7 Quick Takes (9/21/12)

— 1 —

I’m not going to make you wait til the end for the most glorious link I’ve found recently.  Stick around for the rest, sure, but first watch through this video of Flight of the Conchords turning to children for help writing a charity song.

— 2 —

If you’re visiting from Jen’s blog, I just want to give you a heads-up that two friends and I are selling philosophy t-shirts through Spreadshirt.

 Right now we’ve got one design for the Allegory of the Cave and one for the Trolley Problem.  Let me know if there are other thought experiments you really need to be able to wear.

— 3 —

I worked on these shirts with my housemate and Michael Haycock –another college friend who has contributed some guest posts to the blog.  So, while we’re talking about how awesome he is, I should link you to a post he wrote for his own blog on what the word ‘Testament’ denotes for Mormons.

[A]s I became better versed in the Bible (and especially non-KJV and non-English versions), I began to notice something: “testament” is not equivalent to “testimony.” In fact, when it appears in the NIV’s relation of the Last Supper (KJV: “this is my blood of the new testament”) it is translated as “covenant” and the Spanish Reina-Valera does it similarly with “pacto.” Some Protestant denominations, breaking free of traditional scriptural nomenclature, even call the Biblical subdivisions the “New Covenant” and the “Old Covenant”!

Not only revising my understanding of the scriptural basis for these names, it also keyed me into why some non-Mormon Christians might even be disturbed, not comforted, by the Book of Mormon’s subtitle’s invocation of Christ. The contexts from which the terminology arises –particularly in the epistles- contrast specifically the “old” Mosaic covenant of sacrifices and performances with the “new” Christian covenant of grace; the Law of Moses is fulfilled and superseded by the Law of the Gospel. If the Book of Mormon’s claim to be “Another Testament [Covenant] of Jesus Christ” is read in this light, it seems to try to diminish or replace the centrality of Christ’s atonement by asserting another God-given law!

In all honesty, I’m tempted to think that “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” was chosen due to the supposed testament/testimony synonymy. In fact, translations of the subtitle that cannot use a Romance cognate of “testament” show that “testimony” is, indeed, the desired meaning: in Arabic you get شهادة, shahada, the same word used by Muslims for their declaration of faith, and in Greek you get the word that has come down to us in English as martyr – both of which mean “witness,” not “covenant.” But it does raise the question: does the Book of Mormon present “Another Covenant of Jesus Christ”? If so, what is that covenant?

— 4 —

I’m just pretty flat-out delighted by the French Women of the Future trading cards that io9 turned up.

Si jolie!

— 5 —

Meanwhile, Dinosaur Comics has beautifully expressed the kind of woman I want to be in the future: “All I want out of life is to fix all my problems by adding more laser sights and robot arms to my body!”

— 6 —

I went around asking for a recommendation for science fiction books or stories with really alien aliens recently.  I read (and didn’t much care for) The Sparrow, but I quite liked “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang.  A short story about philosophy of language and of physics, squee!  (Some of the visual language stuff reminded me a bit of Beggars in Spain).  Here’s an excerpt from Chiang’s story:

More interesting was the fact that Heptapod B was changing the way I thought. For me, thinking typically meant speaking in an internal voice; as we say in the trade, my thoughts were phonologically coded. My internal voice normally spoke in English, but that wasn’t a requirement. The summer after my senior year in high school, I attended a total immersion program for learning Russian; by the end of the summer, I was thinking and even dreaming in Russian. But it was always spoken Russian. Different language, same mode: a voice speaking silently aloud.

The idea of thinking in a linguistic yet non-phonological mode always intrigued me. I had a friend born of Deaf parents; he grew up using American Sign Language, and he told me that he often thought in ASL instead of English. I used to wonder what it was like to have one’s thoughts be manually coded, to reason using an inner pair of hands instead of an inner voice.

With Heptapod B, I was experiencing something just as foreign: my thoughts were becoming graphically coded. There were trance-like moments during the day when my thoughts weren’t expressed with my internal voice; instead, I saw semagrams with my mind’s eye, sprouting like frost on a windowpane.

I’m not at all fluent in ASL, but I have used Sign a couple times in dreams. But that was me translating not thinking in ASL. And I couldn’t fingerspell at all in that dream.

— 7 —

I’ll close the links out with one more awesome song.  This one’s about the Higgs Boson.

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  • deiseach

    The Ted Chiang story reminded me of Samuel Delany’s novel (from 1966) “Babel-17”. I would recommend it, if you haven’t read it before; brain-melting in that good way both Delany and Wolfe do, where you have to think about what you read and you realise that these writers are way smarter than you (well, than me, anyway) but they both have something to say and are saying it, if only you can figure it out.

    And that French lady doctor of “the future” is both awesome and reminds me of the Arthur Conan Doyle story, “The Doctors of Hoyland”, from his 1893 short-story collection Round the Red Lamp (yeah, I have read fiction printed later than fifty years ago, honest!). Huge long excerpt follows, in which Dr. Ripley finds out the new doctor in the village who is “the holder of superb degrees, that he had studied with distinction at Edinburgh, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna, and finally that he had been awarded a gold medal and the Lee Hopkins scholarship for original research, in recognition of an exhaustive inquiry into the functions of the anterior spinal nerve roots” isn’t a “he” after all:

    “Turning round, he found himself facing a little woman, whose plain, palish face was remarkable only for a pair of shrewd, humorous eyes of a blue which had two shades too much green in it. She held a pince-nez in her left hand, and the doctor’s card in her right.

    “How do you do, Dr. Ripley?” said she.

    “How do you do, madam?” returned the visitor. “Your husband is perhaps out?”

    “I am not married,” said she simply.

    “Oh, I beg your pardon! I meant the doctor—Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

    “I am Dr. Verrinder Smith.”

    Dr. Ripley was so surprised that he dropped his hat and forgot to pick it up again.

    “What!” he grasped, “the Lee Hopkins prizeman! You!”

    He had never seen a woman doctor before, and his whole conservative soul rose up in revolt at the idea. He could not recall any Biblical injunction that the man should remain ever the doctor and the woman the nurse, and yet he felt as if a blasphemy had been committed. His face betrayed his feelings only too clearly.

    “I am sorry to disappoint you,” said the lady drily.

    “You certainly have surprised me,” he answered, picking up his hat.

    “You are not among our champions, then?”

    “I cannot say that the movement has my approval.”

    “And why?”

    “I should much prefer not to discuss it.”

    “But I am sure you will answer a lady’s question.”

    “Ladies are in danger of losing their privileges when they usurp the place of the other sex. They cannot claim both.”

    “Why should a woman not earn her bread by her brains?”

    Dr. Ripley felt irritated by the quiet manner in which the lady cross-questioned him.

    “I should much prefer not to be led into a discussion, Miss Smith.”

    “Dr. Smith,” she interrupted.

    “Well, Dr. Smith! But if you insist upon an answer, I must say that I do not think medicine a suitable profession for women and that I have a personal objection to masculine ladies.”

    It was an exceedingly rude speech, and he was ashamed of it the instant after he had made it. The lady, however, simply raised her eyebrows and smiled.

    “It seems to me that you are begging the question,” said she. “Of course, if it makes women masculine that WOULD be a considerable deterioration.”

    It was a neat little counter, and Dr. Ripley, like a pinked fencer, bowed his acknowledgment. “

    • Oh, that excerpt is wonderful – especially the little snarky bit about looking for a Biblical proof-text 😀

      • deiseach

        Re: proof-texting – yeah, you can tell he was Educated By Jesuits (even if he did end up leaving Catholicism for agnosticism and then Spiritualism) 😉

        That’s also what drives me crazy when I see throw-away comments about sexism in the “Sherlock Holmes” stories, particularly in fandom discussions of modern versions (either the Guy Ritchie films or the BBC Sherlock or the CBS “Elementary” which I have had no chance to see, or the pastiche novels which are ever-popular, as well as fanfiction itself); the notion that Victorian writers were automatically repressive of women and that modern representations are automatically more enlightened.

        I would argue the reverse: modern versions tend to turn Irene Adler into a love-interest for Holmes (because they don’t seem to know what the hell else to do with her character) despite Conan Doyle explicitly stating in the story that Holmes was not romantically interested in Irene and she ends up marrying the man of her own choice who is not Holmes, dangit! Even where Conan Doyle is given the benefit of the doubt, there’s a tendency to do a bit of consdescending head-patting about how he portrayed women in domestic roles because he couldn’t envisage any other role for them.

        Well, here is this story, for one. The lady doctor is not married and – I don’t want to give any spoilers, go and read it for yourself. I would say that a 2012 rom-com or other treatment would end up with our two rival doctors as married (or at least as lovers) whereas the 1893 version – well, go and see for yourself how the Victorian gentleman treats the tale 🙂

        • I agree with you that the modern versions are probably more sexist than the original (at least the BBC version, which is the only one I’m familiar with), and that people tend to assume that their contemporaries are all more enlightened than past ages. JS Mill’s views about women are probably more egalitarian than the majority of Americans today.

          But I would still argue that Doyle’s original portrayal was far from ideal. It’s been a while since I read his Sherlock Holmes books, but if I remember correctly, Irene Adler was taken seriously by Holmes because she thought like a man (or didn’t have feelings like a woman, one of the two). Holmes explicitly calls her “The Woman” because he’s the only one Holmes takes seriously. And while Doyle didn’t necessarily endorse this view, he didn’t do much to refute it either. I definitely DON’T remember any other female character being very important at all.

          • deiseach

            Mary Morstan is not important? Mrs Hudson is not important? The various female clients – who often arrive in without a man to be their chaperon or speak for them – are not important? There is very little or indeed no difference in how he treats male and female clients, except that perhaps the women draw out a response of protectiveness and outrage on their behalf. From our viewpoint, this may be a flaw, in that it seems to treat women as in the need of a man to stand up for them – but then, all of Holmes’s clients are in the same boat, needing his intervention to disentangle their affairs and save them from disgrace, ruin or imprisonment.

            Watson is the mouthpiece who is the one most susceptible to female charms, and he indulges in a little romantic nonsense in the case of “The Copper Beeches” where both he and Holmes are taken with the client, Miss Violet Hunter (though for different reasons: Watson, ever the romantic, admires the young woman’s beauty of character and is touched by her status as a solitary woman trying to make a living as a governess; Holmes admires her good sense, practical nature and courage.)

            Watson even indulges in a little wishful thinking, which he obviously should have known better than to do with the example of Irene Adler in mind:

            “As to Miss Violet Hunter, my friend Holmes, rather to my disappointment, manifested no further interest in her when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems, and she is now the head of a private school at Walsall, where I believe that she has met with considerable success.”

            Doyle advocated for reform of the divorce laws and we see his attitude in the 1904 story “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange”:

            “”I am the wife of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. I have been married about a year. I suppose that it is no use my attempting to conceal that our marriage has not been a happy one. I fear that all our neighbours would tell you that, even if I were to attempt to deny it. Perhaps the fault may be partly mine. I was brought up in the freer, less conventional atmosphere of South Australia, and this English life, with its proprieties and its primness, is not congenial to me. But the main reason lies in the one fact, which is notorious to everyone, and that is that Sir Eustace was a confirmed drunkard. To be with such a man for an hour is unpleasant. Can you imagine what it means for a sensitive and high-spirited woman to be tied to him for day and night? It is a sacrilege, a crime, a villainy to hold that such a marriage is binding. I say that these monstrous laws of yours will bring a curse upon the land–God will not let such wickedness endure.” For an instant she sat up, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes blazing from under the terrible mark upon her brow. Then the strong, soothing hand of the austere maid drew her head down on to the cushion, and the wild anger died away into passionate sobbing.”

            Now, I am not arguing that his notions of the place of women were ideal, but we must make allowance for the attitude of the times. And we must also make allowance for the attitudes of our own times, expressed just as unconsciously in our own detective novels. Stephanie Plum, Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan and Dr. Kay Scarpetti have their share of romantic entanglements, caught between “my job!” and “my private life!” in a way that makes me want to tell them “Look, decide: do you or don’t you like this guy? Then sort yourself out like an adult and stop wibbling like a teenager about you will, you won’t, you can, you can’t.”

            Doyle may present women as wives, widows, spinisters and fiancées, but he equally presents men as husbands, bachelors (indeed, one story is “The Noble Bachelor”), and fiancés, and the men often get into trouble over their love lives just as much as the women (to take one example, it was the King of Bohemia wanting to sow his wild oats and then make a respectable marriage that started the whole mess; we don’t see Irene as an amoral adventuress or gold-digger trying to use the incriminating photo to blackmail him for money or positions, and it is this assumption on Holmes’s part that she is the stereotypical vamp of popular pennydreadfuls that leads him so badly astray at the start of the case).

            We don’t see independent modern women – or at least, not in the form our cultural expectations have moulded our opinions to see, so we don’t recognise them. We see working-class women like Mrs. Hudson (and a client or two of Holmes) who are widows making their living by running boarding-houses and letting digs and keeping small shops; we see middle-class women who are orphans or children of genteely-impoverished parents trying to keep afloat in a world where class distinctions are powerful and it is all too easy to fall into poverty without the social welfare safety nets that do not exist for that era, making their livings by being governesses and paid companions and the other limited options open to them – though we get a glimpse of the changes in the modern world in the employment opportunities for women, in this little bit of business from “The Solitary Cyclist”:

            “My friend took the lady’s ungloved hand, and examined it with as close an attention and as little sentiment as a scientist would show to a specimen.

            “You will excuse me, I am sure. It is my business,” said he, as he dropped it. “I nearly fell into the error of supposing that you were typewriting. Of course, it is obvious that it is music. You observe the spatulate finger-ends, Watson, which is common to both professions? There is a spirituality about the face, however”– he gently turned it towards the light–“which the typewriter does not generate. This lady is a musician.”

            The acknowledgement, which is not trumpeted so that it glides down so easily we may not even notice it, that women are moving into the business world of men by the avenue of office work as typewritists (yes, that was the neologism of the day) or stenographers (as the Americans preferred) and what would come to be called secretaries – and remember, all references to So-and-so’s secretary in novels and stories of the time would be to a man in that position, not a woman – this is another element that we moderns can overlook without knowing what we’re doing.

            Contrast Violet Hunter, who becomes a successful headmistress of her own private school, with the other male headmasters of private schools in the Holmes stories, and she comes off very much in the credit side of the ledger. We also see the dangers for women, dangers which are still present today: “The Solitary Cyclist” is the story of a woman being harassed by a stalker and it could be brought bang-up-to-date with no incongruity.

            We have the upper-class women who are – arguably – the worst off of the lot, viz. Lady Brackenstall in the excerpt given. But we have women who make their own romantic and lifestyle choices, we have women with Pasts – and moreover, Pasts for which they are not judged and women who have lives outside of, and distinct from, their roles as wives, sisters, daughters and mothers. I think Doyle didn’t do the worst job in the world, and he comes off better in some regards than some modern stories.

          • deiseach

            Regarding Irene Adler, I often think there should be a Society for the Protection of Godfrey Norton. That poor man gets the short end of the stick so many times; if he is not left out of the reckoning altogether (to enable the Adler-Holmes ‘romance’), then he is presented as a cad, a bully or conveniently killed off to give Irene and Sherlock an excuse to get together.

            Yet Irene chose him – over the King, over Holmes (and I don’t believe there was any attraction on her part to him, than there was on his part to her) – and we know by that stage of the story that Irene is not a fool and can take care of herself without needing to depend on a man. She loves Godfrey, he loves her (despite her Past – no, not despite, there is no hint that he cares a straw she was the King’s mistress and so is a ‘soiled dove’ by the standards of the time) and they get married and go off to live happily every after, while wiping the eye of the celebrated Sherlock Holmes and the comic-opera King of Bohemia into the bargain.

            It is the King, not Holmes, who describes Irene as combining masculine and feminine qualities:

            “You do not know her, but she has a soul of steel. She has the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men. Rather than I should marry another woman, there are no lengths to which she would not go — none.”

            This little speech, by the way, is wrong. The King is either so vain he really believes Irene can’t give him up, or – more likely – he is trying to persuade Holmes that he is the one being persecuted by a scheming gold-digger, despite telling, a paragraph or two earlier, how he had his agents try to recover the compromising photograph:

            “Five attempts have been made. Twice burglars in my pay ransacked her house. Once we diverted her luggage when she travelled. Twice she has been waylaid. There has been no result.”

            Watson, too, is convinced she is a blackmailer, but meeting her in person smites him with compunction about the scheme Holmes has cooked up to discover the location of the photograph:

            “I do not know whether he was seized with compunction at that moment for the part he was playing, but I know that I never felt more heartily ashamed of myself in my life than when I saw the beautiful creature against whom I was conspiring, or the grace and kindliness with which she waited upon the injured man. And yet it would be the blackest treachery to Holmes to draw back now from the part which he had intrusted to me. I hardened my heart, and took the smoke-rocket from under my ulster. After all, I thought, we are not injuring her. We are but preventing her from injuring another. ”

            This is not a cool, emotionless, masculine woman. And the King of Bohemia (who is very likely a thinly-veiled representation of one of the English Royal family, most likely the Prince of Wales, who needed to be married off to the respectable Danish princess for dynastic reasons but who had known, if not openly-acknowledged, mistresses before and after his marriage) continues to demonstrate that he’s an idiot:

            “Irene Adler is married,” remarked Holmes.

            “Married! When?”


            “But to whom?”

            “To an English lawyer named Norton.”

            “But she could not love him.”

            “I am in hopes that she does.”

            “And why in hopes?”

            “Because it would spare your Majesty all fear of future annoyance. If the lady loves her husband, she does not love your Majesty. If she does not love your Majesty, there is no reason why she should interfere with your Majesty’s plan.”

            “It is true. And yet — Well! I wish she had been of my own station! What a queen she would have made!” He relapsed into a moody silence, which was not broken until we drew up in Serpentine Avenue.

            The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an elderly woman stood upon the steps. She watched us with a sardonic eye as we stepped from the brougham.

            “Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I believe?” said she.

            “I am Mr. Holmes,” answered my companion, looking at her with a questioning and rather startled gaze.

            “Indeed! My mistress told me that you were likely to call. She left this morning with her husband by the 5:15 train from Charing Cross for the Continent.”

            “What!” Sherlock Holmes staggered back, white with chagrin and surprise. “Do you mean that she has left England?”

            “Never to return.”

            “And the papers?” asked the King hoarsely. “All is lost.”

            Now, at this point in the story, we are all going “Yay! Irene!” But kindly remember, if we hew to the view of Victorian probity and rectitude and the attitude towards women, we are supposedly not to react this way, or Conan Doyle could not have meant us to react this way, because this means a Royal and a male (the pinnacles of social status and importance) in a matter regarding marriage (the most important social institution) has been beaten by a woman of besmirched virtue, his former mistress. Justice – if we take the conventional view – has not been done, the guilty have gotten away with it, and the innocent have been denied satisfaction.

            Except – we are invited (heck, grabbed by the scruff of the neck and dragged that way) to see the King as in the wrong, Irene in the right, and the conclusion to be the only satisfactory and indeed just one.

            “And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the kingdom of Bohemia, and how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a woman’s wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to her photograph, it is always under the honorable title of the woman. “

          • Niemand

            Try the Carole Nelson Douglas version of the story. I think you’ll like her interpretation of Adler, Norton, and Sherlock more than Conan Doyle’s.

    • Ted Seeber

      The sad part is that Sir Conan-Doyle was absolutely prophetic with that; a huge part of the problem I see with feminism today is that it degrades and in fact does deteriorate, women.

      But a huge part of that is my own uterus envy.

  • I really think everyone ought to learn a second language. Not only would it be useful, but beginning to learn a second language did a lot for me in terms of showing me the limited reach of the any one language. Constantly bumping into words that don’t have a precise direct translation really does a lot to hammer in how much of the way we think is culturally driven rather than universal.

    احب اللغة العربية

  • Haha – great batch of quick-takes. Thanks Leah!

  • John

    Hi Leah!

    If you’re looking for a good SF book with alien aliens, I would highly recommend “The Mote in God’s Eye” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

    • Jubal DiGriz

      Exactly what I was about to recommend. The main conceit in the story in relation to alien psychology is that the “Moties” are not bilaterally symmetrical and also have an unusual reproductive strategy. The drama in the story mostly comes from when extrapolating from those traits how the Moties see the world and how difficult it is to have meaningful communication with them. Fair warning: the first third is rather slow.

  • A Philosopher

    Obvious choice: Mieville’s Embassytown. Slightly less obvious: Lem’s Eden and Fiasco.

    • Iota

      Seconding the recommendation for Stanislaw Lem [full disclosure: my countryman]. I’d give a shot to “The Invincible” and “Eden”. Some people seem to like “Solaris”. I think of some of his other books quite fondly too (e.g. “Memoirs Found in a Bathtub” and “The Cyberiad”) but for reasons other than “weird aliens”, so I guess they wouldn’t classify. 🙂

      I do have to warn you though that translated books usually loose some quality in the process, or at least morph a bit, so he might be not entirely as good in translation as he is in the original. Also sometimes the books were translated indirectly (Polish –> German –> English), which is not good. Fortunately, both “Eden” and “Fiasco” (recommended above) have been apparently translated directly.

  • Charles

    SciFi with Really ALIEN aliens: Blindsight by Peter Watts. It is hard scifi, and is flawed in some of its discussion (even of the core premise which is regretful) but its totally up your alley it topic dealing with personal identity and consciousness and philosophy of mind.

  • Fred

    Maybe not the science fiction you were looking for Leah but a very interesting novel.

    We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

    It’s strange—there seems to be a blank white page inside my
    head. I don’t remember how I walked there, how I waited (I
    know I waited)—nothing, not a single sound, or face, or
    gesture. As if all the lines connecting me with the world were
    cut. I recalled myself only when I stood before Him, and was
    terrified to raise my eyes: I saw only His huge, cast-iron hands
    upon His knees. These hands seemed to weigh down even
    Him, bending His knees. Slowly He moved His fingers. The
    face was somewhere high up, in a haze, and it seemed that
    His voice did not thunder, did not deafen me, was like an
    ordinary human voice only because it came to me from such a
    height. “And so—you too? You, the Builder of the Integral? You, who
    were to have become the greatest of conquistadors? You,
    whose name was to initiate a new, magnificent chapter in the
    history of the One State___You?” The blood rushed to my head, my cheeks. Again a blank
    page—nothing but the pulse in my temples, and the resonant
    voice above, but not a single word. It was only when He
    ceased to speak that I recovered. I saw: the hand moved with
    the weight of a hundred tons—crept slowly—and a finger
    pointed at me. “Well? Why are you silent? Is this so, or is it not? An
    executioner?” “It is so,” I answered obediently. And then I clearly heard
    every word He spoke: ‘Oh, well! You think I am afraid of this
    word? Have you ever tried to pull off its shell and see what is
    inside? I will show you. Remember: a blue hill, a cross, a crowd. Some—above,
    splashed with blood, are nailing a body to a cross; others—
    below, splashed with tears—are looking on. Does it not seem
    to you that the role of those above is the most difficult, the
    most important? If not for them, would this entire majestic
    tragedy have taken place? They were reviled by the ignorant
    crowd: but for that the author of the tragedy—God—should
    have rewarded them all the more generously. And what about
    the most merciful Christian God, slowly roasting in the fires of
    hell all who would not submit? Was He not an executioner?
    And was the number of those burned by the Christians on
    bonfires less than the number of burned Christians? Yet—you
    understand—this God was glorified for ages as the God of
    love. Absurd? No, on the contrary: it is testimony to the
    ineradicable wisdom of man, inscribed in blood. Even at that
    time-wild, shaggy—he understood: true, algebraic love of
    humanity is inevitably inhuman; and the inevitable mark of
    truth is—its cruelty. Just as the inevitable mark of fire is that it
    burns. Show me fire that does not burn. Well—argue with me, prove the contrary!”
    How could I argue? How could I argue, when these were
    (formerly) my own ideas—except that I had never been able
    to clothe them in such brilliant, impenetrable armor? I was
    silent. . . . “If this means that you agree with me, then let us talk like
    adults, after the children have gone to bed: let us say it all, to
    the very end. I ask you: what did people—from their very
    infancy—pray for, dream about, long for? They longed for
    some one to tell them, once and for all, the meaning of
    happiness, and then to bind them to it with a chain. What are
    we doing now, if not this very thing? The ancient dream of
    paradise . . .

    Remember: those in paradise no longer know
    desires, no longer know pity or love.

    There are only the blessed, with their imaginations excised (this is the only
    reason why they are blessed)—angels, obedient slaves of
    God. . . . And now, at the very moment when we have already
    caught up with the dream, when we have seized it so (He
    clenched His hand: if it had held a stone, it would have
    squeezed juice out of it), when all that needed to be done was
    to skin the quarry and divide it into shares—at this very
    moment you—you …”

  • Ted Seeber

    The most alien aliens are human beings. My favorite science fiction short story I can’t find anymore, but it’s called The Bully and the Crazy Boy- and I should have posted my version of the Zen Koan that was the central part of the story a couple of weeks ago when we were talking about the verbal abuse prevalent on the Internet:

    I actually got permission from the author, though I couldn’t find a copy of the original text, to rewrite from memory the koan/parable/whatever.

    • Ted Seeber

      BTW, the original was written from the point of view of a race similar to, but not the same as Niven’s Kzinti- and the parable was told by a human being under interrogation, right before he committed suicide by jumping into the antimatter drive to stop the invasion of Earth (and after the rest of the fleet had been destroyed by similar suicidal humans who had slingshoted around the sun to come at the fleet at 1/3rd the speed of light- turning their spaceships into huge gamma rays). Good story about how crazy can beat sane in an unfair fight.

  • jenesaispas

    🙂 Best quick takes ever, I think.

  • jenesaispas

    You might like this…


    • leahlibresco

      I love this.

      • grok87

        agree, that was really cute

        • jenesaispas

          I think she’s better than A.A. Milne!
          Bit sad though!…suicide, not wanting to go to heaven, locking up poor people.:o

    • Ha! Very cute. Le pauvre popotamus 🙁

      • jenesaispas


  • Taosquirrel

    I just want to say that that first video is amazing. Thank you sooooo much! I’ve already listened to it more times than I’d care to admit…

  • JeseC

    Further necessary t-shirts:

    What mary didn’t know – not sure how to put this one on a shirt.

    What is it like to be a bat? Preferably with an actual picture of a bat. For bonus points, have a bat asking what it’s like to be a human.

    Philosophical zombies. This one must happen.