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I guess I should start this with a health and doings report, like that Elizabethan woman’s diary.  I bought it (It’s something something, the diary of an Elizabethan gentlewoman) because I was working the Shakespeare times, and I wanted a sense for how people lived day to day.  In a less individualistic time there are very few autobiographies and those might not be representative.  So I bought this book.  And then I read half of it in disbelief and skimmed the rest.

I can’t remember who the woman was. (I have different “tapes” for the different time periods and universes I work in.  (DVDs I should say and even that outdated, but I think of them as tapes, which shows my age.)  When I’m not working in them, I remember nothing, except fuzzy details.  Before I dive back in, I do a skim and reacquaint myself, and then I have names, dates, details at my fingertips.  Part of what disturbed me, back when the thyroid was very bad is that the skim wouldn’t stick.  Never mind, that’s getting better, though not back to normal.) Anyway, whoever the woman is, she lost something like two husbands and three sons to treason, was in danger herself, but most of her diary is the same entry “Prayed, wrought.”

Most of my life is about the same, except I’m not so good about praying.

Anyway, the health — after that extended preamble — and this itself is a preamble to my real point, but since this is a blog and not an editorial, I sort of assume you mugs want to know.  Because you’re family.

I said when I fell it was just my body being my body and I was vaguely annoyed at being dragged to emergency.  I was right.  Yes, there were several anomalies caught in the hours right after the sincope, (sp?) but it didn’t last.  Everything smoothed out, and when I went to my pcp on Wednesday for a follow up and to book the MRI everything was text book.  I now have an appointment with the cardiologist for the week before Christmas, which rather baffles me, since the conclusion of every exam done is that my heart is perhaps too normal.

Then again, this is not my first rodeo.  When I said “this is just my body, being my body” I as talking from a deep experience of something weird happening and then going to doctors’ offices to be told “you’ll never die from this.”  All sorts of specialists, from heart to blood have told me “Well, we don’t know what happened, but your xyz is so normal/on the good end of the curve, you’ll never die from this.”  Let’s call them appointments to confirm my immortality.  I’ll never die from any of these things.

And yet my body throws weird wobblies, before it rights itself.  The thing is it rights itself.  You have to understand, through my childhood, being born too premature and then catching everything, and with the auto-immune ever present (I mentioned to my husband that I wonder if I would be the same person if my eczema throughout all of my childhood didn’t present on the face (eyelids, and around the mouth.  Also my neck.)  I was a not-ugly child and I naturally like people, but having them recoil from you as if you were a horror-show freak (which is what I looked like) pushed me to both introversion and suspicion of others) anyway — no one could have predicted I would live.  And no one fully understands how.  So “It’s just my body being my body” will have to cover a lot of this.

I’m now waiting on results from the MRI.  The good news is I have a brain, which you guys will laugh at, but the thing is, given the early birth, several episodes of low blood ox because asthma and other stuff, and at least to major concussions mean I thought my brain as a shriveled little thing the size of a walnut.  BUT we have to wait to know more.  Of course I hope the delay means it’s nothing much, but that didn’t apply to the growth in my uterus, the biopsy also done around this time.  It’s just Christmas being Christmas and people being on vacation.  So.  We wait. But we really don’t expect anything earth-shattering.  This is just one of those things.  Partly they feel given the horror that is my auto-immune (Though between the thyroid and the prednisone — which damn it  made me gain weight I can’t afford to gain — This is the first time my arms are sore-free in… 15 years?) they want to check for stuff like MS, which I have no symptoms of.

Meanwhile I have new glasses and this was the first time, and I mean FIRST including the first pair of glasses I had, that I put them on and went “Oh,” in sheer relief.  That double vision up and down which I was not conscious of, until the exams forced me to notice it, must really have been wearing.  I felt like my eye muscles unclenched for the first time in probably a year.  The upshot is I can see the screen, which had become a matter of guesswork, and I don’t feel exhausted after writing for an hour.  So that’s the good news.

After this extended prologue, let’s get into “emergent.”

This morning I was thinking how, except for minor details, my brother and I divided our genetic inheritance according to the two families we “come from.”  Alvarim takes after mom’s family and has heart trouble hyper tension and the other physical issues of the family, including early baldness.  Mom’s family has other stuff like paranoia and epilepsy, and bi-polar.  (He might or might not have the last — treated — as mom does.  We don’t delve deeply on that stuff on the phone.)  And I take after dad’s side.  I’m darker too, as they are, (following the idea that Marques comes from a word meaning Moor, though I doubt they actually were.  The genealogical poking I’ve done points at Sephardic Jews.  Of course, the appearance is much the same.) And I have low blood pressure, low heart rate, a tendency to hypotension, and stomach trouble, and the endemic depression of that family line.

The exception seems to be the way our minds work.  My brother is smarter than I, and certainly conventionally smarter than I.  He had an eidetic memory once, when mine was only ever “near eidetic” and he could muster an understanding of fields I couldn’t attempt.  OTOH my brain moves by “erratic brilliance” like mom’s side.  He’s way smarter than I, but he’s predictable.  I’m not.  I will be dumb as rocks until suddenly a blinding insight hits, and then I will outpace experts in some field I’ve just been poking at.

It’s not quantifiable or predictable, which makes it difficult for employers.  It is however okay for someone who works for herself in a pseudo-artistic field.  And sometimes it serves me very well by wielding up something a regular brain could not have come up with in years of patient and sane plodding.

I was thinking of this this morning, and from my erratic mind I jumped to the culture and what is happening in the world.

I follow Richard Fernandez on facebook.  If I never did anything else on facebook, that would be worth it.  He is not just an enormously smart man, but one whose head makes sense to me.  There are people I can tell are very smart, and even right, but my mind can’t bend the way theirs does, and I have to get to the same place by different routes.  He’s not one of those.  He will think of things I never thought of, and then I read it and go “Oh, I should have seen.”

Lately he’s been on a …. not a tear, a mental pathway about black swans and the meaning of what is going on in the world right now, and whether it means a rejection of the progressive project.

I think it does, though not consciously.  People haven’t thought things through yet.  They just know what they know, and what their gut tells them is that all this stuff that’s been pushed on us from above is wrong.  Just wrong.  IOW the pendulum swings and having swung…

It remains to be seen whether they throw the baby out with the bathwater, or if they take bathwater and baby and make something so new, so different that none of us thought about it before.  I’m starting to get a feeling that’s it.

Part of what Richard has been saying is that you can’t predict “emergent.”  The black swan will fly suddenly, when you least expect it.

You can predict emergent even less if you’ve blinded yourself by taking over news and replacing real reporting with “narrative.”  You’re not getting what you need to to predict what is happening.

Thing is, none of us are, because you need to read the western press by ignoring the type and reading the lacunae between the lines to get even a sense of what is really there.  In a way the reporters, taught in schools pushing Marxist theory, aren’t even SEEING what’s really there.  They never remove the narrative glasses to see the world or attempt to see the world at it is.

And yet, Marx is dead.  Marx was always a cult, and cults only withstand so many rounds of disconfirmation before they fall apart (read When Prophecy Fails.)  Though on the way there, the proselytizing fervor becomes greater, as we saw after the fall of the USSR.

And yet, Marx is still dead.  And we as a culture (which means much longer than individuals) will deal with it over the next few decades maybe even to the end of this century and past the end of my life (immortal or not, I’m fairly sure I don’t last anohter 80 years.)

What emerges next we don’t know, and our information organs having been corrupted by Marxism, can’t help.  All we can do is work towards a better future.

Which brings me to a comment on one of Richard’s FB posts in which a man, I presume well intentioned, wailed that we need to figure out what we’re going to do when automation replaces 90% of the jobs.

I gave a snippy reply, because I’m still me, and you guys know my opinion (if not look back through posts.  Yes, I probably should label them, but if you use the search string “With folded hands” you’ll get hits.) I don’t think automation can or will replace 90% of the jobs AS WE KNOW THEM NOW.  Sorry, left, you can’t blame the unemployment on automation.  It didn’t advance that much in 8 years.

But beyond that, automation can’t replace 90% — or really much — of the jobs as we will know them, as they EMERGE in the new world.

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about the left is what I’d call “Sh*t sentimentality” and a crazy desire for the past.  Growing up, they made me read jobs about how bad some jobs were: cleaning lady, assembly line, miner, server.  BUT now they’re wailing that those jobs will vanish.

There are two keys to this: first, they are truly contemptuous of their fellow men.  The modern leftist is not a worker, nor a man of the people, he is an intellectual, someone who did very well in the indoctrination factories we call schools.  This encourages him to think anyone who doesn’t think like him is stupid, but more importantly, it encourages him to think anyone who doesn’t do well and mind-and-pen tasks is stupid.  I know.  I would have succumbed to that temptation if I hadn’t grown up in a village, where there weren’t enough people to insulate me from contact with people in manual professions who, sure, thought I was nuts reading as much as I did, but who could think faster and better than I in non-intellectual/abstract subjects.

And the second is that the left, thinking they’re smarter, think they have an obligation to “look after” the less intellectually fortunate.  Which is why they are all bent out of shape about these sh*t jobs disappearing.  I mean, yeah, they suck, but how can the left/bureaucrats come up with new jobs to replace the lost ones?  How will they look after the unemployed?  And how can we not care that technology is killing jobs????  How can we not want to beef up the welfare state to look after these poor people too stupid to do anything else?  We’re monsters, I tell you, monsters.

Their anguish is real, even if truly bizarre.  It is a result of their personality type and their education, and it would be unkind to laugh.  You also have to have a heart of stone not to laugh like an hyena.

The thing is the government/bureaucrats/intellectuals have never created jobs.  Humans are clever apes, even those who aren’t into juggling abstract concepts (some are cleverer than those who do juggle abstract concepts.  You can get lost in the pretty pictures in your head.)  We’ve survived changing environments before, even environments WE changed.  We survived the discovery of fire, we’ve survived metal weapons (will no one think of the plight of the flint chippers?  They didn’t even have an all-wise government to tell them what to do next or give them mammoth-meat welfare.)  We’ve survived the industrial revolution and the replacement of jobs, wholesale.

My bet is on humans.  We’ll continue to survive.  We do not need wise bureaucrats to look after 90% of us or hold our hands in the transition.  We ask only one thing of those who think they need to invent the future: LET GO.  Remove your “caring hands” from the throat of the future.  You’re killing it.  Leave it alone and it will emerge, on its own.

And it might very well be better than anything you can imagine.  Sure, it can be worse too, though by and large, human civilization can be defined as “things get better for the common man” despite some truly horrible interludes.

Let go.  Things might come out better or worse.  The only thing I can promise you is that they’ll be weirder than you can imagine.  Which is the point.

No one made you the gods of humanity, and now I think about it our antropomorphic gods were continuously surprised by us, too.

Let go your fear, your anxiety, your sense of superiority over the common man.  Let people be and do in their own self-interest.

We’ll be all right.

Flavors of History – Alma Boykin

                                    Flavors of History – Alma Boykin


In the beginning there was vanilla, and it was . . .

OK, correction. In the beginning there was olive oil on flat bread with goat cheese, better known as Herodotus. He really does deserve the title of the Father of History, in the sense that he did research, interviewed people who had traveled, and made clear what he knew to be fact, what he had been told was fact, and what he suspected was conjecture. As far as Western history goes, he is the first general historian, and we might say the first social historian, since he wrote about unusual people way over there and what they did. He could also count as an anthropologist, back before the two sides parted company. In China, I’d count Sima Chin as the first historian who was not simply compiling king lists or writing on oracle bones. He is a political historian and intellectual historian, writing about monarchs and the good and bad things they did and if they accorded with his preferred philosophy. No, he wasn’t “objective” but back then historians weren’t supposed to be.

The next major Western historian was Thucydides, a military and political historian. In fact, political and military history dominated the field for quite a while, if you focus outside the Christian Church. People who could write tended to be churchmen and/or affiliated with royal or princely courts. The most important things going on involved ruling, challenges to ruling, inheritance, and how good the patron was. As a result, we tend to find pious descriptions of saintly monarchs (Alfred the Great) interspersed with descriptions of battles and marriages and offspring, or accounts of how horrible the previous monarch was and how G-d, in His mercy and grace, allowed the current claimant to the throne to overcome the bad monarch and replace him. Buried within the accounts, we find nuggets of what moderns consider history.

During the early middle ages (say, 1100s – 1300s or so) we find a lot more national histories written. These are descriptions of the long history of the Bohemians, or Magyars, or Britons (although the English and Welsh started early with Gerald of Wales and the Venerable Bede tracing things back to the Trojan War). The goal was to show how long a nation had been in the land, and how noble and dignified their ancestry was, thus locking in their claims to territory and respect from other, less worthy peoples and rulers. This is when the Magyars staked their claim to Pannonia based on descent from wandering ancestors related to the Huns and farther back, to the sons of a princess and an eagle. The Bohemians didn’t go quite that far, settling on a princess in the 600s or so (pre-Magyar and German) and a plowman. The Kieven Primary Chronicle dates to this period, skipping the mythology for the most part.

Until the 19th Century history focused on what we call today political and military history, with some diplomatic history wrapped in, and historical biography. When people grumble about “history is just dead kings and battles” they are thinking of this sort of writing. But the people writing histories were not interested in “objective” history. They were recording events in order to support a certain side, or to justify certain actions, or to explain why their side won (or lost). And the most important things to the literate people who were not businessmen and women, or clergy, were politics and wars. Politics and wars shaped everything in the world of the nobility and upper classes, international trade and diplomacy, and even some religious matters, so that’s what you wrote about. And that’s what interested the people who had enough extra money to hire scribes to write family histories and accounts of events. A few individuals wrote diaries and detailed accounts of events that they participated in, like Samuel Pepys (most famously), a latter-day version of the old monastic chronicles, but they were not writing history per se and did not claim to be.

Then along came the professional historians, first Gibbon, and then most importantly Leopold Von Ranke, who ordered his students to go into the archives and government documents and write down things as they really happened, no favoritism or glossing. And political history, diplomatic history, and nibbles of economic history appeared in the form of trade histories. The American diplomat George Perkins Marsh wrote the first environmental history in the 1890s, with the book Man and Nature where he compared the descriptions of the Classical world with what he observed as an ambassador, and described what he thought had happened and why. After WWI people began turning away from the older kinds of history, looking below the level of monarchs and ministries, to see what had been going on in departments, counties, parishes, and villages. The French in particular started combing through local records, digging up anything they could find and trying to make sense of it. Called the Annals’ School because of the title of the journal where the first of their work appeared, the French also began looking at the longue durre, the extended stretch of history of places and peoples.

After WWII, with the surge of new people coming into the universities and more access to archives and new tools to analyze things, history either exploded or shattered, depending on how you view things. Political and military history still led the field in terms of respect and number of practitioners, as the box on my office floor containing the full paperback set of Samuel Elliott Morrison’s history of the US Navy in WWII can attest. Governments still funded historical writing. But economic history emerged as an official specialty, and environmental history, women’s history, Marxist and labour history that looked back at the working classes, and peasants and slaves and serfs to tell their story (E. P. Thompson most famously), religious history that didn’t focus on the development of theology or advance a pro-denominational thesis, corporate history and industrial histories, much better histories of non-Western places with South Asia, China, Japan, and so on developing their own standards and patterns and conventions, geographically focused histories such as American West or Borderlands, and new takes on older writings. Medicine developed its own history that lapped into social and political history. Military history shifted from how battles were won and lost into the daily experiences of soldiers, and of civilians around the soldiers, to histories of logistics and supply, how warfare affected society and shaped culture (see Victor Davis Hanson’s early work), and war-on-the ground like John Keegan’s Face of Battle.

Historians also began nibbling, then gulping, the tools of other fields. We crunched numbers and developed Cliometrics, history based on statistical analysis that could be amazingly useful when it worked and miserable to read when it didn’t. We pestered the archaeologists and the Dark Ages turned into Late Antiquity as more and more continuity appeared in the historical and archaeological record, plagues, invasions, and the climatic downturn in the 500s-600s notwithstanding. We harassed geographers (OK, we’ve been doing that since Herodotus), plagued engineers, annoyed ecologists and foresters and naturalists, irked physicists and chemists, “borrowed” from archaeology and linguistics and hydrology and anyone else who forgot to lock up their journals and research notes, and came up with some wonderful results. And some not so wonderful results.

Today, late 2016, you can find a historian looking under pretty much any rock you mention. Music historians, art historians, historians of ideas, environmental historians, historians of sex (not as exciting as it sounds), historians who write about people and animals, historians of water, or fire (Stephen Pyne and yes, that is his real name. He was predestined to go into fire science and pyrohistory). Is this good or bad? It can lead to some pretty dead-end research, because the PhD requirement is to either find something new, or refute something old. Classics and political history especially have grown some pretty esoteric-to-questionable branches, in my opinion. But it also means that anything is fair game for anyone, and you can find works about all sorts of fascinating and odd and intriguing and “that is so cool!” things and peoples and places.

Of course, I’m the poster bad example for someone who could not focus in graduate school and who still refuses to specialize to the extent required by academic standards. So you might not want to follow my lead.

Dear Evil Space Princess

Don’t even ask, but some of you have decided to send me questions.  I find them amusing, so I will answer them.

Dear Evil Space Princess, {or Lackeys(or minions)} I would like to conquer my patch of the galaxy but I am not sure what to wear to a conquest? Any suggestions? Sincerely, Evil in Training.

Dear in Training:

If you are asking what you should personally wear, the normal attire for going on a war of conquest is black.  Black makes you look intimidating, is slimming, and, as a useful side effect it can hide blood splatter.  You know how hard it is to carry clean clothing along when your vanguard outstrips your supply lines.  And while that whole “I wash my clothes in the blood of my enemies” is very impressive, it does tend to make it look slovenly and like you’re strapped for clothes (and soap) by the end of it.

Now, if you wish to dress your minions, we encourage you to spare on clothes for the cannon fodder.  For the brutes who are just supposed to be killed, try either a loincloth or some simple whole body thing, depending on the level of technology.  Look, the stuff is just going to get shredded.  Don’t over think it.

For the troops after the cannon fodder, the actual trained marksmen in whatever level of weaponry, you should get the best protective clothing you can.  It might be just quilted wool, or it might be some super-high-tech material, but it should be the best you can afford.  Trained warriors are expensive.  Try to spare them.

The same applies to your inner guards, who should be as well protected and armed as possible.

On the other hand, your inner, largely ornamental guard, should be dressed to impress.  Depending on your preference, we recommend leather loin cloths and oiled bodies for the males, and oiled bodies and leather bikinis for females.

No one really should wear chainmail bikinis, as they heat too fast in the sun, and pinch delicate areas, but if you really feel a need to use chainmail bikinis for your minions, remember to have them lined in some quilted material.

It’s all very well to torture your minions for a purpose, but to make them wear chainmail bikinis for no reason is just evil.

Dear Evil Space Princess.
My fat black Manx cat SugarBelly insists on sitting in the place which makes it most difficult for me to write. For example, right now, she is sitting slightly off to the right of the keypad, and keeps reaching out her paws to move my hands away so she can sit on QWERTY and friends. She also likes to sit on the mouse, or sometimes on my left wrist.
If I moved to PagoPago, do you think she would find me?
She’s Not My Type of Cat

Dear Not My Type of Cat

She’s a cat.  She might follow you to PagoPago, or she might start pretending to ignore you tomorrow and never acknowledge your existence again.

The purview of the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess extends to many worlds and planets, but never to cats.

It is not for us to understand superior aliens like cats.

Dear Beautiful but Evil Space Princess:

Is it better to kill off your brothers and sisters or leave them alive to take the blame later? – A Fellow Evil Lord of Evil

Dear Fellow,

I am unorthodox in this.  I believe you should kill them all.  As useful as it is to have someone to blame, it seems they are always destined to take the throne, and then they upend your entire legend.

Forget keeping them in the evil and insurmountable fortress.  Some cute maiden or willing knight will get them out.  Just kill them.

Richard the Third, the original evil overlord of evil had the right idea.  Kill and bury brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces and anyone who can contest your power.  In the end, when you’re long dead, they’ll find their bones, but even then some soft head will insist you weren’t the one who killed them.

Dear BBESP, Every time I capture the hero, I get this overwhelming urge to spill the entire plan, including the way out. How can I stop myself from giving it all away? Sincerely, Evil Underlord who can’t quite make the big leagues

Dear Under,

Oh, Sweetie.  This is a compulsion written into you by the author.  You must use aversion therapy.  Have one of your underlings dress up as the hero, and when you start spilling things, force yourself to do something really distasteful.  I don’t know, pet a puppy or give sweets to children or something, until you break the compulsion.

It’s all right.  If you manage to cure yourself, you can blend the puppies into a nice smoothie afterwards and it will make you feel much better.

I have not yet begun to conquer the world, let alone the solar system, but the planning stages are going well, at least. However, I do have one question: At what point in the process should I start assembling my harem? “At the end” might mean I’m decrepit and old and in no shape to enjoy it, but too early might make it a distraction. What other factors should be considered?

Asking for a friend.

Dear Friend,

This is a difficult question.

One would recommend you assemble your harem as soon as possible, because after all, one of the best perks of being an evil overlord is getting to play.  Isn’t it written “All evil and no play makes the overlord really annoyed?”

On the other hand one of the side effects of harems are descendants, and people tend to feel a certain reluctance to kill their own children.  The problem is that, inevitably, the more sons you have the higher the chance one of them will be a blessed hero destined to bring down your evil reign.  And truly, once they get the Author on their side there is nothing you can do.

So unless you are willing to ruthlessly kill your own spawn, we recommend you staff your harem with non-fertile aliens or forego this idea of a harem altogether and get your jollies out of torturing your enemies like a normal evil overlord.

Dear Beautiful But Evil Space Princess:

At what rate should one kill henchmen for incompetence to achieve the maximum of discourager pour les autres for the minimum of wasted salary and training budget?


Keeps Running Out Of Henchmen Around Rigel

Dear Rigel,

You don’t kill your actual henchmen.  Yes, I know it’s satisfying and lets out all that pent up aggression, but I recommend investing in holographic virtual reality minions that you can kill with maximum show and gore, without wasting the actual talent.

Dear Beautiful But Evil Space Princess:

What booby traps do you prefer, and do they need any modifications to work in zero gravity? – Confused in Space

Dear Confused,

I prefer my boobie traps in lace.  Black lace, of course. For zero gravity it is advisable to have the more enveloping and less elastic type of boobie traps, otherwise the boobies will be all out of shape by the time you return to Earth.

I am very much against underwires, for the same reason I am against chainmail bikinis.  Hard metallic objects don’t belong near your boobies.


And that is all I have time for this week.  Tune in next week for more “Ask the Beautiful but Evil Space Princess.”  It is the duty of successful evil to train incipient evil, after all.

Together, we can terrorize the galaxy for many years to come.


You know that whole “not of bread alone.”  It is true.  Man is not a creature of food and water, of enough oxygen and taking another breath.

Sure you can get humans to that state.  It usuallya takes something like a prison camp, or the vast prison camp that are places like the former soviet union or present day North Korea.  You can get humans to where they wake up every morning and their only goal is to live another day.  They’ll betray anyone, break any law or taboo, eat anything, do anything to survive one more day.  But even in that situation it is not as simple as it sounds.

Man is a creature of story.

We are not, alas, just animals living in the moment (actually we’re not sure animals just live in the moment.  Neurological studies, at least, seem to indicate cats and dogs have memories, ideations and hopes.  And we know elephants do.) We’re creatures of thought as much as of body and our thought needs to have a shape and a direction, too.

Even in prisoner camps — one of the things I read, like I read stories of revolution both successful and failed, and biographies of tyrants, is biographies of people who were reduced to the most extreme conditions and how they survived.  No, I don’t know why.  Shut up — people do have narratives.  What type of narrative they have often determines if they survive.  And it’s not a matter of “positive narratives survive.”  Humans aren’t that simple.  It’s more if you think you’re serving some purpose with your life, you will survive everything.  Some of the successful narratives are “in the end the communists/nazis/this person who kidnapped me and held me in a box under his bed fro seven years” win, “but I can spite them/him by living another hour, another day, and by d*mn and h*ll, I’m going to do it.”

More down to Earth and in normal everyday circumstances, humans live by story.  You might think you don’t have a story in your head, but you do.  It can be as simple as “I’m a really good dad” to “I’m one of the righteous, headed for salvation.”  The narrative in your head will inform how you make big and small choices from “do I give up seeing the movie to play with my kid?” to “Do I buy the big house, or save the money and give it to the poor?” to just about everything.

The story is not just about who you are.  It’s also about what kind of place the world is, and what other people are like.

If you’re the sort of person who thinks that most people, however annoying, are basically decent, just trying to live their lives, it will inform your choices, and your own narrative in a far different way, than if you think every human being who ever lived is a sh*tweasel, and that a not inconsiderable number of them are out to get you personally.  Or that they will be dishonest if given the slightest chance.

It informs your politics.  If you think most average, normal humans are basically despicable, you will crave a big government that will keep “them sonsofdogs” under control, so they can’t hurt/steal from the “good people” like you.  This view requires you to have in your head a natural aristocracy, the “good people” who are like you and don’t have ill intents and can, therefore, be trusted with power.

People who think people are basically decent, though they can respond to incentives not to be, and so we try to keep people free to be as decent as they can be, and not to short-circuit them into being evil.

A lot of our views of the world are informed, not just by news and stories of the real world, but by our entertainment, the religion and legends of our culture, the protocols of our society.

If you expect everyone to be decent, your public holidays and the way you keep your property will be different.  In Portugal where private property isn’t as secure (partly through an history of invasions that got ingrained in the deep consciousness) tall walls surround properties and you don’t leave outside anything you don’t want to walk away.  In the states, in most places, we leave whatever outside in our un-walled properties, secure in the belief it will stay there.

Lately — no, I mean that, more so than in the past — our public narrative has disturbed me.  It is clear from even sitcoms that the writers for television don’t expect anyone to be decent or honest.  They behave as if the average human being is just waiting to become monsters if not watched/if you aren’t vigilant/if laws don’t hold them in check, etc.  Even “heroes” will commit adultery and behave like weasels away from their area of heroism.

These are not just bad narratives, they are objectively wrong narratives.  Even in places like NK or Cuba, good and decency flourish, sometimes as a single grace note, sometimes against all odds.

The thing is that people model themselves on the narrative.  If the societal narrative is “nobody’s clean” you’re going to get more evil.

Also people model what they expect.  If you haven’t discovered The Room by Tommy Wasseau (arguably the worst movie ever made) google something like “what is wrong with The Room” but the narrative of The Room (trust me, I’m not spoiling anything) is a respected, hardworking man who is betrayed by everyone and kills himself. It was written, directed and acted in by an immigrant and in the book about it by one of his co-stars (groan) it is mentioned that the co-star got the odd idea that the guy making the movie thought the main character was “living the dream” even with everyone betraying him, and it ending up in death.

I’ve seen this.  I lived/grew up abroad.  People think that the US is corrupt, horrible, but they still want to live here.  That is because subconsciously, since most of their narrative is imported from the US, they have internalized that “story” as “the way things should be.”

Long ago I came to the conclusion that people raised in the dystopian/rusty future SF of the sixties and seventies thought that the future was supposed to be that way, and got annoyed/upset when it deviated.  A lot of the community’s hatred of Reagan was that he wasn’t heading that way and they got dissonance.  They had to identify him as crazy and also come up with ways that his future would be worse.  Had to.  Because the narrative in their heads demanded it.

A great part of the left meltdown after the election is the narrative being broken.  They thought from now on, it would only be their side in control.  We were the rump of the resistance, old people who “just need to die.”  That in SF/F this was said by a woman who is all of ten years my Junior tells you how much this is a crazy narrative in their heads.  They thought that history had an arrow, and they were “on the right” (left) “side.”

They will now be concocting stories to fit the narrative, to explain how they’re still on the right side, even if they lose.

How successful that rebuild will be depends on how much respite they get.

But for us the important part is this: the world our kids inherit is more dependent on story than on facts on the ground.  Story shapes the future.  It can’t completely shape it, against the facts, but it can shape it more than you’d think from the outside.

We need stories in which humans are decent and in which the future can be exciting/interesting and prosperous WITHOUT being either poliannish or boring.

Some of these got through even when the gatekeepers were trying to enforce their bleak vision, but now we are largely free of them.  (Okay, not totally, they still have the big megaphone, but given their cluelessness, it’s a matter of time.)

You know what to do. Go create a narrative for a society of freedom and human happiness.  You can do it.  If you don’t write, you can always read and review, can’t you?  And you can reward good shows and avoid those that aren’t.  And you can discuss worldviews in shows with other people?

Go forth and work.  Be not afraid, and create a future in which fear is less and less warranted.

The Light And The Darkness — reprise

It occurred to me yesterday that my issues with accepting care and being taken care of are sort of a microcosmos of a societal thing.

I came out of the hospital to full Holiday swing around me (I’m not doing much swinging, since Robert brought me home halfway through an attempted grocery shopping trip and told me not to go out of sight of his father.  Not sure yet what is wrong, but I definitely flagged halfway through the trip.  Possibly because it was so cold and for whatever reason my blood pressure remains too low) and to the usual scolds.

What usual scolds?  Oh, you know.  “It’s the commercialism” and “Why are we wasting energy on lights?” and….

This is a subset of the normal scolds.  You know the ones I mean.  The people who tell you that you should use a square of toilet paper only, or (like the particularly disgusting actress) that you should wash and reuse toilet paper.  (EW).  The people who go on about how much electricity we use, and how much water, and how we’re awful for using all this stuff.

Beyond the fact the people who bitch about this never follow through with it, and live lives of unimaginable luxury (by and large) compared to the rest of us, this bizarre call to repent of our wasteful ways seems misguided in more ways than one.  Particularly when the same people then complain about hungry children or whatever.

So, a few thoughts on this:

The world is not zero sum.  If someone is having snickers bars for breakfast, it doesn’t mean someone else needs to go hungry.  In fact, thanks to the magic of the free market, the opposite is likely to be true.  If you’re having snickers bars (or lobster) for breakfast, your demand for these things will make them cheaper for everyone else, and make it less like that someone else starves.

A belief in zero sum economics and distributing finite wealth has created real famines and filled real graves.  The free market only fills the sort of theoretical grave where we’re told that “opportunities are lost” or we should mind “our privilege” or that we shouldn’t be happy because we don’t live in an utopia.  I’m quite willing to dance on the grave of the redistributionists hopes.  It is real graves, with real people that I dislike.

Using human ingenuity to its outmost to make a buck has led to the most comfortable and well fed citizenry in the world.  Yes, I know, it would be better if we only ate things in colors that appear in nature, and if the stuff we ate were recognizable to our great grandmothers.  However, if our biggest problem is that our poor don’t always make the wisest food choices, our ancestors would laugh at our whining.  As they should. Humans seem to like weird colored food in bizarre shapes and textures.  But hey, we’re living longer than ever, and maybe it’s time to relax and accept it.

Speaking of which: Unfettered humans are often crass and tastless, and yes, something should be done about those horrible sweaters your mother in law sends you.

And yet, Christmas is by and large a vast outpouring of love of others.  Look, I never even know what I want, though this year I asked for two specific art ad ons, coming to about $50, but I love spending time and money finding the stuff my guys want/need.  It’s an altruistic holiday, in which we delight in making others happy, and it supports commerce and the economy?  That by itself might be the American triffecta.  Look, sure, I could make gifts out of pine cones and spit, and they’d be deeply meaningful and stuff.  Maybe.  But in the end it would be  still pinecones and spit, and more importantly, the economy would tank, since the market for pinecones is kind of depressed.

My household should probably moderate how many lights we leave on all the time.  Rumors I’m afraid of the dark are… perfectly correct.  However, let me tell you that there is no virtue in darkness.  It just makes you crave light more.

And overall light is what distinguishes us from willing savages like North Korea.  Wherever light glows, there human spirit thrives.

Those who wish to preach mortification of the flesh, be it in food and drink, in clothing, in gift giving or in light usage: do it yourself.

Self-discipline and control can be beneficial when exerted by oneself on one’s own behalf, or in the service of a greater religious vision.

But we will not turn off the lights and freeze in the dark in the service of sanctimonious scolds.

We will shine the light and shame the darkness.  And we will not be ashamed.



Weirdness and Care

Yes, there will be vignettes later.

First, though, now that I’ve slept 12 hours or so, and I’m feeling more like myself, I’d like to present from my perspective the view of the last few days’ insanity.

First of all, it kept running through my mind “D*mn tedious waste of two days” in the voice of the A & E Pride and Prejudice mini-series character who refers to the Merryton Assembly as “D*mn tedious waste of an evening.”

You see, if I’d been alone when I collapsed in the shower (and according to Dan appeared to be dead) I wouldn’t have gone to ER.  In fact, experientially, from my POV, I fell asleep and had an hour long dream.  (Never mind that Dan says it was about a minute, because dreams like fairyland have no contact with the real world.) I was not in my dream but that is not precisely unusual for me, either.

I would have woken up, been surprised the water was still warm, got out of the shower, perhaps lain down on the floor a few minutes if my vision kept blacking when I stood up (this would not be the first time this exact sequence of events happened) then crawled back to bed for an hour, and then got up and resumed normal life.  The blog would have been a little late. By the time the guys got home from work, I’d have forgotten about it.  (Again, this is not the first time.)

This is why Dan dragged me to ER kicking and screaming.  Or it would have been kicking and screaming if I had had the energy to kick and scream.  No one was more shocked than I when the EKG showed abnormal “muddy” and out of kilter rhythms.  (Which is what they think happened.  They think it went out of sequence and got caught in a minor electrical loop which, fortunately, reset itself.  BUT it was set off and combined with a bunch of other stuff, which mostly amounts to “not enough blood getting to brain.”)

The thing is I have a strong feeling if I indulge my body and give consequence to its fits of weirdness, I’ll live in ER.  So instead I ignore what I can and stop what I can by sheer will power, and I don’t end up losing two days to writing, don’t worry anyone and things keep going.

Which brings me to my issues with being in ER and then in the hospital beyond the fact that I feel apologetic at increasingly more bizarre test results and like I’m somehow perpetrating a prank on the doctors and should beg pardon.

I don’t do well being taken care of, or receiving well-wishes.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and affection, and in a way it helped but it also made me feel self conscious and bad that I was worrying everyone and causing everyone to make a fuss, because I should not have let my body give way, and I should not be weak.

Perhaps we can sum it up with what dad used to tell me when I hurt my knee, when I was little, “Legionaries” (in the sense of Rome) “Don’t cry.”

I feel that the very fact I need care is a deep personal failure, and everyone I “put out” is someone I’m inconveniencing, and I shouldn’t be.

I realize, from an external point of view this is deeply screwed up, but I can’t stop feeling it just because I realize that.  And if I try to explain it to someone, I feel like I’m giving a wrong impression.  Like, for instance, I get the feeling that they think I shouldn’t be cared for because I don’t value myself as a woman and feel no fuss should be made, and no resources wasted on me.

Instead, the truth is I shouldn’t have to be cared for because I’m the Mama, and the mama (which in my head is still my grandma) holds the sky and the Earth together.  You can’t give way in those circumstances.  It’s unforgivable weakness. It’s deserting a post of honor.

Anyway, my medical emergency proceed as such things proceed for me: Increasingly stranger findings that lead to at least three different diagnosis, which means this was either “perfect storm” or “Wait, what?” and I should have kept the d*mn thing under control and not have bothered anyone.

Though, mind you there are a couple of things, one of them urgent, that were incidental findings to this.  Meaning, they didn’t cause the emergency, but one of them I should get seen really quick because it could lead to ah… serious issues.  Like death.  PROBABLY not, but possibly, over time. Yes, I’ll keep you appraised, since if it’s an issue, it will require surgery.

But over all this is a case of “Sarah allowed her body out of control and permitted her heart to have issues.”  For that I’m sorry, and I’m sorry for worrying everyone and giving so much trouble and fuss.  And I’m sorry for spending time not wring.

And yes, I’m aware this IS stupid, and that I really should learn to accept care.  But it feels like a breech in protocol when I do.  I’m supposed to be the one who cares for others.

ANYWAY…. several things to try to prevent this happening again:

I’m going to continue with the blog, but I’d like some more guest posts, please and thank you.  I’d like to write no more than 3 original posts a week.  I’ll be honest, part of this is because it’s eating my fiction writing.  BUT the eating of my fiction writing increases stress, and I need to bring that down.

I’m going to try to limit facebook to an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, and reduce the instances of hopping all over facebook getting in fights.  It’s addictive, yes, but the stress thing, again, and seriously, it’s not my job.

I’m going to re-center on my writing, because it’s fun and it reduces stress too.

These should help keep my stress to a minimum which will keep the autoimmune feedback to a minimum too.

I’m going to try to drink more water and sports drinks too, because I have a frightening tendency to get clinically dehydrated.

I’m implementing a series of supplements for my tendency to shed minerals.

I’m going to start scheduling a day a week to “do fun cr*p” preferably with Dan, but if he’s not available, it might amount to sitting around and reading.  There haven’t been any of those days in decades, and perhaps this is needed.

I’m following through on the medical weirdness, including the incidental medical findings.

And now please return to your scheduled insanity.  I’m going to nip over to FB for a few minutes, and then clean this place and write.  Because this has been a d*mn tedious waste of two days.




Home Now

Keeping this mostly  blank, but wanted you guys to know I’m home, and I’m okay for now.

Still Not Dead

So, for the record, I’m still not dead.

While I did have some sort of a heart event, with continuing irregularities after, it is not in any way a “conventional heart attack.”  Those are the good news.

The contributing factors to this debacle seem to be in no particular order: auto-immune paroxysm of some sort which made my breathing very ineffective, mineral imbalances (I seem to SHED potassium and sodium, aka why I can’t wear contact lenses)  persistently low blood pressure and low heart rate.  Apparently it’s a bad idea to put less oxygen on your low-pressurized blood.  Who knew?

The bad news is that no one knows how it got so far so fast, and “keep your d*mn autoimmune under control” seems to be at the top of the list.  This does mean diet, exercise, regular breaks for fun things with family, and less facebook, I suppose.

They haven’t ruled out all possible causes, and I’ll have to come back for an MRI, since the autoimmune does things to your brain too (Yeah, you knew that. And no, not that way.)

BUT we’re inching ever so slowly to their letting me the heck out of here.  The hospitalist said one more evaluation and I could go, so expect a couple of hours or three.  Hospital time is different.  From “we’re going to discharge you” to walking out has taken anywhere up to five hours..  Then I can go home, take a nap and finish this novel.

Okay, I might shower first.  I’m gross and haven’t even rinsed conditioner off my head for two days.  (I collapsed in the shower.)

As of right now, not only is my demise not expected, but I’m being given the oddest orders you ever saw from a cardiologist.  OTOH raising blood pressure through stress is counterindicated as that sets off the autoimmune.

So, stop that incursion into the infernal regions right now.  Go bribe someone to get me checked out, instead.  You know what would lower my stress?  Getting home, getting some writing done, and maybe getting a party of you reprobates to go off with us to see the lights at the Denver zoo sometime next week.  That would be amazing.

I Am Alive

Apparently my life was getting boring so this morning, in the shower, it seemed a good idea to have a cardiac episode.

Now, I sort of assumed this was my body being my body and giving it attention would just encourage it, but my husband doesn’t have the jaundiced view I have and insisted on driving me to emergency.

There seems to be something wrong with the electrical part of my heart and typing this is really frustrating because I have a sensor on my middle left finger.  Anyway there’s something about  a circus rhythm.  (I hate clowns.)

I had planned to work today, d*mn it.

I feel stupid and guilty for letting my body get out of line and encouraging it in its nonsense.  But they’re keeping me under observation till tomorrow, and I can’t even type with this thing on my finger.  And I’m worrying my family.

So.  That’s where I am.  More when I  can type.

The Green Man of Socialism

I’ve set myself an amusement for the holiday season.  You see, I have a bad habit.  If I’m not at the computer, writing, I have to be reading something.  If I’m not, I get the shakes, and things get blurry, and next thing you know, I’m flopping around on the sofa yelling “The book, Watson, the book.”

The problem is that looking for something to read often takes more time than reading whatever the heck it is.  And that I’m looking for a specific type of book, preferably short and not so absorbing it’s going to keep me from finishing way overdue books.

Which is why I tend to get on binges — usually mystery — of finding an author who is innocuous and reading everything he or she has.  Only I’m trying to keep it cheap.

Also, I’ll be honest, since my brother sent me the list of SF/F books we owned or read at some point, I’ve been riled at how few of them I remember.  I used to have a near-eidetic memory but concussion and other health issues have dented that.  I can now start reading a book and only realize in the middle that I read it before.  Saves on books, sure, but it’s very annoying, particularly when I realize it’s a book that dented the wall.

My memory is better now, part of the whole thyroid adjustment thing, and I thought “What if I find these books and re-read them?”

Now, this has some issues, as some of the books aren’t available at any price, some are available at crazy prices (I am not going to pay 4.50 for a badly formatted fifty year old A. E. Van Vogt to which the agent didn’t even bother to find a generic cover, but has a picture of Van Vogt on the cover.  That foretells of horrors I don’t want to deal with inside.) Some are available from Gutenberg, and I’ll have to transfer (soon.) And some are available but… well, let’s say I’m returning Three Go Back, because someone missed the “just scan the pages and put it up.”  They seem to have decided they should put up the PICTURE of the scan instead of running it through ACR.  My eyes are NOT that good, and also what the heck?

Anyway, the first one that sort of fell in the category “I can read this and it doesn’t make my eyes twist” was The Green Man of Graypeck by Festus Pragnell (which I hope to Bob is a pen name).

Wow.  Holy unadulterated pulp, Batman.

However, if we must — I come to praise pulp, not to bury it.

There is one very good thing about the unadulterated pulp.  It has a punchy and immediate beginning, and it keeps the action rolling along on a steam roller.  That’s something most of us practitioners of a slightly (ah!) more nuanced art could learn.

Now the world building is … not bad, but rather a collection of stereotypes, and I finally found that one “the women are decorative, and treated as baggage” sf.  I haven’t looked at when this was published, but mind you there is more to it than that, since the world has several more or less primitive civilizations, in which the women are “inferior” beings, by lack of body strength, as most women were in uncivilized societies.

OTOH the collection of stereotypes is no worse than the ones we get in most novels now, just a different KIND, and at least to me they were refreshingly novel.

The fun part of this though is seeing that people still felt a need to justify writing novels about a future that never existed, by bringing in some “relevant” “lesson.”

The story is that a man is catapulted into another universe, a very small universe in atoms of our world (go with it.) Given this you expect the almost Tarzan feel of a completely different world (though why some of the people would be humanoid at all… never mind.)

BUT this makes no sense at all when he explains that the collapse of civilization came about because they didn’t listen to Aige Geewells (spelled something like that) about scientific governance.  And unless I’m missremembering  there’s also a bit about eugenics, which at any rate is implied in the “Status” of the “races” in that world, because eugenics is an old (and crazy) obsession of the left.

Anyway, this is stuck in, where it makes absolutely no sense, and is only about three paragraphs.  I remember, when I was a little older (if I read this before, I’d have been very young and not seen the incongruity) just skipping such paragraphs.

I don’t remember when that became impossible, but I think I figured out why.

Look, this books worldbuilding is offensive to my principles at several levels, from the worldbuilding with Superior and Inferior races, assumptions about how women will act, etc.  OTOH it is not offensive, because it’s such a different world, the society is so different, and it’s very clearly “Tarzan of the Apes” in Space.  (With perhaps a dash of the Odyssey.)

Also, I don’t know how to put this, but it comes across as almost innocent.  The writer clearly believed in this load of bull.   There is sort of an internal consistency to how the world is organized that tells you he didn’t even think about it, so he either believed it, or thought his audience would without thought.  And that makes it more bearable, as does the rip roaring non-stop plot.  Why?  Because it keeps you reading.  You can ignore any truckload of carp, provided the story isn’t boring.

Now am I going to say this is the quality of science fiction I’d like to see?  Oh, heck no.  For one, I suspect the idea for the story was disproven before it started. Though it was a fun way to get someone to a completely different world.

On the other hand, I also realized why I read these back to back as a kid, even the ones that made me roll my eyes and go “oh, this is so stupid” or “Bud, your politics reek.”  They caught you.  They did their job first and preached at you second.  (And sometimes incoherently, improbably, and in a few paragraphs.) Which I’m cool with.

So, should you read it?  If you wish.  It’s on Amazon.  It’s readable.  Do I recommend you pattern your writing on it?  Uh… no.

But you might want to look at how he sets up a beginning with a man accused of his brother’s murder, then drags you through a plot that doesn’t stop.  Take that and do a bit of better worldbuilding and fewer crazy assumptions (though for his time these might very well have been state of the art assumptions) and you might have a winner.

After all, cringingly strange world building and all, these pulp novels sold and publishing was a money-making business. Mostly because the books were fun to read, and people read them for fun and not out of a sense of obligation.

Perhaps that’s something we should contemplate more often.

Reading a ludic enterprise, not a moral one.  One shouldn’t be ashamed of reading (or writing) in a fun way.