Monthly Archives: February 2014

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

AKA “the pen is mightier than the gun… sometimes….”

You may have seen the story about Ricky Wagoner, the Dayton RTA busdriver who was attacked by three men wearing dark hoodies and bandanas over their face, two apparently gangmembers and one trying to become one. The busdriver was out at 5 AM driving an electric trolley bus, and something went wrong with the trolley or the engine-thing. So he got out to adjust it, and the three guys came up to him, saying to each other that this was the “polar bear” (white person) the wannabe needed to kill so that he could join the gang.

Since this was at 5 AM, and no adult gangmember is up at that hour, one must assume that these were high school kids who had to get up for school. (Whether or not they actually go.)

Anyway, they came up to intimidate the busdriver, but he wasn’t having any. (This is no surprise; RTA drivers don’t take any guff, and usually aren’t given much. They know the kids, and they know their mothers and grandmothers.) But one of the guys had a .22 gun and shot the busdriver three times. A heart bullet was stopped by a copy of a modern-language Gospel translation called The Message, but he was wounded in the leg and chest.

The RTA busdriver fought back by hitting, wrestling, and stabbing at them with his pen, and one of the gangmembers stabbed him with a knife. But eventually the “gangmembers” ran off in a fluster, dropping the gun.

Which the RTA guy picked up and fired after them, to finish their comeuppance.

There’s surveillance video from the bus, of course.

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David Drake’s Favorite Cathedral

If you’ve read David Drake, or if you know anything about him, you know that he did not have a fun time in Vietnam. (Although a lot of people had it worse, and he’d be the first to point that out.) He’s not a very demonstrative, unreserved guy. He loves history and Latin, and has spent a lot of time with each. He has also spent a lot of the time since then writing devastating military science fiction about war, how one wins and loses, and how the survivors cope with a lot of mental and emotional problems. Except for earlier things by Heinlein and other authors, this began the modern subgenre called military sf.

(If anybody ever refers to Drake as “war porn” or “carnography” in your presence, feel free to punch him or her. Also, you can be sure that such a person has never read Drake, or has poor reading comprehension skills, or has no heart.)

So it’s worth paying attention when he says that in 1977 (only a few years after coming home from Vietnam), when visiting horror/fantasy writer Ramsey Campbell in Liverpool, “the interior [of the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King] gave me a feeling of peace and happiness which I’ve never felt in another building. I’m not religious (and was raised to be anti-Catholic), so I didn’t expect to have a positive reaction. That’s anecdotal evidence, but it was (and remains) my truth.”

He wrote this up because the cathedral makes a guest appearance in The Sea Without a Shore, his latest RCN novel coming out in April. The RCN novels are more good-natured space opera than his typical really gritty stories, but they are good stories of friendship and duty in a fictional military in a very different sort of civilization. In a lot of ways, they seem to represent his imagination finally healing, so it’s nice to see a little nod to the Lord in there. (Not to mention his friends Ramsey and Jenny Campbell!)

Modern church architecture comes in for a lot of criticism, and justly so. But the best of it can do its job well, and any Catholic church with an inhabited tabernacle is not just a building. There are some people who are less guarded in a non-traditional setting, and maybe God can get their attention better that way. So modern architecture has its place; and really, Liverpool looks pretty nice inside. It also got built in 5 years by its architect Gibberds, when they’d been trying to get something done for 100 years at that point without getting anything done but a crypt church underground. So I’m sure anything’s better than a hole in the ground, and that looks a lot better than just anything. There’s a humanity and a soaring quality that the really brutalist modern architecture lacks; I don’t see people feeling like crawling ants in there.

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When What Is Legal Is Not Moral

A Girl Scout sets up cookie sales outside a legal marijuana store, and sells hundreds of boxes in a short time. The news story portrays it as “clever” and “educational.”

Look, idiots. Girl Scouts who sell cookies door to door have run into stoners before. And yes, it’s an easy sell. But it’s a sad, disgusting sell to sad, twisted people, which is why you don’t go back to that house ever again.

This news story is basically saying, “Yes, prey upon the weak-willed and the sickly!”

If someone is sick enough that they have a legitimate need for marijuana pain treatment, you shouldn’t be sending them off to scarf multiple cookie boxes all at once. And if they’re just sad, pathetic stoners, you don’t make money off the afflicted.

Girl Scouts are supposed to be examples of honor and service. We are supposed to help, not hurt. And cookie sales are supposed to be a means to support honor and service, not a way to trample on them.

Also, a Girl Scout doesn’t support personality-altering drug use. She respects her body and keeps it clean and healthy, and she helps other people stay clean of drugs. This has been a focus of Girl Scout programming since the beginning, and particularly in the last fifty years. But now, legality trumps all. Here’s an anti-drug program from one Girl Scout council, which apparently has been totally superseded by the council in Northern California.

Of course, this was the same council in Northern California that promoted having some of their little girls march in a Gay Pride parade in San Francisco, which one would think anyone of any orientation would see as an adult-only event (given all the naked, actively bawdy marchers). But the Council said that was okay, because their parents had to sign permission slips. (Yeah. That was what Juliette Gordon Low was going for, I’m sure.)

Let’s recap:

“On my honor, I will try to serve God, my country, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.”

I will also steal candy from babies.

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Perils of the Internet

1. Running into someone you otherwise respect, who’s saying things like an idiot or a crazy person.

2. Defending the person you respect by attacking this idiot/crazy who’s using their name.

If it makes people feel better who run into this peril, it also used to happen back in the days of paper fanzines and letters to the editor. It has been suggested that this is one of the reasons people wanted conventions and clubs so badly, so that they could know what their favored sf people were really like. A personal meeting can often explain a lot.

And actually, it’s sort of a karmic revenge of the rational side of someone’s personality upon the irrational side, like Old George Lucas finding himself attacked for not being as cool as Young George Lucas (or the version let through by his editing friends and wife). Some people can be very savvy and freedom-loving in the incidental bits of a piece of art, and then say the exact opposite with the bits of the story they think are Important Speeches. For example, Mercedes Lackey is the sort of writer who has her characters go to great pains to save baby birds and pregnant mother animals, while then sending them off to kill unborn baby humans with palpable authorial approval. And this goes on practically in the same chapter, because it’s never too much trouble to save animals but it’s obviously always too messy to help females and young of your own species.

Self-publishing can reveal some of this, too. I’ve seen a fair few authors reveal the uncut versions of their old stories and novels. Sometimes the uncut version is clearly better, makes more sense, and becomes the ur-version in my mind. But there have been times when I’ve been startled at how stupid or counterproductive or physically impossible the new version is, and clearly some people need an editor’s help. For example, Steven Goldin’s uncut version of Jade Darcy and the Affair of Honor. The mass-published version is a comfort read for many. The self-pub version starts with a flashback nightmare of Jade being raped which is not only calculated to make the browser put the book back on the bookstore shelf unread (and possibly to “trigger” reactions in people who’ve been raped), but has some details about hair which seem impossible for human female physiology. Gentle Reader is torn between disgust and laughter.

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What Guts Looks Like

Yulia Lipnitskaya, 15 years old, skating to the music of Schindler’s List, in front of dictator Vladimir Putin, anti-Semites among the Russian public, and the whole world.

Well done.

Interestingly, the commentary team, that mentioned every other possible connection between skaters and music, clammed up entirely about this one. I don’t know if they were being prudent or gutless.

Anyhoo, “Lipnitz” is a name derived either from the Bohemian/Czech village of Lipnice, or from the Polish village of Lipnice. (“Lipa” means lime tree, linden tree. It’s in a lot of placenames.) So it’s a surname borne by Poles, Czechs, and Germans of various faiths, as well as by various nationalities of Jewish people. The composer Mahler’s father originally came from Lipnice.

Since Lipnitskaya originally hailed from Yekaterinburg, a town that Catherine the Great settled with mostly-German farmers, her ethnic and religious background is anybody’s guess.

Also, a list of cool things that Winter Olympians can do.

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Reality Check

Republicans fought for civil rights against racism, from the beginning of the party, and elected people of different races to Congress as soon as possible. Democrats fought to keep people enslaved or make them second-class citizens.

Republicans fought for women’s suffrage and elected women to Congress; Democrats fought to keep women voteless.

And politicians used force to take away Utah’s freedom of marriage format, just like they’re trying to do today.

“One of the most interesting battles in the long congressional war over women’s suffrage involved the Mormons of Utah. In 1870, nearly fifty years before Congress passed the 19th Amendment, the territory of Utah granted women the right to vote. This was encouraged by congressional opponents of polygamy, which was practiced by some wealthy Mormons. Their hope was that given the vote, Utah’s women would quickly put an end to “the abomination of bigamy.” And the women of Utah did indeed prove to have strong opinions regarding this issue. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of it. Congress responded by passing the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1882, which disfranchised Utah’s women while also violating the First Amendment by outlawing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and seizing much of its property.”

(Of course, I’m not in favor of polygamy in any way. But your definition of marriage has to be solid and unchangeable if you mean to build a society on it, just as you have to be pretty darned sure that you know Who God is, to be able to tell Japan that their Emperor Hirohito officially was no god.)

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The Rescuer with a Gun

One of the stories that Nicholas Johnson doesn’t include in his expanded edition of Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms is the story of W.G. Sloan (full name William G. Sloan, aka Bill Sloan), an African American hero of the Dayton Flood of 1913, who commandeered a steel-bottomed boat at gunpoint from its owner and then spent 68 hours afloat over the next 5 days, rescuing over 300 people from the flood. Mr. Sloan later served as a left-handed pitcher on the Dayton Marcos, a small local “negro baseball” team.

Here’s a quote from Mark Bernstein’s article about him:

W. G. Sloan, the well-known colored ball player, was in the rescue work continuously from Tuesday morning until Friday on the West Side. He took the Caleb family of five persons from a raft on which they had been floating, tossed in the heaving and rushing waters for 48 hours. With Frank Thoro and George Crandall helping, Sloan saved 317 people during 68 hours of continuous work. He carried five cans of fresh water. Most of the rescue work was done with a steel bottom boat which he commandeered at the point of a revolver from a selfish owner at the handle factory, who was not using it himself and refused to allow it to be used by the rescuers” (Bernstein, Mark, quoting some other period source. “In Search of the Well-Known Colored Ball Player,” Ohio Magazine, April 1988, p. 69).

Wright State has a page about him for their Flood play, including a link to his burial site at Woodland Cemetery. (Which, for those not from the area, was the famous cemetery where famous people were buried. The Wright Brothers, for example.)

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