The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Iscience-fiction-751758‘ve been saying for a long time that the way in which our environment is particularly abnormal, compared to most of the history of the human race, is that we’re saturated with story.

Humans like stories.  We seek them out.  It is entirely possible that is the difference between us and the various human breeds that existed before us.  Of course, we can’t know unless someone invents a machine to observe the past.  Pre-history by definition left no records of stories, unless, of course, cave paintings are that.  It is possible they are.

But ever since humans have been humans we’ve had stories.  Personal stories, family stories, tribe stories, sometimes all of them blending together, melding together.

Story is useful in a way, as an invention, hence my saying that might have been what gave us an edge.  I mean we’re fairly sure the difference between us and the other primates is that we can pass knowledge better through the generations, so it accumulates.  So, language, sure, is an edge.  But sometime probably at the dawn of unimaginably early pre-history, some genius realized that story was the teaspoon full of sugar that made the medicine go down easier.

And we crave story.  Even people who are not aware of craving it, or who think they don’t like fiction (my mom is one of those) crave story.  It might manifest as an interest in history or mythology, or something, but it is story.

Now, we’ve always been pretty good, clever apes that we are, at getting what we need.  Grandmothers told stories to their grandkids, kids made up stories for each other, some of us roll our own, and then there were tribal stories.  They wouldn’t be transmitted orally, memorized with great trouble, at a time when people lived very close to the bone, and told retold and embellished, unless they were a need, a craving of our kind.

Sure they “explained things” or at least a lot of them did.  But that was the superficial utility.  Just like mom who listens to history and mythology compulsively, because “they’re real” that ignores the fact that the explanations or the injunctions were wrapped up in story.  A far more elaborate story than needed.

There are linguists that think that the indo-european culture was a culture and a common-wealth, not necessarily a race or a tribe, and that the major drive for their conquering of Europe was in fact the big banquets they gave and the sagas told at those banquets.  There is some indication that each new tribe, coming in contact with these, western-civ’s ur-ancestors, invented a story to add to the tribal sagas, one that explained they always belonged, etc.

And civilization moved on.

It’s just that our craving for story has since the twentieth century become more easy to gratify.  There are stories everywhere you look.  Songs are stories, and are delivered whether you want to hear them or not in most public spaces.  Newspapers shaped “narrative” into stories, for easier interest and delivery.  Books are… trivially cheap.  (And now in audible, you can consume them while you clean.  Honestly, without audio books my house would be knee deep in trash.  I bore easily.  I’d never clean.)  TV and movies might actually be able to implant false memories.

My name is Sarah A. Hoyt and I’m a story junkie.  We didn’t have a TV till I was 8, so that is probably why I’m more immune to that form of story telling than to others.  But I listen, read, and make up stuff ALL THE TIME.

My morning used to start with three newspapers read back to back: the Colorado Springs paper, the Denver paper, and the Wall Street Journal.

Now it often starts with a skim of the usual blogs, to make sure no one destroyed the world while I was asleep (you know I can’t trust you.)

I find audio stories particularly enthralling, because as a sick little kid I lived for when my brother would read me stories.  When I re-read Enid Blyton (don’t judge me) or other early tales, I hear them in my brother’s voice.

This is of course all well and good.  The problem is that narrative — stories if you will — can be weaponized.

I don’t know how long ago that started.  I know that in one of China’s (many) fits of book burning, someone outlawed grannies telling stories.  I know that the Tudors got hold of probably the greatest story telling genius the world has ever seen and used him to burnish their image to a shine.  (I’m not one of the people obsessed with rehabilitating Richard III, which by itself is almost a shock, since I have such a need to rehabilitate so many historical figures, from Kit Marlowe to Kathryn Howard.  Because I’m not right in the head, that’s why,  but the truth is that on the bare facts of it, we have no indication he was any worse than most of the people involved in the bloody mess of the time, and he might have been better.  Yeah, we do know that the princes in the tower did die, but it’s a very cold case, and again, unless we develop a way to look back at the past, we’ll never be able to tell how or who actually killed them.  Even if it was someone in Richard’s service, it might well have been one of those “will no one rid me…”  However, we all use Richard III as a byword for evil and a forerunner of Hitler.  Meanwhile the Tudors who sent the same proportion of their subjects to the block as the great tyrants of the 20th century killed of theirs, are made out to be the “good” guys.)  And we know now that poor, doomed Marie Antoinette never said “let them eat cake.”  And that the idea the populace had of the royal couple complete with orgies and all out sexual perversions (which weirdly would have applied to the grandfather of Louis XVI) was a tissue of lies made up by the press.  Scurrilous stories.  Fake news, if you will.

But the 20th century, coming at the apex of the industrial revolution, which tended to the centralization and industrialization of everything, including communication, made it possible to tell a unified story.

Needless to say the party of big, unified and centralized government, got there first.  Those that thought the state needed to change humanity took full advantage of it.

We know that FDR was made into what people thought him to be by the stories.  The idea he saved us from the great depression (instead of causing it, and only letting go of the economy enough it recovered when WWII distracted him) is a media creation.  And many people still believe it.

Camelot appears to have been a photogenic man and woman lashed together in a semblance of marriage which hid a whole lot of #metoo and sex for money, but hey, the media, the books, the movies even made a rather flawed man into a king of legend.

And a millenial friend going through his comic book collection, reminded me recently that one of the superhero comics had a cameo by Clinton (I don’t really remember it) and that the opening for a cartoon of the time had Billy boy playing his saxophone.  I don’t remember either cartoon or comic, but when friend said their names (which have vacated my head) I recognized them as influential in the nineties.

The train wreck of Obama appearing in various comics as a superhero is a given.  Story.  Just story used as a weapon of control.

And yes, we know that the story is fracturing.  I don’t think Obama got as much mileage out of it as Clinton did.

But stories as a political weapon would be relatively (very relatively) harmless if all they did was burnish this or that historical figure, or give them an undeserved glow of success.  Because people can look at those things and go “oh, propaganda.”  That has developed, too, as a way to counter the pervasiveness of centralized story.

Slightly more effective are the stories about pet causes of the left.  I find Europe, where there are no dissenting blogs, and contrary facts don’t get reported, everyone thinks we’re losing glaciers and might never see snow again, or whatever.  (Glaciers are changing, not so much vanishing.)  They are therefore far more amenable to draconian measures to stop this doom of which there is no objective sign.

Then there are the people who are still convinced we’re on track for explosive over population, though the danger in western countries (and probably all over the world, if we could trust those statistics) is rather the other way.  Because there were so many stories, books, movies, made about over population.  And even though if we were on that track it would already have shown, they read these stories as kids and it became part of their unexamined idea of how the world will work.

This causes second order effects, like “plant based diets” which were supposed to counter the inevitable coming famine, and were therefore “sold” (in story including in scientific publications) as the healthiest thing ever, and which might be single-handedly responsible for various health crisis.

But there is more than that.  When Reagan took the presidency, the boomer generation was just starting to write, edit and consume vast quantities of story.

And suddenly stories, particularly those dealing with the future, went to grimdark, we’re all living under the bridge and eating garbage.  I called this “the rusty future” and it drove me insane, but it invaded everything.  It invaded everything, because most of the writers, and most of the publishers believed this was what would happen since Reagan had deviated from the policies (socialized everything, centralized everything, and nanny state) which, despite their not working, every story had told them was the way to go.  So publishers and writers panicked and foresaw a grim, dark future.  (Ginjer Buchanan, sometime shortly after Bush was elected, said that now horror would become ascendant, because under republicans “all we can do is scream and die.”  I don’t think she’s particularly unique for her generation or her profession.  At least not from the reaction to this comment, and other things I overheard at conventions.)

So what is the problem with that?

The problem is that humans attach to the narrative they heard when very young.  They fixate on it like it’s a true foretelling of the future.

To some extent, western civ has been telling itself bad things about itself since World War One.  This was partly the shock of finding they weren’t nearly as civilized as they thought they were and partly well… frankly communist propaganda.  If you read books written at that time they’re a bizarre stew of both.

But for a while it was all going to be redeemed by communism, or at least “socialism” which was really like communism but said that way so as not to scare the rubes, which was going to give us a shiny future, where everyone was taken care of and there was no need and no illness.

And then Reagan happened and the wall fell.  And even getting Clinton in wasn’t enough to change the tenor of the stories, because at the back of their heads they knew that people resisted this shiny future and that the Soviet Union had proven to be hell on Earth.

So they lost faith, again, just as they had after WWI, and since then their writing has been oh… alternate history, rejection of science, “problematic” (rusty, really, but they want to sound smart) futures and everything bad sad and going to hell in a handbasket.

The problem is the people who grew up on these tales are now adults, and that adults have a way of internalizing the fables of their childhood unexamined.  There are any number of people out there waiting for — and frankly wanting — doomsday any day.

I’ve heard them.  Doomsday, like the boomers “come the revolution” gives them a chance to settle scores and even up circumstances with all those people they feel should NOT have done well.  And it will prove once and for all that our way is wrong and their way is right.

These are sane and even nice people.  Consciously they don’t want things to fall apart.  Subconsciously, though…

So what to do about it?

Western civ is poisoned with stories against itself, choked full of the idea it must die that the world must live.  And these stories have corrupted many, maybe most people.  Yes, on all political sides.  Our last president was definitely an agent of these stories.

Like Puppet Masters, these stories sit in the subconscious and direct people against reality, against their own observation, against their (or anyone’s) best interest.

We are the cure.

We can’t stop the world being full of story.  But we must change the story.  We must change the movie in people’s heads.  We must give people a future of hope and life.

Go write, read, watch, create.

The future is ours.  Claim it.

 

375 responses to “The Stories We Tell Ourselves

  1. Jeez Sarah, I just finished posting about this at MGC. Are you reading minds now?

    What’s the one thing we never see these days?

    “You’re doing all right, son. Keep going.”

    Never see it. Except from the fricking outcasts like that Hoyt character, and Correia, maybe a couple more. Ringo, Kratman, Torgersen…

    I think I may have finally articulated the thing that has them hating Sad Puppies the most. Approval. They can’t stand it.

    • Approval, hope, courage, real virtue, faith. Just… goodness.

    • “The only way out is through.”

      Did you know that, as horrible as Los Angeles’ air quality is, it’s something like a fraction of the bad air days that it used to have? And this is over the decades that have tripled or quadrupled the population and the massive increase in the number of cars. We’re doing things better.

      • Friend of mine said China’s air quality is worse than Pittsburgh in the late 1950’s. He’s been there several times helping build a couple of nuke plants there.

        • I saw an anecdote from a U.S. engineer who had some engineers visiting from Beijing. He said one of them stopped as he got out of the plane, looked at the sky in astonishment, and said, “Sky is blue! I thought that was Hollywood special effect.”

          • Similar anecdote. Brother was teaching English in China and had a student swear up and down that blue sky was just an anomaly. Yes, it’s that bad over there.

            • 50% of the time the sky is dark. The rest of the time, it’s mostly gray. Not pollution, just :”overcast” or :haze” the majority of the time. Humidity, you know.

        • I recall visiting LA some time ago and it wasn’t as bad as it was (From the Jack Benny radio show: “Pick that up! The smog won’t be around forever.” about litter) and the place felt “upside down” to me. I was not ON the beach, but I could see the ocean time to time… and when below the horizon is blue and above the horizon is brown? Upside down. Yes, there were some properly clean(ish) clear days too. Mind, that was Manhattan Beach. In LA “proper” (can it be thus?) late night I realized why ‘futuristic’ movies from Hollywood of late all show a really sucky future. The whole turns into LA. Ewwww!

          • There’s a valley near my folks that has a very small city in it– same kind of “air makes a bubble and can’t clean up” thing as LA.

            Stuff like summer leaf burning will linger for weeks, adn don’t get me started on when the hillside burnt in the big fires…..

        • Current overlay: Carbon monoxide, which is a decent proxy for industrial pollution:

          https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/chem/surface/level/overlay=cosc/orthographic=-249.11,25.80,291/loc=-104.822,45.910

          [You can’t really go by sulfates or CO2, because there are so many natural sources. Remember acid rain? turns out that’s mostly natural emissions from pine trees.]

          • Looking at that map, there’s two spots that make me wonder what’s going on there. One in the middle of Argentina, and one up near Coalseam, Alberta in Canada. Ridiculous CO levels.

            • Rather, Coalspur alberta. Weird point emission out in the middle of nowhere. Is it an underground coal fire?

            • Volcanic is a known minor source, too.

              Possibly a screwed-up sensor, or something like it’s down-wind of the biggest parking garage in town?

              • Looking at the satellite pictures of the area, it’s painfully rural, I don’t think there’s a parking garage anywhere near that. The one in Argentina looks like a perfectly boring two-lane highway far away from any city on the street view of the area. Volcanic might make sense though since there’s hot springs within 30 miles of the one in Canada. that one was only around 2400 ppb, whereas Argentina was around 9000 ppb. Most of the other hotspots are near population centers, those are the two weird ones I saw. Maybe sensors with screwed up location data?

              • The Argentina one has completely vanished though, so that may have just been malfunctioning sensors. If the same is true of the canadian one, they haven’t fixed it yet, but the levels are down.

      • I grew up in Southern California (1950 ~ 1970), my father worked for the APCD (Air Pollution Control District; they were agin’ it, not trying to make it, just to be clear) for 30+ years, starting very near the very beginning of the organization, as an industrial inspector.

        The worst years for air pollution in the L.A. basin were around 1967-69, and it’s never been that bad since, and mostly has improved, if sometimes a bit slower than other times. Not that you’re likely to hear that from the press, mind. As far as I can tell, it’s not a patch on the late ’60s, judging from the lack of eye irritation and painful breathing after physical exertion that was normal back then.

        The thermal inversion formed by the ring of mountains surrounding the L.A. basin meant that that cap of haze over the area predated the first Europeans by a long time, and won’t ever really go away, short of punching holes through the mountains, and maybe installing Really Big Fans.

        • William O. B'Livion.

          So basically you’re saying that Global Warming has improved Air Quality?

        • I live in the Sacramento Valley, and I found out that the literal definition of haze is “suspended dirt.” When you’re coming down from the mountains and see a blanket of brown, it’s nice to know it’s natural, not pollution.

          • I grew up in the northern end of the Sacramento Valley (60s and 70s). I remember being shocked when looking down into the valley whenever we spent time in the mountains. It was like looking down into a pool of muddy water. The only time I’ve seen it that bad recently was when we had several active large-scale fires burning.

            But at the same I remember the first time we went to Disneyland (1970 or 71) – at that time, the air quality in the LA basin was far, far, worse than anything I’d experienced at home. The sun was a medium-orange color at mid-afternoon, and I could stare at it without blinking. It may still be bad, but it’s improved enormously since I was a kid.

            • I remember the sheer awfulness of the fug in the LA basin when it was still legal to burn household trash; in the early 60’s, if memory serves. Both my grandparents’ house in Pasadena (built in the 1920s) and the house we lived in when I started elementary school had trash incinerators in the back yard. There were days back then, when it actually hurt my upper chest to take a deep breath.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      Back when I was young and dumb and thought the Left actually WANTED an exchange of viewpoints, I never caught as much hell as I did the one time I mentioned that I rarely see a happy liberal. And that was with giving them the benefit of the doubt, since I could almost as easily have said “never”.

      (I have known one happy retired couple who were…whatever the liberal equivalent of “Easter and Christmas Christian” is. And two with a surprisingly high money-to-mouth ratio; they weren’t happy but they were honorable. Other than that…meh.)

      • I know a grand total of one happy liberal family. ONE. And we’re still friends because he has the actual capacity to set aside politics most of the time, and when we do talk politics we actually have exchanges of viewpoints and discussions. He’s the classic liberal sort, exceedingly rare these days, and I wish them always happy, good health and safety.

        • SheSellsSeashells

          Hm. On reflection, I have a pair of relatives who are liberal because they’re Smart, and Smart people are liberal; they’re happy individuals but not a happy family. So I’ll give ’em half a point. 🙂 And yes,the ones who can set aside politics for ANYTHING else are vanishingly rare at this point.

          I’ve been annoyed by the Twitter-lit crowd shrieking about “all music/writing is political, how dare you tell us to get politics out of music/writing”, when there’s an easy distinction between “here’s my opinion” and “here is a monolithic block of opinion in an unrelated format and you are SCUM if you disagree with the monolith!”

          but anyway. 🙂

          • “here is a monolithic block of opinion in an unrelated format and you are SCUM if you disagree with the monolith!”

            It’s kinda like how, right now, someone is offering as proof the ‘rebuttals’ of someone who has been demonstrated as a liar, repeatedly, who takes things out of context and weaves whole extra cloth from things made up… and WANTS me to go read that, because I’m supposed to take on faith that this time the proven repeated liar isn’t lying.

          • “all music/writing is political, how dare you tell us to get politics out of music/writing”?

            See my early monograph on the Socialist Realism of The Beatles hit “Hard Day’s Night” or perhaps the peer-reviewed paper on the proto-feminism of their song, “She Loves You,” complete with analysis of the significance of the thrice-repeated “Yeah!”

            My current project is an extended analysis of the economic message expressed in Bill Haley & the Comets’ song “Rock Around The Clock.”

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    IIRC in Plato’s Republic, grandmothers telling stories were outlawed because “they were the wrong stories”. 😦

  3. Nearly all of us live in stories. heck, as I type this I am sitting in the second story of my house, having gone down to the first story to grab my breakfast, having spent the night on the third story sleeping while my brain concocted peculiar stories.

    And that’s no story.

  4. “There are linguists that think that the indo-european culture was a culture and a common-wealth, not necessarily a race or a tribe, and that the major drive for their conquering of Europe was in fact the big banquets they gave and the sagas told at those banquets.”

    A line from Leonard Cohen….”You who are kings for the sake of your children’s story”

  5. And we crave story. Even people who are not aware of craving it, or who think they don’t like fiction (my mom is one of those) crave story. It might manifest as an interest in history or mythology, or something, but it is story.

    Folks who ‘don’t like fiction’ often tell quite a bit of it, about their neighbors. 😉

    (My grandmother was a reporter. She did not allow even fairy stories in her house– not even mythology. Bad experience with tea-leaf reading and an abundance of caution. She was very good with stories, and including all the relevant facts.)

  6. Is that why post-apocalyptic stories are so popular today?

    • Because much of modern media has a underlying message of nihilism, rejecting much of what is good and constructive about Western civilization.

      • I think that it’s also an excuse to do nothing. It’s also terribly old fashioned. It’s a century old.

    • My own theory: The draw of post-apocalyptic stories is a reaction to the near-universal message that the only way to move forward along the inevitable arrow of history is to join with the right thinking members of society and conform, applying ones individual effort to the great group-project assigned by our betters that is The Glorious Collective Future.

      But in stories on the other side of an apocalypse, it’s OK to strive individually for your own objectives and succeed or fail on your own merits.

      In the zombie apocalypse, you can finally not be stuck in that group project with the idiots that don’t pull their weight, and finally get an individual grade.

      • In the zombie apocalypse,…
        Or, you get to shoot the idiots that don’t pull their weight (because they turned), then get an individual grade. 😉

    • Another reason, honestly, is it’s an easy way for a writer to produce the world they want, with major problems/obstacles that a protagonist can solve with resort to some measure of violence, while still writing “modern” characters, instead of fantasy.
      Otherwise, for “modern” you have to resort to ‘true crime’ or spy thrillers, I think.

    • SheSellsSeashells

      I actually wonder if it’s the reverse – AFAICT most post-apocalyptic stories are not so much about breaking the world as they are about surviving and rebuilding. “The worst has happened, now how do we make it better?” I was always kind of tickled by Stirling’s Emberverse books; a quarter of a book to break the world, and HOW MANY NOW exploring all the weird nooks and crannies of the rebuilt version?

      YA dystopias might be another thing, though; their settings are all so similar that I can see them being created by a bunch of identically brainwashed subconsciouses.

      • YA dystopias… I see far too many of those, more than I read in the early-mind 1980s “nuclear winter we’re going to DIIIEEEEEEEE” fiction. The modern ones “feel” darker than the 1980s version, for some reason. Probably the nihilistic aspect that appears more and more strongly.

        • Eh, the Mandatory Joyless Sex junk probably doesn’t help any.

        • The difference may well be that between Alas, Babylon and On the Beach. Both take place after a full-scale nuclear war. Alas, Babylon has characters who try – and do – survive in the aftermath. On the Beach has character who don’t even try. They just wander off taking suicide pills.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Nod.

            Sh*t happens in Alas Babylon but people work at surviving and win.

            On The Beach is complete garbage.

  7. Right now we all live in the “Interesting Times” and the “Crazy Years” stories. Reality has been much more entertaining, scary and twisted than fiction.

    (I used to make fun of my BIL when he said the major issues were shaped by hippies, communists and Mammon/Satan worshippers, but I’m not laughing nowadays.)

    Except for a few web based series and some interactive fiction, I’m still resorting to boring o’ science and maths as escapes. I do have the new Jordan B. Peterson book on order, he has interesting things to say about stories and how they shape us.

    • Do you read geology?

    • One wonders, though, just how much of the “Crazy Years” is really different – and how much is story.

      I was reading earlier about Tiffany Trump being the flower girl at her friend’s “sexless marriage.” Which is apparently that they are “married” in the eyes of the State, but aren’t having sex with each other, but with other people. A great deal of moral angst in that PJM piece – which is OK, that’s the opinion of the writer. But what got me was that they thought this was something new under the sun, a symptom of our moral collapse.

      They weren’t called “sexless marriages” in my day, so that has changed. But they existed; we called them “tax marriages.” The difference between taxes for married and single are not always tilted against married people.

      (I’m not sure why that possibility was not mentioned in the now infamous “Fieldsy” post. One of the first things that I thought of. OTOH, I have nil knowledge of Aussie tax laws, unraveling our own is bad enough.)

  8. So publishers and writers panicked and foresaw a grim, dark future.

    I can have a rather dark outlook. (Chorus: Ya think?) But in my stories generally “dark” is something you get through. The difficult, gloomy, dark, present is the challenge to get through making the “reward” at the climax worthwhile.

    • And I think that’s part of the answer to the “why post-apocalypse” question posed by Emily just above. In the flavor of post-apocalypse that I think people here enjoy, it’s about overcoming the darkness, restarting something with the idea that your posterity can return to greatness.

      Good post-apocalyptic stories (imo) have that moment where the protagonists stand on the hilltop looking into a sunrise with hope. (And, it doesn’t have to be the end of the book.)

      The ones that some other people like, are because they don’t believe in overcoming; they don’t believe in hope. If I wrote stories, I would never write for those people.

  9. …we’re saturated with story.

    And if it gets “worse” there will be supersaturation… and then the first little particle and things will crystallize out. Egad, there is risk of my becoming… Real.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Being Mythical Does Not Mean That You’re Not Real. 😀

      • It sure does get complexicated, it do!

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Being mythical means being able to walk down the street in your true form (and in human clothing) and watching humans wonder if they are seeing things. [Very Big Dragon Grin]

          • Exactly the potential problem. If enough people start truly believing in me, then… expectations follow. And some expectations are rather… nasty. Next thing you know, some “hero” shows up… and that seldom ends well.

            • Usually for the “hero.” Would-be dragon slayers seldom stop to think how such creatures get to be so big and powerful… And how little they might appreciate uninvited and violent guests.

              • Well, sometimes the dragons are the uninvited and violent guests. But since “violence never solves anything”, traditional dragonslaying heroism is so retrogressive. For a proper modern story, the poor misunderstood dragon must be cast as the real victim…

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Like humans, Dragons don’t agree on every thing.

                  However, there are very very few Dragons who would think of themselves as “victims” (the ones who do are very pitiful).

                  Still, there are some Dragons who’d play that game in order to “deal permanently” with the fools who see Dragons as victims. 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈

                  • I daresay there are even some Dragons who would permit minions to tell such stories about them in order to make it easier to subjugate the rest of the human populace. On the face of it, portraying the uninvited and violent dragon as the victim would be insulting to Draconic pride, but some Dragons are sufficiently cunning to gloat about how easy it is to fool humans…

                  • Of course dragons don’t see themselves as victims. They’re either out there flying around happy and free and with full stomachs, or they’re stuffed and mounted over the mantle, unable to think.

                • So you’re supposed to let yourself get killed by the dragon, because violence never solved anything? I so dislike this formulation! I know that what I said isn’t exactly what they say. Ultra pacifism where you aren’t supposed to push back to the point of allowing yourself to killed because non-violence is more important than your survival. You are in fact a widget.

              • Depends on the dragon….

              • Well, you need someone like Princess Cimorene when Dealing with Dragons. 😉

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Remember, Always be polite to Dragons (as she taught her son). 😉

                  • Especially polite to dragons. Ordinary polite to everyone. Which only makes sense with all the enchanted princes and what not running around. (Okay, it’s been a while. I don’t remember exactly how it goes. 😉 )

                    • I think Mattis’ Law especially applies when dealing with Dragons.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

                      Dragons live by that rule even (or especially) when dealing with other Dragons. 😉

              • Dragons have some advantages… size, fire, flight. Us rather more earthy folk have to be a bit more careful. The wannabe Theseus is more dangerous to us than the wannabe St. George is to them.

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  True but if you play it right, you can get most people (including the police) on your side when the want-a-be shows up. 😀

    • Remember, Mr. Mythical, that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate.

    • Would you rather be complex?

  10. I’d say there’s the story-landscape, and then there are the stories that one is drawn to, so I did get the dreck I was forced to read as the March Through The Institutions worked its way down the education structure, and then there’s Heinlein, from the Boy’s Life stuff that was my gateway drug to the rest that I voraciously consumed from the local bookstores, and and Andre Norton and Pournelle and Niven and all the many, many rest. A fair number of the authors I tried got disregarded and then skipped when shopping for the next stack to buy (I’m talking to you, Asimov), but the stories I was drawn to and absorbed led to others, and the common themes started to coalesce.

    And don’t discount the impact of foundation stories, which for those like me who grew up in the US during the 1960s, heavily lean on Saturday morning cartoons, which were either the product of WWII veterans or pre-war artists. You didn’t get Bugs Bunny talking up centrally planned economic structures to Elmer Fudd, or the Road Runner successfully escaping Wile E. Coyote by appealing to the authority of a nanny state – they got by via individual initiative and cleverness.

    This is one reason why the arm of the March that took over the entertainment industry matters: The stuff that they serve to youngsters these days is really dreadful, so chocked full of deference to authority and “it takes a village” meme-implantation that it will take a rather significant shock to get the Millenials to a reality-driven self-sufficient individualism mindset.

    But the stories matter, and telling stories that yield frames of reference that work is an important calling. I use that thought to generate forward momentum on my own stuff – no matter what else is going on, this effort matters.

    To echo our hostess, remember in the end we win and they lose, but if stories can move those frames of reference just a bit in the right direction, we win faster.

    • You notice that none of the superhero TV shows is about a loner? All of them have teams or at least a couple of support partners. It’s even getting to the point that half the bad guys aren’t loners either.

      • Too cute (tv show about animals) often has the narrator talking up the virtue of being part of the collective (not mentioned as such) and how much better it is to be part of a group rather than being an individual.

        • When the daughter watches that, and I get drawn in, I’m always rooting for the kitten/puppy that drives mama animal to distraction.

          (The fact that I am here is definitive proof that my mother was a saint.)

        • You never hear them talking about the dangers of being in a collective.
          – Lemmings that run into the ocean in mass suicides.
          – Buffalo or other herd animals stampeding off cliffs when spooked by something. (I’m sure our ancestors noticed when a herd did that when scared by lightning or fire and said to themselves, “Hey! We can do that! Think of how easy hunting would be!”)
          – Disease transmissions: anthrax, hoof and mouth, chronic wasting disease/prions, distemper, TB, Enterovirus D-68, influenza, etc.
          – Legal entanglements. Hang with a gang, hang with the gang.

    • the Road Runner successfully escaping Wile E. Coyote by appealing to the authority of a nanny state – they got by via individual initiative and cleverness
      Well, the Road Runner escaped often by poor Wile E.’s reliance on a single company’s low quality-control products. If only he’d had some competition for anvils and rockets and glue, he might have finally caught that annoying bird. 😉

      • Or, had he simply read the instructions in full. But, noooo, Mr. Soooooper-geeeenius doesn’t need to do that… *splat*.

        • A roadrunner’s top speed is 20 MPH. Coyotes have been clocked at 42 MPH.

          Kind of reminds me of “Wacky Racers”. Dick Dastardly would be out in front. He’d set up a “dirty trick”. It would backfire, leaving him as tail end Charley. He would pass everybody getting far enough ahead to set up another dirty trick. Repeat until the end of the race where he comes in last.

          He keeps passing them to set up the dirty trick, which always leaves him in the rear. Clearly he has the fastest car in the race by far. If he would just forget the dirty tricks and drive. the. car. he would win by a dozen miles every time.

          • If he would just forget the dirty tricks and drive. the. car. he would win by a dozen miles every time.

            Where’s the fun in that? It requires neither cunning nor cleverness and merely established who has the faster car.

            That’s like being the Riddler without sending puzzles to the Batman, or the Joker without flamboyant schemes.

            • Sadly, MOST of the recent Joker stuff lacks the whole “flamboyant schemes” thing.

              There’s some flashy, and some odd, but not really…. way out there, wait, what the heck type things.

              • I kinda liked the Suicide Squad Joker from the recent movie. Haven’t watched the whole thing, but I liked that he went a different route from Heath Ledger and was a lot more like the comic book madman.

                • Suicide squad I haven’t seen– it would explain all the whining about his looks and stuff.

                  • Dude looks like the Joker, IMO. Heath Ledger’s Joker was cerebral. This guy, he looks the way the Joker is supposed to be – bloody goddamn scary out of his head. I saw some of the pics of him online and I keep wondering how the heck he manages that cartoonish wide Joker grin. Doesn’t have the purple mafia suit of the classic Joker, but I think that was a deliberate move to step away from Ledger’s Joker, so you know, for me ‘that makes sense.’

                    • SheSellsSeashells

                      Dammit, now my brain is trying to filk Aerosmith.

                    • While I neither endorse nor deter watching the series – tastes differ, do they not? — the actor portraying Jerome Valeska has done a superb job of creating a character who could be The Joker …


                      … although the show’s star insists somebody else will become the Clown Prince.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Nod. Of course, the comics are bringing back the Joker’s “original self”. He started as an insane murderous clown but they pulled away from the “insane & murderous” part. Now, they’re going for the “insane & murderous” part again.

                • I don’t trust them to manage to make him any more insane than is required to explain the murderous death-porn, though.

                  Can you imagine any Joker in the last 15 years or so pulling out a gun to shoot someone– and it pops out a “BANG” flag?

                  • Blame Alan Moore for that, I think.


                    #MeToo

                    • Probably, he did popularize the fad quite a bit.

                    • Upon further consideration I wondered whether Jason Todd’s death might not have preceded 1988’s The Killing Joke — but poking around reveals that the “A Death In The Family” story arc also occurred in 1988, leaving Joker’s crippling of Barbara Gordon and clubbing of Jason Todd as roughly simultaneous.

                      Of course, Jason Todd’s death was not intended and by all reports the staff at DC was surprised when the phone poll determined he should die — but Joker’s tire iron was written with the intentional potential for lethality.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Well, I’ll admit that I haven’t followed the comics that much but in one scene of the 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Joker uses a gun that “pops up bang flags” when he’s shooting (real bullets) at somebody.

                  • Even at the end of “The Killing Joke”, the Joker’s gun spit out a “Click” flag, after which he cursed the lack of ammo.

              • Just as every generation gets its own Batman, so does each get its own Joker.

                • *growls, crosses arms*
                  Bah, humbug.
                  They keep trying to re-invent him, then jump back to the 60s comics/TV and 80s-90s cartoons, and then “re-invent” him again, usually subverting or parodying something they don’t even grok, and then whine that folks don’t eat their veggies.

                  • Same as they did to Bats. Lightening the stories through the Fifties, getting Camp! in the Sixties, then darkening him through the Seventies and Eighties and every decade since then he has gotten darker yet. With Batman so dark, the Joker has to be even more so.

                    • Except they keep jumping back to lighter version, sometimes into camp, definitely into joyful. Or I wouldn’t have had the chance to read those comics– there were a few here and there even in my lifetime that were “traditional” Batman, and they rake money in hand over fist with their animated versions. Even Batman: Beyond is more… not psychotic.

                      They just don’t stay there for very long.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Sorry Foxfier, I completely forgot about the “Killing Joke” garbage so if the comics are going worst than that, then you have a very very good point.

                    • Part of that was marketing to follow the popularity of Batman: The Animated Series and Mark Hamill’s portrayal of The Joker. Couldn’t have too dark a Batman on the newsstands where some uninformed mother, aunt or grannie could pick it up as a treat for the little ‘uns, “Oh! That’s their favorite TV series, I imagine they’d like this comic and it would encourage them to read … HOLY EFFING CRAP! WHAT the ever-loving HELL is going on i this comic!!!!”

                      Yeah. I read comics from late Fifties on and even worked in a comic shop while prepping for the CPA exam. Last thing we wanted was League Of Angry Parents* demanding the sheriff look at the many ways in which we were corrupting the Youth of America.

                      *THE group most feared in comic shops nation wide. Brotherhoods of Evil Mutants, Legions of Doom, the Frightful Four, not even the Brotherhood of Dada struck such fear.

                    • Y’all got me doing Research on when the Joker was nuts.

                      ARgh.

                      Short version, he was introduced in 1940 as a guy who would announce his next victim on the radio and they’d die with a creepy grin on their face (time-release poison, he announced it AFTER they were poisoned), by 44 he was the more wacky sort, they went somewhat serious in the late 60s (as in got rid of the Bat-Mite) and kinda yo-yoed as observed.

                      Some covers here; had to look up what years it was, and gads has that been relaunched a bit. ^.^

                      https://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/comic-books/joker2.htm
                      Warning, wiki-type page, jumps around and the “what it means” is a bit self-contradictory.

                    • “Oh! That’s their favorite TV series, I imagine they’d like this comic and it would encourage them to read … HOLY EFFING CRAP! WHAT the ever-loving HELL is going on i this comic!!!!”

                      Incidentally, I am still giggling because this is the most accurate, sensible response to some of the “out there” stuff thye were doing I have EVER read.

                    • IMO, the best version of Batman there has ever been was the Batman from “Batman: The Animated Series.” This was a Batman who had essentially worked through his parents deaths. He wasn’t being Batman as some psychotic revenge thing which became so popular in the comics after Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” (and DC decided that should be the version of Batman) but because he was good at it and could do more to save people from crime and other threats that way than he ever would as a cop or firefighter. It was also a Bruce Wayne who used his wealth and connections to address the crime issue from the other end. I saw a lot of that take on Batman back in my High School and Air Force days, before the dark times, before the Crisis on Infinite Earths. 😉 But B:TAS took those high points and welded them into a cohesive whole.

                    • There’s a series of screenshots from B:TAS where Harley Quinn asks Batman why he’s being so nice to her, and he says ‘You shouldn’t have your life ruined because of one bad day.’

                      I don’t know if it’s real (I never got to watch the whole series, which is part of the reason why I want it all on DVD or Blu-Ray) but for a long-time, on-and-off Batman reader, it was particularly poignant.

                    • There were three comics stories that really make my “ultimate canon of Batman as he should be”.

                      The first is “The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne”. The Scarecrow escapes (of course) and Batman is exposed to a fear gas that causes him to experience his greatest fear. Ironically enough, that fear is “autophobia”–the fear of being alone. This is expressed by hallucinations of all his friends vanishing. With no friends to rely on he turns to an old enemy, he secures Selena Kyle’s release from prison where she was after “recovering from amnesia” and turning herself in to pay her debt. This story basically gives the Batman of Earth 2 (this was before “Crisis on Infinite Earths) his “happy ending.”

                      The second is “To Kill a Legend”. The Phantom Stranger comes to Batman and Robin to offer him a chance. You see, Thomas and Martha Wayne of Earth 2 were killed leaving their son Bruce orphaned and motivated to become the Batman. Twenty years later (timing on this story was such that this was reasonable) events repeated on Earth 1. Now, twenty years later those same events were scheduled to happen on another Parallel Earth and the Phantom Stranger gives Batman and Robin the chance to stop the event from happening yet again, from a third Bruce Wayne being orphaned. It’s the end of this story that got to me. They do save the day (I don’t think that’s a spoiler for a fiftyish year old comic book). But we learn something about young Bruce Wayne. He has learned that death can come out of nowhere but it can also be averted. He begins fanatically exercising, studying criminology, reading detective stories, and basically the first steps toward becoming a new Batman, “a choice born not of tragedy, but of hope.” I would give much to read stories of that Batman.

                      The third is “Night of the Stalker”, a powerful tale where Batman witnesses criminals kill a young couple while escaping from a robbery, leaving their young son orphaned. He takes after them in a long chase where Batman speaks not a word. He catches all of them, of course, and in the process proves the Batman “strikes terror into the hearts of criminals.” But it’s the final page that gets me: “As he lifts the cowl from his face his eyes automatically rise and suddenly sorrow explodes within him. Time heals all wounds they say and in truth Bruce Wayne long ago learned to live with the agonizing fact of his parents’ demise. But when he thinks of the boy crime left sobbing on the street at dusk–and the other boy [one of the criminals who was in way over his head] left sobbing before the Batman’s vengeance hours later–he remembers a third boy crime left sobbing so many years ago. And in this gray-lit lonely tower, for this single moment in infinity…he is that boy again.”

                      The first two can be found in the first volume of the “Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told” collection. The other I have never found in such a collection, but fortunately, someone has put it up, in its entirety, in a blog post:

                      http://bronzeageofblogs.blogspot.com/2016/04/batman-night-of-stalker.html

                      These three stories, since my youth, have made up my “head canon” for what Batman should be. And Batman: The Animated Series nailed it.

                    • I think this is it:
                      http://dcau.wikia.com/wiki/Harley%27s_Holiday

                      Harley: There’s one thing I gotta know. Why did you stay with me all day, risking your butt for somebody who’s never given you anything but trouble?
                      Batman: I know what it’s like to try and rebuild a life.
                      (He takes out a bag and hands Harley her dress)
                      Batman: I had a bad day too, once.
                      Harley: Nice guys like you shouldn’t have bad days.

                      Which is… really a punch in the feelz, when you think about what dayhe’s talking about.

                    • That’s the one! And a serious punch in the feels, yes. ;_;

                    • Which is… really a punch in the feelz, when you think about what dayhe’s talking about.

                      Which is why the Joker’s “all it takes is one bad day” from The Killing Joke is so very wrong.

                    • ….please tell me it didn’t actually get to Batman, did it?

                      Kind of the whole difference– the bad guys always have a reason, too, Bats just did a GOOD thing rather than using it as an excuse.

                    • ….please tell me it didn’t actually get to Batman, did it?

                      No. Joker was trying to drive Gordon crazy with “one bad day”. Didn’t work.

                    • Good. That would be a level of Idiot Ball that would just ice the cake.

                    • I trust we can agree that The Joker is not a reliable moral philosopher.

                    • He’s usually effective at getting to people, though….

                    • They could be PRINTING money if they’d just make a movie of THAT guy.

                    • Hamil’s Joker is still my favorite. Frankly, I would LOVE it if they released the entire 90s series Batman animated series. I would buy it all.

                    • Anytime some facebook page goes “which is the best Joker?” and lists a bunch of movie guys, there’s a wave of guys going:
                      “you mean who is the SECOND best.”

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      LOL 😆

                    • Hamil’s was the best, but that’s just me.

                    • BTAS is on Amazon Prime’s video section at the moment, I believe.

          • 20 mph until it takes flight.
            They fly quite fast if they have to, it just takes a lot to convince them that needs must.

            • The one in the cartoon appears to have had its wings clipped since it has never actually taken flight.

              • I know people who grew up in Texas who were shocked to see one actually take flight. They do a good job of staying just out of reach of even faster critters, and really seem put out to actually have to fly. They do like nesting well off the ground at times and will fly up and down from the nest, but then it’s like “Nah, I’d rather not.”
                My old work[place in Texas had a pair the used an excess firehose reel for nests, and it was about 12 feet up.

              • No, it’s the coyote that flies. Often inadvertently and never well…

            • An acquaintance I used to know who kept Greyhound rescues noted that the greyhounds could start on one side of a yard, sprint after a bird on the other side, and get the bird before it could take flight. No sneaking up like a cat just flat out sprint.

              Greyhound top speed is 43 MPH, just 1 MPH faster than a coyote.

              • Greayhounds are cool to watch take off. they do a number on the lawn though. (and I ain’t talking #1 or #2)
                My parents old neighbor had one and its starting points when playing around were good sized divots

              • Let’s not forget that Wiley has caught the Roadrunner once.

              • I’m gonna have to say that your acquaintance either had stupid birds or a stupidly small yard, or both. For all that she’s less than half the size of a greyhound, my dog is not THAT much slower (I once watched her run several 30ft-diameter [estimated] circles around a beagle that was running across our yard), yet she’s never been able to catch birds that were only fifteen feet away, despite many attempts.

          • Roadrunners can fly, if resentfully. Coyotes can’t. At least, not repeatedly.

      • I always hated the smart-assed bird. I rooted for the hungry coyote.

        He might have lost every time, but he picked himself up, devised a new plan, and kept on going, even when the bird cheated, like disappearing down a railroad tunnel that was only a painted oval on a cliff face…

  11. It’s gotten so I just bypass dystopian future stories now; they’ve been done to death. I think the tide will change as people get more and more bored with the same old thing.

    • I took a sci-fi class in college. I remember thinking that I would have given my right arm for a story that wasn’t about the world being destroyed in a nuclear war.

      • Heck, even A Canticle for Leibowitz at least held out some *hope* in that. Most simply weren’t that good/capable.

        • Before he went all SJW-grimdark, David Brin wrote a book called “The Postman.” Which was about a post-apocalyptic world that, instead of being infested with burning trash barrels and hoodlums wearing chains and pieces of old car tires, was slowly and almost accidentally putting itself back together, creating an information and commerce infrastructure. Something bad had happened, but they were building a civilization again.

          There was a movie, but from the reviews it was considerably different from the book.

          • Blinks

            Oh. My. Ankh-Morpork and Ventinari may be more The Postman than the movie. I’m quite serious. Ventinari sets about rebuilding the city-state after bad things happen, turning his attention to the post office, then the mint, and making use of the Nightwatch.

          • Yes, the book is different from the movie.
            The interesting plot point in the book (imo) is the Postman is all accidental, practically forced into the role. But he continues because he begins to see a chance for hope – even if initially based on a lie.

          • Heh. Actually, I list “The Postman” movie as one of the few I ended up liking better than the book. The movie, see, eliminates the weird woman-cult thing at the end which as a teenager (which is when I read it) had me going “WTF was that?!?!”

            So far as I view it, the movie keeps the overall message of hope/rebuilding. Yeah, there’s a fairly cartoonish villain in, but it was fine and made for fun action scenes.

            (I suppose I should admit that I actually do like Waterworld, too–the director’s cut anyway–in terms of “lots of fun action stuff.” I ignore the stupid environmentalism garbage, and if you just go with “the world flooded because reasons” and “it’s fantasy, roll with it” it’s more fun that way.)

            • Just off the top of my head, but are “weird woman-cult” things sorta the norm? There’s Manson’s harem, and a number of historic cults that seem to consist mostly of females (are the Templar Knights a cult?) and possibly Jim Jones’ troupe in Guyana (Wiki says that “Black people made up approximately 70% of Jonestown’s population; 45% of Jonestown residents were black women” which would make almost two-thirds of the Black cultists women. Another source indicates a good two-thirds of the Jonestown populace were female, http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=70495)

              Then there are all the Feminist groups intersectionaling madly.

              Is there some predisposition of the XX that bends them toward getting into weird woman-cults?

              • not so far as I know.

              • Less a trait in women than a quirk of sexuality that means some guys get broken so they want a harem, and some women get broken so they think that’s awesome.

                I suppose it could be a socially supported thing, but that seems unlikely– too wide a selection.

                Possibly an expression of the hyper-gamy folks have observed, and the whole hook-up culture mess.

              • Note that the Hotness-Craziness Matrix for women starts at 0 for Hotness (0-10 scale), and starts at 4 for Craziness (0-10 scale). They START at 4.

            • Waterworld was fun, and yeah I treated it like a fantasy setting. I liked the music for The Postman movie, enough that I got the CD back in the day. I wonder what happened to it. I loved it because it was really stirring, great for the imagination.

          • I’ve never read or seen The Postman, but one of the big reasons I liked the TV show Revolution (despite a good number of flaws) was that it was a post-apocalyptic world where society basically functioned. When the protagonists weren’t out fighting the bad guys, or mucking things up, and were interacting in society, you saw things like a doctor who had piles of bread molding on a shelf to home-grow penicillin and a printer shop making new copies of Harry Potter books, and teachers in schools and so on. Sure there were murderers and corrupt government people and tyrants and so on, but we have those in a pre-apocalyptic world. Revolution showed (usually in the background) that most people are just going to keep being decent people carrying on with life. Unlike most post-apocalyptic worlds where everyone is in a murder gang or fighting to the death over resources or wearing computer components as armor or what-have-you.

    • Here’s an idea free to a good home:

      Are We Dead Yet? an anthology of dystopian SF stories about disasters that never happened.

    • It depends on the setup, honestly. Wool was very post-apocalyptic in the 1980s sense, and it took the sequels to explain what was going on. (And that’s definitely all about individual action in the face of central dystopian authority.) And I recently read a book by Jasper Fforde called Shades of Grey (no relation to the number 50) that was interesting in that the viewpoint character had no freaking clue he was in a dystopia until the end, even though it was clear to the reader. (It’s enjoyable and has a completely ludicrous premise, in that something entirely unexplainable has happened which, among other things, has so limited color perception that social status is dictated by how much you see of one limited range, and you do medical work through showing swatches of color to people.)

      Note that both of these do not have the boring “rich people stomping on everyone else” premise that seems to be the default these days.

    • I got tired of “bad thing happened, cue Return of the Neolithic,” so I wrote _Fountains of Mercy_. It will be the summer release, if all goes as hoped.

      • Return of the Neolithic – would that be the Relithic or the Neoneolithic? 😉

      • A good take on this was The Scarlet Plaque by Jack London. The first part plays to some period mems about civilization, but he makes a valid point: Technology is heavily dependent on population. In the world of The Scarlet Plaque, there’s not enough people to keep technology above the lithic level going.

  12. “Camelot appears to have been a photogenic man and woman lashed together in a semblance of marriage which hid a whole lot of #metoo and sex for money”

    When I first read this paragraph, it took me a minute to realize that you were talking about John and Jackie rather than Arthur and Guienevere. Maybe the Camelot comparison wasn’t so far off after all…

    I still think that the only reason Kennedy is treated like he is is because he died. His death transformed him into “JFK,” the shining icon, and made his story not about what he did but about “what he would have done”–which coincidentally enough, is always exactly what the speaker thinks ought to have been done. Had he lived, JFK would probably have been another LBJ–a president with some triumphs to his name but a decidedly mixed reputation even among his own party.

    • The obsession with the Kennedys may have been like the media going gah-gah over Hillary – it may not have had much traction elsewhere. Of course, growing up where people named their dogs after presidents might have skewed my opinion.

      • The “Superman: Red Son” elseworld comic has President Nixon assassinated in 1963, and JFK as president in the 70’s, and now married to Marylin Monroe.

        • One of my favorite alternate reality concepts is one where Nixon takes the 1960 election. So hard to tell what the heck would happen. Bay of Pigs, does it go big (as it was from the Eisenhower period so Nixon might feel obligated to make it work)? Cuban missile crisis, does it go nasty (as we thought we had them over a barrel when weapons had been released to local control) instead of riding the knife edge of catastrophe? Vietnam war, does it go bigger sooner or stay just US guidance? Assassination, does it happen or not. A lot depends on what you think Lee Harvey Oswald was up to.

          Darned if I can figure out any reasonable answers, you’d almost have to just make it up or use chance which doesn’t appeal to me.

          • At a rough guess, if Nixon wins 1960 …

            Bay of Pigs: probably not; if Ike had liked it it would have been done already and it seems unlike Nixon would have changed Ike’s policy on a military matter so suddenly. But if it happened Nixon would not have hung them out to dry the way JFK did.

            Cuban missile crisis: doesn’t happen. See comments elsewhere about JFK getting trounced by Khrushchev in Vienna Summit. Nixon had already met with Nikita, debated him and trounced him. The Russians would never have imagined Nixon would blink they way the expected Kennedy would have.

            Vietnam: Nixon probably doesn’t let it turn into a quagmire by micro-managing the way LBJ did. OTOH, he might have cut Curtis LeMay loose to burn it all down.

            Civil Rights? Remember, it had been Republicans pushing those iin the Eisenhower years. If LBJ stays in the Senate he likely permits the Southern Dem filibusters to persist. Nixon supporter Jackie Robinson, still a commanding presence in this arena, possibly takes a more prominent role.

            Between 1960 and 68 there were four Supreme Court justices appointed: Byron White and Arthur Goldberg by JFK, Abe Fortas and Thurgood Marshall by LBJ. It seems highly improbable that Nixon would have nominate Marshall, although he was enough of a squish (and sufficiently Machiavellian) that it is possible. Goldberg and Fortas both served very brief tenures, the former accepting appointment by LBJ as UN Ambassador, the latter resigning upon his elevation to Chief Justice being blocked due to ethical issues. Unlikely that Nixon appoints either, and there’s really no telling who he would have put up. (Justice White, it should be noted, wrote dissents in both Miranda and Roe v Wade.) Given that he appointed Warren E. Burger, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Franklin Powell Jr. and William Rehnquist it seems likely that he had scant interest in a SCOTUS legacy, so it seems probable that his nominations to the Court would have been determined by which political factions he needed to toss a sop.

            It should be remembered that in the Sixties the SCOTUS was a much less contentious matter; Over the period comprising the Eisenhower – Johnson administrations, six justices were approved by acclamation and the other three by votes on the order of 80 to 86%.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Justices_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_the_United_States

    • Oh, there was more to the JFK myth than that. He was a generational change, from the senior officer corps of WWI to its junior officers, he was bright* and energetic when the US had been run by old men for thirty years. He contrasted with the dour and glum-seeming Nixon and was packaged as the embodiment of a glamorous new American generation taking its pace in world leadership.

      His death meant that the darker side of his administration could be safely obscured, and his many failures of policy denied because he had been “cut down too soon.” It meant not having to live with his lingering decaying presence the way Bill Clinton looms ominously in the Dems’ backgrounds.

      *bright, which is to say glib and superficial rather than possessing great intellectual depth. The Progressives have an appalling preference for such leaders, denying the intellects of men like Nixon and Reagan because such men did not flatter the Left’s self-conceits. One reason William F Buckley was so effective was his ability to outplay the Left at their own game.

      • I would argue that had Billy-Jeff shuffled off this mortal coil before (or perhaps ‘better’, during) the election campaign, the sympathy vote would have propelled HRC into the White House.

        I bet he is very happy that the HRC campaign thought they had it in the bag, and so HRC campaign staffers never had cause to look over at him with that Clinton look in their eyes…

      • He was also a war hero who had (according to the myth built up around him) helped his men survive until they could be rescued after their PT boat was sunk by the Japanese.

    • That is due to old man Joe Kennedy using his dead son to create a legend to help the other brothers ride into the white house. The press was a willing co-conspirator.

    • I’ve always been convinced that the Kennedys benefited because of a kind of glamour, in the old sense; a spell cast (in their case by an adoring press), intended to fool the eye, thrown over something cheap and ordinary.
      About the only things real in the Kennedy Camelot was Jackie’s good taste in clothes and interior decorating. Everything else was fake, gimcrack and tawdry.

      • It was also a fair bit of good old fashioned hard work and glad handing.
        JFK worked the press corps like a master, inviting sympathetic reporters to basically join his campaign, treating them as valued advisors and allies.
        Which meant the press would not treat their buddy Jack harshly, or look too hard for any dirt.

        • … inviting sympathetic reporters to basically join his campaign, treating them as valued advisors and allies.

          It might go without saying that this is (nor was) hardly an option for any Republican office seeker, there being a dearth of reporters both sympathetic and so bereft of journalistic ethics and thus susceptible to such flattery … but I am saying it all the same.

          “You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.” Humbert Wolfe

          Applies to most American journalists, as well.

      • I’ve seem it claimed that Jacqueline Kennedy had a hand in glamorizing her late husband’s administration.

    • Timothy E. Harris

      I was only three years old when JFK was elected and still I remember how excited my parents & their friends were about him, which was only heightened after he gave the moon race speech. My father went to work for NASA shortly thereafter. There was deep mourning after the assassination.
      It was the same variety of hero worship that we saw among democrats for Obama in 2008. It’s as if there is a “Glamour of the LightBringer” spell that each one learned.
      Of course as the facts about JFK slowly leaked out, the glamour started fading. But it took decades.

      • The best thing that could have happened to Obama, long-term reputation-wise, would have been martyrdom through assassination. As it is, all the negative crap he pulled is going to come drip-drip-dripping out over the next generation or so, and he’s going to be essentially destroyed by it.

        Same thing would have likely happened with Kennedy, given the ties he had going with the Mafia before his election, Robert’s betrayal of the “deal” they made to put him in office, and his foreign policy stupidities like deposing Diem. There was so much BS going on in the background that I strongly believe that had JFK managed to survive two terms, the resultant disillusionment in him and his BS “Camelot” would have been far more damaging to the body politic than his assassination was. As it is, he never paid the bills for his negatives, and a large part of what happened to LBJ was delayed reaction to JFK policies like getting involved in Vietnam.

        Just like the so-called “missile gap” that he used to leverage his way into office, the whole Vietnam thing was a result of his attacks on Eisenhower’s administration that he made to get elected. He’d said Eisenhower and Nixon were “soft on Communism”, and “letting the dominoes fall”, and then he got in office and found he had to “do something”, because that’s what he campaigned on. Typical short-sighted Democrat, and not anywhere near the “statesman” we have all been told he was, blundering into one debacle after another.

        He’s better off dead the way he was, or he’d be remembered a lot differently, and the country coming down off that golden-child “high” would have likely been a lot more damaged than after he was killed.

        • There was so much BS going on in the background that I strongly believe that had JFK managed to survive two terms, the resultant disillusionment in him and his BS “Camelot” would have been far more damaging to the body politic progressive movement than his assassination was.

          Which is why Mick says that the Devil killed the Kennedy’s.

          (And small fix to your statement.)

        • Kennedy biographer, the liberal journalist Richard Reeves, wrote:
          Kennedy lived along a line where charm became power. He proved that the only qualification for the most powerful job in the world was wanting it. He would not wait his turn, sure that he could always prevail one-on-one – until, in pain and heavily medicated, he was humiliated in Vienna in 1961 at a summit with Nikita Khrushchev. He came home in despair, thinking he would be the last U.S. President, asking for the number of expected American deaths in the war that seemed inevitable – 70 million, he was told.

          He began a massive military build-up and a secret search for peace.
          http://www.richardreeves.com/books/president_kennedy_profile_of_power.html

          So it wasn’t just his attacks on the Eisenhower policies, it was his feckless arrogance. Khrushchev’s mastery of dialectic had JFK tied in knots, essentially finding himself denying he was the American president. As summarized by Power Line blogger Scott W Johnson in a 2008 Weekly Standard article,

          In Portland on May 18, Obama cited John F. Kennedy’s 1961 summit with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna among the series of negotiations that led to America’s triumph over the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The Vienna summit, however, disproves Obama’s assertion regarding the unvarying value of meetings between enemy heads of state about as decisively as any historical episode can refute a thesis. In addition to poor judgment, Obama has demonstrated that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

          Kennedy first addressed the subject of a possible summit with the Soviet Union in the second Kennedy-Nixon debate. Unlike Obama, Kennedy expressly rejected a summit without preconditions. Indeed, Kennedy expressed his agreement with Nixon that he “would not meet Mr. Khrushchev unless there were some agreements at the secondary level–foreign ministers or ambassadors–which would indicate that the meeting would have some hope of success, or a useful exchange of ideas.” In the third debate, Kennedy suggested that the strengthening of American conventional and nuclear forces should precede any summit with the Soviet Union.

          Once in office, Kennedy more or less discarded his previously expressed conditions for a summit. In a letter written in February and secretly delivered to Khrushchev in March 1961, Kennedy expressed his willingness to meet Khrushchev “before too long” for an informal exchange of views. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Kennedy sensed that discussions without an agenda or prior agreement might be disadvantageous to the United States. He let the matter drop, but Khrushchev accepted the invitation on May 4. The meeting was to occur in Vienna late that spring.

          Through a secret Washington encounter between Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Soviet intelligence agent Georgi Bolshakov the following week, the president sought to explore an acceptable compromise on nuclear testing in connection with ongoing negotiations in Geneva that might be finalized in Vienna. The compromise, however, would have to be depicted as originating from the Soviet side. In Jack Kennedy: Education of a Statesman movie-star biographer Barbara Leaming shows a finer sense of power politics than Barack Obama does. In his back-channel offer, she writes, Kennedy inadvertently conveyed to Khrushchev “that in the aftermath of Cuba he was nervous that Vienna be perceived as a success” and that “he was willing to deceive the American people, who, at his instigation, were to be told that the [compromise offer] had come from the Soviet negotiators rather than from him. In sum, he bared his vulnerabilities to an opponent well able to take advantage of them.”

          The parties reached no agreement on any set agenda or proposals prior to their meeting in Vienna on June 3 and 4. The meetings were therefore confined to the informal exchange of views referred to in Kennedy’s February letter. By all accounts, including Kennedy’s own, the meetings were a disaster. Khrushchev berated, belittled, and bullied Kennedy on subjects ranging from Communist ideology to the balance of power between the Soviet and Western blocs, to Laos, to “wars of national liberation,” to nuclear testing. He threw down the gauntlet on Berlin in particular, all but threatening war.

          “I never met a man like this,” Kennedy subsequently commented to Time‘s Hugh Sidey. “[I] talked about how a nuclear exchange would kill 70 million people in ten minutes, and he just looked at me as if to say ‘So what?'” In The Fifty-Year Wound, Cold War historian Derek Leebaert drily observes of Khrushchev in Vienna, “Having worked for Stalin had its uses.”

          Kennedy sought a brief final session with Khrushchev to clear the air regarding Berlin. In that final meeting at the Soviet embassy, however, Khrushchev bluntly told Kennedy, “It is up to the U.S. to decide whether there will be war or peace.” Kennedy responded, “Then, Mr. Chairman, there will be war. It will be a cold winter.” On this unhappy note the two leaders’ only face-to-face meeting came to an end.

          Immediately following the final session on June 4 Kennedy sat for a previously scheduled interview with New York Times columnist James Reston at the American embassy. Kennedy was reeling from his meetings with Khrushchev, famously describing the meetings as the “roughest thing in my life.” Reston reported that Kennedy said just enough for Reston to conclude that Khrushchev “had studied the events of the Bay of Pigs” and that he had “decided that he was dealing with an inexperienced young leader who could be intimidated and blackmailed.” Kennedy said to Reston that Khrushchev had “just beat [the] hell out of me” and that he had presented Kennedy with a terrible problem: “If he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts, until we remove those ideas we won’t get anywhere with him. So we have to act.”

          Seeking the advice of former Secretary of State Dean Acheson and others, Kennedy pondered his options for the following seven weeks. On July 25 he gave a televised speech to the American people reflecting on the Vienna meeting. In the speech he announced that he was seeking congressional approval for an additional $3.25 billion in defense spending, the doubling and tripling of draft calls, calling up reserves, raising the Army’s total authorized strength, increasing active duty numbers in the Navy and Air Force, reconditioning planes and ships in mothballs, and a civil defense program to minimize the number of Americans that would be killed in a nuclear attack. In August, Khrushchev responded in his own fashion, erecting the Berlin wall and resuming above ground nuclear testing. Kennedy showed his commitment to maintain Western access to Berlin by sending a battle group of 1,500 men together with Vice President Johnson and General Lucius Clay in from West Germany.

          The following year brought the Cuban missile crisis, another sequel to Khrushchev’s reading of Kennedy’s weakness. Close as the Cuban missile crisis brought the two sides to war, however, it was perhaps not the most consequential effect of Khrushchev’s reading of Kennedy’s weakness. Persuaded that he needed further to demonstrate “fearlessness and backbone,” in the words of William Manchester, Kennedy observed to Reston that the only place where the Communists were challenging the West in a shooting war was in Southeast Asia. Summarizing Kennedy’s own evaluation of the aftermath of the Vienna conference in his 2003 biography of Kennedy, Robert Dallek writes that Kennedy “now needed to convince Khrushchev that he could not be pushed around, and the best place currently to make U.S. power credible seemed to be in Vietnam.”

          weeklystandard[DOT]com/the-kennedy-khrushchev-conference-for-dummies/article/16242

    • Some of the explanation of Kennedy’s mythos is in an article on his most famous biographer (via PowerLineBlog yesterday).

      http://www.libertylawsite.org/2018/01/30/schlesinger-warts-and-all/

    • At least some of the gloss on JFK is a result of Old Joe Kennedy calling in a buncha markers. When Young Joe, the designated President-to-be was killed JFK became next up so Old Joe had to cover his posterior. Any other Naval officer who let his command be run down accidentally by an enemy vessel would likely have been cashiered. Granted, his actions post the sinking of PT-109 were exemplary and may have contributed to his later health issues, but getting his vessel rammed was bad, very bad.

  13. …that the opening for a cartoon of the time had Billy boy playing his saxophone.

    Animaniacs… “…while Bill Clinton plays the sax…”

    • It is worth noting that the Animaniacs intro didn’t exactly elevate Clinton.
      It was a jibe, albeit a gentle one.

      It is a different sort of thing than the raw adulation of JFK and Obama enjoyed.

      Carter also received neutral to favorable references in pop culture.
      It didn’t help him much.
      You could even say that same for Hillary.

  14. Animaniacs.

    Wakko packs away the snacks, while Bill Clinton plays the sax.
    They’re Animaniacs!

    • Hulu has decided to make a new series based on them. http://ew.com/tv/2018/01/04/animaniacs-hulu/ Wonder if it’ll be as good as the original? I imagine nothing could live up to the view a lot of people have of the series.

      • They had the originals on Netflix just recently.

        It was kind of amazing to watch them again and see how evenhanded and politically incorrect the mockery was.

        I don’t think anyone in Hollywood is capable of making that kind of cartoon anymore.

    • Also, I think the “Bill Clinton plays the sax” is a retcon. I think the original theme song said “The President plays the sax.” Bill Clinton later appeared in a Freakazoid opening. In which they took another small jab at him. https://youtu.be/6DW5IWgSx1w?t=1m42s

      • Nope, I remember watching it in the 90s (though I was more of a Tiny Toons fan), and Bill was in the credits as Bill then.

        • Interesting. I was sure I remembered it one way, to the point where it completely sounds wrong when I’m paying attention to it. I’ve gone back to the oldest resource I still have access to (the 2nd volume of DVDs) and it matches Bill Clinton instead of my memory, and I watched parts of the 4th volume just a year ago. Of course, it makes sense that it’s Bill Clinton to match the number of syllables in the prior verse.

          The surprise of your memory not matching up with reality kind of reminds me of an older book from Baen called Resonance.

          • Could you be crossing it with the Presidents song?
            (Now in Washington DC/ it’s Democrats and the GOP/ but the ones in charge are plain to see/ the Clintons, Bill and Hillary.)

  15. The past isn’t always so bad either … I’ve just started reading what looks to be a delightful story set in the past, The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer.  😉

    • All of her Regencies are delightful stories set in the past. Heyer also did some “legitimate” historical dramas that are a bit darker because they are more realistic.

  16. Stories.. added to/adopted to… stories… takeover.. acquisitions.. mergers..

    Egad, ALL “civilization” is story-cultural appropriation/imperialism!

    Oh, right, we already knew that.

  17. we can pass knowledge better through the generations, so it accumulates
    Which is one of the problems with post-modernism. Since there is no history, there is nothing on which to found our stories. I think it’s why they ultimately fail and have to resort to violence – their stories don’t hold up.

    (I’m not one of the …
    *chuckle* At least that paragraph long excursus didn’t have any sub-parens in it. 🙂

    To some extent, western civ has been telling itself bad things about itself since World War One.
    To a great extent it’s the fault of Marxism, which is a form of science-ism – a concept that reason is preeminent, and it is the answer to all questions. Just logic your way through to an end result, and it must be true. (Hence, that aphorism that only someone well-educated could believe such nonsense.) (And, which is terribly ironic, since it is sold nowadays almost entirely on emotion.)

  18. Raises hand

    Um, I’m only halfway through reading the post, but couldn’t it be said the Tudors and William was an instance of a unified narrative? Yes, Shakespeare wasn’t the only media, but he was highly influential because he told a good story. The cut of his characters, and the suspension of disbelief, is such that it had a huge influence on public opinion.

    Has there been any research into knock-offs, people who pirated basic stories told in the Globe for their own ends? Sort of like how the old Mystery Plays had a wide following? Don’t know if pirating plays was a thing in the age of Shakespeare, but it wouldn’t be surprising.

    • Stealing plays is a major plot point in one of a series I’m fond of (The Christoval Alvarez series, by Anne Swifen–it’s very good, and on KU) set during the Elizabethan era. The protag is friends with a group of actors–which eventually includes a rising young playwright named Will Shakespeares, as well as an obnoxious (but not entirely irredeemable) twit named Kit Marlowe–and them guarding their plays/preventing people from stealing their plays is a big deal to them. The central murder mystery in that particular installment involves someone with the ability to memorize things by ear and then hurrying home and jotting it all down to sell to rival troupes. As more than one character points out more than once, if their plays aren’t new and fresh, or if the audience things THEIR play is the ripoff, then they won’t get audiences in, and they might very well all starve that winter…

      So, tl;dr–yes, pirating plays was totally a thing. 😀

      • That did happen, the memorization, publishing. Several of the published plays we have are from such sources.

        • I have read that as late as the period of the American Revolution good writing was considered to require basing it on the works of others and improving on their efforts.

          Hard to imagine a time when plagiarism, far from a crime, was taken as evidence that your ideas and arguments came of good family.

        • It’s actually why there’s some misheard Shakespearean lines that have a history going back to before the First Folio (a curated version) was published. “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well,” is one such mishearing with tradition behind it.

          Honestly, the introduction to the First Folio is the best evidence I’ve seen for Shakespeare having been the source for Shakespearean writing, because you have to go deep down the conspiracy hole to assume that these people who knew and worked with him would be willing to keep covering up that it wasn’t him after he was dead. The intro strikes exactly the right note for a group of people wanting to do right by their dead friend.

    • Go back and re-read Cervantes.
      It’s truly impressive how many of Shakespeare’s most remembered bits were lifted from Cervantes and expanded upon.

      • Heh. Seems like a large number of folks think Will came up with the story of Romeo and Juliet, when in fact it had been a popular story floating around for ages. He just made a hit play out of it.

        • It’s not the plot; it’s how you tell it.

        • Yup. Which is why I get annoyed with those folks out there whining “But that’s not original! He/she/it stole it from !”

          So? If they do it better, then go them.

          (I am minded specifically of the lawsuit brought by the author of the Worst Witch books against JK Rowling. Look, lady, JKR did a far better job of ‘magical boarding school’ and/or had the good fortune to release it at just the right time. Frankly, Worst Witch lady ought to be thanking her stars, since I expect HER sales went up or her series was brought out of languishing obscurity as a result.

          I didn’t even know they were books. To me, “Worst Witch” is an 80s tv special with a hilariously cheesy musical number by Tim Curry.)

  19. And a millenial friend going through his comic book collection, reminded me recently that one of the superhero comics had a cameo by Clinton (I don’t really remember it) and that the opening for a cartoon of the time had Billy boy playing his saxophone

    *sings*

    Come join the Warner Brothers
    And the Warner Sister, Dot
    Just for fun we run around the Warner movie lot.
    They lock us in the tower whenever we get caught
    But we break loose and then vamoose
    And now you know the plot!

    We’re Animaniacs!
    Dot is cute and Yakko yaks.

    Wakko packs away the snacks
    While Bill Clinton plays the sax.

    source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/animaniacslyrics.html

  20. On FDR:

    The Cult of FDR wasn’t just shaped by the media. He had quite a following because he looked like he was doing something while Hoover did nothing. That’s not true, of course. Among other things, Hoover wanted to do some of the same things but was stymied by the Democrats, who had no qualms when FDR did it. For another, there’s the question of what actually worked and what didn’t.

    When a grandmother ended up helping to run, on a local level, some sort of forgotten federal relief scheme, it was visible to those who needed it. When FDR tried collective farms, another forgotten chapter, that was noticeable, and the homes were better built than what most had moved out of. People also did their utmost to buy their own land and move out of them, which is why the farms are forgotten, yet there was the idea that FDR was at least trying something.

    That made a huge impression. The press covered up his disability and such, but people seemed to know he survived polio, and partial paralysis was why he frequented Warm Springs, and there were all sorts of rumors and off-color remarks about dalliances on his part. But he looked like he was doing something, and that’s what counted to most.

    On Gloom and Doom SF:

    I remember it coinciding more with the 1970s and Watergate and Vietnam period. This is the era that gave us the Planet of the Apes films, The Omega Man, Soylent Green and Capricorn One.Star Wars, coming out in the same year as Capricorn One, was so popular because it wasn’t gray goo: The heroes were heroic; the villains villainous; good triumphs; and people loved it. It was the good ol’ fashioned Saturday Morning serial updated for a modern audience. Yes, this carried over into the Reagan years, and yes, it may have been due to the Democrat narrative about Reagan, but there was also a good bit of momentum behind it.

    • ^Ding. That.
      My grandfather, no liberal he, described FDR as “the socialist who kept the country from going Communist.”
      Given that there were guys like Huey Long and Charles Coughlin running around, that’s probably more true than not.

  21. “The problem is that humans attach to the narrative they heard when very young. They fixate on it like it’s a true foretelling of the future.”

    When I was a kid, we were all going to die in nuclear holocaust. I mean, we all hoped we weren’t, but there was a definite undercurrent that it was a likely scenario. You know what? We didn’t. And I’ve been pretty calm about things since then, a viewpoint I call “cynical optimism.” As in, “things are going to turn out all right, in spite of everybody acting like idiots.”

  22. Like Puppet Masters, these stories sit in the subconscious and direct people against reality, against their own observation, against their (or anyone’s) best interest.

    The embedded stories shape our reflexes, condition our expectations and shape how our minds see. Jack Vance addresses this operating principle in both The Languages of Pao and his marvelous short tale, The Moon Moth.

    In the former we have the example of language (stories) being used to condition one faction to equate “stranger” with “threat” and an other faction to equate the concept with “opportunity to exploit.”

    In the latter the protagonist employs the natives preconceptions to convince them to interpret such events as allowing the antagonist to strip him of his protective coloration as an act of supreme bravery rather than utter incompetence.

    No, the irony of using stories to illustrate the effective power of stories is not lost on me.

    • The original Mission: Impossible used people’s stories against them by showing them what they expected to see. Or disrupting what they expected in some specific way, so they would react – according to the story they believed.

    • Well, it was Jack Vance, after all.

      In my diving into the pulp magazines at archive.org, I’ve found twenty Jack Vance stories that aren’t in any of the collections I have, that I’ve never seen before. They’re all early, and I’m sure they’re “lesser works” from when he was still learning his trade, but they’re for-real Jack Vance stories, shiny new to me…

  23. *hides box from Elon Musk*

    you know I can’t trust you.

    I’m very, very hurt by this statement.

  24. Raises hand a second time:

    Okay, maybe it was from reading SF, maybe from news story that my mother said was propaganda, and used that to explain the term, but I don’t recall not questioning the narratives. Yes, I know people seem not to do so and maybe they don’t. But I know a fellow who honestly wonders if, had he been raised in a Muslim country, if he would be a Muslim, and yet he’s a Christian precisely because he questioned the world as he thought it worked.

    Or is questioning the story part and parcel of we Odds? Are we naturally cynical? Do we just question everything because of who we are?

    • I think it’s a taught skill– but one most parents teach their kids, if they’re around them enough.

      Even if they don’t realize they’re teaching it, that thing where you read something in the paper and go “that’s BS!” or rant about what someone is saying that isn’t so does sink in.

      If the parents are around the kids.

    • Two kinds of car guys.

      One looks at the car and imagines himself sitting in it, and thinks about the image it will make for other people to see. That’s most guys, I’d guess.

      The other guy, he looks at the car. Then he gets down on hands and knees to see what they did with the suspension. Then he checks out the intake manifold.

      That’s the Odd. He questions everything because he HAS to know how it works, and he doesn’t think about how he will look driving around in it. It doesn’t occur to him. You go to the car show, you can tell the gearhead car-nerds are because they’ve got dust and grass on their knees from looking under the cars.

      We question everything because of who we are. The more people tell us to shut up and stop asking questions, the more we look under the hood when they’re not watching us. We have to know.

      • Pff. The first thing I check in a car is “Can I reach the pedals and see over the damn dashboard and steering wheel without making Minnie May modifications to the car?” (which, I am honestly not sure would make it road-legal.)

        Rhys is the one who checks the other stuff. How the car looks is probably the last thing noticed (other than to see if it was well cared for / fixed up.)

        • Pedal extensions and hand controls are street legal if properly installed in the U.S. I’ve seen it done for a guy without the legs he was born with (prosthetics were iffy for the kind of control he needed). Sub five foot people (5’2″ can barely reach) generally need the extensions for things like the bigger pickups around here, but those are simple bolt on things. For no-pedal jobs, it’s a twist/press arm that sticks out to the right below the turn signal, attached to the gas/brake with simple levers. Left hand jobs are even easier, but obviously rarer on this side of the pond.

          • OTOH, some of us have the opposite problem. Even if I had the money, I could never drive a Corvette because of the headroom issue. Once squeezed into one in a showroom, and my wife laughed.

            • Heh. Old MG B’s I had that problem with. Volkswagen Scirocco was about the same. Sure, you can tilt the seat back, but your arms are only so long. And if you can reach he steering wheel, your knees are stuck to your chest. Not the safest way to drive.

              You *can* work the problem with telescoping steering wheels and adjustable pedals. Some newer cars and pricier models have that option. Me, I’m good with my old Ford. No worries there.

            • Feh. I’m the only one of my family under six feet tall, and headroom is always an issue. No, I don’t want to lay the seat back like a fighter pilot and look through my moustache; I want to sit upright like a normal human being.

              Modern cars, with their laid-back windshields and forward-slanted roofs, are a problem. More than once, with the seat SLID ALL THE WAY BACK, I’ve bumped my head on the windshield or sun visor…

            • Our current car is a Ford Flex, and it has a seat control that I think should become standard everywhere. You’ve got forward and back, up and down, and a tilt to it, as well as a lower back support. But the really cool thing is that you put your key in and it moves forward—and when you take the key out, the seat moves back. Which means it’s a heck of a lot easier to get in and out of the car.

              (We used to have a Freestyle, which was a somewhat experimental model and which they discontinued after a while, which meant that the CVT transmission was irreplaceable. But they took all of the things that worked in that model and put them in the Flex, so obviously I like this car.)

              • From 1960 to 1969 or so, Ford offered the “Swing-Away” steering wheel in Thunderbirds, Cougars, and some other cars. When you opened the door, an electric motor pulled the steering wheel and column over almost to the center console, so you didn’t have to hoonch around the wheel to get in and out. They made a special point of it being useful for “women with handbags”, who were presumably all right-handed…

                With my knees in such bad shape, it would be a nice thing to have in a modern car.

                In the early 1970s GM offered “swivel bucket seats” in the Monte Carlo. Pull the lever, and the seat would twist a full 90 degrees, so you could just sit down or stand up from the car without having to do the one-leg-hoonch or back-in-and-scoot.

            • Housemate told me once that he watched someone get out of one of those little eco-fuel cars (the wee ones, not quite smartcar, but close) ‘and he looked like he could have picked up the car and put it on his shoulder and walked away, he was so effin’ massive.’ Afterward he found himself staring at the car, wondering how the heck that guy had fit in there.

              • In school, I had a neon.

                One of our Marines previous had one.

                I am slightly larger than you.

                He was slightly larger than a fridge. An industrial one.

                The only reason my car never got messed with, even though it was small enough four of the Marines lifted it with no issues, is because they attempted that specifically BECAUSE Mach mentioned he’d had a neon in high school, and loved it. 😉

                At one point I asked how on earth he had FIT in his, much less driven it– he pointed out that the front seat when rolled all the way back, and tilted back, basically became one with the back seat.

                • *giggle!* Yep. When Rhys and I saw a very tall man (he towered over Rhys by a good foot or so) unfold himself from his mini in a shopping centre carpark, we walked to the shopping centre in such a way we passed by the mini in question. The seat was shoved all the way into the back, and there was an astounding amount of leg room, and the seat was a bucket seat.

              • Somehow, there are large people who actually LIKE little, tiny cars that would make me claustrophobic (I’m middle height for modern males, just 6′), and I have no idea why.

            • There was a guy in Belgrade MT who was about 6’7″ and had one of those teeny tiny original mini-pickups. He’d removed the roof and welded on a top floor so his head would fit, and even so his eyes were level with the top of the windshield.

            • I was going to purchase an older model Mazda Miata from an acquaintance. Managed to squeeze myself into the ‘cockpit’ and realized: No. Just, No.

          • > Pedal extensions and hand controls are street legal if properly installed in the U.S.

            Note that varies in each of the 50 state jurisdictions, and probably the territories.

            Here in Arkansas, there’s no law at all referring to hand controls, pedal extensions, or sitting on a phone book to see over the dash. Though steering wheel spinner knobs are restricted to persons with only one arm. (I guess anyone else operating that vehicle is supposed to remove the knob…)

            • “I guess anyone else operating that vehicle is supposed to remove the knob…”

              It would be a hazard in an accident, where you’re very likely to have an impact with the steering wheel.

  25. Some of this can be seen, I think, in the rage storms around the comparison between Star Trek: Discovery (very grimdark, *especially* in comparison to the earlier Star Trek series), and The Orville, which is much more upbeat and joyful.

    Likewise, a comparison might be made between Star War episodes 4-6 (the original trilogy), episodes 1-3 (the prequel trilogy), and what’s up with the new trilogy that’s in progress. They can blab on and on about how great it is that Rey is the female lead/hero in the new series – but that really does dis Leia pretty damned hard, the woman found and smuggled out the Death Star plans, took control in escaping from the Death Star, realized that they were released instead of escaping, saves Luke from falling into a gas giant, disguises herself as a bounty hunter and invades Jabba the Hutt’s palace, *AND* rallys a bunch of teddy bears into guiding the attack on a Empire fortified base. This new series, though, is so desperate to build up the new lead character, though, that the old heroine is now revealed to be so incompetent as to let the remnants of the old Empire arise once more and get the upper hand! (Heck, even the ending of RotJ in the Special Edition echos this to some degree – originally, the relatively primative song fades into a classical, dignified, rising orchestral voice singing “Celebrate The Light!” – but the Special Edition turns it into a pop song showing off flashy fireworks across a dozen CGI worlds.)

    • There is an unfortunate assumption, across the media, that something must be gray goo to be profound. When something upbeat goes grimdark, someone’s trying to be relevant.

      Frankly, Star Trek:Lost in Space pretty much finished the franchise, and it was the episode where they slipped out a “crack” in an event horizon that did it. Did watch the last episode, and found it great MST3K material.

    • It’s pretty much a rule that anything trumpeted by the Left as a groundbreaking achievement has already been done earlier and better.

    • I HATED the “revised” ending of RotJ. Give me the original. (in part because I’d read the novels by then, and what happened on Coruscant just after the camera cuts away in the “revised” ending was pretty d-mn ugly.)

      • Imperial reprisals not to taste?

      • I think it’s the 2005 DVD edition that has the original versions in the special features. Double-letterboxed, unfortunately, but still. (Needless to say, this is what our kids have seen.) Incidentally, with Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox (formerly 20th Century Fox), they now have the rights to all three of the original trilogy, and they have the best film restorationists in the business. And they like money. So I hope they’ll be able to get the original versions* out sometime before my kids go off to college…

        *Suitably cleaned up and re-blacked/color-timed, but nothing more.

  26. Yeah, in the face of syphilis, even the French had to tone down their lascivious ways.

    -Albert

  27. Seems to me that the “cool kids” have so bought into this grimdark future that they are going about creating it.

    • That was rather my point 😉

      • Created or create the appearance of such.

        Everything is rape culture if you are looking for rape culture.

    • Having bought into such a vision is a prerequisite for membership in the cool kids.


      Although, as I think upon it, they do mightily resemble the cult of Gaston, especially when in full hunting fury pursuing any who dare reject their vanities.

  28. On the comics note, it hasn’t just been positive portrayals of Dem presidents. Back in the early ’70s, Marvel all but stated that President Nixon was leading an evil secret conspiracy called The Secret Empire.

    • Camelot 3000, American president with a similarity to Ronald Reagan
      Dark Knight Returns, same thing.
      So, yeah it’s common theme that Republican presidents are evil. And then there’s the Watchmen Nixon portrayal.

      • Joe Quenan once observed that the problem with the (his) baby boom generation could be summed up in their insisting that their parents admit that Nixon was Beelzebub, while vigorously denying that Jimmy Carter was Bozo.

        Gary Trudeau catastrophically lost his sense of humor, and never really got it back, when Ronald Reagan was elected.

        Now, Nixon was a Big Government swine. F’crying out loud, he presided over the creation of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, better termed the Bureau of Government Not Minding It’s Own Goddamned Business, the most destructively and uselessly out of control law enforcement agency in United States History. I have scant patience with those who decide that since the Left despised him, he must have been an OK guy. He wasn’t. He was a jerk. He was simply less of an idiot than McGovern.

        • Along those same lines, I remember when he got wage and price controls instituted.

        • the most destructively and uselessly out of control law enforcement agency in United States History
          Technically, there’s a few vying for that honor. Nixon also created the EPA, so he’s got two entries in the competition, I think.

          • While JFK did not create a LEO his signing of Executive Order 10988 permitting Federal employees to bargain collectively may well qualify as the most destructive single act to date.

            I wonder whether it has been codified into law or if Trump could simply revoke it with a countermanding EO?

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        You can tell Alan Moore really didn’t understand American elections. He seemed to think America would be so grateful for Vietnam being won that they’d elect Tricky Dick forever. Here in reality I’ve noticed that by about Year 5-6, everybody starts hating the current president, even if they voted for him.

        • With Obama, I was hating him by week 5. That takes skill. 😛

          • I never thought Obama was qualified to be President and expected nothing good. His performance in office was below my expectations.

            • I looked at his (lack of) experience and his idols, and feared he’d be a horrible president. I forget who first said “if we’re lucky, he’ll be another Jimmy Carter”, but I agreed – that if we were lucky, he’d do no worse than the man I considered the least effective and pragmatic president I’d personally experienced.

              When he took office, I also remember saying “I hope I’m wrong about how bad a job he’ll do”. I was wrong. He was far worse than I thought he’d be.

          • Somewhat off topic… I recently heard Russel Brand’s voice. Holy crap. Did someone snip off his balls while he was undergoing puberty or something? I mean, I knew he was insane, but dude sounds and looks like a cult leader, only whiny.

      • Read the thing in French, so no doubt that’s whybI missed it.

    • Why did they turn Captain America into a secret Hydra agent?

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Because they were idiots.

        Of course, they finally let the Real Captain America beat the Hydra Captain America. 😀

      • Because they don’t have enough sense not to p*ss on an electric fence.

      • Captain America was Something Good. Not progressive enough, spineless enough, or sycophantic enough. He had principles, patriotism, and humility.

        It *had* to be a false front. Otherwise his merely existing would cast a light into the shadows where they dwell for all to see.

      • Because they’re vermin trying to undercut anything with a shred of decency.

        Remember when they were screeching and jeering at the Vice President for his policy about being around women other than his wife? Sexist h8tr!

      • Because their readers cannot see them flipping the bird unless it is done in extremely obvious fashion.

        Think of the suppressed anger of guys who wanted to be great artists, to write great stories, toiling away at a pittance creating popular entertainment for dim-bulb dweebs like Comicbook Guy or the gang hanging in Stuart’s store.


        They hate their readers for supporting the jobs they also hate, and are desperate to signal their contempt and their social superiority.

    • That was post-Watergate, IIRC.

  29. Hell, if the stories are scary enough, there is no way in hell you’ll ever convince someone their fears are a bogeyman.

    Because WHAT IF! IT’S REAL!

    Reminds me of another story, the Chicken Little.

  30. When I re-read Enid Blyton (don’t judge me)

    Can I judge you to be awesome?

  31. When I read “Songs are stories, and are delivered whether you want to hear them or not in most public spaces.” this song sprang to mind:

    all my life (a few years shorter than many here) the leftoids have proclaimed the end coming, and then worked hard as they could to bring that about in some form, all in the name of preventing it.
    morons

  32. Christopher M. Chupik

    Considering I grew up in an era where nuclear war was a given, and that ozone holes, acid rain and the Population Bomb were all inevitable, I’m pretty happy that the stories I grew up with have been wrong (so far).

  33. Re: Richard II — but I love Tey’s Daughter of Time.

    • That book probably started my love affair with historical fiction, but I decided after some research into Henry 7 that she was seriously wrong in naming him the villain, as are most stories about the Princes in the Tower, because they aren’t students of politics along with their romantic history (Tey’s is, however, one of the best).
      The killer (or dispatcher of the killer) was neither Richard nor Henry, but you’ll have to wait for my book to learn whodunit.

      • I actually read a book called The Goldsmith’s Wife years before I got to The Daughter of Time, so I was already primed to see Richard III as innocent of that particular crime. However, I think the best part of Tey’s work is pointing out how tone works in the stories we tell about history.

        (Though it does have one line that makes me think “product of its time” every time I read it, and that’s Alan Grant’s insistence that “all women over six feet tall are sexually cold. Ask any doctor.” Um. Yeah. You believe that, Mr. 1950s British Guy.)

      • The most logical thing I’ve ever read about the Princes in the Tower was that: Yes, the boys were killed under Richard’s orders, because the last time their had been a regency for a King in his minority it lead to the civil war which almost destroyed his House and which had severely weakened England. The paving of the road to hell and all.

        Also if you read Shakespeare’s text with a slight cant and some Yorkist Rose coloured glasses you can see a hint of sympathy for the devil in the character of Richard over the course of the cycle.

  34. Heh. Storytime.

    Y’all know the difference between a fairy tale and an anthropologist’s tale? A fairy tale starts out “once upon a time” and has, well, magic and dwarves and wicked witches and such. An anthropologist’s tale starts out with grant writing and talks about Early Modern Human behavior (or worse, australopithecine behavior…). So let me tell one, remembering I’m working on two decades out of practice.

    There’s a theory been going around concerning what made humans, well, human I suppose. Big brains. We’re the only ones quite like us, you know. Other animals are waaay less difficult, energy-wise, to grow. Big brains means harder pregnancies. Means *fewer* live births. Means more energy investment made mandatory for raising that next generation. Biology-wise, they are a massive resource sink. And *still* got ate up by big cats, gators, heck, even hyenas (early hyenas on the African plain were no joke, friends). We weren’t predators, eye placement aside. We were prey. Scavengers at best.

    So big brains, they were trouble. Take Lucy for example. One of the early specimens, her brain box isn’t that much bigger than a chimp’s. Big thick brow ridge, prognathic (has nothing to do with Progressivism. It means your lower face- everything from the nose down- juts out. Like an ape, ‘cuz that’s what we were/are. Apes, essentially.), and short. Fast forward a bit (few hundred thousand years, give or take, maybe a mil), and your next specimen looks pretty much the same. Except a little smaller brow ridge, bit less prognathic (still got those great big teeth, though), and slightly *bigger* brain box. This trend will continue for a while. On the geologic scale. So a really, really, long while. Seriously. You don’t have enough popcorn even on fast forward.

    So we have a definite trend. There have been lots of theories going around as to why. Things like increase protein intake positive feedback loop is a solid enough theory, but it doesn’t get at the root of the problem. Why bigger in the first place? What not only drove the initial change, but kept it going for umpty mumblty thousands and thousands (somewhere around a couple to four million) of years?

    Well, now there’s another tinsy bit of difference in humans other than those great big brains, see. Specifically, human *women* I mean, and only human women. Hidden estrus. No unmistakeable great big sign, biologically speaking, when women are ovulating. Hush you in the back, I know what you’re gonna say, so zip it. *serious anthropology hat on*

    Now what does this mean for early proto-man? No, it has nothing to do with sending him out to sleep on the stone couch. The theory went, since men couldn’t tell when a woman was ovulating, if that man wanted to be sure the children he was going out in the seriously bloody dangerous wild to get food for were actually *his* he needed to keep a close eye on that one woman so she wouldn’t be stepping out on him. He needed her *cooperation* not just in the act itself, but after. (And for you smart folks, yes, this is a *broad hint* that this is an “anthropologist’s tale” right here)

    Early man had the drive (read: selective pressure) to impress his woman, to cajole, to seduce, to keep her his. And from the opposite perspective, the lass needed him to take care of her while she was effectively defenseless and slow (pregnant) and stick around to help feed the little rugrat. (another broad hint point) Or something like that.

    The theory goes, big brains were advantageous in that the bigger the brain, the more likely you were to get lucky with the opposite sex. That’s bare bones survival of the species level stuff there. Viable offspring, raise ’em till they can walk on their own, they live long enough to breed and continue the cycle, ta-dah. Selective pressure for larger brains explained.

    Now y’all know there’s holes in that theory wide enough to sail a carrier group through ‘cuz youz smaht. Have a cookie. There are things like the evolutionary advantage of intelligence, tool making, fire (big cleft point around h. habilis), environment change/population pressures, and so on. Lots of variables in there, and well worth taking in to account.

    The reason I’m telling you this is because *I* think it’s pretty cool. Cast ye yer minds back into imagination, in wonder of what was that we’ll never see and never know until we crack time travel (dibs on the shotgun seat). See the hairy ape-dudes chatting up the equally hairy mammary-blessed gals… By telling stories. Yep. That’s my unproveable hypothesis. That stories are what made us human, or at least set us on the path.

    Now how’s that for a tall tale, eh? *chuckle* And y’all folks might have thought anthropology was chock full of granola eatin’ Marxist spewing smelly hippy looking Progressives. Well, it is, but there’s some fun stuff in there, too. Best if you stick to the stuff grounded in actual science and biology. But the stories can be fun, too.

    I meant the theories, though. Yep. Totally meant the theories. *chuckle*

  35. Double plus ungoodthink! Women want to have sex, just as much as men do! (unless it gets them pregnant and they are forced to go through with it and bear the children, and feed them afterward in which case it’s inhumane brutality and slavery.)

  36. It requires a heart of stone to not laugh at these self-appointed representatives of The Peepul.”

    Who Are These ‘People’s State of the Union’ People?
    BY SARAH HOYT
    It used to be a truism when I was growing up that anything entitled “The People’s” was, in fact, the instrument of an authoritarian elite.

    We’re apparently still there, as the “People’s State of the Union,” a rally staged last night to “counter” Trump’s State of the Union tonight, seemed to feature people who hated what the people do with their own votes.

    [SNIP]

    Yes, I’m being mean, which is what we call people who are accurate about bad people doing bad things.

    [SNIP]

    Ultimately, the only way they’d “take to the streets” is by proxy. This is probably why they are all, to the last man and woman, fit to be tied at the idea that Trump will curtail the flow of illegal immigrants, unable to fight back, unable to complain, too untrained to do anything else, and too indoctrinated in a culture of serfs and overlords to ever question their position in society.

    These leeches on the body politic wish to have an army of serfs who can’t escape them and don’t think to fight back. Those are the people they count on to keep their houses, mow their lawns, and cater to their political illusions.

    Their ideal “paradise” is Cuba, where the people starve while the progressive overlords grow fat (this might be impossible for Michael Moore to do, as I don’t think he can get fatter without occasioning a planet killing event) and are untouchable. Throw in a touch of the adulation little Kim from North Korea enjoys, and they would be as happy as pigs in mud.

    It drives them insane that the American people refuse to pay obeisance to their views and to kowtow to their imagined superiority.

    And so they do a “People’s State of the Union” in the certainty we won’t dare question their ability to speak for us.

    Hey, you pampered nitwits: Only the crazy and the dolts in America will buy what you’re selling.

    The People’s Republic of China called. They want their organizational ideas back.

    • The term “People’s,” where it does not refer to a surname, is one of nature’s warning signs. It means to avoid as all costs.

      That they think they need to have a “People’s” State of the Union reflects not only their expected ignorance of the US Constitution, but that the Democrat response is practically the same thing.

      • Ain’t NONE of MY people on that.

      • I actually know a Peeples. And her dad has some moderate fame, along with a name that just doesn’t seem likely.

        • There was once a business known as Peoples’ Funeral Home. Thought that was very socialist, until I learned it was run by a man surnamed Peoples.

          FWIW, I have seen a neon sign outside a Georgia pharmacy, done in 1930s horror/mad scientist script, that said “Strange Drugs.” Turned out the pharmacist’s name was Strange. Alas, the last time I went through there, the sign was gone.

    • What’s the word for “none of those three options”? Like ‘neither’ means “not one of those two options”.

      Because “People’s Democratic Republic” has always been ‘neither’.

      (And I liked that post by our hostess.)

  37. As writers, we create stories to entertain, enthrall and at the very least, amuse.

    However, this falls under the edition of : I can’t make this shit up, if I put it in a book, the reader would throw the book across the room.

    http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2018/01/quick-men-to-the-escape-pods.html

  38. Heh.

    CBS Poll: Three-Quarters of Viewers Approve of Trump’s State of the Union Address
    A CBS News poll found that three-quarters of Americans who watched President Trump’s State of the Union yesterday approved of the address. Eight out of ten viewers said they felt the speech was trying to unite rather than divide the country.

    A full 97 percent of Republicans approved of the speech, as did 72 percent of independents and 43 percent of Democrats. The positive rating from independents is a good indication that Trump’s address succeeded in striking a bipartisan, unifying tone.

    Sixty-five percent of viewers said the speech made them feel proud, and another 35 percent said they felt safer, while just 14 percent felt scared and 21 percent felt angry.

    Interestingly, 72 percent of respondents said they favor the immigration proposals Trump made in his speech, the section of his remarks that were most policy-specific.

    A greater share of Republicans watched the speech last night (42 percent) compared to the 25 percent of viewers who identified as Democrats and 33 percent who called themselves independents.
    nationalreview[DOT]com/corner/455947/state-union-donald-trump-cbs-news-poll-finds-viewers-approved

    Bwah-Ha-Hah!

    Democratic lead in generic House ballot collapses from 15 percent to just 2 percent: Poll
    Republicans are gaining on their Democratic counterparts in the generic House ballot, a new poll published Wednesday found.

    Democrats maintain a lead over the GOP on the generic ballot, with 47 percent of registered voters saying they’d support Democratic candidates over Republicans if the election were held today. Forty-five percent of voters would support GOP candidates, according to a Monmouth University Poll.

    That latest figures for the generic ballot are a marked shift from December, when 51 percent of voters said they would back Democrats, compared to 36 percent who would cast ballots for Republican congressional candidates.

    [SNIP]

    The Monmouth University Poll of 806 adults was conducted from Jan. 23 to Jan. 30 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
    washingtonexaminer[DOT]com/democratic-lead-in-generic-house-ballot-collapses-from-15-percent-to-just-2-percent-poll/article/2647709