You’ve Got To Have Faith! — Riding the catastrophic wave of change part V

So we’ve been talking about how everything is broken. Yes, I know I haven’t gone into everything, but that’s easily explainable: first, I don’t have the rest of my life to do this series of articles; second, I don’t have visibility into a lot of areas (while I have visibility into a lot of them because I have a wide circle, and I like listening to people talking about what they do.)

Now, to a certain extent everything has always been broken. I mean, we’re humans. Humans are…. not perfect. yes, I know, I was surprised (and annoyed) too when I found out. For the longest time I thought it was just me.

But — unless this is a mirage caused by the fact that we’re not living then — it seems that not all times were as broken as ours.

We can see it from “real signs” too — for one, in most times the technological and therefore the social change waves were smaller or further apart. So there was time for stabilizing in between. For another we know that things were more stable from the fact that at times in the past (though not all times) the population grew.

Population growth requires both real world stability that allows for marriages and for kids to survive infancy, and confidence in the future that has people actually want to have kids. (Yes, contraception in the past was nowhere near as efficient, but people managed, thank you so much.)

Also, judging from “things accomplished” at various times in history things were more stable than now.

Now we are in one of those in-between states, or at it goes in internet parlance, the time in history before the map goes angry and full of arrows. Which tends to coincide with really fast — i.e. catastrophic — technological change, funnily enough.

People in general seem to like and be designed for stable times with slow improvement. When things change very fast, be they for good or ill, the culture can’t adapt fast enough.

This ends up causing a mismatch between demand and supply. In either direction.

Now I think as a libertarian (ish) at this point I’m supposed to don my ceremonial dance outfit, and shake my rattles, and intone solemnly “the invisible hand will provide” while the rest of you roll your eyes. But bear with me a little.

Let me illustrate the technological change, and the mismatch in the field I know best: books.

Although publishing has been embuggered (totally a word. Also not a swear word. There was a case in Oz that ruled it wasn’t) for a long time, maybe since the time monks copying manuscripts by hand and drawing snails on them was the biggest production effort, they got particularly embuggered as to production and distribution as a result of WWII and the agreement that sellers could send back whatever they didn’t sell, which led to the onus for whether a book sold or not to be all on the publisher, not shared between publisher and distributor, which already led to some interesting side excursions. In fact, over time, it led to a concentration of publishing in very few, large houses, because smaller ones couldn’t take the hit of large, unexpected returns.

You can tell the field started running aground then, because advances stopped keeping pace with cost of living, and reading for amusement fell steadily since then.

Yes, you can blame radio, or movies, or TV, or gaming. Why shouldn’t you? Publishing did. But the fact is, given compelling enough reading material those shouldn’t have had an impact as the total leisure time per capita increased over that time period, and also a lot of other forms of entertainment — associations and clubs, neighborhood ties, etc — decreased over the same time, leaving more time for reading.

When something falls steadily like that, as a class, there’s a fundamental mismatch between producer and consumer.

However, it took until the advent of computers for the distribution time to get truly stupid. Because humans can be dumb, but for really weaponized stupidity they need computer help.

Because the producers — publishers — took the main risk in books, you can’t blame them for trying to have more control over the distribution. But it took a chain bookstore — Borders — going weaponized stupid to drive the whole thing over the edge over the course of a decade and change.

You see, Borders realized that they could keep track of what sold via computer, and had the brilliant idea of “ordering to the net.” Say they had a hundred books in stock, and 80 sold. Next book by the same author order only 80. Then fifty sold. Order only 50 of the third.

This both saved the bookstore a ton of space, and allowed it to take incentives from the publisher for stocking more of the books the publisher wanted to push, which in turn led to rapid expansion of the chain. and its being copied by other chains.

There was only one small problem with the reasoning: First, no book ever sells a hundred percent. For one, there’s always theft. So, you were left in the best of cases, with a reductive spiral that ended in zero over a decade or so. Second, if you had only one or two books on the shelves, the chances of selling any of them were close to zero, no matter if the book was brilliant. Most people would never see them. And this led to the deaths of careers (or at least change of name for authors) within one or two books.

This in turn made the real producers — writers — into “lottery tickets.” Unless you were one of the few the publisher chose to push, your chances of selling enough to sell another one were essentially zero. But the publisher kept getting more midlisters and burning through them in the hopes one of them would be a freak multimillion dollar ticket. Which didn’t happen because the stores were no longer set up to do that. (For the stores to do that, you needed a system in which the staff could discover a book and start handselling it to customers. Impossible, when what’s on the shelves is dictated by the tri-state area manager which was another effect of the efficiencies of computer management.)

Trust me, because most of my career was consumed in this: the system sucked for everyone. Publishers might have thought it didn’t suck for them, but in fact, printruns were falling straight down. A meh print run when I started out was around 10k, (which is what my first book sold within a year.) Nowadays a 2k print run will make the publisher give you another chance. That’s how bad it was.

Meanwhile, writers were breaking. Most of them only had one or two books to prove themselves, and by the time people found their long-out-of-print books, they had disappeared. Writers don’t do well with this. The best of us vibrate like tuning forks. Meaning even when we try to be super-realistic and hard working, we still work largely by “this idea that won’t let go.” Not knowing if you’ll ever sell any other book makes you suggest books that are likely to be sold, and not spend three years chasing the wild idea.

More writers gave up. More writers became bitter. The ones that survived through multiple name and genre changes just burned out slower. And the offerings became more blah.

Meanwhile publishers who never had any real idea what the public wanted just started buying to impress other publishers or their college teachers. And the distributors kept consulting the computers like they were oracles. AND and this is really important: the reading public had nothing to read. I know, because I’m one of those people who are broken, and who mostly READS for entertainment. I ran from genre to genre looking for something I COULD read (as Dan described in his post yesterday, for himself.) For a long time I took refuge in popular history, before that too went sour. I stopped going to new bookstores. I was really grumpy about it.

There might be some hope on the horizon for Barnes and Noble, though, you know, believe it when I see it and all that. (And they’re still impaired by concentrating on paper bricks, no longer the efficient way to distribute story. Until they figure out how to integrate stores with the sale of ebooks, they will be vulnerable.)

Anyway, everything was broken and getting worse and worse.

And then the winged hussars arrived. Okay, it was Beezosbub riding on Amazon. And yes, Amazon has its own issues, is following the path of a monopolistic distributor, and we desperately need alternatives, BUT for a while at least (I’m questioning their algorithms right now) they fixed the mismatch between distributor and consumer for books.

Which fixed one issue while breaking everything else around it, because all of a sudden even the pretense of working was taking from the system. That kind of breaking is actually needed before things can re-organize.

Note the only reason the early kindle with the green screen, or the early indie ebooks with their weird formatting and often sounding like the author had just heard of the genre for the first time yesterday (I have in mind the author who spent a hundred pages explaining robots in a science fiction book. No, really.) made inroads enough to keep improving and get followers is that the break between supply and demand in story was so bad that anything was an improvement. Anything at all, no matter how bad.

I’d also maintain we’re in the middle of the same thing with politics. It had been ticking along, stable, but selling to a smaller and smaller percentage of the population, until most people really had no use for it. (And partly it was because of the means of communication that held up the narrative needed for centralized politics losing their monopoly on information distribution.) What the purveyors of governance want to give us, and what we want are widely apart. Hence that dreaded “populism” emergence.

And let us face it, the only way that Trump could ever have won was under the same conditions that the ugly green kindles survived. Right now, what we’re seeing is the equivalent of the publishers back then pricing ebooks higher than hardcovers to “prove” ebooks aren’t wanted. That’s what electoral fraud is. That’s what the shenanigans with controlling social media are. And like with ebooks, it’s all whistling past the graveyard. Because with that wide a mismatch between supply and demand you can’t paper it over. And you can no longer control the landing, either. But the established parties, like B & N won’t do the logical thing until nothing else is possible.

We’re in the middle of the same thing with education. Hence the “professionals” screaming that parents shouldn’t have a say in the education of their children.

And we’re in the middle of the same thing with employment, where it seems impossible to get an actual job, unless you’re female and have a politically-inclined degree, in which case you’ll find a job in the regulation apparatus that is making everything more broken.

Dons snazzy libertarian sacred robes in red white and blue: When you see these signs, rejoice, for it is a sign that the invisible hand is… er…. at hand.

Okay, here’s the thing. You’re listening to someone who has immense trouble with invisible anything. My actual religious faith is more a matter of convincing myself I have faith than actually having faith.

So, yeah, I’m really leery about the invisible hand. I’m also really leery of stuff like “trust the process.” I’m always mildly baffled and put out when both of those work.

BUT think about it: Economics is a science. No, it’s not a hard, hard science to an extent. Not if you try to drill down to the ultimate individual level. That’s because it involves human behavior. And in the individual level, humans are as predictable as … well…. as avatars of chaos.

That doesn’t mean that economics isn’t a science. Just like quantum physics, though, it’s limited as to what it can predict.

What it predicts fairly well is what happens at the intersection of supply and demand. And large enough demand will find a way to be met. Fast or slow. Peacefully or not.

The corollary to “everything is broken” is that there are forces already working to fix it. Now, in the way of such things, most of those will of course fail. And some of the ones that survive will also become part of the broken (looks at social media and paypal.)

But while demand continues, the forces working to bridge it towards being supplied will continue. And eventually a path will be found. Causing more disruption around it, as it starts.

(This btw is why regulations cannot control the market, only distort it.)

Think of it as a river insufficiently dammed up, while the pressure builds. When it breaks, it’s going to cause a lot of destruction before it finds its natural bed.

But in the end the river will flow, and demand will be met.

Our best hope as individuals is not to go under and not to drown.

Next up: the signs of the invisible hand at work already.

And hopefully new years day some advice, so this will lean heavily on comments, as mine is the same it’s always been, except for the added “keep at it, and don’t lose heart.”

Anyway. More tomorrow.

240 thoughts on “You’ve Got To Have Faith! — Riding the catastrophic wave of change part V

  1. I have Faith that things will get worse. [Crazy Grin]

    Not really, but that Black Dog is bothering me. 😉

    1. We may be in the End Times in which case they will get worse. Our business is not to triumph but to work. Failure is not working at our vocation, rather than defeat.

        1. Can you imagine if we really are in the Book of Revelation end times? I want to see the sky roll up. Sort of.

          1. Eh, theoretically we’ve been in the end times since Christ ascended… It’s just a lot longer than most people expected. I’m going to take Francis of Assisi’s advice when he was asked (found weeding the onions in his garden rather than out prosthletizing) “What would you do if you knew Christ was comming back tomorrow?” He, reportedly, looked thoughtful and answered “Finish weeding the onions.” (and then did just that.) If I see it, I see it… though I’ve often wondered if the sky rolling back was for John’s benefit vs. the people down on earth so he could see both sides of the story.

            1. If you’re living a righteous life, then the sky rolling back is just another data point – albeit an unusual one.

            2. One should keep in mind that Revelation was presented to John in a dream so the things that show up (e.g. Christ with a sword for a toungue). On top of that it matches a particular class of Hebrew/ middle eastern literature (Called unsurprisingly apocalypses or apocalyptic literature ) and is an epic poem kind of form. The very literal dispensationalist view of revelation is quite modern (from mid 19th century) and likely would have been thought odd by the Ante and Post Nicean fathers. Maybe it will go down the way the dispensationalist Types think in “Left Behind” but I wouldn’t put money on it :-).

          2. in a tone that could only be described as drier than a mummy’s bones

            Ever hear of a book called “The Late Great Planet Earth”? The Scofield Reference Bible? The Plymouth Brethren?

            They’ve been saying the antichrist is going to rise up ANY DAY NOW since the 70’s, at the least.

            Pre-millenial (and particularly the dispensational types) have a lot to answer for. “Replacement theology” my white Irish butt!


            1. Check and see if things have ever been worse, in any way.
              If things have been worse before, it’s not the final tribulation.

              OTOH, Revelation is applicable to all times of tribulation for the Church, and also to all church communities all the time. So the people who are always identifying X as the Antichrist are not entirely wrong; there’s lots of Antichrists, as the letter says.

              1. Oh, I completely agree in many ways. However, that is not how most of modern evanjelly American views it. Like I said, Darby and Scofield have things I would like them to answer for

              2. Yup the letters to the Seven Churches are ALWAYS relevant. You do NOT want to be like the churches of Sardis or Laodicea (brrr).

            2. Don’t forget the whole, “Left Behind,” series.
              I think people have been saying the antichrist is rising any second now since the first century.

                1. I attended the same church as the author. He’s mostly a great big pretentious jerk. Plus, “interesting” theology.

              1. Curiosity won. I looked replacement Theology up. As far as I can tell they have it bass ackwards. They appear to have totally misinterpreted Paul’s letters and the letter to the Hebrews… I often wonder at the utter incompetence and inability to read and interpret scripture of some of my alleged fellow co-religionists.

                1. Oh wow, I mean wow, my mind just was blown by the premise of this theology. No wonder I sometimes see antisemitism come from some Evangelical Christians. No it doesn’t work that way at all….

            3. Do those who say, lo here or lo there are the signs of his coming, think to be too keen for him, and spy his approach? When he tells them to watch lest he find them neglecting their work, they stare this way and that, and watch lest he should succeed in coming like a thief!
              ― George MacDonald

          3. I once stunned a JW into a moment of shocked silence.
            “Aren’t you worried about The End of The World?”
            “No. Your book says things get better after that.”

            1. Bravo and perhaps Moo!!
              When I was a child my mother would happily stand on the porch and argue with Jehovah’s witness and others. One time she was talking with a pair of young gentlemen and my cat Stormy showed up. He had a VERY bad habit that I admit to having encouraged when he was a kitten. He would walk up to you and tap you a couple times and then if you didn’t respond and provide attention he would leap about mid waist and climb to your shoulders and meow/yowl at you from there until he got the attention he wanted. Stormy approached and gave his version of fair warning. He then proceeded to climb one of the young gentlemen. But Stormy was no longer a kitten, he was 13-14 pounds of brick like full tom. He got about mid back and the two gentlemen left at a fierce rate. Stormy sat on the porch and was baffled as he did not understand why his friendly actions were rejected. My mom was laughing so hard she almost couldn’t breathe.

                1. No merely that lovely grey shade of a Russian Blue or Korat. Thus Stormy. Although that shade is dilute black.

      1. A pessimist thinks that the glass is half full because he knows there is no reason why it might not be empty.

        An optimist thinks that the glass is half empty because he thinks its being full is the natural state of the world, and any emptiness has to be imputed to malice.

        1. Eh, you’d think that’s how it’d work, but both long-term considerations and a reflexive gratitude tend to be lacking in the noisier sorts, which is what the grouping tends to be characterized by.

          :grumbles in Normalize Puddleglum:

  2. Odd that you should mention “paper bricks.” I taught 2nd Grade during the Covid shutdown. When the school reopened on a limited basis, my students—who all had access to computers and ebooks—swarmed to the bookshelves with the paper books. Post-COVID, this still seems to be the case. This past Christmas I bought a couple of paper books for Grandchild #1, who is a toddler. She actually became upset when the book ended and there were no more pages to turn.

    So there seems to be a certain physical satisfaction present in a physical book that children, at any rate, prefer over an ebook. That alone may keep bookstores like B&N and Amazon books in business for yet awhile longer.

    1. Meh. How good an e-reader do the kids have? Seriously. If you have to do it on the computer screen, I too prefer paper.
      Ereaders are way easier on the eyes after 40.
      You know, I keep hearing how people “prefer” paper. But I see my sales figures from Amazon. It’s 10 to one ebook to paper, even as annoying as kindle as gotten.
      In the end you can believe whatever you want, and whistle past the graveyard as loudly as you like (if you’re a trad publisher) but people vote with their pocketbooks. And they vote against paper bricks.

  3. Borders going down the crazy path started when the original owners sold it. They had built a bookstore of wonder and glory, and sold it to people who didn’t love the books quite as much, until the eventual sales were to owners who didn’t know the differences between a bookstore and a grocery.

    I worked there after they’d made some really stupid decisions (outsourcing their online presence to Amazon, yeah, that was a bad move) but before they made the fatal ones (standardizing the stores across the nation, including what books were pushed, removing local GM input on decisions, “Push Books,” and oh, the stories from people who were still there.) Every decision they made to centralize their decisions was a little more chipping away at the rock under their feet.

    I was supposed to get my work info transferred when I moved to a different state—either it didn’t happen, or the newer location (which seemed less competent) lost it. They offered to hire me at the starting rate again, with the awful hours, and I declined, which ended up being the better option as Borders went into its tailspin.

    1. I was very fond of our local Borders outlets, because they were really good at working with local indy authors. One of the Borders stores had a regular Christmastime indy-author-fest, where they packed their store with local authors, offered treats, advertised it up the wazoo … but alas, all that vanished.
      I still have an abiding grudge about the B&N outlet who ordered thirty copies of about eight of my books, sold f**k all of them, and returned the lot. The fees for printing and the return kept the Teeny Publishing Bidness on the verge of bankruptcy for two years running. After that, I specified “destroy” in an attempt to keep that from happening again. The crushing thing about that, is that Ingram never paid me at all for the initial humongous order – and yes, I went round and round with them about that oversight! Never got any satisfaction from them, either. But I’ve worked down the boxes of returns over the years – I’ve only got a few left of those, about half a tub full.
      The development of Kindle was a gift of the publishing gods. All of us in the on-line group that I belonged to at the time recognized that, and went all-out in making our books available through them, even though the initial process had more bugs than a video of “Joe’s Apartment.”
      Selling books by hand – I can’t count the times that I have buttonholed a young teen boy at a book event, saying, “Hey, kid – like to read!? Like western adventure?! I’ve got a pair of books I’ve written just for kids like you?!” Honestly, that has worked every time. Lone Star Sons and Lone Star Glory are the two books of mine that I have to consistently reorder stocks of, every time I have an event.

        1. I didn’t live near Borders, mostly, but I have two memories of visits.
          In the first, I was TDY and had dinner at a well-known regional burger/ice cream chain. I ordered a humongous, gloriously greasy fried fish sandwich and ate it all, then ate a large waffle cone of chocolate fudge “egg custard.” And it all caught up to me in the Borders. I wanted to shop, but I only really got to rate their ladies’ room .
          The second time was during their going out of business sale. Sigh.

    2. Yes, but surely another significant reason for the decline in readership generally is the declining literacy of the population, increased no doubt by the fact that kids can graduate high school in many places while being functionally illiterate….Chicago would be a good example…
      Our Borders stayed in business by selling a lot of coffee, but in the end, failed…

        1. The problem is primarily in poor “minority” dominated high schools, but they are entitled to an education too, even if they don’t seem to want it…No, gang bangers, in my experience, are not big readers, and most video games don’t require much reading skill…

          1. But yes, our kids read just as much as we did at their age, but if that were generally the case we would be living in a different world…

            1. Unless the relationship is that a higher proportion of the population in question has adopted gangbanger attitudes towards reading. And when you’re being taught more and more the nonsense that is CRT, well…..

                1. There was a fair share of “Waaah! Kids aren’t learning to read! And turning into violent delinquents! And the public schools are actively making things worse!”… back in the 1950s.

                  Why Johnny Can’t Read
                  The Blackboard Jungle

                  And on the science fiction side:
                  Have Spacesuit, Will Travel – Heinlein (the commentary on Kip’s high school)
                  Null ABC – H. Beam Piper

                  A great deal of “kids these days are going to hell in a handbasket on the road paved with good intentions” is history rhyming.

          2. most video games don’t require much reading skill

            :eyebrows go up:

            ….possibly, if you include phone-based, casual and matching type ‘video games.’

            Even something as simple as Mario Kart requires decent reading comprehension to be competitive.

    3. Indeed my memory was that the local staff was originally allowed to have input to the Book Selection. This meant Nashua had an awesome selection of computer (DEC, Oracle Others), Military History (Sanders now BAE) and Sci Fi as many of the associates were retirees from these places just having a side gig. Somehow the Peabody store also had an excellent Sci Fi and Fantasy selection. At some point they went all corporate, and tried to work with Amazon (bad Idea) for E Books/Online presence, and shortly thereafter they were pining for the fjords…

      1. It wasn’t just book selection. One of my coworkers started having Gaming Days and grew our role-playing handbook section from a couple of shelves to a couple of shelving units. I got tapped (voluntold) to draw a Pumpkin Spice character as the extra Spice Girl three years running and raised our coffee sales for that much higher than any other store in the region. Our GM read and loved a book by Christopher Moore so much that he got copies for lots of staff, who then recommended it, and we (the staff) got to have a brunch with the author as a result. (And signed copies of the book he was about to release.)

        Simply letting love of the product shine through drives sales far more than any artificially-imposed sales technique. At the time I left, all of the things I listed got complaints from Corporate because they weren’t standardized. Writing on the wall at that point, for sure.

  4. I don’t think you can rely on a ruling from Oz. Oz English and American English are different languages with a fair bit of mutual intelligibility . . .

    1. Better a ruling from OZ than from Wonderland and the red. Glinda is as trustworthy (or maybe more so) than a Lensman, and as good a reader of the future as Mentor. Glinda will NEVER produce a ruling that will be overturned as she would forsee it in her book and not write it 🙂 .

  5. I want to say something meaningful and nothing comes to mind. This post, again, makes me feel stronger and more able to stand, honest and clear-eyed, forging ahead while the world collapses around me.

    1. Honestly, this is why I write poetry. The words seem to come easier. (unfortunately it has been the December of All the Crud and nothing is coming at all sensible. Random, yes. Sensible no.)

      1. Oddly, I’ve started bursting into song at random moments, when I feel as if I need to say something, but no one is here to talk to. It’s happening so often now it’s a thing. I conduct my own poetry/song slam in the living room.

        You’re about the only poet I can read. I’ve tried off and on to read poetry so that I learned to like and appreciate it, and I’ve not found success. Yet. I’m still working on it.

        1. Honestly, Poetry is not for everyone. The older stuff, especially, works better if you read it out loud, then you can hear/feel the rhythm. On the other hand things like Horatius at the Bridge take a very, very long time to read out loud. (True epic poetry.) You start hitting blank verse and I start walking away from poetry and I LOVE poetry. It’s songs, just without the melody.

          1. There’s a reason people like Leslie Fish, Michael Longcor, and the late Joe Bethancourt have been able to set so much Kipling to music.

          2. Agree with Kathy. Wyrdbard is the only poet I’ve been able to read. I don’t particularly work at being better at reading poetry. I did buy your book Wyrdbard. Never bought a poetry book before.

          3. I didn’t know you had to show up before college actually started, so I was late to register to say the least. ROTC scholarship. No one tells you these things.
            Shakespearean Tragedy 404 was the only English (required) course.
            I hated Shakespeare for many years.
            Then I started wanting to record books and was advised to read, of course, the Bible and Shakespeare.
            Got some great mentoring and now I love it, though it’s still work to read.

            1. Shakespeare is best when performed. Especially when the company is good at it. (I read a review of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre a few years back, and a large chunk of the article was along the lines of “how? this is an awful play, and yet they made it compelling! HOW?”)

              1. True, at least in my experience.
                I used to hear people say “I saw his King Lear” or “I saw her Portia.” Until I watched several people play both King Lear and Portia in Merchant of Venice, I didn’t understand what they meant, other than in general terms. Of course, you like your favorite actor in a famous role.
                That’s not it.
                There really are actors who for one reason or another can command a Shakespearean part in a way that transcends other performances. Ian McKellan doing King Lear is almost too good to watch. It’s painful, he’s so, so good at the part.

              1. I do know in one case. Many years ago, not long after first meeting a woman who is know an old friend, I sent her one of my poems, “Lullaby.” She set it to music—and in doing so she utterly transformed its meaning, so that I can no longer read it as I originally did. The poem came first.

          4. I love poetry, which seems to put me in a distinct minority. I wish I were a poet, but I have to be content being a poetaster. Doggerel, alas, is all I’m capable of.

            1. Part of the issue is there’s very little children’s poetry. Another part is that they tend to find the worst tripe to teach in schools, and if they get a good one, they analyze it to death and suck all the joy out of it. And ah… let’s just say ‘modern’ poetry has followed the trend of ‘modern’ art with similar results. I’m old fashioned and so is my poetry.

              1. I agree it’s taught very badly. I went to parochial school where we still memorized gibs of it. Later, I learned enough of the technical stuff to understand more of what was going on, but that’s all that’s needed. I don’t think poetry, literature at all for that matter, ought to be an academic study.

                The Oxford Book of Light Verse edited by Kingsley Amis is a great source of good, easy to read poetry. That’s where I found “When Psychology meets education, a terrible bullish-t is born.” Which was worth the price. The introductory essay goes into why light verse has to be technically perfect.

                  1. You can get it really cheap used. There’s an earlier edition edited by Auden that also really, really good. Amis was a good poet, Auden was a great poet, or at least I think so. I learned a lot from both their introductions.

                    I took the opportunity to buy most of the Oxford verse collections cheap when we lived abroad, but they’re common in used book shops here or you can get them from Bezos,

              2. I was fortunate. My 5th grade teacher taught us The Merchant of Venice in 5th grade. So, I was… 11?

              3. There’s plenty of poetry for kids. It’s just rarely touched by schools. I was lucky in that one of my teacher’s introduced us to “Where the Sidewalk Ends”, by Shel Silverstein. So you have to know where to look for it, which is something that kids won’t know to do.

                1. I was reading that when I was in school in the 80s. I’ve been looking for my kids, but other than Silverstein and Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses with some of Milne being about, poetry for kids is very difficult to find. Which is why I was so delighted with my mother in law finding Silver Pennies for me. The book is almost 100 years old but has some of my own child hood favorites so I can work on getting the kids hooked.

                  1. I read everything to my kid when she was a baby, but had stuck with storybooks because post-baby brain. When she was six months old, Mom brought her a children’s poetry collection…three pages in, I stopped to take a breath, and Kid squeaked and smacked the page with her hand. 🙂

                    1. And of course much of Dr. Seuss is in Verse and has rhythm. My younger daughter LOVED Seuss especially the Grinch and Yertle the Turtle.

                    2. I’ve got some of the Cat in the Hat books– the new ones that are supposed to teach science or something — where we struck out what they wrote and re-wrote it so that it actually flows correctly.

                      The challenge is to make it at least as accurate as the original, and cover the same basic material.

                      ….it’s a good third of the pages.

                    3. Our son loved Dr. Seuss. Used to have to read multiple books to him every night. (Along with pronunciation criticism … “Not how daddy says it!”)

                    4. I caught her inventing Seuss fanfiction shortly after her second birthday. She was doing that little-kid thing where they “read” by reciting the book, but then she went off-track. I found her sitting on the sofa with her legs straight out, declaiming “Fish said, I don’t WANT to fall out of my pot. Push that cat out the door…”

                      Sadly, I lost control and giggled before I could find out if she was going to rhyme it.

                    5. Classic Mother Goose/Nursery Rhymes are a good way to introduce children to poetry. As are jump-rope and clapping game rhymes. The Nursery Rhymes also have simple melodies and the clapping & jump rope rhymes have basic rhythm (naturally!).

                      When I listen to students, especially second and third graders, on the playground, I often recognize them from my childhood. There are some variations, but I am surprised how little they’ve changed, especially since playground rhymes are usually handed down orally.

                  2. Some of Ogden Nash’s stuff might be suitable. Short rhyming and fun, and sneaks some subtle things in that hit you when you are older and read it again.

                    1. I met a man upon the stair.
                      I met a man who wasn’t there.
                      He wasn’t there again today,
                      Oh how I wish he’d go away.
                      (Always attributed to Nash by my father.)

                    2. I have also heard that attributed to Nash. Certainly it is his style but that is part of a larger poem Antigonish by Hughs Mearns ( or so the little internet bird tells me.

                      Here are two by Mr Nash:

                      ‘The Cow’

                      The cow is of the bovine ilk;
                      One end is moo, the other, milk

                      ‘The Fly’

                      God in his wisdom made the fly
                      And then forgot to tell us why.

                      Not all his stuff is two liners, but all share that wry humor.

                    3. I always heard it

                      Yesterday upon the stair,
                      I met a man who wasn’t there.
                      He wasn’t there again today,
                      Oh how I wish he’d go away.

                      Then, I like Mother Goose verse. In “Witch-Prince Ways,” I even wrote my own. (It’s fun when your beta reader comment on such poetry, except that one particularly likes it and one doesn’t.)

                    4. My theorems require, when mesons pair,
                      A particle that isn’t there.
                      It isn’t there again today—
                      Please, Fermi, make it go away!

                      (Poul Anderson)

                    5. Lovely, There is a a quote attributed to Fermi that I love:
                      If I could remember the names of all these particles, I’d be a botanist.

              4. There was one point when I was working at a radio station that would have promo copies of certain books lying around. One was a single-author poetry compilation, so I flipped it open and saw a line something along the lines of

                like the picture of a donkey above the door of an Athenian pub

                and it clicked why so much modern poetry flies like a lead balloon. You see that line? It’s supposed to be an allusion. It has the structure of an allusion, at least. But it’s not alluding to anything that the reader could possibly connect to. I mean, what are the chances of the reader having been in Athens, let alone walking the streets to see a random pub? Pretty darned small.

                Go back to the first half of the 20th century, and if someone were using an allusion, it would be to something in the general culture of the time (including Biblical references and classics), or even to something in popular culture. Free verse was there, true, but the people writing in it weren’t writing it because they couldn’t write in classic poetry forms if they wanted to (which I suspect many modern poets can’t.)

                Most modern poetry looks at the form but has no real content to it, no point of connection to the reader. They’ve read William Carlos Williams and try to make their words look like his, without understanding why his worked. Forgettable and forgotten.

          1. I have not. Not yet anyhow. On the list, and I bookmarked his entry in the poetry foundation. Thank you for the recommendation.

        2. There is lots of older poetry that’s worth reading. The first poem I memorized was Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”; that was decades ago.

          I definitely agree with wyrdbard’s advice about reading it aloud. Though I don’t understand the objection to blank verse. Blank verse doesn’t rhyme, by definition, but it’s still metrical. See for example Prospero’s speech near the end of The Tempest:

          Our revels now are ended; these our actors,
          As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
          Are melted into air, into thin air;
          And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
          The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
          The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
          Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
          And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
          Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
          As dreams are made on, and our little life
          Is rounded with a sleep.

          There’s an overall pattern where every even-number syllable is emphasized, with occasional variations, such as INto thin AIR . . .

          1. We were supposed to memorize a poem for class, in 4th grade.

            I memorized “Lochinvar.”

            Honestly, half of the problem with poetry reading is that they keep telling people not to read to the rhythm cues, because that’s gauche.

            Well, the heck with them, because the dactyls are there for a reason. And they used to make kids memorize all the patterns of the rhythms, which are exactly what aren’t supposed to exist now. Bleh.

            The other half of the problem is that they don’t throw kids a bunch of good strong poems to start out with, which is exactly what all the old primers used to do, and then make them read and recite out loud. Poems are exciting and fun! They have to study to make kids hate them! (And it would help if more kids learned nursery rhymes, of course.)

            “Lochinvar” was way too long for what the teacher was picturing… but it didn’t seem long, even to my classmates, even with my inexperience. Because it’s a strong, exciting story told with strong sound patterns, and because Sir Walter Scott can crowdplease like nobody’s business.

            1. I really learned to appreciate Shakespeare by reading him right after watching Playing Shakespeare. I’ve got a dvd of the first… season? of the show, and it’s David Suchet, Judi Dench, and many others as very very young actors. And this magnificent huge Falstaff-like fellow is teaching them how to play Shakespeare. It’s magnificent.

          2. Blank verse was introduced to me, in 1998, as completely unmetered unrhymed poetry. I never could get ANY English professor to actually tell me what differentiated it from pretty prose with line breaks. (And I tested the theory, I submitted two prose descriptive sentences with somewhat sensible line breaks as a poem and he said it was the best I’d written. I gave up on modern poetry on the spot.)

            1. I had an assignment in HS to write a poem. It was just after Grampa Pete died (he had a stroke on my birthday, and lasted a couple of weeks, dying on older brother’s birthday). I was not in a good place; Grampa was special to us, unlike Dad’s father, and the date was close to catastrophic for teenaged RCPete. (Played with agnosticism for a while, until I realized that Himself has a sense of humor. Itching powder in a pressure suit level, at times. h/t TMIAHM)

              I didn’t have the spirit to try to find a rhyme, so did blank verse. Not a happy poem, though the The teacher loved it (I rather suspect she was an Odd), but I carefully never kept a copy.

              Every once in a while, I’ll dip my toe in Kipling, or what you post here. Seems my mind really wants to find a melody for a poem. (Yeah, another reason to hate modern poetry.)

                1. TS Eliot would agree with you, he makes just that point about lyric poetry in one of his essays. He believed that songs were the origin of lyric as opposed to epic poetry,

                  1. And anime music. Give a listen to Angela, KOKIA, fripSide, Phantasm/Yui Sakakibara, Yoko Takahashi and a lot more. Some great stuff there. Here, try this one:

                    1. My son introduced me to Japanese Anime well over twenty years ago, and I quickly realized I enjoyed the music as much as the stories. I burned several playlists of anime music onto CDs that I would play in the car, singing along as best I could with the vocals, and just enjoying the variety of mood in the instrumentals. (Disclosure – I do not speak Japanese but I can fake it pretty well for a few of the songs.)

                      Now I have those same playlists and more on my phone and I use Bluetooth to play them in the car. In late 2021 when we moved, they kept me awake and aware while driving, for the 1600 miles between old house and new house.

                      Some favorites of mine include the sound track from Dot Hack: Sign, and the sound track from Kiddy Grade. And it is not only anime or J-pop. For example, the music written for the entire Final Fantasy series is just awesome.

                      This piece, “Beyond the Clouds”, is also a favorite. Thanks for linking it! I just sat and listened to the whole thing before writing this comment. 😉

                    2. The anime is ‘The Place Promised In Our Early Days’. The song is ‘Ongaku no Kara’ or ‘The End Of The World’ by Angela, and has been used on a few anime works. I got it on Angela’s ‘Voice Of The Sky’ CD, along with ‘Asu e no Brilliant Road’ from the Stellvia anime.

                      This one is ‘Fate’ by Kokia, from the anime ‘Broken Blade’.

                  2. Not all of them. Symphonic metal exists, and it is EPIC.

                    Now if you specify all the good composers whose work is widely known and who make really good money, then yes. 🙂

            2. Blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter: that is, it has five feet, each of which has the stress on the second of two syllables:

              da-DAH da-DAH da-DAH da-DAH da-DAH
              or da-DAH da-DAH da-DAH da-DAH da-DAH da

              The dialogue in Shakespeare’s plays is largely iambic pentameter; more specifically, the nobles speak iambic pentameter and the commoners speak prose.

              The definition you were given is that of free verse, which is a quite different thing!

              Were these actually college instructors of English literature? I would think it embarrassing for a high school English teacher not to know those definitions. But writing verse without learning to rhyme and scan is to literature what doing paintings without learning to draw is to art.

              1. Yes, these were English professors. Specifically composition side and ‘creative writing’. (I have it on reasonable authority the literature side was a bit better, but I never took thier classes.) No one before college taught WRITING poetry.

                Just for the record, I am familiar with both the iambic and trochaic. And most of what I know about poetry was learned outside of school looking into historical styles so somewhat piecemeal.

                1. That’s worse incompetence than I would ever have thought of attributing to English faculty. It isn’t as if those definitions were obscure; when I became interested in poetics in the 1960s and looked at books on it they all gave clear definitions, not only of blank verse, but of quatrains and terza rima and Petrarchean and Shakespearean sonnets and the “French forms” (the ballade, sestina, villanelle, and so on). To teach “poetry” without ever having read one of those handbooks—I can only call that professional malpractice. It makes me want to call for the defunding of creative writing programs everywhere.

                  1. I have been for defunding creative writing departments for a while. This class had the advantage of a short story a week during that section of the class. Rather than expecting you to write ONE all semester as I heard from friends who went full English major.

                    If you remember any titles of those books on poetics, I’d gladly take them. I know a bit about rondeaus and some of the other French forms (mostly from my days in the SCA where bards would occasionally research and share to the rest of us bards.) Mostly I learned to write poetry by reading it.

                    1. Regrettably, no. I was reading those books mostly fifty or more years ago, and no longer remember the titles or authors. I’m afraid I so internalized the definitions that I haven’t looked any of them up in years and years.

                    2. No worries. I’ll be going hunting for books over the next few days and thought there might be an off chance. Thanks for the help and clearing some of this up.

                    3. All college English departments should be defunded, their denizens scattered to the four winds, and forbidden to teach anything anywhere ever again. There’s nothing left in that field worth saving; anything you can think of that’s worth reading, studying, writing, or knowing will be better once it’s set free.

                      I say this as someone who went “full English major” and worked in academia (albeit not as an academic) for most of the past 20 years, so I speak from experience.

              1. Given that they couldn’t tell me what made your free verse (their blank verse) poetry rather than prose with line breaks I have a relatively low opinion of them. (Which is one of the reasons I got my degree in Geology not English.) Thanks for the clarification and my apologies to blank verse, I have been maligning it undeservedly.

                1. So one of the things about biblical Hebrew is that it uses what is essentially free verse. There is neither rhyme nor rhythm. But it does use other things that mark it as poetic
                  see here for details ( English free verse does similar using various simile’s and other features in more intensity than traditional prose.

                  1. Yes, and the Norse used initial consonance which is not what free verse is. Eastern poetry uses line length (which is often thought length as well) and theme (and a few other factors i haven’ttracked down yet. Working on it.). That’s not what they were talking about.

                    I literally took two descriptive prose sentences, put in line breaks, called it a poem, and it was the professor’s favorite of mine. Apparently just putting in line breaks makes something poetry these days. There was nothing else marking it as poetic. And I’ve seen more emphasis on put on typography than the words. If you read them aloud they’re indistinguishable from prose at best and completely nonsensical at worst.

            3. I just got out my copy of, “Taliessin Through Logres,” and, “The Region of the Summer Stars,” by Charles Williams. I prefer his prose (Especially, “The Place of the Lion,” and “Descent Into Hell,” plus, “All Hallow’s Eve), and his verse is….complex. But some of it is lovely.

            1. A great way to discover it! I first read/heard/heard of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner from Iron Maiden, courtesy of a kick-ass 9th grade English teacher. Didn’t discover Rush until a few years after the intro to Coleridge.

          3. Sometimes poetry gets snuck in. Way back when I was in high school and Heinlein’s “Glory Road” was a recent released, my Englich teacher required us to choose a short section of poetry we liked, read it aloud and then the class would discuss. There are a couple of paragraphs early in the book where Oscar describes his yearning for adventure. I read that as my poetry piece. The first student comment was “Is that really poetry?” My teacher, bless him, said “Of course it is. Does this speak to you, Geoff?” “Yes sir, it does.” “Be advised, although I doubt if you will listen to the voice of experience, being a hero is not a reliable source of happiness.”
            He was right on both counts. It’s not and I didn’t. Worth the ride, and a reliable source of joy.

          1. That would explain the periodic bursts of “OoooooooooklaHOMA where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains….!” That and as much of My Fair Lady as I can recall at any moment.

              1. “When you scream you’re gonna drown, I’ll get dressed and go to town! Oh ho ho!….”

                Almost by heart that one.

                1. “I sleep in ze middle—”
                  “I’m left—”
                  “Und I’m right.”
                  “But zere’s room on ze bottom if you drop in some night!”

                  1. As the culture gets more, er, broken, Cabaret gets more and more uncomfortable to listen to. Must consider if the cast album will stay in the vehicle playlist.

                    OTOH, I still like “Money (Makes the World go Round)”.

              1. I bought the cast album for that. Listened once. Gave it away.

                Sondheim has done some good shows, but $SPOUSE and I only bothered with the first act of Follies, and her good friend was one of the very few people who didn’t walk out on the San Jose showing of Assasins. “We were in the front row and didn’t want to be conspicuous.” Apparently there were 7 people left in the audience. [Wikipedia used to include that nugget, but it was inconvenient to the narrative, I think.]

                We actually liked A Little Night Music, but there’s a lot of grey goo in Sondheim’s work, and those are his lighter works. (Black goo? I think so.)

            1. Imagine being a school kid in Oklahoma. By the 5th grade you can sing the entire musical from memory. And still can today, decades later…

  6. Read the Old Testament prophets. Tehy sound like they speak about today. We have a long way to fall. We still live in a golden age, compared to what MIGHT happen.

    Prior to November 2016, it looked like doom. Once the witch was elected, the court would be packed. We were on the path to being Venezuela. We now know how corrupt and evil the FBI is. We see how corrupt Washington is. They were that bad. We just didn’t know. Now we know.

    Ignorance is not bliss. To know is painful. To know the Kentucky turtle is our enemy. To know the last Republican presidential nominees were/are evil. It hurts. When those we trust betray, it hurts. When you have an infection, you must cut it out. Open it to the air. It hurts. Let the pus out.

    We do not know if this political infection will kill. My estimate of 3 billion dead still alarms me. Being a prophet is not easy work. Just ask Jeremiah. The slime pit awaits. Only a few thousand have died. If we speak the truth, perhaps more will survive. The author does not promise it will be easy. When Peter failed to walk on water perfectly, Jesus did not calm the storm until they were back in the boat.

    May all here know true Peace, Hope and Joy in the coming year. Be Not Afraid.

    1. “Prior to November 2016, it looked like doom. Once the witch was elected, the court would be packed. We were on the path to being Venezuela. We now know how corrupt and evil the FBI is. We see how corrupt Washington is. They were that bad. We just didn’t know. Now we know.”

      Who knew President Trump would be both savior, martyr, and saved? Then there is Biden and Kamala. Seriously. He has done more for the left pilled than any enlightening truth. Already have 3 nieces heading out of the dark tunnel of leftism. That they’ve all hit and crossed 30 helps. Even the one sister is starting to come around. Jan 6 hearings had an effect. Not the effect the lefty’s wanted not even close. But there has been an effect. The 2022 elections have made it worse. Slowly. But it has made it worse for them. There is a lot of work to dig out. But maybe, just maybe, we will avoid the 4th box, at least here in the USA. Elsewhere? Not so sure.

      1. God has a sense of humor.
        The best way I have of explaining our relationship with God is that He has 7 billion 3 year olds.
        A 3 year old is very certain they know what to do.
        They are able to get in trouble without knowing.
        They need constant attention.
        they need freedom to make mistakes in order to learn.
        Some of their mistakes can be Very funny.
        So God has 7 billion 3 year olds. Some of us are 4.

        1. “God has a sense of humor.”

          “Sometimes you have to hit bottom before it gets better”

          Me: “Um. No? Why? Please, No!” Seriously – NO!

          1. “I’ve told you what to do. Now you have to get out of the boat.”

            Words heard just before I stepped out in faith. Vision of Peter in boat. Just tell him, like Mary, why you think there may be some problem, “I don’t have $500 to fly to Nashville”. He will provide. This does not work for getting the correct lottery numbers.

            Never tell God what He proposes is impossible. However, He is using “deficient” material. Read Judges, a crazier crew than anyone, except the Disciples.

            1. He tells me what needs to be done. I tell Him it’s impossible. He tells me again. I try, and fail. I tell Him it’s impossible. He tells me to try again. I look up, tell Him that if He wants it done He’s going to have to make it happen.

              He does. I growl and grumble and do what I was told the first time. I can’t COUNT the number of times that pattern has played out. I must need to learn something.

              1. This is what makes this time Hopeful. The author seeks to have his characters help write the book. Remember the best books are ones where the author sends her characters many troubles. Conflict seems an essential of creation. Jesus came to die, so we can live. Suffering seems essential, yet we never pray for suffering.

                When my son was diagnosed with the cancer that killed him, i offered my grief to God as a gift at the start. I spent the next months operating in His strength not mine, with divine appointments by the score. We try to do things in our own strength, when we need to open ourselves to His strength. In this time of danger, may we all hear, and get out of the boat when asked.

                1. “Footprints in the sand” (Do not remember the entire poem …)

                  When there are two sets of footprints in the sand that is when God walks beside you.

                  When there is one set of footprints in the sand that is when God is carrying you.

                2. “In this time of danger, may we all hear, and get out of the boat when asked.” Thank you. I needed to hear this.

              2. There are some amazing paradoxes that help explain some things.
                First, the creator of this amazing universe Loves you, and seeks your highest good.
                Second, He invites us to join His plan.
                Third, He tells Peter. : “Come”. He invites us all to come. Get out of the boat, in the midst of the storm. The easy way, Jesus just floats Peter to Him. Or when the waves get too strong, He calms the storm to make it easier. No. Jesus says one word. ” Come”. Step into the face of a fierce storm. Reach out your hand to Me. Know I Am with you. He wants us to participate with Him.

                I have many very strange divine encounters. Today, my main home phone continues dead for the past 2 days. I called the phone company to complain the repair guy promised between 8 and 4 never came. I ended singing a few verses of “How Firm a Foundation” to the woman who talked to me, who told me she needed to hear me. This was a complaint call. I am very angry. So in the midst of suffering and anger, I was a blessing. This was a”recorded call”, now on tape with enough evidence to convict me of being a Christian.

                1. FWIW, we had phone issues on Christmas (I think) and the 26th for sure. We’d get calls to our landline, (showed up on Caller ID), but silence when we picked it up (or not–older brother is too much to deal with on some days–we talked yesterday).

                  The morning of the 26, $SPOUSE couldn’t get a dial tone. I called from Flyover Falls and got no answer, then an echo of my voice (delayed a second or so). Finally, she called me and got through. When I got home, I tried calling a known-good number; the first failed, then subsequent attempts worked. I tried the CenturyLink chat line (Oh, how I miss 611) and didn’t get very far; was going to try the service tap at the farm pole, but not in the dark in icy ground. Then the weather got really ugly, so nope. Kept my patience, even though I was dealing with a Mumbai “tech” specialist. Sigh.

                  And, this was going on with our neighbors, too. Both underground service, and we’re under a half mile from Tiny_town’s switching center.

                  By mid morning on the 27th, everything was working. My SWAG is that something got wet (might have been ice or snow that melted on Christmas), and as the water level in the frammistat-decombobulator went down, the circuits unscrewed themselves. Similar things have happened over the years, including snow disabling the EMS repeater that covers our area. Lots of fun trying for the other mountains. Not one of the more fun winters working volunteer fire/EMS.

                  Never did try the farm pole. Was not going to pay for an in-house visit, nor call them to the property until I knew for damned certain it was on our line.

            2. For some reason Presbypoet when you said “I’ve told you what to do. Now you have to get out of the boat.” due to recent reference to musicals I Heard Nicely Nicely from Guys and Dolls singing “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat”

          2. “Sometimes you have to hit bottom before it gets better”

            And that’s the issue with “safety net” – the net isn’t there as permanent or even short-term support. An actual safety has an instantaneous utility… and, once used, the one(s) is saved from death climb DOWN from it, THEN can climb up again. Is it nice? No. But… Not Dead is the Big Deal, not “Nicey Nice.”

          3. G-d’s sense of humor is evident in the world. It has best been approximated by Shakespeare – plenty of sex and fart jokes, and loads of slapstick and puns.

          1. Mumble decades ago, I had a massive round with the Black Dog. For various reasons, I could not call out to family (Mom was undergoing stress from one of Older Brother’s divorces, he wasn’t going to help [three time loser, he’s a peach]) and Aunt was out of town.

            We had limited access to the work computers (long before TPTB set up Official Procedures), but my own account wouldn’t let me connect. However, I had the root password/login and could send a message to a mailing list. Did so, then the next day I was able to get in touch with Aunt, then the day after that, got an appointment for a Pshrink (medium useless, though another therapist helped me get things on track). Had some curious explaining to tell my boss. It was complicated.

            I came to the conclusions that a) God has a rough sense of humor (thus the itching powder in the P-suit) and b) nevertheless he loves us, though he’s going to make sure we do the freaking work if we really need something.

            Yeah, there was a safety net in there. Got rid of the booze in the house and never drank more than moderately since. (Now I’m on meds where alcohol is contraindicated, so I stay away from it. It’s not that hard after a while. Usually.)

    2. I’d argue that there are parts of our society – elements that are openly pushing their agendas right now – that would be right at home in Sodom and Gomorrah.

        1. One of my worries is that Revelation describes what would happen when a large killer asteroid hits the ocean. “Something like an immense mountain ablaze was hurled into the sea,,,” A “star” falls from heaven, a crater where ” the sun and moon were darkened”.

          John did not know about asteroids. How can he accurately describe something he has No experience of seeing? This “crazy” vision, is a vision with a more accurate description of what such an event would be than until very recent times. I have the March 1966 Analog, which writes about “Giant Meteor Impact”, at that time the idea of asteroids crashing was science fiction. This is long before the iridium discovery, and our current understanding of just how dangerous an immense mountain crashing into the sea would be.

          I just hope this is a “good” prophecy that can be diverted, since what John describes sounds like the size of the dino killer body. A few billion casualties at best.

          It does seem they have found Sodom and Gomorrah, and evidence of the air burst that smashed them. a Temperatures required to melt things found in the debris seem higher than any man made fires.

          I do not look forward to the fire next time.

      1. Hell Some of them Sodom and Gomorrah would have kicked their sorry backsides out… You are welcome to do whatever you wish with other consenting humans but kindly do it far down range as I’m allergic to large quantities of electricity and large masses dropped from the heavens.

  7. If economics is a science, why does it inspire so many cults? 😛

    The only faith I have is that the politicians and bureaucrats that believe they own us will continue to do the worst and stupidest things they can imagine — and they are endlessly inventive in coming up with the wrong and the stupid.

    The government is not only stupider than you imagine, it is stupider than you can imagine.

    1. The Reader believes economics is not a science. Instead it is a framework to observe and describe human behavior in a focused part of the human experience. It is useful but cannot be replicated via experiment. That being said, most of the sciences also inspire cults. The ‘clockwork universe’ was a cult derived from Newtonian physics or this ( as an example of the silliness that has spawned from quantum mechanics.

      1. I suppose I’m an economist, at least I studied a economics at the graduate level — at the London School of Economics yet. Economics is not a science if one considers, say, physics, as the definition of science. Most of academic economics is misapplied calculus and most academic economists people who wanted to be physicists but couldn’t hack it,

        Economics could be a science in the older meaning of a consistent body of knowledge, the Austrian economists have gone a long way toward that, but it will never be a science like physics since physics deals with simple problems that don’t talk back, interact, or anticipate your actions in order to thwart them, economics does.

        One should probably never say never about science, but, well, solve the three body problem first and then we can talk.

        1. And of course the way to solve the three body problem is not analytical but uses things numerical methods like Eulers Method or Runge-Kutta. As long as the section you are interested in converges, chose the error term you want and solve away. And pay mind to the computational parts on a computer, the fact that floating point is NOT exactly equivalent to the real numbers often reaches up and bites you on the ass 🙂 .

    2. If economics is a science, why does it inspire so many cults?

      Why don’t you ask his lordship the science Fauxi?


      If there was ever a need for a headsman, himself would be first on the block.

      1. “A dishonest scientist is a failure and a fraud.”

        Unfortunately, most people don’t know that. In one of my stories, a scientist says:

        “Politics perverts science. Scientists are rewarded, not for finding and reporting the truth, but for telling those in charge of doling out the money what they want to hear.”

        And punished for not saying what they’re supposed to, merely because it’s not true.

          1. You’ll have to take that up with Mr. Gilbert, I didn’t write that. Of course his list does go on for several verses so we may be being sarcastic. I am shocked shocked the W.S. Gilbert was sarcastic (Returns Hostess’ well used shocked face slightly the worse for wear).

    3. If economics is a science, why does it inspire so many cults?

      Because it keeps giving answers that so many people don’t want to hear. You get similar cults when other branches of science give unwanted answers too.

  8. If I may: The future is not Heinlein, it’s Kipling. The Gods of the Copy-Book Headings and all that (with a side order of City of Brass).

    The Invisible Pimp Hand is preparing to swing. It will make the Will Smith Slap look like a spitball in front of Chicxulub.

    1. “The City of Brass” scared the living daylights out of me the first time I read it, and it bothers me to this day. It was only a few pages from some of my favorite Kipling poems in the big hardback anthology, so I saw it rather frequently. Not a happy poem.

  9. Couldn’t find ’embuggered’ in any of my paper dictionaries. Not in my five pounds plus four inch plus thick Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary, unabridged, 1976 edition, or my desk Random House Webster’s, nor in my shelved 1979 Webster’s Collegiate.

    Irregardless of the above I agree, accept, after very little research, that it’s a real word, in print, in Wainhouse & Seaver’s translation of 5 score days of Sodom.

  10. I have to admit I struggled with the “invisible hand” in economics for a while myself. I mean, I recognized it as a metaphor but a metaphor for what? I finally just shoved the question to the back of my mind because, at the time, I was more invested in learning about things like stress, strain, and thermodynamics.

    A few year after graduation, I was following a few threads on the original Usenet group and decided to see if I could make personal sense of biological evolution. After reading a lot of articles and a few books on the subject I came across a one written by someone at the Santa Fe Institute that discussed complex adaptive systems. When I finally grasped the mathematics behind CAS I had one of the those “Aha! moments” (at least as much a mystical experience as when I grokked the idea of a limit) and a lot of disparate parts tumbled into place. One of the riddles that finally made sense to me was the invisible hand.

    1. The “invisible hand” is a term for negative feedback loop. It’s signalling system that keeps things stable. Interfere with it and goofy things happen. The action might not be a clear, fast, or gentle as might be preferred, but even so it is still almost infinitely better to have the negative feedback loop there than have it not be there, or be messed up.

  11. If you read for entertainment – then I would recommend the Stephanie Plum series of books. It helps that it takes place in NJ where I live but I find myself snickering a lot and flat out laughing out loud often.

      1. Likewise. I loved the first six or seven, then my enjoyment tapered off. But I still reliably get the giggles over the heroine and her partner arguing – NOT over the corpse in the trunk with one leg sticking out, but over whether they should flag the leg to comply with traffic laws.

    1. My mom was actually a fan of those and recommended them during my own depressive phases back when she was still around. I never did take her up on it, though.

  12. For those who think the 21st century is a time of unprecedented change, contrast with the 19th century.

    Good steel was a semi-previous metal in 1805. In 1895 it was a cheap commodity used for food canning and mass- produced toys.

    The USA went from agrarian/slave to industrial/free. So did a significant chunk of earth. And, from a bunch of unimportant poor coastal bumpkins to a vast and wealthy continent spanning nation and growing global power.

    Whale oil to fossil fuels, including cheap coal, oil, and gas.

    Candles to electricity.

    Critter muscle to steam/electric/i.c.e engines.

    Wagons and trails to vast railroads, and primitive automobiles.

    Gliders and baloons.

    Singleshot blackpowder muskets, to repeating rifled arms fed from detachable magazines using smokeless powder. Machine guns.

    Modern medicine. Including knowledge of germs and anesthesia.

    Food preservation in bulk.

    Aluminum went from exotic unobtanium to useful.

    Rapid information transmission over vast distances.

    Mechanical computational devices.

    From rich mans literacy to cheap books and newspapers for common folk.

    Social changes so vast most folks barely understand what once was.

    Lots more.

    1. OMG, yes – the world went from one powered by horses, maybe wind and water, lit by candles and oil lamps, with anything and everything made by hand, with most folk never going more than five or ten miles from where they were born. The 18th century for most people was pretty much like every century before as far as living conditions went. And in the space of a hundred years – electric light, steam-powered ships, railroad engines, factories producing everything from cloth to bicycles; powered flight, instant communication through the telegraph and telephone, sanitary and life-saving surgery. motion pictures, travel in a week over territory which would previously have taken almost a year! All of that! I love writing about the 19th century for the sheer optimism about it all … compared to that, the early twentieth is awful, depressing, and the rest of it not all that much better.

      1. That’s because the 19th century was a “development” century, well, at least the back half of it, and the 20th was a “refinement” century, improving what had been developed.

        Trains pulled by a steam locomotive is nearly light years ahead of horse & wagon or stagecoach; when the locomotive becomes diesel-electric it’s doing the same job better, faster and cheaper, but the seats in the passenger cars feel the same and get there just as well as they did under steam.

        Then came the aftermath of what Orville and Wilbur wrought; chart early air mail vs the Pony Express, then trains to early passenger air; then “DC-3 to 747.” (Please do not compare 1960s-1990s air travel to today’s; you will not like it).

        Change is still happening, it’s just occurring incrementally and not as obvious, nor as dramatic, so it seems “somewhat stagnant” but I’ll take a 747 over a 1880s train, or a 5-year-old Camry over Old Dobbin any day (the 747 and Camry both ail heavily in the :”romantic” and “independence” departments, but then they were meant to – that’s called “progress” which almost always contains an “auto-sterilizing” component).

          1. No argument there. In the late ’70s and early ’80s I was in semiconductor mfg and arguing the Japanese were showing how to eat everyone else’s lunch with lot size of one, zero variance, and fast-change machine fixtures while we were performing 3 sequential post-production inspections to sort out the defects and spending LOTS of money at it for no gain.

            When I moved to enterprise system design I argued there that being able to economically process “lot sizes of one” in the form of “what does this individual / unique process / unique condition require? Let’s find a way to define it/them so we can figure how to accommodate it in the system hardware & software design. Not everyone wants or needs a medium blue widget, some need a red gizmo and some may need an polka dot thing-a-ma-jig.

            Had about as much success as you’d expect.

  13. “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

  14. The publishing industry, along with the comic book and movie industries, had one of the most beautiful things possible and then they let the idiots in and f(YAY!)k it up completely.

    Comic books were selling like hot cakes in the ’90s and early 2000s. Enough that they were considered a Serious Industry. Now? A “good issue run” now would be what got books canceled for most of the big publishers. There might not even be a DC Comics or Marvel Comics in a few years, especially as many of their character hit public domain status and nobody there seems to know how to make good original characters or stories. Smaller publishers are playing cash-float games with the freelancers they hire, because they don’t have any money. IDW, which had several “making money” licenses…has their stock so low that it might get delisted off the US Stock Exchange. Dark Horse is trying to clear out their IPs in one way or another. And Image has gone…weird. Bad weird.

    Movie industry? Okay, there were issues with the Crow Flu and the streaming channels eating up a lot of the B- and C-grade movies that a lot of studios would make bank on. But the only movies that did well last year, that people were still talking about…was Top Gun: Maverick. Even the muggles liked that film-and went to see it again and again. And the reboot fever to try and get the old Blade Runner magic going is happening again-James Gunn and WB/DC are taking out everything from the Snyderverse, the M-She-U is going to be slammed down our throats for Phase Five, and nobody seems to want to make anything good.

    Streaming services are cutting back on their content creation, often to a shocking degree. Most upcoming animated shows that were sure things have been canceled.

    And the less said about publishing, the better. It’s scary how bad the books are, and I swear that most of the big publishers are round robin funding money launderers at this point.

    1. “Comic books were selling like hot cakes in the ’90s and early 2000s.”

      The ride was over by 1993. A lot of people held on and kept buying for a while, hoping the stupid would work itself out, but it didn’t. One tiny example, before 1992 I rarely saw a full-page panel without a sub-panel in it. After 1992, TWO-PAGE panels of blood spatter became common.

      By 1993 a comic was $3.50. That’s a lot of money to pay for a thinner book with two-page blood spatter. Also the drawing, the stories, the actual content was all padding and long silences.

      But the rest of your comment? I violently agree.

      Lately they’ve gone full-retard with price, SJW storylines, art stolen from starving artists in the third world, deeply objectionable themes, and so forth. All tricks to squeeze out a little sales pop, all doomed to make the comics worse. 2021, DC sales are tanking HARD, what do they do? “Death of the Justice League!” “Superman’s Kid Is Gay!” “Death of Superman! Again! Leaving only gay kid Superman!!!!” No fooling, that’s what they did. And they did it -badly-.

      Have you seen the Eternals movie? OMG, the writers phoned it in.


      The top selling comics in North America are manga. Japanese. Black-and-white-read-it-from-the-back. Literally the top 20 graphic novels by sales every month are manga. ChainsawMan outsold Spiderman. Not by a little bit, it wasn’t even close.

      Because why? Chainsaw Man is a BETTER STORY than whatever crap they are pushing in Spiderman this year.

      I, ancient retirement age geezer who used to read nothing but Marvel and DC plus endless SF/F paperbacks, know who Chainsaw Man is. I know the characters in My Hero Academia. I know who’s doing what to who in Jujutsu Kaisen. I have not looked at Spiderman since 2019.

      In my own humble opinion, Japanese manga and anime is a more faithful and better representation of -WESTERN- culture than anything coming out of Europe or North America the last ten years. And they love their country. People want to see something like that.

      Nobody wants to see “Death of The Justice League And Superman: This Time We’re Serious! No, Really! We’re Not Kidding, We’re Really Gonna Do It! ”

      But, and this is the thing that screams “SCAM!!!” to me, they keep doing it.

      So where’s the scam part? Well, have we not seen that Twitter was actively coopted and basically run as a psyop by the FBI and CIA? They put a lot of work into that. Very well documented thanks to Elon Musk and his $44 billion bucks.

      Does anyone think the FBI and CIA didn’t do the same at Google, Farcebook, Amazon, YouTube etc.? Of course they did.

      Does anyone think they didn’t do the same to the Big 5 publishers and Hollywood? And comic books? Is there any target so small that Leftists will leave it alone? Ask the knitting community.

      You see something that can’t financially support itself, and it keeps doing the same thing that made it insolvent over and over, and the results are worse and worse… but it never seems to die. It keeps shambling along defying the laws of economics. That means they don’t get their money from selling the thing they make. They get it from somewhere else.

      1. My current running theory is that there is a Relationship between the entertainment media and politicians. The nature of that relationship is that as long as the entertainment media keeps giving the politicians money, the politicians make sure the tax breaks and economic protections they have remain intact (i.e. “Hollywood Accounting”).

      2. Musk has flat out stated that what the government did with Twitter, it also did to all of the other big tech companies.

      3. I thought the owners of Ravelry went all. ” We Must Do the Right Thing and Stand Against The Bad Orange Man,” on their own. Sadly, they’re close enough to a monopoly that I don’t know if it hurt them.

      4. “Is there any target so small that Leftists will leave it alone?”

        There are a few, but they are either are obscure, difficult or so counter to leftists that they are under attack in the large. Amateur radio, certain motor sports and firearms come to mind. Dirty jobs and homesteading too.

        A friend of mine has a theory. The less commercial, less attractive, obscure, tougher and more expensive a hobby or pastime is, the less likely that crazy white women and soy boys will attempt to subvert it.

        1. They haven’t made much headway in woodworking, despite years of trying to subvert the magazines. Every time they succeeded the mag would just go under and be replaced by something else.

      5. The fans are running the institution. and running wild.

        Part of the problem is that you can’t make a work of art out of the incoherent, inconsistent messes of the DC or the Marvel universes. DC isn’t really much better with its resets than Marvel is.

        1. No, too many of the folks involved are loudly proud about not being fans.

          It’s the same old captures-skin-wear-suit nonsense.

          There’s small counter-examples where ascendant fans HAVE made stories, rooted in the past and looking to the future– the inconsistent mess is great for being able to relaunch and still appeal to old fans, if you don’t stop to punch them in the gut and then deliberately break what they love.

          1. “…if you don’t stop to punch them in the gut and then deliberately break what they love.”

            Break? You mean deface, shred, set on fire and then urinate on the cold dead ashes. See “Captain America: Agent of Hydra” for elucidation. Even “Death of gay Superman, this time we really mean it!” pales in comparison to that one.

            1. The good thing is, no matter how much they try to destroy them For Good This Time, they can’t.

              Ideas don’t die that way.

        2. Comic book fans have abandoned Marvel and DC and they are all reading manga now.

          Also the various imbeciles running those two companies have come right out and called comic fans racist/homophobe bigots on several occasions, usually when one of their pet Woke projects dies from lack of sales. Captain America: Agent of Hydra was the final straw for a lot of people, if you look at the sales data.

          You can’t blame fans for what’s going on at Marvel and DC. It’s a self-inflicted death spiral. The Big Two have literally quit the field and the only thing left to read is manga.

          1. There’s indie. Also, as the perpetrator of Through A Mirror, Darkly, I can definitely state there is prose. Though superheroes come across differently in different media.

    2. Marvel and DC are excellent ways to maintain trademarks in use when you decide what to do with the IP.

  15. In Matthew, Christ says that if the days weren’t shortened (to His 2nd coming) there would be no one left. THAT is how bad it will get.

  16. Sarah, regarding “everything is broken”, I thought you would like this example that just came over the transom here at Chez Phantom.

    It is alleged, with considerable supporting evidence, that Kristine Stolarik the Director General of the Canadian Border Services Agency (aka Kanuckistan border patrol/la migra) has been calling the elected leader of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition “peepee”.

    The exchange was on a reporter’s Twittler feed, and the good Ms. Stolarik was caught red-handed. So -many- screenshots.

    Just contemplate for a moment, the notion of Chief of the United States Border Patrol calling the leader of the Republican Party “peepee” on Tucker Carlson’s Twittler account. That’s what we’re talking about here.

    How competent (or even sane) can this individual possibly be? And yet, holds a -very- high civil service job in the federal government. So really, how competent (or sane) can the rest of them be? This one got -promoted- in the civil service, not squeezed out. She’s at the tippy friggin’ top.

    That’s who is running the engine room of the Great Ship of State right now. So no wonder that everything is broken.

      1. I’m trying to remember who wrote that he’d start to believe in American decline when there were no longer lines outside the American consulates, everywhere, filled with people trying to move here.

        1. My faith in that metric, as with so many others, would be greater if I wasn’t aware that government at several levels wasn’t actively providing subsidies of various kinds as encouragement. Kind of like the ACTUAL demand for wind and solar power based on their ACTUAL usefulness..

  17. to quibble, the “invisible hand” is a metaphor because Smith didn’t have a way to define why the butcher was so devoted to supplying people with sausage.
    Karl Menger’s “marginal utility” explains it better and even better can explain how intervention messes up the smooth-ish relationship between actors in a market

    Of course, Invisible Hand is a far better metaphor because if you start talking about marginal utility the usual response is, “That’s nice. So anyways . . . “

    1. In Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, two human societies collide in a first contact situation in a distant solar system. The trader civilization has a starship called the Invisible Hand, and a leader of the authoritarian corporate civilization is briefly perplexed that such an anarchic society should have come up with such a perfect metaphor for a secret enforcement agency . . .

  18. We traveled to Cody and visited our brand new grandbaby. I took the 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. shift to let the young parents get some good sleep. Also this is the most amazing time to watch a newborn process the world. (She’s perfect and beautiful and I would die for her. You know the drill.)

    On the way home, giant angel wing clouds covered the sky. And then the sun lowered and presented a sullen red eye with carved eyebrows and a pronounced angry squint. Okay, I’m sleep deprived. But I’ve never seen those cloud formations before. Somebody is doing battle somewhere, I think. We’re not alone in this.

  19. Speaking of “dem times iz bad”, I (perhaps incorrectly) associate the failure of individualism with the rise of cookie-cutter MBAs fom woke indoctrination camps. I also see evidence of Cloward-Piven ideas implemented. And it all horribly rhymes with Romans 1:18-32.

    That said, I don’t go with the Eeyore the donkey or Martin the robot stuff. We are who we are by the grace of Our Lord (insert “fate” if you are violently anti-religion) and the choices we make with the blessings we receive.

    I have to repeat here that big piles of money are not unconditionally a good thing. And poverty is not unconditionally a bad thing. It’s how we react to it and those around us.

    I’ve been diagnosed with, and “cured” of, two cancers. I would say that the journey was not really a lot of fun. And yet I learned much about myself, others, and God. And I developed many a bad joke.

    I also discovered that being stark nekkid in a room full of cute young nurses is not what adolescents might think, as they mopped up the mess made on me, the bed, and the floor when one fumbled reinserting a urinary catheter (the after-effects of the previous surgery’s anesthesia had not worn off and I couldn’t “pee” on my own). Not enjoyable, as I stated earlier. Really rather embarrassing.

    We’re gonna have tough stuff ahead. Every generation has trials. Ours may test “us to destruction”; but don’t give up hope. The example we give may start the change needed to reverse the damage, if that is indeed possible. The effects on behavior of psychology are both over- and under-estimated. And we can certainly use that to our advantage, too. Without resorting to violence.

    “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” the Texian soldiers shouted as they charged Santa Anna’s men at San Jacinto. And the routed Mexican threw down their weapons and cried out “Me no Goliad!” They knew what their leader had done was wrongand they could not support it.

    “Stand and deliver”, as they used to say. What we “deliver” ought to be the best we can offer. Shame them for their cowardice by not showing fear (“meek” does not mean “weak”). Let them see that what we value, like the “Whos down in Whoville”, is not the mere physical stuff we possess, but our love for each other and our Creator.

    If they do kill us, “may all our wounds be in front”.

    If they don’t, we’ve already won.

  20. “the reading public had nothing to read. ”

    That much is certain. I nearly gave completely up around 2005 or so and went on a decade plus of 90% history. A few years ago I discovered Williamson’s “Freehold”, Correia’s MHI series, and more recently Darkship Thieves.

    Beyond that, I’ve mostly returned to Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, and the rest.

  21. “My actual religious faith is more a matter of convincing myself I have faith than actually having faith.” -Hostess W/ Mostess.
    I think a lot of people fall into that category.
    Not to be a big blast femur, but I don’t buy the entire premise of Revelations. It just seems too damn convenient to the powers that be to have such a horror show/bogeyman to keep the proles in line. When I learned of the Council of Trent… Well, that put a different light on things. Men, not G-d published the book. I know, I know, the heavenly press doesn’t have ink by the barrel. but still. “In G-d we trust, all others pay cash don’tcha know.”
    That is not to mention the obvious paradox of G-d loves you but he’s going to F you all up and punish the innocent along with the guilty.
    I believe in the creator. Much of the orthodoxy of the church… not so much.
    Faith, on the other hand, is tough.
    I hear it is easier on Tuesdays and bank holidays though.

    1. You do know that the Book of Revelation is basically a summing up of OT prophecy, plus Jesus’ NT prophecies.

      I mean, to the point that John is crowbarring in the Septuagint Greek, so he can use quotes.

    2. Musing rather than refuting, but…

      I grew up in a charismatic denomination that was ALL OVER Revelation and everything connected to it, including connections logical and otherwise to the Book of Daniel. (Anybody else have one of those 40-foot rollout prophecy charts in their church rec hall/kitchen/whatever?) I saw lots and lots of “bad stuff coming”, and never the slightest attempt to keep us rubes in line with end-of-the-world fears. From my adult perspective, it’s very much the same vibe as the January 2017 fear-orgies I saw from the Left, where they were all going “Bad Orange will put us in CAMPS and EXPERIMENT on us!!” as a bonding ritual.

      As for “punishing the innocent”…well. I am highly reluctant to die, but I can’t precisely categorize death (or even poison/war/all the other stuff) as a deliberate punishment from God. Consequences of being stuck in a broken world, yes. Deliberate infliction of pain, no. (There’s an apocryphal story of Alex the African Grey parrot frantically apologizing to his handler when he realized they were at the vet’s. He was smart enough to realize that painful stuff was coming, but not wise enough to realize that he wasn’t being punished.) This doesn’t mean that I want to DEAL with the painful stuff, but I won’t be blaming God for it.

      Random thoughts, possibly to be expanded upon later. 🙂

  22. “nothing to read …”

    I’m not him (and I don’t even know whether he’d appreciate being mentioned in this forum) but Patrick Chiles is writing really good near-future space-based hard SF. Reminds me very strongly of Jerry Pournelle’s High Justice and his Belter stories, and Lee Correy’s Manna. Baen is publishing Chiles’s stuff, at least for now. His Frontier is astonishingly good.

  23. You do realize that the post could be summed up with “As I pass through the incarnations of every age and race…”

  24. @ Sarah > “There might be some hope on the horizon for Barnes and Noble, ”
    Excellent analysis by Ted Gioia at the link.
    My sister worked at a WaldenBooks (and at one time a Brentano’s) for many years, eventually managing a store in Houston. After the chain was merged with Borders, the situation was exactly as described by Sarah. She regaled me with a many a tale of upper-echelon stupidity.
    Ted’s description of the resurgence of B&N under an actual book-loving reader-understanding CEO would definitely meet her approval.

    (Side note on the broken employment trope: many times she would hire people who would not show up on the first day, or work a couple of days/weeks and then just quit, whether or not with paycheck in hand I don’t know. This was in the nineties, so it’s not a new thing.)

    Another post by Gioia is also relevant to the theme of this series – a fascinating look at a train wreck in slow motion, an entirely self-inflicted breakdown.

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