On the Passing Scene VI

This is kinda stream of consciousness. Much like Augustine's Confessions.
  • It occurs to me, Niven knew what he was saying, when he said he wasn't qualified to write military fiction (thus making the Man-Kzin Wars a shared universe for other writers, who were). I hate to kick someone who's already being humble, but in a sense the Kzinti Lesson is an example of this. Why? Three words.


    See, it might make sense for the Kzinti to have been hampered by the Kzinti Lesson initially—"the monkeys believe they have no weapons but they keep blowing us up with their comms and exhaust"—but, since they are not actually retarded, they should, fairly early on, have simply said, "Screw it, whether they know it or not they're definitely armed", and then they would have moved their fleets to the shelter of various Kuiper-belt masses. Then they would proceed to bombard their targets without line-of-sight, the major weakness of all Kzinti Lesson "weapons".

    Apache helicopters do it all the time.

  • I don't think I mentioned it, but my felinoids' latest dental formula results in them having 23 teeth.

    Incidentally, in a short story I'm writing about their first contact with humans, one of the first orders their commander gives is to tell some of his ships to get a targeting lock on the human ship and then keep it covered, from behind something that'll give cover from fusion rocket exhaust. Just in case.

  • Another thing in that story RE: just in case, the leader of the human expedition (the only really military guy on their ship) forbids the scientists from telling the aliens the location of Earth. Because, he points out, you don't know they're not hostile.

    Seriously, why are people a bunch of idiots? All these SETI advocates and SF writers, just blithely announcing where Earth is? No, no, no. Forget the Cole Protocol, apparently we can't trust these noobs with a Facebook account. You never reveal your home address to someone you don't know!

    Please, Sagan, even 8-year-olds know that.

  • So Britain rated a Wii game based on Truth or Dare "appropriate for ages 12 and up." The only possible thought process would be assuming that "appropriate for" is identical with "of interest to".

    Again, this is so boneheadedly self-destructive I can't even Schadenfreud, and it's happening to English people.

  • And of course, endless numbers of people are saying "if you don't want your kids to play it, don't let them." Sigh. My usual response to the statement "if you don't like it don't watch it" is "it's not that much of a hassle to walk to the back of the bus or find a 'Colored' lunch-counter, but you all seem to think we can legislate morality there", but this is actually a different question.

    Namely, the ratings systems only exist so parents do not have to follow all forms of media as closely as people like me with no lives. Therefore, there's a problem whenever something gets passed with an incorrect rating. There actually are things kids shouldn't see until they're old enough, and since—in order to keep your all-holy machinery of capitalism running—the parents do not have time to vet all possible media their children might consume, there has to be a system, whether private and voluntary as in the US or state and mandatory as in the UK, to inform consumers as to media content. Passing things with ludicrous ratings, as in a game with Wii-mote spankings and stripping being passed with a "12 and up" rating, is just as bad as an error on a food's nutrition label; I hardly see how requests for more accurate labeling constitute calls for censorship.

  • Of course it comes from UbiSoft, but then, who's surprised? I've honestly hated that company since "Thirteen" named a weapon the "minigun" that turned out to be an SMG. Nota bene: This is a minigun. What you have there is more like an Uzi.

  • Which reminds me of an interesting point about a game where you actually do get a minigun. I refer of course to Halo. Or, basically, Metal Gear, as made by a sane person. The Spartan program is Les Enfants Terrible; both series are named after apocalyptic death machines; both protagonists are special forces and periodically have conversations with odd girls through cyborg implants. The "Cortana Moments" in Halo 3 are sorta like Rose in MGS2, except they're less annoying—also they're due to neural and psychological trauma, not Kojima's neurotic need to shoehorn in soap-operatic emoting.

    Also, Halo doesn't have the stupid preaching about nukes or nonsense like America and the Soviets being "friends" during World War II. Oh, and by the way, Kojima, the Cold War's problem wasn't that it split the world into two, it was that it united the world into two, when it had been two hundred.

  • I realized why I find Japanese raunchy comedy less disturbing than American. It's because of Japan's tradition of manzai comedy, the two man, "Abbot and Costello" approach where the angry guy (tsukkomi) reprimands the dumb guy (boke).

    See, in Japanese raunchy comedy, the pervert-character (say Adam Blade in Needless) is a type of boke, and others' reaction is the tsukkomi. It's funny in large part by asserting basic principles of decency, even if it's playing around with people who contravene them. That's a hell of a lot less creepy than, say, American Pie, which is an all boke, no tsukkomi type of act.

    In the immortal words of that one girl in Maho Sensei Negima, I want to tsukkomi the world.


Overeducated Illiterate

So I actually read Moorcock's essay "Epic Pooh", in which, get this, he says that Tolkien's narrative methods are "the prose of the nursery-room"—the title stems from a comparison of Lord of the Rings to Winnie-the-Pooh. Now, of course, he's right; but it's not because Tolkien, or any of the other writers Swampputz seeks thus to denigrate, is childish. It's because, unlike Marshprong, they speak English. Know what else is written in "the prose of the nursery-room", other than Pooh and Wind in the Willows and James Barry? Beowulf. Chaucer. Shakespeare. Swinburne. One is reminded of how Japanese pop has female singers using "boku" as a first-person pronoun and forming negatives with "-zu": it's called using your language's literary form.

What he appears to have mistaken for a lack of art is, in fact, simply being at variance with the particular, highly rarefied, artificial, and, yes, semi-Americanized literary tradition Fenwang himself was educated in—and being in continuity with the tradition of English letters. It is a sad reflection on the state of British education that Wetlandweddingtackle manages to make these highfalutin, elitist statements, rejecting the popular tradition of the English language at a blow—and then still postures as some kind of egalitarian. Here in America we have a word for that, it's called chutzpah.

But oh, it gets better. Quagmiredick then goes on to say this:
Like Chesterton, and other orthodox Christian writers who substituted faith for artistic rigour [Tolkien] sees the petit bourgeoisie, the honest artisans and peasants, as the bulwark against Chaos. These people are always sentimentalized in such fiction because traditionally, they are always the last to complain about any deficiencies in the social status quo.
Because, in Mireschlong's religion masquerading as politics, it is de fide, dogma, unquestionable, that Christians are the foes of social reform. Which is, of course, Bogjunk admitting he never read Chesterton, except perhaps for Father Brown (and that, not very closely). How about, say, this, from Ball and the Cross, about those self-same petit bourgeoisie?
M. Durand had stepped right up to [Dr. Lucifer] and was speaking.

He was speaking exactly as a French bourgeois speaks to the manager of a restaurant. That is, he spoke with rattling and breathless rapidity, but with no incoherence, and therefore with no emotion. It was a steady, monotonous vivacity, which came not seemingly from passion, but merely from the reason having been sent off at a gallop. He was saying something like this:

"You refuse me my half-bottle of Medoc, the drink the most wholesome and the most customary. You refuse me the company and obedience of my daughter, which Nature herself indicates. You refuse me the beef and mutton, without pretence that it is a fast of the Church. You now forbid me the promenade, a thing necessary to a person of my age. It is useless to tell me that you do all this by law. Law rests upon the social contract. If the citizen finds himself despoiled of such pleasures and powers as he would have had even in the savage state, the social contract is annulled."

"It's no good chattering away, Monsieur," said Hutton, for the Master was silent. "The place is covered with machine-guns. We've got to obey our orders, and so have you."

"The machinery is of the most perfect," assented Durand, somewhat irrelevantly; "worked by petroleum, I believe. I only ask you to admit that if such things fall below the comfort of barbarism, the social contract is annulled. It is a pretty little point of theory."

"Oh! I dare say," said Hutton.

Durand bowed quite civilly and withdrew.


from behind them all came a shriek as of something quite fresh and frightful.

Two of the three passages leading out of the hall were choked with blue smoke. Another instant and the hall was full of the fog of it, and red sparks began to swarm like scarlet bees.

"The place is on fire!" cried Quayle with a scream of indecent terror. "Oh, who can have done it? How can it have happened?"

A light had come into Turnbull's eyes. "How did the French Revolution happen?" he asked.

"Oh, how should I know!" wailed the other.

"Then I will tell you," said Turnbull; "it happened because some people fancied that a French grocer was as respectable as he looked."

Even as he spoke, as if by confirmation, old Mr. Durand re-entered the smoky room quite placidly, wiping the petroleum from his hands with a handkerchief. He had set fire to the building in accordance with the strict principles of the social contract.
Evergladetool betrays his ignorance of one important fact: Chesterton was a fan of the French Revolution, in which the petit bourgeoisie decided they'd been patient with the social status quo for just about long enough, thank you. Running throughout all of Chesterton's work is a less than half-joking desire to lynch the entire political and economic class of Britain, and disgust with the English petit bourgeoisie's patience. Nobody enamored of the social status quo could've written the poem—or marching song—that starts with the couplet, "In the city built upon slime and loam/they cry in their Parliament 'Who goes home?'"

Chesterton was actually far more moderate than Belloc, whose "The Rebel" is about murdering the rich, killing their horses, burning their cedar just for the smell, and cutting up their art, solely "For fear perhaps my little son/Should break his hands, as I have done."

I'm curious, are we actually sure Morasspud doesn't write all his books by dictation? Because I can see no evidence at all he can actually read, much less write, and there's a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

Then again, as Chesterton, Tolkien, and Belloc all knew, and as would come as a shock to Bottomlanddanglyparts, anarchy (to paraphrase Churchill) is just the most painful path between aristocracy and aristocracy. And all three of those gentlemen, being democrats, preferred not to have aristocracy.

Late Addendum: It occurs to me, Heathpenis praises several writers, like Rowling, who are in his own literary tradition rather than Tolkien's; he also derides Tolkien as escapist, and says Leiber, for instance, is not escapist and explores meaningful themes. If you needed any further evidence he is simply an illiterate partisan, look no further; Leiber's work is great but it may be safely characterized as "men's adventure stories" and that means "escapist" like a Hobbit-hole means comfort. What Riparianphallus actually means is, "is of the realist tradition and only copes with humdrum problems". What's interesting about it all is, everything he says against Tolkien was something the Roundheads said against the Cavaliers. And hey, what a coincidence, Tolkien is in the Catholic tradition too! So, hey, maybe what he really doesn't like about Tolkien is just that, unlike himself and Rowling (and Jonathan Swift), Tolkien is not a Puritan/Marxist/other form of revolutionary-esoteric-ideologue whose real purpose in life is destroying the English culture.

Suddenly his hostility to the idea of "Merrie England" is cast into sharp relief. Merrie England was the England from the Plantagenets to the Tudors, a country known for, of all things, dancing. Look at England now, after he and his ilk have had their way with it (literally). That is what Puritans, and he is fundamentally both a Puritan and of the Barons' party against the kings, do. His every "egalitarian" remark is far more reminiscent of the Lords', whose every remark about "equality" would be much more accurately rendered "peerage", than the sincere, rabble-rousing, and occasionally bloodthirsty populism of Tories like Johnson, who actually meant the people when they said it.

Suddenly I know why Deltaprick hates Chesterton. Chesterton, after all, summed up everything you need to know about him in one sentence, and had much more insight into anarchy than he ever will. It's from The Man Who Was Thursday.
The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all.


Morality Fail

So a gent over at Big Hollywood is talking about Tolkien, and why he's better than the nihilist vermin who follow Michael Moorcock's Brechtian Marxist narrative. That was actually in the essay, and it is, in fact, true—both Moorcock and China Mieville are actual Marxists, so they have to "deconstruct" heroism, for the class-war. Also they're Anglos, so they need to keep alive their myths about the evil Middle Ages and oppressive Catholic Church, so they don't feel bad about their ancestors having the worst human rights record in Western Europe until Germany edged them out in the World Wars, acquired almost solely through what they did to Catholics.

But what was fascinating was all these people in the comments defending George Martin's (admittedly not purely nihilist) garbage. One thing they all seemed to like was Martin's idea that "War is Hell", a nonsense lie that managed to turn the greatest soldiers in Europe into Vichy surrenderniks. It's also a convenient justification for war-crimes, used by people who aren't actually cut out to be soldiers (like Germans and most Englishmen)—actual soldiers (like Frenchmen and some Americans) can more accurately describe their attitude as "War is Monday". Not only is it routine, it's a hassle you'd much rather avoid except for an unavoidable necessity. Just like the beginning of the work-week.

Anyway, though, a bunch of the commenters were praising the "moral ambiguity" of Martin's garbage. Now, I'll admit I prefer "moral ambiguity" to Goodkind's "moral clarity", but moral ambiguity does not actually exist. "Moral dilemmas" are purely the domain of idiots, or, more often, are the rationalizations of those who are uncomfortable with the moral course of action.

The only legitimate cause for uncertainty regarding morality is uncertainty as to facts; once one has reasonable certainty as to the facts their moral significance is clear, at least to an intelligent person with a rightly-formed conscience. Now, of course, once you establish "what is wrong" in a given situation, there is a question of what is prudent to do about it, but that is not a moral dilemma.

For instance, it is simply unsupportable that Saddam Hussein should not, ideally, have been removed. But, whether any particular actor should remove him, at any particular time, and by what means, are all legitimate areas of disagreement. But not because of some apocryphal version of national sovereignty that, in essence, denies the common bond of humanity—"Are we the world's policeman?" sounds uncomfortably similar to Cain's question. The disagreement is legitimate merely because it may not be prudent for any particular nation to dislodge him.

De Romanicorum Physicalium 2

Thoughts upon SF.
  • Remember how I've been discussing my felinoids' teeth? I decided, their teeth all have two points, but they make up the same shape as a cat's teeth inside their mouths. Helps cats have an even number of points in their mouth.

    One slight difference is the felinoids' upper canines, which, rather than connecting to the incisor next to them, connect to the little bitty single-point premolar behind them. I don't actually know if domestic cats have it, if they do it's tiny, but pumas do.

  • So it turns out Iota Horologii has a gas-giant. It's currently known as "Iota Horologii b", but plainly, its real name is Threshold. Why? Because that's the gas giant Installation 04 orbits, in guess what star system?

    Incidentally, read up on the Epsilon Eridani system, and then watch the opening movie from Reach again. Yeah, that's right, that's not just some generic star system, that's actually Eps Eri, debris disk and everything. Hell yes, Bungie.

  • Remember the word "grok", in Stranger in a Strange Bed Land? Here:
    Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man.
    How very quaint. And here I thought the Greek word "noein", at least in its mystical connotations, pretty much covered all of that.

    But then, I don't labor under the quaint assumption that the mores and habits of Butler, Missouri constitute "Earthly assumptions". I almost want to say something nasty about the Latin Church, that sentence reveals such Occidentocentric bias!

  • I have opined before on the utterly provincial and outdated ideas SF usually brings to history, vis-a-vis the Middle Ages being an age of thought and discovery not equaled by any previous era and not equaled again for 200 years, but have I expended enough effort on SF neglecting whole swaths of the rest of the world? I mean, even in all those "Japan takes over the world" stories from the 80s, it's the semi-Westernized, de-fanged-by-treaty Japan. I'm not saying that sustained economic dominance would have them immediately reinstitute the Teikoku Rikugun, but it's pretty obvious none of the writers know enough about the Japanese even to speculate about what being a superpower would mean to them.

    I'll tell you this for free, Japanese SF writers don't shy away from the question. They usually get the wrong answer, mainly because SF writers are a deracinated breed at the best of times, and that culture's unusually hard for the deracinated to "get", but at least they know the question's there.

    Except the guy who wrote "Crest of the Stars"; he gets it wrong because he basically wrote "Springtime for Hitler: In Space".

  • So my mom's having her high-school English students read Martian Chronicles. Let me save you the trouble, she and my dad are happily married.

    Anyway, she also (I think just so there'd be two SF books assigned in English classes) is having them (a different class I think) read this YA thing called "Feed", which is about how chat/Twitter/etc. are making people stupid. Unfortunately the author's in no position to call anyone stupid.

    Aside from the fact no high-school kid would have the money to just jaunt up to the moon for the weekend, I don't care what year it is—oh and that moonflight seemed short to me, but then, I know a lunar transfer orbit is usually a Hohmann maneuver—most of those points about tech and society were raised before the Wall fell in the cyberpunk canon. Also, I don't care how brilliant you were told A Clockwork Orange is, using the slang in the narration violates Niven's 5th Law for Writers. Use the 1st-person if you must (I don't care for it, but it's your barbecue), but make sure our narrator is at least coherent.

    Oh, and "unit" may be the worst replacement for "dude" ever, even including "Comrade".

  • Orson Scott Card embarrassed himself about future slang, though. He said "tanj", in Known Space stories, is used like the F-word. Only, A) it's usually used like damn, and B) Belters are easy, so the F-word isn't profane to them. Bad luck is something everyone swears by, though, and "bad luck air-recycler" or "bad luck Fertility Board inspector" would actually be how you'd cuss at them in Korean (or you could use one of its many, many synonyms for the F-word). In Chinese they just say "death" whatever.

    Besides, the Belt politician who helps Luke Garner deal with Phssthpok swears in normal terms when he means it, rather than just for emphasis; but then again, he's old. I don't recall the younger Belters doing that.

  • My aliens have a unique manner of speech; their religion is a transcendental existential-theodicy, like Buddhism and Christianity, so they've purged a lot of the linguistic elements of their older purity-code religion. So instead of "thank you" they say "I appreciate", because the paradigm of obligations has changed—and they don't talk about luck, either. Instead, they say "may it go well" and give assurances of their prayers.

    The biggest one, though, is, they're a highly status-conscious militocracy, a lower-calorie substitute for a Proud Warrior Race™. But you know what word they practically never say? Honor. Nope. Instead, they say "dignity" (as in "A stain upon my ~"), "privilege" (as in "Serving you is a great ~"), and "chivalry" (as in "You will be spared, because you have fought with ~").


On the Passing Scene V

Oh what a surprise more random thoughts.
  • So I realized that, quite by accident, I have a Take That to Firefly in my book. The head of the aliens' psionics school is a member of the Blue Hand clan. I think I originally meant it as sorta like the O'Neill clan (the Red Hand of Erin); I hadn't seen Firefly at that point.

    You can bet, he'd never try and combine "telepath" and "brainwashed supersoldier", or let senators with classified knowledge tour facilities full of psions, and if he was going to assassinate people, he'd do it inconspicuously. He'd also never take any wooden nickels or eat things he finds on the ground, though, so he's obviously not a Firefly villain.

  • Macademy Wasshoi is pretty damn funny, though I could've done without the hard-gay angel. Disturbing. Nevertheless, Goth Loli archangel Gabriel for the win. And how the staff-lady says she must be a Dark Lord, because she lives at the bottom of a dungeon and, since she lacks a bull's head, she can't be a minotaur? Awesome.

    Also, the dog-eared maid girl is a barghest. Wowie. That's up there with my folklore nerd-ness.

  • There's a hilarious clip of one of Fox News' producers being "ambushed" by a guy from the left-wing blog Think Progress...and he proceeds to lecture the dude on the proper way to do an ambush interview. Whatever your opinions on Fox News, that was pretty damn epic. My dad compared it to "That's not a knife, this is a knife"; my own comparison was, imagine an aged martial arts master who gets jumped by ninjas, and, while throwing them around, keeps shouting things like "No, your hips should be lower! Your guard is full of holes! Stop watching my hands and watch me!"

    Still, though, come to think of it, Fox News employs the inventor of the ambush interview, Geraldo Rivera. Seems he's set up a dojo.

  • So it irked me, for some reason, that this one art page I saw had a 3d model of a rocket ship, and the artist said it was "retro", "like think the 40s or 50s". Uh, no, it's not. A rocket shaped like that isn't "retro" any more than a plane whose wings provide lift is "retro"; it's just realistic.

    I realized, Star Wars and especially Star Trek are to blame; Roddenberry actually forbade his ship designers to make the Enterprise look like a rocket-ship. But the Enterprise's mass isn't balanced, and its layout is bizarre. The ships in Star Wars, at least, are just misapplying naval tropes to the wrong environment; Star Trek's design principles are only comprehensible if you assume they knew space has different rules, but then ignored what those different rules are.

    Plus, coming up with nonsensoleum teleportation booths just because you're not imaginative enough to create stock landing and takeoff sequences for a lander, certainly didn't do SF any favors. Seriously, any tokusatsu show worth its salt could've done it!

  • Remember the Châmelot-Delvigne revolver I mentioned before? Yeah, turns out, its cartridge was kinda crap, only on par with .25 ACP. Apparently a new, stronger loading was introduced around 1890 (only a few years before the gun was replaced as a service revolver), but even that was only a quarter as strong as the .44-40 used by the Smith & Wesson No. 3, and a little over a third as strong as the Colt Peacemaker's .45.

    Still, though, even a weak round can be deadly; a lot of military rounds are actually underpowered by many civilian standards (though the main standard of civilian rifles is taking large game like elk, so that's probably not a fair comparison).

  • So another example of the insane graphics Reach has (other than that every leaf of the junipers and maple trees is rendered), is the Covenant barriers. You know, those purple things, I think there's usually three or four of them, that they lay down to provide cover?

    Go and damage one. Once the shiny purple paint comes off, do you know what it looks like? It looks like the reentry shielding on the Apollo 12, that's what it looks like. Look. It makes sense that a Covenant military device would be designed to dissipate large amounts of heat, though.


You Keep on Using that Word

So it's commonplace for people to describe SF writers like Heinlein and Pournelle as "fascist". It's hilarious; if you can think of anyone who is more opposite actual fascists than their brand of Goldwater conservatism, I'd love to know who it is.

See, the only parts of their worldview that mirror fascism, also mirror the views of the kind of person who calls them fascists. Between their egocentric view of foreign policy, their pseudo-scientific reductionism in sociology (with attendant free-love utopianism), and their belief in apocryphal population apocalypses: just swap in Keynes for Laffer and you've got a Democrat.

I did actually see one person who made something of a case for applying the term to Heinlein, that his stories often involve the naked will-worship also seen in the inter-war philosophies that spawned the Fascisti and Nazis. It's actually a good point, and quite true, but the problem is, that same amoral worship of the will as such, is pretty much endemic to the Post-Reformation West—it long predates Nietzsche, who's often blamed for its presence in the Nazis and sometimes the fascists (assuming the person doing the blaming knows they're not the same thing, which isn't common).

You find it throughout Romanticism, it's of the essence of Transcendentalism, it's found in the stupider republican writers on every continent; there's an element of it in the Great Awakening. Indeed, I suspect it can probably be traced to the Reformation—between Calvin's worship of God's will that damns or saves each soul before its birth, and Luther's worship of Man's will that, once it accepts salvation, can never after lose it, it's the will they were revering. Tolstoy even has a form of it, except in reverse: rather than saying all chosen actions are good, he says they're all bad (I wonder how many Orthodox monks just read Tolstoy and said, "Ho-hum, another quietist for the pile."). Still, he is denying any moral distinction between acts, trumped by the action or inaction of the will.

Basically, anyone who's calling Heinlein a fascist for that really has to call William Gibson one, too—after all, his characters dismantle the things that stand in the way of their will-to-power, don't they? Once having identified that as the fascistical element in Heinlein, a person capable of synthesizing their disparate items of knowledge would notice something. Namely, everything that informs whole swaths of modern culture is the same thing. How many discussions of morality, drugs or sex for instance, are simply cut off with the invocation of "two consenting adults"? Law, economics, "you don't like it, don't watch it": everything you hold most holy and sacred, whether right or left, red or blue, north or south, is held hostage that very same Wille zur Macht.

Forgive me, I read old books; but I was not aware "popular sovereignty" was supposed to mean "everyone is an unquestionable autocrat."


Happy Media

Essentially a random thoughts post, but mostly about film and TV.
  • So Big Hollywood's talking about the Oscar nominees, and, uh, 'parently, "Black Swan" just took an anime dream sequence and stretched it out to feature length. Complete with yuri scenes!

    Also, some idiot talking about The King's Speech was saying that a King of England is an inherently unsympathetic character. Not only did this idiot seem to think kings are rich (which hasn't been the case since the Reformation), but he also chants his tribal dogmas about not judging people by their ancestry (which isn't even how monarchies work). Leaving to one side that the current English dynasty's ancestry isn't prestigious at all—the Hanoverians were a bunch of halfwit German squires brought in because they'd take orders—the inherently Stalinist nature of all ideology, even classical liberalism, reared its ugly head. It's the same mentality that lets columnists jeer at Nicholas II, when they'd trip over themselves to heap praise on any other murder victim whose last days were marked by such saintly serenity (and whose worst flaw was being a bit of a ditz). But they can't do that; they have to hate him just for being a king. At the mere sight of a crown, they transform into Che Guevara, keeping their hatred alive and fanning it to paroxysms.

    What's really horrible is, their unintelligent, kneejerk demagoguery has forced me to defend the Hanoverian kings of England, a bad dynasty of a worse country.

  • On a related note, I've read four or five conservative columnists who say that Jeb Bush would be an excellent candidate, but they won't nominate him because they don't want to be founding any dynasties. Leaving to one side that it hasn't exactly stopped the Kennedies, and whether you think Jeb would be any good or not (or would have a chance), that's completely retarded. There's a name for the thought process involved—we have a good option but we can't follow it because of something irrational—and it's called a taboo. It's mostly associated with people who believe drowning can only be caused by witches.

  • Back on track, Star Driver has, I think, the best protagonist in anything. Despite his borderline harem situation, and his showy mannerisms, Takuto actually has reactions to girls other than "dumb horny monkey", but also manages to avoid Tenchi's "generic nice guy"-ness. I was not aware one could write a character that believable.

    Pro tip, watch it again after you get partway through, and it'll make a lot more sense.

  • So there's a series called "Houkago no Pleiades", which is a magical girl show...licensed by Subaru (which is the Japanese name for the Pleiades).

    Is that weird to anyone else?

  • The Pleiades is known as the Hard Flint Boys in Navajo; apparently anime is quite popular on the rez. So you gotta wonder, how do they—for whom incest is identical with Satanism—react to little-sister moe?

  • I recently watched the beginning of Johnny Mnemonic, which is apparently mainly enjoyed as a "So Bad It's Good"/"good-bad"/"differently good" movie. Is it just me, or is that opening scroll just about the most overwrought thing ever written? And the paragraph about the disease really breaks up the flow of ideas; it's just awful.

    Also, that "They'll negotiate, they're corporate", "So are the yakuza", exchange? Was that supposed to be meaningful? 'Cause the yakuza really will negotiate, they're downright reasonable as organized crime groups go.

    Have any of those Asian-American groups ever noticed the absolute grotesquery of Orientalism that is cyberpunk? 'Cause even in the books the bad movies are based on, that stuff is all over the place.

  • Another example of how William Gibson is a waste of space would be his essay on Singapore, "Disneyland with the Death Penalty". Basically, he's correct that Singapore is excessively controlled and organized, but then he goes too far. A lack of bohemianism or slums is not a bad thing, Gibson, and neither is the Kowloon slum of Hong Kong preferable to Singapore in any way.

    One suspects a false dichotomy is at work here: excess of order is bad, therefore I'll prefer anarchy and squalor. No, no, no. Failure can occur either by excess or by defect; too little order and control is just as bad as too much.

    I am continuously brought to tears by people's ignorance of the obvious.


Sur la Scène Passante

Things I've seen. Maybe that you people wouldn't believe? I don't know.
  • Apparently a Marine general, James Mattis, in Iraq, would say to the local leadership of whatever area his guys were deployed, "I come in peace. I didn’t bring artillery. But I’m pleading with you, with tears in my eyes: If you fuck with me, I’ll kill you all."

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is the single finest piece of discourse our species has ever produced. I didn't even excise the F-word: it's fundamental to the work, like the nudity in a Neoclassical painting. That is the summary of all rational defense policy, probably of all foreign policy period.

  • I occasionally refer to my attitude toward the fallacy-spewers who pass for our thinkers nowadays as contempt, but that's probably not the word. I found a more appropriate word in a Belloc book: disdain. I hold such idiots in disdain, not contempt, for their ideas a six-year-old could see through and the fact they know no more of basic facts than do the beasts that perish.

  • Tycho Brahe has occasionally inveighed against the mentioning of violent video games in connection with various crimes, and it's hard not to agree with him. Personally, though, I want the culture at large to see video games as a normal facet of behavior, so if a crime really does have a connection to games, we can talk about it.

    In my ideal world, you'd turn on the news and the murderer's former roommate would be saying, "Yeah, I knew that guy was messed up, 'cause he preferred harvesting the Little Sisters, in Bioshock, and he liked the Brutes better than the Elites."

  • How come people think it's a rational position to believe that war is inherently evil? 'Cause, see, eventually, everyone has to acknowledge that war is sometimes unavoidable. People who believe war is inherently evil—like, just off the top of my head, Marxists, Neo-Confucians, and various kinds of Anglophone Jingo—do far worse things when they're at war, because they believe the war itself is already evil.

    Not only does such a belief open one to rationalizations like "I'm already committing the evil of war, I might as well loot, rape, and massacre, too", but it also leads to the far worse idea, "Any evil we commit, if it shortens the war, is actually good." Read some quotes by William Tecumseh Sherman if you don't believe me.

  • Another example of "it's fine because it made the war shorter" consequentialism would be the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The issue is more complex than it's generally considered, since Japanese wartime manufacturing was largely a cottage industry (therefore it's very hard to distinguish "civilian" and "military" targets), but "it saved lots of lives on both sides" is not a legitimate argument. Cowing Chinese resistance by the atrocities at Nanking might've saved a lot of lives (and that verbal mood is called "irrealis" for a reason); that doesn't make it right.

    Personally, what I would've done with the nukes, is say, "On (whatever day, time), be observing (some uninhabited location where Japan could put military observers)." Then I'd nuke that, and say, "Surrender or your asses are next."

  • Know what's funny? When modern "pagans" say "If it harm none, do as thou wilt", they are actually paraphrasing a Christian poet, Rabelais. The Rule of the "Monastery" of Thelema is "'Do as thou wilt' shall be the whole of the law, but keep ye to honor." In plain English, "Do whatever you want, since we're presuming you were raised right."

    Which is fine for a monastery—made up of and freely entered by adults. Not so great as a basis for a society, and "metastable helium in the birthday balloons" level stupid in child-rearing. But Rabelais wasn't trying to set up a new religion anyway; he died at least as firmly in the Faith as Pascal did.

    Funny varmints, humans, that Rabelais and the borderline-Puritan Pascal are both not only the same religion, they're from the same country.

  • It makes sense for materialists to be individualist, of course—and as I mentioned, Marxist "dialectical materialism" actually isn't, it's actually naturalist Platonism. Anyway individualism is a form of philosophical atomism—it denies the reality of groups, and asserts that only the unit (one person) is real. Just because its atom is a bit larger doesn't actually make it any different from Lucretius.

    So, then, why do so many modern thinkers who rightly sneer at materialism, assert the doctrine of the atomized individual? As far as I can tell it's just from force of habit, coming from Protestant cultures.

    Sigh. I'm going to go over here and pretend anyone else is intellectually consistent.

  • Oh wait, Buddhism exists! So there's at least a few other intellectually consistent people. Buddha's doctrine of anatman, roughly similar to the Panta Rhei of Heraclitus, denies the reality of what we'd call Formal Parts, the permanent identity of things. It arises from the doctrine of metempsychosis. The Mahayana doctrine of advaita, Non-Duality, arose as a way out of the infinite regress all denial of Forms causes, by asserting that only the Dharmakaya, the Monad of the Platonists (and therefore also the Christian God), is real.

  • Did you know that that idea, a denial of permanent identity arising from the doctrine of metempsychosis, is shared by most of North India's thought? And did you know that it's why I became a Thomist?

    It's true. I was arguing with, I kid you not, a Hare Krishna, on the campus of Northern Arizona University. He was saying that you're not only reincarnated after you die, but continually inhabit different bodies, since your particles are always being traded out for new ones, in a little thing called "metabolism". I wished to assert that nevertheless there is a continuity of identity, and remembered Aquinas' definition of Transubstantiation. And the rest, as they say, is history.


Dark Fantasy

I think I might need to take a bit of a break from science fiction, at least in some aspect of my life. Maybe it's just because Kore wa Zombie Desuka is so brilliant I've lost my eyes, but I thought I'd give some thought to the creatures of the night.

So my dad was watching "Being Human", and, um...am I the only one who remembers when shows about vampires and werewolves involved things happening? I mean, when a Joss Whedon show is less talky and angsty than yours is, just...wow, really. It's weird, actually, because in my own books the vampires are actually animated by angst (well, by vaskania, resentment considered-as-a-pollution, AKA the Evil Eye). But they know, at least, that they're a calamitous existence—they are the curse they've laid on the world. They don't whine about being "turned", because they turned themselves—also they don't have "sires", so their society is a pure Social Contract, with none of the relations that exist even in the state of nature, like family.

Also, werewolves. What's with this Larry Talbot crap? That's not from any real legends! Real werewolves are either placed under a specific curse, or they deliberately took on the power themselves. I deny categorically that they or vampires were metaphors for sex in the first place; how much less, then, is it legitimate to have this heavy-handed "safe sex" metaphor?

Which reminds me, RE: werewolves and sex (I wouldn't Google that, no sirree), what's with them always being sluts, male or female? Um, wolves have a complex, but more-or-less monogamous, breeding structure. I know halfwit screenwriters think "animal=lusting all the time", but maybe a little basic knowledge of biology? How about have female werewolves completely lose their sex-drive, except during wolf mating-season? They're not were-bonobos!

Basically, you need to think about wolf instincts. I think the slutty werewolves are an error by the writers (I know White Wolf does this): they assume that a werewolf's "animal" nature means not being able to suppress human instincts. But why would it? I mean, admittedly, both humans and wolves being pack hunters, there's a lot of overlap, but among wolves, the alpha-female ensures that no non-dominant females get to breed, and none of the non-dominant males even try. Those are not hominid behaviors. They are human behaviors, interestingly—one could make a case that human couples are transitioning from silverback and harem to alpha pairs—but that's just more argument for werewolves not behaving at all like they're usually portrayed.

Not, of course, that they should act like the weird Pern-dragon "Impressing" thing, like in Twilight. There's a middle ground; in my book, for instance, werewolves just tend to be a bit clingy (as the vampire-hunting priest puts it, "instant ball and chain"). Even then, human reason trumps everything; the main werewolf character is pretty shy, to the point where his girlfriend's hobby is making him blush. Still, though, even then, his shyness, and indeed most of his personality, is wolfish; he's a sweet kid (the priest habitually calls him "puppy") but he has a little bit of a bullying streak, and he doesn't like to be pushed around by people he perceives as peers. Dogs, remember, are hierarchical.

As for vampires, why, why, why don't people understand that they're ghosts? The ones in legend don't really have any more personality than the things in The Grudge; even if you're going to give them more personality you're going to have to remember that they're only here at all because something horrible happened. To me it's kinda fun: every single bad guy in a dark fantasy book is a brooding, world-hating Legato Bluesummers, Gaara, Sephiroth, Kefka, Seymour (huh, kinda a theme with FF) type of villain. The hard part of villains, for me, is not "why are they opposed to the hero", but "why are they a villain in the first place"? That'll give you an idea of what they want, that'll naturally set them up to oppose your hero. Plus, "resentment is a physiological function for him, he has to hate like you have to breathe" is interesting from a worldbuilding perspective. Lots of people's "vampire politics" revolve around hunting territory, and certainly that'd be a factor, but it's even more interesting to come up with systems for vampires to cope with the fact "grudges" are basically what they are.

I have a scene in my second book where this little girl vampire explains that you have to kill enemy minions who cross you, because if you don't, your own men will remember it, and resent it, whenever you have to discipline them. During a fight with another (vastly worse) vampire, she points out: do not, whatever else you do, become the thing a vampire resents most. Basically, every vampire has to walk a delicate balance between acting out his resentments, and getting other vampires to resent him; one false step and he'll just be making his enemies stronger, since, again, resentment is to vampires what badassness is for the Gurren Dan.

A New Policy

I've decided not to waste another word on Objectivists; it's just unproductive and the source of much bitterness in an already basic (and yet also acid) personality.

In the words of the atheist Tycho Brahe, "these are the people Jesus was talking about". So all I'll say is, "Pray they wake up to how stupid they are."



Just a small sample of the incredulous noises I make upon discovering people who need a Reality Check bad. Thus do I refute thee!
  • So I came across a forum thread asking whether River in Firefly is a Mary Sue. And someone said, "I've come to hate the term Mary Sue, because most of the time it just means a female character who's good at something."

    Get off your high horse, buttercup, a Mary Sue is a female character who's good at everything. You know, like ridiculously badly-choreographed fight scenes where ballerinas knock around Adam Baldwin and bad guys from Judge Dredd? And compute astrophysics probabilities in their heads. And, oh yeah, read minds. Without a word of explanation.

    Certainly not all female characters who are good at things are Sues. Kat, for instance, in Reach: she's a SIGINT operative. And a sodding Spartan. But that's it, more-than-enough though it is (I still say her death makes no damn sense; she should've had a shield, or else they should've shown that glassing beams knock them down). Or Teela Brown, in Ringworld—a shallow hack like Whedon could never write a character like Teela, because to him, the Teela gene (psionic luck) looks like a Sue. Only, Niven having actual talent for something other than wisecracks and angst, he shows how being lucky all the time can actually suck—see also xxxHolic, and indeed every worldview that incorporates the idea of the Evil Eye.

    Every damn one of Whedon's female characters is a Sue. Inara is Sexy Sue, Kaylee is the Sue Next Door and Inventor Sue, Zoe (and Buffy) is Action Sue, and River is Action Sue combined with Wacky Sue (gah, what an ass-lancing word!) combined with Psychic Sue combined with Tortured Sue. Oddly enough, though River is so many different kinds of Sue, she's not the worst one; that'd be Kaylee. Understand that I've had a crush on Jewel Staite since Space Cases, and as a member of the Irish diaspora I hold a grudge against people who use the threat of rape as a weapon. Nevertheless, Whedon is so clumsy a writer that I cannot help but root for Jubal Early in "Objects in Space": that makes those "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads (that managed to make Microsoft look like an underdog) look like evil mastermind propaganda; they rock that Victor von Doom-in-Latveria shit by comparison.

  • So Objectivists, in yet another example of their being born slaves, hold that force is intrinsically evil, only to be used in self-defense—but once it's called for, anything goes. As Rand said, "Morality ends where the gun begins"; see also Terry Goodkind's gleeful depiction of slaughtering pacifists. This is not the attitude of people with a mature attitude toward force: it is the attitude of moral and physical cowards. Also, when debating Objectivists on the Internet, don't be surprised if they at some point say something like "try and make me". It's the fundamental war-cry of all little bitches who talk a big game in cyberspace but submissively urinate at the first raised voice in person.

    But what gets me is the hypocrisy of it. Basically, Objectivists know they're contemptible little weaklings; but, their whole movement being predicated on monstrous egotism—they actually believe humility, even merely being able to laugh at yourself, is evil—they can't be ashamed of it, like actual humans. So they rule that force, the form of power they lack, is immoral. Uh, gee, isn't that exactly how Rand describes Socialists' attitudes toward property? "I don't have that power you have, therefore that power is bad and off-limits". If it was wealth and not "ability to use force", you'd be the first to talk about envy being an invalid basis for morals. Also, there's far less element of chance in the ability to fight than in commercial success.

  • Not really a reality check but something interesting, not only might Objectivists and Marxists be described as atheist (and retarded, especially in the former case) versions of Aristotelianism and Platonism, respectively, but they're also the atheist versions of Calvinism and Lutheranism. Basically Objectivists believe that they are the Elect; I dare anyone to find a single policy position the Objectivists don't share with Oliver Cromwell, other than that he had sense enough to oppose adultery, abortion, and pornography. Ditto Marx: the Marxist theory of morals vis-a-vis the class war can be summed up as, "Sin, and sin boldly, but only have faith in the coming worker's paradise and it shall be forgiven you." Luther was a Platonist, come to think of it, and unremittingly hostile to Aquinas (he was an Augustinian, and they never forgave the Doctor for dethroning Augustine).

  • So apparently it's supposed to be very racist and horrible, that Philip Sheridan put a bounty on buffaloes, to thin out the herds and force the Indians to be dependent on government rations, for which they had to stay on their reservations. Only, the Indians in question were the Sioux and the Comanche, or, in other words, Land Vikings and fricking Orcs.

    See, the incredibly horrible things the Comanche did to captives, especially women and children, were a calculated, asymmetrical-tactics terror campaign. And Sheridan showed admirable restraint, in that his only response was to attack their supply lines—basically the hunter-gatherer equivalent of an embargo. Know what Romanians or Balkan Slavs would've done to them? Hint, it involves red-hot crowns and thrones, and various imaginative uses of sharpened stakes. Yeah, an embargo sucks for the noncombatants, but maybe they shouldn't have based their whole economy on armed robbery aggravated by gang-rape and torture.

    To be fair to the Sioux, their occasional forays into war-rape and infanticide were, apparently, mostly due to poor discipline; when there were old men around, the young men usually behaved themselves. They were at their worst during the Dakota War of 1864, and starving people's discipline isn't generally tip-top. That's not the case for the Comanche; raping and torturing captives was a part of their discipline—indeed, it wasn't even "enhanced interrogation", it was the Army Field Handbook.

  • So I got Orson Scott Card's book about writing SF and fantasy. Oddly, I don't really like the things he writes, but he writes very well about writing. "Those who can't do, teach", maybe? It is very nice for him that he's won both the Hugo and Nebula twice, though—and being a Mormon and dealing with SF fans has gotta take cojones made from General Products hull.

    But in that book he says that H. G. Wells was more serious about his uses of science than Jules Verne. That is the exact opposite of the truth, it is a message from a mirror universe. Presumably one where Verne is clean-shaven.

    Late addendum: he also says Verne never seems to see a downside to technological progress. Or, alternatively, he simply chose not to write about it (indeed, he rewrote several of his early stories to have happy endings—"irrational optimism" is considered redundant in France, after all). Do you really think someone whose country shares a border with Germany can't see a downside to tech? That's very, very cute. Also, Nemo and Robur the Conqueror are crazy terrorists, I think that's a downside.

  • Finally, and just in general: any argument you make about the early Church, that does not take into account that the first part of the New Testament committed to writing was the Epistles of Paul, is automatically void. The order they go in the book is not chronological, and the Gospels were basically written as "here's more detail on Jesus who Paul preaches".


On the Passing Scene IV

Ah Mr. Sowell, thanks again for the title.
  • So, seriously, what's with people who mention "the peasants" in connection with the French Revolution? The Revolution happened because the reforms being passed by the États Généraux gave the right to vote to clergy, nobles, and peasants—but specifically not to urban professionals. Like Marat and Danton and Robespierre and St. Just and the rest of them.

    See, the reforms were predicated on the idea that the most important type of property—the kind that determines one's role in the state—was land. It was already becoming industrial and intellectual capital, hence the urban professionals' anger.

  • Speaking of crap you don't know about French Liberalism, Rousseau, in Contrat Social, says, "The society can only function where all possess, and none possess too much." What's funny to me is, both left- and right-wing people, being apparently totally illiterate, interpret that as meaning he was advocating redistributionist policies. Never mind that it's blatantly obvious, at least if you can spell Rousseau on your first try, that he'd consider the state presuming the right to distribute private citizens' wealth to other citizens as rendering the contract void—"the state screws you to benefit others" is pretty much his definition of "breech of social contract".

    What Rousseau was saying was, both the destitute and the super-rich have no stake in society—the destitute because they have nothing to lose, and the super-rich because they can buy everything they'd want, even in the state of nature, without the contract's protections. Is anyone really concerned to deny this?

  • So apparently it's common for anime fans, or at least people who write about anime, to like Yoko Kanno and dislike Yuki Kajiura. Only, what? Yoko Kanno is just the same BS experimentalism I can get from anyone doing music here; Yuki Kajiura not only, y' know, sounds Japanese, she has a recognizable style. I'm sorry if music that merely sounds appropriate to fantasy settings, with sweeping grandeur and a vaguely mystical choral sound, offends you; maybe you'd like more children singing in made-up languages that sound sort of like French? Oh, and Middle Eastern cultural appropriation! That's cool too.

    Some of the actual jazz in BeBop is okay, but otherwise, Yoko Kanno is the second worst Yoko ever involved in music. And you know who the first one is.

  • So if you needed any further evidence that Paul Verhoeven is absolutely worthless—in every aspect of his life, probably, but as a filmmaker certainly—you couldn't do much better than noticing what's missing from Starship Troopers. Namely, powered armor. Not just powered armor, actually, as the term is currently used, but mecha. I have heard that Verhoeven did not, in fact, read the book. Anyone who thinks Starship Troopers is the Heinlein book that deserves to be mocked—rather than, say, For Us the Living or Stranger in a Strange Land—ought to be fitted with a brass collar and made the slave he was born to be. Plus, Dutch people don't get to disapprove of American militarism. I think it would be an appropriate punishment if Verhoeven was forced to live under the laws and mores of the freaking Nazis who'd still be ruling his country if not for American militarism.

    Also, Robocop: again, Verhoeven, in order to satirize something you have to actually have a passing acquaintance with it. And I can see no evidence that you have any acquaintance with any of the aspects of American society you claim Robocop is a satire of. More to the point, though your attempt in that regard was a failure, American society can be satirized. Dutch society? Please, it's like mocking a clown.

  • Boy, this is a mean one, huh? Hm. Something positive...something positive...oh, how 'bout this? Know what part of the British Empire/Commonwealth has the most Victoria Cross recipients? To the point where, upon discovering their opposition would be troops from this country, the SS—not just normal German soldiers but the honest-to-God Schutzstaffel—had trouble with desertion?

    Canada. Just another example of how the popular image of a people may not be correct.

  • Or how about this? Know what country has the longest reigning sovereign in history? It's not the one you're thinking of, whatever it is. The answer is, Hungary. Why? Because in the Hungarian monarchy, the Holy Crown of St. Stephen is the sovereign, and the monarch is merely the representative of the nation, before the divine power the crown represents. It ruled from c. 1000 to...probably the crowning of Maria Theresa's idiot son Joseph as Holy Roman Emperor.

    A lot of people writing about the Doctrine of the Holy Crown contrast it with the medieval conception of kingship to the disadvantage of the latter, but if you actually read medieval writings on kingship, for instance Aquinas' "On Kingship", the concepts are fundamentally the same. The only real superiority of the Holy Crown idea is it's much harder to muddy up with feudalism (the holdover from the Dark Ages) or absolutism (the resurrected concept from ancient Rome).

    Of course, if you actually think anyone in the Middle Ages believed in the Divine Right of Kings, you lose the right to talk anymore.

  • So Ayn Rand is an "Aristotelian"—you always have to use the quotes, though, because she had about as much regard for real Aristotelianism as Cromwell had for the English monarchy. But you know something? Marx is a Platonist. A much better Platonist than Rand is an Aristotelian, not that that's much of a challenge.

    Marxist philosophy is "dialectical materialism", but that's a misnomer; it's not materialist as we usually mean the word (just as Dvaita Hinduism is not dualism as we usually mean the word). It's "materialist" only to the extent it restricts itself to material explanations, just like Objectivists, Stoics, Neo-Confucians, and most Existentialists do. A more accurate name for Marxist philosophy would be "naturalist Platonism", forgetting for the moment that restricting "natural" to mean "physical" means you're an idiot.

    Marxism is fundamentally Platonist in being hyperrealism: hence, class. The individual, in Marxist thought, is merely an imperfect reflection of his class-traits. Know what you get when you combine hyperrealism with an esoteric liberation narrative, which Marxism emphatically is? Neo-Platonism. Or Marxism.

    Marxism, being hyperrealist, is much better Platonism than Objectivism is Aristotle, because Rand seems to think you can avoid making a form-matter distinction. If a philosopher is not a mitigated realist, though, what right do they have to claim to be a follower of Aristotle? None whatsoever, that's what.

    Also, anyone who's ever talked to or read Objectivists in any quantity (my sympathies) can tell you, they're far more Gnostic—preening that they're in an inner circle, morally and intellectually superior to the uninitiated, to whom they owe no duty of compassion or aid—than any Marxist, even a Stalinist. Hence Rand's appeal to high school kids, shared with every other kind of Gnostic.

  • Talk of Gnostics reminds me, you know the Cathars? Whole bunches of idiots try and show that the Albigensian Crusade was so terrible; as if the Cathars weren't a psychotic, world-destroying death cult. Americans think the Civil War was justified? Slavery was nothing on the Cathars.

    Imagine, if you will, that most of the legislature of some state—Alaska or California, pick whichever one you hate more—had adopted some kooky religion wherein marriage and childbearing would be completely illegal, and all contracts would be rendered void. Also giving food to beggars would be a crime, unless they were themselves members of that religion. Oh, and then that religion conspires to poison a federal agent. Do you really think there wouldn't be a war?

    That's the Cathars, folks.

  • Late Addendum: So to end on a positive note, for real this time, how the hell did I forget Gosick, when I was talking about this season's anime? Leaving to one side that it is a physical impossibility that people in a Mediterranean republic would be even slightly unacquainted with black hair and eyes, it's awesome. Most specifically, Art Nouveau opening credits for the win.


On Fictitious Equipage

So I was thinking about the gear in SF books, and how monumentally lame a lot of it is. Why don't people do more work on that? Firefly's an egregious offender, in that every single property either looks like something from the 1880s, or from the late 1990s—though I'd expect the guns to look more like the Kalashnikov, wouldn't you, given their social structure?

  • So remember when I said the assault rifles in my setting might use the "blowback-shifted pulse" system of the AN-94? Turns out, no, they probably wouldn't; the AN-94 is only issued to the elite of the elite, because it's a monster to maintain and clean. That's pretty much anathema to the Kalashnikov design philosophy ("a gun even a semi-illiterate, oft-brutalized conscript can use, even if his monstrously incompetent, irretrievably corrupt superiors skimp on his training").

    But there's hope: the Balanced Automatic Recoil System of the AK-107. Basically it has a second gas piston, that goes forward when the other goes back, and balances out the recoil and muzzle jump. It was developed by a guy named Alexandrov (whose name is the A in AK-107, instead of Avtomat), but originally conceived by a gent named Tkachev (a Georgian, I think, since even Slavs don't think T and K can go together like that).

    Maybe the Marines in my setting will use Blowback-Shifted Pulse in their Stoner-type rifles. It's a bit more in line with the AR-series philosophy ("even if you are a conscript, like in Nam, you're a citizen, and you damn well better know what you're doing").

  • I might have to rewrite something. Before, the humans in my book sometimes used bullets made of crystallized tranquilizer, à la the "mercy bullets" in Niven; the aliens used what were essentially paintballs full of contact-vector tranquilizer. So, yeah, you had to load differently depending on whether you were fighting an alien, or your own species.

    But that was before I found out about Leyden balls. Basically, it's a little spherical Leyden bottle shot out of a gun by compressed air (a system like this). So I think now, both species are going to use special electric-stunner rounds; the two species are roughly the same size, so one wouldn't need drastically different loads.

    Incidentally, isn't Verne awesome? Tiny round Leyden bottles fired from a Girandoni air rifle: that's what I want in science fiction, dammit! It's probably easy to read too much into the fact that hard science fiction was invented by a French Catholic, and soft science fiction by a British atheist—who was also a eugenicist socialist—but it's still fun to point out.

  • So leaving to one side that everything Transhuman SF is based on is logically impossible—between "Post-Scarcity" and AI, they live in a fantasy world—they seem to be unacquainted with people. More-so than usual for SF fans/writers, I mean, and that's already a hole with no bottom.

    Do they really think, for instance, that it's more likely that people will get phones and computers surgically implanted, than that everyone will simply carry around handhelds? I mean, sure, a 24th-century Pacemaker is probably going to be a nanomachine injection, but absent need, will people really get surgical implants? Put aside your fetishes—yeah, I've seen Sorayama's "Gynoid" pinups too, thanks—and answer honestly. The answer of course is no, not when they could get all the same functionality from a cheaper, more convenient, and more replaceable cell phone.

  • So is it weird, that one of the Japanese spies in my book, being a woman, carries around several lipstick-weapons? One is the KGB lipstick-gun from Metal Gear Solid 3 (which I believe is real); another is the polymer-lipstick from Kiddy Grade, though she only uses it for garrotes, not a full-length whip. It's cute and girly, without being bizarre, and it makes sense for a spy.

    Actually the gunrunner's wife (who's also a gunrunner, actually) carries one of those lipstick guns...and a belt-buckle gun...and maybe guns in her heels, like Bayonetta (and Ray, from GunXSword). Because, you know, why not? She also has a shotgun taped to the underside of her kitchen table, but loaded with 10-gauge grenades. It's really just not a good idea to mess with gunrunners.

  • Thought of 10-gauge grenades reminds me, the Hague Convention is going to go by the wayside in the future. Its ban on hollow-points was stupid anyway—the stats say hollow-points are less lethal, not more, since they only leave entry wounds, and the main way you die from a gunshot is bleeding out. Besides, low-caliber spitzer bullets are better against body armor, and if they tumble in tissue, like 5.56 NATO does, they're actually more traumatic than the average hollow-point.

    That to one side, though, that ban on explosives under 400 grams—which actually was in the older St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868, but it's usually discussed under the heading of the Hague Convention—is just not going to cut it, against the kind of armor we're going to be fielding pretty soon. Also, do things like the 40 mm grenades we use in grenade launchers violate it? 'Cause apparently those weigh 230 grams. Maybe the grenade launcher counts as one of those cannons that was exempted? And, of course, it's stupid to distinguish between grenades thrown by hand and grenades launched from firearms.

  • Which is not to say, as Germans have historically been fond of saying, that "treaties are just pieces of paper". It is to say that treaties really ought to be realistic. I can see trying to limit things that make wounds untreatable, like poisoned bullets or those things that explode when medics start treating their victims, but if we're allowing big bombs, we should allow small ones. High-explosive rounds will be expensive enough that they'll still mainly be used against armor, rather than infantry, just as they are now (HESH and HEAT rounds are, apparently, in a legally questionable area, though).

    Besides, when the Germans introduced mustard gas to the battlefields of World War I, do you know what their rationale was (since it violated a treaty)? "Oh, well, since bullets are propelled by expanding gas, everyone already uses gas to kill people." But the Allies were just as bad as the Germans, because...we need that to be true, so we don't feel bad about Wilson and the Brits trying to let them off the hook after the war (and thereby causing the second one).

  • So one thing I have in my book that I'm quit proud of is, all the prepackaged drinks come in bottles with recloseable straws. Why? Because the story takes place in space colonies (most of them on planets, though), and that's what drink containers are, on spaceships. Even with artificial gravity, probably; it's probably a bad idea to risk screwing something up with a spill.

  • I forgot, so I apologize to those who read this during the, what, half-hour or so that it was up, but I came up with a little difference for how my aliens carry their long guns. Remember how I said their "rifle" resembles a Henry 1860? Yeah, well, the Henry rifle is almost exactly the same length as the M1840 cavalry saber. So, why not have them carry their "rifles" in scabbards? There is such a thing as a rifle scabbard, after all.

    An interesting side-effect is, even riflemen can cultivate a quick-draw art; anyone heard of iaido?



So I actually read one of the things Blogger sends you about itself, and there's a whole bunch of fonts available now. I decided to go with Consolas and Inconsolata, since they captured a similar feel to the old look...without being Courier. People look down on Comic Sans, when Courier exists? I'm pretty sure we all bought computers precisely to escape that particular typeface.

Speaking of, how come it's so hard to find fonts with the Latin Expanded unicode subrange? I have dialogue in Czech and Romanian, people, is it too much to ask that it be in the same font as the rest of the letters? Oh, and screw you, China, for using a diacritic in pinyin's tone-marks that's damned hard to find. Even if it wasn't easier to pronounce, I'd probably like Cantonese just for the fact its only tone marks (other than the macron, which is basically omissable in Standard Cantonese) are "á" and "à". Yeah, I use Yale Romanization; aside from Jyutping's deliberately obscure phonics (Jyutping is pronounced Yutping), writing a number after every syllable looks retarded.

Also, there is no excuse—none whatsoever—in this day and age, for any font not to code Greek and Cyrillic. Again, these things ain't typewriters, you don't have to stick on new keys, and those two alphabets work just like ours.

Maybe everything wouldn't be written in Times New Roman if other fonts had half the language support it does—Hebrew and Arabic, too, come to think of it.

Check Please!

Reality Check! Because people are idiots.
  • So some schmucks were, for various reasons, snagging loogies at the idea that "if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." One was, "Law-abiding gun-owners will fight to retain their weapons." Historically, no, no they haven't. Europe exists, you know, you may've wanted to examine the history of gun control there—especially Germany, which was rifleman central pretty much since the things were invented. Now, not so much, though its gun laws are pretty loose for Western Europe (so are Scandinavia's).

    But the others were apparently skeptical that outlawing guns won't keep them out of the hands of criminals. Again, the rest of the world exists. Japan is the only country I can think of where gun control works as advertised, but that's for two reasons: Japan's prisons are horrible, and the yakuza, who have guns, take a dim view of non-member violent criminals. But both Australia and the UK have seen violent crime, including with guns, skyrocket since their gun bans—though immigration and the illegalization of self-defense may also be factors, in that second one. What do I mean? In the UK, if you defend yourself with, say, a kitchen knife, you can be charged with assault. Also, if someone attacks you, you're taught to shout "call the police" instead of "help". That's so stupid I can't even feel Schadenfreud, and it's British people it's happening to!

  • I don't know if I mentioned this, but, Teflon-coated bullets: does anyone actually still think they'll go through police Kevlar vests? Because they won't. Bullets are coated in Teflon for the same reason full metal jacket bullets are coated in metal: to keep them from shredding in the barrel, and fouling it with bits of lead. Gun barrels, after all, are much harder than lead.

    Someone else who was writing on the topic pointed out that ordinary rifle rounds will go through a police vest quite easily. So why do police use the vests? Because less than 1% of crimes are committed with rifles. That includes the weapons covered by the "assault weapons" ban, yet another reason it was stupid.

  • A third note about guns, so this dude said something about "31-round clips" and "is suburban America under siege from rogue elephants and nobody told me about it?"

    Isn't it cute? Aside from "magazine, not clip", or the fact the magazines (of assault rifles, submachine guns, and Lugers with snail-shell magazines) are 30 rounds (31 being one in the chamber, maybe?), "rogue elephants" was funny to me. I don't know of any popular self-defense round that'll work on elephants, do you? .44 Magnum isn't even very popular for defense, and it's barely adequate for grizzlies. Either this dude was overrating the power of self-defense rounds, or underrating the toughness of large animals—or he suffers from the delusion .454 Casull is popular for self-defense.

    Speaking of, grizzlies' hearts, even when they're mad, apparently beat once every second and a half—so even if you shoot one, it won't bleed out in time to save you. Permit me to recommend a shotgun, with either buckshot or slugs.

  • The same dude, elsewhere, said that demand for drugs has been "constant since the beginning of mammal evolution tens of millions of years ago", and that therefore we should legalize them.

    Again, let's leave to one side that the Mammalia appeared hundreds of millions of years ago (they are in fact slightly older than the Dinosauria, I believe); apparently this jackass cannot be bothered to look up the history of drug trafficking. The Crack Cocaine Epidemic of the 80s and 90s, anyone? It was Acid in the 60s and 70s; heroin came back in the mid-90s (though not to the extent the guy in Pulp Fiction claimed); currently the drug is meth, which was the big one in Asia in the 70s and 80s. Marijuana has probably been relatively constant, but pot's not really a money crop like the others are.

    Pretty sad, huh? I'm hardly Mr. Drug Guy, from the use or enforcement angle, but even I know that different drugs, and drugs in general, have waxed and waned in demand within various markets.

  • A third point from this idiot—people like this are like alcohol poisoning, the rock-bottom I hit to recover from my periodic bouts of internet-forum addiction—was about a case where a UK couple, who owned a bed and breakfast, didn't want to give one of their couples' rooms to a gay couple, for religious reasons. And said jackass said that Christians only want their own religion to get special treatment, "like Islam in Saudi Arabia".

    That's not just stupid, it's evil—it's outright Orwellian! "Arguing that Christians should not have to violate their conscience is exactly like saying that non-Muslims should have to violate theirs." War is Peace. Love is Hate. Down with Emmanuel Goldstein!

    Truly, in the words of Tycho Brahe, the discourse is a shit spigot with the valve snapped off.

  • Said imbecile calls himself a pagan, which reminds me: do modern "pagans" own books? Because they sure seem to be a bunch of Liberal Protestants to me. They talk a lot of pretty stuff about individuality and freedom and "if you harm none, do as you will". All of it rather inoffensive, if uninspiring—but not pagan in the slightest.

    Individuality isn't really a pagan thing; the Spartans were outright Stalinists and all the others were Fascists. Manlius killing his son for dueling against orders? Yeah, not real individualist, the pagans. The city, or the tribe, was everything; then came the clan, and it, too, was everything, that's why letting oneself be sold into slavery for one's parents' debts was seen as filial piety. I'm curious, how many of these pagans know that their father, according to their religion, has the right to kill them for any reason, until he dies?

    Another one, who my sisters debated in vain on a different forum, has two mommies, as they say: does she know that in the entire European pagan tradition, she hasn't got a family? Households exist only where there are men, in paganism; someone might want to show her the kinship terminology of Indo-European languages.

    Does anyone else think it's a laugh riot that they actually think they're more feminist than Christianity?

  • Speaking of people whose opinions about religion aren't just idiotic, they're actually invalid, you know all those people who try to prove Christianity is evil, from the Old Testament? Has anyone ever pointed out that the only cause they're serving is anti-Semitism? 'Cause Christians—all orthodox Christians, and the vast majority of Protestants—do not consider themselves bound by the precepts contained in the Tanakh. If you want to show that the people who get their morals from the Law and the Prophets are evil, the only reasonable result is to hate Jews, not Christians.

    But even so, evil compared to whom? Contrast the marriage by capture rules in the Torah with the ones among Vikings, or Native Americans. I mean, know how many ancient cultures didn't think you had sexual rights to your slaves? Exactly one: Jews. Sure, it was more about avoiding adultery than about the slave's rights, but if I'm a slave-girl and it's against the rules to rape me, do you think I care why?

    Context is everything—funny how people who went to school and learned Post-Modernism always forget that principle when it's actually relevant.