Since I Never Get the Last Word
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Now, that's Interesting!
What is it that makes historians decide what is important? Thatís an endless fascinating topic for me. For example, The History Channel, one of U.S. cable TVís shining lights, in their on-line presentation, says that the following major events occurred today, November 15:
1891 ERWIN ROMMEL IS BORN
1777Articles of Confederation adopted
1889Brazil's last emperor deposed
1984Baby Fae dies
1859Final installment of A Tale of Two Cities is published
The first thing I wonder is why The History Channelís historians decided that Rommelís birth is more interesting than the fact the U.S. Article of Confederation were adopted. Rommel gets the headline but I wonder how many people, particularly how many U.S. citizens, realize that our Constitution was preceded by these Articles and that our Constitution did not makes its appearance until 1789, a dozen years later?
I think itís cool they talked about Pedro II. How many people outside Brazil realize that Brazil was once an Empire, that itís first emperor stepped down in favor of his 5 year old son, and that made Pedro II 'the last emperor.' He reigned for 49 years?
Itís even cool to realize that Baby Fae was the recipient of a baboonís heart and lasted for 20 days. Thatís a technology that never made it.
But, why would they think that the formation in Pittsburgh, USA, in 1881 of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada was not interesting? If that joint venture had been more successful, we might have a single country instead of the neighbors that now pick at each other over the fence. Instead, we got the American Federation of Labor which has made its own unique contributions to U.S. history.
Why would they opt for Dickens when, on this day in 1884, Samuel Sidney McClure of New York City started the first literary syndicate -- the McClure Syndicate. It bought authorsí works and then sold the right to print them to various newspapers across the U.S. Hell, without this event, we have a whole Writing forum at sffworld that might not ever have come about.
Why is Rommelís birth more interesting than, say, William Pitt the Elder (1st Earl of Chatham) in 1708? William Pitt drove England and her fighting men to levels of high success during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). His action led to the foundation of the U.S. inasmuch as that action resulted in England bringing her principal enemy, France, to her knees; and, in the process, gaining for England most all of North America as the spoils of war.
Why is Georgia OíKeefeís birth in 1887 not more interesting than the publication of the last installment of a ďA Tale of Two CitiesĒ? Or Petula Clarkeís birth in 1932? I betcha I remember the words in ďDowntownĒ: ďand you can find somebody kind to love and understand you; some who is just like you and needs a helping hand to guide them alongĒ as well as I remember ďtis a far, far better thing I do than I ever done before.Ē
Or, if we must think upon WWII, why is the fact that on this day in 1943, Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the German SS, ordered the imprisonment of Gypsies and "part-Gypsies" not more interesting than Rommelís birthday? I did not realize that Gypsies and part-Gypsies existed as a category of people you could pick out of a crowd. Nor did I realize they managed to offend the Nazis so much to be singeled out as a particular enemy of the state. Certainly I was aware they have been looked down upon across the Globe for centuries but rising to the top of Nazi Germany's hit list was news to me. Now, thatís interesting!
Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-11-15 09:16:30
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Rings Worth Having
Scholarship never fails to broaden oneís perspective. The current case in point: this morning I had occasion to read of a poem written by Matthew Prior in 1700. The poem contains the phrase ďthe end must justify the meansĒ which is, of course, a derivation from others more ancient than Prior. Thatís not what my scholarship produced that tickled my fancy. No, what tickled me was the subject matter of the poem, the story of Hans Carvel - Hans Carvel is also the poem's title - and Carvelís ring and ďthe Lord knows where.Ē Now thatís the stuff of fantasy!
Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-11-13 10:03:32
Friday, November 11, 2005
The First Lexicologist
ďSo the Lord God formed from the soil every kind of animal and bird, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and whatever he would he called them, that was their name.Ē
According to Genesis, god and Adam had been conversing for a few days now as had Adam and Eve. I might wonder how this was possible but that is picking nits, isnít it? I mean god just created English when he created Adam and the two of them could talk right away. It must have been English because thatís the language of my copy of the Bible and every word in it is true. I know because my President told me so and he talks to god, so he ought to know. Eve and the snake came fully equipped so they could join in the conversation.
I might be tempted to think of Adam as a rural, naive kind of guy. You know, growing up full grown in the Garden, everything pumped into his head at the outset, no learning curve at all. Sure, he didnít know about writing and books but his vocabulary must have been able to stand up to Noah Websterís, I betcha.
Suppose that I had to think up a name for every animal and bird and do it in real time. Here comes this cute little beastie and right away I call it an impala. And, hey, I know a skunk when I see one. This monster comes trotting up and I immediately think of hippopotamus. This other even bigger monster comes up and I know immediately itís an elephant. I can even imagine parrots and macaws and eagles, lions and tigers and bears, oh my.
Of course, maybe god put the names in Adamís head, part of creation, and trotting the animals by was kind of test to see if Adam could remember what was in his memory. Nah, then god would have named the animals and Adam was only doing an instant replay of what god had already decided. Well, god could have been letting him think he was smart enough to make names for a couple of days straight on <thereís a whole lot birds and animals, you know. They canít trot by in just a few hours..> Itís called positive reinforcement and you let the learner believe they accomplished the task all on their own and, as long as they believe it, why it builds their self image and self-confidence and leads to further success. .
Speaking of memory, who was the recording secretary? I mean if Adam had to name the coyote, the damned things are native to North America and my copy of the Bible tells me the Tigris and Euphrates river ran out of the Garden of Eden which means it wasn't anywhere near North America. How did folk Ė take your pick of original Americans or the johnny-come-lately Ďdiscoverersí - know what their name was? They either knew their nameor they made up their own names for coyotes totally ignoring the legacy Adam left behind. If they just totally ignored Adamís name, then what was the point of Adam naming them? And if it was the name Adam gave the coyotes, then how did they know? Wait, I know; itís a miracle? God wanted Adam to name things because it was good therapy for a man with nothing else to do, kept him off the streets at night. God just arranged to insert Adamís names whenever people thought they were looking at new creatures. Like the first time men saw penguins; it wasnít the first time. Adam had already seen them and named them penguins and when the first original American saw one, right away god inserted penguin into his mind so he would know what to call them. Same thing holds true for kangaroos and emus. It's a little more problemmatic for dinosaurs; did god run all the extinct creatures by as well so we'd know what their names were or did later men get to name them because they had never existed in the first place so making up new names didn't matter? Fossilized torsos only prove what a grand design god had when he created the world.
Another little problem, if Adam named the creatures, where did he get the noises he made? I mean, how often does a guy sit around the campfire trying to put new sounds together? Yeah, I know when a man takes his daily constitutional heís likely to dream up weird noises but he rarely memorizes them for future use. I can hear it now: ďeleephone, no. aliefun, no. elephen, close. Elefin, no. Needs something to cut it off; thatís what it needs. Think Iíll put a Ďtí on the end <god made me learn my alphabet>. Elephant. Thatís it! Thatís the perfect name. Now, all I need is some animal that looks like an elephant and, by golly, Iím gonna name it that.Ē
Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-11-11 08:50:25
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Noblesse Oblige Not
I hate it when I am most me.
As in when I watch a football game and get to see a person I believe to be overrated stumble. I find myself gloating: ďSee?! See?! That miserable bastard is as human as the rest of them. He isnít perfect. Heís nowhere close to perfect!Ē
It doesnít matter to me that I had to watch the entire football game to get the one snapshot I can latch onto, the proof I was looking for. It only matters that I finally have the irrefutable evidence that will not allow my judgment to be overruled by instant replay.
Donít tell me about opening the game 10 for 10. Tell me about finishing the game 12 for 23 and missing badly on a 4th and 4. Donít give me all the obvious reasons and excuses. Just let me gloat that for three seconds last night, he was as human as the rest of us.
Okay, it is not the most noble aspect of my character. In my defense, I get to be as human as that quarterback was.
Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-11-08 10:19:45
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
It Could Be My Masterpiece
Damn, itís good to be able to announce I finally finished my fifteen volume epic, Declination Diagram, which deals with a pangalactic empire that, after conquering everything in sight, creates some new societies in neighboring galaxies so they will have something to conquer a few years from now. The heroine, Medea Athena Dionysius, understands her society needs a challenge to prevent it from stagnating as have all the other great historical empires so she trains her own army, the Bacchi, and dispatches them to prepare for and instigate a credible threat to her own realm. There are a few other major characters surrounding Medea but, basically, the story is hers beginning with her miraculous birth from a centuries old test tub Ė it had to be big enough to support a baby, you see Ė through her prodigious and tumultuous youth, particularly the volume that treats her puberty wherein she discovers she has capabilities no other human possesses such as the ability to listen, the discipline necessary to not construct a competitive reply to the conversational gambits of those around her, the disinclination to speak of her own accomplishments, and the unwillingness to do things the way her family has always done them. Naturally, she must overcome a reputation as a neer-do-well and rebel-rouser before assuming the throne but her willingness to accept necessity and murder everyone who stands in her path facilitates her direct route to power. In Volumes Fourteen and Fifteen she begins to set down her autobiography - a clever literary ploy that allows me to use a bunch of text from the thirteen earlier volumes - providing the insight and detail the first thirteen Volumes were unable to fit into their meager 550 page format. It is during this time she realizes how well sheís done and how much her society has come to depend upon her concluding she must wean the galaxy from her wearying person. She hires three look-alikes because she is too impatient to wait the seven hours necessary for producing full grown clones who will feel precisely as she does and therefore require corporeal intervention inspiration to take up her crown. With the look-alikes successfully fooling the media for the required fifteen minute interval of its collective attention span, Medea slips out the back door to go lie on the beaches of an uncharted planet Ė when you rule the galaxy you get to decide which planets make the charts and which donít despite what the polls think - and drink herself into oblivion. Oblivion accepts her.
I submitted the epic to all the major houses and not a few of the more renowned agents and I am pleased to say none was big enough to handle this enterprise. I expected as much so I inquired of my old business relation, Neal, and even he was forced to decline the effort as just too ambitious. Thatís okay; I now have total control over the process and am able to print four volumes a day on my laser printer. I am opening a web site to promote the work complete with sample chapters and, as soon as I pay the bill, all and sundry will have access to my grandest epic.
Oh, yes, I must mention the Englishwoman who did the art work for the 15 covers. She brought a real sense of the Shire to the pictures even though the galaxy looks nothing like the Shire but she draws what she knows. Also, thanks to those two fine gentlemen who know who they are who provided, with only the greatest reluctance, editing support. And a final thanks to the Lady Who Shares Her Life With Me for not leaving me for good during the entire authorial process even though it took three weeks. She was only gone 2 Ĺ weeks.
Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-11-08 09:09:59