But Does It Look Good On The Wall

Some days ago some of you reprobates were bored.  I’m sorry I haven’t been amusing you regularly (or more regularly) but this is the year I catch up on overdue books and finish stuff that’s been lying around sometimes more than half finished and sometimes for years.  I need to do that to reestablish the habit of writing every day, ten hours a day.  Not just because (duh) in the day of indie this type of discipline translates into money, and I’m about to have a house to pay off, but because when you write that much you improve.

Don’t argue with me.  I was first told this by Kris Rusch and Dean Smith at their workshop, back when I was such a young writer [less than 35 in human years, too] that I’d only sold one short story and no one had paid me for it.  I mean, they were supposed to, but they didn’t.  They said that 90% of writing is practice and after you study and know what you’re aiming for, the best thing you can do to get there is write.  Write faster than you thought possible.  Write in a disciplined, regular fashion.  You’ll improve more than you can imagine.

I’m a stubborn cuss and also, as those who read me might know, don’t really believe in miracles.  This is how come my urban fantasy has ALMOST no magic.  Okay, they change into animals, and now Tom can command people with his mind, and I’m still not sure what the pearl of heaven will turn out to be (I’m sure all will be revealed, but I don’t know yet) but there are no spells, no wishing, no magic.

I believe in hard work, but I LIKE working with my hands (it is a sign that the Author has a sense of humor that my job — maybe my calling — only involves manual work as far as I wiggle my fingers on the keyboard) and seeing what I’m doing.

This whole “just write a lot of words and they’ll automagically get better seems like a miracle.  So “Trust the process” might as well go “hocus pocus” and I don’t buy it.  I didn’t believe it, but for various reasons, mostly to keep the writers’ group, which was my claim to sanity and a social life, together, I ended up writing a short story a week, as well as a few chapters on current novel.

I didn’t believe it made any difference until I had occasion a couple of years ago to go and read my back log, and I realized the stories before that year were SORT of stories, and after that they were immeasurably better.

So, don’t argue with me on the effect of hard work.  What you can argue with me on is: What does better mean?  What do you mean by aim to get better?

This brings us back to the beginning.  As I said, a lot of you got bored and took off on Twitter (really, it’s like a drug to you fractious types, isn’t it?  Particularly a certain raccoon) after one of the Puppy Kicker brigade who was pronouncing (heaven help us) on how she was shocked Baen readers could stand to read about someone over fifty having sex.  (This is rather puzzling as about half of us are over fifty and we have sex whenever we can.  In fact, one thing I’d say for the Baen readership in general, having met ya’ll at cons, and dinners and stuff, is that we’re ah… not just sex-positive, but positively sex-enthusaiastic.  Of course, we don’t often like it in books, because if you have sex in books you have all those paper cuts, and the pages get glued toget–  er… I mean, because written sex is not the real thing, and we know the real thing.)

Anyway, the discussion — “discussion” — which involved a certain were racoon devolved as such things do, and became mostly an exchange of insults.  (The Racoon wants me to point out that he didn’t start the insults!)

This would be vaguely amusing (look, I’m the mistress of huns, okay — not that type of mistress.  ew.  You guys are fine, but I’m monogamous — so insults and big spats obviously amuse me.)

Then the puppy kicker went and wrote a blog post about it, and something interesting emerged.  She thought we were accusing them of PRETENDING to like what they like.  Which is almost mind-bogglingly bizarre.  Of course, they do the vice versa (we’re all about the vice!) and think we only like what we do because we’re “stupid”.  We’re not.  We’re in fact smart enough to know you like the crap you say you like, and why.  And we don’t have to resort to “you’re stupid.”  At least I don’t.  In fact most of you are middling to high IQ.  It takes a certain amount of brains to train a perverse taste.  And no, golly, the “perverse” has nothing to do with sex, just with non-natural.

And now they’ll think “non natural” means I think they’re bad.  (Will someone please find my eyes?  They rolled off and onto the floor again.)  Tons of things aren’t natural and are over all good, like, oh, wearing clothes, sleeping in beds and living past of the age of thirty.  I’m a fan of those.

BUT training a non natural taste sort of requires us to examine it and see “is it a net positive?”

Look, in terms the left can understand, let’s say I’ve trained myself to like all highly processed foods (this is true to an extent.  When stressed I like sweet and otherwise tasteless food, like marshmallows, creme brule, and, in a hurry, just milk.  This is a recipe for diabetes.) that’s a taste.  It’s even a highly sophisticated, very civilized taste, since in primitive societies you don’t get these “tastless lumps of sugar, yum” things, or at least not amid the peasantry.  However any of my friends who saw me eating only that SHOULD intervene because such a diet is not a net positive and I’d end up with scurvy or something.

My first exposure to “people like different things” was over food and dad brought out that old chestnut “tastes can’t be disputed.”  Which is of course nonsense because most of what we humans do is argue taste.  Taste in the non-culinary sense, mostly.

And while arguing taste is an unproductive endeavor, I have studied literature as an endeavor (seven years.  Good Lord, the stupid things we do when we’re young.  OTOH it was the only way to also study languages.  Portugal pairs the two.) and I can tell you that normally, in a healthy civilization, there is a “theory of what is good” that imposes itself and which usually agrees with the tenor of the civilization.  This is why the middle ages is wall to wall Christianity even when the writer/artist lived a fairly pagan life. Because that was their theory of good.  In the Renaissance it became “good stuff most closely apes Rome and Greece.”

And btw these “tastes” for this “type of high quality” aren’t natural.  And some of it objectively from a ludic (referring to games and enjoyment of play, not lewd) perspective, a lot of the “good literature” of that period sucked.  And in the long run tends not to be remembered.  The “high Theater” of Shakespeare’s day was mannered in the French way, and to make sure refined tastes weren’t offended no deaths happened on stage, but were announced by messenger.  After a battle, messengers would cross on stage…  Anyway that theater was certainly enjoyed by the “high brow” or at least “virtue and status signaling” people of the day.  For one because it marked them out as better and smarter than those apprentices and low brows who went to Shakespeare’s plays.  But we don’t enjoy it now.  We tend to prefer Shakespeare because we — at least those of us for whom archaic language isn’t a barrier — engage with it on the same universally-human, ludic fahsion the apprentices and whores engaged with it when first presented.

This is normal, btw.  The “high brow” of every advanced civilization enjoy things that they’ve been trained to enjoy and that are so “mannered” they tend to not be accessible much less enjoyable to the general public.  Which is, btw, as far as devotees are concerned, a feature, not a bug.

The problem is that our left is a-historical, so they don’t recognize this cycle, nor the fact that the people who come after and break those rules, engage with the public and make a big splash, the revolutionaries, like say the impressionists after the French academic style, are usually reviled by the establishment as low brow, but pervail nonetheless because they are engaging the public.  And then, of course, eventually they too become “mannered” and are superseded.

Because the narrative of our day, as prevalent as Christianity in the middle ages is “Social critique” (a Marxist concept, for those — and apparently most on the other side — who do it/bought into it without knowing it.  It’s part of the whole Hegelian dialectic thing) “to bring about change” and that has become encoded into show “x number of minorities and victims.  Show oppression.  Show flaws in OUR society.  No, not those flaws, bu the ones the elite is obsessed with right now,” that’s what anyone who studied literature has learned to consider “good.”  It distinguishes them from the hoi polloi and they enjoy THAT immensely.  They enjoy tracking down all the markers that mean the literature has been done properly.  And they call the rest of us who don’t look for those markers “stupid.”  Because if we’d bothered to take a literature course and “really think” of things, we’d like what they like.

It never occurs to them that their “art” has become so mannered that it’s virtually indigestible to ANYONE not so concerned with status, or not so pliable as to have swallowed our post grad classes whole (not even with enough garlic.).

Look a refined taste is all very fine.  Oh, heck, “Social critique” is even fine, particularly if you’re writing one of those “slice of life” things.  But most people when they reach for a book (or movie, or art, or music or computer game) aren’t looking for social critique.  It’s not all about consciousness raising.  Anyone with half a brain knows the world isn’t perfect and what the flaws in society are.  And anyone with a full brain knows your proposed top-down solution is caca, and just whining about inequality, oppression and victims without a solution is EVEN MORE caca.  Enough to fill the Augean stables, in fact.   Which is sort of what you’re doing.

Your “social critique” aesthetics are old enough most of us had them force fed in school.  This is why you guys are now trying to be more extreme (post binary, yeah) to distinguish yourselves from all the crap you learned in high school.  But the distinction is ever more extreme and towards “Sophisticated palate.”  Which I always thought was a way to eat shit and like it.  But oh, okay, we’ll go Roman.  You guys are so into the stuffed humming birds in bear-spit marinade that you’ve forgotten objectively, common human taste, tends more to a decent sandwich, well made.  And that someone non-initiated will think bear spit is gross.

Or if you — by which I mean the “progressive” left — notice this, you just view it as “our taste is more sophisticated and those other people are stupid.”

I invite you to consider you’re the French court with the six feet high hair dos covered in lice.  I invite you to consider you’re the French academes drawing the same statues… with great sophistication.  I invite you to consider you’re pious middle ages intellectuals tearing up at the 100th description of the passion of the Christ… properly done and in an elevated way.

When art loses its way to that point, a challenge emerges, and it’s almost always vibrant and immediate enough to appeal to the popular taste, until it loses it way.  Each reset always goes back “but what do I ENJOY” or in art terms “does it look good on the wall.”

And that’s what the Sad Puppies movement is.  The funny part here is that a self-styled “progressive” movement fails to realize they’ve grown stuffy, stale, and that no matter how many victim classes they add and how much their trained palate enjoys it, normal human beings read it and go “it’s bear spit, and I say to hell with it.”

Their image of themselves as revolutionaries is so ingrained that they don’t realize they’ve become the aristos, in their walled palaces, with their jaded, over-educated palates, calling anyone who doesn’t like what they like stupid and uneducated.

They have lost sigh of the fact their aesthetic rules are not only arbitrary but totally unrealistic.  And that we’re the mob at the gates, the ones with fresh tastes, challenging ideas and the appeal to the basic human, ludic taste in entertainment.  Oh, yeah, they forgot literature (and particularly genre literature) is SUPPOSED to be entertaining too.

So… hey, huns, grab a pitchfork, read a novel.  Laugh in the face of their irrelevant over sophistication. Work on being more accessible and allowing people to get into your work more easily and enjoy it more.  Your message (if any.  And most of us have messages, even if it’s just “don’t be an idiot” because it’s part of who we are, an integrated part of our character and our art) will come through more effectively wrapped in “fun” and without counting “by the numbers” victims.

Write well, read well, enjoy it.  And laugh at the idiots who still think “good” is what their professors told them to enjoy.

Ca Ira!


248 thoughts on “But Does It Look Good On The Wall

  1. But you see, it’s right there in their label: Pro-gress-ive. They can’t be the reactionaries! it isn’t allowed!

    1. *sad* That isn’t as silly as it should be; the idea of changing the name changing the contents is kinda a big issue these days.

    2. “Progessive” in this context, is just a shortcut for “professionally aggressive.” It has nothing to do with progress.

  2. I’m still giggling at the whole sex-over-fifty commentary. But more seriously, I just had a conversation with my sister (who is not at all geek) about heroism and writing and message in fiction. It’s a dying art, in fiction of all flavors, and one that many people really want, not the elevated literary navel gazing at what’s floating in the toilet bowl and how it means all of humanity is worthless and woe is me we all must die gray goo. I try to write heroically, by which I don’t mean ten hours a day (you are a writing hero, Sarah) but the characters who make you feel that you can be a better person.

    1. Characters should be heroic yet have a few human frailties that make it easier for the reader to relate. If you cannot relate it’s a textbook not a novel.
      Speaking of which, when might I see further adventures of my favorite pixie?

      1. I am not currently planning another book about Lom, but have started one that will be Underhill and involves one of Bella’s cousins we haven’t met yet. I have plans for a book revolving around Mark, and Devon, and one for Linnea and David. Lom and Bella will be peripherally in them. The problem right now is that I’m not a heroic writer, but a distractible one with lots of school and Real Life that mean I’ve been not-writing to my deep frustration.

        1. I’d like to see a book about Lom. I always wished he could get rid of that twitch Clouseau gave him. Wait, what…?

      2. I feel that is what drives modern TV ‘comedy’. Seinfeld was probably the first that had anti-heros. They perhaps do it to excess – rarely showing selflessness. We saw the were just as selfish and venial as most of us can be. Big Bang is just the latest of these.

          1. I never liked it because I lived in NY for way too many years and moved to get away from buttholes like that. So why would I want to watch them on TV?
            People think that show was fiction. It wasn’t. Those people are real and there are way too many of them living there.

          1. NCIS. Which is why it makes money, all over the world.

            (They interviewed Michael Weatherly a while back on the Queen Latifah show, and it turned out that it was her favorite show, and her daughter’s favorite show. It also turns out that all the Paris waiters at fancy restaurants watch NCIS, and actually show themselves impressed and give him good seating. So he gets the big celebrity treatment overseas, because everybody is excited to meet the guy who plays DiNozzo. And then he comes back over here, and the celebrity magazines barely deign to notice that NCIS is the #1 drama.)

            1. True. I forgot the ONE show that I enjoy MORE after I’ve been involved in the culture that it’s showing…. (go Navy!)

              I just read your post to my husband. We’re both impressed at that, and laughing about “well, of COURSE the French like DiNozzo….”

            2. PSA:
              It’s on Netflix, now.

              It’s awesome because you *can’t* guess what the solution for the show is going to be by what categories folks fit into– although you can sometimes tell by paying attention to the same foreshadowing things I was taught by my good English teacher.

          2. If you haven’t yet tried Blue Bloods, it improved markedly after the initial show runner got run off by Tom Selleck, who said he hadn’t signed on to do a @!#$% police procedural. Judging by the stations playing it in re-run it seems to appeal to a great many people.

              1. I started that show recently, and absolutely loved the first few episodes. I was laughing and/or outright giggling every five minutes. Then it got dark. And darker. And darker, and showed no signs of returning to the sort of fun that had drawn me in to start with. From what I’ve heard, it just keeps going in that direction, and I have enough gloomy and disturbing in my world as it is. It’s too bad: I would have watched the heck out of a show that had the upbeat feel of the beginning.

              2. Legends of Tomorrow, Flash and Arrow. You just have to ignore writerly ignorance of science, history, strategy and tactics.

                1. I’m suspending opinion on Legends of Tomorrow – the pilot is okay (although I don’t know about a renegade Time Lord Master as a premise) but they’ve still got plenty of opportunity to make it edgy or, even worse, gritty.

                    1. I like it. I think the US is doing a better (imo) job than the Brits do with it. I prefer Arthur Darvill to Peter Capaldi.

                    2. Well, technically it *isn’t* Doctor Who. I don’t read a lot of DC Comics, so I don’t know how long Arthur Darvill’s character has been around…but I do suspect it *was* totally stolen from Who.

                      I adore Arthur Darvill. I adore Peter Capaldi (he’s become my favorite Doctor–I didn’t think anyone could oust Tennant in my heart!). I will totally (eventually, when I have time) watch both shows. 😀

                    3. Rip Hunter was introduced in May 1959.

                      Doctor Who first aired November 1963.

                      Of course, since both are time travelers, the question of “which one was first” becomes a little tricky. 😉

                    4. Rip Hunter has been around for 20 years. He’s actually Booster Gold’s son. Ask me if you want more details.

            1. The fFlash has also been pretty good (Season 1 is on Netflix), and Legends of Tomorrow looks promising.

              I couldn’t watch more than two episodes of Gotham without concluding that it was best fixed by a Yawata Crossing level strike.

              1. That is inherent in the premise of Gotham: what kind of world would it take to make somebody like The Batman?

                If you’ve no interest in that question you’ll find nothing in the show to engage you. Having such an interest is no guarantee, either.

                1. RES, the problem is that the way they’ve shown the place there’s nothing there to fight FOR. It’s very much like Sodom and Gomorrah where there wasn’t enough to save to make it worth fighting for or sparing.

            1. We just found Last Man Standing a couple of months ago. I love it’s a great show. Can’t get enough of it.

        1. I can tell that you are not of a certain age… Lucky you.

          I refer you to All In the Family. Much before Seinfeld.

          One character (and most will know which one I mean) should simply have been hung. The others should have been institutionalized (either in the “Home for the Hopelessly Befuddled” or the “Potential Mad Bomber Sanitarium”).

          1. Archie, or Mike? They were both obnoxious, though Archie was the one I would have trusted more to have my back in a tight spot. Yes, even if I was of a minority group he didn’t like. Mike talked the talk, but was not as reliable at walking the walk, when it came to doing the right thing.

            1. It’s interesting that in the follow-up series starring Archie, “Meathead” had deserted Archie’s daughter and Archie’s grandchild. [Sad Smile]

              Note, the writers could have just had “Meathead” die but I guess that they want to leave open the idea that he’s come back.

      3. Well, perhaps Aristotle was right when he observed that we like the characters to be as good as we are, or a bit better. By “good” he meant more than morality (“The word “good” has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”), but he did include that.

        Which means there may be substantial differences in how good we want the characters to be.

    2. Too many confuse the “heroic ideal” with the heroic. We can’t all be Kimball Kinnison, Grey Lensman! (Nor, for that matter, Clarissa McDougal, the “Red Lensman.”) But we can each of us be heroic, can “do the right thing” in trying circumstance, to take another step when exhaustion tells us to drop, to bear with unbearable sorrow and to run where
      the brave dare not go
      To right the unrightable wrong
      And to love pure and chaste from afar
      To try when your arms are too weary
      To reach the unreachable star.

      These are aspirations deep in all our hearts, even many of the SJWs, or at least those hearts not soured by envy, hatred, disappointment, self-indulgence. Nobility can be learned, but it helps for it to be taught.

      1. > hero

        Once I started hearing about “football heros” I realized that word no longer meant anything of consequence.

        1. It is an odd thing that the words hero and heroine have in their constant use in connection with literary fiction entirely lost their meaning. A hero now means merely a young man sufficiently decent and reliable to go through a few adventures without hanging himself or taking to drink.
          — G. K. Chesterton

    3. Yep, ten hours a day is heroic. Now, I worked for that long, or longer, back in my callow youth, building code – but at my age (~Sarah years, albeit rather easier to live through than hers)? Nope.

      I’ll settle for getting back to a sustainable fifty solid hours a week. Most weeks (that durned “life” thing).

    4. Message is NOT a dying art. It’s all the darlings of the establishment have. Good subtle message isn’t found in THEIR books, because they need to signal how in tune with the establishment they are to continue being darlings. In other books? Not a dying art.

        1. mmmm, some of them seem to think *they* are the heroes, with big magical message clubs killing the baby badthink seals, whom they see as fell demons rather than … differing subspecies of their own kind … gah what a metaphor

    5. Cedar, I hate to do it but I’m going to argue with you about heroism being a dying art in fiction. Yes, it is from the literary side of things but indie has given us a number of authors who write heroic characters even if they don’t necessarily follow the heroic journey. Then you have authors like Dave Freer, Sarah, David Weber and others who write heroic characters. You have publishers like Baen that welcome those sort of stories. Yes, the hero is becoming MIA in a lot of trad published works but it is being saved through publishers like Baen and indie authors like Chris Nuttal and others.

      1. Yes, you’re right, and I was thinking about that and didn’t write it. I think my mental shorthand is getting worse and it doesn’t help that I tend to oh look shiny squirrel! which probably means I need to unpack everything I was thinking into a full-length post. Indie publishing is saving Heroes, which is a funny way to think about it. Baen was for a long time the last bastion of the Hero.

      2. Doug Dandridge who I had never heard of prior to last year at LibertyCon, has turned heroic milSF into a six figure a year business the past three years after spending ten beating his head against tradpub’s iron gate. I was motivated to pick up a couple of his books, good stuff that.
        Amanda has the right of it, the puppy kicking literary pundits detest heroic fiction, the reading public, whole different story.

    6. I wonder if we (broad literature/book producing we) have made heroes hard to write? It’s easy to absorb the anti-heroic mood without realizing it. Pure heroism, the Indiana Jones/Grey Lensman/Rocketeer kind, has to fight through the slough of angst, despond, cynicism, and clinging goo.

      (I’m fighting a chapter in the next Cat novel because I can’t be certain if what I’m writing is Rada’s actual mental state or an infection of angst from the outside culture.)

      1. Part of why Captain America has such a big fanbase is that, thus far, they’ve avoided either rubbing his nose in poop or chopping off his legs to GIVE him feet of clay.

        There’s some hassling of him– Language!— but he gets to shine, too.

          1. The comics went virtue signaling…what, not long after 9/11?

            They aren’t even trying to get folks who LIKE the characters. So booger’em.

            1. Hell, back in the ’70s when Cap quit for a year because a Nixon clone was unmasked as a supervillain and shot himself in the Oval Office. Or when the communist-fighting Cap of the ’50s was revealed to be a crazy racist killer. Or when they revealed the Super Soldier Serum was tested on African Amercians. Or . . .

                1. I remember Marvel sneering at DC’s attempted reinventions, such as Crisis on Infinite Earths while bragging about not needing to reinvent their universes because “We did it right the first time.”

              1. I recall when they introduced the evil exploitative Roxxon Corporation and I wondered if they thought they were being subtle?

                The fact is that none of the people writing Cap since Roy Thomas had any insight into the thinking of a man who’d experienced America through the Depression and WWII. They all filtered him through their post-‘Nam experience and tried to force him into their own perceptions. I suppose spending a few hours listening to men who’d been through that would have impaired their artistic vision or something. Those writers had to work so hard at not openly sneering at the patriotism Cap represented that it made the stories horribly constrained.

                I remember wondering whether marvel was using that book as a punishment detail.

            2. Green Lantern could be as cool as Captain America but he’s written as a doofus. DC is fixated on using the villain as often as the hero.

              1. Hey, the Marine Green Lantern was awesome!
                I think the problem is they need writers who have a clue how to tell a good story, rather than “hey, I push these buttons to get emotion;” both of the human GLs in Justice League were just fine.

                1. When I found out the newest Earth Lantern was Muslim I thought to myself “Gee, let me guess, he’s been falsely accused of being a terrorist?” Sure enough . . .

        1. They’vs tried their best, with the latest depiction of Steve Rodgers as a crotchety out of touch old man. BTW, don’t tell the Trumpkinheads but the latest incarnation of Captain America is not even a native-born citizen.

          1. Ah, Sam Wilson (formerly Falcon) is the current Cap and Sam is a native born American.

            1. Nope. Cap met Sam Wilson on a Carribean Island where the Red Skull stranded him after switching their bodies. Art by Gene Colan IIRC. Marvel even reprinted the original story right at the start of the Falcon as Cap storyline. Sam was a local trying to protect his neighbors from Hydra goons based on the Island.

                1. Wilson’s origins were rewritten. And for once, I agree. The pimp origin was pretty embarrassing.

                  1. Yep, the “criminal” history has been rewritten but he is still a native born American.

                    1. So he’s been retconned at least three times? I don’t see what Cruz’s problem is, then. He’s only been retconned once. *g*

                    2. Kinda on topic: Saw the trailer for Avengers: Civil War last night. Do Not Like. OK, I’ve been expecting a major fight between Tony Stark and Cap, but ugh, did not care for how the trailer sets it up.

                      OTOH the new Independence Day sequel looks like magnificent effects eye candy. 🙂

                    3. Emily, he’s always been black. Not an issue. A buncha proglodyte NYC values white guys writing a black man as a national icon in the current cultural environment… yeah, problematical.

              1. Yeah, if they write Stark’s starting the civil war out of his own guilt trip, I’ll be peeved. At least he gets royally slapped around.

        2. I see the move-Cap as a paladin done right: genuinely good guy, truly heroic, but neither self-righteous nor a boring, humorless twit. (And what ribbing he does get–like the “Language!” thing–is good natured and rather adorable. Nice change, that.)

          I just hope they don’t ruin it all with Civil War…

    7. Message and sex are CRITICAL – but they should be implied, and pulled out of the reader’s mind – readers have great stores of information in their heads. To me, graphic sex interferes with MY versions of things – and I don’t read it. Ditto graphic messages.

      But be subtle, sneak it in on me, and you change my mind. I need to feel I’ve figured it out myself (even if the writer is a very clever propagandist).

      1. The most erotic scene ever in a movie: Bogarde , Rampling, dripping tap. In “The Servant” a Long Time Ago.

        1. I shall have to look for that – thanks. In those days explicit was verboten, so they had to get good at implying. I miss those days.

          We are finishing watching Boss, with Kelsey Grammer, and like it very much – except that they put so much explicit sex in it that we sigh.

          Plus, it’s all done practically the same way, and is rather boring to watch, IMHO.

          Otherwise, love it – Grammer as a Daly-like Chicago mayor is impressive.

          1. Something that all too often has been forgotten: the human mind needs space to imagine, and that imagination can be *far* more satisfying to the reader/viewer than what the author imagined.

            I think that’s something that’s missing from a lot of the stuff that wins Hugos these days. The message has to be so explicit you can’t fail to get smacked in the face with it, like a yard full of rakes.

      2. One of my problems with graphic sex is I start wondering … if his hands are on her there and she has hold of him thusly and he is nibbling on her here … how is that even possible unless they’re both triple-jointed?

        1. The only time when there is no sex after 50 is when there are medical conditions that prevent it.

          1. That isn’t just for after fifty; there was a year there in my thirties when I had what felt like an exposed nerve in one knee cap. It wasn’t easily located by probing or tapping, but when I was on my knees it would trigger and I would — sweat to G-d and i have a witness who can confirm this — I would levitate a foot into the air and a yard off to the side.

            Surprising how a thing like that can deaden ardor even for attempting alternate positions.

      3. The one more or less explicit sex scene that I thought was good and needed was the one in Network where they are discussing their nefarious plans during sex. It showed how much more important the villianess’s ambitions were to her than ANYTHING else was.

        1. I saw it when it came out, so my recollection might be erroneous, but as I recall it what struck me about that scene was that she screwed “like a man” — complete with the “Wham, Bam, Thank-you, Man” aspect.

          Unsurprisingly, Youtube seems to confirm my memory.

    8. “I’m still giggling at the whole sex-over-fifty commentary.”

      I’m sitting here going “My goodness, it’s the people Cordelia complains about.”

  3. Your writing improves through practice because you are an intelligent, thoughtful person (well, possibly not you, but let’s not get into that argument just now.)

    Daily writing reduces the effort of translating thought into words — the typing, as it were, becomes more automated and occupies less of your processing power. Muscle memory alone reduces the manual effort of writing and lets the brain pay more attentioin to thoughts, phrasing, construction of ideas and development of other elements of writing, according to the sort of writing you are attempting.

    Part of being an intelligent person is that you have the brain capacity to observe yourself and engage in constant self-critique, noting what effect you are trying to achieve and what techniques seem to best attain that. Eventually you develop a portfolio of techniques which you can deploy at need, through long habit and experimentation — thus you develop a style.

    The constant practice of writing facilitates this by instilling the disciplines required to write well, making the “nuts & bolts” of writing routine, making elements of style and technique more readily available, more noticeable to the writer and various other factors as well (no effort at a comprehensive list is to be attempted.)

    It ain’t magic, it’s just the routine of making an intelligent person repeat activity past the point of boredom and into the realm of “how can I make this more interesting?”

    1. The last 5+ years I was still working, I discovered that I was writing more ‘Government Reports’ than the other 7 engineers in our group together. These are reliability, test and evaluation, engineering incidents (hangfire to handling damage), nothing anyone anywhere would consider entertaining (or for that matter, useful).
      It was exactly as you describe, you could utter a sentence, and I could translate it into perfect Governmenteese guaranteed to make all middle managers reviewing swoon in their desks.
      Now, it is a useless skill set anywhere where they expect results but a similar metric to RES’s was used:
      How can I pass the point of boredom into the realm of ‘how fast can I get this off my desk?’ For that task, I was very good .

      1. Yep – reversing the effects of 5 years of writing in Silicon Valley Marketingese, at the end mostly for website content, has been a steep hill to climb. I don’t know if I’m all the way clean yet.

        Hi, I’m Mike, and I’m a Marketer.

    2. when I was working on my Atlanta Nights chapter, I was amazed at how hard it was to keep switching from past to present in one section (which is why it occurs only in one section).

  4. One of my goals– “write every day” and that means even on the days that I would normally take off… i.e. Weekends, doctor’s appointments. 😉

    1. I’m cramming in a bunch of lesson planning, test and handout writing and so on today, because I missed so much novel-n-story time last week and this coming week’s going to be another bear. I really need to make better use of what creative writing time I can snatch.

      1. I find if I say– “I gotta do it” then I will find ways to procrastinate. A set time helps me. However… you find your trigger and pull it 😉

    2. I’m trying to do that as well. Note that the goal doesn’t say that I have to write very much every day–if I add a single sentence to a single story, that’s enough. I’m trying to keep the goal small enough that it’s managable, rather than setting myself some ambitious target of “I will write at least 2000 words every day” that I’ll simply through up my hands, say, “I can’t do it,” and give up. Of course, once I sit down, turn on the computer, and pull up the story, I rarely do limit myself to a single sentence…

  5. Just re-read a book with people over 60 having sex.

    When the Devil Dances, by John Ringo, published by . . . Baen Books.

        1. I found them one day while poking around the Utility folder to see where the new OS had hidden the Music folder. (Never did find out, but I managed to drag the Music out of wherever it had been stashed and onto the desktop.)

          Still looking for the PERL of plot solving, though.

          1. on Yosemite or later, the music is in ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes\ Media/Music

            on earlier OSes, apparently ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes\ Music

            (the backslash-space is what you type for a space in Terminal, or on any Unix/Linux system)

  6. One advantage of being my age in this society is I have few reasons to indulge in codswallop. My status (except as curmudgeon) is ever declining and the benefits of impressing members of preferred sexual target group through my advanced understanding of “good” literature are so diminished that I can afford to indulge my low tastes. The days of selecting what to read at the swimming pool in hopes somebody will gaze upon my body and wonder whether it houses a mind as interesting are further behind me than the effects of those sunburns gained.

    Add to this that I already own more reading matter than I am likely to complete before my carcass is disposed of and it is clear I have every reason to read only what entertains me and nothing to gain from reading to impress others. Especially those others whose reading matter is selected with the principle of what will make them look admirable to others — inamorata, bosses, waiting room receptionists, whoever. There is no longer any book which might make me look fashionable, intellectual, chic or even erudite. I need not read according to the fashion but merely for self-indulgence.

    I heartily endorse this principle. Reading as virtue signalling, as described by Sarah above, strikes me as an exercise equivalent to those “word search” puzzles, an inherently unfulfilling grinding out of routine search patterns to no greater end than imagining your having completed some mildly arduous task.

    There is a scene in this movie where Martin’s character dines (eats overstates the portion size) at a trendy L.A. restaurant which perfectly encapsulates my view of modern literature and which is not, apparently, available online. Figures.

  7. On “Show flaws in OUR society. No, not those flaws, but the ones the elite is obsessed with right now”.

    C. S. Lewis commented (I think in The Screwtape Letters) that the Devil would prefer that humans focus on the “wrong” flaws in our society.

    IE If human society is going wrong in one direction, He wants us to focus on “flaws” that would prevent us from continuing to go in that direction. :frown:

    1. “The use of fashions in thought is to distract men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is in the least danger, and fix its approval on the virtue that is nearest the vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there’s a flood; and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gone under.”

  8. When I were a fledgling writer (not yet 40 even) I took a writer’s course with novelist Linda Sweeney, who at the time (1990) had had nearly 30 novels published under various pseudonyms, and I asked her about just this topic.

    Her response was that she writes at least one full page per day — and by “writes” she means that it’s grammatically perfect, fits into the novel’s story perfectly in in other words, is completely ready for publication. She acknowledged that on some days that would be all she could achieve, but on other days she would write purple prose and be done in an hour — which meant that she would either write another page or, if the creative well was exhausted, go back and edit earlier writing. Her dictum: “Editing is also writing.”

    Her novel count today stands at well over a hundred, and could well be more if she’s published under other pseudonyms of which I am unaware. (One such is “Roslynn Patrick”, if anyone is interested.)

    I’ve tried to follow that precept ever since, with varying degrees of success. (One might think, “Pah! Only ONE page per day? Easy-peasy!” except that one will find that, come Day #700, it’s actually not that easy.)

    Writing is a discipline, As I’ve always told my kids, and as Sarah says, the more you practice, the better you get. It’s true in any sporting endeavor; why not also for writing.

    And for those who say, “I’m not inspired to write today!” allow me to quote the excellent line from the movie Music and Lyrics: “Inspiration is for amateurs.” It’s precisely when you don’t feel inspired that the discipline of everyday writing will impose itself, just as when a sportsman is exhausted at game’s end, he will somehow still find the means to get the job done; or a soldier, exhausted after many days without rest or sleep, will be able to do his duty because of his earlier, endless training.

    1. Very much this. You *can* train your brain to do a specific task.

      For much of my college years, that task was “effective blather, buzzwords, and ego stroking” to get the fastest A I could and then proceed to do the things I would much rather be doing. Being a college aged male, these things were of marginal use to me, now later in life, and some folks now wonder when I say my real education began *after* college…

  9. I’m trying to spend more time writing and less time dealing with the nuts and bolts. I’m also thinking of swearing off of FB and Twitter for a month.

      1. Advertising and social networking to get more readers is most of it now. Also my family back east uses FB, so it’s the only way to stay current (no, they never call).

  10. Some years ago I was very active in the Western scene – art, music, riding, cowboy poetry, reading histories of the US west and technical histories of cowboying and so on. One thing I learned was that when times get tough, the market for Western art picks up as people turn back to things they know and find comfortable. Interestingly, the “fine art” aspect of Western art seems to have been hit hard over the past 10 years, while the “popular” side (representational art, landscapes, kids with horses) has been steady.

    A few weeks ago I was doing a lesson on the progression from Romanticism to Realism to Impressionism to Modernism to ???? in painting, and admitted to my students that I stop at Impressionism when it comes to “I want it on my wall.” I’m one of those ignorant, benighted souls who likes to recognize what I’m looking at.

    1. I wonder about artists when their art looks like the artist needs new glasses. 😈

    2. I don’t mind abstract impressionism on the walls, as long as the colors don’t clash with the rest of the decor.

      For a while I was considering a business where I created a bunch of more-or-less abstractish (non-represntational/abstract-impressionistic/whatever) images designed to be color-matched to decor and printed on Giesle printers or whatever technology has replaced them. Market it straight to interior designers and such. Not high art, but it should be enough to pay the bills.

  11. I almost feel sorry for the poor loser who doubts sex after 50. When i was a young man i liked sex. I reasoned that the best way to get a second session with the same woman without marrying her was to be very good at it. So i studied and practiced the arts. Now with more years of practice than she has of life I am reasonably competent at it. Anything you work at and practice you get better at. I am still working on my skill sets. In fact I have a rule about never ruining a young woman’s life by showing her what good sex can be. For then she will never be satisfied with a clumsy oaf of her own age. Rather than being shocked at our interest in sex she should be lamenting that she will never have the pleasure of sex with an expert.

    1. Asimov once wrote of a couple of characters in a story, that “their married life was not one of passion, and yet it suited the paler emotional surges of the late thirties”. He admitted in a later essay to being less taken with the passage after actually reaching his later thirties and beyond.

  12. Of course we think they like those books. We just think those books suck because what they’re looking for — virtue signalling, an important message, or however you want to phrase it — bore us to tears.

    Meanwhile, we want books that will entertain people who even disagree with whatever message they find. Therein lies the key difference between us and them.

    They want books to bludgeon you into submission. We just don’t really care what you think so long as you don’t try to make us think it.

    1. Aeh….I don’t know. I guess it depends on what you think the word “like” means. I’ve met plenty of literary fiction readers who don’t actually enjoy reading, and a few sf fans who don’t actually seem to enjoy any of the books they recommend, but rather, feel that everybody else should read them for the same reasons a little kid should eat his spinach. (Not many, thank God. But more than one.) I have also read people who recommended that one buy books in the same spirit as the government making farm subsidies: ie, that one should be glad to give financial support to persons in that industry, whether or not it provides nourishment to you yourself.

      1. As far as the spinach goes, there are a couple of books that I will recomend in that vein. One of them is “Lord of the Flies” and a short story is “The Cold Equations”. Mostly though, if I did not enjoy it, I won’t recomend it.

  13. I am SO glad I never studied English; I only took one course, Freshman English, when I transferred to college in the States (and it later turned out that, as a junior – way too many math and science credits – I hadn’t actually needed that course, but hey, the UNAM was on strike, my parents spirited me out of Mexico, and records were unobtainable).

    I had the fun of doing the ONE term paper I’ve ever written.

    But the more I read, the more it seems like I avoided the soul-killing effect of deconstructing literature or learning to write as a professor might require, and I lucked out. I read gobs of classical literature because my parents had the Great Books and my grandmother had a lot of those fat English or American Literature volumes full of fiction and poetry that they used to use to teach high school English – but I didn’t have to study them, just read.

    So naturally, I read what I liked – and skipped the ones that didn’t hold my attention – and got a good classical education to boot. It’s handy now.

    1. “What makes this classic literature?”

      “It is so bad we have to force people to take courses in how to appreciate it.”

      1. No, no. The classics are good in SPITE of being taught. Teachers have the right impulse – share what is good – and the wrong methodology: here, write a ten page paper on the ‘window’ motif in Wuthering Heights.

        1. Yes And No.

          There are classics that are “classics” because they are continued to be read for enjoyment that can be poorly presented in “Literature Classes”.

          However, there are so-called classics that are only read for “Literature Classes” because nobody reads them for enjoyment.

      2. And if the book on the classic list is good, they labor mightily to remove interest the student may have.

        1. Depends on the kidlet. As a child, studying classics was quite possibly the only thing I did for school that I enjoyed thoroughly. But in this I know I am the minority.

          1. Perhaps on the teachers as well — but English teachers managed to make unreadable books that I liked before they taught, and again (long) after.

      3. It makes me wonder sometimes if there were other books that were contemporaries of our “Classics” that are actually better, but are not suitable for making students suffer. What happens if we unearth some of THOSE?

  14. What a miserable life! These poor people who cannot be honest with themselves regarding their entertainment- a thing that should be a relaxation and escape. How awful to be suppressing one’s own taste in order to impress people they don’t even know for the most part! Slogging through volumes of Grey Goo because you’re too afraid to be seen reading something your really like- or that you might commit some sort of Thoughtcrime by doing it.
    To live one’s life, to paraphrase CS Lewis, doing neither the things one ought to, nor the things one likes.

  15. I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical at times as to whether or not these people actually like what they claim to like. I acknowledge the possibility that they do–I certainly don’t think that my likes and dislikes are the last word in taste–but often they don’t act as if they really like these books. When they talk about them, they all sound like they’re participating in an English class discussion. They spout talking points that make it clear that they understand why it is that they’re SUPPOSED to like it, but I very rarely hear much passion or signs of individual taste. I wonder whether or not the puppy-kickers would read their message fiction if no one would ever know that they had read it. I certainly don’t believe that they love it–as in read it, then go back and read it again, and again and again until their copy is no more than a few scattered pages, then ran out and bought another copy to start the process over (love can be hard on books).

    1. Hmmm … They like being thought of as the sort of person who likes such books/art/music?

      One sees the same type of approach in many wine* snobs.

      *Insert pretentious git hobby of choice: single malt, modern classical music, modern poetry … They don’t know scat about what makes a thing quality, but they’ve mastered the buzz words for sounding authoritative. “I don’t know what I like, but I know Art.”

  16. I *wish* I had the physical _ability_ to do _anything_ for “10 hours a day.” I’m 90% paraplegic, and in a Nursing Home. I “get” about 45 minutes every morning, before breakfast, maybe 30 min after, before I have to work on one of two e-mail addresses (getting too many e-mails). After lunch, I may have time (30 min) to write. After an afternoon nap (it takes me until about 2-3:00 _A.M._ to relax enough to sleep), I get maybe an hour. After supper, I do FB for an hour. (I don’t count the hours spent posting and writing explanatory material) on FB and LinkedIn, so people can learn from what I run across. I also take *30mg* a day, of narcotics to control pain, why it’s so late, when I manage to relax. I’m not mentioning this to get “pity,” but to make a point. If you want to write, you find time. (I’ve been writing/”teaching non-experts” for years, which teaches a *lot* of necessary skills.)
    As to “the write Heroes,” I partially disagree. Not all “heroes” are “Cap/Superman/Batman/etc.” My first book’s MC is a “Hero,” of sorts. He works at “being a real Santa Claus” to children, to cheer them up, and remind them what Christmas is all about. He also works hard at being a “good man,” for his “adopted” daughters and granddaughter. In the process over the 30 years the book covers, he touches *many* lives. It’s only as he’s dying that he learns how much.
    In the next two I’m writing, the MC is also a “quiet hero,” doing things that people don’t always see, but are just as needed as “solving big crimes/saving hundreds.” Not all of us can write the “Big Heroes” well enough to make them accessible. Some of us write about “everyday” heroes that make a difference when called on, but anyone can relate to. Maybe they are “true heroes,” but like CMOH “winners” are just someone “doing what had to be done.”
    What makes me a fan of Weber, in his Safehold series, is all the “low level heroes.” Fathers, leading a strike back in riots, to protect others. A “Madam’ quietly collecting/passing on information to fight the corrupt. A Priest, rediscovering his “calling,” and dying to make a point.
    In life, we need both to keep us going. That Single Father/Mother raising children, needs both types. The extraordinary Hero, and the “everyday” ones as well. Cedar’s in the Pixie series, aren’t and don’t _want_ to see themselves as what they are. Quiet heroes, doing what needs to be done, and not trying to be “larger than life” ones, while yours (Sarah) are answering a larger call. Thank God for both types.

      1. *taps wood, rubs rabbit’s foot, spits through horseshoe, tosses salt over shoulder, waves four-leaf-clover in a Colorado Springs direction*

        1. If enough of us do that around the globe in *just* the right places and times, does the pumpkin turn into a new car, or is that the other way around?

  17. Someone on twitter pointed to some SJW’s blog post (I think on Tor) where she talks about how whenever she reads she has a mental “Counter” tallying up all the women, minorities, etc. etc. in whatever she’s reading, and she gets angry all the time about the results. She can’t seem to stop doing it, so she persists in being angry (And I presume, not enjoying the fiction) so she wants to inflict this anger on everyone else, why are We not as enlightened as She, and equally angry, and focused entirely on the results of her mental counter?

    A normal person, if they find themselves doing something that makes them unhappy, stops doing it. But for an SJW, being angry about something is somehow validation. They get to feel righteous about some (usually wholly imagined) wrong. Of course, for them to feel right, they must make everyone else think the same ridiculous thought they have. (Hell, when political correctness first came about, it was all about promoting uniformity of thought among leftists with diverse bullshit they were angry about.)

    1. *Snort* Sheesh. If I could turn of the counter during Star Wars (made it until the last big space scene and started trying to calculate escape velocity requirements. Told the counter to shut back up because this is space fantasy), then she can drop it in books. Geeeeez.

    2. Shucks, that’s easily gamed. Just put in a crowd scene early in the story. If she assumes they’re all straight white cismale, isn’t that proof of her bias?

      For extra points, after the sheriff has ridden up with the posse the author can slowly reveal the sheriff is a black woman, the eight members of the posse are Sue, Juan, Frederica, Angelito, Manuel, Alphonse, Sven, and Pat and at least three of their horses are Bronies.

        1. What’s the problem?

          Lessee … one sheriff, eight in the posse, that’s nine riders … double triple that for remounts, so that’s twenty-seven …

          OH! I see — not enough Bronies. My bad.

            1. My apologies – isn’t it annoying when those little marshmallows fly out the nose?

              If it is any consolation, I tried Googling for the term used by those (shudder) fetishists who like to dress up and play “horsie” and all I can say is: Don’t. DO N-O-T. There are things which cannot be unseen, and brain bleach will only clear so much and no more, leaving a stain that will never go away this side of salvation.

              Imagine my embarrassment when, come Judgement Day, I am asked, “RES, WHY DID YOU LOOK UPON SUCH OBSCENITIES?” and my only answer will be “I did it to make Sarah spew hot chocolate on her monitor.”

              1. Heh, maybe I should apologize for my reply below… or not.

                Or, I could make it worse and remind folks of “Danny the Wonder Pony” who would appear on daytime talk shows in the ’80’s.

    3. Well, K. Teapot Bradford stopped reading works by white males because they made her angry. Of course, she then wanted the rest of us to stop reading them to.

      (I still remember a dispute where someone tried to defend her on the grounds it was good to get out of your comfort zone.)

      1. (I still remember a dispute where someone tried to defend her on the grounds it was good to get out of your comfort zone.)

        So to this person, retreating to a safe space is getting out of a comfort zone?! Cue Inigo Montoya…

        1. Oh No.

          They are allowed to retreat into their “safe places” but we aren’t allowed to stay in our “comfort zones”. 😈 😈 😈 😈

        1. Isn’t she the one whose comfort zone consisted for several years of the couches of her friends who actually had jobs?

    4. It’s not that easy.
      I don’t get the playing it up thing, but– have you ever been “on the look” for a car so long that months after you have the car, you’re still checking the prices and such on random cars when you drive buy?
      Same for house hunting, or even just doing a silly little study– “Gee, since I bought a red Ford pickup with four doors, it seems like there are a lot of four-door red pickups. I wonder if that’s just my impression?” It wasn’t, but it’s now been a couple of years later and I still find myself noticing the danged things in the back of my head, especially if I’m tired.

      It’s a trained habit, and it has to be untrained, not just stopped. If it’s too much like something needful– my “count the cars” game is strongly tied to my “watch the other vehicles” habit– then it’s going to be really hard to break.

      She’s kind of screwed; she can’t stop noticing in books unless she starts guiding her thoughts away from it in general, and if she does that she’ll become a “racist” by the screwy metric they use of not judging by race.

      1. I just think she should stop reading altogether. Stopping writing dumb articles would follow shortly thereafter. Then she could find some windows to lick instead.

    5. “A normal person, if they find themselves doing something that makes them unhappy, stops doing it.”
      Yes, I might have to stop reading the news again. It makes me so angry and the frustrated and depressed because there is very little I can do to change things.

      1. The last time I avoided the news because it just seemed like it was getting overly stupid I was in high school. The Berlin Wall fell and I vowed ‘never again’. While I don’t pay as much attention as I should, I still check out enough to have a vague sense of what’s going on.

        1. No matter how closely you follow the news, if you rely on the MSM you’ll never have more than a vague sense of what’s going on.

      2. I quit TV news some years ago, and newspapers (except local) shortly after. Newsfeeds, news magazines, where the stories are long enough, and long enough after the first flush of ignorant assumption has passed.

        Much happier.

    6. Gah. This crap can be infectious. I’ve been rewatching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (my sister got me a Best Buy card and I got ahold of the DVD series) and I caught myself wondering how SJWs would think of this particular character or how “empowered” this other character was.

      Then I gave up and let myself enjoy watching Ed, Al, Izumi, Hawkeye, and Alex be awesome. 😀

      1. Also ignored, two of my personal favorites: Pyrethrin and (particularly as produced by solenopsis saevissima) Piperidine.

      1. It is so sad that so few have watched Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. If they had, they’d know who he is. Or if they had any grasp on western civilization, philosophy, or classics, of course, but that may be too much to ask given the state of our educational system.

        1. Heck, I only know about him *because* my mom is the sort to use that joke.

          Philosophy. The logic-based types. Yet another reason to homeschool. 😦

          (I got a little philosophy in school, but it was all the post Christian stuff.)

  18. I long ago came to your conclusions about the so-called “good” stuff:

    High art is unviewable.
    High literature is unreadable.
    High music is unlistenable.
    High cinema is unwatchable.
    High cuisine is inedible.

    Me? I’ll happily sit and read Heinlein while munching on a cheeseburger and drinking a Shiner, ZZ Top blasting in the background.

    And anyone who thinks my tastes are lowbrow can kiss my spandex-covered butt.

    1. I don’t like any kind of Abstract Art. However there are still amazing things to look at in Museums.

    2. Perhaps it is because you have to be high to fully appreciate it? Not being the imbibing, inhaling, or injecting kind when it comes to such recreational substances, I wouldn’t know. I still think they suck.

  19. A few months ago I had a somewhat-productive conversation with Foz Meadows on her blog post Hugos & Puppies: Peeling The Onion. (Read the post—really read it—then scroll down for my comment At the time I’d felt I’d left something unsaid, but I could not find the right words for it; Sarah has now written what I wanted to then.

    (I know I began to write something along these lines back in August but I can’t find it now; if I ever posted the draft comment it was in a since-shuttered group.)

    Religious piety in art is a nearly-perfect parallel to the disagreement here: Yes, I quite understand that the artist has portrayed the saint in her typical pose, and correctly surrounded her with the various images associated with her—but if you’re counting that as a measure of quality similar to composition, brushwork, the image actually resembling a human being, etc., etc., then we’re not really discussing the same genre of art anymore. (And of course nothing says an artwork can’t satisfy both; most of the classics of European religious art are classics because they’re just as great whether reckoned as secular or religious art.)

  20. My first exposure to “people like different things” was over food and dad brought out that old chestnut “tastes can’t be disputed.” Which is of course nonsense because most of what we humans do is argue taste. Taste in the non-culinary sense, mostly.

    Every time I encounter someone arguing for his tastes over mine — which, in the interests of candor, I will concede are common as dirt — I remember an impressive exchange from Steven Brust’s unique and impressive novel Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille:

    She sat down next to me and sipped some of my drink. She made a face.
    “It’s single-malt whiskey,” I said. “It’s an acquired taste.”
    “Why did you want to acquire it?”

    Worth a few CPU cycles, no? I’ll be writing more about this later today.

    1. “It’s an acquired taste.”
      “Why did you want to acquire it?”

      Sometimes that is the case. And sometimes it’s simply utterly different perception. I had a, to me, wonderful bottle of Lagavulin. Great stuff (to me) clearly smoky and just delightful. $HOUSEMATE declared it “medicine” and not in the traditional ‘medicinal alcohol’ sense, but “this smells like medical preservative” sense. The upside to this is that any Islays or other peaty scotches are mine, all mine. }:o)

      We agree that the combination of ‘peas and carrots’ is an atrocity, but for opposite reasons. I maintain it is NO accident that Mr. Yuck is “a pea with a face” and $HOUSEMATE insists that carrots are “International Warning Orange” to indicate horrific flavor. And yes, we accuse each other of the being the silly one.

          1. For a long time I thought “mushy peas” was just a description of English cooking (“when in doubt, boil to death” or so the stereotype goes.) Oh no. Mushy Peas is the product, comes in a can from Heinz. I wasn’t sure if I should be impressed or appalled.

            1. When I was a missionary in Great Britain, I explained that I didn’t like peas, and one of my house-mates suggested that I try mushy peas, because he didn’t like peas either, until he ate these things.

              Well, I tried them, and I noticed that the stuff still had the two things I hate most about peas: the taste and the texture.

              Peas are an evil abomination, even if they are mushy…

              1. Peas are not evil — what people do to them is evil.

                Some vegetables must be eaten freshly picked. Tomatoes are that way, although they will sit a couple days. Sweet corn, i am advised, is so good fresh that those who’ve had it consider all other preparations third rate. Peas, being inclined to turn into starch, are among the worst for this treatment.

                I suspect Lima Beans may be much the same, but i will never know as I see no reason to ever again grant them the slightest benefit of doubt. Yes, I admit it: I am unfair to vegetables.

                1. My mother, who generally shares my tastes on the subject of corn, tells me she has found a brand that cans it well. I am astounded. (She gave me a can. Perhaps I’ll try it tonight.)

                2. For the parents out there: to get your kids to like veggies, try a snack garden.

                  When I was a kid, it was several types of tomatoes, a small stand of sweet corn and as many rows of radishes and carrots as mom could stand to plant, with all the fences covered in either peas or beans.

                  For ours last year, since I don’t trust the dirt around here, we had one of each tiny tomato plant (yellow pear was HORRIBLE, but the rest were good) and a million sugar snap peas. I think a handful of peas made it inside, total, over the whole summer.

                  1. We had carrots and onions. I was allowed to pull and peel (and in the case of onions salt) and eat. Summer to me still means fresh veggies from the sun-armed dirt. Not that I’ve got them in decades…

              2. Now…freeze-dried peas are a nice crunchy snack. Not mushy at all, so the texture problem is gone. And the taste is probably somewhat different from what you’d expect if your only experience with peas is various canned varieties.

                  1. In my family, too.

                    Unfortunately, the Baron doesn’t usually let them survive very long. (Yes, the two year old will bogart your wasabi peas. He will also play up the “wow, he swiped it, and ate it…and he wants more?” reaction until he eats the WHOLE CAN!)

      1. I don’t have a palate that can describe alcohol tastes. But I don’t care, because I can enjoy the stuff just fine.

        Lagavulin is fully acceptable to me also. Huns, please forward any stray bottles that need a good home.

        1. They are a nice orange color. You’ll only get me to eat eggplant if you force feed it to me.

          1. I kindof like eggplant, but the last time we had some, my wife and I became curious: what is the nutritional value of this plant, anyway?

            It turns out that apparently the best thing that can be said about it is “at least it doesn’t have enough nicotine to make it addictive”.

            From your comment, I thought you might appreciate knowing that!

            1. I had thought eggplant pointless until I had a different variety of the species in the day’s special at a Thai restaurant … chili beef and eggplant, I believe. Thai hot, of course. I can’t recall what prompted me to take the chance, but it was a delightful meal. Small, green eggplants, wonderfully crisp.

              1. Sure they do. They do it for the same reason humans learned to gobble like a duck and make duck calls.

  21. ?BUT training a non natural taste sort of requires us to examine it and see “is it a net positive?”

    There’s a philosophical whatsit about properly trained tastes. That since all tastes are au fond somewhat optional, and moreover people can be trained to like this or that, it behooves a wise man to discover which tastes are beneficial, appropriate to La Dolce Vita, prudent, etc.

    Like so much of the progressive left the bit where one asks, “so… that taste you’re training up? Is it good? Yes, I perceive you assume it is, but can you prove it?

    So much depends on never pausing to think through the assumptions involved.

  22. Sarah, completely OT: I got an e-mail saying there was a new post, “Shooting the Black Dog”… but the link in the e-mail goes to “Page cannot be found” and there’s no link to it except the Twitter feed — which gives the same error..

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