The centenary of an idiocy

One hundred years ago today the New York Times published an editorial mocking American rocket pioneer, John Goddard. With a cheap ad hominem attack, they feigned incredulity that the Smithsonian would support Goddard’s research:

If they had called Einstein, he could have explained to them that F=ma.

The mockery continued and stretched to include Jules Verne:

All this strikes me as worth remembering because last year, on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the Times produced similarly dismal coverage of that sublime mission. They took one of our greatest accomplishments and portrayed it as a vast moral failing. It was like something out of Nietzsche’s Genealogy; in its way, it was a masterful inversion of values. Competency became bigotry, purpose became bias, accomplishment became failure. It is hopeful and healthy to remind ourselves that some day it will be obvious that this perspective was all oikophobia, or at best, ressentiment.

Captain Fantastic, Captain Improbable


Captain Fantastic is the finest Hollywood film I have seen in a very long time.  One can dream of an alternative to neoliberalism, but we all know how very hard it would be to create and sustain a personal alternative.  The protagonist of the film, Ben, tries to foster a better form of life for his family, and he finds this is crushingly difficult.  But, more importantly, the film often turns the camera from Ben’s family and points it straight at us, and we recognize ourselves and loathe what we see there.

Anthropology is the study of the death of expression of the human logos:  generations of people like Boaz and Benedict and Kroeber watched and recorded as languages perished and ways of life withered into a sameness — the victory of a single, omnipotent Das Man.

Art — and perhaps most of all, science fiction — is a kind of inverted anthropology.  Works like The Dispossessed or Ecotopia or Green Mars try to imagine a future that is not the total victory of the One Advertised Existence.  There is little left but art to tell us that another world is possible.

Dear literary magazine

I received today your kind notice that it’s time for me to renew my subscription.  Please accept my check, post dated to January 22, 2015.  That is only 493 days from now, which is how long you’ve had a story of mine without replying.  Given that time moves so slowly at your offices (but not, I note, in your witty tweets) I’m sure you won’t mind waiting 493 days to cash the check.

Also, please note that I have adopted your own no-simultaneous-submissions policy.  This means that I forbid you to cash any other checks before you cash mine.  I’m sure you’ll understand that it is very annoying for a subscriber to go through the effort of writing a check, investing all that penmanship, only to discover that you already have cashed someone else’s check.

Yours, for all these 493 days,


Going forward towards the front way in the future while progressing

Am I the only person who loathes the now ubiquitous expression, “going forward”?  I heard on NPR last week a reporter use the phrase, “…going forward in the future.”  Horrible as that is, I don’t believe it was a mistake on her part, but rather was recognition that “going forward” doesn’t even mean “in the future” anymore.  It means something like “like.”  So now a wretched phrase such as “What’s next for you, going forward?” is essentially the same as, “Like, what’s, like, next for you?”

Meanwhile, trying to work through The Magic Mountain.  I confess it’s slow going.  I think I’ll sneak a break, mid-novel, and read more Dostoyevsky.  Or PKD.