Dear [Beautiful but Evil Space Princess],
Every time I capture the hero, I get this overwhelming urge to spill the entire plan, including the way out. How can I stop myself from giving it all away?
Evil Underlord who can’t quite make the big leagues
Oh, Sweetie. This is a compulsion written into you by the author. You must use aversion therapy. Have one of your underlings dress up as the hero, and when you start spilling things, force yourself to do something really distasteful. I don’t know, pet a puppy or give sweets to children or something, until you break the compulsion.
It’s all right. If you manage to cure yourself, you can blend the puppies into a nice smoothie afterwards and it will make you feel much better.
I’m not a professional political scientist or sociologist. Then again, neither were Washington, Adams, Jefferson and that crowd ….
The election of Trump is, in many senses, stupid. However, it is far, far wiser and more in keeping with the idea that we, the people, are the defenders of the Republic to elect Trump than to elect someone who is beloved of Harvard. On the scale of errors one can make in a Republic, electing an arrogant and impulsive side-show barker is far to be prefered to electing someone whose fundamental goal is making elections irrelevant.
… humans have never had to deal with the problems that come from too much food and too much free time to consume it. We really have no idea what will come from it and how it will hurt or help society. There could very well be a huge upside to having lots of fat people. Perhaps when the zombie apocalypse comes, the zombies will eat the fat people and be satisfied, leaving the rest of us to regroup.
I’ll never forget when John Updike reviewed a book on how FDR’s policies lengthened the Great Depression. Updike basically said that because FDR cared, and was trying, that was worth more than shortening the Depression.
One food arena where the US used to be the best in the world and is now near the bottom of the pack is cider (i.e. alcoholic fermented cider.)
Back in the Revolutionary War era cider was the #1 drink in the nation, far surpassing beer or wine or hard liquor. And people had planted the right kind of apple trees all over the country (as it existed then), so there was always a big supply of the raw material.
In fact, Johnny Appleseed didn’t go around planting edible apple trees — he went around planting cider apple trees! A detail that is now lost to most people’s imaginations of history.
“But wait,” you’re saying, “there’s a difference between edible apples and cider apples?”
Yes indeed. There are three fundamental “types” of apples:
“Sweet apples,” which is what we now think of simply as “apples” — the big crunchy sweet kind that you can eat.
“Sour apples,” now mostly known as “crabapples,” which are mostly useless except for making things with their pectin.
“Bitter apples,” now mostly unknown in the US, but still planted widely in France and England. THESE are the apples you are supposed to make true cider out of. As the name implies, they’re slightly too bitter to eat, but their chemical makeup is absolutely perfect for fermenting a delicious kind of apple cider, a process during which the bitterness goes away.
If you’ve ever tasted true cider made from bitter apples (which is what they serve you in Somerset and Normandy), you’ll know that cider made from sweet apples is atrocious by comparison.
And that’s the tragic part of our story.
Because of the arrival of so many German and Bohemian and Polish immigrants in the second half of the 19th century in the US, beer started to surpass cider in popularity nationwide, and then when Prohibition hit, cider production was stopped entirely. And what happened was that ALL — or almost all — the bitter apple trees in the United States were left to die or were torn out and make room for more useful trees.
So that by the time Prohibition ended, there was no longer any way to make true cider in any quantity, and as a result beer took over the casual drinking market almost 100%. Wine only started to make inroads in the ’60s and ’70s. But cider remain completely forgotten by then.
That is until about 8 years ago, when the “small batch cider” renaissance started in the US, with small startups making cider from apples.
Sweet apples, that is — because that’s all that we have in the US anymore! Yuck!
Cider made from sweet apples is just wrong to a true cider aficionado. So no matter how much effort these America cider microbreweries put into their product, it will never match up to French and British ciders.
In fact, until just a couple years ago, most American cidermakers didn’t even know about the existence of bitter apples and didn’t know they were doing it fundamentally wrong.
Finally a few people have wised up, and they’ve started planting bitter apple trees in the US again, but it will still be several years before they are up and producing in sufficient numbers to create enough true cider for the masses.
Until then, we must suffer with an inferior American product! Frowney face!
• Raff, Riff, of Notre Dame, Indiana
• Bunny, Soul, of Williams Bay, Wisconsin
• Vader, Darth, of Spokane, Washington
• Mouse, Mickey, of Anaheim, California
• The Elf, Buddy, of North Pole, Alaska
• Hydrox, Cookie, of Newport Coast, California
These and the others on the list are all better choices than any of those offered by the political parties.
There were a few “Bernie” yard signs in the area earlier this year, but they are gone now. I had not seen a single sign for any presidential candidate since the conventions until this week, when I spotted the above on my way to work. I still have yet to see anyone advocating for either the Democrat or Republican embarrassments in his front yard.
So, as the USA lurches toward kakistocracy, I have a choice between gonorrhea and syphilisKang and Kodos a crook and a clown in November. Like hell I’m voting for these jerks. (It doesn’t help that the crook’s running mate is a devout member of the American Catholic Patriotic Association.)
The following are the candidates I’m considering for November. Any of them is a better choice than the Evil, Stupid, Libertarian or Green party offerings.
Agatha Christie apparently liked Muriel Spark a lot, and one similarity I noticed–which goes along with the novel’s arch, judicious tone–is that both novelists paint human nature in shades of folly and wickedness. Those old-fashioned words (a Christie character in The Pale Horse explicitly points out how nobody calls things “wicked” anymore) have found no adequate modern replacement. Folly, in particular, is a category we have a hard time naming. Christie generally portrays even her characters who do great and lasting harm–the instigator/victim in The Mirror Crack’d, for example–as extremes of a trajectory the best among us follow now and then. Folly can destroy a life; folly is an inevitable tint in every human action. Folly is ridiculous and deadly, and normal.
I thought of this ancient E.B. White story the other day and found it online:
Along about 1920 it became apparent that more things were being written than people had time to read. That is to say, even if a man spent his entire time reading stories, articles, and news, as they appeared in books, magazines, and pamphlets, he fell behind. This was no fault of the reading public; on the contrary, readers made a real effort to keep pace with writers, and utilized every spare moment during their walking hours. They read while shaving in the morning and while waiting for trains and while riding on trains. They came to be a kind of tacit agreement among numbers of the reading public that when one person laid down the baton, someone else must pick it up; and so when a customer entered a barbershop, the barber would lay aside the Boston Evening Globe and the customer would pick up Judge; or when a customer appeared in a shoe-shining parlor, the bootblack would put away the racing form and the customer would open his briefcase and pull out The Sheik. So there was always somebody reading something. Motormen of trolley cars read while they waited on the switch. Errand boys read while walking from the corner of Thirty-ninth and Madison to the corner of Twenty-fifth and Broadway. Subway riders read constantly, even when they were in a crushed, upright position in which nobody could read his own paper but everyone could look over the next man’s shoulder. People passing newsstands would pause for a second to read headlines. Men in the back seats of limousines, northbound on Lafayette Street in the evening, switched on tiny dome lights and read the Wall Street Journal. Women in semi-detached houses joined circulating libraries and read Vachel Lindsay while the baby was taking his nap.
Consider the winners of the four categories [best novel, novella, novelette and short story] over the last five years:
• 2015: 4/4 women
• 2014: 3/4 women
• 2013: 4/4 women
• 2012: 2/4 women
• 2011: 2/4 women
Fifteen stories written by women have won the main prizes in the Nebula awards in the past five years, and five by men.
I never cared much about the Hugo awards. They have never been anything more than popularity contests, and that they have been demonstrated to be meaningless is mildly amusing and nothing more. The Nebulas, on the other hand, are determined by a vote of the SFWA membership, i.e., actual writers, and reading the annual volume of Nebula winners was one of the ways I found writers worth following many years ago. But I find it difficult to believe that nowadays women write three times as many of the best stories as men. So, the hell with the Nebulas. I think I’ll read Tim Powers instead.
Every few years I clear my evenings for a week and re-read The Lord of the Rings — I’ll probably do so again sometime this summer. I also enjoy most of his other fantasy-oriented works published during his lifetime. However, I’ve never gotten beyond page 20 in The Silmarillion. It turns out that I’m not alone, and The Silmarillion is the worst book with Tolkien’s name on it. It may be worthwhile to check out his other posthumous books, after all.
Ghost In The Shell is the absolute pinnacle of its art form. There’s nothing else in the anime oeuvre to compare with it, especially as regards graceful writing and philosophical depth. Masamune Shirow will be remembered for centuries for the story. The makers of the anime can be justly proud of the finished work. That Hollywood should choose to make a live-action version is merely additional praise of the original.
So what is this SJW concerned about? That central character Motoko Kusanagi, a round-eyed, big-bosomed cyborg, will be played by round-eyed, big-bosomed Scarlett Johansson, one of the foremost female action stars of today. “Whitewashing!” “Racial exclusion!” “Cultural appropriation!” “Insert your preferred SJWism here!”
These…persons deserve nothing but contempt. They’re the true bigots and squanderers of cultural treasures – all cultural treasures. That a brilliant piece of anime, known mainly to devotees of the art form, should be picked up by a major Hollywood studio and cast with a terrific, somatically perfect leading lady is an act of high praise…but no! “The character has a Japanese name!” Therefore, by SJW rules, she must be played by a Japanese actress. Failing that, at least one with an epicanthic fold.
Anyone who grants these cretins the smallest sliver of time or shred of respect is doing a disservice to the entire human race.
I wouldn’t say that the first Ghost in the Shell movie is incomparable in its philosophical depth — there’s Serial Experiments Lain, at least — but it is a superior work, and the remake, if competently done, should lead its more adventurous viewers to seek out the animated version.
But thanks to Trump virtually clinching the nomination by winning Indiana, I’m freed from the tyranny of the party. I don’t have to identify as a Republican anymore. When someone asks me if I’m a Democrat or a Republican, I can say neither! And for the first time, I can vote for someone I like for president. Who gets my write-in vote? Which person do I actually think would be best suited to run the country? It’s almost overwhelming.
I’m not especially worried about Skynet taking over the world any time soon given that the current state of the art in AI, with all of the best minds and the most resources behind it, is the autocorrect feature on my phone.
I wonder if the reason that so many characters in The Wind Rises smoke so much is that Miyazaki wanted to annoy health nazis, such as the ones who placed the full-page ad above in The Hollywood Reporter.