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May 23, 2009

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I saw Om Shanti Om last night: it was brilliant and peculiar and great fun, even not getting all the Bollywood jokes.

I finally saw Lawrence of Arabia last night in its full nearly-four-hours of uninterrupted glory.

I'm now going to have to add Seven Pillars of Wisdom to my reading list, I suppose.

We watched Slumdog Millionaire a week or so ago and I liked it a lot.

It's five in the morning my time. I'm slowly getting ready to go to work. It's going to be a lovely day, another one,third in a row, which is unusual for Western Washington.

I'm looking forward to my lunch break--I'm going out tothe rescue kennels to do dog lessons with my current dog student, a little red pitbull girl.

Anyway, have a good day, everyone!

It's one of my favorite weeks of the year: the scent of multiflora rose (horrible, horrible invasive weed, but once a year for two weeks, mmmmm) mingling with mown hay.
First fireflies last night.

Peonies popping open all at once. Glorious.

-------
If it were my blog, I'd have called it "Employee Free Choice". EFCA is insider-talk, jargony, non-vivid. Like S-CHIP, a comparably stupid failure to use the words 'children's health' to beat opponents about the head and face rhetorically.

I started a term of service this month on my county Grand Jury, which will last through the end of August. It entails two days a week, eight hours a day, of hearing presentations from law enforcement for felony indictments. I will almost certainly be a raging alcoholic by the time this is over - that's how depressing and demoralizing it is. Somebody cheer me up!

Oh, but in better news, I will be in Chicago on Wednesday, auditioning to appear on Jeopardy! If I make it through this audition -- I already had to make it through one of their "contestant search" tests -- I will be placed on their casting list for one year.

Oh, and I'm about a quarter of the way through Jung Chang's Mao, which is quite interesting, if written with undisguised contempt and hatred. Chang exposes the real history behind the mythological one. Unfortunately, she didn't footnote, so it's difficult to tell what's well-sourced and what isn't, unless you flip back to consult the end notes.

To briefly encapsulate: Mao's (indirect) killing of millions during The Great Leap Forward and The Cultural Revolution were only surprising if you were unaware of how many bodies he piled up getting himself to the top of the heap, so to speak. Mao used practically every opportunity to rid himself (which usually involved them being killed) of people who stood in his way.

If Chang's book is to be believed, much of the Wikipedia entry for Mao is myth designed by Mao himself. The "Autumn Harvest Uprising", for example, is described by Chang as a feint at an uprising whose real purpose and end result was to equip Mao with a small army.

Oh, Phil. I feel for you, man. I advise keeping a large glass of water next to you while administering medicinal alcohol, both to remain hydrated and to regulate absorption.

I'd also recommend dissipating via exercise, but I have no idea how much of that you're currently doing.

Well, the weather in Cleveland finally changed enough that I was able to start cycling to work again last week, so I biked about 60 miles. Next week is nearly all thunderstorms, unfortunately.

Ah. Sounds as if you're getting what we in Florida have/had. Uncertain tense, because it's not clear that we're shut of it, yet.

In short: we've shattered the May rainfall record, with a week left in the month. We needed it, but it's been nonstop gloom for about a week, which is very unusual for Florida.

You can always do lunges indoors, though, and pushups, and chinups if you have the equipment.

What are lunges, Slarti? (asks the obviously sedentary commenter)

//Jung Chang's Mao// fascinating book

//written with undisguised contempt and hatred// which would be the honest way to write about such a man.

Slarti: Oh, and I'm about a quarter of the way through Jung Chang's Mao, which is quite interesting, if written with undisguised contempt and hatred.

If you've read Wild Swans, you know Jung Chang was a Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution - her feeling about Mao seems to have gone from unadulterated hero-worship to reactionary hatred. (Both, to me, perfectly understandable: but I wouldn't say that either made her the most neutral historian of Mao Zedong.) There was an excellent review of the book in the Times Literary Supplement (from 2005) which made that point - I still haven't read Mao, though I should put it on my to-read list again.

(I visited China for a few days in 2001, and found actually being there an eye-opener in all sorts of ways, having read about it/wanted to go there for over 20 years, then.)

I have a theory which people here might be able to support or refute:

* American science fiction, in the past several decades, has moved away from utopian visions in which allegorical versions of the USA (e.g., the Federation) are trustworthy, morally correct, and prosperous without being exploitative.

* This change is related to an increased rejection of American exceptionalism in the public mind.

Am I crazy? Fire away!

Phil - I feel for you. Remember to drink plenty of water and eat healthy, nourishing snacks as you self-medicate.

I've been tapped for jury duty, starting June 10, but hopefully not quite as exhausting as yours.

dfsdf

Fdsfsdf

"I finally saw Lawrence of Arabia last night in its full nearly-four-hours of uninterrupted glory."

Now I will rain on your parade by declaiming that if you didn't see it in 70mm Cinemescope, you haven't really seen it.

I hope you at least saw it in oh-it's-a-shame crappy 35 millimeter, on a big screen.

If you saw it on any kind of tv, you haven't seen it at all; the long shots of them in the desert don't even make them visible, and the rest make them look like ants. It's "Larry of the Dunes."

The true version is one of my top five favorite films of all time. I can't say how many times I've seen it, but definitely over twenty-five.

Aqaba!

"I'm now going to have to add Seven Pillars of Wisdom to my reading list, I suppose."

If you do, keep in mind that much of it is fiction.

Watched "The Great Race", a 60's-Hollywood melodrama/farce, starring Tony Curtis as The Great Leslie, Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate and also as the over-the-top drunken young king of , the young Peter Falk as the professor's assistant Max, and the incomparable Natalie Wood.

Tomorrow I think we watch "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", which I've never seen.

"There was an excellent review of the book in the Times Literary Supplement (from 2005) which made that point [that Jung Chang was writing from] reactionary hatred...."

I don't see that in that (excellent) review.

"I think Sotomayor will get the nod after reading this interview."

People really shouldn't use tinyurl links, for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which is that they tend to be hijacked to viruses, or, as in this case, goatse pictures.

Also, Jan Crawford Greenberg makes a good case that Diane Wood will get the nod.

I wager $1 that dsd @ 11:17 is left handed.

My weekend's going well overall, but my cunning plan for multitasking (take daughter to playground and while there read a chunk of Mary Douglas' 'How institutions think') got scuppered by her deciding it was too hot to carry on playing just when I was in the middle of getting to grips with an argument on the functionality of weak leadership in voluntary groups. So much for scholarship...

My cunning plans of going to see the Star Trek movie on IMAX last night were foiled by my dinner's cunninger plan of taking longer to cook than it should've.

I also spent some quality time in the ER on Thursday. Turned out to be nothing serious -- at least, after they gave me morphine. Whee-yoo, that was fun. Still playing a bit of catch-up from that one...

Clean up on aisle 5...

(once again, DO NOT CLICK THE LINK IN CWC'S NAME!)

Can anyone tell me how long it will take for my son to get a job, now that he's 12 weeks old? We're kind of worried, in that he hasn't even sent out resumes yet and his language skills are somewhat undeveloped ("Ugh Jr., what kind of leadership will you bring to Acme?" "Gooo." "I'm not sure that's appropriate in this setting." "Squeeee!" "Security!")

He could probably get a job running AIG...

"He could probably get a job running AIG..."

and while it doesn't pay (immediately) as well I hear the Republican party is looking for leadership....

Arteria said nothing for a long moment. He still believes in government bailouts. What can I tell him? That the government is too busy chasing polluters and nuclear scientists and secular humanists? And people who cut wood without permission. That the government can’t afford it any more and wouldn’t know how, anyway?

Fallen Angel – p. 344, 3rd paperback printing.

Larry Niven
Jerry Pournelle
Michael Flynn
1991

You think you've got problems, Ugh? My girl is 7 1/2 months old and shows zero desire for any kind of gainful employment.

Hey, my daughter is nearly 22 and just graduated, what chance does she have?

It was cool listening to Hillary Clinton's speech, though.

My daughter's six and a half and she fancies becoming a marine archaeologist, thus combining danger and poor career prospects. I blame children's literature: where are the kiddies' books telling you about What Accountants Do All Day? And all children's TV is on public sector careers, except for Bob the Builder.

Wow, a book written right after the S&L bailouts talks about government bailouts! Boy, those guys Niven and Pournelle and Whatsisname sure were prescient! After all, no one could have predicted that the GOP would deregulate another financial industry, resulting in the exact same type of unchecked-greed-based catastrophic failure.

I first met Larry Niven, and Dr. Dr. Jerry Pournelle, around 1973-5, and there are various positive things I have to say about them (more Larry than Jerry), but none of those things is in the realm of looking to either for political advice; they're both more or less to the right of Atilla the Hun.

Magistra: Strangely enough, my pop-up book on the exciting life of a professional historian (retired) has yet to find a publisher.

I first met... Dr. Dr. Jerry Pournelle,

Is he related to Maj. Major Major Major?

Is he related to Maj. Major Major Major?

No; the joke comes from the way Jerry used to, at least, always mention that he had "the equivalent of two doctorates."

Wikipedia, and some other bios of him on the web, say that he has "Ph.D. degrees in both psychology and political science," so maybe he actually finished getting them both. (On the other hand, some of the same sources inflate his resume, such as with claims that he was a "Deputy Mayor" of Los Angeles; a lot of folks seem to have also somehow obtained the impression he has a degree in science, or specifically in physics.)

Low example of JP winning friends and influencing people: getting kicked off ARPAneta.

"Magistra: Strangely enough, my pop-up book on the exciting life of a professional historian (retired) has yet to find a publisher."

But the pop-ups would make it so exciting! See the retired historican rocking in his 3D rocking chair! Observe the RH typing at his 3D computer in his 3D office chair! Watch the RH taking a walk down a 3D block!

If only the production costs of pop-up books weren't so high.

"getting kicked off ARPAneta"

ARPANET, that is; what "ARPAneta" would be, I dunno.

"ARPAneta" is clearly the feminine diminutive of ARPANET.

(All Romance languages are the same, essentially.)

I'm not surprised JP got into trouble for trying to crash that (feminine diminutive) party. Lucky not to get a harassment suit.

This is pretty funny for anyone who knows JP from his days as a BYTE columnist, or knows him in general.

JP came with attendant jokes back in the early Seventies. The number of JP stories in the sf world, even then, was second only to Harlan Ellison stories.

Pretty much everyone loves Larry Niven, though. Though I still wouldn't look to him for his political views. Here's an example of Larry thinking out of the box in a not particularly thoughtful way, shall we say.

Larry, to be sure, has written some truly classic sf, and I'd have to credit Mote In God's Eye as a classic space opera, if rather unsurprising in the way it manages to justify monarchy and titles of nobility in such a future. It's not exactly an example of leftist sf; they're right-wingers, but one can certainly regard them as writing in the tradition of John W. Campbell, for better and worse.

Many congrats on your Ascension, by the way, Anarch! It must be hell still being stuck here in the Slow Zone.

"I'm not surprised JP got into trouble for trying to crash...."

Not crash, really, since someone initially gave him access; more like abusing an invitation to be a guest, without realizing its limitations. As Leigh Klotz stated, at the time, "The more attention you (and other people) draw to non-blow-em-up use of the arpanet the more likely some Proxmire type is to start inquiring into its operations."

Me, I was getting print-outs of the entire SF_LOVERS discussions from ARPANET from 1977 to somewhere around 1983, to read and archive, when I asked to be dropped for lack of storage space, but I didn't go around telling people about it: at least, not in print. If I'd had a computer back then, I could have gotten that kind of limited access, as well, but I didn't get one until 1988, and I didn't afford a modem until 1995, when most of my friends had long since been online, and Usenet had then been in existence for a bunch of years.

In the mid-Eighties, if you were quiet about it, and friends with the right people in the sf community, getting some limited ARPAnet access, even though you technically "shouldn't," wasn't a huge deal. But discretion has never been a strength of Dr. Pournelle's.

I saw that Byte column parody back when it first hit RHF and it still makes me laugh. I used to be a pretty avid follower of JP's column, back in the days when computer magazines were still relevant.

Thanks for that ARPANET story. It's fun to think back to the days when you could get kicked off the net for being a pompous, self-important d-bag. There a part of me that wishes those days would return, but I know in my heart that I'd probably be voted off the island along with most everyone else.

Oh well.

Strangely enough, my pop-up book on the exciting life of a professional historian (retired) has yet to find a publisher.

I don't want my child to be a historian. I want her to be employable! (Though I'm still not sure it's a good idea that my husband's now explaining probate law to her).

RE Pournelle, more or less:
I've always wondered about Baen books, who iirc published Pournelle or at the least published a whole bunch of Science Fiction writers at least as political as he was; back when I was reading more Science Fiction, more indiscriminately (mostly in the 90s, both because I had more time and because Seattle has really good used book stores), they were publishing or republishing this whole stable of people writing often enjoyable SF, especially of the military or space opera variety, into which they would mix the most cardboard of characters, strenuously push the most absurdly over-the-top libertarian or paleoconservative ideologies, and often the most transparent of political allegories (when they even bothered with allegories). I mean, I know that heroic fiction rather lends itself to individualism and authoritarianism (because you've got a main character or characters who can lack significant flaws and face awful problems without sufficient outside aid), but Baen seemed to collect those authors and to be aimed specifically at promoting political ideology rather than siply selling stories to readers, in a way that other labels did not. By the standards of the authors published by Baen, Pournelle was both a superior storyteller and (amazingly) a relatively subtle political propagandist (at least in his fiction, by which I mean not that it was difficult to discern but that it didn't as obviously get in the way of the story).

"I've always wondered about Baen books"

Is there a question in there, Warren? :-)

Jim Baen published what he liked, which also generally sold well. (Unsurprisingly, one source of good sales was on military bases.)

Toni Weiskopff, who was married to Jim for a while, and bore him a child, continues to publish more or less the same line.

(Disclaimer: I've known Toni slightly since before she started at Baen, and did some work in the past for Baen, back when they were in NYC.)

But people also tend to overlook that while Baen has a predilection for military sf, and sf in the tradition of Analog, and the like, Jim also published plenty of writers not thought of as stereotypical Baen writers, such as Joanna Russ (Jim first published Joanna's We Who Are About To... when he was editor of Galaxy; I got to read the manuscript when my friend Jim Freund, who was reading for Jim then, let me see it at a Fanoclast's meeting), or Herb ("John") Varley, among many others.

But, sure, Jim published what he liked, and what he liked included a lot of libertarian-inclined stuff, as well as a lot of military-type sf, as well as battles-in-space, although that's not all he liked. (On the high end of his space operas would be, among others, Lois McMaster Bujold.)

Well, I had a wonderful weekend with almost no internet, in Vermont, with my wonderful family and totally delightful nieces and nephews ... ;)

"What are lunges, Slarti?"

Sorry I took so long to respond, but I was at the beach, and mostly out of reach of da Innerwubs. Even my cell phone never worked quite right.

If you're looking for that place, by the time you find it the holes in coverage will have undoubtedly been neatly spackled over, sanded and painted.

Lunges: there are a quite a few different kinds of lunges, from in-place alternating forward lunges to walking lunges to crossover lunges. Lots more, too, I suppose.

There's a gazillion bodyweight exercises you can do to improve strength and conditioning; some static (plank, standing squat) and some dynamic (like the lunges, pushups, etc). You don't even need a lot of floor space or any equipment at all to do them.

"If you've read Wild Swans, you know Jung Chang was a Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution - her feeling about Mao seems to have gone from unadulterated hero-worship to reactionary hatred. (Both, to me, perfectly understandable: but I wouldn't say that either made her the most neutral historian of Mao Zedong.)"

Yes, I've read Wild Swans, and I know her past. I probably ought to have mentioned that. I don't know if Chang is saying anything new or shocking in this bio, but it's new and shocking to me.

Which shouldn't be shocking to anyone, I supposed, but I hadn't read much more than Mao's Wikipedia entry, which completely neglected to mention such trivial things as that Chiang Kai-shek was actively _helping_ the Red Army because his son was being held hostage by Moscow.

This is completely missing from Mao's Wikipedia entry, as well as that of Chiang Kai-shek, but is mentioned in passing in the page of Chiang's son Chiang Ching-kuo:

"Stalin allowed Chiang Ching-kuo to return to China with his Belarusian wife and two children in April 1937 after living in the USSR for 12 years. By then, the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists under Mao Zedong had signed a ceasefire forming the Second United Front to fight the Japanese invasion of China, which began in July. Stalin hoped the Chinese would keep Japan from invading of the Soviet Pacific coast, and he hoped to form an anti-Japanese alliance with the senior Chiang."

"Now I will rain on your parade by declaiming that if you didn't see it in 70mm Cinemescope, you haven't really seen it.

I hope you at least saw it in oh-it's-a-shame crappy 35 millimeter, on a big screen.

If you saw it on any kind of tv, you haven't seen it at all; the long shots of them in the desert don't even make them visible, and the rest make them look like ants. It's "Larry of the Dunes.""

HD TV, unfortunately. If I ever get the chance to see it in its original format, I'll take it.

"If you do, keep in mind that much of it is fiction."

I've heard that. Still, he was an unusual and interesting fellow. It'd be interesting to read a version of his life that has been de-mythologized, though.

"Still, he was an unusual and interesting fellow."

Oh, compellingly so, even though one has to keep in mind that his legend was considerably exaggerated for purposes of wartime propaganda. (Which is alluded to in the film by the entire structure of the Lowell Thomas stand-in character, but the film still carries along the notion that he pretty much ran the Arab Revolt, which just isn't true; the overall effect of the film seriously downplays genuine Arab historical autonomy, just as the British propaganda of the time did.)

But, still, he was an absolutely fascinating character, and important historically.

Not dramatically remotely in the same category as Lean's epic, but if interested in Lawrence, you might also check out this British tv film (which I first saw on PBS a decade or so ago).

This is a quite good web page on T. E., where you can read plenty of good info, as well as a fair amount of his own writing.

This takes apart the film as history.

If you ever get a chance to see Lean's version in 70 mm, bring some drinks. :-)

Digressively, this little completely non-epic Lean gentle comedy just came out on DVD, and I enjoyed it: Hobson's Choice. Depends if one likes little old British black-and-white comedies, to be sure.

Incidentally, rereading the treatise on the historical errors in Lean's film that I linked to, I'm struck again by how singularly dense the writer is about the needs and logic of drama. It's one thing to point out where the film differs from reality; it's another to be so baffled by why many of the nonhistorical elements are there.

I appreciate the links and advice, Gary. I'll read the links right away; the rest will have to wait for the opportunity.

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Whatnot


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