It’s A Very Old Battle

This is a very old battle, the battle for readable fiction and other entertainment that people are interested in, well, reading, as opposed to being “educated”, lectured at and propagandized by an establishment (or as Sabrina Chase calls it an industrial-entertainment complex) that has lost its d*mn mind and sight of what it means to be in business and cater to the public.

It’s not political so much as adjacent to politics, and yet–

It’s not political — intrinsically — because a lot of what passes for “we’re lecturing you, peasants” from establishment publishers and movie makers is actually foofaraw, designed to make themselves feel smart or educated or whatever, and to our purpose — or anyone’s purpose — nothing. It is “smarts signalling” kind of like poor Kit Marlowe, consigned to writing plays, putting his stage directions in Latin, so he felt “special” and people would know he had an excellent education. Or 19th century writers hitting people over the head with allegorical this and that and Roman myth that and the other thing, because then people would know how educated and special they were.

On the other hand, one of the ways of showing you have an excellent education in the twenty first century is to display how much you learned about Marxism, from the plight of the poor (which you really have no clue about) to the sheer Weltschmerz of being young, well educated and living in the wealthiest country at the wealthiest time this world has ever experienced. Additional flounces and lace in the form of the various theories pushed by the more prestigious colleges might include an uncountable number of genders and Critical Race Theory and other forms of insanity with no contact whatsoever with reality, not even in a really crowded hallway when reality is trying to get past them to use the bathroom.

So politics comes in that way, and allows the Lords of Publishing to claim that peasants who object to the husks — that one wouldn’t feed to swine — must be doing so because they are racissss sexissss and homophobisssss (look, it should rhyme. Also hiss is the language of the twitterpated SJW.

But politics comes in another way too. You see, corrupted markets are corrupted all the way down and all the way up.

The more a market deviates from its ability to serve what the public wants, the weirder it becomes, and the more it tilts out of true with reality. And the publishing market has been corrupted a long time. And the side effects are far reaching and almost always deleterious.

It’s made writing — particularly fiction — into a sort of unending servitude that doesn’t pay quite enough for most people to live, not even if they write a lot; it’s made reading something most people talk about doing but don’t really do; it’s made “the heights of culture” belong to those who most efficiently parrot the political line of the establishment; it contributed to burnishing the left’s self-regard as “smart” which in turn made leftism a positional good and given an ideology that — fast or slow — has killed millions of human beings delusions of merit.

And it all starts right there with “we won’t buy and resell/produce what people want to read. Our job is to educate them and make them better people.”

It is also the reason indie is eating their cake and drinking their wine, and leaving rude notes on their table. Because in the end a producer who responds to the market always does much better than a producer who tries to control the market.

And weirdly, you know, indie are finding that pulp still sells. Oh, perhaps more carefully written pulp, but fast paced and interesting and pulp, in the end.

Which is what I thought of when I read this article today: JAUNDICED EYE by Wm Gault.

And this paragraph made me laugh till I cried, because I spent year ridding myself of the delusions of symbolism my degree had insinuated into my mind:

A man like Truman Capote is searched minutely for symbolisms that give his lavender words a deeper meaning. I respectfully insist that this kind of search would find even deeper meanings in Max Brand. Because even critics can see that Hemingway is great, it distresses them that he has hair on his chest. So he is also searched for symbolism, in order that the critics may safely acclaim him, Mr. Hemingway is about as symbolic as a poke in the nose, but lucidity is a crime to critics and they must have a different reason for liking him. They don’t want to be associated with the people, those horrid things who want to buy books.

And I’ll be honest, if your goal in life is to make a living from selling your books to schools who will force their students to read it, you should mind your symbolism and your political views, and make it attractive to that market.

Or you know, you could write for people “those horrid things who want to buy books.”

I hear it pays.
Anyway, go and read the whole thing.

203 thoughts on “It’s A Very Old Battle

  1. One of the comments said that the essay was not dated (in the out of date sense).

    I found it dated, a little, in a point that the central argument does not depend on.

    I’m not sure what technology they are speaking of with the ‘tape’.

      1. Okay, I guess it would make sense to have a book critic on the radio, and it might be possible to get access to a tape recording, and listen to it.

        My memory only really goes back to the final generation of audio cassette tapes. So, the earlier tech is basically a huge mystery to me.

  2. Theories that are out of touch with reality go a long way back. At the end of the twentieth century, I visited my oldest friend in Amherst for her fiftieth birthday. And knowing what I like, she took me to used bookstores. One of them had a whole wall of literary criticism, of which about a third was Marxist and a third was psychoanalytic; and I remember feeling a brief nausea at the thought that they were basing their entire theories of literature on beliefs that had no trace of scientific accuracy.

    I’mve been thinking of rereading “The Pooh Perplex.”

  3. The more a market deviates from its ability to serve what the public wants, the weirder it becomes, and the more it tilts out of true with reality.

    And thus do I seek the sensibility and rationality of Sid & Marty Krofft products, for as screwy as they might have seemed, still had some resonance, if not contact, with Reality. When H.R Pufnstuf makes more sense than your Party… your Party is up-ge-[screw]ed.

    1. This is a great example of disagreeing with the assumptions of a system, but realizing the system is a coherent extrapolation from those assumptions.

      The problem with the modern GOP is bad assumptions, but their system out of those assumptions makes sense.

      The modern Democrat Party (not leftists, but the party) works from reasonable, if dark assumptions, and the resulting system is coherent and functional. This is common among thieves. They have unnecessarily untrustful assumptions (the opposite of the GOP) and the system resulting from them creates unneeded conflict, but it gives them a way to work in the world.

      The Left builds an inconsistent system on shifting, but nearly always bad, assumptions.

  4. Symbolism can be fun of its done for the fun of it, but it must be in service of the story.

    One Piece has a ton of stuff going on under the hood, but it’s there to accentuate the story. The duel between Luffy and Katakuri is absolutely epic even if you don’t know about any of the implications or allusions the author is putting into it.

    And once you get them, it just makes it better.

    Doing it just for a poke in the nose is just a poke in the nose. And that’s not cool at all.

    1. Would “seasoning” work as a metaphor, to you?

      The point of seasoning is to bring out the best in the thing you are cooking.

      The thing you are cooking is the named item.

      The seasoning is there to enhance it.

      So, One Piece is the dish, and all the deep symbolism stuff– has to serve the story of One Piece. Make it deeper, richer, MORE than it would be, otherwise.

      *********

      I’d say it worked, ran into a dragon dude on FF14 dressed as Luffy. That kind of devotion comes from a solid hit.
      (There’s one dragon guy model that has really, really long arms.)

  5. And just when the general public appears to agree with the Enlightened Ones, the Enlightened Ones find something else to Preach About.

    After all, if the mundanes believe the same things as the Enlightened Ones do, then the Enlightened Ones are No Longer Special. 😈

    1. I really think that’s what’s behind the transgender fad. Gay marriage got too much mainstream acceptance, so they had to come up with something else that the general public would have to reject. (“Hey, let’s say that if a man puts on a dress and then beats all the girls in a race, he’s a pioneer!”)

        1. made me laugh– and drag queen goes back centuries in the Chinese culture lol and don’t forget the Elizabethan theaters with young men as the ladies.

      1. This phenomenon of escalating craziness, invariably the case in Marxist groups (which includes the Puritans under Cromwell, wisely put down by General Monck) can best be called a Holiness Spiral, and it will eventually consume everything and everyone in its path….

      2. If you look at news stories the week the SCUS “found” that the Constitution requires gay marriage, there were articles about the positive side of three things: incest, pedophilia, and transgenderism.

        They had their trial balloons ready to go if they won.

        I’m surprised transgenderism won over adult incest, to be honest on one level. On another, I’m surprised pedophilia didn’t win.

        1. Adult incest isn’t transgressive and freaky enough. Too much chance we would just fold for it. The people who actually do it tend to be disturbed freaks, but there are relatively few of them, and you can’t stampede children into ‘wait until you are older, then do incest’. Also, Americans are culturally biased against endogamy, but, say, second cousin marriage can be done without being too harmful to everyone involved.

          Transgender, you can definitely push people hard enough to get pushback, and you can stampede children into damaging themselves severely by taking it seriously where it isn’t a correct description.

          Pedophilia, we have some very strong anecdotal evidence about how bad it is, and anyone can obviously tell that it would be boiling the frog too fast. They were already getting pushback on sex ed being too enabling of pedophilia, so very few activists are in enough of an echo chamber to overlook how much admitting it will do in terms of withdrawal to homeschooling, and willingness to crucify public school teachers.

        2. I’m rather surprised that the polies aren’t further along. After all, love is love, and why should an arbitrary number keep you from marrying the people you love?

          1. Too many people familiar with the disasters and abuse that can come from it, both in reality and in fiction– plus, most guys don’t want to share a single woman, and the popular “look” of one guy with several wives is very negative.

            1. Nod.

              In at least one Harem fiction series, the characters commented on the problems when the women weren’t “for it” and the characters commented that their guy wouldn’t accept another guy “sharing his women”.

              I’d note that in Real Life, where Men share a woman, the Men already had a strong friendship with the other Men before they decided to share a woman.

          2. Recognizing poly would hurt feminist divorce rape abilities too much because it would lead to saner divorce law automagically (MFF split up and one F leaves while the other stays…who do feminist fight to get to screwed over?)

          3. Also, most poly who actually work (as opposed to poly who are swingers with better press) make the arrangements the same way gay couples and D/s couples opposed to marriage as polluting the D/s (some hard core M/s and O/p couple are like that).

            In fact, I know an O/p couple who teach an excellent class on that.

              1. Which ones?

                D/s – Dominant/submissive relationship
                M/s – Master/slave relationship
                O/p – Owner/property relationship (also owner pet but that was not the meaning in use here)

    2. Oh, they’re ‘Special’ all right. As in, “Oh, isn’t that special?

      Or maybe in the Short Bus sense.

    3. Seriously that’s one of the ways they’re so self defeating. No sooner then the convince the public of reasonable sounding “gays shouldn’t be persecuted just for being gay” or “what they do in their bedrooms is nobody eleses business” it becomes “bake the cake, bigot and you must display an appropriate level of enthusiasm or you will be destroyed.” Then gay has become kind of pasè and it’s now transgenderism you must support uncritically or else you are a monster Nazi bigot. People are already waking up to the fact that’s it’s a hamster wheel of never ending demands.

      1. It’s a hamster wheel with a very clearly articulated goal by the leftists pushing it: Marxist revolution leading to a communist society. The deliberately seek the destruction of the nuclear family because they view it as standing in the way of achieving communism. They are very vocal and open as to this.

    4. The “Enlightened Ones” are sadists.

      I’m quite serious when I make that comment. I understand sadism. Hell, I enjoy it (there is no sadist like a masochist).

      It is just they want as many partners as possible and do not care about the consent of their partners.

      But all their changing rules as soon as someone behaves makes sense if you’re a sadist into psychological and emotional sadism. Even how they do it as they submit to it from others makes sense…hell, they enjoy that part (see above about there is no sadist like a masochist). That is one of the frightening things you see when you read the Gulag Archipeligo is how many of those who faith in Marx/Lenin/Stalin in the Gulag fit the model of sadomasochism.

      It also makes sense why that scene has lost its mind.

    5. What’s that quote from The Fantasticks? “I am special. I am special. Please, God, please don’t make me be normal!”

  6. Of the really over hyped and “popular” books I’ve read in the last two decades, the two that truly stood out as being really, really over hyped were The Lovely Bones and The Giver. I didn’t see the object of praise in The Lovely Bones and The Giver just seemed very derivative of other distopian novels (though it was aimed at a younger audience).

    1. The Giver hit me as a soft-sell of all the evils that Catholicism warns about with destroying the family, shifted off into a sort of “but they just didn’t do it right” type of wrapper. (Took years to recognize this. It’s like… a sort of slow ooze to “tenderness leads to the gas chambers” thing, without the objection to the gas chambers.)

      ….also, pretty sure someone should’ve been doing mass murder waaaaaay before kid got anywhere near leadership age.

      1. It is a rip off of Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains (actually fun) and has an utter rubbish ending. I think only Old Yeller torques kids off more.

        OF *course* lit teachers adore it.

      1. Neither have I.

        Guess I’m not well read … I mean I am just a dabbler in books with < 2k eBooks in my Nook library. Even with the non-Nook eBooks, and physical books, I'm still < 2k, for all books.

        My attitude? Whatever. Didn't get the impression I should go seek them out.

      2. I think The Giver had a movie come out in the post-Hunger Games “YA dystopian novel adaptation” craze. But I haven’t seen it. And afaik, no sequel was announced.

    2. I felt much the same about The Giver, particularly when there wasn’t a scientific-ish explanation about how the perception changes were affected. It’s supposed to be sci fi, not fantasy.

      I also disliked Divergent for a number of reasons, from the premise, to the internal contradictions to the plot holes, except for one particular moment: when the member of the faction that values courage above all else kills himself and a villain convinces that this action of fear and despair was really an expression of bravery. It was such a perfect depiction of evil: perverting another’s ideals and using their love of a virtue against them. It struck a cord considering the left’s love of appealing to their enemies’ sense of decency and fair play and using it against them in subversion.

      But yeah, the rest of Divergent sucked.

      I walled the book when – SPOILER
      *
      *
      *
      the MC deduces the villains’ evil plan…then she goes to bed. Doesn’t warn anyone, doesn’t try to stop them, just goes to sleep and lets the villains carry out their plan.

      1. I haven’t read the books. After seeing the movies (my wife bought them for me) and reading the authors thoughts on various social issues, I didn’t see the point in reading the books. The first movie was OK, the sequels rather sucked I thought.

        1. I read the books – the author blew up her setting and changed the rules multiple times.

          Also, GENETICS DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY YOU DUMB BINT!!!!!

    3. Attempting a thumb-nail summary of The Giver, from memory, not commenting on dumb, been decades since I read.

      Everybody sees in gray scale.

      Babies are birthed two per mother, and then the mother does physical labor for the rest of her life without human contact.

      The Main Character’s dad is a nurse who gets special permission to actually, y’know, nurse a baby who is sickly.
      The main character starts seeing weird stuff known as “color.”
      The baby is found to be too sickly to live, and will be terminated.
      The main character takes the To Be Terminated baby and runs away, after the prior Dude Who Sees Color and tells him waht it is dies.

    4. Whether or not something seems over hyped is going to depend a lot on when and how you encountered that thing, I think. The Giver was originally published in 1993. I was in elementary school, and I read it within a year of its publication (I can’t remember if the school library’s hardcover copy sported the Newbery Medal seal or not). It wasn’t assigned reading; I was familiar with some of Lois Lowry’s other books, so as bookish children are wont to do with a familiar author, I picked up her newest book. Even now, nearly thirty years later, I can recall the visceral reactions I had to the story, and the wrongness of the world Jonas found himself a part of. To you, the story seemed derivative of other works, and it may very well be, but it was the first exposure I had to dystopian stories. That stuck with me, and I’m guessing it has with a lot of other people as well.

      Though, regarding the ending of the story, I think I might be one of the few people who just assumed Jonas and Gabe made it out and survived. It seemed obvious to my eleven-year-old self that that was the case. It’s possible I am an incorrigible optimist in that regard.

      1. I read it about 10 years ago or so. My wife has several copies on her shelf in her classroom. Her co-teacher read it and recommended to me, along with City of Ember. I didn’t care for either of them. She is another one who thinks they made it out alive.

        I was in my 40s by the time I read them, so that probably colored my perceptions a bit.

        1. Yeah, I don’t know if it would have had nearly as much of an impact on me if I came to it for the first time now. Or if I was introduced to it in a classroom setting.

      2. I was unfamiliar with the book, so I looked it up on Tvtropes, and the author says that they made it out, and they are referenced in later books.

        1. Yeah, they are referenced in later books. But apparently a lot of people assumed they died, to the point that you get reviews complaining that Lowry “rewrote history” or something. And, granted, the ending in The Giver is kind of ambiguous in nature. One of those things that could go either way.

          1. Chricton killed off Malcom in Jurassic Park with a clear reference to not being able to bury the bodies of Malcom and Hammond at the end of the book. Yet Malcom was back for the next book.

            1. IIRC the Sequel Book was the novelization of the Sequel Movie and he stated that the sequel book wasn’t the sequel to HIS BOOK.

              On the other hand, in one book that I’m assisting in trouble-shooting, the author disposed of the Bad Guy in a way that allows him to perhaps write a story about “what happened to him”. 😉

              IE The Main Character didn’t see him die but believes him dead. As in, He couldn’t survive that (with a thought of maybe he could). 😀

              1. The Under Siege 2 scenario:
                DId you see a body?
                No. I assumed..
                Assumption is the mother of all f–k ups.

  7. One of the things that really, really annoyed me with the Literary Industrial Complex was exactly this – their absolute determination to give us, the reader, what they thought we should have, not what we, the lowly readers, actually wanted to read. And they willfully deep-sixed the Western genre; literary agencies and publishers snottily posted that they would not consider Westerns for representation and publishing. It aggravated me personally because apparently to them, any historical set on the 19th century American frontier was a ‘western’ and therefor infra dig. This despite the ongoing popularity of writers like Max Brand, Elmer Shelton and Louis Lamour.

    1. It’s like our modern entertainment industry is producing stuff for some hypothetical audience that may or may not exist while actively despising the audience which actually does exist.

  8. Sadly I’m seeing some of the Kindle only writers putting more and more politics into their books. Where before, it was only hints that could be ignored, it’s now in your face. I have no idea how much it’s possible to make writing books primarily for Kindle Unlimited, by why go out of your way to limit your audience? Is virtue signaling that important?

    1. I started out writing for all the markets– then went KU only. I may go back. The reason I went KU at the time was that it had a bigger audience and were willing to pay you more.

    2. I like Laurence Dahner’s (KU) books. The Stasis Stories started out a bit politically correct, but he went full-on SJW in book four (or maybe five, I don’t recall). I left a “get woke, go broke” review. After writing it, I saw I was far from the only one to do so. I gave the next book a try, just to see. He corrected. It was back to just a bit politically correct, which fits the story well enough. I don’t KNOW that the feedback worked, but it seems to have. I view that as a positive sign.

      Oh, and I left a review to just pretend the awful one didn’t exist and skip over it.

      1. What really annoyed me is that I did leave a review of this book, I avoided the political angle and just critiqued the story in general and all the things I had an issue with, I even managed to refrain from being snarky about it. I got a notification 2 days later that my review had somehow violated Amazon’s TOS and has been removed. I read through the TOS 3 times and did not see a single thing on the list that I might have violated.

        I do find it interesting that even though many of these writers lean left and aren’t shy about including it in their work, many of them, if you read what they write, embrace Conservative values, at least in the parts of the story that don’t relate to politics.

  9. “…pulp still sells.”, yep. “Oh, perhaps more carefully written pulp, but fast paced and interesting and pulp, …”

    Maybe, maybe I’m biased having cut my teeth of ’50s and ’60s pulp which I remember as well written, etc., OK, not all of it by a long shot, but the same’s true today.

    1. Some of it was below horrible as far as “writing quality.” But the stories yanked you in by the scruff of the neck and jumped to light speed. And some of those 1940s-1950s pulps are still on my shelf now, after surviving many-many cullings.

  10. It was like a group of people were trying to make us– non-readers. It started in the schools and was picked up by the tradition NYC gatekeepers of taste. (/sarcing about taste)

    1. I believe it was Lenin who said the most important thing the commies could do was control cinema.

      I imagine the second most important thing would be to turn folks off books so they watch more cinema.

  11. It’s like the French Academic painters back in the last century. They all wanted to be history painters because that was where the prestige was but the punters just wanted socially acceptable naked women to hang on the wall. Then the Impressionists came and cleaned their clock. Too bad that art returned to academic art that no one wants to buy so it has to be subsidized by the state.

    1. As someone who has actually sold stuff I’ve painted I can definitely see there is a big market for “nice to look at and fun.” That’s getting met by people who don’t really care if we’re seen as “cutting edge” “deep” or “woke”. We’ll take making some good sales through Ross home decor over being called a genius by pretentious idiots for painting something that looks like a toddler’s art. Although if you can bilk wokerati assholes with your toddler finger painting crap for $$$ as well why not? 😁

      1. I suspect it’s that what’s important to them is being an ARTIST rather than making art along with the notion that to have great art you have to have great patrons. Our ruling class are nopeither artists nor,patrons. For the rest, art is a pretty to hang in the wall made by someone with the skill to make a pretty.

        I really hate living in an age that all the grumpy reactionaries warned us of.

        1. Like the ones wanting to be AN AUTHOR without having to actually learn how to write. Or even how to spell. Or format a readable sentence. Or…

      2. I have original oil and chalk and charcoal on our walls. Get complements from friends when they see it. Cost? Free. Grandpa, Sister, Cousin, and Great Grandmother, produced. Sister and Cousin have actually sold pieces. Neither make a living out of it. Niece, sister’s oldest does fantastic work too. But she is very private with her drawings. I loved the work of a former co-worker’s wife, who had the studio and her work was sold world wide. Office had a number of prints of her stuff that we could get at discounted prices … Early ’90s that was $900 – $1200 per print. Don’t remember her first name. She died of cancer mid ’90s. Work was realistic nature, fields, meadows, wild flowers, forests, and wild animals.

  12. I like my own books. I write what I like to read. Therefore I read my own books. : ) No politics required.

  13. I always drove my English Lit. teachers to distraction, because they always made the mistake of asking “what do you think X symbolizes in Y’s novel ‘ZZZZZ’?” Of course, what they actually meant was “what do you think *I* think X symbolizes, etc.?”

    Being a literal sort and precociously verbal, I would write a detailed essay explaining the symbolism that I found in novel “ZZZZZ”, and back it up with history and my personal observations of life. Oh, how they hated that.

  14. Ohhhhh, holy cruuuuud. Boris Johnson gave a present to Jill Biden at the G7 conference in Cornwall — a book by the Cornish author Daphne du Maurier, named The Apple Tree.

    It’s a book of horror short stories of various lengths, including “The Birds.” But the eponymous “The Apple Tree” story is about a man whose annoying wife dies, and then her spirit apparently infests the apple tree outside their house with all her annoying characteristics. And of course it doesn’t end well for either.

    Unless Jill Biden is some kind of giant secret horror fan, I can’t think that this was the sort of gift one gives as a nice present. Shudder.

      1. On the bright side, a UK first edition from 1952 is not pig’s feet. But… yeah. I mean, half the stories are about “Cornwall is trying to kill you, and you deserve it! Die, evil humans who don’t repent of sins!”

            1. I’m not so sure, I always thought he displayed a rather finely-tuned sense of how people perceived him. His stated reasoning for WHY they perceived him as they did was often suspect, but he was very aware of their perceptions.

    1. Well, what other kind of present would you give to Adolph Hitler, or Saddam Hussein? I mean, if you officially had to pretend they were allies, and that they were not soon to appear before a firing squad, and you didn’t have the excuse of being able to lie to yourself about them being good people because of having your very identity invested in said false belief?

      Yes, he is probably some breed of Euro lefty squish. But he isn’t a Democrat, and does not have to lie to himself. He can give her a ‘gift’ that is very on the nose, and be safely confident that she will not read it.

      Fundamentally, the foreign powers that have been treating with Biden belong on lists for payback later.

      This doesn’t absolve the UK of being due a reckoning, but does mitigate things. Potentially there is some possibility in a future relationship with the UK.

      1. I get the impression that the “Biden” administration is a three way power struggle between Jill, Kamala, and Nancy Pelosi. Someday, someone is going to make a non-fantasy “Game of Thrones” story about it.

        1. Based on what I’ve heard (third-hand, so grain of salt), Harris doesn’t have the brains to run a lemonade stand, let alone get into a three-way power struggle over who controls the White House.

          1. That assesment has been making it into the Deplorable blogosphere through commenters who’ve had to deal with her. OTOH, I can see her getting into such a power struggle.

            To paraphrase H. Kissinger: “It’s a pity they can’t all lose.”

  15. A millennial asked me what I was doing and I said “reading a novel”. She said: “that’s so old fashioned”.

    1. Saying reading novels is old-fashioned —- is old fashioned.

      The Three-Decker
      1894
      “The three-volume novel is extinct.”

      https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/three_decker.html

      “Her crews are babes or madmen? Her port is all to make?
      You’re manned by Truth and Science, and you steam for steaming’s sake?
      Well, tinker up your engines – you know your business best –
      She’s taking tired people to the Islands of the Blest!”

    2. They find novels as passe because it requires too long an attention span o read. Younger generations are being deliberately trained/encouraged to have short attention spans, as it makes it easier for them to believe that we have always been at war with Eastasia.

      1. Hahahahaha! Not much! Seriously, those webnovels go on for hundreds and thousands of chapters! For years and years and years! Ticky tacky little webnovels about game-like worlds, or soap opera exotic lands! Not even mentioning all the fanfic sagas that go on and on and on and on.

        And then there’s this whole world of audiobooks by computer, or by reader, making YouTube or podcast versions of these webnovel fics that go on for hour after hour.

        Attention span isn’t the problem. Nope.

        1. Yeah, we need to be careful about reasoning about large chunks of population based on small sample size.

          I know very few people, and that means I can do some hilarious extrapolations from sample size of one, due to not having any other examples, or not having recently enough met someone from that category.

      2. Yeah… These millennials are the ones who read the Harry Potter series MANY times. Have you seen those doorstops?

        It might be fun to discover what they imagine “a novel” to be. My suspicion is that it is *exactly* the kind of book Mrs. Hoyt was inveighing against.

    3. Funny, that’s the same reaction I get from my Gen X and Boomer family when I say I’m reading a book on my phone, mostly.

      The folks under 40 are more likely to go “whatcha readin’?” and then make interested noises if I say “chesterton”.

  16. A Terrible Bullshit is Born by Robert Conquest writing as Ted Pauker

    Good night to the year Academic,
    It finally crept to a close:
    Dry fact about physic and chemic,
    Wet drip about people and prose.
    Emotion was down to a snivel
    And reason was pulped to a pap,
    Sociologists droning out drivel
    And critics all croaking out crap.
    For any such doctrine is preachable
    In our tolerant Temple of Thought
    Where lads that are largely unteachable
    Learn subjects that cannot be taught.

    Good night to the Session — portentous
    Inside the Vice-Chancellor’s gown,
    The personage who’ll represent us
    To Public and Party and Crown.
    By enthusing for nitwitted novelty
    He wheedles the moment’ry Great,
    And at influence-dinner or grovel-tea
    Further worsens the whims of the State.
    So it is that, however much we rage,
    The glibber of heart and of tongue
    Build ladders to reach a life-peerage
    From the buzz-sawed-up brains of the young.

    Good night to the Session — the Chaplain,
    Progressive and Ritualist too,
    Who refers to the role of the apple in
    Eden as ‘under review’.
    When the whole situation has ripened
    Of his temporal hopes these are chief:
    A notable increase in stipend,
    And the right to abandon belief.
    Meanwhile, his sermons: ‘The Wafer —
    Is it really the Presence of God?’
    ‘Is the Pill or the French Letter Safer?’
    And, ‘Does the Biretta look Mod?’

    Good night to the Session — what Art meant,
    Or Science, no longer seemed plain,
    But our new Education Department
    Confuses confusion again.
    ‘Those teach who can’t do’ runs the dictum,
    But for some even that’s out of reach:
    They can’t even teach — so they’ve picked ’em
    To teach other people to teach.
    Then alas for the next generation,
    For the pots fairly crackle with thorn.
    Where psychology meets education
    A terrible bullshit is born.

    Good night to the Session — the students
    So eager to put us all right,
    Whose conceit might have taken a few dents
    But that ploughing’s no longer polite;
    So the essays drop round us in torrents
    Of jargon a mouldering mound,
    All worrying weakly at Lawrence,
    All drearily pounding at Pound;
    And their knowledge would get them through no test
    On Ghana or Greece or Vietnam,
    But they’ve mugged up enough for a Protest
    — An easyish form of exam.

    Good night to the Session — so solemn,
    ‘Truth’ and ‘Freedom’ their crusader crests,
    One hardly knows quite what to call ’em
    These children with beards or with breasts.
    When from State or parental Golcondas
    Treasure trickles to such little boys
    They spend it on reefers and Hondas
    — That is, upon sweeties and toys;
    While girls of delicious proportions
    Are thronging the Clinic’s front stair,
    Some of them seeking abortions
    And some a psychiatrist’s care.

    Good night to the Session — the politics,
    So noisy, and nagging, and null.
    You can tell how the time-bomb of Folly ticks
    By applying your ear to their skull;
    Of course, that is only a metaphor,
    But they have their metaphors too,
    Such as ‘Fascist’, that’s hardly the better for
    Being used of a liberal and Jew
    — The Prof. of Applied Aeronautics,
    For failing such students as try,
    With LSD lapping their cortex,
    To fub up a fresh way to fly.

    Good night to the Session — the Union:
    The speeches with epigram packed,
    So high upon phatic communion,
    So low upon logic and fact.
    (Those epigrams? — Oh well, at any rate
    By now we’re all quite reconciled
    To a version that’s vastly degenerate
    From the Greek, via Voltaire and Wilde.)
    Then the bold resolutions devoted
    To the praise of a party or state
    In this context most obviously noted
    For its zeal in destroying debate.

    Good night to the Session — the sculpture:
    A jelly containing a clock
    Where they say, ‘From the way that you gulped you’re
    Therapeutically thrilled by the shock!’
    — It’s the Shock of, alas, Recognition
    At what’s yearly presented as new
    Since first seen at Duchamps’ exhibition
    ‘Des Maudits’, in Nineteen-O-Two.
    But let’s go along to the Happening,
    Where an artist can really unwind,
    Stuff like ‘Rapists should not take the rap’ penning
    In gamboge on a model’s behind.

    Good night to the Session — a later
    Will come — and the freshmen we’ll get!
    Their pretensions will be even greater,
    Their qualifications worse yet.
    — But don’t be too deeply depressible
    At obtuseness aflame for applause;
    The louts that are loudest in decibel
    Melt away in post-graduate thaws.
    Don’t succumb to an anger unreasoned!
    Most students are charming, and bright;
    And even some dons are quite decent …
    But good night to the Session, good night!

  17. I don’t know if this is the stupidest thing I ever heard, but it’s definitely a contender:

    “There isn’t one truth, of course, truth is a relative term. At one point, the truth was the world was flat.” — Dr. Devra Davis


    That is her introduction to an hour-long lecture on “The truth about mobile phone and wireless radiation”

    Was that just an unfortunate misstatement, or was that actually the meaning she intended to convey? Is the video just a waste of time? Will get any better from there? Can it get any worse?

    1. Video is probably a waste of time.

      I expect the statement is evidence that she subscribes to a ‘truth is relative’ philosophy, and does not have a good foundation for summarizing information of various levels of reliability.

      Other reasons I think it probably a waste, is that I find video difficult to take in, and I think I know some stuff about electromagnetic radiation.

      Basically, the electrical engineers have some tools for understanding it that let them do Cool Things(TM). But, most of the theory they use to understand bioeffects is that the harm is purely thermal. The problem is, a negative hasn’t been proved, so every possible mechanism of bioeffect has not been comprehensively and conclusively tested. There are a great many chemicals in the human body, and electrical engineering covers a wide range of frequencies. Electromagnetic wave radiation at specific frequencies is known to have interactions with specific chemical bonds. In theory, previous research could have overlooked something subtle that is important.

      In practice, both biology and electrical engineering are improving some of the fundamental tests and tools, so we have more ability to study RF bioeffects than we have had before. Currently/recently, there has been serious research proposed to investigate further. Possibly, the right length of pulses at the right frequencies could have effects on specific biochemical pathways that are interesting. I personally think it would be cool to investigate that for anti-personal directed energy weapons. (I’ve stuck that on my “I’m not smart enough and hence don’t have enough time” list.)

      BAsically, there is a bunch of hearsay claiming evidence of effects, but I have not traced any of it down to figure out if it makes sense. There are people who might have answers, but this one doesn’t seem like a good bet.

      The Big Tech people designing the phones probably think they are safe. However, a) they are probably using the thermal model b) those organizations do not inspire confidence that they would figure things out if they got it wrong, test carefully, or even care if they are hurting people c) I’m not so impressed with the intelligence of Big Tech organizations that I would assume that they are smart enough to avoid making obvious mistakes. (Smart people at competent organizations make stupid oversights sometimes.)

      Also, PRC seems to be involved with 5G, and I am morally certain that they would willingly design a system while having a callous indifference to human life. I also expect communist countries to have competence issues.

      1. There is study evidence that EM does certainly have effects – though in the case of the line of research in this paper https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31403948/ it’s positive effects, where the RF “disaggregates both Aβ and p-tau oligomers, and induces brain mitochondrial enhancement” (if you dig around a bit it looks like this is relatively low power (1w) pulses stepped through multiple emitters at pretty fast PRF for a hour a day using a frequency around 900MHz, so near cell freqs).

        This is one of the few clinical trial positive result papers that I’ve seen addressing neurodegenerative disease processes, and it’s notable that it looks on its face to be even better than that new sixty-grand-per-year drug that was just approved.

        1. Yeah, there is also some anecdotal cases for positive usages of various sorts of things. Nothing I trust very strongly, but that is partly me being very tedious about what I know here.

          I would note that a positive effect implies a possibility for an unknown negative effect.

          1. Point your search engine at “Havana Syndrome”. Various sources, some (several?) with potentially useful/reliable (also the Grauniad 🙂 ) information. I’ve seen bits saying it’s in the USA, with a minor White House staffer hit with it outside.

      2. And there is a meta-point similar to the Do Videogames Cause Violence? issue:

        If cellphones were causing brain cancer or whatever when there were a few of them around, why haven’t the effects killed most of the young women in the first world by now?

          1. The accusations aren’t limited to brains. Also location-of-pocket and others.

            And there was a large period of time when they were all holding the phones to their heads.

            Plus we have one electronic device after another where the Very Wise People insist there must be something wrong with being that close to electricity. We aren’t to the proving your anti-gravity device level of skepticism yet, but the standard of evidence gets a little higher with each panic.

            1. The pattern of repeated panic mongering is the absolute worst thing that the “scientific” establishment has ever done. It gets the publicity that the specific scientist is after for their 15 seconds of fame, but it undermines the entire basis for modern civilization.

              And there’s never any follow up – the guy that claims looking at the color yellow that bananas turn on day three causes toenail fungus gets his pulse of newsiness, but there’s never “and then it never happened, so we fired that idiot” from that idiot’s academic venue.

              I really think the reproducibility crisis should yield some sort of feedback to publish-or-perish, but yeah, fat chance.

              1. Thing is, it is possible to miss the signs if you are distant from a university, but I’m pretty sure that the universities have fucked over their reputation pretty badly.

                I think that in twenty or thirty years, the public will have forced the universities to eat some costs for that.

            2. This is an issue where I’m still at where I was on vaccines before Fauci. I’m skeptical of the extreme anti position, but I have relatives who are anti, and there are aspects of their cases that I cannot refute.

              I think human health is very weird, has a lot of personal variation, and I think there are a lot of little possibilities that are hard to entirely rule out. (I’m also a little embarrassed talking about some of this; I’ve become more willing to accept woo than I used to be willing to tolerate.)

              Anyway, paying close attention, I can hear a whine coming somewhere from one of the computers. Might be spinning rust, or it might be those ‘electronic’ noises that some people apparently do not hear. I also have some very weird medical issues. I’m not willing to rule out that someone is correct about some little thing being a problem for them, at least not over so wide a category.

                1. Of course if they were recently vaccinated with an RNA vaccine, and they were given the common CCP Virus test which is an RNA seeking test, the test would naturally be positive because it would detect the RNA from the vaccine in the body. This is why so many of those post-vaccination tests are reported as positive but asymptomatic.

              1. One thing winding people up about covid vaccine is that there are thought to be iron oxide nanoparticles in Pfizer and Moderna, hence the strange magnetic attractions in some patients. Could this then be used for some type of activation by cell/rf/low frequency waves?
                I don’t know. Just sayin’.

                1. I think probably not.

                  Okay, nanoparticles are still a pretty active research area.

                  It is one of those things that look like it would be very complicated, so I think if something can happen physically in theory, making it all line up would be a bear, and very unlikely to be something that can be done reliably.

              2. I am all in on the virtue of getting, say, the tetanus vaccine, since *there is no cure*. When even my D.P. was a youngster, the risk/reward calculus is obvious, and a good pediatrician will let you space out the inoculations so as not to stress out the wee immune system.

                I do note, however, that the U.S. has oursourced it’s vaccine production to the CCP, and those jokers export poison puppy chow and contaminated infant formula.

                The new parent nowadays has very difficult choices to make

                1. TEtanus is not a mandatory for everyone shot. It is more a ‘if you step on something, or are likely to get poked’.

                  My change with Fauci was going from ‘the state has a legitimate public health right to compell vaccinations in an emergency’ to ‘…does not have a…’.

        1. That argument is a little weaker in this case.

          They change the frequencies some when they rewrite the standards for a new generation cellular system. And stuff in the microwave range is known to have some chemical interactions. I think the frequencies aren’t finalized for 5G, and previous users of the spectrum segments may not have been using it for the same applications.

          Furthermore, if a frequency is safe at some power levels and pulse times, it might be possible to identify a different combination that is harmful in some way. Even if the cellphone does not use the dangerous combination by default, there is a remote chance that someone could discover it, and use malware to generate the harmful signal.

          I think this last possibility is probably a stretch, but…

          Anyway, cancer is obvious, but things like irregular heartbeat, or vague mental issues are also possibilities.

    2. My point is, ‘The World Is Flat!’ was a common misconception thousands of years ago. It was never truth. Our planet has been an oblate spheroid orbiting a type G0 star for more than four billion years. Truth is truth even if nobody knows it.

      ‘Some people used to believe the world was flat’ is true. ‘The world was flat’ is not. Belief, even widespread belief, can only change the perception of reality, not reality itself.
      ———————————
      Facts do not depend on opinions. Unfortunately, for far too many people, opinions do not depend on facts, either.

      1. I think I read it here recently, but I liked it, so paraphrased: “The Earth is flat” works just fine for building a shed, works poorly for figuring out how far to sail to get to India, and does not work at all for orbital mechanics or observational astronomy, so also not for impressive things like predicting eclipses.

        I never did figure out how “the Earth is flat” hypothesis can explain both the existence of a horizon and the universal surface-normal gravity vector – if it was really flat you could see further, and if it actually just slightly curved like the back of a turtle, out at the edge the trees would grow nearly sideways – all locally observable data.

        And in fact the proof wherein the ancients worked out that the Earth was a sphere in fact relied on locally observable data.

        So the flat Earth thing was always just not paying attention and working things through – or “It is all unknowable magic and the will of deity, and trying to explain anything or work it out for myself is evil”.

        1. Akshully, the Earth is a B Cup; the Flat Earthers need to be canceled for body shaming.

        2. I never did figure out how “the Earth is flat” hypothesis can explain both the existence of a horizon and the universal surface-normal gravity vector – if it was really flat you could see further, and if it actually just slightly curved like the back of a turtle, out at the edge the trees would grow nearly sideways – all locally observable data.

          You live in a place with really clear skies, I take it?

          Look at weather station sites for vision distance– “haze” I think is how they put it.

          If you don’t assume that sky is absolutely clear– think more like thin water– there’s no confusion.

          The “earth is curved and nothing screws with your vision” theory would require that you see stuff at the far end of teh desert going sideways, not fading away in the haze of “there is stuff in the air.”

          1. IIRC, one of the clues that the earth was roundish came from somebody watching ships/sailboats coming over the horizon.seeing the top of the sail, then more should be a medium strong cluebat.. OTOH, it’s been a hell of a long time since I lived near a body of water big enough to have a notable horizon, so I/m not clear if haze would have obscured the picture.

            On the gripping hand, the diameter was measured about 2K years ago: https://stardate.org/astro-guide/faqs/how-was-size-earth-first-measured

              1. Doesn’t look like the distances are that huge. Back of the envelope calculations (aided by my trusty HP15) say that the top of a 50 foot mast would just hit the horizon at a distance of 8.7 miles*. A large bay would entail such. Smaller masts, closer, but harder to spot.

                (*) Assuming 4000 mile radius for a spherical Earth.

                Similar effects would work for a hill surrounded by a plain (see Dave Freer’s MGC post from Monday for a good example of such). Actually, given a suitably large plain, that would be better than the water, since there wouldn’t be waves to muck with the observations. Over longer distances, people could note that you could see the top of Volcano X at a certain distance, but you’d have to get closer to see the sides further down. And on a good day, visibility distances can be quite long. My dentist’s office in Flyover Falls has a great view of Mount Shasta on a modestly clear day. That’s about 70 miles. The snow line is well defined, especially from the north. (BotE calculations indicate that the horizon distance for Shasta relative to our area is about 125 miles.)

                1. Still requires leaving sight of land, and there being a clear line of sight for the land stuff.

                  Even in traditionally considered flat Iowa, things are not that flat, nor that bare.

              2. Out of sight of land isn’t a requirement. It requires that the ship have the ability to sail directly away from the viewer. A peninsula that juts out into the sea can provide this while also allowing a captain to follow the coast. Alternatively, if the far shore is out of sight of the originating port, but becomes visible before the vessel gets out of sight of the originating port, then a ship can also “sail over the horizon” without losing sight of land.

                1. Which still takes it from high frequency and obvious to someone paying attention at the right time and the right place and drawing the right conclusion.

                  1. Still, if a few people draw that conclusion, the word is going to get around. Maybe. 🙂 “Heretic! The King said the world is flat!”

                    The land examples should work. I did something like that in Montana looking for the top of the Rockies while driving on the straight-flat portion of US2. Did the square roots in my head–that stretch was Boooooooorrrrrrring! Any isolated feature at the end of a flat stretch (Mt Shasta or other volcanos might be good candidates) would be fodder for somebody to notice.

                    It would be interesting to figure out how the flat vs round concepts traveled around in various cultures in history.

                    1. Sailors used to observing the sea likely could spot things like high peaks near their destination before they saw signs of the town/city that they were heading for (even when not out of sight of land).

                      It’s possible of course, that certain groups kept such information as a “secret of their trade”. 😀

        3. Dante took it for granted his audience knew the world was round in 1320. Mind you, he was aiming, obviously, for a reasonably educated audience, but still.

    3. OK, watched the video. Much better than that introductory sentence led me to expect. Maybe it WAS just an unfortunate misstatement.

      She presented a lot of persuasive evidence, made good points, didn’t push conclusions beyond what the evidence could support, and constantly said the evidence was incomplete, more investigation needed.

      Some of it is alarming, though. Several cases of women who kept cell phones in their bras for years and developed anomalous clusters of small cancers right under the cell phone’s antenna. Brain damage, prenatal damage and reproductive issues in rats exposed to simulated cell phone signals. Strong indications that young children are more susceptible to adverse effects than adults. Many other examples.

      She also noted something I’ve been saying for years — Politics Perverts Science. Any study must be evaluated in light of who paid for it. As well as which scientists suddenly STOPPED getting paid.

      1. Um… If women are keeping a heavy object in their bras, rubbing and bumping their skin, I imagine that would cause all kinds of bad effects. I mean, yes, some women keep money in their bras, but they don’t keep their whole purse in there.

        Also, how would one avoid a lot of pimples, rashes, skin infections, blocked sweat glands, etc., as well as continual low level bruising or ligament strain of Cooper’s ligaments? Phones are known to carry a lot of germs, so why would you put it next to your skin on a regular uninterrupted basis? So many questions…..

        1. Yeah, but if it is specifically under the antenna, and not under the other parts of the phone, would be a little concerning.

          Seems awkward enough that I do wonder about sample sizes.

          Anyway, I don’t know what size antennas are used in phones.

          You wouldn’t necessarily use a very directional antenna on a smart phone. So, it may be that the beam pattern is only intense enough to be a problem at extreme close range, that the designers assumed no one would actually do. Would be interesting to calculate thermal loading at that point, compare to known engineering safety parameters. I also wonder if breast tissue has different properties from from what is usually assumed.

          1. Yeah, but if it is specifically under the antenna, and not under the other parts of the phone, would be a little concerning.

            Unless the antenna is external, how could they tell?

            And it that case– there was damage where they were getting poked constantly?

            1. (I do know where my old phone’s antenna was, but bottom left corner behind battery is not the kind of thing that is likely to be known by women who carry their phone in their bra.)

              1. Thing is, if they kept the records of which phone they used, or if the records is available, someone else could figure that out. Still, that would require a lot of information about which phones were carried in which orientation.

                Yeah, I think this may place the ‘observations’ firmly in the territory of “we can find five women who do this, and who we have reliable information from. One or two coincidental cancers look more impressive than they really are.”

    4. Oh — one line really got me. “I was asked why I wanted cell phone use by three-year-olds studied. I said, ‘Just wait’.”

  18. One reason for a lot of the symbol-hunting, or the frantic search for content that goes with the current academic fad (Marxism, queer theory, whatever) is that every year sees a fresh crop of would-be MAs and Doctors who need something, anything, to write a thesis about. Another reason is that the “literary” world, like the art world, is dominated by a clique of people who resemble the Brezhnev-era Soviet Politboro in more than their politics. They mouth empty words of revolution, but they haven’t had a fresh idea since the mid-1920s.

  19. This quote from 1955 is gold: “And we have such awesome competition, TV and the silver screen and a thousand other entertaining distractions.”

    I have to put that in my pocket when I’m told people, especially men, aren’t reading because of video games and cable, not because the big publishers would break out in hives if their dared to publish something that might appeal to the great “unwashed” (having meant some hippies, I suspect I shower more than the staff at Tor).

  20. And it all starts right there with “we won’t buy and resell/produce what people want to read. Our job is to educate them and make them better people.”

    My initial response was a violent rejection of this idea.

    Because very, very few people want to eat their spinach, so to speak.

    “It is a hard saying,” as carpenter once said.

    But then I followed Chesterton’s advice, and sat, and thought about it a bit, rather than stopping after the metaphorical bark of laughter.

    …and it works.

    Because, if you are going to educate someone, to make them better– you have to figure out a way to make them WANT to be better.

    One of the few objective goods of psychology is the recognition that you can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change.

    Jesus Christ Himself did stuff that was bleepin’ stand up comedy– just PICTURE some dude with a freakin’ log sticking out of his eye, yelling at his brother about hold still, let me pick this splinter that I’m SURE I see in your eye out…..

  21. Or his comparison of the Pharisee and the tax collector. “Thank God, I’m not like other men,” intones the Pharisee, and instantly starts listing his virtue-signals.

    1. Yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff in Jesus’ stories. It’s almost like Himself knows people….. 🙂

      Btw, the actual quote from John 6:61/6:60 is “Skleros estin ho logos,” which means literally, “The Word is hard” (or rough, or harsh, or stubborn, or unyielding — the root meaning is something dried out and hardened). It’s John’s Gospel, so you have to pay attention to anything using “Logos.”

      I think it’s hilarious that John used people’s contradiction of Jesus’ Divinity and refusal to believe His teaching, as a way to testify to His Divinity and teaching, as well as pointing out that, yup, Jesus is not going to change His mind and suddenly make His teaching different.

      Greek is cool. I always wondered why so many Classics people said that Greek should be learned for fun, but it is fun. I just wish I was learning it systematically, instead of whenever I have the spoons.

      1. Himself is (naturally) the world’s greatest practicing psychologist. Forgiving your enemies is as much for your sake as theirs; praying for people you have reason to hate helps to keep you from hating them. Not that it makes it easy…

        I’ve concluded Luke displays a delicate sense of humor in Acts. As when Barnabas and Paul perform a miracle outside a city and the city folk assume they’re gods and set up a sacrifice. And assume Paul must be Mercury (Hermes? Even funnier that way) because he’s talking so much.

  22. Forgot to post something I just saw!

    The British Museum has this thing where they’ve been interviewing curators to get them to pick and talk about an interesting object in the collections. This week’s question was about curators’ favorite cow-related objects.

    “Jamie’s Luwian Hieroglyph That Makes You Go Moo” is full of fascinating info, You get to learn about the Luwian hieroglyph system, which isn’t the same as Egyptian hieroglyphs, or the Sumerian cuneiform that everybody in the area was using for work topics.

    But the presenter who shows up before the curator makes a point of wearing one of the world’s stupidest and most passive aggressively woke t-shirts, on a channel aimed at the public, when he could have just worn something bland and professional. Take your medicine, kids!

    1. Anyhoo, forgot to say that Luwian was what Troy spoke, and during the period that Homer was writing about, as the video says.

      But the video is talking about Carchemish’s Luwian-speaking king, Pisiri, (P-S-R), and of course the Trojan War guy is Paris (P-R-S), and I wonder if the names are related.

      1. Pisiri, btw, attributes his kingship and succession to his father’s throne to the goddess Kubaba.

        And she was a real person, one of the few ruling queens in Mesopotamia and the only one on the Sumerian King List. And she started out her life by running a tavern and making beer. She allegedly ruled for 100 years in Kish, which of course would have made her pretty old.

        Anyhoo, she later was worshipped as a goddess of attaining and keeping rule, which makes sense considering her unusual background, and the fact that her son and grandson did follow her onto the throne. Later on, she got smashed together with a Phrygian goddess and turned into the “great mother” Kybele, and also Zeus’ daughter Kybebe, But originally, she was a really good queen in Kish.

        Kubaba reigned somewhere around 2500-2330 BC, Troy was around 1200 BC, Pisiri lost his city of Carchemish to Sargon II of Babylon in 717 BC, and the Romans were worried about Cybele during the first few AD centuries.

        Just a lot of time going on in Mesopotamia….

        1. Okay… so Kish was an Akkadian city. Her name was technically Ku-Baba (“the goddess Baba is holy”) or Kug-Bau (I think that’s the Akkadian version, but maybe it’s the Sumerian version). There was a break where Akshak had power, then her son and grandson got power, and her grandson was King Ur-Zababa of Kish.

          However, he screwed up. He appointed as his cupbearer a guy named Sargon, who was the son of a gardener but who had attained military glory. He ended up becoming Sargon of Akkad, taking over Kish in a coup against his boss, and going on from there to do lots of famous warlike things. Or at least that’s how the legend goes.

          There was also something going on with Lugal-zaggesi of Uruk possibly laying waste to Kish, and Sargon taking control afterwards. But either way, there’s a ton of politics going on here.

          Kish’s ruins are still there. Pictures of Kish today.

        2. I remember when I first heard of her, in an online discussion. Someone observed that a tavern-keeper struck him as odder than a woman for a king.

      2. Found an article that thinks Paris is related to the known Hittite and/or Luwian name Pari-Zitis, which probably means “protecting men,” much as Alexandros (Paris’ alternate name in Homer) means “defender of men.”

        I like that. I like that a lot.

  23. Shall we take a moment to recall the ultimate pulp writer old Willie the Shake, who’s lurid tales of sex and violence were held in most high esteem by both the masses paying a ha’penny to stand and watch while the better classes sat in their balcony seats at thrupence a head. And then printers of course made a pretty penny selling copies of his plays on the street for those unable to attend.

  24. It seems to me that there are 3 broad categories of books (as opposed to fiction/non-fiction): entertainment, reference, and coffee table books. Most of the books that I “must read” are coffee table books. They’re not meant to be read, which is good as they’re unreadable, they’re meant to been seen and signify that “I’m a good person”.

    I once found it odd that Hollywood now focuses on movies and tv shows that are not meant to be watched and the publishing industry focuses on books not meant to be read, but if you have no talent then you go where that lack of talent leads you.

  25. Made me thing of parseltongue from the Harry Potter stories. Which is kind of appropriate. If anyone qualifies for Death Eater status, it is the modern Left.

    1. ARRRGH! I dropped the quote

      “Also hiss is the language of the twitterpated SJW.”

      Made me thing of parseltongue from the Harry Potter stories. Which is kind of appropriate. If anyone qualifies for Death Eater status, it is the modern Left.

  26. Another entry in the list of things I don’t get is the hostility critics have toward popular fiction. Maybe becasue I grew up reading so-called “pulp” fiction. Astounding/Analog was my monthly gift to myself. When at the library or used book store, I couldn’t get enough of Robert Heinlein or Alan E. Nourse or Frank G, Slaughter — among others. I read almost everything of Edgar Rice Burroughs. As far as I can tell, such prolonged exposure didn’t rot my brain too much.

    I can’t write stories worth a damn so am glad there are still authors who understand that entertainment is the biggest reason people read for relaxation.

    1. Probably because “common people,” enjoy it and therefore it is “common,” “inferior,” and “not something for gentlemen.” And b, it makes much more money and gets a wider audience than the “refined,” “nuanced,” and “sophisticated,” literature that serves to display one’s personal intelligence and erudition.

      Going political a second, I’m convinced that attitude explains a lot of never-Trumpers: he was Not One of Them, and yet he trounced the more appropriate candidates of gravitas and proper social class.

      1. Some of it is the matter of influence by the people you spend time around.

        A lot are/were lawyers, and being a lawyer means that other lawyers often are part of the monkeysphere that influences your sense of mores. And the ABA is very definitely converged, and in a position to influence whether a lawyer is able to find work; Stockholm syndrome is real. Again, see the January 12th, 2021 letter by those heads of law schools, and consider the lack of immediate outrage to the level of seeing those heads quickly fired.

        Patterico was a prosecutor, he had an occupational investment in certain ideas of international criminal law. He was always going to side with a faction within or without the GOP that blinds itself to the question of whether, given that law is a cultural artifact, and that given that not all countries have the same culture, international law isn’t itself inherently suspect.

        Dan McLaughlin and David FRench are lawyers, and likewise we can see them merrily ignoring the questions that it would cost them future work to acknowledge.

        Tom Kratman, Amie Gibbons, and someone who comments here whose handle I cannot recall are not so blind. Glenn Reynolds and Kurt Schlichter may be letting themselves see some of the issues.

        Fundamentally, if questions arise politically, of whether courts, judges, and lawyers are being gamed for political ends, if a lawyer makes the political case for ‘yes’, they undermine some of their expected future earning power. The utility of law is in tediously deciding disputes in situations where emotions are high. The earning potential of lawyers is partly on the basis of their ability to deliver arguments to court that are shorn of the stupid tedious emotional bullshit. IE, something that is estimated as part of professional reputation. In other words, lawyers tend to develop a habit of not getting too involved emotionally, and of dropping stuff that can’t win.

        Furthermore, lawyers are heavily focused on verbal intelligence, and may be weaker numerically, or at least not trained that way. Hence Bill Barr, whose wiki biography makes him appear to be entirely untrained in modern statistics. (IIRC, his bachelors is in government, from an era when a good grounding in statistics may not have been widespread among many majors. )

        The lawyers, generally, have their nuts in a vice, and it may not be obvious to all of them that they do. The law faculty who signed that letter, for example, are probably untrained in electrical engineering, do not understand the possibilities of electronics manufacturing and inspections, and may be innocent of the understanding of whether a secure electronic device can exist, when traceable, transparent chain of custody and records can not be verified.

        Note, this is not purely a matter of picking on lawyers; I’m pretty sure the professions of engineering and medicine also have some serious issues that they will need to grapple with.

        Beyond compromising people via the organizations that shape their occupations, there are also people apparently compromised through their religious organizations.

        1. At least she’s actually had a child.
          OTOH, is the world ready for a heroine with PMS? Gives “acting out,” a whole new meaning.

          1. 😀 Reminds me of a T-shirt I saw at a convention. Picture of a big revolver with the words:

            I HAVE PMS
            AND A GUN
            ANY QUESTIONS?

    1. So…

      What happens if she does as nature intended, and gets pregnant? Does the lack of a period mean she loses her superpowers?

      1. One other thought +

        The jokes just write themselves for this one. If a man had come up with this idea, he would have been (rightly) pilloried.

    2. I’m not clicking it either. WTF, O?

      Nobody could do something that stupid by accident. They’re working at it!

    3. *slow blink*

      …. World building for the Slayers! anime had kind of the inverse, where female magic users had “that time of month” and lost their powers.

      It was actually hysterical, because the brainless Paladin type guy was the one doing the “explain things to the watchers” part is horrifying the sorceress by KNOWING THAT EXISTS and eventually she figures out he has no idea what it is, just that the priestesses and such that he knows all lost their powers and just said it was “that time of the month.”
      Can’t find it, but here’s the character.

      That’s 30-ish years ago, and MUCH better as a story idea. 😀

        1. I have such nostalgia for that show! It hit me at just the right time in my life. I still go back there when I’m so down I wanna give up.

          Nothing else gives me the same oomph except for perhaps biker mice from mars, and that’s hard to find. I have the first season but the other two seasons seem to have disappeared off the internet. There was an attempted relaunch in 2008. S’ok but it doesn’t feel the same!

          Just sayin in case anybody wants to give me a happy pill?

          1. I knew my husband liked me when he loaned me his DVDs of it. 😀

            Good luck on the Biker Mice from Mars. I vaguely remember that was fun, along the lines of the animated Mighty Ducks.

      1. If that’s the story I heard about, she didn’t believe him until it came to “that time of the month” for her. 😈

          1. Might have been a different series.

            Of course, it would have to be a stupid woman to not realize her own loss of power at that time of month. 😉

  27. Ladies and gentlemen, the current state of SF: White people want to enslave black people again. The infinite possibilities of the universe and that’s what they picked. It’s such a shame that the genre is in thrall to ideological robots who can’t imagine anything beyond their own fears.

    https://archive.is/9BaCs

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