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Defund the NSA

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

We Get all our Info From Infowars and Huffpo

I haven’t written about the Trump wiretap kerfuffle since the weekend the story broke, because I don’t know what’s going on. My hope was that Trump would emerge with some amazing presidential inside poop proving his privacy was invaded, but so far that has not happened.

I hoped Trump would come forward with evidence, not so much because it would put heat on Obama, but because it would mean Trump was behaving responsibly and planning things in advance instead of shooting from the hip. It would also indicate that the government’s astounding obliteration of the Fourth Amendment might come under attack by the very branch of government which is primarily responsible for it.

I saw that Kellyanne Conway walked Trump’s comments back, saying Trump didn’t mean Obama personally ordered a wiretap job. That’s not credible, since Trump referred to Obama as a “sick” or “bad” guy. You wouldn’t say something like that if you didn’t think the person you were taking about was personally responsible.

It’s still too early to figure out what’s happening. Liberals are using the word “deadline” a lot, but as far as I know, such a date is a deadline primarily in their imaginations. They wanted to be able to go on the news the day after the deadline and say Trump lost because he didn’t produce the info on time.

The House Intelligence Committee asked for information, and they did provide a deadline, but it’s not like Trump is going to be put in front of a firing squad because he’s late. It looks like the big penalty is that the House could start sending subpoenas, which isn’t that big a deal. This isn’t the Watergate hearings. No one is going to be impeached.

I am still hoping Trump had some basis for his claims, other than a Breitbart news story. We would all like to think the president sees all sorts of classified information, and that he knows more than we do. A sad reality of life, however, is that the government is not very much like the slick, James-Bondy apparatus we see in the movies. Spies don’t really have watches with lasers in them, you can jump over the White House fence without being detected for a surprisingly long time, and even with the liberty-destroying intelligence-gathering toys our masters now have, the government still lacks a lot of important information, and it is much too stupid to know what to do with the information it has.

Remember Esteban Santiago, the Ft. Lauderdale airport gunman? He told the FBI he heard voices in his head, and that the CIA was forcing him to watch ISIS videos. He was in the military, which is a pretty good place to be if the government needs to know everything about you and control your movements. He informed the goverment of his problem, and they did virtually nothing. To the government, the first indication that action needed to be taken was a flurry of 911 calls indicating that individuals had been shot dead near a baggage carousel. That was the subtle clue that finally got them moving. After they let him check a pistol on a plane.

Yards away from the area where Santiago was shooting whoever he wanted, TSA agents responsible for our safety were calmly handling the genitals of innocent passengers who had not told the government anything at all about ISIS videos and whom no sane government would ever have considered to be security risks.

The government has always been real stupid. We need to accept that as a premise of life.

Crazy as it sounds, presidents often learn things they should already know…from watching the news. It may well be that Trump got excited about something he read at Breitbart over breakfast.

If that’s the case, I am disappointed in Trump, and I hope he comes to understand that a president needs to aim before he fires.

Still, we don’t know the truth yet. Maybe Trump is polishing up a bombshell. Maybe we should read Breitbart regularly to keep informed.

I don’t read Breitbart because Andrew Breitbart and I did not like each other, and because I always found the site boring. I don’t think Breitbart was a good person at all, and based on the bizarre comments which are typical of a disturbing percentage of his readers, it looks like he attracts a very unsavory crowd largely worthy of the “Nazi” and “white supremacist” labels the left is throwing around.

I thought it was creepy, the way Breitbart kissed up to Drudge so he could turn Drudge into a creek that powered Breitbart.com’s water wheel with a flow of hits. Remember how Drudge, under Breitbart’s control, used to link to Breitbart.com about ten times per page?

Remember how Breitbart jumped ship, without hesitation, to help former-fake-conservative Arianna Huffington start her awful, loathsome website? This is not a man whose face I want on my T-shirts. I think all he cared about was getting rich.

Breitbart, Coulter, Nugent. To me, they look like a trinity of figureheads raised up to bring shame and embarrassment to conservatives. But most people are too team-oriented to criticize these rusty icons.

If Trump is wrong, and he really is as irresponsible as that would make him look, I still would not regret voting for him. What choice did I have? I would have voted for just about anyone other than Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I considered making a T-shirt with “TRUMP 2016” on it, over a photo of Hillary.

A moderately irresponsible, recently converted conservative is much better than someone who would persecute Christians, destroy Israel much faster, step up the murder of the unborn, and turn not being gay into a third-degree felony.

I thought Trump had something up his sleeve. Maybe he does. But at this point, I think the most likely thing is that he was just angry about the Breitbart article. Why he was looking at it at five in the morning, I can’t even guess. The time of day was one of the things that made me think he had evidence. Who looks at blogs at five a.m.? I figured he had been up late conferring with associates and raising hell about evidence that came from other channels.

I figured I should write about it, since it’s a bit cowardly to say you think Trump is probably on solid ground and then shut up when it starts to look like you guessed wrong.

Maybe I’ll get to write a third piece in which I gladly announce that I was wrong to think I was wrong. That would be nice.


Saturday, March 4th, 2017

“Living Dead” Shadow Co-President Accused of Spying on Trump

What a strange presidency we have.

When Trump got elected, I predicted two things: 1) whatever Trump did, he would do better than politicians, because he’s an extremely competent businessman who knows how to accomplish things, and 2) his presidency would be very, very entertaining. As of today, I think prediction 2 has been proven right. Trump just accused Obama–personally–of wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.

Since I’m making two-item lists today, I’ll continue. There are two possible outcomes here: 1) Trump will be proven mainly right, and it will be a big embarrassment for Obama and the left, or 2) Trump will be found to be overreacting to a Breitbart story that came from Mark Levin, and it will be a big embarrassment for Trump and the Republicans.

I feel like making a guess.

My guess is that Trump will be proven mainly right.

Here’s how I see it: as president, Trump has deep access to classified information, and he has lots of power to force bureaucrats to do research and answer questions for him. Maybe he was motivated by the Levin story, but that was yesterday, and he didn’t make his wiretapping tweet until today, so he has had ample time to get on the phone and scream at people. It may well be that he has been up all night dragging people into the Oval Office and forcing them to give him briefings.

Trump made his announcements at around 5:30 a.m. today. That suggests he didn’t sleep last night. There is no reason for a president to be up in the middle of the night on a random Saturday, so if he tweeted at 5:30, he had probably been awake for quite some time, and the most likely explanation is that he was digging into the wiretap story. I don’t think he woke up at 5:15 to use the toilet and said to himself, “What a great night’s sleep I had. I think I’ll say something completely insane on Twitter, which could destabilize my administration.”

Trump said “Just found out.” It could mean he was up before 5:30, for some trivial reason, and some aide or other came up to him and said, “Hey, did you read Levin’s story?” It could also mean he had been putting the screws on people all night, and he got his solid evidence not long before 5:30. That’s the most likely explanation, because if he was simply responding to Levin’s emotionalism, it would be uncharacteristically impulsive, even for Donald Trump, who loves to talk off the top of his head. It would also be very foolish; too foolish to be likely.

It’s as though Trump learned something shocking, and it enraged him, and he decided to stay up all night and make some heads roll.

If Trump is wrong about Obama, he can be sued successfully for libel. He’s not an imbecile; he is aware of the existence of tort lawyers. I don’t think he would expose himself to a lawsuit unnecessarily. Obama would love to hinder the Trump administration by dragging a sitting president into court. I can’t see Trump opening himself to that move.

Weird as it sounds, the most likely explanation, given the facts I have now, is that Trump has the goods on Obama. Maybe he’s exaggerating things a little, and maybe the “wiretaps” he has mentioned aren’t the simple phone bugs the rest of us think of when we hear that word, but Obama probably collected intelligence, using wires (email, Internet feeds, whatever), and if it wasn’t illegal, it was probably ethically questionable.

Obama is the first zombie president. When a president leaves office, the classy, patriotic, and traditional thing is to go away and be quiet for at least two terms. Obama is setting up headquarters in DC, and he plans to make life miserable for Trump. What a strange man he is. It reminds me of the silly fake presidential seal he used to use before he was elected. He was like a little kid, playing cowboys and Indians, wearing a plastic sheriff’s badge.

He pretended to be president before he had standing, and now it looks like he’s going to pretend to be president after becoming unemployed. I think he wants to condition the press to listen to Trump and then rush across town to see what The Other President says.

This is a remarkable confrontation. Neither Trump nor Obama can continue without taking steps to resolve this. Trump has to prove his accusations, or Obama has to disprove them. If Obama disproves them, Trump will look like a real idiot, and he may face a painful lawsuit. He could even be pressured into resigning simply because a president can’t run around accusing his predecessors of wiretapping. If Trump proves them, Obama will be disgraced, and he could even face felony charges, along with a number of other people in his administration.

Obviously, I prefer the latter alternative. I support Trump, and whatever his faults may be, I want him (or some other Republican) in the White House when Ruth Ginsberg dies.

An interesting thing about this kerfuffle is that Obama has a plausible path to prison here, but Trump’s worst-case path leads only to financial pain and forced retirement.

I just don’t think Trump is crazy enough to make these accusations without checking his legal footing. Trump is a weird guy, and he tends to think out loud instead of waiting for corroboration, but he’s not a complete moron. He’s very, very sharp.

My best guess, and a guess is all it is, is that people who jump for Obama surveilled Trump, and Trump can prove it.

Now, what will happen when Trump proves Obama’s people spied on him?

My opinion can be discerned from my use of the phrase “Obama’s people.” Obama isn’t an utter idiot (I assume), any more than Trump is. He’s naive, gullible, feckless, and incredibly conceited, but he has a normal instinct for self-preservation. If Obama spied on Trump, he used layers of surrogates. If wrongdoing is proven, there will be a whole squad of potential Scooter Libbys waiting to receive the skewer in Obama’s stead.

If Obama is behind this, and he didn’t take great pains to insulate himself from responsibility, then his arrogance is even worse than we thought, and that would be remarkable.

It’s possible. Obama has been careless before, and he tends to screw up and then wait for the press to save him. He seems to have delusions of invulnerability. He seems to see himself as The Chosen One, and a lot of his fans agree. I wonder if he’s crazy enough to wiretap a presidential candidate. Hmm. Nixon was smarter than Obama, and…

We don’t have to consider the possibility that Obama is morally above something like this. We know him better than that.

I suppose there is a third possibility. Deep State intelligence people hate Trump, and they like sandbagging him and setting him up. A really sharp, unpatriotic, and unscrupulous group of spooks could harm Trump very badly by feeding him false information and leading him to accuse Obama wrongly. I wonder if they could pull that off.

I might get hammered for this (by one of the two people who read this unimportant blog), but it seems like there is a common pattern in which a black person or group of blacks crosses a threshold of power that had previously been an impregnable stronghold, and then they blow it. Bill Cosby is an example. So is Michael Vick. The first black player on the University of Kentucky basketball team, which was coached by a ferocious racist, turned out to be a rapist. For some reason, black people tend to gain control of things that are already in decline or headed for disaster. It must be a supernatural thing. I wonder if it’s at play here.

It’s not uncommon for prominent black people to end up in trouble with the law. It’s very strange. Ray Nagin. Al Sharpton. Kwame Kilpatrick. O.J. Simpson. Wesley Snipes, Lauryn Hill, James Brown, Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife…

Imagine the outcry we would hear if Obama were indicted. “They won’t let a black man win.” Black Lives Matter would go nuclear. We would never hear the end of it.

As for the outcome of the wiretap fuss, I’m just guessing for entertainment purposes. I’m not pretending to be a pundit. Guessing is fun. The older you get, the more you know about human nature, and the better you get at predicting people’s behavior. I like exercising that skill. Wrong or right, I enjoy it. I do pretty well.

I won’t enjoy it if Trump gets the worst of this. I voted as well as I could, and I prayed for Hillary to fail. That was all I could do. I can’t control the world. I’m not going to eat my liver over it.

Now, let’s make the popcorn.


I can’t stop thinking about this story.

Think about this: when you and I go to the airport, and we are sexually violated by the TSA, no one cares. The government now monitors all of our car travel via electronic toll devices, cameras, license plate scanners, and roadside sensors. I didn’t read about that somewhere. I figured it out by looking out the car window. The government looks for us in public places using facial recognition. The government collects our emails and phone calls, and that goes for all of us, not just radicalized Muslims.

No one cares. We’re nobodies. The Constitution is dead, except for the imaginary parts that permit homosexual “marriage” and let women kill their own babies. Our outrage and pain don’t matter, even though insult and personal outrage are the very reasons the Bill of Rights was written.

Now, suddenly, a PRESIDENT may have been violated, by another president! Finally, someone who matters is suffering. How about that? What will happen now?

Will the spooks and hacks sit Trump down and convince him we have no choice but to abandon the Constitution? The spooks will say life with no rights is better than being blown up by Muslims. The hacks will say life with no rights is better than having terrorist attacks on Trump’s watch, which could cost him the next election. Will Trump listen?

Most voters don’t care about their rights. The legendary American love of liberty is a complete myth. Americans don’t really love liberty, except when it comes to vices. Tell an American he can’t smoke weed or look at pornography, and he’ll get very upset. Tell him you’re recording all of his phone calls even though he has nothing to do with terrorists, and he’ll bless you for it.

Here’s a funny thing about human nature: people in authority don’t care at all about injustice, but they lose their minds when people insult their dignity or power.

If you call a cop because someone stole your bicycle, he won’t look for it. You will never see it again; I guarantee it. Have you ever known anyone who got their stolen goods back through police action? Me, neither. Give a cop the finger, which is completely legal, and he will make you his number one case. He will find a way to cite you or arrest you. As a matter of fact, that happened to a cousin of mine.

One of the best ways to get a judge to stomp your adversary is to make the judge think he, himself, has been insulted. It has worked for me. Cite the judge’s own holy words, show him opposing counsel has blasphemed him, and he will drop the whole courthouse on your opponent’s head. Citing your own problems and your adversary’s misdeeds may not even wake a judge up. Judges are lazy, and so are their clerks. They just want you out of their hair.

Human nature. Look at it objectively, and you will rarely come to the wrong conclusion.

If Obama wiretapped Trump illegally or unethically, or even if he did it legally and simply made Trump mad, Trump may look for ways to attack our Orwellian captivity, simply to avenge what happened to him.

That’s interesting, to say the very least.


Finally, Obama has finished polishing up his response. Through a spokesman, here it is:

A cardinal rule of the Obama administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.

Okay, let’s put on our special cynicism goggles and look for the real meaning.

“No White House official ever interfered.” Notice it says “White House official,” not “administration official” or “surrogate” or “executive department personnel.” If Obama had been able to say, “It never happened,” why didn’t he say it? He’s just deflecting blame from his inner circle, which is one of the possibilities I predicted. A lot of people who worked for Obama could have wiretapped Trump, and only a small percentage worked in the White House.

Obama was the head of the executive branch, so if anyone in that branch wiretapped Trump, it’s Obama’s baby and he has to breastfeed it.

He says no White House official interfered with an independent DOJ investigation. Let’s see. Are there investigations that aren’t independent? Nixon’s investigations of his political enemies were not exactly independent. Are there investigations that aren’t handled by the DOJ? The CIA isn’t part of the DOJ. Neither is DHS.

What we have here is a carefully worded non-denial that took several hours to draw up. Obama may be setting some underling up for a spell at Club Fed. On the other hand, if Trump is completely wrong, maybe Obama is trying to bait him into parsing his flak’s words, just as I am right now. Obama baited the birthers, including Trump, by postponing the release of his long-form birth certificate, and they looked bad when it came out, even though the official who signed it was named Ukulele.

Here is my guess: Trump is right, and Obama will throw a lackey under the bus. Obama’s bus can hardly move for the bodies stuck to the undercarriage, so this would be a continuation of SOP. George Bush probably has a furnished apartment under that bus.

If I’m right, there is a there, there, and Obama is trying to move there to somewhere else.

The press is all over this. They’re 100% in the tank for Obama, even though they haven’t had time to investigate. They are risking humiliation by covering this story as if Trump has already been proven wrong. Many are leading with the statement that Trump misspelled “taps” on Twitter, as if that were the real news here. That’s about as brazenly biased as a journalist can get without wearing a ball cap with the words “I am Lying” emblazoned on the front.

This could be a major time bomb in the laps of the MSM. Trump makes true accusation. Press crucifies Trump without checking the facts. Trump produces proof he’s right. That would be a real nitroglycerin enema.

If Trump is wrong, things will be pretty bad for the GOP for a month.

Wonder what will happen next.

Russian to Judgment

Monday, February 27th, 2017

The USSR Started World War Two

I try not to do anything important on weekends. In my creaky old age, I have come to understand that compartmentalization and boundaries are very important. Working during your leisure time can be just as big a vice as goofing off at your job.

It sounds lazy, and to some degree, it is, but it’s also correct. For the most part, two types of people work during their leisure hours: workaholics and the irresponsible. I’ve noticed that irresponsible people are always rushed. They are never at peace. They never know when they’re supposed to work and when they’re supposed to rest. Responsible people make plans and schedules, and they have peace.

That being said, I find it a lot easier to refuse to work when I shouldn’t than to make myself work when I should!

Over the weekend, I tried not to do anything useful, and I treated myself to a movie and a documentary. The movie was Battle for Sevastopol, the “true story” (Is any movie really a true story?) of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a Russian sniper who had 309 confirmed kills in World War Two. The documentary was The War, a treatment of World War Two by Ken Burns.

If you don’t know who Ken Burns is, he’s the man who made the documentary Jazz.

The sniper movie was quite interesting. It was made by Russians. Because it was made by Russians, the perspective on World War Two was very different from what we see in movies made by people in other nations that fought the Germans. We emphasize the huge contribution we made to the defeat of the Nazis. We generally ignore the huge Soviet contribution.

The Russians lost something like 20 million people in the war. Millions of them were Jewish Holocaust victims. Many were soldiers and non-Jewish civilians killed by the Nazis. Many were killed by Stalin and his underlings. Overall, the Russians had a very bad time during the war.

Americans didn’t join the war in Europe until shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack in late 1941. By then the war was over two years old. It started with the invasion of Poland. France fell in 1940, and by the time we got involved as combatants, Germany had occupied all of western Europe except for Switzerland.

Americans helped invade Italy in 1943, and we also flew suicidal bombing missions over Europe. We began fighting in Africa in 1942. Our ground troops didn’t go after the heart of Nazi Europe, farther north, until D-Day, which was June 6, 1944.

Russia’s ground war with Germany started in June of 1941.

For a long time, Russians were nearly alone against the Nazis in the north and east.

To watch the movie, you would think Americans hid in their closets while brave, principled Russians died. Pavlichenko made a fundraising tour in the US after she became unable to fight, and she asked American men if they hadn’t hidden behind her long enough.

Here’s the thing the movie doesn’t tell you: the Russians brought their problems on themselves. It was 100% their fault. The Russians started World War Two, by invading Poland!

You’re thinking that’s not right. The Germans invaded Poland. Well, you’re half correct. The Russians invaded Poland beside the Germans.

In August of 1939, Stalin and the Nazis signed a “nonaggression” pact, which was not “nonaggressive” at all. They planned to be very aggressive to the rest of Europe, but they agreed not to fight each other. They divided Europe up in advance, agreeing to cede certain conquered nations to each other.

Funny how that’s not in the film.

Less than two years after the pact was signed, the Germans attacked Russia. Suddenly, Russians were the victims! They needed our help!

Please. Their hands were wet with blood.

Would the Germans have invaded Poland in 1939 if the Russians hadn’t agreed to help? Doubtful.

The Russians were sleazy traitors to the rest of the world. They made it possible for Germany to occupy western Europe. If we were unable to put troops on the ground until mid-1944, the Russians should have blamed themselves. Before the Nazis could occupy France, they had to get through Poland with Russia’s help.

Clearly, we did not hide from battle. Our young men were already preparing to die in battle when Pavlichenko made her ridiculous accusation; they just couldn’t get into France. Europe was a fortress Russia helped build. To expect us to march in under an iron dome of Nazi air superiority made possible by Russian collaboration would have been insane. Much better to let the burden fall on the people who created it.

Russians like to say they won the war (which they started) for everyone else. Guess who supplied their planes, trucks, food, ammunition, and supplies? We did. Russia’s industrial capacity was tiny, due to the ravages of leftism. They depended on us. Without our help, they would have had an even worse time expelling the Nazis.

They fought bravely. But think about it…they had no choice. The Nazis were on their soil. The Russians weren’t fighting for Europe, which they had just tried to conquer along with Hitler. They were fighting to save themselves. Even a rat will do that. It’s not praiseworthy. They picked up a snake, and they got bitten. Then they asked us to pick it up, too, and we did.

America didn’t win the war by itself. True. And we do tend to minimize the Soviet contribution. But it’s libelous to say we didn’t do our part, and it’s disgusting and cowardly to omit mention of the fact that Russia started the war along with Germany.

Why is it so few people talk about Russia’s responsibility for the war? It’s obvious. It must be the usual leftist revisionism. We learn about history from academics, journalists, and entertainers, and guess which way they lean?

It seems inconsistent for entertainers to ignore Russia’s guilt while playing down Russia’s help. I think I understand, though, at least when it comes to show business. When you make movies for Americans, you usually have American writers and directors, and you want to reach an American audience. You want to make money. It’s easier to make money here when you praise American heroes.

Some people give Russia credit for saving Jews from the Nazis. Hmm…how many Polish Jews died as a result of Russian and German aggression? Answer: three million.

So much for that canard. If you’re responsible for the deaths of half of the victims of the Holocaust, you can’t really claim you protected the Jews.

If Russia is so nice to the Jews, why have Russian Jews spent an entire century trying to get out?

I like Russia. I like Russians. It’s a different country now. I hope they succeed and improve. But come on. The USSR did tremendous evil, and America’s contribution to ending the war was essential. As for the Japanese defeat, well, we pretty much own that. We produced atom bombs no one else could make, and we supplied our naval might. We worked with the Chinese and British, mainly. The Russians got involved in August of 1945, after Nagasaki. They didn’t even agree to help until February of 1945.

Even the British weren’t around at the battle of Midway, which was the turning point in the Pacific war. That was all us.

It’s amazing how people twist the truth.

If you’re feeling bad about the way we downplay Russia’s part in the war, now you can start feeling better.

The sniper movie is very good. Just make sure you don’t pay any attention to Pavlichenko’s ridiculous insult.

Hasta la Vista, Knight Aberrant

Saturday, February 25th, 2017

Cervantes << Rabelais

I feel like I should let the world know I finally finished the reading in Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I got done yesterday, I think. I can’t describe my relief.

Now that I’ve read a good deal of the book, including the ending, I can say with confidence that it’s overrated and poorly done. The people who admire this book are just dazzled by its age, and by the fatuous remarks of other fans who preceded them.

One of the last things I read concerned Sancho Panza’s brief experience as pretend governor of an “insula” (island) provided by a duke who enjoyed making fun of him. The people of the island (if it is an island; I didn’t read the part where Cervantes describes it) go to Sancho with three cases to judge. Sancho comes up with very clever solutions to the last two cases, a la Solomon. The solution to the first case isn’t clever at all and appears to be a wild guess which may or may not be just.

The clever solutions are plagiarized from other authors. I’ll give you one example. A man is accused of rape, and the woman demands money. Sancho gives her the man’s money and then tells the man to take it from her. She is too strong for him, and she pushes him away easily. Sancho gives the man his money back, reasoning that if the defendant isn’t strong enough to take her purse, he’s not strong enough to rape her. I forget where the story came from, but the translator, in a note, says it’s stolen.

Plagiarism is one of the marks of a hack. If you have something original to say, you say it, hoping to be credited for your brilliance. If you steal other people’s work, you tacitly admit you have no talent of your own.

When I saw the door to the prison starting to swing open, I started reading another book. I bought a copy of The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick. A friend said I should watch the Amazon series of the same name, so I bought the book, knowing nothing ruins a good book like seeing the movie first.

Now that I think about it, nothing enhances a book like reading a worse book first.

In two sessions, purely for pleasure, I effortlessly breezed through maybe forty pages. What a change of pace. When I was reading Cervantes, twenty pages seemed like the toils of Sisyphus. But then Cervantes is a bad writer, and Dick isn’t.

I know people will argue with me and try to tell me I’m not smart enough to see Cervantes’ hidden genius. Yeah, okay. Keep telling yourselves that. I may not be Maxwell Perkins, but I’m not completely stupid, either. I can tell the difference between Shakespeare and John Grisham.

I guess I shouldn’t use John Grisham as an example. Some people think he’s a good writer. He’s not, but some people think he is. How about Dan Brown? No, I guess some people think he has talent, too.

Barbara Cartman! Harold Robbins! Jacqueline Susann! There must be somebody who will serve as an example.

How about this: “I can tell the difference between Francois Villon and Rod McKuen”?

On the web, I saw people looking for the hidden meaning of Don Quixote. Let me help. There is no hidden meaning. Cervantes isn’t D.H. Lawrence. He wasn’t consciously writing about archetypes that move in all our thoughts. He was a debtor trying to raise cash by writing a popular novel.

You can project hidden meaning onto anything if you try. You’ll probably reveal more about yourself than about whatever it is you’re studying.

The next book on the Columbia College Lit. Hum. list is Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is almost 400 pages of very stuffy blank verse. In case you’re wondering, blank verse is just poetry that doesn’t rhyme. For reasons not entirely clear to me, some writers like to force their work to adhere to certain rhythms without using rhymes to pull it together.

I get rhythm. I totally get rhythm. David Mamet is a master of it. Every naturally funny person understands timing. What I don’t get is sticking to fixed rhythms that don’t improve the work in any way. Why use six syllables when you’re dying to use ten? It turns literature into Twitter.

It reminds me of haikus. Well, I should say, “It reminds me of haiku,” because if you’re really smart, you have to say “haiku” instead of “haikus.” Anyway, haikuS are stupid. God doesn’t charge us by the syllable. Use all you want.

I don’t think anyone really likes haikuS. It’s like pretending to like Japanese rock gardens. Real exciting; three rocks and some sand. Yeah, that’s just as good as the garden at the Tuileries. I can hardly tell the difference.

To grow a real garden, you need artistic talent, enough character to do hard work, and a green thumb. To produce a rock garden, you just need Roundup.

Tip for the Japanese: “garden” implies “foliage.” The English word you’ve been looking for is “sandbox.”

I expect Milton to be a chore, but I’m hoping there will at least be a plot.

I also blew off a lot of the reading in Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization class. It’s similar to Lit. Hum., but it’s philosophy and poltics instead of literature. I was thinking I would do the reading for both classes, but I don’t know if I can stand the pain. Maybe bad literature is inherently more painful than politics and philosophy. Hmm. I could always read two books and see if I can bear to continue.

They had a third class called Art Hum. That one is a breeze. You look at slides. “This is a kouros. This is an Ionian column.” I don’t know if the materials are available, though. It would be a real shame if I had to cancel that project.

I don’t like modern art. I don’t know if I want to suffer with it. Anything past Monet, you can keep. If I have to pretend I like Jackson Pollack and think his “work” has value, I may become ill. I’d rather sit through twelve hours of John Cage.

No I wouldn’t. Not unless it was 4’33” with the MP3 player on repeat. Here’s one of my favorite versions, but I also like the duet Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix are currently doing:

John Cage must be the greatest composer ever, because no matter what other composers write or play while they’re alive, they start playing Cage’s work as soon as they die.

I like Salvador Dali, but I don’t think he’s deep. I think he’s sort of like M.C. Escher. Makes you go “GEE!”, but you wouldn’t want his work to represent earth in an interstellar art competition.

Maybe I’ll do CC and Art Hum. in 2018. It would be unfair to my future self to concentrate all the remaining pleasure into 2017.

Truck pulls! That’s what I really need! I need to watch me some truck pulls! Get me some corn dogs and a Busch Light! ‘Murica! ‘MURICA!!!!

I’m off to Bass Pro Shop to buy some Uncle Buck’s cajun foie gras seasoning.

One More Thing Lawyers Have Ruined

Friday, February 10th, 2017

The Grand Tour Fails to Reach its Potential

It’s funny how you can sometimes detect the activity of lawyers without being told they’re at work.

I’ll give some examples.

I have bought key lime juice. There are two brands available where I live. One is labeled “Mrs. Biddle’s Key Lime Juice.” The other is labeled “Key West Lime Juice.” Why? Obviously, the second one isn’t made from key limes. If it were, they would use the phrase “key lime juice” on the label. In order to get around the illegality of selling Persian lime juice as key lime juice, they invoke the name of Key West, which has nothing to do with lime varieties.

Here’s another one. Have you ever bought a junk food item with a label that says it contains “creme”? It said that because it didn’t contain cream. “Creme” doesn’t mean anything. It could be lithium grease. Real cream comes from a cow and costs a lot of money.

I’ve watched all of the episodes of Amazon’s The Grand Tour, and I see lawyer footprints all over it.

First of all, no Stig. The BBC owns the Stig (perhaps literally). Amazon found a legal way to replace his vibe on the show. They hired an American driver named Mike Skinner, and they call him “The American.” He’s not as good as the Stig, because the writers who write his material aren’t good, but if he had better lines, he would be a fine replacement.

He has a lot of potential. The constant jokes about him being American could be funny. Problem is, they’re very weak. Maybe bad British writers are to blame. Someone who actually understood American Southerners could write very funny stuff for Skinner.

Second thing…no celebrities. This is a major problem. I suppose it’s possible celebrities are boycotting the show because of the odor of racism, but I doubt that, because they do appear in short, generally silent cameos in which they die horribly. They don’t give interviews or drive laps.

Somehow, lawyers have interfered with the practice of putting celebrities on the show. I don’t know what the issue is. One would think that it would be impossible to protect the concept of interviewing celebrities about cars, but the BBC must have found a way, because there is no other plausible explanation for cutting out a huge part of the fun of the show.

Instead of stars in a reasonably priced car, the show has a feature called Celebrity Brain Crash. It’s supposed to be a quiz, but the gimmick is that every celebrity is killed while making his or her way to the studio. It was funny the first two times, but now it’s annoying, and surely Amazon knows that and wants to fix it. Because they never did, lawyers must be getting in the way.

I guess it’s possible that the creators of the show are just incompetent, but how could anyone be that bad at his job? It’s the kind of decision a producer would make if someone were secretly paying him to fail.

I like the show, and I’ll keep watching it, but it’s in danger of turning into the American Top Gear, which was terrible because it had no celebrities and a hosting team headed by a hipster sissy.

Overall, the show is pretty good, but not quite as good as the original. The writing is weaker; that’s the main issue. Bezos needs to hire some people from Top Gear or some top sitcoms. Male Republicans, if possible. Whether Bezos wants to admit it or not, 90% of the fun of Top Gear was the persistent lambasting of political correctness.

No one really cares whether the Porsche 918 is as fast as the Ferrari Enzo. People want to see the boys make fools of themselves, and they want to see them have interesting interviews with famous people.

A reviewer from The Guardian says people don’t like the “scriptedness” of the new show. He’s right. With the old show, it was always nearly possible to make yourself believe the things you saw on screen were simply things that had happened on their own. With the new show, the action is about as spontaneous as The A-Team. The Grand Tour punches you in the face with its artificiality.

Maybe they need to hire Ted Nugent. That would help.

The Grand Tour doesn’t have a home city. They have a tent they fly around the globe, and they put it in a new place almost every week. Fun idea, but you have to wonder if the work and expense of moving around makes it hard to keep a good staff together and get things done. Here’s something strange: the show doesn’t make much use of its locations. If they were to put the tent in the Bahamas, they might very well film most of the show in Egypt. If you’re not going to use the location, why go there?

One of their locations disturbed me pretty badly. They went to Scotland. Most of my ancestors were Scottish. When they stood in front of the studio audience (tent audience?), I noticed that there wasn’t a single good-looking person in the crowd. I’ll be honest; they looked WRONG. Like someone had hushed up a radiation accident in the 1970’s. Their Dutch audience looked way better. Maybe I need a gene transplant.

If I were running the show, I would find a way to get some celebrities to talk to. I would also beat the writers with a stick and hire some new ones. After that, I’d find a studio in England and stay there. What they’re doing now is like moving a tomato plant from one pot to another every week and expecting it to grow.

It’s still better than the BBC’s offering.

I have to wonder if the hype about Amazon’s giant budget is true. The Grand Tour looks like it costs a lot less than the old show. The projects are much less ambitious.

Top Gear itself is returning soon, with Matt LeBlanc still in charge. Unfortunately, his ineffective co-host Chris Evans will be replaced by the soon-to-be-proven-equally-ineffective Rory Reid and Chris Harris. These guys are not even a little bit funny, and Top Gear is a comedy show. No one at the BBC seems to understand that. They think it’s about cars!

I plan to watch the new season. I’ll do what I did last time around. When LeBlanc or the Stig is on the screen, I’ll watch. I’ll fast-forward past the plastic twins. I should be able to get through an episode in 15 minutes.

Steven Seagal is a Hero

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Don Quixote is Just a Psychopath

I’m sitting here trying to find the gumption to continue reading Don Quixote. No wonder I skipped so much of the reading when I was in college. I feel like I’m getting psyched up for a colonoscopy.

In an earlier post I quoted the author Vladimir Nabokov, who said a bunch of flattering and patently inaccurate things about Don Quixote. For one thing, he called the protagonist “gentle,” which is like calling Richard Speck gentle.

Here’s something weird: Cervantes fan-niños can be found on the web excoriating Nabokov for criticizing Cervantes. Nabokov called Cervantes’ work “crude and cruel.”

I wonder what the truth is. Was Nabokov pro- or anti-?

I have to go with the critical Nabokov. Don Quixote is remarkably free of any type of compassion. When DQ breaks an innocent man’s leg, it’s a trifle. It’s supposed to be funny. Cervantes himself calls a hunchbacked, one-eyed girl who has done nothing wrong “this engaging creature” (en Español). When DQ gets impatient with Sancho Panza, whom he considers a friend, he beats him with his lance, and we’re supposed to go on liking DQ.

I’m thinking Cervantes may have been a sociopath. He may have been unable to feel love or pity, so he may not have realized it when he crossed the line.

To push the notion even further, I think this book may be a good litmus test for sociopathy. If you really enjoy it, and the cruelty doesn’t wear you down, you have an issue. Some essential pieces of your heart are missing. You would probably enjoy a GWAR concert.

One of the rules of fiction is that if you want to put suffering in your work, and you don’t want the reader to sympathize, you should make the characters who suffer look like they deserve it. You can see this rule at work in any Steven Seagal movie. Steven Seagal can’t just march onto the set and start snapping people’s arms backward at the elbow and setting them on fire. Maybe it was hard for his directors to make him understand that, but it’s true. If he wants the audience to root for him, the people he hurts have to be set up in advance. They have to put him in a coma and shoot his partner. Something like that.

If Cervantes had written a Steven Seagal movie, it would have started like this: Steven Seagal is lying in bed with his really good-looking wife. They smile and cuddle. Then he shoves a bayonet through her throat and says something snotty while she dies. No, no, no. That doesn’t work. You have to lay some sort of John Wick-style groundwork. Stomp on a puppy. Steal Keanu’s Mustang.

Maybe the people who defend Cervantes are cruel and underdeveloped. Cervantes can’t see his own problem, and neither can they, because they’re just like him.

Just spitballing here.

What time is it? About 1:30? This isn’t working. I haven’t killed enough time. I still have time to sit down and read. Man.

I saw some foolish person claiming Nabokov was worse than Cervantes, because Humbert Humbert, the main character in Lolita, was a sexual predator who went after a young girl. What a stretch. You’re not supposed to like Humbert Humbert! Hello? It’s okay if a villain does bad things. Obvious, right?

I plan to gag my way through at least 30 pages today. I’m glad the copy I bought was cheap. I would hate to spend more than ten bucks on an experience like this.

It’s 1:34. I guess I better get to work.

Chivalry Isn’t Dead

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

It’s Just Nauseous

Update on my progress through Don Quixote: today I made it to page 206, and I thought I could force myself to go all the way to the start of a horrible verse on the bottom of the page. No dice. After a few sentences, I realized I could not face another line. It’s as if my mind threw up.

Back to work tomorrow, I guess.

The World Gets an Intervention

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

President Tough Love Melts the Snow

Trump’s first couple of weeks in office have been very interesting.

I don’t really follow the news any more, but I’ve noticed a few things. Trump is doing stuff he promised to do, and that is making heads explode all over the world.

This morning I realized that the single thing that makes Trump a revolutionary president is this: he is the first president elected in my lifetime…who didn’t owe anything to special interests. That’s incredible!

You can say I’m wrong, and that this faction or that faction helped him. That’s not what I’m talking about. No one gets elected without support. Trump got help from various groups, but unlike every other president elected in (at least) the last 50 years, he was not the CREATION and SERVANT of any particular group, except for his bona fide grassroots fan base.

Democrats serve large corporations, unions, minority blocs, women, and various fringe-nut groups. Republicans serve wealthy donors and a certain percentage of corporations liberals are trying to destroy. Trump serves millions of nuts in red hats. I don’t mean “nut” in a bad way; I’m just describing their enthusiasm.

I also realized Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. Do I mean he understands foreign policy or the ins and outs of his job? No. I mean that when he acts like a loose cannon, it’s very deliberate. He’s using negotiating skills he learned from multiplying a $1 million seed loan by 9,000. He is being the same aggressive businessman he has always been, and even if he’s a nasty guy on a personal level, his aggression is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It’s just good business.

Americans have a sick tendency to treat business contacts like family members. We talk about “offense” and “feelings.” That’s not healthy at all. Business is hardball. Attorneys use the term “arm’s length” to describe the way businesspeople treat each other. You try to do what’s right, and you avoid breaking the law, but other than that, you look after your own interest, and you expect the other party to look after his. This may not be a great strategy in the Christian world, in interpersonal dealings, but in secular business, it’s normal and correct.

Why is Trump offending foreign leaders and other poobahs who are used to being treated like snowflakes? Because unlike them, he’s a businessman. He has spent his life getting things done, not trying to get elected and collecting poorly disguisded bribes. Unlike government employees around the world (like Obama, who has never had a real job), Trump knows what it’s like to wake up in the morning and know that if he doesn’t hustle, he can lose everything he has and end up selling cars for a living.

Trump is hungry. Most government employees are not. They are parasites, and they’re used to failing upward. Naturally, they expect deference and butt-kissing. The people Trump deals with in business don’t expect that, and Trump probably doesn’t know how to do it anyway.

Trump is giving world leaders a lesson in growing up.

People say he’s going to start a war. Really? Did the Ayatollah Khomeini start a war when he kidnapped and held Americans for 444 days? Did Kim Jong-Il start a war when he violated international agreements and built nuclear weapons? It’s pretty hard to start a war. Even Hitler had to take over half of Europe to really get other countries off their duffs and into uniform. I seriously doubt Trump has the ability to start a war except by large-scale military action. Tweeting and making blunt (truthful) remarks in phone calls will not do it.

People say other countries will be less likely to cooperate with us and help us. Seriously? Like they help us now? Are we going to lose all the aid the Saudis send us? Are the Japanese going to stop funding our military? Are Mexicans going to stop sending us unvetted people they can’t feed? Trump understands something the rest of us have forgotten: we have a very powerful negotiating position. Suddenly, we’re using it, and Trump is the only one who isn’t upset.

This is how he got rich. He wasn’t born a billionaire. This isn’t a charm offensive, intended to butter up nations that don’t respect us and don’t do anything for us. It’s business. Trump isn’t doing anything new. He’s doing what he has done for fifty years, in a different office.

Trump won’t start a war, but he will get us better deals. He doesn’t care what rich people or selfish voting blocs think, because they didn’t do a thing for him, and they can’t give him orders. He will be motivated by egotism, the joy of the game, and a desire to make America more powerful. I never thought I’d see someone like that occupying the Oval Office.

Is this a good thing? I don’t think it matters. His policies, not his manners, are what will determine whether America prospers on his watch. Making stupid decisions politely will kill a country just as quickly as making stupid decisions rudely. Obama used to go on apology tours, criticizing America and bowing to sleazy tinpot leaders in silly nations that cause problems. It wasn’t helpful at all. We lost respect all over the world. He attacked business and caused a dramatic upturn in the pathological entitlement mentality of the unproductive and irresponsible. If the Fed hadn’t inflated our currency, we would still be in a recession, and we will eventually have to eat the bill for that inflation. We cannibalized ourselves. You can’t gain weight by eating your own flesh.

I hope Trump will make good decisions. He probably will, because he is dynamic and extremely capable. His big obstacle will be pride. If he can manage to change direction when needed, admitting error, he’ll be a great president. If not, well, at least he saved us from a socialist federal judiciary, and he slowed down America’s slide into all-out, open, state-sponsored persecution of Christians and Jews. I suppose our lives are worth something.

I don’t care if he offends people. He’s not a game show host. He’s a president. Obama offended me and my kind a thousand times. No one seems to think that matters. If leftists hate listening to Trump and living under his rule, all I can say is, welcome to my world. I got over it, and so will they.

America is a snowflake nation, and because we’re snowflakes, we can’t even see it. Electing Trump is like rolling a car window down while driving on a freezing day. The shock will do us good.

Some Giants are Just Windmills

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Or Just Windy

My efforts to complete the reading list for Columbia College’s Lit. Hum. course continue. I would almost call it a quest at this point, which is fitting, since I’m currently mired in Don Quixote.

Once again, I am having a hard time comprehending the enthusiasm scholars have for an ancient book. I started reading quite some time ago, and it has been so unpleasant, I only reached the hundredth page today. It reminds of of a joke I once read about a book a reader didn’t like. His review read, “I couldn’t pick it up.”

The cover of the book has two blurbs of praise on it. One comes from the author Vladimir Nabokov. I know I’ve read Lolita, because I remember a phrase from the book, but I must not have been very moved, because that phrase is nearly all I remember. Is Nabokov a good writer, or was he just a purveyor of lurid pulp novels? I don’t recall.

Here is what Nabokov says:

Don Quixote is greater today than he was in Cervantes’s womb. [He] looms so wonderfully above the skyline of literature, a gaunt giant on a lean nag, that the book lives and will live through [his] sheer vitality. . . . He stands for everything that is gentle, forlorn, pure, unselfish, and gallant. The parody has become a paragon.

Based on my hundred pages, that looks pretty crazy.

First of all, I can’t figure out how to make the quotation work with the brackets removed. Sometimes that can be a real puzzle. Try “than he was in Cervantes’s womb. looms so wonderfully…” It’s hard to see how that could make sense. Maybe Nabokov was drunk, and he dictated the blurb into a publisher’s answering machine.

Apart from that, it’s hard to see why anyone would call Don Quixote gentle or unselfish. He was a violent lunatic who went around hacking at innocent people with a sword. How can that be gentle? I don’t know if English was Nabokov’s first language. Maybe he misunderstood the word. He also forced Sancho Panza to share his misery and join in the beatings he received, paying him nothing in exchange. If that’s not selfish, then I need to look the word up and refresh my memory.

In my dim memories of Columbia, Don Quixote is a too-long and somewhat humorous book. I am sticking with “too long,” but I feel I must withdraw “humorous.” It’s not even slightly funny. DQ attacks a windmill, and it lifts him by his lance and drops him on the ground. Is that funny? I don’t think so. It was funny when Rabelais’ Frere Jean D’Entommeures used a cross as a battle weapon and shoved it up a man’s rear end, and it was funny when Gargantua’s horse drowned a bunch of pilgrims in urine. These things were gross and sophomoric, but they were funny. Falling off a windmill is not funny or even clever. It’s not even funny by Three Stooges standards.

Cervantes seems to have a few things going for him. He is intelligent, and he appears to be well-read. He can put a paragraph or a page together. But he’s not very creative, and his stories are pointless. They don’t have any connection to each other. One of the unwritten rules of fiction is that you don’t add anything that doesn’t serve a purpose. When you write an Archie comic book, you don’t have Jughead see a flying saucer on the second page and then never mention it again. DQ wanders from isolated adventure to isolated adventure, and once an event is behind him, it vanishes as though it had never been written. That’s not how novels are supposed to work.

It’s more like a Fifties TV series than a novel. One week, Lucy dresses up as a man so she can join Ricky’s band to see if he’s cheating on her. The next week, Fred is arrested in the ladies’ room of a major department store. One episode has no relationship to the next. DQ has the same kind of existence. He bounces around in Spain, like a chrome bearing in a pinball machine. He hits the windmill bumper and bounces off. He hits the Basque squire bumper and bounces off, minus one ear. I can’t wait for him to roll between the flippers and disappear.

I’m not impressed by Cervantes’ knowledge of old literature. Think about it…how many books did a man of his era have access to? You couldn’t log onto Amazon and have any of millions of titles installed on your tablet in thirty seconds. You had to read the classics and whatever crap had been written up to your time. OF COURSE he had read Virgil and Homer and all the books of chivalry. What else was there to read? If you had been alive back then, you would have read all of that stuff, too. How many books did you read last year? Probably more than Cervantes read in five years.

When I was at Columbia, I took the DQ course taught by a man I will call Dr. S; a scholar people referred to as a genius. Like many other students, I thought it was ridiculous, and I never saw the brilliance of the book or, quite honestly, of the man who taught the course. He’s dead, so I can say that. The course was a rite of passage and an easy B, so everybody took it. S never said anything I considered remotely smart, and I never developed the impression that Cervantes was a writer of real stature.

Not all of my professors were like that. I took an advanced French poetry course taught by a guy named Daniel Penham, and I thought he and the material were great. I kept the textbook and looked for other books by the same author (Morris Bishop). The class was small, all of the students sat around a single table, and Penham told us all sorts of interesting things about France, French, the poets, and so on. I’m not the problem here. If S’s class or Cervantes’ book had had the stuff, I believe I would have perceived it.

People I knew thought S was incoherent. Sure seemed that way to me. Maybe he was slipping by the time I took his course. They said he was being treated for cancer.

It looks like an emperor’s-clothes situation to me. If people say a writer is brilliant for five hundred years, it doesn’t matter whether they’re right. Anyone who disagrees will be sent to sit on the Group W bench. I will take my seat gladly if it means I don’t have to read any more Cervantes. Life is too short.

In the liberal arts, you don’t have to do much or be very smart to be considered brilliant. Memorizing a lot of things and learning a couple of languages will do it. It’s strange that liberal arts professors have big egos and consider themselves gifted, when they walk the same halls as physicists and mathematicians.

Liberal arts people are intellectuals. The thing people forget is that “intellectual” doesn’t mean “intelligent person.” It really means “academic” or “academic buff” in practice. It describes an insular group of people who read the same books and use the same argot to confirm each other’s borrowed perceptions and opinions. Intellectuals use a lot of big words, but that doesn’t mean they’re bright. It just means they’re clannish. Sailors use a lot of funny words, too, but no one thinks it proves they’re smart.

Okay, okay. I’ll go sit on the bench.

I feel like these books are cages. I committed to read them, so I can’t spend much time reading things I actually consider interesting. I’m working on Dark Sun, the follow-up to The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and I really want to read the Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie books I bought. Arrgh. I wish I had one of those Matrix plugs I could jam in the back of my head to get DQ into me in three seconds.

Don Quixote de la Mancha: If you are a gentleman, take up arms that I might engage you in mortal combat. If not, let me know, and I will send my cloth-eared squire to beat you with a stave.

Morpheus: How the hell did you get in here?

I’m glad there are people who dedicate their lives to studying and preserving this material, and I’m also glad there are people who dedicate their lives to embalming the dead and squeezing other people’s boils. I think that sums it up. Was the Vietnam War really so scary that it was worth it for men to bury themselves in this stuff in order to get deferments? How bad can land mines and punji sticks be?

Maybe I can force myself to sit down this week and knock this book off. Like the Abbe Faria, digging his way out of seclusion with a spoon, I could eventually tunnel my way back into the light. I suppose that’s the best option, since I can’t go back in time and pay Cervantes for his manuscript so I can burn it.

Enough for one day. I need to go weld something.


Friday, January 27th, 2017

My Worst Day on Earth was not Really That Bad

I used to be able to say I barely watched TV. That’s no longer true. I’m putting more hours into tube time. What I can say is that I barely watch bad TV.

I don’t watch the news. The world is manipulated by supernatural forces, so to me, watching the news and getting worked up about things is like watching a Punch and Judy show and getting mad at the puppets. If you focus on the clock’s face, you forget about the gears and springs that actually make it work.

I don’t watch sitcoms or other broadcast-TV shows. I only watch movies on TV, and I always look for classics first. There is a whole generation of movie and TV stars I barely know. I hear names like Ryan Gosling, Lea Michele, and Jared Leto, and they sound familiar, but I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup.

Signing up for Amazon Prime has opened up a new world of things I failed to catch the first time around. Over the last few days, I’ve binged on The Pacific, which was released in 2010. It’s a miniseries made by the Band of Brothers people, but obviously, it’s set somewhere else.

The series has been very entertaining, but it also makes me feel like my life has amounted to very little. I suppose that’s true! But generally, it doesn’t bother me. I never had much ambition anyway. Watching The Pacific sharpens the sensation somewhat. The men who served in that theatre went through things I would hesitate to inflict on Nazi death camp guards, and they did it for very little pay, to protect other people from invasion and servitude.

I’ve heard men talk about December 7, 1941. Typically, they tell stories of people who left high school and college classrooms immediately and enlisted in any branch of the service that would take them. I suppose I would have done the same thing. The shame of waiting to be drafted would have been impossible to face. But my draft-age years took place in a slot between Vietnam and Desert Storm. I registered, but since Vietnam, no one has been drafted, and when Desert Storm arrived, I was pretty old, and it was not a war that stimulated men from white-collar families to abandon their lives and enlist in droves.

If I understand things correctly, The Pacific is based on the books of marine privates Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge. Guadalcanal was Leckie’s first battle. Sledge had a heart murmur which delayed his enlistment, and he first fought at Peleliu, an important island where the Japanese had built an airstrip.

I read up on these battles a little. When the US landed on Guadalcanal, the Japanese hadn’t figured out how to defend an island. Their strategy was very stupid. They put their energy into stopping attackers at the beach. They sent lightly armed soldiers in human waves called “banzai charges,” straight into our guns. Guadalcanal was a terrible battle, but the Japanese died in piles, and they lost 15 times as many men as we did. By the time we got to Peleliu, the Japanese had adopted a strategy of building pillboxes and other fortifications inland, with tunnels connecting them, so Americans had to pursue them and dig them out like rats, opening themselves up to fire from guarded positions stocked with plenty of food and water. The kill ratio dropped sharply, and the Japanese continued using their brutal new tactics for the rest of the war.

The Pacific, created by the Saving Private Ryan/Band of Brothers team, features the same grisly realism audiences have come to expect from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. When violence erupts, the screen fills with flying limbs, brains, and blood. I don’t know if the actual battles were as gruesome as the TV series; one scene depicts a fight in which one in six marines died, and to watch, you would think the figure was more like one in two. But whatever the truth is, the young men who fought these battles had to run through small arms and artillery fire, with no protection, over and over. That’s something to think about. If I were in a mall, and a terrorist started shooting one pistol fifty yards away, I would want to find a door, fast. I can’t imagine running through a field with mortars exploding all around me, stepping over the intestines and severed heads of people I knew. How do you make yourself do things like that?

For some reason, America doesn’t seem to think about the Pacific war much. That’s odd, because the Japanese made the Nazis look like Sunday school teachers. They beheaded prisoners of war for fun, not just on the battlefield, but in their camps. They beat, tortured, and starved POW’s as a matter of policy. The atrocities they committed in China are among the vilest acts human beings have ever committed. They brought female slaves from Korea to Japan to serve as prostitutes for the military.

They hated surrender. On the island of Saipan, thousands of Japanese jumped off a cliff to avoid capture, and some jumped with babies in their arms. The astonishing brutality of the Japanese was a major reason for the decision to drop atomic bombs on civilians. It was believed that conquering the Japanese homeland would result in as many as a million pointless Allied casualties.

It’s strange that when we think of World War Two heroism, we generally think about Europe.

Americans shouldn’t forget where we came from, and how easy our lives are. In particular, the “snowflakes” who spend their days vilifying this country and complaining about things like being prohibited from baring their nipples in restaurants should have to learn about our past. They should know about the men and women who gave their lives to buy us the right to demand welfare checks and free contraceptives.

My life has been pretty easy compared to some. That doesn’t bother me at all. I hope my luck holds out until I die. I admire the people who sacrificed everything for me, but I’m not crazy enough to envy them.

I’m going to read the Leckie and Sledge books. Some of the other men featured in the show have also written books. I suppose I’ll read them, too.

If you have Amazon Prime, you might want to take a look at the series. I believe membership also includes Band of Brothers.

Find out what you missed. Be glad.

Orbiting in the Dunning-Kruger Cyclotron

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

It’s Unanimous: I am the Problem

If you’re wondering what’s a good way not to spend a Monday morning, I’ll give you an example: dealing with your dad’s doctor, when your dad has dementia and his doctor is also slipping.

My dad has a bunch of weight-related prescriptions, and because of his cognitive problems, I am now required to manage them for him. His doctor asked me to do it. My dad says we’re both crazy, because there is nothing wrong with him.

I have to put the pills in a special box once a week. The box has compartments, and each compartment is for a day and time of day. He gets his pills by mail, and they keep arriving late. His doctor prescribes once a year, and the mail pharmacy is supposed to send pills at regular intervals, but over and over, things arrive a long time after the last batch ran out.

His statin prescription ran out in December, and it took me about a week to get the doctor to phone a prescription in to a local pharmacy to fill in the gap.

Based on what I have experienced with nearly every other type of business in America, I just assumed that a prominent doctor at a major teaching hospital would have a mechanism for getting medication to his patients during the holidays. I guess that novel concept has not caught on locally. The doctor and key members of his staff went on vacation, all at once, and they didn’t forward patients to anyone in the interval.

I hope no one died.

I would think you would be likely to lose your most lucrative patients during a vacation, because the sickest ones would be most likely to die.

It went like this: I would call them. Whoever took the message would say they would get right on it. Nothing would happen. They would not call to explain. I would call again. They would explain why it was impossible to do anything. They would take another message, promising to do whatever could be done. Nothing would happen. They would not call to explain. I would call again…

The pharmacy called me today and said the doctor had failed to provide a “prior authorization,” whatever that is, so I had to call the doctor again. They said the doctor’s people would know exactly what to do (place your bets). I complained about the pill hiatus thing. They said the way to get the prescriptions to arrive on time was to order them about 15 business days before they needed to be in my dad’s (my) hands. Genius. The Nobel committee must hear about this.

I called his doctor, and I spoke to a woman who is in charge of prescriptions. She started saying she didn’t understand the prior authorization thing (bet lost), and when I told her the pharmacy lady had said she would know exactly what to do, she admitted she actually did know. Okay. Thanks for that (?). She tried to tell me the habitual delays were the pharmacy’s fault, because that was easier than doing her easy, 100% surprise-free job and fixing the problem. I pointed out that she could fix it by doing one of two things: a) shift the order dates back by 15 days, or b) have the doctor prescribe a few more pills than my dad needs. How obvious is that? She said she would talk to the doctor.

The doctor called later on. He is pushing 80, and he does not seem to understand things very well. He has a hard time listening. He prefers speaking. On top of that, he seems to have the physician ego. “I have an IQ of 120, and I got an A in Organic Chemistry, and I am rich, so be still while I deliver the word from on high.” He’s a nice enough guy, but I would guess he is not overly burdened with respect for my intellect.

He kept saying it would be an enormous task, keeping track of the dates of all his patients’ prescriptions. I did not know what to make of that. He has at least four people who work under him, and they have computers. One more relevant fact: they’re supposed to be experts at providing medical care. I think you can see where I’m going with this. It’s a simple job, it’s exactly the kind of thing people in their positions should be taking care of, they get paid a ton of money to do it, and they have technology which far exceeds the demands their work would place on it.

I gave up on making him understand that it was possible to write a prescription earlier instead of later. The learning curve was just too steep. I suggested he call a local pharmacy and order a small amount of each pill, and I would go pick it up. That way, there would be a supply of pills on reserve, and it would fill the gaps. Presumably, this would fix the problem permanently, because there is no issue with the amount of pills prescribed. The timing is what’s killing us. I can dump the manually obtained pills into the mail-order bottles when they arrive, and as far as the math goes, it will be exactly as if the doctor had started ordering pills sooner, except that if the prescriptions are ever discontinued, we will have a few pills left over.

Maybe I’ll take a handful of them and see if I can get my home blood pressure machine to throw an error.

He still didn’t get it. He kept saying the insurance company would not cooperate. He just assumed this was a deal breaker. I had to tell him we would pay for the pills ourselves.

It’s worth it. When a person has dementia, and their pills run out, it’s a major crisis. There is a lot of yelling and criticizing. Then you get to hear it again every day (at least once) until the pills come in, because the patient forgets. You get to call the doctor and be told it’s the pharmacy’s fault. You get to call the pharmacy and be told it’s the doctor’s fault. They all agree it’s partly your fault. You get to be put on hold a lot, because you’re not important. Important people wear scrubs.

I don’t care if the pills cost ten thousand dollars. I don’t care if I have to make fake pills using flour and food coloring. This WILL be done.

After I came up with this Einstein-level, Vizzini-boggling strategy, I had to give my dad the bad news: he was going to have to pay for some of his own pills. That was fun.

So far no one I’ve dealt with has taken even a tiny amount of responsibility, but all four have blamed me without hesitation. And they’re not even my pills! And I’m the only one who has done everything right.

I keep telling people I want the doctor to prescribe Xanax for my dad. So I can take it.

I was commenting on an Internet forum this weekend, and I said something that came as a revelation to me even as I was typing it: everyone I know is completely helpless. No one can turn a screw, change a tire, saw a piece of wood in half, get a prescription to arrive on time, connect anything to the Internet, put the batteries in the right way…you name it; they can’t do it. And unfortunately, they know I can. Because I have a special arcane method: I try.

Don’t tell anyone my secret. I’m thinking of patenting it.

I was talking to God about this, and I stopped myself short. I realized I was complaining about being more blessed than other people. It’s bad to be surrounded by people who can’t do a damned thing, but think how bad it would be to be one of them, always waiting for someone else to come and wipe up the mess.

I told God I was grateful to be a giver and lender instead of a taker and borrower. Not that I never take anything from people, but I’m glad I’m not part of the set of people who lose their minds when a breaker pops or some computer device has to be fixed (“TURN IT OFF AND ON. LOOK, SHUT UP. JUST DO IT”).”

It’s dangerous to start feeling essential, though. When you start believing other people are as helpless as they say they are, you will find they are happy to agree, and then you end up carrying everyone you know around on your back, like a mother possum lugging its young.

Here is some wisdom for you: when you choose to help people do things they say they can’t do for themselves, most of the time they will instantly feel entitled, and they will think there is nothing wrong with criticizing your charitable efforts as though you were being paid.

Here is some more wisdom: people who constantly ask you how to do things will not necessarily have any respect for your intelligence. People have almost no respect for me, but that doesn’t prevent them from asking me how to do things all the time. Figure that out if you can. I would point out the obvious inconsistency, but they wouldn’t respect me enough to think I was right.

I think everyone should hide away for a few days once in a while. Turn off the phone and pretend you’re dead. Then when you reappear, talk to people and find out how they solved their problems while you were gone. Sometimes you’ll find out they survived without you. If they ask where you were, just say you were “trapped near the inner circle of fault.”

I love Rip Torn.

Here is one of my favorite things to say: “They’ll get over it.” People try to burden you with their problems, or they try to manipulate you into doing things you shouldn’t have to do, and you choose not to comply. This upsets people. Say, “They’ll get over it.”

They do.

Not everything is your responsibility. The fact that someone else is upset by something you did or didn’t do is not necessarily important or even worthy of thought.

I remember having a drug addict come to me and demand help getting new housing. This person had refused treatment for years, she had lost her house, and she was about to lose her apartment. Like, the next day. She kept telling me she was going to be on the street, and this bad thing and that bad thing were going to happen to her unless someone gave her large amounts of money right away. I agreed completely! I said things like, “That’s probably right. That will be bad. What are you going to do?”

I don’t know if steam can actually come out of people’s ears, but I think I saw a little. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person on earth who responds to addicts rationally.

I can’t take that attitude with regard to a dementia sufferer’s medications, unfortunately.

We could look for a younger doctor who is more alert, but you know what they say about the devil you know and the devil you don’t. When a person hits 85, you don’t look for medical revolutionaries to turn his life upside-down and work miracles. You think about peace, comfort, safety, and a nice big TV.

I guess I feel better now. My dad has four different blood pressure pills. I have a blog.

What are the odds that the doctor will actually phone the pharmacy?

Think about something else, Steve. Think about something else.

Trump’s Russian Hookers

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Media Floundering Reaches new and Exciting Lows

I don’t watch the news any more, but I’m making an exception today. Donald Trump is having a press conference which will basically be a victory dance over the prone body of the mainstream media.

In 2016, someone put out a ridiculous “dossier” claiming Trump paid prostitutes to urinate on a mattress on which Barack and Michelle Obama had slept. Major media outlets have published the story. Some have merely referred to it. CNN’s take on the story is so benign it almost amounts to an endorsement. Now the entire world knows the story is a hoax, and I want to see what Trump says.

Hmm…he was blunt, but he didn’t obsess on the story. He said it might have come from our intelligence agencies, and that this would be a major “blot” on their records.

That was pretty restrained, considering the speaker.

Journalists are not smart people. We can’t seem to absorb that fact. In college, they major in makeup, plastic surgery, diction, and wardrobe. That’s about all they know. Among journalists, people like Megyn Kelly seem like geniuses simply because they went to law school. Why do we trust journalists?

Let me refer to my new buddy Michel Seigneur de Montaigne. He astutely pointed out that people credit things they see in print more than things they hear, and he questioned that mindset. He was right. Put someone’s words in a newspaper, and suddenly they seem like the voice of God. Put a dimwit on TV, and suddenly he seems like the oracle of Delphi.

I think we all remember how Wolf Blitzer did on Jeopardy.

Trump looks pretty good. He is relatively sedate, he is serious, and he seems to be taking his responsibilities seriously. I hope that continues, but even if he spends his whole presidency making childish tweets and calling people names, it will be worth it to have the sane federal judges he appoints.

You have to wonder what the press will try next. Prank phone calls? Toilet-papering the Rose Garden? Sending pizzas to the White House? The childishness and gullibility boggle the mind.

It’s going to be an entertaining four years.

Prisoner of the Sixteenth Century

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

I Want Out

I am not quite done reading the essays of Montaigne. I call him “Montaigne” instead of using his full name because it’s confusing, deciding what to write. “Michel Montaigne”? “Michel de Montaigne”? “Michel Seigneur de Montaigne”? I can’t deal with decisions like that. Anyway, I am working on the last part of the Montaigne assignments in Columbia University’s Lit. Hum. syllabus.

As you might have predicted after reading my other commentaries on this course, I am not terribly impressed by Montaigne. He seems like a fairly typical worldly liberal. He enjoys trolling people who believe in God, decency, and the obvious superiority of western civilization. I don’t need to open a moldy old book to hear that. I can turn on MSNBC.

One of the passages I was required to read is titled “On Cannibals.” In this essay, Montaigne writes about a Brazilian native he met. Predictably, Montaigne thinks savages like the Brazilian are not backward at all. Indeed, he suggests, we are the backward and uncivilized ones. Because, you know, we wear shoes and use soap and read.

Notice I didn’t put “savage” in quotation marks (not the first time I typed it). It’s a perfectly valid term. It’s not something to sniff at. Savages are savages. Their cultures are inferior. They don’t learn anything. They don’t accumulate knowledge or pass it on. A savage’s great-great-great-grandchildren can be expected to have lives just as hard and pointless as his own. When you’re a savage, you don’t solve problems and pass the solutions on. You pass the problems on. Your gift to your descendants is that they have to reinvent the wheel every time life gives them a challenge, and often, they will fail.

I don’t think Montaigne knew much about American Indians, because he died in 1592, a hundred years after Columbus landed in the Americas. Nonetheless, he felt qualified to say a lot about them.

Modern apologists for backward people like to pretend that only civilized people make war. That’s idiotic. Open an old National Geographic and look at the spears and shields. Primitive people are more warlike than the rest of us, because they have nothing better to do, because they are too stupid to write down history and be reminded how bad war is, and because they have less to lose. We worry about having our magnificent cities destroyed and our wealth consumed. That’s not a big concern when rebuilding your largest town takes three hours.

Read up on the Indians, and you will learn that they were heavily into war, slavery, and torture. People love to say the Indians could not be enslaved. All I can say is, “Read a book.” They were all about slavery.

Montaigne doesn’t fall into the trap of claiming Indians are sweet, gentle souls who spend their days dancing with unicorns. He admits they’re violent. He celebrates it.

Montaigne claims Indians ate their defeated enemies. He says they would take prisoners, feed and care for them, and then torture them as much as possible before eating their bodies. I don’t know if that’s true. He says the victims would sneer at their captors and taunt them, saying that when they were eaten, the victors would only be tasting their own ancestors, whom the defeated had eaten in years past.

He admires this behavior. I am not kidding.

It goes without saying that a life without elective war, torture, and cannibalism is superior. I don’t know how to prove it. It’s like proving good is better than bad. Some things are just obvious. I can tell Montaigne secretly felt the same way, because he made no effort to move to South America and get himself captured. He just liked posturing and trolling.

If he lived in America, right now he would be backpedaling on his promise to move to Canada.

Throughout history, swarms of human beings have done their best to escape crude societies and move to sophisticated ones. This was already true in the Sixteenth Century. That ought to tell Montaigne something.

You may say Montaigne was highly original in his views concerning savages. I doubt that. I’m willing to bet that two thousand years before he existed, there were educated Greeks spouting the same nonsense. The grass is always greener, and because that’s a fact based on immutable human nature, the grass has always BEEN greener. I don’t think originality is a good defense.

One of the things I’ve learned from reading the classics is that ideas we think were conceived recently are almost invariably ancient. You will see this in Montaigne’s own work. He cites the Greeks and Romans over and over.

Here’s something revealing. When westerners talk about their own history, they don’t hesitate to label their forebears as losers. We love putting them down. We say life used to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Here is the exact quote, from Thomas Hobbes:

Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

If our ancestors, who were a lot like Montaigne’s Indians, can be criticized as underdeveloped, why are primitive non-western people who live in our time exempt? If anything, they deserve more criticism, because they have been around as long as we have, and we have moved forward, and they haven’t.

I don’t buy into the “noble savage” myth. Give me peace, air conditioning, modern medicine, and the internal combustion engine, any time. Montaigne’s romantic notion was just as silly and untenable in his time as it is now.

People love to defend savages, saying they live in balance with nature and don’t harm the earth. I have a couple of responses to that.

1. The reason they don’t harm the earth is that their infant mortality rate is gargantuan. They don’t multiply fast enough to harm the earth.

2. Not harming the earth is not a legitimate measure of a person’s virtue. Who said it was?

Primitive people don’t harm the earth because it defeats them. Their babies die and fertilize it. The rest of us increase our numbers and make the earth fruitful, and a certain amount of pollution is an inevitable side effect. I like pollution more than I would like living in a society where a typical woman has five kids and raises one.

Today I’ve been reading “On Experience.” It’s a fun read, but it serves to discredit Montaigne to some extent. Much of the essay concerns Montaigne’s views on health and longevity. He advises people to give in to disease, in order to let it take its course and be over quickly. He says we would should yield to evil.

Montaigne had kidney stones all his life, and he died at the age of 59, from complications from tonsillitis. When someone gives you advice about health, you have to consider their track record. He didn’t do too well.

A long time ago, my mother used to read books by a lady named Adelle Davis. This woman held herself out as a health expert. She told people to eat certain foods in order to protect themselves. She said a person should eat three almonds every day, to ward off cancer.

Cancer is what killed Adelle Davis. I don’t read her books.

Montaigne wrote an essay about the Western custom of wearing clothes. I haven’t read it, but I feel like I can write an outline just by guessing. My bet: he’s against it. Why? Because he’s a troll, and because no one would bother taking the time to write an essay in favor of wearing clothes. People are already in favor of it.

Yes, I just took a look. He thinks wearing clothing is a nutty custom imposed on us by people who lack faith in our bodies’ natural ability to protect us from the elements.

How predictable can you be?

I have to wonder if modern educators like Montaigne simply because he agrees with a lot of their quaint, discredited notions. No. That could never happen.

People say Montaigne was humble, but I would say the opposite. I think he was conceited, because he had no regard for the wisdom of people who preceded him. Well, I suppose he would have had wisdom for the brilliant savages way upstream in his ancestral line. The naked ones who tortured unarmed captives to death and ate them, I mean. But he didn’t have much respect for the ones who built the western world.

Montaigne made himself out to be humble, but so did Socrates, and he had an ego the size of a planet. It’s sort of like Obama saying he’s not a socialist; obviously, he’s a socialist. He believes in forced redistribution of wealth. What you say you are doesn’t determine to what you are. It’s not great evidence.

The book isn’t too boring, and it provides an interesting look at sixteenth-century life. It shows you how educated people of Montaigne’s time thought, and it shows how familiar they were with the works of earlier thinkers. It’s worth reading (bits of it), but I wouldn’t go out and start a Montaigne cult after reading it. He’s not particularly wise.

After this comes Cervantes. Thankfully, the syllabus doesn’t require me to read the whole book. I think Cervantes was overrated, and I suspect he was included simply because Spanish literature isn’t as good as literature from other countries. I think he was a diversity pick. I don’t look forward to plodding through hundreds of pages of work by a man who may have been chosen not because of merit, but through affirmative action.

Could be worse. I could be going to an oncologist who got affirmative action. Or riding a space shuttle built by affirmative-action engineers.

Not what I would ever ride a space shuttle. To get me on your airline, you have to get your death risk down below 1%. That’s a rule I have.

I suppose I should have done all the reading for Lit. Hum. back when I was 19, but I see that I spared myself a lot of suffering, and I didn’t cheat myself out of a ton of useful learning. I don’t feel motivated to read a lot more of this stuff. I might read a few things, but not a whole lot.

I’m not a savage. That’s sufficient.

David Caruso and Julianna Margulies Called

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Want Their Career Strategies Back

I just read that Megyn Kelly is leaving Fox News. Actually, I’ve been reading about it for months, in the captions of clickbait ads. But now it comes from a slightly more reliable source: The New York Times.

It’s interesting. I think it’s a very bad move for her.

Megyn Kelly didn’t make Fox big. Fox made her big. Her political views are more in line with the Fox ethos than they are with the liberal culture at other networks, so she had an environment in which she could thrive. They gave her a lot of promotion, and she had viewers handed to her by inertia. People who watched the shows before and after her were likely to have the TV on when she came on the screen.

She’s good at what she does, and she’s a lot smarter than the communications majors and former models on the other networks, but she’s no Bill O’Reilly. People won’t tune in just to see her.

She has another problem: while she’s a little too liberal for Fox, she’s much too conservative for NBC. The organization will try to reject her like a transplanted arm. A lot of people there will want her to fail. Many will see her as a threat to NBC’s imaginary liberal moral superiority.

Other people have departed from Fox with big dreams or simply because they weren’t welcome any more. They don’t tend to do well. Kiran Chetry and Alisyn Camerota pretty much vanished. Andrea Tantaros is MIA. So is Gretchen Carlson. Generally, leaving Fox has been a lateral or downward move, from a career standpoint.

I think she will be considerably less prominent in January of 2018. No one can predict the future, but I think this is what will happen.

I believe this will be good for O’Reilly and Hannity. It will also be good for Shepard Smith, although he will probably leave Fox eventually. There is one less competitor in the pie-eating contest, so the rest will get more pie.

Is this good for Fox? Probably. Kelly had become a thorn in their sides, and she offended a lot of viewers. There is an unlimited reservoir of potential hosts out there, so if the Fox bigwigs choose well, they will be able to fill her slot in a way that improves the bottom line. Of course, these are the people who hired Rachel Marsden, so…

I don’t think much of the way she dealt with the Ailes kerfuffle. Sexual harassment is very bad, but the time to complain about it is before you praise the perpetrator to the skies and let him make you rich. Kelly gushed about Ailes after he allegedly harassed her, and then once he was on the canvas, she piled on with the rest. After that, her credibility is severely damaged.

My feeling is that her only hope of continued success is to pull a Huffington and pretend to have an overnight conversion to leftism. Liberals will support that; to them, honesty is a an outmoded, patriarchal, Eurocentric concept. They support Huffington even though she is clearly a tremendous, shameless liar. Kelly might be able to style herself as a heterosexual, attractive Rachel Maddow. I don’t think she’ll do well without some kind of repackaging.

I don’t watch the news any more, so maybe I shouldn’t comment. For all I know, for the last year, Kermit the Frog has been newsreading for Fox.

Interesting stuff, though.

Anyway, my prediction: bad for Kelly. Good for Fox. Good for other Fox heads.

Check back with me on January 3, 2018, to gloat or kiss my ring.

Quality is Quality

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Good Books Can be Produced Without TPS Reports

A reader sent me a link to a story in which one writer “Fisks” another. If you’re not familiar with Fisking, it means tearing someone’s work apart, line by line. The Fiskee is one Laurie Gough, who has been published somewhere or other and takes the position that self-publishers are losers and hacks. The Fisker is the host of Monsterhunternation.com. I do not know anything about this person. It’s probably not Laurie Gough’s boyfriend.

The Fisking itself is very, very long, so I didn’t read the whole thing, but I did read a lot of it, and I read Gough’s entire piece. I have to agree with the Fisker. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing, and a self-publisher imprint doesn’t mean a book is bad. On the other hand, it’s likely that most self-published work is even worse than most publisher-published work, simply because there is no one to hold the bad stuff back.

Not all self-publishers are inept. I think Ms. Gough forgets that there was a time when all authors were self-published. Moses didn’t have to deal with rejection slips. Neither did Homer. Many of the greatest works in history never went through the publication process during their author’s lives. Obviously, a publisher is not an absolute necessity when you want to create a work of real merit.

I don’t know for a fact, but I would be willing to bet a large pizza (cooked by someone else, because that phase of my life is over) that once the publishing industry was established, many of the authors we now revere got in the door by paying publishers.

She also forgets that we have modern authors who started out in post-Internet-creation self-publishing. I don’t know too much about The Martian, but it’s my understanding that it started out on the Internet. The movie version was very good. The author is stinking, filthy, reeking rich. The book and movie would not exist had he waited for a publisher to notice him.

We also have modern authors who did wonderful work without intending to be published at all. Anne Frank comes to mind. Highly reliable Internet rumors say that when her diary was submitted for publication after her death, it was rejected many times by editors. They almost protected us from that hack, Anne Frank!

I can’t agree with the snobby, elitist notion that self-publishing is only for losers. It’s not just wrong; it’s facially absurd. It’s like standing in an orange grove and denying the existence of fruit. It almost sounds like Ms. Hough is trying to set herself apart as a member of a distinct and superior class, simply because she has a publisher. That’s certainly easier than producing quality work and letting it speak for itself.

That being said, there is one very bad thing about self-publishing, and here it is: it’s harder to promote a self-published book. If you want your book to make money, you will almost certainly have to do radio and TV interviews, and to get those interviews, you want to be able to say you have a real publisher.

There are very, very good things about self-publishing. For one thing, if you self-publish, your book will exist. Existence is one of the main qualities a book needs. The book no one can buy anywhere is not a successful book in any meaningful way.

Another nice thing is that you can force your book into existence without help. You have control. You don’t have to beg anyone. You want to have a published book? Fine. Upload it now. Done.

If all you care about is expressing yourself, self-publishing is a great idea. You can write and publish fifty books a year if you’re up to it. The public won’t have to wait through a year-long process before each book appears. You can say anything you want. You won’t have to worry about editors killing your jokes by rewriting them or cutting out the parts of your work that are most important to you. Really, the only solid reason to insist on having a conventional publisher is a desire to make money.

The commenter said he would buy my work if I self-published again, but I think I’m self-publishing right now, so save your money! Anything made available to the public is published.

It’s very ugly for a person who got in the door to lob poop-bombs at all the people who haven’t made it yet, and given that Ms. Hough is not a highly admired author, it also creates opportunities for people to knock her off her high horse. If you really have to insult someone else’s work, you should be able to come up with names and specifics instead of issuing a mindless blanket condemnation of an entire class of writers.

A book is a book; published, not published, published by a publishing house, self-published…whatever. It doesn’t have to be publisher-published to be as legitimate as anything Ms. Hough will ever write. If you print one copy of your book and hide it under your bed, it’s still a real book, and its quality doesn’t depend on the opinions of publishers. Catch-22 was still a monumental achievement before Joseph Heller submitted it to publishers, and it was a monumental achievement while it was winning nothing but rejection slips.

If you feel like writing, write. If you feel like publishing, but you don’t care about fame and money, self-publish. What the hell. No one cares. Enjoy yourself.