When most people start learning martial arts, they don’t argue with the instructor constantly. The sensei tells them to throw a punch straight in, and shows how easy a roundhouse is to block, they do it. If they punch with a limp wrist, the instructor tells them they can hurt themselves that way, maybe even flexing their wrist until they feel some discomfort. The sensei shows them a proper fighting stance, explains that they can be shoved off balance with how they are currently standing, they do what the teacher says. The students learns and are happy get something for their $100+/month. I’ve never heard a student say “oh, that’s formulaic” or “I want to break the rules and surprise my opponent.”
New writers, good golly, so many say such things over and over. They want to be new, avant garde and experimental. Rules are for old people, not their free soaring spirits.
Perhaps it’s because the rules of martial arts are based on the concrete evidence of the human body. We all bend and break in the same way, we generate power and strength in the same way. If the beginner wants to throw a punch with just his arm, the instructor could make him do that ten times into a mitt, demanding more power. At the end he could ask the student how tired they are. Then he gets the student to use the whole body to throw the punch ten times, and asks them how tired they are. “Can you feel the power? Can you feel how you use less energy to generate more power?” For most, the difference is obvious.
The rules of the story are coded deeper into the human psyche and aren’t as obvious. They have to be taught, and many people resist. They want to think they are the special person with inside knowledge that will produce something new and untarnished.
Now, the analogy does break down here a bit, because there are ways to break the rules of writing and still have a successful story. Some fighters are so good, they can break the rules and still win the fight, but also the analogy only stretches so far. Stories aren’t martial artists. The story is not in a street fight, and can exist with readers passing it over constantly. Sometimes these stories are rescued by self described elites known as English teachers who prop up stories that deserve to “lose their street fight.”
Remember that you have to be good writer to break the rules. If you are a beginning writer, wait a bit, develop your skills, follow the rules. So what if they seem formulaic and contrived. As you gain experience you can eventually challenge the constraints. For now, the deep structure of plot, character and setting all work together to evoke a deep emotional in people, and you use those rules to engage, please, and even surprise the reader.
A human should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly., Specialization is for insects.
This famous quote appears in the First Intermission of Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein. The book chronicles how the two thousand year old character Lazarus Long almost ended his life, but a new family and a prospect of time travel gave him renewed zest for living. The two intermissions in the book offer the wisdom sayings of Lazarus Long.
The quote is attributed to a fictional character, whose beliefs may not necessarily line up with those of the author. Does this quote meet the criterion of actually something Robert Heinlein would agree to? From Heinlein’s works, I do recognize a distinct enthusiasm for a person having a wide variety of skills. For example in “Have Spacesuit- Will Travel” Kip mentions two engineering disciplines he is interested in. An older character suggests “Why not both? I deplore this modern over specialization”. Therefore, as a guess, on a scale of 1-10, this quote matches with Heinlein’s beliefs as a 10/10.
I should mention that I am not a literalist in interpreting the words of Heinlein. I’m definitely in the camp of metaphorically interpreting his words. Of course, who gets the final say in of the meaning is a discussion for another day.
The list of things a human should be able to do is very long, and at first reading, my reaction was “Yeah, Lazarus Long was two thousand years old, of course he had time to learn all this.” Take a deeper look. People know many of those items already, and may not realize they can do others.
The easy items are as follows:
Analyze a new problem does not need to mean to solve some complicated math word problem. It could be as simple as “Mom has to work late, Kid 1 needs taking to work, Kid 2 has to get to a soccer match, and I have to make dinner.” People figure that stuff out every day.
So how many people would ever plan an invasion? Even folks with decades long military careers never do this. But we could interpret that to mean any sort of gathering with logistics involved. My friends recently planned and executed a writer’s conference. In a sense they had to invade the local community college (call the college and schedule use of the room), bring in specialty troops (hire the speaker, arrange his food and lodging), and solve the logistics (bring lots of snacks, decide whether to provide lunch or a list of restaurants).
Similar things could be said about large family reunions, or even small gatherings. My dad cooks for himself, but he’s not going to cook for his kids, grandkids, and great grandchildren. But his house is centrally located and a good place for a family gathering. So simply coordinating among relatives eg, “We’re bringing meat, can you bring sides? The kids are bringing pie and the domino set,” constitutes ‘planning an invasion.’
Set a bone is learned from first aid courses. Of course, most people won’t be able to set a compound fracture, but they can still learn how to tie a splint, along with other basic first aid.
Fight efficiently means many things. Most people could benefit from basic self defense knowledge. I’ve heard most people don’t know how to fight well and having just basic knowledge of throwing a punch and how to get somebody off you when wrestling can help you immensely. Also, fighting is about the hardest physical activity there is, so being in good shape with good wind means you can outlast some opponents.
Of course there are some folks who are just too fragile or small to hurt their attackers much. In those cases, ‘efficiently’ can mean the use of a taser, pepper spray, or firearm.
Finally, the best fight is the one you can avoid. Knowing how to convince people to do what you want, or talk them down from violence is something everybody should learn. Such skills overlap with ‘cooperate’, ‘give orders’, and ‘take orders’.
What’s left? Write a sonnet, solve equations, conn a ship, butcher a hog, program a computer, build a wall, comfort the dying, design a building.
Design a building again does not necessarily mean build a skyscraper or even a small garden shed. But ability to read blueprints, follow what the contractor is saying can all help a person.
Most people will not program a computer to solve climate simulations. They can certainly use a computer to do things necessary -- figure out a budget, contact co-workers, create a mailing list - which for short lived people, is close enough.
I’m not going through the final items. The quote pushes people to show flexibility and a willingness to learn new things. They can’t let themselves be pigeonholed by other people. Most importantly they can’t let themselves be pigeonholed by themselves. So, yes, if life brings you a wall to build, dig in and figure it out.
Keith Houston’s The Book. A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time. W. W. Norton and Co, 2016.
Houston describes one my favorite objects ever : the book. Starting with the substrate of papyrus, he traces the development of parchment, made from sheep, and then also paper in China. Houston describes the how codices seemed to appear in the Roman Empire and how they are superior to scrolls. Several pages are devoted to Gutenberg, the father of printing with the use of movable type. But, he also mentions how China invented moving type centuries earlier, but it never caught on, mostly because of the sheer number of characters needed.
Throughout the book are handy annotations, using The Book itself to show what such things as endpapers or an ad card are.
Towards the end, it did get a touch dry with the detail Houston goes into, but overall the whole story was still fascinating.
I heartily recommend The Book as a wonderful gift for the bibliophile in your life.
Once there was a boy named Fred. His parents died in a boating accident and he was raised by a variety of relatives. Occasionally, he spent the summer with wealthy friends Michael and Paul, heirs to real estate conglomerates. Quick witted and intelligent, Fred was the favorite of his Uncle Bill.
On his eighteenth birthday, his Uncle Bill gave Fred a huge trust, and departed for Europe. Fred moved into his uncle’s house, and kept busy studying ancient languages and Icelandic poetry at the local university.
Bill’s gardener was a younger man named Sean. Bill helped Sean get his landscaping certificate. After Bill departed, Sean worked for Fred, who loaned him the money to open his own landscaping business.
Bill also had this weird thumb drive, which could hack into any computer in the world. Bill left it with Fred, with a caution to never use it. One day, Bill's friend Mr. Gary showed up. He was rather mysterious, with an undefined job in the State Department, who visited Bill and Fred from time to time. On this trip, he revealed to Fred the thumb drive was the property of a powerful Russian gangster. The thumb drive was actually intelligent in a way, and was the source of the gangster’s power. He had learned its location and would send his bratva to take it by force. With the power of the AI in the drive, the gangster would conquer the world.
Mr. Gary tells Fred the thumb drive is highly encrypted and protected by the AI that controls it. It had copied itself to the internet, and if the drive was destroyed, it would download itself to another thumb drive at random. If he tried to erase it, the same thing would happen. The only way to destroy it was to take the drive to the computer that created it, at a small college in Kharkov, in the heart of the Russian gangster’s power.
But the first step was to set out for England and try to reach an MI6 safe house. Fred and Sean try to slip away unnoticed, but Fred’s wealthy friends Michael and Paul catch up and insist on coming along. The bratva find them, but the timely intervention of Army Green Beret Captain Andrews helps them escape.
If my tale of Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Merry, Pippin and Aragorn sounds unlikely, well you now know what I’m talking about. None of the halflings were raised as warriors. Frodo was basically a trustifarian! Merry and Pippin were scions of wealthy families and neither put much energy into anything. (You might think how all the warriors that met the halflings and consider their reactions in a new light.)
But during the War of the Ring, they did great things. Pippin and Merry brought news of the outside world to Treebeard, and he decided to attack Saruman. Pippin endured the siege of Gondor and saved Faramir and Merry’s lives. Merry rode with the Rohirrim and saved the life of Eowyn. Frodo and Sam saved the world from total evil.
Not a warrior among them. Just courage, self-discipline, justice, faith, hope, and love.
You see this meme floating around from time to time on Facebook. I’ve never questioned it until today. My response came as a simple question: What if she doesn’t want to be a warrior?
This brought up all sorts of other questions. What exactly constitutes being raised as a warrior? Does everyone need to be raised as a warrior? Is there a downside to being a warrior?
Must kids learn martial arts to be trained as a warrior? Some people enroll their kids in various martial arts. Most classes don’t offer training in weapons, let alone any firearms, so they wouldn’t be of much use in a battlefield. Many of the classes only train to a tap in a tournament, and the skills aren’t of much use in a street fight. In fact most dojos emphasize the self-discipline, exercise, and growth in self-confidence.
But you can learn self discipline in many pursuits - piano lessons, sewing, painting, housekeeping, cooking and others. All of which are generally considered ladylike qualities. So being raised as a lady doesn’t necessarily mean you lack self discipline.
What about courage? How much courage does it take to sew a button on? Maybe not much, but performing in public is down right intimidating for most folks. It does take some gumption to get up in front of even a small audience and perform Ode to Joy - even an arrangement simplified for an eight year old. Ladylike endeavors can teach the practitioner both courage and self discipline.
Is there a downside to being a warrior? Do they become hammers and see every problem as a nail? Some people with power are bullies, taking anything they want. Others even enjoy inflicting pain. These people would still be called warriors. Modern people make jokes about the Vikings raiding monasteries, burning and raping and pillaging, but no one denies the Vikings aren’t warriors. Mongol warriors destroyed entire cities and enslaved thousands, if not millions. Crusaders killed every man, woman and child after storming Jerusalem during the First Crusade, because that’s what warriors did back then.
Of course we would want to raise our kids to never inflict pain for pleasure and to see using force unjustly as bad. Both Frank Castle and Steve Rogers are warriors, but we’d want our kids to be the latter and not the former. Most people don’t consider this when they see the meme, though.
You can probably see where I’m going with this. We want our kids - indeed ourselves - to have certain qualities such as courage, self discipline, temperance, justice and love (and I could include faith and hope as well). We assume these qualities from the meme, but in actuality, the word warrior doesn’t necessarily include them all. I don’t know what the resulting meme would look like, but we should focus on the seven virtues, both in the next generation and ourselves.
I've been rereading the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. On the last book and I've really enjoyed them the second time.
A few years back, I read an analogy about actors, comparing them to the tradespeople building a house. If you liken construction to the process of making a movie, then the actors are similar to the drywallers, plumbers and electricians on the construction site. They come in, do their task under the direction of the plans and the foreman. Then they leave and go on to the next house. The plans are like the script and the foreman is the director.
They may not like either one. They may think the blueprints were created by idiots or the foreman is a dolt, but they keep their mouth shut and do their jobs. To see the completed house, they have to come back a few months later and take the tour at the open house like everyone else.
Actors are the same way. They can tell certain scripts are stupid with plot holes from page 1 to the end. With no explanation, the characters don’t act as they did in previous episodes. Similar things happen on the job site. A toilet might be placed so that you can’t close the door in the bathroom. A plumber might go to the foreman and get that changed. But for actors, the problems tend to be a bit more nebulous, and they have no power to change anything. for the most part, they just do what they’re told.
Years later they may talk about the stupid things, eg as the youtube video where Michael Shanks and Ben Crowder make fun of the zat guns on Stargate SG1. You could probably find similar videos about other shows if you looked.
The most important thing though is they don’t have a lot of power. Kelly Marie Tran had no say in the stupid plot of Last Jedi. She’s just an actress and a fan, who won the lottery to be in a Star Wars movie. Picking on her or other actors is pointless. If you have complaints, go after the director or producer. She did her job, and attacking her is childish and mean spirited.
Mostly I avoid politics but something has caught my attention. This video by CPG Grey offers a vision of a fearful future where the robots take over. Nah, I don’t mean take over like Skynet or Colossus, but more like the humanoids in Jack Williamson;’ stories “With folded hands” or The Humanoid Touch. The robots aren’t even sentient, just tireless and efficient. More and more industries use automation and more jobs go away, done better and faster by automation.
It’s not just factory workers either. He mentions things like truck driving (automated vehicles being test now), doctors (actual day job of IBM’s Watson), and even creative pursuits such as music and writing.Nobody is safe from their job disappearing.
What happens if there really are no jobs for people? Unless you're a superstar enginee or software programmer you have no chance at getting a job. What kind of society do we have? At one end of the political spectrum would be the folks who say “People who don’t work are just lazy and should starve. Hurry up reducing the surplus population.” At the other side are folks nattering on about “The post-scarcity economy where we wont have money and everybody will have food, clothing and send their days in voluntary useful vocations.” The latter idea is unworkable and the former brutal, cold and too close to what might happen.
Would we have some sort of Universal Basic Income? Probably. Back in the depression unemployment hit 25% and the country elected FDR. Who would they elect if unemployment was at 40% and rising? The country might pass it just as a way of getting cash into consumer hands to get us out of the depression. On the other hand, most places with high unemployment have high crime and drug use. Is there a way out of that trap? I don’t know.
Would people on UBI turn to sex as cheap entertainment? It seems possible. The result would be more children raised in poverty. Another possibility is a requirement of sterilization to accept UBI. I loathe this idea, as then some government bureaucrat would decide who gets to have children.
Will people turn to artistic pursuits? Maybe. If everybody is trying to write a great novel or become the next Rembrandt, the market will be flooded with art, some good, a few great, most terrible. Only a few people will have money to pay for this art, so there’ll be a lot of art in a market with fewer buyers.
Many writer’s will self-publish and some give their work away as a marketing promotion. If you have a bunch of writer’s giving away novels, the average reader will have a lot to read without spending any money on art.
And again, humans would be competing against writing software that can crank out a novel in a week or less. Or all these artists would use the writing software and flood the market with even more novels that no one can pay for, or even notice.
Could an artist set the price as $1 for the unemployed or $100 for those with a job? Not sure how you would set up the marketplace for that. Hordes of peddlers would besiege the employed, all trying to sell their geegaw at an inflated price that would be a week’s sales for them.
Another idea is that people get shares in the local robot factory and they live off the dividends. Some people would invest themselves in the local factory, hoping that any small thing they did would help increase their dividend payout. The factories might take the emotional place of sports teams. Local groups of volunteers would form, offering improvements or new designs. The company would have to employ people (or people bossing software) to evaluate stuff. Maybe the volunteers would get a few extra dollars, or have a chance at a coveted employment slot, similar to how some game companies hire developers from the player ranks. This idea has merit, in that it gives people a goal to work towards, and some incentive to actually work. The downside is the creation of a tournament economy, which the boss rich people always love.
Another idea is that without jobs to offer, businesses have no leverage over the local communities. The robot factories would have to pay enormous property taxes, because no city would grant them a permit. The days of companies demanding tax breaks and other benefits because they bring jobs to the community would disappear.
You can see I have more questions than answers about the post-humanoid future. It may never come to pass. Fusion power was supposed to be commonplace by now, but we’re still perpetually thirty years out from commercial fusion plants. Perhaps the best thing to do is show the video to ninth graders and ask them, “What will you do for a living when you grow up?”
Many people think that the 20th century was the time period of most technological change in the world. “Look, from Orvilles at Kitty Hawk to Armstrong on the Moon in less than a long lifetime,” they’ll cry. They do have something of a point, but they are mistaken. The one hundred years between about 1818 and 1918 (roughly the 19th century) was the period of most technological change in the world. (I first saw this idea on Michael Flynn’s blog and have come to support it.)
How can that be? Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose you took a person from the England or the US, familiar with the newer technologies of their day. They read widely and took in various scientific shows or expositions. Bring that person forward from 1918 to 2018. Almost every bit of technology you can explain with the words ‘faster, better, cheaper’. Phones? They had phones in 1918. Cell phones? Better wireless. Cars? Better. Airplanes? Better. Agriculatural harvesters? Just better tractors. Computers are combination of typewriter and adding machine and of course much better. Even the moon landing is better rockets with a protective suit, like a diving suit but better. MRI and ultrasound would be new, but could still be described as better imaging, as radiography was invented in 1894 and used widely during World War 1. Even the short description of how MRI and ultrsound worked would be understandable to our World War 1 era technophile. And of course, every thing is cheaper, so more people can have them. Off hand, I can only think of antibiotics and other kinds of chemotherapy as new, though some MDs may have dreamed of them.
Do the same with somebody from 1818 brought forward to 1918. Steam ships were toys back then, just coming into commercial use. Trains had come out of the coal mine but steam locomotives were still experimental, used only in a few areas to haul cargo. No automobiles existed at all. No airplanes, or the science of how they would work. Rockets were imprecise bombardment tools. In the field of medicine they still worked with humors and bloodletting. They could see cells, but modern cell theory of disease was decades away. They knew about vaccines, but not germ theory. No wireless, or even the concept of it. Same thing for x-rays and radiography. Agriculture showed improvements, with the use of guano fertilizers from South America, and introduction of mechanized (although still horse drawn) equipment.
Trying to explain all these changes to the 19th Century person would be long hours of discussion and teaching, probably intermixed with periods where the person simply refused to believe what you told them.
The nineteenth century brought unprecedented technological change to the world and it’s time to recognize that.
This isn’t a review but more of a wandering essay about the new Blade Runner movie. I’m going to include spoilers, so stop reading if you hate spoilers.
They wanted to elicit sympathy for the replicants by showing the rampant discrimination and hatred against them. The movie certainly accomplishes this. It does not show much the alternate side of why replicants are so disliked. Do replicant hookers tear marriages apart, as humans can’t compete against them? Do replicant slaves take people’s jobs, forcing them onto the dole? Nothing is said about the other side of the argument, and the movie is rather one dimensional.
Throughout, I had the opinion humanity would be far better off to not create anything like replicants. Our penchant for slavery is too deep, something we constantly fight against. Creating an entire slave race is a bad idea. (Yes, I saw the TNG episode “The Measure of a Man.”)
The relationship between K and his holographic girlfriend Joi occupies a major part of the storyline. Indeed, I enjoyed the movie more when I focused my attention on the relationship and stopped waiting for Harrison Ford to show up. Ana de Armas is luminous in the role and brings necessary charm and enchantment. The movie lures us into believing this is a great part of K’s life. Joi offers frienship and understanding. She gives K the name Joe. I grieved when Joi was destroyed.
But the whole relationship is false. K can’t touch Joi. She employs a prostitute to provide the necessary physical sensations for K to make love to her. At the end of the encounter, the prostitute says, “I’ve been inside you, and you’re empty.” After K returns from Las Vegas, he encounters a huge billboard advertising the Joi holographic girlfriend. The generic software talks to him, calling him a good Joe, the same name his Joi gave him. He realizes the whole relationship was a trick to keep him subdued and disconnected from his fellow replicants. It was this final encounter that causes him to go rescue Deckard, and provide Deckard with a real relationship with his daughter.
As a final thought, how does the industrialist Niander Wallace actually command people’s loyalties when he’s so frickin creepy? You’d think he’d get pushed out into a research position after the first board meeting. Why would people keep working for this guy? By all accounts, Steven Jobs was a dick to work for, but didn’t he have some force of personality at least? And was Wallace human with implants or did a replicant replace him at some point? I couldn’t be sure. He came across as a stereotypical creepy villain, rather like Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman.
The music was very loud. The pacing is slow. Seeing it a theater forced me to watch the movie all in one sitting, and I stayed awake (the loud music helped with that). Home viewing would have led to splitting up the movie over two or more sessions, with rewinds due to napping.
If only to see what it’s about and form your own opinion, I recommend the movie. It’s preferable to see it on the big screen for the whole visual and audio experience. Since it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, a matinee or bargain theater viewing is recommended.