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A quote from Stranger in a Strange Land

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I used to think I was serving humanity . . . and I pleasured in the thought. Then I discovered that humanity does not want to be served; on the contrary it resents any attempt to serve it. So now I do what pleases Jubal Harshaw.

Jubal Harshaw seems to be the character who represents Heinlein himself. But a richer and more accomplished version of himself, who has rather weird and polyamorous relationships with women that for Heinlein only exist in his fictional stories. In the 21st century, Heinlein is typically seen as “misogynistic.”

The best parts of Heinlein are these pearls of wisdom which appear from time to time, and which I was too young to appreciate when I first read Heinlein as a teenager. It’s generally a type of libertarian viewpoint, true atheist libertarianism and not Ron Paul’s weird post-confederate states’ rights Christian paleoconservatism pretending to be libertarianism.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 6, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Books

Regarding the Game of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin

I read the first four books probably not too long after the fourth book came out, maybe 2006 or 2007? It has been a long time and I don’t remember how the books are different than what’s on HBO.

By the time the fifth book came out in 2011, it was such a long time since I read the fourth book that I didn’t feel like I could just pick it up again.

And the sixth and seventh books are still being worked on, even though it has now been more than 20 years since the first book was written.

It seems to me that George R.R. Martin just ran out of steam after writing the first three books. He’s now 68 year old, I’m afraid that he’s going to wind up dying before he finishes his series, just as happened with Robert Jordan.

If the series is ever finished, and at that time I’m still young enough to enjoy these types of books, then maybe I will re-read the series from start to finish.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 17, 2017 at 11:19 am

Posted in Books, Uncategorized

HBD in Stranger

In the uncut version of Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, Ben the reporter explains to the bimbo nurse:

Also it gives Valentine Michael Smith a wonderfully fine heredity; his father had an I.Q. of 163, his mother 170, and both were tops in their fields.

It is clearly implied that Ben (and thus Heinlein himself who put the words into Ben’s mouth) believes that (1) IQ matters and measure something a lot more important and useful than the mere ability to get high scores on IQ tests; and (2) that it’s a genetically inherited trait, so that if both of your parents have high IQ, you will inherit their high-IQ genes and be smart yourself even though you were raised by foster parents (in this case, foster parents who are Martian).

And Ben’s a reporter too! Does anyone from the mainstream media today believe that about IQ? Why are there zillions of articles in the MSM about the benefits of being born rich and the burdens of being born poor, but not a single article about the benefits of being born with high-IQ genes and the burdens of being born with low-IQ genes? Or about the relatively high (but far from perfect) correlation between having financially well-off parents and high-IQ genes?

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 17, 2017 at 10:04 am

Posted in Books

Heinlein wouldn’t get away with this today

I started reading the uncut version of Stranger in a Strange Land.

When I read this:

This would account for his action in jetting to Australia and proposing marriage to Doctor Winifred Coburn, a horse-faced spinster semantician nine years his senior. The Carlsbad Archives pictured her with an expression of quiet good humor but otherwise lacking in attractiveness.

I thought that if someone wrote that today, he’d be called a misogynist.

* * *

A commenter asked about the uncut edition. This is the preface to the uncut edition, published posthumously in 1991:

IF YOU THINK that this book appears to be thicker and contain more words than you found in the first published edition of Stranger in a Strange Land, your observation is correct. This edition is the original one-the way Robert Heinlein first conceived it, and put it down on paper.

The earlier edition contained a few words over 160,000, while this one runs around 220,000 words. Robert’s manuscript copy usually contained about 250 to 300 words per page, depending on the amount of dialogue on the pages. So, taking an average of about 275 words, with the manuscript running 800 pages, we get a total of 220,000 words, perhaps a bit more.

This book was so different from what was being sold to the general public, or to the science fiction reading public in 1961 when it was published, that the editors required some cutting and removal of a few scenes that might then have been offensive to public taste.

And this is interesting. Heinlein actually DIDN’T get away with my original quote in 1961. The edited version says only the following:

This resulted in his jetting to Australia and proposing marriage to Doctor Winifred Coburn, a spinster nine years his senior.

Still a spinster 9 years older than Captain Michael Brant, but the part about her unattractive looks was cut.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 16, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Posted in Books

Heinlein, rational thinking, and eugenics

A reader provided a link to another guy’s blog post about the novella Gulf. The other blogger is also an HBDer. In his blog post, he points out that Gulf is available online for free, and legally so.

Remember that one of the reasons I write about Heinlein is because of his huge but unappreciated contribution to conservative libertarianism. (Although Steve Sailer appreciates it.)

Let’s analyze some additional stuff from this novella. Here’s one key sentence from “Kettle Belly’s” speech to Gilead:

“Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.”

If I had read that when I was a teenager, that would have totally gone over my head. However, this is a topic I’ve blogged about relatively recently. At least this is something that I thought I blogged about relatively recently, but I can’t seem to find the blog post.

Intelligence is required for logical thinking, but most intelligent people don’t habitually use their intelligence to think logically, or rationally. Instead, they do stuff with their emotions, and then after the fact they use their intelligence to rationalize it.

“For explanations of a universe that confuses him he seizes onto numerology, astrology, hysterical religions, and other fancy ways to go crazy.”

According to Heinlein, one way to rule out someone as a rational thinker is if they believe in a religion. All rational thinkers are atheists. But not all atheists are rational thinkers. In Heinlein’s day, it was probably the case that the vast majority of people who would admit to being atheists were rational thinkers, but today, with declining belief in Christianity and Judaism, we have many people who say they are atheists but actually substitute other stupid beliefs in lieu of the religion of their parents.

Kettle Belly believed, and probably Heinlein himself thought it was a good idea otherwise he wouldn’t have put it into Kettle Belly’s mouth, that (1) the world would be a better place if there were more rational thinkers, and (2) that rational thinking is a genetic trait; and (3) you could breed more rational humans by having the most rational breed with each other; and (4) this eugenic scheme is a good idea and would be beneficial for mankind (because of the first point).

Outside of, perhaps this blog, you never hear anyone say that the problem with the world is that there aren’t enough rational thinkers.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 12, 2017 at 7:14 pm

Posted in Biology, Books

Gulf, an HBD novella by Robert Heinlein

This is a novella that Heinlein wrote in 1949, which was aimed at an adult audience, during a time in his writing career (from 1947 to 1958) when he was primarily an author of science-fiction novels for teenage boys.

I read it because I heard that it had an HBD theme to it. And in that respect, I was disappointed, because it’s mostly an adventure story with a protagonist who’s a secret agent, first for a government agency of some sort, and then for a secret non-governmental organization.

The last quarter of the book has a lot of pointless dialog between the protagonist and a female character who takes a liking to him, reminiscent of Heinlein’s last few novels, but without any kinky sex (or rather without letting us know that kinky sex was happening; Heinlein may have had some weird ideas about sex, but he didn’t write descriptive pornography).

It’s the secret organization that’s HBD themed. The organization is comprised of the smartest and most rational men and women, with the idea that if they separate from less genetically gifted men and breed only among themselves, they will give rise to a new race of man that’s better than the old race. Wiser and better stewards of the planet, the solar system, etc. To that end, one of their main activities is assassinating those who pose the greatest threat to humanity.

It’s the complete opposite of the message from several Star Trek episodes which tell us that genetically enhanced humans are dangerous and evil.

The following excerpt from the book is where Heinlein inserts his philosophical and political ideas, in the form of “Kettle Belly” explaining things to Joe, the secret agent protagonist.

“We defined thinking as integrating data and arriving at correct answers. Look around you. Most people do that stunt just well enough to get to the corner store and back without breaking a leg. If the average man thinks at all, he does silly things like generalizing from a single datum. He uses one-valued logics. If he is exceptionally bright, he may use two-valued, ‘either-or’ logic to arrive at his wrong answers. If he is hungry, hurt, or personally interested in the answer, he can’t use any sort of logic and will discard an observed fact as blithely as he will stake his life on a piece of wishful thinking. He uses the technical miracles created by superior men without wonder nor surprise, as a kitten accepts a bowl of milk. Far from aspiring to higher reasoning, he is not even aware that higher reasoning exists. He classes his own mental process as being of the same sort as the genius of an Einstein. Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.

“For explanations of a universe that confuses him he seizes onto numerology, astrology, hysterical religions, and other fancy ways to go crazy. Having accepted such glorified nonsense, facts make no impression on him, even if at the cost of his own life. Joe, one of the hardest things to believe is the abysmal depth of human stupidity.

“That is why there is always room at the top, why a man with just a leetle more on the ball can so easily become governor, millionaire, or college president-and why homo sap is sure to be displaced by New Man, because there is so much room for improvement and evolution never stops.

“Here and there among ordinary men is a rare individual who really thinks, can and does use logic in at least one field-he’s often as stupid as the rest outside his study or laboratory-but he can think, if he’s not disturbed or sick or frightened. This rare individual is responsible for all the progress made by the race; the others reluctantly adopt his results. Much as the ordinary man dislikes and distrusts and persecutes the process of thinking he is forced to accept the results occasionally, because thinking is efficient compared with his own maunderings. He may still plant his corn in the dark of the Moon but he will plant better corn developed by better men than he.

“Still rarer is the man who thinks habitually, who applies reason, rather than habit pattern, to all his activity. Unless he masques himself, his is a dangerous life; he is regarded as queer, untrustworthy, subversive of public morals; he is a pink monkey among brown monkeys-a fatal mistake. Unless the pink monkey can dye himself brown before he is caught.

“The brown monkey’s instinct to kill is correct; such men are dangerous to all monkey customs.

“Rarest of all is the man who can and does reason at all times, quickly, accurately, inclusively, despite hope or fear or bodily distress, without egocentric bias or thalmic disturbance, with correct memory, with clear distinction between fact, assumption, and non-fact. Such men exist, Joe; they are ‘New Man’-human in all respects, indistinguishable in appearance or under the scalpel from homo sap, yet as unlike him in action as the Sun is unlike a single candle.”

Maybe in the 1940s, a man with just a “leetle” more on the ball could easily rise to an important position, but that has not been my experience living in the 21st century.

Notice the part where Heinlein takes a dig at religion, calling it “glorified nonsense.” I credit Heinlein with teaching me atheism.

Heinlein has a reputation for being a libertarian, but this excerpt doesn’t seem to be very libertarian. Here, Heinlein makes the case for the average man being too stupid to be allowed to have freedom to do whatever he wants.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

July 9, 2017 at 11:25 pm

Posted in Books

There’s no premarital sex in Utopia

Thomas More writes in the book Utopia (as translated by Paul Turner):

Any boy or girl convicted of premarital intercourse is severely punished, and permanently disqualified from marrying, unless this sentence is remitted by the Mayor. The man and woman in charge of the household in which it happens are also publicly disgraced, for not doing their jobs properly. The Utopians are particularly strict about that kind of thing, because they think very few people would want to get married – which means spending one’s whole life with the same person, and putting up with all the inconveniences that this involves – if they weren’t carefully prevented from having any sexual intercourse otherwise.

Thomas More would not have been surprised that, after the so-called sexual revolution, when the belief that premarital sex is sinful came to replaced with the belief that people who don’t have premarital sex are losers, the result would be a severe decline in marriage.

We have a lot sociologists today who are befuddled by the decline, but the relationship between premarital sex and the desire to get married was plain old common sense to a guy living in the early 1500s.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 16, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Rare interview of Frank McCourt at Stuyvesant in 1987

This was posted on YouTube with the following explanation:

In 1987 a documentary was made about my pal Moishe on the occasion of his going to grad school – since he was a graduate of NYC’s famed Stuyvesant HS, we went down to tape some teachers recollections of Moishe….we happened upon future pulitzer prize winning author of Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (and one of Moishe’s teachers) and this never before footage was shot of Mr. McCourt musing about his former student – this was incidentally just before he retired from teaching to embark upon his second career as a famed writer….he was also my teacher as well and I have very fond memories of him….rest in peace, Frank.

This is the real Frank McCourt I remember as a high school teacher and not the older Frank McCourt who everyone respected as a famous author.

What was it like having him as a teacher? Well every day you got a dose of that dry acerbic wit. I found it very entertaining.

You will notice the following about this interview:

1. He remembers two things about Moishe: (a) that he was a “character” who wasn’t serious and found everything hilarious, and (b) that he was a “Queens type” and not a Manhattan type. Can you detect the subtle condescension of the outer boroughs?

2. When he learns that Moishe attended Queens College, I think I also detect more condescension about his choice of college.

3. The spiel at the end about how he wants to be at Moishe’s wedding is an example of McCourt saying stuff that you assume is a joke and not to be taken seriously, yet it’s not so outlandish that it’s impossible to discount that he might actually want to attend Moishe’s wedding. That was typical McCourt. I never knew when he was being serious and when he was BSing (although in this case it seems 95% likely that it’s BS). And that’s why I am sure that a lot of the stuff in his memoir is made up and he was secretly laughing over how everyone believed it.

4. He also manages to complain about his low salary as a teacher.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

March 6, 2017 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Books, Education

Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert Heinlein (spoilers)

I think this is an overrated Heinlein juvenile novel. There’s some interesting stuff at the end, but in order get there you have to get through a lot of boy stuff.

It takes place in the relatively near future in which men are just beginning to colonize the moon. Teenage boy lives in small town in flyover country that feels exactly like the 1950s and not the future. Boy’s dad is like the dad in every other Heinlein juvenile novel, preaching extreme self-reliance.

Boy wins a used space suit in a contest sponsored by a soap company. (Soap? Heinlein predicted space travel, but failed to see that detergent would replace soap? And that detergents and soaps combined would become a very minor part of the economy?)

Massive amount of copy devoted to explaining the technical details of how space suits work. Various plot elements are contrived so that boy needs to wear the space suit. Boy, supposedly not the best student in his school, knows more about science and math than most valedictorians.

That stuff out of the way, the interesting stuff at the end is that all of humanity is put on trial by a federation of aliens, and the boy is forced to represent mankind. The aliens believe that humans are violent and warlike, and if our technology continues to progress at such rapid speed, we would become a threat to the peaceful races of the galaxies. The punishment, if found guilty, is that all mankind would be destroyed. The aliens are not exactly the merciful Christian good guys.

Good news for mankind: we are given a reprieve and will be re-evaluated again sometime in the future.

Some people think that Heinlein was an evil fascist because he proposed a government in Starship Trooper in which only military veterans are allowed to vote. But the reality is that Heinlein was interested in exploring different ideas and one shouldn’t assume any one novel represents his true beliefs. In this book, he proposes an idea that I associate with liberal leftist science fiction, that mankind is barbaric compared to civilized alien races. This type of liberal leftist science fiction is demonstrated by the movie Arrival in which the aliens come with a gift for mankind, but mankind, paranoid and barbaric, launches a military attack on the peaceful aliens.

On the other hand, the Heinlein aliens, by even contemplating the harsh punishment of genocide of all humans, are much more evil than humans, at least by modern standards of judging good and evil, so there’s sort of a jumble of liberal and conservative science fiction ideas.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 24, 2017 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Books

iPad as ebook reader

With my older iPad 4th gen, it was a tossup for indoor reading whether I preferred the iPad or a dedicated Kobo ebook reader that uses an e-paper display with a backlight.

I appreciated the larger size of the iPad, what with me getting older and having presbyopia, but it was heavy enough to be fatiguing and there was the glossy screen.

With the lighter weight of the iPad Pro and the less reflective screen, for indoor reading the iPad Pro is a clear win over the Kobo reader (unless you’re really opposed to a lit screen, which doesn’t bother me because I’m used to spending hours a day looking at a computer screen, and I suspect all of you are also used to it).

I took the iPad Pro outside around noon on a February day in New York City with hazy sun, and I found that the new display on the iPad Pro was perfectly acceptable in the shade, and still readable in direct (hazy February) sunlight although the Kobo reader with the e-paper display is much preferable for the February midday hazy direct sunlight.

Although in the previous iPad Pro post I pointed out the iPad Pro runs about 10 times faster than the older iPad, the older iPad is more than fast enough to read books and in fact is much zippier than the Kobo reader.

* * *

A few years ago, a co-worker had his iPad stolen by black youth in a grab and run (he didn’t say the perp’s race but I’m reading between the lines given the demographics of the location where the crime happened) while waiting for public transportation. So there’s a benefit to using a cheaper e-paper reader on public transportation, one that doesn’t have all your passwords and other secret stuff embedded in it.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 21, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Books, Technology

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