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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?

I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.

Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.

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"The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson


"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin


"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton


"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan


"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken


"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt


"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley


"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss


"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon


"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon


"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon


"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and they love to chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
-- Socrates


"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook


"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook


"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr


"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion


"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson


"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition -- to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand


"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri


"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams


"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France


"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke


"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology; it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant


"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville


"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon, but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant


"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand


"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal


"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.


"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible, and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus


"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814


"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort, are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true, the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated. This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944


"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News


"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas


"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
-- Cicero


"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." -- François, duc de La Rochefoucauld


"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." -- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson


"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example." -- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower


"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance." --
H. W. Fowler


"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place." -- Kate Wilhelm


"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein


"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms


"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho


"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).


"Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well, that no one could find fault with it."
-- Lecture IX, John Henry Cardinal Newman


“Nothing is more common than for men to think that because they are familiar with words they understand the ideas they stand for.”
-- John Henry Cardinal Newman


"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison


"Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others."
-- Napolean I of France -- Napoleon I of France


"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.


"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.


"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128


"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)


"American life is a powerful solvent. It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native good will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism."
-- George Santayana, Character and Opinion in the United States, (1920)


"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days


"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs


"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign


"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden


"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
-- Batman



 

 
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit. He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.

The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cute panda. Don't you love pandas?

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And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world


[Blogroll now far below the sea line! Dive, dive, dive!]


You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Gary Farber! Jeez, the guy is practically a blogging legend, and I'm always surprised at the breadth of what he writes about.
-- PZ Meyers, Pharyngula


...Darn: I saw that Gary had commented on this thread, and thought: oh. my. god. Perfect storm. Unstoppable cannonball, immovable object. -- Hilzoy

...I think Gary Farber is a blogging god. -- P.Z. Myers, Pharyngula

...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow

‎"Gary Farber is a gentleman, a scholar and one of the gems of the blogosphere." -- Steve Hynd, Newshoggers.com

"Well argued, Gary. I hadn't seen anything that went into as much detail as I found in your blog." -- Gareth Porter

Gary Farber is your one-man internet as always, with posts on every article there is.
-- Fafnir

Guessing that Gary is ignorant of anything that has ever been written down is, in my experience, unwise.
Just saying.

-- Hilzoy

Gary Farber gets it right....
-- James Joyner, Outside The Beltway

Once again, an amazing and illuminating post.
-- Michael Bérubé, Crooked Timber

I read Amygdala...with regularity, as do all sensible websurfers.
-- Jim Henley, Unqualified Offerings

Okay, he is annoying, but he still posts a lot of good stuff.
-- Avedon Carol, The Sideshow

Amygdala - So much stuff it reminds Unqualified Offerings that UO sometimes thinks of Gary Farber as "the liberal Instapundit."
-- Jim Henley

...the thoughtful and highly intelligent Gary Farber... My first reaction was that I definitely need to appease Gary Farber of Amygdala, one of the geniuses of our age.
-- Brad deLong

Gary is a perceptive, intelligent, nice guy. Some of the stuff he comes up with is insightful, witty, and stimulating. And sometimes he manages to make me groan.
-- Charlie Stross

Gary Farber is a straight shooter.
-- John Cole, Balloon Juice

I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber


Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
-- Ogged

I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow

One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
-- oakhaus.com

One of my favorites....
-- Matt Welch

Favorite....
-- Virginia Postrel

Amygdala continues to have smart commentary on an incredible diversity of interesting links....
-- Judith Weiss

Amygdala has more interesting obscure links to more fascinating stuff that any other blog I read.
-- Judith Weiss, Kesher Talk

Gary's stuff is always good.
-- Meryl Yourish

...the level-headed Amygdala blog....
-- Geitner Simmons

The only trouble with reading Amygdala is that it makes me feel like such a slacker. That Man Farber's a linking, posting, commenting machine, I tell you!
-- John Robinson, Sore Eyes

...the all-knowing Gary Farber....
-- Edward Winkleman, Obsidian Wings

Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged

We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


GARY FARBER IS MY AROUSAL CENTER. -- Justin Slotman

Gary is certainly a non-idiotarian 'liberal'...
-- Perry deHaviland

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

Gary Farber's great Amygdala blog.
-- Dr. Frank

Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott

Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit

My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal

If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.

Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks

I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes

Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this?
-- Natalie Solent

You nailed it... nice job."
-- James Lileks

Gary Farber is a principled liberal....
-- Bill Quick, The Daily Pundit


Archives:
December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 December 2011 January 2013


Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
AlterNet
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
bjkeefe
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Chuckling
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
elementropy
Eschaton
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
Hullabaloo
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
Afro-Netizen
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Attackerman
Attempts
Balkinization
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Cato-at-liberty
Cogitamus
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Eschaton
Ezra Klein
Feministe
Glenn Greenwald
Governing.com: 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Hullabaloo
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Mightygodking
Newshoggers
Orcinus
Pam's House Blend
Pandagon
Paul Krugman
Pharyngula
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Shakesville
slacktivist
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
TAPPED
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
TPMCafe
U.S. Intellectual History
Unfogged
Unqualified Offerings
VetVoice
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
Pandagon
Pharyngula
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Snarkmarket
TAPped
TBogg
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alicublog
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fact-esque
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
jensscholz.com
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
sideshow
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
balkinization
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
Fact-esque
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
governmentality
hullabaloo
Lifehacker
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Macadamia
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Epicycle
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Demosthenes
Rittenhouse Review
Maxspeak
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
MadKane
Nathan Newman
Whiskeyfire
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Corrente
Rising Hegemon
NTodd
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Hullabaloo
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Frameshop
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People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost, Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry, Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny. It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out. And She of whom I must write someday.










Amygdala
 
Monday, March 13, 2006
 
FOR US, THE INEXPLICABLY SLOW. So I finally get around to going to the library, and I pick up an armload of books; I finally get to the recently rediscovered "first novel" of Robert Heinlein, For Us, The Living.

I knew plenty about it, and had been fully forewarned, but: jeebus, this is bad. Really really bad. Horribly, painfully, agonizingly, gongs ringing on your head, your teeth being drilled, being forced to listen to perky blonde partners of Regis Philbin chirp at you for hours, while Spider Robinson drones at you, and every inch of skin under your calluses itches madly but you cannot scratch, bad.

And I'm only on page 24.

But it's like any dreadful slush; homogenously bad from the first and second page. It will be, I expect, just as bad right to the end.

Oh, well. I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

(If you feel this post is a good place to hang your heartful explanation of how you've always hated Heinlein, be it his politics, his stories, his sexual politics, his fans, whatever, please don't, okay? Let's just pass on by that one; thanks.)

Charlie Wilson's War, and the rest of the nonfiction should less grating, though. And the DVDs of the History Channel's Race To The Moon. (All finished with From The Earth To The Moon, sigh; I want the next nine disks, all about the great exploration that took place from the Seventies through Nineties, goddamnit.)

Yes, meanwhile, much I could blog about, as always, but I still seem to be temporarily primarily in input mode; how about that water on Enceladus, though? Positively titanic. Y'know, the Space Science Institute is just a few blocks from here.

3/13/2006 08:43:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 15 comments

15 Comments:

I have almost all of Heinlein's books, and they're awful. I should know, I re-read them all the time. Just finished Citizen of the Galaxy a week ago, and before that I clenched my teeth and re-read Farnham's Freehold.

Just can't bring myself to read Stranger in a Strange Land for the dozenth time, but I suspect I will be doing so soon.

Note that this is not heartfelt, so escapes your injunction, I hope.

By Blogger double-plus-ungood, at Tuesday, March 14, 2006 1:09:00 PM  

aahh, but is it "heartful"? Heinlein would have appreciated the "hurtful/heartful" closeness -- although he probably would have infused both with groin matter (groan -- that ought to be a pun, even if it isn't!)

By Blogger peanutmatter, at Tuesday, March 14, 2006 8:35:00 PM  

the important question about any Heinlein novel is - do nipples go spung in it? (or was he still in his prudish phase?)

By Blogger Rebecca, at Tuesday, March 14, 2006 9:41:00 PM  

Yeah, I really did mean to write "heartfelt," but too late, now.

Finished it this morning. I'll be slightly more kind than I was initially, because it was indeed at least interesting to see how many of his basic ideas -- although he was very much still
an FDR/Upton Sinclair, EPIC, Social-Credit-pushing, Democratic libertarian liberal in it, and in fact, about 70% of the book deals with those sort of economic/political notions -- were there right at the start, down to all sorts of small bits, as well as large, all reused sooner or later (quite a bit wound up in Beyond This Horizon, though also in later books), down to people using the "refresher" and greeting each other with "may I do you a service?" (shorted to "service), but also including Coventry. It really is quite interesting to anyone interested in Heinlein, which is of course why I wanted to read it.

Quite amusing, though, that he doesn't have the first manned orbit of the moon take place until 2086, when the book is set.

No spunging nipples, but definitely not prudish; at least another 20% of the book is devoted to his advocacy of the foolishness and arbitrariness of various social notions, including sexual taboos; it's also really quite fiercely anti-fundamentalist religion, and specifically anti-Christian at points, down to mentioning wrongheaded notions about people being strung up on a "wooden frame." (The other 10%, loosely speaking, is technological futurism.)

Although the whole Social Credit economics notion is a good chunk of the book, and he has Fierello LaGuardia as a two-term President whom he clearly deeply admires, it's fascinating to see that in 1938 (when he wrote it), he was also specifically using the term "libertarian," and specifically has a "Libertarian Party" in his future (as well as a Conservative Party).

Although no spunging nipples, his approach to sex is essentially no different from that in Stranger In A Strange Land or Time Enough For Love, or any of the later, more explicit, work, with a major subthread being on the lack of need for monogamy or jealousy (although he reasonably sensibly doesn't simply have the character become magically free of sexual jealousy without reason or developmen -- insofar as there can be said to be character development at all in this essentially long lecture). It's also interesting to see that the same gratingly coy language about sex, and banter between male and female characters, that's still present right through the last books, and which I always took to be a product of his having grown up in Kansas, born in 1907, is right there at the start, too; if anything, it's worse then then ever, so one might charitably regard him as having ever-so-faintly improved on that as he aged, though he never significantly changed in clearly regarding that sort of language style as clever, witty, and sophisticated and attractive; oh, well, product of his times, I say charitably.

But, anyway, he never had a "prudish phase." His second marriage with Leslyn (not to be confused with either the long marriage with Virginia, or the otherwise-mysterious brief first marriage) was privately an "open" marriage, and as James describes in the afterword and is otherwise known, back in the Forties he did nude photography (including of Catherine deCamp), went to nudist colonies, etc.; the only "prudish phase" was that of Kay Tarrant at Street & Smith, and of Alice Dagliesh at Scribners, not his.

Anyway, I'm very glad to have read it, but, boy, it really is pretty painful, since it's just one long lecture, with almost no attempt at all at story or character or even an explanation for how the character got from a car accident into the body of a guy in 2086; there's a bit of handwaving about his consciousness having been mysteriously transferred, or some such, and it's then pretty much completely dropped from all mention. And, as I indicated, the dialogue is deeply painful. But as a bit of Heinlein history, if one is sufficiently interested -- and one would have to be quite a fan to be -- it's mildly fascinating.

Spider Robinson's intro is as annoying as any of his Heinlein worship is (to me); there's a line in the foreword about how "I avoid arguing with authorities; it's usually simpler to shoot them" (it's the second line, actually) that is the sort of pseudo-Lazarus Long that typifies why I hate Robinson on Heinlein: it's completely glib, and if you stop for even a microsecond to think about it, well, it blithely advocates murder for no better reason than sounding anti-authoritarian and smartass. Would Robinson really be at all casual about shooting "an authority"? Of course not. Would Lazarus Long? If we took him seriously, no, I think not even he would be serious; but he'd drop the line to sound somehow wise and superior, when he'd in fact simply be being idiotic for the sake of glibness. And Lazarus Long at least has the excuse of being fictional, and not having to be responsible; for Robinson to drop that sort of line for the sake of sounding like a smart-ass pale imitation of a not-very-believable character like long is something I simply find repellent, irresponsible, and stupid. It's an updated version of "yeah, shoot the pigs, man, right on!," but without the depth and thoughtfulness.

Non-sequituring, it was also fascinating to see that the notion of only letting veterans vote on whether to have a non-defensive war (on the grounds that they'd be far more likely to vote against aggressive war than those who wouldn't be fighting it -- the book's really also got quite an anti-war thread to it, although it's a minor part of the future history -- was also there, along with various other political notions. (And anyone who thinks Heinlein was a "fascist" would be hard-pressed indeed to derive much evidence for that from this book; emphatically so.)

The importance of tv to future communication and society was also clearly demonstrated, and there was a sort of proto-internet, although basically done with recorded television, voice recordings, and photostated text sent by tube, tv, and radio.

One of the most interesting parts was the emphasis on custom being divided between "private sphere" and "public sphere," and how everything in the "private sphere" -- essentially everything in your private life, your relationships, your habits, etc., being kept strictly private and nobody else's business unless you voluntarily made it so; a notion that is more attractive and timely than ever, and one not so greatly emphasised in his later works, though not contradicted, either, and there are hints here and there.

Anyway, there's no way it could have been published at the time, for a variety of reasons, including somewhat radical notions and also because it's so, well, bad, but I'm very glad that the single manuscript copy was found and published; it does provide a fascinating insight into the man's thinking.

By Blogger Gary Farber, at Wednesday, March 15, 2006 12:41:00 AM  

Oh, and Nehemiah Scudder has a non-small role in the past of that future; I again found myself oddly focused on Spider Robinson's reference to "Nehemiah Cheney," as I couldn't help wonder why focus on Cheney, not Bush -- Bush is far more overtly religious, of course, than Cheney, and is, after all, the #1; why focus your casual contempt on Cheney, and not G. W. Bush? -- and the irony that probably more contemporary Heinlein fans in the U.S. (Robinson being Canadian) voted for Bush/Cheney than their Democratic opponents; I found myself digressively wondering what Heinlein would say about Bush/Cheney; he'd be extremely contempuous and biting about the religiosity, clearly, but also doubtless like at least the rhetoric about freedom, but also perhaps cynical about bringing democracy by force to other nations -- though that last part seems hard to me to predict for sure. I suspect that were Heinlein still around for the 2000 and 2004 elections, that he'd have voted Libertarian, rather than vote for either Bush, Gore, or Kerry, but I think it's impossible to know for absolutely sure. (I also suspect he would have never been able to rationalize his notion of Naval service and honor with John Kerry's, but I also can't see that he'd have any respect for either G. W. Bush's or Richard Cheney's approach to military service, either; again, just guessing, though.)

By Blogger Gary Farber, at Wednesday, March 15, 2006 12:48:00 AM  

The thing I've never been able to tolerate about heinlein is his brash self-confidence: "THIS is the way things SHOULD and WILL happen, and nyone who thinks otherwise is an automatic jackass." Pfui. I've always infinitely preferred Poul Anderson, who -- given both his personality and his greater knowledge of history -- was well aware both of the danger of pride and of the fact that things usually turn out for the worst.

By Blogger bruce Moomaw, at Friday, March 17, 2006 7:23:00 AM  

"The thing I've never been able to tolerate about heinlein is his brash self-confidence: 'THIS is the way things SHOULD and WILL happen, and nyone who thinks otherwise is an automatic jackass.'"

Yeah, I think that's a perfectly fair criticism. He was a far smarter guy than many give him credit for, and the fact that he was actually relatively subtle about how astute many of his notions were (for instance, in applying network theory to revolutionary cells, back in the early Sixties, for the later Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; I doubt many readers understand just how insightful that was, and it's hardly the only sort of example of that level of applied knowledge in his work), but he was also obviously therefore made extremely arrogant about his opinions (I have all too much understanding from the inside as to how that sort of psychological dynamic can work from earliest childhood), and was an incredibly prickly guy (although also very given to private charity and niceness, at times, as in donating money and ideas to Phil Dick, hardly an ideological soulmate). But, then, hell, I famously personally witnessed how he treated Alexei Panshin (oh, god, please let me not be restarting that topic here because I just said that).

I actually met Poul far more times, though never for more than a handful of casual conversations, and he certainly was an awesomely good writer when he was at his best. Funny how he started a small dynasty with Astrid and Greg....

By Blogger Gary Farber, at Friday, March 17, 2006 1:19:00 PM  

Every time I reread the into to P.K. Dick's The Golden Man, I'm always touched in the intro at his assessment of Heinlein in return for Heinlein's kindness toward Dick when he needed help:

"Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him—one of the few true gentlemen in the world. I don't agree with any of the ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time, when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to him in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine looking man, very impressive and military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love."

For that alone, I'll keep reading Heinlein, no matter how hard I need to clench various body parts to do so.

By Blogger double-plus-ungood, at Friday, March 17, 2006 2:06:00 PM  

Heinlein's kindness toward Dick when he needed help

Dick wasn't the only one. I happened to pick up a Sturgeon the other day (looking for "And Now the News", which wasn't in this one, but what the hell, read it anyway) and he mentions in the intro to one story that he was in the thick of a writer's block at one point, dead out of money, and his furnace had just run out of oil in the dead of winter, when the mail came. There was a letter from Heinlein with ten (I think) great story ideas and a check for $200. This was in the early 1950s; that would be a couple thousand today at least.

I love Heinlein, he told good adventures and made worlds I like to go live in sometimes.

By Blogger Xan, at Friday, March 17, 2006 6:49:00 PM  

Yo, Gary! Have you by chance heard of a book by George Pendle called "Strange Angel?" It's a bio of JPL founder John Whiteside Parsons, but there are cameos by L. Ron Hubbard and, yes, Heinlein. Among other things, Parsons was a Satanist, as well as a firm believer in a kind of "free love." One wonders how much of his off-beat religion rubbed off on pals such as Heinlein.

By Blogger tikistitch, at Friday, March 17, 2006 10:10:00 PM  

"Have you by chance heard of a book by George Pendle called "Strange Angel?"

Yes, though not by chance. :-)

Though I've only read various reviews, and not the book itself.

"One wonders how much of his off-beat religion rubbed off on pals such as Heinlein."

I'm reasonably sure relatively little. Although Leslyn was apparently something of a practioner of the Craft, and had some background in Theosophy (or her mother did, I forget exactly), I've been told (and you can see hints of that in Heinlein's work), I also gather that his own interest was only intellectual and relatively distant.

My understanding is that while Heinlein wasn't total dismissive of Wicca, he wasn't himself at all a practioner or believer (although it's true that were he, he'd be sure to have been completely private about it). And Heinlein did have certain mystical streaks (I gather he had something of a belief in reincarnation stemming from childhood; again, there are some hints at this in the work), but mostly he was an anti-religious rationalist freethinker.

By Blogger Gary Farber, at Saturday, March 18, 2006 12:05:00 AM  

Though I've only read various reviews, and not the book itself.

If you're interested, send me a mailing address, and I'll send you my (slightly used) copy. Best to contact me at chibi (at) drizzle.com. I got it on remainder, but I think it's a rilly kewl book that more sf fans (and rocket scientist fans) might enjoy.

By Blogger tikistitch, at Saturday, March 18, 2006 9:02:00 AM  

I'm with you, Gary. As a novel, For Us the Living is dreadful. As Heinleiniana letting us know how long he'd been developing some of the ideas we saw later, it's pretty cool.

By Blogger Zed, at Sunday, March 19, 2006 4:08:00 PM  

I agree with you Gary: it is a tough read, hard work, badly written, but you recognize the seeds of later idea's. It is nicer to have read it than to read it :)

By Blogger dutchmarbel, at Sunday, March 19, 2006 4:12:00 PM  

LOL, Zed's comment was not there yet when I wrote mine so I cannot help the similarities

By Blogger dutchmarbel, at Sunday, March 19, 2006 4:13:00 PM  

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