Letters, Parenting, This Modern Life

Actual Having a Baby vs. Having a Cat: A Riposte to The Oatmeal

Imagine your grandfather parsing that title.

Anyhoo, Matt Inman, hilarious scribbler of The Oatmeal, has ribbingly touted the virtues of cat-ownership vis-a-vis human reproduction. Inman’s antipathy to babies are known, so this is not suprising. Nor am I going to pretend that it is not funny. But in this day and age, we breeders deserve a shot-back. This will constitute it.

Also, as I have both babies and cats in my house, my comparison stems from first-hand observation, and not mere horror at the diminished freedom of one’s peers to consume ethanol in public houses.

It seems bad form to copypasta the man’s drawings, so I will content myself with reproducing his words in bold, and then replying to them in italicContinue reading

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History, Politics, Pop Culture

Trumbo Should Not Be Seen By Anyone

As my wife belongs to SAG, we get SAG screeners. One of them is the new Bryan Cranston movie Trumbo, a biopic of one of the Hollywood Ten. I’ve decided that I’m not watching it. Yes, that’s right, I’m judging a movie before I’ve seen it, phillistine that I am.

Here is why:

  1. How many Blacklist pietas Does Hollywood Need to Make? Joe McCarthy is dead. The blacklist is over. It was over almost as soon as it began. Anyone who was aware of the blacklist while it was happening is old enough to be collecting Social Security. So why does Hollywood need to keep going back to this well? Are they this desparate to testify to their martyr’s righteousness and political relevance?Keep in mind, this schtick whs already become risible, and was so even a decade ago. Back in 2005, Iowahawk responded to the ocean of self-congratulation released by Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck with a satirical stab at how Hollywood was planning to rebound from terrible box office numbers that year with more smug, preachy dreck, such as:

    Silenced Wood: George Clooney stars and directs in this drama about the climate of fear among ventriloquists during radio’s notorious Charlie McCarthy era.
    Fearful Silence: Courageous What’s My Line? contestant (Leonardo DiCaprio) refuses to answer panelist questions in this gameshow drama set against the McCarthy-blacklist era. With William H. Macy as Bennett Cerf and Kevin Spacey as Kitty Carlisle.
    Fearful Deadly Fear: Blacklisted 1950’s screenwriter Damon Runyan (Tim Robbins) writes a secret screenplay about the the McCarthy-era blacklists, in this 1950’s blacklist drama set against the background of the McCarthy era blacklists.
    Silence 1984: Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris interviews the survivors of Hollywood’s notorious Reagan era ‘Year of Fear,’ when only three McCarthy-themed movies were released.

    How many different cuts of the same bloody shirt are they going to wave?

  2. Trumbo was No Martyr for Free Speech. Ron Radosh, co-author (with his wife, Allis) of Red Star over Hollywood, has documented that Dalton Trumbo had no problem silencing others for ideological reasons. He was more than prepared to use his influence to prevent films and books that attacked the Communist Party from being distributed.

    As he explained in 1954 to a fellow blacklisted writer, the Communist party had a “fine tradition . . . that whenever a book or play or film is produced which is harmful to the best interests of the working class, that work and its author should and must be attacked in the sharpest possible terms.”

    Goose. Sauce. Gander. Some assembly required.

  3. Even Trumbo got over the Blacklist. According to Radosh, Trump broke ranks with the Party – and the orthodox narrative of the blacklist —  not long after the blacklist went down. In a 1958 unpublished article, he contradicted much of the established story on why the blacklists happened:

    He concluded that the blacklist took place not only because of the Committee, but because of the antics of the CP itself. In this article, he wrote that “the question of a secret Communist Party lies at the very heart of the Hollywood blacklist,” which is why Americans believed the Communists had something to hide. They lived in the United States, not Stalin’s U.S.S.R., and should have openly proclaimed their views and membership so that the American people could judge them for what they believed. Instead, they formed secret Leninist cells. The CPUSA should have been open and its members all known, he wrote, or the Communists in Hollywood should “not have been members at all.”

    Moreover, Trumbo also wrote that his fellow Red screenwriters failed to get work not because they were blacklisted as Communists, but because they were “mediocrities,” who failed to show “competence, ability [and] craftsmanship.” And as for the informers shown as pitiful reactionaries in the movie, he acknowledged that many of them in fact testified against the Communists because the Party tried to “meddle with the ideological content” of their screenplays, which gave them good reason to oppose the Party.

If the new film covered any of this, it would be a welcome reappraisal of the old tired morality play. Since it doesn’t, it’s selective reading of history can be dismissed as mere propaganda. As P.J. O’Rourke put it, the dog is dead but the tail still wags.

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Books, Letters

Is Writing Art, or Commerce?

Why not both?

A discussion of the Great Unsurprise of the New Year – the unfinishing of The Winds of Winter – has prompted Joe Vasicek to point out that for indie authors, it may be more the latter:

In the traditional system, writers were paid an advance on royalties by their publishers. The contract also allowed for royalties, but those figures were set so low that most books never earned out their advance. Publishers made up for it by raising the advances for the writers they wanted to keep.

In contrast, indie writers live and die by their royalty checks. Had a good month? Congratulations, you can afford to eat. Had a bad month? Tsk, tsk. Better hurry up with that WIP of yours, because the longer it takes to publish it, the longer it takes for you to get paid.

Thus, the reason Martin can fart around with finishing A Song of Ice and Fire is that he’s already a millionaire and has a small legion of fans who will drop everything the minute the release date is announced to pre-order it on Amazon. Whereas for the struggling indie artist, delay means loss of income, both from the books you aren’t selling and from the market forgetting about you when you finally do bring your pig to market.

Since I don’t have the weight of Bantam publishing behind me, that means I must needs move. I’ve done a lot of outlining for The Blood King, and I’ve got about 1,000 words give or take in various forms. I don’t feel like I’ve really begun to begin, though. I feel like I need to clear other desks (like the long-delayed podcast) first, but that might not be realistic.

I feel the Devil at my heels, though…

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Music

Does Every British Rock Star Have to Be a Knight?

I like the fact that they’re thinking of naming one of the new heavy metallic elements after Lemmy Kilmister. Science should be pop-cultural whenever possible.

I don’t like this sentiment, expressed in the article:

Speaking of why he started the petition, Wright said: “In terms of record sales impact, Lemmy should have been offered an honour but he didn’t play that game. I don’t think there was ever much chance of Sir Lemmy Kilmister so this feels like a tribute that has a permanence to it that acknowledges and represents his impact.”

Grah. This is all Jagger’s fault. A knighthood isn’t something you get handed to you after X number of units shipped. A knighthood means your life and actions have been of service to the realm and valued by the monarch. As much we all might dig laying the foundation for thrash metal, I don’t think this is a chip that needs to be on anyone’s shoulder.

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Politics

Income Inequality is the Symptom, Not the Disease

So writes Jeffrey Carter at Points and Figures. (h/t: Insty)

The policies that will solve for income inequality empower people.  They don’t “take care” of people.  People shouldn’t be warehoused and pushed aside or ignored from cradle to grave.  People are assets.  They aren’t liabilities to society.

I think the second part of this quote – the idea that people are assets – needs to be repeated more, because it cuts against the grain of our ruling class’ unconscious habits. Here’s P.J. O’Rourke, back in 1990:

But the sad truth of local government, like the sad truth of national government, is that people are no longer an asset. Humans do not benefit the modern state. Total 1989 Blatherboro town expenditure – including the town’s share of county government and school-system costs – was $9.5 million, or about $1,860 per person. Almost all this money was raised through property taxes and automobile registration fees. A typical new family moving to Blatherboro, with a mom, dad, and two kids, would be buying a town-house condominium with a tax-assessed value of $100,000. The current property tax rate on that condominium is $2,860 a year. If the new family owns two late-model cars, registration fees (which are based on the blue-book value of the automobile) would be about $340. Add in a few miscellaneous levies and charges, and the new family ends up contributing about $3500 per annum to the Blatherboro town coffers. But that is almost $4,000 less than the town will spend on these people. A family of four must own at least a quarter of a million dollars worth of property to carry its own weight in the Blatherboro town budget.

-Parliament of Whores

Of course, this comes from the reality that government is asked to do things that it cannot reasonably pay for, and is prevented from bringing in the necessary revenue. This stems from the understanding that government money and government spending are unlinked from reality – somehow the Government has all sorts of cash just laying around, waiting to be spent. So it becomes the government’s job to plug any economic gap caused by income inequality – a job that makes government exceedingly poor.

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Books, Letters

Content Creation Blues

 

A Song of Ice and Fire, Hold the Ice

If you’re on Reddit, you probably noticed or took part in the New Year’s Night vigil of watching George R.R. Martin’s livejournal for the update on The Winds of Winter. I myself did, and it was an instructive lesson in group emotions: first excitement, then frustration, then japery, rage, despair, and, just when we thought he’d gone to bed and we were getting all the news we were going to get, he commented and said he had one more update in him. The joy (“hype” as they call it on Reddit) was transcendent. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire who were previously damning George for a lazy old fat prat got religion without even blinking.

He admitted his frustration with his progress and copped to the problems he’d been having. And I was fine with it. I was fine with him telling me what I surmised to be true: that Season 6 of Game of Thrones was going to spoil the books. It’s disappointing, but it’s okay. Now we can finally accept it.

Podcasting Takes Time

I’ve been trying to find the right moment to sit down and do my next podcast, which I have previously stated to be all about Star Wars. Now that we’ve had a chance to digest the film, I can see some of the complaints about it, but I’m going to talk about that more fully. I just need to make myself do it. And sooner, rather than later, because…

January is My Personal NoWriMo

Reading Larry Correia’s blog (especially this post) has inspired me to sit my rear end down and get cracking on my epic fantasy stories. I started creating this world on an electric typewriter back when I was 14, and seeing them in print has always been a dream. My first completed novel, The Island Prince, was from this world. It took me three years to write it, and its in no condition to be published. So I’m going to start again, with a story a few centuries before that. Hopefully what I’ve learned about writing over the last twelve years will show itself in the product. But at any rate, I’m on this. Working title: The Blood King

Actual Content Creation

The Unnamed Journal, a lit mag I have a tangential relationship to, just published its second issue. Click here for a hard copy, or here for Kindle.

And then there’s the music review project, Every Damn CD, on Tumblr. Currently I’m on the White Stripes, but there’s so much more to go.

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Politics

Trump is not a Candidate. Trump is a Nemesis.

Anyone who has ever said of the Democrats and Republicans, “A plague on both their houses”, behold the plague.

My own view on Trump is fairly plain — he is a boor and a hyper-egotist, a shallow and avaricious blowhard, whose candidacy can almost stand as a rebuke to the idea of a democracy. But it is not Trump who should bear the responsibility for his success. It is the practice of politics itself and the political class (which includes, more and more, the news media) that has for so long abandoned honest representation of ideas, facing difficult issues with real language, which has so professionalized campaigns and elections that the sound of a human voice saying something it actually means is so rare.

It is the toxic atmosphere of political correctness that suffocates so many voices that enables a Trump, when he rants with full stream-of-consciousness abandon, to be seen as a plain speaker, authentic and different.

Read the whole thing. (h/t Insty)

I looked, and there was a white horse, and its rider had a bow. He was given a crown, and he rode forth victorious to further his victories.

-Revelation 6:2

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