Story First

I have read enough about the spreading and eventual hegemony of the Indo European culture to believe that:

a) it was not a race as such, or at least not what their own members would believe is a race.  I.e. in that time and in that place, race was akin to tribe which partook “extended family” and for that matter some might have been distinct sub-races when you think of the past and how isolated some families/tribes were for how long.  (I’m calling to mind the “generations” of occupancy in some place in Siberia that seemed to always consist of a man and several women, all of them relations.  Don’t go there.  The past is not just another country.  It can be icky beyond belief.  I figure the story of Lott and his daughters happened many times.)

b) part of other tribes and families starting to ape Indo-European culture and wanting to be part of it is that the Indo-European culture was full of “glamour” for that time and place.  To wit, we’re fairly sure part of the culture was massive banquets, at which story/sagas were told, in praise of the host, but also sharing common background “history” that made people want to be part of it.  Though the Aeneid and the Odyssey are, time wise, many millennia removed from those sagas (of which only a sense remains) they would have been something like: a rousing story of shared history (even if made up or mythological) telling the deeds of heroes past and inspiring the future.  The way they were told — and note that what survives is full of action and adventure, as well as heroism, even if some of the heroism has worn poorly in our eyes, because our morals are different enough that, say, slaughtering your hosts and making off with their stuff requires at least some sort of justification — made the other tribes, isolated families that the culture came in contact with want a piece of it, want to invent a genealogy or history that made them part of it, want to join up.

Why is this important?  Or even relevant?  Or has Sarah gone down the rabbit hole of ancient linguistics AGAIN?

Well, no.  For various reasons, (only half of them family, the rest being a friend in trouble who seems totally unaware of his situation, and whom I’m powerless to help.  This is going to end in freezing under a bridge, and there’s bloody nothing I can do.) I’m actually under such high stress that I spent most of the weekend reading about Gondwanaland dinosaurs.  Because dinosaurs are what I do when the derp gets too deep.  Also, I have a planet to populate.  Not with dinos, but it gives me ideas.

But I experienced this sort of cultural glamor.  You could say it was generational.

One of the saddest things to me is that again for various reasons, mostly because when he stopped working his health wasn’t good enough for the trip, my dad never got to visit us in CO.  Dad grew up on stories of cowboys.  He read books — both fiction and non-fiction — about the American west all the time.  In fact, an old train bridge about three miles from grandma’s was used for the filming of Spaghetti westerns, and formed a great part (literally “great” as in fun) of dad’s childhood memories.

To him because of the west, to mom because of translated Hollywood gossip of the “glamor” age, and to me at first because of the image of the moon rocket (and later, because of Heinlein, for more ideological or idealistic reasons) America was the promised land, where everything fun happened, and where barefoot immigrants could become wealthy.

Mom and dad never even wanted to immigrate, but they aped a lot of the perceived culture and talked about America a lot.

Hell, the world talks about America a lot.  I assumed all countries were more fascinated by what was happening abroad until I became an exchange student and discovered international news in the US ended up on page twenty of the daily paper, if at all.  (This is both a blessing and a curse.  It allows our “progressives” to imagine the world is just like America but with a bigger social net.

It is that glamour that brought “modernity” to the rest of the world.  When I grew up it was still normal for married women to cover their hair in a scarf, but only women of the “lower classes”.  Women like mom, who were influenced by Hollywood wore their hair short and permed.  Because it was “the modern way.”  Which is why I say “the future comes from America.”

The problem is that in our own country, the glamour has turned sour. You want Russian influence?  Look at what its agents and influence did to our culture for almost a century.

They too started with glamour: the glamour of being a communist and “caring” for the poor, which slotted neatly into Christian virtues, but was ever so much more exciting and interesting, not like those pious church ladies, but more like being warriors and all that.

And since creating world communism (which was always Russian communism, because “internationalism” was always Russian nationalism.  You can tell this by how ardently old communists will still defend the soviet union, as though it were the motherland of their dreams.) required dismantling the glamour of the free market and its wealth and free wheeling culture, and “they’re like Rome in the decadence” (a crazy accusation, since Rome was more like the Soviet Union) didn’t bring us down, so they had to start picking at the flaws, and comparing us to a regime that killed 100 million people as if we were equivalent.  We still get that, like “But people starve under capitalism” (well, yes, you can’t save everyone from themselves and humans are still humans.)

But there’s been 100 years of anti-glamour.  The problem is that it’s not really that.  America’s movies and stories are still loved the world over, partly because of habit, partly because the future comes from America.

So what our stories are now doing is not just destroying the image of America abroad, but in a twisted way making the world worse, because some amount of people still want to imitate America even though they think we’re a hell hole (glamour isn’t rational.)

They’re trying to destroy America, but in the process they’re destroying all of the west, and themselves too.  And when this doesn’t automagically result in utopia, they start picking at other things and dictating what messages your stories must have: more diversity, more social justice, more–

They think this will make the world what they want. Only it doesn’t work that way.  Because they still build worlds (and yes, even contemporary fiction worldbuilds) according to what’s in their heads, and they’ve been taught to be resentful and hateful of their own home culture, and everyone in it.  So what they actually write is futures of hate, resentment and envy, which frankly builds nothing.

On top of that, they write — because message first — stories so boring that they serve as reading aversion therapy.  I mean, haven’t they noticed no one is praising the “soviet realism” novels?  (Or maybe they are.  I refuse to keep up with academia crazy.)

So what to do about it?

Story first.  Always story first.  Then trust that your view of the world will leak into whatever you write.  And write things you love, not stuff you hate.

Western culture is dying of reverse glamour.  Let’s build ‘er up.


263 thoughts on “Story First

              1. All my life, at intervals, people have assured me “China isn’t like that anymore.”. China is like that. China has always been like that. That’s one reason Communism took root there; they have ALWAYS treated the majority of the population like farm animals.

                1. It is the ultimate logic of the idea that all power comes from the State, and all people owe everything to the State (Rousseau’s General Will passed through Hegel and a few others). The Chinese just added their imperial traditions onto it, or vice versa, and the question becomes “How can the individual provide the maximum benefit to the State at the lowest cost to the State?” *Shudder*

                    1. I confess, I did like the gods of administering and grading examinations… but I’m a teacher, so I might be a wee bit biased.

                  1. I’m sure those selfless individuals who interpret the General Will are just doing their best to be sure that all the individuals who make up the body politic are doing their best to fulfill the General Will. Those who resist are clearly antisocial wreckers.

                    Also, I’ve got a special on bridges with fine views of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

                2. Recently saw someone trying to justify hating Japan (triggered by a discussion of Japanese mythology and mention it was awesome) because everyone else is worse– and they used China as an example of a better place.

                  I…uh… kinda pinned their ears back with modern examples…. they aren’t speaking to me anymore….

                    1. Eh, if they don’t speak to me, they’ll never figure out that China mechanized what made Japan evil.
                      It’s like abhoring tribal warfare, but being OK with Nazis.

              2. Socialism/marxism. A system so good, they kill you if you try to leave, kill you if you disagree, and kill you just for living if they feel like it.
                What’s not to love?

  1. Stories, effectively told, demand the audience identify with some person in the story, whether the protagonist who slays the dragon, the princess saved from dragonish companionship, the parents of that princess grateful for restoration or even the scheming plotter who arranged the dragonite dynastic takeover as route to power and wealth. Thus stories propagandize and persuade the audiences of the rightness of the story culture.

    Stories also can soften invaders’ paths. Stories of the horrors of resistant towns sacked by Mongol hordes encouraged many communities to concede whether ruled by distant Mongol tyrants or home-bred tyrants the differences were not worth dying for. Stories about the unjust enrichment annd decadent corruption of a nation’s wealthy classes do not encourage the lower and middle classes to enlist and sacrifice for their protectio.

    The Zinnification of American history has acted as an insidiuous virus weakening our ideological immune system and copious doses of Vitamin H* are clearly in order if our nation is to survive and prosper.

    *H for Heinlein, who combined idealistic patriotism with “warts and all” perspective to assert that freedom was a condition worth fighting for. Or possibly H for Hoyt, but that would seem to much like flattering our hostess, so instead I acknowledge our intellectual parentage with a very human wave.

    1. You got that right. I’ve set aside any number of books (and movies) because there wasn’t anyone to be found who I could identify with.
      Another, similar, test is whether the book contains characters you would enjoy meeting, or having dinner with, or spending a year with. The authors I like best have books full of such characters. Heinlein’s cranky geniuses in The Number of the Beast, for example. Niven’s Louis Wu. Rolf Nelson’s Tajemnica and Harbin Reel. On the other hand, I can’t think of any character in any of Asimov’s or Clarke’s books that I would enjoy meeting. Come to think of it, it’s hard to think of any characters at all in their works. I suppose that’s the definition of collectivist fiction: writing without individual characters.

      1. Oh, I have folks within the Asimov and Clarke stories with whom I identified. Toward the end of Asimov’s life, though, characters with which I had identified began to morph into something unrecognizable.

        A couple of books I have stopped reading because I really couldn’t identify sanely with any of the story (not Asimov or Clarke).

      2. Maybe that is what is behind the push to have characters that fit ever smaller demographic niches?

        If so, and kids went “no, I don’t identify with the person who is demographically designed to be Just Like Me in every way you think matters,” it would also explain the reasoning side of “you must be (minority) to write (minority).”

      3. I once had a friend credit me with being Hari Seldon. I’m not sure exactly how much of an endorsement that is…

      4. I don’t need to identify with a character as long as the story is decent.

        I have problems reading strongly-charactered stories; I not only feel no desire to identify with them, they get in the way.

          1. Second the motion. I don’t want to “identify” with a character, I want to find out what they do and what happens to them when they do it.
            Frankly, “people like me” would be very boring to read about.

            1. To say I identify with a character does not mean aything more than the recognitio of a kindred soul. The character can be Filipino- or vat-born, male or female or undecided. But I want characters who confront life and wrestle with it. No psychologically crippled critics like Holden Caulfield for me, thank-you. Give me a character with guts and gumption, give me Frank or Joe Hardy, Nancy Drew, Ken Holt or Tom Swift or even the Bobbsey Twins. I’ll take Cyril, Anthea, Robert, Jane, and the Lamb or the Princess and Curdie before I’ll read any of today’s role models no matter how much their superficial characteristics mirror my own.

              I want the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I want Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I want to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin. I want Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I want to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seems always afternoon.

              Add to that I want to fight alongside Sharpe and Harper, ride with the Sacketts, hunt alongside the Deerslayer, lay track with John Henry and ride it with Casey Jones. I want to grind wheat into flour alongside Laura Ingalls and attend school with Anne Shirley, with The Prodigious Hickey and The Tennessee Shad, with Stalky, Beetle and M’Turk. I want to sail the seven seas with Hornblower, Aubrey & Maturin and sail the cosmos with Thorby, Daniel, Adele and Ms Harrington.

              I want to swing with Tarzan, leap with John Carter, Robert Grandon, Virgil Samms, Kim Kinnison, Dick Seaton and Martin Crane. Let’s bullseye womp rats and try to make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.

            2. I work with young folk, so I understand that there are kids who need Someone Just Like Them to hook them into the story. I feel sad for them, but they exist, so, I did originally welcome the idea, that the multiculturalists proposed back in the early 1990s, that the more different viewpoints and experiences that existed in fiction, if we could call from translated works by great writers in other countries, (like to Tove Jansson, for example) we’d have more choices for everyone.

              But holy Hannah in a hand-basket, that mentality is completely incongruent for science-fiction and fantasy.

                1. Well, sometimes there is something eye-opening about finding out that other people can be simultaneously a lot like you in background, thoughts, or feelings, and yet fascinatingly different… or heroically just a little better.

                  Nothing wrong with showing kids a range of possibilities. It’s constraining the possibilities that is wrong.

                  1. Hear, hear.

                    I remember when I ran into a totally cool storybook librarian, one of the first such, as the hero of an SF story. HE was a computer (Hellflower and Butterfly). The kids who can’t or won’t “see themselves” in a man or a woman or a [fill in the ticky box here] or a sentient turtle are just locking their wee psyches into such small boxes.

                    Like I said, I feel sorry for the kids who can’t or won’t do this. If it’s not a teenage white upper-middle class kid with one step parent who does 4H and yoga and is currently questioning her sexuality LIKE HER, she just “can’t get into” the story. That’s so sad. Proto SJW stupid in the making.

              1. But for most of us, someone Just Like Me has to do with mindset and how they deal with their challenges, not melanin levels or where their ancestors called home.

                Heinlein was good at subverting this, to the point when (if) it became clear that Johnny Rico was Filipino, or Rod Walker was black, it was irrelevant to the story. Not that they were “acting white”, but their skin color and facial features had nothing to do with their situations and actions.

                Yes, Juan Rico was proud of being Filipino, but the Bugs didn’t CARE about that, nor – when fighting them – did he.

                I’m pretty certain that Stobor don’t care about human skin color variations, either.

                Yet people are tribal, and persist in trying to see people through a narrow set of filters. And notice obvious differences from their “norm” first.

                One of my daughters works in a school that’s largely minority (mostly Hispanic, mostly 1st or 2nd generation). She’s half Chinese. There is one other adult on the faculty with an Asian background (Korean American, I believe). They’re both female. And many of the students (and, depressingly, some of the staff) have trouble telling them apart when they’re not both in the room. Even though they hardly look alike. My daughter is a few years younger (24 vs ~30), several inches taller, slender-athletic rather than willowy, much paler, and has medium-brown hair rather than black. But they’re both female, look “Asian”, and wear glasses. So they’re hard to tell apart. On the other hand, most of our Asian friends think that same daughter looks very “American”, and much more like me than her mother.

                1. It is, literally, difficult to tell people of a race apart when you don’t know many people of it. I have even heard of cases where a white went to live in an Asian country for years, and learn that you could lose your ability to tell whites apart.

                2. Mark J. Lindquist (motivational speaker) talks about growing up in small town MN and the people in town keep confusing him with the only other Asian kid in town, who’s a different age, different size and looks completely different.

            3. Heh, looks like a mis-match on the idea of “identify.” I don’t want someone JUST like me, but I need to see something– usually a thing I know a whisper of in myself, writ large and explored.
              For a character to be one I love? It has to do that, on several points of recognition, and breath life into it.

              For an example: Garak. IRL? SHOOT HIM NOW. In the show– he takes sheer joy in word games. He’s incredibly alone, literally surrounded by people who would like him dead, and he just keeps poking at stuff. He responds to vulnerability with a flatly insane sense of humor… all either reflect things I think I see a hint of in myself, or that I wish I could manage.

            4. My MC eyes the “gotta identify” reader (from a safe distance) and mutters, “Why in the hell would any sane person want to be ME?”

              1. Rada Ni Drako is rolling on the floor, along with Zabet, laughing until their sides ache. Rahoul Khan is cringing at the idea of meeting anyone crazy enough to identify with Rada.

                Elizabeth von Sarmas wonders if the “gotta identify” person can meet her military standards. Alexi is facepalming while Ivan the Purrable texts something about “they should aim higher than imitating a human,” Andre Calisson questions the sanity of anyone who thinks they are just like him, and Rigi Bernardi is sighing to herself and wondering if adults will ever make sense.

                1. Lemmesee if I got this right. Authors are only allowed to write main characters who resemble their authors in ethnicity, in skin tone, in ability, in gender identity and cultural background. But any character who even slightly resembles the author and achieves anything worth reading about is a case of rampant Mary-Suism and a disgrace to the writing profession.

                  Can’t win for losing, eh? Al that remains is a useless character who spends the tale whinging about the unfairness of the world.

                  Naturally these rules do not apply to liberal icons, such as 105-lb girls who punch with the force of 275-lb men and never chip a nail, much less break a knuckle. Those are positive role models for “strong women” in spite of the true strength of women being their ability to motivate 275-lb men to act as meat shields for the little ladies.

      5. And there you pinpoint the surest way to become an author I never read again:

        I find myself thinking, “I don’t like any of these people.”

    2. Vitamin H: a prescription of just wants the freedom to be left alone, willing to fight and die for it; but more willing to kill the creeps trying to take it away from him than to die himself. And just crazy enough to actually do so.

    3. Stories, effectively told, demand the audience identify with some person in the story, whether the protagonist who slays the dragon, the princess saved from dragonish companionship, the parents of that princess grateful for restoration or even the scheming plotter who arranged the dragonite dynastic takeover as route to power and wealth.
      You forgot those who identify with the dragon.

      1. You forgot those who identify with the dragon.

        I try not to think about them, it makes my underscales itch.

  2. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

    But when you can’t tell the difference between sugar and medicine, you end up with grey goo.

    1. Problem is, they use a sugar substitute- we don’t want to promote diabetes and childhood obesity, now do we.

      1. And yet, it seems to be that the sugar substitutes still have that same insulin-raising effect and the obesity and diabetes follow just the same. So.. what’s being promoted doesn’t work.

        1. And some of them make my bowels do unpleasant things. And unpleasant colors to boot.
          I’ll take cane sugar or honey, thanks.

            1. My blood sugar used to be low or within normal limits with huge intakes of sugar. A one lb bag of M&Ms at sea was a 3 day supply. Without sharing. Used to be. I got older. Family history of diabetes.

              Haven’t met the baseline for a diabetes diagnosis. Taking Metformin anyway. It’s keeping my A1C readings right on target. And I’ve completely cut out sugared sodas for the diet kind, as long as they’re aspartame. Any of the other artificial sweeteners taste metallic to me.

              There is some evidence that some artificial sweeteners spike insulin. Some evidence. Aspartame isn’t one of them.
              Some lower calorie sweeteners like xylitol will have an insulin response- it’s a sugar alcohol I believe is the term. It will kill dogs. And human digestive systems need to be introduced to it in small doses else explosive effects happen.

              1. I’m allergic to them. Rashes, throat swelling, vomiting, dizziness. I’ve tried the various substitutes (I gave Coke Zero a go when it came out and horrified my supervisor with how ill I looked after just a couple of swallows, for example); and the only ones I seem to be okay with are maple sugar, coconut sugar… honey. I don’t remember the taste of high fructose corn syrup any more, but I don’t remember having a bad reaction.

                I know of someone who is apparently allergic to sugar (Cane sugar maybe?) so …

                1. Not to sound callous, but there are worse things in life than having to forego sweet drinks.

                  For example, having to eschew beverages containing alcohol.

                  If I have to choose between the rum and the coca-cola I know which way I would opt.

                  1. I don’t really drink alcohol that much, RES. I’ll have the occasional mixed drink that I like, or a fruity wine, but that’s… maybe… once a month? Or less. Just not that fond of alcoholic beverages.

                    I’d have to eat a LOT of sugar in order to keep my blood sugar up. Sugary drinks just make it easier.

                    Rhys likes bourbon colas though.

                    1. I am sure I’ve mentioned that I no long imbibe alcoholic beverages — not for lack of want, but because I tend to fall asleep. While it makes me an amiable drunk, it doesn’t make me being drunk amiable.

                      Back in the day I was terribly fond of a drink known as a Cuba Libre — rum, coke and a wedge of lime. Reasonably good with any bar rum. Beloved Spouse & I also liked to enjoy warm weather with White Rum and Bitter Lemon; more refreshing than gin & tonic.

                2. They make date sugar now as well, and a sugar-dried honey mix that comes in packets. Have you tried stevia?

                  1. UGH STEVIA. I’m sorry, but No. Bad for me. I know, folks say but it’s natural – I still react. I recently had a packet of cookies that turned out to have some of the stuff as the ‘sugar dusting’ without it being labeled and I ended up throwing up what had been a really wonderful and delicious dinner because I had a cookie for dessert.

                    I’m allergic to dates (the fruit) as well as passionfruit.

                    I remember looking though some of the I Quit Sugar or similar cookbooks while at the grocery once, and their recipe for honey sugar… basically boiled honey and sugar together. I wish I could find where the photo of that that I took was.

                    (tangent, unrelated to anything folks have talked about, but this triggered a memory that’s seriously making me twitch) I don’t have a problem with folks who use sugar substitutes for health or medical reasons, but I’ve a great amount of dislike for those who seem to think it’s a big moral advantage over sugar, think sugar is ZOMG EVIL IT MUST BE BANNED FROM ALL THE THINGS. I’m not saying that you’re doing that, mind but I’ve seriously overheard some people go BUT IT IS A CHEMICAL CHEMICALS ARE BAD FOR YOU ERHMERGERD IT HAS A MOLECULAR STRUCTURE and I… wish the idiot to kindly explode into disparate atoms. (there is a reason why I no longer try to do the general military family gathering thing.) /endrant

                    I’m more careful with my intake now simply because I’m older, but that took time to get to. I still think though, that the year I was on antidepressants was VERY BAD for my metabolism in general and I’m not sure I can recover from it.

                    1. “Don’t use sugar, use honey!”
                      “….you realize that the baby is six months old, right?”
                      “….you DO realize that giving him honey CAN KILL HIM, right?”
                      “But it’s natural!”
                      “Yes. Botulism is quite natural. And they banned the hyper-filtered honey ‘product’ that actually removes the pollen and botulism. DO NOT give my children ANYTHING with honey in it, they will feed it to the baby, and do NOT give him honey sweets. There’s a reason they had dumdum lollies.”

                    2. My reply to “it’s natural” tends to be “So are plagues, shark attacks, tsunami, brush fires and death.”

                      But you know what’s comforting? It’s really nice to know that, despite the meme of “BUT IT IS CURRENT YEAR” … people still fall for snake oil salesmen, as they have for the last few thousand or so generations.

                    3. While I am not agreeable to permitting them to extend their peculiar preferences to general policy for the population, I am perfectly agreeable that advocates f the “It’s Natural” argument be permitted to enjoy the consequences of their argument. They should be permitted to practice natural health therapies (not to include antibiotics or other modern pharmaceuticals nor processed products such as opioids, but they can drink all the willow bark tea they wish), natural contraception and natural birth.

                    4. One of my favorite scenes in Sleeping Beauty is “But it’s the 14th century!”

                      Heh, even Chesterton had some stuff on the longer form of “get with the times.”

              2. The diabetic nutritionist I worked with gave me the best advice over all: do what works for you. Test Blood Glucose Level, eat, an hour later test BCL again. If your meal spiked BGL then you know that is not a good thing to eat. If your BGL is within desired range you have now established a food and amount that is safe for your eating.

                Employ standard testing procedures, such as only one variable, and work it out. You burn through test strips a little faster but you can pretty quickly establish what your body will accept.

                I recommend eliminating ALL sugared drinks for a while in order to reset your expectations of how a beverage is supposed to taste. Then reintroduce sugarless, sweetenerless iced tea, for example, and see if it is satisfactory. I found stevia based sweeteners acceptable, others do not. Your tastebuds may vary.

                1. Good advice.
                  My solution to “more flavor than water but no sugar” is to make a big pot of strong herbal tea, chill it, then mix equal parts with a flavored or plain sparkling water (without artificial sweeteners, as I can’t stand their taste in any formulation). I like straight hibiscus the best, but a citrusy one works well also.

                  1. I am not diabetic, but I live with someone who is (T2). With the exception of alcohol (and not crazy amount of it, despite what some comments here might seem to indicate), the drinks are: seltzer, tea (unsweetened), coffee (cream, or at times butter, or nothing added if it’s cold brew or French press). Reading up on various things about weight control, I’m learning at least hints of biochemistry and what I am seeing about the diet-diabetes link, and the general Approved Advice for the last few decades scares me. Yeah, I’m low-carbing as much as I can without driving others nuts. I think I got an unintended lesson about that last night. More carbs than I’ve been used to – and I could feel the energy drop and the sleep creep up on me. Maybe it’s time to get paranoid – and if I reduce my tonnage as well as gain energy, what problem?

                    1. A few lessons learned about carbs. First, they are not all created equal. A variety of characteristics can affect their impact on the body. Taken with protein the kick ain’t so bad; a potato fritatta which combines the tater with eggs and cheese (and bacon and sausage and ham and …) slows the uptake and (for most folk) permits a greater amount of carb at a session. That makes it easier to get a meal that is filling and not leaving you staring mournfully at your plate singing “Is that all there is?”

                      Second, if you look into it a but you will discover what they call the Glycemic Index, which is mainly a matter of how readily the body accesses the carb in question. Whole grains are better than refined, brown rice better than white because while the carbs are about the same the body has to work harder at getting them from the unrefined foodstuffs. The presence of greater amounts of fiber are also helpful, and not just in slowing the carb feed.

                      In the same light, whole grain pastas are better than regular pasta are better than rice noodles. Sigh; so much for Singapore Mei Fun, although the tremendous amount of protein in it — eggs, shrimp, chicken, pork — make it an occasionally permissible indulgence) and Pad Thai.

                      As always, Your Medications May Vary.

                    2. Aye, carbs in above-ground vegetables are ‘free’ and even the (mildly) ‘bad’ ones can be modulated by being taken with or after non-carb food. And it seems that vinegar somehow affects the digestion of starches, so a a glass of diluted vinegar before or after a meal might be beneficial.

                      I’ve encountered the Glycemic Index… and also saw some reasoning as why it might not be useful as hoped.

                      The Big Two carbs (as in a control Type-1 diet puts them as DON’T EAT) are potatoes and rice. Breads and cereals I can easily forego – I barely eat them anyway, normally. Potatoes are a fairly universal side, but I can usually find something else, such as coleslaw (fortunately, I prefer the vinegar type, unfortunately, it seems restaurants don;t know it exists). Rice… by itself and at home, no big deal. But some Asian cuisine.. well, it’s all but unavoidable.

                      The real troublemaker might be pizza crust. Yeah, I know about ‘Fat Head Pizza’ and have made it. But $HOUSEMATE prefers the ease of a take&bake or frozen (as our Emergency Backup Meal – when there’s nothing else planned/ready… “Deploy the emergency pizza.”) And those.. wheat flour based crust. That’s what hit me the other night.

        2. Actually, it may be worse—the substitutes raise the insulin, which then has nothing to work with, and sends the whole system into a corrective tailspin. They’re beginning to wonder if diet sodas are more responsible for diabetes and obesity.

          1. Funny thing is that I have been saying or thinking that was the case for years. I can count on the fingers of both hands the number of skinny people drinking diet pops that I have known versus the other end of the spectrum.

          2. Sarah, any chance of getting you and Victor Davis Hanson around a table with cameras and mics running?

              1. Maybe we should work on making your acquaintances.
                Now, could we get a panel somewhere with VDH, Mark Steyn, and you?

  3. The comment about reading cowboy books reminds me of the ones I read as a boy in Holland. Written by a German author who apparently had never set foot in America (or in the Middle East, where another pile of his books are set) yet writes quite plausible sounding stuff. His name? Karl May. A few of his works are on though only one in English. All his work is on line at the Karl May institute, good reading if you read some German. It’s not difficult German, his audience was generally young adults just as in Heinlein’s early novels.

    1. Those are great fun! (Read them in German). The National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock (Texas Tech) had a big Karl May symposium a decade or so ago, and apparently it was wonderful. Just, don’t read his books for anthropology of Native Americans. 🙂

      1. I have spent many delightful hours at the NRHC – my grandad’s initials are carved into the fireplace mantle in the Masterson Bunkhouse (or so he always claimed). His folks were Masterson hands for many years.
        I don’t have any of the Karl May books, but I picked up a gem in Fredericksburg antique store some years ago which I haven’t read yet because it uses the Gothic font (published 1858).
        “Amerikanische Jagd- und Reiseabenteuer: aus meinem Leben in den westlichen Indianergebieten.” von Armand (no surname).
        According to the UTSA library site “This German text recounts the author’s adventures traveling the western United States over a sixteen-year period. The author describes his encounters with Native Americans and the natural environment, especially the animals he hunted. The book also includes illustrations made by the author during his travels. ”
        I can’t vouch for his anthropology. 😉

      2. “Just, don’t read his books for anthropology of Native Americans”…in Remarque’s ‘The Road Back’, which follows a group of German WWI veterans after the war, several of the characters remember playing Cowboys & Indians games based on the Karl May novels as a vivid part of their youth. And one guy, bragging about his (imaginary) military accomplishments, tells his girlfriend how he saved a fellow German soldier from “three Negroes who wanted to murder Herr Homeyer with their tomahawks.”

        1. That’s cultural appropriation with a vengeance.
          Seriously, though, I suspect anyone reading about some other culture quite far removed from their own gets things mixed up (and Remarque may have purposely done so, as a joke).
          And May might have gotten it right in the first place.

          “Many Indigenous peoples of the Eastern Woodlands, such as the Narragansett, Pequot, Lumbee and Cherokee, have a significant degree of African ancestry.
          Historically, certain Native American tribes have had close relations with African Americans, especially in regions where slavery was prevalent, or where free people of color have historically resided. Members of the Five Civilized Tribes also participated in enslaving Africans, and some Africans migrated with them to the West on the Trail of Tears in 1830 and later. In peace treaties with the US after the American Civil War, the slaveholding tribes, which had sided with the Confederacy, were required to emancipate slaves and give them full citizenship rights in their nations. “

    2. I am working on teaching myself German, so having some not-too-difficult reading material (that is also entertaining) to practice with would be useful. Do you happen to have a link available? my search engine-fu is failing to net me useful results.

        1. Asterix is fun. I read those as a kid, in Dutch, though I have an English version of one of them and a Latin version (!) of another. Not to mention an “adult” spoof, picked up at a flea market in Amsterdam many years ago.

          1. *random plug* Please note, they have REALLY GOOD PRICES on Amazon for those! I suggest the omnibus versions.

            Click through here and search for “Asterix Omnibus 1: Includes Asterix the Gaul #1, Asterix and the Golden Sickle #2, Asterix and the Goths #3.” Or whereever you have gaps.

            I wasn’t sure the kids would like it, so I only bought the first two in individual format.

            We now have up to…Omni five, I think?

          2. We have a large collection of Asterix in German; in fact, I was surprised to find out they were originally French! A really great way to learn a foreign language, BTW.

            1. I first read them in German too. Heck, most of the Belgian bande dessinee like Marsupilami and Yoko Tsuno I read in German first. Yoko Tsuno really grabbed my attention – she’d probably tick a lot of the boxes for the usual SJW suspects for really superficial reasons (female protag, non-white), then get howled about because she’s actually happy to still take on certain traditional bits of Japanese culture, is very much a feminine woman, and then adopted a kid (or two?).

      1. — “Karl May Werke” link on the left gives you a dropdown menu that includes a “large online text archive”. And so it is.
        Also, that Armand is Fredéric Armand Strubberg (“der hessische Karl May”). Hadn’t heard of him before. Link: That book is online (scanned images only) at . Another one of his works is in (search for “armand” as author name).

    3. I went to a great deal of trouble, arranging with a professional translator, doing a German-language version of one of my books about the Germans in Texas. I thought – take a chance, maybe clean up with all those Karl May fans (of whom there are lots!) – eh, I sell the occasional translation to a wandering German tourist in the Hill Country who usually gets a kick out of it. Hasn’t made me the Margaret Mitchell of the Hill Country so far, but I live in hope…

              1. Mmmm. We could put it in the Adult Only section, and require ID checks to ensure they’re 18 or older. All of which means that 12 and 13 year olds will be reading it under the covers.

        1. Yeah, unless our Esteemed Hostess wants to do a deal to do a Portuguese translation for a share of the profits to be paid upon future sales, I don’t think that proposal will go anywhere. But thanks for the suggestion. 😉

    4. I can’t think of a single reason that a German shouldn’t be able to write Westerns on a par with American Westerns…after all neither writer has ever been in the country being described…….

      1. …and C. S. Lewis didn’t live in Narnia. 🙂
        Although I would in the past have granted that the odds were better that an American could “get” the West better than a German (or any other European), that would not now be the case, unless the American was a rancher or of that ilk.
        Some people don’t have to belong to a particular culture by birth or rearing to “get it” — and some of them raised therein, don’t.

        1. I don’t live in Narnia either. However, I had a most disturbing dream a few weeks ago where I shot Mr. Beaver before I recognized that he was a Talking Animal. I have more problems with those North American rodents on my back 5 acres by the river. Chewing up all my blueberry bushes. trying to turn my foot bridge into a dam. Flooding my field. Trying to cut down my American Chestnut trees ( I have them protected by steel wire cages, in spite of their evident ineffectiveness in preventing the beavers from cutting down the Cherry trees along the Potomac River.)

              1. /sigh
                Aslan did give me a lecture about acting before I had all the facts; and that I would have to live with the consequences of my actions. The worst part was listening to Mrs. Beaver crying about the death of her husband. Like I said, a very disturbing dream. And it does make you wonder if it was sent by Him, and not just made up by my subconscious. Fortunately, I’m a wee bit brighter than Pharaoh, and didn’t need to find a Joseph to do the interpretation.

                1. I dreamed last night I got on the boat to heaven
                  And by some chance I had brought my dice along
                  And there I stood and I hollered
                  Someone fade me
                  But the passengers they knew right from wrong
                  I dreamed last night I got on the boat to heaven
                  And by some chance I had brought my dice along
                  And there I stood and I hollered
                  Someone fade me
                  But the passengers they knew right from wrong
                  For the people all said

                  Oops. Wrong dream.

                  Yesterday morning I woke from a dream I was coding and reconciling personal expense reports. Talk about your nightmares!

                  1. When I am really stressing about something, I have a reoccurring nightmare about coming to work at a radio station (sometimes it’s a TV control room) for an on-air shift where nothing works. The board is all jacked up, none of the cart decks or CD players work, I can’t find what I need from the library, and it’s five minutes to air time …

                    Most people have college-test nightmares. I have radio station nightmares.

          1. The squirrels have started chewing the bark off of the limbs of my trees – started last year, nothing in the previous 12 we lived here. Is there something in the Farmer’s Almanac about this, maybe a Doomsday Warning?

  4. I’m am annoyed with comics writers these days They have a new series of comics of Batman as all kinds of evil, ruthless and depraved. What ever happened to good guys and bad guys?Rhetorical question. They are to get teens and tweens restless, unhappy and miserable, so that they’ll be easy meat for rabble rousers aka community organizers.

    1. Check out Alt Hero. Not sure when they’re going to launch, but the samples I’ve seen (on Freestartr) look encouraging.

    2. On the plus side, who do you know that still reads that junk? It’s practically all just pretentious college students trying to show off how “deep” and “edgy” they are. All the actual kids looking for a fun story have abandoned grey goo western comics in favor of manga.

      1. I love Hal Jordan. I don’t like manga. I used to read comics. They cost a whole lot. Individual copies of comics are $4. Trade paperbacks cost $15-$20. There are some hardcovers, like the three volumes of Geoff Johns run on Green Lantern, cost $75 each.

        I mourn the loss of happy comics. Just like I would mourn the loss of SF if there was no indie, and the puppy-kickers won.

        There are other things about comics that irritate me, so I’ll stick with fiction.

        1. I mourn the loss of happy comics

          I mourn the loss of wonder in comics, the absence of joy. Kids don’t need comics to tell them the world can be a miserable place, they need comics to tell them they can find wonder and joy in spite of the crap.

            1. The capitalist in my soul sees that and screams “underserved market! High demand, low supply!”

              …I really need to get back to writing more. Possibly.

                1. Emulate the drug dealers. Peddle your product to the folks what are already addicted to good stories. “The first taste is free…”

                  Word of mouth gets around. Maybe you get Instalanched, or Book Bombed (hey, folks still play the lottery at the same odds). Probably not. Talk it up to your friends, your family, your neighbor, your neighbor’s dog. Whoever is interested in the same thing, really. And whoever you’ve got enough dirt on to put eyeballs on text. You know, that stuff extroverts do, natural as breathing.

                  Flog it at goodreads, or other places bibliophilic folks gather. Put a sign in your yard. Seed airports with a few copies. Add subliminal messages to radio programs. Hire skywriters. Have a few tee-shirts made, and distribute them at cons. Get somebody famous to mention it. Add it to prison libraries. Translate it to hieroglyphics and hide it in a pyramid in Egypt. Put the text of some of the better passages in a newspaper (do people still read those?).

                  Or you could submit it to a big publisher. I still think your odds are higher of winning the lottery twice in one day, though.

                  1. Heck, I’ve gifted a few of our hostesses books through Amazon, and talked up a few others so that people said “Hey, I’m reading that book now, and enjoying it.”
                    And I’m definitely not an extrovert.

                2. Hmm. Most of the writing ideas here are geared toward short stories and novels. But there are lots of on-line and hard copy resources for how to write for comics. I can do rough sketches, but I’d have to employ my son (or some of his NHIA Alumni) to do real panel artwork.

          1. Kids don’t need comics to tell them the world can be a miserable place…

            Alarm clocks and (public) schools do that all too well. And the alarm clock wouldn’t be so bad, if it wasn’t a precursor to the school.

          2. Jeff Smith, author of Bone and various other series, would agree. His work is generally considered to be both kid and adult-friendly, as in comprehensible by kids but complex enough to not bore adults.

      2. Oy! There’s still good comics out there. Marvel’s new Star Wars books, for example, are freakin’ awesome with nary an SJW theme in site. AND I just stumbled across a crossover of Big Trouble in Little China/Escape From New York cross-over… that was fully authorized and endorsed by the man John Carpenter himself. Bizarre, crazy, wild, and a hell of a lot of fun!

        1. I tend to go for books that are a complete story in themselves. I keep going back to Alex Ross’s “Kingdom Come”& “Justice”, “Superman: Red Son”, or the original “52”.

      3. I don’t know. Seems like a awful lot of deep, edgy, pretentious, sexist manga out there too.

        1. Yeah, but the point is that there’s other stuff available, too. In enough variety you can find stuff you actually WANT to read….

    3. So instead of Batman Brave and Bold, you have the brooding, pathologically violent, cowardly weasel Dark Knight of Gotham? And I suppose the Joker is the Hero trying to bring happiness and due process to the city?

      1. Nah!

        Only old-fashion people think about “Heroes” and “Villains”.

        There’s no different in their minds between the Batman and the Joker. 😦

        1. Oy. Did I tell you I just saw Branagh’s magnificently flawed Murder on the Orient Express? (Not spoiling the novel or film, but commenting on it.)

          The whole thing is pretty fun, verging on crackiness in some Hollywoodish places. Nicely staged in almost every case, a real meaty remake. And then, just as you are getting to the end….

          Well, the solution doesn’t change, and the motivation doesn’t change. Instead, Branagh changes the _justification_ for what happened. The whole idea that English mysteries draw on the English system of common law is pretty basic, but suddenly nobody in the entire film knows a thing about it.

          Instead (and only in the last ten minutes, mind you!), the justification is angst and victimization.

          No, seriously. If characters feel sad about bad things that have happened, they should be allowed to do whatever they feel like to try to get over the bad things. And anyone who hungers for justice should just be supportive of random actions by victims.

          That is the whole moral of the story. Yep.

            1. It’s pretty good, up until the end. I just should have left as soon as Poirot called all the suspects together.

              The ballet martial arts scene was high-larious. It was put into the wrong movie, granted, but I love cracky scenes.

        2. Whether Joker shoves a little old lady into the path of a bus or Batman shoves her out of that path, they’re both shoving a little old lady around.

            1. This is honestly my big issue with DC trying to do movies.

              They suck at it.

              They declare they’re making the characters more complex…but they’re only more complex if you assume everything they have ever been shown to be before, and add it to the theoretically new characters. Otherwise, you get rather one-note characters.

              SEriously, have they found a SINGLE FREAKING JOKER in 20 years that you can expect to be both dangerously psychotic, and totally freaking random and harmless just to see the look on your face?

        1. There was a big speech about how “good people” can’t be killers, and killers can’t be “good people.” But victims can do stuff to bad people in order to get the bad people out of the way. Not for justice, mind you. Just to stop thinking about the bad people.

  5. Tell the story, build up the shining mansion on the hill. Don’t show it to be a scene prop….

    1. A planet full of sapient stegosaurs, with bigger brains in their butts than in their skulls. Sounds a lot like today’s America, doesn’t it?

      1. In my defense, I’ve gotten no more than six hours of sleep in a week, and haven’t hit an average over seven since last year.

        And I’ve been hanging out with old sailor buddies on voice-chat.

        This is Very Bad….

          1. Not directly– basically just stress; first while it was because my husband wasn’t even in the same state, and now there isn’t any family besides him and the kids for three states, some other stuff.

            Also, Mexican culture does *not* work well with north-west ranch kid culture. Takes for-freaking-ever to get some things done because of … conflicting assumptions, we’ll say.

              1. And “of course she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

                It’s like half the folks who speak Spanish suddenly turned into those obnoxious sorts of doctors who refuse to listen to symptoms.

            1. My grandfather used to run into that when he had the roofing business. It took awhile before a certain population set figured out that “The trucks leave at 6AM” means the trucks are leaving at 6AM and if you show up at 6:05AM you’re on your own getting to the job site…and you’re not getting paid for your drive time either.

            2. Sympathies. My only luck is, the kids are older now, and in the ‘You are going to start doing more chores because I’m preparing you to survive on your own when you move out’ phase. That, and Housemate is an endless font of hilarious conversation. (Lately though it’s been “auuugh, they need to release Debian 4.somethingsomething out ALREADY.” *hit refresh* IT STILL ISN’T OUT. Rhys and I have been teasing him with “IT IS TAKING FOREVERS~~~”)

              1. I recall when the Daughtorial Unit was old enough to clothe herself in attitude and engage snark when speaking to parents.

                That was just before the “Your mother has survived as an adult, by herself in the urban wild; when you can make the same claim you may address her as an equal but until that time you have not earned that right!” discussion.

                A parent’s duty demands preparing children for eventual adulthood but it does not entail pretending they’ve achieved that capacity when they are still wet behind the ears.

  6. I got the idea that, at least basted on what linguists and archaeological-types can determine, Indo-Europeans probably were not picky about marrying out and bringing people into their tribal groups. As much as they were on the move, I suspect they picked up a number of other folks with itchy feet who didn’t quite fit in, or who decided that things were not going to get better and that leaving was better than starving in place. (The climate was going through one of “those” phases in south-central Europe about the time the horse-nomads showed up, and the last remnants of Old Europe were losing their crops to water-logging of the soil and shorter growing seasons.)

          1. Just put a turkey in the oven half an hour ago. First one of what is going to be a long season – turkey was free with a ham this week. Turkey chowder and turkey instead of chicken salad from this one. Plus extra giblets for gravy on the correct day.

            Not at the freezing under a bridge point, but still making pennies scream louder… Gah. Back to work…

            1. Turkey Rice soup.
              Yum. I should fry one then do that. Rats, need a fryer. Bake it then.
              I need to pinch more, myself. I was hoping to roof this place but with the pitch, my arthritis acting up, less balance etc, I may have to pay someone to do the job.

              1. spatchcock it. Makes it much better. Also, yeah, I need to floor this house in wood, but I did a little room and it left me beat. We’re not a young as we used to be, I guess.

                1. I heartily endorse spatchcocking birds. After brining first of course. Turkey especially comes out so much better.

                  1. I heartily endorse spatchcocking birds.
                    Unless you plan on running for office later in life, then allegations could come back to haunt you.

                    1. Unless you plan on running for office as a Republican later in life …


                      Been observing a great deal of hand-wringing lately about how “Moore is on the ballot and there is no time to replace” and was wondering why none of these knicker-knotters have referenced NJ senator Robert G. Torricelli whose removal from the 2002 ballot was supposedly after the bell but was accomplished all the same. I am confident that a similar move in Moore’s case would bring charges of Republican Hypocrisy (meh – what don’t?) but there clearly is precedent for such defenestration of a candidate.

                      Alternatively, Alabamans could simply announce that, “in the event of his election to the Senate, the part of Roy Beane Moore will be played by [anodyne state republican].”

                      Glad I am not Alabaman at the moment and don’t have to care about this — “not my circus, not my monkeys.” I am too busy chortling over Chuck Schumer”s repeated warnings that this tax bill will be a disaster for suburban Republicans and spells doom, DOOM*, for them.

                      Right, Chuck doesn’t want the GOP to lose the House.**

                      *What is the “quavery letters” HTML code?

                      **Given how well he knows San Fran Nan it actually might be possible he prefers Paul Ryan, but that’s not where the smart money flows.

                  2. I’ve been doing the “cook in a bag” instead, which doesn’t get the crispy skin, but ensures even the white meat is nicely juicy without the headache of brining. Though I did see a dry-brining video of spatchcocked bird with salt under the skin, and herbed butter underneath the skin and massaged in on top that looked awesome…

                    Or I could just stick it in a bag, with spices, and not have to do all the work. And be able to snip a corner of the bag to pour out the drippings, which gives the juice first and then the oil, so I can cut off what ratio of oil to juice I want for the gravy.

                    This is like discovering the “water bath” solution of just putting a towel in the bottom of the roasting pan so the flan doesn’t slide, and adding boiling water from the tea kettle once it’s in the oven. No slopping boiling water around or waiting for it to come up to temp! I could do it the hard way… or not.

                2. Yeah, got an idea for flooring upstairs, but that isn’t near as bad as trying to cling to a roof. I even broke down and bought a safety harness for re-flashing the chimney. The other thing I shall look at is renting a lift, but likely I’ll need almost as much as paying roofers unless I get more help than three cats.
                  Getting old is not for wimps

    1. Not so far back in the past. You do any serious genealogy work, say, 10 to 15 generations or more back; you start uncovering all kinds of things that today are considered, unsavory. Several close cousin marriages on my wife’s side from up in Nova Scotia about 200 years ago. Lack of transportation, lack of other, more suitable, members of the opposite sex, and that’s what you get. I remember a conversation I had with a social worker several decades ago; and she said that incest (f-d, f-s, m-s, m-d, s-d, etc.) tended to be two thirds higher in rural families than urban ones, usually due to the lack of other opportunities.

      1. I remember reading a little snippet in a National Geographic article a decade or two ago that mentioned that Polynesians used to encourage visitors to spend time *cough* with one of the young women on the island as it introduced new genes and helped avoid inbreeding. No idea how true that is, but it would make a certain amount of sense in a set of isolated island communities.

        1. It was well reported in the Greek myths that any wandering demigod was welcome in the beds of farmers’ daughters throughout the archipelago. After all, who better understood the potential benefits of adding a stud like Heracles to the breeding line?

        2. Sex Lives of Lewis and Clark:

          But Brad Tennant, a history professor at Presentation College in Aberdeen, says the spiritual beliefs of the Arikaras and Mandans gave the explorers a chance for some intercultural relations.

          “If a person had intercourse with a woman, then that woman had intercourse with her husband, then the power from one person to the next would be transferred to pass on that ability to be good hunters, be good providers and here you have this new group of people who are seen as being very special, as having “big medicine.”

      2. Okay here’s a ridiculous question for you all.
        How many children did Michael Valentine Smith leave behind, and with how many different mothers?
        I seem to recall something like 3 each for both questions.

            1. No wonder I get the order mixed up then. Of course I’m used to the standard of given first name, given middle name, surname, and occasionally given name, surname-surname. And of course the government standard of Surname, First Name, Middle Initial.

              1. But, I do think he is referenced as “Mike” or “Michael” by his friends throughout the book. Seldom or never as “Valentine”.

          1. I thought the very first printed version had the first and second names the other way around. Some web searching didn’t show anyone else thinking that, but it returned about 2/3 “Valentine Michael” to 1/3 “Michael Valentine.”

  7. You even don’t have to go that far back. Early 20th century, large rural family of mostly boys produced a first cousin marriage, and an uncle-niece marriage. I gather the latter was scandalous and the couple eloped to do it, but they managed to pull it off.

    1. Other than religion or custom, consanguinity in marriage is regulated by statute. First-cousin marriages are legal in about half the US states, prohibited in some, and a few have some handwavery.

      1. Cousin marriages are quite legal in Finland. In all European countries, I think. I know of one couple, although in their case the husband was adopted so they aren’t cousins in the DNA sense.

        I am under the impression that they used to be fairly common, but have become more and more rare the closer you get to modern times. Although, actually, in Finland they became legal again in the later half of 19th century, having been illegal for over a hundred and fifty years before that.

        1. BTW, while Mary Stewart is one of authors I quite like ( I did find one of her mystery novels quite icky – I think it was Gabriel Hounds, but not sure, been a long time since I read it, and it’s none of the ones I like best and have reread more than a couple of times – because the main character’s love interest is not only her first cousin, those of their parents who are the siblings are identical (again not sure, but I think it’s mothers). So, genetically they might as well be half brother and sister.

          Changing mores, I suppose, it was written over half a century ago, I think we have become more wary of close blood relations procreating since then.

    2. *sigh* Sevier county. Big anthropological study done back in the eighties and nineties. Birth of genetics and geneology type stuff done around that time. Lots of data.

      Very large instance of consanguinity.

      That means folks closer than second cousins hooking up. Often.

      It’s not all that uncommon *today* in remote locations, if memory serves.

      1. One of the neat things about spaghetti westerns was you could ride into a Western town that had been in existence for MAYBE ten years, and the population would look like they’d been inbreeding in a hamlet in the Appenines since Roman days

        1. Just sitting here like a fly on the wall, wondering about the old matriarchs who kept close accounting of kinship. It’s actually two sets of matriarchs separated by several hundred miles, who did the same thing. So far there doesn’t seem to have been much official close relations and there was a strong aversion to such. It certainly didn’t go back ten generations, though a quick calculation puts it from seven to nine.

          This isn’t an argument against what’s well documented; it’s more of a question of why these two groups had the aversion apparently not found elsewhere. Because there was a larger pool of prospective mates? Because in both areas there were people moving to and from the area? Have no idea.

          1. By chance, were they Catholic in any way? The mad levels of “ABSOLUTELY NO!!!” in various Catholic groups were pretty incredible. Say, no marrying the first cousin of your milkbrother, for example.

            Given that some of the early converts had issues with things like “I don’t care that she’s your favorite wife, you can’t stay married to your AUNT!” it is probably justified.

            1. No. The surname ancestor was originally a Quaker, and there’s French Huguenots in the mix. The other group of old matriarchs were Baptists and Methodists, at least from around 1800 onward, and were likely that before.

      2. Recentish study on such things noted that the genetic ideal, from a standpoint of numbers of viable offspring, seems to be the second cousin marriage. Beat out both closer and more-distant relationships for quantity of healthy children produced.

        1. That’s interesting. Finns are a somewhat inbred population, there hasn’t been that much new blood coming here since stone age (until now). The earliest census is from 1750 or so, and then there were only less than half a million people here, and that grew into the current over 5 million. Due to that there are some genetic diseases which can mostly be found only here. Nevertheless, in general Finns aren’t any less healthy than Europeans in general.

          Also, latest DNA research here seems to indicate that when it comes to those 400 000 or so Finns in 1750 they didn’t then and since even mingle evenly with each other, one of the sharpest genetic divides found in Europe is between east and west Finland. The ones in the east married each other for hundreds if not thousands of years, and the ones in the west also only each other, and there seems not to have been much crossing that line when it comes to procreating until the last less than a hundred years.

          So – lots of second cousin marriages? 😀

          1. Even that can be problematic. The Amish don’t allow first cousin marriages, but researchers found lots of second cousin marriages, many double second cousin, several triple second cousin, and one quadruple second cousin.

            There’s a genetic research and treatement institute in Amish regions that has been described as the only building on Earth with a mass spectrometer and a hitching post

            1. Hm, that would explain the result on “distant second” relations– a form of hybrid vigor vs hybrid breakdown.

              Short version, totally cribbed from Vathara because nobody my folks would associate with was dumb enough to do this where I could see, you get HUGE returns from introducing new blood to a group, but you then need to marry them into the group or it just gets messy and random, sometimes worse than no outside blood at all.

              Thankfully, humans are not that isolated, so you’re really unlikely to find a group that would have a one time, 100% their size infusion of new blood. It’s either going to be just a few new people, or a ton of new people, and constantly changing.

              First cousin: your aunt’s kids.
              Second cousin: your grandmother’s kid’s kids.

              “Distant second cousins” would, as best I can tell, mean that you know that the only blood you actually KNOW you have in common is that one grandmother.

              Still a bit close for my tastes, but given that almost nobody is going to have only one relation in common with decent tracking, basically an artifact.

              1. FYI, my folks’ cycle on bulls for a 200-500 cow herd is that the first two or three years, depending on size, they are with the heifers. The cows that haven’t had any calves yet. (In spite of the name, almost all of the second-calf cows are there, too. First two years have the most issues with calving, so they spend the winter right next to the house.)

                Two to five years after that, they are with one group of cows– there are three or four colors of ear tags for ease in identifying where they go to eat. (You don’t want a cow that’s always gone X to Y to Z to suddenly try to find her way around A, B and C, or L, M, N. One or two can work, but you want MOST of them to have an idea where they’re going…it just works out nice for genetics.)
                The main trigger for early sale is size– a bull basically doesn’t stop growing, and they can hurt a cow trying to mate. There *are* herds built around having cows big enough to use older, proven bulls.
                The five year mark is because that’s about the time their daughters are entering the non-heifer group, and especially if you haven’t got a lot of established genetic variation in your group, you suddenly spike birth defects.

                Actually ran into a big issue there when they were doing AI for the heifers, because a lot of the really good bulls are highly related– you had to keep good track of which bull was what. (For cattle, the calf’s breed is determined by the bull– so when they get a really awesome bull, they tend to work to get more awesome bulls from him.)

                1. First, why on earth are they working on artificial intelligence for cows? I mean, it’s a low enough bar they might actually clear it, but, c’mon.

                  Second, I find it very important to track what bull is what. The people flinging it try to use it to confuse, and keeping your eye on the bull being flung is a constant battle.

                  Now, if the AI is to track which bull is being flung, so you can track it, then I get that.

              2. First cousin: your aunt’s kids.
                Second cousin: your grandmother’s kid’s kids.

                I don’t think I quite understand this. Wouldn’t your grandmother’s daughter be your aunt? So wouldn’t grandmother’s kid’s (aunts/uncles) kids be the same as your aunt’s kids?

                1. Way I understood second cousins was, they’re the children of the cousins. Ergo, I have children, and my brother has children (hopefully someday), and those kids are the first cousins… then those kids get married to their own spouses when they’re grown up and their children are the second cousins.

                  So first gen – my siblings and I (aunt/uncle)
                  second gen – their children (first cousins)
                  third gen = second cousins.

                  I’ve met up to third cousins and, I think fourth; but at that point they’re considered simply ‘part of the clan and ‘cousin’. My parents’ cousins are also my second cousins.

                    1. A simple recursive definition: If you are nth cousins, your parents were n-1-th cousins. Up to first, where you’re the children of siblings.

  8. Story first really is incredibly important. I remember reading the first few Maximum Ride books and loving them. But then the author started making them all about global warming and they started sucking.

  9. Sorry to hear about your friend. If you are serious about under a bridge and he is not totally gone, you could give him a set of cold weather outdoor gear when the time comes. Things like a mummy bag, a pack and a good bivy sack. Then even if he is under a bridge, he won’t freeze.

  10. I read this by coincidence today.

    “So how is it that the young adult market is awash in these projections of a dystopian future, yet we’re still sliding into that kind of future, and the young adults are mostly going along with it? Well, part of the reason is that the authors, publishers, and critics of these novels are themselves in thrall to the prevailing dogmas of our dystopian culture—and they don’t dare cross the “culture cops” of the far left. So instead of warning young people against dystopia, these authors are blinding them to the one being built all around them. They want to warn against oppression, but they direct their readers’ attention to everything except political correctness.”

  11. About that “characters have to be like me” business, here is someone who doesn’t think so at all.

    “The other night, Mr. AG and I watched an interesting history of the comedy clubs in New York and Los Angeles. It was fun to see George Carlin with neat hair and a suit and tie and Jerry Seinfeld as a scrawny young kid in long hair. One of the last people featured was a lovely young black woman, a comic just starting out, who said she loved doing standup. As a 30-year veteran retiree I thought, “I would love to mentor her.” And then she said, “I wish there were more people who look like me.” I have heard this phrase repeatedly in recent decades and wondered how it ever got such a strong toehold. It never resonated with me or even made much sense. How would that behoove you in any way, young lady?

    I can look in the mirror any old day if I want to see “someone who looks like me.” In fact, exactly like me. Why would I ever have limited my role models to short, pale, tomboyish girls?

    In truth, darn few people I watched or admired “looked like me.” John Wayne and Gary Cooper had the right to trial by jury in common with me, but not a whole lot else, and I loved them both. They – and pretty much ALL the cowboys we 50s kids were raised with –- taught me courage, independence and fighting back against bullies. If High Noon does not teach us what one righteous person can accomplish by standing firm, then nothing does. It never occurred to me that that lesson did not apply to me because Mr. Cooper was more than a foot taller than me, male, and rather better-looking!”

    (Ammo Grrrrl was a professional comedian, and does a weekly column for PowerLineBlog that keeps me in stitches.)

    1. I don’t think that at all. I get characters in my head and they’re not like me at all, and I get fully invested in them. (I mean writing.) And I loved American authors as a little girl in Portugal. So screw them.

      1. Athena isn’t “like me” but I enjoyed reading “how she gets into trouble” and “how she gets out of trouble”. 😉

        To me it is a matter of “do I care what happens to the character”.

          1. Heck, I’m nothing like Mycroft but I love him as much as I do Manny, Wyoh, Professor de la Paz and Adam Selene.

            Heck, I’m not much like any of those guys. Sucky book.

      2. I don’t have much of anything in common with Tarzan, and had even less when I first discovered those books as an overweight 8 year nerdy not-even-a-bit-athletic girl, but I still loved him way more than I ever loved any character who was “like me” when I was a child.

        And the one character who is most persistent when it comes to my characters is a sort of science fictional version of him, or a mix of him and Wolverine, who was created by genetic engineering and training from hell, administered by his actually quite loving family and more distant relatives (they have a sort of clan based society). I am quite scared of writing him because, well, I have hardly anything in common with him, but I guess I have to get back to him sooner or later because he refuses to leave me alone.

    2. Where I live, EVERYBODY looks like me. I’m from here, right?

      I’ve lived lots of places where nobody looked like me. Frankly, I don’t notice a hell of a lot of difference. Different culture, same culture, humans are annoying dorks.

      One nice thing about being home, I can yell “what is wrong with you?!!!” at screw-ups and nobody gets to call me a racist.

    1. Obviously they got the idea from the racist American South, which was, after all, the only place where chattel slavery was ever practiced…

  12. I have been pondering recently the extent to which Progressivism resembles a form of mass Munchhausen by proxy syndrome.

    Progressives need “the socially disadvantaged” in order to find meaning (and power) in their own lives. They thus encourage their mascots (as Prof. Sowell terms them) to become dependent on the State for addressing all ills. That these ills are induced by imbibing progressive ideologies of disadvantage, of oppression, of individual and group powerlessness is ignored as Progressives demand societal cures for these psychosomatic ills.

    The failures of their prescribed treatments are then taken as proof not of the irrelevance of the “therapies” but of the depth of societal illness, justifying a redoubling of the demanded placebos (provision of which provides a steady profit for these advocates.)

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