Education

We seem to have lost sight of a simple truth of late.  Not all things we do should or ought to be money-making enterprises.  Yet we should do them anyway, because, to put it simply, without them we lose everything that makes making money worth the bother.

 

A string of university decisions in the last few years—most recently the forced resignation of the president of the University of Virginia and now the announced cutting of the University of Missouri Press— underscore how far we have drifted from this truth.  None of these decisions have been about bad decision-making or scandal or anything that might impair the work of education.  They have all been about bottomlines and making money.

Basically, the president of the University of Virginia, Teresa Sullivan, was fired over a disagreement with the direction of the university with the board of directors, who wish to see more business courses and fewer liberal arts courses.  But we don’t really know because no cause was ever given.  Inadvertently, a billionaire, Peter Kiernan, admitted to orchestrating her firing behind the scenes, but still never fully explained why.  He has since resigned from the board of directors.

The elimination of the UM Press is even less explicable other than as a bottomline measure—yet the university recently received thirty million to expand its sports infrastructure.

Actually, anyone paying attention knows what is going on.  Boards of directors everywhere are trying to turn universities into money machines and anything that doesn’t turn a tidy profit is set to be axed.

If these were businesses like any other, this is perfectly understandable, even laudable if it means saving the business.  But a university is not a business like any other.  We have forgotten that.

You do not have a university press to make money.  You have it to make available the materials for learning.  You do not have a university to make money.  You have it to teach.

And you should not teach the making of money to the exclusion of all else.  Universities should teach in service to truth and knowledge and discovery and the investment of character and soul in people so that they have an idea what to do with money when they make it.  Universities should not have to be held accountable the way a bank or a factory is.  That’s ridiculous.

Some things should exist because they are beautiful, elegant, meaningful, true, inspirational.  If all of that had to rely on the ability to turn a profit, we would have a civilization of fast-food franchises, malls, comic books movies, bad music, and superficial fashion.

Oh, wait.  We do have that civilization.

Teresa Sullivan has been reinstated at the University of Virginia because of an enormous groundswell of student and alumni support.  Someone even suggested that maybe there should be fewer political appointees to university boards.  Hmm.

I have no such hopes for the survival of the UM Press.  It hasn’t been in the black for years.  In my opinion, that shouldn’t matter.  Important books often do not earn a profit, yet they remain important books.  They should exist, as should presses like UM’s, because they contribute an absolutely vital yet unquantifiable essence to our culture.  They should simply Be.

We need to get over this nonsense before we lose too much of ourselves.  We’ve been fed a line that capitalism is the essence of America.  That’s as far from true as can be.  The essence of America are the ideas that formed us.  Ideas that came out of scholarship and philosophy and education.  Ideas that have become an inconvenience to certain people who have found a good way to use our own commitment to free enterprise against us to destroy the very things that make us who we are.

It’s not the money.  It should not be about the money.  It’s about the mind and what’s in it.

 

Upon Finishing A Novel

Oculus, the sequel to my alternate history Orleans, is finished.  I sent it off last week to my agent.  (Which means that, in fact, I will have to do another pass when she gets through making notes, etc, but for now I am content.)

They’re all a slog at some point.  The only novels I ever wrote that weren’t were the second Robot Mystery, Chimera, and the one Terminator novel I wrote, Hour of the Wolf (which wasn’t supposed to be the title—that was the working title I slapped on it because I have to have a title before I can write a piece, but given the impossible schedule and the fact that the publisher needed it, like, THEN, they went with the title as is).  Don’t get me wrong, they were both hard work, but they went relatively smoothly from beginning to end.

However, this one was a slog because the first draft was really rather not good.

Anyway, it got better and I sent it off.  Now comes the decompression and the preparation for the next project.  Cleaning the office, becoming reacquainted with the dog, having some kind of food that takes more than two minutes to prepare.

I have written 21 novels, beginning to end.  Ten of them have been published, six of them probably never will see the light of day again.

It’s difficult to describe to people who don’t do this what it’s like.  The total immersion in the world of your fiction, and having now written other things besides science fiction I can tell you that it doesn’t matter.  The world of your novel is A World and you have to live in it while you’re building it.  So far I haven’t found myself confusing the fictional realm with the “real” world, but I have found myself ignoring a great deal of what’s around me.  There have been a couple of times I’ve felt like someone emerging from a shelter after a nuclear war, wondering how much the world has changed while I was underground.

It’s also, for me, an act of faith.  Having the confidence or the optimism that a book will turn out worth while after all the work can be based on experience once you’ve written enough of them, but it’s still a gamble.  You could very well write a piece that is wholly inaccessible to anyone else.  While you’re inside it, making it, it becomes, at least for me, problematic as to whether or not it will appeal to anyone else.  It’s always a pleasant surprise when it turns out others like it.

Next week, I dive into the major rewrite of another, this one a historical—straight history, with a mystery—and the rest of my summer will be devoted to making it as good as it can be.  I do, however, intend to do a few other things this summer besides just tour the precincts of my fictional realms.

I’ll also have a special essay for the Fourth of July.  Something I’ve been working on for a bit.  Just a little heads up.

Ah.  There’s something else needs tending.  See you later.

The Golden (Silver?) Good Ol’ Days

I just finished skimming through a fascinating little bit of fannish history, Earl Kemp’s Who Killed Science Fiction?  Fannish in the sense of science fiction fandom.  It has a rich and varied history and the concerns within the genre are as fraught with angst, ennui, and ambition as any literature.

I am always a bit bemused when I read about this sort of thing, because I came into science fiction through the rotary rack at my local drug store.  (Literally—Leuken’s Pharmacy, on the corner of Shenendoah and Compton, a good old fashioned drug store with a soda fountain, a magazine stand, and two circular racks for paperbacks, two blocks from my house.)  I had no idea about where these books came from, who wrote them, how, not to mention the whole publishing industry and its workings.  I used to think authors were “gray eminences” who occasionally deigned to write a new book and “gift” it to the public.  The notion that they did it for money or to meet a contract deadline or anything so mundane never occurred to me.  It was a wholly mysterious process, with arcane rituals and secret rites.

Nor were all books created equal in my mind.  For some reason—purely aesthetic—I early on decided that the best science fiction, the stuff with true weight and merit, was all published by Avon.  They did Asimov’s magisterial Foundation Trilogy, after all, and that was Significant Literature!  They put out a lot of Zelazny and some Silverberg.

But I knew nothing about fandom.  Occasionally I’d see a notice in the back of one of the magazines I read—If, Galaxy, Amazing, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Vertex, Venture—for a convention somewhere, usually a “World Science Fiction Convention” (!), but I thought they would necessarily be by invitation only (where all the gray eminences met to determine the future offerings, etc) and I’d never go to one.

Kemp’s little tome is the result of a survey he sent out around 1960, asking the title question, among others.  Damn.  I started reading the magazines regularly around 1963 or ’64, so if already in 1960 there was concern over SF being dead, then…

Most of the seventy-odd respondents thought SF was not dead at all, but was in the doldrums.  This was right after the so-called Golden Age has ended (roughly between 1938 and 1954 or so) and there was apparently a sense that the Next New Thing hadn’t arrived yet and maybe it wouldn’t.  It was right on the cusp of New Wave and a few years before Campbell changed the name of Astounding to Analog.  There’s the sense of people sort of milling around, waiting for Something To Happen.

Well, it was five years before Dune and seven years before Dangerous Visions, two books that arguably changed the field.  In a way they represent two extremes, the last great epic of traditional SF and the compendium of All The Wild Shit coming down the pike.  (Both books are almost continually in print to this day, and while Dune has become more a media and franchise phenomenon, Dangerous Visions and its sequel is still a touchstone for serious literary study and the taking-off point for the changes in approach and trajectory that drove everything until Gibson, Sterling, and Cyberpunk worked another set of changes on a field that has always been as good as its most recent thing.)

The general consensus throughout the responses was that magazine SF was not dead (and there did seem to be an over-emphasis on the magazines, which at the time were still seen as the major outlet for SF.  Book publishers had not yet really crowded into the field as they did by the end of the decade, although some were putting out quite a lot, like ACE) but it was sick as hell.  I’ve sat in on similar conversations over the last three decades of my own involvement in fandom and I was struck reading this by the similarity in tone and even in content of the arguments.  (Horace Gold, editor of Galaxy, thought everything was fine except for too much psi.)

Kurt Vonnegut chimed in with a particularly venomous assault, that not only was it dead but he would be glad to help find the corpse so it could be properly buried.  He wrote a note to Kemp later apologizing and blaming his attitude on his isolation from the field.  Vonnegut made his bones in SF and took many opportunities to diss it because he didn’t want to be regarded by the critics—and therefore his potential audience—as a hack.  Fair enough, but sometimes I wonder if something else was going on there.  He could have distanced himself without pissing all over the whole genre.  Or maybe not.  I have to bear in mind that the critical arena is not what it was then.

The last section of the book contains revisitations some 20 years later, when science fiction was going through an enormous boom.  Some of the pessimism of the earlier responses had to be explained.

A lot of of them credited Star  Trek  with the “revival” of science fiction.  It did bring a much larger audience into the field.  It did open the door for many of those new readers to discover that, as good as they thought Star Trek was, the stuff between two covers was much better.

That all changed again in the 80s with the massive upsurge of Fantasy, all, in my opinion, in the wake of Star Wars, which did something very similar—brought many tens of thousands of new fans eagerly into the field.  But in this instance, a different realization occurred that led to a collapse of science fiction.  Instead of discovering that the material in the books they were now buying was better than Star Wars, they found that it was utterly different—and that they really didn’t like it.

Star Wars—and I’ve said this before, often—is not science fiction (even though Lucas rather hamfistedly and stupidly tried to retrofit it as science fiction in the “first” three movies) but heroic quest fantasy in space.  Or, simply, Fantasy in Skiffy drag.  Audiences went from this to the less reifying work of writers like Brin, Bear, Clarke, Benford, Cherryh, et al and it must have been like a cold shower.  Science fiction requires thought, analysis, its virtue is in the explication and championing of reason, logic, and science, and while there are heroes aplenty in SF there’s not a lot of destiny or “born to the throne” heroes who just Are.

As fast as they blew up the SF bubble, they left it for all the Tolkein clones that began to dominate the publishing field by the late 80s and still command a hefty market share.

Science fiction, it seems to me, has always been a minority taste.  It appeals to people who also find science appealing.  It has always had a fairly solid core of supporters and as a percentage of the publishing market has remained fairly constant, with certain boom times punctuating a more or less steady, dependable foundation.  Science fiction offers marvels, of course, but they are, the best of them, marvels still grounded in an idea of reality.  And reality is tough.  It takes work to survive and thrive.  A good sword arm won’t do you much good when a meteor has holed your ship and all the air is leaking out and you have to figure out how to fix it.  Orbital mechanics couldn’t care less that you’re of the House Royal as your ship starts spiraling down to a nasty end because you didn’t do the math right for re-entry into atmosphere.  Science fiction says “Yes, the future can be wonderful—but it will still be Real and you’ll have to deal with it the same way you deal with what’s real now.”

So, who killed science fiction in my opinion?

Lot of assumptions in that question with which I do not agree.

Torn

I’m torn.

I saw a news article yesterday that made the hair on my toes curl in the particular way that comes from purblind stupidity and I thought “I’m going to write about that!”  And then I thought, “Maybe I should calm down first, chill, get a little distance, and then write about it.”  So I’m taking my time, giving it due consideration so I can treat it with appropriate moment and gravitas.

Meanwhile, I had a couple of left-overs from the last two days of revisiting old negatives and making new images.  I keep my galleries on Zenfolio (with a couple of exceptions for slide shows hosted on other sites, like the one on my About page) limited to 32 photographs in each.  No reason, just when I started them they fell into that range.  So below are some extras, which will make their way eventually into a new gallery, but for now…

 

Containment vessel, Seattle Gasworks Park, 2001

 

O’Sheridan’s, Oregon, 2001

 

 

New Mexico, 2001

 

 

Rock Feature, After Paul Lehr, Oregon, 2001

It’s Black and White

Years ago I got to have a long talk with the illustrator Kelly Freas and we found common ground in believing that black and white is a superior artistic medium to color.  I’m a sucker for fine b&w drawings and my first love in photography was Ansel Adams.

Oregon, 2001

I pulled out some old proof sheets, from our road trip back in 2001, and started scanning in a few negatives. These were 120 format, 2 X 2, which I like for the sharpness and lack of grain.  Sometimes I still miss having a darkroom, the smell of the chemicals, and the magic of watching an image appear in the tray, little by little, growing before my eyes, details filling in.  As much as I’ve been enjoying working with digital—and certainly I don’t really miss the messiness of traditional photofinishing—I wonder where kids find the “magic” of that first print.

I’ve been doing more color with digital as well and I need to shift that back to black & white.  There’s a clarity, a “cleanness” to black & white that color never quite achieves.

I thought I’d share a couple of these with you today.

 

One thing working with these has given me, though, is an urge to do that trip again.  I got some great shots and I’ve done far too little with them.  I could spend the next two years doing nothing but scanning and processing the photographs in that file.

But I’d start with the black & white first.

Have a good weekend.

Petty Stuff, Harlan Ellison, and Therbligs

I am inspired to write this because of two things, one significant, the other merely annoying.  I start with the merely annoying.

I’m hopelessly behind the curve tech-wise.  I can barely make my way around the internet, and if something melts down on my computer I run in panic from the room wondering who to call to fix it.  Partly, this is a result of being too busy the last three decades to keep up, partly it is a response to the incessant demands of the digital marketplace to constantly, eternally acquire the latest gadget, the newest thingie, the most recent incarnation of Nousmasticator 3.1, all of which is both time consuming to install and maintain and often pretty damn expensive.  As a child I remember jokes about people who had to buy a new car every year, which later morphed into the “planned obsolescence” of Detroit product that required a new model after sixty thousand miles, but the auto industry never had a thing on the computer world.  I resent it.  Perversely, I’ve refused to keep abreast.  This is classic surgical removal of probosci to articulate displeasure with one’s demeanor.

And it’s petty.

This morning a notice for an available upgrade appeared in the hopper of my blog and I haplessly accepted it.  My blog promptly disappeared.  After messing with this, on the phone and by email, for over an hour, I discovered that for some reason the upgrade trashed the files of the existing blog template, rendering it unusable.  Since my system indicated that I still had the damn thing in my archives, I was unable to upload a new version and had to install a brand new theme.  You’re looking at it now.  And actually I kinda like it.

But that’s not the point. I shouldn’t have had to go through all that nonsense.  I do not need another little Gordion knot of dyspeptic resentment toward the nature of the modern world binding itself into my psyche along with all the other little bits of tedious, petty anoetic effluvia cluttering up my memorative gestalt.

Which brings me to the other inspiration for this piece.

Recently, I received in the mail volume 6 of Harlan Ellison’s On The Road lectures.  (An aside, briefly, to suggest you avail yourself of some of these, especially if you are an appreciator of the spoken word and good repartee—they are collections of Harlan’s public presentations over his long career and they are a delight.  They are available by mail through here.)  The liner notes of this one comprise a longish essay by Harlan in which he discourses on one of his attributes.

He is, he claims, a petty man.

This is also part of his acceptance speech for the Grand Master of Science Fiction Award, given him by SFWA in 2006 (included in this collection, along with Neil Gaiman’s excellent prefatory words).  He’s copping fair on a characteristic he expresses some regret over, some wonderment about, a puzzle, a burden, an inextricable part of his nature.

My initial reaction was big deal, aren’t we all?  Then I thought he might have been laying the groundwork for distancing himself, the man he is, from the work he has done, leaving behind nothing unadmitted and owned up to for future biographers, chroniclers, and literary archaeologists (and, let’s face, academic parasites) to “discover” and base a “reassessment” on which will completely miss the point.

In one of the best author biographies I’ve ever read, Julie Phillips, in her chronicle of the life of Alice Sheldon, aka James Tiptree Jr., manages to do something rare and remarkable, which is to study the source of fiction without suggesting that the fiction is useful for some kind of psychoanalysis.  She examines the forces in Sheldon’s life that led her not only to adopt a deep cover pseudonym from which to write but to write the kinds of stories she did, but at no point does she suggest the stories are what they are only because Sheldon was troubled, flawed, paranoid, suicidal, whatever.  In Phillips’ hands, the stories are something apart, works of art, certainly created out of the life that shaped them, but once created took on separate status, to be regarded on their own terms and not taken apart or essentially deconstructed based on who Sheldon was (or who we might think she was).  Sheldon wrote the way she did out of her own essence, true, but she nevertheless created something distinct from herself that should be taken on its own terms, for what it is, not for who made it.

Harlan has as vivid a public presence as himself as his work does as itself.  It’s evident, reading over his essays, that he has mined himself for the substance of his stories, for the raw matter that he then shapes into dramas.  It is legitimate to say that he assays autobiographical themes in many of his best stories, even as it is a mistake to see the stories themselves as autobiographical.  He’s done what good artists do—lived, reacted, felt, put the result into his art, saying to us “I am human, I have felt these things, witnessed these things, concluded these things, and because you, too, are human you will know what I’m saying to you.”  He is not saying in his fiction “This is who I am” but more importantly “This is who we are.”

But because we live in a culture obsessed with celebrity and the insistent need to bring everyone down to the level of those who prance shamelessly upon the stages of talkshows where their least indiscretion is blown up into a life-changing, earth-shaking moral verdict, it is too often the case that biography trumps creation in the mind of the Public Beast.   Separating the artist from the work is a problem, because the work, while inextricably part of the artist, is not the artist.  The work is the work.

With that in mind, I read the essay thinking that this was something Harlan was trying to do.  “I know who and what I am and I’ll tell you about it here and now so you don’t have to let its discovery later poison the work I have done.”

I’ve since reread the essay and listened to more of the CD and I don’t think that’s what he was doing.  At least not primarily.

He relates an instance of coincidental karma concerning another writer and cosmic payback.  Within the context of his theme—I am a petty man—he suggests that petty gets what petty gives.  It is perhaps an examination of the conundrum some people are that the more they have, the more they succeed, the higher up whatever ladder they’ve been trying to climb they get, it is the little things that never let them fully be as complete as the work they do.

We’re all petty.  Not so much that we do petty things, but that we have petty thoughts and petty concerns.  Myself, I have a roomful of memories in my hindbrain of embarrassing, unkind, thoughtless things I’ve said and done that I just can’t seem to be rid of.  Most of the time I don’t think about them, but every once in a while, when I’m least expecting it, one of these damn things pops up in my mind and taunts me with the fact that there is nothing I can do to change it!  It happened, it’s done, it’s part of history, and I can never undo it.  I obsess over them for a while, imagining myself behaving differently, using different words, taking a different course, or just paying closer attention at the time.  I’m a writer, I can imagine whole novels of better responses, better motives, better outcomes.

But there’s nothing I can do and apparently I can’t even forget them.

Like time and motion studies, I analyze them for clues of my essential cluelessness, which I will also never be able to change, because I didn’t understand it at the time.  Or maybe I did but I still didn’t think it was a bad idea.  Or I knew, but couldn’t figure out how, at the time, to avoid the mess it was about to be.  I rework them in my head, trying vainly to optimize the therbligs of my past and utterly helpless to do so.

I consider my continual obsessions with these things petty.  The events themselves were petty, inconsequential in the greater scheme of my life, and I imagine that the other players may well not recall them at all.  But I can’t let them go.

They do turn up in my fiction.  Not the events themselves, usually, but the fact of the pettiness, the nature of the embarrassment or resentment or anger or stupidity.

And it doesn’t help to Know Better.  It is part of my nature.

Confessing doesn’t help either.  I could detail here some of the things that occupy these worthless interludes of longed-for repair, but it wouldn’t do me a bit of good.  I’ve learned that sharing embarrassment doesn’t really lessen it, but it does lessen the anxiety you might have that people will judge you for the events in question.

I suggested that a word had been left out of Harlan’s claim.  It should have read “I am a petty man too.”  He might just as easily have said “I am a compleat human being, having my full measure of all that is human.”  That has the advantage and drawback of distracting people from his point, because, while true, it allows for a generous reception and validation of that “compleatness” as an altogether admirable thing.

I think he wanted people to focus on a specific point.  “I am a petty man” is the same as saying “It is human to be petty” and therefore, “we’re all petty.”

From time to time, here and there, more or less.

Let me tell you something not petty about Harlan Ellison.

Donna and I attended his last convention, MadCon 2010, in Madison, Wisconsin.  We were in the hotel lobby when he came in.  It was the first time we had seen each other since 1996.  Prior to the convention, when it wasn’t a sure bet that he would make it, due to health issues, I sent him a few photographs I’d taken at that prior occasion.  They weren’t great pictures, but I thought he might want them for his archives.  In fact, they were pretty much not good.  When he realized who I was, he put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Tiedemann, those were the worst pictures in the world.  Terrible.”  In front of a small audience.

By Sunday, he was dancing on his last nerve, and still signing autographs.  I’d given up trying to get one and just lingered at the periphery, and for whatever reason he looked straight at me and said, “Tiedemann, go.  Just go.”

I riffled my brain to figure out what I’d done, but he had The Look, and I knew better than to argue, so Donna and I went to dinner.

Afterward, we came back into the hotel.  The lobby was empty except for Harlan and Susan.  Whereupon he sat down with us and we had half an hour of very good, private conversation.  He was generous, interested, and, I think, appreciative, at least of the chance to quietly talk to just one or two people, away from the crowds and the demands of Being On.  Whatever, it was special and very, very human.  (No, I won’t tell you what we talked about, it’s none of your business.)

As I said, petty gets as petty gives.  As far as I’m concerned, Harlan can cop to being petty if he wants, and he would know, but that is simply not my take on him.  He gets no petty from me because he’s never given me any.

In the final analysis, we should strive to regard people by their best.  If we can’t, at least we should remember that no one is a homogeneity.  We are all amalgams.  And from certain amalgams, strange alloys, bright, alien, and dark, emerge in gnostic forms and Damascene patterns, texture of nous and passion…

Miscellany

Just a bunch of assorted items of some minor interest.

First up, I did a new interview!  Jared Anderson runs a blog specializing in author interviews and he asked me to contribute.  Mine is now up, for the pleasure of anyone interested.

Apropos of writerly things, I have finished the second book of my Oxun Trilogy.  The first book, Orleans,  is currently making the rounds via the good offices of my agent, Jen Udden.  Among the various projects I had on hand to work on this past several months, I decided finishing book two might be a good idea.  Oculus is finished.  At least, it will be once Donna completes picking the nits from it.  I hope to hand the manuscript over to Jen some time next week.

This opens the way for volume three, which I intend to call either Orient or Ojo.  Haven’t decided yet.  Ojo is Japanese for rebirth (roughly) and fits with the theme of the book.  This is the one I’m both really looking forward to and dreading, as it will be primarily historical.

Meantime, I am about to dive into the rewrite of my historical mystery, per my other agent’s notes (yeah, two agents, it’s complicated, don’t ask, it works), which will likely take up the rest of the summer.

This afternoon, my friend Russ is coming over with his horn for our last rehearsal before this weekend’s coffeehouse.  We’ve been working on a version of Harlem Nocturne, which we both love and hope to do Saturday.

Prior to his visit, I have to go mow the lawn.  Tedious but necessary.

In between all that, I’ve been working on some new short stories.  As I’ve mentioned from time to time, I’ve been having difficulties with short form for—well, for the last several years.  A few months ago I got very angry with myself and just sat in front of the computer, staring at a story fragment, refusing to do anything else until Fred (Fred was the name Damon Knight gave to the unconscious, which he acknowledged but didn’t like calling the Unconscious)—as I say, until Fred belched up the story solution.  I promptly finished three or four more and I intend to keep hammering at the others.  I must have a couple of dozen half-completed short stories and there is no good reason for them not be completed.  Except for Fred.

Donna’s sisters will be coming into town next week (one from Florida, one from Iowa) and, I assume, hijinks shall ensue.  In the middle of their visit will be a major party and ongoing we have housecleaning.

I’ve been reading Ray Bradbury, prompted by his death.  I wrote about Ray here.  The other day I finished Something Wicked This Way Comes and, through the eyes of experience, I marveled at the exuberance of his language, something I sort of took in stride the first time I read it back at age 12 or 14.  I’m going to go through I Sing The Body Electric next and then maybe The October Country.  Ray was a unique voice in American letters, a high-wire act and a national treasure.  Unlike many great artists, he did get acknowledged and rewarded.  I think he had an exceptional career, all the more so for having done pretty much what he wanted to do most of the time.  He will not vanish into obscurity, I think.  He was misidentified as a science fiction writer.  What little genuine SF he wrote fell apart on most metrics of good SF, but that’s not what he was trying to do.  He was an American mythographer.  His stories were about the things that informed our national character, down deep inside where we live, and reflected the romance of a national vision that was fractured at best, overambitious always, and essentially naive.  Not that he wrote naively—on the contrary, I think he wrote very perceptively about naivete, and somehow rarely in a judgmental way.

We’re on the threshold of summer.  We inherited a gas grill which I need to figure out how to get working, because this year I want to barbecue, something we haven’t done here in years.

There’s more, but I’m rambling.  So to conclude, let me offer up another photograph and bid you adieu till next time.

 

Denying Reality.

The North Carolina state legislature has adopted new guidelines to address the impact of climate change on their state.  Namely by banning the use of the term “climate change” or the term “sea level rise” unless “authorized.”  In section 2 of their House Bill 819 the prohibitions are laid out very clearly—no state agency is to use those terms when studying, commenting on, or otherwise addressing the impact of…well, you know.

Virginia is following suit.  At least there an answer as to why is offered.  Supposedly, such terms as climate change and sea level rise are “liberal code.”

Excuse me?  Code for what?

The irony astounds.  This is a Republican effort.  For years we have listened to conservatives bitch and complain over P.C. language, as if the prohibition of certain terms was some kind of absurd attempt to pretend a specific reality doesn’t exist.  P.C. has become conservative “code” for liberal bullshit.  But now, conservatives are doing the same damn thing and, I assume, thinking that the elimination from official use of certain objectionable words somehow alters reality.

The world turns, the circle comes back on itself.

The entire conservative objection to climate change science is based entirely on a constituent-driven refusal to acknowledge a reality that might require people—mainly people with interests in certain industries—to change the way they do things.  That’s it.  That’s the problem right there.  We—and believe me I do not let moderates or even some liberals off the hook—do not wish to change our lifestyles. *

The science is in.  Climate change is real.  The oceans are rising (because a lot of well-documented melting is going on in both the Arctic and the Antarctic) and the world is about to look different.  Temperature rise will cause disruption in agriculture, alterations in water table distribution, and weather patterns we are no used to.

This is a fact.  It is not a liberal plot to undermine free enterprise.

The much-vaunted pragmatism that has been a hallmark of conservative posturing for decades has apparently failed to serve them.  They seem to be trying to wish reality away instead of “manning-up” and facing the world on its own terms.  I’m sorry, I find this laughable.

The state legislature of Indiana once attempted to legislate the value of Pi, making it equal to 3 instead of 3.14 etc, claiming the actual value was an affront to nature and god.  The bill didn’t get out of committee, I believe, it never came to a vote, but somebody wrote the damn thing, spending tax-payer money on an attempt to deny reality.  They didn’t succeed.

This did.  At least, it got out of committee and became law.

I wonder what they’ll call it when their coastline is erased from “periodic flooding” that doesn’t go away?

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*  I know, the “real” issue is anthropogenic climate change.  They don’t like the idea that “we” have caused this.  But damn, you can argue about where it comes from all you want.  That’s not the same as claiming it’s not happening.

Personally, while I have no problem accepting that human activity has contributed to the current conditions, I’m not sanguine about our capacity to do anything useful about it.  If we shut every polluting factory down tomorrow, stopped driving cars, and basically ended our industrial civilization, people—all seven billion of us—are still going to burn things to survive.  We have to.  I seriously doubt at this point anything we do will stop the transformations we’re seeing, at least not in time to make any difference to anyone now living.  The fact is there are too many of us and we’re making more.  The sheer consequence of biomass and its activities has an impact.  So I think we should be paying attention to how to live in the world that’s coming.

I also think we should stop sacrilizing reproduction and making more just for the sake of making more.