Category Archives: Culture
THE WIZARD ON STAGE
HELP A BROTHER OUT IF YOU CAN…
I am somewhat sad and would like your help. Over my lifetime, and since I was a little kid, I have read literature. At this point a great deal of literature.
Every month I read new books in particular categories of study which interest me such as science, religion, art, philosophy, etc. and Literature is one of those categories. Because I have read so much literature over time my choices now wear thin. Very thin.
Recently I got a book called the Literature Book to give me new ideas for novels, books of poetry, etc. to read. To my dismay I found that I have read (at least once and sometimes multiple times) almost all of the works listed in the book including the more obscure works, including most of the great literature in some foreign cultures such as German, French, Italian, Russian, Greek, Indian (India,), Chinese, and Japanese.
I am growing tired of re-reading literature I have already read. (For instance I not long ago finished re-reading Beowulf, the Aeneid, and the short stories of Victor Hugo.)
Therefore I am open to suggestions, even if the work is obscure (such as the Confessions of an English Opium Eater – I’ve read it, it’s in my library, or the Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci – also read and in my personal library) or foreign I’d still be happy to entertain the recommendation. I really like Medieval and Ancient literature (although I will read modern literature of it is actual literature and not just pop culture crap) but I’m growing kind of desperate to put my hands on good literature that I’ve never read before.
If you can help a brother out then I’d really appreciate it…
Just leave your recommendations below in the comments section.
VOX VULGARIS – CANTIGA 166
GODSPEED TURKISH MILITARY
GODSPEED TURKISH MILITARY!
May you and the Turkish People fully restore your Republic!
I am completely behind you and wish you Good Fortune and Success.
BE FREE AGAIN, AND BE WELL AND THRIVE!
If you are a young black male and you don’t understand that police are sometimes spooked by you, especially if you live in a high crime, urban area, then you aren’t thinking this out very far. Now as a black kid or man is that necessarily your fault? If you are law abiding and peaceful and doing the best you can, then no, it is not your fault. But at the moment anyway, it is the way it is. And no one can argue the way things actually are. You might not like it, and in this case you shouldn’t like it, but you can’t argue it’s not true.
If you are a police officer and you don’t understand that a lot of young black males (or others) are sometimes spooked by you, especially if you react to them with automatic suspicion or an assumption of guilt, then you aren’t thinking this out very far. Now as a cop is this your fault? If you are a good cop and doing the best you can, then no, it is not your fault. But at this moment, anyway, this is the way it is. And no one can argue the way things actually are. You might not like it, and in this case you shouldn’t like it, but you can’t argue it’s not true.
Everyone is spooked. Sometimes for entirely legitimate reasons and sometimes for assumptively dubious and entirely erroneous reasons. And when people are spooked, then rightly or wrongly, bad things tend to happen. People react instead of carefully observe, people are triggered by instinct rather than reason, people’s emotions become actively paramount rather than their common sense. The result of those habits are often very bad (certainly stupid and unnecessary), even murderous things.
But no one but criminals and terrorists and very bad men will benefit if young law abiding citizens and young men and the police are spooked of each other, and are reflexively hostile towards and automatically dubious of each other.
What’s the answer? Hell, I wish I could tell you the answer. The one that will work in every case. But no answer will work in every case. That’s just not real life. Not the way real people are. People are people. They will at times revert to their worst instincts or their most illogical and counter-productive habits. Or even to bad or incomplete or misguided training.
However I can tell you this much: When you are angry at each other, and vengeful towards each other, and automatically suspicious of each other, and spooked by each other then no real good can come of that. And no solutions either. Sometimes though, just really thinking and dwelling on the problem can give you an understanding of how to start.
However I can tell you what ought to be happening. What ought to be happening is that young black men, the law abiding and decent and good ones should be working with the police to take down criminals and thugs and terrorists in their own neighborhoods and to straighten out those neighborhoods for everyone else. (Including for the benefit and safety of their own children and women.) What ought to be happening is that cops should not to be automatically suspicious of all young black men who live in a dangerous area (and yes, they have every right to own personal firearms and maybe even more reason than most – because, well, think about it, they live in a bad or violent or high crime neighborhood) and instead the police ought to be conscripting the young, decent, good ones as allies and informants and friends to help clean up bad neighborhoods. (And good cops cannot stand beside or defend bad ones, or even wrong ones.) There should be an alliance and a true friendship and a partnership between citizen and police, but that has to run in both directions at once and respect and protection and cooperation and trust has to also run in both directions at once, and keep running in both directions at all times and as much as humanly possible.
Now I fully understand human beings and their true natures. I’m not fooled by how things will have to go or will go, or are even likely to go. And I’m not gonna try and deceive you with a bunch of feel good, talk-show, pop-psychology, fairy dust and glitterized bullshit. Mistakes will be made and will continue to be made. That’s human nature. Humans are imperfect. But no one should defend wrongdoing in either direction and over time the mistakes should become fewer and fewer, and even less and less egregious.
But this shit has got to stop people. My nation is already entirely fucked up enough as it is. Manslaughter and mass murder and unending suspicion and chaos and innocents being slaughtered and riots in cities and snipers on rooftops and kids shot dead out of suspicion is not the way. We’ve nowhere else to go from here but straight down to hell.
Being spooked all of the time will make spooks of far too many of us. Dead men in a dying land. It is a false hope to live as ghosts in a ghostland, to be half-men in a dead land, when we could be a Great Thing in a Great Land.
We should all be living and thriving and growing and developing, and at and about worthwhile, profitable enterprises.
What we’re doing right now ain’t working, and it can’t work. And, in the end, because it cannot hope to succeed, for anyone, it will have to be abandoned anyway. Or to stubborn self-ruin we go.
I hate even mentioning shit like this because I despise politics being interjected into life and death matters and matter of Right and Wrong. Right and Wrong should always stand on it’s own because, well hell, it’s fucking Right and Wrong. If you don’t get that then I can’t help you. Truth is you should never have to interject race or class or sex or any other far lesser considerations into Right and Wrong. But my wife is black, and my kids are half-black, and a lot of my good friends are black. And I grew up around cops and I’ve worked crime and tracked murders and rapists and thieves (and I know exactly how it works, I’m not in the least naïve or misguided about how criminals and terrorists are) and a lot of my good friends are cops and God-damnit it all to hell this ain’t fucking working.
I’m sitting here about to cry just thinking about all of the totally useless, murderous, violent shit I’ve seen over the years and I don’t fucking cry. And I keep thinking, Christ in Heaven, damn this mindless, habitual shit, don’t they ever, ever, ever fucking get it? How useless this shit is? How utterly unnecessary most of it is!!?
And if they don’t get it by now then what will it actually take?
Look, I’m under no illusion that most criminals are not gonna get what I’m saying. Nor are they gonna care. But by God, why can’t the rest of us? Get it?
So start now. For God’s sake. For your own sakes… Start doing things differently. Start treating each other differently. What in the fuck do any of us have to lose if we all do this differently?
Otherwise this shit is all you’re gonna have and this cycle of idiocy and death is all you’re going to have to hand down to your children and grandchildren.
You’ve already bankrupted them. Do you want to hand them down this useless shit too?
So man the fuck up already people, throw in together, and stop being so bucking spooked when you don’t need to be. And stop giving out reasons for others to be spooked by you too.
Because what we’re doing right now can’t possibly work over time.
And we’re running the hell out of it.
Pray for your nation folks. Pray for your own understanding. But just as importantly, if not more so, start doing things differently.
This shit is all on us. The solution will be on us too.
Or the doom and the fucking damnation will be.
And I for one have had a fucking nuff of the doom and the damnation.
I want to see things they way they ought to be. I want to see all men behaving as they should.
For God’s sake, for your own sakes, don’t you?
THE GLORY AND THE DREAM
“Ethan, I see our Lord…”
Damn. The finale of Penny Dreadful was incredibly good. Like a Greek Tragedy.
And once again Dorian Gray was declaimed, by himself, the most depraved and degenerate character of them all (and he always has been), and John Clare (Frankenstein’s Monster) proven the most humane and human of them all. By far.
Though finally Frankenstein himself, and Chandler, both came close…
I hope this is not the end of that show (the world needs more of that kind of thing), but if it is, it could have concluded no better.
So goodnight my friends, and I leave you with Wordsworth, and with an ode on the Imitations of Immortality.
(By the way, we also need more poetry of this calibre. Far more.)
Our world is far too much with modern and superficial self-indulgence.
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparell’d in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream. 5
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The rainbow comes and goes, 10
And lovely is the rose;
The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair; 15
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound 20
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep; 25
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea 30
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every beast keep holiday;—
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy 35
Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival, 40
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
O evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning, 45
And the children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:— 50
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
—But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The pansy at my feet 55
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, 60
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 65
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows, 70
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended; 75
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother’s mind, 80
And no unworthy aim,
The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came. 85
Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes! 90
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learnèd art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral; 95
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long 100
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age, 105
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity; 110
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,—
Mighty prophet! Seer blest! 115
On whom those truths do rest,
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the Day, a master o’er a slave, 120
A presence which is not to be put by;
To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed without the sense or sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thought where we in waiting lie; 125
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife? 130
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight,
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live, 135
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest— 140
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:—
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise; 145
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realized, 150
High instincts before which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may, 155
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake, 160
To perish never:
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy! 165
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither, 170
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound! 175
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright 180
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind; 185
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death, 190
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish’d one delight 195
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the brooks which down their channels fret,
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet; 200
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live, 205
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
THE FUTURE OF THE WAR MANCHINE
A lot of my buddies have military and law enforcement backgrounds.
Because of that one of my friends brought this article to my attention and a few of us discussed it since it is of more than passing interest to many of us.
It gave me an idea for a new science fiction short story about the same subject matter which I’m going to call Jihadology. (For the Jihad of Technology.)
I going to completely avoid the whole Terminator and tech gone rogue approach though of modern sci-fi and rather take a particular variation on the Keith Laumer BOLO theme, though there will be nothing about BOLOs or other such machines in the story. Those stories though were as under-rated and prophetic as was Laumer himself.
Anyway I want to avoid the whole world ending, unrealistic bullcrap kind of story (both from the scientific and military standpoints) and focus more on a very tight interpretation of what might actually happen if technologies such as those listed or projected in the article below were employed against an alien species in the future.
What would be both the operational and eventual ramifications, good and bad, of such technologies,and how could such technologies get out of hand or evolve beyond specified tasks and design parameters to become something completely new in function and focus?
I’ve already got the first few paragraphs to a page written which is based loosely upon this observation I made about what the article implied:
“I’m not saying there are any easy answers, there aren’t when it comes to technology, but technology can at least potentially do two related and diametrically opposed things at once: make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger for himself, and secondly make a task so easy and efficient and risk-free for the operator that he is never truly in danger of understanding the danger others are in.
And if you can just remove the operator altogether, and just set the tech free to do as it is programmed, well then, there ya go…”
If the stories work well then I’ll add them to my overall science fiction universe of The Curae and The Frontiersmen.
By the way, as a sort of pop-culture primer on the very early stages of these developments (though they are at least a decade old now as far as wide-scale operations go) I recommend the film, Good Kill.
Anyway here is the very interesting and good article that spurred all of this. Any ideas of your own about these subjects? Feel free to comment. If your ideas and observations are good and interesting I might even adapt them in some way and incorporate them into the short story series.
Do We Want Robot Warriors to Decide Who Lives or Dies?
As artificial intelligence in military robots advances, the meaning of warfare is being redefined
Czech writer Karel Čapek’s1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which famously introduced the word robot to the world, begins with synthetic humans—the robots from the title—toiling in factories to produce low-cost goods. It ends with those same robots killing off the human race. Thus was born an enduring plot line in science fiction: robots spiraling out of control and turning into unstoppable killing machines. Twentieth-century literature and film would go on to bring us many more examples of robots wreaking havoc on the world, with Hollywood notably turning the theme into blockbuster franchises like The Matrix, Transformers, and The Terminator.
Lately, fears of fiction turning to fact have been stoked by a confluence of developments, including important advances in artificial intelligence and robotics, along with the widespread use of combat drones and ground robotsin Iraq and Afghanistan. The world’s most powerful militaries are now developing ever more intelligent weapons, with varying degrees of autonomy and lethality. The vast majority will, in the near term, be remotely controlled by human operators, who will be “in the loop” to pull the trigger. But it’s likely, and some say inevitable, that future AI-powered weapons will eventually be able to operate with complete autonomy, leading to a watershed moment in the history of warfare: For the first time, a collection of microchips and software will decide whether a human being lives or dies.
Not surprisingly, the threat of “killer robots,” as they’ve been dubbed, has triggered an impassioned debate. The poles of the debate are represented by those who fear that robotic weapons could start a world war and destroy civilization and others who argue that these weapons are essentially a new class of precision-guided munitions that will reduce, not increase, casualties. In December, more than a hundred countries are expected to discuss the issue as part of a United Nations disarmament meeting in Geneva.
Last year, the debate made news after a group of leading researchers in artificial intelligence called for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.” In an open letter presented at a major AI conference, the group argued that these weapons would lead to a “global AI arms race” and be used for “assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”
The letter was signed by more than 20,000 people, including such luminaries as physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who last year donated US $10 million to a Boston-based institute whose mission is “safeguarding life” against the hypothesized emergence of malevolent AIs. The academics who organized the letter—Stuart Russellfrom the University of California, Berkeley; Max Tegmark from MIT; and Toby Walsh from the University of New South Wales, Australia—expanded on their arguments in an online article for IEEE Spectrum, envisioning, in one scenario, the emergence “on the black market of mass quantities of low-cost, antipersonnel microrobots that can be deployed by one person to anonymously kill thousands or millions of people who meet the user’s targeting criteria.”
The three added that “autonomous weapons are potentially weapons of mass destruction. While some nations might not choose to use them for such purposes, other nations and certainly terrorists might find them irresistible.”
It’s hard to argue that a new arms race culminating in the creation of intelligent, autonomous, and highly mobile killing machines would well serve humanity’s best interests. And yet, regardless of the argument, the AI arms race is already under way.
Autonomous weapons have existed for decades, though the relatively few that are out there have been used almost exclusively for defensive purposes. One example is the Phalanx, a computer-controlled, radar-guided gun system installed on many U.S. Navy ships that can automatically detect, track, evaluate, and fire at incoming missiles and aircraft that it judges to be a threat. When it’s in fully autonomous mode, no human intervention is necessary.
More recently, military suppliers have developed what may be considered the first offensive autonomous weapons.Israel Aerospace Industries’ Harpy andHarop drones are designed to home in on the radio emissions of enemy air-defense systems and destroy them by crashing into them. The companysays the drones “have been sold extensively worldwide.”
In South Korea, DoDAAM Systems, a defense contractor, has developed a sentry robot called theSuper aEgis II. Equipped with a machine gun, it uses computer vision to autonomously detect and fire at human targets out to a range of 3 kilometers. South Korea’s military has reportedly conducted tests with these armed robots in the demilitarized zone along its border with North Korea. DoDAAM says it has sold more than 30 units to other governments, including several in the Middle East.
Today, such highly autonomous systems are vastly outnumbered by robotic weapons such as drones, which are under the control of human operators almost all of the time, especially when firing at targets. But some analysts believe that as warfare evolves in coming years, weapons will have higher and higher degrees of autonomy.
“War will be very different, and automation will play a role where speed is key,” says Peter W. Singer, a robotic warfare expert at New America, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C. He predicts that in future combat scenarios—like a dogfight between drones or an encounter between a robotic boat and an enemy submarine—weapons that offer a split-second advantage will make all the difference. “It might be a high-intensity straight-on conflict when there’s no time for humans to be in the loop, because it’s going to play out in a matter of seconds.”
The U.S. military has detailed some of its plans for this new kind of war in aroad map [pdf] for unmanned systems, but its intentions on weaponizing such systems are vague. During a Washington Post forum this past March, U.S. deputy secretary of defense Robert Work, whose job is in part making sure that the Pentagon is keeping up with the latest technologies, stressed the need to invest in AI and robotics. The increasing presence of autonomous systems on the battlefield “is inexorable,” he declared.
Asked about autonomous weapons, Work insisted that the U.S. military “will not delegate lethal authority to a machine to make a decision.” But when pressed on the issue, he added that if confronted by a “competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are…we’ll have to make decisions on how we can best compete. It’s not something that we’ve fully figured out, but we spend a lot of time thinking about it.”
Russia and China are following a similar strategyof developing unmanned combat systems for land, sea, and air that are weaponized but, at least for now, rely on human operators. Russia’sPlatform-M is a small remote-controlled robot equipped with a Kalashnikov rifle and grenade launchers, a type of system similar to the United States’ Talon SWORDS, a ground robot that can carry an M16 and other weapons (it was tested by the U.S. Army in Iraq). Russia has also built a larger unmanned vehicle, the Uran-9, armed with a 30-millimeter cannon and antitank guided missiles. And last year, the Russians demonstrated a humanoid military robot to a seemingly nonplussed Vladimir Putin. (In video released after the demonstration, the robot is shown riding an ATV at a speed only slightly faster than a child on a tricycle.)
China’s growing robotic arsenal includes numerous attack and reconnaissance drones. The CH-4 is a long-endurance unmanned aircraft that resembles the Predator used by the U.S. military. The Divine Eagle is a high-altitude drone designed to hunt stealth bombers. China has also publicly displayed a few machine-gun-equipped robots, similar to Platform-M and Talon SWORDS, at military trade shows.
The three countries’ approaches to robotic weapons, introducing increasing automation while emphasizing a continuing role for humans, suggest a major challenge to the banning of fully autonomous weapons: A ban on fully autonomous weapons would not necessarily apply to weapons that are nearly autonomous. So militaries could conceivably develop robotic weapons that have a human in the loop, with the option of enabling full autonomy at a moment’s notice in software. “It’s going to be hard to put an arms-control agreement in place for robotics,” concludes Wendell Wallach, an expert on ethics and technology at Yale University. “The difference between an autonomous weapons system and nonautonomous may be just a difference of a line of code,” he said at a recent conference.
In motion pictures, robots often gain extraordinary levels of autonomy, even sentience, seemingly out of nowhere, and humans are caught by surprise. Here in the real world, though, and despite the recent excitement about advances in machine learning, progress in robot autonomy has been gradual. Autonomous weapons would be expected to evolve in a similar way.
“A lot of times when people hear ‘autonomous weapons,’ they envision the Terminator and they are, like, ‘What have we done?,’ ” says Paul Scharre, who directs a future-of-warfare program at the Center for a New American Security, a policy research group in Washington, D.C. “But that seems like probably the last way that militaries want to employ autonomous weapons.” Much more likely, he adds, will be robotic weapons that target not people but military objects like radars, tanks, ships, submarines, or aircraft.
The challenge of target identification—determining whether or not what you’re looking at is a hostile enemy target—is one of the most critical for AI weapons. Moving targets like aircraft and missiles have a trajectory that can be tracked and used to help decide whether to shoot them down. That’s how the Phalanx autonomous gun on board U.S. Navy ships operates, and also how Israel’s “Iron Dome” antirocket interceptor system works. But when you’re targeting people, the indicators are much more subtle. Even under ideal conditions, object- and scene-recognition tasks that are routine for people can be extremely difficult for robots.
A computer can identify a human figure without much trouble, even if that human is moving furtively. But it’s very hard for an algorithm to understand what people are doing, and what their body language and facial expressions suggest about their intent. Is that person lifting a rifle or a rake? Is that person carrying a bomb or an infant?
Scharre argues that robotic weapons attempting to do their own targeting would wither in the face of too many challenges. He says that devising war-fighting tactics and technologies in which humans and robots collaborate [pdf] will remain the best approach for safety, legal, and ethical reasons. “Militaries could invest in very advanced robotics and automation and still keep a person in the loop for targeting decisions, as a fail-safe,” he says. “Because humans are better at being flexible and adaptable to new situations that maybe we didn’t program for, especially in war when there’s an adversary trying to defeat your systems and trick them and hack them.”
It’s not surprising, then, that DoDAAM, the South Korean maker of sentry robots, imposed restrictions on their lethal autonomy. As currently configured, the robots will not fire until a human confirms the target and commands the turret to shoot. “Our original version had an auto-firing system,” a DoDAAM engineer told the BBC last year. “But all of our customers asked for safeguards to be implemented…. They were concerned the gun might make a mistake.”
For other experts, the only way to ensure that autonomous weapons won’t make deadly mistakes, especially involving civilians, is to deliberately program these weapons accordingly. “If we are foolish enough to continue to kill each other in the battlefield, and if more and more authority is going to be turned over to these machines, can we at least ensure that they are doing it ethically?” says Ronald C. Arkin, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech.
Arkin argues that autonomous weapons, just like human soldiers, should have to follow the rules of engagement as well as the laws of war, includinginternational humanitarian laws that seek to protect civilians and limit the amount of force and types of weapons that are allowed. That means we should program them with some kind of moral reasoning to help them navigate different situations and fundamentally distinguish right from wrong. They will need to have, embodied deep in their software, some sort of ethical compass.
For the past decade, Arkin has been working on such a compass. Using mathematical and logic tools from the field of machine ethics, he began translating the highly conceptual laws of war and rules of engagement into variables and operations that computers can understand. For example, one variable specified how confident the ethical controller was that a target was an enemy. Another was a Boolean variable that was either true or false: lethal force was either permitted or prohibited. Eventually, Arkin arrived at a set of algorithms, and using computer simulations and very simplified combat scenarios—an unmanned aircraft engaging a group of people in an open field, for example—he was able to test his methodology.
Arkin acknowledges that the project, which was funded by the U.S. military, was a proof of concept, not an actual control-system implementation. Nevertheless, he believes the results showed that combat robots not only could follow the same rules that humans have to follow but also that they could do better. For example, the robots could use lethal force with more restraint than could human fighters, returning fire only when shot at first. Or, if civilians are nearby, they could completely hold their fire, even if that means being destroyed. Robots also don’t suffer from stress, frustration, anger, or fear, all of which can lead to impaired judgment in humans. So in theory, at least, robot soldiers could outperform human ones, who often and sometimes unavoidably make mistakes in the heat of battle.
“And the net effect of that could be a saving of human lives, especially the innocent that are trapped in the battle space,” Arkin says. “And if these robots can do that, to me there’s a driving moral imperative to use them.”
Needless to say, that’s not at all a consensus view. Critics of autonomous weapons insist that only a preemptive ban makes sense given the insidious way these weapons are coming into existence. “There’s no one single weapon system that we’re going to point to and say, ‘Aha, here’s the killer robot,’ ” says Mary Wareham, an advocacy director at Human Rights Watch and global coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of various humanitarian groups. “Because, really, we’re talking about multiple weapons systems, which will function in different ways. But the one thing that concerns us that they all seem to have in common is the lack of human control over their targeting and attack functions.”
The U.N. has been holdingdiscussions on lethal autonomous robots for close to five years, but its member countries have been unable to draw up an agreement. In 2013,Christof Heyns, a U.N. special rapporteur for human rights, wrote an influential report noting that the world’s nations had a rare opportunity to discuss the risks of autonomous weapons before such weapons were already fully developed. Today, after participating in several U.N. meetings, Heyns says that “if I look back, to some extent I’m encouraged, but if I look forward, then I think we’re going to have a problem unless we start acting much faster.”
This coming December, the U.N.’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons will hold a five-year review conference, and the topic of lethal autonomous robots will be on the agenda. However, it’s unlikely that a ban will be approved at that meeting. Such a decision would require the consensus of all participating countries, and these still have fundamental disagreements on how to deal with the broad spectrum of autonomous weapons expected to emerge in the future.
In the end, the “killer robots” debate seems to be more about us humans than about robots. Autonomous weapons will be like any technology, at least at first: They could be deployed carefully and judiciously, or chaotically and disastrously. Human beings will have to take the credit or the blame. So the question, “Are autonomous combat robots a good idea?” probably isn’t the best one. A better one is, “Do we trust ourselves enough to trust robots with our lives?”
This article appears in the June 2016 print issue as “When Robots Decide to Kill.”
LET’S BLOW THIS ROCK
Well, they might very well convince me anyway. Since I was a kid I’ve wanted to be an astronaut and I’m more than ready to blow this rock. Too many damned backwards, insane, and evil people populating Earth at the moment.
Of course I reckon to some extent it’s always been that way, and maybe we’d just take our twisted bullshit with us. But at least it’d be a chance at a fresh start…
NASA’s Mars Recruitment Posters Will Convince You to Go Die in Space
Okay, poster. You make a compelling argument—sign us up!
True, there will be obstacles: For one, the Martian corps that these recruitment posters from Kennedy Space Center are attempting to enlist us in does not exist. Also, as of yet, no human has ever stepped foot on the surface of the red planet, much less worked some kind of shadowy night-watch position, that (rather terrifyingly) appears to require the constant use of a space harpoon.
But, no matter! The can-do spirit of these WWI- and WWII-influenced posters has already inspired us. We will be teachers, and welders, and farmers, and satellite technicians, and guards against the Martian night-octopuses that presumably overrun its lunar plains. Just let us know when those enlistment rolls open up.
Full resolutions, suitable for printing on your own, are also publicly availableright here.
All images via Kennedy Space Center
THE LONELY SCOUT – TUESDAY’S TALE
THE LONELY SCOUT
THE EXCELLENCE OF THE PHYSICAL – HAMMER, TONG, AND TOOLS
THE EXCELLENCE OF THE PHYSICAL
Some people think that I am primarily a mental man, or a “man of the mind” because I spend a lot of time studying, reading, attending and listening to lectures, mastering languages, writing stories and poetry and songs, conducting scientific experiments, etc. Some people think I am primarily a man of the spirit because I spend a lot of time talking about God and to God, examining scriptures, praying, meditating, etc. Some people think I am primarily a man of the psyche (of the soul) because I closely observe my own behavior and the behavior of others, because I watch and take note of other people and am very aware of how they actually behave versus just what they say or proclaim or pretend.
And all of those things are partially true. Not primarily, but partially true. I am in some respects a man of the mind, in other respects a spiritual man, in part a man of the soul and the human psyche.
But there is another part of me that is very, very earthy and physical.
Because I love, and am highly attracted to, and have always been highly attracted to, physical activity and things physical. (Except for eating, I could take or leave eating and if something better than eating existed I’d never eat again. Waste of time to me, and extremely inefficient and wasteful.)
Actually I often do my very best work when hiking, running, clearing land, having sex with the wife, exercising, exploring, climbing, etc. I am attracted to and have always enjoyed physical activity – strain, pain, pleasure, sex, exhaustion, etc. and to me all of those things are drivers and motivators. I have had to learn to correctly control them all and use them wisely and properly but they are all very dear and useful to me. They make me feel alive and invigorated. They are also both stimulants and inspirations to me. Doesn’t matter what I am doing, inventing, working on a business project, writing, composing, drawing, investigating, doing science, etc. physical activity is a stimulant to me.
For instance this morning I took Sam (my American Superior) for a run in the woods (rather than a hike, he’s getting a little fat and I want to work him back into shape with me) and while doing so I developed in my mind six good scenes for my Kithariune novel, a science fiction short story, a Real World invention based around the subject matter of the sci-fi short story (actually the real world invention came first), and had an interesting idea for a scientific experiment. (Physical activity is also an excellent mnemonic technique to me.)
Had I done nothing but sit on my ass this morning and tried to just “Think” (I have nothing against thinking by the way, I highly recommend it to everyone, it’s just I’m not much of a sedentary thinker, I’m an “active thinker” – physical activity stimulates my thinking) I doubt that a single one of those ideas would have occurred to me.
Yes, I am partially a man of the mind, and the spirit, and the soul, but also of the body. My body stimulates the other parts of me. In many ways my body is perhaps my single most important tool of creative expression, either directly or indirectly (as it feeds my mind, soul, and spirit).
I might not have the most excellent body but my body has done me the most excellent service. And just to give him his due, considering what I’ve put him through, he’s been tough as hell and I admire and respect him for that.
Is the body or physical activity a stimulant to you as well? Do you also rebel against the idea of “thinking” as being a sedentary pursuit, or the “thinking man” as a sedentary creature?
I certainly do and always have. Even as a child.
THE DANGER DROIDS AND THE MURDER MACHINES – BOOKENDS
THE DANGER DROIDS and THE MURDER MACHINES
Due to a recent internet conversation on constructs I’ve decided to write a new series of short stories to add to my science fiction universe that will involve androids, drones, and robots whose primary function and programming is to provide protection to clients or organizations. Or even to protect specific areas/locales/geographic points.
These “danger droids” are designed to “sense danger” and respond by warning away potential threats. If the warnings or interferences fail, or are repeatedly ignored, then the Danger Droids are designed to respond in a defense pattern of three escalating steps: Disable, Cripple, and eventually, to Kill (or DCK).
If disable fails then crippling is applied and if the threat continues thereafter then the Danger Droid will kill the threat.
The story will center around the activities and experiences of these danger droids and how others attempt to overcome and thwart them and how the droids themselves adapt to these new threats and methods of attack.
Another set of stories, running parallel to those concerning the Danger Droids will involve the so-called “Murder Machines.” These are simply machines designed to exploit security lapses or human/target weaknesses and destroy/murder specific targets without being traceable. However if the machines are somehow located and trapped they are also designed to destroy themselves so as to make it very difficult to analyze and track evidence regarding who actually employed the “murder machine.”
In some ways the murder machines will be the exact opposites of, (although none of the machines or droids are actually alive) and the mechanical Nemeses of, the Danger Droids.
So much so that eventually people begin using the Danger Droids in an attempt to thwart and even anticipate the Murder Machines, destroying them before they can strike.
Of course in the stories these devices will not be called Danger Droids or Murder Machines, those are dumb and simple-minded appellations. Although they may, from time to time, be referred to Danger Droids and Murder Machines in a colloquial or slang fashion. No, I will devise basic and appropriate scientific terminology for these artefacts as my science fiction universe tends to be “hard and mundane science” in nature, and these stories will be no different.
THE NIGHT THAT THE KNIGHT CURSED EVIL – HIGHMOOT
THE NIGHT THAT THE KNIGHT CURSED EVIL
(A Poetic Meditation Upon America)
The Night that the Knight cursed evil a wondrous thing began
Men who once had cowered, together they did band
Beneath the Lonely Banner of the Knight who cursed the wrong
Once they had just whispered, now they sang his song
The High Lords and the Ladies corrupt upon their thrones
Had laughed to hear such curses when the Knight was all alone
Though when his profane blood-oaths thundered through the folk
Fury rose among them, with the tyrant’s whip and yoke
“Bring us now New Vows from him, make him swear to us!”
Shouted Lords and Ladies, roused now in their lust
Yet the Knight who cursed the evil would not bend to threat
Their embassies he spat upon, then harangued them ‘til they sweat
Then the High Lords and the Ladies began to see the Truth
That the Knight who cursed the Evil was fearless now forsooth!
And still the People rallied, hot now in the land,
The Knight who cursed the Evil gave heart for them to stand
“Send us an Assassin, experienced in crime,”
Said the Lords and Ladies, “to kill him ‘fore his time!”
So the black assassin crept upon the Knight
As he cursed the Evil in the shadows of the night
Yet darkness did betray him as he sought to strike
For the Knight who cursed the Evil caught him in the Light
A struggle hard and fearsome did they both attend
Blood in all directions, wounds as deep as sin
Finally the combat wound down to the Will
When the Knight triumphant the spent assassin killed
He took the ‘ssassins blood-stained blade with the warrant he
Then sent it to the waiting Lords in scribbled hand,
Yesterday I took a little nap because last weekend I contracted poison oak, or maybe sumac. It’s been miserable and I hoped to speed the healing and reduce the itch with a nap.
Anyway I awoke with this poem/song running through my kind. I had to go and take an immediate shower because the itching was so bad and in the shower I composed the rest of the sections above in my head.
Then I got out and wrote out what i had composed. It is still unfinished of course though I already have the entire poem sketched out in my head and some other sections are worked out, such as:
“Your silence speaks to your intent more surely than your pleas
For action is the pledge of life, not promises like these
If you’re determined stand your ground, if not I know you well,
Passive is the heartless man, and icy is his hell…”
THE NECESSARY TRUTH – HIGHMOOT
“The necessary Truth about them is that, in the end, all modern men will do exactly as they are told, but not a one of them will ever do what is truly necessary.”
From: The Curae
THE GRASS IS DEAD
I disagreed with him on many things. I thought him an outright fool on more than one issue and occasion.
(Yes, yes, I know how literary “icons” and the modern intelligentsia and the types of men who believe politics to be the answer to all existence – human or otherwise – like to cluster around each other to breathlessly and mutually glorify their own supposed genius. But I am far more skeptical of “modern genius” in all its many fictional forms. As a matter of fact I rarely see any real evidence of the supposed “modern genius” of self-styled “modern geniuses,” and their numberless cohorts, ever, or at all.)
But narrowing his views down to the strictly literary disciplines I did often agree with him on these scores: there is a new illiteracy (not in the inability to read and write, but in the poverty of having ever read or written anything of any real value at all), and letter writing is dead and with it much of higher human writing.
Otherwise the Grass is dead too. I doubt it will ever green again.
Günter Grass, Nobel-winning German novelist, dies aged 87
Author of The Tin Drum and figure of enduring controversy
Monday 13 April 2015 05.38 EDT
Last modified on Monday 13 April 2015 09.40 EDT
The writer Günter Grass, who broke the silences of the past for a generation of Germans, has died in hospital in Lübeck at the age of 87.
German president Joachim Gauck led the tributes, offering his condolences to the writer’s widow Ute Grass. “Günter Grass moved, enthralled, and made the people of our country think with his literature and his art,” he said in a statement. “His literary work won him recognition early across the world, as witnessed not least by his Nobel prize.”
“His novels, short stories, and his poetry reflect the great hopes and fallacies, the fears and desires of whole generations,” the statement continued.
Tributes began to appear within minutes of the announcement of Grass’ death on Twitter by his publisher, Steidl.
In the UK, Salman Rushdie was one of the first authors to respond, tweeting:
The Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk had warm personal memories: “Grass learned a lot from Rabelais and Celine and was influential in development of ‘magic realism’ and Marquez. He taught us to base the story on the inventiveness of the writer no matter how cruel, harsh and political the story is,” he said.
He added: “In April 2010 when there was a mushroom cloud over Europe he was in Istanbul and stayed more than he planned. We went to restaurants and drank and drank and talked and talked … A generous, curious and a very warm friend who also wanted to be a painter at first!”
A life in writing: Günter Grass
Grass found success in every artistic form he explored – from poetry to drama and from sculpture to graphic art – but it wasn’t until publication of his first novel, The Tin Drum, in 1959 that he found the international reputation which brought him the Nobel prize for literature 40 years later. A speechwriter for the German chancellor Willy Brandt, Grass was never afraid to use the platform his fame afforded, campaigning for peace and the environment and speaking out against German reunification, which he compared to Hitler’s “annexation” of Austria.
Grass was born in the Free City of Danzig – now Gdansk – in 1927, “almost late enough”, as he said, to avoid involvement with the Nazi regime. Conscripted into the army in 1944 at the age of 16, he served as a tank gunner in the Waffen SS, bringing accusations of betrayal, hypocrisy and opportunism when he wrote about it in his 2006 autobiography, Peeling the Onion.
The writer was surprised by the strength of the reaction, arguing that he thought at the time that the SS was merely “an elite unit”, that he had spoken openly about his wartime record in the 1960s, and that he had spent a lifetime “working through” the unquestioning beliefs of his youth in his writing. His war came to an end six months later having “never fired a shot”, when he was wounded in Cottbus and captured in a military hospital by the US army. That he avoided committing war crimes was “not by merit”, he insisted. “If I had been born three or four years earlier I would, surely, have seen myself caught up in those crimes.”
Instead he trained as a stonemason, studied art in Düsseldorf and Berlin, and joined Hans Werner Richter’s Group 47 alongside writers such as Ingeborg Bachmann and Heinrich Böll. After moving to Paris in 1956 he began working on a novel which told the story of Germany in the first half of the 20th century through the life of a boy who refuses to grow.
A sprawling mixture of fantasy, family saga, bildungsroman and political fable, The Tin Drum was attacked by critics, denied the Bremen literature prize by outraged senators, burned in Düsseldorf and became a global bestseller.
Günter Grass is my hero, as a writer and a moral compass
Speaking to the Swedish Academy in 1999, Grass explained that the reaction taught him “that books can cause offence, stir up fury, even hatred, that what is undertaken out of love for one’s country can be taken as soiling one’s nest. From then on I have been controversial.”
A steady stream of provocative interventions in debates around social justice, peace and the environment followed, alongside poetry, drama, drawings and novels. In 1977 Grass tackled sexual politics, hunger and the rise of civilisation with a 500-page version of the Grimm brothers’ fairytale The Fisherman and His Wife. The Rat (1986) explored the apocalpyse, as a man dreams of a talking rat who tells him of the end of the human race, while 1995’s Too Far Afield explored reunification through east German eyes – prompting Germany’s foremost literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, to brand the novel a “complete and utter failure” and to appear on the cover of Der Spiegel ripping a copy in half.
His last novel, 2002’s Crabwalk, dived into the sinking of the German liner Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945, while three volumes of memoir – Peeling the Onion, The Box and Grimms’ Words – boldly ventured into troubled waters.
Germany’s political establishment responded immediately to the news of Grass’s death. The head of the German Green party, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, called Grass a “great author, a critical spirit. A contemporary who had the ambition to put himself against the Zeitgeist.”
“Günter Grass was a contentious intellectual – his literary work remains formidable,” tweeted the head of the opposition Free Democratic party, Christian Lindner.
Günter Grass in quotes: 12 of the best
The foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was “deeply dismayed” at the news of the author’s death, a tweet from his ministry said.
Steinmeier is a member of the Social Democratic party, which Grass had a fraught relationship with – after campaigning for the party in 1960s and 70s, he became a member in 1982, only to leave ten years later in protest at its asylum policies.
“Günter Grass was a contentious intellectual who interfered. We sometimes miss that today,” SPD chairwoman Andrea Nahles said.
While there were plenty of tributes recognising Grass as one of Germany’s most important post-war writers, social media users swiftly revived many of the controversies of his divisive career, bringing up his membership of the SS and his alleged anti-Semitism.
Speaking to the Paris Review in 1991, Grass made no apology for his abiding focus on Germany’s difficult past. “If I had been a Swedish or a Swiss author I might have played around much more, told a few jokes and all that,” he said. “That hasn’t been possible; given my background, I have had no other choice.”
The controversy flared up again following by publication of his 2012 poem What Must be Said, in which he criticised Israeli policy. Published simultaneously in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Italian La Repubblica and Spanish El País, the poem brought an angry response from the Israeli ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein, who saw in it “a disturbed relationship to his own past, the Jews, and Israel”.
Despite his advanced age, Grass still led an active public life, and made vigorous public appearances in recent weeks. In a typically opinionated interview for state broadcaster WDR, which he gave in February after a live reading from Grimms’ Words, Grass called his last book a “declaration of love to the German language”.
He also talked about how the internet and the loss of the art of letter-writing had led to a “new illiteracy”. “Of course that has consequences,” he said. “It leads to a poverty of language and allows everything to be forgotten that the Grimm brothers created with their glorious work.”
He also remained critical of western policy in the Middle East (“now we see the chaos we make in those countries with our western values”), and talked about how his age had done nothing to soften his political engagement.
“I have children and grandchildren, I ask myself every day: ‘what are we leaving behind for them?’ When I was 17, at the end of the war, everything was in ruins, but our generation, whether for good reason or not, had hope, we wanted to shape the future. That’s very difficult for young people today, because the future is virtually fixed for them.”
THE ENEMY WHO LEADS YOU
And now for something completely different for First Verse. A political poem.
THE ENEMY WHO LEADS YOU
The enemy who leads you
Stained black with your blood
From poniard to vanguard
His plotting is thrust,
In counsel he’s clever
In Truth he’s foresworn
In trust he is shrewder
In craft than forborne,
His word is his measure
Though never a gauge
His promises guilt-bound
A thrice-gilded cage,
His skill brightly scheming
True allies shall languish
The one who commands you
Is not as you are
His mettle was tempered
A curved scimitar,
The suffering of others
The tyrant’s cold hand
Is given in fealty
To foreign demands,
If seals are thus issued
If agreements are made
The foe who now spends you
Will proffer no aid;
Command is elected
When Free Men take count
But no Virtue is granted
When deception does mount,
A man’s what a man is
Come first in his heart
If contrivance is motive
Then guile is his art –
Be wary of such men
Be warned of their aims
Wrapped in your losses
He’ll yet court his gains,
If you submit to his orders
If complicit in course
Then the Enemy who leads you
Will rule you by force.
I’ve read the vast majority of these books. A few, about seven, I have not.
Some I regret having read at all, they were a complete waste of my time, like Catcher in the Rye, and I’d never read them again.
Some I have read more than once, such as Crime and Punishment or One Hundred Years of Solitude, some I read annually because they are that good, such as the Odyssey, and some I read continually and in different languages, such as the Bible.
This would not be my list, certainly not my order, but it is a fairly good list.
100 books everyone should read before they die (ranked!)
Happy National Reading Month!
To celebrate, start working your way through this list of 100 Books To Read in a Lifetime, as voted on and ranked by users of Goodreads, the largest book recommendation site on the web.
Amazon, which owns Goodreads, had its editors agonize over their own list, but the two turned out very different.
Here’s the full, ranked list:
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
- “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
- “The Diary of Anne Frank” by Anne Frank
- “1984” by George Orwell
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
- “The Lord of the Rings” (1-3) by J.R.R. Tolkien
- “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
- “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
- “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
- “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
- “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
- “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
- “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell
- “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
- “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
- “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
- “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins
- “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
- “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wadrobe” by C.S. Lewis
- “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
- “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
- “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
- “Night” by Elie Wiesel
- “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
- “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle
- “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
- “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
- “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare
- “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
- “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens
- “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
- “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling
- “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
- “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
- “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein
- “Wuthering Heights” Emily Bronte
- “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green
- “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery
- “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain
- “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
- “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larrson
- “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
- “The Holy Bible: King James Version”
- “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
- “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas
- “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
- “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck
- “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
- “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote
- “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller
- “The Stand” by Stephen King
- “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
- “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” by J.K. Rowling
- “Enders Game” by Orson Scott Card
- “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
- “Watership Down” by Richard Adams
- “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden
- “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier
- “A Game of Thrones” by George R.R. Martin
- “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
- “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
- “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (#3) by Arthur Conan Doyle
- “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo
- “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling
- “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
- “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
- “Celebrating Silence: Excerpts from Five Years of Weekly Knowledge” by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
- “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis
- “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett
- “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins
- “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl
- “Dracula” by Bram Stoker
- “The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
- “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
- “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
- “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd
- “The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel” by Barbara Kingsolver
- “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez
- “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger
- “The Odyssey” by Homer
- “The Good Earth (House of Earth #1)” by Pearl S. Buck
- “Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3)” by Suzanne Collins
- “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
- “The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough
- “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving
- “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
- “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot
- “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
- “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
- “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse
- “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
- “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
- “Cutting For Stone” by Abraham Verghese
- “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster
- “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- “The Story of My Life” by Helen Keller
They do not long conceal their face
With deceits framed on inner lies
Who seek to promulgate their aims
With patient work and longing sighs,
Their eyes reflective in their heart
Stare dead into the endless void
Of horrors spawned by theories vast
They would see true, not ere avoid,
The softer ones, the powdered plight
Those seeming meek with cunning tongue
Plan long into the moonless night
To write in blood what they’ve begun,
It does not matter that they bow
To Tyrant Chaos and his Reign
It matters only that they grow
The death inside with bitter pain,
‘Ware those long who wrap their face
With endless craft to gild their goals
Within them they have souls erased
They long the same to you enroll.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
HAPPY NEW YEAR FOLKS!
MAY ALL OF YOUR NOBLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS FLOURISH!
IF YOU LIKE…
If you like Wyrdwend then you might also like my other blogs:
Launch Port – my business, career, capital, investment, and inventions blog
The Missal – my personal blog
Tome and Tomb – my gaming and hobbies blog
THE ENTITLED TRIBUTARY TALES
These two posts, The Tributary Tales, and Conan, Baba Yaga, and Tôl Karuţha will explain what I mean by the Tributary Tales.
Suffice it to say that over the holidays (in my spare time between Thanksgiving and Christmas) I made basic, and sometimes quite complicated, plot and character sketches of the Tributary Tales I wish to write.
Below is the new and expanded list of the Tributary Tales I will write and the titles for each story. I’ll post plot and character sketches and the stories themselves as I write them. I’ve made good progress on Tôl Karuţha and on My Battered Heart already, with the second being a graphic novel script, not a short story. The Godzilla story, Rising Son, will actually be a film script not a short story. But most all of the others will be short stories or short novellas.
I will work on these stories and scripts in my spare time, they will not interfere with my business, novel, or non-fiction work.
So, here is my list of entitled Tributary Tales:
THE TRIBUTARY TALES
Tales of the Fictional (or partially fictional) and Mythical Characters that had the most influence on me growing up or that in later life most appealed to me
Aeneas – The Flight from Knossos
Batman – My Battered Heart
Beowulf – The Good King Comes But Once
Cole and Hitch – The Ravine Near Ridgewater
Conan – The Vengeance of Tôl Karuţha
Daredevil – Black and Blood Red
Doc Savage – Savage Is as Savage Does
Galahad – Galahad and the Golden Stag
Godzilla – Rising Son: The Eternal Ocean is my Womb
Hephaestus – The Forging of the Titan’s Chain
Horatio Hornblower – The Jib’s Complaint
Jack Aubrey – The American Problem
John Carter – The City Never Seen
John Galt – Free is a Four Letter Word
Kirk and Spock (Star Trek original series) – The Battleship Remission
Lone Ranger – The Cold Wind at Sunrise
Lovecraftian – The Secret Grave of Harrow Hill
Merlin – The Bones of Old Stone
Nathaniel Bumppo (Hawkeye) and Chingachgook – Blood Feather
Orpheus – No Music May Soothe, or perhaps, Tears of Iron
Parsifal – The Sorcerer’s Swan
Philip Marlowe – The Crooked Dane
Robin the Hood – The Fletcher and the Fulmen
Roland – The Menhir and the Moor
Sherlock Holmes – The Case of the 12 Septembers
Siegfried – The Rhine-Wine (of the Black Elf)
Solomon Kane – With Evil Intent
Spenser – High Roll Her
Taliesin (Taliesin Ben Beirdd) – Sweetly Sang yet Rarely Ventured
Tarzan – The Ruins of Khumbar and the Slave Girl
Túrin Tarambar – The Piercing of Melkor’s Doom
FRUIT OF THE BERRY
To a large degree I agree with the man.
Wendell Berry on Solitude and Why Pride and Despair Are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work
by Maria Popova
“True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. One’s inner voices become audible… In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.”
“One can’t write directly about the soul,” Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary. Few writers have come to write about it — and to it — more directly than the novelist, poet, and environmental activist Wendell Berry, who describes himself as “a farmer of sorts and an artist of sorts.” In his wonderful and wonderfully titled essay collection What Are People For? (public library), Berry addresses with great elegance our neophilic tendencies and why innovation for the sake of novelty sells short the true value of creative work.
Novelty-fetishism, Berry suggests, is an act of vanity that serves neither the creator nor those created for:
Works of pride, by self-called creators, with their premium on originality, reduce the Creation to novelty — the faint surprises of minds incapable of wonder.
Pursuing originality, the would-be creator works alone. In loneliness one assumes a responsibility for oneself that one cannot fulfill.
Novelty is a new kind of loneliness.
Berry paints pride and despair as two sides of the same coin, both equally culpable in poisoning creative work and pushing us toward loneliness rather than toward the shared belonging that true art fosters:
There is the bad work of pride. There is also the bad work of despair — done poorly out of the failure of hope or vision.
Despair is the too-little of responsibility, as pride is the too-much.
The shoddy work of despair, the pointless work of pride, equally betray Creation. They are wastes of life.
For despair there is no forgiveness, and for pride none. Who in loneliness can forgive?
Good work finds the way between pride and despair.
It graces with health. It heals with grace.
It preserves the given so that it remains a gift.
By it, we lose loneliness:
we clasp the hands of those who go before us, and the hands of those who come after us;
we enter the little circle of each other’s arms,
and the larger circle of lovers whose hands are joined in a dance,
and the larger circle of all creatures, passing in and out of life, who move also in a dance, to a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it except in fragments.
Echoing Thoreau’s ode to the woods and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips’s assertion that cultivating a capacity for “fertile solitude” is essential for creative work, Berry extols the ennobling effects of solitude, the kind gained only by surrendering to nature’s gentle gift for quieting the mind:
We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness…
True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.
One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.
In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.
The return from such humanizing solitude, Berry cautions, can be disorienting:
From the order of nature we return to the order — and the disorder — of humanity.
From the larger circle we must go back to the smaller, the smaller within the larger and dependent on it.
One enters the larger circle by willingness to be a creature, the smaller by choosing to be a human.
And having returned from the woods, we remember with regret its restfulness. For all creatures there are in place, hence at rest.
In their most strenuous striving, sleeping and waking, dead and living, they are at rest.
In the circle of the human we are weary with striving, and are without rest.
Indeed, so deep is our pathology of human striving that even Thoreau, a century and a half ago, memorably despaired: “What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods?” But the value of such recalibration of our connectedness in solitude, Berry suggests, is that it reminds us of the artist’s task, which is to connect us to one another. He returns to the subject of despair and pride, which serve to separate and thus betray the task of art:
The field must remember the forest, the town must remember the field, so that the wheel of life will turn, and the dying be met by the newborn.
Seeing the work that is to be done, who can help wanting to be the one to do it?
But it is pride that lies awake in the night with its desire and its grief.
To work at this work alone is to fail. There is no help for it. Loneliness is its failure.
It is despair that sees the work failing in one’s own failure.
This despair is the awkwardest pride of all.
But Berry’s most urgent point has to do with the immense value of “thoroughly conscious ignorance” and of keeping alive the unanswerable questions that make us human:
There is finally the pride of thinking oneself without teachers.
The teachers are everywhere. What is wanted is a learner.
In ignorance is hope.
Rely on ignorance. It is ignorance the teachers will come to.
They are waiting, as they always have, beyond the edge of the light.
All of the essays in What Are People For? are imbued with precisely this kind of light-giving force. Complement it with Berry on what the poetic form teaches us about the secret of marriage, then revisit Sara Maitland on the art of solitude, one of the year’s best psychology and philosophy books.
WILD UPON THE FIELD!
When I was young I let all things settle as they would
If anybody wanted to I said then that they should
Then as I aged I noticed that a lot of things were wrong
I could not stomach anymore just to get along
Evil men, and wasted lives, practices corrupt
They were no longer over there, they overflowed my cup
I did not want, I did not care, I did not wish to take
All the wrong I saw around, nor all the ills it makes
So now I Rant, and sometimes Rave, and often I Revolt
I care no longer it offends, often that’s my hope
For people nod, and people smile, and meekly they agree
If everything is mildly spoke – all passion absentee
But if with fire, fume and smoke, and fury you explode
In righteous anger ‘gainst what’s wrong it will then expose
Their passive manner, pliant wills, and subservience
That Free Men should all best eschew in their establishment
So if by heat, so if by blood, so if by reason sharp
I offend, or I contend, I’ll surely hit my mark
Mild is well, and meek is good, when little is at stake
When all that’s right is up for grabs that is when I break
And run wild upon the field!
WALKING ON WATER (frozen)
Very, very nice…
I wanna do this.
INFOGRAPHIC – SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR BOOKS
INFOGRAPHIC: The Most Popular Books of All Time
There is no way to objectively know the most popular books in world history, but the following infographic (from Lovereading.co.uk) gives a good guess based on estimated editions, translations, and copies sold.
Note: Jane Austen’s name is misspelled as “Jane Austin” here.
THE IDEA-L IMAGE
If these images don’t give you plenty of story, poetry, song, and even invention ideas then you’re probably already dead…
This is also a Vadder’s Dream.
THE VADDER’S IMPERATIVE
I must Vad these places one day and I don’t even have any interest in going to New York.
JOHN MILTON’S OLD DIGS
Being a great fan of Milton’s poetry, I really liked this:
A FAR BETTER LAND… a New Song
A song I wrote this morning. The blower motor in our main air unit has failed and we’ve been without heat for two days waiting on the replacement motor to be delivered and installed. During the day, and to keep warm, I’ve been going outside to lie in the grass in the sunshine. (It is actually much warmer outside than inside the house at this point, especially around daybreak).
I did that again after lunch just now and these song lyrics came to me as I was soaking up the sunshine. Actually I’ve been thinking lately on events in America and in the world and have sort of reached my bellyful of all the recent bullshit. So yeah, the cold and the sun sparked the lyrics, but they’ve been weighing on my mind for a while now anyhow.
After I went inside and wrote them down, I put them aside for a bit and had a cup of coffee. Then I went back to the lyrics and did some editing and a bit of finagling to develop a final draft.
It’s sort of a hippie song, I’m the first to admit it, but nevertheless I like it.
A lot. I mean it too. Both for myself and this nation, and even for the world.
A FAR BETTER LAND
Gonna hop me a train to somewhere
Somewhere I’ve never yet been
A place that’s full of better ways
A place I can start again
Gonna fly me a plane to Shangri-La
A land that will never end
With star-bright nights and golden days
Where the dawn of my heart begins
Gonna sail me a ship to Paradise
Find me the coast of the moon
Where the mountains are high, and
The water is wide, and the grass
Is as deep as the sky
Come with me People
Let’s go somewhere else
Leave all your troubles and cares
Just think of the World
We could make for ourselves
If only we ever would dare
Gonna build me a starship
Gonna build her real soon
Rig her with sails made of light
Gonna crew her at sunrise, launch her at noon
God! What a beautiful sight!
Come with me People
There are new worlds to roam
Gonna leave all our hatreds and wares
There’s a place that is waiting
We could build a New Home
If only we ever would dare
Gonna fill up my heart-chest
Gonna pack up my soul
Gonna leave just as soon as I can
Come with me People
Come young and old
Gonna look for a far better land
Gonna go to a far better land
A new, and a far better land…
CHERNOBYL BY DRONE
Explore Chernobyl like never before, courtesy of a drone
Prepare to see Pripyat, home of the Soviet-era Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, like never before. A British man has used a drone to offer entirely new angle on the abandoned Soviet city, which became famous for the Chernobyl meltdown on April 26, 1986.
British videographer Danny Cooke made “Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl” in his spare time while filming a segment for CBS News. His aerial footage, recorded using a DJI Phantom 2 drone and a Canon 7D camera, provides a fascinating look at the iconic shots that have come to define a city that has been empty for decades: Decaying ferris wheels, neglected Soviet monuments, heavily-wooded city square.
“Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been,” Cooke wrote on Vimeo. “The nuclear disaster, which happened in 1986 (the year after I was born), had and effect on so many people, including my family when we lived in Italy. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would have been for the hundreds of thousands of locals who evacuated.””There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place,” he added. “Time has stood still and there are memories of past happenings floating around us.”
Photo via Danny Cooke/Vimeo
THE OLD AND UNSEEN THINGS…
Fascinating! And yes, I remember analog computers.
36 Rarely Seen Photos From History.
17th November 2014
1. Moving a 7600 ton apartment building to create a boulevard in Alba Iulia, Romania, 1987
2. Black officer protecting KKK member from protesters, 1983
3. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as a young gentleman, 1986
4. Hannah Stilley, born 1746, photographed in 1840. Probably the earliest born individual captured on film
Indeed. The original Tales (and I’ve read several of them) are powerful and horrific, more like the uncensored stories of Baba Yaga. The revised tales are mostly impotent and simple-minded by comparison.
Grimm brothers’ fairytales have blood and horror restored in new translation
‘It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the tales for children,’ says editor of uncut edition
Not for kids … an illustration from the new edition of Grimms’ fairytales. Illustration: © Andrea Dezsö
Wednesday 12 November 2014 06.09 EST
Rapunzel is impregnated by her prince, the evil queen in Snow White is the princess’s biological mother, plotting to murder her own child, and a hungry mother in another story is so “unhinged and desperate” that she tells her daughters: “I’ve got to kill you so I can have something to eat.” Never before published in English, the first edition of the Brothers Grimms’ tales reveals an unsanitised version of the stories that have been told at bedtime for more than 200 years.
The Grimms – Jacob and Wilhelm – published their first take on the tales for which they would become known around the world in December 1812, a second volume following in 1815. They would go on to publish six more editions, polishing the stories, making them more child-friendly, adding in Christian references and removing mentions of fairies before releasing the seventh edition – the one best known today – in 1857.
Jack Zipes, professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota, says he often wondered why the first edition of the tales had never been translated into English, and decided, eventually, to do it himself. “Though the Grimms kept about 100 of the tales from the first edition, they changed them a good deal. So, the versions with which most English-speaking (and German-speaking) readers are familiar are quite different from the tales in the first edition,” he told the Guardian.
His version of the original 156 stories is just out from Princeton University Press, illustrated by Andrea Dezsö, and shows a very different side to the well-known tales, as well as including some gruesome new additions.
How the Children Played at Slaughtering, for example, stays true to its title, seeing a group of children playing at being a butcher and a pig. It ends direly: a boy cuts the throat of his little brother, only to be stabbed in the heart by his enraged mother. Unfortunately, the stabbing meant she left her other child alone in the bath, where he drowned. Unable to be cheered up by the neighbours, she hangs herself; when her husband gets home, “he became so despondent that he died soon thereafter”. The Children of Famine is just as disturbing: a mother threatens to kill her daughters because there is nothing else to eat. They offer her slices of bread, but can’t stave off her hunger: “You’ve got to die or else we’ll waste away,” she tells them. Their solution: “We’ll lie down and sleep, and we won’t get up again until the Judgement Day arrives.” They do; “no one could wake them from it. Meanwhile, their mother departed, and nobody knows where she went.”
Rapunzel, meanwhile, gives herself away to her captor when – after having a “merry time” in the tower with her prince – she asks: “Tell me, Mother Gothel, why are my clothes becoming too tight? They don’t fit me any more.” And the stepmothers of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel were, originally, their mothers, Zipes believing that the Grimms made the change in later editions because they “held motherhood sacred”. So it is Snow White’s own mother who orders the huntsman to “stab her to death and bring me back her lungs and liver as proof of your deed. After that I’ll cook them with salt and eat them”, and Hansel and Gretel’s biological mother who abandons them in the forest.
Zipes speculates that the Grimms’ changes were “reflecting sociologically a condition that existed during their lifetime – jealousy between a young stepmother and stepdaughter”, because “many women died from childbirth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and there were numerous instances in which the father remarried a young woman, perhaps close in age to the father’s eldest daughter”.
Cinderella’s stepsisters go to extraordinary attempts to win the prince in the original Grimms version of the tale, slicing off parts of their feet to fit the golden slipper – to no avail, in the end, because the prince spots the blood spilling out of the shoe. “Here’s a knife,” their mother urges, in Zipes’ translation. “If the slipper is still too tight for you, then cut off a piece of your foot. It will hurt a bit. But what does that matter?”
Grimm Not such innocent fun … an illustration from the new translation of How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. Illustration: © Andrea Dezsö/PR
Zipes describes the changes made as “immense”, with around 40 or 50 tales in the first edition deleted or drastically changed by the time the seventh edition was published. “The original edition was not published for children or general readers. Nor were these tales told primarily for children. It was only after the Grimms published two editions primarily for adults that they changed their attitude and decided to produce a shorter edition for middle-class families. This led to Wilhelm’s editing and censoring many of the tales,” he told the Guardian.
Wilhelm Grimm, said Zipes, “deleted all tales that might offend a middle-class religious sensitivity”, such as How Some Children Played at Slaughtering. He also “added many Christian expressions and proverbs”, continued Zipes, stylistically embellished the tales, and eliminated fairies from the stories because of their association with French fairy tales. “Remember, this is the period when the French occupied Germany during the Napoleonic wars,” said Zipes. “So, in Briar Rose, better known as Sleeping Beauty, the fairies are changed into wise women. Also, a crab announces to the queen that she will become pregnant, not a frog.”
The original stories, according to the academic, are closer to the oral tradition, as well as being “more brusque, dynamic, and scintillating”. In his introduction to The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, in which Marina Warner says he has “redrawn the map we thought we knew”, and made the Grimms’ tales “wonderfully strange again”, Zipes writes that the originals “retain the pungent and naive flavour of the oral tradition”, and that they are “stunning narratives precisely because they are so blunt and unpretentious”, with the Grimms yet to add their “sentimental Christianity and puritanical ideology”.
But they are still, he believes, suitable bedtime stories. “It is time for parents and publishers to stop dumbing down the Grimms’ tales for children,” Zipes told the Guardian. The Grimms, he added, “believed that these tales emanated naturally from the people, and the tales can be enjoyed by both adults and children. If there is anything offensive, readers can decide what to read for themselves. We do not need puritanical censors to tell us what is good or bad for us.”
THE CHILD IS THE FATHER OF THE MAN
Being both a writer and a man who homeschooled my own children I found this article fascinating, informative, and useful. Maybe you will too.
When Christopher Paolini was 15 years old, he started writing a novel that eventually was titled “Eragon,” the first in a four-book series that became known as the “Inheritance Cycle.” He spent two years writing and then rewriting the story and a third year traveling around the country promoting the self-published book before an established author, Carl Hiaasen, read it and had it published by Alfred A. Knopf. How did he manage to do all this and get an education too? In the following post, his mother, Talita Paolini, explains. Talita Paolini trained and worked as a Montessori preschool teacher. She and her husband, Kenneth, homeschooled their two children. Many parents asked Talita for advice, so she recorded the Paolini Method in a series of articles and books. You can read about it here. She currently resides with her husband and children in Paradise Valley, Montana. On her website, the 30-year-old Christopher Paaolini is quoted as saying:
“People often ask how I was able to write Eragon at the age of fifteen. Well, the credit has to go to my parents, and specifically my mom, who is a trained teacher. She started to educate my sister and me when we were very young, first with games and other fun projects and later with more formal lessons. Without her system of instruction, none of our professional success would have been possible. I was incredibly fortunate to have been educated with these methods, and I firmly believe that children everywhere can benefit from them.”
By Talita Paolini
When my son, Christopher, was born, I wondered who he was and who he would become. I had no inkling that he would someday be listed in the Guinness World Records as the youngest author of a bestselling book series. At that time, I just marveled at this little human who had joined our family and felt a sense of responsibility at the task before me: to introduce him to the world.
My husband, Kenneth, and I talked to Christopher, read books to him, and sang to him. We carried him in a backpack, so he could watch what we were doing. He expressed great interest in watching me make dinner, peering over my shoulder as I worked, and he loved observing the world on hikes, while perched high on Kenneth’s back. And when he could walk and talk, wow! He explored the world using all his senses and filled our ears with endless questions and commentary. Our daughter Angela was born not quite two years later, and she developed along the same path. She would become a writer as well.
I had been trained as a Montessori preschool teacher. Dr. Montessori’s philosophy emphasizes the cultivation of children’s innate desire to learn using specially prepared materials and freedom of movement, so it was natural for me to offer my children hands-on activities. Not having the resources to buy expensive classroom materials, I looked for ways to teach them using common household items. In addition, I observed my children closely and then found ways to help them learn through art, games, music, and activities of daily life. In town, we counted cars and trees. We talked about the seasons and where we lived on planet Earth. My children enjoyed doing art projects and playing games with the letters of the alphabet, tracing the letters in preparation for writing, and then pointed out those letters around the house and in town. Each week we visited the library and returned with an armful of books.
THE FREE, THE NOBLE, AND THE GOOD from HUMAN EFFORT
When the Free and Good and Noble Man is too powerful to resist then you have peace and prosperity. When the Free and Good and Noble Man is too weak to resist then you have tyranny and war.
THE TWO WORLDS
If I had my druthers I would rather live in two different worlds from the world and time and place I now live. I love my home and my estate and my family and friends and my pets, and would readily keep all of those, but the age in which I live – I am not all that impressed by the contemporary and supposedly modern age of man. Nor am I much impressed by “modern man” in general. Though, to give him his credit, he has done some amazing things – in some respects at least.
If I had my way though I’d live in two very different other worlds, or perhaps even in both.
The First World would be an immensely primitive world (compared to today) which is largely unexplored and uninhabited. I would travel everywhere by foot, horse, or wooden sailing ship. I would live in the wild frontier. I would build my own shelters everywhere I went, and small cabins anywhere I wanted to locate for a while. I would explore forests, and open plains, and mountains, and oceans and seas. Perhaps even a few deserts.
I would carry a simple and well-made sword, a spear, a bow, and a long-knife everywhere I went. Perhaps a hatchet as well. I would have forged or made these weapons myself, with great and careful craft. They would be sharp, strong, and reliable. Otherwise my possessions would be what I could carry and my clothing would be hard and durable and made for tough use and wear. I would design and build and construct things using my own two hands. Everything I made would be unique. Including the flute I made to play music and write songs as I went.
I would grow or gather my own food, drink from clear streams, fish high rivers, and swim in fresh lakes. I would go everywhere with my dog who, just like my current dog, would be a huge mastiff and a wonderful companion. Animals would be my friends and we would understand one another. I would be at peace with everything that lived. I would sketch what I saw, write what I experienced, but only for myself, or perhaps as a record for someone to eventually find and make use of. I would spend time every day with God, observing what he showed me, and I would wander the wide world uninhabited and unrestricted by anything or anyone. My money would be my own breath and blood.
I would explore both night and day, taking as much pleasure in roaming some mountain in the moonlight as I did crawling over ancient ruins at noon. Occasionally I would run across other men and women like myself, explorers and frontiersmen, people who lived in the wild. Because I would speak and write multiple languages it would be easy to communicate with them, and trade with them. We would spend a few days or maybe weeks in each others company, becoming lifelong friends. We would not have to see each other often, or speak much in the presence of the other. We would just know and understand. We would however drink, and laugh, and do crazily dangerous and enjoyable things as we wandered for a time the world together.
I would live my life deep in the frontiers; far from man, and the ways of man. When I did finally feel the desire to return to civilization I would visit some great city, like ancient Alexandria, reading in the Library, researching the Museum and conversing with the inventors and scientists and craftsmen, examining the great Wonders, like the lighthouse, and burning deep into my memory all I saw and did. And when I had once again had enough of that I would return to the forest and the fields and the lands that had no road and no well-worn path and I would disappear again.
When I finally married and had children I would be a grizzled old man, and yet I would on occasion still wander when I desired to and I would be very tough and very wise by then. And if my children wanted to explore and roam with me then I would take them from time to time, showing them how to survive and live off the land and love nature and the solitude.
That would be a happy world, a world of blood and bone and strength, a world that would satisfy my body and my soul.
The Second “World” would be immensely advanced, scientifically and technologically. I would explore countless other worlds through time and space. I would have a craft, one that I had designed and built for myself that could easily and rapidly traverse any distance or any time, and probably many different dimensions. My craft would be able to construct and create anything I needed whenever and wherever I went, including my shelter, food, and drink.
My clothing and body would be filled with immensely powerful apparatus, highly miniaturized, even down to the atomic level, which would give me immense sensory capabilities and physical and mental enhancements. I would have already long ago genetically modified myself, through recombination, to further enhance my own capabilities and I would turn those capabilities to exploration, invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
I would have a Suit; one I had designed myself, which would be an astronomical advance over my current Aisthpleis Suit. It would be my clothing, my protection, my extra-sensing device, my computer, my communications array, and an extension of my own senses and mind. It might even possess its own sentience.
I would be immensely wealthy (a trillionaire many times over by today’s standards) from my own inventions, creations, and discoveries and would use my profits to assure everyone I knew was taken care of, as well as to further capitalize and fund my numerous enterprises, expeditions, ventures, and adventures. Money itself would mean nothing to me but I would use it carefully and wisely to fund every good and noble cause I could and I would use it to explore every place and every world I could possibly discover and reach.
I would make numerous friends among other species and races and would enjoy discovering things about them and their world(s). In the periods of travel time in my craft I would talk often with God and he would advise me of what I should see and where I should go and why. I would also, in my travel time, conduct numerous scientific experiments, to placate my curiosity about how things work and to come to a better understanding of the nature of matter, energy, and life.
I would build an entirely unique observatory, probably on some uninhabited and desolate planetoid that would allow me to watch other times, different places and points in space, peer upon other dimensions, and make discoveries and observations no one else ever has before.
I would scour the universe for new God Technology and I would seek to create some of my own. I would invent new things and reinvent/innovate upon old things that would be of immense benefit to mankind.
I would find ways to extend not only my own life, but to greatly augment and amplify both my own health and well-being, and that of others. I would work cooperatively and with good friends on some great ventures and enterprises, but on most things I would work alone.
I would still travel with my dog, of course, (maybe with a few other animals as well), but he would be greatly enhanced and modified. He would be immensely intelligent, as intelligent as any person alive now, and physically he would be awesomely strong, capable, and healthy. I would extend his life too.
When I finally married and had children I would bring them with me on my travels and expeditions anytime they wished, showing them what I had discovered. I would train them in whatever they wished to learn. I would keep careful and detailed records of all I saw and did and discovered so that others could build upon my work in the future to do even greater things.
That would be a fascinating world, a world of thoughts and ideas and discoveries, a world that would satisfy my mind and my spirit.
I can live in the world I currently live in. On my lands I live a physically and psychologically pleasing life. In my work I live a mentally and spiritually pleasing life.
But I can imagine far better. And desire far better.
THE CONDEMNATION OF HOMOSTYLUS and THE TYRANNY OF BASELESS LOVE
Taking a hot bath after working out I had an interesting idea. Or set of them. I am thinking of writing two lengthy but sub-epical poems, one to be called The Condemnation of Homostylus (the condemnation of the Self-Styled Man), and the other to be called The Tyranny of Baseless Love, about the misguided modern form of supposedly Christian love that eschews all judgments in favor of the toleration of all things no matter the Real Nature of those things.
The Condemnation of Homostylus will be in an ancient form and technique and will describe the story of a young man who is self-reliant and self-styled (that is he does not desire to be what his society wishes him to be) but his society and culture will not tolerate his individuality and uniqueness, eventually driving him to exile, where his ingenuity assists other cultures. Then learning of his brilliance his original culture seeks him out again and convinces him to return to work for them. Upon returning his society tolerates his individuality for a while to profit from his work, then seeks to oppress him again and eventually he is driven to his death by them. But not before he unleashes his ultimate vengeance, The Condemnation of Homostylus.
The Tyranny of Baseless Love will describe the destructions and damnations wrought by the misguided modern theological idea that Jesus implored everyone to judge nothing and to tolerate everything (an obvious and evident misreading of Jesus and what he plainly said in scripture). That Grace and Love are licentious licenses rather than responsibilities and obligations we owe to God, ourselves, and others. It will involve a young man (maybe a priest, maybe not) who travels from town to town (each town name will give a clue to the wrong at play and tolerated) in an imaginary Europe witnessing firsthand the corrupting influence of such a concept of Love, because in each town will be evident examples of how unfettered and irresponsible and pretentious and deceptive forms of love and tolerance breed decadence, decay, damnation, sin, and death. It will be written in a Gothic style since to me that is the literary form that most closely resembles this Gnostic and cobbled together theological miasma of supposedly Christian Love. I will try to touch upon toleration of all of the crimes and vices, as well as the mortal and diseased sins like rape and murder and abortion and terrorism.
But first and for this month (November) I must return to and finish my novel the Viking Cats.
So for now I am just sketching out the ideas for these poems and possibly developing a few fragments and plotlines. Until then this will have to go into my files for future development.
A SUPERB METHOD OF VISUAL ENCODING
Again, another superb effort and a great methodology of graphic encoding. This would have also made a very nice espionage technique. With the pictures being both unnoticeable to most and even when apparent the visual images themselves could have passed encoded information for messaging. And what better way to pass those messages than steganographically? As a matter of fact the very uniqueness of the encoding of the graphic images would have probably deflected attention away from their subliminal use as an espionage technique.
The discoverer would probably immediate concentrate upon (or be channeled to concentrate upon) the mastery and skill required to create the artistic images rather than assume those same images possessed encoded messages – without an extremely good reason to be suspicious. Hence double camouflage.
These techniques are definitely going into my research files for my New Media Project.
Secret Fore-Edge Paintings Revealed in Early 19th Century Books at the University of Iowa
by Christopher Jobson on September 2, 2013
A few days ago Colleen Theisen who helps with outreach and instruction at the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa shared an amazing gif she made that demonstrates something called fore-edge painting on the edge of a 1837 book called Autumn by Robert Mudie. Fore-edge painting, which is believed to date back as early as the 1650s, is a way of hiding a painting on the edge of a book so that it can only be seen when the pages are fanned out. There are even books that have double fore-edge paintings, where a different image can be seen by flipping the book over and fanning the pages in the opposite direction.
When I realized the book Theisen shared was only one of a series about the seasons, I got in touch and she agreed to photograph the other three so we could share them with you here. Above are photos of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter which were donated to the University of Iowa by Charlotte Smith. How much fun are these? Keep an eye on the University of Iowa’s special collections Tumblr as they unearth more artificats from the archives.
Update: Because this post is getting so much attention, here are some more amazing fore-edge paintings found on YouTube.
TO BUILD A FAR BETTER BOOK
Whoever created this baby (book) was a person after my own heart. If only it was encoded in multiple ways and written in six different languages. Maybe though it was.
And to be honest this looks like a Medieval attempt at something like I’m attempting with my New Media Project. Or even a very primitive form of God Technology.
This 16th Century Book Can Be Read Six Different Ways
by Christopher Jobson on January 24, 2014
Sure, the Amazon Kindle might have dynamic font adjustments, and it can hold thousands of books, but can it do this? Printed in the late 16th century this small book from the National Library of Sweden is an example of sixfold dos-à-dos binding, where six books are conjoined into a single publication but can be read individually with the help of six perfectly placed clasps. This particular book was printed in Germany and like almost all books at the time is a religious devotional text. The National Library of Sweden has a fantastic photo collection of historical and rare books where you can find many more gems like this, and this, and this.
Update: And if you really like amazing old book discoveries, you should be following Erik Kwakkel, the Medieval book historian at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who originally unearthed this story. (via Neatorama)
Superb Linguistic Chart!
When linguists talk about the historical relationship between languages, they use a tree metaphor. An ancient source (say, Indo-European) has various branches (e.g., Romance, Germanic), which themselves have branches (West Germanic, North Germanic), which feed into specific languages (Swedish, Danish, Norwegian). Lessons on language families are often illustrated with a simple tree diagram that has all the information but lacks imagination. There’s no reason linguistics has to be so visually uninspiring. Minna Sundberg, creator of the webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent, a story set in a lushly imagined post-apocalyptic Nordic world, has drawn the antidote to the boring linguistic tree diagram.
Also worth checking out is the page before the tree, where she gives a comparison chart of words in the Nordic languages, and illustrates what an outlier Finnish is with the concept of “meow.”
Read Stand Still. Stay Silent here. Also see Sundberg’s previous work, A Redtail’s Dream, here.
THE OBSCURE PERIOD
A vast coastal plateau covering around twenty hectares and dominating the village of Port-en-Besson (northwestern France), this archaeological site had never been subject to archaeological field investigation. It is thought that Mont Castel may be the port of the Baiocasses tribal group, in charge of overseeing the flow of merchandise between southern England and Normandy.
Mont Castel is part of a larger network of fortified sites that formed a protection system for this area, and unique in the Protohistory of western France.
While there is evidence that Mont Castel was occupied during Protohistory, the nature and chronology of this occupation remained to be defined. The topography and pieces of information available seem to indicate that it was a fortified site during the Final La Tene period (150-30 BC), of the oppidum type, situated in a remarkable and highly strategic location since the end of the Bronze Age (1350-800 BC).
Test-pits were undertaken in 2010 following the discovery that the site had been extensively looted. These tests confirmed the first hypotheses: the site was occupied during the Final Bronze Age, followed by the construction of fortifications at the very end of the Iron Age. These test-pits also yielded Roman armaments, including a sword scabbard, ballista or scorpio darts, and lead sling-shot bullets.
An obscure period
The period between the end of Gallic independence and the beginning of Romanisation – from 52 to 24 BC – is an obscure period for historians and archaeologists because the historical records provide only vague or indirect information on the political and social situation. The year 52 and the defeat of Alésia marked neither the end of the war against Rome, nor the immediate Romanisation of the Celtic society. The foundation of the material and spiritual culture of Gaul remained essentially indigenous until the Augustinian period. After the final battle of the Gallic Wars at Uxellodunum, the situation was not entirely under Roman control. Caesar had distributed all of his legions throughout Gaul and himself spent the winter of 51-50 at Nemetocena (Arras?). Gaul was exhausted, unstable and probably unsettled by internal conflicts, requiring the presence of an occupying army.
The discovery of late-républicain militaria on Mont Castel is new for western France, but it reflects archaeological discoveries on the grand oppida of northern and central-eastern Gaul. It supports the hypothesis that the first Roman military camps were installed on the oppida at the end of the conquest before being moved away from these urban centres during the Augustinian period.