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January 17, 2011


Russell, under the theory that you have no problem with co-bloggers commenting on posts by co-bloggrs -- which I think is a safe assumption as regards you, I'm going to take the liberty of repeating this from the open thread: LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL

April 16, 1963.

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.


Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea.


You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes [....] In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.


You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.


Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."


We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

As I always do as regards this documment, I recommend to all reading as much of the rest as you can, and wish to. I commend it to all. Always.

I recommend this to myself, and I follow my own advice in this, at times.

But if anyone has the time, then I couldn't more highly recommend this:

King Era Trilogy

This narrative history about the United States during the civil rights era became my major life’s work. Despite my plan to complete it within three years, the project consumed 24 years of wondrous obsession for me between 1982 and 2006.

Read reviews of America in the King Years.

Parting the Waters In Parting The Waters, Taylor Branch has created an unparalleled epic of America in the midst of change, poised on the threshold of its most explosive era. Here is a vivid, panoramic portrait of America divided, at war with itself, and finally transformed by a struggle that left no citizen untouched – the civil rights movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., borne by the spirit of a generation of young black leaders determined to seize equality and justice.

Pillar of Fire In Pillar of Fire, the second volume of his America in the King Years trilogy, Taylor Branch portrays the civil rights era at its zenith. The first volume,Parting the Waters, won the Pulitzer Prize for History. It is a monumental chronicle of a movement that stirred from Southern black churches to challenge the national conscience during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years. In this masterly continuation of the narrative, Branch recounts the climatic struggles as they commanded the national and international stage.

At Canaan's Edge At Canaan’s Edge concludes America in the King Years, a three-volume history that will endure as a masterpiece of storytelling on American race, violence, and democracy. Pulitzer Prize-winner and bestselling author Taylor Branch makes clear in this magisterial account of the civil rights movement that Martin Luther King, Jr. earned a place next to James Madison and Abraham Lincoln in the pantheon of American history.


Through direct action. Don't mourn: organize.

I'm of the opinion you won't regard this as off-topic and unwelcome. I bet a nickel, but I certainly could be wrong. People surprise me when I know little about them, and I regard it as intrusive to try to find out more.

In your case, I'm willing to bet the nickel.

Although, if in order, I definitely apologize to those who wish brief comments, because, obviously, that was not a brief comment.

Please do delete both comments if inappropriate. I request that you do so, if you think so. Thanks!


I have many heroes, for various reasons. While I admire Lincoln in many ways, he isn't a particular favorite. The times made the man in that case.

Martin Luther King is one of my favorites. In his case, the man made the times. Few men have so effectively communicated an idea so clearly to so many, that was so simple and so important.

For me, I do not care to judge you by the color of your skin, I care to judge you by the content of your character.

And to be judged the same.

No person could ask for more.

I bet a nickel, but I certainly could be wrong.

Your nickel is safe. Thanks for the "Letters" excerpt, it's a crucial piece of King's work.

While I admire Lincoln in many ways, he isn't a particular favorite. The times made the man in that case.

Martin Luther King is one of my favorites. In his case, the man made the times.

IMO, there's a lot to what you've said here.

Thanks Marty.

I find nothing with which to disagree in this thread.

Which is an only slightly more literate way of saying, "me too".

In April of 1968, King was in Memphis to support an organizing drive by sanitation workers (whom you may know as "garbage men") who wanted to join my union. That's the kind of thing that gives me feelings.

Happy days, everyone.

I agree about Lincoln and Martin Luther King as heroes in this country. I would add Gandhi as a forerunner of King's in creating political change nonviolently.

It does not detract from King to take a moment today to recognize and celebrate others who were leaders in the civil rights movement, or followers either.

I was a high school student in Birmingham during its infamous days. (There was a disputed mayoral election, among other things, and the joke was that Birmingham was the only city with a King, two mayors, and a parade every day.) I remember the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth as a local leader of great courage. In Montgomery there was Ralph Abernathy, and there were others like them in towns and cities around the south.

Most important, though, were the followers - the foot soldiers. I think it is not easy today to understand the oppression to which southern blacks were subject. There seems to be a certain amount of incomprehension about the whole thing, as if it amounted to stupidity about water fountains and some unpleasant attitudes, and not much more.

Not true. These were oppressed people. They enjoyed few rights, never mind opportunities, and little protection from the law. Legally, politically, economically, socially, they were as close to being considered subhuman as possible.

Still, when the time came, they stood up, risked their lives and what little they had, to demand their rights. It was a heroic moment, and there were many heroes.

They all deserve to be honored.

Well put, Bernard. Thank you.

Russell, in that case, then I also give my highest recommendation to all to read this book, too.

That's David J. Garrow's work, Bearing The Cross.

Oh, look, now we can cross threads!

Seriously, these are all doorstops, but among the bestest way anyone could inform themselves.

But since that will take some time, meanwhile: Don't mourn! Organize!


While I admire Lincoln in many ways, he isn't a particular favorite. The times made the man in that case.
Marty, that's interesting. Didn't the times also make this man? And this man? And the men who signed this? And this man? And this man?

And lots of other people who were not Abraham Lincoln, and were, in fact, at least slightly different, and yet also made by the times?

I'm not at my best at the moment, so it's undoubtedly my fault that I'm a bit confused by what you mean by that.

Similarly, our time right now has made this woman and this man, yet they do not appear to be entirely interchangeable to me, made only by their "time."

How do "times" make "the man" in significant ways?

Or perhaps you might recast your sentence or thought?

It might just be me. Probably everyone else understands what Marty means?

If so, my apologies. Honest. I'm a touch distracted, so it's probably just this.

And not to pick on you, but:

For me, I do not care to judge you by the color of your skin, I care to judge you by the content of your character.
How, precisely, do you access the content of someone's character?

What's the content of my character? What's the content of, oh, anyone's? Don't we just have words, pictures, guesses, assumptions, research, records, second-hand and third-hand analysis, personal opinion, and so on, to go on?

If there's a way to actually know what the content of someone's character is more directly, I would find this to be extremely useful information. Is there a web page, or piece of software, or something?

If I'm to "judge you by the content of your character," what means would you prefer and suggest I use?

Real question. I'd very much like to know what you, and anyone, would suggest.

I have my own ideas, but what do you think?

My own experience is that people constantly believe they are judging others by "by the content of [their] character," but in fact, they constantly get it wrong.

If this weren't the case, it's not clear to me that we'd need "elections," or "argument" or anything other than the ability to directly know the content of people's characters.

People on this blog, every hour, seem to believe they know the "content of" the characters of others who write here. Are they all getting it right? Or what?

I will give you one of my own answers: I have no idea what the content of your character is. All I know of you are these words of yours I read now and again.

Is that enough?

If not, then what?

Other than, perhaps, considering the idea that I know that I don't know, and can't know, anyone else's character. I can only watch, and learn, and try to be as aware of what I don't know, as possible.

But that's me. What do you and everyone else think?

Not brief, so I'm going away now.

Or, perhaps this is why I didn't write a post of my comment to Russell, instead. Distractions, and inability to be consistently brief. Beg pardon for my lacks.

"People on this blog, every hour, seem to believe they know the "content of" the characters of others who write here. Are they all getting it right? Or what?

I will give you one of my own answers: I have no idea what the content of your character is. All I know of you are these words of yours I read now and again."

Good question. I don't believe I "know" anyone here, or on the Internet, well enough to judge them. Hopefully I refrain. I have no actions to judge by, no context for those actions or, in any way, enough information to make any judgement.

I can make an assessment of the concepts they present in their words and respond accordingly.

A good and man who led and inspired millions to rise up and who shamed millions more into change, not overnight change, but change nonetheless. We wouldn't be the country we are without him and those he led.

Dr. King! Definitely one of the greatest Americans ever.

Lincoln, yawn. Another wartime prez. War makes a prez great. One trick pony.

Why not put Jimi Hendrix up there with King? Freedom of expression of the soul is as important, IMHO, as freedom to work in a cloth covered box and buy iphones with whitey.

I'm reluctant to further threadjack away from King to Lincoln, but it's extremely difficult for me to do so when I'm this tired, so may I perhaps inquire as to suggestions as to which other wartime Presidents did this or wrote something this">">this memorable and meaningful, or anything like this, or this, and the list can be as long as you can stand to read it?

And isn't the American Civil War a tad different than our other American wars?

I'm certainly prepared to be told I'm wrong!

I'm rather always prepared for that. :-)

But I must confess to curiosity. I'm putting yet another nickel down on Russell that he won't mind.

I'm not going to make any money this way unless someone bets against me, though.

This probably explains my lack of success at gambling, or money in general.

I should have included that I utterly agree with this!

Freedom of expression of the soul is as important, IMHO, as freedom to work in a cloth covered box and buy iphones with whitey.

Aside from the part about the "cloth covered box," which I'm sufficiently distracted to not quite grasp the meaning of at the moment.

It'll likely be obvious to me after some -- what's the word? Oh, yes: "sleep."

"Freedom of expression of the soul," though: few things could be more important. Anyone want to argue against that?

And, by the way, has avedis really turned out to be that horrific and horrible a bigot and evil person?

Everyone gets to judge for themselves, but since I get to judge for me, I'm sayin' that if I helped encourage him to hang out here, I got no regrets so far.

So he and I disagree about a few things now and again.

That's never happened before.

But as always: YMMV.

And while I'm being sleepless: Google Fu. Google fu.

Do please try here?

How's the signal coming through? :-)

My guess is he is referring to cubicles.

Aside from the part about the "cloth covered box," which I'm sufficiently distracted to not quite grasp the meaning of at the moment.

I'd also guess "cubicle".

And now, to Frankenthread Dr. Science and russell together:

Most people think King would be the last person to own a gun. Yet in the mid-1950s, as the civil rights movement heated up, King kept firearms for self-protection. In fact, he even applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A recipient of constant death threats, King had armed supporters take turns guarding his home and family. He had good reason to fear that the Klan in Alabama was targeting him for assassination.

William Worthy, a journalist who covered the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, reported that once, during a visit to King's parsonage, he went to sit down on an armchair in the living room and, to his surprise, almost sat on a loaded gun. Glenn Smiley, an adviser to King, described King's home as "an arsenal."

That's because King was an Irishman. From Yglesias via Washington Monthly:

"Monday was a holiday, just not the one Gov. John Kasich's staff had on its mind.

The Republican governor issued a resolution on Monday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., except instead of recognizing the slain black Civil Rights leader on Jan. 17, 2011, Kasich signed a document that recognized him on March 17, 2011 -- St. Patrick's Day, a holiday devoted to the life of an Irish apostle."

King was merely protecting his stuff -- he owned a fairly high-end hifi system -- and was known to down a quart of decent Irish whiskey every night before breaking into drunken maudlin song about his own sainted mother.

And look, the arsenal was effective as a deterrent. The FBI was never able to bug the array of Catholic Saints statuary arrayed in his sitting room.

King avoided assassination and has lived a long, fruitful life, even recently converting to the Republican Party to reverse school integration, the thug unions, and healthcare reform and finally seeing the wisdom of forever war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He lived to take up ventriloquism as a hobby and to this day speaks eloquently through a variety of conservative voices -- Rush Limbaugh, the editors of Redrum, aand James Earle Ray, the noted AM talk-radio host.

War makes a prez great.

Sure worked for Jefferson Davis.

War made several presidents' reputations,

Lyndon Johnson
William Mckinley
GW Bush

I wouldn't call any of them great though. YMMV, of course.

It would be more accurate to say that war unmade Lyndon B. Johnson's reputation. Judged only on the domestic side of things, he is one of the greatest presidents. IMO.

Riffing off the topic of this post and Nell's last comment:

Johnson continued the FBI's wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Jr. that had been previously authorized by the Kennedy administration under Attorney General Robert Kennedy. As a result of listening to the FBI's tapes, remarks on King's personal lifestyle were made by several prominent officials, including Johnson, who once said that King was a “hypocritical preacher.” Johnson also authorized the tapping of phone conversations of others, including the Vietnamese friends of a Nixon associate.
I wouldn't call any of them great though.
LBJ was a fascinating (to me) example of: he was, IMO, a fantastic domestic policy President.

He was a horrific foreign policy President.

If only we could have had the first, without the other.

But it doesn't work that way.

Or, of course, as usual, what Nell said.

And Slarti, too.

But I blame J. Edgar Hoover far more than LBJ, Slart, although, of course, we know where the buck stopped, so fair enough, and I'm already in complete agreement.

Don't get me started on J. Edgar. Or, I suppose, Johnson.

Brevity! Comity!


Oh noes!

Stopping now.

I am chuckling, Gary. Not laughing out loud, but smiling and chuckling softly to myself.

LBJ was, IMO, like the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead.

Still, if nothing else one has to admire him for,

"Grab them by their balls and their hearts and minds will follow."

Wars only make Prezes great if the war is won.

Of course winning wars doesn't really make them great--but a victory can make a Prez look great. That's why Bush wanted to invade Iraq, IMO.

Robert Caro.

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power.

1983: National Book Critics Circle Award
1983: Washington Monthly Best Political Book Award
1983: H. L. Mencken Award
1983: Texas Institute of Letters Award
1986: Award in Literature, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters
The Years of Lyndon Johnson is the political biography of our time.
The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Means of Ascent.
1990: National Book Critics Circle Award
1990: Washington Monthly Best Political Book Award

ROBERT A. CARO'S life of Lyndon Johnson continues-one of the richest, most intensive and most revealing examinations ever undertaken of an American President. It is the magnum opus of a writer perfectly suited to his task [...]

The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate.
2003: Pulitzer Prize in Biography
2003: National Book Award
2003: Carl Sandburg Award
2003: Los Angeles Times Book Award

Master of the Senate carries Lyndon Johnson's story through one of its most remarkable periods: his twelve years, from 1949 to 1960, in the United States Senate. At the heart of the book is its unprecedented revelation of how legislative power works in America, how the Senate works, and how Johnson, in his ascent to the presidency, mastered the Senate as no political leader before him had ever done.

It was during these years that all Johnson's experience-from his Texas Hill Country boyhood to his passionate representation in Congress of his hardscrabble constituents to his tireless construction of a political machine came to fruition. Caro introduces the story with a dramatic account of the Senate itself: how Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun had made it the center of governmental energy, the forum in which the great issues of the country were thrashed out. And how, by the time Johnson arrived, it had dwindled into a body that merely responded to executive initiatives, all but impervious to the forces of change. Caro anatomizes the genius for political strategy and tactics by which, in an institution that had made the seniority system all-powerful for a century and more, Johnson became Majority Leader after only a single term-the youngest and greatest Senate Leader in our history; how he manipulated the Senate's hallowed rules and customs and the weaknesses and strengths of his colleagues to change the "unchangeable" Senate from a loose confederation of sovereign senators to a whirring legislative machine under his own iron-fisted control. [...]

I've read every word. Endorse and agree.

See also The Power Broker, Robert Moses biography. One of the best bios I ever read when I read it, when it came out.

Er, I read and read a lot of biographies. And... other stuff.

Notice I'm still nowhere near posting over limit of one post per day. Is this good or bad? Not for me to say!

But figured out reason for rule. Makes sense. I have another blog. Must fix template, pay more attention to it, again, except back then, well, let's just say that I learned that 90 posts per day really was a tad much for other people to keep up with.

I suspect no one wants cites to verify my claim.

But I can give the days, weeks, it's all there in the archives, although, darn it, Blogger also long ago broke on any blog with more than 5000 posts, so I can't access any older than that of the 8940 posts at Amygdala.

Good thing I've been so slow in recent years, I guess? :-)

Finding optimum happy medium: still working on that question.

You may have noticed. Or not. That's the problem!

I yam what I am, and a tuber I am not, save when... circumstances interfere. As they often have.

And may again. But mustn't get personal! TMI! Non-brief!

Maybe I should follow E. Ron's path? He started by typing with:

His style is gibbering, hypercasual, excessively perky, and just generally grating. Then again, this might be expected of a man who was said to buy his typing paper by the roll.
Not just "said."

I have a multitude of not just cites, but eyewitness testimony told to me in person. For instance:

[...] On Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard:

Ellison: Scientology is bullshit! Man, I was there the night L. Ron Hubbard invented it, for Christ Sakes!

I was sitting in a room with L. Ron Hubbard and a bunch of other science fiction writers. L. Ron Hubbard was famous among science fiction writers because he was the first one to have an electric typewriter.

Wings: He claimed to have written _Dianetics_ in a weekend, and nobody can deny it.

Ellison: That's true. He wrote _Dianetics_ in one weekend, and you know how he used to write? He used to take a roll of white paper, like paper you wrap fish in. He had it on the wall, and he would roll it into the typewriter and he would begin typing. When he was done, he would tear it off and leave it as one whole long novel.

We were sitting around one night... who else was there? Alfred Bester, and Cyril Kornbluth, and Lester Del Rey, and Ron Hubbard, who was making a penny a word, and had been for years. And he said "This bullshit's got to stop!" He says, "I gotta get money." He says, "I want to get rich".

Wings: He is also supposed to have said on that same night: "The question is not how to make a million dollars, but how to keep it."

Ellison: Right. And somebody said, "why don't you invent a new religion? They're always big." We were clowning! You know, "Become Elmer Gantry! You'll make a fortune!" He says, "I'm going to do it." Sat down, stole a little bit from Freud, stolee a little bit from Jung, a little bit from Alder, a little bit of encounter therapy, pre-Janov Primal Screaming, took all that bullshit, threw it all together, invented a few new words, because he was a science fiction writer, you know, "engrams" and "regression", all that bullshit. And then he conned John Campbell, who was crazy as a thousand battlefields. I mean, he believed any goddamned thing. He really believed blacks were inferior. I mean he really believed that. He was also very nervous when I was in his office because I was a Jew. You know, he was afraid maybe I would spring horns or something.

Anyhow, the way he conned John was that he had J. A. Winter, who was a doctor, who was a close friend of John's, and he got him to run this article on Dianetics, the new science of mental health.

Wings: Dianometry was the first article, I believe.

Ellison: Right. And science fiction fans will go for any goddamm thing. They'll believe anything, man, they will believe in the abominable snowman and the Bermuda Triangle, in Pyramid Power, in EST, in Scientology, in the Second Coming, they'll believe in any goddamm thing, they don't give a shit. They go to see _Star Wars_; they think it is for real!

So science fiction fans picked it up, they began proselytizing, he started making money, when he had made enough money he was able to spread out a little more, then he got more cuckoos, you know, pre-Charlie Manson assholes that had no place else to go, and he began talking to these loons as if _Dianetics_ really meant something. Then he wanted to get tax-exempt status, so he called it "The Church of Scientology".

Now, they've gotten so big that they own property all over the country, and it is impossible to stop it. They infiltrated the FBI, they infiltrated the tax department, ... the funny thing is, Ron Hubbard and I still occasionally communicate with each other. Every once in a while, a couple or three times a year, we exchange letters. And I write to him, you know, and I say, "Hey Ron, when is this bullshit going to cease? These cuckoos are really driving me crazy! They come around the house with pamphlets!" And he writes me back, and he says, "It's the good work, it's the good work."

It's all very funny stuff. He was going to write a new story for me for the last _Dangerous Visions_, but I guess he got too busy counting his money. I don't know.

Um, Harlan has told me this in person. Ditto Isaac Asimov. Ditto various others who say they were there.

I do not, however have photos. Only a multitude of cites, etc.

What else do any of us have for consensus reality?

Oh, damn, brevity FAIL.

But ObWi has NEVER had an "on-topic" rule. The rule was always that there was no such rule.

If not, it would be in the posting rules.

Of course, we could fix this if anyone ever agrees to discuss the posting rules. Just, um, sayin'.

We could put in a rule about being "on-topic," maximum word length, etc.

But not through telepathy.

Oh, yeah, Alfred Bester also told me this story at the Norwescon he was at -- the one where he threw a chair over the balcony.

Also heard it from Lester del Rey, aka:

Del Rey often told people that his real name was Ramon Felipe Alvarez-del Rey (or sometimes even Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heartcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez del Rey y de los Uerdes). He also claimed that his family was killed in a car accident during 1935. However, his sister has confirmed that his name was really Leonard Knapp and that while the accident in 1935 killed his first wife, his parents, brother, and sister were not killed in the accident.[1]
Of course, all these folks wrote this up endless times, and gave endless versions at cons, meetings, etc. Not exactly a secret.

Interesting how all these people, and so many other writers I've known have had, um, anger management problems.

It really was the stroke that made Keith Laumer try to hit me with his cane. I swear. Again: witnesses, Suncon, 1977.

Stopping, now, far too late. Russell, feel free to delete any of this.


Wars only make Prezes great if the war is won.
This would explain why Jefferson Davis has long been so hated in the South? And non-president Robert E. Lee?

But if personal opinion: entitled. Not exactly a consensus view, however.

Of course winning wars doesn't really make them great--but a victory can make a Prez look great. That's why Bush wanted to invade Iraq, IMO.
I have to suggest that it was a tad more complicated than something than can be put on a bumper sticker.

Should we discuss? Nah, been there, done that.

You have been in the presence of Isaac Asimov?

I've read a great deal of his fiction, and would say I've read a great deal of his nonfiction, if I weren't aware of how much of THAT there is to be had.

But at present the only thing of his on my bookshelf is Asimov's Guide to Science. But my kids are at about the age where Neutrinos and trillions become important.

"You have been in the presence of Isaac Asimov?"

Of course. We chatted dozens of times at dozens of events, including plenty of small room parties of couple of dozen people, in hallways, cons, all sorts of stuff.

He and I both grew up in Brooklyn. Not all that far from each other.

Of course, he was living in Manhattan by the time I started showing up at sf events in NYC circa 1972.

There was the opening of The Science Fiction Shop (Baird Searles and Martin Last), Lunacons, Infinitycons, lectures, private parties, blahblahblah.

I was born on November 5th, 1958. He wasn't shy about using cabs.

The sf world wasn't all that large back in the Seventies. We had the largest regional at the time for Lunacon, and we had... I forget, and won't look, but it was definitely under 800 people, max. And that was the *largest* regional for a couple of years. Then there were the Worldcons, Boskone, Philcon, Balticon....

And I started working professionally in the field at Amazing Stories and Fantastic Stories in 1974. By the next year, I was freelancing for Dell, and oh, I don't need to list all the companies.

There were fewer sf writers/editors/artists in those days that I never met than those I at least met and chatted with, or... otherwise interacted with one-on-one, or at the least, hung in the same party, and, oh, then there's the convention *programming* that I created and ran starting in 1975, and....

This surprises you? :-)

Wanna talk about my single one-on-one with Arthur C. Clarke?

Or, oh, Robert Heinlein I had, oh, dear god that's complicated. But I did give a bunch of notes several years ago on my old pal Bill Patterson (since 1978; he did publications for the Worldcon that year, while I was, after going down to "do a little typing and give some advice," after they paid my fare from Seattle to Phoenix) and a couple of weeks later or so I was Director of Operations, and then Vice-Chair, and and and.

Er, this is all highly googlable. :-)

And try googling "Farber" and "Panshin" and then reading. :-)


I know people think I brag, and, as a human, there are certainly some times I get a bit excited and exaggerate slightly, and over-state, and omg, make errors, and then usually someone doesn't speak to me for another decade, but mostly, as you know, I don't make claims that I can't drop ten tons of cites on to prove that these things happened. My life is one of the most open books in the world.

Which is why if you google "Farber," I'm still on the front page of Google. Etc.

It was only in 2008 that "Gary" for me dropped off Google's front page, after slowly going from #3 to #6 to #10, and then rapidly into nothingness since then.

It doesn't take much to accomplish this, really: just write a lot, have PageRank, etc. I didn't even use a single optimizing technique, pinky-swear.

But google is good to all bloggers, and particularly has often favored those who use Blogger.

Gee, I wonder why? :-)

Oh, have I mentioned the irony that I spent most of my elementary school years having books confiscated from me for reading under the desk, because I was so effing bored, since I read the damned textbooks the first night of school, and what the hell else was there to do after that?

The irony being that hundreds of those books were by one Isaac Asimov, and P.S. 99 was later renamed this.

I lived about 14 houses down from that school.

Wanna hear about me and Allen Stewart Konigsberg, and the teachers we had in common at P.S. 99 and Midwood High School? And how he:

...went to Public School 99 (now The Isaac Asimov School for Science and Literature)[6] and to Midwood High School.[7] During that time, he lived in an apartment at 1402 Avenue K, between East 14th and 15th Streets. He impressed students with his extraordinary talent at card and magic tricks.[8]
I grew up first in Flatbush, but when I was around 5 or so, we moved to 1047 East 10th St., between J and K.

None of this is a secret, I've written all of this on this very blog a bunch of times, but googling my past ObWi comments and sorting them would take, well, it's quicker just to type it all yet again.

Man, I'm fascinating, amn't I? Let's talk about me some more, rather than MLK and Lincoln.

Or not. :-)

[...] if I weren't aware of how much of THAT there is to be had.
Wikipedia is, as usual, not too reliable; neither is this, but, oh, who cares? :-)

Are there some current/living sf writers/editors/artists you'd like me to suggest Friend you on Facebook? I'm way more out of touch with folks in the past twenty years, but I still know, er, several hundred folks who know me, and lots more not on FB....

My only "privacy" is that I write so effing much nobody but a pro could or would be interested in sorting through it all to make sense of it. :-)

Let's talk more about Abraham Lincoln, King, and others. They were just a trifle more important than the awesomeness that is me. :-)

I'm just some juvenile character in pajamas, as we know.

If only I'd ever owned a pair of pajamas since I was age 10.

Wait, I should get some!

(I seriously have an artist friend working on a logo for Cafe Press stuff, but she's just out of surgery, so I'm not pressing her on delivery time, of course.)

Er, Russell, do unpublish this if you like; I can just copy it and move it to an open thread in a small jiffy. If I weren't so tired right now, I'd do it, and be more comfortable, but that's kinda the story of how and why I've written eighty bazillion comments to ObWi since 2003, after all.

I'm just lazy.

The problem with most of Isaac's nonfiction now, and most of all, the science, is that it's wildly out of date.

Not much to be done about that, short of time travel, or other future tech, I'm afraid.

But in a few years, we'll probably have tools to combine Google books and auto-correct and update: watch, and see if I'm right!

What I won't predict is the exact year. But I'm guessing more than five, less than ten. The copyright issues will be what will put it off.

Oh, and now that I'm here in the Bay Area, I'm seeing one of my friends who works at Google, and we've, oh, hell, President Lincoln was one of the greatest presidents ever.

And the Great Society was far more a success than not.

Ditto the War on Poverty. Let's talk about that.

Or how racism is still omnipresent, or people wouldn't still be talking about how they're not racist. Etc.

If anyone wants to talk Heinlein, go read my buddy Bill's book: Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve.

I have an earlier draft on a disk a few feet from me; hung with Bill at the NASFiC in Raleigh in August. We've been in constant FB contact. Etc., etc, etc.

That's only the first volume, of course, and Bill has endlessly revised multiple drafts, after David Hartwell finally started working on it with him; the draft I've read and given notes on of the second volume is years out of date now. But... you're going to get some FB Friend suggestions. :-)

I actually recommended his book in a post here, and everything, but, of course, none of us reads every post and comment. I've never claimed to have done that, and certainly not now.

Just... for long periods. Back between 2003 and 2008.

Anyone who wants to Friend Request me on Facebook: all you have to do is let me know that you've read me, and where from. "ObWi" will do, though I don't mind at all if you have been a commenter, and mention a handle. But it ain't necessary. I simply need to verify that you're not a notch-carver who doesn't know me from... how to use an ellipsis correctly.

So: that King guy sure was awesome.

It turns out there are some dark-skinned folks around here in Oakland, too. Who knew?

Oh, you're already Friends with Bill. Excellent. And I'd have done a lot more just now if only FB's Friend filter hadn't just broken, thought it may be my javascript problem, or IE problem, or something on my end, and I don't have the patience to do a restart right now. But send me an email if there's someone I can introduce you to, which depends largely on whether they're someone who likes lots of Friends, or prefer to keep it small.

Interestingly enough, most sf writers, editors, and authors, suck at using modern technology, computers, online stuff, etc., except for those you'd expect not to, like Charlie Stross, etc. (Yes, old friend -- but others barely know me, if at all, like Ben Bova: I hardly claim to know everyone; not remotely -- let alone that they all know me.)

But any more of this should go on an open thread, or email, or FB, prolly, even though Russell may not be around much to comment much, I know because I'm a slan.

Hah! Tendrilless, one would presume.

Short on time just now. I did read through all of that, and I am familiar with some of your background, but being heavily & frequently involved with the world of SF fandom doesn't necessarily guarantee you facetime with the Elder Gods, as it were, and Asimov was...formative, for me. I have much to thank the guy for, not least of which is his penchant for publishing collections of essays on different topics that were ideal for the curious yet short-attention-spanned (i.e. me).

I've been meaning to get and read Asimov's Guide to the Bible, but haven't, yet.

To this day, I think of paradimethylaminobenzaldehyde sung to the tune of The Irish Washerwoman. Curse you, Isaac Asimov!

Gary, how about throwing up an open thread about how people deal with facebook? I'd be interested to know if I'm just a curmudgeon, or if there are others who take my approach.

LJ, I'm allowed only post a day.

How I'm supposed to figure out what the Only Important Topic Of The Day is, is a question I've yet to come up with an answer for.

Ditto two. Ditto the whole question of how many posts are too few or too many, how many links are too few or two many, what the ideal word count is for a given topic, etc.

I wouldn't go meta if I had answers to these questions, either as an ObWi policy, or one I can figure out for myself.

How many open threads should we have? Presumably proportional to the need; all is proportion, and should be adjusted according to current conditions, and revised accordingly.

Proportionate at ObWi will depend on whether we're doing positive or negative feedback loops to grow, shring, or maintain stasis.

But, yes, I think at least one or two open threads a week are currently appropriate.

But if I do that, I can't post anything else that day save in my own thread comments, or somewhere else.

More than this it wouldn't be appropriate for me to discuss in public.

Meanwhile, ObWi could use some more writers. But that's just personal opinion, one which I've, again, advocated ten bazillion times since 2005. As you doubtless know.

But until people actually submit guest posts... gee, should I adopt pseudonyms? Nah, wouldn't work, wouldn't be ethical.

So: how about you write a post about Facebook, LJ, mail it to me, and I'll post it. I don't think it's going to count against my limit if it's a guest post, but, again, who the f knows?

Ask Eric.


Gary, how about throwing up an open thread about how people deal with facebook? I'd be interested to know if I'm just a curmudgeon, or if there are others who take my approach.

What's your approach? Mine is that I don't have a facebook account or whatever it's called. Not that I'm advocating that. Some years ago, in a business discussion, I strongly argued that facebook was a passing fad, and would not last long-term. So much for my understanding of social networks.

Hope there will be something up soon about that, Bernard, thanks to you (and Gary) for asking.

Some years ago, in a business discussion, I strongly argued that facebook was a passing fad, and would not last long-term.
Bernard, depends on your definition of "long term." I don't think it will be very similar in twenty years, let alone fifty, let alone....

But the next few years, I think it's safe to say it's not going away. :-)

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