and work through it.

So if you really want to do something, don’t fool yourself that it will take no work, and don’t excuse yourself that you’ll never succeed because you weren’t born with it.

I’ve seen people fail for both those reasons. And succeed despite all sorts of handicaps if they keep working at it.

So, work hard, trust the process and never, ever, ever trust the man on the white horse, i.e. the man who was just “born” to take power and do a difficult job without learning process.

That way lies kingship and slavery.

371 thoughts on “Of Trust and Processes

  1. In at least one language (Dutch) the same word (“onnozel”) can mean both ‘innocent’ and ‘dimwitted’. So we are truly living in “het rijk der onnozelen” (the realm of the innocents/dimwitted).

    1. “innocent” in English can also mean “severely mentally retarded.”

      “simple” can mean both stupid and straightforward.

      “silly” originally meant “holy.”

      Indeed, this is a theme that comes up again and again in C.S. Lewis’s Studies in Words.

      1. “simple” can mean both stupid and straightforward.

        Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson.

        1. I don’t know if “stupid” is exactly the right… flavor?

          The… whatchamacallit… subtlety in the “dumb” meaning I get from “simple” is in the “inherently lacking necessary complications” sense, while “stupid” is more “does not have the computing power,” and “innocent” is more like unable to see the important details.

          1. It has meant exactly “stupid” in the sense “really lacking in intelligence.”

            1. “Can’t process the information” (say, me with more than four numbers in a row) is different from “can’t identify the information” (that car is moving too fast for conditions and thus is dangerous) is different from “doesn’t know that the information is there.” (the unknown unknowns type where a normal person would recognize at least to the known unknowns stage; most YMMV type of “stupid”)

              1. Yes, but simple HAS meant “stupid”, usually as a more polite term, but nonetheless meaning stupid. That is also where we got the word “simpleton” from.

    2. That’s why the initial card of the Tarot is the Fool. It’s one who has might notice something because he’s completely innocent (and therefore has no preconceptions in the way), but also the one who might fall off a cliff because he’s too innocent to see the danger.

  2. I am willing to tentatively agree that Sarah is a viral infection. It would explain rather a lot about this place. The question is, what sort of virus?

    Check in box.

      1. Maybe he was thinking of that great new mime act that started in Prague – ‘Czech in a box’?

        * ducks behind carp-resistant shielding *

    1. That would tend to explain why I’ve started breaking out in hives (or the willies) in the presence of Marxist historical interpretation, and can now spot it from a lot farther away. Hmmm.

      1. No, no, the willies are what one breaks out in when in the presence of former-president Clinton.

        1. Using “president Clinton” and “willies” in the same sentence…You sir make this too easy. I will not lower myself.

  3. My older son was talking to me, while painting walls, about the distinctive quality of Heinlein’s juveniles. His main characters, son said (and is right) are not particularly gifted. They’re not the chosen ones. Instead, they find themselves in a situation, or want to learn something, and very often have to work harder than anyone else…

    Hitchcock often used it … it allowed you to identify with the hero and his confusion at being faced with whatever situation the trust him into … although who could think of Cary Grant as an everyman.

        1. Pauline Kael, who was truly the A-number-one Cary Grant fan, wrote a wonderful essay about him in When the Lights Go Down.

        2. I like Cary Grant better than James Stewart. Comparing them is like comparing orange juice and coffee. Both were excellent actors doing very different roles.

          1. I am kinda partial to the film they did together (The Philadelphia Story) — Katharine Hepburn flirted so beautifully with them both.

            1. I’ve always suspected Strategic Air Command had to be one of his least challenging roles. 🙂

          2. Cary Grant was good at being the handsome debonair cultured Cary Grant. James Stewart had a more diverse character set. The voice of his could be offputting though. Both had wonderful careers.

            1. and Hitchcock was WAY more daring with Stewart than any other director. In Rear Window, he plays a blatant peeping tom. In Vertigo, he goes insane and falls into a weird, necrophilic obsession with a woman who looks just like a dead woman.

              1. Stewart’s westerns with Anthony Mann were significant milestones in the genre and represent some rather … intense characters. Watching him matched against Robert Ryan in The Naked Spur or pursuing Dan Duryea in Winchester 73 is a lesson on working the screen.

            2. Try two Howard Hawks directed Cary Grant films — Only Angles Have Wings and Bringing Up Baby — and tell me again that Grant had limited range.

              1. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen “Baby” and I’m not sure that I’ve seen “angels but from the synopsis they are both romantic style movies. Which is typical Cary Grant. But that’s not the same a Strategic Air Command, Harvey and the westerns all done close to each other.

    1. I forget which Heinlein juvenile I was recently revisiting thanks to audiobook (Red Planet?) when I noticed that the “hero” wasn’t the smartest or fastest or strongest of his group. In fact, about all he had more of than his friends was stubbornness and good values.

      Even in Have Spacesuit it is not Kip’s intelligence that counts (he is astounded when Pee-Wee’s father tells him he’s smarter than Pee-Wee is) but rather his work to develop his intellect (at his father’s insistence) rather than accept the pablum curriculum offered at his school.

      1. That insistence on development of intellect was a strong constant in the juveniles and even more adult novels (Manny in TMiaHM is a great example). It may have been one of Heinlein’s greatest gift to a lot of us who read him young.

      2. Red Planet has Willis the bouncer, which we will discover in Stranger in a Strange Land is a female nymph phase of a Martian and should have been named Willamina.

        1. Should? The bouncer?

          I think that falls in the same category as why no one has told the dragon that Fluffy is not a suitable draconic name.

    2. Harrison Ford was also pretty good at playing this sort of character- Indy, Han, and Deckard aren’t exactly the smartest guys in the room, not the strongest, but all are very good at thinking on their feet, and making it up as they went along, aka, “The Indy Ploy”

  4. Work is the key… Regardless of what one hears, it DOES take real work to succeed. I don’t remember who said it, but there was a quote about shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations when talking about the wealthy and not making the kids work for their share of that wealth. When one works, there is a real appreciation of the money earned.

    1. I trend libertarian in many ways, but in terms of estate taxes I think of the problems of hereditary wealth. Sure, give it to your kids… but if the grandkids don’t work for something, they’re utterly crippled.

      1. Ah, but is that wealth a business or just a pile-o-cash in a trust fund? In the second case I’m inclined to agree with you, not so much in the first case.

        1. There are no “piles-o-cash” in a properly managed trust fund; that wealth is invested in a wide variety of enterprises through various means, enabling the productive to grow more wealth for everybody to enjoy.

          Such trusts should have no more cash piled than that which is anticipated as necessary for immediate and short-term needs.

          BTW – another way trusts avoid taxation is investment in government bonds, financing civic construction and investment.

          1. True, but as you show below, certain foundations certainly act as if they exist for no purpose but to be cash-cows for [family/institution/cause]. Kennedy money may help North Nowhere, NY pay for a new bridge via county bonds, but it also provides sustinance for what should be a horrible warning (instead of a model of behavior). So in those type of instances, the trust comes to resemble the mythical pile-o-cash, at least in popular understanding.

            1. There ought to be a metaphor about a goose laying golden eggs which render the recipients silly geese but I’m too lazy indolent languid today to do more than vaguely gesture in its direction.

        2. Depends on the trust fund…to get back to everyone’s second favorite author her (our Space Princess being the first of course 🙂 ) I think his idea in Beast wasn’t bad and I’m trying to figure out a real world version for my nephews and niece: they can draw on the fund only after contributing an amount to it equal to the number of current heirs (both those drawing income from it and not).

          I have no trouble rewarding them with the fruits of my work after they’ve done enough work to value it (which is a change as until recently I planned on leaving nothing to family) but not before.

          1. I *like* that idea. Pay up or get nothing. Heh.

            Honestly, if money were to fall from the sky* our first trick would be to hide it so that our kids didn’t know we were suddenly rich. While a few Things would be bought (epic treehouse time), most of the money spent on them would go towards lessons or Experiences (as in, Let’s visit your Danish cousins.) And there would be *lots* of charity, including It’s time to go help at the food kitchen. (Okay, that’s already on the table for when they’re old enough (by said food kitchen’s rules.))

            I’ve seen cluelessly privileged brats. They’re the ones who are nice as the dickens but carelessly lose pieces of their dance costumes because Mommy and Daddy can just buy a new one (never mind that it’s no longer in production) or who hear about lynchings in early 20th-century Deep South and wonder, out loud, “Why didn’t they just move?” (After that one had left, I leaned over to my conversational companion and said, “She’s never been hungry.”)

            *”Money falling from the sky,” is my family’s shorthand for “the money that we’d do this with, if magic were to happen,” because we got sick of people thinking we were serious when we used the phrase “when we win the lottery.”

      2. The trouble with that idea has always been that it removes the motivation for a lot of people: “Why work so hard, if I can’t leave any of it to my kids…?”.

        Then, you’ve got the moral problem of justifying why the hell the government/public “deserves” any of that money in the first place. When you get down to it, inheritance taxes are pretty much founded on the sour-grape ideals of socialism–“You didn’t build that…”.

        I’d rather we just let nature take its course, and just do what it takes to stop oligarchies from establishing themselves. When you contemplate the pernicious effects that stem from “old money” trying to “do good” and protect their wealth in trusts, I think I’d rather watch the entertainingly self-destructive ways of the third generation, as they blow Grandfather’s money on wine, women, and song.

        Hell, rather than see what some of these charitable trusts like the Clintons get up to, I’d prefer to see them tax the ever-loving hell out of charitable donations, unless the money is being spent on actual things. If you’re going to have 85% of your charitable trust paying salary to the people running it, that’s a scam, and ought to be taxed as such. Like at a 250% tax rate…

        1. Any charity having an adequate pay-out rate will not need to worry about taxes. Such qualified grants and donations for charitable purpose would be properly recognized as expenses and deductible from gross income.

          The trick is in defining what “qualifies.”

        2. The Ford Foundation. Any charity set up by a conservative will be taken over by leftists.

        3. Whenever somebody wants to argue over the inheritance tax with me, I ask “Can you really imagine a silver spoon baby growing up and spending his inheritance on anything as silly, useless, and socially destructive as what governments do every single day?”

          Yes, there have been a few notable examples of individual human foolishness, but governments are worse on a day to day basis.

            1. Nothing so specific. Sure, there hasn’t been an honestly employed Kennedy since Old Joe stopped running rum into California, but the whole clan put together isn’t as destructive as, say, the Department of Energy, or the Department of Education.

              1. The problem is that Teddy’s hobby was enacting bad legislation and promoting maliciously incompetent policies and candidates. Remember, it was his endorsement that pushed Obama to the front of the queue. It was Teddy who was the primary force behind No Child Left Alone.

                If he had merely restrained himself to driving drunk he’s have done much less harm.

                1. That may have been his hobby, but his vocation was dismantling the United States as a nation of the free. His attempt to work with the Soviets to stymie Reagan should have landed him in prison, instead he’s still held out as an idea by the Democrats.

        4. “Then, you’ve got the moral problem of justifying why the hell the government/public “deserves” any of that money in the first place. When you get down to it, inheritance taxes are pretty much founded on the sour-grape ideals of socialism–“You didn’t build that…”.”


          I may not think giving your kids a pile of money is a good idea, but taking it away from you is just out and out theft. You already paid taxes on that, it is yours, you ought to be able to do what you want with it, including giving it to whoever you want.

          Also, inheritance taxes play merry hell with farmers and ranchers, it should be criminal to force someone to sell the family farm, in order to be able to afford to pay the tax on it when they inherit it.

          I was going to say the government didn’t do anything to help you get that inheritance, but now with Obamacare, that isn’t necessarily true.

          1. Prompted me to look up what eventually happened in the Sonnabend case. (Quick synopsis – estate had a piece of art in it that incorporated a stuffed eagle; absolutely illegal to sell such a piece; heirs therefore declared it as of no value; IRS came back, said no, it’s worth $65 million – you owe us $29 million plus $11 million penalty for non-payment.)

            Eventually settled after they sued the IRS – piece donated to a museum, IRS dropped the claim. I was hoping for some kind of precedent to stop such garbage, but they apparently were afraid to have one set.

      3. Two words – family farms. The ones that didn’t incorporate have generally been lost to inheritance taxes.
        LLCs (and there’s a new thing, but I can’t think of what it is) seem to have been just the thing for family farms and personal businesses. I’ve met people who have incorporated their names, and do almost everything as the company.

        1. I know—it’s why I didn’t say anything specific about estate taxes. Anything can be got around, and the laws tend to smack the ones who shouldn’t be smacked. It’s why I don’t want the idea abolished, though. I like the upstream idea of trusts that require you to contribute before you can draw on them, though.

      4. I’m not sure it is our duty to watch out for the well-being of rich people’s grandkids.

        All that estate taxes do is force them to pay for lawyers and accountants to establish Family Trusts to allow them to shield the wealth from the taxman. The Kennedy “Compound” is owned by the Kennedy Family Trust, which allows the beneficiaries to reside there rent free. Heirs are employed by the Trust as officers and agents and provided per diem expenses which are not taxable income but can allow a recipient to have a very good day.

        There are a thousand and one ways to avoid estate taxes if you amass enough wealth and don’t mind paying lawyers, accountants and trust officers less than you’d pay the taxman.

        1. All that estate taxes do is force them to pay for lawyers and accountants to establish Family Trusts to allow them to shield the wealth from the taxman.

          And incidentally assures that the possible ill-effects of not working for the money are realized.

        2. The Ottoman empire and the colonization of Central and South America shows why this can be a bad idea. In the old Ottoman empire, your lands would go back to the Sultan at your death; in Central/South America, the idea was to squeeze out enough money to move back to Europe as a rich man. Not the most conducive environment for long term financial growth.

        3. “I’m not sure it is our duty to watch out for the well-being of rich people’s grandkids.”

          How about we just look out for everyone’s right to own property secure from casual theft?

          The real effect of estate taxes isn’t to make the children of the uber-rich have to work, but to make it harder for the middle class to climb any higher.

          1. Whether it is better for those grandkids to have to earn their own livelihood is no legitimate purpose for estate taxes.

            1. If nothing else, it would be better for the grandparents to provide a trust for the kid with Down syndrome or other disability that to throw the kid on the public system.

      5. Consider, I inherited an entire industrial civilization and nationality without earning a bit of it…

      6. There’s a really simple solution to this problem: if you think your estate will cripple your grandkids, don’t leave it to them. Donate it to, oh, I don’t know, the college you went to as a scholarship fund with whatever stipulations you like. Or to your local library or museum to upgrade their building.
        I’m sure there are dozens of very clever attorneys who would be delighted to be hired to put together a trust that would let a person’s children take payouts for their lifetimes and go to any entity under the sun after their deaths.
        As for those who don’t avoid leaving wealth to their grandchildren, who are we to prevent them from doing what they want?

        1. I repeat, all the good deed foundations you set up will be taken over by Communists.

          1. Depends on what/how you do, doesn’t it? I find it hard to see how, say a scholarship for left-handed baseball players would be taken over by Communists–you may make the case that the universities as a class have been but there are certainly a few universities which have not. Of course, real estate may change hands, so I suppose funding a building would be out of the question . . .
            But the original comment I replied to was B. Durbin’s, in favor of the estate tax in order to prevent the woes of third-generation wealthy. Communists are surely just as likely, if not moreso, to get their hands on your funds by means of the state than if you built your local animal shelter a new building.

            1. I find it hard to see how, say a scholarship for left-handed baseball players would be taken over by Communists…

              Not hard at all, given time. Once you have the reins, you can start adding “reasonable requirements” like the right parentage, or the right public pronouncements, or the right poskynesis in front of the Sierra Club HQ, and then you reinterpret the baseball players requirement to be persons active in any sports, followed by explicitly recognizing that dancing-with-ribbons thing a sport, which eventually opens the door to grants from the lefty baseball player fund going to left handed approved-minority children of approved-marxist green-activist trans ballet dancers who aren’t actually dancers but wote a really good essay on how they wanted to be one someday.

              1. Really, who are we to define who is right-handed and who is left-handed? Isn’t handed-ness a social construct? I myself feel that I am a left-handed person in a right-handed body.

                Isn’t it awfully judgmental to narrowly define “baseball”? What about Rounders — isn’t that the antecedent of baseball? Shouldn’t Rounders players qualify for that scholarship? Should we discriminate against a right-handed football left-tackle who feels he is a left-handed female second-baseman (all the guys get to second-base with her!)?

                Then there are the colleges which have ignored restrictions on scholarships and endowments in order to fund “more important” programs.

                1. Outside of those actually trying to hijack it, there are people who are right handed except for batting or throwing or something. My husband can only shoot left handed, for example. (Was actually kind of funny– I just figured out last week that’s why his preferred room-clearing in video games is the opposite of mine, because we’re both using proper room-clearing techniques.)

                  1. I’m left-eye dominant, so I *should* learn to shoot left-handed. (I taught most of a summer of archery before figuring that one out. Oh well, it was rank beginners, at least the technique was sound.)

            2. They did it with scholarships for men only. Just get the courts to rule that it is illegal discrimination, then give the scholarships to wormen rather than destroying the capital behind them which is what should have been done.

              After all there is no rational reason to prefer left handed baseball players to right handers. The fact that it is your money is inmaterial (which sort of sums up lefties anyway).

              1. Girard College (a K-12 preparatory academy) was founded in 1833 as proscribed by the will of Girard as a scholarship school for poor white orphan (which at the time meant fatherless) boys who showed academic promise. Now, according to Wiki:

                Applicants must be at least six years old, demonstrate good social skills and the potential for scholastic achievement, and come from a single-parent, lower-income or otherwise “disadvantaged” family. Girard accepts students on the basis of previous school records, admissions testing, a visit, and interviews, with the process conducted without preference for race, gender, religion, or national origin.

        2. Check out A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America, by National Review’s john J Miller.

          A key element of the idea behind this foundation was that it had a “use by” date — its benefactor set a time for its termination to ensure against its going the way of the Ford, Rockefeller & Carnegie Foundations, eventually co-opted by ideological enemies dedicated to undoing every accomplishment their founders achieved.

          The decision of the foundation to spend down remains controversial (2005 was its final year), but Miller notes that term limits ensured the board would always have members who knew John M. Olin and understood his wishes. In addition, term limits allowed the foundation to increase its grantmaking so that the relatively small foundation had the clout of a far larger organization.http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/excellence_in_philanthropy/freedoms_champion

          The money of the wealthy should be protected from those who would squander it and spend it against its founder’s values. I have always found something very distasteful in (for example) John Heinz’s money funding John Kerry’s political career.

          1. “I have always found something very distasteful in (for example) John Heinz’s money funding John Kerry’s political career.”

            Does it make you see red?

            1. No, but it engenders a strange preference for Del Monte’s.

              I must admit there is a sort of justice in Kerry’s career rise being propelled by baked beans.

              1. Well, there’s 57 varieties of something coming out of Kerry, that’s for sure. 🙂

                1. Great way to get all of those little bits of ketchup, mustard, Miracle Whip, french dressing, etc. out of the fridge…

                  Alas, I can’t use Mom’s recipe for baked beans – I learned last year to make most of our condiments, and they just don’t keep as long without preservatives.

          2. Thank you, RES. You’ve just clarified all the comments that, by happy coincidence, are just above your comment.

      7. Pretty sure the “pile of cash” variations are all directly caused by trying to keep the gov’t from breaking up businesses when the original owner dies– all the trust fund kids (went to school with their kids) had it for that reason.

        So the sometimes-problem was made an all-the-time problem by the fix…..

      8. in terms of estate taxes I think of the problems of hereditary wealth.

        In that case, you should be able to leave your estate to whomever you wish… if you want to leave it to the government, that’s your call. Estate taxes are just the government’s way of double (triple? quadruple? n-ple?) dipping from money they foolishly let you think was yours while you were alive.

  5. The appeal of the “man on the white horse” is the idea of “somebody who’ll get things done”.

    Sure, it’s a dangerous idea but how many of us have dreamed of “what we’d do if we were the absolute dictator”?

    Sarah has talked about “leaving everybody alone” but still…

        1. Now that’s downright uncivilized.

          Keeping Mutally Assured Destruction balanced, the other side will now be using lutefisk…

          1. Lutefisk is much much worse than gefilte fish. It is the stinky cheese of fish.

        2. Nah Gefilte fish is whitefish and pike unless it’s homemade. Do you make your own? If not which brand do you prefer?

          1. Prefer? 🙂 It’s to me the quintessential Ashkenazi “food for masochists” — a little bit like haggis for a Scotsman, lutefisk for a Scandinavian,… My wife of 20+ years is a good cook when she puts her mind to it (aside from her sterling gifts as a musician and singer) but never ground her own gefilte. When she’s out of town or I am out on business, I sometimes buy some of whatever Israeli or US brand available and make a quick meal out of that and an expletive-load of horseradish (I do like spicy foods).

    1. Feminism’s Age of Ultron
      Apparently feminists aren’t satisfied with female characters in movies like ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ unless they act like men and otherwise fit the feminist script.

      By Collin Garbarino, an assistant professor of history at Houston Baptist University.
      Part of the problem is that some feminists have an incredibly narrow definition of “strong female character.” These feminists demand that their “strong female character” be a remorseless killer who has sex with people. They essentially want James Bond with breasts. This strikes me as a sort of trans-patriarchy. Women must take the traits of men that they hate in order to be strong. Making women act like men in order to succeed doesn’t sound like feminism to me. It sounds like an adolescent male’s fantasy, but that’s how less-than-thoughtful feminists define “strong female character.”

      Many tweets complained that Black Widow was the only “strong female character” in Marvel’s movies. Whedon’s TV series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” however, has three female characters who show strength in very different ways, yet each is flawed in different ways. It’s true that no female character has gotten her own movie yet, but Pepper Potts is a better strong character than Black Widow. Pepper is smart, hardworking, and brave. Maybe she can’t break people’s necks with her legs, and maybe she didn’t save the world from aliens, but she did manage to save Tony Stark’s soul. Being strong doesn’t always mean making other people suffer. Sometimes it means suffering in order to help other people.
      In “Age of Ultron,” each of the Avengers experiences pain, regret, and fear. At some point in the movie, each Avenger is called a monster. Sometimes they call themselves that, as in the case of Black Widow, but sometimes they call each other that. Twitter’s feminists must not have noticed how often the word came up.

      Whedon, however, offers a ray of hope. Just because you’re a monster doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. …

      1. All of the feminists’ objections were “Skim until offended” while watching the movie.

        There was no asking “Is that line in-character for the one who said it?” there was no “Is this a reasonable reaction/emotion/scene for a character to have, given the context of what they have experienced in the story thus far?”

        Asking and honestly answering those two questions would put paid to all of the feminist objections raised about the film.

        I don’t understand why anyone would want to live in a way that sucks all of the fun out of everything…

        1. I don’t understand why anyone would want to live in a way that sucks all of the fun out of everything…

          They find their fun in sucking out the fun for everybody else.

          The whole process of “skimming until offended” was perfected over fifty years ago by the sorts of “little old ladies” groups who would gather to see movies and stage shows with the intent of filing legal complaints if there was anything “obscene,”

          We’re just producing a younger crop of “little old ladies” nowadays. That’s what comes of modern manufacturing techniques and enhanced plants financed at taxpayer expense.

          1. The process if WELL over fifty years old. Mencken complains of it, and its effect on American letters, in the 1930’s. And he was complaining of a pattern of idiocy stretching well back into the 19th Century.

            There are always, ALWAYS self-appointed guardians of Public Morals, and they are very nearly always pernicious fools. I say very nearly only because there must have been a tiny minority who have been spot on, but whose perfectly correct observations got lost in the noise.

            There are always a few, a very few, things that could be censored to society’s benefit. Even assuming that would-be censors would actually ban them (a big stretch), the net effect of granting that power is always negative. We put up with the gods-damned idiots who insist on keeping THE PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION in print because what we will lose if censorship is allowed will do more damage.

            1. There was a copy of The Turner Diaries at the bookstore when I worked there. The cover was literally a text explanation of why the seller had printed it, and why it was important to know how dangerous people thought.

        2. Because it lets them be arrogant bullies, which they enjoy, and preen themselves on their moral superiority, which they also enjoy.

          I have with my own eyes see one of them posting about walking up to a total stranger and heckle him about his using a politically incorrect language where she could hear it. And preening herself about it.

      2. At some point in the movie, each Avenger is called a monster. Sometimes they call themselves that, as in the case of Black Widow, but sometimes they call each other that. Twitter’s feminists must not have noticed how often the word came up.

        So… used a cluebat the size of a tree trunk, and it STILL didn’t work?

        1. Progs are known to be resistant to strategic cluestrikes in the megaton range (see the guy who said he’d vote for O’Malley after listing off all the ways he had destroyed Baltimore). I’m hoping to get some time on the LHC to see if they can resist relativistic cluestrikes.

    2. “what we’d do if we were the absolute dictator”?
      I have contemplated this, but mostly from the perspective of “Who would I hire to help me?”
      I believe that networking would be my only chance under those circumstances.

      1. Hey, when I ponder it I posit that I have magical powers such that everyone obeys me. Getting that obedience would be No Fun At All (and why Superman couldn’t just take over the world).

        1. That’s what Superman & Co. have done in Injustice: Gods among us. They’re up to issue #2 of year 4. Year 5 is when the video game takes place.

    3. Oh, I could imagine a lot of things I would do as dictator. From forcing basketball and football major leagues to form minor leagues, to compelling all lawyers to pass Statistics 101 before they can practice law, with no grandfather clause.

      I would be a right nuisance, I imagine.

        1. If everybody had to take statistics the quality of teaching in at least half the classes would be below average.

            1. BTW – the definition of the word RES is thing.

              This public service announcement is brought to you by Gammaticus Obnoxiouxus.

              1. Yes, RES is a THING but what type of thing is the question? [Very Big Evil Grin]

              2. “Gammaticus Obnoxiouxus.”

                Never heard Hulk’s species before…. and doesn’t he have that whole “giant green rage-monster” niche locked up?

                1. Gammaticus? GAMmaticus??? That should have been GRammaticus!!!

                  The R must have rolled off.

            2. Not quite… for example, the average of the set {1,2,3,4,5} is 3, but only 40% of the set is below average.

              It’s theoretically possible to make sure no one is below average for their group, by making sure no one is above average.

              I’m really awfully glad I’m a Beta, because I don’t work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas.

                1. I bet a lot of people here do, for multiple definitions of “arms”. 🙂

                2. Not unless you have 1.9 something arms, for there are people with one or none. Or part of one.

            3. Bill Gates and 100 poor people; examine net worth. How many will be below average? That is what median net worth describes – 1/2 below value.

        2. They went into journalism because they were crappy at basic math, and wanted to get a degree in something that would allow them to party all through school…

          1. Well it certainly doesn’t prepare them for jobs after college. With how much college costs these days you’d think that people would only go to college to prepare for a job. If all you want to do is party then get a job at Mickey D’s and party in your free time.

              1. It’s parasitic. To use your parents’ money that they worked so hard to earn. To put yourself in debt for years and years just so that you can live like a wastrel for a few years is really stupid. I guess to some people nobody else matters. Also they can’t think beyond now.

        3. I took two semesters of stats. It was required of all biz majors at AUM (Auburn University at Montgomery.)

  6. You might like The Cloak Society trilogy. Also juveniles. The superpowered kids get to train like crazy. Indeed, left without adult supervision, they realize they have to train on their own.

    1. One thing I greatly appreciated in Big Hero 6 was the fact the team had to train and develop their use of their powers.

      1. I have the vague beginnings of a story idea where young superheroes learn the hard way that they need to train.

        1. Lack of training mars my enjoyment of Green Lantern. Imagine something and you can create it. I know that Captain America is Marvel and Green Lantern is DC. But it would be nice to see Captain America train GL. Otoh, I think GL is trained he just pretends he isn’t. I’d love to see Captain America fight GL.

          1. Well, IIRC the current version of Green Lantern did receive training in the use of his ring. Of course, with his ring he often doesn’t need to worry about hand-to-hand combat. [Smile]

            On the other hand, Cap and Batman could give each other lessons in hand-to-hand combat. [Wink]

            1. I shudder to think of Tony Stark, Green Lantern. Or if they conspired to do something embarrassing to Cap and Batman. I think that Cap has better weapons skills than Batman does. Imagine the clang! when a batarang hits Cap’s shield.

              1. IIRC there was a Justice League vs Avengers comic. Batman and Cap were seen squaring off then Batman basically says “Well, we’ll fight, you’ll likely win but both of us will be worn out. Let’s work together to find out who is really behind this mess”. Cap agrees. [Wink]

                Mind you, I was thinking either one would learn some new tricks from the other. [Smile]

                1. The funny thing is, I was just coming over to say… that is exactly what I’d imagine them doing.

                  I can’t picture a reasonable situation where they’d actually end up fighting; they’re both practical idealists.

                  1. In the lead up to the Amalgam Universe, Batman and Cap do finally fight, as forced by the living embodiement of their individual universes.
                    They fight for a long time before one of them is able to win by a fluke.
                    Oh, and the Green Lantern/Iron Man cross is an Amalgam comic known as Iron Lantern.
                    Look it up, it’s pretty awesome.

                    1. I remember reading that when I was younger. I also remember the Amalgam Universe really pissing me off. They merged Batman with Wolverine? Seriously Wolverine? When they had Daredevil? And they picked Wolverine?!?!

                      Sorry, old geek wound.

            2. There’s an amusing episode of ‘Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” where Captain America points out that Iron Man relies exclusively on his high-tech armor. And sooner or later he’s going to run into someone who’s just as well equipped… at which point he’s screwed, because without his armor he can’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag.

              If you watch the current Flash TV series, he often has this problem as well. He’s superfast. But he has no idea how to fight. And it’s somewhat embarrassing watching him try to hurt the bad guys when he has no idea how to actually fight them.

                1. Sort of. But it was only one session. And Barry’s hand to hand skills still pretty obviously suck.

                  1. Rather a pity, that. When you consider the importance of hand speed in boxing, karate and other forms of fisticuffs you realize that Barry Allen should be absolutely deadly. He not only can throw an incredibly fast punch he can throw a thousand of them in the time required for your nerves to tell your brain your jaw is broken.

                    The Flash don’t really need hand to hand skills except as necessary to avoid shattering the bones in his hands. For all that, he can tie your shoelaces together, pants AND melvin you in less time than it takes to describe.

                    1. For that matter, Flash could round a corner, see a whole strike force of mercenaries coming towards him, and go steal all the ammunition for their guns, take away any knives/swords/billy clubs/ etc, put them in a pile, and then stand behind the pile and sneer at them before they even could pull their triggers.

                    2. He no doubt will do all of those things later in his career. But right now he’s still pretty clueless.

                      Oliver made that point pretty clear when he shot him during their “training session”.


                    3. I expect it should be an embarrassment to here admit I’ve not seen more of the (current) TV series than one picks up while turning off the DVD/BluRay player (Flash is on ch.3 locally.)

                      Reviews have been surprisingly favorable, i gather, so I am considering picking it up if the Season 1 DVD box is cheap. Gotta watch Arrow season 1 first, I s’pose — picked that up for John Barrowman when i saw it under $20 at WalMart.

                      Regardless, I was reading Flash back when Carmine Infantino was drawing him and have never much taken to any substitutes.

                    4. They’ve done pretty good with it. In all seriousness, anyone that can take a giant talking telepathic gorilla, and not make it look silly, is doing well.

                      They’ve also had some fun. John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry in the 1990 TV series, plays Barry’s dad this time around. And Mark Hamill sort of reprised his role as The Trickster from the 1990 series.

                      Arrow is more or less Batman with a bow (and no “No Killing” rule). It’s dark and grim and gritty. The Flash is the series that shows why being a superhero is fun.

                    5. Haven’t watched the new show to see what version of the lore they’re using, but my favorite version is the Flash who is the nicest guy on earth– and at some level is that because he’s freaking deadly. For him NOT to have a huge body count is amazing, for exactly the reason you point out.

                      Heck, run and grab a can of gas, dump in on them, go get a lighter, come back, fight is over.

                    6. The show makes it pretty clear just how deadly Barry *can* be. One of meta-plots in the first season is tracking down a Reverse Flash who made his presence felt fifteen years before the story opens. And he occasionally pops up to use his powers in a very ruthless fashion.

                      In the comics, Flash can vibrate his hand through your chest before you even know that he’s there. Or he can snap your neck. Or deal with you in plenty of other ways. Barry won’t do those things because he’s such a genuinely nice guy (in marked contrast with Oliver). But the potential is there.



                      He’s a pushover for Flash. And the only reason he’s not generally recognized as such is because the writers (by their own acknowledgement) have never shown just how scary the Flash powers can be.

                    7. It is well established in canon that Superman can run as fast as the Flash (even travelling through time without Flash’s treadmill) and it is likely the only reason he doesn’t do the vibration thing is because with super-strength and invulnerability Supes doesn’t need such tricks.

                      (geek fight! geek fight!)

                    8. They ret-conned the “Supes running as fast as the Flash” thing. I can’t remember who was declared canonically faster, but the explanation given was that they weren’t really trying as hard as they could because the races were “for charity”.


                      As far as the vibrations go…

                      No. Even some of the extended Flash family (which consists of more than just the four guys how have called themselves “The Flash” at one point or another) have been unable to do it, despite possessing the super speed.

                    9. Retconned? Retconned!!! This for your retconned!

                      If you accept all retconnation than Hal Jordan was a drunk who beat his girlfriend, something which any true fan afficionado of the mythos bleedin’ well KNOWS to be false.

                      Superman is as fast as Allen and don’t need no steenkin’ vibration to go through stuff. If Flash tried to vibrate his hand into Kal-el’s chest he’d lose his fingers!

                      Whether or not Superman can vibrate his molecules is unaddressed in canon so no determination for or against that capability can be made.

                    10. In any event, retcon or not doesn’t matter. They retconned the entire universe with New 52. Now Supes dresses like a street thug, dontcha know?

                    11. I hate New 52 and all the new comic writers. Comics these days are PC and grey goo.

            1. Has GL ever had a live action series. I don’t think that GL is as much of a doof as he was played by Ryan Reynolds in the GL movie.

              1. I know I’m overthinking this. But why couldn’t GL have been more like Chuck Yeager or the early astronauts or any of the test pilots at Pax River?

              1. Back when Mohammed Ali was still a thing, they actually had a 3 issue thing where Superman had to fight in an intergalactic kumite (as a “normal”?) and Mohammed Ali attempted to train him (under a “red sun emulator). The ending, of course, was Ali doing the actual fighting.

          2. Part of why I love the animated Justice League is that they got someone who was at least a little familiar with Marines to help with Green Lantern– I got the impression that a lot of his limit on “imagining” it was that he had to imagine it in detail, so huge globes were easy, but a hand was tough and tended to look odd, and an octopus juggling balloons was right out.

          3. Cap fought Iron Fist once. Danny Rand was all, feh, just another muscle boy and tries to nail Cap with some fancy-pants dragon-tail punch or whatever. Cap catches his fist and uses Danny’s face to adjust a brick wall. Rand picks himself up mumbling something to the effect of okay, his technique is basic but JESUS… and goes to use his magic glowy fist on Cap. The result of that is even more insalubrious.

            1. It’s easy to forget that Cap’s an extremely skilled combatant.

              Spidey is another one that’s often underestimated. He’s never had formal training. But he’s been around for a *very* long time, so he’s managed to develop a style that’s all his own. And it’s easy to forget (he doesn’t look it), but he’s *very* strong. So someone facing him for the first time is confronted with a combat style that they’ve never seen before, used by an opponent who has precognitive abilities, and is strong enough to lift a bus.

              1. Spidey is another one that’s often underestimated.

                Spidey’s biggest power, IMO, is his sheer determination. It’s the reason that he fights so often way above his “weight division.” He’s gone toe to toe with folk like D’Spayre and Firelord (a former herald of Galactus) and won using both his mobility and his sheer grit.

                This is what makes Spidey probably my number 2 favorite Marvel hero. (#1 is Cap, of course. All the way.)

                1. And after winning against Firelord (who he thought was *just* a mutant), he learns from the Avengers who he had been up against and had a “OMG” moment & quickly left. [Wink]

  7. Antibiotics are poison. They work by hopefully targeting the germs that are making you sick, weakening them so your own body’s resources can kill them and flush them out. Long periods of sleep simply allow your body to devote more resources to the process.
    Antibiotics will also weaken or kill off good bacteria, so there is always a period when the lack of those puts you off your feed. I hear that yogurt is a good way to replenish the little critters that need to live in your gut.

    1. Yep. The body is a finely tuned nation of cooperating microbes. The natural-born citizens, we call cells. The immigrants, we call microbes. Illegal immigrants and freeloaders, we call diseases. Colonies and client states, we call children.

      Growth and healing happen primarily during sleep. That’s part of what it’s for. (Construction crews work at night, when there’s less traffic to disrupt.)

    2. They also kill you, just not as fast as the infection. The really strong stuff will wipe you out for the entire time that you are taking it, but the alternative is the infection killing you. Patience is your friend. (Says the guy whose appendix burst on the table, then went back to work too early).

        1. I sympathize. I just finished a second round of antibiotics and likely will have to have yet another go at it. Meh. The first round I spent the first 8 days of the 10 day course of treatment sick as a dog. The second round I just finished I felt fine the first 7 or so days and then got sick. took my last dose sunday night and monday night started feeling terrible so I spent today home collapsed mainly into unconsciousness. Meh.

  8. But… but…


    Who wants to do that?

    If I’m really as special a snowflake as I think I man I shouldn’t NEED to work. I am the great and terrible Jimbo. All of you should behold me and despair. If you would just recongnize my asweomenissiitude and natrual terrificalness that my mommy always told me I had you would realize that work is for other people.

    Seriously. A belief that _I_, of all people, need to work like other masters do is incredibly naive.

      1. This comment has been deleted. It originally contained a remark about the scent of roses and artful release but was held to be under the high standards maintained by the Huns.

        1. Ah, but just this Mother’s Day WaPo had some SJW Scold (I duplicate there) frothing at the mouth about the environmental impact of sexual organs of dead plants and how we should be sending donations in our Mother’s names to the Clinton Foundation (OK, I made that last one up).
          I just hope that your scent of roses didn’t actually require any roses.

    1. “You are all of you beneath me! I am a god, you dull creature, and I will not be bullied by ….”

        1. The sad thing (for Loki) is that he might have been able to defeat Hulk if he starting fighting instead of talking. [Evil Grin]

            1. I suppose it says something about me… Guess what my favorite scene is in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Star Wars.

              Actually, the only scene I remember where a moron doesn’t actually get nailed has to be the immortal lines “That’s not a knife. *That’s* a knife.”

          1. Jane Foster is now Thor? wtf? Comic editors have drunk the Kool-aid. Sif is a kick-ass woman warrior. The only reason I can think as to why so many characters are now female is an unmentioned ploy to discourage boys. Maybe I’m seeing plots where there aren’t any but…I have always felt that this was a boneheaded move and I still think so. What is wrong with these people?! Misandry is as bad as misogyny.

    2. The problem is that Fluffy here tends to turn special snowflakes into ordinary rainwater. . .

      Doesn’t mean to do it, but fire-breathing dragon — can’t help it.

    3. All of you should behold me and despair.

      We do but perhaps not in the way you think.

      Aside, I have to admit the Shelley’s double meanings of that phrase are one of my favorite in poetry.

  9. Good advice as always. I’ve been listening to Zig Ziglar’s “How to Stay Motivated” courses, and one of the last things he talks about is the story of the pump, and how when you stop pumping an old-time hand pump, the water goes all the way back down to the bottom of the pipe.
    Kills me to think that’s what happens to writing, but… yeah, it does.

  10. My crazy sister is much more physically talented than I am. So she would skate on that. I had to work at stuff, so after the same number of years of piano lessons I was a much more accomplished pianist. Likewise with riding. She was a more natural horsewoman. I stuck with it and worked at it, so I could often get school horses to do things they wouldn’t for other students. Well, hard work, and that for some reason the creatures generally liked and trusted me.

  11. One of my husband’s favorite books is Once a Hero by Michael Stackpole. One of the things that makes it notable is that the hero, Neal, is born to be the prophesied war leader of his tribe, so they promptly set about getting him the best and most varied war training available. Which shows a surprising amount of sense in a prophecy novel.

  12. As a former (and the only good) creative writing professor I had frequently said: “Hard work is a better pony than talent every time.”

      1. “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”
        – Louis Pasteur

        “Opportunity knocked, but you weren’t home.”
        – anonymous

    1. As I’ve said to a great many adults of the ‘I always wished I learned to play an instrument’ type, as a teacher, I find that I’d rather have a student with no talent who pays attention during lessons and practices properly than a very talented student who does not, and that the former will progress just as fast if not faster than the latter.

      1. This is why praising a child’s effort is better than praising talent. On the whole.

      2. I always wished I’d had access to specific instruments. Right now, the time priority is low, but once the kids pass a certain age I’ll see about acquiring a flute. (I play recorder, so the muscle memory is about half right. And I understand the physics of edge tones, which is surprisingly helpful when trying to create one.)

      3. Which is something I’ve told my son and I think he’s actually listening. Of course, it means he now plays more instruments than I do because he has the time to actually practice *all* of them. Hard work, practice and drive will make a musician out of him and should stand him in good stead when he goes to medical school in a decade or so.

    2. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas A. Edison

    3. But it is often argued by the wastrels of the world, though rarely so entertainingly:

  13. All perishable skill require practice. Writing, shooting, speaking, masonry, even thinking require practice. Having a natural aptitude for a particular skill just means than you can blow the rust off faster, not that you do not need to put in time and effort to be the best.

    1. This! One of the many signs that I needed a new career, or at least a new job, was the feeling I started getting a few years back of atrophying brain muscles. I’d be faced with something new that required real thinking and/or concentration and I could feel my brain fighting against a thickening, constricting shell.

  14. [I] mostly bake carrot cake. Don’t judge me.

    At least it wasn’t banana bread.

    1. Banana bread is GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT! Zucchini bread, howsomever… Do you know when you have too much zucchini? When you start making zucchini margaritas.

      1. Do you know when you have too much zucchini?

        New ammo source for the potato cannon…….

        1. Nah, you have too much zucchini when the neighbors find their house keys and start locking doors.

          I, however, have the opposite problem: my kids adore zucchini bread, and find zucchini tasty battered and deep fried, olive oiled and grilled, stir fried, in omelets, casseroled, raw dipped in ranch dressing, and as a pizza topping. I have great needs for zucchini and have actually had to buy it. I need better neighbors. *sniff* *wipes eye*

          Actually, the deer keep eating everybody’s zucchini. The neighbors are great, but they need to hit more deer.

        2. Would zucchini be armor-piercing? I know carrots are, but they’ve got more structural integrity.

      2. The joke here in Utah county is that people lock their cars so that the neighbors won’t put zucchini in it.

          1. A poor substitute. Much like spaghetti squash.

            Not that either are BAD for that, but they’re still not the Real Thing.

            1. No, but for those who are severely carb limited the Real Thing is not so good. Well, it tastes good, yes, but it can be deadly.

              1. I’ve discovered that spaghetti squash cooked, cooled and then rebaked with the accoutrements of your choice PLUS PARMESAN CHEESE VERY IMPORTANT TO HAVE PARMESAN CHEESE really hits my happy pasta place. Have had very tasty results with shrimp/pine nuts/parmesan and chicken/sage/parmesan bakes. Just FWIW.

                (but don’t forget the Parmesan.)

          2. Some sadist also put out a recipe for zucchini lasagna, substituting zucchini for the noodles. I’m sure there must be something nastier tasting out there, but I’ve never tried it.

            I tried to tell my mother how bad it was, a couple years after I had tried it, when she got the recipe in a low carb diet she was doing. She, of course, being a mother, thought her son was just being picky, and exaggerating about something he didn’t like… until she made it and tried it for herself.

          1. If you’re ever down this way, you’re invited to dinner, Sarah.

            The 20% majority opinion in this house loves the stuff. The 80% minority will happily pass theirs to you under the table…

            (Note to the start of this thread – you have not seen truly disgusting until you’ve had *eggplant* lasagna…)

  15. e’re learning slowly and painfully he was born with the ability to impress people for a limited time, and in things requiring a not very deep analysis.

    There is a profound shallowness in our elites. People tend to value those traits which are important in their own profession, which in the Media translates to glibness and the student’s trick of quickly grasping a superficial comprehension of a topic.

    It looks and sounds like comprehension but is no more nourishing than a brief summer shower, evaporating nearly as fast as it fell.

    When we value glibness above competence our society is on the steep part of the downward slope.

    1. The thing I don’t get about Jug Ears, is why anybody thought him all that much in the first place. I listened to his early speeches and heard a lot of the usual blather. He looked like a medium awkward cuss. OK, he might, MIGHT, have been a better candidate than Her Shrillness…..

      I get that he was and is largely a Media creation. What I don’t get is why they picked that particular base to begin with. He has the political skills of a concussed badger.

      1. I think that they like the usual blather. I have no idea why — perhaps they process it like liturgy. Any textual analysis of his arguments reveals they’re void of meaning, about as profound and deep as the lines on this paper.

        Please apologize to concussed badgers everywhere.

        1. OTOH, this isn’t even blather:

          “Where you’ve got the middle class and question has been, who are you mad at?” Obama said. “If you’re struggling. If you’re working but don’t seem to be getting ahead and over the last 40 years. Sadly, I think there’s been an effort to either make folks mad at folks at the top or to make folks mad at folks at the bottom. And I think the effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, who don’t want to work, lazy, undeserving, got traction. And look, it’s still being propagated. I have to say that if you watch Fox News on a regular basis, it is a constant menu, they will folks who make me mad. I don’t even know where they find them. They are all like I don’t want to work, I just want a free Obamaphone or whatever. That becomes an entire narrative that gets worked up.”
          “So if we’re going to change how Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) think, we’re going to have to change how our body politic thinks, which means we’re going to have to change how the media reports on these issues, and how people’s impressions of what it’s like to struggle in this economy looks like and how budgets connect to that.”

          That was our president, doubtlessly sending tingles up Chrissie Matthews’ legs.

          I think it may be a kind of Pavlovian buzz-word bingo where what counts is hitting the right Pavlovian triggers and actual grammar is irrelevant. He gives incoherence a bad name.

        2. Badger couldn’t make it — and certainly wouldn’t agree to be concussed — but Toad is quite willing…

          The Wind In The Willows: Toad’s Motorcar (100th Video)

      2. The one from that animated gif Kirk posted on the previous thread?

        It looked like a nasty fall off that cliff…

  16. I blame the God-hating atheist b*st*rds for the “noble savage”. God made human’s innocent and Eve gave human’s ‘original sin’. Now, in my book, God gave Eve the knowledge of good and evil, and the free will to choose between them. That is, she did the right thing for humanity.

    Ignore the religious tone, and imagine the story is brought to you by Native Americans, If people contain the knowledge between good and evil, then there really can not be a ‘noble savage’. All savages optimize their behavior based on their environment and ‘innocence’ really has nothing to do with it.

    Progressive tripe/dogma repeatedly fails because they refuse to accept that evil, or the potential for evil resides inside each and every human born, and to remove the evil is to remove the humanity (well, some Progressive nostrums are OK with removing the humanity).

    Like Port Wine cures colds, clearly is a belief that liquors up small children, but the effect, restful sleep is what cures the cold, but once people get the idea, it is hard to break. Reverse to the so named ‘noble savage’ who discovers sacrificing virgins to the volcano god makes the mountain less angry. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” is good Star Trek socialist claptrap. If your the virgin, your dead. Not much ‘good’ or ‘noble’ in that, is there.

    My Father remembers Horatio Alger ‘Rags to Riches’ stories that inspired him as a youth. Heinlein’s young adult books have a similar vein that anybody through honest effort, sometimes with a little help from their friends can overcome adversity and crisis. (Notwithstanding that the main and support character in “Have SpaceSuit Will Travel” were genetic geniuses.)

    They paint an optimistic picture of the ability to pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Compare this to the Progressive picture of a life of support and dependence. Which path do you prefer for humanity?

    1. Arnold Kling wrote a marvelous essay three years ago on what I call “the three primary colors of politics”.
      Kling’s pure progressive (who sees everything as “oppressor” vs “oppressed” ) has a passionate belief that man is born morally perfect, and only societal oppression makes them bad.
      Kling’s pure libertarian (who sees everything as “freedom” vs. “coercion”) believes equally passionately in man’s innate rationality and capacity for rational choice.
      Which leaves Kling’s pure conservative as one who “trusts” humans to be both irrational and morally fallible, and whose primary reference frame is “civilization” vs. “barbarism”.

      Of course, just like you can generate a whole color spectrum from varying blends of the three primary colors, real humans rarely conform purely to any of these three primaries but are varying blends of them.

      1. In the Just and True society which I will construct, ALL citizens will be required to adhere to only one hue … and dress accordingly.

        I would here insert a youtube clip of Senor Esposito as dictator of San Marcos but don’t want to spend the time to dig out the clip — if it exists.

        From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now… 16 years old!

        The Progressives shall wear red flannel union suits, the Conservatives will wear grey flannel suits and the Libertarians will wear whatever the heck they like, so long as it is flannel and neither red nor grey — perhaps blankets would suit them best.

      2. Good analysis, the Conservative is cautious but pessimistic, the Progressives are out chasing unicorns (No nature, all nurture), Libertarians are optimists, but if they acknowledge that occasionally you have to smack the irrationality out of people, I can live with it.

        My only gripe would under Progressive change passionate belief to irrational belief 🙂

  17. “so immersed in your world and your characters you spend your whole time dreaming it, instead of writing it”

    That sounds really familiar. I think I’ve been living in my stories for so many years that it would take twice as many years just to get it all down on paper.
    As it is, I’ve mostly just written the smaller stories that either stand alone or don’t impact the whole world view as much.
    Or are in a separate world altogether.

  18. On a related note, I’ve noticed fans arguing both ways of late regarding the “special” character thing (especially “special” young characters) with respect to some TV shows and movies lately. There are people who seem to loathe them because they are “special” or “fated” (e.g. Skye in Agents of SHIELD and Ezra in Star Wars: Rebels). I’ve also seen people arguing against new or continuing adventures in those universes that don’t involve “special” characters. For example, I’ve heard complaints from fans who hate the idea of Star Wars: Rogue One because there will be no Jedi/Sith, and fans who loudly opine that Marvel needs to add superheroes to Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter or else they should simply be cancel the shows. This isn’t really intended to discuss those shows/movies in particular, but just to highlight that loving/loathing “special” characters appears to be a divide that is common among fans at this time, and in multiple media.

    1. I think it’s a matter of balance; a character should have some reason that you’re paying attention to them– but if that reason is a gimmie, there should be more.

      Even “just” being tenacious can be a gimmie, if they never have to work for it.

    2. I like characters that become special because of what they do. The one who chooses vs. the chosen one.

      1. Captain America had both talent and persistence. Persistence shown by how many times he tried to enlist despite being rejected. Talent was the serum and his instincts. He was the only one who leaped on the grenade in training.

      2. All of Captain America’s best story arcs have arisen out of who he is, not what he was injected with. A lot of the young snots trying to write him these days don’t get that. Cap is the anti-Spiderman or X-Man; “okay, life just fed me another ration of crap, I’ve still got obligations.”

        That’s why the best scene in the Winter Soldier is the simple one where the Black Widow realizes she’s earned Cap’s trust. That quality in the man is what sets him apart from Stark or Thor or Fury.

        In the best Cap stories, other characters admit that his approval is a goal that made them better people. And when Tony freaking Stark says that about anyone other than his own reflection…

      1. No no no…

        Chocolate for Chim (That’s how y name is pronounced by people with German accents.

  19. > carrot cake

    There are probably far more successful writers out there than people who can bake a really good carrot cake. Yeah, I’m a cake critic…

    > if we want a meritocratic society

    Do we really? Who determines the merit?

    Mack Reynolds made a career out of writing stories about the failure modes of meritocracies. Or consider various of E.E. Smith’s novels…

    see also: the movie “Gattaca”

    1. “Gattaca” isn’t a story about meritocracy but about a society that obsesses over genetic profiles as a consequence of readily available genetic modification of embryos.

      The main character has merit, especially for his chosen path of being an astrophysicist because he obtained it by hard work in spite of a heart defect.

      There’s a real problem with people mistaking a form of aristocracy – rule by the few as determined by X (usually birth or some other lampshading of eugenics) for meritocracy, which should be defined as a system where people should be able to rise unhindered by society to the peak of their ability.

    2. E.E. Smith’s novels tended to be about tyrannies. In fact, from his novels, I get the idea that he was a believer in the “Free Man” concept of song, story, and multiple movies. (Hint for the younger crowd, translate it to german).

  20. Sympathies on the meds. I had forgotten to keep taking the anti-depressants the week before our boy’s funeral, and have started taking them again because I wasn’t on them long enough to determine if they had a positive effect or not. So I’m experiencing the early side effects -round two TIMES TWO OW OW, and if I’m barely around, it’s because I’m trapped in bed, either asleep, or watching the room spin.

    My hands tremble so much I can’t hold my stylus and typos galore!

    1. We’re just glad to see you whenever you can pop up. {virtual hug}

      Kinda along those lines, I discovered that when I take the “full” dose of my anti-anxiety stuff, it has the same effect as being exhausted from jet lag. So I don’t get as nervous on trans-Atlantic flights, but I’m also brain-numb before the big bird even leaves the Central Time Zone. Or gets out of the EU (coming back). Good thing to know for the rest of my activities.

    2. Indeed. To echo TXRed, I think you’d be amazed at how many are glad to see you back. And, I, too offer my very best awkward digital hug. One never knows quite what to say, and I almost always manage find the exact wrong thing to actually voice, so I’ll shut up and offer my silent support to you. Better days…

      1. *big hugs back~!* Thank you for thinking of us.

        We were doing some tidying up, and my having let housework slide in lieu of baby care caught up with me. I have rather severe dust-related contact allergies and my hands are peeling like a snake shedding it’s skin. The cortizone cream seems to work but it’s too early to tell.

  21. On the subject of talent versus effort/persevereence (“process”) I’m reminded of the old saw, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that matters.” To which the rebuttal is “unless it’s a big dog with a lot of fight.”

    I do believe “talent” is a real thing. At most levels, effort, perseverence, and learning “trump”. A person with less talent who works hard and has dedication will outdo someone with more talent who works less and is less dedicated. However at the very top, the folk are the ones who have the talent and the hard work and dedication.

    All the dedication to bicycling in the world could not turn me into Greg Lemond. All the bodybuilding wouldn’t turn me into Steve Reeves (more modern examples? I have no idea how my body would respond to steroids and let’s just keep it that way). All the study I put in did not turn me into another Feynman (or even a Stephanie Osborne–lordy, it’s fun to go to libertycon. I can’t throw a metaphorical rock without it bouncing off three people smarter than me before it hits the ground).

    And all the writing practice in the world won’t turn me into another Heinlein. Genius does exist.

    Speaking of Heinlein:

    His main characters, son said (and is right) are not particularly gifted.

    I have to disagree here. They were, generally, brilliant. The difference is that nobody made a “big deal” about their brilliance. Partly because they hung out with people in the same intellectual “weight division” (the rocketry club in Rocket Ship Galileo) or kept running into extremely high standards (Space Cadet and Have Space Suit Will Travel) where “meeting standards” would be blatant genius for anyone else.

    They had genius and they worked hard. Occasionally the stories made that high standards/intellectual peers element explicit. Space Cadet. “He didn’t make a big deal about it because we’re patrolmen.” HSSWT “I doubt their offspring is less intelligent than my child.” (From memory so probably partially paraphrased.)

    1. I was going to say something similar, but much less detailed and probably more poorly worded.

      I get a twitch in my eye when I read, ‘ “Talent” is a myth.’ I know that it’s really meant in response to those people who believe “talent” to be something far more than it really is; that it’s for those who think talent (or it’s bigger brother, genius) somehow magically endows a person with greater skill or knowledge, but it still bugs me.

      Unfortunately, talent and genius make it harder for many people to develop skills beyond a certain level, because they never learn to give their ability exercise so it gets “stronger”. Once you’re the top of your class in something, you don’t feel the need to exert yourself any more, unless you are also unusually driven.

      1. To paraphrase the philosopher Al Capone — “You can go a long way with talent. You can go a lot farther with talent and hard work.”

        Talent is like the steel in a sword’s blade: it has to be there, but it has to be beaten to be of use.

      2. I’ve met too many people with no talent in a given area to believe it’s a myth. There are some things some people just won’t get. For example, with some it’s mathematics, with others it’s the interpersonal skills of a politician or salesperson. I’ve seen people who worked very hard at computer programming but just _couldn’t get it_. Yes, they could sometimes follow predetermined recipes and copy and paste and make the computer do what they wanted, sort of. But there’s a limit to how far that sort of thing can go, in any area.

    2. One has to admit, sometimes, that one’s natural abilities are not up to a task. One of the Copybook Headings is, “By no striving of mine can I reach a goal beyond my grasp” — or, if you prefer, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

      The simplest example is that if you are under 5’9″, you can forget the pro basketball career.

          1. Mugsy played for Wake Forest. His senior year, which was 87 I think, he put on a performance in the ACC tournament that, literally, brought tears to my eyes,

    3. You know the saying, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it”? I’d add: “…given sufficient time.”

      I could learn to be a great basketball player. It would just take me longer than my physical health will allow. I could be a great lawyer. It would just take me longer than my sanity would allow.

      On the other hand, I could be a pretty decent artist with just a little time to polish up my skills from “competent but out of practice.” So in the interests of not wasting time, I’ll stick to goals like that instead of the less attainable ones.

    4. She’s done the “myth of talent” theme before– it’s not greater or lesser innate ability she doesn’t believe in, it’s “you’re Talented so it’s all gravy” vs “you don’t have the Talent so don’t even bother trying.”

      Believe it was a spin-off of the “genius”/”Genius thus zero effort” thing.

      1. Oh, I wasn’t really addressing Sarah in that talent/persistence thing. It was just a springboard for some thoughts I’ve had based on other times I’ve had that discussion. And, in large part it’s in agreement with her post.

        I’ll never be a Heinlein. He had not only all the persistence/effort I could ever put in, but the man was also a genius. That doesn’t mean that I can’t become a damn good writer, and reasonably successful too, by putting in the time and effort to build those aspects of craft that I can build.

        1. Oh, I wasn’t really addressing Sarah in that talent/persistence thing. It was just a springboard for some thoughts I’ve had based on other times I’ve had that discussion.

          *Sniff* I’d never do that….

          (shuffles the deeds for various bridges, waiting for customers to show up)

          1. Sorry – not in the market. I’ve got a Swiss Army Bridge, suitable for 27 different applications.

            I was going to buy an iBridge but the connection charges can really mount up.

          2. Wait… Bridges? You’re actually going to sell the trolls housing on here, now? Is that really wise? We’ll never get rid of them, once they don’t have to commute…

            On the other hand, if the plan is to sell the trolls bridges, let them move in, and then demolish the bridge on top of them, I’d love to offer you my professional services. I have always hoped that my military career might find some civil application, and I don’t see a market for hand-emplaced, artisanal landmines taking off, anytime soon.

            Do let me know. If the market is there, we could go places with this. I think there are a bunch of other sites who could use our services, but I hope you have enough of these bridges in stock to keep us going. Unless we manage to convince the trolls to do multi-troll housing, we’re going to be able to get rid of only around two per bridge, one under each abutment.

            I am excited at this prospect. I truly am…

            1. It’s sort of like having a Draw Mohammad contest in Texas– it will give the really, really dumb ones a chance to self-destruct.

              1. Smart burglars don’t live in TX. Too high a chance of getting perforated in the line of work.

                1. Or at least make very sure that nobody’s home. [Wink]

            2. Hand-emplaced artisanal landmines? We need to talk!

              Someday I will track down that landscaping / security company from the credit card commercial…

  22. You said {Getting away from politics, this is why we both have a poisonous fascination with degrees from the “right” institutions and those institutions continuously water down their curriculum. Because really, they don’t believe they have to TEACH anything, just credential what’s already there.}
    Not entirely true, but more accurate than the common perception. The MOST accurate statement about the right schools needs to take into consideration this: ALL higher education is a form of gang initiation. It is designed to screen out the unworthy, and subject the candidate to a series of excruciating trials, including memorization of ‘secret knowledge.’ If you look at the process by which kids are admitted into ANY street gang, and the process by which a human gains a law degree, teacher certification, or an MBA, there is a perfect point for point match. That includes consequences for exiting.

    1. It is not true that doctoral candidates in STEM have to bring the skull of a liberal arts major to their thesis defense in order to pass. “Soft science” majors like economists also count.

        1. An unrelated English major. I believe that Dr. Sowell is an honorary STEM major for his logical mind and mastery of statistics.

  23. While the current crop of “special” characters may seem like a blast from the past, there is a difference.

    Past “specials’ were just that. Higher, nobles, etc.

    Then we got the idea, as in Heinlein, that anyone could be special, they needed to work at it though.

    Now we have the idea that EVERYONE is special, as told by – once again – stories of people who are special because they are. Everyone can be a princess/nobleman/hero without working at it, without suffering to get there. They always already were special.

    1. Thus the whole “chosen one” nonsense in far too many movies. You get all the XP without having to work for it.

  24. Off-topic dumb question: suppose one has an eBook one wishes to self-publish through Amazon, but one is writing under a pen name (say, Joe Penname) and does not want to reveal their real name (say, Dick Johnson) to the public for whatever reason. Will Amazon be able/willing to display the book as by Joe Penname without any public reference to Dick Johnson’s name ?
    Or is the only way to achieve that to go through an intermediary like indiebooklauncher.com?

    1. If you go on KDP (ebooks) or on CreateSpace (paper books), Amazon assumes you are a publisher, basically, and you can set it up for whatever pen name/s you want.

      Amazon will also ask you how you want to set up payment. You have to give them tax info for your real name (or real company name), but that’s a whole different story than the name on your book.

      1. There are a lot of Maureen O’Briens who write books, and at least one is also a famous Doctor Who actress. My middle name is also much used.

        So I write as “M.S. O’Brien” and that’s how my books appear on Amazon everywhere, even though Amazon knows perfectly well that they are getting these books from, and paying money to, Maureen O’Brien.

        If I decided to use another pen name, I could also do that, and I wouldn’t have to make a new account on KDP or Createspace.

      2. Thanks a lot! I am several iterations away from something I would dare charge money for, but was curious whether to go that route at all or simply to release under a Creative Commons license. For me this is strictly a hobby/therapy: “fire walling” it from my day job is more important than a bit more money in the New Class Traitor hobby discretionary fund 🙂

          1. Interesting option — thanks! NCT press sounds like a good bland moniker for something technical or academic. If I go that route I might look for something more poetic.

    2. What Banshee said. I operate under a pen name and have had zero trouble setting things up at Amazon, Kobo, or B&N. I do have to be careful with the latter two because they default to your payment name for author, but that’s easy enough to fix. I work heavily with IndieBookLauncher but I do my own uploads and PR. The only burp was my bank, where I had to show proof of incorporation under my pen name in order to get a separate bank account established just for e-tailing.

        1. Formatting for the novels, cover art, sometimes editing. I’m trying to learn enough Gimp to do my own covers for everything, but trying is the operative word. And running the formatting for a short-story set is one thing, but I like having someone with a lot more experience with the quirks of different formats do my conversion from Word for long works. (It’s the Word to HTM step into Caliber that makes me want to pull my hair out. Even after using the minimum level of formatting, I still hit walls. The frustration and stress are greater than the cost of the service, IMHO.) IBL does good work and gets stuff done on time.

            1. I have, but 1) I have a Mac and 2) I must use Word for my academic and professional work. Scrivener doesn’t play well with multiple conversions to and from Word, such as would be necessary for my non-fiction books.

  25. Steven Hayward, writing at Power Line, quotes political scientist Aaron Wildavsky:

    The revolutionaries of contemporary America do not seek to redistribute privilege from those who have it to those who do not. These radicals wish to arrange a transfer of power from those elites who now exercise it to another elite, namely, themselves, who do not. This aspiring elite is of the same race (white), the same class (upper-middle and upper), and the same educational background (the best colleges and universities) as those they wish to displace.

    That was written circa 1971.

  26. Others have weighed in on the subject of Talent, but here’s my experience;

    If you have talent, but won’t work at it, you are going to be nothing but a talented amateur your whole life. You may even make money at it, given luck, but you won’t be great, and you may well develop bad habits that limit or destroy your ability. Lots of singers with talent but no training ruin their voices.

    If you have a very low level of talent for something, you aren’t going to get much of anywhere by practice. I wanted to be a comic book artist. I read books, did exercises, and practiced, practiced, practiced. I don’t have the talent to be good. Note; this doesn’t mean I couldn’t make a living at it anyway, if I wanted to work like a sled dog and break my heart. But there is a limit to how shape you can make a lead blade. I’ve met a number of professional artists who can’t understand this. THEY have the talent. They can make their hands to what their mind’s eye sees. They got better with practice, and some of them worked very hard, and they are good because of the confluence of talent and work.

    Similarly, I apparently have a talent for cooking. I can throw together a good mean, based on a halfway decent recipe, and can often identify a process or step that is just wrong and work around it. I didn’t think anything of this until I met people who can, literally, burn spaghetti. They just don’t have the software to follow a recipe. I don’t understand how this can be so, but I’ve watched them. They set out their ingredients, measure carefully, do everything in order, and the result is inedible.

    It is important to understand that there are a LOT of different talents. For example; both Edgar Rice Burroughs and Walter B. Gibson (AKA Maxwell Grant) wrote one hell of a lot. They worked at it. They never got better than mediocre at WRITING. They were apparently BORN with the talent to be great storytellers. People are going to remember Tarzan and The Shadow LONG after the work of great writers of the same era who were NOT also great storytellers are forgotten by all but a small circle of Professors of English Literature.

    Kipling was both. Great writer AND great storyteller. AND he worked like a barge-mule.

    1. “I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever works equally hard will get just as far.” (Ich habe fleißig sein müssen. Wer ebenso fleißig ist, der wird es ebensoweit bringen können.) Those were the words of the greatest musical genius of all time.

  27. The stories that resonate most with me are of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Despite my love of comic books, this is why the superhero genre is my least favorite.
    I’m also deeply disturbed by the Cult of Personality that arose since Obama initially ran for president, not to mention the “inevitability” of Hillary Clinton being our first woman president.
    To paraphrase your conclusion: We’re paving the road to king/queenship–and ultimately slavery.

      1. Ever notice how every Democrat president is supremely intelligent and caring and wise, at least according to the press? They do not elect men to office; they elect men to godhood.

        1. Now, if only we could convince them to complete the cycle of the Summer King, and sacrifice the silly sonsofbitches at midwinter to make the sun come back….

  28. Generic aside to Sarah:

    I want you to know my cats gave me a sincerely odd look when i started laughing out loud this morning when i read…

    “One does not simply walk into the Royal Palace.”

    Thanks for the laugh and the book. I finished it before I went to sleep.

  29. The poor darlings are now triggering on mythology. Too scary for the children? When I was a high schooler, “I Claudius” was all the rage and we laughed about all the stuff that went on. To say nothing of the rest of Greek plays and mythology, Shakspeare and yes some the nasty corners of Western cutlure. It was called learning the human experience.

    1. If I were a college professor ( a scholar, like my Father) I would put in the prospectus of all my courses “It is assumed that students taking this course are adult human beings, capable of discussing distasteful and politically incorrect matters without needing to be coddled. All others please register with the Wee Friends Playschool in midtown.”

      Which is why I wouldn’t have made it in my Father’s footsteps.

      1. A prof at Flat State teaches a course on Aztec history (officially the urban cultures of Mexico and Central America but . . .). Prof puts an enormous disclaimer about all the stuff that is discussed in the course. It “sold out” the first time offered and had been full every time, ever since. *knowing little grin*

      1. Judging from what I remember from Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars, that’d have taken some doing.
        Then again, Caligula’s idea of collecting a tax on husbands’ right to sleep with their wives might be mistaken for a serious policy recommendation 😉

    2. When I was a kid, I watched the Isis-Shazam Hour and wanted to know more about mythology. So when we went to the big library book sale, I picked out an old edition of Larousse’s Mythology, with a Robert Graves introduction and tons of primary source illustration photos.

      A long discussion by the parents ensued, as I had not noticed all the primary sources that were naked or the extremely frank paraphrases of myths. But they did buy it for us in the end, even though we were very young for it. (I covered up a lot of the pictures so they wouldn’t distract me.) I did skip a lot of the grosser Greek myths, too, until I became a teenager with a stronger stomach.

      Sadly, Larousse editions are now not as scholarly, although they have better African and America’s sections.

      That said, there is a big difference between reading a summary of Ovid and actual Ovid. He is a poet whose work induces powerful emotions, in a world where most kids only read watered-down poetry or junk. He also makes people think. Oh noes!

  30. My older son was talking to me, while painting walls, about the distinctive quality of Heinlein’s juveniles. His main characters, son said (and is right) are not particularly gifted. They’re not the chosen ones. Instead, they find themselves in a situation, or want to learn something, and very often have to work harder than anyone else. Think of Rico and his mathematical boneheadedness. Or Torby learning to scan for raiders before they come out of whatever they called warp drive (it’s been a year or two and my memory drops details.)

    But they work hard and then they succeed.

    One of the reasons why I really really liked the Heinlein juveniles: His protagonists aren’t handed the world on a silver platter. They aren’t the Chosen One. There are no prophecies about their birth. There are no magic powers (that amount to anything out of the ordinary range of talent in a setting) which his main characters possess.

    His juvenile characters aren’t endowed with a magically superior understanding of their setting/society either, which is why they end up working with a mentor who has an actual reason to understand what is going on. (If ordinary parents/authority won’t do (and they often don’t) then someone else will have to serve).

    There is something so much more right (or at least in line with my own philosophy about success) in his juveniles than in many areas of popular culture.

    1. It also means his protagonists are freer than in typical fairy tale logic: They are dumped into a setting that has nothing to do with them. They have to figure out what to value. They have to figure out what they want. They have to figure out how to get it. There is so much more there than a task and meaning that the world hands you.

      1. If a heinlein juvenile pulled a sword from a stone somebody would bop him over the head and he’d awake with the sword (and his clothes) stolen. His quest to recover that sword would force him to learn to think strategically and tactically, how to fence and how to track a varmint.

        And then he’d have to apply those lessons to kinging it.

    2. There is something so much more right (or at least in line with my own philosophy about success) in his juveniles than in many areas of popular culture.

      Ayup — for example, Thorby is not particularly bright or gifted; his talent as a gunner comes from Baslim’s having drilled math into his head and trained him to think since the boy was knee-high to a cripple. The only “gift” he had was being Renshawed by a master.

  31. Thoughts about a corollary: The real reason why modern pop culture hates Edison with a passion and loves Tesla:

    Tesla affected to have some unreachable, automatic, magical insight into the world.

    Edison, on the other hand, told you exactly why he thought he was successful, and advocated that anyone could be if they followed the same philosophy (and never slept): “Godlike genius? Godlike nothing! Hard work is the genius behind my success!”

  32. Other random ideas vaguely aligned with this topic:

    Have any of you guys read the webcomic Girl Genius? (I used to. Followed it to about the Castle Heterodyne arc.)

    It is a setting that is positively twisted by a strange reflection/amplification of the Romantic idea of what genius is: Characters who randomly posess ‘The Spark’ 1. Go interestingly crazy. and 2. Develop near supernatural powers to bend reality that are masked behind apparently scientific/technological creations of theirs. 3. Also develop a sort of magnetism or charisma along with it. Consequences: Alternate 17th century Europe goes to hell in a pyrotechnic/biohazardous handbasket.

    One of the things I found interesting was the character Klaus Wolfenbach. He’s presented as an iron-fisted emperor that keeps a kind of seemingly-meritocratic Philosopher-King type order over the ruins of Europe. (Philosophically appropriate for the time period, Germanic setting) On the one hand, within the logic of the setting, he is a reasonable authority figure and a force for ‘good’, or something like it. On the other hand, the ease with which you and others buy into the logic of the setting and find that sort of character charismatic and reasonable is exactly the sort of thing that should give any true liberal (in the classical sense of the word) nightmares. That sort of deference for/excuse of authority and power is exactly what allows the figures on the white horses (The Baron, Napoleon types in the real world) to ride into power and bring “order” to the world. Through some sort of self-referential characterization genius, the authors have invoked in the audience exactly the same mind-bend to the sparks’ charisma that the characters in the setting experience.

    Or at least, that was what I took away from it.

    1. Alternate 18th century, I mean. Might be 19th by the time the main story starts.

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