Friday, December 15, 2017

Exactly two decades ago, The Postman tried to deliver


Exactly 20 years ago today, Kevin Costner released his film based on my novel The Postman into theaters. (The Postman is the only science fiction saga to come in second for three successive Hugo Awards; it's in 25 languages around the world.)

I’ve written elsewhere my complex opinions about Costner’s flick… see my essay on the book vs. the movie, which emphasized the positive, in order to help give the maligned and under-appreciated film whatever small boost that I could… 

...but let’s do a capsule summary of the pros and cons, a very personal view of minuses and plusses.

Minus: The Postman hit theaters the very same week as “James Cameron’s silly remake about a sinking boat.” KC’s words, I kid you not! He released it the… same… weekend… as… Titanic. I doubt there is a more wince-worthy example of poor timing in Hollywood history. (And yes, one of these two motion pictures is being feted right now, for its 20th anniversary. The other hit an iceberg.)

On the plus side: For all its faults, I deem the Postman film to be one of the dozen or so most beautiful motion pictures - both visually and musically - ever made. Costner has a genius eye and ear! Working with cinematographer Stephen Windon and composer James Newton Howard - he created a sensory masterpiece.

Minus: In collaboration with screenwriter Brian Helgeland, the plotting, characters and pacing were terrific for about 2/3 of the show. Alas though, chaos started creeping in, toward the end - a floundering that could have been solved over some beers with … well… maybe a consultant who knows the story pretty well?

Alas, Costner’s behavior toward the original author was inexplicably, unnecessarily brusque and ultimately self-destructive. I never publicly complained – and in fact, KC admitted later that I was a “team player,” trying hard to help promote the film. But I’ve since learned that people noticed. It didn’t help.

Plus: The worst thing you can do to the original author is to betray the core meaning of his or her book. But I have no such complaint! In fact, I was astonished how well Costner and Helgeland conveyed the heart of my story… about a flawed and fretful hero who feels guilt over telling a beautiful lie, in order to survive. A lie that comes true, by reminding other survivors that they were once mighty beings called citizens.

This powerful message - running diametrically and deliberately opposite to every Mad Max cliché - pervades both the book and the film, and KC's “Postman” character essentially is my character, Gordon – perhaps with fewer IQ points, and no name -- but the same soul.

It’s a message that we especially need in these times…and for that one fact, I gladly and openly forgive every complaint! I defend and will always be proud to be associated with this motion picture.


Minus: One must simplify for the screen. Costner cut out the ersatz AI computer (“Cyclops”) and the garish sci-fi augments and several other plot elements from the book. Perhaps he expected me to gripe about that, but I agreed with every one of those cuts! (I never got a chance to tell him that.) Alas, though. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary to scoop out and throw away quite so much of the book's brains?

A side gripe: when I visited the set in Arizona… getting eighteen whole words from him… he couldn’t have told an underling to: “Throw a Holnist uniform on this bozo and give him a cameo. Put him in formation with the others in our next scene, and tell him to stay quiet”? That woulda killed him? Ah, never mind that.

A side irony: I never minded the Tom Petty scene. Kinda liked it, in fact. And I miss him.

Okay so we have “gorgeous, big-hearted and dumb.” 
Hey, worse things have happened to a novel that gets filmed! Often lots worse.  (Though Andy Weir and Ted Chiang got to be a whole lot more delighted with their experiences. Yes, including the money.)

What is the sum of all these plusses and minuses? Overall positive. I’d be happy to be a team player in some future movie. Yes, even if I’m sent to the Kids’ Table as the “mere author.”

The capper to all this is my one top benefit from this experience.

More book sales? Well, a bit. But box office flops don’t give books much leg.

No, the most lasting benefit from this experience was something simpler.

It gave me a story to tell folks on airplanes. 

Priceless.



167 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

@raito | It's useful because it changes how you think. Presumably for the better.

That's why I stick to ecosystem analogies for us. Changes lead to variety and behavior copying is natural selection. Since behavior copying is imperfect, it results in change and the whole system faces into a positive feedback loop.

My favorite things to learn are the ones that change more than the person learning them. If I begin to behave in a different manner, someone else might learn why without ever really knowing why. Like your loan origination process rules, much of what we do is accomplished without us being able to explain how or why we do it. We might think we know, but often that knowledge is partial at best. Sometimes it is flat out wrong.

One will grow, one will not.

Yah. There are arguments for doing this from the perspective of higher virtues, but even prudence is enough to justify it. If I hire someone, I'm effectively renting their human capital. If the growth rate of that capital is positive and the rent I pay doesn't grow as fast, I can benefit from the margin. If they aren't growing, they are probably diminishing since all capital decays. My old skill with COBOL isn't worth much today. Not only is there little demand, I've let it decay to little more than dust. If they are managing to stay exactly even, why would I choose them over someone who learns?

The human capital I like best lately includes experience at collaborating with other learners and encouraging growth at the team level. Even if someone is a little slow themselves, if they enable others to team learn successfully, that makes up for almost anything.

Alfred Differ said...

@Twominds | organized religion was a prerequisite

I've seen that argued and I'm not yet convinced. I have to wonder if the person arguing it has a bias I don't think I have. Organized religion might be one of the successful ways to do it without being an actual prerequisite. I suspect the requirement was that our HG ancestors had to change enough to put up with farming life. Between the poor food quality, living in their own wastes, and not being able to leave when they are socially abused, that took some serious pressure to get one of our ancestors to tolerate it. Creation of an identity group to which we become loyal is probably the underlying need and organized religion was a successful way to do that.

How the development of science can't be seen apart from the beginning of kapitalism and exploration (and exploitation!) that gave Europe it's edge over other parts of the world, 400 years ago.

There has been some neat work on all this in the last few decades as the economic historians abandon their old pseudo-scholarly way of explaining historical cause and effect. Science isn't really a cause of much of anything for most of those 400 years because much of it was either engineering mistaken as science or science providing backwards compatible theories/rationalizations. While I love science, I think it is an error to give it much credit for enriching the world. It is the idea behind science that did it and we are just using the wrong name. Science is a child of Enlightenment.

It is also an error to explain the enrichment of Europe using capitalism, exploitation, and essentially every other idea offered. It is the kind of error we make when we put the cart before the horse. To exploit people, you already have to be relatively rich. It takes power to enslave people and power requires wealth. Two equals meeting face-to-face will have difficulty exploiting each other. So... wealth must be created first... but how?

Europe (actually the Dutch) DID do something to start it off, though. If you like learning this kind of stuff, start with the Dutch story and how they kept the Hapsburgs away in a fashion that bankrupted a world power more than once. It's a neat, Reformation era story.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | One major issue I have with this is how graduate education tries to force people to micro-specialize.

From my experience, that only lasted for two or three years. It was difficult to get past the oral examination without being able to display the 'useful insight' skill. I know from watching one my my cohort not pass is orals the first time. I got my behind kicked around in the written exams in the first year because I was too lazy as a student, but oral exams were purposely designed to detect a different skill. By the time it was my turn in front of the panel, I had already learned what they were looking for. Give the person at the board a problem they don't know how to solve. Feed them a hint. Is that enough? How do they use the hint? How do they probe it and look for another connection? Feed them another hint? Watch them struggle. Oh? That was enough to get them on the right track? STOP them before they write out the answer and give them a different problem they don't know how to solve. Lather, rinse, repeat for three hours, but don't calm them down until they've finally accepted that they don't know much. THEN they are ready to hear that this is the state they need to know well. It is at the heart of creativity!

One of my profs let me in on the routine. I came prepared with a kindergarten version of my proposed research topic figuring they won't know the stuff. How could they? I got to innovate on that turf for an hour before they corrected for my tactic. Hah! 8)

Seriously. I don't know of anyone who got through the system where I graduated who was allowed out if they couldn't demonstrate some skill at free-associating a way toward insight.

A lot of physics doesn't look like it requires insight if you are on the outside. It does, but it doesn't look like it. When some other revolutionary idea is proposed, it takes an army of follow-on researchers to chase the implications. Some of it is dotting i's and crossing t's, but occasionally one comes across j's and ƛ's. What then? It takes a lot of people to find these things that can make or break the revolutionary idea. Sometimes it is these little insights that prove to be the real revolution.

Alfred Differ said...

I like good airplane stories. Hopefully you've got a good one hour version and a longer four hour version of it.

I wonder if Stan Lee has his cameo's built into the contracts. 8)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I wonder if Stan Lee has his cameo's built into the contracts. 8)


By this point, those cameos are probably expected by the audience, much as Alfred Hitchcock's cameos were. If they're in the contract, that might be at the studios' insistence as much as at Stan's.

Funny you mention this now, as I just watched "Guardians of the Galaxy II" on video last night. It was fine for what it is, but I really don't see what the fuss is all about--how one of Bill Press's co-host gushed over it even though he "doesn't usually see comic book movies." It wasn't that good.

As an old fan of Marvel Comics, I recognize many of the obscure characters and references in the new movies. I already knew who The Winter Soldier was for example, and recognized Thanos the first time he appeared in one of those post-credits scenes. I know who the Adam (Warlock) character is who appeared at the very end of this film. But I have absolutely no idea who Groot is supposed to be, or why all he can say is "I am Groot". Unless he's supposed to be a Pokemon. Now that would be funny.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

I read "The Postman" in the mid 1980s when I had never heard of you before, and it was (and still is) one of my all time favorite novels. It was on the short list of books I had set aside to be accessible during my last move.

When I heard there was a movie coming out, I so wanted to like it, but the previews made it look so different from the novel that when the time came, I just wasn't motivated to see it. That has as much to do with my general feeling toward contemporary movies (even back in 1997) as it does with the specific film--I find them to be generally too self-parodying and too full of middle-school scatological humor for my taste.

Because you seem to be ok with the finished product, I'll probably give in and see it on video, but I expect to be disappointed. That's not just you either. I expect to be disappointed by the new Star Wars movie too.

Sorry, didn't mean for this to become a downer. My first point stands--the novel "The Postman" was something I had been missing in my sci-fi reading without even realizing it, and that still stands today. Plus, thanks to my wife, it introduced me to the rest of the Brin-verse. So there's that.


Tim Wolter said...

It seems topics only really heat up just before the “Onward” clarion. A number of ideas towards the end caught my eye and got me thinking in new directions. Perhaps I can return the favor.

To say that nobody near the Clintons would ever dare conspire because they should know their actions would always be under close scrutiny is a comforting position to hold. We’d like the world, and particularly the inner workings of our Justice system, to be rational and beyond reproach. The real world is often otherwise.

Conspiracies are not like in the movies, with onion skin layers of misdirection and shadowy minions protecting The Big Boss. No. They are created by a collection of average folks – and a few above and below that standard – who make decisions based largely on their evaluation of risk and reward…..with the occasional flat out stupidity endemic to our fallen kind mixed in.

The issues are usually “process crimes”, people who cut a corner at Point A, for what seem like acceptable risk/reward points, whose decision needs to be covered at Point B.

If you are a functionary at Justice or in the FBI in spring of 2016 you would have absolute confidence that Hillary Clinton will be your boss in January. Risk/Reward favors judgment calls going in her favor. Regards Mr. and Mrs. Clinton, I doubt even their most ardent partisans will deny that they “keep score and get even”. And given the #Resistance! to recent FOIA requests and Congressional inquiries, can you imagine any serious inquiry going on if the Republican Party had received the electoral drubbing they richly deserved for nominating a vulgar political berserker?

A note on sources before we dive in. I’m not going to rely exclusively on partisan outlets. I also will dismiss fairly quickly “news” that is based solely on rumor. Most of the substantive material has come from the Inspector General of the Justice Department, who has quietly been conducting an investigation for almost a year. I assume in a group of folks who favor Transparency this will gain enough initial cred to keep you reading.

Regards Hillary Clinton. I’m just neutral. I remember nine years ago when people on this forum were extolling the intelligence of Obama for running the smartest campaign in modern history. By that standard Hillary should get double demerits for running two of the dumbest ones in memory. I’m also – medical opinion here – still thinking she kept her health status from us. You just can’t have the Leader of the Free World on anticoagulant medications and falling down regularly. (Happened again on her post election book tour, I think that makes four or five such falls). The Democrats should have nominated somebody else, but…risk/reward….keeping score…..

So Forward. I’m going to organize this by dramatis personae and will regrettably need quite a lot of column space for this. Thread hijacking…..riling up the Contrarians….mea culpa. I only ask that the standard I am held to is that I make a case as plausible as David’s default Conspiracy Demonology.

Don’t infer from this any approval of Donald Trump
T/Tacitus

Tim Wolter said...

(cont)

James Comey. Beats me what he was up to. “We’ve started an investigation. No, its an inquiry. HRC was careless but nobody would ever prosecute for this sort of thing. Oh, we found some more information just before the election.” Having burned every political bridge from the headwaters of the Potomac to the sea it was just a matter of which incoming President would fire him. As of course is his or her prerogative.

Robert Mueller. Looks like a trustworthy G-man. Comes under some criticism for being a personal friend of Comey and for staffing his investigation largely with folks who – when their partisan inclinations can be divined – were all Democrats. But the insular world of Foggy Bottom would have made any other choices difficult. Could have refused the job. Didn’t. I’m OK with him but think he is strolling through a minefield.

Peter Strzok. FBI second in command for “counter intelligence”. Demoted to an HR job when the Justice IG learned he had exchanged virulent anti Trump texts – on an FBI provided device – with Lisa Page, a Justice dept lawyer also involved in the Clinton email probe. And regards involvement, these two were having an affair…perfect blackmail fodder. Strzok apparently interviewed key Clinton aides including Huma Abedin. Any answers she gave that later proved wrong – perhaps including her husband’s access - could have triggered charges against her. Strzok was also one of those interviewing Flynn. It appears that the latter interviews were far less amicable and did result in “process crimes” for inaccurate answers. Were Abedin and Flynn treated equally? If Strzok held highly partisan views should he have removed himself from the investigation?

Allegedly he also was responsible for substantial edits to the Comey statement on HRC emails. The phrase “grossly negligent” morphed into “extremely careless”. And by the way, was Comey’s first draft of her exoneration really written before her official interview?

Lisa Page. See above. She was also briefly working on the Mueller probe but “moved on” for reasons not specified. People in affairs combine the worst aspects of middle school and adulthood, so much of what she and Strzok exchanged can be discounted. They both hated Trump and admired HRC, but that’s fair enough if they do their jobs without bias. But one text in particular has raised eyebrows. It’s from March 4, 2016.

"I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office - that there's no way he [Trump] gets elected – but I'm afraid we can't take that risk,"

"It's like a life insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40"

That does sound conspiratorial. And “Andy” would be:
T/T2

Tim Wolter said...

(cont)

Well hello, Andrew McCabe. Number 2 man at the FBI and later acting director. A key figure in the HRC email investigation. His wife Jill at the time was running as a Democrat for a Virginia State Senate seat. Her biggest contributor by far – a PAC run by Terry McAuliffe, former DNC chair, former HRC campaign chair. Dr. McCabe would btw have been an excellent elected official. But her husband should have recused himself.

Speaking of married couples, lets drop in on Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie. He atypically held two posts at Justice. One of which was asst Attorney General under Rosenberg, the current Justice IG. Ohr was later removed from that post. He seems to have been the bridge by which the infamous Steele dossier was, allegedly, used to justify FISA wiretap warrants on Trump associates. Mr. Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 campaign on matters related to “Russia”. And while the dossier did have some initial Republican fingerprints it was clearly in its final form DNC funded oppo research. Also a salacious mixture of true, false and who knows. When Ohr is called to testify expect a lot of evasion.

You could just keep going on this stuff….

In the end a suspicious person would call Conspiracy. A person charitably inclined would say that a lot of poor decisions were made. The middle ground, where I try to stay, looks at the risk/reward decisions of some very powerful people. Some who should have known better, didn’t. Some who should have recused themselves, didn’t.

Of course this begs the bigger question. How long has this sort of selective Justice been going on. When you accept as no problem the assertions of Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin but bring down the full force of law on Michael Flynn…has this happened on prior issues? When you brush off the infamous Clinton – Lynch tarmac meeting as a casual chat about golf, how many other private conversations are we expected to find innocuous? Who else has been given a free pass and for what?
(note that highly redacted emails on the tarmac meeting feature the names of Comey, Strzok and McCabe).

I know that many would say that Trump and all he stands for are such evils that any means fair or foul to stop him are justified. That’s OK for you or me (although I would not “go there”) but for the coercive powers of our government that is the direct road to a very bad place.

Anyway, make of this all what you will. My conspiracy spinnings at least have names, dates, notes of contributions. I suppose they are less compelling for being only in the penumbra of the murky shadows……

T/Tacitus2

LarryHart said...

Tim/Tacitus:

Don’t infer from this any approval of Donald Trump


Good, because I was going to say...


I’m also – medical opinion here – still thinking she kept her health status from us. You just can’t have the Leader of the Free World on anticoagulant medications and falling down regularly. (Happened again on her post election book tour, I think that makes four or five such falls).


That makes two candidates who kept health status from us, right? Unless "Healthiest candidate to ever run for the office" counts as transparency.


I remember nine years ago when people on this forum were extolling the intelligence of Obama for running the smartest campaign in modern history. By that standard Hillary should get double demerits for running two of the dumbest ones in memory.


Here I have to agree with you. One reason I was glad Hillary won the primary (even though I voted for Bernie) was that I thought she would be the world's greatest campaigner. She had certainly won the silver medal in that competition in back in aught-8. Maybe she really is just too old and past her prime. I know I am. The disappointing campaign is one reason I've stopped sending donations to the DNC (though I support individual candidates and EMILY's List).


Peter Strzok. FBI second in command for “counter intelligence”. Demoted to an HR job when the Justice IG learned he had exchanged virulent anti Trump texts – on an FBI provided device – with Lisa Page, a Justice dept lawyer also involved in the Clinton email probe.


I suppose it matters what is meant by "anti Trump texts." Do they show he was prejudiced against Trump, or do they show accurate disdain for a candidate who never belonged in that position to begin with? This, to me, is like Paul Krugman's comment about right-wing complaints that Politico calls out more lies from Republicans than Democrats--the presumption being that a neutral judge would find equal lies on both sides. That ignores the very real possibility that Republicans simply do lie more than Democrats. This sort of "reasoning" turns locumranch's laughable claim of equalism on its ear, asserting that the more one side cheats, the more "partisan" are any realistic evaluations.

Somehow, I can't see you or most Americans being nearly as troubled by FBI agents exchanging anti-Hillary texts, or anti-Obama texts.


James Comey. Beats me what he was up to.


The most plausible explanation to me is that he was forced into what he did as the least terrible choice. He was reacting rather than acting on his own agenda. IMHO, only.


Having burned every political bridge from the headwaters of the Potomac to the sea it was just a matter of which incoming President would fire him. As of course is his or her prerogative.


Had President Hillary fired him in retaliation, it would have seemed petty, but as you say, understandable. Had Trump fired him only because he didn't like the way Comey didn't pursue Hillary, that would have been an analogous situation. Trump firing Comey during an investigation into Trump himself--it may be his prerogative, but it carries a stink of obstruction about it. Firing Mueller at this point in his investigation would essentially prove that even to holdouts like Alfred and (I hope) Ilithi Dragon.

Note, I'm simply responding to some tangents of your posts now, not having delved into the meat yet. None of this is meant as "Shut up and go away." In fact, the opposite thing.

LarryHart said...

Tim/Tac2:

Robert Mueller. Looks like a trustworthy G-man. Comes under some criticism for being a personal friend of Comey and for staffing his investigation largely with folks who – when their partisan inclinations can be divined – were all Democrats.


Why does that sound sinister, whereas an investigation into Hillary would have seemed suspicious if it had not been staffed by Republicans. It's like, Democrats would be presumed too partisan to investigate a Democrat, but Democrats are also presumed too partisan to investigate a Republican. As opposed to...?

In the admittedly fictitious "West Wing" episode where the White House was forced to initiate an investigation into (Democrat) President Bartlet's hiding of his health problems from the public, the press secretary made a point of announcing that the investigation would be headed up by Republican appointees. That was meant to say the investigation would be above board because the opposition was in control. Why does that sound so bad when the parties are reversed?


But the insular world of Foggy Bottom would have made any other choices difficult. Could have refused the job. Didn’t. I’m OK with him but think he is strolling through a minefield.


The problem is that the minefield isn't specific to Mueller. No matter who heads up the investigation, the minefield is there. And if everyone avoids the minefield, or if the minefield kills them, it's We The People of the United States who lose.

David Brin said...

Yeah. Movie theaters open and women can drive! Yippee!
Meanwhile, Prince Alwaleed hasn't been heard from for six weeks. No due process of law.
We have a pretty good idea how Alwaleed earned his billions. So where did the guy who has imprisoned him get the money for this:

$300 million French chateau ("the most expensive home in the world")
$500 million super yacht
$450 million Leonardo painting (of Jesus, no less)

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/world/middleeast/saudi-prince-chateau.html

Tim Wolter said...

LarryHart

My comment that the Mueller probe would almost have to be D heavy was not snark, just fact.

Have a look at Opensecrets.org. The political contributions from Justice Dept employees in 2016 were D 609K R 65 K. So about 10:1 Between Clinton and Trump the skew was more than that. 397k to 12k. 33:1.

As a proxy for the sentiments inside the Department this seems an imperfect but no unreasonable measure.

T/Tacitus

locumranch said...


When not (allegedly) sexually harassing buffalo, Kevin Costner makes beautiful nature films, and his version of 'Dances with Postman' is right up there with his 'Dances with Trees' (aka 'Robin Hood') & his 'Dances with Wolves'.

It is no wonder, then, that Costner made the film revisions that he did, by making 'The Postman' protagonist less of a opportunistic & cowardly dissembler while allowing him heroic redemption in a climatic battle sequence.

The book differs from the film in this, I seem to remember, as the bookish postman allows others to do the fighting & dying for him, from the young boys that he dupes into self-sacrificial mail delivery to the reluctant warrior (an ex-MOC Native American) who becomes a good -- as in 'dead' -- Indian by sacrificing himself in order to punish the 'bad' -- as in 'self-interested' -- ex-MOC warrior chief.

An excellent piece of propaganda this self-sacrificial motif is and, perhaps. the over-riding message of our age:

Be a 'Good Man and/or Citizen' and Sacrifice Yourselves for Our Collective (but not your individual) Interests. Work Hard and Embrace your Masculine Disposability, and the more bookish among us will Direct Your Actions, Observe from the Sidelines & Enjoy the Fruit of Your Labours while blowing idealistic smoke-up-your-arse about how good & noble your are.

And, don't forget to Recycle, Minimise Your Carbon Footprint & Breed Responsibly because 'Those Who Know, Observe & Direct Your Sacrifices' have to offset their own massive carbon debt because their many homes, vacation destinations and junkets to the G10, Davos & the Paris Accords don't come cheap.

The Bookish Postmans among us are the various Cruzes, Ryans, Pelosis, Comeys, Shumers, Muellers & Strzoks who insist that they deserve our attention, respect & obedience when they do not. Why should any of us live or die on their say so?


Best
_____

The Self-Sacrifice Game is a LOSE-LOSE proposition: It is no wonder, then, that so many of our masculine producers & protectors are opting out though early retirement, social disengagement, work avoidance & the suicide express of firearms, drugs & alcohol, because the only way to win this stupid game it NOT TO PLAY.

Jon S. said...

"But I have absolutely no idea who Groot is supposed to be, or why all he can say is 'I am Groot'."

The backstory is unimportant to the movies, and thus has never been delved into, but...

Back in the '60s, in (IIRC) an issue of Journey Into Mystery, there was a story about an alien invader, a walking tree that could animate wood to do its bidding, named Groot. He tried to use walking forests to take over Earth, but was eventually stopped by a combination of plucky humans fighting back and the unexpected arrival of a flotilla from his homeworld, come to arrest him. Turned out what Groot was doing was strictly against the laws of his people.

Fast-forward to, I think, the second version of the Guardians (they've gone through like three or four incarnations, some set in the distant future), and Groot shows up again. He's apparently been lobotomized; all he can say is "I am Groot." Somehow, his teammates can understand him. The bond between himself and Rocket Raccoon was sufficiently amusing to be carried into the movies. (Haven't seen Vol. 2 yet, but if the backstory is ever fully revealed I'd expect to learn that they met on the world where genetically-engineered animals were serving as the caretakers for the psychologically disabled.)

Sean Gill said...

I enjoyed both the book and the film. I didn't remember that it was released alongside Titanic. That movie also squashed another of my favorite sci-fi films, Dark City.

LarryHart said...

I also mentally associate the year 1997 with the Postman movie and 1998 with "Titanic". Of course, I rarely see a movie immediately after it comes out, so my personal memories are often several months out of date on such things.

LarryHart said...

Tim/Tac2:

Of course this begs the bigger question. How long has this sort of selective Justice been going on. When you accept as no problem the assertions of Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin but bring down the full force of law on Michael Flynn…has this happened on prior issues?


Are you familiar with the case of Don Siegelman? Ran for governor in Alabama as a Democrat. Was railroaded into prison on very flimsy grounds by a Karl Rove-appointed federal prosecutor. So yes, Republicans abuse their prosecutorial powers.

This was his "crime", btw:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2016/04/29/former-alabama-governor-don-siegelman-sent-to-solitary-confinement/?utm_term=.aadcd34975d6

The state’s last Democratic governor, he was convicted of appointing Alabama health-care executive Richard Scrushy to an important industry regulatory board in exchange for Scrushy’s $500,000 campaign contribution to a state referendum on a lottery, the proceeds of which would go to the state’s underfunded schools.

Siegelman’s many supporters say the prosecution was politically motivated — the “architect” in the documentary title refers to Republican strategist Karl Rove.

“There was no personal benefit, not a penny of any financial gain,” Siegelman said in the interview. “There wasn’t any self-enrichment scheme. There was no testimony of a quid pro quo, much less an explicit or express quid pro quo. And the contribution was not even to me but to a ballot initiative.”

TCB said...

>Peter Strzok. FBI second in command for “counter intelligence”. Demoted to an HR job when the Justice IG learned he had exchanged virulent anti Trump texts – on an FBI provided device – with Lisa Page, a Justice dept lawyer also involved in the Clinton email probe.


>I suppose it matters what is meant by "anti Trump texts." Do they show he was prejudiced against Trump, or do they show accurate disdain for a candidate who never belonged in that position to begin with? This, to me, is like Paul Krugman's comment about right-wing complaints that Politico calls out more lies from Republicans than Democrats--the presumption being that a neutral judge would find equal lies on both sides. That ignores the very real possibility that Republicans simply do lie more than Democrats. This sort of "reasoning" turns locumranch's laughable claim of equalism on its ear, asserting that the more one side cheats, the more "partisan" are any realistic evaluations.

>Somehow, I can't see you or most Americans being nearly as troubled by FBI agents exchanging anti-Hillary texts, or anti-Obama texts.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Okay, head us folks. The Trump Justice Department released texts SELECTIVELY, surprise, surprise.

Strzok and Page were having an affair when they engaged in extensive text message conversations about current American politics, according to The Wall Street Journal. While considerable attention has been paid to their criticisms of Trump — whom they variously referred to as "an idiot," "douche," and "TERRIFYING" — they also had unflattering observations about a number of Democrats.

Regarding Clinton, Strzok once texted, "I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected." He also referred to Clinton's daughter, Chelsea Clinton, as "self-entitled," and dismissed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I - Vt., as an "idiot." Page also called Sanders supporters "idiots." They also both had low opinions of President Barack Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, with Strzok writing it was "wildly offensive" for Holder's portrait to be next to that of iconic Attorney General Elliott Richardson and insisting that a television be turned off when Holder spoke at the Democratic National Convention.


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If criticizing Democrats is okay for a government worker, but criticizing Trump and the other Republican traitors and fascists is a fireable offense, then what comes after?

I am reminded of Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn who, during World War Two, commented in a letter that "perhaps Comrade Stalin does not understand conditions here at the front" and that's how he got eleven years in a labor camp.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

$450 million Leonardo painting (of Jesus, no less)


For that kind of money, I'd expect at least a photograph of Jesus.

Tim Wolter said...

TCB
You are correct that what we have been dealt so far is only a small sample of what seems to be a large volume of texts between these two folks. The relevance of the "insurance" quote is its mentioning of a higher up. Probably most of them are just kissyface stuff. More needs to be reviewed. But remember, I am only asking that you rule on whether this alternative conspiracy theory reaches the rather low bar of having as much substance behind it as David's.

LarryH

Thank you. I had not heard of the Siegelman story, or at least did not remember details. That other guy involved, Mr. Scrunchy rang a bell. Its a memorable name and he sounds like a first class weasel.

You of course know my antipathy to prosecutorial misconduct of any sort. Sadly it does not look on my initial read as if anybody got convicted, disbarred or even sternly lectured for this malfeasance.

T/Tacitus

TCB said...

(Correction: Solzhenitsyn was arrested in 1945, sentenced to the gulag for eight years and spent a few more in "internal exile", for a total of about eleven years, until Kruschev repudiated Stalin in 1956.

LarryHart said...

TCB:


If criticizing Democrats is okay for a government worker, but criticizing Trump and the other Republican traitors and fascists is a fireable offense, then what comes after?


That's kind of what I was expecting--that saying obvious true things about Trump constituted "anti-Trump bias".

I didn't guess the part that the same agent also had bad things to say about the Clintons and Eric Holder, but it doesn't surprise me.

This is why I reflexively dismiss such allegations of anti-Republican bias by bureaucrats doing their jobs. Because it always turns out to be something like this. A mountain out of a molehill, deceptively-edited videos, or Pizzagate.

TCB said...

>But remember, I am only asking that you rule on whether this alternative conspiracy theory reaches the rather low bar of having as much substance behind it as David's.

Get back to me when Clinton, Mueller, Strzok, Page, or any other investigator betrays highly secret intelligence to the Russian ambassador. Get back to me when one of them launders money for Russian mafias. Get back to me when one of them tries to arrange the kidnapping of a legal resident.

I rule your alternative theory not merely lacking but contemptible. Please turn out the gaslight on your way out.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

Get back to me when Clinton, Mueller, Strzok, Page, or any other investigator betrays highly secret intelligence to the Russian ambassador. Get back to me when one of them launders money for Russian mafias. Get back to me when one of them tries to arrange the kidnapping of a legal resident.


Reaching back a few years, but "Outing a CIA agent undermining our intelligence gathering in Iran just to punish the agent's husband." Don't forget my favorite.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

Please turn out the gaslight on your way out.


I feel your pain and all, but you know you're proving him right, eh?

The factual rebuttal stands better by itself.

Just IMHO.

TCB said...

@LarryHart, really. Really now. Really. Someone (or several someones) should have gon to Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass Prison for that one. Karl Rove, for one.

Also, pace Tacitus, I'd like to take this opportunity to revive a "conspiracy theory" that got me called crazy for saying it might actually be true.

I'm referring to Rove's on-air Fox News meltdown on Election Night 2012, when his smartphone wasn't showing him the late Romney mireacle he seemed sure was about to happen. Some anonymous Anonymouses (Anonymice?) claimed after the election that they had detected Rove's election-theft pipeline via the ORCA software and waited until Election Night to padlock it with a password, thus enabling a second Obama term.

Knowing what we know NOW about GOP election thievery, are we so sure these hackers weren't telling the truth?

The GOP has been stealing elections since 2000 (the White House but also downticket races such as the 2002 Alabama governor's race after which Rove punished Siegelman and prevented him from running again, by railroading him to prison on a bullshit bribery charge.

Rove. Rove should face a firing squad.

Also @LarryHart, perhaps you are right.

All I know is that I seem to have been shadowbanned on Reddit after several years of good citizenship, for (probably) pissing off some fascist mod. Remember, they still let The_Donald troll farm operate over there.

So, when I hear someone play Sweet Reasonable and offer up arrant horseshit, I firmly wonder if being civil to them is even a good idea.

TCB said...

Let me add that, based on how it makes me feel, the fascist mindfuck is the psychological equivalent of rape. I feel dirty and violated all the time with these people.

And they enjoy it!

Tony Fisk said...

Titanic squashed Dark City?
That may be more plausible than DC being dropped to avoid stealing the Matrix's thunder.

locumranch said...


A shout-out to TCB the Unsullied for having the courage to endorse rape as just punishment for those evil men he doesn't like while condemning those dare criticise any women as evil misogynists. Surely TCB will be rewarded in this life or the next for such gallantry, and for only a few dollars, pounds or euros more, he may even be able to afford a packet of crisps.

A Rape Apologist to be sure, he first endorses "Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass Prison" but then condemns Fascists for "the psychological equivalent of rape":

Does that mean that he admits to being a Fascist, too?

Or, is he willing to prove his loyalty by offering up his meat & 2 veg on platter to appease his gynocratic overlords, and so earn the Jennerian (Bruce, not Edward) title of 'Woman of the Year'?

Best

LarryHart said...

TCB:

the fascist mindfuck is the psychological equivalent of rape. I feel dirty and violated all the time with these people.


Mayor Quimby on "The Simpsons" said it best after declaring "Ich bin ein Springfield swap-meet patron."

"I need a drink and a shower!"

TCB said...

"Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass Prison" is an Office Space reference. It is meant as opposed to "Federal Country Club Prison."

And notice the goons never engaged me on the facts.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Paul SB:

My copy Behave by Sapolsky arrived yesterday and I am reading and enjoying it and learning from it immensely. I wanting to thank you for the recommendation of that book. Gears are turning in my mind and his introductory chapter made me think about and remember the downside of scientific knowledge--his endorsement of what philosopher Mary Midgley has written about drew me in immediately. That chapter and the listing of bad moves by scientists like Lorenz helped me understand, even more, why someone like our faux rancher may have negative feelings towards "Science". I'll post about that later (and I think it's worth a discussion here with the very but I have a book to read right now. ;)

Thanks again!

LarryHart said...

TCB:

@LarryHart, really. Really now. Really. Someone (or several someones) should have gon to Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass Prison for that one. Karl Rove, for one.


The problem is that there seems to be an unspoken rule that prevents anyone with the power to do so from actively penalizing Republican political operatives that high up. Republicans won't admit wrongdoing of their own (so no impeachment of President Snow) and Democrats seem deathly afraid of setting a bad precedent by doing so when they have the chance. Thus we get "looking forward instead of backward", which means any crime not committed in the future is permitted.

Rove. Rove should face a firing squad


Maybe a guillotine instead?

locumranch said...



Finally, Common Ground between TCB, LarryH & I. I love me some Office Space, the cubicle hell being analogous to StarTrek NexGen -- missed TCB's reference, alas -- and the Guillotine is something I can get behind, even though I suspect that TCB, Larry_H & I will differ in regards to selection criteria and traffic preferences given to tumbrels.

I can win them over in regards to Fascism. maybe?

Best

Zepp Jamieson said...

You know, should I ever run into Brin, I don't think I'll introduce myself. Instead, I'll give him my most level gaze and tell him I thought "The Postman" was a great movie, but the book really sucked.
The expression on his face would be priceless...
And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go set fire to some kittens...

David Brin said...

Tim says: “To say that nobody near the Clintons would ever dare conspire because they should know their actions would always be under close scrutiny is a comforting position to hold. We’d like the world, and particularly the inner workings of our Justice system, to be rational and beyond reproach. The real world is often otherwise.”

Oy! What that awareness of relentless scrutiny does is it adds to the burden of proof carried by an obsessive-compulsive reflexive “movement” that has spent half a billion dollars of our money across 25 years hounding two people on whom they have never made one thing stick…

… except a husband fibbing “who, me?” about some 3rd base consensual infidelity in a hallway. And for the GOP - land of pedophiles, multiple divorcés, domestic violence, STDs and gambling-casino lords to scream over that is utter hypocrisy.

Your scenario has a reverse, Tim! In 2001 GW Bush entered office determined to sift every federal closet and file for that smoking Clinton gun. Federal agents saw their job prospects peak on promised rewards (plus millions from the Kochs-Murdochs) of giving the boss - W - what he wanted. So hey, man, why didn’t you mention THAT little aspect?

Or Bush diverting FBI resources from counter-terror to the Clinton search during the 6 months leading up to 9/11?

Read that sentence again, and tell me it doesn’t elicit the work “Treason”?

CRIPES! You dare raise HCs medical status when Trump is blatantly ill in ways that could kill us all?

David Brin said...

As for invalidating Mueller… these efforts to shut down an investigation of possible treason are in themselves criminal treason and there is zero way they can be interpreted any other way. The Clintons made no such demands, ever! They gritted their teeth and went to every hearing.

No matter how high you pile your conspiratorial coincidences, the stack doesn't come up ankle high on DT's refusal to let us see his finances... and the millions he is making off foreign interests paying top dollar to rent hotel rooms that no one even visits.

I agree, I am intrigued to hear the story about the Andy life insurance policy. Sounds weird. And he was fired.

“You could just keep going on this stuff….”

Carumba! When half of the Donald Trump White House is under suspicion of being foreign agents and the President may be under direct blackmail control by the KGB, you are scratching in the sand for …. for THIS???? As an excuse to STOP looking at the possibility that the Chief Executive of the USA has been suborned? Dig it, you WANT motivated people on the team eager to find dirt to prosecute!

A scandal would be a biased JUDGE! A biased investigator or prosecutor is NOT … A…. Scandal! And yet Mueller tears them out when he finds them…

…which presents a problem, because no sane, fact-using professional does NOT think “he’s an idiot.” Are you demanding that the FBI toss out every single person who can see his hand in front of his face?

The answer to your 'conspiracy spinning's is: “Fine, set up an inspector to collate all of these “scandals” in real time, and clean out unprofessionals and even prosecute misbehavior... LATER!. But even if they were 100x as smelly as what you've sniffed-at, that should not stop the ripping away of masks and seeing what’s rotten in the State of America.

Let's be clear. The worst case is not implausible! And the worst case is that a foreign power is using their agent to do savage harm upon is with every stroke of his pen. Even a 1% possibility should be the thing keeping you up at night and focused.



Once last week… locum fired a salvo that aimed at the real me. I congratulated! Now he is back to being delusionally insane. Ah well. I was actually skim-reading… I am back to glance scrolling his stuff.



Zepp you are so silly! ;-)

Tony Fisk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Fisk said...

The spilt milk that Trump's legal team are wailing over is, as the commentator puts it, quite delicious.

Of course, they've got nothing to worry about: team Trump's interview responses to Mueller are sure to correlate with their email accounts.

TCB said...

The reason the attempts to sink the Russia investigations make me so irate is that the Trump/GOP treason only needs to pull off one more good scam to cement a real dictatorship, here and now. This is it. This is the big score.

If they can definitively place their clique above and beyond the rule of law, on crimes this big, there is nothing left that they cannot do to the rest of us, nothing, nothing.

After Mueller, the deluge.

Tony Fisk said...

I thought that, after being done away with, Mueller's ghost might visit the resident of 1600 Penn. Ave. to foretell life changing interviews with the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future.

Twominds said...

@Alfred Differ
To exploit people, you already have to be relatively rich. It takes power to enslave people and power requires wealth. Two equals meeting face-to-face will have difficulty exploiting each other. So... wealth must be created first... but how?

Not necessarily wealth. Other advantages can be used too. Harari gives the example of the Conquistadors in Middle and South America. Cortez and later Pizarro came there with no more than a couple of hundred men, and managed to conquer huge empires by exploiting internal weaknesses, and using the fact that the rulers there underestimated them, thinking that they could crush those relatively few men any time. And they could have, in the beginning, even if that would have cost many more of their own men due to the difference in weapons.
AFAIK only when the conquest was fact, the spanish kings were willing to put more money in it, to start the colonisation process.

Twominds said...

I have a question to Larry Hart, and others that may be here with a Jewish background or knowledge of it.

In the old testament of the bible, there are a lot of rules mentioned how to live rightly, to be awarded with a good life on earth. But I can't remember any mentioning of any afterlife, or people having an undying soul. I wonder now, is or was that no part of Jewish faith, or is that covered in other sources than the old testament?

TCB said...

I'm not Jewish (but I have grandsons who are!) and as I understand it, Judaism doesn't really have an afterlife, or at least none that has been universally agreed upon at all times. In Biblical times (i.e. when the Old Testament was originally written) the Jews seem to have had a pretty similar idea of Hades that the Greeks did: it's no picnic but everybody ends up there. The idea that there are better and worse sections of Hades/Sheol comes later, and crosses over into Christian thinking... also, the Jewish version does not include eternal punishment. Well, mostly...

It's complicated, and depends on whom you ask. There's a reason very abstruse debates are often called 'Talmudic'.

Much of what we think of as the Christian afterlife is (in the Bible) metaphorical anyway. If the fundamentalists were really that serious about "original intent", then they (much like the advocates of "original intent in the Constitution) would have some VERY different ideas about what to do and what to believe.

For instance: Jesus never mentions abortion (but does have lots of harsh things to say about wealth), and the Constitution never mentions corporations, or Jesus.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Your scenario has a reverse, Tim! In 2001 GW Bush entered office determined to sift every federal closet and file for that smoking Clinton gun. Federal agents saw their job prospects peak on promised rewards (plus millions from the Kochs-Murdochs) of giving the boss - W - what he wanted. So hey, man, why didn’t you mention THAT little aspect?


I mean this not directed at Tim personally, but as an observation of much of mainstream America. The answer is, "Because a presumption in favor of Republicans--especially by police organizations--is not considered "partisan", but just normal respect for legitimate authority and the status quo."

So much socio-political discourse makes sense if and only if one recognizes this postulate.


CRIPES! You dare raise HCs medical status when Trump is blatantly ill in ways that could kill us all?


This one, I'd give to Tim, as long as he's not dismissing the Trump health issues while pointing out that Hillary's were being downplayed.

LarryHart said...

Twominds:

I have a question to Larry Hart, and others that may be here with a Jewish background or knowledge of it.


I'm not a scholar of the Jewish Bible, so caveat emptor. What TCB says above is pretty much my take as well. There's no mention of eternal damnation that I can remember, and Satan as he appears in the Book of Job seems more like a trickster annoyance (think Loki) than God's Dark Reflection.

One thing that surprises many Christians is that the Garden of Eden story in "Genesis" never casts the snake as Satan or Lucifer. It's just a snake. The story reads like an Aesop's fable, "This is why women are afraid of snakes. This is why snakes bite people." That sort of thing.

LarryHart said...

continuing from above...

I'd ask a Christian to verify this, but I'm not sure the snake-as-Satan bit even comes from the New Testament. It might be Milton's "Paradise Lost" which first makes that connection.

locumranch said...



Getting back to 'The Postman' -- a story about a post-apocalypse opportunist who finds an old uniform, goes around masquerading as US Post Office employee & catalyses the reformation of the USA -- can anyone shed some light on its intended moral ? . I can only think of three:

(1) 'The End justifies the Means' in the sense that Lying & Cheating about Motive & Identity is acceptable if achieves a the Noble Purpose of US Reformation, analogous to Bill Clinton being 'a friend to women & an feminist advocate' even though he was accused of multiple rapes, in a court of law, by 'Women Who Must Be Believed' because false accusations clearly NEVER happen;

(2) 'Any Lie told over & over becomes The Truth' in the sense the frequent incantatory repetition of the claim "I'm a Postman' by our post-apocalypse protagonist magically CREATES a new & different reality, analogous to the oft-repeated hoary claim that 'The US is a Democracy' (a lie), US Military adventurism equals 'Peace-Keeping' (another lie) or 'Trump is not a legitimate US President' (a bigger lie); or

(3) 'The US Public is very susceptible to the Big Lie technique pioneered by the Nazis' in the sense that the US consumer will believe any lying Srtzokish A-hole in an uniform, as argued by one Edward Bernays who showed the US Corpocracy how to SELL SELL SELL the gullible public tonnes & tonnes of unnecessary consumer crap for 'The Good of the Country' because patriotism & apple pie.

Which moral did David intend?

Enquiring Minds Want to Know!!!


Best
_____
And, so we dedicate this statue to another fallen hero, our Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman, A Potential Rapist & Transgender Postman, who has been accused, tried & executed in the court of public opinion for the Horrendous Crime of asking an underage girl to rub his aching feet on a film set some 20 years ago.

Steven Hammond said...

Two Minds said:
I have a question to Larry Hart, and others that may be here with a Jewish background or knowledge of it.

I'm no expert, but I'll have a go.

The Old Testament is a collection of texts from a very long period of time. There are obvious changes in very fundamental beliefs. In some of the older bits, Yahweh is just the greatest of the gods. True monotheism is a development over time. Likewise, ideas about the afterlife--whether it exists and what it's like if it does--develop as well. By the Second Temple Period when most of the NT was written, Zoroastrianism and Hellenistic ideas had influenced Jewish thought and the idea of a resurrection of the dead, either limited to the righteous or a universal resurrection was popular but by no means universal. The sub-group of Jewish scholars, the Sadducees, in that time rejected the idea of an afterlife.

Here's a paper I found online that covers this well.

http://www.jansigvartsen.com/resources/SBL%20Regional%20session%202015%20-%20%20The%20Afterlife%20in%20the%20Apocalytpic%20Literature%20of%20the%20Second%20Temple%20Period%20Judaism%20-%20Revised.pdf

Paul SB said...

Steven,

I'm glad you are enjoying the book! It's thick as a brick, and I hope you will enjoy it from start to finish. I found learning about neuroscience pretty transformational when I started 18 years ago (Gadzooks it's been that long!). It changes how you think about people both as individuals and as aggregates, and I'm glad this guy put together such a good tome here. I'm going to have to go back and read it again myself, there are so many gems I expect a dragon to come along and burn my place down to get it.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Paul SB

It is a very thick book, but his style makes it much easier reading than it might be. Still loving it

Oh, and let me see if I can get that link in my last comment to work.
The Afterlife in the Apocalyptic Literature of Second Temple Period Judaism

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

Fast-forward to, I think, the second version of the Guardians (they've gone through like three or four incarnations, some set in the distant future), and Groot shows up again. He's apparently been lobotomized; all he can say is "I am Groot." Somehow, his teammates can understand him.


I can't tell if you know this or not, but the original concept of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" (and the only team I was aware of until the movies) was set in the future--the thirtieth century to be exact. They never even interacted with the present time in their own title, but an Avengers story in the mid 1970s had the Guardians chase one of their villains back in time to the present era.

The only one of the original team I can spot in the movies is Yondu, and he's a completely different character from the stereotypical bow-and-arrow shooting "Indian sidekick" of the comics.

Starlord, Gamora, and even Rocket Raccoon are indeed all characters from various Marvel books, but none having anything to do with the original Guardians.

David Brin said...

Twominds: Christians ask why Jews were so “obstinate and stiff-necked” across the middle ages, enduring torture every generation, rather than convert. It’s simple. It’s not the notion of an afterlife. Gradually, over time and with much (still, today) dissent, some heavenly afterlife inveigled its way into Jewish mainstream theology.

No, it was Paul’s (not Jesus’s) heretical notion that God is an insane, malevolent monster. Despite some bloody chapters of the Old Testament, Original Sin was so vicious that it was seen as unacceptable insult to the creator of a gorgeous world and life. Oh, one can see how – from Paul’s perspective - the doctrine of Original Sin was a necessary innovation, to sell the notion that the mission of Jesus was actually a success(!) instead of a crucified failure. But that doctrine also meant God hates all humans for a dumb-ass mistake by a couple of entrapped and gullible teenagers, long ago. For that error, He wreaks eternal vengeance on all except those few whomanage to hear about and recite exactly the right incantations – of which 99% of people weren’t even aware. And yes, the damned included babies.

There was a Greek cult that believed all these things, and they were the targets of Paul’s sales pitch. And clearly it worked, in part because there were no more Jewish Christians to object, since James (Jesus’s brother) and the Jewish Christians all died defending their assigned section of Jerusalem’s wall, in 70 AD.

-
Skimmed locum’s strawmen. He actually believes his drool has anything to do with me, or anything I wrote? Har!

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

The Old Testament is a collection of texts from a very long period of time. There are obvious changes in very fundamental beliefs. In some of the older bits, Yahweh is just the greatest of the gods.


The first five books of the Old Testament are the Torah, also known as the "five books of Moses". Since the second book, "Exodus" begins with Moses's birth, four of the five books would seem to be contained within a single (albeit long) human lifetime. "Genesis", on the other hand, covers over a thousand years, sometimes very quickly. When I finally tried to read the entire Bible in order, I was astounded at how short the Tower of Babel story is--if the Bible were a comic book, I would expect an asterisk there with an editorial comment referring us to issue # whatever of a different title where the whole story was told in greater detail. In fact, much of Genesis reads like that--as a collection of short stories which were written by different authors centuries apart. There aren't even any Hebrews to speak of until Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob come along toward the end.

(A few years ago when there was a movie about Noah's Ark, a right-wing complaint about the movie was that Noah only referred to "the Creator" or something like that rather than the monotheistic Judeo-Christian God. This was seen by the right as evidence of Hollywood secular atheism. In fact, it was more likely a recognition that Noah came well before Abraham, who is known as the first monotheist.)

And like the opening chapter of Asimov's "Foundation" novel, Genesis chapter 1 seems to have been added as a framing sequence after the rest had already been written. The God of Genesis 1 seems to be the omnipotent monotheistic God we think of today, whereas the YHWH God of the rest of Genesis seems more like a tribal god who fights battles over territory with the gods of other tribes. Dave Sim even posits a theory that YHWH is a separate being from God--a kind of earth spirit (the Oyarsa of earth, perhaps) who only thinks herself to be God. And yes, he posits that this being is female.

lawschoolissoover said...

Getting back the the Postman.

I enjoyed the film. It wasn't great, but (to quote Miracle Max) "I've seen worse."

The book, on the other hand, was terrific. I picked up a pre-release copy from a FREE rack at the BYU library. I don't recall the exact date, but I was visiting with my then-girlfriend, whose family lived in Provo. She's been my spouse for 32 years, so this was some time ago.

Anyway, the references to the midwest (I graduated from the U of M) got the book into my head, and since I've been a fan of apocalyptic stories ever since I read Alas, Babylon in junior high school, well, I was hooked.

The movie wasn't as good, but movies seldom are. The book, I still think, was amazing.

LarryHart said...

lawschoolissoover:

Anyway, the references to the midwest (I graduated from the U of M) got the book into my head,


Funny, I also live in the midwest, but what I retained most was the images of Oregon. I learned where Eugene and Corvallis were from that book, and the first few times I read it, I needed to keep an Oregon map nearby so I could follow the action.


The movie wasn't as good, but movies seldom are. The book, I still think, was amazing.


"The Postman" is similar to "Dune" in that so much of the experience is in the narrative language and the getting immersed into the "universe" in which the story takes place. To me, that involves putting the book down and coming back to it over a long period of time. No single-sitting movie can recreate that experience.

LarryHart said...

Twominds:

Harari gives the example of the Conquistadors in Middle and South America. Cortez and later Pizarro came there with no more than a couple of hundred men, and managed to conquer huge empires by exploiting internal weaknesses, and using the fact that the rulers there underestimated them, thinking that they could crush those relatively few men any time.


It also apparently helped that when Quetzalcoatl was defeated in 1019, he prophesied that he'd return as a conqueror in 500 years. Cortez arrived in 1519.

TCB said...

Re: the Postman movie. The bit that amused me most was when Holn's prisoner/recruits were forced to watch movies, and if they didn't like what they saw they'd throw stuff at the projection shack. Subtext: Holn's army are neither robots nor inherently bad, etc. etc. and a lot of them would probably join a better army if one were available.

Compare and contrast the scene in Jarhead when Jake Gyllenhal and his fellow Marines (in 1990) are watching Apocalypse Now (the helicopter attack set to Ride of the Valkyries) when the film is interrupted to announce that they are deploying to Kuwait, and react by hooting approval and tapping their boxes of candy against their heads (in imitation of how they would tap rifle magazines against their helmets to make sure the bullets are seated to feed properly).

Steven Hammond said...

David Brin said:

No, it was Paul’s (not Jesus’s) heretical notion that God is an insane, malevolent monster. Despite some bloody chapters of the Old Testament, Original Sin was so vicious that it was seen as unacceptable insult to the creator of a gorgeous world and life. Oh, one can see how – from Paul’s perspective - the doctrine of Original Sin was a necessary innovation, to sell the notion that the mission of Jesus was actually a success(!) instead of a crucified failure. But that doctrine also meant God hates all humans for a dumb-ass mistake by a couple of entrapped and gullible teenagers, long ago. For that error, He wreaks eternal vengeance on all except those few whomanage to hear about and recite exactly the right incantations – of which 99% of people weren’t even aware. And yes, the damned included babies. (my emphasis)

I think you're being a bit hard on Paul and smearing him with the brush that, perhaps, ought to be smearing Augustine and Calvin for starters. The text in Romans where Paul outlines his doctrine of original sin is even used as a support for universal salvation by many.

I'm no NT scholar and probably not even what would be considered a Christian, but thought I'd comment. Oh, and Douglas Campbell and what is known as "The Apocalyptic Paul School" (apocalyptic here doesn't mean what Sci-Fi fans generally mean by it) is radically challenging what modern NT scholars think Paul actually meant. And that's a good thing.

lawschoolissoover said...

LarryHart:

I've never lived farther west of the Mississippi than Minneapolis, so Oregon didn't grab me as much, but I was living in Chicago when I first read the book, and the difference between Chicago and Minnesota made the Minnesota references particularly nice. I live in New England now, and books with Minnesota in them continue to be grabbers for me, so long as they're any good.

BTW, thinking about movies and books, I think I could reduce the books that have become great movies to perhaps one: _The_Princess_Bride_. That's partly an aspect of having seen the film before discovering the book, but to this day, I cannot conceive of better casting.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

Re: the Postman movie. The bit that amused me most was when Holn's prisoner/recruits were forced to watch movies, ...


Is Nathan Holn a living character in the movie?

In the book, he was already a martyred legend, and I thought he worked better that way.

LarryHart said...

lawschoolissoover:

I live in New England now, and books with Minnesota in them continue to be grabbers for me, so long as they're any good.


Well, I married a girl from Minneapolis, and she's also a fan of David Brin, so there's that.

LarryHart said...

lawschoolissoover:

I've never lived farther west of the Mississippi than Minneapolis, so Oregon didn't grab me as much,


Well, I've never lived west of Champaign, Illinois, but the book made Oregon "feel" real, if that makes any sense. Actually, I've often wondered why Gordon's "Go west, young man" journey took him to Oregon rather than the more stereotypical California, but in any case, the setting works for me.

A year or so back when there was a mass shooting in Roseburg, I didn't have to look it up on a map.

LarryHart said...

lawschoolissoover:

BTW, thinking about movies and books, I think I could reduce the books that have become great movies to perhaps one: _The_Princess_Bride_.


You might need to include The Godfather in that category. Or I would, anyway.

For movies that are better than the books they sprang from (whether or not they deserve "greatness"), I'd include Logan's Run and Soylent Green.

Oh, and The Ten Commandments if you're counting the Bible as a "book". 'Course if Moses had had a gun...

Which reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw--I still can't tell if it was meant seriously or as obvious self-parody--that said something like, "If Jesus had had a gun, He'd be alive today!" Which is great for Him, but not so much for all those Christians out there. I mean, they'd all still be miserable sinners without forgiveness, right?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Brin's Oregon ran true to me, enough so that I thought he was local to those parts. And I normally live in Siskiyou County, which is a part of Oregon the mapmakers screwed up and put in California.

LarryHart said...

I read The Postman in 1986, long before I knew who David Brin was. My take was that he either had in-depth knowledge of Oregon, or that he had a deep knowledge and love of university towns.

Of course, it could be two things.

Twominds said...

Thank you all who reacted to my question, especially Steven Hammond for the link to the paper. I skimmed it for now, but will read it the next evenings. I do already see that I missed or forgot about instances in the old testament where an afterlife is mentioned. Seems I need to reread it all again!

The Haaretz wanted my subscription first, which went a bit too far for some curiosity.

Dr. Brin, my Roman Catholic background gave me enough info on the Christian views, but thanks anyway.

@Larry Hart on Quetzalcoatl. Yes that will have had effect, but Pizarro in the Andes didn't have that helpful coincidence. Neither did the Inca's know what had happened to the north, and weren't warned.

TCB said...

@ LarryHart, ah, the leader's name in the movie is General Bethlehem. I misremembered him as being Holn.

LarryHart said...

@TCB, (actually @Dr. Brin)

It couldn't be General Macklin?

Even if you're changing the plot and the setting, what's the point of not using the names already created there in the book?

Interesting that Gordon is no longer "Gordon", and the general is no longer "Macklin", but Holnists were preserved. Did the filmmakers consider Holnism to be the core concept of the book?

Steven Hammond said...

@ Twominds:

I hope that paper is helpful. I find honest, scholarly writing regarding both the OT and NT extremely interesting. At least in my country (USA) they remain texts that shape or at least influence every human endeavor depending on how one reads them.

In favor of capital punishment? You can find something to support this in the Bible. Against capital punishment? Well, the general tone of Jesus' words supports you there. Dr Brin alluded to the idea of damnation for those that fail to assent intellectually to certain religious propositions and that has been as major thread in Christian thought for centuries. But. Even early on in Origen's time, that was not necessarily the case.

Dr. Brin has some really great ideas about how to prevent active combat in the latest phase of the American Civil War, but I would propose that somehow persuading Evangelical and Fundamentalist church leaders graduating from seminary to actually teach and distribute the knowledge that real scholars (who likely taught them in seminary) to their congregations as new pastors etc. may be even more effective. So many church pastors and priests have been hiding that knowledge in fear of losing their positions. Others, of course, have discounted what they've learned without a second thought given its potential impact on their worldview. ("It's the lies of Satan!")

I'll leave you with a post by a scholar I like, Peter Enns, who did absorb what he learned and works to spread that knowledge to Evangelicals and Fundamentalists in a friendly and accessible way (and embracing this knowledge did cost him a position). Here's a post of his from a year or so ago that addresses Paul. (Dr. Brin might even like it. ;) )

Paul: it looks like he’s sort of winging it

David Brin said...

Steven H… consider the logic. Original Sin was necessary in order to have Jesus be victorious over something more important than defeating the Romans or improving life on Earth or even surviving to teach or to rule – none of which happened. The way to turn the crucifixion into a victory was to posit some horrible condition that required a human-god sacrifice to overcome.

Never mind that human sacrifice was anathema to Jews and God clearly stated –to Abraham – that He would never, ever demand it. Paul’s clientele were Greeks, and they were predisposed.

Perhaps Paul was more generous than Augustine and Calvin. They viewed all non-orthodox Christians (by their standards) as competitors while Paul did not yet disdain Jews. So maybe Paul deemed JC’s sacrifice to be effective, requiring little more than virtue from most people. That still leaves him as the concoctor of the doctrine of Original Sin. It may have seemed logically necessary to him. But it was also tantamount to calling the Creator a homicidally cruel and vindictive madman. And to this most Jews would say no, no matter how hard you tortured them.

David Brin said...

LH: The Babel story is short, but spectacularly important. If taken on face value, it is one of four places in Genesis where our purpose and potential is defined as unlimited. He is not even ANGRY in the Babel story! He simple decides on a course of action, killing or hurting no one. In the Koran and Book of Mormon there’s anger! But not in the core text.
At the Singularity Summit 2011 I gave a talk to all those folks who think that technology will soon empower us to construct super-intelligent artificial intelligences, or perfect intelligence enhancing implants, or even cheat death. The title: "So you want to make gods. Now why would that bother anybody?" http://tinyurl.com/3lbyybv

Lawschoolisover, thanks. There is a scene in Minnesota at the start of the screenplay that I wrote for The Postman, back when I was both frustrated with the evil Erik Roth script and had illusions someone might ever actually read my script.

TCB when the holnists watch movies I was delighted that they were humanized and wanted to live in a nicer world, as seen in The Sound of Music. But the movie they booed? A Jean-Claude Van Damn cyborg movie that clearly was Costner getting in a dig… at me! For the augment story line that he cut from the film… as if I’d object! I thought he made the right choice! Never even got a chance to tell him.


Bladerunner was better than the rather modest book it was loosely based-upon.

Steven Hammond said...

David Brin said:


Perhaps Paul was more generous than Augustine and Calvin. They viewed all non-orthodox Christians (by their standards) as competitors while Paul did not yet disdain Jews So maybe Paul deemed JC’s sacrifice to be effective, requiring little more than virtue from most people. That still leaves him as the concoctor of the doctrine of Original Sin. It may have seemed logically necessary to him. But it was also tantamount to calling the Creator a homicidally cruel and vindictive madman. And to this most Jews would say no, no matter how hard you tortured them.

I'm glad you're willing to engage in this theological debate which I think is so important. To be honest, I don't have a lot of skin in the game, I see Paul as a man of a certain time and with a certain background (Jewish cleric in the Pharisee sect, Intelligence and education above the norm), who experienced something or felt something that made him an apostle to this man, JC.

Paul did not distain Jews as a group at any point, I would say. From what I can tell, his vision was large and he resented the efforts of James and Peter to make followers of Jesus Jews in the strict sense of requiring circumcision etc. Paul, of course, was a Jew himself and I see little evidence that he despised Jews (as a group.)

Universalists (and the "Apocalyptic Paul" group, perhaps) would argue that Paul did not feel that God required virtue, but that "virtue" was the proper response to a gift of "Salvation" (whatever that may mean and it's almost certainly not just eternal life).

Do Paul's words, which were misinterpreted by later theologians to imply Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT) for non-believers, make him culpable for deaths due to those misinterpretations? I would argue that they do not--any more than the writer of the second amendment is culpable for the murders of hundreds, nay thousands, of people who have died because of his words.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
I had to check to see if Costner was still alive - he is!
There is still hope that you guys could meet somewhere over a beer or something

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LH: The Babel story is short, but spectacularly important.


When I was a very wee lad, we had a Jewish calendar with biblical images on each page. I remember my father telling me the stories behind two of them: Noah's Ark and the Tower of Babel. By the time he was finished, my jaw was hitting the floor. I was completely wrapped up in the narrative.

That's why I was surprised to see the Tower of Babel maybe take up less than ten sentences in the actual Bible. Genesis doesn't even really tell the story so much as refer to the story to mark its place in the chronology--as if you already know the full story from somewhere else. It would be as if a book mentions someone being born in 1944 and then throws in a line about "That's when World War II was going on. The Allies had just invaded Normandy and pushed on to re-take Paris." It sets the scene, but hardly counts as a detailed history of the war. You know about the war from other sources.

I'm not knocking the story. I'm just saying it must have come from somewhere else and been incorporated into the Bible rather than the other way around.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

...for the augment story line that he cut from the film… as if I’d object! I thought he made the right choice! Never even got a chance to tell him.


Why cut the augments? I may be speaking from a 2017 perspective rather than a 1997 one, but augments seem like the kind of thing that would get added to a sci-fi movie version these days, not removed from one.

The whole nature of the final confrontation between Macklin and *** no spoiler! *** goes away without the augment concept. So does the entire role George Powhattan plays in the book. And without augments, the Holnists seem less of a threat as they move northward. They're not the unstoppable force that they are in the book.

I understand if those things were not included, but I'm curious as to why you are so positive about that decision.

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

Do Paul's words, which were misinterpreted by later theologians to imply Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT) for non-believers, make him culpable for deaths due to those misinterpretations? I would argue that they do not--any more than the writer of the second amendment is culpable for the murders of hundreds, nay thousands, of people who have died because of his words.


Hmmmm. I would argue that Paul's words convince people to commit atrocities, maybe even coerce them into doing so (by fear of eternal torture themselves). The Second Amendment is more a codification of the right to bear arms. It doesn't convince anyone of anything they don't already believe. The words (by force of legal authority) allow possession of arms, but don't convince anyone what to do with them.

I don't entirely discount the point you were making, but maybe a better example is in order?

Tim H. said...

Concerning books into movies I thought the adaptation of Somerset Maugham's "The Razor's Edge" was very well done, even if it did poorly at the box office. The Postman worked well for me, as book and film, and perhaps SFX has advanced enough to film Started Rising or Kiln People.

Steven Hammond said...

@Larry Hart:
Let's look at the major text in question and see if you feel the same before going on with the discussion. Obviously English translations miss much of what the original Greek may have conveyed, but, alas, I don't read Greek and I doubt many here do either.

Here is Romans Chapter 5 from the Revised Standard Version (a good middle of the road translation).


1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. 6 While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man--though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. 8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation. 12 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned-- 13 sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Remember, these are words written by a man in the ancient near east (ANE) 2,000 years ago. Understanding what he meant has been the work of innumerable scholars. Saying that these words, "...convince people to commit atrocities, maybe even coerce them into doing so (by fear of eternal torture themselves).. " is a very strong statement, and (I would argue) not obvious from the text in question. There may be an argument that could be cobbled together from other writings of Paul, but it's not something that is obvious in a prima facie reading of the NT.

Steven Hammond said...

(cont.)
Paul takes liberties in his reading of the OT, but other Jewish teachers of the time did as well. As I said, he was a man of his times. And he was a man and his thoughts are those of a human (IMO) and not those of a divine mouth-piece or instrument. If Christians had seen him as such--liable to errors, prejudices and the limitations of knowledge of the time--much harm could have been prevented. It does no good, I think, to lay the great sins of subsequent Christians at his feet.

I think the analogy I presented still stands, by and large, as Paul is not convincing people to commit atrocities or even coercing them. Subsequent theologians took his words and expanded them (wrongly IMO) to do just that but it's really a stretch to see that in his words. Misunderstanding of what "salvation" meant to Paul (and to Jesus) is a large part of this as well.

Twominds said...

Re: The Postman, I haven't seen the movie yet, and I'm glad to know which parts of the story are missing. It would be jarring otherwise. I'm curious how Costner filled the narrative holes he created that way.

A.F. Rey said...

Cool essay.

No better present to give a storyteller than a story (except, maybe, the cash). :)

Alfred Differ said...

My wife pointed out tonight that she hasn't seen the 'silly remake about a sinking boat'. Apparently we've both managed to avoid it even with it being on TV occasionally. We did see Kostner's film, though.

Obviously our little market niche isn't the right one to target if you want to make any money. No doubt we'd ditch a new sappy romance to see Startide Rising if it ever appeared in theaters, so that doesn't bode well. 8)

Finally got out to see the Blade Runner sequel. Hmm. It was in one of the second tier places in town and the room was practically empty. We got to kibitz and comment a bit as it progressed without annoying anyone nearby. Should not have brought my son, but he wanted to come.

... and the new Star Wars movie. Sigh.

Paul451 said...

Two Minds, and others:
Re: Losing the SF elements from the book.

While it keeps the core idea, it's a different story. Hence there aren't any missing plot points by leaving out the SF elements like the augments. Ie, collapse the world now, not in some indeterminate SF future; then jump ahead enough for people to get settled enough that they are tired of merely surviving and are looking for something better, a symbol of civilisation, however small; but not so far they've forgotten civilisation.

The next bit has sort-of spoilers if'n you intend to see the film...

--

Re: The Postman, the film,

I sayed it afore, and I says it agin, the biggest problem with the film was that the pro- and antagonist were counter-cast. Will Patton would have made a more believable down-trodden "everyman", over his head and running as fast as he could just to keep from drowning. Costner was too much a casual hero, laid back "leading man", for it to work. Hence, for eg, it didn't fit his character when he kept trying to surrender in despair, making the final conflict much less meaningful. Patton would have sold those scenes. OTOH, hamming it up as a scenery-chewing villain, Costner would have made a much better cult leader. (Likewise reversing the occupations in the final show-down. Make "General" Costner just an actor, faking the role of glorious leader; while the "Postman" is just a teacher, forced into his role. Both lying, both creating new societies around their lies, but each society modelled on the ideals created by their former professions. The shallow hero-focus of film versions of history, vs the effort and sacrifice of ordinary people in the real thing.)

--

Tim H,
Re: CGI and Startide Rising or Kil'n People.

I think CGI has reached the point where STR (or any Uplift book) could be made and not look fake or stupid, but the cost would still be high enough it would need to be a guaranteed block-buster, which requires mass appeal, which means you'd get massive studio interference. Which is the kiss of death for CGI-heavy SF. (At least, outside of Marvel (and even then only once they formed their own studio (and sometimes not even then.))) Hence I think STR would still only work as an animation. Made by the guys producing the Star Wars cartoons, or similar. Make the whole six books as a Netflix animated series over three seasons.

(And, as I've also said before, a spin-off series about the life of Harry Harms, pre second trilogy, just the everyday stories of a neo-chimp schmo doin' his job mapping imaginary dimensions in a spaceship which is either sentient or entirely a figment of his imagination.)

OTOH, the effects required for Kil'n People are much easier, reducing the needed budget, allowing it to sneak in as an indy SF noir, allowing more freedom.

Tony Fisk said...

The main challenge with STR wouldn't be the CGI, but simultaneously portraying the fen as anthropomorphic, and as dolphins. Having aliens portrayed as humans with funny foreheads (or motion capture dots) isn't just a matter of budgetary constraint, although I suppose that is what mapping human emotion onto a non-human countenance comes down to.

It would probably be better as anime.

Other books that would make 'courageous' SF films: Anderson's "People of the Wind" and "The Man Who Counts" (yes, using the less subtle title of "War of the Wing Men")

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

I think the analogy I presented still stands, by and large, as Paul is not convincing people to commit atrocities or even coercing them. Subsequent theologians took his words and expanded them (wrongly IMO) to do just that but it's really a stretch to see that in his words.


Fair point. Not being a scholar of the NT, I was arguing more that someone's words are responsible for ginning people up to commit atrocities. Maybe not Paul himself, though.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

... and the new Star Wars movie. Sigh.


I want to be blase about yet another Star Wars installment that I don't really care that much about, but my brother, who has already seen it, assures me that this one is good. So I suppose I will see it eventually.

We don't always share the same tastes, but we generally know each other's tastes well enough to make recommendations based upon those, not upon our own.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Which is the kiss of death for CGI-heavy SF. (At least, outside of Marvel (and even then only once they formed their own studio (and sometimes not even then.)))


Is it possible that you remember the line from David Michilinie's "Iron Man" where the matronly secretary sees Tony Stark kissing Bethany and remarks:

In my day, we didn't do that until we were married. And sometimes, not even then!

LarryHart said...

The latest flap over Omarosa--a name I was completely unfamiliar with until she became part of the White House staff--leads me to a conclusion that (once again) there are two types of people in the world: Those who were intimately familiar with "The Apprentice" before Trump ran for president and those who weren't.

I don't mean that everyone who watched the show voted for Trump, or even that they like him. But I think those (myself among them) who did not follow the show missed some critical insight into Trump's appeal as a populist during the election.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I think the plot of "Kiln People" might be a bit dense for a mass audience, but that's not to say it couldn't be done. (Maybe as an eight part mini-series, since the book doesn't have a lot that can be cut out and still make sense). After all, they made a terrific movie out of Heinlein's -* All You Zombies *-, (Predestination, with Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook). The plot there is even more of a Chinese puzzle.

raito said...

Paul SB,

The music industry (as in, what it was in the 60's through 90's or so) is dead, or effectively so (dinosaurs, with their very small brains, keep thrashing for quite a long time). Check out the charts, and compare those to sales. The dinosaur publishers make money on volume, and the volume is much more diffuse now. The old way of signing a band with an onerous contract, then marketing the heck out of them, rinse and repeat and get money, isn't what it used to be.

The musicians are changing, too. They're looking for multiple income streams, which is anathema to the publishers, who want all income to come through them.

The game industry is also much more diffuse. But the traditional publishers have gone for a different approach to deal with changes. They go for ubiquity and lock-in. One difference between music and games, though, is that a first-class recording costs a few thousand in equipment, and about that in time. A first-class game requires man-years of development, given current expectations. And bringing all that together takes a lot of money. Smaller shops can make games, they just aren't as pretty. But even that is changing.

But they, and the movie guys, want the same endgame. Lock it all up unless you pay. My hope is that the public sees that as a grab it is, and gravitates more towards the stuff that's out there for free. But that's unlikely.

Alfred Differ,

Your historical comments remind me of the differences between Sansom's History of Japan works (which used the 'great man' theory to explain things), and the conference that led to Japan in the Muromachi Age, which was held specifically to debunk Sansom's idea of the causes of change in Japanese history (not his fact, but his interpretations)(hey, the leaders weren't just acting on their personalities, there were realities also driving their actions). Very interesting to me was The World Turned Upside Down, which traces their development of the samurai class from its beginnings as rural ne'er-do-wells, to its end, when thankfully for us, the Japanese didn't just make the samurai its officer class and codify some of the social mobility that had already existed at various times.

And your description of orals reminds me a LOT of the interview for my last job. Then again, it was given by a Professor Emeritus at an Ivy League school. It was pretty clear he'd been a professor -- he was trying to give back as much info as he was giving. It was also clear that he could just keep asking questions until I had no clue what he was talking about. Fortunately, I was able to answer enough of them.

And a lot of stuff that required insight the first time is obvious the second time.

As for the new Star Wars, it wasn't a waste of my money or time, but it also wasn't all that good. Though it did clear up 2 questions: where do all these bad guys keep popping up from? and will Luke be a putz his entire life? As a movie, it was only OK.

raito said...

LarryHart,

Groot is supposed to be Groot, and is newer than old guys like us (his first appearances were 1960 [which is pre-Marvel] and 1976, but weren't noteworthy). It only sounds like "I am Groot" because we're not sensitive enough to pick up the subtleties of his language. I was once lent an issue where the entire issue was Groot telling a story. It all sounded like "I am Groot".

Jon S.,

Tales to Astonish, I think.

lawschoolissoover,

You might like Dickson's Wolf and Iron, then.

Tony Fisk,

I wouldn't want to see The Man Who Counts made into a film with the current political situation.

Dr. Brin,

Yes, Bladerunner was good, but I wouldn't put it better than the book. They had 2 very different things to say, I think.

As for Titanic, I recall a cartoon posted in the cubical of one of our 3D artists back then, who also had a background in TV and film. It was 2 panels, both showing a film executive. The first was labeled, "What movie execs should learn from the success of Titanic" "Just let those art guys do their thing, and we'll make lots of money". The second was, "What movie exec will learn from the success of Titanic", "Sinking ships! We need more sinking ships!"

Re: Office Space

Can't watch it. Cuts too close to home. Nor the first few seasons of Big Bang Theory (before they decided to allow the characters to grow).

Zepp Jamieson said...

The last one "ST:Rebels", was it? was actually pretty good, with strong characterizations and a decent plot.

Anonymous said...

I'd seen criticism, then saw the movie. I thought it was excellent with a brilliant and moving story.

LarryHart said...

raito:

Your historical comments remind me of the differences between Sansom's History of Japan works (which used the 'great man' theory to explain things), ...


This isn't what you were talking about, but you remind me of this delightful (and actually informative) video my daughter likes on the History of Japan. I would encourage anyone in need of a little comic relief from current events to peruse this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh5LY4Mz15o

as well as this longer "History of the World" video by the same guy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuCn8ux2gbs

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

The last one "ST:Rebels", was it? ...


The last what?

David Brin said...

Steven, Paul was a self-confessed murderer-persecutor whose “conversion” was deemed highly suspect by James & Peter, for good reasons. They sent him off to Greece in part to get him out of their hair. Then they were killed, along with nearly all the Christian Jews, leaving Paul free to ,,, well, the evidence is now pretty clear that he adopted whatever cult practices he could from the Mithraians etc, in order to sway converts. The whole theology of Original Sin and expiation through human sacrifice was guaranteed to offend Jews, but to draw many Greeks

“Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”

In a nutshell. Original Sin gave a way to explain that Jesus’s apparent failure was instead a roaring success. But only because there’s a concocted problem for his sacrifice to overcome! A “problem” that no Jewish scripture ever justified.


Paul, I actually quite liked Costner’s postman portrayal, in general. My Gordon with 80 fewer IQ points… but the same heart. Patton was great except if you are going to have a physical fight, a bigger villain would have been better. What hurt of course was the chaotic storyline in the last half hour.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

From the first time I read "The Postman", I have Gordon's face and voice indelibly "cast" as Michael York (Logan's Run, The Three Musketeers). For better or worse.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Patton was great except if you are going to have a physical fight, a bigger villain would have been better.


Or a small villain with augments!

Or even a bigger villain with augments. :)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Getting senile, I am. There was a Star Wars movie last summer, Last Rebels or Lost Rebels or something, I remember it was pretty good. No idea where the hell "ST: Rebels" came from. Quarter to eleven, I wrote that, so I can't even blame lack of coffee.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

Are you thinking of Rouge One?

If so, then yes, it was pretty good. Partly because it mostly featured a cast of unknowns (which is what the original Star Wars did in its time as well).

Berial said...

@Zepp

I think the movie you are trying to remember is Rogue One. There is a cartoon series on the Disney channel called Star Wars: Rebels as well.

Alfred Differ said...

@raito | And a lot of stuff that required insight the first time is obvious the second time.

Heh. Yah. That is the difference between a PhD and a Master's. Original insight is harder than learning our "father's" tools. That's why I think you may have stepped over the line into the harder one with your work. Proving that an idea does NOT work in a particular field is the dotting of i's and crossing of t's that has to happen for everyone to advance. When the supposed learned one acting as your master doesn't get it, there is a decent chance there was in insight by you that simply passed him by. It happens and a good master is supposed to ponder that possibility.

he could just keep asking questions until I had no clue what he was talking about.

Yup. I was taught that a job interview(from the employer's perspective) is for finding a good reason not to hire the one being interviewed. As long as many people want a job, we have to eliminate the people we don't want from a list and hope there is one person left at the end. If an interviewer keeps asking me questions, I know I'm working deeper into 'keeper' list. If they work hard enough, they'll find a good reason to eliminate everyone, but the keeper should be the one that worked the deepest or someone really close to that point.

For people who feel bad when someone goes so deep that they don't know the right answer, I just smile and remind them we aren't gods. Our distant ancestors might think so if they could meet us, but a little humility is useful. OF COURSE someone can ask questions we don't know. Turn the table around and the same thing can be done with the former interviewee grilling the former interviewer.

will Luke be a putz his entire life?

Yes. I think that got cleared up, but I'm not sure Star Wars fans would like MY answer. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I don't regret seeing it. People are going to talk about it, so I might as well know what the story is.

I don't think 'oven mit' covers it, though.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

"will Luke be a putz his entire life?"

Yes. I think that got cleared up, but I'm not sure Star Wars fans would like MY answer. 8)


I haven't seen the film yet, but my presumed answer sounds as if it's the same as yours.

Tony Fisk said...

@raito. Do you perceive some similarity between Van Rijn and Trump?
Now that you mention it, one could also draw comparisons to Flandry's hedonistic lifestyle in a post-dominate Empire. In both cases, there the similarity ends: both these characters knew where the caviar came from.

Tony Fisk said...

Plotwise, I can usually run on the smell of an oily rag, yet I found TFA a profound disappointment for lack of plot. I didn't bother with Rogue One, which sounds like it was my loss. I'm not sure when I will get to see TLJ.

I still like the idea that Vader was a damaged clone of Anakin Skywalker, with an identity crisis. It doesn't solve all the SW problems, but it does enhance the tragedy, and would have needed only minor tweaks to Revenge. Oh well.

matthew said...

Doc, you got a shout out in Slate today in a brief article on one of your more reoccurring themes.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/12/18/the_department_of_defense_should_help_us_hide_from_aliens.html

"In a Slate article from 2015, Dan Falk described science fiction writer (and planetary scientist) David Brin’s objection to initiating alien contact: “He points to the history of our own planet, in which encounters between cultures of greatly differing technological sophistication rarely go well.”

Steven Hammond said...

@ David Brin:

You said:

Steven, Paul was a self-confessed murderer-persecutor whose “conversion” was deemed highly suspect by James & Peter, for good reasons. They sent him off to Greece in part to get him out of their hair. Then they were killed, along with nearly all the Christian Jews, leaving Paul free to ,,, well, the evidence is now pretty clear that he adopted whatever cult practices he could from the Mithraians etc, in order to sway converts. The whole theology of Original Sin and expiation through human sacrifice was guaranteed to offend Jews, but to draw many Greeks

“Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”

In a nutshell. Original Sin gave a way to explain that Jesus’s apparent failure was instead a roaring success. But only because there’s a concocted problem for his sacrifice to overcome! A “problem” that no Jewish scripture ever justified.
(emphasis is mine)

My last theological post. I promise! (I'm totally lying, I realized. Just like politics, religion never totally goes away and is impossible to separate from politics, anyway) ;)

I agree with that bit that I emphasized. I am, however, intrigued by your assertion that Paul adapted aspects of Mithraism to win converts. You may be right. Paul may indeed have used the idea of original sin and a resurrected self-sacrificing God to appeal to the gentiles. (BTW, was Mithraism really that prominent in pagan Rome in Paul's time?) Obviously this brings up many questions for me not having read "the evidence that is now pretty clear" regarding Paul and his use of cult practices.

I'm most interested in well researched papers or articles delving in to this. I suspect you have references and I'd love to read them. I'm very open to new ideas (new to me) but like to see the sources and the evidence the writers use to support their ideas. Others here may be as well.

The big question I have is in regards to Paul's motivation for embarking on this work of swaying converts. Doesn't appear that he was motivated by money and "the good life" as modern televangelists have been--major fail if he was. Might have been insane, I suppose, but I can't see that in his writing (insane John of Patmos I'll buy). So why was he so dedicated to presenting his "gospel", traveling extensively, being thrown in prison, lived in poverty and was (most probably) martyred--for a man he never met in life. I know the reasons Christian apologists would give for his actions, but I'm skeptical about those accounts and you may have some insights from your readings that may be helpful.

David Brin said...

Steven, there are many spectra of sanity/compulsiveness. And status is a powerful driver, even if it is the status of a Bishop above scattered and poor congregations. The satisfactions are there, even without the Darwinian reward of biological reproduction. Anyway, I wager he was sincere.

Steven Hammond said...

David Brin said:

Steven, there are many spectra of sanity/compulsiveness. And status is a powerful driver, even if it is the status of a Bishop above scattered and poor congregations. The satisfactions are there, even without the Darwinian reward of biological reproduction. Anyway, I wager he was sincere.

I'll buy the idea of Paul being on "the spectrum of insanity" but really doubt that his desiring to acquire converts was primarily related to boosting his status.

Perhaps Joan of Arc and whatever she experienced and whatever motivated her is a good analogy for Paul? I have no idea. I'm also loathe to reject subjective religious experience out of hand. Even if "God" spoke or interacted with Joan or Paul, it does not logically follow that all their subsequent actions would necessarily be what that "God" would hope for with no errors, prejudices or fallacies in their lives or writings. Maybe he "rolls the dice and takes his chances."

If there is a God, creator, etc., I think he is likely quite different to the God of Theists. My major sticking point in regards to traditional Theism is theodicy. I don't think the Epicurian Problem of Evil ("If God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent, why does evil exist?") has been adequately resolved by Theist philosophers and theologian. Thus, I would choose a God who is limited in some sense as opposed to an evil God--a God who may (somehow) interact with people periodically in some sense but doesn't control what they do subsequently. An emergent God might fit this role and I lean to this idea generally, though I'm not "all in" with Process Philosophy by any means.

I've written more about this than I'd wanted. It's all a big puzzle to me, honestly. I like trying to understand it. My one conviction is this: if there is a God, he doesn't care what beliefs we hold intellectually--in the sense of damning anyone. I'm not even sure he cares how we act in the sense of ascribing culpability. (See modern neurobiology).

Jon S. said...

A quick Googling reveals that while Paul is supposed to have written his epistles around the middle of the first century CE, the cult of Mithras didn't appear until quite suddenly in the last quarter of that century. It's speculated by some (based both on timing and on a remark by the 2nd-century writer Justin Martyr) that the cult of Mithras in fact borrowed a number of traditions from young Christianity, including a ceremonial meal (Christianity had Communion, Mithraism had a ceremonial meal in imitation of the one Mithras supposedly had with Sol, in which they shared a bull Mithras had killed), rather than the other way around.

http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/display.php?page=main

David Brin said...

Steven, there are many aspects. How do you tease these things apart? A religious leader who strives to have sway over this lives of others for their sake... vs the satisfactions that come from being admired, listened-to... obeyed?

Maimonedes tried to tease these apart by scaling generosity, and ranking charity. The type that extolls your name (a hospital wing named after a donor) is lower in grade than an anonymous gift, which is lower than giving without even seeing how it's spent. (I don't agree, by the way.

What is a "saint"? Someone who endures a couple of hours of physical torture in absolute confidence that it will be followed by eternal bliss and influence? Isn't that just a really, really good business deal?

Some things are different viewed through modern eyes.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Rogue One! Thank you.
Nothing wrong with me that a good night of uninterrupted sleep and breathing air that isn't 20% eucalyptus ash won't solve...

Twominds said...

That would be a Martyr. But it needed to be in the name of the faith. Ohterwise the deal would be off. (I know no accounts of 'false' martyrs of course, the Church wouldn't allow that.)

Saints had to do miracles in life, showing people the wondrousness of faith. Martyrdom was nice but not necessary.

I think the Catholic Church will make some saints when it feels it can use a boost. I guess most early saints are apocryphal, and in later saints you can see how flawed the process is. Mother Teresa is a good example.

Tony Fisk said...

Off apostolic topic, but what a wondrous object the Fukang Meteor is.

Paul451 said...

"Paul was a self-confessed murderer-persecutor..."
"regarding Paul and his use of cult practices."
"I'll buy the idea of Paul being on "the spectrum of insanity" "

I always feel strangely uncomfortable when David and others debate problems with certain bible authors. But I can't for the life of me put my finger on why...

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

20% eucalyptus ash - I take it that indicates you live somewhere in the vicinity of the devastating fires in Southern California?

Twominds,

Good point about the Church manufacturing saints when it needs a PR boost. One of the sillier things I have heard was an old lady who was in a history class I took in college who insisted that there are exactly as many stars in the sky as there are officially recognized saints. Funny that, since different people see different numbers of stars depending on the strength of their vision - to say nothing of binoculars and telescopes.

BTW, what are you of two minds about, if you don't mind me asking?

Dr. Brin,

I think I can imagine why you don't agree that getting something named after yourself as a result of charitable giving is a "lesser" form of generosity than making an anonymous donation. Having your name plastered on a hospital wing inspires others to give as well, though I would say that anonymous giving can be equally inspiring. The problem I see with the named sort is that it easily turns into just another conspicuous consumption/competitive emulation game. We might say, so what? as long as the rich are making donations to help society. But then, you could end up with the kind of pathological charity of robber barons like Carnegie, who was a huge parasite on humanity but excused his depredations by spending a small portion of his fortune building libraries (and perpetuating Spencer's vision of Social Darwinism and eugenics). Add to that the addictive nature of wealth and prestige and you get a pretty slippery slope. I feel like this is a hard one to draw a line around, because the benefits always come with the risks of creating more narcissistic megalomaniacs, like the current occupant of the White House - people who have enormous potential to do untold harm to the species. Anonymous giving is good, but probably not nearly as self-perpetuating. Maybe if we had UBI so fewer people need charity in the first place ...

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

What is a "saint"? Someone who endures a couple of hours of physical torture in absolute confidence that it will be followed by eternal bliss and influence? Isn't that just a really, really good business deal?


I'm less religious than you are, but I would not be too quick to dismiss the character of a martyr. Someone who defies physical torture without breaking and renouncing God must really, REALLY love God and/or really, REALLY believe in an afterlife that is worth the cost. I mean, there's no faking it at that point.

True, we might not be able to clearly discern which of the two motives is at work, but either one is a mark of faith and good character.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I think I can imagine why you don't agree that getting something named after yourself as a result of charitable giving is a "lesser" form of generosity than making an anonymous donation. Having your name plastered on a hospital wing inspires others to give as well, though I would say that anonymous giving can be equally inspiring. The problem I see with the named sort is that it easily turns into just another conspicuous consumption/competitive emulation game...


I think what Maimonides was getting at with his stratification of forms of charity was a kind of thought experiment, cajoling people into thinking about their own motivations. "Would you have made that donation without having the building named after you? Without the recipient's gratitude and knowledge that he 'owes' you? Without the pleasure of seeing the joy in Tiny Tim's eye?"

As Alfred mentioned about interview questions, someone can always ratchet up the examples to a point where you would "fail" the test. "Would you give as generously if doing so would doom your children to poverty and...AND...someone would frame you for sexual harassment so you would die a pariah?" I'd probably stop well short of that one. :) See, the point isn't that everyone who doesn't give for the highest degree of selflessness might as well not give at all. The idea that one should expect absolutely nothing in return--not even personal satisfaction--is counter-productive and only leads to an Ayn Randian backlash*

No, the point is for the person contemplating the questions to clearly understand themselves without self-deception. "What am I doing this for?"

* There's an appropriate passage from Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater which I will attempt to find and post later.

Tim H. said...

Oumuamua looks even more interesting
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/oumuamua-interstellar-visitor-alien-object-breakthrough-listen-latest-discovery-proof-a8116756.html
Probably just a rock...

LarryHart said...

on the charity theme...

Dave Sim expressed an opinion on this subject with which I don't disagree. He posited a thought experiment. You've got five dollars in your pocket and you're ready to head home from work. You expect to grab a snack and catch the bus. Out on the street, you encounter a homeless man in need. What do you do?

Pass him by entirely?
Give him a dollar?
Give him two dollars?
Give him the three dollars you don't need right at the moment?
Give him four dollars and skip the snack?
Give him all that's in your pocket, skip the snack and walk home?

Whichever you decide is a moral choice. If you go, "He'll only use it for booze anyway", that is also a moral choice. If (as most reader responses did) you argue about it being your own money that you earned and you don't owe to anyone else, that is also a moral choice.

The point isn't that only one choice is good and all others are bad. The point is to clearly identify just what moral choice you yourself are inclined to make. That most people tend to get angry while defending their choice indicates (to me) that most people are not happy seeing themselves for what they really are.


LarryHart said...

Here's the bit from Vonnegut's "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater", describing Samaritrophia, a term coined by a doctor treating Eliot Rosewater's wife who had become burnt out on Eliot's altruism.


Samaritrophia...is the suppression of an overactive conscience by the rest of the mind. "You must all take instructions from me!" the conscience shrieks, in effect, to all the other mental processes. The other processes try it for awhile, note that the conscience is unappeased, that it continues to shriek, and they note, too, that the outside world has not been even microscopically improved by the unselfish acts the conscience has demanded.

They rebel at last. They pitch the tyrannous conscience down an oubliette, weld shut the manhole cover of that dark dungeon. They can hear the conscience no more. In the sweet silence, the other mental processes look about for a new leader, and the leader most prompt to appear whenever the conscience is stilled, Enlightened Self-interest does appear. Enlightened Self-interest gives them a flag which they adore on sight. It is essentially the black and white Jolly Roger, with these words written beneath the skull and crossbones, "The hell with you, Jack, I've got mine!"

Darrell E said...

Jon S. said...
"A quick Googling reveals that while Paul is supposed to have written his epistles around the middle of the first century CE, the cult of Mithras didn't appear until quite suddenly in the last quarter of that century."

The history of Mithraism is much messier than that. There was a cult of Mithras that appeared in the Roman Empire in the 1st Century AD but there are traces of Mithras going back as far as 1,400 BCE. Some experts think that the 1st Century cult was something completely new that simply borrowed the name, while other experts claim that that is obviously crap.

Given the nature of the question and the evidence that is possible it is unlikely that this question is amenable to being resolved in a way that anyone has any business thinking of as definitive. Except I would say that given what we know more generally about how stories and myths percolate through time and space it seems much more plausible to me that there was more in common between that 1st Century cult and older Mithras traditions.

Darrell E said...

LarryHart said...

"I'm less religious than you are, but I would not be too quick to dismiss the character of a martyr. Someone who defies physical torture without breaking and renouncing God must really, REALLY love God and/or really, REALLY believe in an afterlife that is worth the cost. I mean, there's no faking it at that point.

True, we might not be able to clearly discern which of the two motives is at work, but either one is a mark of faith and good character."


I get the faith and agree with that, though I don't think that is necessarily a good thing. But a mark of good character? I don't get that at all. That is not at all obvious to me. It could be. But it's as likely to be a mark of a zealot who is nothing but trouble for any community.

LarryHart said...

Maybe not quite to the level of Trump firing Mueller, but nonetheless, I think we're nearing (if not past) a Constitutional Crisis due to the fact that we no longer have representative government if our representatives are looking out for the interests of their future employers rather than those of their constituents.

"Taxation without representation is tyranny!"

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/18/opinion/republicans-taxes-corruption.html


...
Some Republicans have been quite open in saying that they felt compelled to push forward on corporate tax cuts to please their donors. But I’m talking about more than campaign finance; I’m talking about personal payoffs.

Raw bribery probably isn’t the issue, although insider trading based on close relationships with companies affected by legislation may be a much bigger deal than most realize. But the revolving door is an even bigger deal. When members of Congress leave their positions, voluntarily or not, their next jobs often involve lobbying of some kind. This gives them an incentive to keep the big-money guys happy, never mind what voters think.
...
Senator Bob Corker, citing concerns about the deficit, was the only Republican to vote against the Senate version of the tax bill. Now, however, he says he will vote for a final version that is no better when it comes to fiscal probity. What changed?

Well, one thing that changed was the insertion of a provision that wasn’t in the Senate bill: Real estate companies were added to the list of “pass-through” businesses whose owners will get sharply lower tax rates. These pass-through provisions are arguably the worst feature of the bill. They will open the tax system to a huge amount of gaming, of exploiting legal loopholes to avoid tax.

But one thing they will also do, thanks to that last-minute addition, is give huge tax breaks to elected officials who own a lot of income-producing real estate — officials like Donald Trump and, yes, Bob Corker.

Corker denies that he had any role in adding that provision. But he has offered no coherent alternative explanation of what changed his mind about voting for a bill that explodes the deficit.
...

Paul SB said...

Larry,

The "Why am I doing this?" introspection is kind of obvious today, though it might not have been way back in Maimonides' day. Of course, every era will have its deep thinkers and witless followers of convention, so what seems obvious to us might be stunning revelation or deepest blasphemy to others. Sims' point is basically moral relativism, which most people can't stomach but which does have its place - mainly to understand and accommodate rather than demonize and destroy those who differ from us. And again this is obvious to some of us but stunning news to many others.

Your Vonnegut quote is more interesting in that it recognizes change rather than assuming inflexible category. I have to wonder, though, if he was being ironic when he equated Enlightened self-interest with "The hell with you, Jack, I've got mine!" - which is a different thing, almost the opposite thing. No doubt there are those who wave that banner but in practice completely miss the "enlightened" side of it.

And just to be clear, I wasn't claiming that one form of charity was better than the other, only pointing to the very different downsides of each. : /

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

I get the faith and agree with that, though I don't think that is necessarily a good thing. But a mark of good character? I don't get that at all. That is not at all obvious to me. It could be. But it's as likely to be a mark of a zealot who is nothing but trouble for any community.


What I was getting at was that a person in that position obviously has true faith of some sort. He's not just putting on a show for ulterior motives, because ending the torture would be the most ulterior motive he'd have at that moment.

It does not prove that his faith is accurately placed in reality, but it does demonstrate that the faith itself is genuine.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Your Vonnegut quote is more interesting in that it recognizes change rather than assuming inflexible category. I have to wonder, though, if he was being ironic when he equated Enlightened self-interest with "The hell with you, Jack, I've got mine!" - which is a different thing, almost the opposite thing.


The Ayn Rand types who insist that only individual gain is important certainly use the term "Enlightened Self-interest" when defending their position, whether or not you or I consider them enlightened.

Given that that book was published in 1964, I wouldn't be surprised if Vonnegut was aiming some barbs specifically at devotees of "Atlas Shrugged".

And as is Vonnegut's wont, his book doesn't have villains. The wife for whom "Samaratrophia" was coined was a good and generous woman who just couldn't take her husband's unselfish-to-the-extreme lifestyle any longer. The passage I quoted above was meant as explanation, not condemnation. It's not an invitation to be Randian, but an warning that attempting to force oneself too much in the selfless direction will inevitably lead to a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

Or as I once did argue with Dave Sim, if you systematically and intentionally deprive yourself of everything that makes life worthwhile, it's no surprise when you come to the conclusion that life is not worth the effort of living.

Doug S. said...

Being released opposite Titanic wasn't the worst case of studio misjudgment... Weird Al's movie UHF was released in the summer of 1989, alongside Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Ghostbusters II, License to Kill, Dead Poets Society, and many other movies that ended up totally overshadowing it and murdering it at the box office.

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/18/us/politics/tax-bill-republicans.html


Mr. Corker has been the most vocal about the need to rein in the federal deficit. He voted against the initial Senate bill, the only Republican to do so, after party leaders rejected his request to require automatic tax increases down the road if the overhaul did not generate enough revenue to pay for itself.


As Dr Brin would point out, they're not willing to put their money where their mouths are. If Republicans really believed that their tax cuts would generate growth, and that the growth in question is the justification for the tax cuts, then they wouldn't be averse to a "put up or shut up" clause in the bill which would correct for the growth not actually coming to pass. That they will not accept such a clause--that initially, Corker was the only wavering Republican Senator whose request was not accommodated in the bill--speaks volumes.


Mr. Corker, in the interview, called the accusations ”disheartening” and said that he had not changed anything in the final bill.
...
Mr. Hatch, in a letter issued on Monday morning, defended Mr. Corker and said he was “disgusted” by reports that suggested Mr. Corker had played a role in the provision’s addition. He said Mr. Corker had wanted a less generous pass-through exemption than had been included.


That both Corker and Orrin Hatch are resorting to indignation at those who voice the obvious also speaks volumes.

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

LarryHart said...

Doug S:

Being released opposite Titanic wasn't the worst case of studio misjudgment... Weird Al's movie UHF was released in the summer of 1989, alongside Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Ghostbusters II, License to Kill, Dead Poets Society, and many other movies that ended up totally overshadowing it and murdering it at the box office.


I'm not sure I'm remembering correctly, but my recollection is that the surprise success of the first Rocky helped to undermine Oscar recognition for a mere crowd-pleaser called Star Wars.

Of course, that was when sci-fi got no respect anyway.

Paul SB said...

Larry again,

"... but an warning that attempting to force oneself too much in the selfless direction will inevitably lead to a different thing, in fact the opposite thing."

The old Buddhist mantra - everything in moderation, including moderation.

"Or as I once did argue with Dave Sim, if you systematically and intentionally deprive yourself of everything that makes life worthwhile, it's no surprise when you come to the conclusion that life is not worth the effort of living."

I didn't think you were arguing for the Randians. Your argument with Sim shows a couple other points, though. The old Buddhist mantra being one of them, but also that extremity tends to drive the opposite extremity (something plainly visible in our politics these days), and that while moral relativism is generally a good policy, when things start going to such extremes the extremists become dangerous and ultimately destructive to both themselves and the res too us. We must all hang together or we will all be hanged separately. Forcibly converting others to an extreme is not hanging together.

Don't think I'm disagreeing with you, or attributing anything to you - I'm just elaborating.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul: 20% eucalyptus ash - I take it that indicates you live somewhere in the vicinity of the devastating fires in Southern California?

Yeah, in the western voluntary evacuation zone of the Thomas fire. Evacuation notice was lifted yesterday, but with three days of strong sundowners coming, we're keeping a wary eye open.

LarryHart said...

I just heard Susan Collins rise to support the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act", and she sounds like a Stepford Wife, or like Mitch McConnell does when he mentions what a great job Trump is doing.

Maybe rather than bribery, someone is taking hostages to get this bill passed.

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

raito said...

Tony Fisk,

The similarities I see between Van Rign and Trump are very, very shallow and only based on external appearances. It appears as though both let others do all the heavy lifting while they themselves do nothing. In Van Rijn's case, he is actually planning and strategizing. More importantly, in nearly every story, he articulates just what it is that he likes and wants to grow in the guys doing the physical end.

My fear is that the distinction would be missed., and the movie seen as an affirmation of what it is most definitely not.

Alfred Differ,

My opinion is that at least Luke acts, rather than being like Yoda and doing nothing at all. Though the answer to the question of where all the bad guys come from would lead one to not act at all. Apparently there's little value in attempting arbitrage on the Force.

LarryHart said...

raito:

My opinion is that at least Luke acts, rather than being like Yoda and doing nothing at all. Though the answer to the question of where all the bad guys come from would lead one to not act at all.


Hmmmm, I haven't seen the new movie yet, but it sounds like the line of thinking that says Batman is responsible for the myriad super-villains who appeared in his wake. I never liked that cynical notion that rather than being a boon to average people, the super-hero is only good for fending off menaces which would not have existed in the first place without him. Talk about your zero-sum games.

LarryHart said...

All I want for Christmas is a punching bag with Paul Ryan's smug, smirking face on it.

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

Darrell E said...

How about one of those inflatable weebles wobble but they don't fall down punching things? I had one of Bozo the clown when I was about 3. Loved to beat on that thing. Never did like Bozo.

David Brin said...

Tony: That’s some Fukang amazing meteorite! (It was only briefly a meteor.)

“Someone who defies physical torture without breaking and renouncing God must really, REALLY love God and/or really, REALLY believe in an afterlife that is worth the cost.”

Yep. The whole business deal favors those with strong will power and body detachment, in order to suppress animal instincts long enough to gain the outrageously disproportionate reward.

“"Would you give as generously if doing so would doom your children to poverty and...AND...someone would frame you for sexual harassment so you would die a pariah?"

I’ve enjoyed writing characters who were innocent-but-damned or else (as in “The Giving Plague”) self-aware villains who have done great good.

A.F. Rey said...

The two questions I've always wanted to ask these people who believe in an Everlasting Hell of Fire and Brimstone is if God is all-powerful and if He loves us.

Because if He loves us, he loves us more than our parents (I would assume), and I know for the fact that my parents would do everything in their power to keep me from Everlasting Torment. (I know I would for my son.)

And if He is all-powerful, He would succeed. :)

So if God loves us all, saints and sinners alike, how will anyone be condemned to Hell? Or at least more than a tiny, tiny minority of the worst of the worst?

Seems logical to me. :)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

“Someone who defies physical torture without breaking and renouncing God must really, REALLY love God and/or really, REALLY believe in an afterlife that is worth the cost.”

Yep. The whole business deal favors those with strong will power and body detachment, in order to suppress animal instincts long enough to gain the outrageously disproportionate reward.


True. Many people will have their minds changed by torture and lose faith. I think you're saying that the ones who can hold out don't deserve the afterlife reward more than the ones who can't. I'm not arguing that point.

What I am saying is that the ones who do hold out must genuinely believe in the thing they're holding out for. Otherwise, the "business deal" makes no sense.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

So if God loves us all, saints and sinners alike, how will anyone be condemned to Hell?


I'll give you the answer as I've heard it, not that I subscribe to it.

God is omnipotent, but he is also just. The Ayn Randians certainly believe that mercy is the opposite of justice--that giving someone a break he doesn't deserve is unjust to everyone else. If one accepts that attitude, then God cannot (or at least will not) be unjust to the universe by giving an individual more than he deserves.

Keep in mind that the Christian belief is that we are all sinners, and so we all deserve Hell. Not "bad people", but everyone. The only way we are forgiven our sins is by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Being "good people" is something that one presumably wants to do after he has accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, but it's the submission to Christ--not the good works--that get us out of Hell. And only because Christ Himself has done the suffering for us that we deserve. (So it's a good thing for Christians that He didn't have a gun!)

Again, this is not the creed I was born to, nor have I converted. But you can't swing a dead cat in this country without hitting one of them, and I've heard a f*** of a lot of them talk.

Paul SB said...

Major suckage, Zepp! I hope your house is not wood (and you have lungs of steel). It sounds like you are in a nice area, if you don't get burned down. The way things have been going, everything west of the Mississippi might burn down by the time our grandkids are shopping for a home. But then, if we can't undo the latest tax plan, our grandkids will be shopping for a shotgun shack.

Dr. Brin,

It helps to have a very high pain threshold, though as far as I know they haven't worked out how much of that is inherited and how much trainable.

A.F. Rey,

Faith is about obedience. Don't expect logic to enter into the picture. They will insist that it is all a part of God's ineffable plan.

A.F. Rey said...

Interesting answer, Larry.

My question would be then, "Well, why does He make it so everyone will accept Jesus?" I could think of a few strategies that would make it a lot easier for people to accept (like having Angels around to settle theological disputes), and I'm a mere mortal. If I could come up with strategies that would save a few more people than are saved now, don't you think God could come up with a lot more? ;)

But that's the wonderful thing about theology--you can make up answers to explain just about any situation you can dream of. :)

A.F. Rey said...

Dr. Brin, you weren't kidding about how bad it was going up against Titanic. FiveThirtyEight just did an estimate of how many people have seen that movie, and it isn't very large.

Eighty-five percent of respondents said they had seen “Titanic”; 15 percent said they had not. That’s an impressive figure. For perspective, only about half of America watches a given Super Bowl, tops. As far as I can tell, the rate of “Titanic” viewership sometime in the last two decades is roughly on par with computer or Bible ownership.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-many-people-havent-seen-titanic/

As you said, The Postman was doomed from the start.

Twominds said...

@Paul SB

About my nym: I took it about five-six years ago, to use on nuclear power blogs, to show that I was very much in two minds about it. I think the nym encouraged discussion, which I wanted.

I started with the almost default dislike of nuclear power that european lefties/progressives have. Then the tsunami at Fukushima Daiichi happened, and all the news I heard and read was full of hyperbole and scary speculation. I wanted to know more, dove into the subject and in the course of a year or two, changed my mind. I'm no longer in two minds about it.

I keep the nym because I like it, and to remind me not to be too sure about my convictions. It's not bad, even if a bit uncomfortable, to be in two minds about something.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

My question would be then, "Well, why does He make it so everyone will accept Jesus?"


I think your question is really a different thing, in fact the opposite thing of that one.
:)

Assuming what you meant to type was "why doesn't He make it...", the response you would be given is that choosing good is meaningless without the possibility of choosing evil. I know, I don't think that works as an answer, but remember where the believers are coming from.

Let's look at three statements:
1) An omniscient, omnipotent, and all-loving God exists.
2) If 1) is the case, then the universe would be a utopia.
3) The universe is not a utopia

You and I probably take 2) as a postulate and 3) as obvious. Therefore, we conclude that 1) is false.

Believers take 1) as a postulate, and then have to concoct a convincing argument that either 2) or 3) is false. A few do try to argue that the universe really is a utopia (even if we mere mortals don't perceive it correctly). But more try to argue reasons why 2) is a false premise--that God's plan calls for something requiring the universe to not be a utopia. Mysterious Ways. Free Will. Something like that.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

Dr. Brin, you weren't kidding about how bad it was going up against Titanic. FiveThirtyEight just did an estimate of how many people have seen that movie, and it isn't very large.


Am I missing something, or did I just find the missing "n't" from your earlier question about God? Your negatives and positives are confusing me today.


"Eighty-five percent of respondents said they had seen “Titanic”; 15 percent said they had not. That’s an impressive figure. For perspective, only about half of America watches a given Super Bowl, tops. As far as I can tell, the rate of “Titanic” viewership sometime in the last two decades is roughly on par with computer or Bible ownership."

As you said, The Postman was doomed from the start.


What, people can't see two movies? That doesn't seem like an insurmountable obstacle. It would prevent something like "The Postman" from being the #1 grossing movie each week, but wouldn't prevent people from seeing it at all.

Paul SB said...

Twominds,

That's an uncommon level of maturity on this side of the pond. It would make a good mantra. I am often in two minds, but then they have to find a new medication for me. Existential uncertainty is a blast, though rarely nuclear.

A.F. & Larry,

Dokter Pangloss sez this is the best of all possibul worlds, Dokter Lipgloss agrees, cuz you can buy one get one free.

(I may need to raise the dosage.)

A.F. Rey said...

They will insist that it is all a part of God's ineffable plan.

Ah, yes, ineffability.

Have you read Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman? Quite a bit of ineffableness in that book. :)

I guess I'd pull out the Ontological argument then and say that a God that saves more people is greater than a God who saves fewer people, therefore my God's better than your God, and so my God exists and yours doesn't and we're all saved. :P

But as you said, logic is secondary in these types of arguments...

A.F. Rey said...

LarryHart said:
Dr. Brin, you weren't kidding about how bad it was going up against Titanic. FiveThirtyEight just did an estimate of how many people have seen that movie, and it isn't very large.


Am I missing something, or did I just find the missing "n't" from your earlier question about God? Your negatives and positives are confusing me today.

No, you're not the one confused, I am. I'm not being negative enough.

The article was on how many people haven't seen Titanic, and in my haste I left off the first of the double negatives. :(

One of these days I'll start proofreading these things...

A.F. Rey said...

What, people can't see two movies? That doesn't seem like an insurmountable obstacle. It would prevent something like "The Postman" from being the #1 grossing movie each week, but wouldn't prevent people from seeing it at all.

People could see it, if they heard people talking about it and how great it was.

But everybody was so busy talking about Titanic that few people noticed that The Postman was even playing. :)

Twominds said...

@ PaulSB

Thank you. I'm not that mature in all things by the way! ;-)

Existential uncertainty is a blast, though rarely nuclear.

Thank god! Sartre might have loved it if existential uncertainty would blow us off the planet, but I wouldn't! Everything in moderation, even existential uncertainty!

As a Seitensprung, one of the things I like about fission reactors, is that you can permanently get rid of weapons grade uranium and plutonium, and get bonus electricity!
I used to really want to see all nuclear weapons gone, and still love the Megatons to Megawatts program between the US and Rusland in the '90's.
Now, I'm in two minds if getting rid of all nuclear weapons would be a good idea. Not right now I'm afraid, and probably not for a long time.


LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

I guess I'd pull out the Ontological argument then and say that a God that saves more people is greater than a God who saves fewer people, therefore my God's better than your God, and so my God exists and yours doesn't and we're all saved. :P


But is a God who can create a rock so large that even He can't lift it greater than a God who can lift the rock?

David Brin said...

“I think you're saying that the ones who can hold out don't deserve the afterlife reward more than the ones who can't. I'm not arguing that point.”

Actually, no. My point is that if you truly believe the offer, then it is a fantastic business deal based purely on self-interest. There’s nothing at all saintly or generous about taking that deal. In fact, most accounts of the martyrs make clear that successful outcomes for their own souls are the main criterion.

Yeah, best of luck, Zepp. Don’t be a martyr!

Jon S. said...

I'm mildly addicted to the game Fallout 4, enjoying it far more than either of its true predecessors (1 and 2 established the universe, but the first-person-shooter/RPG mix started with 3 and New Vegas). I used to sometimes idly wonder why, and I think, while rereading Dr. Brin's posting here again today, that I've come to a realization.

In 3, you're a Vault Dweller. The only reason anything outside is unfamiliar to you is because the Overseer has prohibited contact with the outside world for so long, you thought it had never happened. In New Vegas, you're an inhabitant of the world, making your living as a courier for packages in dangerous territory.

In 4, you were put into suspended animation just as the Great War was breaking out. You wake up 210 years later, all the other cryo units have failed, and the only surviving being you know is your household robot, Codsworth, who has been doing its best to keep the homefront going in hopes of your return. ("And don't get me started about the futility of dusting a collapsed house! Nothing gets nuclear fallout out of vinyl wood! Nothing! And the car! How do you polish rust??") In beginning your search for more humans, you run across a group under siege in nearby Concord, MA, save them, and escort them back to your old neighborhood (Sanctuary Hills). That's when you get co-opted as the new general of an organization called the Minutemen, whose leadership had recently been wiped out (Sgt. Preston Garvey, the armed escort of the group you saved, is as far as he knows the last Minuteman). Much of the rest of the game involves your trying to re-establish the Minutemen as a force to assist in times of danger (as well as connecting with one of three other mutually antagonistic groups, if you choose to do so).

And it occurred to me - it's similar in concept to The Postman. The hero of the game doesn't dress himself in a costume and find himself dragooned into being a representative of a vanished government, but he does get assigned a role in a group and winds up being a figurehead for hope across the Commonwealth. (Assuming, of course, that you play it that way - you can also play as a cynical asshat who's only in it for himself, and shoots everyone at the first opportunity. That's just not in me to play.)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

My point is that if you truly believe the offer, then it is a fantastic business deal based purely on self-interest.
...
In fact, most accounts of the martyrs make clear that successful outcomes for their own souls are the main criterion.


Ok, yes, Christianity as popularly understood is a very selfish religion. In fact, some Ayn Rand fans try to reconcile Randism and Christianity in just that way--that Christians act in their own selfish interest as regards their own souls (ignoring Ms Rand's militant atheism).


There’s nothing at all saintly or generous about taking that deal.


Well, that depends on what counts as saintly. If you're talking about good works and self-sacrifice, then no, there's nothing saintly about saving your own soul without regard for anyone else's. However, Christianity puts a huge premium on faith itself. I believe that they consider it quite saintly to hang onto your faith in God even when your life really sucks. And as I say, anyone in a position to think resisting torture in order to gain heaven must really believe in God and in Christianity. You and I don't consider that faith alone to be saintly, but Christians do.

I guess I'm cynical enough to think that real people--at least those of power and influence in the world--don't really believe the myths. That they portray themselves as good Christians in public for the benefit of their reputations, but that they don't make decisions based upon what God will think of them or what the consequences will be in the afterlife. Religion is a kind of game to them--something to play along with as long as it doesn't affect their doing anything they really care about doing. In that respect, someone who believes the myths enough to die painfully for is a breath of fresh air. At least, he's not being a hypo-Christian.



Zepp Jamieson said...

Thanks, Paul SB. It looks like the have the fire out on our side, and today the air was moderate. Still a lot of ash about, of course, but someday we might get rain. Maybe even before 2018, although that's unlikely.
I'm sneezing and sniffling a lot, but I think I'll live.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Yeah, best of luck, Zepp. Don’t be a martyr!"

Thanks. It looks like they have this beast contained here on the west flank. No new hot spots in 24 hours. All praise to the firefighters, all 8,750 of them!
Just part of life in California, I'm afraid. The fires are bigger and fiercer, and more likely to occur out of season, but they've always been an element of California living.
I prefer Siskiyou county. Yes, there's fires up there, but the fires are a lot saner.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"What, people can't see two movies?"

Of that 85% of have seen "Titanic" the vast majority have seen it on TV. I note that "The Postman" ranks 29th all time among post-apocalypic movies, and 49th on "SF based on Book" per BoxOffice Mojo (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=postman.htm) With some obvious exceptions, neither genre constitutes a big box office draw. It had several other strikes: opened on a Thursday (and was still 9th for opening week!) and was nearly three hours long. And of course, it opened against Titanic. Most people can only afford one or two movies a week, and by the time they were ready to go again, "The Postman" was already gone.

David Brin said...

"there's nothing saintly about saving your own soul without regard for anyone else's."



Which is why, in my new play (no one will yet look at it!) I posit a "super saint" who is clearly bound for heaven, has faith, repents and has last rites... then deliberately commits a single mortal sin, in order to go down and minister to the damned! Knowing she will suffer eternally, but that is where the pain is greatest!



I have never heard of anything like it! Surely SOMEONE before me thought of this?


David Brin said...

onward

onward

Cari D. Burstein said...

Oddly enough, The Postman was probably one of the last 10 movies I saw in a movie theater (I think Serenity might have been the last). I stopped going to movie theaters years ago as I have a fairly good setup at home for movies and I like the comfort of seeing them on my own couch. The kinds of movies that people say "you must see in a theater" just don't appeal to me, and so it's mostly a question of if I can wait for the DVD or streaming release which I generally can.

I made a point of seeing The Postman when it came out since it was always one of my favorite books, and although I was disappointed by the movie, I wasn't expecting not to be- it's very hard to make a good movie out of a good book given the very different markets they're usually tuned for and the limitations of time in a movie format. That being said, since it didn't wow me, I didn't exactly go out of my way to tell my friends to see it (I did tell them to read the book). As for Titanic, I think I saw it on an airplane or on DVD much later- it wasn't something I was particularly excited by.

On the topic of good works and donations, I do most of my donations anonymously, primarily so I can avoid getting constant junk asking me for more money (I wish I'd thought of it before so many charities had me on their mailing lists). I do have two main "selfish" motivations for donating- one is so that I feel better about myself that I try to help out others in need, and another is because I prefer to live in a world where things improve over time and that less people suffer needlessly. Even when the motivation is to help others, you can still trace it back to something that helps yourself.

Thomas Roderick said...

I, for one, loved both the movie and the book.

I would LOVE to see Existence made into a movie.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Existence would probably work better as a miniseries. That, or remove two or three subplots.

I watched "Gerald's Game" the other night. Perhaps King's best book from a literary standpoint, but I was dubious about it being a movie since it was essentially a single-set play. They succeeded brilliantly.

In the hands of the right director, Existence would work well.