Super Human!

This is where I confess both in my science fiction and in other people’s writing I have a problem with “super humans!” tm.

Oh, most of the super-powers in comics and books and movies are just weird, and not really super powers that could develop. But once I settle in to “oh, fantasy,” I can watch most of them.  I just quickly get tired and mostly watch them because the guys (husband & sons) are watching, not because it’s something that naturally attracts me.  Given several different blurbs for movies, I’d rarely choose “super powers.”

And here, I should probably note that I grew up with what my parents didn’t call “a notion of superpowers” only because it wasn’t in their vocabulary.

You know that thing kids have, where they think they’ll try to do something and do it perfectly first time out?  Every kids seems to have this, at around two or three, and when they do try something, be it jumping or dancing or riding a bike and it doesn’t work, it takes a lot of patience from the adults to say “no, you have to practice, till you get it right.”

My parents, and this might have been cultural or maybe an early 20th century thing, had this idea of “genius.”  If you were a musical genius, you might never have seen an instrument, but the first time you see a piano, you’re going to play perfectly well.  You might never have written a story, but if you’re a writing genius, the first time you try, it will be Shakespeare.  You might never have ridden a bike, but if you’re physically gifted, the first time you try–  You get the point.

I grew up with them “testing” me against things I’d never seen or thought of doing, and then being disappointed I wasn’t instantly good at them.  And it must be part of the culture, because I grew up so immersed in this that I was in my thirties before I realized this was crazy-cakes.

I’m smarter than the average bear.  How much smarter I don’t know, and these things are hard to test or quantify, one of the reasons I don’t throw IQ points around like confetti.  But when you always rise to the top of your class, even in an environment biased against you (most of my secondary education, because I was a girl.  Though there was also “from a backwater village” and later — here — the “she has an accent, can she even understand what we’re saying”) you sort of come to accept you’re above average.  But everything I do comes at the cost of a lot of work.  At one time I spoke seven languages fluently, but I did an insane amount of work on each, the first three years, memorizing grammar and verb forms, and then reading in the language in the next three years, even when it was very difficult in the beginning.  And while I don’t know anyone who can just walk into a place and speak the language, I know there is such a  thing as a talent for languages.  My brother routinely went somewhere for two weeks, and came back speaking the language like a native.  Leading to the joke that we could drop him naked in the middle of the amazonian rain forest and he’d emerge speaking whatever tribal language there was, within two weeks.

But I’m not stupid.  I know he could speak the language “like a native” in two weeks, but not actually.  He would be able to ask essential questions and get the gist of things said to him.  But if he’d stayed there, he’d spend years learning the language to be truly like a native.  I still envied him, because I can learn, but it takes me insane amounts of work.

In the same way my parents were kind of pleased because I won writing contests very early and had a chapbook of my poems published at 14 (Yes, I know.  I’m Sarah A. Hoyt, and I’m a poet.  It’s been fourteen years, five months, two weeks and three days since I last wrote a sonnet, but I’m still a poet, and I have to stay away from it, consciously, every day.  Even a couplet would be too much.)  So I had some talent.  But only some, since I didn’t write a world-famous novel at six.

In reality, I had some facility with language, and a compulsion to make up and tell stories, which probably has its roots in my very lonely childhood, where I had to make up the games AND the play friends.  But twenty years after selling my first novel (Nineteen minus a few weeks, but who’s counting) I’m still learning my metier.  I probably will be, still, twenty years from now.

Oh, and some novels turn out better than others.  And some are more successful than others which yet again has nothing to do with quality, really.

Then I had a son who is at least one and maybe two standard deviations above me. No, we don’t know.  It’s hard to know because he’s at that level where they have trouble putting a number to it.

He’s now starting to grow into himself, I think.  I mean, nine times out of ten, if you meet him, now, you’ll get that he’s very smart, and you don’t think he’s crazy or borderline mentally slow.

Because that’s what most of his teachers thought, in elementary through middle school, that he was “developmentally disabled” and they couldn’t figure out why we didn’t have accommodations (mostly because he didn’t want them.)  And an entire school (middle) once made war on him under the belief he was and I quote: Mentally Retarded.  (Which is a weird reason to make war on anyone, but there it is.)

Mostly we knew he was “off” somehow, but we weren’t sure how.  And once we figured out he was very, very smart, our problem was figuring out why this often presented like utter stupidity.

You’ve heard of overthinking things, right?  Now combine that with the ability to get very bored once you figure things out, an inability to understand other people AREN’T like you, and therefore to consider most people somewhere between stupid and crazy and several quirks/eccentricities, and what you have is a kid whose first presentation wasn’t “He’s so smart.”

My cousin, who was raised with me (14 years older) is a teacher specializing in the profoundly gifted.  I’d vent at her and she’d laugh and say, “that is completely normal.”  Like, his obsession, at four, with trying to create life.  The vials of things I found under beds and desks, and stuffed in weird places, with rotting household chemicals and bits of dead flies.  (When your four year old heard about the primeval soup but lacks some context and world experience.) Or the two weeks he spent in front of the computer, in his underwear, playing all the computer games he’d got for Christmas, until he mastered them all.  Interrupted only by us dragging him out of the room to hose off and feed.

And the way his obsessions often had nothing to do with the real world or real skills for life.  I mean, it might be your ambition to learn to glue two pieces of cardboard just so, but really? WHY?

Brings us to the future history and “making Supermen.” Most people who are normal or a little above normal (the sweet spot for being considered “very intelligent” is like the top 25% to the top 10%.  Above that people think you’re “crazy” (they’re not wrong in the sense of maladaptive) and anyone top 2% or above is at best considered odd by his/her peers.) and know that other “smarter” people have an easier time with this or that, dream of supermen.  People for whom, they think, the difficult tasks they struggle with are “easy.”

But human intelligence doesn’t work like that.  It’s not quantitative.  It’s qualitative.  The intelligence that allows you to solve a math problem at a glance will also seriously complicate your life when you’re trying to choose clothes in the morning, because you’ll run everything through the “and yet on the other hand” and might cause you to emerge from your room in too-tight pants and the luchador shirt you bought at the thrift store while you were in a weird mood, because according to some weird metric that exists in your mind only, they’re the least likely to get you noticed by the neighbor’s dog who hates your guts.  Hence “overthinking” and “So sharp he cuts himself.”  I swear to you the best way to make my kids flunk a test was to ask them questions the other kids could answer in their sleep.  You know “What shape is an egg?” or “What color is the sky.”  They’ll end up positing n-dimensional eggs and describing minute seasonal changes in the sky, because well, no one can ask questions that simple, right?

My older son tells me that “smart” people have more connections between brain cells, and are slower to prune them.  This means they can correlate knowledge much faster/better, but also… well, all those connections are a great way of describing “going fricking nuts.”

Will we ever create supermen?  I don’t know.  Supposing we ever know enough of genetics, we might be stupid enough to try it.

Hence in the future, after they’d created laborers, etc, and created superstates too, they get stupid enough to create “supermen,” partly because they think that they need them to administer their superstates (we already hear rumblings that say EU or the US are “too complex to be administered by normal humans” — it never occurs to them to let the places administer themselves — and it gets more so with both intrusiveness of state and complexity of society.

Now they create at least three levels of supermen, alphas and betas and tetas and then just slightly enhanced humans.

They’re supposed to be faster, smarter, stronger.  It is a thing of note that the editor for Through Fire couldn’t understand why this woman who was supposed to be all these things (and yes, she repeats them to herself like a mantra) could have ANY difficulties.

She has difficulties because I don’t believe in supermen.

Long ago I came on the concept “Have the virtues of your faults” or “have the faults of your virtues.”

Me?  I’m prouder than the devil.  This means I have trouble admitting to difficulties, even those caused by health issues.  It means I don’t do nearly-enough butt kissing to climb in my profession.  In fact the more I like someone who could help me up, the less I show it.  (Yeah, my relationship with my publishing house!) and that I DISDAIN pushing my work too much, because it should sell on its own or something. But that means I’ll break myself in two trying to live up to my good opinion of myself, for instance.  My younger son is a perfectionist.  This means when he delivers something it will be perfect.  But it also means he won’t deliver things he can’t be perfect at.  Which means, yes, sometimes work doesn’t even get turned in.  Also, he has two novellas ready to publish that no one but me might read.

So the smartish people of the future create very smart children to …. be their functionaries, do their bidding: to be their clerks, their planners, their spies, their assassins.

At some point — and I’m not absolutely sure why, but I think it’s the “Writ large” of bugs under the bed, and the fear of exposure of the whole project — these children, named for the scientists who created them, or after national heroes — are collected from all over the Earth and dropped into a “creche” in Germany.  Where, because their caretakers are scared of them, they get brutalized and terrorized into learning and behaving and knowing they’re subordinate to the “real humans.”

Instead these potentially very gifted children and young men emerge with the faults of their virtues and also convinced they’re not quite human and they HAVE to control “real humans” to feel safe.

It is a recipe for trouble.  And trouble will come.


667 responses to “Super Human!

  1. There are super-powers and then there are super-powers. Asterix and Obelix have super-powers but that isn’t the reason to read their adventures.

    • Same with Astra, Artemis, Shelly, Shell, and company to return to the recent superhero kerfuffle..

      • I love that series.

        • Me too…guess I’m just a sucker for power fantasies (I mean, Astra is even blonde and blue-eyed…clearly an ubermench fantasy).

          • I miss John Chandler. I’d to read an alternate time line where John & Hope marry (or not) and what happens then. I think that it was necessary for John to die. C’mon a housewife in Dallas would be interested to read about a super hero from TX. A cowboy even!
            You are my hero dear. Better than any fictional character.

    • Well, I did my best in my superhero novella. Just released. (Through A Mirror, Darkly, yes details will follow in the Promo post)

  2. Poets Anonymous?
    Ox never knew.
    Ox never even suspected.
    Ox slow, yes.
    At least only poetry.
    Could have been accordion, bagpipes, banjo…
    Oh crud, grampa played banjo.
    “Why do they call it a banjo?’ “It sounds like one.”
    Not all jokes are good. Some just.. are.

    • What’s wrong with a banjo? Where I grew up the hideous instrument was the accordion.

      • It’s not an either/or. Both can be bad in their own way.

        Sometimes it’s context-dependent, too. I used to occasionally play in Irish music sessions. On of the frequent participants had a near-pathological loathing of accordion (to the point that “drop an accordion in Jack’s lap, and see how disgusted a picture you can capture” usually happened at every party after a few rounds of drinks). Oddly, he didn’t dislike concertina, perhaps because concertina is often used in Irish music. Never mind that concertina is essentially a small accordion, and doesn’t sound all that different.

        Then there’s the jokes about bodhrans, bagpipes, bones, and shaky eggs. And that’s just in Irish music sessions. I wonder what instruments, say, Klezmer or Jazz musicians abhor?

        • Electric guitar is what I think Klezmer abhors. I didn’t anyone who played the banjo when I was growing up in Brooklyn. Sorta like I’d never heard of grits or okra.

          • You may not have heard of grits or okra, but I bet you knew from egg creams.

            • They were the drink of a vanished era. I grew up in the 70s. I had one once. Did you know that there was much variation in making an eggcream as there is in mixing a martini?

              • My first encounter with egg cream was obtained at an old fashioned soda fountain in a Brooklyn pharmacy in the early 1970s.

                I have had several since, none are quite the same, so I had concluded that there must be variations on the theme. I have liked all I have had, although I am partial to the memory of the vanilla egg cream that was served at a now, sadly, defunct local restaurant.

                • Back when I was young and frequented an ice cream shop just outside the gates in Maryland, I taught the others my age working there how to make a chocolate egg cream just so I could order one. They would once in a while make one for others who wandered in and asked, but it never appeared on their menu.

                  • *pokes around for a recipe*

                    Suddenly, rootbeer floats make a lot more sense, at least if you’ve got ice cream– that’s the milk and a flavor, then the rootbeer is the carbonated water and another flavor.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I like banjo, accordion and bagpipe fine. I really dislike acoustic guitar.

            The secret is that I’m more open minded about music than I would have ever realized, if I’m choosing what to play, when, at low volume over headphones.

            I’ve had no choice about my exposure to some inexpertly played guitar. Unlike the violin, I didn’t have enough earlier more positive associations with the instrument.

        • Scottish folk (try Silly Wizard) employs accordion, as do Zydeco and Tejano. Tejano, based upon German engineers trying to get Mexicans bands to play something familiar was a great passion of mine at one phase, so much so that I once turned to Beloved Spouse and asked, “Would you ever have believed we’d eagerly seek out tuba-bands and accordion music?”

        • “Oddly, he didn’t dislike concertina”

          Obviously he wasn’t a fencer.

          • Or, anyone who has ever had the distinct pleasure of cutting many, many rolls of concertina out from under vehicle undercarriages in the dark, during a rainstorm, covered in mud…

            Nota bene for those without military experience in the ground forces: Do not, I repeat, do not casually drive over or attempt to go through concertina, even if you are in an M1 tank. You will rue the day, I promise you.

            • Kind of like getting several hundred yards of barb wire fence untangled from an 18 wheeler in a heavily mesquite-infested West Texas pasture, only worse

              • Much worse. See, those concertina rolls are not made with barbed wire… It’s razor tape over hardened steel wires. You can’t cut it with normal wire-cutting pliers like you can barbed wire–You have to have the compound-leverage jobs, and pray the jaws are hardened properly. Bolt cutters are occasionally workable, but the jaws have to be constantly adjusted over the course of an evening.

                We had one really memorable night, where our own tanks blundered into what we’d built as an obstacle–It was built as an 11-row concertina road block with adjoining tanglefoot. The idiots came blaring down the road at about thirty-forty miles an hour just when we finished it, hit the concertina first, then the tanglefoot. We were on the back end, loading up tools, when they made the valiant attempt. There’s nothing like watching a platoon of four tanks get stopped dead by your handiwork, and then have the sudden sinking realization that you’re gonna have to help them get out of the mess they’d just made of your obstacle…

                No joke–Cutting those three tanks out took almost all damn night, from dusk on one day until dawn the next. The canny old platoon sergeant who’d stopped his tank from following the lead one with their Lieutenant was livid. Watching him chew ass on the LT was a thing of joy and wonder, and I learned new curse words. I gathered that they’d had a relationship fraught with bitten tongues on the NCO side of the house, all through the initial fielding process for their new tanks (this was waaaaay back when the M1 was new, and they were doing the transition), and when the LT said something to the effect of “I thought these new tanks could handle something easy like this…”, the platoon sergeant completely lost his shit.

                It was amaaazing… Short little bandy-legged guy with a full-blown Joisy accent, hopping up and down screaming at the six-foot-six or so LT. Then, he got tired, and dragged the LT over to his tank by the scruff of his coveralls, got up on the fender, and kept on screaming at him from eye level. It was ‘effing hysterical to us, as outsiders.

                Everyone in their platoon was terrified, though–Apparently, that particular platoon sergeant had a bit of a reputation as a flat-out terror, and, on top of that, he’d been the driver and gunner on the battalion commander’s tank in Vietnam. One of the tankers told me that if the LT were to disappear into a shallow grave out there, nobody would be asking too many questions about it…

          • An armored vehicle in concertina is basically a very large, noisy…barbecue smoker…

      • I spent some considerable time where polka was still something of a thing. One country music radio station became more listenable every Sunday morning when they switched to a polka format for those hours. TV had commercials for stuff by Frankie Yankovic and Whoopee John. So the accordion was not universally loathed. There were a good jabs at it, however.

      • The problem isn’t the banjo, it is what happens after you hear banjos.

        Ever seen Deliverance?

          • 1996, Summer Olympics, kayak race through the Ocoee gorge (film location), Brooks and Dunn on color commentary without mike delay:

            “Folks, if Ned Beatty couldn’t make it through that gorge unmolested, no Frenchman in Spandex bike shorts has a chance!”

  3. You’ve heard of overthinking things, right? Now combine that with the ability to get very bored once you figure things out, an inability to understand other people AREN’T like you, and therefore to consider most people somewhere between stupid and crazy and several quirks/eccentricities, and what you have is a kid whose first presentation wasn’t “He’s so smart.”

    Yup. Doesn’t fit the popular mold of smart, so obviously must not be smart. 😉

    • “Idiot-Savant?”
      “Just idiot?”
      “Just savant?”
      “Too damned different to analyze in a typical manner?”

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      esr wrote an advice column to actors on acting like an extremely intelligent person.

      Unless your memory permits, and you take care, it is easy to conflate what you were presented in fiction with what you have directly observed. So Hollywood could easily be trapped in a cycle of they present x this way because the audience expects it, and the audience expects it because Hollywood presented it that way. Hollywood presentation of intelligence, science, engineering, and machining could distort public perception of these things. (I picked machining not because I remember seeing lathes and mills in film but because Hollywood fabrication is interesting, and I know more about mechanical fabrication than other types.)

      • “So Hollywood could easily be trapped in a cycle of they present x this way because the audience expects it, and the audience expects it because Hollywood presented it that way.”

        This is why, for years, horses sounded like clapping coconuts, and swords have a distinctive metalalic “sching!” when pulled out of their scabbards — even when the scabbard is metal, and the draw would be silent….

        • The clapping coconut thing started with old time radio, before movies. I don’t know about the sword, but suspect it very well may have also.

          • I have even heard of an attempt to use mic.-ed hoofbeats recorded… but they sounded “wrong” to the audience and so the artificial sound effect was retained.

  4. I have a granddaughter (and probably two, plus grandson) who are ahead of me in raw processing ability. Her issue is that she so sensitive to information that she overloads. Her brother and her cousin are exactly the opposite – they need massive amounts of input and will do anything to generate it. My daughters spend a LOT of time going, “WHY?”

    In each case, they have definite skill sets that are being developed. None of them are ‘instant geniuses’. My daughters were raised with permission to make mistakes (provided they learned) and to understand that hard work will be natural talent almost every time. They’re passing it down to their kids.

    As for the extra connections in the brain, I call it having an agile mind.

  5. I’m smart. Well into that “tenth of one percent” category. It doesn’t help with day to day life, really.

    When I do something really clever, I almost never make any extra money off of it (like the million-copy-selling game I sold off – at my own insistence – to my co-author, for a fraction of its eventual worth). There’s a tendency for truly smart/creative people to undervalue their work, because “it wasn’t that hard!” Dunning-Kruger strikes again…

    Almost all of the even-smarter people I’ve met have been disasters, in more ways than one. I’m talking about the 170+ IQ, super-brilliant types. They have meltdowns that have to be seen to be believed, or they settle into “subnormal” lives that let them spend their time thinking instead of dealing with reality.

    • Oh, yeah, the normal thing for people my son’s IQ is to work minimum wage jobs and live in trashy cheap apartments.
      I’ve been fighting this future since his diagnosis.

      • It’s hard to push geniuses.

        You have to find someone to drag them.

        • Usually, geniuses are executed along with the doctors and good teachers.

        • Best to raise them with other geniuses. Speaking from experience. My kids are *much* better equipped already to deal with other humans than Dad is. (Dad was a National Merit Scholar, second year. Any way you slice it, he’s a genius.)

          Geniuses raised only around kids that aren’t as bright seem to go one of two ways: they’re defined as stupid because they’re too busy thinking about things that are more important than school and they internalize that definition, or they decide everyone else is sub-human and needs to be properly managed because everyone else keeps doing stupid stuff. (This is why geniuses keep thinking socialism and other top-down dictatorial governing methods are a good idea: they regard the rest of humanity as not particularly bright small children who must be protected from themselves.)

          I’ve got one of each of those in the house. They both drive me bonkers on a regular basis.

          • Here’s a nasty tangent: People who may be average or a little more than average but who adopt certain ideas because they think it’s what smart people do. It requires no more smarts than a parrot, perhaps less, and is simply group behavior. Then they spend an inordinate amount of time reinforcing that they’re smart because they hold to their group indicators.

            The occasion for this was that study some weeks ago about “instincts evolved on the savanna” that was highly questionable, and the premise was nothing more than back-patting and went somewhat like this: “Intelligence overrides instinct; therefore we hold to [redacted] because we are intelligent, while average people cannot because they are not smart enough.” Frankly, this middle of the bell curve fellow wasn’t impressed by the supposed “smarts” on display, particularly since good ol’ fashioned group dynamics was a stronger hypothesis for what they observed than their instinct theory.

            • I don’t keep up with the slang, but does anybody know whether “smart” is still a synonym for “fashionable” — as in, “one of the smart set”?

              I don’t suppose that it would take much effort to structure an argument around the idea of “smart people seek to pass as normal, while normal people try to pass as smart.” Although that second phrase might better be put as “slow people try to pass as smart.”

              Elwood P. Dowd: Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

          • I’m a firm believer that the top 10% of students should be separated out from the rest and challenged from first grade on. And that each year a there should be a further winnowing off from the top to other schools. By 5th grade on you’d need boarding schools to keep the top performers together. Just imagine a school full of high school age children all from the top 0.01%, where the freshman have already mastered basic calculus… It would be a nightmare for administrators. Not that the thought of administrators having nightmares bothers me in the least.

            I also thing the bottom 10% ought be separated out so they don’t dumb down the education the vast middle receive. I don’t have any idea of what really to do with the dumbest of the dumb except try to teach them basic life skills.

            All five of my kids admit to dumbing down their language when they talked to others in school or now at work. They speak differently at home. And among friends they find who do the same thing.

            • “All five of my kids admit to dumbing down their language when they talked to others in school or now at work.”

              Which is a viable life skill, as you acknowledge by the last four words of that sentence. If they hadn’t learned how to dumb down their language they would likely had much more difficulty finding jobs.

            • All five of my kids admit to dumbing down their language when they talked to others in school or now at work. They speak differently at home. And among friends they find who do the same thing.

              I not only do that, I also alter the topics of conversation that I engage in, because people looked at me funny when I talked about most of the things that actually interested me, even if I keep it on a level that normal people are comfortable* with.

              * “Normal” people can frequently engage their brains and understand as much, or often more, than i can. It’s just that far too many of them don’t want to make the effort, and are comfortable going around at a level of thinking that would make me beat my head against the wall until my brain started working just to get me to stop.

            • I’m a firm believer that we often can’t tell who the top 10% will be at the 1st grade, and that further, we can’t trust bureaucrats with deciding who should, or should not, be in the top or bottom 10%.

              Indeed, in my transition from 7th to 8th grade, my 7th Grade “Excelled” teacher put me in the normal 8th grade English class, probably based solely on some test score (and certainly not because of the grade I was getting in her class). I was bored out of my mind in the first day, and ended up requesting a transfer to the higher lever class; the next year after that, I was in the “Gifted and Talented” class (which, when I reflected on it later, I thought was a bit of a fluff class, even if it were the “Gifted” one).

              I think this is one of the factors that have convinced me that I should keep my kids away from schools in general.

              • My experience also was that most “Gifted” or Advanced classes were fluff classes. Except math, where you were basically just moved up to a higher grade level. I took several years of Advanced English through school (I tended to bounce back and forth, depending mainly on which teachers I preferred) and on the whole I found them easier and requiring less work than the regular English classes. With the notable exception of Freshman Advanced English, where we had a great teacher and did a quarter of Shakespeare, a quarter of the Bible (he got away with teaching that in a public school by pointing out it was constantly referenced in literature and not teaching it was handicapping students) a quarter of Greek and Roman mythology (same reasoning as the Bible quarter) and I don’t recall what the other quarter was.
                Also Sophomore Advanced English was the same class as standard Senior English, taught by the same teacher. I knew this going in, and knew that I would NOT take any class taught by the only teacher to teach Advanced Senior English; so I saved my assignments. Which made showing up for Senior English a couple years later only necessary about once a week to turn in any work due. 😛

          • I got to be in a separate track for “rapid learners.” (They call it GATE now, or TAG—they keep changing the acronyms.) They don’t have a separate track at our school, but they will have a supplementary class after school that my son gets to do. It was very helpful to not be bored.

      • If he’s going into engineering, he’ll need to moderate his obsession with perfection in order to meet schedules. He’ll have to learn to be satisfied with “good enough” in most cases.

        • Yes, the perfect can easily defeat the “good enough” unless “good enough” works very hard to remind the person that it’s time to let it go.

        • There’s a slight problem with that.

          “Good Enough” is not precise enough a definition for some folks that others might label “smart.” By observation, one man’s “Good Enough” is utter drek, while another’s is a master’s piece by any definition. “Good Enough” is not always good enough…

          So the Odd may have to do a little social research beforehand to discover what, precisely, sort of “Good Enough” is expected here. Is it within .001 tolerance? .00001? At what point does it get labeled “over engineered” or a “waste of time/resources”? Does it need to be done quickly, and if so how quickly?

          Misreading the social cues can lead to being mocked, at the least. I once spent, er, let’s just call it “way too much time” running an overflow valve set, back when I was in my early twenties. And I’m not all that bright. One can only imagine how lost someone who *really* overthinks things could get.

          • Funny, but I’ve always understood “good enough” to mean met the minimum requirements; which isn’t very super, but is that which survives to live another day.

            • *grin* My father, bless him, was not of that school. “Good Enough” was praise worth sweat and blood to earn from him. Still is, most times. It was an… adjustment to learn that other folks had different ways. It’s why to this day I’m careful about finding out what’s expected of me when I take a job.

          • Aye. The fellow pulling out the micrometer to check on the thing that a millimeter either way won’t matter and he should just eyeball it is wasting time. But eyeballing stuff that should be checked (and re-checked) with the micrometer is being dangerous. Which is which? Sure, it’s obvious – after the disasters, anyway.

          • Pretty much on accident, my mom taught me a way to create your own “tolerances” for “good enough”– you figure out what the purpose is, and if it will fulfill that purpose; if you’re not sure, figure out the cost of not fulfilling it vs the cost of being fairly sure.

            Resulted in some folks thinking that I “can’t make up my mind,” when in reality what I was doing was trying to measure too many factors that they couldn’t/wouldn’t provide, but that’s a small price. 😀

        • As a perfectionist, I can say that you’re never satisfied by “good enough,” but can accept that other solutions may not be economical or feasible in the time constraints, or both.

          • Yep. I had moderate trouble with that my first few years as an engineer. The trouble with trying to make it perfect is that you can get really lost in the weeds chasing bug dust.

      • The question is has he learned to fight it and that he needs to.

        I didn’t even accept the need until close to 40 and now I’m playing catchup still at 50. I lack a lot of basic everyday tendencies (not skills, but the drive to do it) most people master in the 15-25 span and it hold me back.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Yeah. I’ve not found that I could substitute intelligence for wisdom, or either for effectiveness and productivity.

    • Being “smart” does not equate to being an effective communicator with standard humans — quite the opposite, more often than not. Folks within a single standard deviation of the mean generally won’t have the vocabulary to follow what is being said, will get distracted by unfamiliar words, will fail to clear logical gaps that the “genius” leapt in a single bound and will get confused by the amount of time the genius spends postulating the shape of an egg.

      Succeeding in life relies far more on communicating effectively than it does on being smart.

      • I have days at work when we all agree that I probably shouldn’t talk that day. Usually because my brain has started going faster than my mouth and it’s all coming out as gibberish, as far as anybody but myself can tell.

        I’m fairly certain I’ve seen my boss tearing her hair out when I hand her the paperwork it usually takes her most of a day to do and say “what, it’s just math”

      • And people look at you so funny when you follow down those rabbit holes of inquiry, such as pondering whether the bumps on the eggshell are significant enough to include in the description of the shape.

    • Almost all of the even-smarter people I’ve met have been disasters, in more ways than one.

      The most disfunction group of people I know is MENSA. Outside of the “why do I want to be part of a group just because they are smart?” that is the biggest reason I resisted a friend’s effort to get me to join.

      • I looked at joining MENSA, but the people I encountered struck me as the poseurs, not bona-fide geniuses.

        • Some of them are. Sort of. But they’re so far beyond the bend, you can’t talk to them. Or, if you can, you can’t talk to anybody else.

          Avoid that little trap. There are a few good chapters, but a bloody *lot* of nothing but trouble, too. Not bad trouble, just… Couldn’t organize a bonk in a brothel, for lack of a better descriptor.

        • The big joke between me and my husband is that someone got us a “MENSA quiz book”—actually put out by MENSA—and we spent an evening finding the two errors in every 20-question quiz. Seriously. Two errors out of every twenty (and strangely consistent at that.) “Smart but in dire need of a copy editor.”

    • I know what you mean. I’m not in that 170+ category, but as a kid I routinely tested in the mid-150s. And some of the biggest problems I had in college and on the job were partly consequences of that.

      Both direct consequences like “poor study habits” and “trusts own reasoning too much” (when most subjects you encounter until college appear overly simple, it’s easy to assume everything will be) and interpersonal relations (assuming you always know more than anyone around you – even if correct, it’s not an endearing trait) can trip you up.

      I’ve had a pretty good career so far – but I’m working in a field where almost everyone has this issue to some degree. Computer people are *expected* to be weird. I would *not* have been a happy camper working on, say, a factory production line.

      And yes, I’ve met a handful of people working in the field that are in that 170+ category. The successful ones generally have a partner who can (figuratively) smack them on the head when they wander too far off the tracks. Or maybe literally – thinking of a guy that thought nothing of calling you up at 3 AM to discuss an idea he just had. Great guy . . . but his wife had to forcefully tell him “Not now! Tomorrow at work!” a few times.

      • I’ve heard of a General who had an IQ of 190. I’ve heard that the Army is not kind to extremely bright people. He was a combat arms guy not scientific. I guess he was a quick learner and a great mimic. Getting to be a Gen. is quite difficult. You need to be outstanding at your specialty and a good politician and leader.

      • *chuckle* Java, I have no idea of my IQ, and I’m not very curious about it. I do know the one test I took , they yanked me out of the slow classes and put me in “accelerated” classes. Which were utterly ridiculous crap. I know IQ tests are bunk, because for one there’s no way I’m all that bright, and for another, they don’t really have a good definition of “intelligence” yet- at least, not that I’ve heard- so what they are testing for is a mix of pattern recognition, memory, and (crudely) creativity.

        I’ve worked on a factory production line, pulled wire, mowed grass, been a line cook, painted houses, and dug ditches among several other mind-numbingly boring jobs. If you can develop the motor skills and sort of hum along with only brief bits of attention, you can spend the whole day with your own thoughts. I tend to use music to slow down the hamster wheel in my head when I need to concentrate.

        Can’t say it works for all people, but sometimes those low-wage jobs can give a guy with no social skills enough exposure to how humans interact to pass as normal. Ish. And really, if you grow up Odd enough, just being judged as normal can be a blessing.

        • I can’t disagree on measuring intelligence – they can measure some aspects quite well, but miss others. Frex, I’m average at best about learning new languages, and I’d be a poor politician.

          The thing is that I’ve done the physical/boring jobs too – and yes, sometimes it’s nice to be alone with your thoughts. But I have a hard time resisting the urge to tinker & optimize, which doesn’t always (usually) go over well on that sort of job.

          Plus, I’ve never expected to become a multi-millionaire playboy, but if you’re going to work 10+ hours a day, 60+ hours a week, why not try to find a field that pays reasonably well and has pleasant working conditions? I found something that interested me, paid fairly well, and for the most part allows me to work in a comfortable headed/cooled office. And as I said, working with other computer folks I don’t stick out as unusually Odd.

          On a personal level, it also probably helped that when I was courting my wife she thought *all* Americans were Odd so she didn’t have unrealistic expectations.

          • On the other hand, different people are different. I would go absolutely bughouse nuts working in a heated/cooled office every day. I was told I should be a doctor, etc. a lot growing up, so I didn’t “waste my potential.”
            Not by my parents, they knew me better than that, but by many others.
            The thing is, I like physical labor. And I have no real desire to be rich. Sure being independently wealthy so you didn’t have to work to earn money and could do whatever you wanted would be nice, but putting in a bunch of extra hours, and not having time to spend the money you make defeats that. I’d rather work less and have more time to do whatever I want, than to have all the money I can spend and not have the time to enjoy what it buys me.

            • My wife has a cousin who tells all sorts of fascinating stories about digging things and welding and dealing with regulations and zoning laws. He’s very intelligent, yet he can’t use a computer to save his life. For a while now, I’ve been wanting to make a computer interface with foot pedals and levers just for him, mostly as a “Ha ha, only serious” kind of joke.

              Had he gotten into computers at an early age, I have no doubt he would have been able to do fantastic things with them. However, I do not consider his brilliance in being able to run a machine to be “wasted potential”. Indeed, without such potential, where would our society be?

        • I think you probably are “all that bright”. Your description of yourself matches other very bright people I’ve known. I found out at the age of 29 that my IQ was substantially higher than I’d previously been led to believe. I am much less frustrated when other people can’t see the obvious, than I was when I was young. I’ve still never learned to translate it into better employment, though.

          • If you can manage to get to the interview stage, the phrase “I learn quickly” is something I think HR types like to hear.

            • It is – back when I was trying to be a corporate office-admin/executive secretary corporate drone – the thing that got me jobs and temp assignments was that I could say, “Yeah, I know the basic computer programs — and I come up to speed on new versions really, really fast!”
              It’s wasn’t knowing every jot and tittle of the latest program used in offices out there – it was how fast you could get to functional speed in the very latest iterations.

            • I think it depends on where you are. I’ve heard it described as, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m prepared to fake it.”

        • And really, if you grow up Odd enough, just being judged as normal can be a blessing.

          That’s for damn sure.

      • I’m not in that 170+ range either. The ones I’ve known were weird in some way; I’m just bright enough to be eccentric. The best jobs I’ve ever had were where I was the middle point in the escalation ladder for clearing faults. Most of the routine stuff was cleared by the front line, so most of the problems that I got were interesting in some way. Even if I couldn’t resolve it, I could usually give a decent definition of the problem and a list of symptoms. When I described my job to myself it was “Keeping the front line from bothering the geniuses without need.” (Once the geniuses knew that I wasn’t going to drop something into their laps due to laziness they would actually return my calls in a timely manner.)

  6. > “What color is the sky.”

    Half of the time, it’s black. Most of the rest of the time, it’s whatever color “overcast” is…

    [discounting the little sparkles, the shape-changing silver thing, and the too-bright-to-look-at thing]

    • And polarized. That’s always neat.

    • “Define ‘sky’.”

    • Does the sky have a color or is that just an illusion created by refraction of light?

    • On what planet? It’s pink on Mars.

    • According to my IR thermometer, it’s 30 degrees F.

      Oh, you meant in visible light?

    • I read someone saying that it’s clear.

      • One could also say that “The Sky” is actually only a memetic concept used to describe the visual appearance of whatever the current LOCAL meteorological phenomena is, moderated by the direction and intensity of the available light, thus it has no color to speak of, as it is actually a philosophical construct.

        • You could say, but if you did say it to your grade school teacher you would probably be going home with a note to your parents.

    • Pick a color. Chances are, somewhere, sometime, it’s been that. *grin*

    • “Half of the time, it’s black. Most of the rest of the time, it’s whatever color “overcast” is…”

      That is what I thought… until I moved away from Western Washington.

    • Green. Oh, $#!+ . . .

      • I have seen a green tint accompanying very bad storms.

        I was living in eastern Tennessee in Blount County, about eleven miles from Maryville-Alcoa and twenty-six miles from Knoxville during a prolonged temperature inversion one summer. As a result of the trapped chemicals and particulates the colors in the sky were amazing.

    • Bleached. I dislike that color on anything else, since it indicates to me a lot of heat. (It’s currently 109º outside; I don’t even feel like taking the kid to the pool.)

    • “[discounting the little sparkles, the shape-changing silver thing, and the too-bright-to-look-at thing]”

      On a completely different tangent, there’s a computer language called INTERCAL that renames almost all the ASCII punctuation characters. The lone exception — “&” being called “ampersand” — has a little footnote with “Can *you* think of anything better?”

      My absolute most favorite are “(” being called “wax” and “)” being called “wane”. A lot more intuitive, and a lot easier to say, than “left parentheses” and “right parentheses”. There are names for “[” and friends as well, but I can’t remember them; I came up with better names for myself, but I can’t remember those either.

      • When ESR took upon maintaining(!) INTERCAL I suggested, jokingly, that the obfuscated C contest was nothing much and for a real challenge, have a contest for DE-obfuscated INTERCAL. This was deemed if not impossible, close enough not to consider.

  7. Christopher M. Chupik

    I think teleportation would a very useful superpower. I could go to more cons and not have to worry about hotel rooms.

    • Huh? The hotel rooms are for game-playing, I thought?

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        I could just teleport home at night.

        • I thought nobody slept at a Con. At least that was one of the “pros” to a Con according to people who have been. 😉

          • There is sleep.
            There is not that much _admitted_ sleep.
            Admission of sleep indicates honesty.
            Or the Wisdom (or simple necessity) of Age.

          • I’ve always drove home from a day at Boskone. Of course it’s only 45 minutes with good traffic. My own bed, good coffee and a decent breakfast in the morning and I can drive back in for the next day. Of course that does mean I have to curtain some socializing…

            • I take it this was not during the exile?

              • Only been going since it moved to the Westin location. And even I’m too young for the ones supposedly in the ’40s, and too young to have appreciated the ones in the ’60s (even if I could have persuaded my father to let me go – ha!)

                • The exile was the 80s when it was in Springfield instead of Greater Boston. That was the only times I went (and is one of the few cons I’ve been to at all).

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            I once got a good 7 hours of sleep at a con.

            I think everybody was glowering at me that Sunday. 😀

            • At the con(s) I attend with The Daughter our room the designated retreat. The Daughter and I can get overwhelmed at times. It is nice to know we have a place to go when that happens.

              I regularly get seven or eight hours sleep, because my body and health won’t let me do otherwise. It is rather strange come Sunday when everyone else is running on fumes to be adequately slept.

      • No, they are for room parties. If you cannot teleport life, perhaps one could at least teleport pizza.. or if that is too complex, ethanol.

        • OMG! To be able to teleport in pizza (and beer) at will!

          • “The first practical teleportation system was not a grand thing for ‘getting the serum through’ to hopelessly storm isolated villages, nor for disaster relief, nor for space exploration, nor was it a weapons delivery system. It was, despite the Official Histories, the product of a few more than slightly drunk students of Advanced Physics who simply could not wait that 20 or 30 minutes for pizza delivery, and were not about to settle for some frozen thing. The amazing thing is not that they assembled the device in under half an hour, nor even that it worked at all. The amazing thing was that the targeting error of the first transmission was so small that it only shaved a few millimeters off of the pizzeria countertop and that there were no injuries at either the de-mat or re-mat sites despite the very sudden – and then uncompensated – matter transfer. The BANG was tremendous on both ends. Nowadays, uncompensated transmission only happens in dire emergencies. In such cases, the risk of deafening noise is deemed the lesser evil due to imminent threat to life. Even so, atmospheric compensation is at least attempted in all but the very worst situations.”

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Transport applications alone are wonderful, yes.

      But consider what teleportation operated through a perfect parser could do. Assemble any object from atoms sitting around doing nothing somewhere else in the universe. Send the communists to Antarctica. Replace THC with VX. (Okay, there is a reason I figure anyone who would offer to grant me any wish is a bad person who I should not take up on it.)

      • I do NOT have the _ability_ to grant such wishes, even if I (with horns, hooves, tail…)_ DO have the desire just because.,.. well.. morbid comedic curiosity? Egad, do I have some “Angelic” qualities? If you must deal with an Angel or a Demon, deal with the Demon. With the Demon you KNOW s/he’s trying to mess you up/screw you over. With Angels it… just happens.

        • I thought that angels were just divine robots.They did stuff for God, had no free will and could only do one thing at a time.

          • Apparently the view of angels as “one particular and specific Will of God, to some extent personified” is particularly Jewish—possibly uniquely so, though I haven’t studied comparative mythology well enough to say for sure.

            • It’s what I learned in Yeshiva as a little kid.I am 100% sure that the Christian view is totally different. Could be that Jews only knew Angels 1.0 and the Christians knew version 2.0 or even 12.0?

              • Could be, but that’s not what I am going to assume now, is it? 😉

                But actually our texts that describe angels this way are fairly late. (5th Century CE.) There’s nothing in the written Text that’s definite about angels. (The best example of “one rôle per angel” that we learned about in yeshiva, Christians take as theophany.) And the midrashic texts probably were written in conscious rejection of ideas like rebellious angels.

                • The general Christian theological idea is that angels do have free will, sort of. Being spirits that live forever, they just used the good vs. evil choice once, and they are sticking with whichever one they chose.

                  So the Thomistic concept is that your good guy angels have access to the Beatific Vision to the extent of their own powers and capability, and they do the will of God perfectly, but of their own choice and in their own way.

                  Also, every individual angel constitutes its own species. And they have telepathy with each other, but they can’t read human minds even though they are really good guessers. (And yeah, I think St. Thomas Aquinas wanted to write a skiffy novel about angels. But he wrote logic instead.)

                  • If angels lacked free will, how could one, let alone many, rebel?

                    • The Jewish version of the Fall goes something like this:

                      The angels ask God why he has so much patience with sinful humanity. (Angels being jealous of the attention God gives mankind is a recurring theme in the Midrash.) God explains that humans have free will and temptations, and so require Divine patience to give them time to repent their inevitable faults. Some angels insist they’d do better than Man, given the same opportunities of free will and temptation. They are given the chance; they don’t do better.

                • Terry Sanders

                  Yah. Far as I know, the word translated as “angel” means “messenger,” in both Biblical languages. In fact, “angel” is a transliteration, I think–same root as “evangelist,” for instance.

                  Nothing in the Bible ever says what *kind* of messengers they are–or if there’s only one kind. We came up with all that by ourselves.

                • Theophany was something I was going to mention. But off the top of my head there’s the angel that appeared to Daniel who spoke of being detained by the “Prince of Persia,” to have been aided by Michael, and a few verses later must return to the fight. Then there’s Job.

                • Considering theophanies, doesn’t the description of God in Exodus, ” a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night” sound an awful lot like a rocket hovering?

                  • What else would you use to as a beacon for a for a non technological tribe of people in a trackless desert?

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            There’s a lot of lore about angels that has grown up around Christianity. Some of it with very little scriptural support. IIRC, there are less than a dozen named angels in scripture, and I’m pretty sure there are catalogs of angels much more extensive than that.

            • Between that fad in the 90s for EVERYTHING angel, and the 80s thing where even Madonna was into pop Jewish mysticism (kaballah? No idea.), there is a lot of…um… stuff. Like TONS of “angel names.”

              The Catholic stuff does have scriptural foundation; I actually just reposted a blog on this if you’re wondering, and I’ll quote the section that’s relevant:

              I’ll try to be concise in summarizing what we know of Angels, courtesy of New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia; it is also an excellent starting point for an idea of how very much reasoning has gone into our “knowledge” of angels.

              Names; please note, they’re descriptive ones– like when a family is always smiths, and so becomes Smith.
              Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, Lucifer (fallen angel– AKA demon)- from the Bible.

              Uriel and Jeremiel- Jewish Apocrypha


              Angels, Archangels (too numerous to list)

              Cherubim, Seraphim (Cherubim were represented on the Ark of the Covenant, and Isaiah described Seraphim)

              Principality, Power, Virtue, Throne, Domination (Ephesians and Colossians)


          • If angels lacked free well, there never would have been a rebellion.

            • I’m not sure that Judaism believes in a angelic Rebellion. It doesn’t believe i n Original Sin. I’m not sure that Orthodox Judaism believes in Satan. More like a personified evil impulse.

              • I was taught about a sort of angelic rebellion, but see the comment above where I summarized the story—barely any relation to the common Christian belief. And no, no “original sin”.

                There is an angel, mentioned in Zechariah’s vision (chapter 3) and in the Book of Job, whose job/title/name is satan—“obstacle”, or “accuser”. In Judaism, he’s seen as God’s faithful servant, ensuring that our free will has meaning by providing us with options to chose between, and is identified (or conflated) with each person’s destructive impulses.

                • Weirdly I never heard of angelic rebellion or “war in heaven” till I read Milton at … 17?
                  I was taught the automaton version of angels, but mostly that they were “messengers.”

                  • I was careful to say “common Christian belief”, precisely because I don’t know how much of it is doctrine and how much folk belief based on Milton’s fanfic.

                    • Keep in mind that my own upbringing was confusing, as I absorbed a lot more doctrine from grandma who absorbed it from her grandma, who apparently got it from same crazy (no, crazier than that) Jewish sect that came to a bad end in Scotland in the 18th century.
                      It is perhaps interesting to note some of my tendency to have twin or look alike characters might date to some of Grandma’s um… extra biblical stories.
                      Anyway, RE was a shock, and going to the homes of friends who religiously more … normal, was even more of a shock. I’ll add here both my Catholic and Jewish friends. (I had both in High school, on account of being excused from Religious Education.)
                      So my religion is my own and probably more crazy than most. But yeah, I like the Milton “fanfic” thing which is how it always struck me.

                    • In Scotland? A quick Google search turns up nothing apropos; do you have any details that might help me find out more about this group?

                    • I’ll look when I have time. I traced it by one of grandma’s stories about Leah and Rachel also being twins and each of Jacob’s boys being born with a female twin he then married.
                      This cult was truly insane, and ended up pulling a Jim Jones which explained sudden retreat back to Portugal and sudden conversion (reconversion. That side of the family is the storytellers and poets. they converted back and forth at least three times in three different countries.)
                      Let me get Guardian to a place I can stop for a little, and I’ll do the search again. I’ve been meaning to anyway. Could be after LC.

                    • The twins thing won’t help your search; there is a midrashic reading to that effect.

                      (This interpretation was meant to solve two problems: (a) Genesis 37:35 speaks of “Jacob’s sons and daughters”, implying Dina wasn’t the only one; and (b) given the extent to which Abraham and Isaac went to avoid having their children marry Canaanites, whom did Jacob’s sons marry? The only difference is that in the midrashic reading, each brother’s twin sister was married to a brother from another mother, which was considered okay in that age.

                      (Most commentators historically have had more prosaic answers [e.g. “daughters” = “daughters-in-law” for (a), and “some married Canaanites or whomever, but the stories weren’t interesting enough to record” for (b)], but this is the kind of exotic detail that the popular imagination will preserve really nicely.)

                    • Ah. I’ll look on some of the other stories grandma told me. I know I found this thing… years ago. I’ll look again.
                      I know about different mothers not being incest. Abraham and Sarah, PROBABLY were that. Which is funny since my brother’s name is Alvarim, a cognate of Abraham. (Not Alvarinho which is a diminutive of Alvaro, quite a different root.) Of course I changed my name to Sarah, which is good. Otherwise it would be weird.

                    • So my religion is my own and probably more crazy than most.

                      Not likely. Everybody‘s religion is their own, but few recognize that. Never assume the person in the next pew over is worshiping the same deity as you.

                    • “(Most commentators historically have had more prosaic answers [e.g. “daughters” = “daughters-in-law” for (a), and “some married Canaanites or whomever, but the stories weren’t interesting enough to record” for (b)], but this is the kind of exotic detail that the popular imagination will preserve really nicely.)”

                      I can’t help but wonder why “The Scriptures tell us what we need to know, more or less”, isn’t a sufficient explanation, along with the observation that it was important to mention Dinah, because of her role in what Simon and Dan did to defend her honor, but it would have been too cumbersome to list every daughter of Abraham. If I recall correctly, Abraham even married later in life (after the death of Sarah), and his later sons are barely mentioned, and largely only because they also establish nations that Israel later interacts with. And all this, in addition to the reasonable answer that daughters-in-law can indeed be considered daughters!

                • I’m surprised that Judaism doesn’t recognize original sin. Since Saul was taught by none other than Gamaliel, and Saul,name now Paul, wrote about how through one man, Adam, all fell, would have thought the idea existed in his era.

                  The Christian idea of the accuser is that though in rebellion, he can be used according to God’s will despite himself.

                  • It shouldn’t be all that surprising that we don’t consider Paul authoritative as to what Rabban Gamliel taught. There are in Jewish thought permanent consequences to Adam’s sin, yes; but calling these (to grossly oversimplify) a sort of inherited sin seems to be a particularly Christian idea, providing a need for the sacrifice at Calvary.

                    (But it feels like this discussion is moving past mutually-educational “this is, in broad strokes, what goes on in different faith cultures” into the realm of religious debate, off-topic for this venue. I’m prepared to drop this at your say-so, Sarah.)

              • One of the Bible texts that most supports the idea of an angelic rebellion is in Revelation, so Judaism doesn’t accept that text as canonical. (It’s the part in Revelation 12, where the dragon’s tail sweeps a third of the stars out of the sky and flings them to earth. Since the text explicitly states that the dragon represents Satan, who was flung to earth “and his angels with him”, it’s a pretty obvious conclusion to draw from the text that the one-third of the stars being flung to earth represents one-third of the angels joining Satan in his rebellion and thus being banished with him, with the other two-thirds remaining loyal and thus remaining in heaven.)

        • Well, the common description of that particular fallen angel (horns, hooves, tail) does raise a basic questions about what all those other angels really look like absent heavenly camouflage…

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


            If we were lucky (or unlucky) to see the true appearance of an angel or fallen angel, IMO the appearance would not match what some people think they look like. 😉

            • Angels are spirits. They are not constituted of matter. They can look however they like or however God instructs them to look. (Although such appearances can be used to deduce things like personality and Scripture meaning.) But they don’t actually have their own bodies except when they make the appearance of one for some purpose, so they don’t actually have a “true appearance.”

              Again, this is pretty mainstream Christian theology, but your faith or denomination may vary.

              • Judaism and Christianity despite some similarities are quite different. I think by design.

                • Christian Hubby’s take: All the differences I’ve observed can be explained by one doctrinal difference: Judaism was intended for one tribe; Christianity was intended for everyone. Islam is what happens when you take Judaism’s tribal origin and attempt to apply it to everyone, like Christianity.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                My statement was more a comment about “how people picture them”. 😀

                On the other hand, they may have a “true appearance” for those who can see spirit beings.

                On the gripping hand, most of us don’t see spirit beings so what we see is “how they want to be seen” (for angels, it would be how G*d wants them to be seen). 😉

              • Which is why I generally have problems with angels in fiction, while I could name dozens of fictional works with angelic characters, they practically all have physical bodies.

                I have to work hard on my suspension of disbelief to get past that.

                • Would it be possible that they can manifest a physical body at need? And didn’t somebody wrestle an angel once?

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    Didn’t he have to cover up most of his body afterwards for the rest of his life to avoid freaking/harming the mundanes? The wrestling process have simply been the closest description for something freakier that didn’t involve a physical body on the angel’s side.

                    • Eh, I’m working on second- or third-hand information, so can’t answer that question.

                    • I… don’t remember that about Jacob. He had a limp afterward. Are you possibly thinking of Moses veiling himself? Or there could easily be a story I don’t know, of course.

                    • BobtheRegisterredFool

                      Quick internet search suggests that I may be conflating things, and really out to study this more.

                  • Here’s the story– the USCCB notes it has a lot of folkloric elements, but given Himself tends to recognize we think in stories….


          • On of the reasons why I enjoyed Magician’s End where Feist describes divine beings appearing as angels or demons as matters of perspective. Since I haven’t had the fortune of running into an angel, or misfortune of encountering a demon, I can’t speak to whether they are good or evil.

      • Okay, there is a reason I figure anyone who would offer to grant me any wish is a bad person who I should not take up on it.

        Yeah, add me to the “Oh, heck, NO!” category.

      • Hrmmm… replace North Korean Pu-239 with Silly Putty. Or with Pu-240. One of those.

  8. Even a couplet would be too much.
    But a singlet would be…
    wrestling with the issue, at least.

  9. The original Superman ™ had the idea of a highly advanced humanoid in every way. Smarter. Faster. Stronger. Couldn’t fly, but could jump tall buildings in a single bound. Had some issues, too, seemingly minor, but in those early comics when he got a certain bent . . .

    Kill Bill had an interesting take, where Bill observes that Clark Kent is how Superman sees humans. Not a flattering view.

    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine hit the same things you have. It turns out that Dr. Bashir has been genetically enhanced due to severe learning difficulties. Illegal as rip, and his parents risked everything to give him a better life. Yet there is significant friction between Bashir and his father, even though his father wanted it done, and eventually would do time when it came to light. Later it’s shown that the reason it’s illegal isn’t just the Eugenics War, but because those subjected to this sort of bioengineering tend not to adapt well. Bashir is one of the small percentage that can function in society.

    This leads to a possibility: A created superhuman who is so advanced they find it trivial to fit in, at least on the surface. Seeing what happens to superhumans, they fake it. How they end up viewing their fellow humans . . . paging Clark Kent.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I think that speech says more about Bill and the Bride than Superman.

      • Indeed. And I think that Bill’s theory (which Tarantino cribbed from somewhere, the source escapes me) is one of those too-clever-by-half deals. It makes much more sense that Supes is like Bashir – the only reason he can function at all is BECAUSE he was raised by Ma and Pa Kent. He has superpowers like an alien but in many ways that counts, he’s a good, decent farm kid.

        For my money, the best depiction of this was in the WB cartoon, when it looks as if Clark’s been killed in a fiery car crash. Of course, he isn’t dead – he’s sitting back at the Kent’s farmhouse trying to figure things out. He can’t just go get another secret identity… or as they suggest, simply be Superman full-time. “I *am* Clark Kent,” he fumes. “I’d go crazy if I can’t *be* Clark Kent.”

        So Bill is full of crap. If anyone in DC is making a sour commentary on the state of humanity, it’s Batman – Bruce Wayne, the callow billionaire playboy, is the disguise and Batman is, for all intents and purposes, the real person.

        • I remember from Lois & Clark, Clark said Superman is what I do, Clark Kent is who I am.

        • Terry Sanders

          I think it was Lawrence Watt-Evans who wrote a truly chilling short story about a Superman analog who was truly alien. Different body structure, different metabolism, different hormone-equivalent system, etc, ad astra.

          His Kents had just barely managed to raise him–learning what wouldn’t poison him was a job in itself. He wore armor because it hid the obvious abnormalities. Etc., again.

          And he was, by human standards, a complete sociopath. No standard emotional reactions to guide him. No love for his stepparents beyond the acknowledgement of what he owed them (he thought that was enough), no idea what sexual attraction would be like, etc. His only social interaction was with his Justice League.

          A fangirl finds out his secrret.

          • Terry Sanders

            (Sorry. Button attack.)

            He tries to explain all this and how desperately he needs at least that one social tie.

            “You’d kill me to keep your secret?”

            “Only an alien monster would do that. Please. Don’t make me an alien monster.”

            “One of the Boys,” I think it was called.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              I found it and it is collected in “Celestial Debris” in the Kindle store.

              I’ll have to wait until next month before purchasing it. 😉

              • If you like interesting takes on the superhero genre, read Michael Stackpole’s “In Hero Years… I’m Dead!”.
                Excellent, excellent novel. At first, it looks like it’s going to be a deconstruction (albeit one where the author actually *likes* the idiom he’s playing with). But then he builds the pieces back up again into a paen to the genre.
                It’s pitch perfect. He really groks the genre. Great story, great characters (even all the various expys were interesting takes on the established characters they were clearly drawn from. I especially liked totally-not-Ironman being the mentor helping retiring heroes to leave the life behind before it killed them. It was a very nice touch.) great tribute.
                Highly recommend.

                • Bought.

                  Hopefully in six-eight months I’ll be going “I can’t remember who said I should read this, but it was awesome!”

            • What’s a button attack?

              • Terry Sanders

                A screen button rose up and hurled the post onto the Net while I was still typing. They do that sometimesm

          • That sounds fascinating. I’m not generally a fan of stories that deconstruct characters and flip all the good guys to terrible people who drive the main characters into their villainy – lookin’ at you, Wicked – but this sounds different and original.

            • Terry Sanders

              He’s not shown as a villain. In fact, IIRC, she leaves in a hurry, and he is sitting there wondering if he scared her enough. He can’t tell. Just like he hasn’t been able to come up with a better way to persuade anyone. You’re given the distinct impression it was a bluff–he *won’t be*an alien monster–and he has *no idea* whether it worked.

          • thephantom182

            I read that story. It annoyed the hell out of me. One of those things that seems all stylish and clever on the surface, but you think about it for a while and its really just contrary.

            Most of the stories in that anthology were like that.

            • Terry Sanders

              Nah. “Contrary” would be that story where the kid from the spaceship was an oversexed jock with an IQ of 80.

        • Patrick Chester

          That last part about Batman was used in Batman Beyond.

        • So Bill is full of crap.

          I can think of no reason to accept Bill as an exemplar of moral philosophy.

          Sheesh, next thing I would be accepting Darkseid’s arguments. When you sup with the Devil be sure to bring a long spoon.

          • Patrick Chester

            A self-proclaimed “murdering bastard” might not be the best judge of character. 😉

        • From Batman Beyond:

    • I will NOT claim to be “super”-human, but *damn* that explains so much.

    • I loved that little bit of character development. And when some of the other bioengineered “kids” come to visit him, they get a little meta. I also loved how irritated O’Brien got when he found out he’d been letting him win at darts.

    • Robert Heinlein said basically the same thing in Stranger in a Strange Land. The ‘superior’ humans/gods basically ignored normal human morality. They were all pink monkey’s anyway, why bother trying to be something they are not?

      • Robert Heinlein said basically some very silly things, some quite stupid things, and some very wise things. Heinlein having said a thing does not determine into which categorical basket it falls.

        • And sometimes I think he said the latter two categories with as much intent as the last, at least some of the time.

          RAH could have been one of the greatest Internet trolls of all time were he alive today (and given his comments on the human comedy he would have done it just for the LOLs).

          • Can you imagine Mark Twain on the ‘net? The mind boggles.

            • Twain would be a terror on Twitter, but I shudder to think of what havoc Ambrose “Bitter” Bierce would wreak.

              I have often thought the world would benefit from a one-man play using Bierce as its subject, in the manner of Mark Twain Tonight — but I have never held the thought strongly enough to commence the composing of it.

            • I still think that Star Trek’s version of him was the most accurate.

              My goodness, no idea what his family history was, but if he wasn’t Scottish by ancestry, he was a golden example by habit!

              • Ambrose Bierce and Samuel Clemens were friends, but you’d have a hard time telling:

                Farmington Avenue,



                “Dod Grile” (Mr. Bierce) is a personal friend of mine, & I like him exceedingly — but he knows my opinion of the “Nuggets & Dust,” & so I do not mind exposing it to you. It is the vilest book that exists in print — or very nearly so. If you keep a “reader,” it is charity to believe he never really read that book, but framed his verdict upon hearsay.

                Bierce has written some admirable things — fugitive pieces — but none of them are among the “Nuggets.” There is humor in Dod Grile, but for every laugh that is in his book there are five blushes, ten shudders and a vomit. The laugh is too expensive.

                Ys truly

                Samuel L. Clemens

                The above missive was written when their mutual publisher thought to ask Clemens for a review of Bierce’s latest…

          • Sometimes I think Heinlein really liked to play with strange, even horrific ideas to see where they’d go– but he was such a good story-teller that it’s easy to get dragged along, or even just gloss over it to get the story.

            • I have no doubt that he was the kind to walk up to a centipede and say, “Lessee, if I pull this leg, which of the others will kick?

            • Jubal Harshaw was probably the closest character he ever wrote as a Mary Sue, and it’s pretty telling that Harshaw states on numerous occasions that only a fool writes for anything other than money. I vaguely remember someone doing a paper or something about Heinlein and Harshaw, pointing out the autobiographical bits about issues with publishers and the like… Interesting reading, and what was more interesting was how Heinlein snuck so much past the editors. Especially with the juveniles…

    • Any discussion of a superman of that sort likely ought at least nod in the direction of Philip Wylie’s Gladiator, which does not present the life of Hugo Danner, its protagonist, as a happy one.

      Superman, by performing acts of gratuitous altruism, justifies the “powers and abilities far beyond normal man” that he has. It is also why Luthor, who would use such talents for self-aggrandizement, is incapable of envisioning Superman not so doing.

      Contrary to Bill’s observation, it is as Clark Kent that Kal el finds greatest happiness. It is often remarked that Clark Kent is Superman’s true self, Bruce Wayne’s true identity is the Batman.

      • Well, in the original story and most retellings, Kal El did grow up as an ordinary, more or less, human Clark Kent. That’s who he is. Superman is the persona he takes on when he performs heroics. Bruce Wayne, for all intents and purposes, is suffering from obsession and schizophrenia induced by PTSD from watching his parents gunned down. His root self is the dark avenger, while his Bruce Wayne is merely a façade.

        • Terry Sanders

          And then there’s Samaritan of Astro City, who’d *love* to be in other people’s company–if he didn’t know exactly how many extra people die per minute he spends relaxing…

          • While browsing through TV Tropes a while back, I stumbled across a comic book about a Superman expy gone bad. Apparently this particularly individual was more or less like Superman, but he was unable to ignore his super-senses. So to get away from it all for just a brief period of time, he decided to take a quick jaunt to the far side of the Moon, where he couldn’t hear constant cries for help.

            Unfortunately, during his quick trip, a major disaster occurred. And because he was out of range of his super senses, he didn’t know it was happening, and as a result didn’t show up to help. The public noticed that he was absent, and turned on him.

            This then caused his breakdown and the subsequent change of the most powerful person on the planet from super-hero to super-villain.

        • Oddly enough, I think this is captured quite well in the Lego Batman movie.

        • I grant you that Wayne is obsessive and possibly paranoid but definitely Not Schizophrenic.

          • Oh! The OTHER Wayne! Whew! 🙂

            • There is just the one of you, so perhaps you are mono-annoyed?

              • Heh. Had to look at the previous comment to get that one.

                However – growing up, I didn’t know anyone with the same first name as me, and there were no people around with the same last name outside my immediate family plus one of dad’s two brothers (dad had seven sisters, and only two brothers, one of which lived in California by the time I was born), and I’ve only met a few Waynes since I graduated high school, so I automatically assume that when someone says “Wayne”, they’re talking to me, and there’s a bit of a surprise when they’re not.

                And, even though there are now a few more people with my last name in this area, I only know one, yet I’ve seen it in TWO separate books, by different authors, in the past month. Talk about being weirded out…

                • I thought talking about Bruce was too familiar.

                  • Hrmm..
                    Now I ponder a large creature (bovine, equine, elephant?) as a Familiar. It would seem impractical, but I could be wrong about that. There might well be some advantage that offsets the size difficulty.

                  • Oh, that’s perfectly fine. Don’t let my startlement reaction to seeing a name the same as mine bother you. Tons of people see their name in other context every day. I’ve just never gotten acclimated to it.

                • I know you might get tired of explaining it, but I find it so charming that you do explain it I’m tempted to suggest “Wayne” for our next son. (Geek bonus, it’s a legit way to get a name with a ‘Y’.)

                  • Oh, now I’m going to blush… 🙂

                    Of course, my experience in school with names was the exact opposite to older son Chris’s, who had one class with four other boys name Chris.

          • Schizophrenic as in “a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion”

            A lot of people still confuse it with multiple personality disorder, but they are definitely not the same thing, although both can manifest at the same time.

            • To a severe level I’d assume. I have had symptoms like that at a mild level when I was a kid because I had comprehension problems as a kid.

    • A created superhuman who is so advanced they find it trivial to fit in, at least on the surface.

      Ever see the TV show The Pretender? That’s at least partially based on one or more real people, who can and have been able to move into any profession, even ones that normally require years of schooling (one documented case is of a man who was a highly respected Navy doctor for years before it turned up that he never even went to medical school. I’ve read a book about that guy, but can’t remember the name).

      So, it’s not even too unrealistic.

      • Actually, it it weren’t for record keeping and licensing as a gatekeeper, it would be easy for a high IQ individual to move into a lot of professions and be performing at the journeyman level in no time flat.

        Catch Me If You Can is an illustration of just that. If I had the artistic skill set to be a forger… Well, I don’t, so.

        There are some talents that seem to be simply inborn, and you have them or you don’t. Artistic ability is one of them IMHO. You can teach probably anyone enough to play in the Hooterville Symphony Orchestra, but getting them in to the NY Philharmonic takes talent and practice, not one or the other. Same with painting, sculpture, anything of the like.

        I knew a brilliant, well, not electronics tech, but close enough to describe his rate, who could troubleshoot things down to the component on a circuit board, when all that was needed was the circuit board as the problem because circuit boards were replaced, not the components on them. They let him use a soldering iron. Once. About $50,000 in damage I was told. Might have been an exaggeration- but considering what some of those things cost, might not have been. I can’t solder electronics. I can solder copper pipe, and what I solder will never leak. But it also will never look neat.

      • There’s a fabulous story called Idiot Solvant by Gordon Dickson on this exact premise.

    • Kill Bill had an interesting take, where Bill observes that Clark Kent is how Superman sees humans. Not a flattering view.

      How so? Clark Kent seems normal like a very polite, laid-back farm boy– he’s not assertive, but you can’t be a take-charge guy, or even the head support, if you’re also going to randomly vanish to get things done. You can depend on him, just not to lead. Bit of a push-over for a lady, but that’s a common superhero thing and very common for Kansas farm boys. (My Kansas relatives include a LOT of very pushy broads who don’t get much push-back. Sometimes they get in trouble because they don’t get push back.)


      I was wondering if anyone else had thought of Bashir and the League of Incredibly Maladapted Geniuses.

      • I suspect that the line references not the overall body of work depicting Clark Kent but a very shallow reading of the movie version where he disguises his abilities by… well… bumbling. Pretending to fumble things, pretending to faint to cover stopping a bullet, etc.

        • *headdesk* Wait, everyone involved is an assassin.

          POSSIBLY my expecting a basic understanding of self-sacrifice and nobility is, um, unwarranted.

          • There’s that, too. But I would still guess the writers (who I hope are not all assassins) expect the viewers (who I really hope are not all assassins!) to think of… probably Christopher Reeve playing Clark Kent acting like a hapless klutz when he’s just started at the Daily Planet. Obviously to anyone who’s paying attention this is not the whole of the character or even the whole of the persona, but….

  10. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    In David Weber’s Honorverse, genetic engineering exists and has existed for centuries.

    While there was some successes, there has also be major disasters to the point where “genies” (people with major genetic “improvements”) were looked at as “that isn’t good”.

    Still more people are “genies” than the average person believes.

    Well, Honor is talking with her mother (who is an expert in genetics) and the conversation goes into some of the “mistakes” made in the past especially with something as “simple” as improving intelligence.

    Apparently, many of the “improved” people had major short-comings in “how they thought” and used most of their intelligence to overcome these short-comings.

    Other attempts to “improve” intelligence had interesting “side-effects” such as violent tempers (this hit home with Honor as she has problems in that area and so does her father).

    IIRC there were some truly insane people resulting from these “improvements”.

    No, I doubt we’ll ever understand “intelligence” well enough to create well-balanced “super-intelligent people” and I agree that how they would be raised will be a major factor in how “well-balanced” they’d be.

    • Oh, I think we can make a big go of understanding intelligence and succeed in developing well-balanced “super-intelligent people.” The problem is in how do you treat the failures? Edison came up with 99 ways how not to make a light bulb before he succeeded. I see no reason why the ratio of failures to successes in developing well-balanced super intelligence to be any better. And half of those failures will probably be a the extreme opposition end for intelligence.

    • While not exactly the same thing (it’s definitely not genetics, for one thing), Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Words of Radiance’ has an interesting character who shows something similar. The character in question has variable intelligence. His intelligence quite literally changes from day to day. Sometimes he’s very smart. Sometimes he’s very stupid. And sometimes he has more or less normal intelligence. On one of his smarter days, he developed a battery of tests that can be administered to him by his servants so that they can get a rough idea of how smart he is that day, and whether he’s too dumb or too smart to allow out in public.

      And why might he be too smart to allow out in public?

      It turns out that the smarter he is, the less empathy he has for his fellow humans. On his very smart days, he is essentially a hyper-intelligent sociopath.

    • There is irrational violent temper – and rational violent temper.

      I only recall one specific instance where Honor exhibited irrational violent temper (there is a vague recollection of another, but I can’t pin it down at this point in my erratic sleep cycle).

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        You’re thinking “actions” on Honor’s part.

        I’m (and IMO David Weber) is talking about an “inner demon” that threatens to take control.

        Honor has dealt with that “inner demon” better than I have.

        It doesn’t really matter at times if a person has “rational reasons” to be angry if the “inner demon” gets loose.

        Yes, the two times that I remember where Honor’s “inner demon” almost gets loose were for “rational reasons” but Honor would have been in major trouble if she had allowed that “inner demon” to completely get loose.

        The two times I remember Honor almost losing control were in “Honor Of The Queen” where she came too close to attacking the prisoners and when she hit Houseman.

        She had “rational reasons” to be extremely angry but in both cases she almost “went too far”. 😦

        • Houseman deserved that punch. And she didn’t go any further.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            As I remember the scene, Honor came very very close to continuing the attack.

            Yes, he deserved the hit but Honor (and the readers) knew that she almost did much worse.

          • I confess to not having read much Honor, but while I can comprehend Hart wanting to punch him, what did John Houseman …

            … ever do to Honor Harrington?

        • Terry Sanders

          A third one occurred in her first book. If her exec hadn’t sat in on her interview with Klaus Hauptmann her career would have been over right then. She was ready to hospitalize him, but McKeon came up with a legalistic belly-punch to shut him up before she lost it completely.

      • It may be one involving Honor’s father and why he became a Doctor from being a combat Marine. I want to say it was in the anthology “Beginnings”.

  11. You know “What shape is an egg?” or “What color is the sky.” They’ll end up positing n-dimensional eggs and describing minute seasonal changes in the sky, because well, no one can ask questions that simple, right?

    Look, when I took my walk this morning the sky was grey. When I look out the window right now it is still grey. It has been grey for several day now. You want me to tell you otherwise?

    Before we switched to home education I was called in to discuss a matter about The Daughter at school. On this occasion I was told that she did not understand what ‘minority’ meant. I pointed out that she was quite aware of the dictionary definition of the word, and then asked them to look at the school and neighborhood populations before they suggested that she might not.

    • That’s one of those questions where the correct answer is the “wrong” answer. You’re *supposed* to say the sky is blue, even though I can count the number of times I’ve seen that without running out of fingers.

      You’re also supposed to say the ocean is blue, even though most of the ones I’ve seen look like dirty dishwater.

      • “Homer, I’m your patron. This is for your own good. I’m telling you, you can’t change the traditional kennings and call it “the olive-darkened dishwater sea.'”

        “But the sailors say….”

        “Or ‘the ridiculously blue, like just off Mykonos” sea.”


        • Recent research has suggested that in Homer’s time we had not yet learned to perceive the color “blue” and had no name for it.

          More of a “Hunh! That’s odd.” topic for me than a “Fascinating! Tell me more.” idea, so I did not delve deeply into the arguments. But it meant that Homer could not have referred to the sea as “blue” nor would his listeners have grasped what he was saying. He might just as well called it octarine for all they’d have understood.

        • I have seen pictures from the Caribbean of incredible white sand beaches with intense blue waters.

          The ocean on the North Atlantic coast most often appeared to be a slate colored, a gray with maybe a hint of blue, to me. The surf, depending on the overall conditions comes touched with various shades of parchment, sometimes distinctly on the yellow side. The sands of the beaches are a pale brown, sometimes shaded with gray or peach, but they are not white.

          I have wondered if we actually teach children not to see what is around them.

          • It’s real. There’s even a difference between East Coast and the Gulf Coast.

            • I don’t doubt that.

            • And West Coast. Most of the Pacific that I have seen (admittedly, the California stretches only) were almost indistinguishable from the sky on a sunny day. That light of a blue.

              • And most of the Pacific I have seen (north of you) has been almost indistinguishable from the sky on a cloudy day.

                • Well, north of me is pretty much a few stock ponds, which are usually kind of brownish…

                  Why I don’t say either side is the same all the time. I’ve lived on the New England coastal areas, and frequently visit Southern California. Someday I’ll get to the Caribbean.

        • Had a teacher that introduced us to the “wine dark sea” thing.

          I bought a book– a really good one– because that was the title, and enjoyed it.

          Several years later, I was taking a bath and spilled my glass of red wine into the tub– and blow me down if it didn’t have just that color that oceans often have but you just can’t really call “blue” or anything.

        • BTW, I have see honest-to-goodness blue oceans, and rather lovely green ones, plus the more common haze-gray-reflecting-blue thing.

          The “holy cow it looks BLUE” was on the Marine base in Okinawa, I only remember because the guy I had a crush on and the whole geek group all noticed, too.

        • Mossy is worse. The intensely vivid and brilliant green of real moss is not the color called mossy green.

      • Having been in many parts of it, the ocean can be many colors. Or way too clear. After taking a helicopter ride above the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean, and observing my submarine and it’s shadow moving silently beneath the surface, I decided if war broke out, I wanted to be in the North Atlantic or Pacific where any amount of water over you is enough to hide in.

        • Terry Sanders

          The sub service in WW2 had a standard color to paint their boats, called “Atlantic Grey.” Made a sub plain disappear in the North Atlantic.

          In the Pacific? Not so much. Big gray things were easy to see.

          They tried to come up with something similar, and found a color that worked pretty well. “Pearl Harbor Blue,” they called it. Problem was, the blue component faded in the sun, so the boat ended up almost white in a few weeks. They stuck with gray.

          • It had been my impression that during WWII some subs in the Pacific Theatre were painted … (wait for it) …

            … pink!

            • Terry Sanders

              According ton IIRC, Admiral Lockwood, faded Pearl Harbor Blue was almost as visible. MYbe that’s where they dot the idea. 🙂

          • So what Ahab saw wasn’t a whale? But a really lost submarine? No wonder a harpoon didn’t hurt it! A Harpoon missile on the other hand probably would.

            Guess you could write a mashup novel: Ahab and the missing submarine.

          • Well, kinda. Two volume series on Pacific subs, called Silent Victory, had the official description of where they would paint the periscope and shears pink, on the theory that pink would “pick up” whatever color was being reflected off the water. Apparently that persisted for a while.

    • I once spent five years in sweatpants, khakis, and suchlike. Because I’d heard that cancer was in my “jeans.” Spoken, not written. I think I was five, maybe, if that?

      Later on, I learned the other word “genes.” *chuckle*

  12. What makes a “Super Human”? Depends on who you ask and when. Everyone has their definition, and everyone is wrong. Trouble is that we also have a hard time defining what a human is. Then we go and complicate it by thinking of homo superious.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      everyone is wrong

      Nonsense, I’m correct because I am a superior being. 😈

    • Hmm. I’d say everyone has their definition, and every one of them is correct.

      • I find your optimism unfounded. I’d say everyone has their definition, and every one of them is incorrect.

        • My optimism is founded on the concept that I’d be a miserable pathetic excuse for a human being without it. (Granted, some folks think I am anyway.) It’s been my observation and experience that if you don’t wake up with the thought that today is going to be better than yesterday, or go to bed thinking tomorrow will be better than today was, you’ll quickly stop waking up at all.

          • Nonsense, there are entirely too many people who actively try to make sure tomorrow is worse than today, and continue to wake up regularly; for that theory to hold water.

          • That’s actually really sad….

            I think things will get better eventually, but the getting there may be sheer hell, but good wins in the end.

            Wouldn’t have made it through bootcamp trying to persuade myself that the next day would be better; my memory is bad, but not that bad.

      • paladin3001

        The reason why I say they are wrong is each person has only a small piece of the puzzle of what is being human. So if I were to define what a superior human it would be something that was superior to my situation and status. My life is not something that is the sum total of human existence. Just another small piece to an extremely large jigsaw puzzle.

        • I’m a super human. I can take a single piece of puzzle and create an entire consistent picture out of it.

          Who knows? It might even resemble reality!

        • ” Nietszche summed up all that is interesting in the Superman idea when he said, ‘Man is a thing which has to be surpassed.’ But the very word ‘surpass’ implies the existence of a standard common to us and the thing surpassing us. If the Superman is more manly than men are, of course they will ultimately deify him, even if they happen to kill him first. But if he is simply more supermanly, they may be quite indifferent to him as they would be to another seemingly aimless monstrosity. He must submit to our test even in order to overawe us.”

          G.K. Chesterton

  13. BobtheRegisterredFool

    One question is how much of ‘high intelligence dysfunction’ is inherent to the mechanism behind high intelligence, and how much is an artifact of rarity in the population.

    • “Hey why isn’t $X set up $Y?”
      “Well, see, if it was set up as $Y is would Logical, Sensible, and Sane. You know we can’t that.”
      “Oh, right. (silent: D@MNIT)”

      • $X? $Y?
        If $Y is logical, sensible, and sane;
        are you implying that $X is emotional, irrational, and nuts?

        (Yes, I’m deliberately painting a target on my back. I’ve been hanging out on Scott Adams’ boards too long and like seeing what kind of responses I draw.)

        • I’m deliberately painting a target on my back

          You boast that you are trolling? Sarah, kick him out.

          • Trolls look for universally negative responses.

            Putting down food by the edge of the lawn is considered baiting, but it is a good way to see critters you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to observe.

            • You’ve a tendency to select definitions congenial to your purpose. I would suggest that trolls make deliberately provocative statements for the purpose of stirring things up. The assertions do not need to be negative to constitute trolling.

              For example, a common trolling technique consists of making deliberately simplistic over-statements of a group’s core beliefs, such as entering an SJW blog and denouncing Sad Puppies as simplistic, minority hating, anti-literary goons.

            • Trolls look for universally negative responses.


              Trolls look for a response.

              Negative is the easiest to get.

              That would be why it appeals the most to those who just want a response.

        • If $Y is logical, sensible, and sane;
          are you implying that $X is emotional, irrational, and nuts?

          Well, duh. Have you never worked for a large company (or worse, the Government)?

          • 22 years.
            22 years.

            • Are you retired?

              • I retired. I just couldn’t stand the lies any longer. When you get OICs providing quotes attributed to you to newspapers for interviews that never happened, commanders trying to send you to TDY positions 5 grades below yours because you’re raising uncomfortable questions, watching better qualified people get passed over for training schools in favor of others with “close working relationships” to the ones doing the selections, yeah. Didn’t help that the former White House Travel Office manager’s wife worked for me so that I knew HRC was doing the bin Laden-terrorist-mastermind orchestration of Travelgate. She put that entire extended family through unholy hell just for coverage of converting a civil service position into a contracted one to give to a Clinton croney. Poor Blanche had a stroke, probably from all the stress, from which she never fully recovered. Okay, now I have to take a walk, get a cup of coffee, and simmer down.

                • *wry* Exposure to that crime family, and staying mostly sane, bought you a lot more good will than you’d believe.

                  That woman is psychotic, and if you were tainted with military ties…gah.

          • “Common sense is against company policy.” Ergo, if it makes sense don’t do it. Also, if it makes sense, it will never happen (speaking of things which would make the work more efficient, cheaper, safer, and/or faster).
            “We didn’t hire you to think.” If you discover a better way of doing things, but it makes management look bad. The obverse, “What were you thinking!?” usually follows- when you stop. *chuckle*

      • Michael Brazier

        Hey, Orvan, have you read “The Fable of the Swan” by Jenna Moran?

        • I have not. I take it that you are suggesting this is a condition that might be need of remedy?

          • Michael Brazier

            Well, I like it.
            But I brought it up because the main character frequently tells the reader that what she’s doing is “logical, sensible and sane” (in just those words.) She has to do that, else the reader might suppose that her plan to turn into a giant robotic squid to fight Death personified was less than a good idea.

            • Hrm, I think to need to add that to the list. As far as i can tell/recall, I arrived at that bit independently though there might well have been some indirect influence somewhere. I’ve used that bit, “That would be logical, sensible and sane… you know we can’t have that.” for a while to explain or deal with some work-related persistent nonsense.

    • how much is an artifact of rarity in the population.

      It can be very difficult to learn conversational skills when everybody with whom you practice is doing that guy from the Bob & Ray skit …

      One of my favorite instances of character development in comics was when Peter David revealed his hot-headedness was a consequence of dealing with a world in which every interaction was like waiting on line at the DMV.

      • I was born and raised in New York City. My first year in Montgomery, AL people had trouble understanding what said because of the speed of my speech and because southern vowels don’t sound like northern vowels.

        • I came up with the following explanation of the difference in speed of speech after I moved south: I could understand deliberately taking it easy in the hot weather so as not to overheat. In the north it gets cold, so the determining consideration is moving briskly in order to keep warm.

          • That does not explain most Mexicans that I know. Nor does it explain the stereotypical Vermont grocer. (Not mythical – I encountered one, once. Although just south of Winchendon, MA, of all places…)

            • Well, to be stereotypical, many “Latin” places have “Latin” tempers and might be prone to violence, so saying things quickly and being able to escape might be a factor.

              And the grocer? The more time spent in a store, the greater the potential for buying yet more. This explains why so much store Muzak is “music to slip into a coma by.”

              • Odd. My grocery store plays the BeeGees quite often in the rotation. Now, that is something that might induce a coma in me from beating my head on the wall to make it stop, please! – but doesn’t put most people to sleep.

        • A good friend of mine is a New York City Italian. His first engineering job was at the Ingalls Shipyard in Mobile. His first couple of weeks was spent learning to slower and more southern. Guy said it was like he and his co-workers spoke totally different languages.

          • America is so large it has dialects! Linguistics joke: A language is a dialect with a flag and an army.

    • From looking at geek groups, less than half is rarity.

      If the group survives, there’s always someone with more sense than brains– or at least enough sense to come in out of the rain, and drag the rest of them in with (usually) her.

      I think the it-usually-being-a-her thing is partly because of the averages going on, and partly because the guys will care enough to notice when she’s being an idiot in her own way. (I absolutely love taking late-night walks, wearing headphones, just…clearing my head. In Japan, it was fine; in a city in the US? After years, they got it through my head…made up for things like “make sure they ate” and “remind them that duty starts in six hours” or “call them to remind them they have to come to the ship.”)

  14. “she has an accent, can she even understand what we’re saying”


    I get “she has an accent, can you understand what she is saying?” but how on God’s green earth does your accent affect your hearing.

    This isn’t crazy-kakes. This is driving to crazy-kakes and taking a right where they’re going to put in that new shopping mall, then going straight past where they’re going to put in the freeway, taking a left at what’s going to be the new sports center, and then you keep going until you hit the place where they’re thinking of building that drive-in bank.

    And I suspect if I told them that they’d say, “That’s it. You can’t miss it”.

    • I have learned, through bitter experience that “You can’t miss it” does NOT mean “You can’t miss it”. What it really means is , “You will drive past this place at least three times while looking for it.” And that’s on a Good day. There are very few Good days.

    • That’s funny. I have often wondered if people with thick accents (that I have trouble understanding) are also having trouble understanding ME, because I don’t talk like them (and therefore would, in effect, have a thick accent from their point of view).

      Although accents don’t really have to be all that different to cause issues. Visiting extended family in New York state as a kid, my cousin (a few times removed) ended up having to ask my Grandmother (her great-aunt?.. maybe?) if a “pencl” (that extra vowel was optional right?) was the same thing as a “pen-cil” (as if the word “pencil” needs two syllables). For most everything else, we sounded nearly alike.

      • LOL. That’s not how accents work. I don’t hear my own accent, and I hear other people’s accents proportionally as others do.

        • I have a habit of picking up accents in a couple of weeks wherever I’ve been stationed.

          Drove me nuts on vacation in Spain when all the vendors kept telling me I was German, not American, and insisted on speaking to me in Spanish-accented German which with my hearing I couldn’t make heads or tails out of.

          • This. On a high school trip with our French Club, I noticed that most of the folks in the back of the bus (as we drove toward Paris) were speaking with a London accent. After we had just spent a whole three days there.
            We picked up accents in France and Switzerland, too. Not sure why we didn’t pick up any in Venice or Florence.
            (They were short-lived, but they came on quick.)

            • If I remember the language studies, most people do pick up accents from around them very easily– it only breaks for things where speaking is a sub-part of what they’re doing; say, you talk normally, but you read with a British accent, or when you are talking on the phone suddenly your voice drops an octave or two and you slow down slightly. (Or, for women, your voice goes both high and breathy.)

        • Hey, it SEEMED reasonable. And most people have trouble understanding me anyway (although that’s probably more due to weird than accent).

        • My wife has been in the US since her early 20’s. And her English is good –
          she was put in the advanced (not ESL, or even standard) English track in college. But she’s never lost her Cantonese accent when she speaks English.

          Since she’s a product of the colonial era Hong Kong school system, when she arrived in the US she could more easily follow English rather than US (especially New York and Southern US) accents. These days, after decades in the US, it’s the reverse. And I’ve served as an English to English translator a few times when she had to deal with someone with a different non-native-speaker accent.

          Amusingly, one of our daughters is a Speech Language Pathologist – part of their training is to help people detect and correct problems they have with speech, including pronunciation and accents for ESL learners. She said it wasn’t until school that she’d even really noticed her mom’s accent – she’d grown up with “that’s how mom and her friends speak”.

          • I recall an article from many years ago, about a school that would train aspiring public speakers, radio announcers, TV reporters, etc. “out” of their native accent (whatever it was, from Bostonian to Angeleno).

            One commenter made a very good point – “So, this school teaches you to speak with a Broadcastese accent.”

            That school or one like it must still exist, considering the bland sameness of most TV “news” people.

            • It’s the closest thing we have to a “prestige” accent.

              When I was working in the UK, I noticed that several coworkers who normally spoke with the familiar BBC announcer’s “Received” accent would revert to their childhood accent when startled or upset. This could be quite dramatic at times, especially when accompanied with a shift in vocabulary to match.

              Even in the jobs you mention this sort of aspirational voluntary accent shift doesn’t seem as common in the US.

      • Most people with a heavy accent *think* they’re speaking standard Englsh. That’s one of the reasons so many people hate to hear recordings of their voice.

        • Cheap vocal trick:

          Make an oblong cup of your hand, fingers together, sides slightly rolled inward. Now place the finger tips on the top of one ear and angle the wrist toward your mouth. You can now hear better how you sound.

          • ….does that really work?

            Because it sounds nothing like I do on recordings….well, sort of, I can hear the faint hiss, but it doesn’t sound so…. annoying.

            • It falls in the category of better than nothing. Not as good as a recording, but better than not hearing your voice at all. And in this day and age, it looks like you’re on a cell phone.

        • I hate hearing my own voice. Not because of any accent. Unless “stereotypical dweeb nerd” is an accent…

          • Most do. I suspect after so much time “behind the mic.” (and/though not in actual broadcasting) that I’ve reached a/the point where maybe I do not enjoy it, I have no great problem with it. So my spoken vocabulary is limited. Is what I have.

        • Even though I’ve lived in Illinoisy for 20 years, I’ve made it a point not to lose my Texas accent.

      • Ah, accents. I’ve told this story before. My eldest was born in SC, and subsequently lived in IL, CA, VA, ME, with trips and summer stays in WV and NY. I grew up (mostly) in Northern New Jersey, my wife in Baltimore. Upon moving to a new school in NY’s capital area, my son’s English teacher announced on Day 1 of class he could tell where anyone is from by listening to them speak for just a minute. My son stood up and started speaking extemporaneously. After 2 minutes or so the teacher stopped and asked him “Where the hell are you from?” Embarrassing a teacher on the first day in a new school? Instant popularity.

        • Was that by having a strange mix of accent, rotating through them, or just so generic it was like all the indicators failed to move – or all moved together, nothing saying, “THIS ONE!” ?

          • I’m guessing strange mix. With some regionalisms for what we think of as generic words. Like what you call fizzy carbonated flavored water. I currently live, literally, on the dividing line for that in NY. All the grocery stores to my west have an aisle labeled “Pop”. All to my east have a similar aisle labeled “Soda”.

        • Knew a girl in college who was born in Finland and had lived in several different countries growing up*. She definitely had an accent that no one could place. There were elements of several different languages in it. She beat everyone at Trivial Pursuit, too.

          * No idea why someone like that had chosen the tiny commuter college where i went over the much more highly accredited University a few miles across the river, but that’s where she chose.

    • No, it’s more like (As Stuart the Viking suggested) that people think that a person with a thick accent can’t process the language sufficiently to understand what is being said. And then (based on complaints by a friend of mine from Peru with a fairly thick accent), if they don’t understand what a person is saying, and ask them to repeat themselves, then they think the person with the accent is stupid. Even when they have been asking the person with the accent to repeat themselves over and over again.

      Fortunately, I never have that response, because I frequently say things that people don’t understand, so I’m ready to repeat myself and the drop of an eyebrow, and to rephrase what I said, if the first repeat didn’t help.

      • I really didn’t mean to sound like I was saying that a person with a thick accent wasn’t ABLE to process the language sufficiently. I know quite well that an accent is not an indicator of intelligence. I was more going for proportionality… like since their accent was so widely different than mine, perhaps they would find my accent likewise thick and inscrutable. Sarah LOLed at me, so I guess I’m way off.

        If only I could get into other people’s heads and listen with their ears (and brain and stuff)..

        • I really didn’t mean to sound like I was saying that a person with a thick accent wasn’t ABLE to process the language sufficiently.

          No, no, not YOU. Mainstream knuckleheads appear to think this way.

          For myself, I can’t process speech with strong accents well, so I have to do a lot of asking for repeats, and occasionally slowdowns.

          • But in fact, “he has a strong accent, therefore he won’t be able to process the language sufficiently” is a rational thing to think. Oh, not 100% of the time — an immigrant who’s been in the country for years will still retain an accent — BUT most non-native-speaker accents tend to “fade” somewhat the longer that person stays in the country. So “the thicker the accent is, the more recently that person tends to have arrived in-country” is a reasonable rule of thumb. And the more recent the person’s arrival is, the more likely it is that their ability to process that country’s language is still at a rudimentary level, where they have to think for a few seconds before they figure out a word.

            That’s how I was when I first started learning the language of the country I am now living in: if someone spoke to me at normal speed, I would then spend a minute or so repeating their words to myself until my brain had managed to process the meaning of each word. (I could remember the sounds of the words long enough to repeat the sentence to myself). The only way I could process someone’s meaning as they spoke would be if they slowed down their speech “to … a … speed … like … this”.

            So if you hear a strong accent and your response is to reflexively slow down your speech and use simpler vocabulary because the other person may not have learned more than 1000 words of your language yet — that’s often being kind to the person you’re interacting with. I was very grateful for my local friends who would do that for me: when they’d say something and I’d answer “I don’t understand”, they slowed down the sentence the second time around and tried to choose simpler vocabulary.

            So if you hear a strong accent from someone else, it’s usually a reasonable assumption that they’re still learning your language and need a bit of help from you: slower speed and simpler vocabulary are the best help you can give them in most cases. BUT if that strong accent is accompanied by fast, grammatical speech, or by advanced vocabulary used correctly, THEN the assumption should be “immigrant who’s been here long enough to speak this country’s language perfectly well”, and you should use normal speech patterns instead of “you’re still learning the language” speech patterns.

            • Now, moving from “he can’t understand me” to “he’s stupid” is an invalid conclusion, and I’ll grant that a lot of people make that unwarranted jump.

            • Had an absolutely strange moment talking to a customer service rep this week. All was going well, the customer service rep spoke fluent English with a standard broadcast accent, when I was put on hold just a few moment. The same rep came back on the line and spoke Spanish. After a couple of seconds she continued in English. My guess is the rep was bi-lingual and worked in that capacity, and had a momentary brain fade. I don’t think she realized she had spoken a few sentences in Spanish.

              • I suspect that you were put on hold because the rep had to go speak to a co-worker, and that conversation was held in Spanish. Then when she got back on the line with you, her brain took a second or two to catch up to the language switch — and because she was fluent in both languages, the part of her brain that forms sentences didn’t really “notice” the difference right away because it was equally easy for her to communicate meaning in either language.

              • I was conversing via IM with an English-fluent colleague who is in the Netherlands. We were using English…. except for the three-sentence message in the middle which he sent in Dutch.

            • Non-native accents may fade, or may not. My wife still has an impossible-to-ignore Cantonese accent after more than half her life in the US, even though her comprehension and written English skills are above average.

              But I’ve know people who managed to sound like native US English speakers quite rapidly (the common thread for them was, apparently, “watched a lot of American TV shows when I was a kid”).

              This is only loosely coupled with other linguistic skills – I’m told when I pay attention my accent in Spanish makes me sound much more fluent than I really am. Would that my vocabulary and grammar were even close to that level.

              • I’ve mentioned before that I have the proper accent, pacing, and inflections in German to pass as Austrian or Bavarian for short periods, even though my vocabulary is not as good as some others.

                [Grin] I was translating some real-estate ads for someone a few days ago, and an older local gentleman came up and gave me what-for about local real estate prices and the blasted taxes and stupid developers. He is not fond of the new apartment complex under construction in the middle of a very nice older neighborhood. All in Wesertal-Hessisch dialect at speed. Of course I agreed completely and he left satisfied. [More grin]

          • I’m there with you. I can’t understand someone with a strong accent worth a darn.

            • And it is ten times worse over a CB or phone. I don’t even notice my cousins wife’s accent (from Laos) in person, but have difficulties understanding her on the phone, and on the radio… forget about it!

              Sometimes I swear this is why companies invariably hire ESL speakers for help desk positions, that way costumers will get frustrated enough trying to understand the help desk employee they will give up, and save the company the cost of actual repairs.

        • Stay out of my head!!

    • A defense of it: if you have some hearing loss– I have some, jet induced, much less awesome than it sounds– then accents can make it really hard to understand what someone says.

      Extra fun? Hispanic and Asian accents are the worst for me; German doesn’t hurt anything, Russian doesn’t hurt anything more than it does inherently. Whining kids literally goes into the “I cannot understand what you are saying” range.

      If I can see the person talking, I can usually figure out what they’re saying, but I’ve started just adding “and I have a little hearing loss” to any email to folks who are likely to call me up.

  15. I don’t have anything to add, but so much of this is so much of what I’ve always had trouble with in my life that I’m desperately curious to read what everyone else brings.

    I was convinced I was an idiot in school. Yeah, I knew big words, but I couldn’t understand people or be understood. Plans are very hard for me because there are too many things to account for. I rise to the top when I have a pile of fungible work to process analytically; I’m hopeless at figuring out what needs to be done next.

    I actually always phrased it “lacking the necessary secondary superpowers,” because what use is being able to connect everything I read to everything else if I can’t make a budget?

    Thank god for husbands. I did not do well on my own.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      That sounds somewhat like me, except that I’m not interested in men, and am not in any relationship of that sort.

    • Grandma tried to explain the family tree and cousins and such. I stunned her with the comment that, “Relativity is easier than relatives.” She thought about this for moment, and despite being nearly clueless about Relativity, conceded the point.

      • Of course relativity is easier than relatives. You can pick up Special Relativity in a 30-minute lecture, and General Relativity only wants some extra math to be understandable.

        Relatives can be confusing for a lifetime.

      • As a child, I envied those who had a big family of relations (Mom was an only child – and Dad was one of two, and his brother had no children).

        Then I met the wife, who has at least twenty or twenty-five first cousins. Yes, I still don’t know the actual count, there seems to be a new one about every other month, which is impossible considering that every one in her parent’s generation is well over eighty.

        Decided that I had it better. I keep track of sister #1, with about a half dozen descendants, and sister #2, with no descendants. Beyond that, there is some mass of distant relatives back in Kansas (probably about half the county population by now). But I have no idea which ones are related and which are not. Simplicity is good.

        • Decide if good or bad. Not same year, but $SISTAUR born same month and day as me. Thus the date is unforgotten.

          • I NEVER had an excuse for failing to call Mom on her birthday. It being exactly the same day, just 39 years earlier.

            I never had it, obviously – but did you and $SISTAUR have a rivalry over who got the most attention on their birthday? (I must have been seven or eight years old before I realized that most kids didn’t have two birthday cakes to pig out on – Mom was usually on a diet, but Gram insisted on baking two cakes anyway.)

            • We might well have, but the folks solved this (well, Ma declared two cakes for one day was too much) by giving up mobile birthdays. $SISTAUR (younger) would likely get the weekend of/before and we’d visit one set up grandparents (who had presents for both of us) and the next weekend was mine and we’d visit the other set of grandparents. The result of this was that my “birthday” was rarely ON my “birthday.” I once had to explain this $HOUSEMATE when there was Great Concern that a parcel had not arrived on before this particular date. It was No Big Deal. “My birthday hasn’t been on my birthday for years.” and it’s sort of like a Presidential birthday – it moves around.

            • Family joke:

              One of the Scottish relates had her first-born on the father’s birthday. Then another son, then twins on the first son’s/father’s birthday.

              Joke, from one of the twins: “And they always forgot to send me a card!”

        • It’s worth it.

          BTW, there CAN be more first cousins- that would just mean that they are from your wife’s grandmother. Your wife’s aunt’s great-grandaughter is a first cousin….four times removed?

          The number of cousin is “shortest distance to shared relative,” and the times removed is “generations between furthest remove and nearest.”

          So the gals I grew up calling “aunt,” because they were the first-cousins my dad grew up with, their kids are his first cousin once removed, and their kids are twice removed.

    • Terry Sanders

      Not necessarily an idiot, but definitely a freak. One of the few (there were a few) mitigating circumstances in my case was that my extended family tended toward the loving and supportive, even though they had no clue what I was. I might be a freak, but I was *their* freak.

    • Preach it Sister! Husbands are so essential!

    • Winging it is a perfectly viable plan.

  16. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    A bit off topic, but I have read and watched super-being stories.

    One thing I enjoy is when an arrogant “super-being” gets a “lesson in manners” from either a “standard” human or another super-being because the arrogant one can’t “match” his opponent in other areas or over-estimates his own abilities.

    Remember puny god?

    What I enjoyed about that scene was that if Loki took Hulk seriously as an opponent, he might have won or at least gotten away from Hulk. 👿

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Oh, in that same movie Loki catches an arrow shot at him by Clint (Hawkeye) but the arrow explodes in his face. 👿 👿 👿 👿

      • Arguably one of my favorite parts of that movie. And then the next one where he admits he’s fighting robots with a bow and arrow.

        And I love that Clint is *normal* for given values of normal and still finds ways to hang with the supers.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          There was a funny scene in one of the comics featuring Clint.

          The villain has the “drop” on Clint with Clint’s bow & arrows.

          The villain is planning to kill Clint and trap the other heroes at Clint’s funeral.

          He makes a comment about Clint being the “weakest” hero and then tries to shoot Clint.

          He fails because the bow is heaver (in the draw) than he thought and Clint punches him out. 😀

      • Loki has always been the “Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius” of the Norse Pantheon and the Marvel Universe….

    • scott2harrison

      If that scene had been written a couple of years later Loki might have said “You deplorable creature” rather than “You dour creature”. That fact is why I love that scene. (No I am not just talking about Hillary, I am talking about the mindset of the entire Progressive population.)

      • “You dull creature”

        • trump=hulk? 😀

          • Okay, that just gave me an evil image. I really shouldn’t think that way, even about a Clinton – but I, alas, am not superhuman, just human.

            • Whatever it is the Clintons deserve it.Just thinking about Benghazi makes me steaming mad.

                • In looking for a precise phrasing from Hillary Clinton for a comment on the Usaian post I was surprised to find she had used the same preambling proclamation of “I take full responsibility for …” not only immediately before blaming everything and everybody else for her 2016 electoral defeat, she also used that phrase prefatory to blaming everything and everybody else for the Benghazi massacre.

                  Although she keeps using that phrase, I do not think that phrase means what she thinks it means.

    • “puny god”

      One of my favorite movie moments EVER!

    • Anyone here a Green Lantern fan?

      • Back when I used t read comics I was a tremendous Doiby Dickles fan, does that count?

        Sigh. Given what they’ve done to Hal Jordan over the decades being a Green Lantern fan would be an exercise in self abuse. Really like Gil Kane’s art, though.

        • They’ve brought back something similar to original Hal. I like to think Hal as one of the bachelor pilots in Wolfe’s Right Stuff. As a kid I was a Richie Rich fan for the conspicuous consumption. This was when there only one RR comic. Doiby Dickles was published by which company?

          • Doiby Dickles was to Alan Scott as Pieface was to Hal Jordan, sort of. Less ethnostigmatic, more comic relief.

            • Er Pieface never seemed ethnostigmatic to me. It more like a shared joke. between him and Hal.Betcha he got the call sign Highball because of his drinking.

              • In fairness, the ethnostigmatic aspect was mostly from that contingent ever seeking causes for outrage. I was not woke enough then to realize the problem and I hope to never be so woke.

      • Used to be. But like RES says, they turned a superhero into a virtual god and demon such that readers like me pretty much lost any ability to identify with him.

        Seems that most hero comics suffer from power bloat over time. I figure it’s got to be somehow related to the concept of project creep / feature creep in the real world.

        • I hate how contemptuous of Hal people are. He’s not stupid and not screw-uo or a jerk.

          • I have always been a great fan of Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern and only wish that the Powers That Be at DC (starting with Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams) shared my appreciation. The only character in comics (at the Big Two, at any rate) who has been comparably mishandled and abused would be Hank Pym.

            • A man after my own heart. You don’t want my actual heart it beats funny.

              • That’s okay; I already have a heart. I swapped mine for Beloved Spouse’s (proof a Jew can hornswoggle a Scot!)

  17. “You’re so smart, why can’t you get your homework turned in?”
    “You’re smarter than all the kids in your class (I wasn’t), how come they have better grades than you do?”
    “You will fit in, dammit, even if I have to break you to make you fit.”
    “You know what, it’s your life, waste your potential on fiction.”

    …yeah, I might have used considerable brain power for several years to figure out how to present as normal, at least initially. Didn’t leave much room for anything else and now I suppose it could be called a habit. When I start working on…other things, I go a little strange.

    In my defense, I make more than minimum wage though I will cop to the crappy apartment.

    The whole idea of Super Men who don’t have problems is stupid. Of course they have problems. Everybody has problems. Their problems are just different than yours.

    • I still struggle with why the crappy apartment is bad.

      Except that it doesn’t have a garage or shed and you have close neighbors so you can’t make noise playing music or building something at 2am.

      However, I do not think that is what most people mean by crappy apartment. I think it has something to do with layout or carpet or barewalls or stuff like that.

      • Bad neighborhood, bad plumbing, missing amenities but it’s cheap and you’re not homeless.

        • That describes most places I’ve lived as an adult including the last one before Atlanta where my roommate and I were the only people on the cul de sac of 4-plexes who had full time jobs.

          • I’ve lived in a series of those and the reasons started with broke college student and have evolved to, well, it’s what we can afford with the jobs we have. And the jobs we have, at least on my part, were chosen because they didn’t take brain power away from the important things. Which tends to mean, yeah, minimum wage. Which is why…

        • Oh, and I could have afforded better but that would have cut into my book budget.

          • Current apartment has become “the place where I store my books and clothes…and sleep sometimes.” Mostly cause I’m never here.

      • No. mostly is non funtioning plumbing and the less than law abiding neighbors.

        • How can you live with non functioning plumbing? More exactly how live without a toilet unless you have an out house?

          • Feather Blade

            Probably depends on the precise nature of the non-function.

            Toilet won’t flush? Call the super.
            Super won’t come? Replace the mechanism yourself and don’t tell anyone.

            Toilet backs up? Call the super.
            Super won’t come? Call county health and/or city code enforcement.

            Water supply problems, non-user serviceable? Buy water at the store, join a gym where you can shower and groom in the morning, and call the city report your slumlord.

          • There were a few months (November last year through February this year) where they shut our water off for days, once over a week, because there were leaks in the main line under the parking lot. We get a leak in the bathroom ceiling at least once a year. The floor creaks under the bathtub and I have nightmares about falling into the apartment below us while I’m taking a shower. Had to have the shower retiled because somebody fell through the wall taking a shower.

            Those kinds of things. Mostly routine wear and tear that’s patched rather than fixed.

            • I recognize that different people have different priorities, but… much as I love to read, I think given the option of rereading and libraries I’d personally give up a lot of new book money to avoid some of your water issues.

              • I wish I could say I was spending my money on books. Unfortunately, the rent here is really that ridiculous and this is the only place we can currently afford. Hope to change that soon but…

          • Bottled water. Hand pumped well. Outhouse. Mineral buildup in the pipes over the decades can require you remove and replace them completely. Ditto if you have acidic water and it eats its way through your copper pipes.

        • If you must have neighbors, the less than law abiding kind are the best kind to have.

          • Er… you’ve never lived in a hood, surrounded by illegals, have you? Robert did two years ago. No, it wasn’t the best kind to have.

            • Er… define lived. I spent considerable time in such an area, during a period when I didn’t have a permanent residence.

              I prefer no neighbors, but if I must have them I definitely prefer the non law abiding kind. They tend to be more likely to mind their own business, and much less likely complain to the law/authorities about you.

          • Ours set the pickup of the fire-fighter on fire because they could see his fire fighter uniform inside. Best guess, it was “funny.”

            No. I’ll take an HOA– and words can’t describe how much I dislike that– over that.

            I can survive having to hide my politics; having to hide that I do anything productive, even on a volunteer level, not so much.

  18. I think the fundamental mistake, here, is that the ideation of “superman” is idealized wishful thinking, going back to mistaken interpretations of Nietzsche.

    Supermen, in terms of individuals who transcend the “merely” human, are creatures of fantasy, created in a lot of cases by people who feel or actually are, inferior to their peers. Look at the Nazi/Fascist/KKK mentality, and wonder at the fantastic persecution complexes they built up out of nothing, as well as their insane beliefs in their own superiority–They, who mostly could not quite navigate the complexities of modern life, set out to rule the world as the realization of their ideated “supermen”. If you want an example of how all that works out, take a long, hard look at the Nazi administration of the economy, research and development, the military, and a whole host of things that they thought they “were supposed to be good at”, while the “merely human” Jews and so forth that fled the regime turned out the A-Bomb and a host of other things they couldn’t quite pull off. And, the biggest part of the reason they couldn’t pull it off was that they bought into their own BS about how they were superior, on a lot of different levels.

    I pissed a lot of people off the other day by stating my opinion that much of the superhero genre derives from fundamentally left-wing ideas and fantasies. That’s a pretty unpopular viewpoint, but I think that in the end, the whole Nietzsche-derived concept of “man beyond man” is a fundamentally left-wing thing, in that the whole idea drives back to that rejection of the traditional Christian view of life in this world being a separate thing from the life spiritual in the afterlife. The left wants its pie in the here-and-now, not in the sky, by-and-by–Which is why they conceive of these overmen for whom the rules of everyday society are irrelevant. They deny human restraint, and thus, human nature. Superman, as a character, is fundamentally wish-fulfillment for the authors, who can’t impose their desires on the world through any other means than fantasy.

    And, as such, whether we’re talking Nazi supermen, The New Communist Man, Superman himself, or any of the other lunatic conceptions these sorts of people come up with, the ideas just don’t work out, in the real world.

    Compare/contrast the Nazi/Communist heroic industrial approach, with the whole “Five-Year Plan” insanity. What hubris! What insanity! As if any one man or group of men could somehow manage all the minutiae of industrial development in a sustainable fashion. The fact that it didn’t work worth crap is obvious, given the historical record, but we’re still locked into this fantasy that all that goes into an economy is both knowable and “manageable”, when the flat reality is that it’s a fundamentally chaotic non-system that defies mere man-handling. Ask the Nazis, who saw their theories of racial superiority and the transcendent nature of the Fuhrerprinzip blown out of the water on nearly all levels, despite the fact that it did have some few successes when applied in a micro-level, power-down way.

    This whole concept is a conceit of the left, and derives from their frustration with the fact that real human beings are no more manageable than the tide. They want power, they want control, they want to be beyond accountability, and thus, a lot of their fantasies start out from this point. You can’t get to the New Communist Man without doing away with the already existent “normal man”, and that’s why they keep coming up with these anti-human ideations of theirs.

    There was a lot of panic and projection in Frederick Wertham, but I think he was on to something with the idea that the character of Superman was fundamentally a fascist/left-wing piece of work. There’s always been something disturbing to me, the parallels between Superman coming to save the day from on high, the way the average lefty wants to come in and “save” the poor uninformed citizen from himself. The idea that the citizen might want to keep minding his own business, and remain “unsaved” never occurs to the writers, just as they can’t conceive of the “rescuer” being the bad guy or a bad thing as a phenomenon. You see a few contrarian stories like that in the total set of works, enough so that you can see that some of the people producing the things weren’t complete idiots, but the vast majority of the genre features the “enlightened ones” coming to the rescue of the always-doltish common man.

    It’s how the left views itself–As saviors. They’re wannabe messiahs, and woe be unto any who deny their divinity or the results of the actions they base on their fantasies.

    First time I ran into this was an old guy my family knew back in the seventies, who had been a gen-u-wine unreconstructed Wobbly, a member of the IWW who proudly boasted of being at the Centralia Massacre, and intimated he’d done some of the shooting. The Northwest’s fascination with this kind of crap ain’t nothing new, folks, and the kind of idiots that view the world this way have a lot in common with the sort that write all too much of the superhero genre in comics.

    They have, in short, messiah complexes that they’ve bled out onto the pages, and into the public commons. You want antecedents to what’s going on at Evergreen? Go take a look at the surrounding circumstances for the Centralia Massacre, and all too much of the rest of the works of the left in this country. It’s all of a piece–They ideate that everything political is an apocalyptic end-of-the-world sort of thing, and then act accordingly to “save it”. Why else do these social justice types do what they do? They want to be the savior, the messiah, the over-man, come to save the rest of us from ourselves.

    Doesn’t work. Won’t work. And, is enormously destructive, when they try to bring it into reality.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Kirk, speaking as a critic of superhero comic books who never got into them, I’m not convinced you are correct about comic books. I wasn’t angry, I simply wasn’t persuaded. I can believe that the others who disputed your theory were likewise simply unpersuaded.

      Okay, maybe it is simply that your pet theories are not compatible with my pet comic book theories, or flat out ego.

      I think you do have a general point about ambition to manage the unmanageable and stories told to make that seem plausible.

      But maybe that is simply because it agrees with my own pet theories on such.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Nod, very few Super-Heroes are written as being “Superior Beings” like the “Soviet New Man” or the “Nazi Super Man”.

        They can “do things” that others can’t do but are still human (maybe a little better than most humans morally).

        Now if you want “Superior Beings” in the Comic Books look at the Super-Villains like Loki or Lex Luthor.

        They think of themselves as “Superior Beings” which makes it fun to see them fail. 😉

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          Superior beings isn’t quite the dividing line for me.

          One element of my ‘grand unified superhero comics have incoherent dishonest world-building theory’ is that super hero stories were inspired by ancient Greek hero stories. Which could be understood as a reflection of warfare as it was practiced way back in the day, or as stories of superior humans as a way to make aristocracy seem more legitimate. (Diet and training that aristocracy could afford were not necessarily trivial advantages.)

          The left’s stuff is technocratic. They saw what industrialists did on the factory floor and magical thinking gave them the ambition of doing the same thing to society. They assume that there is some flavor of professional expert which has those capabilities. Okay, in practice it devolves into an aristocracy of those who have the right schooling and opinions. But in my eyes these flavors of what could be called a superior being are distinct, and the goals one reads into them are distinct.

          • Y’know… What you’re saying in these paragraphs is pretty much the same thing I’m thinking, so I’m wondering if it’s just that I’m not communicating what I’m meaning to…

            I see a continuous line between the old Greek myths of heroic figures, the medieval tales of chivalric romance, and the modern superhero. They’re all basically bullshit propaganda of their eras, when you get down to the basics of it all. Sure, they’re entertaining, but the meta-message they all send is “support the aristocracy” in the old days, and the modern version is recasting the too as to “support the heroic SJW who has come to save you…”. If you believe in and accept the rationale behind Superman, who “comes to save the day”, then you’re a lot more likely to accept the rationale behind someone like Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama, who similarly are sold as “savior figures”.

            At least, that’s the way I’ve come to see these things, and I’ll grant you that the glass I’m looking through is a dark one.

            Interestingly, like the chivalric romance, the most resonant and likely to last variations of the stories are the ones similar to Don Quixote, which was a send-up of the chivalric romance, and the modern send-up of the superhero, Deadpool. Deadpool, I like. I also enjoyed the hell out of things like Lobo, and Groo. All of which, I’ve noted, are virtually deconstructions of the superhero, much like Don Quixote was essentially a deconstruction of the chaste and noble knight errant who was the usual protagonist of the chivalric romance.

            The stories we tell have roots in who we are. The ones we like to hear, and enjoy being told have echoes that come through in how we think and act, not least because we identify with them to some degree. It isn’t exactly a revelation that people seeking to shape, mold and influence our behavior are going to be putting a particular sort of story out there, now is it?

            We have to be wise auditors of what we hear and tell, in order to prevent those who seek to influence from actually influencing who we are, and what we do–Assuming we don’t want them to, that is.

            Which is part of the reason I’m putting my points of observation about the whole superhero genre out there. If you go into the thing with eyes open to the potentials, you may do a better job of discerning just what the actual messages the authors and publishers are trying to send you. Which, in a lot of cases, I think are actually actively inimical to the real nature and values of our society.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              Support the old aristocracy because blood is European right. Support the new aristocracy because education is European left. Neither are American right. However, the left as I am inclined to define has some unique features that are not necessarily found in the stories the Doric and Ionian nobility used to justify their rule.

              I think the left defined broadly as inheritors of Marx and narrowly as the echo chamber of the soviet union’s legitimating narrative works well as a category of classification. I’m skeptical that counting stuff like divine right of kings and Confucianism as part of it adds any value. (Even if, yes, I am the guy who has in the past argued that the Confederacy might be understood as left.)

              My attention span wasn’t up to it during the go round last thread. This thread I’m pretty sure that you and I are, among other things, disputing political classifications. I’m not really equipped to argue those, because my attention span probably isn’t normal yet, and because some of my thinking is based on what the information feels like to me. I can’t put feelings into words very well. When I try to argue feeling when I haven’t the words, I tend to just make things annoying for anyone trying to engage me.

            • Nope. I love comics(the ones that aren’t grey goo.) and I’m fairly conservative.To me it reads like an inferior SF.

      • You’d be mistaken to think I didn’t read the things, just because I didn’t “get into” them. I’m the sort of person who reads milk cartons and the labels of bathroom cleaners avidly, when there’s nothing else available, and I’ve spent many a night digging through the piles of crap usually left as residual reading material at duty desks the world over. Not to mention, there was the huge trove of stuff left over from the supposed “Golden Age of Comics” (and, as an aside, some of the stuff that I remember pawing through as a kid in my grandparent’s basement would have made my family fairly well-off, had it survived the fire and water damage from the fire that killed my grandfather…). So, I’m more than slightly familiar with the genre and the tropes around it. I’ve read it, just like I’ve read a lot of romance novels when there was nothing else available, because I’m an addict of the printed word. If there was a twelve-step program for people like me, I’d have been referred there long ago…

        So, I’m familiar with the genre as a whole, and I’d feel fairly safe in saying that I’ve got enough exposure to the whole of it over the years to be able to say that I’ve made more than a fair sampling of it. I just don’t care for it, is all, and I’ve come to that conclusion through going into it without the slightest bit of adulation or whatever you want to call it. Most of the time, it’s been a case of “Oh, crap… I’ve finished the books I brought in, now what…? Oh. Joy. There’s a pile of comic books on the shelf… OK, well, let’s take a look at ’em…”. Which is to say, I’ve pretty much come to the things with no real buy-in–Given the choice, I don’t spend money on ’em. Not enough density–I could usually breeze through the typical issue in about five minutes.

        And, yeah, I’m making a generalization here, but its one I’ve arrived at through having plowed through a broad swathe of this stuff over the years, and compared things from the early days with stuff from my childhood, and against the modern interpretations of the genre that have come out since I left high school. That’s shaped the opinions I’ve formed, and I don’t think they are either inaccurate or unfair. You have, of course, the right to think otherwise, and I respect that. Likewise, I have the right to think you’re mistaken.

        Most of these things that we as humans argue over and discuss can be viewed as being many-faceted issues, visible and perceived from different standpoints. I have mine, you have yours, and there’s room to say that we’re both right, and that we are both not seeing things the other person is. I argue for my viewpoint, you can argue for yours, and somewhere in the middle spaces between us may lie the overall truth of the matter. Or, not. We might both be “wrong”, from another standpoint.

    • “I am superior to you!”
      “Oh yeah? Fine, you’re cooking breakfast.”
      “But, but, but, I don’t know how to cook!”
      “Well, la de da! Who’s superior now?”

    • I’m not altogether convinced that the superhero genre is fundamentally leftist, though, largely because, if it were, said heroes would be shown going around changing society.
      Which they don’t. Most often, they’re seen going around doing their best to uphold the established order, not overturn it.

      • Exactly…at least in that respect they are a fundamentally conservative genre.

        My real problem with Kirk’s argument was:

        1. He was pushing one item that I do think has had influence at different times and places (and does seem to be very prominent in the majors today) and made it the end all and be all of the genre.

        2. He ignores other huge areas that influenced the genre. One can argue a huge influence of classic myth (there is a reason Thor, Hercules, et al are part of the Marvel Universe) replacing the “son of a God” or “created by the Gods” tropes with their 20th century equivalents: aliens, experiments, mutants from radiation, etc.

        3. When presented with directly contradictory evidence (“you never see Superman testify in court because they have to answer to no one”; “actually he has, here and here”) he ignores it.

        4. He ignores behavior against his thesis of heroes who explicitly submit to the authority of non-supers.

        It is like he is a blind man reading only post 2000 Marvel and thinking he has the whole elephant.

        • Let’s keep this all at a level of rational discussion, and not get too personal about things, shall we?

          One of the factors that I find disturbing about the whole superhero genre is precisely the aspect you bring out in your second point: Some of this genre is either consciously or subconsciously trying to copy/usurp the position and role of traditional religious iconography, and while doing so, substituting a considerable chunk of left-wing social justice BS for the original material and context. It was like retelling the story of Christ’s suffering, and then putting a socialist spin on the whole thing in the subtext. I can’t quite remember the details of which storyline or which issues it was, but it came out in the late 1990s or early 2000s when I saw it. The imagery I remember had a juxtaposition that was unmistakable–Christ on the cross, Superman impaled on the spike of a broken girder on a hill.

          A lot of this sort of work is simultaneously the rejection of classic religious belief and iconography, and yet… They feel the need to substitute something for what they no longer accept as necessary. On some levels, what appears to be going on in their minds is that they reject the beliefs of their parents and surrounding civilization, and then they go out and reinvent the same damn stories to fill the narrative gaps in their lives.

          Some of the folks I encountered surrounding a couple of the comic conventions I’ve gone to with friends struck me as being really bizarrely off. One young man I remember was emphatic as hell that he’d rejected the “bourgeoisie” religion and values of his parents, but… Damn, the beatific rapture that overcame his face as he talked about the exploits and details of his comic-book heroes…? I swear to God, I’ve seen less enthusiasm from Mormon missionaries trying to convert me.

          To a degree, man is as much a myth-making machinery as he is a pattern-maker. Some of what is going on in the superhero space is, I believe, an attempt to recapture or recapitulate a lot of what has gone before in the religious spaces, only recast and reinterpreted to satisfy the mindsets and shibboleths of the folks that go in for this stuff. As well, a goodly chunk of it can be looked at as the work of the left, capitalizing on the whole deal to insert their worldviews and mindsets. As the lyric goes, “A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…”.

          In short, I think there has been a distinct overt and covert attempt to use the iconography and worlds of these characters to sell fundamentally left-wing ideas, and to habituate people to the thought-patterns behind it all.

          Could be wrong, might not even be catching a tenth of what is really going on–Your mileage may vary, and the whole thing may look very different from where you sit.

          • Let’s keep this all at a level of rational discussion, and not get too personal about things, shall we?

            Kind of late for that, Kirk– you already chose to ignore the rational responses, and then brought it back up for a second go.

            If you take pointing that out as personal, even though you are the one who decided to dismiss on the basis of emotion right off the bat, then that’s on you.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


        They protect the “established order” or at best try to improve it.

        Batman (at first) operated where the police were corrupt but operated to protest the establish order which the police “weren’t doing”. He also worked with some honest cops to clean up the corruption.

        Superman doesn’t go around destroying “evil corporations” although if he realizes that the corporation is breaking the law will act to reveal the law breaking.

        While it has been said here that superheroes are based on the ancient Greek heroes and the stories about the ancient heroes where to “glorify” Greek royal houses, that isn’t IMO the real model for superheroes.

        The real model is more the wandering hero who sees a wrong and acts on it especially when he has no duty to do so.

        We see this model in the stories about the Old West, with the vigilante taking action when there is no Law to protect people.

        The Superhero in most comics is a vigilante who acts outside the law but in defense of people.

        Of course, the real question is “why do we read the superhero stories”.

        I seriously doubt that anybody reads the stories and puts themselves in the role of the victim.

        Well, some females may want to be Lois Lane and be rescued by Superman in order to get very close to this “sexy guy”. 😉

        No, there is human desire for the “Man On The White Horse” to save the world but IMO that desire is completely separate from enjoyment of Superhero Stories.

        Most readers want to be Superman, not Jimmy Olsen who keeps needing to be rescued.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          And you aren’t being angry at me when you disagree with me there.

          Frankly, when you trotted the wandering hero thing out last discussion, I thought it sounded pretty plausible. Then I’d forgotten about it by the time this came around. 😦 (Yeah, I’ve been under the weather. I hope I haven’t been behaving obnoxiously.)

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Angry at you?

            Nope, if I were angry at you, you’d be dead. [Evil Dragon Grin]

            Seriously, there are very few of the regulars that I’d be angry toward (for any length of time). 😀

        • Not just the wild west but also the knight errant. I think there is a lot of that in supers (and in the western for that matter).

          What is interesting how that has come full circle with shows like Hercules, the Legendary Journeys and Xena, Warrior Princess (or as the versions in 6000 AD in 3D vids, Dianna, Warrior Princess (with her sidekick Fergie) and Elvis, The Legendary Tours) which put that wandering hero into the Greek (and later other Bronze age and even Classical) myth.

        • Terry Sanders

          There seem to be two basic themes in most super comics.

          The “avenger” type has seen some specific evil, and has dedicated his life to opposing *that specific evil.* Sometimes they try to expand his horizons, but it usually causes odd dissonances–witness all the attempts to leverage Batman’s popularity by having him team up with other kinds of heroes.

          Most of the others take the flavor of “You have been given a great gift. What are you going to do with it?” And there are only two general classes of answer:

          The HERO says “Help my neighbor.”

          The VILLAIN says, “Be a god.”

          And any attempt to expand “Help my neighbor” to cover “Help *everyone*” or “Change the world” inevitably leads to “Be a god.” In American comics, at least, the essence oh heroism is humility.

          The SJW’s have been trying to change that. Note the level of their success.

          • There is a Gordon Dickson story where a little old lady received this power and refused to use it because she might do something “unseemly”.

        • Patrick Chester

          Well, some females may want to be Lois Lane and be rescued by Superman in order to get very close to this “sexy guy”. 😉

          Doesn’t Lois rescue herself more than a few times?

          • Yeah.

            And in one story back in the day, Mary Jane Parker was kidnapped by a rich stalker, and ended up pulling a gun on him before Peter could find and free her.

            The stereotype is one thing. The reality in the stories is frequently another.

            • When you have to evaluate an entire genre that includes thousands of different stories, which do you think we should take as being typical? The ten thousand, where the various female love interests are damsels in distress, or the ten where they are actual agents, and manage to save themselves?

              The deconstructions are just as illuminating as the conventions, to tell the truth. The best one along these lines was done by R.K. Mulholland in one of his SuperStupor comics:


              I’m going to do a couple of replies, because that story-thread is scattered at random through the comic, and it’s worth reading for the whole glorious deconstruction of the trope. “She learned my scent… I’ll pray for you.”.

              Classic. Reminds me of my older sister, that does…

            • The stereotype is one thing. The reality in the stories is frequently another.

              I was mildly shocked when I actually read Miss Marple and found out that she had a story where she did the “go alone to confront the bad guy” shtick that is always “parodied” with her dying…and she counted on the bad guy doing the obvious thing and trying to kill her.

        • You know, one of the reasons why I originally enlisted as a kid was because I wanted to be that, “Man on the White Horse.”

          Ah, but there are consequences, so many consequences…

        • Fairy tales don’t teach children there are monsters, they already know that; they teach them that the monsters can be fought.

          Super Heroes don’t teach children that there are super villains, they already know that; they teach them that the villains can be fought.

      • kenashimame

        I don’t think it’s fundamentally leftist, in they’re not checking for your party membership card when you apply for a job.

        it leftist in the sense that the main stream news is; they all come from the same or similar background leading to an subconscious groupthink. It’s like that New Yorker film critic who couldn’t understand how Nixon won, because she didn’t know anyone who would’ve voted for him.

        • There is a fundamental element of superhero comics that is decidedly anti-socialist: the assertion of bourgeois values. Even in spite of the angsty-gay-teen comic that X-Men became, comics retains a core defense of family and community.

          • Amazing how you can look at the same material, and take away such different interpretations, isn’t it?

            I’ve never seen the few times and places where they’ve paid lip service to the bourgeois values and conventions of society as more than window-dressing to Trojan-horse the real message cargo of the “enlightened one” savior-figure past the gates. There is a vein of conventionality in a lot of these stories, but the payload message they’re trying to convey is that of the “expert technocrats” clustered around the problem, and going to solve the whole thing themselves.

            Think about the iconography of the story, the progression of the hero-tale–Generally, the issue of the day arises, the superheroes are made aware of it, they gather in their fortresses of solitude and justice, hold a council of war among themselves, and then impose their solution on the situation.

            How much more SJW can you get, than that? This is how these people think of themselves, cloistered in the colleges and academic world, away from those nasty hobbitses, the muggles, and these stories play right into their worldview.

            Mark me, but I bet you money that if you could manage to pin these characters at Evergreen State down, and do some really deep analysis on how they view and conceive the world, you’d find an awful lot of congruence between how they think, how they look at the world, and the unstated worldview of a lot of the superhero comics.

            This is how they see themselves, as the heroes in the stories of injustice and misunderstanding they grew up on. They may deny it, and attack the “masculinist” nature of the characters, but the fundamentals of how they view the world are right there: The enlightened bringing the light of “woke” to the masses of downtrodden muggles.

            • “Amazing how you can look at the same material, and take away such different interpretations, isn’t it?”

              Definite benefit to authors who seek to entertain. The bigger their customer appeal, the better the income.

              Very bad for authors seeking to inform or persuade. Half go the direction you want, the other half go the wrong way.

              • BobtheRegisterredFool

                Aiken’s Midnight is a Place, where one of the villains is a union suborned to management ends is largely responsible for starting my deep dislike of unions.

                I was a big reader of Jean Craighead George when I was young. I have not come across many noticeably more opposed to environmentalism than I am.

                My background reading fiction that plays with gender left me primed to disbelieve ‘need more nonbinary, never been done before’ and to disbelieve that certain people have correctly judged what is really going on with the situation.

                I remember thinking of a really good example inside of the past week, but am not sure what it is. Might’ve been how my first actual college class started me on the path that led me to my current dislike of the Democratic Party, which is fairly popular at that university. Or that propagandists for the Democratic Party convinced me that segregation and the Confederacy are bad, but did not convince me of the alleged political discontinuity where Republicans and Democrats switched. Or something else, which I have forgotten completely.

            • Think about the iconography of the story, the progression of the hero-tale–Generally, the issue of the day arises, the superheroes are made aware of it, they gather in their fortresses of solitude and justice, hold a council of war among themselves, and then impose their solution on the situation.

              Maybe that’s the issue…

              Almost all the time, the “issue” is…. a group of people.

              It’s not some kind of fluffy thing like “poverty,” it’s something like “those guys over there are TRYING TO ROB THE BANK!”

              That’s just… American.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                There’s only been a few times where a “Superhero Team” (or a Supremely Powerful Superhero) tries to impose their solution on Society.

                Generally speaking, the writers make it clear that the Heroes are crossing the line into Supervillains.

    • You could make the argument that the original idea for Superman was influenced by Nietschi and Darwin, but the concept of the super hero is ancient. There was a Celtic hero who could leap tall palisades in a single bound, carrying a woman under both arms, no less. Sorry, can’t remember his name. And dare we call Hercules a Greek super hero?

      • Celtic hero? The best known (a very low bar amongst the non-Irish) is likely Cúchulainn, the Hound of Ulster. There may be an other, as I vaguely recall him having companions. Sadly, the lore of Celtic myth, of Tír na nÓg and its inhabitants is largely unavailable to the casual English-speaking reader.

        Similarly, there is lost Rostram, of Persia, Germany’s Hildebrand and the assorted heroes of a thousand warrior tribes. Include, as well, Gilgamesh & Enkido, the knights of Arthur and Paladins of Charlemagne — one thing of which we can be very confident is that when warriors sit around the campfire of a night they will tell tales and a few will even exaggerate.

        • kenashimame

          “No shit, there I was…”

        • Sadly, the lore of Celtic myth, of Tír na nÓg and its inhabitants is largely unavailable to the casual English-speaking reader.

          But of course.

          That much awesome? Might BREAK something.

          Don’t you know that every Irishman, given a bit of beer and a few years, could do impossible feats with a lady under each arm?


    • Ok, I never expected the Centralia Massacre to come up on this site. 🙂 I grew up there and had family that was both union members and Legionnaires, most of the union members were also Legionnaires. Their telling of events was all second hand, none were actually around in 1919, but unlike “official” history accounts, they universally agreed with the Legionnaires account that it was a planned ambush by the Wobblies. Although more than one agreed that the lumber companies hired thugs to intimidate the unions, all agreed that massacre on Armistice Day was a planned ambush of Legionnaires because of their opposition to the IWW and communism in general, not a retaliatory strike against either their intimidators or those who hired them (who were almost entirely not present at all, and weren’t part of the parade) and the only time self defense on the Wobblies part is ever mentioned, it is entirely viewed as a hypothetical legal defense.

      • That incident is a telling one, and a large part of the reason Fort Lewis is where it is today, as opposed to being on the site that became Fort Lawton up in Seattle.

        The IWW is remembered as this cute little thing, almost with affection by most who don’t know better. It was, pure and simple, a terrorist organization, and tightly interwoven with the anarchists and other extremists of the times. There’s a distinct thread of continuity between the IWW and the current lot of degenerates like the Black Bloc types, and if you go digging into the histories of it all, you’re going to be in for some shocks about how this is all still relevant.

        • You know going to school at the site you would think the Massacre would be taught, but it was to the best of my recollection totally ignored. Of course I did some bouncing around between regular and “advanced” classes, and managed to miss some things that everybody who stayed in one or the other had. For example I never took Washington History, which is supposedly a requirement to graduate, because I was in advanced history the year that it was taught in regular history, and in regular history the year it was taught in advanced.

          Interesting though that it helped determine the placement of Fort Lewis, I hadn’t heard that before. My own somewhat nonprofessional opinion growing up was that the “Massacre” showed the extreme incompetence of the Wobblies. You’ve got people with high powered rifles in multistory buildings while your targets are literally parading down the center of the street and you only manage to kill four? With the experience of more years I know it isn’t necessarily true, but as a kid with considerably more experience with firearms than such complex social dynamics I viewed the Wobblies as too incompetent to be a viable threat.

          • RE: The Fort Lewis deal… Basically, the land was “purchased” by a consortium of timber barons, and then donated to the US government, with an interesting little proviso: At least one regiment of combat troops was to be stationed on the base at all times, or the land reverts back to Pierce County. Motivation? Unrest in the logging camps, and it was felt that having a permanently stationed force at hand would “calm things”.

            There’s an amazing amount of unrecorded history out there, in the woods. I served with a guy whose family was one of the ones the land was “purchased” from, and they were a bunch of ne’erdowell halfbreeds with the Nisqually Indians who had homesteaded out where South Rainier Training Area is. Per the stories I heard from him and his relatives, there was a lot of sheer terrorism that went into getting those people off their land, in order to make the sale happen. Houses and cabins burnt, animals killed, things of that nature. It was not a happy time, and the amazing thing is, none of that crap is in the history books I’ve seen. Oral histories, though? Not forgotten, and while I discount some of what I was told, there are tantalizing corroborating details in the “official record”.

            The folks that wanted Fort Lewis where it is made sure it happened, and they were afraid of the IWW and the other elements. Hell, even the regular union guys were suspicious of the IWW, mostly because of who they associated with and what they espoused.

    • Not everyone is Christian. A good portion of observing the 613 commandments of the Torah is focused on the here and now. Yes we remember the past and look to the future, but mostly we do the best we can here and now. Also this not denying the spiritual. One of the reasons we have so many commandments to incorporate spirituality into here and now.

  19. I am guessing from this that A.E. Van Vogt is not one of your Golden Age favorites…

    • Actually he is, for reasons of “Uh” and “I hadn’t thought of that idea” but I find most of his books sort of go sideways of where I want them to go.

      • I grew up with van Vogt stories, but even as a child, I could tell the vistas of his imagination far exceeded his skill as a writer. Though, curiously, he did okay with mainstream of semi-mainstream stuff like “The House that Stood Still or The Violent Man. He also seemed to do much better with short fiction than novels.

        • Yeah, I also am of two minds about van Vogt. The concepts are so original and just sort of tossed out there, without a lot of worldbuilding or showing the work, which is good and feels natural. But the characters tend to be just plot devices. He makes Hal Clement look like a master of character development…..

  20. John Prigent

    Erm…I’m one of those who finds a language easy to pick up, or even just an accent. My school French resurfaced on a week in Paris with my wife, to the extent that I was simultaneous-translating the guides’ announcements for her and on our second day the restaurant where we ate decided that I spoke perfect Parisian French (which is odd, considering that I learnt the language from Normans). Does that make me superhuman, or just ‘good at languages’?

    • Oh, once I know a language, it’s with me for life. I suspect this summer I’ll come back from France QUITE literally speaking French better than English. It’s the learning that’s hard.

    • Just a good reconnection with that storage area in your brain.
      Still wonder if knowledge is actually stored in the brain, or if it just interfaces through it, maybe both? Occam’s Razor says the first. But just because it’s the simplest explanation doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

  21. When you mentioned the folly of expecting to be good at something the very first time – I was reminded that sometimes it does happen.

    The first time my daughter (at the age of eleven) ever got on a horse – a real horse – and allowed to ride that horse in an open area – she was scarily confident and good at it. The horse was a Spanish bull-fighting horse, very highly trained, and its owner was staying in the same campground that we were, near Seville. He was exercising the horse, and said, basically – hey, kid wanna ride the horse? Daughter said ‘cool!’ and we put her up in the saddle, he shortened the stirrups for her, showed her how to hold the reins, sit up straight and keep her elbows in – and the rode that horse all over the campground, at every pace there was. It was mind-blowing, actually – she was more at ease, and more confident than I had ever been after a year of lessons.

    So – it does sometimes happen.

    • Uh… It takes lessons to ride a horse? Who knew?

      • Well, for most of – it does take some instruction and time, but for my daughter that first time, it was like she had been training for years.

        • Sorry, that was just me being a smartass, because my experience with riding horses was, “Here, put your left foot in this stirrup that’s almost shoulder height on you (I was a small kid, but very flexible), hoist yourself up and there you go,” and I never understood why anyone had troubles with it.

          • Probably then – you and my daughter both had that innate skill. But it was scary to watch. She had never been on a horse and set lose like that. (Ridden a horse on a lead precisely once, a donkey on a lead once, on a merry-go-round horse maybe two or three times?) But this was a real, trained, apparently-champion Spanish bull-fighting horse – and the kid was oh, yeah – at home like she had been riding for years.

            • Some of that was undoubtedly the fact that the horse was well trained.

              When I was a very small child, I had a horse that my father specifically went up to the White Mountain Apache Reservation to find, from a rancher that was about fifty years older than God…

              Pepper never surprised me, no matter what I did. When I did something wrong, he somehow gently made it come out right every time.

              Not a single one of our other “everyday” horses could I ride like that.

            • Given the background you knew? Probably not a “kid” horse, but also not ornery– there are some horses you DO NOT want to give to anyone who isn’t an expert, because they’re always looking for a way to fight you.

              A “kid” horse, they will bend over backwards to keep their rider happy. Probably not that sort, since those horses are almost always focused on the rider– sometimes they’ll be OK as a cow horse, but, not anything fancy.

              Then there’s the “careful” horses– they can be awesome in all sorts of other stuff, but if a kid just flat falls off, they FREEZE. Really awesome thing to have if you go through wire, and a really good retirement plan.

              I would guess that the guy loaned you a “careful” horse– one that wouldn’t hurt the kid, but definitely not an easy ride.

          • Feather Blade

            I find that having taken belly dance helps one better adjust to the horse’s movements, at least at a walking pace.

            The whole “moving the hips independently of the tors” thing.

        • Oh – here’s the link for the post that I wrote about it, ages later –
          With a picture. The kid was in her bathing suit at the time …

      • Exactly. Isn’t it just point it in the right direction, give it a kick, and hold on for dear life. Hmm… Have I been riding horses wrong?

      • There’s a lot of coordination of balance between horse and rider, and automatically giving the correct signals and feedback involved. Most of the lessons involve teaching the right things to do with reins and legs, while spending enough time onboard to subconsciously learn the balance coordination and read the horse’s body language.

        • Exactly — there is a world of difference between sitting on a horse and riding one. The horse knows that difference whether or not you do.

      • Part of why Western saddles are awesome is because a corpse can stay on top, with a little help.

        Me, I’m a lot closer to sack of potatoes at my best than I’d like, but I can stay on top; my sister?….. she invented “horse tag” as a family game. And managed to ride well enough it was something I could do without dying….

        • There was a time when I considered learning to do some trick riding, like standing on the horse’s back while galloping around the ring. These days, I don’t ride because I don’t know anyone with a Clydesdale or other horse of similar size, so I wouldn’t be worried of breaking the horse.

          • ….you’re not in Kansas, right? Or near Kansas City?

            I have a cousin, Matt, who…well, when he rides a horse, it looks wrong. You get the idea he should be packing the horse.

            No idea how I’d open the conversation, but that’s what comes to mind as a solution. (He’s possibly the most easy going person on earth, but… “hi, I’m your auntie’s daughter, I know this really nice guy so will you let him ride” is out there.)

        • Some years back I knew a gal and her horses and ponies that did the kiddie ride bit at some smaller renaissance faires. One was very well-behaved (for kids) pony. But he had another job and knew the difference by weight (or size).

          Light/small: Oh, kid. Slow walk. Ho hum.
          Heavier/bigger: We’re goin’ barrel racin’!

    • I’ve run into a couple of people like that, at different tasks/skills. It’s disturbing to watch and observe, because a lot of the time you’re sitting there as an instructor watching them work out and recapitulate crap that took you years to learn yourself, and there they are doing it in real time in front of you over the span of moments.

      It’s one damn reason why I would not react with a tremendous amount of shock, were you to present me with proof that reincarnation is a real thing. Either that, or some of us are just supersensitive to whatever that deal is with the so-called “hundredth monkey” effect, and are picking up everything from you via some form of as-yet-to-be-conceptualized mental/physical osmosis.

      I’ve found myself in those circumstances a couple of times, and there have been times when I was convinced that the person I was dealing with was feeding me a line of bull about their past exposure to this stuff. There’s an Army vehicle called a HEMTT, or Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, an 8X8 10-ton cargo truck that has a variant with a crane mounted on the back of the vehicle. Running that crane is not a skill you pick up easily, and a lot of units take to the policy of licensing the vehicle separately from the crane, because of that. We had an exercise we were participating in go south, one night, and I had to put one of my new people out on his own. Following morning, I’m getting kudos from the unit he was attached to for his virtuosity with the crane, and I’m thinking “Oh, good… SGT H had the time to train him on that… Cool beans…”.

      Turns out… Not so much. Our guy had gone out, seen that the crane would be an immense help to what they were doing, and just took it upon himself to play crane operator with it. I told SGT H “Outstanding job on getting PFC X trained up, didn’t think we’d gotten that done before we rolled out…”, and all I got from him was a great big “Huh?”.

      Given the usual rate of accidents folks had with those darn things, I was a little taken aback by this, and interrogated our apparent equipment savant: “Ever see anyone use that crane, before…?” “Nope.” “Did you ever use one of these before you joined the Army…?” “Nope.” “Ever do anything even remotely analogous to this, like play a lot of Crane games at the arcade…?” “Nope…”. “So, you just figured this all out, with no instruction, and no practical experience, in the dark, on the side of a hill in a torrential rainstorm, with the wind blowing about fifty-sixty miles an hour, huh…?” “Yep…”.

      That little twerp turned out to have a knack for heavy equipment that I’ve never seen anyone else with. Most people take hours to learn new configurations of controls on pieces of machinery they’ve never seen before. You put this kid on a backhoe he’d never been around before, and he’d have it figured out and be able to use it to jump through hoops better than some of the trained operators could, and the irritating thing about him was that he had precisely zero background in anything like that–It wasn’t like he was a farm kid, or anything like it. He’d never even been within a hundred yards of a piece of heavy equipment in his life, to hear him tell it, and aside from his family’s sedans, had never driven anything bigger than a go-cart before joining the Army. I still wonder if he wasn’t handing us a line of BS, but… It’s unlikely. Our best heavy equipment NCO rated him as easily one of the most proficient operators he’d ever observed, and when we told him that a.) he wasn’t an operator, he was a leg combat engineer, and b.) that he’d never operated anything at all before joining the Army, well… Bit of a hard thing to accept, for him.

      What was funny was watching him get licensed as an operator for everything the unit had in the space of an afternoon, which flatly pissed off all the heavy junk guys beyond belief. Only thing really holding him back was all the esoterica of the maintenance for each different piece, but as far as running the things went…? Whatever the hell the equivalent of an idiot-savant is, with that sort of thing.

      • Egad, the operator (rather than mechanic) version of the nilmerg.

      • *drools* Oh, gads, someone who could ACTUALLY FEEL the machine!

        I’ve gotten flashes, sometimes– it’s like, you can just SEE how the hydraulics involved will work– but never more than a flash.
        Sort of like when you’re driving, and you go “I need to slow down RIGHT NOW” and a few seconds later some idiot comes out of left field and cuts across– -he’d been in your rear view mirror, but you didn’t really NOTICE him.

        My mom has some of that– she can calibrate to a machine in about five minutes, and 90% make it do what she wants.

        I think it may be related to ability in sports, if you’re not horrifically clumsy.

  22. John Prigent

    To clarify, my school French was from school in England, it was ‘how to speak’ that I learnt in Normandy.

  23. “(Which is a weird reason to make war on anyone, but there it is.)”

    Ah, Professional Educators, and their little obsessions!

    Look; Ed School is where the profoundly lazy and profoundly do-ok-on-IQ-tests-but-somehow-never-fucking-THINK (I wanted to say stupid, but it’s worse) go to get a degree and feel important. It’s also, because of laws and stuff, where people who really love to teach the sub-adult go to get their tickets. The real teachers want to teach, and either manage to do so by keeping their heads down, or by getting in to a private school, or they blow up and stop. The rest never teach worth a good goddamn, resent being asked to, and dabble in administration and social work whenever they can, because it makes them feel important.

    They HATE smart kids. And they know them when they see them, although most of them would rather be roasted slowly over hot coals than admit it. Because if they admit it, they have to admit that they AREN’T all that smart. So they make war in smart kids, while calling them developmentally disabled.

    We have forgotten, as a society that Teachers are hirelings, not Immaculate Priests. And the Pseudo-Teachers like this, and encourage it, and fight like hell to keep it from being undermined. And in the meanwhile, they resent being asked to actually do any fucking WORK.

    • We have forgotten, as a society that Teachers are hirelings</DEL union thugs.


    • Mrs. De Ropp would never, in her honestest moments, have confessed to herself that she disliked Conradin, though she might have been dimly aware that thwarting him “for his good” was a duty which she did not find particularly irksome.

      —Saki, Sredni Vashtar

  24. “Now they create at least three levels of supermen, alphas and betas and tetas and then just slightly enhanced humans.”

    Am I the only one whose brain immediately pulled up Brave New World here?

  25. Yes, I know. I’m Sarah A. Hoyt, and I’m a poet. It’s been fourteen years, five months, two weeks and three days since I last wrote a sonnet, but I’m still a poet, and I have to stay away from it, consciously, every day. Even a couplet would be too much.

    I knew you were one of us…

    *hands you standard issue 8 eye Doc Martins*

    I’m suggesting when it comes to dancing you’ll be an “I’m a fetus; I’m a tree” kind of girl but you might be “Have a cappuccino; you’re not cool enough for a cappuccino” type.

  26. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    A thought on writing the “Super-Being”.

    First, I remember reading about the problems that comic writers had when they wrote the Batman stories. One of the keys with Batman is that he’s smart & has to think his way out of traps. Well, the writers had the problem of “if he’s so smart, how do we get him into the trap”. IE A truly smart guy would know that the best way to “get out of a trap” is to not get caught in the trap. 😉

    Writers have to write characters that the readers want to read about. The more “mentally” superior the character is, the harder for the writer to make the character “human enough” for the reader to want to read about the character. Of course, this hold true for a “truly alien character” as well as the superior-mentally character.

    It’s interesting that Doyle wrote the Holmes stories mainly from the POV of Watson so that Doyle didn’t have to “follow Holmes’ mental process”. Holmes in many ways was mentally superior and it was hard to put that down in a story.

    Note, there were a couple of Holmes stories where Holmes is telling the story and he has problems telling the story as Watson would because to him the solution was “elementary”. 😀

    • YES. In fact, Holmes often chastises Watson for telling the stories wrong – Watson insists on focusing on the human interest instead of the deductions, and instead of being instructional they’re just shabby gossip stories. And in another spot Watson is amazed that Holmes doesn’t know that the Earth revolves around the Sun – nor does he care, because it’s irrelevant to him and his work.

    • The more “mentally” superior the character is, the harder for the writer to make the character “human enough” for the reader to want to read about the character.

      This is one of the things that hurt the Ender’s Game movie.

      Well, also the fact that it should have been spread across two movies, and that adding FTL gutted the entire rationale for what was going on. But those also wrap back around to needing to sell to a larger audience than the book because it costs more to make a movie than a book.

      • iirc, they had FTL in the original novel (as well as instantaneous long-distance communication). It just wasn’t as fast as the version shown in the movie.

        • They had ansible, no FTL. The entire plot revolved around that situation.

          (maybe the sequels added FTL, but I haven’t read them)

          • i don’t remember there being any discussion of FTL existing or not.

            • It was only mentioned once, to my recollection, but the ships had been in transit for decades, and they had been searching for their master strategist for many years, because they had that time to do it.

            • The facts we have are:

              1. The ansible was a Big Deal.

              2. The starships have been en-route for decades.

              3. The starships are capable of extended high-c travel; because that is how they kept Mazer alive.

              There is room in here for slow FTL: slow enough to make Star Trek or Mass Effect’s FTL look very fast by comparison. Otherwise the travel times would imply that the Buggers were thinly spread across the entire galaxy.

              The problem with slow-FTL here is that the driving force of urgency in the plot is the fact that the fleets are going to arrive at such and such a date, and the general needs to be ready then or never. With STL this makes perfect sense: even extremely advanced drive systems can only carry so much fuel and reaction mass. With FTL it is an arbitrary limitation that would require some justification.

              When the movie threw in FTL it removed that source of tension. Instead of “We have one chance to win this war, or we are done when they send the next fleet against us” it becomes “Well they might attack someday. Uh, let’s go wipe them out”.

              I should say, I did enjoy the movie. There are instances where Movie!Ender is smarter than Book!Ender, and it did do some things right that would have been easy to get very very wrong. But movies always have trouble adapting books that rely on a character’s internal mindstate (LOTR and Hunger Games suffered from this as well). And in trying to “humanize” Ender for Joe and Jane moviegoer they break vital portions of the character. The shower fight is the best example: in the book Ender (pseudo-accidentally) kills whatshisname with witnesses present, and walks out without turning around because he has to show that he will break anyone who attacks him. In the movie he has no witnesses, the fight itself is choreographed so that the whole thing looks like a random fumble with tragic consequences, and then he has a small freakout. Which I guess makes the No Witnesses detail a good thing, because he would have been mobbed if anyone had seen it.

              Ironically, Movie!Ender is changed in ways that make him more like what all the normies thought he was after the victory, and what the critics that Orson Scott Card mentions in the forward were complaining about.

              Just a random kid in a bad situation who didn’t reeeeeally mean to do whatever he did. And of course no kid would everthink “like that”.

              Thinking on this, the movie just dropped in my estimation.

              • Terry Sanders

                In the original novella, that’s *exactly* what he was. The weirdthink supersoldier and the Speaker for the Dead were purely book additions. And, to my mind, completely ruined it.

                • Well in that case what we really have is two completely different books that happen to have the same title. The “weirdthink supersoldier” is so deeply integrated into every aspect of the plot that removing it removes the book.

                  And the limited Speaker For The Dead elements do follow logically from the rest.

                  • Terry Sanders

                    In ANALOG’s version–

                    There were no Bugs. The Enemy was simply called that.

                    The Enemy did not have FTL comms. Ender was told the ansible was our biggest advantage.

                    Ender was a Napoleon- class military genius, but other than that he was an ordinary kid. No crushing wasps in his bare palm, no killing rivals in the shower, no “my brother the Heresiarch.”

                    The military types objected to the way he was treated. The academic psychologists said “Ender’s test scores, General,” and kept upping the pressure.

                    The end of the story showed two of the psychs sitting on a bench, adly discussing their next job offers and chuckling at the antics of the little boys playing war in the park.


          • YMMV – but I loved “Ender’s Game.” Then, the one sequel that I read (the first one, IIRC, cannot recall the title), I wanted to throw through the wall. Hmm. I probably should analyze just why that is – it apparently is not typical.

            • I read Ender’s Game and it seemed distressingly obvious (after the few couple practice engagements) what was really going on. I think I tried to read the next book, but the all the names being ‘foreign’ names put me off to the point I set the book down was simply done with it. Narrow-minded of me, perhaps, but painful reading is painful, so, enough.

              • Okay, you call yourself slow. I had no idea what was really going on until just about the end… (Or, at least until his “mentor” showed up.)

                • Self-deprecration is a survival mechanism.
                  Ponder the opposite: “Wile E. Coyote, Super-Genius”
                  FAR better to be “slow ox.”

                  • Ox in delivery business. Ox understand principle of “Undersell and Overdeliver.”

                    Not to be confused with “Stand and deliver.”

                  • I’ve always preferred to be the Road Runner, myself. Watch the sometimes amusing antics of the self-proclaimed geniuses – and occasionally sneak up behind them and “BEEP” when they’re on the edge of a cliff…

            • No, that was my reaction too. He destroyed everything he’d built with his sequels.

    • “Well, the writers had the problem of “if he’s so smart, how do we get him into the trap”.”

      The usual way was to put something he needed wanted in the trap; Batman would walk in betting that he could think his way out. A more recent example was the opening scene in Avengers where Black Widow is conducting the interrogation as the “hostage”.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Or Batman “enters” the trap to rescue an innocent.

        There was a comic where Joker pushes a hostage into a shark tank and Batman has to jump into the tank.

  27. Will we ever create supermen? I don’t know. Supposing we ever know enough of genetics, we might be stupid enough to try it.

    There are at least five components to producing “Supermen,” only one of which is genetic (some may say that three and four are part of the same component, however):

    1) Learning enough of how the brain functions to be able to design the correct brain for the job
    2) Knowing how to code the genetics.
    3) Providing the correct pre-birth environment for optimum development (this may be more important than the genetic component)
    4) Optimum learning environment to develop their mentality rapidly and with balance of fields of learning.
    5) Socialization and teaching of social skills to help avoid producing psychotics (Possibly most important of all).

  28. Two points from someone who is much smarter than average…

    First, Government school is a prison sentence. The Government schools can handle kids with ~+1/-2 standard deviation IQs. For a child in the +2 range, they are boring…and if you’re smarter than that, it’s a decade or more of sheer boredom and wasted time that you can never recover. Some kids will misbehave out of boredom, others just suffer in silence.

    Second, there’s a point at which raw intellectual processing power no longer suffices. A creative spark is required to go further. There are inside-the-box thinkers, outside-the-box thinkers…and people who ask, “Box? What box?” Couple that latter with high intellectual power, and you can get some very interesting results.

    • $SMART_KID finished his assignment early. Therefore, we must give him a pile of non-graded make-work as punishment!

      • I had good teachers, so when they would give me extra work, they really were stretching me and showing me new things to learn, rather than punishing me. But I’m discovering just how rare that was and is.

      • I mentioned hating middle school English classes to friend who teaches 7th grade English. The reason I gave was exactly that. She told me what she would have done instead which was… almost exactly that but with more interesting make work.

        • Precisely. My kids’ gifted classes had more homework, but they were all the same. Just more boring soul-killing stuff to do.

          • Yeah. The biggest fight that I remember was when we were reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I finished it the first day and got to class to find out she’d cut out 2 weeks of class time to read the book quietly. I told her I’d finished it and she didn’t believe me. I took the test, aced it, then asked if I could read something else. I brought in a different book everyday. After a week, she gave me detention for…lying? Making her look bad?

            I took it to the principal who waived the detention and told her to let me do my math homework instead.

            • Dang. We had quiet “read time” for a book in junior high. When I finished it, I told the teacher, who believed me. I don’t remember what I was allowed to do otherwise, but I certainly didn’t get punished for finishing.

              • Yeah, I was lucky — I was homeschooled for a while and even in public school mostly had teachers who were fine with it if I finished my work and broke out a book. Some of them had a selection of books in the classroom for that very purpose. I read Dracula in stages after finishing my work in 8th grade English, IIRC.

                I was shocked and furious the first time — in high school, no less — I went to hand in a French worksheet to a substitute, fully intending to go back and get to reading, and she handed me another one.

            • Once again, y’all make me give thanks for a Really Scary Mom.

              I finished books before the first day all the time– we were assigned to read, them, HANDED the book, of course I read it.

              As long as I got the tests right, I could pack my bag of 6+ novels and nobody cared.

  29. clark e myers


  30. Perfectionist, heh…

    I once got a 12% for an English class for one 6-week term. One quiz (100%) and two papers written but not good enough IMHO to turn in. I think I still ended up with a C for the year, and before everything was on a 10 point scale.

    I used to drive my music teacher to tears, too. If I missed one note I’d start over.

    Learning to say, ‘Screw it’ has saved me a lot of time.

  31. It was reported to me that my father once asked of me, in some frustration, “How can a kid that’s so smart be so dumb”?
    I don’t know. It wasn’t *my* doing, I yam what I yam.

    Based on the results of the various thing I have tried to do with my life, I have pretty much decided that that if I were to go into a life of crime, I’d very likely overplan a job and botch the execution so badly I’d wind up featured on “America’s Dumbest Criminals”.

    • My father (a very smart man) said that to me several times. I’ve said that to my own children at various times. They’ll probably say it to their own kids…

      • *shameful blush* I spend a lot of time telling my kids:
        “You are not stupid. Stop and think. You have the brains, USE IT.”

        This is mostly because they are smart, and they know I get bored easily, so if they nag enough… I will do the work for them. At least part of the time. (It’s a bad habit! I’m trying to break it! I blame “group projects”!)

        • Argh, “group projects.” Well, inflicted rather than voluntary projects.

          It seems like there was always at least one slacker and often more in such. I suspect there is a very high correlation with those who believe Marx was onto something, rather than on something.

          • I was both smart and polite, so they shoved all the worthless @#$# that HAD to have a good grade into my “group projects.”


            It really sucks to see someone doing college classes in high school on the basis of a grade from your work.

            I don’t regret doing good work, and thank GOD I didn’t end up with her life, but… I almost wonder, did I hurt those folks by doing good work?

        • “You are not stupid. Stop and think. You have the brains, USE IT.

          That, or else, “You’re too smart to be acting that dumb. Now straighten up!”

  32. “Will we ever create supermen? I don’t know. Supposing we ever know enough of genetics, we might be stupid enough to try it.”

    Governments have tried to do it in secret (and some not-so-secret) projects for a long time. I believe that both the Nazis and the Russians had such projects at one time, and if they were doing it, it wouldn’t surprise me if our own government was doing it. Maybe still are. Who knows?

    • If something is stupid enough, and it’s even conceivably possible to attempt, you can bet money a human being will try it. Hence the Jackass movies, and the Darwin Awards.

      On the other hand, people love challenges. It’s what drives us to climb mountains, and strap a rocket to our butts to go to the Moon.

      • Looked at rationally, from the viewpoint of personal cost/benefit – it is stupid to climb mountains, or strap that rocket to our butt. At least the first time around. (I think of the first kid to “hop a rail” with his skateboard. Almost certainly he was thought of as stupid, if not insane – but those in the sport now make some serious money.)

        I usually try to keep an open mind. Walking off the pier while Twittering is undoubtedly stupid, but many things that people do these days may turn out to not be so.

        • “Looked at rationally, from the viewpoint of personal cost/benefit – it is stupid to climb mountains, or strap that rocket to our butt.”

          I have to disagree. Usually people fail to incorporate all the benefits that accrue to such endeavors, probably because they don’t track down the ones that a indirect in nature. The other problem is they check benefits for only a limited period of time. Extend the time frame for benefit accrual, and then the long term gains make such behavior rational.

          • I have gathered an impression that the history of innovation indicates the pioneers are not typically the ones who profit from their efforts. The Wright Bros. were hardly the big winners in airplane manufacturing.

          • We have to agree to disagree… Very few have accrued benefits for themselves that are concomitant with the risks they take. (There have always been much safer ways to become a Senator from Ohio, for instance…)

            However, I should emphasize that I don’t think these people are/were “nuts” – any more than I think people that run into burning buildings are “nuts,” or those who stand their ground when nasty people are shooting at them are “nuts.”

            One thing that makes us human is that we are not rationally selfish. It can be argued that this is part of what made us the dominant species on the planet.

    • thephantom182

      “Where, because their caretakers are scared of them, they get brutalized and terrorized into learning and behaving and knowing they’re subordinate to the “real humans.””

      The problem I always have is with the “brutalized and terrorized” part. If an organization or government has sunk a bazillion quatloos into their Uuuuubermench Projekt, are they going to go with Barbarian Standard for the education piece? No way. They will have a whole program for raising the little sprouts to Be All They Can Be, and nothing crushes a kid faster than regimentation.

      An instrumentality and a knowledge base capable of creating a genuinely superior human would know that. They’d have an education system that would work.

      Besides, if the caretakers were that scared, they’d kill the little monsters while they were still small. That’s how humans are.

      • Maybe, maybe not… Certainly, what you say sounds rational, but you’re ignoring that we already have a very cogent, real-world example of how these things would probably go: The Nazi Lebensborn and Hitlerjugend programs–Which were consciously modeled on another historical example, that of the Spartan Agoge.

        I don’t think we’re going to know what these things will look like until some dumbass tries it, to be honest. We’ve seen what Hitler and the Nazis came up with, as well as the Soviets. I think the “over-man’ programs are going to look like more of the same, until they conclusively prove a particular approach, and even then, someone is going to defy the “conventional wisdom”.

        • thephantom182

          The Nazi and Communist eugenics programs were based on the idea that selective breeding and “proper training” would create superior soldiers, and they were planning on having the time and money to follow through on the program.

          They were wrong about Human Nature, and they were wrong about the time and money part. Mostly they were wrong about what would make a superior soldier. They were breeding for size, strength and obedience.

          An org that can create a -genuine- Post Human, as in the dog that can understand the chain and unwrap it itself from around the tree, they will have to understand human nature to a very fine degree. They will have to have a command of the human brain and all its workings. They will have to profoundly understand consciousness, intelligence and how those things arise from the squishy hardware of the human body.

          They won’t have the luxury of being stupid Lefties following their delusions.

          Also, they would have the benefit of the post-human little kids figuring stuff out for them. That would make quite a difference, if the kids are All That the way we are proposing.

          Going with the Brutalized Superman is a theme in our culture. There’s no more slaves, so we make new ones. It’s a theme I’m tired of.

          Can we finally stop re-writing Frankenstein? That guy was a dick, nobody acts like that in real life. You don’t spend your life making a creature and then run away when it wakes up. And for God’s sake, you don’t make the first one bigger and stronger than you are. You start with a little one and work your way up.

          • Good point. It’s been decades since I read Frankenstein, but I do not recall Dr F working with small animals to perfect his technique prior to patching together human parts.

          • You’ve got rather more faith than I in the wisdom of the sort of people who would even try for this stuff. The wise ain’t gonna.

            The foolish? The unwise? Yeah, they’ll try for it, and try to do it all the stupid ways they’ve been imagined to in the stories. That’s the nature of it all, I’m afraid.

            The successful path from the present state of man to the “next big thing” is probably going to be entirely unplanned, and the product of thousands of minor iterative improvements in things as we adapt ourselves to new environments. Either that, or the singularity is going to happen, and then who the hell knows how it all works out.

            But… I suspect that the set of people who would try to build “new man” or supersoldiers all at one go are also going to be the kind of people that would act out all the worst tropes of fiction in this regard. There’s a reason we have those tropes, and it stems from actual past experience with folks like Hitler, Pol Pot, and all the rest of the messianic types who’ve tried for this sort of thing. The mentality that says “I want supermen to work for me…” ain’t the kind, nurturing type of “father/mother of the year” you’re hoping they will be. The idea or goal of a superhuman whatever wouldn’t even occur to decent folk, I’m afraid.

            • thephantom182

              “You’ve got rather more faith than I in the wisdom of the sort of people who would even try for this stuff. The wise ain’t gonna.”

              Its more that I have faith in how hard a problem this is. So much harder than space flight or curing cancer. Creating a real, honest to Mu post-human intelligence would be the crowning achievement of an whole culture, a vastly capable one.

              Basically I don’t think its the kind of problem assholes can solve.

    • In a way, every marriage is aimed at creating super-men.

      Part of why I love my husband is because he’s my superior. Not in all things, but he really is better at a lot of stuff than I am. (dealing with broken plans? Oh, gads, yes.)

      He says the same thing about me, and I believe it– he definitely acts like it.

      A person looks for something greater in their mate.

  33. Perfectionism. My sympathies to your son because that’s something I struggle with as well. I expect to accomplish something perfectly right away and then when it isn’t perfect, I become frustrated and end up accomplishing nothing. Well, that and stick to things I already know how to do well.

  34. “And an entire school (middle) once made war on him”

    If it makes you feel any better, I think middle schools make war on everyone. I’d go back to college if I could. I wouldn’t want to go back to high school, but there were at least aspects of it that I enjoyed, and if I found myself back there, maybe I’d make more of those aspects. But middle school…*shudder* If I ever find myself in Hell, I suspect it will look a lot like middle school.

    • I don’t think anyone really wants to re-experience middle school. If they do, I don’t want to be around them.

      • Aye. Yeah, there were a couple tiny aspects of that time that were good, but the Middle/Jr. High School thing itself? See the flogging scene of Top Secret! for how enjoyable that was overall.

  35. I’m a big nut about superhero stories in general, because I see them as effective metaphors for what goes on in our lives on a mundane level. Sometimes you need to exaggerate things before patterns and details become clear.

    The problem comes when people take it the opposite direction and think “well if only I could shoot lasers out of my butt, I could solve all the world’s evils!” Superman’s character is the same whether he has all his superpowers or none of them – read the Johns/Busiek story “Up, Up and Away!” if you don’t believe me.

    • I suspect that shooting lasers out of one’s butt would entail difficulties aiming and be hard on the tights. I s’pose one could go the kilt/skirt route although I expect that one would be considered a villain if one were constantly showing one’s arse.

  36. My older son tells me that “smart” people have more connections between brain cells, and are slower to prune them. This means they can correlate knowledge much faster/better, but also… well, all those connections are a great way of describing “going fricking nuts.”

    Ah, ha! That explains it in a nutshell. I’m probably not in the same bracket as your son (from your descriptions, neither of them, actually) – but the experience in elementary / middle school was much the same.

    • Correlating knowledge is one of those things that humans just *do.* Merrily hopping from data point to data point, linking this distant thing to that (puns!), often reaching conclusions wildly different from the standard answer, now that’s just Odd. *grin*

      I tend to think that there’s more than one type of Odd, and more than one kind of intelligence. Forgive me if I’m ripping somebody off (chances are this has been said before, I think), but some folks use their “Oddness” or intelligence or whathaveyou for things like… well, social connections, instead of mathematicl formulae.

      Social stuff is hard. If I had to tabulate up all the data it takes to keep up with even a handful of people, my friends, completely, it would fill many, many pages. But for some folks, this is trivial. Perhaps the social intelligence is more dominant than the other Odd, tangental intelligence. Just a thought.

      • Don’t know about the ratios. (All of the various classification tests, for what those are worth, kick up different percentages.)

        The “high connection” seems to be inherited (my own observations, so take that with heavy condiments) – but not necessarily the type. One of my sisters is a top flight communications engineer, and drives everyone who has to be around her for very long right out of their minds. The other one, you do not want her balancing your checkbook – but must have several hundreds of people for whom she can relate their personal stories. (That one has traveled quite a bit, too, so some of those are Danish, Kazakh, Russian, Chinese… She doesn’t speak even one other language.)

      • Dan, please quit talking about how my brain works. Or doesn’t work. 🙂

        • Well, okay. But I think the latter, if it happens, is probably too much blood in the caffeine stream, or lack of that semi-mythical thing I’ve heard called “sleep.” *grin*

      • chances are this has been said before, I think

        What is more likely, folks having noticed 2+2=4 or all the other answers?

    • I always described myself not as smart, but as having a good memory. I could remember trivia and important things from anything I’d read and most things I’d been taught. And I could pull it out of my memory pretty quickly. I still can but not as well as I could then.

  37. I also am an inveterate print reader (including Kindle now). i even read stuff I don’t like if there’s nothing else around. It’s a genetic fluke I think – both my kids also read everything. And 9 year old granddaughter reads with a book on her lap during math, but the teacher allows it because she always knows the answers when called upon. I just enjoy so much reading what you all agree/disagree, etc. on. Plus gives me new authors and books. Yay!

    I was a teenager in the late 50’s when my grandmother asked me to take down from the third floor attic all the Life magazines from the 1930s through 1950s and burn them. Naturally, I read each issue including the ads before I burned them. I have knowledge of eras and ads and mores of times when I either was not yet born or still a very young child. Kind of fun sometimes to reminisce about things I didn’t really experience. Means I question a lot of revisionist history which can make some people quite uncomfortable at times.

  38. MadRocketSci

    How on earth are you going to force a “superman” – (someone even a little bright with the drive to do something with that) – into a bureaucracy to administer a state?

    I’m at the bottom of a bureaucracy right now (one ostensibly dedicated to an interesting mission), and it’s all I can do to hold onto what passes for sanity. (Trying to move elsewhere atm, btw…)

    You might get a bright sociopath to play Napoleon if the problems of warfare are interesting enough – how on earth are you going to chain him to a desk to shovel paperwork?

    • One Marvel Comics story had the Avengers win more or less because after being handed rulership of the world, Dr. Doom was getting tired of the minutia of actually running the planet.

      I’ve also got a quote somewhere about Julius Caesar’s thoughts on Alexander the Great. Like Alexander the Great, Caesar was a great general, and good at conquering people and places. Unlike Alexander, Caesar recognized that properly administering the places you conquered was also critically important, and learned to enjoy doing so. He was amazed that Alexander apparently couldn’t be bothered to learn the needed skills.

      • Terry Sanders

        Part of that was being a Roman. The upper classes had to work their way through a series of offices before they could run for the cushy spots. Sort of an apprenticeship in administration. It had gone downhill by Caesar’s time, but even so, almost any upperclass Roman knew more about *running* an empire than Alexander ever thought about learning.

        • The cursus honorum. It was a point of honor to do so suo anno (at the youngest possible age to qualify for the office) and as novus homo, when none of your ancestors had held the post.

  39. One highly-intelligent friend of mine (and no, this is NOT me that I’m describing) once wrote a short essay about what it’s like to have absurdly-high intelligence. He described “normal” high intelligence as being like a sports car (as opposed to a “normal” car): it goes faster than what other people have, but is roughly similar. You can park it in your driveway, you can get gas for it at the regular gas stations, and so on. Whereas having absurdly-high intelligence is more like owning an SR-71 Blackbird. Sure, it’ll go amazingly fast when it’s in the place it’s designed to be (the upper reaches of the atmosphere), but it’s hard to deal with in everyday life. You can’t park it in your driveway, you can’t fill it up at the normal gas stations, and so on. Oh, and this is the ONLY vehicle you own, so you have to figure out some way to use it to get your groceries as well as to take long, high-speed trips.

    • Oh, and this is the ONLY vehicle you own, so you have to figure out some way to use it to get your groceries as well as to take long, high-speed trips.

      annnnnd nerd sniped……

      Thanks 🙂

  40. There was a young girl north of Lisbon
    Desperately seeking a husbin’!
    She swam like a dorado
    ’till she hit Colorado
    And spends all her summer slow-crispin’!

  41. Soup or Human?

    Eat the soup, not the human.
    “Human Soup” is NOT a work-around.