Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Annual Shameless Plug

Enjoy!


MORE LESLIE FISH STUFF

You can order my filkmusic albums from my music publisher, Random Factors, at www.random-factors.com, or get my books from www.amazon.com.   Or you can order them directly from me, at lesliefish@cox.net, or by mail at: Leslie Fish, 1300 S. Watson Road #114-288, Buckeye, AZ 85320, using this form.

Books:

_____  "Offensive As Hell: The Joys of Jesus-Freak Bagging", $10  (satire)
_____  "For Love of Glory", $20  (historical fiction)
_____ "Of Elven Blood", $20  (fantasy/scifi fiction)

Albums:

_____  "Avalon Is Risen", $15 (pagan and fantasy songs)
_____  "Lock and Load",  $15 (1st and 2nd Amendment songs)
_____  "Cold Iron", $15 (Kipling's historical poems as songs)
_____  "Our Fathers of Old", $15 (Kiplng's philosophical poems as songs)
_____  "Skybound", $15 (scifi and Star Trek songs – includes "Hope Eyrie")
_____  "Smoked Fish and Friends", $15 (WorldCon filksing, with others)
_____  "Serious Steel", $15 (SCA songs, with Joe Bethancourt)
_____  "Folksongs for Solar Sailors", $15 (Star Trek songs, from original LPs)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Half-Lies and the Assumption of Stupidity


Pardon my language folks, but I just saw an ad on TV that has me really steamed.  It's a Public Service ad, the sort that's supposed to be For a Good Cause because it's meant to discourage cigarette smoking (ooooh, evil-evil!), but it pushes a common half-lie that I've seen used many times before -- and assumes that nobody will bother to check it out and learn the truth, and that, thank you, is a huge pubic disservice.

First off, I prefer the term "half-lie" to "half-truth", because it's closer to the actual effect.  It's using one sliver of truth and concealing all the rest for the express purpose of deception, which makes it a helluva lot closer to a lie than the truth.  But to continue...

The ad shows a pretty girl screwing a cigarette into her forehead while the narrator solemnly intones: "Every cigarette changes your brain -- permanently."  Then it switches to some computer animation of supposed neurons zapping, and claims that in a few years of smoking, your brain "isn't the same anymore".

Rrrrright.  Years ago, I heard this same argument used to claim that marijuana was a Dangerous Drug.  Before that it was claimed against video games.

The whole truth is that everything "changes your brain -- permanently".  Eating changes your brain, sleeping changes your brain, exercising changes your brain, memorizing anything changes your brain, and -- above all -- learning changes your brain, permanently, because it creates new neural connections.  What's more, it's not true that nerve cells don't regenerate or replace themselves;  all cells in your body replace themselves, so that every seven years you've completely regenerated yourself and have, in effect, a new body -- including brain.  This is because the body is a dynamic construction, and the brain is an especially dynamic organ.  It's supposed to change constantly.  When your brain stops changing, it dies.

What offends me most about this ad isn't just that it promulgates a half-lie in order to scare people For A Good Cause (remember what the road to Hell is paved with), but its arrogant assumption that everybody will automatically be scared so that nobody will bother to check out the story.  Pushers of ads like this seem to have forgotten Abraham Lincoln's warning about fooling all the people all the time, and prefer to live by Barnum's theory that there's a fool born every minute.  They're not in the least worried about the fact that the Internet puts most of the world's knowledge at everyone's fingertips, so scams can be easily uncovered;  they trust in the assumption that most people won't even bother to question what they're told, to see if a story is a scam or not.  That's what really tees me off.

Worse, this attitude seems to be common not just among ad-men, who can be expected to lie and scam as part of their business, but news-media pundits as well, who are supposed to supposed to give us the truth -- and the whole truth.  How else can you explain all the news-anchors chatting about how the election ten days ago was a "Republican sweep"?

Consider that 99% of those races were close, if not very close -- in fact, several of them are still being recounted.  Also consider that only 37% of the registered voters bothered to vote in that election, which means that 63% were too disgusted to cast a ballot.  Likewise consider the number of ballots that were cast for anything but Republican or Democrat candidates;  here in Arizona, Barry Hess -- the Libertarian candidate for governor, who got no media-advertising time at all -- got nearly 10% of the vote, which is more than any major Libertarian candidate has ever gotten before in this state.  The AmericaVotes candidate, whom likewise nobody had ever heard of, got 2%.  All of this strongly indicates a deep dissatisfaction with both of the Big Two parties, rather than any great support for the GOP.  Yet the media pundits mention only the Republican wins.  Half-lie!  Do they really think nobody will bother to hunt up the truth, or do they really believe the half-lies themselves?

What all this shows me is an arrogant assumption that the majority of the population is too stupid to look for the truth, ever.  History has proven that that assumption can prove disastrous to those who hold it.  Pride doth indeed go before a fall.  I just hope that, in falling, the Masters of Manipulation won't crush too many innocent people under them.

--Leslie <;)))><



   

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Changing Image of the Witch -- or What I Did for Halloween

It's interesting how common ideas of witches have changed over the years.  Until well into the late middle ages, most people -- and the church -- thought of witches as people, usually women, who looked just like everyone else.  In fact they were considered people like everyone else, except that they'd switched allegiances to Satan instead of Jesus and were therefore in the same category as heretics and secular traitors.  'Twas around the 1500s, when mere heresy was branching out into the Reformation, that witches were seen as something different; almost always women, either ugly hags or at least branded with some tell-tale mark -- likewise different from the "mark" of Jews and Moslems (the men, at least), who were circumcised.  Professional witch-hunters had great fun stripping women naked and poking them, looking for the marks.  Witch-hunting ebbed and flowed with the progress of the Reformation, reaching a high point in the Salem witch-trials of 1692, after which religious wars became unpopular and witch-hunting died away to an embarrassed memory, then a fairy-tale.  At least by 1939, and the movie "The Wizard of Oz", there was the image of Glinda the Good Witch as well as the green-skinned and eagle-nosed Wicked Witch of the West   By 1983, when Raould Dahl published his children's book "The Witches", the image of the witch was more of a joke than anything really scary.  Finally, the play "Wicked" even did a good job of rehabilitating the Wicked Witch of the West, green skin and all.

Real witches, of course, said nothing -- in public -- about any of this until the mid-1970s, and then told their tales only in books or magazines found in "occult" bookstores, or in scholarly papers seen only by university Anthropology departments.  Of course the occasional heavy-rock band would do an album or a whole shtick about "witchcraft" or "the devil" -- having no relation whatsoever to the real thing, but good for scaring the grown-ups.  It wasn't until the 1980s that the Neo-Pagan movement in general grew big enough to start going public: hosting Pagan Pride Day in various large cities, holding "open" rituals to which the public was invited, complaining about the portrayal of pagans in general and witches specifically in movies and TV shows.  Good witches started showing up in lighthearted TV shows and the occasional movie -- much to the annoyance of super-conservative fundamentalist Christians, who kept trying to whip up Satanism scares, which always fizzled out for lack of evidence.  Pagans finally gained legal respectability in 2007, when the pentagram was accepted as a symbol on tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery.

Nowadays witch costumes are usually seen around Halloween, either as cute little robes and hats on young children, or sexy outfits on teenaged-or-older girls.  The green skin, warts and eagle-beak noses have vanished with the last decade's fashions.  Nowadays witches are at least cute, if not glamorous.

So I've had no problem spending my last few Halloweens wearing a witch costume (long skirt, long-sleeved lace blouse, pointy hat -- all in black), sitting out by the front door flanked by jack-o-lanterns and a black cat or two, playing solemn pagan tunes on an eerie-sounding bowed psaltery, offering candy to any little kid (or enthusiastically costumed adult) who'd be brave enough to take it from the mouth of a scary-looking carved pumpkin.  Only a few kids came down my street this year (possibly because, Halloween being on Friday, it was overshadowed by the town high school's nighttime football game), but all of them liked the costume, and the idea of braving the "goblin" to get the candy.  It seems that witches are getting downright respectable these days.

Cotton Mather should be spinning in his grave, at several thousand RPMs.  No doubt the few religious bigots who are left (like those fools in La Mesa, California, who tried to get Raould Dahl's book banned from the public library because it stated that witches look just like other people) are squirming a good bit above the ground -- primarily because their political power has drained away so that they can't hang or burn witches any more.  Boo-hoo, and BOOOOOO!

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(              

Monday, October 27, 2014

A New Idea on Illegal Immigration


It's no great secret that the federal government doesn't like the state of Arizona, for a lot of historical reasons, which is why the Supreme Court stretched so hard to find something/anything wrong with our controversial SB 1070 anti-illegal-immigration bill.  It's also no great secret that the federal government has no intention of stiffening our cobweb border or stopping illegal immigration -- the Republicans because they want the cheap labor, and the Democrats because they want the cheap votes.  It's surprising but true that the Constitution does not say that anyone voting in an American election must be an American citizen.  States that try to fix that lapse get serious discouragement from the current -- Democrat -- federal administration, as we've seen.

So what's to do?  Arizona has been a major highway for illegals -- to the tune of 100,000 to 500,000 per year -- for the last decade, and the strain is beginning to tell.  The state clerks used to keep records of how many welfare recipients, inhabitants of our jails, and arrested criminals were illegal immigrants -- until the ACLU claimed this was "racist" and made them stop -- and the number was far greater than their percentage of the population.  Our physical and social resources are stretched to the limit, the state is seriously in debt, and no end in sight.  We simply can't take in any more illegals, and have to find an effective way to keep them out.

So here's my idea.  First, the state hire some surveyors to go to the national border and mark exactly where it is.  Second, they then measure ten yards in from that border, and draw another line there.  Third, the state government scrapes up the money to pay for a real, serious, impassible fence -- maybe one made of I-beams, such as a lot of ranchers and Navahos living on the border have already constructed for a good ten miles -- back it up with a solid earth berm and patrol it regularly, preferably with police hired from the Navaho tribes.  Between the two fences, pave a road running east and west across the state, from California to New Mexico and a few miles further if those states are willing;  in any case, where the Arizona border turns north, the wall should follow -- for much longer than the distance the road would take to reach the nearest California or New Mexico town.  Where there are roads through the federal border, the Arizona wall will have passageways also -- but with its own checkpoints, manned by state police for inspectors, who will have strict orders to turn back Human Traffic and to search very diligently for illegal drugs and explosive devices.  Since this wall will be very definitely on Arizona land it will have nothing to do with federal border regulations;  the Constitution does allow individual states to determine which people they will let into their own lands.  As for anyone else, they'll still be over the national border, on a road that will take them either way into more amenable states.  The federal government will have no legal reason to complain about the state wall.

As for the "federal strip", maybe it would be a good idea to post on the Arizona wall, every hundred yards or so, a large sign saying -- in Spanish: "Warning!  Illegal Immigrants, beyond this wall lies the state of Arizona.  Arizona is a poor state, and doesn't want you."  Then two arrows, one pointing east and one pointing west, then: "X miles east is the state of New Mexico.  New Mexico will welcome you with lots of jobs.  X miles west is the state of California.  California will welcome you with free food, free housing and free money.  Go east or west, but don't try to go further north.  Arizona will give you nothing but a quick return trip to Mexico."  If the states of California or New Mexico complain about this, tell them we'll take down the signs when they put up their own walls.

Before the automatic howls of "racism!" start, let's point out that "Mexican" is not a race.  Neither is "illegal immigrant".  Genetically, Mexicans are a varying mix of White and Indian;  so are a lot of perfectly good Americans -- including me.  "Race" isn't the problem between the United States and Mexico, and never was.

--Leslie <;)))><   

  


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

To Spank or Not To Spank

News about another case of child abuse has brought the Anti-Spanking crusaders out of the woodwork again.  Now they're quoting all sorts of studies which claim that spanking causes everything from poor impulse control to poor brain development, and of course leads to child abuse.  I notice that they carefully tiptoe around the fact that spanking is mostly practiced in working-class and poor families, while Other Methods are practiced by middle-class and rich families.  Nobody mentions that the supposed ill effects of spanking just might be the results of poverty itself.

And, of course, the people conducting the studies are middle-class or above themselves.  The few exceptions that I know of were writers.  G. B. Shaw once commented: "Never strike a child except in anger, even at the risk of maiming it.  A blow in cold blood must never be tolerated."  R. A. Heinlein spent half a chapter of his novel "Starship Troopers" explaining why spanking is healthy and realistic, and anti-spanking is subtly dangerous.  Interesting, considering that it's writers who usually turn a keen eye on class differences, class prejudices and class assumptions. 

I've noticed myself that an awful lot of social science is affected by the class prejudices -- "ethnocentricities" is the official term -- of the social scientists themselves.  I don't think anybody needs to be reminded of the piously proper medical researchers of a century ago who claimed that the "Negro brain" was "less developed" than the proper Caucasian brain.  Looking back from today we can readily see the blatant errors in logic of those Terribly Proper studies, but nobody has noted the glaring logical errors of our modern social scientists whose findings support and agree with the prejudices of our current middle and upper classes.  Here's one: when people protest "Hey, I was spanked as a kid, and I did all right", the anti-spanking pundits reliably answer "If you think spanking is acceptable, then you're not all right".  That's a classic example of circular logic.  They might as well say outright "If you disagree with me you're insane."  Uhuh.

Well, I was not spanked as a child, and I was not all right until I got away from my parents.  The reason is that, as I've noticed elsewhere, parents who don't spank use nasty psychological torments instead to enforce their will.  My brother and I learned to be actually relieved on the rare occasions when we could provoke our parents to lose control and physically smack -- partly because, not having practiced spanking, they didn't know how to do it right and would miss as often as they hit, and partly because afterward they would feel attacks of Liberal Guilt and would refrain from the psychological punishments.  Honest spanking would have been kinder.  Pain is only pain, and the memory of it fades quickly, while psychological scars can take years to heal.  ...Needless to add, I grew up to be a rebel -- and learned martial arts.

Here's another case, which the anti-spanking crowd will no doubt call "merely anecdotal" (that's what bigots call evidence contrary to their prejudices, until the number of "anecdotes" drown them).  Back in post-revolutionary Russia there lived a middle-class Jewish family -- safe from Soviet government harassment because the father worked for a government bureaucracy -- who earnestly believed in all the "progressive" biases.  Among other children, they had two daughters: call the elder Katya and the younger Anya.  Katya was a practical cynic while Anya was an idealist.  Being middle-class Liberals, the parents did not spank;  instead, they used psychological punishments -- while telling the children they should be grateful for such treatment.  For example, whenever their cousins came to mooch a meal, the parents would hand over the babysitting of the cousins' retarded child to their daughters, telling them they should be grateful for a chance to display their virtue by "caring for the unfortunate".  As soon as the adults were out of sight, Katya would foist off the job on Anya. 

One day the girls disobeyed an order -- making beds, IIRC -- and their mama decided this required severe punishment.  She ordered the girls to each bring her their favorite toy, and she said they wouldn't get the toys back for a full year.  Katya handed over her least-favorite toy, a worn-out doll, on the theory that she wasn't going to do without her favorite for a year, and mama wouldn't know the difference.  Anya handed over her favorite toy, a mechanical bird, on the theory that after anticipating it for a year, regaining the toy would be that much sweeter.  Well, the year passed and the day came.  Instead of giving back the toys, mama admitted that she'd given them, the very day she got them, to the local orphanage -- and the girls should be grateful that they were able to give joy to the "disadvantaged".  Katya gave a dutiful smile to her mother, and a knowing smirk to her sister, and went off to play with her favorite toys.  Anya decided that she hated her mother, and hypocrisy, and self-sacrifice, and the "disadvantaged". 

Katya went on with her family-planned life, but Anya concentrated on her schoolwork.  She specialized in techniques of film, and eventually got herself a scholarship -- and government permission -- to leave Russia, go to America and go to Hollywood to study filmmaking.  As soon as she got there, she renounced her Russian citizenship, applied for American citizenship, got a job as a script-girl and worked up to script-writer.  She also changed her name -- to Ayn Rand. 

Yes, that Ayn Rand.  She spent the rest of her life writing scripts and influential books in which she denounced progressivism, and self-sacrifice, and hypocrisy, and altruism.  We don't know what happened to her family back in Russia when World War Two broke out, or after, but none of them wound up with Ayn Rand in America.  She also took care never to have children of her own.

Sure, all this is "anecdotal", but the moral is clear: don't spank your kids, and you'll wind up with extremists and rebels.  Then again, seeing the "ethnocentricities" of the middle and upper classes, maybe this is a good thing.

--Leslie <;)))><         



 

 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Killing Virus


Note: "virus" is the proper plural spelling of "virus".  It's a Latin word of the Third Declension, which is where the Romans stuffed all their "irregular" nouns -- which meant oddball spelling.  So what I'm talking about here is killing more than one virus.  Keep that in mind.

With my odd fandom connections, I'd heard about this long before Rasty told me the story of the zookeepers and the giraffes, but that tale confirmed what I'd heard.  It seems that Rasty was visiting the zoo with his kids one day, and he noticed a zookeeper feeding onions to the giraffes.  Being a curious sort, he bothered to ask why.  The zookeeper explained that when a creature has a neck over six feet long a sore throat is a serious health problem, so the zookeepers took special care to keep the giraffes from catching colds.  Onions?  Yes, onions.  They'd found that fresh, raw onions in the diet prevent colds.  There's something about onions that kills cold virus and keeps the giraffes healthy.

This is interesting, because I'd also heard of some folk remedies for colds that likewise include onions.  I'd heard of others that include fresh, raw garlic.  I'd also heard of a French doctor who cured gangrene by filling the wounds with shredded, lightly blanched cabbage.   On doing a bit of research on cabbage, I learned that fresh, raw cabbage is also good for curing colds.  It seems that there's an organic poison in cabbage, fierce enough to kill the mold that causes gangrene and quite capable of killing virus too.  The amount of poison in eight cabbages is enough to kill a human being -- if a human were capable of ingesting eight cabbages all at once.

Well, put 'em together and what have ya got?  A virus-killer, I do believe.  The last time I had a cold I tried chopping up equal amounts of fresh, raw garlic, onion, and cabbage in a blender, and swallowing the odorous throat-stinging mess.  It stung my belly for awhile, but when I woke up the next morning, the cold was gone.  Guessing I was onto something here, I made a point of eating garlic, onion and cabbage whenever I could.  I haven't had a cold since.

I've spread the word to friends, who report similar results.  Between me, them, and the giraffes, I think we've got some conclusive evidence that a mixture of (fresh, raw, chopped) onions, garlic, and cabbage creates an effective broad-spectrum virus-killer.

Given the current panic being spread about Ebola and the new virus that paralyzes children, I think we'd best spread this story too.

In fact, I have to wonder why this folk-remedy hasn't been talked about before.  I know that the big pharmaceutical industry -- and its lobbyists, and therefore its media-flaks -- hate the very idea of effective medicines found in cheap natural foods, but seriously, shouldn't the medical business be willing to give up a little money to save lives, and maybe stop a spreading panic?

...Unless fanning the panic is the point.  So long as the public's attention is absorbed by Ebola and the new entero-virus, it might not focus too closely on the war with ISIL.  Having worked in the media a bit, I know how easily their attention can be manipulated, and there are a lot of people who regularly do such manipulation -- usually big industries and governments.  Now the latest reports that we've heard about the ISIL problem are solemn pronouncements that the war can't be won without participation by other Arab countries, and lots of "boots on the ground" (i.e. infantry).  Just about every "expert" we've seen on the news has claimed that the war can't be won with air-strikes alone.

...But what if it can?  As I mentioned in an earlier post, thanks to the development of small disguised spy-drones, it now is possible to identify and locate individual enemy troops -- and then take them out with pin-point bombing by larger and more lethal drones.  Don't you think the military would want to keep that fact out of public -- and therefore enemy -- knowledge as long a possible?  Well, since the media are manipulable, get them to distract the public (and therefore the enemy) with passing tales of how inadequate air-strikes are and how important and dangerous the two viral plagues are. 

Well, goody for them.  Keep the foaming Jihadists in the dark until the drones can kill them all -- and for the sake of the public peace, do kill them all -- but there's no need to stampede the public with virus-panic.  Since the mainstream media can't be counted on, really, to serve the public good, let's spread this part of the story ourselves, folks.

Equal parts by volume of fresh, raw onion, garlic, and cabbage, eaten twice daily, is an effective broad-spectrum virus-killer.  Pass it on.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(  


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: "Theodosia and the Pirates: The War Against Spain", by Aya Katz


I promised to give a fair critique of this second book in the series, even though the author is a friend, so I'll start with technicalities.  First, the cover painting is disappointing;  Impressionism and Fauvism are all very well, but they do require that the artist draw well -- and I've seen talented 10-year-olds do better.  On the other hand, the book being a Trade-sized paperback like its predecessors, the Perfect (hot-glue) binding is both sturdy and flexible enough to last indefinitely. The printing, even the Antiqued chapter-heading fonts, is good-sized, very crisp and clear -- wonderfully easy on the eyes.

The story itself is a continuation of the fictionalized biography of Aaron Burr's daughter, and her theorized lifelong romance with Jean Lafitte the Privateer -- not pirate, as he insists.  This volume takes us through Lafitte's founding of Galveston, and the embarrassment this caused the fledgling American government.  Besides having to play a delicate balancing act between the empires of Britain, France, and Spain -- not to mention the new South and Central American republics that sprang up in the footsteps of Simon Bolivar-- the United States government still hadn't worked all the bugs out of the democratic-governing business. Despite the ideals of the founders, the people staffing the new government were still affected by the feudal and corrupt assumptions of the earlier British government, complete with its class arrogance.  They were acutely embarrassed by having had to rely on independent privateers for their early navy, and tried to blot out that shame by turning on their former allies -- including Lafitte -- as soon as they could build enough ships to do it.  The novel is an account of Lafitte's slow retreat, under pressure from the US government, from the city he saved, the settlements he founded, and the countries he helped liberate, until he's obliged to fake his death and forsake the sea altogether, to settle down as a respectable gunpowder-merchant in a suburb of St. Louis.

Of course there are plenty of lively and romantic details: Lafitte's daughter and her disastrous first marriage, the vengeance Lafitte takes on her brutal husband, the routing of the nasty Inquisitor by Theodosia and her children and neighbors, and the cunning escapes by the Lafitte brothers from the embarrassed governments that keep trying to hang them.  There are also surprising viewpoints and pithy comments on the politics of the early republic, and foreshadowings of their future course.  For instance, Lafitte's veneration of property rights offers an alternative to the slavery problem that could have avoided the Civil War -- if only the federal government and the Abolitionist movement had chosen to take it.  Revelations of Alexander Hamilton's shady character and practices, and the financial disaster of his national bank, prophesy the economic woes of the present day.  The barely-excused thievery of tax and customs officials foretells two centuries of scandals and petty -- or not so petty -- injustices.  And through all this Theodosia struggles to keep her family alive, keep her husband's love, and keep her philosophical integrity.

Despite all this intricacy and intrigue, "Theodosia and the Pirates" is a smooth, fast read.  The inclusions of actual letters and announcements from the period don't slow the action but illuminate it, and the brief but colorful physical descriptions likewise move the action along.  I particularly liked the historical question-and-answer session at the end of the book, just ahead of the respectable bibliography.

Altogether, "Theodosia and the Pirates" -- both volumes -- illustrate a little-known but fascinating and formative period in American history while telling a lively and original love story.  Look for it on Amazon soon.

--Leslie <;)))><