Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Take on How To Be a Writer -- or Not

The essay in this link discusses "how to be a fiction writer" by a successful sci-fi writer (Jerry Pournelle, a nice guy whom I had the privilege to share a beer with last summer, coincidentally).  It is interesting, if inadequate -- it points you in the general direction of north, but won't get you to the Pole.  But at the end he links to an even more interesting discussion of "how to be a writer" by sci-fi author Robert Heinlein in this transcript.

Heinlein offers more substance in his guidance to budding writers (in this case the '73 class of midshipmen at the Naval Academy), though I have serious disagreements with a few things he says.  (Quite aside from his opinions on a proper morality, which are horrible -- based on a Kantian hierarchy that puts the individual on the bottom and makes self-sacrifice for the group the supreme imperative, but yet, in a twisted way, he still upholds the absolute sanctity of individual selfishness. Go figure.)

There's a common theme among many successful writers who say you "can't teach writing"-- they say you just have to write to "know" how to write. I mean, yes, you can't learn brain surgery from a book, either; you've got to operate on a lot of cadavers and patients. But I do think there is more to teach than "work at it a lot".  

That cliche grates on me, I confess. Having investigated this in more grueling detail than I care to bore you with, I think there are many reasons why writing (or more specifically, fiction writing) hasn't been taught well, so with that in mind, let this fiction-writing novice (well, screen-writing novice) take a stab at just a few things that I think are relevant here:

1. The existing approaches to teaching fiction writing suck, big time.  All of them.  Get any of the books on the subject.  You'll come away with an invincible sense of "AHA!  Now I know what to do!"  And then you'll go and try to apply that wonderful theory and flounder hopelessly in developing a really good story.  Exhibit A:  Hollywood.   Hollywood is wonderful at knowing a good story when they see it, but creating a good story is largely hit-or-miss with them.  (Exhibit B:  every sequel ever made.)  

ALL of these books suffer from hopelessly misplaced methods of analyzing other writer's works, and randomly misplaced tips for how to outline and develop your own work according to "successful" books, movies or plays. ("The three act structure is generally recognized as superior..." blah, blah-blah, delivered in a very stiff New England tone of upper-crust condescension, etc, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.)  

In other words, they largely advocate the art of imitation, achieved by stringing together cliches with a cultivated look of faux originality. 

Yes, on that basis, no one will learn writing.  In the absence of proper theories of nuclear engineering you couldn't teach the design of nuclear power plants, either.  I mean, if you were doing it based on a theory of alchemy and woodworking, you wouldn't get very far, would you?  You'd just have to rely on those who possess the noble art of nuclear "divination", who innately "know", somehow, the nuances of the proper metal alloys and cooling systems and radioisotopes required.  That's sort of where writing is today, with regard to schooling, and why it "can't" be taught. The proper theory hasn't been properly expounded into people's heads.

2. Writing good fiction requires a very broad base of knowledge, much more so than other fields, and it has to be almost fully automatized before you can write anything of real quality -- especially, compelling dialogue.   (Very few writers today write good dialogue in my opinion.  Mainly they're very good at avoiding writing dialogue -- at all costs.)  Ayn Rand discusses this somewhat in her fiction course, but barely touches on what should be emphasized with a jack-hammer to the brain:  you've got to train your subconscious, and then rely on it while writing -- give it the reins.  In writing, deep analysis of the quality of what you've written comes after trained "intuition" (ie, programmed cognitive reaction to a particular set of concretes defined according to a creative purpose) puts words on paper.  Anything else breeds "analysis paralysis" and crappy writing.

3. Writing requires the ability and interest in doing lots of research--say, 16th century history if you want to do a novel on Magellan's voyage. Heinlein touches on some of the things you need to know, but I think he goes way overboard in demanding encyclopaedic knowledge before you even get started.  You could spend a lifetime acquiring seven PhD's, by his standard, before you ever wrote a single word (though he was very knowledgable himself).

4. Much more important is the writer's ability to gain insights into the nature of human psychology as such, and how it's expressed in human interactions, culture, trade, wars, business, romance, etc.  This is how you get to universal conflicts that anyone can relate to. 

5. Writing fiction also requires a certain kind of psychology in the writer himself -- the kind of psychology that relishes the experience of human conflict and seeks it out in developing a story line, while understanding it at a deep emotional level. Most people want to avoid conflict at all costs.  They run like hell from it.  No.  If this is what you want, become an accountant, not a fiction writer.  A writer wants to make the lives of his characters a living hell -- and drag out the suspense of it as long as possible -- before resolving anything.  If you can't stand the pressure, get out of the cooker.

6. Writing also requires a psychology that genuinely enjoys observing and understanding people and their interactions, and finds them fascinating. If you don't have that psychology to start with, it's going to be an incredibly uphill battle to acquire it, though it can be done.  Introverts and overly cautious people need not apply -- unless they're willing to become a whole lot more extroverted and willing to take risks in their own lives. 

7. And it requires a certain devil-may-care self-confidence and separation of your self-worth from what you write.  You can spend a lot of time outlining a story to reach a clear plot, theme and climax, and then find you have to chuck it more or less as you start writing in detail--
because the moment you start putting words in characters' mouths they're going to become vastly more real to you, and this will suggest much better how they are going to get you to the climax -- what they need to be, who is important, who isn't, along with new conflicts, the need for new characters, etc.  The old cliche of a writer having to be willing to "murder his darlings"  (the precious baubles of your words on paper) is relevant here, but more accurately, in chucking a detailed plot on the spur of the moment for an even better arc, a writer has to be willing to murder the psychological support system of his self-image.  That takes confidence and a belief in your ability to do it all over again from scratch, faster, easier, and better.

8. For that reason you've got to have a certain artist's psychology when you do outline a story (IMHO), one which doesn't obsess too much on controlling every word and deed of each character like the roles in a Victorian drama.  Your outline will simply change too much when you do the detailed writing.  Broad strokes are the ticket -- what's my climax?  Who are my characters and what do they need to be to get me there? What are the key sub-conflicts?  Etc. This is sort of what the chapter titles in a novel accomplish for a writer.  Writing is very much Aristotelian causation in action -- define your entities (your characters and their purposes), define your goal (the climax), set up the situation (what kind of world are the characters in), and the action will drive naturally toward the climax if you understand all that and aren't just jumping from cliche to cliche. 

9. You also need a very active mind in relation to making your own observations about life in general.  You need something original to say.  Some unique observations or perspective you can put in the mouths or choices of your characters.  If all you're doing is stringing cliches together, you're wasting your time.  The story will be boring and predictable by definition.  (Note that you might make a good living at it if your audience wouldn't know a cliche from meat cleaver.  Hence, the miracle of Titanic.)

10. You need to be brutally honest with yourself and about what you're writing.  If it's crap, it's crap (ever see "Educating Rita"?), and you've got to be willing to confront that even if it hurts (it will).  In the beginning you won't know what's crap, but your "crap-detector" will always creep ahead of your writing ability and keep you on your toes. If you're honest with yourself, your crap-detector will scare the crap out of you and pull you forward to greater heights of competence and skill. 

11. And you need to be highly selfish to write.  I don't mean this as a cliche.  Writing is a very personal and possessive thing, and you have to do it for those reasons -- the thrill of putting your words on paper, the excitement of reaching your climax with your characters and your meaning attached to it.  (Remember Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone?  Typing the last words of her latest novel and weeping with joy?  So true.)  And the desire to be alone for hours on end, day after day after day, for up to 6 hours each day, shut up in a room, no TV, no radio, inside your own thoughts, for the rest of your writing career...

All this is hopelessly inadequate as a summary -- I've probably left out at least fifty other key points, including many I don't even know -- but it does provide the broad strokes of some things *I* think are essential to being a fiction writer, speaking as someone who's spent a lot of time trying to learn the craft, but who hasn't made it yet (ie, a paying gig).  

If I was to summarize all this I'd put it this way:  if you want to be a writer, you have to want to make yourself the kind of person who can write.  It isn't about learning to write so much -- that's almost easy if you've got the right psychology to begin with.  It's about learning to be re-make yourself as the kind of person possessing the psychology of one who can write. 

A lot of what Ayn Rand said about writing is very relevant but I would say hopelessly inadequate in itself if you don't start with the writing "gene".  She just outlines the broad principles ("writing 101") and barely touches on the necessary psychology you have to develop.  Meaning no criticism whatsoever because the subject is so complex, I class the entire corpus of her discussions on fiction writing as "Writing 101" because if you don't have the innate writer's psychology it's going to take several years (maybe many years, maybe a lifetime) of firm guidance to acquire it -- at least if you want to do good writing.  I think the training required to be a writer is not so much about learning how to model your stories on "successful" plot constructions and character conflicts (very little of that, really), but on how to cultivate the writing mentality itself.  

Though some people do have an "innate" ability--the Ayn Rand's, Victor Hugo's, Paddy Chayefsky's, and, to lesser degree, the J.J. Abrams' and Aaron Sorkin's all had big head starts, psychologically speaking.  

I shouldn't say "gene".  I really do think dramatic writing can be learned with the right committment and enough time and effort.  If Ayn Rand started out at the top of the evolutionary ladder of writing talent, most of us are still waddling with Cro-magnon cave dwellers and gnawing on the petrified bones of stale cliches from hairy pachyderms.  To mix this metaphor even more, most of us start out a lot further from the starting line of good writing.  Sometimes a few miles from the starting line (like me), which a fervent desire alone won't overcome unless there's some guidance for how to even enter the race.  

Others simply lack the committment.  But here the motto of Delphi in Ancient Greece applies:  Know Thyself.  If you can't muster the committment to develop the writing mentality, don't waste your time in deluding yourself you can be a fiction writer.  You never will.  Set yourself down, look yourself in the mirror and take stock:  are you willing to become a different person?

But if you can overcome the basic psychological hurdles, then I think a knowledge of the broad principles will let fiction writing come more or less naturally to you, with enough practice.  Then you just write a lot till you're good at it.  And in a word, speaking as a novice, that's my take on the subject. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

The "Myth" of Talent?

Someone on facebook mentioned a book that asserts the "myth of talent" ("Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success"), and I replied,
I've argued myself for years that "intelligence" and "aptitude" as measured in tests are largely overrated, and the difference in innate potential between people at birth is very little -- what they become is very much how they choose to develop their minds. Can someone be Mozart by 21 if they start at 16? Maybe not -- Mozart had a big head start: a unique perspective on music from a very early age, fostered to some great degree by excellent and early training, but I think it was much more about his own fascination and love of musical relationships and his recognition that he could create them that spurred his remarkable creativity.

After childhood it becomes harder and more time consuming to "re-wire" your brain, to use a tired cliche, though it has some validity -- a brain must physically change to operate differently,and that provides guidance for the time-scale and effort and perserverance required. But I do think "talent" (let's define terms somewhat more: skills or creative ability or ability to reason, loosely) is something that can be developed with both perserverance (a lot of it -- pianists practice 4 - 8 hours a day, every day, for instance, and why should it be less for anything else?), proper training (which can accelerate the process, because true auto-didacts are exceptionally rare in human history), and something new I'd add to the equation: a committment to their goal that transcends old premises.
That is, plenty of people are willing to work "hard". Very, very few (to be pedantic) are willing to reexamine everything about their choices in life, including ideas, premises and habitual method of mental functioning (ie, psycho-epistemology) that stands in the way of that, and expurge or alter it whenever and whereever necessary.

So now we're at the root of the problem. Is "talent" a myth? Innate talent, mostly. There are outliers of extraordinary innate ability (too often "idiot savants"), but the bell curve of IQ is largely a chimera in my view. Ayn Rand herself argued that anyone of normal aptitude could have chosen to be like her. But almost no one does. (In thousands of years of human history, only a few have.)

At the other end of the scale, there's those people who are practically beyond redemption. Talentless empty souls of petrified mental functioning. They do what they do and are capable of no more, and we know many of them instantly when we meet them.

And in between there's those who are capable of limited elevation in their abilities according to their desires and committment. With the right motivation, they can do a lot more, and in the context of job within a business, they can choose to perform exceptionally for the tasks they were hired to do, and even grow beyond that. Value-aggregation is an enormous incentive. Money. This is one reason entrepreneurs can do so much. Once you acquire value (such as money, though not exclusively), and see how its done, it acts like positive feedback to incredibly sharpen your thinking to acquire more value.

But there are also a lot of people who simply lack this ambition. For whatever reason, by adulthood, all the ambition has been sucked out of them -- if they ever had it. You may recall the old story of the capitalist who tried to raise productivity of some Amazonian indians working for him in a business he just acquired. He reasoned they didn't work harder because the pay was too low, so he quadrupled their pay... then the indians worked 1/4 as long and then left their jobs for the rest of the week. They had all they wanted.  A complete mental state of arrested ambition.

More than metaphorically, that's how a lot of people view their mental development of new skills and abilities and interests, unfortunately. So is "talent a myth"? It depends on what you're doing, how you're motivated, how much historical "baggage" you have in your own mental development, and what you're being asked to do.
In crude IQ terms (I really detest the concept of IQ tests as practiced), I think any average person with the right motivation can raise their IQ in functional terms by at least 30 points. They can become great businessmen, for instance. (Money is the easiest motivator.) The biggest obstacle, however, is the committment and recognition of the need to do "whatever is necessary" (if you recall that line from the movie "Body Heat").

So, from a management perspective, you don't need "superstars" for most jobs. Usually, good leadership of clear vision can bring the best out of "average" people (recognizing that "average" can become exceptional by choice). But you do have to recognize where you might need a superstar -- someone who is already "there" or close to it -- in the talent needed to get the job done before the company goes broke. The Mozart or other brilliant mind who already has a lifetime of effort and passion behind his ability in the here and now. 
That might make him a prima donna and a pain in the ass -- but know when you need him.  If you want to rationalize that you don't need him -- when you do -- then you are setting yourself up for failure and establishing yourself as a mediocrity determined to prove mediocrity is exceptional as a rationalization of your existence.  Exceptional people recognize exceptional ability.
I'm thinking primarily of startup companies, here, which is my own interest. Mature companies need much less of this on a per capita basis, but they do so often eventually sink and die because they fail to recognize when and where they simply must have the exceptional person, and they often develop hiring practices that entrenches and reinforces mediocrity, right up to the top of the company. (How can mediocrities recognize talent?)

So... the short answer is: most people can choose to be exceptional, and that puts them in the range of most jobs. But the greater the distance they must travel to get there, and the more mental baggage they must overcome, and the greater the contradictions that hold them back, and the less the incentives motivating them -- the more untenable it becomes. Then you need "talent": the person who already has a passion for doing something well, and a lifetime of doing it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Sum of all Fears...

Over at Pajamas, someone commented that Obama is really not a Marxist, just a narcissist (to sum up a lengthy assertion), and I had to reply as follows:
I'm not sure what it means to say Obama is nothing but a set of "psychological agendas".  Aren't we all.  Yes, he's a power-luster.  That's the very definition of a communist (he's not a socialist).  By definition people are drawn to communism by forms of megalomania -- it's an ideology bred for power lust.  But to dismiss the ideas the man advocates -- which are the narcotics of that creed -- is to miss the great danger. 

A man is what he upholds, and is what he does.  Obama upholds the tenets of communist Marxism, lock, stock and gunbarrel.  You might debate the label "communist" (I don't) but you have to call him a Marxist. That he has a strong nihilist and megalomaniacal streak is simply a reflection of those ideas. Where *didn't* Marxism destroy everything it touched?  Where didn't it seek total control over other people? That Obama exhibits some traits of borderline madness--where *didn't* any Marxist leader exhibit that?  The ideas create the man.

I'm not saying Obama is a genius, nor even a true "intellectual" -- he originates nothing. He is, in Ayn Rand's words, a total "second-hander". But he is well aware of the ideas at play in our world. Ignorant, no. Brilliant no. Evil, yes.  Call the man what he really is, is all I'm asking. Recognize the full danger of the man by the nature of what he is, is all I'm asking. 

Ideas are the prime movers of history, much more than individual men.  Yes, created by men, but once in play, evil ideas infect like a disease any other men who don't have the proper antidote -- adherence to reason, fealty to reality, and the ideas that implement that: a correct understanding of the nature of Man (he has to use his mind to support his own existence and be happy) and individual rights as the only proper function of government--which is the *cause* of capitalism. 

But ignore the role of ideas and you ignore the danger of the disease.  Prune one man from the gene pool -- another replaces him. 

Given the ideas at play in our culture for 100 years, a man like Obama *had* to appear.  It wasn't a matter of "if", but when. So don't place all the danger in the man. He's really a straw man.

Obama is nothing more than the current figurehead of many evil ideas under a red umbrella, which have been stalking this world for far too long.  That he is something of a caricature himself is merely a visceral statement of the fact that his ideals have become something of a caricature:  Marxism.  But he represents, unfortunately, way too many people who still hold and advocate those ideas, at least in this country. (Don't kid yourself, Marxism is discredited as an ideal everywhere else that has seen it in action.) To imbue all the power in the man's shortcomings is to blind oneself to the danger and let the nature of his ideas run amuck, unseen and unrecognized for the full danger they represent.   

(And as a side note:  those same ideas have deeply infected the Republicans. The neo-cons are the arch-examples of this.  Marxism is just the political implementation of enforced altruism, and the neo-cons uphold that ideal. They are more dangerous than the Marxists because they conceal their ultimate motives so well, even from themselves.)

Thrown Under the Bias

This is a great op-ed by a former Ukrainian (now living in NY) attacking the TSA goons ("Those Who Forget History Are Doomed to Have Their Junk Squeezed"), but I also like the fact that he upholds.... drum roll... objective reality. Wow.  What a concept.

But what I really liked was this argument against TSA security procedures that show no bias towards anyone and randomly select among all for the strip and grope:
[what if the government] applied the same “unbiased randomness” to all other activities ... the Fire Department would randomly douse one house per neighborhood per week, inevitably soaking a real fire every so often. The Sanitation Department would remove random objects from people’s driveways — a garbage bag, a car, and sometimes a random family member. City hospitals would perform random heart surgeries and treat patients for random diseases without bias towards their actual malady. And Mayor Bloomberg himself would invest his money randomly, by spinning the wheel at Atlantic City to see what he should do with his billions. ... [or] the FDA require all Americans to take equal doses of Thorazine to prevent individual psychosis. [or] the government-run Fanny Mae doesn’t engage in an equal redistribution of subprime loans … No, wait, scratch that. Rather, if Janet Napolitano’s personal broker decides to invest equally in all stocks regardless of their performance...
I'd like to see this argument developed further. We ought to have a national contest for the most ridiculous "unbiased random" things the government could do us.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Goons, Loons and Other Scrofulous Creatures

Back to ruminating on more serious matters.

I read this article by Charles Krauthammer, who argues that Obama's primary reason for agreeing with the Republican extension of the Bush tax cuts was political expediancy so he could extend the stimulus. Perhaps. Or not.

I agree with Krauthammer that extending the tax cuts in the absence of budget cuts amounts to stimulus, but it's a continuation of a status quo that's been going on since Bush. The economy has kinda absorbed that message already. The Treasury's "quantitative easing" was going to give us a trillion dollar stimulus *anyway*, and the only thing worse than stimulus is stimulus with tax increases. The only thing that the government could do good right now is cut the goddamned budget by something substantial -- say, 2 or 3 trillion dollars -- and start firing federal workers en masse, by the millions. Ain't gonna happen, though.

I stand by my contention that the main reason for Obama agreeing to extend the tax cuts is to get that bill passed *now* so he can get the START treaty done next week. It might not happen -- strangely, and ironically, the Left, represented by Socialist Bernie Sanders, is standing in his way -- but Obama's primary goal is the destruction of the United States' nuclear deterrent, and that's what's motivating him more than stimulus.

However, I agree with Krauthammer that the Republican's are completely ignoring the message of the election. Utterly. There is no evidence whatsoever that they learned a single thing, and the next election will prove it with candidates like Paul Ryan. (I predict he will have Palin his running mate, giving the Republican's their dream team of pretty boy and goldilocks -- she's already saying nice things about him.)

My take on events right now is that there is a pure, unadulterated evil stalking Washington the likes of which has never taken over the place. Despite good trends, we're heading towards some kind of political armageddon in this next election. As the good rises up, the bad is redoubling their efforts. The good better be very, very good.

If both parties get their way (either Obama Term 2 or Ryan Term 1), I think the country may be irreversibly headed towards some kind of total economic collapse, social breakdown and complete dictatorship in 10 - 20 years after that. I won't say it's inevitable ("may") cause my predictive abilities are far from perfect, but things will get really, really bad with either candidate in charge. Seriously, our choices are going to be Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters vs. Darth Vader and the Empire. It's that bad.

It might require some kind of general uprising that goes beyond the Tea Party, and an American version of Marie Antoinette's fate to re-vamp both parties and stop it, but you've got to know you're in a war to win it, you've got to know what you're fighting for to wage it, and you've got to know what you want to replace it with or you'll descend into anarchy when you defeat the other guys. Red Army vs. White Army (remember what Ayn Rand wrote about that.)

There's too few people in this country right now that know any of this, so it ain't gonna happen. More likely is the country descends into pure despotism in the next 5-10 years, and in 15 - 20 years the people rise up in pure anarchy, civil war, the country becomes balkanized, etc. -- or worse, they become complacent and accepting European-style serfs. None of it pretty. The only hope for this country is if enough people learn about Objectivism. The only hope.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hippos from Space

There's a time for ruminating on START treaties, TSA goons, theories of induction, the end of the world as we knew it.... and there's a time for fun.   One of my favorite activities is vicarious travel via Google Maps or Earth.  This week takes us on a big-game expedition to the deepest bowels of the inner reaches of Africa.   The southwest corner of the Central African Republic, to be exact.  Latitude 3o 12' 04.13" N, Long. 16o 07' 02.79" E.; You can copy that directly into Google Earth to visit yourself.   Let's journey there, shall we?

Note the little village in the picture above.  Now zoom in a bit more and see what's there...

My personal guess -- that's a lot of hippopotami swimming around.   Click on the pic to enlarge.  I've scanned this area of Africa before and seen large groups of them in other rivers.  So cool to think you can see this stuff without watching a Tarzan movie.  How else can you go to this part of the world?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

New START a Dead End

My take on the Obama tax cut offer is that he's offering only to try to quickly clear the tax legislation from the Senate agenda so he can pass the new START treaty with Russia before he loses much of his Senate votes in a few weeks. It needs 60 votes. This treaty is an absolute disaster for us -- it's a completely one-sided nuclear arms reduction that will eviscerate our strategic deterrent. I've been warning that this was a top priority of Obama's for over 2 years. Some of you know why I think that.

The "Republican" leading the charge in the Senate is Richard Lugar. Consider that before Obama ever even ran for President, Lugar was trying to pull Obama (a few months in the Senate after his election) onto the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where things like START are brought to a vote. Then, Lugar took Obama to Moscow (again, before he ran for President), and the two disappeared into a locked room at the airport for something like 4 hours, with no communication with anyone from their entourage.

I've long had grave doubts about Lugar (I like that word "grave", and it fits in this case--the guy looks like an undertaker), going back something like 15 years. In my firm opinion the guy is a communist posing as a Republican. Maybe I can't call him a "mole" if he's American born, but I do think he's been deliberately working against American interests, like Strobe Talbot was (Clinton national security advisor), whom Sergei Tretyakov, our most important defector in 20 years (he ran the U.N. spying operation of the Russian SVR/KGB) called "the most important American asset Russia had in the 1990s" (before Tretyakov was killed this summer by Putin). I might note that Lugar was a friend of Talbot and worked with him frequently.

Lugar has been working furiously right now to build up the votes he needs for this START treaty. It is very much the top Obama priority.

Obama, you may remember, also wrote a paper in college on nuclear arms reduction.  You might argue that's his motivation here, but you may also note that it's the motivation of the communists, too.  And the Russians.  They can't get Cap and Trade right now (which is ideal for weakening the infrastructure of the United States, a long-time goal), so all priority has to go to START.

Monday, December 6, 2010

One Cell Short of a Full Lobotomy

Reading this story about a muslim woman, arrested for drunken driving,
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) ― A Muslim woman who refused to remove her headscarf for a Boulder County jail booking photo has been told she'll have to explain her refusal to a judge.
I thought: is this not political correctness gone insane, when the police defer to an arrestee merely because she is Muslim?  Then the same day I saw this PJ column
Democrats on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
December 5, 2010
and was reminded again of an excellent talk called "Modernism and Madness", delivered in 1994 at the Ford Hall Forum, which argued (from memory) that there appeared to be a relation between the insanity of post-modernism in the intellectual life of the country (or world) and a resurgence of genuine schizophrenia among people who adhere to its tenets. I've long remarked myself on the fact that many on the far Left seem on the verge of full-fledged psychosis (seriously, not metaphorically), which leads me back to a scene in my favorite movie script (sorry, no embed code is available, just click to see the video) where network executive Max Schmumacher (William Holden) is leaving Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), an ambitious young woman with whom he has been having an affair, and she is forced to confront the mania of her life's work, which included giving communist revolutionaries a weekly reality-based television show, as they robbed and murdered people across the country.  Substituting the nation for Schumacher and Obama for Christensen in this morality play,
It's too late, Barack. There's nothing left in you that
anyone can live with. You're one of Immanuel Kant's
humanoids--and if anyone stays with you, we'll be destroyed.
Like the Democratic Party was destroyed.
Like the Republican Party was destroyed.
Like everything you and the institution
of progressivism touches is destroyed.
You are post-modernism incarnate, Barack.
Indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy--
All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality,
as you posture for moral superiority while destroying any
semblance of reason or justice--of honesty, or integrity.
War, murder, death are all the same to you
as bottles of beer--or another photo-op.
The daily business of life is a corrupt comedy
for your amusement, as you destroy the lives of everyone you
profess to love, in the name of everyone
you profess to hate. You even shatter
the sensations of time and space into split-seconds
and instant re-plays--of omnibus bills, tax increases,
climate-change treaties and nuclear defense cuts,
while destroying businesses, fortunes, livelihoods, nations.
You're madness, Barack--virulent madness,
and everything you touch dies with you.
Well, not me!
Not while I can still feel pleasure...and pain...
and love.
For whatever this country once stood for.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's MY party, TSA...

I made this comment to some others, and can't resist posting here:

What if we had another "opt-out" day where everyone that went through security screening asked the TSA if they could touch their junk?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Felt Up with the TSA

This security video shows outrageously thuggish TSA behavior to intimidate a young mother, even violating their own rules, much less the Constitution.  She requested a copy of the video after they held her up from her flight for 40 minutes because she wouldn't put breast milk through an X-ray machine. They were waiting for her when she arrived at security screening, because she complained a week earlier -- a cop told her this.  The TSA had asked to cop to arrest her this time.  She had a copy of the TSA rules, and they refused to let her access to it before stuffing her in a holding cell.  On what legal authority in the absence of any crime can anyone do that?  Only the legal authority of a slave state.

This is silent, with long dead zones between some of the text. Just drag the progress bar to speed past the woman's waiting, and waiting and waiting in her glass cell.

From Poor Robb's Almanac

Reading some of the comments to an excellent Forbes online column by Wendy Milling, I couldn't fail to be dismayed by the readers there (if that is the word) who failed to grasp what she was saying, so I had to leave my own comment:
Too many of these commenters are forgetting what Ben Franklin said:
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Milling is right. The solution to air security is to destroy the states that train, sponsor, harbor and support terrorists, not to expect all Americans to sacrifice their Fourth amendment rights (and now First Amendment, too, judging by the TSA's new policy of collecting intel on opponents).
If we as a nation choose to passively and meekly accept the routine, daily violation of our rights as the norm, America as an ideal will have died.
A friend remarked that Wendy's article should be "must" reading for everyone in Congress.  Agreed.  Someone care to send that telegram?

(excerpts only here)

Nude Scanners Vs. The Foundations Of Capitalism
Wendy Milling, 11.30.10, 10:00 AM EST

To make travel safe, improve foreign policy rather than violate our rights.

Just as the moral is the practical, so is the immoral impractical.

By now, anyone who does not live in a cave, and everyone who does, is aware of the TSA's policy of putting passengers through the Scylla of nude scanning or the Charybdis of "enhanced" pat-downs, which involve breast and genital contact.

...The right to liberty includes your right to physically move about in the world in pursuit of your goals.

...The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness therefore include the right to be free of interference with flying.

...You cannot reach your flight destination if you are sitting in jail or prevented from flying, and being offered an alternative that you cannot accept because it goes against your values is not a "choice," but coercion.

...The nude scanners and enhanced pat-downs are desperate measures to achieve a marginal return on security in order to compensate for a patently failed foreign policy, and they represent a crossing point--not a Rubicon, but an event horizon of a national security black hole.

...All it would take to return to the era of safe and unmolested air travel would be to ruthlessly stamp out Islamism by completely destroying all the states that support it and laying down the law for the survivors in those states. Terrorism cannot occur if its perpetrators are dead and its sympathizers thoroughly demoralized.

...People should not have to prove they are not terrorists before boarding an airplane...