Friday, September 28, 2012

Historical Unconsciousness

There is a peculiar form of cognitive dissonance abroad: namely, the webster who at one and the same time glories, praises and lauds the use of empirical evidence and then fails to honor it when repeating his favorite fables. 

A recent column in the New York Times summoned these folk like Gnorrs from the woodwork out.  The column concerned the latest discovery of the Real Jesus™ as described in vast detail in eight partial lines on a scrap of papyrus modestly entitled by the professor: "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife." It runs thusly: 
1 “... [can]not be my [disciple]. My mother gave me life...”
2 ... The disciples said to Jesus, “...
3 ... deny. Mary is not worthy of it...
4 ...” Jesus said to them, “My wife...
5 ... she can be my disciple...
6 ... Let [the] wicked man bring [forth...
7 ... I am with her, so as to...
8 ... an image...”
Whereupon the entire edifice of Western Civilization crumbles...
It's hard to get a meaning from this, let alone a context, especially since (according to Francis Watson) 'The English language differentiates “woman” from “wife”, but Coptic does not.'  My own impression is that this is a portion of a well-known passage in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (#114) ripped down the page (every line is partial on both ends) and tendentiously translated.  Harvard Theological Review has reportedly suspended publication pending the resolution of doubts expressed by Coptic scholars, including a carbon-dating of the ink.  Meanwhile, its provenance is unknown.  Sounds like another "James ossuary," imho. 
But the story per se is not today my topic, but rather some of the comments in the comm box elicited with dreary predictability by the story. 

It's still the same old story....
+ + +

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Tears of October

TOF is pleased to announced that his archeological trollings in kept treasures have revealed that he too once committed poetry in his storied youth.  Is there no crime of which the college student is innocent? 

Yes.  For as feckless as he once was the TOF-that-was never inflicted these hapless poems on a wider audience.  TOF will drop them on the unsuspecting public one at a time, much like the Chinese water torture, until the victims cry out NO MORE!!!

TOF have not laid eyes on these gems for many decades.  Let's see how they run.  There are, apparently, two 'collections'.  The Tears of October and Mythologies.  Join us now as TOF returns to the errors of his youth. 

A Potpourri of Quotes

While clearing out a storage locker, TOF found a box full of (wait for it) overhead transparencies.  Whoa.  These were various quotes used for humorous effect during training classes, in the days before PowerPoint forced us all into the predetermined sequentialism of the e-equivalent of the 35 mm slide show.

TOF will share this accumulated wisdom and then discard the acetates.
+ + +
The Wonderful World of Statistics
"If I had only one day left to live, I would live it in my statistics class.  It would seem so much longer."  -- Anonymous.

"The government are extremely fond of amassing great quantities of statistics.  These are raised to the nth degree, the cube roots are extracted, and the results are arranged into elaborate and impressive displays.  What must be kept ever in mind, however, is that in every case, the figures are first put down by a village watchman, and he puts down anything he damn well pleases."
-- Sir Josiah Stamp, Her Majesties Collector of Inland Revenue

On the Usefulness of Probabilities in Dealing with the Real World™
"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...."
-- Last words of Gen. John Sedgwick, Battle of Spotsylvania, 1864

Their judgment was based more on wishful thinking than on sound calculation of probabilities; for the usual thing among men is that when they want something they will, without any reflection, leave that to hope, while they will employ the full force of reason in rejecting what they find unpalatable.
-- Thucydides IV, 108

The Far-Seeing Prophets of Olde
"What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives travelling twice as fast as stagecoaches?" 
-- The Quarterly Review, 1825

"All mankind has heard much of M. Lesseps and his Suez Canal...  I have a very strong opinion that such a canal will not and cannot be made..."
-- Anthony Trollope, novelist, 1860

"...The region last explored is, of course, altogether valueless.  It can be approached only from the south, and after entering it there is nothing to do but leave.  Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality."
-- Lt. Joseph C. Ives, US Corps of Topographical Engineers, 1861
referring to the Grand Canyon

"The possession of this Russian territory [Alaska] can give us neither honor, wealth, or power, but will always be a source of weakness and expense, without any adequate return."
-- Orange Ferris, US Congressman, 1868

"There is no plea which will justify the use of high-tension and alternating currents, either in a scientific or commercial sense."
-- Thomas Edison, 1889

"The ordinary 'horseless carriage' is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and though its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle."
-- The Literary Digest, Oct. 14, 1889

"The Panama Canal is actually a thing of the past, and Nature in her works will soon obliterate all traces of French energy and money expended on the Isthmus."
-- Scientific American, 1891

"I must confess that my imagination, in spite even of spurring, refuses to see any sort of submarine doing anything but suffocating its crew and foundering at sea."
-- H.G. Wells, Anticipations, 1901

"The actual building of roads devoted to motor cars is not for the near future, in spite of many rumors to that effect."
-- Harper's Weekly, Aug 2, 1902

"We hope that Professor Langley will not put his substantial greatness as a scientist in further peril by continuing to waste his time, and the money involved, in further airship experiments.  Life is short, and he is capable of services to humanity incomparably greater than can be expected to result from trying to fly..."
-- New York Times, Dec. 10, 1903
The Wright Brothers' flight was exactly a week later

"De Forest has said in many newspapers and over his signature that it would be possible to transmit human voices across the Atlantic before many years.  Bases on these absurd and deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public... has been persuaded to purchase stock in his company."
-- US District Attorney prosecuting Lee De Forest, 1913
This had actually been done accidentally seven years before!

The NY Times Has Forgotten Their Assessment of Langley
"That Professor Goddard and his 'chair' in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react -- to say that would be absurd.  Of course, he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools..."
-- New York Times, Jan 13, 1920

Put These Two Predictions Together, and....
"Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow at our Pacific possessions...  Radio makes surprise impossible."
-- Joseph Daniels, former US Secretary of the Navy, Oct. 16, 1922

"As far as sinking a ship with a bomb is concerned, you just can't do it."
-- Rear Adm. Clark Woodward, USN, 1939

On Class and Style
"There is fine Waterford crystal, which rings delicately when struck, no matter how thick and chunky it may look; and then there are Flintstone jelly glasses.  You may drink your Dom Perignon out of either one, but friends, there is a difference."
-- Stephen King

Lee De Forest Has Forgotten His Own Life
"While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming."
-- Lee DeForest, "Father of the Radio," 1926
+ + +
Not Your Grandfather's "Explosive"
"That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done...  The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives."
-- Adm. William Leahy, USN, speaking to President Truman, 1945

Okay, So Goddard Was Right; But....
"There has been a great deal said about a 3,000 mile high-angle rocket.  In my opinion such a thing is impossible for many years.  The people who have been writing these things that annoy me have been talking about a 3,000 mile high-angle rocket shot from one continent to another, carrying an atomic bomb and so directed as to be a precise weapon which would land exactly on a certain target, such as a city.  I say, technically, I don't think anyone in the world knows how to do such a thing, and feel confident that it will not be done for a very long period of time to come...
-- Dr. Vannevar Bush, US engineer, to Senate committee, 1945

This Would Be With Those Impossibly Precisely-Aimed Rockets
"Landing and moving around on the moon offers so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them."
-- Science Digest, 1948 (It took 21 years.) 
+ + +
"Economic forecasting houses like Data Resources and Chase Econometrics have successfully predicted fourteen of the last five recessions."
-- David Fehr, former Harvard Business School professor
+ + +
1. Enthusiasm ("How could it hurt?")
2. Disillusionment ("How were we supposed to know?")
3. Panic
4. Search for the guilty.
5. Punishment of the innocent.
6. Praise and honors for the nonparticipants.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Art and Artistry

A correspondent with the insufficiently envoweled name of roystgnr has commented on TOF's post "Observation on the State of Modern Art"
I vaguely recall modern art enthusiasts once *bragging* about a double-blind study in which art students preferred modern artists' work over children's and chimps' a whopping *two thirds* of the time. Pathetic.

Or was that sympathetic? You do have to feel for visual artists in the post-photography age. Now that the mere real is more easily captured by kids with camera phones than by professional painters, apparently the only contributions remaining for the artist to make lie in the surreal... so isn't it tempting to give up on enhancing realistic images entirely and just focus on abstract composition?
This prompts TOF into an unaccustomed (cough cough) philosophical mood. 

The intellect is perfected in two ways, scientia and ars, or "science" and "art" in modern parlance.  Science was in the original sense of knowledge; and art was the application of that knowledge to something practical.  In brief: "know what" and "know how."  Physicians and engineers, indeed any menial who worked with his hands, were therefore counted as artists. 

The original term was "artisan."
"Artists in the sense that we understand and use the word, meaning practitioner of fine art, didn't exist in Leonardo's time it would be more appropriate to use the word artisan in its meaning of craftsman or skilled hand worker."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Observation on the State of Modern Art

One of these was produced by a chimpanzee:
It has been said by John Lukacs that the quality of art can be judged by how difficult it is for a hack to imitate it. 

h/t James Chastek for the links to the art

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Who Am I to Contradict Them?

altColleen Chen reviews the October 2012 issue of Analog, the which contains my novelette, "The Journeyman: On the Short-Grass Prairie."  It runneth as follows:
In “The Journeyman: On the Short-Grass Prairie,” by Michael F. Flynn, Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironhand is on the run, pursued by the brothers of the man he killed. We already should know he’s a hero by his name, but then we read this: “On all the Great Grass, he feared no man; but fearing a score of men was another matter. One Serpentine, he could meet knife-to-knife. Half the clan, maybe. But not all the Serps all at once. It would be a songbound feat even to evade them.” So now we really know he’s a hero.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Movies You Would Pay to See

or not.

  • The Sirens of the Ram.  The exciting story of a firehouse that adopts a mountain goat as its mascot.
  • The Three Amigos.  A theological film.  
  • Titanic.  A man accidentally overdoses on Viagra and watches in horror as his vessel splits in two and sinks forever.  
  • A Thousand Crowns.  The epic story of John Henry the dentist.
  • Zulu!  British astronomers manage to designate the prime meridian.
  • The Tin Commandments.  Metallurgical training film.
  • Hairy Porter and the Goblet of Fire.  Sasquatch finds work carrying luggage and discovers contraband liquor in one of the suitcases. 
  • Four Bidden Planets.  A quartet of worlds is invited to join the Galactic Federation in this sci-fi thriller.
  • Forbidden Plants.  A sequel to Reefer Madness
  • Sy Lent on the Lamp.  Banker Silas Morning takes an old lamp as collateral and gets a surprise when he rubs it. 
  • The Bjorn Identity.  Biopic of the famous Swedish tennis player.  
  • Citizen Cain.  In this sequel to Adam and Eve and Ted and Alice, their son goes out into the world to found cities.  
  • The Malt-Ease Fountain.  Jerry Lewis as the Soda Jerk who invents a beer-flavored soda.  Everyone has a good time.  
  • Casino Royal Dutch Shell.  Motorists place bets on what a gallon will cost in the next hour.
  • The Hunt for Lead October.  A Soviet submarine sinks. 
  • The Russians are Coming!  The Russians are Coming! Pornographic film set in St. Petersburg
  • Any Haul.  Woody Allen stars as an inept burglar who will steal whatever he can get.
  • Abattoir.  Peaceful Earthlings visit a planet with simple primitives, who welcome them, feast them, then slaughter them in their sleep for no particular reason.  
  • A Beautiful Mine. The anthracite fields of NE Penna. are a featured backdrop in this paean to coal miners' daughters.  
  • Bunny and Clyde.  Young Clyde Jenkins raises rabbit on the farm to sell as pets but is soon arrested by the federal rabbit inspector SWAT team.  The audience is horrified to learn that there actually is such a thing as a federal rabbit inspector SWAT team.
  • Casablanca.  A bank-robber learns too late that he has bought an entire case of non-lethal bullets.
  • Goal-Minder's Daughter.  A young girl wants to follow in her father's footsteps and play for the NHL
Update: And from karrde comes this overlooked gem:
  • Saw-Shank Redemption.  Inspiring tale of a butcher and his family who struggle to keep the meat-saw running during the Great Depression.   
Martin has gone mad:
  • Fence and Fenceability: The Pawn Stars work undercover with the Las Vegas police
  • Batman Begins the Beguine: When Bruce Wayne's parents die tragically he travels to Europe to study dance only to cut the trip short when he realizes he will miss the annual Gotham city swing dance contest.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day of the Triffids:  Ferris decides to skip school and sleep in only to find he is the last sighted man in a world of flesh eating plants. Hilarity ensues
Stephen Barringer contributes
  • Total Recall: A safety scandal brings down a Big American auto manufacturer when every single model has to be returned. 
  • Anchorite: The Legend of Gone Burgundy: A historical mediaeval epic about a comically pompous hermit freed from his cell after twenty years, only to find the civilized chivalrous kingdom he grew up in has been overrun by barbaric Franks. 
Uppest date
Stevo Darkly goes naughty:
  • Half Moon Street: Documentary of the Folsom Street Festival in San Francisco, with a focus on the chaps, spanking skirts and other leather fashions that partly expose the buttocks. 
Uppity date
Joe goes for the low-hanging fruit:
  • Star Wars: Mockumentary about two actors who vie against each other to land a role in an off-Broadway production.
  • Star Dreck: Sequel to the critically-acclaimed Star Wars, where the winning actor must come to grips with the fact that the play stinks, and do what he can to save it--and his career.
  • Lord of the Blings: Finale to the Star Wars trilogy. After having been rejected for the off-Broadway musical, the losing actor starts a career as a rap star, complete with stereotypical accoutrements. Plays off the joke of a thespian submerged in the gangster rap culture.
Uppermost date
Stevo Darkly commented darkly:

  • Tsar Wars: Russian rebels overthrow an evil empire, which is replaced by an even more evil empire.
  • The Other Bowlin' Girl: Two sisters contend for the affection of Henry, the Eighth Best Bowler in the State.
  • The Lizard of Oz: A goanna accidentally crawls aboard a Qantas jet and, somewhere over the Rainbow Springs of Mataranka, discovers it's not in Australia anymore and there's no place like home.
  • Finding Memo: An office worker desperately searches for the recently distributed update to the procedures for preparing TPS reports.
  • Schindler's List In Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually develops a tendency to lean to one side.

More welcome. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012


While cleaning out the storage locker, TOF located and retrieved several boxes of books and shlepped them home, where they now occupy the best part of two racks of shelving.  The thought occurred that these could be made available to Faithful Reader for a modest donation.  Therefore, TOF proposes the Great Housecleaning Challenge!

  • Send a check made out to Our Lady of Mercy Church in Easton PA
  • plus a separate check for postage 
  • and address for shipping your selected book, 
and TOF promises in return at least some small pittance of reading pleasure in return.

All copies will be autographed unless you prefer otherwise.  

Available books below the cut................

Friday, September 7, 2012

TOF at Chicon 7

TOF attended Chicon 7, the World Science Fiction Convention and both he and the convention escaped unharmed.

TOF has always liked Chicago as a city.  It is the one major city that most resembles New York, that has that old 1930s/40s feel to it.  He also likes the three-layer streets, which have a SF feel to them.  Why not have all the trucks move on the lower level streets and the passenger cars on the higher level?  Indeed, why not indeed rent the same square footage three times?  The city scape is also more interesting.  In the New Cities, the skyscrapers are all glass boxes with not much of interest to them; but Chicago has skyscrapers from the first time skyscrapers were bespoken, and they have architectural interest in their facades and roofs.  They were built in a day when craftsmen included details that the street level could not see.

The Lost Tools of Learning

from "The Lost Tools of Learning," by Dorothy Sayers:
"Before you dismiss me with the appropriate phrase--reactionary, romantic, mediaevalist, laudator temporis acti, or whatever tag comes first to hand--I will ask you to consider one or two miscellaneous questions that hang about at the back, perhaps, of all our minds, and occasionally pop out to worry us...
"Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Captive Dreams sez they have only 18 copies left in stock.  I assume that does not apply to the Kindle version.  But if you want one in your hot little hand, act soon. 

In The Belly of the Whale: Publisher's Weekly Review & Pre-Order Links

 Hello Fans of Michael Flynn. I am pleased to let you know that Dad's novel In the Belly of the Whale will be released by CAEZIK on July...